The first and only Animal Crossing game I’ve ever played longer than a day (I borrowed one in college but didn’t have the time to do more than make a character) was the original one on the GameCube. That isn’t a result of a lack of willingness on my part so much as a result of my disconnect from buying new games during college (I think the only new game I got while I was in college was Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) and my lack of free time as a post-college adult. I’ve always had something come up that make a time-intensive and daily play game like Animal Crossing prohibitive.
I am a firm believer in the importance of dice in tabletop RPGs. To be entirely fair, that’s not exactly an uncommon opinion, even if more people are moving toward digital dice rollers instead of actual rice. Sure, telling a computer to roll twenty six-sided dice makes it a lot cleaner and it does the math for you which makes it take less time, but there’s no feeling compared to being a twentieth level sorcerer casting disintegrate just so you can roll forty six-sided dice all at once. At one point, I literally had bought enough d6’s so I could roll damage all at once for my caster. It was an amazing feeling, making it rain dice like that. It was also incredibly difficult since I could barely hold that many at once and rolling them involved a lot of me saying “did anyone see where the beige one went?” and my friends replying “no, but I did find the purple one from last week under this radiator.” Good times.
All that aside, what I’m really talking about is the importance of specific dice, which is also a bit misleading since I’m not thinking of one specific die in all of creation. What I’m talking about is the importance of having specific dice for you to use. By our very nature, as creatures reliant on ephemeral chance to dictate the course of our gaming session, we tabletop gamers are a rather superstitious bunch. For instance, I not only have a favorite set of dice, but I pick the dice I use on any given night by how aesthetically pleasing I find them as I get ready for the game. I firmly believe that prettier dice roll better and no amount of bad luck on my more gorgeous dice can shake that belief. The inverse is also true. When my players are having a string of bad rolls, I swap to using my ugliest, most generic and awful dice so the enemies the party is facing roll worse. My absolute favorite set, the set that has rolled more triple-twenties than all of my other twenty-sided dice put together, is a beautiful set of clear plastic dice with bits of black paint or plastic swirled inside them. Unlike every other set of partially clear dice I’ve ever seen, the color is only on the inside of the dice. It doesn’t touch the outside layers at all, so you can spin the dice as you hold it up to the light and watch the smoky black color swirl at your fingertips. I don’t even let other people touch those dice. I keep them in a plastic container inside my dice bag so I’ve always got them ready to go in case I need to roll well on something important.
If you take a survey of all tabletop players, you’ll find a range of traditions and superstitions. There are players who believe in punishing their dice when they roll poorly and even destroying the dice if they keep rolling poorly after being punished. This punishment can range from something as mild as leaving the offending die on its own for a while to the incredibly gross tradition of putting one of your misbehaving dice inside your mouth for a while. I’ve even seen someone go so far as to file through a die they were punishing so it could never roll again, which just seems completely over the top to me. There are also people who believe that you need to roll all of your dice at once, regardless of how many that might be. I’ve got a friend who uses a specific die for every type of action his character might be taking in any game he’s playing, so he has to buy new dice every time he plays a game with an additional action type. I prefer to buy new dice for characters who are about to make their debut, so the character and the dice start off fresh. I generally only get new dice for characters who are supposed to be a part of a campaign for a long time and I do it to avoid any kind of mental influence on how I see the dice.
Despite the range of beliefs and the things people do with their dice, most people remain a bit more rational and logic-oriented than their superstitions suggest. I bet if you followed up your first survey with a second survey asking people if they though there really was something to their little traditions, almost everyone who answered the first one would say “no.” And yet we’d still turn around and immediately go back to our superstitions as soon as the situation called for it. The way I’ve always viewed it is that there’s no harm in being cautious or believing in something that’s probably not there. If it isn’t there, then you’ve just spent a bit of time marking a tradition. If it turns out that there was actually something to it, then you’ve got your bases covered already. It’s why I don’t really believe in ghosts, but I won’t denigrate anyone who believes in them. Additionally, and probably more importantly, it helps the players feel like they’re in control of what is pretty much just random luck. If you believe punishing your dice will make them roll higher next them, then you’re in control of your own outcomes because you can “encourage” your dice to get with the program. You more order you can impose on what seems like chaos around you, the better you feel.
The same is true of having specific dice for specific things. I probably haven’t rolled more triple twenties with my favorite set of dice than with any of my other sets, but the belief that I do roll more twenties makes me remember when I do. It’s simple confirmation bias. The same is probably true of punishing dice or whatever inane thing we all do that makes us feel more comfortable with the fact that the world isn’t as cut-and-dried as we’d like to think it is. Random things happen outside our control or comprehension and we get a glimpse of that when we play games with dice because the difference between success and failure is pure chance. For the vast majority of us, there’s no skill involved, no talent, just dumb luck. Even the most skilled of us, who should be able to succeed no matter what is thrown at us, can sometime fail because of chance. So roll the dice and hope you get more passes than failure.
Today marks the very first day of my new life’s work. I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of many great trainers before me and abandon any attempt at being a productive member of society. Instead, I am going to wander through the wild parts of the world, capture creatures with funny names and huge powers, and then train them to battle other, similar creatures owned by people like me. All of my money will be earned by robbing the people I defeat, I’ll sleep in the woods, and I’ll rely on free healthcare to keep my captured monsters in peak fighting condition at all time. I may make friends along the way, I may encounter a friendly or combative person frequently enough to designate them my rival, and I may rise from obscurity to sit at the peak of the monster fighting league so that everyone in the world knows my name. Unfortunately, none of those things are guaranteed, but I know I’ll definitely have a great time along the way, bonding with my new pets and crying when I’m forced to say goodbye to them.
If you haven’t guessed what’s going on, I’m talking about my plan to finally go on the Pokemon Journey reality has always denied me now that Pokemon Go finally introduced trainer-versus-trainer battling. I imagine battling will change significantly as time goes on since it’s clearly in favor of people willing to spend money or who have done nothing but play Pokemon Go and the whole “use a shield to block a charged attack” thing is just plain weird, but I’m glad they finally got something out there. So far, I’ve declared one of my roommates is my rival, battled him a few times (we’re tied for wins and losses right now), and done absolutely nothing else with it because society is demanding I do my day job so I can pay my bills and afford to live in my nice house with my actual pets. Someday, perhaps once the holidays are over, I’ll go on a short Pokemon Journey to test the waters. After I’ve figured out how the battling scene is going, that’ll be it for me. I’ll quit my job, pack up everything I own into a backpack that breaks physics, and head off into the great unknown in order to find new Pokemon, battle new trainers, and become the legend I’ve always dreamed I could be.
I imagine it’ll be difficult to live off the land and spend all my time traveling between major cities, but I think I can manage it. I’m single, have no societal obligations that I’d miss, and am a rather hardy individual. I can walk for long periods of time, assuming my pack isn’t as heavy as a typical Pokemon Trainer’s backpack must be, given that it holds hundreds of pokeballs, healing items, berries, cases, bicycles, and so forth. If it’s a bit more realistic and not able to hold a limitless supply of whatever I want (if it removes the weight of the things I put in it, that would also be pretty cool. I could work with that), then I imagine the first couple weeks would be rough while my feet adjusted to the constant walking. After that, I’d be unstoppable.
Unfortunately for me, I seem destined to become a gimmick trainer. Likely a Hiker with a heavy focus on rock-type Pokemon. I could get behind such a gimmick, of course, but only after becoming the best there ever was. Then I’d go find some mountain path to live on and challenge every trainer who passes through before making my team of Geodudes all use “Self-Destruct.” The trick would be that I have a sixth Pokemon, maybe a Mew or something super cool and rare. It would also use “Self-Destruct.” That would be my gimmick and then I would become a different type of legend. I’d become even more famous than when I toured the world as an unbeatable Pokemon Master and trainers would come from far and wide to see if they could beat my team. Unfortunately for them, all my Geodudes would be immune to one hit knock-outs and the final Pokemon would change on occasion so they’d never be able to defeat me. Every match will end in a draw and I will establish myself as an unbeatable Pokemon Trainer. It will be glorious!
I will have to wait, though. Pokemon Go is still in its infancy and we’ve yet to see if it will truly last the tests of time. There’s also no move in Pokemon Go that functions like “Self-Destruct,” though I remain hopeful that they will either eventually add more game-like features to Pokemon Go or replace it entirely by creating Virtual Reality Pokemon. I would be all about that. Nothing quite like immersive games in virtual reality to make you feel like you’re not stumbling around your home while waving your arms dangerously close to every precious and fragile object you own. Heck, maybe they’ll figure out how to make Pokemon robots and then we can go on Pokemon adventures in theme parks. That’d be super cool.
Since none of that is happening right now, I’m just going to focus on battling my rival, enjoying the new combat feature of Pokemon Go, and trying to remember who half the people are on my Pokemon Go friends list so I can remote battle people without feeling weird about initiating an interaction with someone who is effectively a stranger. The feature was difficult to find and it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense about the way it works, but it’s fun to play. I think the Stardust and Pokemon Candy requires for learning additional moves are egregious, since it’s almost impossible for most players to afford something like that. Only people who play constantly have access to that kind of stardust and enough candies for powerful Pokemon or legendaries. I mean, I spent most of my candies and stardust just powering up Pokemon fairly recently, so I can’t afford to give anyone an extra attack, which means I’ll be vulnerable to anyone who has one since they’re great for countering Pokemon that typically counter whatever Pokemon has the second attack. The fact that you can add extra moves is a huge break from their established methodology, so I’m interested to see where they continue to take.
Whatever they do, though, it’ll be fun. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing again!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with my ex a long while ago, one day when we were out to breakfast. I was talking about a Dungeons and Dragons character I was making and how I wanted to role-play them. I made the comment that they were nothing like me, and she took issue with that. After a bit of back and forth, as I asked her to explain what she meant, she eventually said “you can’t be someone you’re not. If there’s no trace of them inside you, then you can’t play them and wouldn’t even want to. Any character you make is going to have a bit of you inside them.” I disagreed back then but ultimately dropped it (which is too bad, since it turns out that her view that people couldn’t change into or try to be something they weren’t already informed a lot of my reasons for ending things last summer) since she wasn’t willing to actually engage with my thoughts on the matter.
The thing is, I constantly play people I’m not. I create characters in games who look nothing like me and who do things I wouldn’t dream of doing. I role-play my way through decisions and choices I’d absolutely do differently if I were actually faced with that situation. I pretend to be evil or a sadistic, murderous asshole in order to play out a character I’ve created. I’m a Dungeon Master and I actually role-play the bad guys. I play chaotic-aligned characters who do whatever they want because they only care about myself despite the fact that I feel guilty even pretending to not care about other people. I’m constantly pretending to be someone I’m not for tabletop RPGs and video games and I’m constantly consciously stripping away my preferences and thoughts in order to be someone else.
Role-playing is my favorite kind of escapism for just that reason, to be honest. There are days when I don’t want to be me anymore. Maybe I’m tired from a day full of mind-boggling information that makes me question the sanity of people around me, or maybe I’ve worn down from a day of trying to be more forceful so people actually listen to me when I know I’m right. Either way, being able to step out of my life and into someone else’s gives me a break from whatever it was that wore me out so I can approach whatever problems I have with a somewhat refreshed mind. It doesn’t fix anything, but it can give me the time and mental space needed to be able to fix whatever is going on. The biggest downside is that I have a tendency to get caught up in it, lose track of time, and stay up way too late while playing whatever game has caught my attention. Tabletop RPGs don’t have this same problem because they’re reliant on other people who generally don’t want to play for as long as I do, but they also hold my attention less because it is difficult to stay in whatever role I’m playing if other people aren’t even trying to stick to their character.
Not even reading helps me escape as thoroughly as role-playing does. I love books and always will, but you’re still you, even if you’re still caught up in the story. As much as I like Chris Amann and think he’s an awesome dude, sometimes I really need to just be someone else for a while rather than just get away from my problems. Video games are my favorite way to get the experience because just playing as a character in a game can make you feel things. The controls for the Nintendo Switch version of the Doom remake feel like I’m piloting a donkey on rocket skates over slick ice, but damn if I don’t feel like a total badass as I rip apart enemies and just storm through levels without a care in the world. There’s almost no role-playing in Doom because it’s just some dude on a demon murdering spree, running around until he’s killed all the demons or died, but I still get a sense of escapism from that. When I play a game specifically designed for role-playing, like Pathfinder: Kingmaker or Dragon Age, I can literally forget about the guy sitting in the chair until something happens to pull me out of my game.
There is, of course, a point when this goes too far. It’s never good to entirely lose focus on who you are or what is a part of the real world and what isn’t. Doing so causes way more problems than it could even pretend to fix and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of staying just short of that line. I occasionally overindulge, but I’m generally not consciously choosing to play a game for twelve hours. I just lost track of time and didn’t think to set an alarm or something to pull me back out again. Additionally, I also tend to play most games with the same moral compass that I have in the real world, to keep myself anchored to the identity that produced and refined it. Even though I can be someone who is nothing like me doesn’t mean I have to be. I like characters who allow me to explore different ways I could be. For instance, my Pathfinder: Kingmaker is pretty much me (in terms of personality and morality), but without the firm belief that society benefits from structures and order. My Pathfinder: Kingmaker character believes that structures are order are necessary evils that can’t be avoided if you want to be a part of society, so she tends to support the local government and it’s laws while still promoting personal freedom and self-expression. It’s a fun idea to explore since it makes me reflect on the places where my belief in order and structure falls short of doing the most good possible.
All that being said, it’s still mostly about escapism for me. I don’t really sit down to play Pathfinder: Kingmaker with the thought that I should explore a particular kind of moral quandary. I just play the game to get away and wind up getting opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a good and just ruler. Role-playing is a lot of fun and can be an opportunity for reflection and growth, even if it’s a rather slow one.
A long while ago, I pledged to an interesting looking Kickstarter that was described to me as “Pathfinder the computer game.” Now, as the usual Game Master for a few different groups, I don’t get much of a chance to play in any tabletop games, so I instantly pledged to support the project just so I could maybe enjoy a game where I got to be a player. Like most Kickstarters, I pretty much forgot about it until October, when it came out. Unlike most Kickstarters, I shoved the emails into my Kickstarter folder and promptly forgot about it again. To be fair, I was rather caught up in a lot of stuff at work in addition to preparing myself for National Novel Writing Month, so I didn’t really have the time to be playing anything as time-consuming as Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It likely would have stayed in that folder, forgotten until my physical rewards showed up at whatever point in the future (they had a much later delivery date than the digital rewards that included the download code for the game), except I found out my grandfather was dying rather more quickly than I expected and I couldn’t process it emotionally because I’d been kept awake until seven in the morning that day.
After spending a few hours trying to deal with my emotions, eat something, get enough caffeine to pretend I wasn’t basically dead inside from emotional and physical exhaustion, I tossed aside my writing and decided to just find some dumb game to play so I could forget about Chris Amann and all his problems for a while. Which is when I remembered getting the notification email that my download code and digital rewards were ready. It took a couple of hours to track everything down, create accounts I’d forgotten to create. download the game, and figure out how to make it run optimally on my computer, but I got sucked into it immediately. I got sucked into it so thoroughly that I accidentally stayed up until almost four in the morning on a work night, playing it. And then I accidentally stayed up until almost two in the morning the following night. Since then, I’ve only allowed myself to play it on days when I don’t have anything going on the next morning, since I severely doubt my ability to stop myself from getting sucked into this game. I still play it pretty frequently, though. At least once a week, since I still need the escape it provides me. I just make sure to avoid it when I’ve got something important to do the next day that requires me to have gotten enough sleep, like writing.
As far as being “Pathfinder the computer game” goes, I’d say that’s a fairly accurate summary. The developers made some concessions when it came to adapting the rules since Pathfinder is a bit more complicated than most computer game audiences are looking for, not to mention how difficult it would be to program different numbers for all of the easily combined or excluded skills. It makes sense to get rid of crafting and profession skills because few tabletop gamers actually use them. The benefits of trying to implement those systems in a way that fits with Pathfinder doesn’t seem worth the absolute headache (and probably one or more years of development time, since they’re super complicated) including them would cause in everyone working on the project. It also makes sense to reduce the available spells a bit since there are so many “incredibly useful” spells that are actually only useful in one specific scenario that almost never comes up and can be neatly avoided thanks to video game mechanics.
The only real “tabletop game to computer game” issue is how encounters work. In the tabletop version of Pathfinder, encounters are supposed to drain the resources of the party until they are forced to rest in order to restore said resources. This means that only the weakest encounters won’t be a drain on the party and mid-to-low level encounters will still drain the party if they encounter enough of them. Since the rules are drawn from the tabletop version of Pathfinder, this same effect still applies to encounters in the computer game. However, since time is more compressed when one players is making the decisions for every character, you can get through a larger number of encounters in a smaller amount of play time on the computer game. That wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that a lot of those encounters require expending resources and, since there are more encounters than you’d expect due to video game design logic (players need something to fight or interact with every so often or they get bored), you find yourself needing to rest more frequently than you’d like. Throw in the time management mechanic the game has–stuff like hunting up food for six people can take seventeen hours despite the skill in the tabletop game stipulating that foraging for food happens during travel time–and the fact that camping supplies weigh ten units per single-use (which is measured per-person), and you’ve in the awful position where you can’t bring supplies to cut down on time but can wind up spending over a day just finding food for everyone. I get that the game developers needed to separate the movement speed effects of hunting for food from the “find enough food” effects of hunting for food since it’s difficult to track modifiers like that ahead of time and the computer game actually measures minutes and hours while the tabletop game measures days, generally. Still, it’s frustrating.
That being said, those are my only gripes about the game. Sure, spellcasters feel super weak at low levels, but that’s true in the tabletop game as well. In every version of it. They always have and probably always will. Any problems with using casters in Pathfinder: Kingmaker are a result of the weird resting and camping gear weight issues, so I wouldn’t call that a gripe in its own right. It’s an auxiliary gripe. Given the monumental task the developers set out to accomplish, how well they’ve done overall, how active they are in their fan community, and how often they roll out patches to fix the issues players find, I’m more than will to overlook these issues. In fact, I’m willing to advocate that you buy this game if you want something immersive, entertaining, and downright absorbing. Still, you should only buy it if you actually want Pathfinder the Video Game. It feels so much like the tabletop game that I’ve mixed up the video game with the tabletop game I’m in on Monday nights. I’ve called each character by the other’s name and forgotten who had what magic items frequently enough that I’ve started making lists to keep near each character so I can remember who has what (one is a bard and the other is a sorcerer, so they have a lot of magic item overlap). It feels like a good problem to have.
The story is what really does it for me, though. You’re essentially a mercenary hired by a local noble to take out a bandit lord set up in a neighboring unclaimed land with the hopes of establishing you as the baron of said land once the bandit lord has been killed. There is a great deal of additional political maneuvering behind their move, but you’re never really sure which side is in the right. You could make a snap judgment that one side is good and the other is bad, but honestly it’s more of a “Chaos versus Law” thing than good versus evil. The side setting you up as baron is the Chaotic side and the side trying to recruit you to their cause is the Law and Order side. There’s far more to each side than that, but that’s really the distinction between the two. The chaotic people seem nicer than the law people, but that’s often how it seems to anyone who isn’t lawful. You get a lot of information and a good number of chances to pick a side or help one cause or the other. It’s a lot of fun working through the game with these larger concepts in mind.
The combat is a bit dense at times, but that’s because you’re trying to manage up to six people’s worth of combat abilities and resources. There’s a lot to keep track of and, as long as you think of it as a turn-by-turn combat, similar to how the tabletop game does it, you’ll figure it out just fine. Aside from that, it’s actually really fun to do. I love watching the characters charge across the screen, see them line up their shots, or watch spells go whizzing around the battlefield as they all engage in the chaotic dance of combat. It’s a very cinematic experience, actually. To the point where you need to be careful or else a character might get mismanaged as you try to just enjoy the special effects on your screen.
The skill usage is a little opaque at first, but you figure it out pretty quickly. Everyone makes checks, but the little information ticker only tells you when a passive check (perception, for instance) is successful. Which makes sense, since you shouldn’t know that your characters failed to stop a hidden treasure chest. Active checks are made by finding icons on the screen or as dialogue options when talking to people. The number you’re aiming for is given and the roll plus the math happens behind the scenes. Unfortunately, there’s no part of the game that explains what happens when you fail a skill check, so it can be a mystery as to why the trap went off this time and not the last few times you failed to dismantle it. Unless you’re familiar with Pathfinder and know that failing to meet the Dice Check number by a certain amount or more results in the trap going off, you’ll be unable to figure out what’s going on. That being said, I have players I’ve been DMing for years who still don’t know how this works, despite almost exclusively playing rogues, so that’s not necessarily a failing of the game. Just, you know, keep it mind.
Character management is a bit dense, but that’s mostly because you have to become an expert in six or more character classes so you can manage their upgrades properly. Because of the wide variety of upgrades available in the game, you spend a lot of time reading up on what things do and comparing it to what your stats are. As someone familiar with Pathfinder, I expect this sort of thing but I can see how it might be difficult for someone with less knowledge or willingness to read a few walls of text. I recommend doing all your research ahead of time and rely on forums to help you pick what you should do since people who love to build characters and figure out how to do weirdly specific things are also the kinds of people who like to talk about both those things on dedicated forums.
Honestly, this game feels like a good bridge between the hardcore audience and the more casual audience. There’s everything here the hardcore min-maxing power gamer needs to build his ultimate murder-hobo but there’s also plenty of options that give less invested players recommendations and easy options for powering up. There’s even an option that’ll do the powering up for you, so you don’t need to think about it and, based on my own research into the matter, it actually builds good characters. They’re pretty focused around their core mechanic and lack the sort of weird-but-fun powers you get from a fully customized character, but they’re still very good (as in, they’re both effective and fun to play).
If you want a game that’s got a lot of gameplay hours for you, that’ll suck you in with a myriad of tasks, fun combat, and a great story, look no further than Pathfinder: Kingmaker. I love the game and am constantly looking forward to playing it again. The wide array of characters you can add and the sheer variety of characters you can create means that even multiple play-throughs could be fun and new. I suggest putting this game on your Christmas wishlist. Or just your Steam wishlist, if you think it might be a bit late to add something new to your Christmas one. Either way, get the game. You’ll enjoy it.
I bought this game the day before it came out so I could play with my roommates and friends. I played it the first night people could access the servers and not much since then, thanks to National Novel Writing Month. That being said, most of what I’ve learned about the game has been from my solo playing after the brief introduction with my friends and from watching my roommates play it. Well, plus reading about it online because it is currently the internet’s favorite thing to love to hate right now. While I don’t have as many hours as I’d normally like in the game before reviewing it, I really think that it needs to be talked about.
First of all, it plays like pretty much every other Fallout game. There are a bunch of minor variations, like V.A.T.S. (the auto-targeting system that lets you use character stats to shoot or hit things instead of your ability to aim) not pausing time and jumping costing Action Points, but those seem like fairly obvious concessions necessitated by the change from a single-player game to an online multi-player game. You can’t pause the world if someone on the map is using V.A.T.S. and it’s unreasonable to expect the developers to find a way to pause time for only your character. Other than those two things, it feels remarkably like Fallout 4. Maybe even disappointingly like Fallout 4, since I was really hoping for a change in color. You get bored with browns and washed out blues or greens. I was hoping for some orange and yellows, maybe, or some vibrant color variants. It is a solid entry in the same vein of most Fallout games, simply trading one contrived plot for another, one vault for another, and one location for another. Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. I quite enjoy all the Fallout games even if I tend to get bored of the endless side missions and weird power curves before long.
The biggest downside to this being a standard entry in the Fallout line of games is the number of bugs. There have been tons of them and even the most forgiving players would characterize Fallout 76’s first month as a “rough start.” That being said, it’s still managed to pull off a multiplayer online game while avoiding all of the worst problems. Griefing people is difficult, since the Player versus Player combat rules require two consenting adults to shoot at each other before removing a huge set of damage reductions on either character. It is still possible, of course, but there’s no way to stop a determined player from griefing someone if they want to. The lack of a good, in-game reporting feature is concerning, but the fact that they can real-time track every player, who is doing what events, and how your individual actions might set up the environment for a player passing through later is monumental. We expect it because we’ve been spoiler by online multiplayer games that are good at faking it, but we actually get the whole thing here. There have been myriad issues with the gameplay itself, things like players getting trapped in their Power Armor or the one player whose character is unable to die. There are a lot more bugs attributed to the game acting weird than issues arising from it being an online game, which has so far shocked no one but the people who’d never played a Fallout game before this one.
The internet has been going on about this game a lot. Most people seem to absolutely hate it or love it, which seems to be a theme of internet culture these days. Everything is all of one thing or it’s all of the other. There’s no room for middle-ground or change over time, everything either sucks or is the greatest. To be fair to the haters, Bethesda kinda deserves it. There have been issues with pre-orders, people feel like they were misled about the game they were getting, some of the pre-order people received sub-standard items with their pre-orders, and people feel like the game is limiting them from actually enjoying their online experience because of the rough start to the game’s release. At the same time, not all of the criticism is as valid as the rest. Advertising a canvas bag in one of the top-tier pre-orders and sending a low-quality nylon bag instead is dumb. They either should have had the prototypes and pricing done before they advertised, or they should have sucked up the cost and given people what they were promised. Being mislead about the game they were getting isn’t really valid. Sure, people expected a fully finished game on launch, but I think people’s expectations are wrong in this case, especially seeing how the video game industry has changed over the years.
Sure, there’s the basic change of development from risk-taking hobbyists to corporate profit-chasers that has resulted in micro-transactions and a “new” Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty game every year, but that’s about how the industry makes its money and what sort of staple games appear. What I’m talking about is the way games are delivered and what is handed to us when we download it. Back in the day, there wasn’t a way for games to get an update so they’d take a few years to create despite being relatively simple. No amount of computer tools makes a 3D model easier to create and animate than a sixteen-bit pixel model and every level in an old game was a two-dimensional surface with shading to give it a sense of depth. The games took longer and were as complete as possible when they reached our hands because they had to be. The games that weren’t that good have gone down in history as being enormous flops or cult classics. Sure, everyone probably remembers the Missingno trick from Pokemon Red and Blue, but not every realizes that doing it wrong or making a poor choice at any time could have really screwed up your game. I mean, I played Majora’s Mask for a week, trying to get to the first save point before my game froze on the N64 and I only ever saw it as a challenge I had to overcome. Our expectations were different back then. The only games that were “perfect” where the ones that were too simple to mess up, and even most of those had bugs or exploits for whoever went looking for them. At some point, we got it into our heads that games had to be perfect when they come out and it’s ruining our ability to enjoy perfectly playable if buggy games.
In addition to that, the product being delivered to us has changed. Gone are the days when we expected a game to stay exactly the same as when we bought it. There are still some games like that out there, but most of our big games change overtime. Almost all of our online multiplayer games shift as time passes, introducing new events and story tidbits for us to enjoy. Look at Destiny 2. The game has an entire year of additional content planned. Most of it isn’t story content or anything that’s really going to change the game for us (we already got our big chunk of story content and changes to the game this year, so that’s all for us until the next expansion), but it’s still new activities and weapons and so on. Look at World of Warcraft and the way they spread the pieces of a new expansion out over the course of several months. Look at literally every multiplayer online game out there. We, as consumers, have grown to expect this, and yet the entire customer base loses their shit when a game isn’t perfect the minute it releases. For whatever reason, we love a story that unfolds over months but can’t stand a game that transforms from a basic, ambitious concept to a fully realized constantly developing world that ceaselessly incorporates community feedback in its decisions about what to do next? That’s ridiculous.
I think that we, as a whole, need to cool our jets and just enjoy the alright Fallout game we’ve got as the development teams continues to improve it. It is far from unplayable and the fixes they’re delivering are a sign that they’re listening to what the community wants, even if they’re slower about responding to it than we’d like. People should just play what they can and give the game a chance to live up to our expectations rather than trying to shut it down the moment it fails to conform to our desires. I think people will be presently surprised at how much the game has grown if they return to it in the spring.
I got DOOM for the Nintendo Switch. You’d think that I’d have chosen differently after buying Skyrim for the Switch and never playing it past the first few levels since it reminded me why I never played first-person shooters until I could get them on the computer. But no, I bought it for the Switch. And I’m once again remembering why I dislike playing first-person shooters on a console. I’m also enjoying the shit out of DOOM because it doesn’t really matter.
Sure, the graphics are updated and the game has basically been entirely remade to fit the modern era of consoles and gaming in general, but it was originally played on a system where you controllers your entire character’s movement and aim from a keyboard. The first people to play this game couldn’t look up or down at all and, instead, just ran around until the enemy was centered in their crosshairs. Despite all of the modernization, that strategy still works pretty well. The enemies tend to duck and dodge a bit more, but rapid crouching and very high horizontal aiming sensitivity made it a cinch to pivot and shoot them right in the face. Honestly, the biggest challenge is that I keep swapping my weapons instead of firing them because I can’t stop hitting the right bumper instead of the right trigger. It’s frustrating and literally the first time this has ever happened. There is no game where my bumper is the primary fire of my weapon and I play a bunch of other games on the Switch with mechanics tied to the triggers and bumpers without ever confusing which I’m supposed to be using at any given time.
Beyond that unfortunate habit, I’m having the time of my life. This is my first foray into the DOOM series and I’m enjoying the sheer over-the-top cartoonish level of violence in the game. Doomguy, the protagonist, is an incredibly angry person who punches the crap out of everything I’ve encountered so far. Annoyed at the guy talking to you on the computer? Throw the monitor away. Attacked by some kind of demon thing when you’re literally coming out of a stone coffin you’ve been sealed inside for who knows how long? Better grab what’s left of its skull and smash it on the edge of the coffin. Still super annoyed with the guy who is now talking to you over the elevator’s control system because he seems so smarmily self-assured while all hell literally breaks loose on the mars base you woke up on and you stare at the corpse of one of his soldiers or employees (you can’t tell which because it’s too mangled)? Punch the shit out of the elevator. Want to purchase an upgrade from a flying little robot dude but don’t have the money? Steal it and then punch the little robot dude until he stops trying to get his property back. Punching solves most of your problems and the ones that punching doesn’t solve are solved by shooting. It’s a simple, straight-forward game style that appeals to me when I’m stressed out or exhausted (which has been me since June).
Since I didn’t play the first games, I can’t really speak to how much has changed since then, but the modern game still seems pretty basic. Upgrades are point-based, the path is fairly linear since all roads eventually lead to your goal. Exploring is often rewarded, but you’re preventing from going too far afield so you never find yourself wondering if it’d be better to just focus on getting to your destination rather than running to every corner of the map. There is some hidden stuff, but keeping an eye out for alternate paths and actually exploring everything has gotten me all of the secrets so far. At least, I’m assuming I’ve found all of them since I’ve walked on every surface the game will allow me to walk on and two it tried really hard to prevent me from walking on. What makes this even better is that your character is constantly sprinting, the jump/climb mechanics are incredibly forgiving, and Doomguy doesn’t take fall damage so you’re not penalized for messing up a jump other than maybe being surrounded by demons who want to rip you to pieces.
The enemies are plentiful and annoying, but the health packs are all over the place, armor is readily available, ammo is never in short supply, and the badass melee kills just spew health packs when you get one just right. This is my favorite game to play an unstoppable killing machine dishing out mayhem and death to demons and mostly dead humans turned into quasi-demons that want to use your corpse to summon actual demons. Despite the low-key horror vibes of the game, the unending amounts of blood, and the horrific violence being perpetrated against the demons without end, none of it is really on-screen long enough to make an impact. You just wade through the sea of violence and mayhem, slaughtering demons by the wave and ripping them apart so they heal you whenever one flashes blue or orange. It’s a good time.
It’s a good enough time that I keep accidentally staying up too late playing it. My time is at a premium these days but I still find myself putting off my less urgent writing so I can take the time to play at least a little DOOM every day. It’s incredibly relaxing, really. Even with all of the harsh colors and the anxiety-inducing music (even the friggin’ PAUSE menu has a track that flip-flops between almost silent and pounding drums that make me certain I’m currently being attacked despite being paused in a single player game), it’s still responsibly for most of the peace and relaxation I’ve had. And that’s only possible because I got it on the Switch. Since I can go from unpacking my Switch to playing DOOM in thirty seconds, I’m much more willing to spend my five or fifteen minute breaks on it. Also, if I know I’m going to play it more, I just leave the game running and put my Switch to sleep so it only takes five seconds to get back to playing. It’s way easier to enjoy on the Switch than it’d be on my computer, even if the gameplay is more of a challenge without the precise control of a mouse.
If you’re looking for a game to play, I recommend DOOM, but only if you hate demons and don’t mind excessive violence against the worst things imaginable. Most of the game is demons and over-the-top violence against said demons, so demon lovers or violence haters should probably avoid it. Apparently there’s going to be a sequel to this game eventually, so you should get into this now while it’s still the only modernized DOOM game. Otherwise you’ll be committing to what might be a new video game series rather than just a series of remakes.
There’s a new Pokemon game coming out for the Nintendo Switch, called “Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee!” If you aren’t aware, it’s basically a remake of the original Pokemon games with a few changes. The biggest ones have to do with wild Pokemon and the player’s interactions with them. In previous iterations of the standard style, you would wander around in the grass until you spawned a random encounter with a Pokemon from wherever the grass is located. Then you fought the Pokemon until it was weak enough to be captured or you defeated it. Now, you actually see the Pokemon walking around and can pick which ones you encounter. Additionally, you catch them like you do in Pokemon Go. You use a berry if you want to, select your ball, wait for the circle to be the right size, and then attempt to throw the pokeball so it lands inside the circle. Then you either catch it or you don’t. There’s no battling involved, except with the occasional trainer.
This was one of the first things we learned about the new game and it upset a lot of people. More so even than the fact that it was a third remake of the first generation of Pokemon games. The change is a pretty big departure from the core games. Battling wild Pokemon in order to gain XP and level up is such a core element of the game that felt like spending money on this game would be a waste. Wandering around, training Pokemon, and collecting XP has always been a core aspect of the games for me because I use them primarily as a way of shutting my mind down for a few hours or as a way of quieting my mind when I can’t sleep. That’s going to be a lot harder to do when I actually need to look at the game and employ motion controls with any degree of accuracy since you only get XP if you catch the Pokemon. How am I supposed to just cruise through the game with an overpowered team if I can’t dedicate a few mindless hours of battling wild Pokemon to each area between cities or gyms so my Pokemon stay above the curve by five to ten levels?
Thinking about it like that, it made it clear that this wasn’t a game for me. News that has come out since then, about other things that will be different about Pokemon: Let’s Go has made it clear that this game wasn’t meant for me or anyone like me. This game was meant for people getting into Pokemon for the first time. Children who have had to try to pick up the games that are always at least partially targeted toward older audiences, casual gamers who want a quiet couch game that doesn’t involve a lot of meta-analysis, or people who haven’t really played many games before but have started now that Pokemon Go has proven so popular and accessible. It’s a reintroduction to the series that somewhat mirrors the way the first game was simpler than all the ones since then.
For instance, Let’s Go won’t have eggs or breeding. All of the highly competitive aspects of the game that stem from that won’t be present either. There will be no breeding for natures, IVs, or EVs. Egg moves, secret abilities, TM/HMs won’t get passed down through generations to create the perfect Pokemon after a dozen hours of breeding, walking, and hatching. Now you need to catch the Pokemon or send them over from Pokemon Go if you want to try for a specific nature and all of that is more or less random. Sure, there are elements the game has that the originals did not, but it’s stuff like playing little mini games with your Pokemon to make it like you more or handing over surplus Pokemon for candies that boost your Pokemon’s stats (which actually maps pretty well to IV/EV stuff and the various stat-boosting items you could get when you inevitably wound up with more money than you knew what to do with). Everything they’ve added fits within the relatively simple and less competitive framework of the original game. Your only real competition are the friends you battle against using the system link or the game itself, most of which is pretty optional.
In order to entice the older, more competitive audience as well–and I’m willing to admit that this idea has gotten me interested in buying the game again–they’re adding “Master Trainers” to the game. These trainers are the specific master trainer of one type of Pokemon and you will have to battle them with that specific Pokemon as well. Your Charizard will have to battle their Charizard, and it’ll actually be a tough fight since their Pokemon will allegedly be specifically geared toward fighting its own species. Gyarados has been able to learn thunderbolt for a long time, but trying to beat one that knows that with another Gyarados? That sounds like an incredibly tough challenge that would require me to not only level up my Pokemon, but maximize its potential stats and find a way to give it an unbeatable set of moves. Which is exactly what most of the super-competitive Pokemon players where saying this set of games lacked. I’m not that competitive, but the idea of being declared a Pokemon Master after all these years sounds incredibly tempting, especially for my favorite Pokemon.
I’m still curious about how the game’s going to go once it comes out, but the twin powers of nostalgia and disposable income have convinced me it’s worth buying. I doubt I’ll try to get anyone else to buy it and just make up for the lack of a trading partner with Pokemon Go, but I expect it’ll be a good time now that I’ve started looking at it the right way. This isn’t a remake, it’s a reintroduction, and I think that’s a great thing. I hope more people online start to see it for what it is as well.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I really love The Legend of Zelda and Breath of the Wild in particular. It’s not like I’ve got a Triforce tattoo featuring the Triforce of Wisdom or that about 25% of my t-shirts are Legend of Zelda themed. It’s not like I can tell you just about anything from any of the games or point each of the references to past games in Breath of the Wild. Nope. Not at all. No one could ever guess that I spend a lot of my time thinking about The Legend of Zelda and it’s not like I should probably make The Legend of Zelda a category on my blog since I write about it so much.
With all the sarcasm out of the way, I want to honestly, earnestly say that Breath of the Wild is the game that keeps on giving. Not only did it give me over one hundred hours of fun during my initial run through the game, but subsequent DLC story content and the Master Mode version of the game more than doubled that. I’ve passed three hundred and fifty hours of gameplay on a single file and I’ve created two other files who probably add up to fifty hours total. The reason I created the first one was so I could stream the game on Twitch, because I thought that would be a lot of fun. I was right, of course, since it’s a fun game and having an audience only made it more fun, but it was impossible for me to make myself wait for my weekly streaming time and then I didn’t really feel like playing through it again on stream and in private after Master Mode came out. I wound up deleting that file so one of my friends could play instead.
The second file, though, was started because of a pet project of mine. While playing the game through the first time, I made my way to Hyrule Castle when I only had five hearts (but tons of stamina), in pursuit of a memory (one of the quests you get is to restore Link’s lost memories and one of them requires visiting Hyrule Castle). I had to make my way through what is basically the dungeon before the final boss with weak gear, no health, and nothing much in terms of healing items. While I was trying to find the right place, I got killed so many times it was almost funny. What actually was funny was a sequence of deaths brought on by an unfortunate auto-save. Every time I died right after entering Hyrule castle, I was brought to the same place, five seconds from getting one-shot. I eventually escaped by using the deaths to my advantage, trying different things to quickly escape the Guardians and simply repeating what worked until I made it to a safe place. I wound up with this really cool sequence of dodges, fire-powered flights, wall climbs, and a trip around a wall to a secret ledge. I probably died some fifty times figuring the sequence out, though.
Which is why I decided I wanted to make a “1,000 ways to die in Breath of the Wild” video to put on YouTube. I’ll put it to some kind of humorous music and make it out of segments of me dying recorded with my streaming devices. It’s going to be great. I was originally going to do it with a regular file, since it’d be easiest to power through it, but I decided Master Mode was the way to go since it eventually gets easy to avoid almost all deaths in a regular file with a modicum of skill and the eventual accumulation of good weapons and healing items. In Master Mode, sometimes you just die. A basic enemy can kill you in one hit, sometimes, and I struggle with killing them since they have a bunch of HP which regenerates if you don’t hit them frequently enough and weapons are a finite resource. Sure, you get bombs that are unlimited, but those take time to use without hurting yourself and lots of monsters have unpredictable invincibility frames when they recover from getting knocked around by a bomb. If you take too long to start dealing damage again, to make sure you’ve got your explosion lined up, then they just heal whatever damage you dealt to them. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when bombs are all you have for an enemy with over seven hundred HP in the Trial of the Sword quests (which pit you against a bunch of tough enemies after taking away all of your gear and items).
That being said, it also means that you die fairly frequently and don’t need to stand around waiting for it to happen. Maybe you choose not to heal yourself mid-battle, just to see if it happens, but I played for half an hour the other day and died six times. Which means I only need to play for another eighty-four hours and I should be good to go! I’m hoping death frequency will go up once I get off the intro area and stop trying to avoid difficult situations. I’m also hoping to find places to try some incredibly stupid and badass stunts like that time I strung together a bunch of crazy tricks to trick a Lynel into running off a cliff to its death or that other time I used a bomb, the ragdoll physics, and four fairies to get down the tallest mountain in half the time it’d take to warp to the shrine I wanted to get to. Each of those involved several deaths, even if most of them got cancelled by fairies.
There’s a lot to say about Master Mode, but ultimately the most notable thing is that it serves as an easy way to rack up deaths for my stupid video. It’s basically the same thing as the standard game, but with a somewhat more difficult beginning. In my main file, I still pretty much effortlessly win all fights, even if they take a while longer to finish because the stupid Golden Lynel I’m trying to kill has seventy-five hundred hit points. Enemies, late in the game, aren’t really a problem so much as they’re a nuisance. I prefer to avoid them, but I’m not put out much if I need to fight them, even in Master Mode where they’ll almost one-hit kill you even with the best armor on. Still, it’s more fun to have the additional (generally small) challenge than to play without it.
All hyperbole and theme song references aside, Pokemon Blue was my introduction to handheld gaming and set me up for a lifetime of fun. It holds a very special place in my heart and I will always remember standing in my backyard, on the deck my dad had recently built (with the assistance of my uncles) while I powered on my very own copy of the game. I remember seeing the large, turtle-monster with the cannons sticking out of its back and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. I, of course, picked Bulbasaur as my starter Pokemon because a frog-plant monster seemed even cooler. Also, one of my friends said it got this move called solarbeam and, at the time, that was the most badass thing I could think of. Fire blast was pretty standard and hydro pump sounded kinda dull because my dad was a civil engineer and hydro pumps were things that just moved water around, so Bulbasaur was clearly the best option. Thus began my deep and abiding love for the grass type starter. The only Pokemon game since then where I’ve ever picked one of the other options has been Gen II (Silver/Gold/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver) when I picked Cyndaquil because I was watching the anime at the time and Cyndaquil was my favorite of Ash’s Pokemon.
To get the first part of this nostalgia trip under way, I honestly miss the old days. Back before the internet made it possible to nail down the exact appearance percentage of all the Pokemon in every clump of grass, all you had was your friends. You found everyone with a version of the game, red or blue, and compared notes about where you found each Pokemon. Eventually, someone splurged for a walk-through and then everyone passed it around, trying to figure out where to find the best Pokemon. Then someone got a link cable and you all clamored to trade with each other until someone finally captured all 150 Pokemon, earning them the neighborhood crown until someone else revealed the secret to getting Mew. I was never the first to catch them all, for any version or generation of the game, and I’d never gotten a Mew in my life until Pokemon Go came out, but I was one of the best at figuring out where to get all the pokemon or remembering how to use the glitches so you could use Master Balls on Safari Zone Pokemon.
Back in Gen I, and even in Gen II, the games seemed so much simpler and more appealing. There was no meta to care about, no one even knew IVs or EVs existed, and everyone who tried a link battle with their friends inevitably lost to the other person’s team of level 100 Pokemon or their level 100 Mewtwo, specifically in the battles where we agreed no one would us Pokemon trained up using the Rare Candy glitch since they’d always pretend they’d leveled him up honestly and nothing beat a level 100 Mewtwo even with Same Type Attack Bonus boosted moves (Parasect was your best bet, but even that couldn’t hack it with a forty level difference). Back then, the games told a story and we got to watch the world and the people inside it change from one game to the next and even battle our previous player once we beat all of Silver or Gold.
Even setting aside the “crotchety old man” stuff, I miss the wild rumors that would circulate about the games. The wild speculation we all engaged in about Lavender Town and the ghost Pokemon you fought. The first Pokemon games coincided with my friends and I starting to get our first opportunities to access the internet and one of us inevitably came across some of the original “creepypasta” rumors about the first Pokemon game and we’d delightfully terrorize each other with stories about the old man in Lavender town killing all your Pokemon or the horrors of Missingno if you actually capture it. We all learned glitches we could use to duplicate Pokemon and convinced gullible people to do them since they had a tendency to delete all your save data instead.
The thing was, there was a community around the games and it lasted for years. Even as my friends and I get the new games, the feeling just isn’t the same. I’m still the best when it comes to knowing where to find Pokemon and I tend to have the highest Pokedex completion percentage, but the way the games are set up now makes competition pointless because you either cheat, trade your rare Pokemon away, or go to events to get limited legendary Pokemon that aren’t available through normal gameplay. Right now, there’s a “year of legendaries” event going on and my initial plans of taking advantage of it every month quickly fell apart as life intervened. Now I have no way to get those Pokemon unless I trade away something far rarer since everyone who has one knows they can ask for anything they want because it’s easier to restart and replay the entire game than get a specific event Pokemon. Sure, Mew was an event Pokemon and Celebi was as well, so it’s been going on since the beginning, but it’s so incredibly difficult to get them all now that it would take years to get all the event Pokemon and I don’t even want to know how much many in travel expenses.
I definitely enjoy the new games, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I enjoyed Pokemon as a whole more back when I didn’t know as much and when I had a little less information available to me. When things were simple and I played under the covers of my bed using the plug-in game light I told my parents was for car rides, Pokemon seemed like this amazing world that I would step into and explore. Now, because of the meta, because of Pokemon natures, and because of the ever pressing need to figure out where I need to go each month to get event Pokemon, it’s much less a world for me to explore and much more of a part-time job that doesn’t reimburse your travel expenses. I’ll still play each one as it comes out (though I might take a pass on the “Let’s Go” series coming out soon) because I still get hours and hours of entertainment out of it, not to mention assistance with my insomnia issues, but I miss the days when it felt more real to me.
To once again continue the theme of reflecting on old games, today’s post is about Pokemon! Listen to me wax nostalgic, play the part of a grumpy old main yelling about change, and consider the pitfalls of the more modern games.