A Plague Tale: Innocence finished — and final thoughts

A Plague Tale took me about a month longer to finish than I had originally anticipated, but that was partly due to arriving at a point in the game where I wasn’t quite as interested in it any longer — but I was too close to the end to give up. You know that point? You crave the satisfaction of completion, so you press on, a bit at a time.

Not to say that A Plague Tale was a bad game. It was, in many respects, a very good game, although one that saw its novel premise wear off about midway through. Probably the strongest thing going for this game is chucking the player right into the middle of a fantasized version of the Black Plague. The setting is very strong, especially in the beginning when I was stumbling through a plague- and war-torn locale. But after a while there was the sense that the game designers didn’t quite know what to do with it, and as such, everything got toned down and reduced to “bad inquisitor guy wants to control rats for some reason” as a main plot.

Yeah, even the plot wasn’t the greatest at the end. I don’t even know what it was trying to do or say other than the obvious black vs. white (literally — there are black vs. white rats) scenario. The brother/sister relationship was explored a small bit, but after a while that kind of faded away as well. So all that left me with was the stealth and puzzle solving mechanics, which were fairly well-tuned. I don’t think that there was any one section that really gave me trouble or more than a few reloads other than the final boss fight.

Man, I don’t know WHAT was up with that final fight, but it took me over an hour of constant reloads to beat. It wasn’t that difficult to understand, it was that in a game where one little mistake means game over, I had to perform a flawless final battle without a single misstep. And I misstep a lot.

Points in the game’s favor? Good bits of storytelling with the dialogue of the various NPCs. The stealth/escorting wasn’t that annoying. Making hordes of rats eat bad guys is surprisingly satisfying. Occasionally it could be very nerve-wracking and even scary. There were often multiple ways through puzzles even up to the end. And the friendly NPC party that gradually assembles around the main characters are well-written and easy to like.

Points against, other than what I mentioned? The mom remains this weird, secluded character who never explains exactly why she kept her son so isolated for so long. Sometimes the game got far gorier than it really needed to be. I got desensitized to hordes of swarming rats about 40% of the way through. And they killed the game’s most likable character, although I won’t say who (they also killed Sean Bean, although that’s kind of his thing).

Anyway, I’m glad I pressed through to the end, and that means that I might move on to a different non-MMO. I have a few in mind, although I’m going to take a couple of days to mull it over.

RimWorld’s permadeath is what makes this game great

It was a small, budding colony in just its second year, but life was going well. Very well. The original three crashlanded survivors had been joined by three others, and their hard work carved out a fairly comfortable living situation. There was power, plenty of food, an impressive rec room, a couple of good rifles, and even the one drug-addled guy had finally overcome his addiction.

That’s when it went wrong. Terribly wrong.

A megasloth roamed by the base, and attracted to the idea of tons of meat and leather, my hunter went after the normally docile beast. But this time, its 1% revenge chance triggered, and the megasloth trampled and mauled the hunter to death — and savagely wounded a friend who came to rescue him.

Two people down, the base’s mood turned sour. A dry thunderstorm over the desert sent sparks flying in trees far away, but the fires eventually lit the horizon. By the end of the second day, half the map was on fire, and the four able colonists spent most of their time trying to keep it away from the base’s walls.

What they didn’t anticipate, however, was the fire breaching the Ancient Danger — a giant rectangular cavern on every map. The fire burned through the wall and sent some sort of blade-slinging cyborg straight at the base. The four couldn’t find one of the rifles dropped in the megasloth melee and had to run to the sandbags with less armament than normal. They desperately fired — and then stabbed — the cyborg as it approached. Miraculously, they survived, although three of them were wounded.

A big sigh. It looked like everyone would be able to survive another day — and hey, they might be able to scout out that large cavern for its high-tech goodies.

That is, however, until the wildfire ALSO breached the cryochambers inside and six very angry, very well-armed people spilled out of there like ants swarming toward an invader. The colonists did what they could and put up a respectable fight, even though they had just a revolver, rifle, and bow against rocket launchers and better guns.

One by one, the colonists became wounded to the point of collapse, and a doctor kept dragging them into their rooms to relative safety. But it was too much. The rockets set off even more fires around the base and the last colonist was taken down in fire and writhed in pain in the dirt. The invaders attacked the colony without mercy, knocking out the power and setting fire to most everything.

Then a Man in Black — a new colonist, armed with a revolver — appeared out of the west and tried to do what he could to simultaneously fend off the bad guys and rescue the now-burning and severely bleeding colonists. But it was five against one at that point, and the Man in Black’s heroic rescue ended up with him being burned alive on a path between buildings.

That was it. Game over. Six lunch breaks of progress in RimWorld undone in a chain of horrible accidents, unfortunate decisions, and unavoidable tragedy. It was glorious — and it was all thanks to the permadeath mode.

See, RimWorld offers to modes in regards to saving. There’s one where you can save and reload, and one where anything that happens, happens without a chance to go back to an earlier save state. The latter mode vastly changes how you play and perceive the game, and I’ve come to deeply love it and see it as THE way RimWorld is meant to be played. In the above scenario, if I had the chance to reload, I would have done so the second that hunter went down. He was far too valuable to lose. But then I wouldn’t have seen and experienced everything that followed, and even though I lost, I got an amazingly hilarious and memorable story out of it.

There’s a lesson in that.

Trying out GOG Galaxy 2.0

While everyone seemed mad for a WoW Classic beta key last month, the only key I really wanted this summer was the one I got last week — access to GOG Galaxy 2.0.

GOG Galaxy is the digital platform for GOG.com, my preferred site for games (some modern, tons retro). Over the past several years, I’ve built up a library of two hundred or so games, and the Galaxy client has become more useful installing and uninstalling them rather than using the website itself.

But then I heard about Galaxy 2.0 and the seemingly wonderful promise of being able to funnel ALL of my digital game platforms into one place, and I saw rainbows and unicorns (that’s my wallpaper motif, but I was also pretty excited). Gamers these days know how annoying it is to have to deal with multiple platform clients and try to remember what game is on what and have to struggle with them clogging up memory while they’re all loaded at the same time.

So believe me when I say that I was incredibly excited to try out Galaxy 2.0, just to see if it, you know, actually worked. And the crazy thing is that, yes, it does. Within minutes of booting it up, I had my Steam and Epic Games Store linked to GOG, throwing all of these games under the same umbrella. I could scan through them, see achievements, played time, the works.

Yeah. How cool is that? Pretty cool.

For me, I think that this will be the most useful for browsing through my complete library when I’m on the prowl for something to try or play next. I don’t do that as often on Steam, and I only touch the Epic Games Store when they give away something free.

The client is very straight-forward, with the option to make the landing page your library, the store, or your recently played titles. There’s a friends list and some other bells and whistles, but really, the only thing I cared about was just having everything in one spot.

I ran a quick test to boot up and play a Steam title through Galaxy 2.0. And yes, once again, it just worked. I mean, any installed games on my computer are going to be accessed via icons on my desktop, but I’m all for multiple options to do the same thing.

Anyway, I’m going to hang on to this for the future, and while it doesn’t really touch on MMOs (I don’t tend to go through Steam for those), it’s useful for everything else in my digital games collection.

59 online games to keep your eyes on

I spent some time over the past weekend updating the “Keeping My Eyes On” widget on the right-hand side of the blog. As a reminder, this is primarily a quick source of Twitter links of various upcoming, early access, or recently launched MMOs and other titles that I want to keep tabs on. I post it publicly because I figure it might interest others, but if not, no worries.

Here’s the current list and what’s going on with each title right now:

  • Amazon’s New World – Wrapped up early alpha testing in May, going back to the drawing board on some features
  • Amazon’s Lord of the Rings – Recently announced to be in collaboration with Leyou Tech in China
  • Antaria Online – Early access, cute little game
  • Ascent: Infinite Realm – Gone really quiet ever since April
  • Ashes of Creation – Still pumping out infrequent dev updates, seems to be gaining momentum
  • Astellia – Decent word of mouth, should be launching this summer
  • Blue Protocol – New MMO in development in Japan, hard to follow since Japanese language
  • Broke Protocol – Goofy Minecraft-looking city life simulator, still in early development
  • Camelot Unchained – PvP MMO in beta
  • Caravan Stories – PS4-only MMO launching sometime this summer, looks totes adorbs
  • Children of Ur  – Merged forces with Eleven for this Glitch remake
  • Children of Morta – Single-player Diablo type that has really impressive word of mouth
  • Chronicles of Elyria – I have no idea what this project is doing other than wasting money. Huge ideas, lackluster output.
  • City of Titans – Superhero MMO that’s putting out dev blogs but is running far, far behind its original schedule
  • Crowfall – PvP MMO that’s coming along, but it really needs to get out there sooner rather than later, I feel
  • Cryptic’s Magic MMO – No new news on this after its original announcement
  • Dogma Eternal Night – Vampire MMO project that went dark since October 2017. Going to take it off the list.
  • Dreadlands – Turn-based post-apoc strategy game. Looks interesting enough to follow.
  • Dual Universe – Deep into Alpha 2 testing, space sim
  • Edengrad – Post-apoc MMO that got an injection of cash to continue development
  • Eleven – Hasn’t really said anything since the Children of Ur merger
  • Endless Trials – Endgame pixelart MMO that got put on hold
  • Forsaken Legends – Small indie MMO that’s been put on hold, I’m still holding out hope on it though
  • Fractured – In early alpha, nothing to speak of yet
  • FreeSO – Sims Online emulator, still coming along
  • Gran Skrea Online – Been in early access for a year, has a wee bit of positive word of mouth
  • Identity – Life sim that’s focusing on a town center module right now
  • Legends of Aria – Launching very soon
  • Lost Ark – Still waiting to hear details if/when this is coming to the west
  • Mad World – Grimdark MMO that’s considering crowdfunding
  • Mankind Reborn – Scifi MMO, been quiet since March
  • Moonlight Blade – Still in a holding pattern to see if it’s going to make the journey to the west
  • Oath – Really pretty-looking new indie fantasy MMO on the scene, been quiet this summer
  • Pantheon – That team is still plugging away, lots of folks have their hopes set on this one
  • Peria Chronicles – Doing some sort of closed beta testing but no word on a western version
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 – Coming out next year, huzzah!
  • Population Zero – Scifi MMO that’s doing… stuff. Hard to tell what since it’s in another language.
  • Project C – This scifi title has my attention, but I need more details and info about it
  • Project Genom – Barely hanging on at this point
  • Project Gorgon – Really, really needs to launch and gain some marketing momentum
  • Project TL – I think this is the Lineage 3 game. Not a lot of news on it right now.
  • The Repopulation – New owners have done some work on it, but public interest and momentum is about zilch right now
  • ReWorld – Make your own MMO MMO, beta coming soon
  • Saga of Lucimia – Very hardcore, in closed alpha
  • SamuTale – Been very quiet this year
  • Seconds from Silence – Open world moddable MMO that was just announced
  • Seed – Sandbox MMO
  • Shadow’s Kiss – Vampire MMO that’s still truckin’ along
  • Ship of Heroes – Superhero MMO, making good progress, should have a character builder this year
  • Space Haven – Spaceship colony sim (a la Rimworld), looks fantastic
  • Starbase – Robots… in… SPAAAACE
  • Star Citizen – Another game that needs to launch to stay relevant. Getting tired of even thinking about this one.
  • Tale of Toast – Been way too quiet for over a year
  • Torchlight Frontiers – MMOARPG, should launch in 2019, very very excited about this one
  • The Warhorn – Village sim in early access
  • Wild West Online – A big hot mess of a project(s)
  • WoW Classic – Never heard of this one…
  • Valiance Online – Superhero MMO that’s falling into last place with slow development
  • Zeal – Dark action RPG that looked kind of interesting, just finished pre-alpha

Has the RTS genre died — or has it morphed into something completely different?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, my absolute favorite game genre (second to RPGs only) was the real-time strategy game, or RTS. Titles like Caesar, Command & Conquer, Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, Warcraft II, StarCraft, Majesty, Homeworld, and the underrated Kohan allowed me to grow a scaled-down empire that I could nurture and direct on its path to glory. Oh, and then send a bajillion units to clash with other armies and watch them fight in real time.

I played the heck out of these games and certainly got my money’s worth from their purchases. They were incredibly replayable, especially when you factor in customized maps on top of the established campaigns.

Yet I started to drift away from RTS games — and many other titles — when I got into MMORPGs, and before long they had drifted into my far past. The funny thing is that unlike, say, first-person shooters, I had not outgrown the RTS. Whenever I thought about those games, I still had the same passion and love for them. Yet other than mobile titles like Clash Royale that mimic the RTS style on a vastly stripped down scheme, I wasn’t playing them.

This has changed as of late with the purchase of Warcraft II from GOG.com. I installed that (expect a retro series to come!) as well as Majesty for a weeklong trip to an internet-free cabin. Even as old as these games were, they were still a lot of fun in replaying them, and it made me wonder why I just don’t see RTS games announced these days. Has the genre fallen out of favor? Or has it morphed into games like Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld, where the scale and focus is different than empire building?

After looking around to see what the last five years have produced, it’s pretty slim pickings for the traditional RTS. There is the Total War Warhammer series, 2013’s StarCraft II and its expansion, 2016’s Stellaris, 2016’s Offworld Trading Company, revamps of the Age of Empires series, city builders like Frostpunk, and a few others.

Following that, I did some Google searches on relevant articles and blogs and was relieved to see that it’s not just me feeling this way. There’s a pretty common perception out there that the classic RTS genre is dead — or at least very dormant right now. It’s not completely dead, and there’s a lot of excitement out there for Age of Empires IV (count me in!), but it’s no longer the hot slice of gaming that studios are all gunning to make. Even Blizzard, the former RTS king, doesn’t seem that interested in getting another Warcraft RTS or the next StarCraft expansion out there.

One person pointed to MOBAs as a direct cause of RTS stagnation, which… I guess? They’re RTS on a very small scale but not quite the same build-defend-attack format with armies at your disposal rather than a single character. Another article said that StarCraft single-handedly did the RTS in a similar fashion to World of Warcraft and MMOs.

In any case, at least we have older RTS games to enjoy, some remastered ones to bring them up to spec, and a few on the way to keep the torch burning. Musing about this has put me into a mood to dig up some past favorites and give them another go.

Here’s a list of great & active MMO blogs to follow

It’s been about a year, year and a half since I’ve last updated the Bio Break blogroll, and once again I wish that WordPress had the widget that Blogger does to automatically link the most recent articles posted on various sites. Instead, I have to painstakingly comb through my old blogroll to remove inactive sites, explore other people’s blogrolls to see if there are any sites I’ve missed, and keep an eye on Feedly to see if there’s a previously inactive site that’s since come back to life.

Anyway, here is the current list that’s done to the best of my abilities. All of these blogs meet the following criteria: They’re blogs about MMOs (at least in part), they’re active (having at least once post since April 2019), and they’re not news aggregators. I tried to be as lenient as I could, but I do want a blogroll that is useful for readers looking for current conversations and essays, so it’s important to me to prune away retired blogs. That said, I was happy to see some sites return to this list and many others join it for the first time.

Here are some blogs you should read, and if there are ones that I’m missing, please let me know!

E3 2019: Stuff we won’t be playing for a while

I might be slightly over gaming conventions, having covered several as media and following PAX, BlizzCon, and E3 for years now. Oh, they’re still good for the odd surprise announcement and the bevy of trailers, but it seems that messaging and marketing has shifted away from emphasizing cons. You know, since the internet exists and all.

But this year’s E3 had a few interesting stories, so I thought I’d jaw about them as I look back over the last week-plus. Perhaps the biggest story and delight for me personally was SEGA’s announcement that Phantasy Star Online 2 was finally, finally coming to the west in 2020. It’s not my most-anticipated MMO ever, but it was definitely one I wanted to play and one that I think will be well received and give MMO players something to look forward to next year. It’s still a pretty big story for that genre and I’m a little disappointed that most of the mainstream gaming media ignored it.

Bethesda’s presser was the only one I watched, perhaps because 2018’s was so incredible. This year was… lacking. Kind of sad, to be honest. Todd Howard tried to poke fun at himself (again) for the buggy products that Bethsoft pushes out, but it came off as pretty lame, as did the excessive “let’s watch our staff stream more DOOM!” bits. However, I’m glad they’re pouring more work into Fallout 76, and while I’m sure you heard me roll my eyes at the battle royale announcement, it’s definitely a good idea to bring in NPCs into this world.

One big theme of the show was cloud-based streaming services for gaming, like Google Stadia. I don’t know how I feel about this. We’ve kind of heard companies promise this so much in the past, and I guess if they can crack it, then it’ll benefit all gamers substantially. Won’t really impact me, as I’ll still be on a desktop, but hey, I’ll keep an open mind about it.

Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy VII remake puzzles me, especially how the studio isn’t just giving the old game a visual overhaul but is breaking it up into multiple games and remaking it as an action-adventure RPG. I’m not champing at the bit to play it, but seeing this in the news made me want to replay FF7 for the first time since I was in college.

The only other stories that got my attention seemed to all be upcoming RPGs. Yes, I’m still on board for Cyberpunk 2077 (now with 400% more Keanu Reeves) and The Outer Worlds, and Baldur’s Gate III and Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 both have me hoping that these titles will do their respective series proud.