Man, I’m glad to say goodbye to July, aren’t you? I mean, I guess it’s a fine enough month- too hot for my tastes, but otherwise fairly inoffensive- but nothing comes out in July. Nothing! We haven’t had anything exciting to write about released. August looks to be much more interesting. I’m looking forward to it.
Here’s what we played this week.
Crusader Kings II
Originally, my plan was to play Crusader Kings II for my next Goddamn Mondays. I still hope to do that, but I can’t use my first playthrough. I chose to play as a vassal of the King of France (Count Raoul of Vexin), and boy, was that a bad idea. The game told me that it would be really hard, and I suppose that’s kind of true? But more than that, it was just boring.
I didn’t have the power to influence anything. I had almost no minions, I had no resources, and so I was just passing time hoping to get enough money to actually get ambitious and try to get somewhere. Then the King declared that he was taking one of my two regions away from me for no reason, I told him to fuck himself, and he declared war on me and assassinated me. It was super super super shitty.
The game certainly seems cool, and I liked a lot of the systems, but playing someone with no power is just a complete waste of time. As in real life, you toil and toil and toil and then the big cheese decides to wreck you and you just have to take it. I guess I’m a little bitter about the whole affair.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room: The Drowning’s much-ballyhooed control scheme trumps virtual joysticks, a long-despised staple of games that rely on touchscreens. Using the space between your two fingers to aim offers a level of accuracy sight unseen on a phone or tablet. Unfortunately, your mobility has all the finesse of a light gun shooter. It takes time to pan around the scene using one finger, and strafing is out of the question. The lake monsters coming to get you are burdened by no such restriction, so each fight devolves into running to the other side of the stage, spinning around and holding them at bay as they slowly advance.
The strings attached to this “free” game only make it sink faster. In addition to the usual energy limit that meters how often it can be played without paying, certain weapons necessary for fighting special monsters are only acquired through grinding the same few levels or spending a few real-world dollars. I opted to grind but quickly ran into a most unpleasant wall; without any prior warnings, I was often thrown into levels filled with nothing but special creatures I couldn’t kill, and was forced into an unwinnable situation. Of course, the game graciously offered to give me the proper weapon, so long as I took advantage of their “one time offer” and threw money at their feet.
The Drowning lasted a full 30 minutes on my iPad before I waved it goodbye and removed it for good. It’s a perfect storm of poor maneuverability and a design that prioritizes wallet munching over any true sense of satisfaction.
Worms, Worms, Worms. One of those old IPs that really hasn’t kept up with the times. I remember playing the old Worms games on PC and PS1, and having a blast. Worms Armageddon was a favorite with me and my friends. What I don’t know is, did I outgrow the games, or did they slide downhill in quality? It seems to me it’s probably a little of both, but certainly starting with Worms 3D, I was no longer a fan of Worms.
My friend Jake had an extra copy of Worms Revolution, and he wanted to play something together. Grateful for his generosity, we jumped into our own server and started playing. Having not played a Worms game in maybe eight years… man. They have gone nowhere. The style is still that awkward early 2000s 3D that put me off, the humor is unbearable (they have this narrator who is trying to do, like, Stephen Fry or something, but he’s the worst), and the gameplay is just identical to the old ones… with one big change. Whereas the items in the old ones were either intuitive or hilariously unintuitive, many of the items in this new one don’t work the way you think they should… but are also completely unfunny. I dropped a sentry gun, and instead of setting up where I dropped it, it rolled down the hill and set up in a little crevice, uselessly.
Stupid. Some studios just can’t keep up with advancing game design, I suppose.
Rise of the Triad
Oh, so THIS is what a proper revival of an ancient action franchise looks like (I hope Gearbox and 3D Realms are taking notes)! Barreling down trap-laden corridors at impossible speeds, collecting floating ankhs and tossing explosive baseball bats at faux Nazis is all in a day’s work for H.U.N.T., and they’re more than happy to drag you along for the ride. Even the easiest difficulty offers a significant challenge, with few spare rounds of ammunition and even fewer first-aid kits.
Hopping online swaps the semi-controlled campaign chaos for borderline pandemonium as 16+ players are all placed in a small arena with ridiculously overpowered guns. It never feels like there’s enough time for a strategy other than “sprint toward the largest firearm and let loose,” but it’s a fun way to spend a quick block of time. Though I have no nostalgia for games like Rise of the Triad, its mere reemergence is reassuring. If anything could bookend my time between modern military shooters, it might as well include a self-destructing dog and a Mission Briefing button with an attitude.
Payday: The Heist
Ben’s Payday 2 adventures inspired me to spend a little time with the original- I owned it because of PlayStation Plus, but hadn’t really spent any sizable amount of time with it. Ben had it on PS3 as well, so we started a multiplayer game and started heisting. We began with the very first job, and made it through the second one beyond PSN hiccuped and we lost connection.
When I referred to the game as “Left 4 Fed” I thought was I was being facetious. Damn, I really wasn’t. You move along a map in a mostly linear fashion, frequently attacked by hordes of law enforcement. The gunplay has that same twitchy feel as L4D, you often have to stop and defend an objective from waves of attackers to proceed, it even has the same red and green silhouetting for characters through walls! There’s being inspired by another game, and then there’s practically violating copyright. I guess it wasn’t in Valve’s interest to sue them since the game was being sold on Steam, but they probably could have if they wanted to.
All that said, it was pretty fun, and the upgrades they’re making for Payday 2 sold me. I preordered Payday 2, and I’m gonna try out the beta tonight. Wish me luck!
Payday 1 is at its best when you’re invading, protecting and escaping a single, enclosed structure. Levels like First World Bank provide plenty of cover and choke points, making it easier for seasoned players to keep the situation under control. Conversely, Heat Street (the second and last level Colin and I played together) throws you out into the middle of a city road and asks you to press forward as you’re swamped by hundreds of cops in every possible direction.
Overcoming the odds is always a rush, but when you spend 7-15 minutes as a sitting duck caught in a tsunami, it feels less exciting and more like an annoyance. Perhaps that’s intentional; having a trusted ally turn on you spoils the mood of the mission before it even begins. It was almost something of a mercy that the mission was cut short; I don’t know how much longer I could babysit our traitor before giving up the ghost and dropping him on a trip mine.
Oh well. Moral of the story? Go buy Payday 2 instead (though I’ve heard their PC-exclusive level in Mercy Hospital is to die for!). They seem to have fixed the worst bits of The Heist while adding a whole host of new content.