Videogaming: Spiritfarer

Every once in a while I come across a game, a book, a movie, or whatever that absolutely hits me emotionally. More often than not, it hits me in such as way that I had no idea that it was coming. Deadhouse Gates did that to me for books and Blade Runner did that to me for film. Off the time of my head I cannot say that I have been hit so emotionally before by a video game, at least in the sort of emotion that conveys sadness, melancholy, and resolution. 

Spiritfarer is that game for me. An incredibly gorgeous 2D side scroller that has you playings as a Spiritfarer, an entity that guides lost sprits to the Everdoor and to whatever lies beyond. I want to make sure that I convey this game to everyone and its impact without spoiling it, because part of the charm and part of the impact that to conveys to you is the story that unfold as you shepherd souls to the Everdoor. 

The Everdoor is a gate, and quite literally the gate to the afterlife, which lends one to ask, where does the game take place? It doesn't take place in the "living world", as it is made clear to you from the outset that not only are the inhabitants, but you too are in fact deceased. I would guess then that the world is a sort of purgatory or waiting room for the next life. Your job is to help the individuals you come across put closure to their lives and help them pass on.

It all sounds rather dark, but it is wrapped up into a beautiful Animal Crossing style package that presents to you whimsical and loving characters who are all represented as various animals. Keeping on the Animal Crossing theme a bit, there is a community building aspect to the game where you have to gather resources and build your residents homes. 

Where the game really gets to me though is in the story moments, the small snippets of dialog that occur between the Spiritfarer and the various inhabitants. You get a touch into all of the character's lives as they reflect upon their successes and failures when they were alive. It is very touching and each time when you finally shepherd your inhabitants to the Evertdoor to say their final farewell, the moment is bittersweet each time. What makes the game so good though, is that they are able to make each characters goodbye mean something. Some of these characters are easily lovable, while others were no necessarily good people during their life. They were mean, perhaps criminals and sometimes dishonest and failures. In the end though, the characters all seem real based upon how they approach their final moments at the Everdoor based upon all of their past life experiences. Some of them are grateful, some are relieved. Others view the experience with resolve or even outright indifference. It seems true either way and in the end the game tells you in no uncertain terms that the time will come for all of us to eventually say goodbye. It is sad, sometimes tragically so, but it is a lesson that we all need to confront eventually in our lives. 

I came out of this game really reflecting upon the experiences and time you get to have with everyone around you and there were times as I played this game, watching the Spiritrarer say goodbye to a companion, and I had to pause in the reflective and quiet moment. It makes you want to hug that loved one you have nearby because sometimes you never quite know when goodbye comes. 

Videogaming: Night Call

I have discovered a really incredible game this past week on Xbox Gamepass called Night Call. It is sort of like a illustrated narrative game, where you play a taxi driver who is driving a night shift through Paris. Each night you pick up passengers in your taxi and listen to their story and ask them questions. Occasionally, you will have to spent time and money investigating clues related to a serial killer who is loose in the city and whom you had run in with at the start of the game. 

The game is mostly black and white with hints of color placed throughout the game. Definitely a "Noir" design, the city appears to be cold, dark and always raining. It is such an interesting game and a huge change of pace to many other games I have played right now. There is no combat in the game, nor is there really even any conflict. It really is just a story playing out with your investigation and which you make choices in those conversations. I wouldn't call it a light game though. The mood and dialog is very dark and intense. The elements in the game deal with very adult themes as well. 

If you can, definitely check this game out. It is not like anything I have played before.

Videogaming: Gears 5

Quarantine time has led to me being able to play some video games and catch up on a bit of my backlog. This past week I finally had a chance to get back into Gears 5 and finish off the single player. I have never been a huge Gears fan. I played both 1 & 2 and finished neither of them. They felt a bit too "dude bro" for my tastes. This past fall I decided to give Gears 4 a shot, as it was on Xbox Gamepass and I had a pretty decent time with it. The gameplay seemed fine enough and it wasn't too long, so I played through the story and was at least engaged with it to give Gears 5 a shot. 

I started playing Gears 5 when it was released this past winter, but only got about three hours into it before I fell off. Oddly enough, I did put quite a bit of time into the multi-player. game, namely the Horde mode. It has a nice, mindless element too it, but I didn't realize right away the the 50 rounds of horde mode can take upwards of almost two hours. That is quite a commitment to one game with teammates. 

I jumped back into Gears last week to see if it would hook me again, and I have to say that I enjoyed it about as much as I did with Gears 4. It was a fun romp, but it didn't really spark any passion for me. There was one really nice emotional moment that came near the end of the game, that was a bit of a surprise. So much so in fact that I actually played through that section, completed another hour or so of the game and then decided to go back and play that section over again to change my decision. 

The ending of the game seemed fine, but it did give a nice sense of "hopelessness to the story that I wasn't expecting. Will I played Gears 6 to finish off this section part of the trilogy? Yeah, probably, but only because I am a Gamepass subscriber.  

Videogaming: #MyDecadeOnXbox - AbleAmerek

TrueAchievements.com has a cool little summary of a users' past decade on Xbox. It is a cool little insight into my past decade playing Xbox. I am a bit surprised that I have been playing for ten years on Xbox to be honest. I actually think I picked up my 360 back around 2009, and that data is just this list. 

So take a look at this cool little infographic. 

Videogaming: Quantum Break

Xbox Game Pass has been a really cool service that I have been taking advantage of lately. It is sort of like a Netflix type service for Xbox, where a library of games is available for you to play for $10 a month. One of my most recent plays was Quantum Break. This game really surprised me. At the time of its release it caught a lot of flak and didn't seem to get very good reviews. 

Microsoft tried to do something interesting with the game, mixing live action "TV Episodes" that aired on a weekly basis to build upon the story. The idea is that decisions in the game would influence the live episode the next week. I'm well past that point, but the overall execution worked out pretty well in my opinion. 

What really blew me away though in Quantum Break was how well they told a time travel story. The logic and science behind their methods to tell the story made complete sense and didn't cause any sort of paradox problems within the story. In fact, if you think about how they executed the ending, the whole foreshadowing throughout the entire game continues to be consistent, even if you did "defeat the bad guy". It has to be one of the better sci-fi uses of time travel that I have ever seen. 

October 2017 - Videogaming (Gone Home)

I finished playing the game Gone Home last night and I have to now recommend this game for everyone to play. It is one of the most emotionally impacting video games I have ever played and also perfect for a rainy, overcast October. 

The game is extremely simple and only takes a couple of hours to play. You find yourself in the front porch of your family's new house. There is a storm raging outside and there appears to be no one home. Over the course of the next couple of hours you will progress through the house to find diary chapters form your sister along with notes about your Uncle who used to live in the house. 

I won't spoil the magic of these passages, but the game has a beautiful atmosphere and perfectly told story. There are moments where your own imagination will get the better of you, but you should just keep going forward for the story. This won't "scare you", I promise. 

https://gonehome.game

May 2016 - Videogaming

I have been in-between a solid video game for the past few weeks. The Division has lost my interest and I am hoping that a future update may bring me back to it. I have been dabbling here and there with a few different games. 

I played quite a bit of the Overwatch Beta that occurred a couple of weeks ago.That game is a ton of fun and has a lot of the same sort of hooks that TF2 had when it came out. While gorgeous and a ton of fund to play, I don't see myself necessarily picking it up right away. For some reason I never came away from the game "craving" for the next time to play. 

This past weekend had another Splatfest for Splatoon and I I ended up playing a lot of that this weekend. I had forgotten how good that game really was, and they have continued to add more maps and more weapons to the game. There has to be over thirty different load outs now for the maps. Tons of fun and it actually scratched my area shooter itch that Overwatch was going for. 

My biggest thing though was that I have been playing some indie games as of late. I finally finished The Fall, which was from the last Humble Nindie Bundle from last fall. The Fall is a cool adventure game where you are an AI in an environment suit trying to save the life of the body inside. You are stuck in a recycling facility that is trying to tear you apart. The game has some great atmospherics and the puzzles are decent, but there were several occasions where I had to basically "try everything" in my inventory to see what would solve a puzzle. Solutions were not always intuitive, but the game was probably 6-8 hours in length total, so it was a good time while it lasted. 

I briefly also played "Affordable Space Adventure" this weekend two for an hour or so. This was in the most recent Humble Nintendo Bundle and a game that has received a lot of praise when it came out. It is a Wii U exclusive and makes fantastic use of the touchpad for having controls and even sounds just on the pad to supplement the game. I am just pas the tutorial section, so I'll have to see how that one plays out over the next few days.



March 2016 - Videogaming

So what have I been playing recently? Well, the Division has been the biggest game that has probably launched and I have spent a lot of time working my way through that game. The Division has perhaps one of the most detailed and intricate world maps I have ever come across. A ravaged New York City has just tons of detail on each and every street in the game. 

The game is a sort of loot based shooter, similar to Destiny in some ways. The story in the game is convoluted and mostly wrapped up into various audio files you find throughout the world. They are remarkably well put together, it is too bad though that so much of the story is hidden behind those and not tied more closely into the actual "story" missions. 

The shooting is fun, but things do begin to get a bit repetitive towards the upper levels. I have no hit the upper level cap in the game and apart from cleaning up the side missions I still need to do there isn't a ton left to play for unless you just want to grind and get better gear. That isn't something I really want to do at this point. 

I have also been playing a lot of Miitomo from Nintendo this past week. I don't even know if I would truly call this one a game, but it is a sort of social app where you answer questions with your friend's and get cute clothes. It seems to be a perfect iPhone type of game to share with friends.  

Halo 5 Forge - Map Preview: Armory Grounds

This past week I have decided to try my hand at building a map in Halo 5's forge. This is not something I have done before, but I figured I would give it a go to see how the process was. 

My first map is based off of the map "Training Grounds" from Titanfall. Since I needed to basically learn the basics and tools for forge I figured going off of a known map layout would be a good first approach. I also felt that I could make a good "Big Team" map. Here is a quick preview of what I am working on. I am probably 90% done with this at this point.  I just need to tweak some of the small details and also figure out why the strongpoints aren't capturing while testing. 

November 2015 - Videogaming

It has been way too long since I have posted a video game update. This fall has been a bit crazy, but I have thankfully gotten some good video gaming in. 

My gaming has been spread out all over the place so let's take a look at what I have been playing lately. 

Over the summer I have put a lot of time into my Nintendo 3DS. I got in on the Humble Nindiebundle and picked up a bunch of games for the 3DS and WiiU. SteamWorld Dig, Retro City Rampage and a few other games took one some great hours. I have really put a lot of time into Fantasy Life though. I am clocked in at around 37 hours on it right now and I still haven't beat the game. It is a fun, light RPG that has many of the same charms that Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon would bring to the table. It also has some excellent multiplayer so Megan and I have been playing that quite a bit with a little couch co-op. Personally, I think it is a must have game for the system.

The bulk of my gaming over this past summer has probably been on my Wii U. A lot of Splatoon has been going down along with some Yoshi's Whooly World over the past couple of months. Yoshi has an excellent multiplayer game, but let's talk about Spaltoon. This game is really an amazing home run for Nintendo. They nailed a competitive multiplayer game in only the way that they could and in doing so may a game that is fun, charming, fast and intense all at the same time. It also makes great use of the WiiU gamepad. 

But, all of those other games have now taken a back seat to my most recent obsession. Xenoblade Chronicles X. This is a huge open world JRPG released for the WiiU about a week ago. It has been a long time since I have played a full on JRPG so I was itching for some of those old story tropes again. This is another one of those games out for the WiiU that define the system. Not only is the game huge and immersive, but it makes great use of the WiiU hardware. It really in a lot of ways is what I wanted the Monster Hunter games to be. There are simply huge monsters in this game set in incredibly gorgeous environments, but you don't have the deal with a slow and pedantic combat mechanic. 

Lastly, but certainly not the least is the Xbox. There have been a couple of great games that have caught me this past fall. First up is a game called Valiant Heats which was released on Games with Gold I think in October. It is a heartbreaking story set during World War I that follows a family that is torn apart by the war. This game really touches on some emotional and tragic topics and it is accompanied by really in-depth diary logs that explain some of the horrors of the war. It is out on just about every platform so if you have a chance to play it, please do. It is remarkably well done. 

Then we have Elite Dangerous. This is a very pretty space "simulator". It is one of those games that does not hold your hand. The galaxy in the game is rendered in real size to our own and there are millions of systems to discover in the game. It is big and the world is set before you to basically just explore on your own. There is no story and no right or wrong way to play. You can just go explore, or you can bounty hunt, or deliver goods. It is up to you and one of those games like the Golf Cub that I will keep on my hard drive and go back to periodically for probably the life of the Xbox One. It also has some of the best sound design I have ever heard and is the sort of thing you can just put on to listen to the sounds of your ship's engines and space to calm you. It is incredibly relaxing in that way. 

Finally, we have Halo 5. Probably the biggest game release this fall. I am a huge Halo fan. So much so that I have even read some of the books. The game is flat out gorgeous and the multiplayer is as good as ever. It is a fun game and it will likely share the top spot as my goto multiplayer game with Splatoon over the next six months or so.