Monotony Monday #25 – More Melon-choly
Sweet as a Persimmon, Full of Emotional Dig Ins
The short of it: He’s got a voice like a flower dying in the growing cold and lyrics much better than that simile.
The short of it: He’s got a voice like a flower dying in the growing cold and lyrics much better than that simile.
The short of it: It’s more of what made the original great, with just a few stagnant stumbles to slow it down.
There’s basically three major points of discussion for this game:
It runs pretty great. It looks just a little bit better than its predecessor, but it feels a lot smoother. The facial animations are fantastic, the character animations and motion performances are just delightful to watch.
The most pressing problem I run into is character pop in after fast travelling. With a lot of emphasis on the bow as a tool, it makes it feel a bit useless when you have to wait out the orc load time to skip manually climbing up a cliff face. Other than that, though, nothing really performs poorly.
Once again, the story’s been pretty mediocre. It’s doing an okay job of building up the tension between Talion and Celebrimbor, but it’s more obvious than an orc ambush. There’s certainly more allies and actually interesting NPCs, which surprisingly works in the face of being a death-defying god. These regular people and orcs with their regular Middle-earth problems offer a different side of Talion– I think my personal favorite moment so far has been Talion sitting back and listening to a guy talk about his personal problems and worries. Just a casual type of buddy interaction. It doesn’t drastically impact the story or up the stakes. It’s just Talion getting the chance to be human again.
Yeah, there are lootboxes. Yeah, you can blow cash on them for premium items that would otherwise be difficult or time-consuming to do. And yeah, lootboxes need to be discussed as a form of gambling and appealing to children and those with addictions.
But man, it’s barely a thing here. The best you can get is something you can just stumble upon in the massive field of orc captains. It’s a waste of game to roll on these boxes. I’m drowning in currency without ever equipping any currency generating items. The premium currency is pretty consistently accidentally acquired through daily challenges, and I’ve yet to spend any of it.
I think the worst part of this whole thing is just how many bad buzzwords are sunk in these systems. Gems, gold coins, silver coins, legendary, epic, heroic, followers, daily challenge: all of these are garbage.
Alright, that’s not a great subhead.
But here’s the thing: I need to finish this game to truly see how this game handles its women. There was some argument about Shelob’s female form, and it made sense at the time. Why make the giant spider into a sexy lady? Well, it actually serves a pretty good knock against Talion’s hero complex. Like a spider, she lures him into this web by preying on his weakness for women. Of course, Talion’s complex is deeper than a hero stereotype due to the fact that he watched his wife die as he watched, powerless. And again, this is such a deeper debate than initially expected because it shifts the power dynamic that’s typically so one-sided.
And then there’s the sexy tree lady. And the woman soldier who apparently earns her title of “Warrior” by superseding her femininity (“She’s no longer a woman, she’s a warrior!”).
So I’ll be back for this one. I’ve got to get my corkboard and yarn ready.
I took most of this week off, so I’ve been trying to do some recovery type stuff to feel better physically and emotionally. Part of that has been, admittedly, just lazing about and enjoying some good ol’ fashioned media. Berserk continues to be a fascinating, disturbing journey and Shadow of War is still pretty fun and all.
This is a simpler pleasure. It’s a neat little indie game (made by a frequent poster on the /r/gamephysics subreddit ) played by some neat dudes with some neat editing.
I mean, it’s got a “Guns that only shoot snakes” mode and some friends having genuine fun.
The short of it: It’s just a dope track with a sweet sample.
That list doesn’t even include his exile from and eventual rejoining of G-Unit. Of course, that’s a whole issue besides the beef– he’s a dude best known for being a part of 50 Cent’s crew. He isn’t a well-known name anymore in today’s waves of Soundcloud and social media rappers, and, for the most part, he’s a forgotten part of the early aughts scene.
And it’s a damn shame because he made some dope music.
The sample of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” makes a beautiful hook and those little strings just make this track hit that sweet, moody spot. Buck delivers with this serious, unhappy tone that compliments the almost sad brags that make up the reality of a life that can end with a single bang.
I’m playing it without having played The Witcher. So I watched the recaps and read the wikis and felt pretty good about starting up halfway into this world. Squirrels were the rogue non-humans, the classic guerrillas that dance the line between freedom fighter and terrorist. Witchers were roided out monster slayers, equipped with enough magic and mutations to make them nearly as monstrous as the creatures they hunted. Kingdoms were fighting for lands. Pretty classic fantasy stuff.
So I got along with the world perfectly. The things that tripped me up were the relationships. I knew The Witcher used amnesia to allow the player to create their own relationships with characters. These relationships, as fresh as they were, still carried over into The Witcher 2— including Triss, Geralt’s (pretty much for everyone’s first playthough at least) romantic partner.
I can kind of deal with Geralt’s best friends, since the stereotypical bard and dwarf characters are pretty easy to enjoy. With Triss, though, I feel like I’m walking down a bridge when I never took the first step on the initial plank.
The short of it: Pro: excellent plot, storytelling, music, acting, choreography, setting. Con: No giant steampunk spiders.
Fine, I’ll say it. Westworld kicks off harder than Game of Thrones.
To be fair, androids broaching sentience and a park for the darkest of human desires is easier to sell than medieval political intrigue. Both have plenty of radical murders though.
Westworld delivers this puzzle that leaves you grasping at straws rather than pieces, because it can’t be that obvious. And then it is. Then it isn’t.
My edge lord description of it is “It’s like if Jurassic Park had androids and didn’t suck.” The idea of a whole “world” dedicated to man’s recreation of life is fascinating; the fact it’s a world meant for amusement, not reflection or evolution, opens up a whole new level of questions.
The short of it: Westworld manage to reinvigorate one of the most tired covers out there by pairing it with near perfect choreography.
So I just started watching Westworld (guess what’s coming up for WW #23) and holy smokes, cowboy. It’s hard to turn off, partially because of its captivating performances and stories and partially because I accidentally kicked the remote out of reach.
Point is, it’s really good. Some of the scenes are just so masterfully composed that I keep replaying them in my head. The foremost scene that’s been on a loop in my brain is the heist scene.
Everything is just so radical. The quick spins during gunfire, the sweet lines, and, most of all, that kickass rendition of “Paint It Black.”
Let’s be honest though, it’s a song with one too many covers.
From the good,
to the okay,
to the no-one-asked-for-this version.
Point being, this song is very easy to screw up in its application. It’s pretty tired as a song itself; hell, there’s basically an entire game based on the song.
So when the heist scene rolls up and those woodwinds and horns start swelling, damnit, it makes sense that it costs $40,000 a day to stay in Westworld. Rodrigo Santoro’s handsomely scarred face and killer black outfit make him the outlaw of everyone’s dreams, especially when backed by Djawadi’s composing. Everything in this scene just works so well. It’s got me unironically humming that “dun dun dun dun dun dun” every second I’m not watching Westworld.
The short of it: The only thing more impossible than this game’s geometry is not getting super spooked.
An artist starts work on his magnum opus.
A player gets up and turns on the lights.
This is how Layers of Fear starts.
It’s a game without any real direct threat. There are no batteries or night vision cameras, no lockers or beds for hiding places. It’s a journey into delusion and loss and a fair bit of fear.
Jokingly referred to on the internet as “Cabinet and Door Opening Simulator,” most of the game is just opening doors and progressing through the increasingly derelict mansion. That’s it. And it’s fantastic.
Playing on the Xbox One was less fantastic. I know Unity can create beautiful, impressive games and all, but Layers of Fear initially runs terribly. The framerate hovers at around 15 any time you move, controller movement is brutally slow, and interactions feel nearly impossible. Once the options get tweaked (no headbob, lowest field of view, highest sensitivity), the game becomes manageable and, for the most part, stays playable for the rest of the playthrough. Stutters and slowdowns were never quite as surprising as the jumpscares though.
The main mechanic of the game is its use of impossible geometry; in this case, it’s probably better referred to as impossible architecture. The video game instinct to create a mental map is useless in the face of constantly changing hallways and doors that go nowhere. All you can do is go one layer deeper.
The short of it: It’s a nice showcase of the beauty of embracing tropes. And screaming Canadians.
With Spooktober in the air, I’ve been in dire need for some creeps and crawlies. So I revisited some old Shitstorm videos from Two Best Friends Play. Spooky’s House of Jumpscares is arguably one of the top three videos in the six year old series (I may be saving the number one for a later WW).
Now rebranded as Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion, Spooky’s House of Jumpscares is an adorable little romp in a mansion full of jumpscares. And a few escaped monsters. And did I mention the scares?
I adore the Two Best Friends for their ability to make me appreciate or notice all of the little intricacies and details I miss in video games, from trope subversion to design flaws.
Spooky’s is a delight, due in part to Spooky herself and her adorably funny speeches. Pat’s little babby screams, on the other hand, make this into a masterpiece.
The short of it: Painful and passionate, this project brings the listener into the fog of grief only loss can bring.
Mount Eerie, a musical project of Phil Elverum of The Microphones fame, shouldn’t work. But it does, and it works in the most haunting of ways.
There’s Between Two Mysteries, a Twin Peaks inspired project that delights in the synth-heavy atmosphere of the show’s incomparable soundtrack.
The other releases tend toward these atmospheric instrumentals with Elverum’s stripped voice treading along with it. Every song sounds kind of like it’s being played in a dark, empty house. And to be fair, it kind of is.
A Crow Looked at Me, the latest album, is a chronicle of Elverum’s final moments with his cancer-striken wife and his attempts to cope with her loss. It’s just beautifully brutal. The first track might just be the worst though.
It’d be a disservice to describe this one.
“Toothbrush / Trash” is just his struggle to take out the trash, filled with the blood spattered tissues of her final days, in their bathroom.
Other tracks document his conversations with his daughter, explaining the resting place of her mother. Others tell of his collapse when he’s confronted with other memories of his wife. All of these tracks tell of pain.