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random games

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Author Topic: random games  (Read 9185 times)
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You're gonna carry that weight.

« Reply #1635 on: 11 November, 2019, 04:17:36 pm »

I've played about 10 hours of Death Stranding.

I'm enjoying the game. I don't know that anyone should pick it up sight unseen or without knowing what it is, which chafes strongly against my usual thinking that it is fun to not know what something is and to figure that out over the course of playing it.

I don't know that liking Metal Gear is a pre-requisite to liking this game. I think it certainly helps because you not only know what to expect when it comes to Kojima and all the caveats that come with him, but you also have an idea of the minutia that you'll have to account for when playing. This game has systems layered onto the core loop that remind me most heavily of the base management stuff from MGSV and Peacewalker.

The game is moody. It's solitary, even in interactions with other characters. It's funny, probably on purpose and not. It demands patience by punishing you for impatience. The way it treats you and the things it confronts you with are bizarre and uncanny. I haven't decided yet whether it is earnest.

Mostly, I'm struck by how gratifying the game is, and I'm torn between feeling like it wants me to feel good about that and feeling like it wants me to feel bad about it.

I'll small text some more specific thoughts and moments I've had so far:

I'm still in Episode 2 right now, having played through the Prologue and Episode 1. It still feels like I'm in a vertical slice where the game is explaining everything from the premise, the exposition, the mission types, the verbs, and other stuff that will serve me in the rest of the game. I've seen advice that it is worth getting to Episode 3 as quickly as possible because that is where the real meat of the game is. That's where it cuts loose. Part of me wants to do that, but it's just not how I play games. It's not exactly easy to do stuff quickly in this game, and I think I'm better off not stressing myself out by worrying if I'm at the fun part.

I'm already having fun anyway. In one of the reviews I watched before release, the author called this "the Gran Turismo of walking simulators." It's what he calls a stickshift video game. And I really get it. I'm hardly walking anywhere without holding both triggers on my controller to make Sam grab the straps on his backpack to maintain his balance. I press R1 every so often so that my terrain scanner will show me the easiest ground to walk on, though I'm getting better at reading the terrain without it (I think with this being the starting area, it's relatively easy to walk over regardless). If you don't do these things, you can trip on a rock and fall over. If you fall over, your backpack and packages can go flying. Packages incur damage, and when the packages get damaged, the things inside them can also get damaged. That incurs penalties to the grades you get when you complete orders.

It's a Kojima game. There are grades. There is a 5-point rubric that you're graded on and that you can level up parts of. So far I seem to do the best job at Miscellaneous, which I recently discovered will let me earn more Likes.

This is the gratification part that I mentioned above that I don't know how to feel about. You get Likes from NPCs when you deliver packages. They send you emails that are full of emojis. There's also an online component that lets you build structures and use structures built by other players. Using those structures automatically gives that player a Like. You can also manually Like the structure. Liking the structure starts a timer during which you can mash the Like button to give them multiple Likes. And of course, when other players use your structures, you get a notification saying that they Liked it. You can approach a structure and it will display how many times it has been Liked by other players.

So on the one hand, there's the sense of accomplishment you get from completing a task in a video game, for which game designers are at this point very skilled at making you feel good about. Fanfare plays, numbers go up. The map comes up and shows the exact route you took to get somewhere. I climbed up that hill, I forded that river, I didn't fall once. The contents of the package were fully intact even if the box itself was a little degraded by the Fast Forward Rain. And at the end of every journey, there's (a hologram of) an NPC giving you their thanks and calling you a legend. Feels good, Sam.

And then there are the likes that kinda betray it all and lay it bare. It reminds me of the dopamine rush of signing onto Facebook and seeing a lot of notifications after posting pictures or sharing an article. People interacted with you because of something you did. But is it meaningful interaction?

The things you do in this game might be a little better because it at least feels helpful to build a bridge or put a ladder in just the right spot that a bunch of people used. But then there's a background thought process in my head of "Hmm, where's a really good place to use a ladder that a lot of people will use?" and "This bridge is gonna get me so many likes." Later: "This dude built a bridge just slightly upriver from mine and his is getting way more traffic. Grrr."

I like the backpacking. When you set out with an order, there's a great sequence where Sam has to strain to stand up after you've loaded him down with stuff. The backpack teeters precariously whenever you take a sharp turn or step over a row of rocks. Everything you have in your inventory is a physical item on your person, from the ladders to the climbing ropes to the spare boots that you need to have. If your boots wear out, you start losing blood through your feet. It's great.

The backpack is probably one of the best sources of comedy. I've only leveled up my carrying capacity once, but I can already stack it ludicrously high. And that makes stealth extra dumb. There is tall grass in this game, and there are patrolling dudes guarding camps to sneak up on. I haven't interacted with them enough to know if having too much backpack renders the tall grass useless, but man I hope it does.

You can parry these dudes with a rope by the way. You catch their kicks or lunges and throw them off balance, then tie them up with a CQC finisher. I know you get other weapons eventually, but I kinda just want to be a rope main.

The story is more or less what you expect from the guy who wrote Metal Gear. Kojima's problem has always been the lack of editing and revision. Even when characters are saying interesting things to you, the way they say it just borders on insufferable. Someone I was listening to talk about this game said they are almost positive that he writes unnatural dialogue on purpose, likening it to Twin Peaks which I haven't seen. Maybe that's true. It doesn't ruin the game for me. It is still such a video game, too.

"Sam, you have to get the President's body to the incinerator!"

"People call me Deadman. I'm usually a coroner. I deal with dead people a lot." The next scene, meeting the character in person for the first time. "Sam, it's me. Deadman." I know, you just- you know what nevermind, that's how it is.

That's just how it is.

There are questions about how much of a blank check this game really is. Sony obviously reached out to Kojima very soon after he left Konami and agreed to fund the game. But also Sam explicitly hydrates using only Monster Energy Drink. There are five cans of Monster on the table whenever you go to your private room. You can (and should) drink them (they give you stamina boosts) with a detailed animation of Norman Reedus just downing the whole can in one. The cans are rendered exactly as they appear, including all the slogans and stuff. So ok, they cut a deal to have Monster in the private rooms. Except you also have a canteen that you can drink from out in the field, and the tooltip for this canteen makes it known that it automatically filters any water or rain it comes into contact with and turns that liquid into Monster.

I have no idea if this a bit or not. Kojima obviously loves brands. Metal Gear was full of them in various fourth-wall breaking ways. Monster doesn't seem like his cup of tea, though. So it just makes you wonder what that level of placement cost them.

I guess the last thing I should mention is the baby. You've got a baby strapped to your chest to help you see ghosts. It gets upset and stressed if you fall over or interact with ghosts too much, at which point you have to rock the baby back to a good mood (using the controller's motion sensing capabilities, if you have those enabled). This is fine. The baby is fine.

Bit more than I meant to write, but I feel like it gives a good idea where I am with this so far. Interested to see how far it goes, ready to play more.
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"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously.

But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured." - Kurt Vonnegut, jr.
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