dism error

On 2014/04/08 Microsoft released the first Service Pack… uhm “Spring Update”/Update 1 for Windows 8.1. Since then I noticed, that PCs, who used to successfully complete dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth will now always fail at it IF the disk cleanup option was used with admin privileges. I’m guessing it’s the removal of the Windows Update stuff that fucks it up?

Anyway, in that constellation dism starts to insist on 0x800f081f, an error that traditionally points to something connected with .NET, which is why searches on the net mostly offer solutions that have little to do with this rather new situation. I could reproduce this error on several PCs running Windows 8.1 Pro x64, so it remains to be seen if future patches will compensate for it. I won’t exactly be holding my breath, with this hardly seeming to be the worst problem a major update could cause (even if it gives people like me an itch they cannot scratch).

The dism.log the error message refers to, mostly contains lots of chinese characters – doesn’t exactly give the impression of something that was intentional (for an english installation) and reinforces this buggy feeling. Good thing they tried to teach me french in school…

After a few more minutes playing with it, I already thought the issue had been rendered moot, because as it turned out, running WindowsUpdateDiagnostic.diagcab removed whatever the underlying problem was on one of my affected machines. Despite repeating the procedure step by step on another PC, this one decided to stick with 0x800f081f. Would have been too easy, I guess.

Also: Yay, more people with the same problem!

Ever since MS announced that Games for Windows Live would be removed from the face of this Earth (only to be already followed by another digital gaming service closure, Gamesload), it was to be expected (=inevitable) that at least some games would automatically bite the dust alongside with it. A few lucky ones like the first two Batman Arkham games (Origins was Steamworks from the start) and BioShock 2 would be patched to escape that fate, but everything else…
Unfortunately Bulletstorm is among the games that were simply forgotten by their makers (or so it seems) – a game that offered one of the best FPS experiences/campaigns in the last few years. Seriously. Bulletstorm did and was, what Duke Nukem Forever tried/wanted to be but ultimately failed at.
With the reliance on a now unsupported component like GfWL, it’s only a matter of time until something won’t work anymore – and I wouldn’t hold my breath for a project like ScummVM to jump into existence to compensate for that.
A few people here and there are still trying to play it down, like it’s no big deal, because it could still be played without multiplayer (something that dies off first in most older games anyway), but the fact that Steam has already removed it from the shop speaks volumes.

Also:

Bulletstorm disappears from Steam, apparently as part of Games for Windows Live’s death throes

Normally, short, so easy there’s no chance in hell of getting stuck (and the like), are factors I dislike and thus make me judge games harsher (it certainly made me sigh at Broken Age) – not so this time (so love my ability to make sentences hard to understand!).
Brothers is such a beautiful, engaging title, it kept me prisoner for its entire duration (of ~4 hours). The name-giving 2 brothers don’t even speak in an actual language, but all their mannerisms are obvious enough, to let the player know what’s going on. I even liked the controls, although they force the player to use a gamepad. :P Both brothers are controlled simultaneously, each with one of the sticks and the triggers are the action buttons, that suffices to best every situation.
They also managed to make achievements (of all things) somewhat worthwhile, because all of them are only triggered by doing optional stuff – a nice twist.
Almost from start to finish, the game made me realize I’m not all dead inside (yet), by letting me feel emotions. Weird!
All of these things wrapped together, make me think that it’s unreasonable to be asking for more in a game.
I honestly can’t think of someone, I wouldn’t recommend this game to. People who don’t have gamepads perhaps. But those could buy one.

PS: Some people on the Steam forums talk a lot about bugs in this game, whereas I didn’t encounter any. Only mentioning this, because I was so surprised.

XCOM’s gameplay is so good and addictive, that no one ever pauses to talk about the game’s less shiny sides. So I’ll dare to give it a shot. When Enemy Within was announced as an expansion for Enemy Unknown, I was already a little bit disappointed because it would be the same known story. But I thought for sure it would at least be more elaborate this time around. After all, this expansion was initially sold at a full game price, surely then they wouldn’t just add an amount of content companies like CD Projekt RED give away for free… But IMHO, that’s exactly what happened. Enemy Within features 2 new enemies, Meld enhanced soldiers, EXALT, new/reworked maps and… I think that’s it. I hope I forgot something though – with it being such a short list! There are no new guns, no new armors… That’s really not that much stuff, for almost the same price of the original XCOM. Is the new stuff good? Yes. Is the new stuff fun? Yes. Is it comparable to stuff others give away for free? Yes.
One of the most intriguing new features of EW, to me, was EXALT. They are an organization like XCOM, but with opposing goals – I’m guessing. They have cells operating in the 16 council countries. An operative can be sent on covert missions to disrupt those. After this operative has almost completed the mission, he’ll be extracted. Each of those missions adds info on the whereabouts of the EXALT HQ. Making sure to attack the correct council country (attacking the wrong country results in it leaving the council, just like panic does) takes some time and builds up a desire for a proper payoff, once it’s finally possible to strike (at the correct location). Then, when the long-yearned-for “big moment” comes, nothing really happens. You’ll shoot some guys, mission over. In my case, their HQ didn’t even have more enemies than any other mission. The whole EXALT arc has no boss, no secrets, no surprises, no reveals whatsoever… And the kicker is, after the raid the EXALT options are removed from XCOM HQ like it never happened, the menu returns to the form it had before Enemy Within. I was quite stunned and never would have expected such an outcome. You’d think that with a gigantic project like XCOM, they could afford some writers. Funny, because that is (and was) almost the sole department in which you could seriously still enhance this game. To this day I have no idea what the aliens actual plan was. I have a rough idea, but my guess is as good as anybodys.
The original version already managed to disappoint a lot with DLCs that should introduce unique characters and Slingshot was definitely advertised as such and yet all it did deliver, was one mission with a few seconds of dialog from the “special” character (yes it has another but there is no dialog for this character in it and nothing extra happens if you bring him along!). An expansion should have been better than this and not continue to disappoint in the exact same places. Just imagine XCOM with characters like in Jagged Alliance, that could have made even XCOM at lot better than it already was. It wouldn’t have been necessary to remove the more generic soldiers, instead a couple of “hero units” (or something) could have been added.

And now it’s probably time to replay it, maybe in the highest difficulty setting? :)

Now, I’m really on the fence if it was a good idea to add to the ending of the main game, which made much more sense (than you would something like that expect to) and wrapped pretty much everything important up.
Though my opinion might be colored by the fact that it’s so fucking depressing*, the BaS ending isn’t so clean this time and not only because it’s THE end.

Melancholic thoughts aside, BaS is incredible in everything concerning art and atmosphere. Right now I’d even say it’s almost unparalleled in it’s endless detail (as far as such games are concerned). Batman Arkham City might be a good example of another game, that really understood it to polish almost every last corner of its game world. It’s also not very often, that a DLC is hardly distinguishable from the main product in terms of production quality. Normally those are done with less people in less time and it usually shows in one way or another (or several :D).
That isn’t even taking into consideration their crazy stunt of warping episode two into a full-blown stealth game with all its typical mechanics. Extensive overhauls like that are usually held back for a full sequel and aren’t (this reminded me of my very fond memories of Mysteries of the Sith) “wasted” for such expansions (especially for DLC it could be a first, super-rare at least).

Introducing the 1998 mode, the year in which the original Thief by Looking Glass was released and all, is really nice. Games hardly ever have so much substance to draw from. It’s like people who miss it lack one of the senses. :P
BaS is a strong finish and thus even sadder goodbye for Irrational Games, which will cease to exist after this (or only in its current form?). The reason for me, to pre-order Infinite (so I wouldn’t buy it in a sale), was that those guys would keep making such games and now that’s exactly what won’t happen. Or at least it won’t happen anymore in this constellation.


More:

BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part 2 Review – Revising History

Listen to full songs from BioShock: Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC

The Extended Songs of Burial at Sea

PS: What’s flying through my head now, is that Levine might have ended it this way, so that she would be “protected” from being used again by someone else, possibly in some half-assed spin-off. :P

*Remember Star Trek 7 (:D), where Kirk would rather die in reality than live forever in paradise, if it just meant he could make a difference, even if only for one last time? Yeah…

I can’t think of another game right now that looks exactly like its source material. South Park really pulled that off. I read somewhere their goal was, to make players feel as if they were in (or part of) an episode of the show. Judging it by this idea, they totally nailed it (I’m wondering if they will start using this engine to produce the show now :P). The game draws its content from all years of the show and constantly throws around references. That too goes far beyond what such games usually manage to deliver. Anyone who is a long-time fan of the show, must feel right at home.
The sole big thing I hated about this game, was that there are some parts that require button-mashing of a sort, that threatens to break whatever controller the player is using. :P Seriously, why are so many devs putting this stuff in their games? It’s not fun nor skillful to punish a button. And that’s really it. I can’t come up with any other relevant negative.
The combat system might take some getting used to at first, but it offers so many crazy animations for all the various attacks, it’ll certainly make up for it.
It’s also the first Obsidian Entertainment game that didn’t have any noticeable bugs (okay, Dungeon Siege III was also very bug free when I played it). I mean I love their games, all of them, but usually they have too many bugs in their initial versions. This one never did anything to disrupt my fun. I could fully immerse myself.

It’s not easy to describe Broken Age, because on one hand they collected the money by exploiting everyones nostalgic feelings for classics like Monkey Island 2 or Day of the Tentacle and then made an adventure that’s almost nothing like those, but on the other I kept playing Broken Age without ever wanting to stop and it felt good to see this project become an actual game.
At first (I backed this on the first day of its Kickstarter campaign) I wasn’t too impressed with the art style, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. They obviously have very capable artists, I was amazed at how much work was put into the animations. Some might say it’s a weird choice to polish this aspect so much, but… maybe this is just a direct result which showcases where this developers biggest strengths lie. I also played The Cave and despite it being a download title with smaller budget, its animations were quite noteworthy as well.
The voice acting surprised me too, it was top-notch, nothing I would have expected at that budget. Unfortunately I know way too little about such projects to judge, if this means they blew way too much money solely on the voice actors.

So far I liked Shay’s part more, it made more sense to me and, of course, spaceships! The story seemed interesting enough, although it’s hard to tell how good it actually is, with only ~50% of it available. Honestly, it could still go either way. I guess it’s good that I never really expected to get much more out of this than a rare documentary of Tim Schafer’s folks making such a game and then perceive the actual game as a bonus. From that perspective it’s all pretty great.

For some reason, I don’t fully grasp, there seems to be some negative vibe spinning around against this game which is, I think, mostly undeserved (perhaps, in the seemingly endless flood of good and great games, “okay” isn’t good enough anymore). The sole thing I really didn’t like, was that it was running too slow at times (and there is, yet again, some unnecessary button mashing to open windows [...]), my PC is getting too old, I guess (but then again, this game doesn’t do anything graphically others haven’t done before AND it’s “only” Unreal 3.x, so… badly optimized?). Maybe the game was released too soon after Dishonored, which was a very good stealth game. It’s possible most people, who are into stealth games, already had their fill for the time being, with the last Dishonored DLC released only a few months ago.
I can’t really agree that it’s boring, because hiding in the shadows and sneaking around unseen is what Thief is supposed to be all about. Why would someone, who doesn’t like that, even try this game? It is known. :P

Now, much of the story is about this random girl Erin, who just sometimes hangs with Garrett, but it’s never even explained how they met or what kind of relationship they have (it’s only apparent that it’s not of a romantic nature). The game acts and introduces her as if she was a well established character from the series, but it’s her first appearance. Actually the game doesn’t even clarify if it’s a reboot or if it takes place sometime after Thief 3. Only the mere title of “Thief” seems to indicate the former. Then again, Garrett visibly has two different eyes which makes it look like it’s after the previous games, in which he lost his eye (and later replaced it with tech). Many aspects are this ambiguous. Thief (2014) has no watchers. So it’s new? Oh, but they were all killed in Thief 3, so it is a regular sequel? [...] The game makes no effort to answer such central questions during its entire course. These flaws make it hard to really get into the story. With Garrett’s entire motivation kept secret, one could say that he simply doesn’t have anything better to do right now, than these missions. How is that supposed to cheer me up?

Speaking of missions, the game offers smaller side-quests like jobs from the fence Basso and more elaborate client contracts. One of the client jobs has the player collect parts of an automaton for Ector. He plans to build this metal man and needs Garrett’s help. I fully expected from the start that I would get some kind of payoff other than money for these extra missions, so I made sure to check in with him every now and then. So imagine my disappointment, once I had collected all the parts he needed, absolutely NOTHING happened. Ector says he now has all the parts, but his shop hasn’t changed, all the pieces he had still lie around in the exact same spot they were in, when Garrett entered the store for the first time. This is so unsatisfying. I expected the automaton, Ector would build, to run amok or something, I came prepared just in case something crazy would happen. I wasn’t prepared for NOTHING.

The high point of Thief probably is this super creepy asylum mission. Every Thief game has one of those (one of the reasons this installment still feels connected to the other games). It’s scarier than Dead Space. There are a few more intense scenes, in which Garrett has to escape from burning buildings, that fall apart all around him. They balance out the naturally much slower stealth gameplay. In conclusion I have to say, that people might have come to this game with expectations which were way too high. It’s not really that different from former Thief games (actually it’s closer to them than I expected it to be) except for current graphics and some ingame helpers (e.g. rope arrows can only be attached to certain, visible spots instead of wherever the hell you want to). But Dishonored is indeed a very tough act to follow.

It remains to be seen if this will be one of the games that gets an “enhanced edition” at some point, that will add to the solid base the initial release provided. This game would deserve it.

As far as I can tell, there have been a number of remakes/reboots in the last year or so, of old franchises. Often I felt like they didn’t really have anything to do with the originals, except for their bare names. With Shadow Warrior it’s different. Throughout the game I thought numerous times, that the devs had at least played the original Shadow Warrior. Good for them! And good for us, because that’s probably one of the reasons why this game doesn’t suck. It’s maybe not the best thing in the world, but it delivers pretty much everything a shooter of this kind promises to. I don’t think that anyone would be disappointed by what we’ve gotten here, if you’ll just go into it with realistic expectations. But why else would anyone want to play Shadow Warrior in the first place?

What I missed a little bit, was that they didn’t manage to (or maybe they didn’t want to) get the original voice back, which was a lot funnier/crazier than Lo Wang’s new one. A game this far out there should be treated like that. The new voice is alright though.

There’s even a story, but it was nothing that engaged me much. I was more interested in exploring the rest of the game, than finding out what would happen to any character. I can’t say that I rooted for anyone. Now that might make it sound more dire than it actually is, a game like this doesn’t need any deep story after all (although, of course, having one is always cool), nor would most people expect to find that here. So… this can’t take Shadow Warrior down. It is, however, one of these games that have a much stronger start than finish (“You’ve got the touch” is an awesome song!). Regardless, I for one will be interested in what the future might hold for Lo Wang.

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