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Dying Light_20150127222408Dying Light, the zombie-ridden first person parkour survival (well, sort-of) horror game from Techland, launched today. By the time I got it downloaded (onto my PS4, the video and pics in this post are from the PS4’s share features) I didn’t have a huge amount of time to play, but I did squeeze in about two hours, which was just long enough to get through the fairly linear prologue and get to the meat of the game, unlocking side quests and co-op mode, neither of which I had time to sample.

But that still gave me enough time to bash some zombies and get a feel for the parkour aspect of the gameplay. The zombie bits are pretty familiar; this game came from the same folks who did Dead Island after all. And like that game, this one is really violent, at least towards the zombies. You’re going to be bashing them to bits with pipes and clubs for the first couple hours of the game and it is very much not a game for the kids! It’s a real splatter-fest.

There’s also a crafting system which is also fairly familiar. You find alcohol and gauze and combine them to make a med patch. You can craft lockpicks out of scraps of metal. And so on. You can craft anywhere, at least in these early parts of the game where your blueprints are pretty simple. You can also use bits of metal to repair weapons (which take damage with use). Loot, in the form of basic weapons and components for crafting, comes from searching the environment (a ‘survival sense’ ability takes the tedium out of this), or searching the corpses of the zombies you kill. There’s plenty of it, too.

You’ll also find locked chests that you can pick via a mini-game where you rotate the lockpick with one analog stick and turn the key with the other. If you don’t have things lined up right the controller will vibrate and if you don’t back off when it does, the lockpick breaks. This mini-game also felt really familiar.

The part of the game I was most concerned with was the parkour stuff, as I at times suffer from motion sickness in games. So far that hasn’t been a problem and the parkour stuff works pretty well and adds a new dimension (in some ways literally…you’ll do a lot of climbing) to the gameplay.

Here’s some parkour gameplay in action. In this clip I’ve completed a mission but darkness is falling and you don’t want to be outside in the dark!

So far I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Dying Light. The first person aspect makes for plenty of good scares, or at least startles, as you run around the corner and into a pack of zombies. The early-game zombies aren’t very fast but they’re everywhere and the sound of battle attracts them. They WILL creep up behind you and take you by surprise! As mentioned, the parkour system works well and combat is pretty fun. L1 will kick a zombie away from you while R2 swings your weapon. L2 throws items, like packs of firecrackers to distract the horde. R1 is your jump button.

Dying Light_20150127222226Your character (and you can’t create one, you have to play as Kyle Crane) has 3 proficiencies (Survivor, Agility and Power) that you level up as you play, and as you get skill points in these proficiencies you spend them in skills trees to unlock skills. You seem to have to ‘bank’ points every so often. I died once and was told I’d lost 200 survivor points. I’m not sure if that was experience or something else…I’m still learning the game. But I did level each of my proficiencies a few times in my two hours of play.

Now a word of warning: the game starts with a big old wad of exposition and during it, while you don’t have control of your camera, your view point will be swinging back and forth like mad. The exposition felt endless and that view point swaying was the one time I felt a little ill. The good news is this only happens at the very start of the game and then things start moving along nicely.

I think my attitude went from snark (I was snarky at first from all the exposition) to joy when I was sent to a fenced-in courtyard to see an NPC. I ran past it at first and came back at it from the wrong direction. I couldn’t find a door but eventually I found a way up onto something and leapt to the top of the fence and dropped inside. I thought it was cool that I could ‘solve’ this puzzle in a way other than coming in through the door (which turned out to be spot in the fence the was bend inward a bit). That feeling persisted as I kept switching between fighting through zombies to opting to out-maneuver or distract them, and back again. Whatever worked best for the immediate task at hand. It feels like the kind of game that is going to reward a certain amount of flexibility in how you play.

Dying Light_20150127222422 Dying Light_20150127181137 Dying Light_20150127222508

As mentioned, the prologue is pretty linear and maybe a little longer than it needs to be, but honestly it was fun and there were some challenging moments where I really had to plan how to get from point A to point B without getting eaten. Still, when I got back to “The Tower” (the central base at the start of the game) and I saw a bunch of side-quest indicators light up I was delighted. Even when you’re on a quest it seems like you can take the time to explore and search for loot.

It’s really early…as I said, I only played for two hours. But so far I’m really enjoying Dying Light even if a lot of the systems are ones we’ve played with before. It gave me a few scares, there was a good feeling of satisfaction when I made some epic jumps, zombie combat is gross but satisfying…so far so good. I hope I enjoy the rest of the game as much as I enjoyed the prologue!

Dying Light_20150127223754

Disclosure: This First Look was based on a copy of the retail version of Dying Light provided by the company handling Techland’s marketing.

After getting hyped about the Guild Wars 2 expansion (see previous post) I jumped into the game anew. Well almost anew. I had a level 8 ranger that I decided to play.

A LOT has changed since the last time I played Guild Wars 2; many systems seem to be either level-gated or maybe just level-teased. As I gained levels I was told about things like gathering and crafting and vistas…I’m not sure if low level characters now can’t do these things or if this is just kind of a tutorial system. Since my character pre-dated the changes (I’d rolled him years ago) he could do all of them. Daily quests have changed a lot too. They used to be very generic, like harvest 30 items or kill 50 monsters. Now there are a lot more of them to choose from but they’re pretty specific: do event X or gather wood from area Y. This probably helps to ‘funnel’ players into the same place to aid in keeping things populated.

I don’t know if it was the expansion announcement and everyone had the same idea that I did, or if the game is just still doing well, but the world felt very populated to me:

gw009

There was also a double exp buff for everyone this weekend and I went from level 8 to level 23 pretty quickly. Yesterday I thought to do an /age check and he was 8 hours old and level 17. This morning at level 23 he’s 11 hours. Six levels in 3 hours seems plenty fast, particularly since his map is still largely unexplored so he’s doing a lot of hoofing it back and forth.

I’m still struggling a little bit with scratching that progression itch since you learn all your skills for a given weapon very early and from then on out it’s about earning and spending skill points for utility spells which still don’t feel super impactful to me, but as I unlocked more of those and got into higher levels and needed to rely on them more, it was all feeling better. So I’m not done with Guild Wars 2 yet. We’ll see how long it sticks this time.

When I wasn’t playing that, I was playing Drive Club on the PS4. If you’re a PS4 owner you know that Drive Club had a horrendous launch, and if you’re waiting on the free PS+ version as far as you’re concerned it’s still having a horrendous launch. I bought the game and found it very pretty but also both frustrating and a little boring at first.

But Evolution Studios has been updating it regularly. They’ve added weather (which looks amazing) and some new tracks, circuits and cars for free. The servers are finally stable so your club and driver’s progress can be saved (and you can play online but honestly I haven’t bothered yet).

The core game, of course, hasn’t changed. It’s still very much a racing game, which to me is a little weird for a game called Drive Club. Prior to launch I assumed there’d be an open world where you and your crew could just kind of go cruising around. But nope, this is track-based gameplay. They still haven’t added any kind of replay mode, which seems odd given how pretty the game is, though they did add a photo mode for stills if you want to stop a race to take some shots.

They say this isn’t a simulation and though I’m not going to argue, it doesn’t feel like an arcade racer either. For one thing, there’s no racing line; you have to learn the tracks (there are green/yellow/red flags on corners to give you hints as to how tough they are). There’s no rewind either (something the Forza series has spoiled me with) so if your concentration lapses 90% of the way through a race and you hit something, you’re probably coming in last.

I had a devil of a time playing this game at first, if I’m to be honest. Eventually in an attempt to ‘find the fun’ I started driving from in-cockpit and using a manual transmission. Somehow the manual transmission flipped a switch in my brain and I stopped mashing down on the accelerator all the time and started driving like a sane person actually drives. I eventually went back to a behind the car camera just to get back some peripheral vision, but I stuck with the standard transmission for now.

And suddenly the game felt fun again. I still suck at it but now I’m getting better. Evolution has tweaked the AI so it no longer gleefully smashes into you quite so often, and between that change and me learning a touch of finesse Drive Club is now a game I’m really enjoying. I need to be in the right mood for it; I have to really concentrate to do well. But if fills a niche on the PS4, at least for now. I got so enthused about it that last night I sprang for the season pass (it’s dangerous having a balance in your PSN wallet…its so easy to spend it).

Of course, me being the knucklehead I am, I have no recent photos or videos from the game. Here’s a clip I recorded back in December (right after weather was put in) when I was still playing with automatic transmission and treating both brake and accelerator as if they were binary switches. You can see how poorly I did, and this is in VW Golf, not some super-car:

For some reasoning I’m feeling optimistic and upbeat today, so I wanted to talk about hype and how I think we (ok mostly I, but there’s some of you like me out there too) need to learn to embrace it.

Full stop: I’m not talking about PR hype that’s coming from some marketing department about a game that’s not even finished yet. I’m talking about hype from our friends. Seeing the people we hang out with on social media get really jazzed about something. Maybe “buzz” is a better word?

Anyway… I feel like we can react to hype 3 ways. We can embrace it, we can ignore it, or we can demean it.

I find it’s often REALLY tempting to demean it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just an asshole. But if so I’m not the only asshole around. I’m trying to be better. Like when Warlords of Draenor came out a lot of my friends were SUPER-pumped. I personally am not a fan of WoW but as far as I know I managed not to jeer about the expansion or try to demean anyone’s hype for the game.

A more passive-aggressive way of demeaning hype is with “flavor of the month” comments. Not everyone says “flavor of the month” in a derogatory way, but some do. Y’know the kind of thing: “Oh, so WoW is the FOTM now? I give it less than a month and you’ll all be playing something else.” (With the implication being this is a bad thing.) I’m really guilty of this, too. I get irrationally annoyed when a friend finds some new game and starts talking about how much fun he or she is having and that causes a bunch of other friends to try that game. I’m not sure why this bothers me…it has something to do with knowing that while these people are saying this is THE GAME TO PLAY today, I know they’ll be playing something else in a few weeks or months. But why THAT bothers me…I just can’t figure out. And if I can’t figure it out, it must not be very important and it’s just a bad habit I need to rid myself of.

I’m thinking about all this because of the Guild Wars 2 expansion announcement this morning. I don’t like Guild Wars 2…for whatever reason I just can’t get into it. But today instead of getting snarky I paddled hard to catch up and then dropped into the wave of hype and enthusiasm and rode it for all it was worth (yes apparently today is the day for surf analogies) and y’know what? It was FUN. I watched the twitch stream from the event with one eye and the buzz on Twitter with the other and it was really cool seeing all my friends so excited for this new expansion, and the next thing you know I was updating my Guild Wars 2 client.

So Guild Wars 2 is the flavor of the month, or week, or day, or year. And y’know what? That’s awesome. I’ll give it another go. Maybe it’ll stick this time, probably it won’t. But at least for the time I’m playing I can share in the discussion with my friends. And that’s a lot more fun than standing on the sidelines making snarky comments about the game.

fat_chocoboFinal Fantasy XIV is unusual in that it is an online game where PC, PS3 & PS4 players all play together on the same server. If you have a FF XIV (and have purchased clients for multiple platforms) you can be playing on your PC, log out, go to the living room, turn on the Playstation and log in with that same character and keep on going.

In a lot of ways this is pretty awesome. At long last you can play on your preferred PC platform but still go adventuring with your friend who’s a devoted console player. Or if you’re like me you can just bounce back and forth between playing on the couch and in the office, depending on your mood.

But there’s a negative side to this as well. I actually prefer playing on the console but I have to confess I feel a little bit uptight about it, at least when it comes to group content. I LOVE doing solo quests on the Playstation but I’m just not as efficient with a controller as I am with mouse and keyboard, particularly when it comes to quickly targeting things. Partially this is a matter of practice but it’s hard to argue that anything is easier than just pointing and clicking with a mouse when you need to target a specific mob.

Then there’s communicating. If everyone in my group is on teamspeak then I’d have to drag out a laptop or something to log in. I can use a keyboard, of course, but that means setting the controller down when I want to say something. Perfectly acceptable while soloing but in a boss fight in a dungeon those lost seconds could be crucial.

If I was on a server that only had PS4 players everyone else (well most everyone else, it certainly IS possible to connect mouse and keyboard to the PS4 and play that way) would have the same disadvantage when it came to controls. Ideally the game would have native voice chat for parties so everyone could communicate that way, but if not we could use the Playstation’s Party Chat to communicate.

But I’m playing with PC players, and I suspect primarily PC players, and I’m really sensitive about screwing up other people’s enjoyment of a game. So when it comes time to do group content (and FF XIV forces you to do group content if you want to advance the story and unlock things like using mounts) my enthusiasm for the game wanes. I don’t want to be fumbling around trying to target the right mob while the rest of my group is doing all the work, and I don’t want to be that guy who never speaks because I can’t fight with the controller and use the keyboard at the same time.

I’m really looking forward to Planetside 2 on the PS4 and Neverwinter on the Xbox One, because both are games I’ve enjoyed and (as far as I know) both intend to silo players so that everyone you’re playing with will be on console. Hopefully both will also come with native voice chat support.

In the meanwhile, back in FF XIV, I’d love for Square Enix to add some kind of ‘solo mode’ for the required storyline dungeons so that players like me can at least get through them and unlock chocobos and such. This weekend I started leveling my 8th or 9th character. I always get to It’s Probably Pirates (the first required dungeon) and quit playing. And oddly even though this is my 8th or 9th time through low level content I still really enjoy my time in that world.

I guess I should bite the bullet and play through that content on the PC and just get it over with, because I want to ride my chubby chocobo!

On a scale of 1-5 I’d give Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light a 3, based on playing it as a single player game. I imagine it’d be a LOT more fun played co-op.

Having finished, I could go back to try for higher scores and to beat various challenges but I just didn’t like it enough to devote more time to it. My biggest issues is that gimmicks were repeated too much towards the end of the game. Lots of puzzles that involved planting mines to blow up in such a way that they caused giant balls to go careening off in a required direction. And lots of stuff like flaming bolts falling out of the sky.

I don’t think I died by combat at all in the second half of the game. All my deaths were of the insta-kill environmental variety (fall off a ledge, get hit by flames, that kind of thing).

On the plus side I found the combat pretty fun, some of the puzzles were clever and the designers resisted the urge to spike the difficulty at the very end of the game (one of my personal peeves…the last battle difficulty spike).

Glad I played it but probably won’t ever play it again.

poison_gasNuclear Throne is an early access game by Vlambeer. I’ve been trying to resist the temptation of Early Access games, but I won my copy of Nuclear Throne on Forge.gg and was happy to find that the game is finished enough to be playable and addictive.

Nuclear Throne taps into several current trends in the indie gaming scene. It has procedurally generated levels, a modern 2D retro aesthetic and it is a difficult game. When you start the game you can pick from one of several characters, each starting with a different weapon and having a different special ability. The game is played from an overhead viewpoint, WASD moves you, space toggles between weapons, and the mouse is used to aim and fire (left button) or trigger your special ability (right button).

So you run through the level, shooting all the baddies which drop experience vials (they look like vials to me) which you then have to collect before they vanish. Thus you can’t just find a corner to hide in, really. You gotta get out there and collect those drops! You’ll also find chests that contain various types of ammo and/or additional weapons. When all the bad guys are dead a vortex opens and sucks you down to the next level. If you’ve gained enough experience you get offered a random selection of ‘mutations’ that you can pick from. Mutations do anything from really basic stuff, like let you carry more ammo, to weird stuff like making you impervious to fire when you’re under 4 HP. The goal of the game is to get through 7 sections and reach the Nuclear Throne and then.. I dunno, I haven’t gotten anywhere near that point. Each section is broken up into 3 subsections (1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 etc, just like in the old days) and I’ve never made it past 2-1. /blush

Nuclear Throne is damned difficult, at least for me. I shouldn’t like it given my predispositions. Every time you die you start over at level 1-1 again. This should, and does, breed frustration in me and I’ve got issues with controlling my frustration. And yet I find the game to be super fun due to its most important feature. And what is that feature? A quick restart option.

OK I’m being slightly tongue in cheek, but not really. When you die you have two choices. You can go back to the main menu and think about what you want to do next, or you can hit R and in just a couple of seconds be back in the game shooting again. For me at least, this is important because it doesn’t give me time to sulk. There’s nothing liking dying in a game and then staring at a loading screen for 2 minutes before you can get back to the fun. That just feels like you’re being punished for failing. In Nuclear Throne the death screams of your in-game persona will still be rebounding off the walls of your office when you get back to the shooting. Well they would be if your in-game persona had a voice.

Of course what’s also important is that the moment-to-moment gameplay is so satisfying. And between the random levels, random drops and (I think) random mutation offerings each attempt feels different. You can even pick a random character to play, after which that random choice will remain every time you do a quick restart.

Nuclear Throne is on PC now for $13 (again, Early Access) and it supposed to be coming to the Playstation ecosystem at some point (PS4, PS3 & Vita) according to a post on the Playstation Blog from last May. I give it my thumbs up, if you’re into this kind of game.

Here’s a random gaming session. See how good I am at failing!

Renegade Ops is a twin-stick shooter from Sega that came out in 2011. You can buy it on Steam; I’m playing it on the PS3. The game world of Renegade Ops is broken up into Missions or Stages. You play as one of several characters, each with a unique special ability. Your character earns experience as you play and when it levels up it gets points to spend towards various perks. Each character has 3 tracks of perks and within a track you have to unlock perks sequentially. You can equip 4 perks at a time. Aside from earning perk points, character level doesn’t matter as far as I can tell. You don’t get more health or firepower based on level, just based on the perks you equip.

Renegade Ops has no manual save system. You start the game with a finite number of lives (this number can be increased by certain perks) and when you’re out of lives it’s game over, start over from the beginning of the stage you last died on. Your character level is persistent and is saved as soon as you achieve a new level, so each time you begin again you’ll be higher level even if you didn’t complete a stage.

I hadn’t played Renegade Ops in a long time. When I went back to it last night I was on Stage 9 and my favored character was level 30-something. I’d unlocked all the perks in one track (a track centered on her special power, which is to call in an airstrike) and about half in a second track (a track centered on increasing health and starting lives), and it looks like I was ignoring the third track (a track centered on ammo).

The game felt pretty fresh to me when I first started playing again. It’s a fun but pretty simple game. You’re in a vehicle and have a primary weapon and can find a secondary weapon. Primary ammo is unlimited. Enemies drop powerups for the primary weapon, a variety of secondary weapons (you can swap out a dropped weapon for whatever is currently equipped, losing the equipped weapon), health packs, and ammo packs for the secondary weapons. I got a good way into the stage before I lost all my lives. I started over, played for long time and died again. Started a 3rd time, and by now my memory of the game had started to return, and I remembered frustration. I got to what I think is the end of the stage and there’s this long fight in a constrained space and I lost my last life there.

At that point I rage-quit and pulled up the menu to delete the game forever because I felt like I was never going to beat it. Yeah I unlocked a few more perks during these attempts but nothing that felt like they were going to significantly change things. The problem was my skill level and a certain amount of cheapness to the game (powerful enemies will start firing on you before you can see them, shooting at you from off-screen). And I thought “What a shame, I was having fun, too.”

And then the new gaming outlook kicked in. I WAS HAVING FUN. So what if I didn’t beat the stage and move on to another stage where the mechanics would be essentially the same. Renegade Ops doesn’t have a compelling story…it barely has a story at all. I thought back to the old arcade days. I didn’t play Asteroids or Defender to ‘beat’ them; I played them because they were fun to play. Sure I wanted to do better but I wasn’t trying to finish them so I could move on to something else.

I realized I was playing Renegade Ops to ‘finish’ it so I could set it aside. (Part of the reason I started this delve into older games is that my PS3 hard drive is getting full and I wanted to ‘knock out’ a few games so I could delete them and free up space.)

I didn’t delete Renegade Ops. And I’ll play it some more. But I won’t play it to ‘beat it.’ I’ll play it because it’s semi-mindless fun. Unlimited ammo and huge explosions and nothing the least bit heavy. There’s no story to speak of, no lesson being taught…it’s just a fun “blow shit up” kind of game. And I’m going to treat it that way. If I never get off of Stage 9, so what, as long as the moment-to-moment gameplay is scratching an itch.

But it’s still nice to have a goal. So my new goal will be to unlock all the perks for this character, just to say I’ve done it. Or maybe I’ll level up some of the other characters. We’ll see. And yeah, sure, I’ll still be TRYING to beat Stage 9, but I’ll try not to get frustrated if I don’t make it. And when driving around causing mayhem stops being fun I’ll just set the game aside again, until sometime months or years from now I get the itch again.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’m approaching games in a different way. It wasn’t a conscious thing and maybe it’s just temporary. In spite of my name-checking 2015 in the title of this post, it certainly wasn’t a resolution.

I’m still playing and enjoying games but I’m not talking about them as much. I’ve for the most part withdrawn from “the community” and gone back to a time where games were purely a solitary refuge from the stresses of life. I think I’m just tired of all the baggage that comes with dealing with other people. I just want to love what I love and not have to defend my decisions. Couple that with having stopped playing MMOs and there’s not a lot of benefit to talking to other people about games. I’m sick of me saying, or seeing someone else say, “I’m really enjoying GameX” and immediately getting a “Oh GameX totally sucked” as a response from some random mouth-breather.

(My one exception is forge.gg — it’s new enough and the membership is still positive enough that I feel like people still celebrate the fun they find in the games they play and just ignore games they’re not interested in, rather than trying to ‘correct’ people who enjoy different games.)

What’s interesting about this, to me at least, is that it’s been kind of freeing. Instead of playing the latest and greatest I’ve been sorting through my game collection and playing things I always meant to finish or even always meant to start. I finally finished a port of a mobile game that is so generic I always forget the name. Dungeon Hunter: Alliance? Dungeon Explorer: Alliance? Something like that. I played it on the PS3. I bought it for $10 or $12 in I think 2012 and finally finished it a few days ago. Or at least finished my first play-through. It’s not a game I’d recommend to anyone, but I really enjoyed it. In fact I might play it again.

After that I started Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light which is the isometric co-op game that came out a few years ago. I’m playing it solo which I suspect takes something away from the experience, but I’m enjoying playing it a bit at a time. Gameplay doesn’t stand up to long play sessions, IMO. I limit myself to 1 level/night. I also finally started Papo & Yo, but its unforgiving save system combined with glitches caused me to set it aside. I’ve no patience for replaying content because save points are so far apart and I had to quit to go to bed, or worse because a character in the game got stuck and I had to restart. Some day I might give it another try on PC.

I’ve also been enjoying some tablet games; something that is completely taboo in “the community.” REAL gamers don’t play games on tablets, amiright? No, I’m not right but there’s the small but loud subset of gamers who think so and will tell you so. I played through all of Monument Valley (though not the expansion) and Quell Reflect. Now I’m playing ZenGrams. All three have been quite good and kind of relaxing. All three were free apps on the Amazon App Store, too (I’m playing them on my Fire HDX which I still LOVE). Yup, Amazon still does its free app of the day!

Along with social media, I’ve also more or less given up on gaming sites. I still have Joystiq, Polygon, Game Informer and Gamasutra in my RSS reader but fewer and fewer headlines grab my attention. It all feels like rehash, or clickbait, or someone trying to stir people up. Oh, Bungie gave us free gifts and some players are angry about it. Does that really warrant a news story? Maybe it does, but reading about people being disgruntled because they didn’t like the free stuff they got doesn’t improve or enhance my life in any way, so from now on I’m not reading stories like that.

I don’t need the hype either. Every game gets huge hype but most of them don’t live up to it. If I have a resolution this year (and really I’m not much for resolutions) it is “Wait to buy.” I have literally hundreds of games in my collection; I don’t need to pay full price for GameX on the day it comes out. It’ll be half price in a few months AND all the glitches will be ironed out (or they won’t be and I’ll know to skip it completely).

So that’s where I’m at. Kind of a pointless blog post but the take away from all of this is that I’m enjoying games a lot more than I was before I fell in love with Dragon Age Inquisition. After DAI I spent a couple hundred bucks buying the other ‘hot new games’ looking for my next love affair but none of them really stuck in spite of them being hyped and well-thought of by the community. For now at least, I’ll play the games that speak to me and not worry about what’s popular.

I finished South Park: The Stick of Truth this evening. If you read my last post you’ll know I was pretty conflicted. I liked the mechanics and some of the jokes, but there were sections that really went beyond my limits in terms of gross humor. There’s a point where I find gross humor just becomes gross and not at all funny or entertaining.

The 2nd half of The Stick of Truth was a lot worse than the first half in these terms. It got really bad; bad enough to the point where I’m kind of embarrassed to have played it, to be honest. I knew it wasn’t a long game (took me just under 13 hours in total) and I just wanted to finish it to say I finished it. As soon as I did, I deleted it. It’s not a game I’d ever play again, nor did I have the slightest interest in going back to finish up side quests.

Also, even at 13 hours it felt a little drawn out in places. Lots of that style of quest where you need someone to do 1 thing and they send you on several trivial side missions before they’ll agree, and it just feels like busy work.

I still think most of the game mechanics were pretty solid (though the button mashing stuff got pretty bad towards the end in places) and if you’re a fan of really raunchy toilet humor then you’ll probably enjoy the game. For me though, it went beyond my comfort level. Not recommended for people who aren’t really into the nasty, gross stuff.

It took most of my on-again, off-again holiday vacation but I finally found a game that grabbed me and helped me get over my Dragon Age depression. I’d heard over and over again that South Park: The Stick of Truth was a good game and back around Thanksgiving Sony had put it on sale for $10 or so and I’d grabbed it for the collection.

I’m really new to South Park. For years I refused to watch it because I thought it starred talking feces and was nothing but dick and fart jokes. When I finally gave it a chance it turned out I liked it when I wasn’t hating it. There IS talking feces and a lot of dick and fart jokes that I don’t really appreciate, but there’s a lot of other stuff that makes me laugh, too.

And I’m finding the same holds true of the Stick Of Truth. The overall theme is that a bunch of kids who live in South Park are playing a giant LARP. So yes, I’m a rogue but I’m also ‘the new kid’ since I just moved into the neighborhood. And if I spend too much time exploring and poking around instead of following quests my companions will say something like “Can we get back to the game now?” In combat if you take too long an opponent will say “Wait, is it my turn?” or the less friendly “What the fuck is taking so long?” or even a simple “I could be home watching TV.”

This constant breaking of the 4th wall (well, sort of) amuses me for reasons I can’t explain.

But what I’m really enjoying are the RPG mechanics. You might think, as I did, that the Stick of Truth is a quickie way to cash-in on the popularity of South Park and that the actual game would be quite shallow, but it’s not. Take combat, for instance.

Combat is turn-based, with some timed button-mashing thrown in. So you take your turn and then to max out your attack you have to press buttons at the right time. For melee attacks you can do a light multi-attack or a single powerful attack. Enemies have a variety of stances and defenses they can use. In Riposte defense any melee attack launched against them is reflected back on you, so you’ll need to use a magic or ranged attack. In Reflect, the opposite is true. Ranged attacks will bounce back at the attacker and you’ll need to use Melee. Then they can have Shields, which absorb 100% of X attacks, meaning you’ll want to use light attacks to break the Shields quickly. Or they can have Armor which absorbs X points of every attack. Against an armored opponent you want to use Power attacks since the Armor will absorb all the damage a light attack inflicts.

And so on; that’s one small aspect that I’m using as an example. There are also special movies that use Power Points, and magic that uses mana. Gear is both customizable (via stickers and ‘strap-ons’) and amusing. Right now I think my character is wearing Druid Robes and a Tin-Foil Hat. There’s also a bunch of ‘flare’ that you can use to continually change what your character looks like, which for some reason also amuses me.

But then there’s the gross stuff. For instance Mana has a pretty interesting mechanic in that a character can only ‘hold’ so much mana. This means if you’re low on mana and want to quaff a potion you can, but you want to make sure you don’t drink too big a potion or you’ll wind up with too much mana, which results in a debuff. In fact some enemies will actually inflict mana on you to try to force this debuff.

It’s an interesting mechanic, BUT then there’s the fact that the whole magic system is based on farting. And your “mana” is gas. And if you get too much of it, you shit your pants…that’s the debuff I mentioned. Which is really gross and to me, not funny.

So that’s my issue. It’s got some neat game mechanics, but some seriously disgusting aesthetics. Though at other times I find the aesthetics really amusing. I got to one point yesterday where I almost put the game aside becaused it really crossed a line (sodomy) for me, but in the end I pushed on and things got funny again. And this is exactly how I feel about South Park the show. Sometimes I turn it on and am just horrified by it, and other times I find it hysterical.

If, unlike me, you don’t mind (or even enjoy) jokes about flatulence, incontinence and sodomy, give The Stick of Truth a try. It’s a really solid RPG..at least the first 6 or so hours are (that’s as far as I’ve played it). And even if you do mind these things, if you’re willing to just clench your jaw and push past the gross bits, I’d still recommend it. I’m really surprised by how much I’m loving this game, when I’m not hating it.