Dear Diary by Iza87

Diary: June Arcadia

AJ reckons

Most of my time was spent in Montreal this month. I had hoped to make some serious inroads with The Witcher 3 but it transpires that the game is really not the sort of thing you play with company around. The game lends itself to solitary play in silence, not beers and laughing.

Instead I found myself in the thrall of a couple of other things…


I rarely get involved in the spectacle of big game shows. I find that sitting in front of hours and hours of presentations tends to make it hard to properly focus on interesting things. My main takeaway is how Sony and Microsoft peddle their wares in very different ways. Sony are the showmen that E3 need to keep the three-day event relevant. They are able to sell dreams that their audience are more than willing to buy into, and who wouldn’t want to when The Last Guardian, Shenmue III and a Final Fantasy VII remake all get placed at the forefront? To counter this with any kind of scepticism makes you look like a pathetic cynic. Without going into too much detail I think Leigh Alexander’s article on this illustrates my point more clearly:

“We don’t think about play and design when we emotionally engage with marketing trailers. And because of an ancient itch, Sony has to bring us this strange, old, too long-awaited Frankenstein’s tech demo, the boy and his gryphon looking like they each fell out of completely different toolsets.”


No matter how cool I might find Aisha Taylor, Ubisoft needs work. There is no denying that, after my initial optimism had waned, For Honor stood out because it was the only Ubisoft title that didn’t immediately feature an open world Ubi-generic setup.

Likewise EA’s offerings all blurred together, except for Unravel which featured Miyamoto-level cuteness from the designer who came up with the idea for the game while on holiday with his kids. This segment was then immediately shit upon by EA cutting to ‘Highway to the Danger Zone’ blaring out whilst a person dressed as a zombie from Plants vs Zombies walked onstage.

The problem with both For Honor  and Unravel is that when you look at the games outside of that bubble both of them just look… okay. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong in both cases but it reminded me of the practice that advertisers had of putting shitty adverts before average adverts, so that, out of relief, audiences started paying attention again.


Beta ain’t always Beta

Post-E3 two major beta projects came out: the Gears of War multiplayer demo and the Elite: Dangerous ‘Game Preview’ (a beta you can pay for – yay).

Gears was a huge disappointment and in another world I would go into great detail about how the departure from the original’s roots ruined everything I loved, but I think that it is sufficient to say that on the strength of that beta it is unlikely I will be buying the remaster any time soon.

Elite Dangerous is a grouping of tutorials that I think does a great job of demonstrating how the flight and combat will work but it is still too early to indicate whether the open world environment, and being able to play alongside PC players, will be a boon or a curse. From what I played of the 60-minute trial I was definitely interested but it is unlikely I will touch it again until its full release.


In conclusion

June is a messy month. I see The Witcher 3 sprawling out in front of me for many months to come and no end in sight to a parade of tantalising games. But what worries me most is the way in which Xbox One is embracing the early access model, and how that is not a good indication of the future of the console.




Is it that time already? This past month has just flown by.

To be fair, my working circumstances have shifted, and I’ve been very busy for much of the month. This hasn’t allowed much time for writing or, well, paying attention to what’s going on in the wider world.


Retreating into nostalgia

Much to AJ’s chagrin, towards the end of May I embarked on a project to replay the entire Mass Effect trilogy. I mention this mostly because (1) AJ absolutely detests these games, and whilst I see where he’s coming from, I don’t; and (2) this project began innocently enough from an ember of nostalgia on a lazy Saturday from just before I knew my life was about to get busy.

“I feel like playing some Mass Effect,” I told my girlfriend. She was happy enough for me to do this, even though she saw what happened to me when I played Mass Effect 3 (suffice to say that I would periodically be surprised by my housemates going to work after I’d been up all night playing it, which I did for maybe four days on the trot). I had only intended to spend a few hours with the game that day, but I’ve been drawn back in both by the series’ charms and a bloody-minded desire to try and chart the space between its successes, failings and my affection for it. I love Mass Effect but I would couch any recommendations concerning it with a metric fuck-ton of provisos.

More on that later, though: I shall be writing something about the Mass Effect trilogy at some point, in some venue. I’m currently maybe two thirds of the way through Mass Effect 2. Not bad going for about a month; this ‘project’ has been my main means of blowing off steam when not working (aside from going down the pub, of course).


Games I’ve ignored

On the subject of nostalgia, the one item I picked up in the recent Steam sale was Gearbox’s Homeworld Remastered collection. I’ve only spent a few hours with it, just replaying the first few missions, and it’s still very lovely. The closest thing to this space RTS is still probably Nexus: The Jupiter Project, which is quite a different beast and poorly balanced to boot. I’m slightly saddened that Homeworld Remastered does have some admittedly minor bugs in it, but I suppose that remastering PC strategy games that are nearly two decades old is always going to be challenging, and there are always going to be aspects of the controls that are frankly fiddly. Regardless, I look forward to spending more time with Homeworld once I’m done being massively effective.

Sam Barlow’s Her Story also came out last week. I’m very keen to play this indeed, but I want to play it with my girlfriend and it’s arrived just before she goes on holiday (I’m following for a shorter break later). I’m going to resist even launching it until we can play it together. I hope that it delivers on its potential.

I didn’t buy Sunset. I was interested in the concept, but… well. Truth be I was mainly interested in what the game might achieve. I was not interested either in the gameplay possibilities of cleaning a house, nor what a video game would have to say about political revolution via the personal story of a very isolated person. Shame about Tales of Tales, though.


Attack pattern storytime

AJ, Potter and myself have been playing regular sessions of various games once a week now for some months. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this previously or not, so here we are again. Lately we’ve been playing Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, which is – preach it – the first Castlevania game I’ve properly played. You don’t need to say it: I feel like a dick about that already. Harmony of Despair is lovely, and its bosses are as hard as nails.

We’re currently trying to take down Dracula, having defeated Death, which seems the wrong way around but I suppose the entire principle of vampires is that they have defeated death, so fair enough. What’s even stranger is that I’m playing as a character called Alucard.

Oh well, it doesn’t need to make any sense. It’s just great fun, and I love that it has such a diverse range of playable characters, each entirely distinct from the others, and that the game itself is packed with secrets and challenge. I really have been missing out, haven’t I?


7 responses to “Diary: June Arcadia”

  1. Beechbone Avatar

    It’s funny how Sony rocked E3 basically with a revival, a remake and a kickstarter. I couldn’t resist watching all the conferences (yeah, even Square Enix, I endured) and trying to get excited about all the announcements but I don’t feel like there was a single thing which got my heart pumping like crazy. Promises all look good. The promise of new Mass Effect, the promise of Dark Souls III, the promise of Dishonored 2, the promise of Gears 4 and so on. These are all sequels obviously. There were very few previously unannounced original games. One of them was Recore, but it was only a concept CGI trailer, sadly. So again, only a promise.

    Throughout June I played almost exclusively The Witcher 3 and I’m not even half-way through. I want to finish it and move on but even the side quests are so good that I don’t want to skip on content and they keep releasing additional free quests every couple of weeks. Other than that I played only Splatoon and Her Story. At least all of that stuff is top quality in its own category.

    I didn’t think of playing Her Story with someone else but now that I think of it, it would make a great co-op experience. Another thing about Her story is that it was a bit surprising for me to come across negativity towards the game from people who saw it popping up on various storefronts like Steam or GOG. Basically some folks judged it by looking at screenshots and deemed it as an old, terrible fmv thing no one wants to play today. Sure, it’s a hard sell, especially that there are very few ways to sell the game without completely spoiling it. But it seems even from game based on mystery people expect answers, not questions. Just like with No Man’s Sky, which was shown yet again at E3. It’s pretty clear Sean Murray doesn’t want to talk about what you will be doing in NMS. It’s an exploration game for everybody to explore it on every level, including minute-to-minute gameplay. There’s no way to sell it without spoiling it, except for showing pretty planets and hoping it’s enough to ignite the curiosity of gamers. But people still ask. What do you do? How do you do it? Where does it end? What’s at centre of the universe? Nobody wants to not only play but to discover games anymore?

    1. badgercommander Avatar

      Yeah, E3 was a lot about promises and it always will be. For me though, it felt like Sony upped their game this year. They seemed to have drawn on pure fantasy as their inspiration. Time will tell whether these games are any good but they definitely won the hearts and minds competition.

      I need to go back and start Witcher anew, it is such a heavy, interesting game full of interesting moments. I never play side missions, and I am playing them all so far.

      I’ve not played Her Story but I reckon Shaun might have a lot to say about it.

      I did really like the videogamer review of the game though:

      Recore looked cool but game of the show for me was probably Cuphead.

      1. Beechbone Avatar

        Cuphead is definitely one of my most anticipated games for Xbox and they always show so little of it. Maybe that’s for the better since apparently this game is focused only on boss fights, so they probably want to avoid giving away walkthroughts.

    2. Shaun Avatar

      We’ve played through Her Story now, and really enjoyed it. I liked that there was enough ambiguity to events, even once all the clips had been revealed, to allow for different interpretations. I’m most impressed, however, by the way it has been designed to unfold in a way that feels organic (you can after all type in whatever keywords you like) but keeps you guessing and backtracking throughout. It is tremendously clever.

      I see what you are saying about No Man’s Sky, and yes it is a pleasure to discover. My concern with NMS is that what there is there to discover will ultimately be shallow and superficial. Discovery is more than looking at pretty things, after all. I wrote an article on here a year or two ago about these concerns, if you’re interested.

      1. Beechbone Avatar

        I understand and share all the concerns about NMS, especially that I generally value painstakingly authored games over more “loose” design, for the lack of better word. But I also value experimenting and failing over succeeding with the familiar. In a way, I want NMS to fail and dissapoint. It will be wonderful if the game delivers an experience like nothing else and amazes gamers with all the discoveries. That sounds unreal, though.

        The biggest letdown for me would be if NMS offers only gameplay that everyone expects it to offer: walking, shooting, crafting, building, trading etc. And probably all of this is in the game. What I want is a differentiating element which makes all of that exciting. Maybe that’s the thing they don’t talk about, or maybe there is no such thing.

        It reminds me a bit of Watch Dogs situation, where the biggest disappointment seemed to be that Watch Dogs turned out to be still just a game which you play with a controller. I don’t know if there’s a secret trick to NMS, but if there is, whether people will love it or hate it, I just want the game to pull it off anyway.

        1. Shaun Avatar

          It will certainly be interesting to see what No Man’s Sky achieves. I’ve no idea what the ‘x factor’ of NMS could be, if it has any, but if the devs pull it off I’ll have nothing but admiration for them. I think I’d also rather see a beautiful, ambitious failure than a reduced, safe commercial success.

          I feel that the latter may be what happened with Watch_Dogs (which I never played); a bunch of design problems were decided to be insoluble, and so it fell back on a tried and tested Ubiworld model, to the game’s creative detriment.

  2. […] Harmony of Despair: I previously wrote a little about this. It’s absolutely lovely as a co-op experience, full of little secrets, challenges […]