CyberPunch83's Blog - Jan to Mar 18 (39 followers)
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Mar
13
PermalinkGenius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist
Slime Rancher Micro-Review: This is more of a review as the game stands now, since there is more content planned for release for this title at some point. The 'Mochi's Megabucks' update drops March 13th for PC, which may or may not be out by the time you read this. The update is set for release on consoles a little bit later according to the most recent release from the game's developer, Monomi Park. Now, about the game itself. I've finished playing it, and it was a lot of fun from start to finish. I don't think I've said this enough, but the slimes are adorable in their own unique ways.

Visuals aside, the game does offer some additional content once you've completed what passes for the main 'story' or narrative in the game, and this content contains some of the best rewards you can hope to achieve. This content, and the monetary reward provided, ties into what will become the biggest money-sink in the entire game. There is a sort of in-game prestige system, which requires more and more money to reach each successive level. Reaching level 22 is all but essential to earn one of the hardest achievements in the game, along with unlocking access to the area you will need for it as well.

Not going into spoiler territory here about that, but suffice to say the areas are hidden, you will know when you find one, and the rewards are well worth it. Not everything is perfect about this game, like the amount of hunting you may have to do if you miss the one opportunity to find and farm Gold Slimes in the entire game. If you don't use one of the post-game areas, you're stuck with grinding an area, vacuuming up slimes in the hope a gold one will pop out, since there is always a small chance one will come out where a normal slime of any type will appear.

Other than hoping a Gold Slime will show up when you need one, some achievements require going out of your way to complete certain actions. Said achievements don't require much effort or preparation, however I noticed a strange issue with the 'While You Were Away' achievement. I was away from the ranch for more than 48 in-game hours, and upon my return the achievement didn't unlock. I tried it again, making sure not to use any of the teleporters, and it still didn't work. What ended up working for me was sitting on the island with the Pink Gordo and the achievement unlocked upon my return. I'll take it.

Verdict: a fun title added to the Games with Gold program that I probably wouldn't have played otherwise. 7/10

Iron Man First Thoughts: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a multibillion-dollar industry unto itself on the strength of seventeen films at the time of this writing. The games have been a mixed bag at best, for the few that have been made. Not counting LEGO games in this one, since those games have a charm and style of fun that shines through any franchise license slapped on top. What I'm talking about are the games directly based on the films, and this one, like the film it was adapted from, is a first entry, and as a result has some strange quirks about it.

The controls are very clunky. Sure Iron Man can fly in every suit configuration other than the original Mk I suit, but that's because that one was built in a cave with whatever Tony Stark had available while held captive. We're not going to dock points for that one. What we will dock points for are the horrible flight controls. Holding LT most of the way down (halfway down according to the game) will let you hover at your present altitude. What the game really should have said is anything other than LT fully held down will trigger hover mode. Holding LT all the way down increases height. Letting off LT entirely slowly lowers you down.

The rest of the controls aren't great either, and the camera is near-useless. It flings itself around at every opportunity and is usually more interested in examining a patch of grass two feet to the left of your current target. Thankfully the game has an auto-lock system for targets, although you have to be within a certain distance to the target. So close as to almost render the auto-lock useless but you have it anyway. Fair enough. The character models for Iron Man are the high point of the visuals. Everything looks like generic game locales #14-21 and the cutscenes have that weird late-2000's look where everything is too fluid and undefined in shape.

The voice actors are close enough in their performances. Robert Downey Jr is back as Tony Stark, as is Terrence Howard as James 'Rhodey' Rhodes. Gwenyth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane are soundalikes. It is noticeable in that it's different from the film, but I had to look it up online to confirm RDJ's involvement in this game since he really doesn't sound like himself. It's said that some actors really phone it in when voicing their character for a video game, and that may have been the case here. Everything else about the game is relatively standard and unimpressive. Perhaps it will get better as the story goes on. I have my doubts.

Coming up on Friday: some minor news from the Fallout universe, and a potential game reveal.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 13 March 18 at 06:12 | There are 2 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
09
PermalinkAsleep at the Controls
As I alluded to at the end of Monday's blog, the game we are taking a quick look at here today is one that at first glance might be in violation of some rules, but the game would not have made it to release if that had been the case. Regardless of that, this has to be the single strangest and quite possibly the stupidest thing I've seen happen on the Xbox platform. Let me introduce you to a little game known as W.O.R.L.D.S: Win Own Reinvent Live Discover Sim. Long enough game title to be sure, but the unusual name aside, that's just the start.

Full disclosure: I haven't played this game yet myself, and for reasons I will make very clear soon enough, I will not be playing this game. Before I knew anything else about it, the game did something to bother me to such an extent that I couldn't in good conscience play this game or ever have it show up on my card. The game is an element-matching title, like the many Doodle God entries we've seen before now and will surely see in the future. In this way the game is likely perfectly fine and playable, and also is a free title which is always nice to see as well.

If we take a look at the achievement list, everything really starts to fall apart. The total Gamerscore available from this title is 1,048. No, this is not a typo, it really does total up to that weird of a number. Why? We may never know, but we can always float some theories as to why the developer would top out at such a strange amount. Let's first establish this isn't the first time a game's total Gamerscore pre-DLC is not 1,000. The actual first time was Condemned: Criminal Origins, a launch title for the Xbox 360 way back in 2005. It capped out at 970 Gamerscore. Being the early days of the console, there weren't really hard rules on such things yet.

Other games since then have included odd-pointed achievements, which always topped out at a total ending in 5 or 0, which meant as long as you unlocked all of the achievements would always mean a consistent Gamerscore total for the player. Since the release of Condemned in 2005, rules were set in place for what a game could have for available Gamerscore. Retail games had to have 1000, Arcade titles had to have 200, later increased to 400. These numbers could all be increased with DLC, however the increases in DLC allowances and game totals over time will be a whole blog in its own right given the sheer number of changes that have been made over the years.

There is an even more rare case where a game will not ship with 1000 available Gamerscore on-disc, where the remainder will be filled in with DLC later. While this does have the side effect of confirming a game will have DLC shipped for it eventually, which can be good or bad depending on whether or not you are a fan of the game or franchise. However all of that is dependent on the DLC actually being released. Let me introduce you to Hellboy: The Science of Evil. Released in 2008, the game with 840 Gamerscore available on-disc with the remaining 160 as shipped DLC achievements to be unlocked later.

However this DLC never came. No announcement, no name, not even a planned release date. To this day it sits on TA as 'Unreleased Add-On' and that's all we know about it, along with what the achievements were meant to be for and their unlock conditions. As a result you can only earn 840 Gamerscore and have one more uncompletable game on your card. Both this and Condemned aren't nearly as bad since both of their totals end in a 0, therefore not messing up anyone's Gamerscore total. However this all is comparably tame when you factor what W.O.R.L.D.S. did to common sense and Gamerscore everywhere.

The only other potential route this game could take with releasing a game with such an odd score would be planning on releasing a second game or expansion to the first game that rounds out the number, effectively holding your Gamerscore total at ransom unless you don't mind the number not being a 5 or 0 by natural means. This must seem odd since I myself currently have a Gamerscore that ends in a 1, but that's due to a game in progress which will even out to 1000 in the end so I'm not worried about it. Not like it's an overly-difficult route anyway.

With odd-pointed games in mind, there is the possibility I may write a blog about just that in the coming weeks as well. There are more than enough games that have done that through DLC additions, which ties nicely into how the rules for DLC have changed over the years to slowly move to the model we have now. Long story short, under the old rules games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection would not have had the massive Gamerscore totals they boast now without some serious rule changes that took place over the last ten years. For the record I plan on playing and completing both of those games before the end of the year. Consider it another stretch goal.

Coming up on Monday: one final look at my farming career.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 09 March 18 at 23:11 | There are 2 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
06
PermalinkStuff we Found in the Microwave
Bit of an unusual one here today, since this one is more about some semi-random thoughts and musings I've had over the last year or so, none of which were really long enough for a blog in their own right. Some of them actually did managed to get spun out into their own piece, but all of these you see before you just couldn't get there for one reason or another. If this goes over well, I can look into making this into a semi-regular feature since I more than likely have enough disconnected thoughts floating around that could be put to the blog here.

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Call of Duty needs to take a break. I feel like this is no less than the twentieth time I've suggested this on the blog alone, to say nothing of conversations had with friends and co-workers. The franchise that has not stopped to catch its breath or take any sort of break is flying headlong into oblivion as ever. Even with three different development teams behind this juggernaut and the rotating schedule for developers, it's not enough to keep everything fresh and new. Assassin's Creed apparently learned a lot from its forced break back in 2016, silver screen performance aside. Maybe it's time Activision learned that lesson.

But we all know they won't. This year it's Treyarch up for development duties, and there's a strong chance we'll just see Black Ops IV. Expect to see it 'leaked' sometime around May, a reveal on or before E3, and an absolute cavalcade of trailers and screenshots until its inevitable November release and massive Christmas sales. Call me jaded if you want, but this pace has been unsustainable for a while now and it's high time something slows down before it breaks down. All of this despite the fact that Modern Warfare 4 might still get me back if the Zombies mode wasn't tacked-on to add perceived value to the entire package.

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Music and rhythm games saw a brief resurgence this generation with the return of the old heavyweights in Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4. As much as it was nice to see a return of franchises that last saw their popularity peak when I was in high school, something never felt quite right about it. Not helped was the fact that I saw this coming back in 2013. There was a probably-internal MadCatz survey about the franchise that was circulated that a friend of mine found and showed me. Given the font and layout of said survey, it was guaranteed to be Rock Band 4. Fast forward two years and there you go.

Like some film franchises, some game franchises don't know when to quit and will always be making more games. For a while it had seemed like this genre had oversaturated itself to the point of no further games, and it seemed like a fitting end. A genre that exploded onto the scene last generation, enjoyed a brief time in the glory and the spotlight, then burned out just as quickly, never to return. Instead they popped up again years after people last thought about these games and expected the people to come back in droves. While some did doubtless return, it couldn't have been in the numbers either Activision or MadCatz were expecting.

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Remasters need to stop. Recently, de Blob 2 was re-released on the Xbox One, despite the gamg originally releasing for the Xbox 360 back in 2011, and the game being available through backward compatibility. To make matters worse, reviews like the one here on TA correctly point out that save for a few cleaner edges and one new achievement, the game is the same as it was seven years ago and did not take advantage of the increased power on the Xbox One. For a game all about colours and visuals, this seems like a misstep to effectively ignore what the new platform can do. We are also apparently scraping the bottom of the remake barrel at this point as well.

If you asked for this remake, then I hope you enjoy it. For the rest of us that either never heard of this game until now or are not interested in playing it again (I'm in the latter category myself), this seems like a waste of time for THQ Nordic who have other, newer games they should be focusing on right now. de Blob 2 was an entertaining enough game, but not one I can see myself playing again. I can only imagine what game we will next see re-made for current-gen consoles if this is allowed to continue. My money is on a Dead Space remake with all of the microtransactions from the third game brought in and you have to supply a credit card number to start the game.

Coming up on Friday: the single stupidest thing I have ever seen in ten years of Xbox gaming.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 06 March 18 at 04:47 | There are 5 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Mar
03
PermalinkFalling Apart at the Seams
Sometime around 2010-2011, I basically moved full-time from casually gaming to active achievement hunting. These days I don't play a game without careful examination of a game's achievement list, and planning out in what order I do everything, what can be combined into the same run, and which achievements require special effort, such as online achievements. With all of this in mind, it may seem strange that there is a game that was started on my card, but not finished, or seen any progress in many months. That game is Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.

The explanation is quite simple really. Before I began playing that game, I haven't really had two functioning Xbox One controllers with which the game can be played. Now I know some of you just went back and read that last sentence again, and no your eyes do not deceive you on this day. This game is being played on the Xbox One through backward compatibility. Side note on that actually: you can somewhat predict what Xbox 360 games are coming to Games With Gold if it is announced that a game is receiving backward-compatibility and seems like a game that neither needs nor deserves it. Something to keep in mind in the future.

For nearly two years now, one of my Xbox One controller has always displayed some sort of stick drift. The first one was a controller whose right stick was starting to go, making aiming in some games that require precision next to impossible. That was not a problem I ever really solved, since to fix that requires more of a controller teardown than I am currently comfortable doing. You can't just pop off the controller module since it is soldered into the main controller board itself. If you happen to own both a de-solder gun and a solder gun and want to try this process yourself, there are many guides to be found on YouTube showing how to do it.

If I ever get access to one of these guns and have a spare controller, I may try it out, but not until there is a backup plan in case something really breaks and cannot be repaired. While annoying, it was possible to work around the right stick drift issue. I even managed to get the three-hour Legendary difficulty speedrun achievements in both Halo 3 and Halo 4 from Master Chief Collection with this 'damaged' controller. It is still possible to game with it, just gets harder as you have to consciously flick the right stick down every now and then to actually see where you're going in such a hurry.

I then sought out a used controller to swap some parts and be good to go once more. Within one year, that controller began exhibiting left stick drift issues. I'm not going to blame the original owner since the controller worked like a charm for far more than the period in which you could realistically go back to a re-seller and claim the item you bought was defective from the beginning. So I know that's not the case. Here's the thing about the thumbsticks. Some games don't use the right stick due to the game itself and its inherent control scheme. Try and find a game that doesn't use the left thumbstick. You can't without a lot of searching.

This meant nearly every game I play will be affected by this. You're standing in one spot reading a menu entry and then the stick starts tracking upward, taking you away from whatever you're doing. This has been particularly irritating in Slime Rancher, when reading an entry on how a device works or what the best food is for a certain slime to get double plorts. This behaviour has only really popped up in the last couple of months, and might signal the time to get a brand-new controller. At least if that one breaks, there is some sort of a warranty I can fall back on and not pay out of pocket to make any repairs.

Not like any at-home repairs are covered under warranty anyway, since even accessing all of the screws required to open up the controller means breaking through a barcode sticker. You just know it's one of those 'warranty void if seal is broken' sort of situations as well. Needless to say it's best to make these repairs to controllers well outside any manufacturer warranty period. I'm not going to let the left stick drift go unresolved which I somewhat did with the other controller's right stick issue. This is far more pressing and affects basically every game I play or would want to play. It's a bit of an issue, to say the least.

These two incidents have led me to honestly question the manufacturing quality of these controllers. I have an Xbox 360 controller purchased in late 2013 that still works like a charm. It seems like these controllers are breaking down through less use. I recognize that as production numbers go up, something else must go down in a proportionate manner, and in this instance it seems to have been the build quality. Who's to say I don't install some aftermarket modules and they never break down again? One day I intend to find out and get to the bottom of this one. Until then, slightly-malfunctioning controllers for me.

Coming up on Monday: a few quick takes on some topics.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 03 March 18 at 05:01 | There are 2 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Feb
28
PermalinkHome on the Far, Far Range
Farming. One of the first true industries to spring up in what would become the basis for modern Western civilization. In some ways the practice has never changed: plant seeds, grow them, chop down and harvest, repeat ad infinitum. Seen as relaxing to some, irritating to others, but despite that we can agree it conjured up images of tending to crops, driving combine harvesters for hours on end, and maybe some bad memories for anyone unfortunate enough to live downwind from a farm at a few points throughout the year when the fields and crops were being fertilized.

So here we have a game that takes some of those basic principles of farming, except instead of endless fields of crops and tilling, you have closures full of sentient slimes who have been known on occasion to escape and wander around your farm, hopefully not eating everything in sight. That is Slime Rancher in a nutshell. Given the game's inventory screen and general design of creating and maintaining a base while adventuring, you will be forgiven for making a Minecraft comparison. Not every game on the Xbox needs to be a clone of a popular game in order to make money and sell units.

Despite this, the game does what it does well. The multiple different regions each have different slimes to find and collect, food with which to feed them, and most can be brought back to your farm for further raising and growing. Your most basic slime are the bouncy pink ones, inventively named Pink Slime. They are by far the easiest to raise, since they will eat anything and do not have a favourite item. Other than the Pink Slimes, each slime has a favourite food that when consumed, will produce double plorts, the main resource to sell in order to make money in this game. It's worth figuring out what everyone's favourite is and feeding them exclusively that.

Some of the real challenge of the game comes from managing your farm, what slimes you should corral and tend, and which foods you should grow, and how many of each. You get a finite number of plots on which you can build either corrals, farm plots, or some other building like a storage silo or an incinerator if you really want to be rid of something. That last one may come in handy more than you might think, and since some achievements require having and using one, not to mention one of the more late-game slimes, it's a good thing to have around. There are also cosmetic upgrades available for increasingly-ridiculous sums of in-game money, called Newbucks here.

While the Minecraft comparison may extend to what seems like having a lack of direction and story as well, there is something of a narrative to be found in Slime Rancher. You find in the wild what amount to journal entries by a previous farmer named Hobson, chronicling his time on the range and the people and areas he came across. While you can unlock areas in any order you want, so I'm not sure if there is a definite order in which you'll find all of these entries, or if they can be discovered on your own accord in any order and this will not negatively impact the game or the narrative to be found.

There are no other characters to which you directly interact. There is a sort of missions system in the sense that other people will contact you and require certain resources in varying quantities. Supplying these resources will grant you money and other resources in return. The exchange is always posted in full, so there is no surprise later on if you don't get what you would prefer. You get to choose one of two people to receive an order from every time, with certain people tending to ask for certain resources. You soon learn and get an idea for who wants what and how it fits with your play style.

As of this writing, I've put 15 hours into the game, have unlocked 38 of the game's 57 achievements. Some of the remaining achievements are for a separate game mode I have yet to try, but effectively works a condensed version of the game where it rates your progress after five in-game days. I may look into trying that mode out in the next couple of days. There are more than ample guides for all of the remaining achievements. While I grant I only own this game due to the Games With Gold program, it was my girlfriend petranat who first played the game and recommended it to me. I've loved it ever since and am thankful for her showing me this game in action.

I'm not sure what the next game will be that I will play once completing Slime Rancher. I've been playing quite a few 360 titles lately, including somewhat dipping back into Fallout 3, but there are more than enough Xbox One titles that I own in both physical and digital formats that I should play one of them next. I've been sorting my game collection here on TA by completion time and have been knocking out the shorter games first. Eventually I'll have to figure that out, since I can't just keep wasting valuable gaming time on grinding more and more in World of Tanks. Well I suppose I could, but wouldn't be a good use of my time.

Coming up on Friday: crossing fingers for an on-time blog.
Posted by CyberPunch83 on 28 February 18 at 02:48 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.