Here we are again: the thread where we discuss the games we are playing in 2024

I’m about 3 hours into Animal Well, and I’m liking it, but still anticipating whatever makes this game truly special. I think I might know what it is just because a few times already I’ve felt like I’ve broken the game in a way… things like keeping the dog’s frisbee even after he ate me, the kangaroo not respawning, and spinning the rat around the wrong way with my yo-yo, losing the ability to return to open some unopened chests (for now). It feels like the game might be bugged or I cleared some condition without realizing it, but I think that might be the desired effect of the game. It definitely seems like this well goes deep given all the locked areas in the egg room. Genuinely confused why Jonathan Blow had such a hard time with it, the puzzles he was stuck on have pretty obvious answers and just require you to think before taking action or trying all the tools in your tool belt.

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i said it earlier but my advice is to stop anticipating a “chemical x” for the game and instead just appreciate it as something that’s pretty cool. that’s how i enjoyed my time with it and avoided disappointment.

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Sorry that post basically is cause I feel like , what happened to just playing games on Super Nintendo and being like woah yeah awesome cool

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I would extend this out and say that it’s a good approach to just about any video game.

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Is this post responding to me? I’m not sure what a “chemical x” is, but I will assume you are saying that’s not a thread I should pull? Realistically I probably unintentionally solved some things rather than it being part of a Ingmar Bergman’s Persona-esque framing device for the game. I am having a great time in Animal Well, but at this early stage (again, 4 hours or so) it is hard to tell if stuff like that should be part of my interpretation of the game, or might just be a bug or something.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Summary

Sometimes this room has 3 dogs, and sometimes it has 2 dogs… Other animals behave inconsistently (for example the bat comes back every time I enter the room, while the kangaroo disappears forever). I’m predicting there’s going to be some kind of twist that makes this make sense, but could just be a bug or something haha.

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I’ve got several games going at the same time.

I got several hours into Knights of the Old Republic during its free-to-play week on the Switch. I like the writing overall, though the RPG systems make me miss Neverwinter Nights or Pathfinder. I’m not sure if I should keep this one going.

I started replaying Morrowind because my five year old inadvertently saw Dagothwave and he wanted to meet the god himself. So I did a Dagoth% speedrun where I blitzed to Ghostgate, dodged enemies, and Icaran-Flight-hopped to Dagoth’s inner sanctum. (“Here he is!”) After that I spent some time stealing expensive items, selling them, and training while doing parts of the main quest. It’s very easy to fall back into the old habits of breaking the game wide open, and there is still a lot of stuff to explore. (Oh yeah, Tel Fyr is way up there.)

The five year old has also gotten into Super Mario Bros. He can do 1-1 and once did 1-2. I can see him building up some patience with dying, which is nice. He laughs hysterically when I die, which helps too.

I’m still playing FFVII Rebirth, about an hour every couple of days. In Gongaga. Usually I’d be worried about playing so many games with a JRPG like this, but spacing out the sessions helps with the pacing. I’m sipping rather than chugging this one.

I’ve also been poking at Wildermyth. The procedurally generated comics with choices are cute, and the grid-based combat is short and sweet. It’s nice seeing heroes marry one another or pick up a newbie or randomly gain fire powers or get saved by a splinter they gained two hours ago.

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I had been pretty hopeful about my long term opinion about Animal Well, but I got to a point last night that I always end up hating in games: I got stuck on taking the mock disc up to the mock disc slot-- the part with the ghost dog chase– and I spent the entirety of my game playing time last night beating my head against the wall trying to finish this bit. Ultimately I just gave up, and honestly I’m not sure I’ll be back, because I don’t enjoy these kinds of ‘make one tiny mistake and you have to redo from the beginning’ game challenges, at least not anymore. Which is a shame because I had been thinking that the difficulty level of the puzzles, in combination with the difficulty level of the platforming, had been pretty much ideal for me, and I had had a bunch of fun with the game. AND on top of all that I had been through this all a few nights earlier, and had run into a wall, so I went through and I got all three of the other flames and finished everything I could conceivably finish before coming back to this, hoping that more time spent wth the game would make it easier. I should point out that I’m typically good at platformers, even challenging ones, but this was some extremely frustrating stuff, some ‘throw the controller out a window’ kind of stuff.

So yeah, that stinks. I have to decide if I’m going to come back to it and try again, but I’m definitely taking at least a few days off from this game.

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As I tried and failed this several times, I questioned whether it was really what I was expected to do and also whether it was the next thing I had to do. But it sure seemed to be. I turned the game off, thinking I would set it aside for a little while. But it was maybe 30 minutes later I couldn’t resist and I pulled it off after a few more tries.

Soon after, I reached the credits and then wondered whether I should use a guide to find the rest of the eggs or just consider myself done with the game. Instead, I wandered around a little to explore some spots I knew I could reach but hadn’t yet. In doing so, I discovered that there was more to do than simply collecting the rest of the eggs.

I eventually did look at a guide and learned that there’s quite a bit more. I’m glad I went in totally blind, though, not even looking at reviews (let alone a guide) before reaching the credits. I wonder how much truth there is to the last bullet here from the Steam page, which I also didn’t read before finishing the game:

image

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(I’m also poking at that Animal Well, and I gotta be honest, it hasn’t grabbed me and pulled me in; I think 1000xRESIST might’ve eaten its lunch in terms of my current personal interest, but I kinda have to remind myself to pop into Animal Well. It’s a very well made game, that’s apparent, and I adore it aesthetically. One thing that has me bouncing off the most is the save points that make you trek through quickly mundane/repetitious gauntlets just for the chance at trying the thing that killed you once again – that’s a cardinal sin for me)

Anyways, here’s a tale of finishing two games that aren’t even tangentially related, except in my very personal experience: I’ve beaten Fallout: New Vegas and Unicorn Overlord this week.

Unicorn took such a turn for me. Its art, tactical/menu fussing and gameplay loop had me thirsting for it from the demo, something that rarely happens; I was so pulled in, I couldn’t wait for release day (normally I’m happy to wait for just about anything indefinitely because there’s just so much available). Despite the juice-less narrative and big ol’ pack of saltine crackers that are its characters – it quickly becomes clear that they’re introduced far too often to be able to keep track of or to invest in, and you’d hardly care even if you remembered who they were – I pored over that thing for at least the first 30-40 hours. But the beast just goes on and on and on to the point that my last 20 hours became a job, purely based on the irrational desire to see it through. By hour 50, I had cranked the difficulty down to easy and skipped every battle animation just to get on with it, and the getting on was maddeningly boring

The thing about that gameplay loop that hooked me so hard – the cycle of configuring units for auto-battle synergy (which really is brilliant), exploring the map, liberating towns, gathering materials, doing side quests and then progressing the main story – becomes rote in its rigidity. You had better just love the tactical battle system to absolute pieces if you want to be happy all the way through, because all of the content surrounding it, which does have a huge appeal for a certain amount of hours, just repeats – in exacting form – ad nauseum. Every continent, you’re gonna have liberations, deliveries, the same boats (with the same dialogue!) taking you to secret islands, the same sigil trials, the same “discover these animal carvings in order” side quest, the same “find all the cemeteries” side quest, the same ancient weapons side quest, the same mine to find, and so on. And dressing up all of that repetition is this massive cast of characters that I just cannot be bothered by. I never skip dialogue on its first run in a game. In those last hours, I was skipping every little “heart-to-heart” on the map because at 75 hours in, I had no fucking idea who half of these people were and I just wanted them to stop talking.

You can tell the writers and developers so badly wanted these characters – which are often beautifully drawn and usually well performed – to be a Fire Emblem: Three Houses situation, but it just doesn’t work. 98% of everything they say is a solemn proclamation, a heartful vow, a deeply sincere emotional confession. Hardly do we get to see any of these people doing or speaking about anything other than the war or their dramatic histories. The writing is polished and well done, but 75 hours of solemn proclamations from bone-dry characters that you half remember just ain’t it. It’s almost entirely slice-of-lifeless. And that’s where I settled on the game; it’s clear that it’s a finely crafted thing to behold. If you’re purely tactics obsessed, you might be obsessed to the end and beyond. But if you need the trappings around that to hold weight, too, you might find a fantastic 30-hour game that insists on being a 75-hour game with all the juice of a TED Talk stuck on repeat. After all that, it ends with “and then they got married.” Audacious in its dryness.

On the flip side, New Vegas. I won’t write as much about it because the past decade-plus has done that for us, but I finished my first playthrough at about 30-40 hours after very lackadaisical playing over the course of a year or so. Even with the gaps, the months between play, I remembered every person I spoke to in the wasteland. Even if I couldn’t tell you their names, if I saw them again, I’d be able to say, “oh yeah, that was their deal.” While Unicorn said “here are six things you will do exactly the same way over the course of eternity,” New Vegas said, “you’re never really going to be doing the same thing twice here.” Not in one of those flashy, gameplay-driven shakeups – 12 different gameplay modes! – things that never works. You’re just doing little errands and shooting some things and talking to people, but framed in a whole array of interesting and different motivations.

It’s basically a tale of two generosities: Unicorn Overload is over-generous. You cannot order one plate of food here. You’ll be given the same exquisitely prepared multi-course meal six or seven times in a row until you puke. There are no corners left to be unexplored – the final battle recommends you be at level 40, and I was barely there having done virtually every side quest and liberated every town. The corners that you missed, you know exactly what’s in there. New Vegas, I walked away knowing that I hadn’t seen, I dunno, probably 60% of all the weird shit left in that game? Some things I willfully, and satisfyingly, decided I wanted no part of (no I will not make this robot into a cop, thanks), otherwise I have no idea what dozens of things I walked right past. I’m fully content with my little ending, my bespoke little narrative, but I know I just made one amazing plate at a whole-assed buffet. And that’s comforting. One felt like a funneling, a gouging, a battering of “content,” and the other more like a confident, trusting, hands-off generosity. That, I think, is a genuine sort of design generosity, and it’s so incredibly fulfilling to walk away from

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I hear ya, when I reached that after taking so long to get up there, I was dreading the task, but I found one route that was a lot easier and it only took 4 tries. I just recorded my run:

Summary

https://youtu.be/oYjXMMK-oIs

It still has some precise platforming but it’s not as intense. It’s pretty repeatable to get to the teleport room without taking any hits, and gives you some time to breathe without the dog seeing you to get through a few rooms. I even kinda messed up a couple times. The hardest part is not getting stuck in the lower right corner of the last couple rooms.

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The Animal Well talk is making me think I might enjoy watching someone else play it more then I would enjoy playing it myself.

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yeah—by chemical x i meant something that “elevated” it to something ala the “games that are more than they let on” thread. imo that type of thing isn’t there for animal well but that also doesn’t stop it from being a cool game with fun stuff to uncover. that said, there still are some very cool aha moments with the mechanics, so maybe that isn’t my call to make. forgive the unsolicited advice. also, never noticed the 2 dog/3 dog thing in that room. weird!

more on topic—i thought the “put the frisbee back” chase moment was awesome. that thing has to be inspired by the house (movie) cat, right?

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posted about this in the Thinking About Playing thread but have some more thoughts now about Tartarus Key - it looks good and the concept is cool: puzzle game in the Human Entertainment (specifically Clock Tower II) and Resident Evil but just the goofy puzzle format. However I’m really fighting against the writing. Lots of quips all the time, just unrelenting. Spoils the atmosphere :( would recommend the game if you have a high tolerance for the “well that just happened” stuff, but if not then you may be deterred in having a fully good time

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I rolled credits on Animal Well… what a game! I only had to look up 1 thing (the songs to save the cats… couldn’t just let them cry the entire time I was in ostrich hell) I also discovered bubble jumping late into my run through and felt silly I had missed that for hours and hours but even that has opened up new parts of the map for me… I’ve started bouncing around the postgame a bit (and already discovered the remote control). It’s hard to put this game down… I keep stepping away and getting reminded of random stuff I need to try (like getting past the swordfish or that room with all the whisps or what the whole deal with that Kangaroo is… dang what an interesting game. I just wish I had marked mysteries on the map as I went!)

It can’t be understated how much Animal Well’s art style, lighting, shaders, and visual composition fits together so well. I really appreciate just about everything this game does. If you like puzzles, platforming, and the atmosphere of a metroid, definitely definitely definitely play this game.

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Just finished the 1.0 release of Dread Delusion. I played this game for 15 hours in the last two days lol

Certified banger. It’s like a perfect combination of Morrowind and King’s Field, with a pretty interesting world and a ton of quests. My only real complaint is that the combat is trivially easy but I had enough fun just exploring.

Also this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you can move crazy fast if you stack the movement speed bonuses. Like, Unity can’t keep up with loading world assets fast. I can’t wait to watch speedruns of this game.

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I think FF7 Rebirth made me fall in love with video games all over again. I’m having a really good time with games lately. They’re making me very happy these days.

I randomly started playing Castlevania Legends and having an amazing time with it. As someone who loves Metroid 2 from my childhood, this scratches a similar itch. I’ve only really played Castlevania 1 & 2 but I liked both and everything seems to translate to Gameboy really well.

The switch emulator for these games is great, moving around feels so smooth and rewinding is a very nice feature… I can imagine this game didn’t exactly light the world on fire when it came out because of the 10 minute countdown clock for each level while also having lots of dead ends and enemies respawning just outside the small screen. Rewind lets me relax a bit and makes the unfair fights less stressful. Sonia’s a cool protagonist and it’s just a nice vibe.

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You’re not the only one. I’ve been having so much fun just…gaming, in a way I’ve not in years. It’s great!

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Videogames are alright. I’ve been bouncing around a few games since finishing and being completely immersed in Drag-on-Dog-oon 2.

I’ve been playing Unicorn Overlord as my “main game” and it’s great! I’d nominate it as a great game to play before bed/bath with how ‘modular’ that game is. You can spend around 30-40 mins doing a basic missions, or explore the map and spend maybe 15-20 mins doing one of the smaller battles. Or you can chill and explore the map, fixing towns or tightening up your team composition or FF12 gambits. It’s also aggressively straightforward narratively so people might find it a bit basic.

On the side I’ve decided to install the porting kit for my MacBook and have played a bit of Fallout 1 and Fallout Tactics whilst also downloading the PS5 version of Fallout 4. You can find a bunch of posts online about people wanting to explore those early Fallout games but are intimidated because it’s old. Honestly it’s not that bad once you get over the initial hurdle of it being an old CRPG. As a whole Fallout 1 is a pretty clean, straightforward experience.

In contrast, Fallout 4 is pretty darn inaccessible if you’re going back to an old save file that you went deep into during the pandemic. I’ve been opening those menus and have 0 clue what is going on. The quests are just a giant list at this point - super difficult to identify what the main quest is, what is and isn’t radial trash, and really getting an understanding of the motivation behind the quest. Not to mention the Leonard Cohen song length list of all the items and junk you collect.

I’ve barely played it but Fallout Tactics is the best Fallout game lol.

And lastly, I’ve been in a handheld mood. I’ve decided to pick up Darkest Dungeon 1 on my Vita. I’ve been playing this game on and off for around 6-7 years now. I love it but I don’t think I’m ever going to finish the darn thing.

Mea culpa this is far too long.

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I played through crow country, that was a real fun time. that’s all I’ll say about that until a certain episode we do later!

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crow country insert credit GOTY confirmed

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