BetaSigX20's Blog - Apr to Jun 17 (2 followers)

PermalinkDarksiders -- Final Thoughts
I've posted quite a bit in the Darksiders forums for the TA Playlist this month, but I thought I'd do a blog entry to kind of organize all my thoughts on the game into one place. Maybe that's something I'll do for each Playlist game going forward -- I'm looking forward to Sunset Overdrive next month, since I've always heard great things about that game but I've never gotten around to really playing it.

Anyway, for Darksiders, I knew virtually nothing about it going in. I had downloaded it when it was Games with Gold, but my impression of it was that it would be a kind of generic hack-and-slash sort of game, which didn't particularly appeal to me. However, when it was selected for the playlist, there were a lot of good comments about it, so I guess I'd describe my feelings going in as "cautiously optimistic," and now that I'm pretty much finished with it, I think it exceeded my expectations.

Pros --
The gameplay, especially the combat, felt solid. Right from the start you feel like a badass, mowing down lots of enemies with relative ease, but with enough tougher, larger demons to keep things interesting. There are a plethora of moves that you can buy for each weapon if you want to try to mix things up (I used the dash attack mercilessly throughout most of the game), and you're continually given new gadgets that add complexity and variety.

The puzzles are good -- mostly pretty easy, a few a bit more challenging, but generally not too frustrating. In most cases, there are no negative consequences for trial and error, so it was possible to just keep trying until it works. I think this was a good balance for the puzzles.

Likewise, the collectibles (tokens, chests, etc.) were numerous, and in some cases well-hidden, but not so obscure that you need to follow a guide to find them. I played through the majority of the game without a guide, and picked up about 95% of the collectibles. But what I really appreciate is the ability to go back to any area of the game (up until the last fifteen minutes) to go finish picking up those collectibles... that makes it so you don't have to follow a guide step-by-step all the way through, which I like.

I liked the concept of the backstory -- the Four Horsemen as agents of a Council of elder beings, which had imposed a cease-fire in the war between Heaven and Hell while a third kingdom, the Kingdom of Man was allowed to grow. The twist makes for an interesting ending.

Fun factor was good, for the most part... every time you enter a new area or get a new device, it opens up new possibilities and changes the mechanics enough to keep things interesting, and while some of the bosses are tough (on normal difficulty), none were overly frustrating or impossible. In terms of pure enjoyment, I liked this game a lot more than I thought I would, since pure hack-and-slash isn't usually my preferred genre.

Cons --
Despite the variety of weapons and areas, there are certainly parts of the game that feel boring and repetitive. In the black tower in particular, it feels like you're solving the same puzzles and fighting the same set of enemies (including the three tower mini-bosses) over and over again, without much variation.

Combat-wise, while the variety of weapons and abilities present is good, the fact is, you really don't ever need to use any of that. In most cases, just spamming cn_X, cn_X, cn_X over and over again is sufficient. And, once you get the Tremor Gauntlet and upgrade the Earthbreaker attack (cn_RB + cn_Y) a couple of times, you can basically use that to take out whole groups of all but the largest demons without taking much damage.

Only a couple of criticisms from the game-mechanic standpoint -- 1. Learn to JUMP, man! Can't count the number of times I ran up to the edge of a ledge to jump across, and War just took an extra step or two and just walked straight off the edge of the cliff to his death.
2. The whole targeting mechanism for ranged attacks is pretty cumbersome (especially selecting multiple targets with the crossblade). Eventually you get used to it, but it took quite a while before that felt natural.

While the concept of the story is interesting, I don't think it came off so well in the execution. Part of that is due to the pacing problem noted above. You might get a brief conversation with Vulgrim or Samael, and then you're off to your next objective, and you might not talk to anyone again for an hour or two. The overarching storyline (War getting framed for the apocalypse) gets lost in there somewhere. Sure, you get the idea that you're basically out for revenge, but I kept expecting that narrative to play into a larger story, possible something about War finding a way to restore the Third Kingdom or something like that... in the intro, it was built up that Mankind would eventually rise into a third power to rival both Heaven and Hell, but apparently all of mankind is wiped out in the first five minutes of gameplay, and that's it for them. It just seemed like the apocalyptic setting was too big for this to just be a story about War getting even with the people who framed him, and then walking away.

I think that's why so many people were saying that War was an unsatisfying protagonist. I'd be fine with him being a stoic warrior if he was fighting for some grand or noble cause that we understood, but basically this story boiled down to a quest for vengeance, so the story needed more of a hook to get the player on War's side. Instead, we're hit with a lot of esoteric backstory, and then basically everyone just tells War where to go and what to do, and he's trotting off to the next objective marker on the map. War needed more inner monologue, or maybe more arguing with the Watcher about why he's doing what he's doing. That started to pick up a little bit with Azrael in the endgame, but it needed to be included more throughout.

All in all, I think the good outweighed the bad, though, and if you try to enjoy the game for what it is -- a generally stereotypical hack-and-slash action game -- it's more than adequate.

Random thoughts I made note of during my time with Darksiders --
- This is a game that doesn't mind reminding you that it's a game. Why will this gate come down if I manage to do 5 aerial kills in 3 minutes? Or if I destroy 10 enemies with finishing moves? They put a thin veneer of story over it (you need to kill these four demon eye things to release their power over the Gate Guardian), but there's no attempt to cover the fact that this is a game and you've got to complete this challenge to pass. That's fine... there's not a problem with that. But it just seems kind of disjointed... sometimes it seems like it's trying to put together a really serious post-apocalyptic drama, and then you'll have a random challenge mode that's very arcade-y.

- Comparisons to Zelda. The more I play it, the more I get it. Like when you solve a puzzle and there's a little "do-da-do-DA" as the camera zooms in on a door that's now open. Where I get it most is the boss battles, though, where each one has a different trick on what you need to do to cause them damage. You've got to hit them with a bomb to knock them down so you can run up and hit them with your sword, for example, or throw a certain thing at them a certain time to make them show their vulnerable spot so you can hit them. Also, your weapons include a Boomerang Crossblade and Hookshot Abyssal Chain, so that adds to some of the similar feeling. I don't consider these things to be uniquely Zelda-like, which is probably why I didn't get that vibe at all until I started looking for it, but now that it's in my mind, I can see the comparisons. I don't think it's so much that this game was influenced by Zelda, though, so much as both Zelda and Darksiders contain elements that are common to many action-type games of the time.

And one final thought, for the TA Playlist in general, I've got to remember to try and separate "this is a bad game" from "this isn't the type of game I enjoy." It's okay to criticize certain aspects of the story, graphics, gameplay, etc. on their technical merits, but for the purposes of discussion for the playlist event, I think it's good to try to separate out the personal bias as much as possible. Alan Wake has some aspects that can be objectively and fairly criticized, but there were a lot of people who just said it was boring or stupid, because it wasn't the type of game they normally like to play. I think most would objectively agree that it's a good game, even if it's not a type that they themselves would typically enjoy. I think the same goes for this one, but flipping the tables for a lot of people... a lot of people who really enjoy an Alan Wake-style narrative-driven game might not enjoy a straight-up button-masher like Darksiders, so we're getting a good variety in these first two months, but that also makes it hard not to draw comparisons.

Darksiders isn't probably the type of game that I would normally choose to pick up, and there are aspects I can criticize, but I think that for what it is, I don't think it's a bad game. I liked it enough that I may be willing to check out the sequels at some point, though I'm not shooting them to the top of my "must-play" list at this point. 3 out of 5.
Posted by BetaSigX20 on 25 May 17 at 21:55 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkNew Milestone While I Slept!
When I went to bed last night, I had a TA Score of 159,989 points. I was thinking that tonight, I should try to find an achievement with a TA Score of 11, just to put me at a nice, round number. Well, turns out that the TA system took care of that without my help, because when I woke up this moring, I had a TA Score of 160,001!

I love that the site tracks the stats so closely and allows us to see them, because I was very interested to see what scores had changed that put me over the top. Looks like:

Kameo: Elements of PowerThorn's Airship rankingThe Thorn's Airship ranking achievement in Kameo: Elements of Power worth 330 points'A' ranking on Thorn's Airship

Dead SpaceEpic Tier 3 EngineerThe Epic Tier 3 Engineer achievement in Dead Space worth 391 pointsComplete the game on the hardest difficulty setting

Ghostbusters: The Video GameAre You A God?The Are You A God? achievement in Ghostbusters: The Video Game worth 267 pointsComplete the game on 'Professional' difficulty.

were the main ones to get a score change yesterday... each increased by less than a full point of TA ratio, but that was enough to put me over the mark. When I looked at the leaderboard, I was sitting at 160000.4 TA Score.

My OCD would like to shave off that extra four-tenths of a point, but I'm sure it will change before too long anyway... there was a pretty big bump from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II being Games With Gold this month, so as more people work their way through that game, there may be a bit of a backslide.

I've got to make the rest of the way through Darksiders for the Playlist, and then I'm hoping to get back to Dead Space 2 and finish that off. Sometime this month, I should hit 100,000 gs, so that will be a fun milestone... more on that later!
Posted by BetaSigX20 on 19 May 17 at 15:19 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkApril Summary -- Highs and Lows
As expected, my stats for April were a bit funky.

On the one hand, I unlocked more achievements this month than in any other single month of my gaming history, at 187 achievements, and I also had 7 completed "games", which ties with March for one of the best months of all time. I also had a pretty high TA ratio this month, at 2.76 -- also the best month in my gaming history, as far as I can see.

However, most of those achievements (and all the completions) were actually free TV apps I used for the Easter Egg Hunt, like ABC News and Syfy Now, so the vast majority of those achievements counted for 0 gamerscore and 0 TA score. This led to a Gamerscore increase of just 295 gs, which is the worst single month since December of 2015, and a TA Score increase of 816 (thanks to a couple rare ones from Kameo and Forza that got popped along the way), the lowest since August of 2016.

Ah, well. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Alan Wake again at the beginning of the month to be able to discuss it on the TA Playlist, so even though I didn't earn any achievements during that part of the month, I still had fun.

And the Easter Egg Hunt was enjoyable, even though I unlocked a lot of achievements without earning a lot of gamerscore -- my monthly total of 295 gs (816 TA) in 187 achievements, averages out to 1.58 gs per achievement (4.36 TA per achievement), which is comically low, thanks to all the 0g Eggs.

Just started Darksiders for the May TA Playlist -- not typically my cup of tea, but enjoyable so far. And four of the achievements for that game counted in my April summary, since I started before midnight my time (but after midnight UK time). We'll see how it goes!
Posted by BetaSigX20 on 01 May 17 at 21:51 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkIt Was the Best of Months, It Was the Worst of Months...
So, April is drawing to a close, and this is going to be a very different month in terms of achievements.

I didn't earn a lot of gamerscore this month, and ironically, I have the TrueAchievements site itself to blame for that. The month started with the first-ever TA Playlist, which I was very interested to take part in, but unfortunately for me, the game that was selected was Alan Wake.

Not that I have a problem with Alan Wake -- quite the contrary, I loved that game, and I think it was an excellent choice for the playlist, because it gave us a lot to talk about. But I say it was unfortunate for me because I'd already earned 100% of the achievements in that game a long time ago, including all DLC. I still really wanted to take part in the discussion, though, and since it had been so long since I'd played it, I decided to go ahead and play through it again, to be able to join in and talk about it on the forums.

This is probably the first game (at least since achievements re-defined for me what it means to have "completed" a game) that I've gone back and played again once I had completely finished it. Ordinarily, I just don't see any value to going back and re-doing a game if I've got 100% of the achievements... I've just got too many other games to play, and not enough time to play them. I'm glad I did go back for another playthrough of Alan Wake, though, because I thought there was a lot of interesting discussion in the Playlist forums, so even though it didn't net me any achievements, I still enjoyed it. (Plus I got a couple of mentions in the Podcast{/url], which was nice!)

The other thing that kept me from increasing my Gamerscore was the second community event this month -- the [url=]... Egg Hunt. I've never messed around much with the apps on the Xbox, so I had a lot of those 0g achievements still available, and I decided that it would be worth a shot. I got off to a pretty good start (I think I was ranked as high as 3rd or 4th in the first few days), but I think everyone underestimated the amount of Easter Eggs that were out there to find. I don't think anybody expected that the winner would have been able to unlock over 300 of these achievements in just two weeks, so hats off to the winners. I was hoping to stay in the top 10, but it looks like I'm going to end up just shy of that mark... right now I'm in 11th place with 167 eggs, but there's still a chance for someone to scan in a bunch at the end and knock me down further. I'm tapped.

So, even though I didn't earn a lot of gamerscore, I did net quite a few achievements... in addition to the 167 0g achievements for the Easter Egg Hunt, I picked up a couple of actual achievements in Forza 5, Kameo, and Hamster Universe (WP). along with a couple other miscellaneous achievements. This has started me on a fairly solid achievement streak, so I may try to keep that going for a while, but I guess we'll see.

Next month will be better, if for no other reason than that the TA Playlist game is Darksiders, which I downloaded when it was Games with Gold, but haven't played at all yet. So I'll start (and hopefully even finish) that in May, and I need to get back into the other games I've got in my backlog as well... most notably Dead Space 2, but also now that I've been playing it, it would be good to go finish off the achievements from Kameo, if I can.

Hopefully it will be a better month from a data use standpoint as well.. All the "Watch 1000 minutes of video" achievements from those apps put me waaay over my data limit from my ISP!
Posted by BetaSigX20 on 27 April 17 at 22:07 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkMarch Summary
March gaming summary

This was another month where I didn't earn a lot of achievements, but I did manage to check off some completions. I finished six games during March, including three that I started several years ago. That brings the total completions (final unlock, not start to finish) for 2017 so far to 18 games across all platforms, which is already one more than all of last year, and significantly more than in any single year prior to that.

First up was Skyrim. I had well over 300 hours in this game, but somewhere back around the 12-hour mark, I had made the decision not to become a cannibal, thus missing out on one of the Daedric artifacts needed for
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimOblivion WalkerThe Oblivion Walker achievement in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim worth 66 pointsCollect 15 Daedric Artifacts

I realized this after I'd already put a lot more time into the game and had progressed the main storyline by a significant amount (and I'd already done the Ring of Hircine quest by then as well, so I wasn't able to double up on that artifact to make up for it), so I wasn't about to go back and start all over right then. After completing the rest of the game (including the Hearthfire DLC), this achievement was the one thing I was missing.

I've been on a crusade to finish off these outstanding achievements lately, though, so I loaded up my old save and basically just went through all the Daedric quests, one by one, to finish this game off. It's still a good game, and having had some time off from the world of Tamriel, I didn't mind going back and playing through all these quests again. I'll probably go back and play the Dawnguard and Dragonborn DLC packs at some point, though, so I don't think I'm completely finished with Skyrim yet.

In the same vein, I finally unlocked the last couple of achievements in Dead Rising, so this game overtook Oblivion to become the game with the longest time between the first achievement I earned (on September 4, 2006) and the last achievement (March 11, 2017), a gap of 3840 days 16 hours 43 minutes (10 years, 6 months, 6 days).

The other "old game" completion this month was Monster Burner, which I had downloaded on one of my old Windows Phones back in 2013. I played several levels, but shortly after that, I ended up getting a new phone, and never re-downloaded it. It was de-listed from the Store for a while, but when I upgraded to Windows 10 mobile on my current phone, I had access to it again, so I was able to jump back in and finish it off.

As for newer games (well, to me, anyway), I finished off The Bunker, which I had won in a giveaway from TA last fall. I played through the story the first time a while back, but I had to go back to finish off the collectibles (had to start all over due to the puzzle piece) and get the other ending. I thought this was a pretty innovative title, given the use of full-motion video and live actors throughout. This title definitely falls on the "interactive movie" side of the spectrum, though, and there were parts that were kind of repetitive and slow. Still, it was a short game, and easy in terms of achievements, so it was a good play, overall.

I also downloaded the Indie bundle that included Thomas Was Alone. I'd heard nothing but good things about this game, but I don't typically go out of my way to buy these sorts of indie titles. If they're GwG, sure, but otherwise, I feel like my gaming time is too limited to just buy everything that comes along. Still, this bundle was a good deal, and after playing this game, I can see why everyone was so impressed with it. I never thought I could care so much about a group of differently-colored rectangles jumping around on the screen. The level design was great (mostly easy, with more challenging elements as you went along, but nothing that felt frustrating or impossible), and the writing and voice-over work was fantastic. Great idea, perfectly executed. At just under 11 hours, this was one of my shortest completions, but well worth the time.

And finally, I broke the 1500 rating in AlphaJax to round out the month. I had never intended to stack this -- I didn't realize the WP and Win10 versions had different achievement lists -- but while I did use my wife's account on the computer to boost some of the achievements, I'm proud to say that I got this achievement *mostly* legitimately, playing against some really good competitors, and won 65 of 70 total games to get to the 1500 rating I needed for the final achievement.

So, that's it for March. 53 total achievements in 9 different games, with 6 completions. Again, not my most prolific month, but enough to feel like I'm making progress.

I'm currently working on Dead Space 2 on my 360, going through Zealot mode, and then I'll have to turn around and do the Hard Core playthrough... still worried that that's going to be frustrating as all hell, only saving three times the whole game. We'll see how it goes.

I've also decided to play through Alan Wake again, in order to keep up with the new TA Playlist forum. That's a great game, and even though I 100%ed it years ago, I'm probably looking forward to this more than anything else on my To-Do list for now. I've played through the first chapter or so, and already I'm really getting into the story again, especially now that I understand a bit more of what's going on and what to look for. I've been listening to a lot of Poets of the Fall music to get in the mood! :)

I'm hoping it will also inspire me to finish up Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which I started during the UHH, but never completed. I haven't done any of the Arcade Mode achievements yet, plus I've still got some manuscript pages to find, etc.

I hope the Playlist idea takes off, and generates some good discussion. Hopefully next month will be something I haven't played yet, or at least, something I haven't completed... I think maybe the sweet spot for the playlist would be a game that I played through the story mode once, but never went back to mop up the additional achievements. We'll see what comes up.
Posted by BetaSigX20 on 04 April 17 at 20:30 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.