Xpovos' Blog - Jul to Sep 19 (121 followers)

PermalinkAs The Crow Dies - Volume 17
  • Weekly Stats

For 2019-09-04 to 2019-09-17:

2715 GS over two weeks (1357.5 GS average). That's a lower average than what my previous two-week blog period ended up being, but still reasonable enough, particularly for this time of year.

Four Completions:

Fearful Symmetry & The Cursed Prince
A fairly fun puzzle game with some occasionally mind-bending puzzles because you have to keep track of two things moving in similar fashion--but opposite--at the same time. A bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. It's well-liked because it's quick and there's a good guide for it, but what's the fun in that? As it turns out, the guide may not always be that useful anyway, because I found there were several puzzles that had some fairly tight timing requirements. It's gone on sale for $0.99 several times. And it's well worth that price, or even a bit more. Graphics are nothing to write home about, and the dialogue, what there is, is clearly written by someone with English as a second languge. But the puzzle design--that thing that the game is all about--is pretty good.

Thimbleweed Park
If this hadn't been well written it would've been a chore. It's amazing that though in many ways it's a Point and Click puzzle game, how different this is from Fearful Symmetry. Fearful Symmetry's story is meaningless. Thimbleweed Park's is the whole reason to play. There's a lot of fun here in the user created content that got jammed in during the Kickstarer process, that may well be the best stuff. Voice acting is also top-notch. But ultimately, the game left me feeling a bit disappointed. Instead of bringing the best of the Lucas Art's classic P&C games into a new generation, this felt more like a mimicking of the Day of the Tentacle kind of thing. There's charm and humor, and clever puzzles and the like, and even though the game is much gentler, there's really something missing. It just doesn't have the zing of the truly great games.

I know how to approach a game with a cover like this.  It's definitely going to be exactly what I think it is.I know how to approach a game with a cover like this. It's definitely going to be exactly what I think it is.

Faery: Legends of Avalon
I'm glad this wasn't voice acted. Given the budget and quality elsewhere, it would've been awful. As is, though, it means the game is a bit boring. It's a very linear, very simple RPG with faeries. That's not a bad thing, but the world traversal through the flying mechanic is just not fun. And that's the only way to get around. I've played worse, and I'm happy to scratch the RPG itch with a quickie, but even with it's regular sale price, it's only worth picking up if you really like RPGs and just want another one to play. These days you're better off paying more and getting a KEMCO.

A real gem of an indie game. The graphics are super-simple. It's like The Legend of Zelda, but in black and white and without even trying for faux-3D. That takes some guts. But it shows something I've really come to appreciate over the past few years. It's all about the gameplay. Minit has a nice gameplay hook and loop, has a well-designed play space, tests the player, rewards the player and lets the player make incremental progress all in a beautifully conceived process that is also backed by an interesting, if simple, narrative.

The final achievements I needed were to play the game a second time on the harder difficulty, to complete the game in under 25 runs, and without killing any snakes. I wanted to do them all at the same time if I could. Fortunately, having played the game before, with many, many deaths as I figured out the puzzles and the like, I knew the shortcuts and it was certainly possible. All the same, I did cut it close.


Zero Starts*:

It's been a quiet start to the month for games started. I haven't really bought much new, so I haven't had a compelling reason to start something. Normally I'll start games for my stream, or because I'm itching to play it, or just bought it. My stream games this month have been repeats, so nothing new there.

Until tonight. It's too late to be included in my stat round up, but tonight I will be starting a brand new game on stream. Brand new. Just released last week. So, that's a start.

  • Stream Games

Lately we've played a bit of Overcooked! 2.
When Overcooked 2 came out we were excited to play it, and ultimately played it through the netire game as a 4-chef kitchin with Des and her sister, and ypod. Unfortunately, the game had a glitch at that point that only the host got achievement credit on the save file. That has been addressed, but it's meant that we've had to go back, slowly, overtime, to redo all those levels again, and 3-star the difficult ones again that we (I, really, it's just me) need to for the achievements. So it's a bit of a process and has taken a while. Particularly when there's DLC coming out so regularly that also wants our attention. We spent some time in Horde mode, which was quite fun, and got my Pi-hundred-thousand achievement, and that's what sparked the recent return to this culinary world. As a result, I've earned almost all of the base game achievements now. Just a handful left that we should be able to hit whenever we come back again next.

But it won't be tonight, because tonight, we're going to play the new hotness. Des and I will be returning to Pandora. Kind of. We're revisiting the planets of Borderlands and starting Borderlands 3. Borderlands is the game that Des and I have played the most together, so this makes a lot of sense, and I expected it to be a lot of fun. Come join us and see what all the hype is about.

More on my lack of sleep below.More on my lack of sleep below.

  • Significant Games

I've done a fairly good job of completing the games I've hit hard recently. But there's always some progress going on. This week one surprising addition was Crayola Scoot. This is Tony Hawk for kids. I'm not very good at Tony Hawk games, so when I started it some time ago for a review, I was initially concerned that I'd gotten myself into a heap of trouble. Sure it was being listed as a fairly easy/quick completion, but that was for people who had skill in video games; or at least skill in video games like this. I was not expecting a lot after that first experience.

If I'd know it was Tony Hawk for kids I probably wouldn't have started it.  Probably.If I'd know it was Tony Hawk for kids I probably wouldn't have started it. Probably.

But the game came back up this month due to RTDL, so I jumped back in and over a few sessions I got into the groove and knocked out not only my required achievement, but several others as well, and in fact almost all of the game. There's a bit of grind here, but I'm thoroughly impressed by how little I'll need to play the game. There are so many levels that I won't have to play. The achievements are really pretty early in the game as far these things go, in part because the leveling process seems to be quite accelerated--possibly because it's a kid's game, at heart. I wondered about it when I first played. The controls are not easy for a kid to pick up. My youngest daughter and middle daughter were both done in by it. Even this time around, all three of them took some turns and it wasn't anything they were good at, particularly. The Crayola branding seems a bit young for my eldest, who was by far the best at the game. So the challenges might be easier to grind, but actually winning the events? Not so much.

Gears POP! joins the list of games I'll be playing constantly but never mentioning because it's just background noise. It's a nice game to play for a bit here and there, and I'm not going to say it's not fun. The game mechanics are not new to this game and they're reproduced reasonably well. There have been bugs, and cheaters, and all of the problems you might expect from a game like this. But the most egregious problem of all is the leveling system. Using some back of the envelope calculations people have found an estimate for some of the craziness that the two end-game achievements will take. For reference:

Gears POP!Pin-nacle 4The Pin-nacle 4 achievement in Gears POP! worth 6646 pointsUpgrade a Pin to max level

This achievement requires getting a unit to the highest level, which for commons, at least, is level 20. We don't know for sure how many duplicates that will cost, but regression analysis says that it's over 90,000 duplicates of that particular unit. There are 15 different commons, to get enough common units to upgrade to 20, it's going to be something like 1.3M unit duplicates required. And that's before they add new units, which they're already doing--though at higher rarities. The estimate is that playing aggressively and for free, it's going to be 5 years to earn enough duplicates to get this achievement. It's probably a bit less, we'll get some end-of-month rewards that should help, and self-selection in the free currency store will also mitigate it some, but not by enough to shave significant time off. Maybe it's 4 years instead of 5.

It's patently ridiculous. But that's not the worst offender. Two people have already earned Pinnacle 4 as of this writing. No one has earned this doozy.

Gears POP!MajorThe Major achievement in Gears POP! worth 50 pointsReach Max Player Level 20

Getting your hero to this level requires a boatload of xp, which can only be gotten through upgrading the units, per above, but with some weirdly diminishing returns on investment. Except that the only numbers that matter are the big ones, and those are all deep in anyway. So you won't just have to upgrade one pin to 20, you might have to upgrade all of them. No one is quite sure just yet how insane this is because even regression analysis can't point far enough ahead to get an estimate.

There's a reasonable guess that the two people who have the Pinnacle 4 achievement either cheated it, were gifted huge piles of units by The Coalition, or opened their wallets to the tune of thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of dollars. There are whales in mobile games that do this kind of thing. And it seems that The Coalition and Microsoft are counting on them, and the achievement hunters, to keep this thing moving.

Estimates of various costs in a spreadsheet I'm compiling with regression analysis.Estimates of various costs in a spreadsheet I'm compiling with regression analysis.

If upgrading all of the pins to level 20 (or the highest) is the requirement for this, multiplying the $10+ by 15 for this achievement isn't even going to cut it.

Why bother mentioning all of this? No one is going to be surprised that a mobile game with scammy F2P economy mechanics is a grindy mess of a progression path. But I think it's important to note just how bad it is. I've played my fair share of this kind of game in the past. I've sunk over a year into more than I care to count, to get to the far side in the F2P mode. But rarely does a game take into a second year. And certainly not without adding content along the way.

I think there might be a popular revolt among a small group who realize just how insane/impossible these goals are. Yet, I don't expect anything to change. People seem perfectly willing to offer up ridiculous sum of money, so why not? Just because it's not healthy doesn't mean it's going to stop.

I may talk about Gears POP! more, but I'll try to keep it news-y. For now, just assume I'm playing it, essentially daily, and will be for the next 5 years.

  • Prime Story

Welcome to September, everyone. School has started. The kids are back in class, the schoolbusses are on the road, the teachers are in the classrooms, and every single adult who comes into contact with kids needs to go through a background check. Right now. Not two months ago when they agreed to help out. Now, because they're already in the classrooms, and on the roads and in contact with the kids on a day-to-day basis. That is September in my world. Get all of the background checks of three months done in one, because no one can follow simple instructions.

It's OK though, it's like this every year. And it's such a regular problem that my bosses decided to help me out for a change. No, I don't get to hire more stafff, not even temp workers. Or authorize overtime. No, we're rolling out a new application process that will definitely work immediately and simplify everything. Even though it was made by a small team in two months. That's absolutely going to work 100% of the time and never cause a single problem.

I'm not really going to be able to sleep for the rest of the month, particularly not if I want to stay on top of everything else I'm doing.

So... sleep, or Borderlands 3?

Sleep or any video game?

Sleep, or spend time with the kids?

Sleep, or record a podcast?

Sleep never wins. And that makes sleep cranky. And then sleep comes and punches you in the face for being a jerk to it and always picking it last for the team.

And then sleep wins. But not until October.
Posted by Xpovos on 17 September 19 at 22:17 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkAs the Crow Dies - Volume 16
  • Weekly Stats

For 2019-08-21 to 2019-09-03:

3110 GS over two weeks (1555 GS average)

One Completion:

I bought Xpovos' achievements in Realms of Ancient War, or RAW, as it's known, on a very deep discount a few years ago, after first having been involved in the production of its walkthrough. It's a pretty straightforward dungeon crawler game in the Diablo style, though it does have some well-documented glitchiness to its achievements.

Obviously RAW is nowhere near as good as others in the genre, which is also now much better represented on console in general and on the Xbox in particular. For only 200 GS and a reasonably lengthy completion, it's going to be hard to recommend to anyone these days.

But, hey, it's better on all fronts than Arkadian Warriors. Which at one point was all we really had.

Four Starts:

Pandemic: The Board Game
Gears POP!
Where the Bees Make Honey
Woodle Tree Adventures

I commented on Where the Bees Make Honey and Woodle Tree in my previous blog, including why I started them and a little bit about each, including a clip of some awfulness from Where the Bees Make Honey.

Xpovos' blog post - The Failure

The rest of the started games segue nicely into the rest of my categories.

  • Stream Games

Pandemic was the stream game for the past two weeks, so we covered that pretty thoroughly as well, there. But I know not everyone who reads the blog (in fact fairly few) stop by the stream, so I'll just say that Pandemic is actually better than I expected. I was expecting a low-quality port, and it ends up being generally average. There's some slight issues with the movement selection, and the achievement list is unnecessarily grindy, and there are a handful of tricky ones to keep it interesting, but mostly it's just playing Pandemic. The biggest loss is the lack of online coop, which for a cooperative game is baffling. Why do we need local, we could just actually pull out a copy of the board game. Playing online would be a huge differentiator. We can chalk that up as a missed opportunity and one that definitely holds the game back, but overall, the experience is as you'd expect, a digitized version of the board game.

This is fine.This is fine.

Pandemic itself is not my favorite board game. It has some significant limitations, but it's a fun enough experience, for a little while, and it's presence in Game Pass was a huge boon to me, because I was going to have to buy this otherwise, and I'm MUCH happier renting this one, which is rare.

I did also stream both Where the Bees Make Honey and Woodle Tree for a bit on Saturday. Tonight we're going to be playing the Night of the Hangry Horde for Overcooked! 2 in Overcooked! 2

  • Significant Games

In addition to those previously mentioned, I spent significant time, or earned significant score in the following games.

I completed Disney Pixar Brave: The Video Game. OK, not really. I still have some grinding out of kills, and coins to do, but I finally got through the final boss on the hardest difficulty. That was no small feat.

Sorry for the PTSD flashback, guys.Sorry for the PTSD flashback, guys.

There are elements of the game that make it more difficult than it needs to be. There are slightly imperfect controls, a wildly unpredictable camera, and a certain lack of fidelity that denotes this as an Xbox 360 game. But, all things considered, what makes the "Brave" difficulty tough is that the enemies hit hard and have lots of health. Your upgrades make a difference, but instead of just letting you waltz through, like you might on an easier difficulty, you now have to be perfect for maybe 20 seconds left.

The Boar is difficult because he moves faster than you, leaves a damaging fire trail, and if he hits you with his charge move it's going to ruin your HP. The bonus fun from the adds that have different resistances is just unkind.

This was not the only boss in the game that gave me a hard time. Each of the phases of the final boss gave me at least one death, though the boar was clearly the worst, and the rock golem was easily second worst. But there was an earlier fight against the rock golem that was also brutally hard and where I had initially stopped playing the game previously. But the boar was probably 15-20 deaths over three different attempts because I just couldn't take the frustration. Normally I'm content to bang my head against the wall for a while, but this fight just got under my skin.

Well, it's done now, and Brave can join my completion list as soon as I feel like taking the time ride an elevator of death a few dozen times.

I also returned to Madden NFL 19 after starting Madden 20 recently, I decided it was time to go back to Madden 19 and finish it up. Also I recently got some incentive do so from my Random ToDo List. My memory was telling me that I only had two achievements left. My achievement list says otherwise. But what my memory meant was that I only had two "difficulty" achievements left. So I worked at those while hitting my RTDL achievement. This will be some very solid points for GTASC this week and next, as I spread things out.

Finally, I've been spending a fair bit of time in Hand of the Gods: SMITE Tactics since the server shutdown announcement. We've got through the end of the year to finish it and they're giving out a ridiculous amount of the premium currency to help you do it. I'm disappointed. Hand of the Gods was one of the better F2P card games I've played. It is an order of magnitude, possibly several, times better than Lies of Astaroth. It's far better than Fable Fortune which released around the same time and has also languished with the same level of inattention. And yet, the best game of these is the one that is going down first? Life is not fair.

If you have any interest in CCGs, I recommend Hand of Fate. If you're just looking for achievements, there's a significant number in here now that are very easy to get, and many of the rest are just a grind away--though that can be an intense grind. Even in a best case scenario it's 15-20 hours of grinding for the 350 required wins (50 with each of 7 gods), not to mention the miscellaneous achievements you'd get along the way. But ultimately, the completion may be held back for some by some difficult achievements, beyond just the grind. So if you're a completionist, it's probably best to stay away still.

If you do start it and are willing to help, or need help, let me know.

  • Prime Story

Much of the past two weeks has been spent playing Gears POP!. In a way, it's just another Clash Royale clone. There's not a ton new here. The cover system is interesting, but not amazingly novel. It just takes what is already an existing bridge mechanic and reskins it a bit. It does affect strategy more, but also more abstractly. You don't get direct powerups, ala Minion Masters but you can deploy powerful units closer to the enemy, giving him less time to react--but also giving yourself less time to charge up power attacks for those units that have them.

Red and Blue in a constant struggle for territory. <br/> It's a tale as old as time.Red and Blue in a constant struggle for territory.
It's a tale as old as time.

From my time-played it would be reasonable to assume that the bug had bitten me on this game, in a way that no other Gears game has. And as far as that goes, it would be true. But it's also fair to say that I'm largely unimpressed by the game and I am hopeful for some significant improvements.

It's still a long, long.... long way away, but this could easily be my first Seriously.

Gears POP!Seriously POP!XpovosThe Seriously POP! achievement in Gears POP! worth 13292 pointsDefeat 100,000 pins, win 1000 Versus Battles, reach highest Versus League and clear 1000 Horde Waves

Because I have played it a fair bit over the past two weeks, I have at least one of every pin in the game now, and am on the long road to leveling. I made it to the cusp of the Silver League (no achievement) but because the game cares far more about win streaks than quality of the win, there's a kind of meta game happening on the ladder right now that is really unfortunate. The problem is that the solution: to make wins matter more, particularly at high levels, and reduce the impact of the winstreak chest are unlikely to happen. Because that kind of game design rewards players and might disincentive MTX purchases. Even though the player base hasn't been huge, it's been big enough and enough people are pouring enough money in that this is going to be a money maker--and no publisher is going to tweak a system that is making money--even if it's not fun, or not healthy for the game.
Posted by Xpovos on 03 September 19 at 18:03 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkThe Failure
I've had a lot of success in gaming. As an achievement hunter, I'm dedicated enough to do almost anything. I'm not skilled enough to get the toughest stuff done, but if I bash my head at it for long enough, I can usually succeed. So I'm coming from a perspective of usual success.

I like to blog about those successes as well. That may give the impression that I'm always successful. So I wanted to take a moment to blog about a recent failure, because that might be just as useful.

I've previously blogged about hitting some specific GS milestones on the head with a unique/fun achievement.

Xpovos' blog post - 75,000 GS - Achievement Master

Xpovos' blog post - 200,000 GS - The Stuff of Legends

Or even quite recently, albeit without quite as much fanfare: Xpovos' blog post - As the Crow Dies - Volume 9

In truth, 300,000 felt too close after 200,000, and I had something else in mind. Still, I set an interesting target and I went for it, and I achieved it. Like I said, I'm generally successful.

The new target was something that appealed to my nerdy self more than a big round number. I was going to get pi-hundred-thousand. Or, 314159 GS. And I was originally going to do it with this achievement:

The Misadventures of P.B. WinterbottomGreedy BottomThe Greedy Bottom achievement in The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom worth 98 pointsComplete all recording and time challenges in the bonus shorts.

That would generally coincide with yet another XBLA completion of a reasonably difficult game hitting a fun milestone with something interestingly themed. It was perfect.

I could even add a bonus:

NerdistPiXpovosThe Pi achievement in Nerdist worth 0 pointsWatch 3 hours and 14 minutes of Nerdist videos.

Because as a zero point achievement, it wouldn't actually move me off pi-hundred-thousand.

Unfortunately, time and other factors conspired so that I just wasn't getting Winterbottom done. I threw some hours at it and made progress on a game that hasn't been touched in years, but ultimately, I just couldn't be sure I'd get it in time. So I found a backup. And dropped the app achievement since I wasn't sure it wasn't actually discontinued and just not marked as such.

The new target was much simpler, in concept, but would need some assistance from my friend, Des. But she was on board.

Overcooked! 2Pie Me a RiverXpovosThe Pie Me a River achievement in Overcooked! 2 worth 109 pointsGet 3 stars on every level in Night of the Hangry Horde World 2

So all I had to do was line it up that I was the proper GS for the one or two achievements in the DLC that we'd get would put me at the number as that popped. And we'd have fun and I'd stream it and it would be great. I set it up for yesterday.

Well, yesterday didn't go according to plan in my family life. Nothing bad, just the normal variances that come with living with several other people who each have their own goals. So I was running out of time to get the remaining GS I needed before it was stream time with Des. So I rushed to score some quick points from some Ratalaika games. I had a couple ready to go, and I needed to get 800 exactly, so I wasn't looking for a quick completion, per se, but something a little bit less than a quick completion.

I started Where the Bees Make Honey and after hitting some glitches and scoring 500 GS pretty quickly, I knew I needed to switch games. If I continued with that one, I ran the risk of popping two end game achievements at the same time and over-shooting my mark. So I switched to Woodle Tree Adventures. I took a video of one of my moments in Where the Bees Make Honey, because it is pretty insane.

But I wasn't looking for good games. I was looking for quick points to make a personal challenge work. So it's fine. Until, suddenly, it isn't. That exact scenario I was worried about in Where the Bees Makes Honey happens in Woodle Tree. I popped two achievements at the same time, one for a cumulative collection of berries, and one for unlocking an upgrade. I hit the berry count on the nose, which means if I'd collected one fewer berry, I'd have been fine. Worst, as I was streaming it, and actually, weirdly, engaged with the game at that point, I didn't even realize it. I'd lost track of what I was trying to do, and I kept playing. It took me several minutes in the next level to finally realize that I needed to not be playing this any more, and that in fact, it was already too late. I was 50 GS over the target.

External image

It's silly, but that failure means more to me right now than most of the successes going on in my life, which are numerous. It's probably in part because I'm already stress by work to a high degree, and the fact that I can feel my brain chemicals aren't in balance, so the little things will push me more than usual. Koyaanisqatsi. But it's also important, I think, that I recognize that failures seem to be on a different playing field than victories, entirely.

Vin Scully said:
Losing hurts worse than winning feels good.
There's no logical reason for that. It's all emotions. And emotions, particularly when I'm already off-balance, are a difficult thing to handle. So the failure has gotten to me. But I stopped, I slept, and I've thought about it (and overthought it, as I am prone to do) and I've started coming to terms with it.

When we earn GS is a bit of a fluke regardless. I have at least one achievement that I've already earned that is stuck in the modern equivalent of "Done! Unlocking..." and if it had popped in the middle of this, it would've messed up my math just as badly. Really, all I could possibly hope for was a screenshot, like the one above, only with a slightly different outcome. Instead of "a rounding error," I'd be celebrating a nerdy victory. Even if that victory was itself just an illusion because I actually had more GS than was being counted.

We go to great lengths in this hobby of ours, at least some of us do, for the screenshot moment. And , in truth, that's a big part of why I blog. Blogging lets me take those screenshots of my gaming moments that otherwise get lost in the shuffle. I was thinking about this even before the failure. I'm contemplating a future where I'll have 1000 completed games. It'll happen, eventually. As long as the Xbox Live servers stay up for a few more years. When that happens, and I have earned all of the achievements, played all of the content of all of those games. How many of them will I even remember? If given a piece of paper and a pen, and no other resources, how many could I list?

I blog to be an aid to that memory, to tell a story of the journey. And today, that journey includes a failure. An annoyance and one that I'm over reacting to, but a genuine misstep all the same. And one that I'm just as eager to remember in the future as my successes.
Posted by Xpovos on 01 September 19 at 18:04 | There are 6 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkAs the Crow Dies - Volume 15
  • Weekly Stats

For 2019-08-14 to 2019-08-20:

2175 GS.

Two Completions: ACA NEOGEO METAL SLUG 2 as I finally got my perfect run through Mission 2, after several hours of attempts, and Bird Game +.

So, I need to talk about Bird Game+ briefly, and I will try to keep it brief, because this game is not worth the digital ink.

Here's a fun game premise: you're a bird, and you're flying through a series of hazards, eating fish, collecting shinies and occasionally fighting a 'boss' by crafty dodging. Is that a good premise? Not yet, but it's not awful. There's potential. Add in some hand-drawn art and the fact that the game doesn't crash and it seems like it's at least going to be alright.

It didn't have to be terrible.It didn't have to be terrible.

And yet, Bird Game+ is the worst game I've played in 2019. It's lucky that I played so many bad games last year, or it might be looking at multi-year levels of bad. The premise is fine, but the execution is just completely unfun. The art style isn't endearing at all for some reason, and the boss battles are lacking in many things. The only thing the game has going for it is that it is fairly quick and the achievements are pretty easy. And even that, I managed to mess up.

First I couldn't get past the very early hazard of a rolling log. For some reason I died on that so many times that I actually gave up playing this game several weeks ago. I came back to it this week and gave it another shot and made it through. I earn my first achievement a little while later and it's too late to back out now. Time to finish this game.

The last achievement I earned was for playing Endless Mode, which requires you to earn, for different achievements, 50, 100, 150 and 200 points. You earn points for distance, and for collecting things along the way, but to get over 200 you'll have to beat a boss. The bosses aren't terribly hard, but if you've not seen the pattern before, you can easily die to them, and that's the end of your "endless" run. I died to the boss on my first run because it was the boss I hadn't seen in the story play. So I loaded up again and got through the boss on the second run, got to 200+ and said, "that's enough of this garbage," and quit back to the menu. I was so uninterested in playing this game that as soon as I earned the requirements for the achievement I quit the game. This never happens. I'm the kind of guy who finishes the story in Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons, even though it' super obvious what will happen. But I just can't take anymore Bird Game+.

There's a problem there, though. The achievement pops when you die, not when you hit that number. So since I quit, and didn't die--no pop. Load it, and I'm back at the beginning. I had to do three more runs before I got past the boss again. Instead of getting out of playing any more Bird Game+ I consigned myself to an extra 15 minutes of it.

In addition to Bird Game+, which was a start as well as a completion, I also started:

Madden NFL 20 and Riverbond.

Madden is Madden, not much to say there, except that with all of the concerns over CTE, video game football may be the best football there is these days. Riverbond is less RPG than I'd like. It feels like it ought to be an RPG, but there's no progress, your weapons are all generally about the same level of good, and you have no real stats. The enemies in the final levels are just as easy (or hard) to beat as the enemies in the first levels. There's some variety to it, but I think adding some RPG elements might have helped keep it feeling fresh.

Madden will be done, eventually. It's not a terribly hard completion this year, but it's not a priority for me, either. I'll hit the online stuff ASAP and get to the rest when I feel like it. Riverbond will be done soon enough. I hit my RTDL achievement (by going out of order, which I could because it wasn't an RPG) but I've no desire to keep it around. I played it with my kids for a bit and they largely lost patience with it, because in local coop, you can kill your friends by walking them off the screen. Playing with a six-year-old, then, was very frustrating. I'm glad we got to experience that via GamePass, rather than purchasing it, as they had initially asked.

You go fight that bad guy, I'm going to go exploring!You go fight that bad guy, I'm going to go exploring!

  • Stream Games

Last week, we streamed Skullgirls Achievements which was interesting because despite beating the story mode several times and exploring some of the other elements of the game, I hadn't earned a single achievement. Oh, those old-school XBLA games.

Honestly I'm surprised Des and I didn't riff on the pin-up girl motiff more than we did.Honestly I'm surprised Des and I didn't riff on the pin-up girl motiff more than we did.

Tonight, Des and I will get down with the sickness. Join us for some cooperative fun.

  • Significant Games

I hit the grinds pretty hard this week, spending a significant chunk of time in all of the classics: Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, Minion Masters, even Magic Duels made it back into rotation this week. Minion Masters dropped a few achievements for me, but I've still got a long grind in that.

Elsewhere I joined a TA boosting session for BattleBlock Theater. I hadn't done a genuine boosting session for a while, so it was interesting to get more involved with strangers again. It went pretty well, considering how chaotic the party became with so many people in it.

I also slowly advanced the story in Thimbleweed Park and spent a few hours hitting the MP in Fable Fortune with Jblacq, which, for no particular reason, reminds me of this: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/14/jack-black-jack-white-ja.h...

  • Prime Story

Way back when, in 2006, I was playing Titan Quest on PC. Diablo 3 was still half a decade away and I needed something good to scratch that ARPG/Dungeon Crawler itch. Titan Quest was perfect. It was set in classic antiquity, and was full of both well-researched historically accurate Greek civilization elements, as well as tropes. It was the perfect gateway drug for my now wife, as well, who had seen me playing Diablo and not been all that impressed. But Titan Quest was perfect for her.

Titan Quest advanced the gameplay ideas of Diablo II and introduced a lot of finesse that I really appreciated in the genre. I was particularly fond of the character development process. There are no classes, like in Diablo. You start a character and build him, or her, up with choices. And two of the most critical choices are your skill trees, effectively classes. Because there are eight different "classes" and you're picking two to make a unique combination (though order doesn't matter, Nature/Warfare = Warfare/Nature = Destroyer) you end up with 28 different ways of playing the game. Later expansions added two more classes increasing the combinations to 45! With the replayability of a game genre like Diablo, and the unique class structures, Titan Quest was just built to suck my time away, and for a while, it did. I played it extensively, both with my wife and solo, and it has remained one of my favorite games of the genre, and in fact one of my favorite games, so much so that I happily Kickstarted Grim Dawn when they licensed the engine that Titan Quest was built on.

It's a picture of a wall of text that I'm using to break up a wall of text.  But it's a well-written wall of text!It's a picture of a wall of text that I'm using to break up a wall of text. But it's a well-written wall of text!

So, naturally, when Titan Quest got ported to Xbox, I bought a copy. And this week I got a chance to really play it some. I sunk a few hours in, and it felt great to go back to the game. It hasn't aged quite as well as I'd hoped. But for 13 years old, it's doing pretty well. The core mechanics are still amazing. The problem is in the port. The controls moving into combat are very clunky and I haven't found a way to fix that yet. This was a game that was brilliant on PC, but doesn't seem to work nearly as well on Xbox. Diablo found a way to make that transition very well, but Blizzard has always taken care to make sure their games are high quality, and they have the resources of Activision behind them now. Titan Quest doesn't have those advantages.

But it was still good to go back to Ancient Greece and lay the smack down on some mythical monsters again.
Posted by Xpovos on 20 August 19 at 21:25 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkAs the Crow Dies - Volume 14
  • Weekly Stats

For 2019-08-07 to 2019-08-13:

860 GS.

One Completion: Xpovos' achievements in Graveyard Keeper

Completing Graveyard Keeper not only gave me a ton of TA and TAD for the GTASC, but I was able to finish the game before it leaves GamePass, shortly. I very much enjoyed my time playing the game.
It's a solid title and well worth the time I sunk into it. I hope to play similar games, such as another GamePass title: My Time at Portia Achievements soon. Last week I completed a GamePass game.

One Start: Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park is yet another GamePass game, so clearly something is up with GamePass and my game time schedule these days. I'll try to have more on that later this week.

  • Stream Games

Last week, after some technical difficulties brought on by a Microsoft service outage which prohibited me from playing any game I owned on Xbox One, I eventually played Slay the Spire. Slay the Spire is in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (for PC) but will be coming to console later this week (tomorrow as I write this) and I'm very excited about that. It's a pretty amazing game, but not a great one for the stream that Des and I run on Tuesday nights. I ended up in-the-tank a bit too much, and Des and I couldn't really play to our strengths.

Tonight, we'll try again what we started to do last week, if Xbox will cooperate.

  • Significant Games

Achievements are usually enough to tell me what games are significantly consuming my game time.
This week shows that it's not always the case. I earned achievements in only six games all week.

Graveyard Keeper for the completion, of course.
Prominence Poker for a stackable achievement for the GTASC bonus, an achievement that I'd preloaded ages ago, and essentially forgotten about until the need for it came up.
Fable Fortune I've called poker a game that is is something to do with your hands while you chat with buddies. Fable Fortune was basically the same thing.
Beach Buggy Racing Achievements As I work to grind out a "daily" achievement that is among the hardest that any set of daily achievements might be.
Killer Instinct Helping out by being a body to be beaten up for a bit, but I snagged a random achievement too.
and newcomer: Thimbleweed Park as I mentioned.

I started this list with "only" three. Then it grew. Basically, I kept finding games in my list that I played and actually earned an achievement in. But the time I spent in those games was often unimpressive. Where the time was actually spent, which was the point of this story, was on some hidden games.

Despite having the completion of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition long since past, I continue to play this game extensively, even now. The 17th period of seasonal content is coming to a close next Sunday, so it's time for me to make sure all my seasonal ducks are in a row. This season I've been focusing on some stuff I haven't done as much of with Diablo 3. Certainly not as much as I did with Diablo 2, back in the day. That will also set me up in a much better position to help people who aren't quite as fanatical about the game as me. If you just want the achievements in this game, let me know. I can help.

I'm modest by nature, but there is such a thing as false modesty.  And I won't stand for that.  By all means, hit me up for Diablo help.  I'm this much of a badass.I'm modest by nature, but there is such a thing as false modesty. And I won't stand for that. By all means, hit me up for Diablo help. I'm this much of a badass.

I also spent a lot of time in another ARPG, Realms of Ancient War Achievements, or "RAW." RAW is nowhere as good as Diablo 3, but it does have some achievements left. Unfortunately for me, most of the achievements require me to play through the whole game twice more. But I want it done, and RTDL is telling me to get it done, so I've been plugging away at it. I've gotten it down to about ten minutes per level, but that's still 4 hours per playthrough, give or take.

I've included an image of the inventory screen rather than the actual gameplay, because this is prettier.  RAW is a very basic ARPG, and passable, but it doesn't look great.I've included an image of the inventory screen rather than the actual gameplay, because this is prettier. RAW is a very basic ARPG, and passable, but it doesn't look great.

  • Prime Story

I didn't grow up playing adventure games the way that a lot of my cohort did. I came to them a bit late. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the ones I did play. Some of my favorites were the Lucas Arts classics. Sam & Max Hit the Road and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis in the early 90s. Fate of Atlantis is actually one of my all-time favorite games, particularly of this genre. I'm happy to own multiple copies of it, and if it made its way to console, I'd quite happily buy it all over again.

Today's prime story comes about because of another game that knows its roots is those classic Lucas Arts games: Thimbleweed Park.

I need to find a way to give a cat a moustacheI need to find a way to give a cat a moustache

Thimbleweed Park respects its elders, paying them homage over and over, while also poking a bit of fun at the limitations of those games and satirizing them slightly, while still being much the same kind of game. The game is available in GamePass and is pretty quick. I only started it on Sunday and am nearly done with it. It's been a nice ride in the land of nostalgia, and one I'm happy to recommend, particularly if you've got GamePass and are looking for something to do.

I don't think it's as good as either of the classics I mentioned above it, but it's better--far better--than the Telltale remakes of the Sam & Max franchies that were on Xbox. And a game like Thimbleweed Park shows that there is still room for the occasional oddball adventure game like this to flourish. But it needs robust characters. Ransome is going to steal the show most of the time, but there rest of the cast is engaging enough to make sure that your time in this sleepy little town is not easily forgotten.
Posted by Xpovos on 13 August 19 at 22:15 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.