Mafia 2 Definitive Edition Review

After having a surprisingly good time playing Mafia Definitive Edition, I decided to see what else the series has to offer. As luck would have it, Mafia 2 DE is also on Playstation Plus Pass. I rolled right into it. I kind of wish I hadn’t.

I didn’t enjoy Mafia 2 nearly as much as I did the first game. It wasn’t all bad, but I had enough issues that I almost didn’t finish it. Let’s get into my critique.

First, and worst, is that it is a really offensive game. The dialog is chock full of racial, ethnic and misogynist slurs. I guess I get that they were trying to capture the times (the game takes place in 1945 & 1951) but you can do that without using every offensive term you can think of, and maybe making some up to boot. It was really way over the top and this is why I almost quit playing.

In Mafia 1 you collected detective comics. In Mafia 2 you collect Playboy magazines, and every time you pick one up you get a full-screen photo of a centerfold. I didn’t really mind this, but it was a little surprising and definitely earned some eye-rolling from @partpurple. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I recognized a few of these and they were NOT from 1951.

The game is also not very stable. I had some crashes and a few glitches including some bad enough that I had to look online to find a workaround.

Vito and two women
Waiting for the “broads” to leave so Vito can go to work. The one facing the door kept walking into it without opening it

This time out you play Vito Scaletta, a real dirt bag with pretty much no redeeming qualities. As a kid he gets arrested but since he speaks Italian he is sent to the war to fight in the campaign in Sicily (this is all off-screen). When he comes back after being wounded, he immediately and with no hesitation starts taking on hit jobs. He never shows a hint of remorse over this. The story in Mafia 2 is much weaker than the one in Mafia 1. It’s really just Vito and his pal Joe making a lot of dumb decisions and murdering their way out of them.

The one giant redeeming quality in Mafia 2 is the music. It has a ton of great music (most of which wasn’t actually recorded when the game is supposed to take place, but what can ya do?). Check out the list of tracks over on the Wiki. Driving around listening to the radio was what convinced me to stick around.

I also thought the gun combat felt better in this game. Guns felt like they had more punch, and this one has regenerating health (in Mafia 1 you had to find a first aid station to heal). This made shootouts more fun (for me anyway) since you could play a little more fast and loose, knowing you could hide and regenerate health.

The melee combat still felt bad, and the driving felt good, though honestly by the end of the game I was pretty sick of driving around these streets, even WITH the great radio stations.

A line of old timey cars waiting at a traffic light
Sitting in traffic in 1945

Maybe I’m being overly hard on Mafia 2 just due to the fact that I played it immediately after Mafia 1, which may have led to some gangster fatigue, but I don’t think so. The story was meh, the dialog was so offensive it made me uncomfortable, and technically the game was rather dodgy. Also checkpoints were way too far between (this was a problem with Mafia 1 as well). At least it was quite short.

I dunno, I can’t really recommend this game unless you are just hard up for vintage centerfolds to gawk at.

Mafia Definitive Edition Review

Mafia Definitive Edition is a throw-back, in a couple of ways.

The most obvious is the story, which takes place in the early-mid 1930s, that strange part of US history where drinking a beer was illegal but grabbing a soda laced with cocaine was fine. It really does a great job of transporting you back to those days, with characters slinging old-timey slang left & right, and old music and news snippets playing on radios.

But it’s a throw-back in terms of gameplay, too. We just don’t get many games like this any more. The game plays out as a series of missions, each telling a chunk of the overall (and very decent) story. To support the strong narrative the missions are all quite linear, and while there is a pretty large city for you to drive around in, it is ‘open world’ in only the most technical sense. There’s no reason to roam around other than for fun. There’re no character levels, no crafting. There are collectibles but those are just for Achievements/bragging rights; they don’t impact gameplay at all.

There’s a lot of driving too, which I loved but might annoy others (it’s the 1930s, the cars aren’t very fast). Most missions start with you driving to the location and then after all the action you have to drive back home. It adds a certain cadence to the story and I enjoyed the driving but gamers who want all action all the time might feel frustrated. I went so far as to ‘roleplay’ my driving, trying to drive safely so as not to draw the attention of the cops on the way to or from a job. There are achievements that suggest that at times the cops will come after you for driving poorly but it never happened to me.

Driving around in Mafia
I loved driving these old cars around

As for the story, you play as Tommy Angelo (no customization available), who starts the game as a cabbie and gets involved with an organized crime family and rises through the ranks. Let’s be clear: you are playing a bad guy in this game. He has a little more of a conscience than some of his colleagues but he is still a very bad man. So keep that in mind.

I don’t usually do well playing a bad guy but for some reason I really enjoyed Mafia. Maybe it is just the era or something, or maybe Hollywood has de-sensitized me to being a bad guy in this kind of organized crime setting.

Overall I’d rate the actual gameplay somewhere around a 3 out of 5. It was fine, but not super special. It was the time period and the story that really hooked me. It also helped that it was pretty short. 10-15 hours or so. And that was enough. I was sated by the time it was done, and had no interest in replaying it or hunting Achievements.

This is the perfect kind of game to play on a subscription service (I played it via Playstation Plus Pass) or if you can get it for cheap as part of a bundle or something. Recommended as long as you like gangster stories.

July 2022

Hot enough for ya? July has been absolutely brutal in terms of the heat, not only here in North Carolina but seemingly everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Here at Dragonchasers HQ we’re all going a bit stir-crazy since it is so awful outside that we just sit indoors staring at the same walls, day in, day out. August isn’t looking much better in the long-range forecast, but in my mind I envision July 31st as existing at the bottom of a deep hot pit. May-July we’re heading down into the grossness, then come August 1st we’ve hit the bottom of that pit and are starting the slow climb back to temperatures that are comfortable (highs of 60-70F). We should get there by November.

Anyway, on to the recap!

Games

Deliver Us The Moon is part adventure, part puzzler, and part simulation. It’s fairly short, and I say that as a compliment because it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It also isn’t particularly hard. I suck at adventure games and only had to look up a hint once and that was really because I was tired and my brain was being lazy. Once I looked up what to do I realized I’d been looking at the ‘thing that can be manipulated’ without it sinking in that it was glowing as ‘things that can be manipulated’ do in this game. The story is both pretty implausible (you have to launch yourself in a rocket to the moon to fix a reactor that provides Earth with all its power) but also pretty entertaining. Definitely would recommend it if you haven’t played yet. You can easily finish it in a weekend. I played it on Playstation Pass (which is what I insist on calling Playstation Plus Extra- the tier that gives you a bunch of PS4 & PS5 games to play.)

Progress in Ni No Kuni 2 has slowed down. Now that I’m thinking about it, it has been a LONG time since I’ve stuck with an RPG for very long. They all start to feel so tedious since you wind up doing the same thing over and over for tens of hours. It’s really up to the narrative to pull you along, but generally these games have a 1-2 hour story stretched over 30 hours of game play. Same feels true here. It’s fun enough to play in short doses but I get bored after an hour and set it aside again.

Far Cry 6  completed and I wrote a post about that.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War also warranted its own post. After writing that post I spent an evening having some success and making what felt like progress. I thought I’d turned a corner. Then the next evening I was back to rage-inducing frustration, to the point where the rest of the family literally left the room to get away from me. Haven’t booted it since. Not sure I will. When a game gets you frustrated to the point that your dog gets upset & worried, it’s time to set it aside.

No Man’s Sky got a new update. New updates always bring me back, but because I’m weird I always start a new game and tend to drift away before I get to whatever is in the new update. Same thing happening this time; started a new game, sort of played for a few days. Then everyone on Twitter was talking about doing the new Expedition so I started over AGAIN in an Expedition and am sort of playing. I really like No Man’s Sky but it always feels like a real time-sink. It’s a good ‘on vacation’ kind of game.

Stray — Short and sweet. Probably helps to be a cat fan. I thought it was OK, but I am not in the camp that sees it as a game of the year contender or anything like that. Playing it soon after Deliver Us the Moon was maybe a disservice since DUtM gave me my fill of wandering around doing puzzles with no combat. While the narrative and tone of the two games are very different, they still kind of scratched the same itch in my brain. You walk around, solve some puzzles, talk to some people.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is another game I downloaded thanks to Playstation Pass. I just started it a couple days ago but I’m finding it pretty engrossing. Weird thing is, I’ve hardly PLAYED the game; mostly it’s been cut scenes and driving around. Hopefully when I get to the real interactive parts I’ll continue to like that as much as I’m enjoying the narrative bits.

There’s more; quite a bit more. But just a lot of things that I’ve dipped into here and there and I don’t want to try everyone’s patience any more than I already have!

TV

Stranger Things (Netflix) surprised me by having only 2 more episodes to air in the ‘2nd half’ of the season, but they comprised 4 hours of show.  It was amazing. They have one more season of the series but I guess it won’t be out for a couple years. The characters will have to be in college by then!

The Dragon Prince (Netflix) is a YA Netflix anime show that I really enjoyed. It is kind of sweet, kind of light in a lot of ways. But it also explores some aspects of human behavior that we don’t often see. Watching characters you like drift towards becoming a villain without ever realizing they’re becoming a villain. Or exploring what it is like to be one of the family members of the villain. There’re three seasons with a 4th season coming out this fall, I believe, and I’m really looking forward to it. Would broadly recommend this series.

Lillyhammer was one of the first original Netflix shows. It’s about a mob boss who goes into protective custody in Lillehammer because he watched some of the Olympics when they took place there. He’s a complete fish out of water in Norway but soon returns to his old ways. It’s one of those shows  that I really WANT to like (mostly because Steven Van Zandt stars in it) but honestly, it’s just OK.

RFDS (PBS) stands for Royal Flying Doctor Service. This was basically a soap opera that aired on PBS Masterpiece. It takes place in Australia. Doctors have to do emergency calls via plane. Drama ensues. I like it since it was such a change from what I usually watch. Plus, y’know, lots of Aussie accents. Who (in NA) can resist that?

Ms Marvel (Disney+) was an absolute joy and a surprise. I never expected to love this show as much as I did. It was just (dare I say it?) MARVELous! Sadly I think we’ll have quite a wait for a second season and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) was so so good. I’m sad it is over. If you watched Discovery or Picard and have written off ‘New Trek’ I urge you to give this a try. Strange New Worlds recaptures the spirit of the original seriess and Next Generation.

The Sea Beast is a movie on Netflix that you really need to watch. It’s about a world where wooden ships set sail to fight sea monsters. It’s both a great sea yarn and a sweet story about understanding, and it has one of the sassiest young characters I’ve seen in a while. She is, as the ship’s captain (voiced wonderfully by Jared Harris) says, “pure vinegar.”

We’ve finally gotten around to season 3 of For All Mankind (Apple TV) and so far the show still delivers. I was worried that it might slip as we got farther and farther from what actually happened (the whole show posits an alternate timeline where the USSR beat the US to the moon and the space race never slowed down) but so far, so good. Mind you, we haven’t finished the season yet.

Reading

All I’ve been reading this month are ancient Marvel Comics. I’m using this site (that someone shared with me in a comment last fall) and the Marvel Unlimited app on the iPad. The “Read it Online” links on the former open the comic in the app, making it easy to follow the order. These comics (we’re talking issues from the early 1960s) are honestly not great but I find them very amusing. If it isn’t a random alien causing problems it’s the commies! And it’s fun to see how some of the superheroes we know today started out. Thor was a regular guy with a magic cane that could transform him into his superhero self. The Hulk used a machine to transform between Bruce Banner and Hulk, and Hulk was acerbic but otherwise talks normally. Antman uses a gas to shrink and enlarge himself, and he gets to the scene of a crime by launching himself via catapult and telepathically ordering ants to form a big pile for him to land softly in.

The big names back then were the Fantastic Four, and the Human Torch seems to be the most popular character. He often appears in his own in spin off comics. In the first Iron Man, Tony Stark is captured by the commmies (it’s always “the commies” or “the reds” in these old books) while in Vietnam. The
origin story is fairly close to the scene in one of the Iron Man movies where he’s captured by terrorists in the Middle East. He’s supposed to be building them weapons but instead builds his armor. Only since this was the early 60s it all happens in Vietnam, and Stark is a wizard with transistors! (Remember transistors were cutting edge back then). Next hero to get his own book is Spiderman. He’d appeared as a 1-off in 1962, but in 1963 the first issue of Spiderman hit the newstands. This has been a really fun project, reading these stories and thinking about what the world was like then.

And that was July 2022. Kind of a ‘meh’ month all-in-all. Besides the heat, Lola was quite ill, work has been sucking the life out of me and there’s just not much fun stuff happening, aside from lots of great TV. But again, July is the worst month in a lot of ways. August should be better, and September better still. Right?

Revisiting Middle Earth: Shadow of War

This post started as a paragraph for the monthly recap but it kept growing and growing. Then I found myself with an unexpected pocket of free time. So here we go.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War is a game I’ve been meaning to give another go for years. I absolutely loved Midde Earth: Shadow of Mordor and what’s better than more of a good thing, right?

So this month I finally decided to jump back into it. You can only have one save file so I deleted whatever progress I’d made whenever I’d previously played and started fresh. Initially I was delighted and really enjoyed Act 1 which plays pretty much like a typical open world RPG. You have a fairly linear main quest line, and lots of side activities. It was fun and I felt like I made pretty good progress.

Talion aims his bow at a pack of orcs
Stealth is easy when orcs are this oblivious

Then I hit Act 2 and everything changed. Now you have a smattering of quests but mostly it’s an open world for you to conquer.  That sounds great in theory but in practice I am finding it kind of exhausting. The star here is the Nemesis system where the game throws various Orc captains at you over and over and you develop a (mostly hateful) relationship with them.  As cool as system is, it can also be rather annoying (to me). There was one orc captain who did nothing but scream these incoherent screams. Just hearing him made me super irritated. I made a point of seeking him out and killing him so I’d never have to hear that scream again. And he came back (orcs frequently come back from the dead, visually mangled but generally higher level). I fought him again, but he retreated. Then a third time and I killed him…but he came back again. All this time I was just getting madder and madder because every time I encountered him he’d just SCREAM that incredibly annoying scream of his.

He FINALLY stayed dead (I hope…it’s been a long time since he popped up) but the damage was done and from then on every time an enemy would come back from the dead or betray me, I’d just mutter “fuck this game” to myself. Every time you encounter an orc captain the action pauses so the orc can say something (or scream incoherently). Originally I found these captain quips amusing but after a while they became grating — they really excel at breaking whatever combat rhythm you may have found.

So I was feeling frustrated, but it’s a Lord of the Rings game so I kept playing and hoping it would get fun again.

This went on for a couple weeks of on and off play before I just accepted that I spent more time annoyed with the game that I did enjoying the game. In addition to my grumpiness about the Nemesis system, if I had a nickel for every time I aimed for one orc only to have my highlight shift to a different orc at the last second, I could retire and spend the rest of my life writing grumpy blog posts. Then there are frustrations with trying to climb a building and instead rolling into it over and over while a dozen orcs beat on me (the same button is used for climbing and evading).  It finally got to the point where I just rage-quit (after an orc captain magically didn’t die when I beat him one too many times) and uninstalled.

It was such a relief to have this game out of my life.

The next night, I re-installed it and started playing again. And it was JUST as frustrating and I cursed just as often. I should add that I don’t normally get mad when playing a game. I’m not one to fling a controller or anything; they’re just games, why let them get under your skin? Shadow of War definitely gets under my skin and I can’t even understand why I’m still playing it.

I’m not even sure I’m making any progress. Whenever you die, enemy orcs tend to level up. In particular the orc that kills you will gain a level or two, but often some others will as well. (Orcs are always going on missions and things, separate from anything you are doing, and when you die time advances and they complete these missions and earn levels.) So while I am gaining levels slowly, so are the orcs and certainly nothing is feeling any easier.

I feel like I’m missing something but I’m not sure what it is. But I also feel compelled to keep playing, and I’m not sure WHY that is!

I guess I’ll report back if I figure anything out!

An example of the army management interface
The Orc army as it stands today. My spies are ready!

Blaugust Announcement Post

There’s a very very tiny small slim chance you don’t already know, but Blaugust 2022 is coming. Blaugust being the annual festival of Blogging In August. You can learn all the details over at Belghast’s blog. He is who runs the program. I hope he doesn’t get pissed that I stole his header image.

I did it last year and it was pretty fun to do I guess, but my circumstances were very different last year. My workload was pretty light (little did I know it was because I was about to be demoted) and my head was in a decent place.

This year it takes all my willpower every day to lever myself out of bed each morning and work is a constant steaming pile of stress and anger.  It’s taken me 3 days to find a point where I have both the time and the energy in the same moment to write this short post.

So no Blaugust for me, but good luck to everyone who decides to participate!

Finished Far Cry 6

Last night I finally finished the main story in Far Cry 6. Never have I felt more confused about my reaction to a game. I would not recommend it, and can’t say I really enjoyed playing it. But I just felt compelled to keep going and I’m not sure why. At one point I decided I was done, uninstalled it and hours later reinstalled it and kept playing.

I think I was just craving that Far Cry mayhem that happens when one of these games is firing on all cylinders. It’s a little bit like GTA or Saints Row games, right? The AI is either broken or crazy and has both vehicles and weapons to create chaos with. Sometimes you don’t even have to initiate any of this: you can just watch. I’ve played through Far Cry 4, Far Cry Primal, Far Cry 5 and Far Cry New Dawn. I really enjoyed the first 3, but New Dawn was just OK. I guess I was hoping for more of that Far Cry magic.

So what went wrong? Broken down into 2 broad categories, both the story/tone and the gameplay had issues for me.

Story & Tone

This game just doesn’t know what it wants to be. The main story is grim & tragic. You are part of a group that is trying to overthrow an oppressive regime. You constantly hear tales of atrocities. Then you get a mission where you have to follow a psychotic rooster around as it takes over enemy bases. It’s like one person wrote a serious script then someone else came along and smeared the ‘wacky Far Cry’ stuff over the top. The villains in Far Cry are always evil but often in a mustache-twirling kind of way that feels very “Saturday matinee adventure story” evil. You hate them but they’re so out-there that they don’t feel real. Far Cry’s regime feels “pulled from today’s headlines” evil and that makes it harder for me to just laugh it off. I don’t mind serious stories in games; but this whiplash between serious story and ridiculous quests just turned me off.

Then there were the characters. I am not sure if these freedom fighters are all that much better than the evil overlord, and that was maybe the point but again, it’s a Far Cry game. I don’t want to think that hard about it, y’know? I didn’t like most of the characters, including the character I played as. Some of this may be age related as most of the characters are young and they act like the stupid kids they are (and that most of us, including me, once were!) Like after a victory your character drinks until they pass out and wake up in a ditch or something. Is that supposed to be ‘cool’ behavior or is the game telling us our character has serious problems? I’m not sure. When they aren’t drinking they’re listening to music that just was not my style, and music plays a pretty big part in one section of the game (a group is using their music to try to draw people to the cause). I found myself skipping a lot of the dialog because I just couldn’t deal with listening to these characters trying desperately to be hip or edgy or something. Characters are always saying things like “I like my dogs like I like my wars: violent and with a lot of humping.” (Not even sure what that means.) Or talking about how they peed a little or have erections or whatever.

There’s also a cock-fighting mini-game. If that isn’t in bad taste, I don’t know what is. I’ll grant you that the actual mini-game has you play as the rooster in a Street Fighter kind of way (which felt better than just watching roosters kill each other), but let’s not glamourize this kind of thing, OK Ubisoft?

Gameplay

OK in the interest of brevity I’ll move on. My biggest issue with the actual gameplay was the progression system. As you do quests and things, you level up. What does leveling up do? As far as I can tell, nothing. It is supposed to unlock better gear from vendors. I didn’t notice this happening but then I’m not sure I ever felt the need to buy gear. When you level up you get a message that enemy troops have gotten stronger. If they did, it was pretty subtle.

There are no skills in Far Cry 6, no stats on your character. So why level? I have no idea.

Gear initially appears to have levels but these are actually tiers of quality, from 1 to 4 stars. The difference between a 1 star rifle and a 4 star rifle is in the number of mods you can apply to it. Mods are crafted and do things like add scopes, suppressors and such, and maybe traits like faster reloads. There’s nothing wrong with this system once you understand how it all works, but the fact that your character levels up just led me to believe that a 4 star weapon would do more damage than a 1 star weapon, and that isn’t necessarily the case.

There are lots of side-activities that I completely ignored. Hunting, fishing, cooking… I cooked food once. Eating gives you a buff, but again the effect was so subtle I didn’t notice it. There’re races to take part in. Never did those so not sure what they do. Lots of side quest stuff, most of which I wound up ignoring because I had no interest in helping out these characters I hated. There’re materials all over the world to harvest, and you can use these to upgrade your bases with new functionality. That was interesting enough but it takes very little time to get everything fully upgraded. I was probably done with that while still in the first third of the game.

In the end, by mid-game I’d chosen about 5 weapons I liked and I just used them until the credits rolled. It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with that, but you know me, I like my progression systems so not getting cool new gear regularly was a little disappointing. Oh, and I almost forgot there is a gear system. I mostly forgot about it while playing the game, too. So maybe this pair of sneakers makes you quieter, while that pair of sneakers makes you faster. I sound like a broken record, but the differences seemed pretty subtle. In theory you can don gear that, for example, buffs your fire resistance if you’re going to be fighting enemies that attack with fire. But virtually every fight pits you against groups of enemies that do soft-target, armored-target, explosive AND fire damage so it only makes sense to generalize your defense, then forget about it for the rest of the game. This led me, in the game with its tragic story, to wear a crocodile head helmet through most of the game (see screenshot at the top of the post). Thankfully you can hide your helm.

OK at this point I’m boring myself so I’ll end this. I wrote an earlier post if you want to read even more of my ranting about this game. At that point I hadn’t yet figured out that the leveling system was pointless.

I guess I’m glad I finished it, but I won’t be buying the next Far Cry game at launch. I’ll wait for reviews and/or a sale. To me Far Cry peaked at Far Cry 5. New Dawn was kind of odd and now Far Cry 6 has drifted further from the old formula. We’ll see if they turn things around for the next game.

June 2022

Well I hope you are well-hydrated (at least if you live near me!) because here comes the hellscape known as July & August. The kind of weather where you open the front door and step into a wall of heat and humidity that drapes over you like a (hot) lead blanket and makes you instantly and consistently miserable.

The only sane solution is to stay indoors in the A/C and play games, watch TV and read! I wish I could convince our Lola that this was the case, but dogs will be dogs. (In truth it gets so hot that even SHE doesn’t want to be outdoors any more than absolutely necessary.)

Anyway, on to the recap!

Games

I played a little more of I Am Setsuna, which I’d started in May. In the end I bounced off it. It seemed like a nice enough little game but the lack of any kind of map killed it for me. If I had been focused on just playing Setsuna this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but dipping into it once a week meant I could never remember where anything was so I’d spend too much time just wandering back and forth across the “overland” looking for the town/instance/dungeon I was supposed to go to next. Compounding that frustration was the very slow rate of movement in the overland. There seemed to be no reason for this; there weren’t random encounters or anything. At least not in the part of the game I played. In the end I decided there were better titles vying for my attention. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it.

I finished Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising this month. I have a whole post about that.

Akiba Strip: Undead & Undressed was another old game I had on the PS5’s hard drive, moved over from the PS4. I can’t recall if this was a PS+ freebie or just a super sale I was curious about, but it came out in 2013 and it was a port from a PS Vita or PS Portable title. It’s a game about being a vampire (sorta) fighting other vampires (sorta) in Akihabara. Vampires are tough though so you can’t hurt them in the traditional sense. Instead you have to tear their clothes off, at which point the sunlight will make them go poof.

This might have been intended as a fan-service game but the quality of the graphics means it all comes off more silly than salacious. Your enemies never lose their undergarments and they dissolve pretty quickly after you strip them. I’d say fully looting bodies in Skyrim is overall more NSFW than this game gets. I liked the characters and their banter, maybe because I hadn’t been watching any anime lately. They’re all delightfully otaku, mostly obsessed with manga and rare action figures, but somehow also fighting vampires (sorta). Side missions are sometimes goofy tasks like helping a shy guy get the courage to ask a girl out. Weapons and armor are all common items. The best weapon I’d found before I quit playing was an old laptop. So yeah I’d hit someone in the shirt with a laptop until the shirt got weak, then I’d tear it off. It’s all quite ridiculous.

Unfortunately each ‘area’ you enter is tiny and there are constant loading screens as you traverse the city. They’re pretty quick but still…so many loading screens. More seriously, I found that actual combat to be not very good, and the whole time I was running around a Japanese city brawling I was thinking I could be doing the same thing in a Yakuza game and probably having a better time. The novelty of the whole aesthetic wore off after a couple hours and I decided I’d had enough of that one for now.

Watching the Obi Wan Kenobi series put me in a Star Wars mood which led to me trying Jedi Fallen Order for a 3rd or 4th time. I wrote a post about how I finally found myself enjoying it and I finished it a few days after writing that post. In the end I got pretty hooked on the story and the characters and now I’m looking forward to the sequel. With the story finished, though, I felt no need to stick around and chase Achievements or anything. Still, it was a very enjoyable time.

Ni No Kuni 2 is another PS4 game that’s been on the hard drive for a long time. This one I remember buying for like $7 during a Black Friday sale or something. I never finished the first Ni No Kuni; I just got bored with it. Not sure if it was the fairy tale setting, or the lack of challenge. My memory of it is tons of combat that became really routine and dull. Ni No Kuni 2 swaps the turn-based combat for an action-RPG kind of system. It still isn’t very challenging but at least every battle doesn’t feel exactly the same. We’ll see how far I get; I’m currently at 12 hours or so and finding myself booting it up less and less frequently.

Far Cry 6 wound up warranting its own post. I haven’t booted that one up since that post. Time to either get back to it or uninstall it.

Marvel’s Avengers got a new hero, Jane Foster Thor, so I reinstalled it. I own this on PS5 and have it on Xbox via Game Pass. For some reason I installed it on both consoles. Weird thing is, I like it a lot better on Xbox. I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it is just because I am earlier in the game on Xbox (I’m just now doing the Kate Bishop operation.) Everything just feels smoother on Xbox for me. Maybe it’s the haptics on the PS5 controller? I should try turning those off.

My biggest issue with Marvel’s Avengers is that it is so damned big. It’s weird that the era of SSDs has once again made hard drive space precious, but that’s the world we live in. I wound up uninstalling it from the PS5, but so far it’s still lingering on the Xbox, but not sure for how long.

I feel like overall I’d enjoy this game more if I could just play with my character and maybe 1 AI teammate and have the difficulty scale accordingly. Having 3 AIs running all over the place gets so chaotic I get frustrated. Nothing like triggering an ability just as a team-mate knocks your intended target across the map. Really though, this game was made for multiplayer, so not really made for me.

TV

I finished up The Last Kingdom. I have that snooty “the books were better” feeling towards the series. Actually I felt like Seasons 1-3 were pretty authentic. Each season drifted farther from the books but they still felt right. Seasons 4-5 just felt like a different series with a character that happened to have the same first name. It no longer seemed like Uhtred’s story. It was enjoyable, just different. It didn’t feel like Danes vs Saxons any more, with a lot of archers with Legolas-like skills, and crossbows of all things. Plus England started to feel like it was maybe 2 miles across, the way characters bounced from town to town at will. The books are historical fiction. S1-3 of the series felt kind of like historical fiction. S4-5 just seemed like a fantasy series with no magic.

I expected Stranger Things to be not-great. I was wrong. But it ended on a cliffhanger. The good news is, the second part of the season starts July 1st. Hopefully the quality stays high.

Strange New Worlds continues to be amazing. Simply amazing. Best Star Trek show of the modern generation of shows.

Ms Marvel is a show that has really surprised me. I knew I’d watch it because, y’know, Marvel super hero stuff. But I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. I just adore this show and want to give it a big warm hug.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was OK, but for me just OK. I think knowing that so many of these characters were going to be around for Episode 4 drained a lot of the tension out of the show. I mostly am curious as to why the meat on that gigantic carcass doesn’t spoil in the twin suns of Tatooine.

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood (Netflix). Here’s a show with a great cast and…nothing much else to recommend it. I watched 2 seasons and still don’t really understand what the heck is happening. This one was a waste of time.

Deep Space 9 is still our lunchtime viewing. We’re in the Dominion war now; second to the last season. I am missing the interplay betweeen Odo and Quark in this season, but we see a lot of Garrack who I enjoy as a character. Weird thing about this series is it’s all the non-Star Fleet characters I like best. The main crew… meh, I can take them or leave them. Except for Nog, who gets really likeable once he (spoilers!) joins Star Fleet.

The Toys That Made Us is a documentary on Netflix examining the history of toys like Barbie, GI Joe and Star Wars. It’s pretty fun if you pick the episodes about brands you can relate to, though after a while the stories start to feel very similar. Still, I enjoyed the episodes I watched.

That’s a lot of TV and that’s not even everything. I’ve been gaming less and less as I cast about for something that really hooks me, and as a result of that my TV viewing is going up and up.

Books

I finally finished Abaddon’s Gate, the 3rd (?) in The Expanse series. I’m now kind of mad at the authors because of some comments they made on Twitter, though. I don’t follow them; I’ve learned not to follow people who create the art I enjoy. Ignorance is bliss; I don’t need to learn they are asshats. Anyway I don’t follow them but someone I know retweeted a comment that got my nose out of joint so I’ve slowed down my reading of these books. It wasn’t even anything terrible, just an off-hand comment about how us old people are all evil. I’m pretty sure I’m not evil.

Instead I’m back to reading ancient Marvel Comics on Marvel Unlimited. The last time I talked about reading Marvel Comics someone left a comment showing me this: https://cmro.travis-starnes.com/reading-order.php and I’m using it now. The site has been reworked so when you click on Read Online on the details page, it’ll open that comic in the Marvel Unlimited app. At least, that’s how it works on the iPad I use for reading Marvel Unlimited. That makes things so much easier and I’ve been getting such a kick out of these old comics from back when times were simpler and them Commies needed to be stopped at any cost!

And that’s the endless recap. I’ve really been in a gaming funk lately. I keep starting games and immediately losing interest. I need something to just bowl me over and for me to obsess over. Or, y’know, to get an actual life and do something besides sit on the couch every night!!!

Mr Malcolm Playstation Ad

I shared this on Twitter already but wanted to share it here as well.

As an old guy I often feel kind of ‘left out’ when it comes to gaming. People my age (let’s just say “over 60”) appear in ads and marketing campaigns once in a while, but almost always in the company of a child or grandchild. Advertising execs seem to be telling us “It is ok for you to play a game as long as you have a child with you.” Also the old people always look vaguely confused in those ads.

Now Playstation has a new ad (it’s actually for the new Playstation Plus tiers) featuring “Mr. Malcolm” who appears to be my age or slightly older. He’s a well-dressed gentleman who seems to live alone. The only kids in the ad are some children on the street that he walks past.

Mr. Malcolm is a gamer, and based on his trophy collection he plays a wide variety of games. Finally a bit of marketing that acknowledges that we older gamers exist. I love it!

Revisiting Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6 was taking up a big chunk of my PS5’s hard drive space so I decided I’d better play it or uninstall it. I’d purchased it back at launch but for reasons I could not remember, drifted away from it pretty quickly. Time to refresh my memory.

I booted it up, felt really lost and came very close to uninstalling, but then I decided to start a new game so I could re-engage with the story and the game’s systems and that was enough to get me interested, at least for a little while. I’m now further than I got when I first played it back at launch.

One of the challenges for me was getting used to playing a Far Cry where you use some restraint. There is no real reason to fight the random enemies you see wandering around the world and if you do, you’ll find they respawn like crazy. When defeated all they drop is ammo and often you use more killing them than you get back. There is no “xp” from killing random enemies and they don’t drop weapons or anything. This nudges you toward behaving like a real guerilla. If you holster your weapon you can pass these random soldiers without any issue and generally you should. Just blend in with the local populace until you get to your target.

In this video clip my goal was to take over a checkpoint. I’ve included a chunk of my trip to the destination, and if you watch the mini-map anything red indicates an enemy. You see I drive past a lot of them since they weren’t relevant to the task at hand. Heck I almost crash into a truck full of enemies! In other Far Cry games I probably would’ve shot up everything I saw. Doing that in Far Cry 6 means that you’ll probably wind up getting to your destination out of ammo and you won’t really have gained anything from all that combat.

Once my brain accepted this playstyle, I started having a lot more fun with the gameplay itself. In terms of the story though, so far not a fan and I detest like 90% of the characters I’ve met, including the character you play as. I get that they’re going for that edgy & maybe rural vibe, but it just isn’t resonating well with me. I have known people (some of my redneck cousins) who use “shit” as a generic noun, but I don’t need it in my games. Example: An NPC tells you “I need you to go to this crash site and get some shit that was in the chopper. Bring it back and I’ll use it to make some shit to help you blow up shit.” Your character responds: “Oh shit yeah, I’ll do that shit.” [I am exaggerating a TINY bit here.]

Then there’s that thing that happens in so many games where you are playing this super-powerful character who leaves a huge body count in their wake, then they encounter an NPC who starts manipulating and bossing them around as if they have no power. Instead of just killing this (generally evil) NPC, the protagonist becomes their errand person and travels all over the place doing vile tasks for them while the NPC cackles and twirls their mustache. I actually tried to kill the NPC who did this to me in Far Cry 6 but sadly, they wouldn’t die.

I’m getting myself all worked up into a hate-post on Far Cry 6 so I’ll stop. For now. I enjoy the game a lot more when I’m in a mission then when experiencing the story. Let’s just leave it at that.

One pro-tip if you play. Once you get to where you can start building things at camps, build the Hideout Network and upgrade it as much as possible, then buy all the locations from it. This will unlock a bunch of Fast Travel points. Traveling back and forth across the map can get pretty tedious and having a Fast Travel point to get you in the general area of your goal is SUPER helpful.

Writing this post has almost convinced me to stop playing, but there is SOMETHING there that is still calling to me. I should figure out what it is and write a post about that. Maybe it is the gorgeous land and seas-scapes.

A picturesque seascape

Jedi: Fallen Order Finally Sticks?

We’ve been watching the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which has put me in a Star Wars mood. That led me to firing up Jedi: Fallen Order, a game I have a not-great history with.

I played it at launch on PC thanks to being an EA Pro (?) subscriber at the time. I got a ways into it but I was more or less hate-playing it. When the EA subscription expired I was fine leaving Fallen Order behind. Eventually it made it to Game Pass on the Xbox and I tried it again and quickly bounced off it.

So what bothered me so much about this game?

1) The actor. There’s something about Cameron Monaghan I just don’t like; I think he must remind me of someone from my past that I had a bad relationship with. I didn’t like him in Gotham (where he played the proto-Joker) and I didn’t like him here. Not the game’s fault and for that matter, not his fault. It’s just a thing.

2) The map. Oh that map. It gave me a headache and I constantly felt lost. (See image at the top of this post.)

3) The rewards: Nothing depressed me more than solving a puzzle to get to a chest and having it give me a new super ugly and cosmetic-only poncho or something. And I never saw the point of customizing my light saber either, aside maybe for the color. It’s not like I ever look at it.

4) The Souls-like aspects.

But still I gave it another try because what other Star Wars game did I have handy and… I’m liking it this time! Quite a bit actually. So what has changed?

1) I guess I’m over my dislike of Cameron Monaghan. Maybe I’m just used to him? I still don’t have warm fuzzy feelings towards him, but looking at him no longer makes me angry like it used to.

2) I finally noticed you can toggle between layers of the map. This makes it marginally better tho it still frustrates me.

3) The rewards still suck but I guess now that I know I’m going to be disappointed it doesn’t bother me as much.

4) This is the big one: Bloodborne happened. A while back I played through a good chunk of Bloodborne (which, for those who do not know, is a for-real Souls game from From Software), basically following a video walkthrough to help manage my frustration levels. Doing this kind of made the whole Souls-like environment feel a little less foreign and a little more rewarding. This is by far the biggest reason I’m enjoying Fallen Order this time around. I now expect to have to backtrack and revisit areas and I get excited when I find a good shortcut or something. Also compared to other Souls-likes Fallen Order’s difficulty is much lower. I’m also exploring more (because now I know that’s what you do in a Souls-like) which has led to me having more tools earlier, which also helps with the difficulty curve.

I spent the bulk of last weekend playing Jedi Fallen Order and thinking about it when I wasn’t playing it. This was super surprising to me.

I guess it just goes to show you that you should never write-off a game forever. What you like today and what you like in a year or two can be completely different things.