When Ron Gilbert pitched Thimbleweed Park, one of the things he said, was that he wanted it to be, in a way, like a game from the Maniac Mansion days, which was just now discovered. That’s kind of how Mars: War Logs feels. Like a game Obsidian made ~10 years ago on a budget, but only now did someone discover it. So for people like me, who are into such games, this is a good thing, simply because there are no more games like this. I’ve already played most of them. This is a relic of sorts.
There is a lot of potential in this game, lots of great stuff, which is often unpolished or imperfect in a way which can almost feel unfinished. The combat is acceptable, I’ve definitely seen worse over the years. :P
The setting is good (MAAARS), there are some good characters (Roy was badass in a way that wasn’t annoying, Mary was my kind of crazy and Innocence was strangely endearing) and some choices can lead to an ending which I found satisfying. I think I finished all quests which took me 16 hours (according to Steam).
The game really made me want to play Bound by Flame, simply because it’s from the same dev.
I’d really enjoy a direct sequel to MWL, but I don’t think this is in the cards. Also, there is Technomancer, which is seemingly set in the same universe. I should probably check that out as well. :)

random links (15)

Mad Max

Mad Max had the potential to be almost as great as TW3, if they had “just” added a ton of proper story missions. Instead a massive amount of activities was dumped on the wasteland, which are essentially a brutal grind. Another great source of disappointment is the option to build up strongholds into what should be powerful fortresses. Except from the obvious options each upgrade delivers, it’s entirely meaningless. At one point in the story a stronghold is attacked, but whether it has no upgrades or all of them is irrelevant. It really shouldn’t be.
The game is worth playing regardless, because almost everything else is fun. It’s worth noting that this game runs incredibly smooth, it’s almost like watching a video, even on my machine (the typical gamebros on youtube have phones with more power).
The most impressive part was to me, that next to all (I’m especially including and referring to the minor, non-mission sites that only contained some meagre loot) of the countless places throughout the wasteland seemed to be unique locations. This is so very rare. Another reason why I’m so sad they couldn’t get more out of this fantastic framework. It all could have been so glorious.
After the main story was done, I immediately stopped playing the game, because then it made even less sense to continue grinding for anything. So I didn’t use Max’ original leather duster and shotgun once, which only becomes available after completing the campaign.
What is also completely messed up, is that the two characters who are murdered so horribly before the last mission, are alive again when the game “continues” after the ending credits. That’s one of the things I dislike about open-world/sandbox games in general, but it’s of particular bad taste here.
During the game I often wondered, how it would have been, if inXile’s Wasteland 2 would have been done in this engine/world. It could have been a fantastic fit.

PS: Not once did I have to refuel the car, even with 0/10 points in the “save gas” ability. So this one is super important. :P

PPS: I have no idea why the screenshots turned out so dark, the game itself was really bright during my sessions. I don’t think I ever experienced this before. Normally screenshots look exactly like the game did.

v9.7 28.12.2016
—-
+Restored Chateau Hotel to ending, thanks EntenSchreck and Psycho-A.
+Swapped clone Brujah at solo ending with Toreador for male Brujah.
+Made Gary gift different bloodpacks and fixed missing Kathayan bug.
+Stopped shaking Malkavian lines in Ocean House and at observatory.
+Made crypt ghosts vanish and added missing door to Chinese Theatre.
+Fixed map details, cleaned files and updated SDK, thanks Psycho-A.
+Removed Lotus Blossom patron with bad shadow and fixed green drips.
Switched badly fixed missing Tommy line with better fitting float.
Fixed Kilpatrick’s line making it possible to restart Carson quest.
Recreated floats and subtitles, thanks miracle.flame and Psycho-A.
Fixed four level holes at the Ocean House and one in Venture Tower.
Mirrored SM area maps and improved details of others, thanks IanW.
Fixed unbalanced XP of Bad Luck Farmer quest and minor text issues.
Corrected Luca, Damsel, Bertram, Gary and Skelter dialogue issues.
Removed confusing left over corpse and gone cars in parking garage.
Fixed Zhao exploit and walkthrough errors, thanks to sunsmountain.
Corrected lip-sync of prostitutes in cemetery and her dialogue bug.
Improved Empire Hotel mafia TV room sound switch and music radius.
Disabled bump mapping option because of issues with improved water.
Fixed Nadia sequence, frozen zombies and Ming endgame camera shot.
Repaired bad icons and flickering for upper Venture tower elevator.

https://forums.planetvampire.com/bloodlines-tech-support/unofficial-patch-9-7-released!/

random links (14)

While the Batman Arkham games are for everyone, even people who don’t care about Batman, YJL is kind of the opposite. There aren’t any solid reasons for anyone to play this, if they aren’t also into the show.
I’m personally more of a fan of Season 1, simply because Season 2 is 5 years later and lots of stuff happened you know nothing (or at least little) about. It makes it hard to follow all this crazy stuff. YJL however, takes place between the 2 Seasons of the show and shines some light on some minor plot points. I enjoyed that and wish they would have done that a lot more.

What’s so cool about my experience with the game regardless, is that I found out, during playing this, that they are NOW actually doing a Season 3… I was shocked, because when does it actually happen that a show gets a new Season, years after being canceled?!? I guess it’s due to these good news, that it was much easier for me to enjoy the game. It’s one of these weird coincidences.

The games graphics are nothing special and THAT wouldn’t have bothered me at all. The problem with that is, that there’s all kinds of crazy stuff going on. Some people say the FPS in this game are locked to 25, but in my game they were always jumping between 22 and 24. Who configures a game like this?!? There are no options in the game itself and nothing in the accessible config files to change that.
The graphics look and feel like this is an old, early and buggy Unity version maybe (I don’t know which engine it actually is). I read some posts claiming the game would crash a lot, I had trouble with that only once during my entire time with the game, but then it created a bluescreen. The first bluescreen I ever had on my current PC, which I built several months ago. The problem is, when the game does crash, it turns off the Windows cleartype font settings and all fonts look accordingly gruesome. Why the game would do this remains a mystery. Cleartype then has to be enabled manually again.

Overall the game feels a little bit unfinished here and there. Some levels contain crates, which can be opened, but they are all seemingly empty and there is no visual or audio cue that anything happened. I suspect they might contain credits but without the game confirming it in any noticeable way, it’s hard to be sure.

The game contains 16 heroes in total, 4 of them are optional DLC. The heroes aren’t really used in interesting ways. Each team consists out of 3 heroes and the team leader is locked, only the other 2 can be selected. So during all of the missions, only the team leader ever speaks. Everyone else remains mute.
This leads to a lot of missed chances and real disappointments. There are levels in Gotham, but even going there with Batgirl, Robin and Nightwing doesn’t mean anything. It’s the same experience than it is with whomever. The worst moment however was, when the team is supposed to save Dr. Sandsmark and I brought Wonder Girl (Dr. Sandsmark’s daughter). The moment she’s freed, she asks the team who they are, with her daughter standing directly in front of her… :D All I wanted is for her to yell “I’m standing right in front of your face mom!”. Lots of missed chances here, all I’m saying. The strongest parts of this game were, after all, that they had the original voice cast of the show and the soundtrack…

To my knowledge, there is only one single instance in the game, in which an individual skill is actually properly considered. During the Gotham missions, snipers shoot every team member, that’s running around without cover. So the official solution is, to push forklifts towards the snipers until you are close enough for Nightwing to take them down with a batarang. I however had Miss Martian in my team and she can turn invisible, so I thought I’d at least give it a try. To my surprise this actually worked. I had fully expected, that I would get shot just the same and the only way to complete the level would be the official path with pushing the forklifts, but no – thanks to Miss Martian I could skip all that, although the Nightwing sequence was still shown each time, when a sniper was taken out.

The game plays a lot like Knights of the Old Republic or, because of the fighting style, Jade Empire might be an even better comparison. Even the maps look eerily similar

What was entirely unnecessary, was that some of the heroes are only unlocked after finishing the game, but at this point, the motivation to play the same levels again, is… limited. There is lots of unrealized potential here, this game could have been something really solid, the foundation is here, but also the flaws which are hard to overlook. Not everyone will have played this thing while learning that the miracle of a Season 3 just happened. So that’s what I’ll always be remembering about this game. Okay – and the 22-24 FPS. :D Those are unforgettable as well. :D

The “who was killed by the gunshot” moment

You kinda think that a show is decent enough, but then they suddenly pull this crap. Again, we’ve all seen it a gazillion times. 2 characters fight for a weapon (typically it’s a protagonist and a villain, not some random folks), usually it’s a gun. Then suddenly a gunshot is heard and the camera shows only the 2 faces and both characters look exactly the same (because to the writers of this crap it doesn’t seem idiotic that the person NOT shot would feel the same pain as the one who WAS shot…), to make the viewer guess which one was shot (usually shot dead) and after an annoying while, the camera pans down to reveal which actor has to leave the show. :D
So it’s pretty dumb and annoying as it is, but of course it’s possible to trump even that – by having this appear in the last scene of an episode, maybe even before a break. Of course I stop caring altogether when this happens out of spite and the futility of this measure is often even made more apparent, by having one of the actors show up in another show during the break, which might count as this slight hint, when guessing which character is the dead one…
I believe there should be QA to automatically remove scenes like this…

the-nice-guys-2016

I feel like I’m ruining peoples chances to enjoy this movie the way I did by saying that, because I myself saw it without expecting anything, but The Nice Guys was the best movie I saw in all of 2016. Not kidding. However, it’s not like anyone is reading any of this, so I guess I’m still good.
Now, all I hoped for was some scenes with a bunch of funny characters who were hopefully not too embarrassing/annoying or anything. I didn’t expect much of a plot, let alone one that mattered, but that’s exactly what happened. In fact, I’ve seen “political thrillers” which had less intricate plots. Almost every scene means something and (stuff) a lot of (and) stuff which could be random, isn’t. At the end it all comes together (if one pays attention) and I found it rather impressive. It’s kind of the last type of movie one would expect so much smart writing and yet there it is. The film has a lot of nice little bits which can be easily missed.
Oh, I know Russell Crowe’s character would probably punch me in the face just for saying this, but I really liked the 13 yo daughter, she was supercool – not gonna lie. And I’m not typically a fan of kids in movies. Gosling is outright hilarious in this.
10/10, would enjoy/watch again. :D

I had made so many awesome screenshots (stop laughing!) for this game, or so I thought, then I found out that my screenshot tool doesn’t make screenshots for DX12 games but, of course, also doesn’t say so. At least I learned that Steam can screenshot DX12 (so I still managed to make some during the last half of the game). It’s kinda disappointing though, that an extra tool would fail at it.

Anyway, overall I very much welcome the TR reboot, the gameplay is a lot of fun, the level design is usually rather sweet and this package makes the game really motivating to me. I was especially in favor of the many “realistic” animations they put in for LC – loved those. I didn’t have to make myself finish it, I wanted to.

I thought now might be the ideal time to start playing it, because I’d noticed that the tenth patch was released only a few weeks prior. This sounded like the game should be in a rather pristine condition by now. So my surprise couldn’t have been bigger, that this game is still riddled with bugs which are impossible to overlook.
I have the “20th b-day celebration/complete edition” and the game throws out a ton of screens for every installed DLC at the beginning. These messages are clearly supposed to pop up only once during the first start, but they always appear, forcing me to click them away each time (the same goes for the Square Enix account the game wants me to log into – has to be skipped at each start, despite an extra screen suggesting it too will only appear once).

No settings in the audio/languages section of the options are saved, all of them reset each time the game is closed. So each start of the game is a small nightmare, before playing the game can begin.

It happened a few times to me, that I couldn’t activate the survival mode (think Batman Arkham Detective Vision), nothing would happen. But it would always work again if I restarted the game. There was another issue with one of the tutorial screens popping up again and again, although I wasn’t performing the action it was for. As if the countless DLC messages at each start weren’t bad enough, the game additionally forced me to endure this as often as possible.

As mentioned I played the game in its DX12 mode, which worked really well, except for the last campaign cutscene. Every single time this soldier was stabbed, the game would crash. Easy to reproduce. To watch the final scene of the game, I had to switch to DX11, for the first time.

As we all know, LC has never been a deep character or anything like that and none of the previous TR games were ever known for a good or even memorable story, but this is 2016 and stuff I would have overlooked in 1996, do disappoint me now. The story, if one can call it that, is entirely forgettable and doesn’t even reach the level I would call “serviceable”. Movies like “Die Hard” don’t have a deep story either, but it’s well presented, give us SOMETHING.

While the cool gameplay makes me usually forget how terribly disappointing every story bit is, I still couldn’t overlook some truly cringe-worthy scenes (and believe me I tried). Out of the ~4 named characters this game has (besides LC), one of them is supposedly friends with LC, this character gets hurt bad and is about to die (he’s maybe minutes from kicking the bucket) – but luckily LC is after a gadget that can heal/give immortality to people (a much lamer and less interesting version of the holy grail from last crusade basically). So I obviously expected LC to find it and heal her friend with this thing, saving him last second. But no, the first thing LC does, once she finds the MacGuffin, is to destroy it and the next time she sees her friend, he’s completely healthy and healed up again anyway, as if he was never hurt… How?!? Could it be worse? Probably, but still… I just can’t understand how it is possible that we still have to put up with crap like this in 2016. And this game is a major blockbuster, there should be some sort of QA for the story bits. Low budget indie games often do it so much better! Games such as RotTR should be able to do at least as much. I only had to laugh a few times when someone told me, that this friend actually was a recurring character from TR 2013 – zero memory of this guy.

Who knows how awesome these games could be, if they would put in more than just fun gameplay and awesome animations for LC!

The same continues with these logs that are spread throughout the world. They even got actors to read all of those texts, but none of them contain any information I am interested in. None of them reveal anything of value. You’d hope they’d shine some new light on things, add to the experience, but no. They are literally nothing but sheer collectibles. As another element that was taken straight from the Batman Arkham games, this too could have been so much better. So to get at least something out of it and to keep my mind occupied and not just my hands, I role-played the whole game as the Cerys an Craite spin-off, CDP would never make. Lara wears almost the same armor after all.

The additional “story” DLC in Croft Manor only further points out that LC isn’t a real character. Like James Bond she’s rebooted every few years in story and looks (which also makes no sense whatsoever). Since the series started in 1996, this is at least the third incarnation now. I’m still hoping they’ll never do this to Indiana Jones, but since Star Trek and Star Wars I should probably accept that it’s going to happen sooner or later. Member Berries and all that.

All in all the game is better even than the first of the reboot and current survivor-series. It’s obviously been a while since I played Tomb Raider, but I remember extremely annoying bits with QTE’s they thankfully scaled back to a healthy amount in RotTR. Those were pure evil. :P

I still would like them to fix all these bugs, but after one year and 10 already released patches, it’s most likely crazy to still expect anything.

Tyranny

Bye Bye Voices of Nerat!

I’m one of these people who really liked Pillars too. I also had no problems with the companions. They might not have felt as legendary as the group from Baldur’s Gate II, but… Let’s just say this doesn’t make them bad in my book. Not even close.
So I was looking forward to Tyranny as well, the only reservation I held, was that it might be too similar to Pillars. Same engine and all that.
All of these doubts went away rather quickly, once I started playing. Sure, it’s the same engine, but these games are primarily about story, characters […] anyway. Despite the same engine, this game really isn’t anywhere near to being a clone of Pillars. In fact so many details appear to be different, that it might be something the devs were worried about as well. Even the GUI is another one and the changes are almost deep enough to maybe even alter gameplay a bit.
Parties now consist of 4 people, instead of 6. While I do have the drive to drag along as many of the companions as possible, to not miss their unique dialogs (at the very least), in a game like this there is still enough micromanaging to do with just 4 characters. It made me curious if they are going to keep this refined design for future titles, or if this was just something to make Tyranny more unique.
In a way this game reminded me of Witcher 2, because some decisions in W2 have such deep consequences, that the player ultimately needs another playthrough to experience the other half of the game. Tyranny offers a shorter campaign (“shorter” in comparison to Pillars), but has a lot more variables. Again, I can’t say if it was their goal to make people happy who want shorter games AND those players who like spending lots of time with the same title. If it was, they came as close to this as possible.
At first I had real problems understanding who all the various factions were (I thought there was so much lore right away, it was much harder to get into than Pillars) and what their goals were, but ultimately Tyranny did a good job at explaining it. Not every game makes me learn/remember all the names and little stories behind them. At the end of the game I knew almost everything the game had to say about groups like the Scarlet Chorus. I was really down with the motivations of all of these groups. A huge part, of why I was able to remember it so well, was probably that I actually got to meet most of these groups and had to actually “deal” with them eventually. Pillars on the other hand only mentioned lots of factions as part of the lore and worldbuilding, but they had no further relevance to the story, they remained something abstract.
So once again, Obsidian has learned from their previous game and did not merely introduce changes, but improvements.
The ending had me wondering if they are going to add to it (maybe even in the form of an expansion) or if this is supposed to be a one-off. I have to say it would work either way. The ending doesn’t necessarily “demand” a sequel, it just allows one.

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