Summer Log

For so many years while growing up summer was the time that I actually got through the bulk of my games. Booting up a lengthy Playstation RPG and enjoying it every night after running around all day outside. The warm of the concrete still on my feet as I let a fan blast nice cool air on me and I fell into my role as Cloud Strife or Sora. Slowly it has turned into a small tradition of mine that every summer I try to get as many games out I can, but one or two always sticks stronger as a memory.

It is crazy as I go over the year and see how many games I have tucked away and gone through. Sometimes it is a quick replay to make sure I have completed every quest or achievement. Then other times I get into one solid game and don’t touch another until I played it to the point I can’t look at it.

Sometimes when you get that chance to play through a game in the summer, the night air drifting in the windows and that 2AM grind as you finish the last levels is just exhilarating. I remember a few years back picking up Dying Light the day it came out but just couldn’t find the time to play through it. Months passed and it sat on my backlog just gathering dust. Finally, I got a solid three day weekend and got a chance to pop it in!

Was it the greatest game I ever played? I wouldn’t say it was, but it made memories for me that I will always remember. Leaping over the rooftops with the grapple hook and running in the dark from the zombies made a mark. When thunderstorms raged outside of my house in Nebraska I delved deeper into the world I was in.

A few years before I learned what a good story really meant in a game when I beat The Last of Us. The game again going into the late hours of the summer nights and the air conditioning kept clicking on as I tried to avoid the terror that was the clickers. Feeling a chill as I played through all the seasons in the game. The finale of the game finishing and me going to get breakfast from Burger King after since it was 7 AM. Now I get nostalgia anytime I get a summer chill from too much AC or I spend time late into the night.

Not that I can force you to play games and honestly that should never be the case. The only thing I can say is this summer I strongly suggest just focusing on one solid game to make a memory out of. For me, I have Rage 2 I know I want to slam through, but I also know I need to beat Horizon Zero dawn. A game that once again has just sat on my backlog and is giving me that itch to play through.

The last little bit here is I know gamer block can be a frustrating as hell thing to go through. When you lose the desire to play games and that is one of your main hobbies it can just suck. We all hit it, I hit it with all my hobbies at a time. It slows everything else down too and suddenly you are scrolling Facebook for another three hours. So if you need to get through the block or that hump you find yourself in, just focus on a single game this summer.

Make it your Summer game, make it a memory and enjoy the season.

Feature Photo by Paul Varnum on Unsplash

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The Culture

Today has been a long one. One that quickly slipped through my fingers no matter how many loads of laundry I attempted to do. One thing led to the next and now sitting here it is nine at night, some days tend to go that way and you don’t find time for any of the hobbies you tell yourself you enjoy. The whole day one thing has kept bouncing back into my mind to write about, and instead of taking the easy, “I’ll do it tomorrow route.” I’m going to make my tired butt write.

Today the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition remaster came out on PS4 and Xbox One. Although I have not yet had a chance to sit down and play it, the conversation of doing so came up multiple times with different people this afternoon. Whoever I was talking to and I reminiscing over the first time playing the original game. Laughing at the jokes that a shooter hadn’t really done well before then and getting excited to travel back to Pandora. Along with all the hype for Borderlands 3 of course.

This instant connection with another person as you speak about a game isn’t just stuck to the Borderlands franchise. It is one of the few things that can span language barriers and distance when it comes to gaming. I have students come in from UNK that barely speak English but will talk circles around you about League of Legends, with the mention of Teemo sending them into loud moans of disgust. Then there are the friends’ states away that can jump into a firing squad on a game and the friendship is still there strong as ever. Even now I work on a story for a group getting ready to start a new DND campaign on roll 20.

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The beauty of all this is that is a language to gamers themselves. One that while I grew up and went from house to house and school to school many times over I could always use. It didn’t matter how much money my family had or if we lived in the bad part of a town in California, we talked about Poke’mon. We talked about the new Smash Brothers or how there are secrets hidden in Ocarina of Time. When I moved to Kansas my Sophmore year and left behind all my friends from the first fifteen years of my life I found new ones talking over Halo 2. Who soon found ourselves binging the entire series over again and anticipating the launch of Halo 3 for all the new times to be had.

Really it doesn’t have to be a game that is even out yet to get the “bug” going and feel that contagious spark amongst others in the community. Recently a lot of that is going around in the Magic the Gathering culture as a new set spoils a few cards each day. Friends sending me messages over deck ideas and coming in to order boxes daily. Making people feel and talk about the story with a new gorgeous cinematic trailer, and trying to guess where the story goes.

The conversation is great when you can move up and down the age spectrum too. As many times as I can relate with someone twice my age over how cool it was the first time beating Adventure on the Atari, I can flip that and talk about Season eight on Fortnite with a little dude. Usually with them resulting in dancing away in some sassy dance featured in that season.

Photo by Ciaran O’Brien on Unsplashciaran-o-brien-769980-unsplash

It is something that excites me more and more as I get older and continue seeing the taboo that games are for nerds fall away. The fact that Esports leagues are popping up in high schools is great to me, and mainstream media making movies over titles I never thought I would see. That podcasts about DND are at an all-time high and Game of Thrones, a fantasy series, is the most anticipated show this year.

So even when the day is long, and I wish I could have skipped parts of it in its entirety, I’m always happy to sit back and talk an exciting new game with a friend. After all, it’s part of the culture.

One-Armed Wolf

I can’t say that I have finished every game by From Software, but I can say I have always been a fan of their work. Each game they make turning into a love-hate relationship as you start from scratch and learn the cadences of each new boss you come too. Many times dying along the way to little guys that shouldn’t hit as hard as they do.

The newest from their long line of brutally hard games is Sekiro, Shadows Die Twice. A game that I went into completely blind other than knowing what the setting roughly was. Many times mixing up in my head what I saw for Ghost of Tsushima. Another game that I am deeply excited about. Just remember, Sekiro is the one with a grappling hook.

Yes, a grappling hook. One thing you will notice quickly about this entry in the Dark Souls type games is that movement is actually a thing.  Hell, you can jump even! A full-fledged jump button. Makes you almost think things will be easy. After all, if I could have jumped efficiently back in Blighttown… wishful thinking I suppose.

The mobility is key to make you feel like a badass in this game. The sneak deathblows you deliver always satisfying and performed with a nice audible crunch each time. Deathblows being the main way you finish every enemy. Described as the moment when the Shinobi strikes; you hit the enemy enough or counter deflect enough for them to lose posture (a combination of stamina and poise) and then strike. Even bosses need to be taken down with these attacks. Some requiring multiple deathblows before you finally bring them to their knees, always brought along with a pleasing cinematic flourish.

Without spoiling too much the bosses really bring some great battles into the game. I’m about fifteen hours into the game and have downed two official bosses and a myriad of mini-bosses. The large boss battles actually being the only way you can increase your attack power in the game. The battles usually set in a large cinematic area, a huge battlefield, a burning down estate or a field of flowers. Once you defeat the boss you learn from the battle and that is how your character gains strength. So no amount of grinding on the side is just going to allow you to come back and one shot them. Looking at you Capra demon.

An interesting change to the way the games normally play. I know when I was trying to finish off the chalice dungeons in Bloodborne I ground out a good amount of enemies to hit harder. This new title moving furthest away from the normal, kill, level, repeat. Even death is different with you losing half your current experience and half your gold. No way to recover it. To negate that a bit you do get “one” resurrect while in the midst of battle, leading to the game’s title.

Now the minibosses set in the world are just as big when it comes to a stopping point. Many of which being in charge of blocking a path or a gate to lead to the next area. Sometimes this is a giant Ogre that knows more kickboxing moves than modern UFC fighters, or perhaps just a giant flaming boar, yes flaming. Large amounts of mini-bosses are samurai generals that you can just pass, but they have all, so far, carried prayer beads. These beads were the only way I have found to increase your health and that ever important posture. You still need four beads before it even increases, but every little bit helps.

The landscapes are stunning in the beautiful 4k, with the graphics many times stopping my tracks to look as snow falls gently. Even when scouting out where the next big location is.

Sekiro™ Shadows Die Twice (9)

The tower in the distance, in this case, is blocked by seven smaller enemies and two large brutes. Just to get to this perch I first fought two samurai having a conversation I could eavesdrop and a pair of wolves. The last place to rest and recover being before them, but if I decide to rest they come back each time. Here I managed to sneak left and kill a minion holding a pan he bangs to alert others, then proceded to take out three riflemen, a spear user, and last the two large brutes. The brutes a hell of a battle if you don’t sneak attack them.

Just to finally run into this guy.Sekiro™ Shadows Die Twice (10)

Right now I sit at a crossroad of what seems to be three paths. The one above ends in that miniboss I said I would save until tomorrow.

Another leading to these catacomb things where a zombie dude gave me flashbacks of the reassembling skeletons in Dark Souls, I said nope to him.Sekiro™ Shadows Die Twice (7)

The last leading up to a castle that I think is technically the right way, but I will save that for now. The game early on also gives you a “side path” to explore that is a completely different setting and time frame.

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This setting puts you in a backstory but doesn’t advance the plot or change it in the current world. I don’t know if this whole section is technically “skippable” having there be items here that are extremely useful in the main portion, maybe another playthrough at a later date will reveal that. The real benefit of this side quest is showing you back story on Sekiro himself, why he has abilities and a boss battle that will increase your strength.

Having put the hours into this I would recommend it to anyone who likes a challenging game. Plus, if you love timepiece games I really appreciate the aesthetics as well. Some of the magical elements of the game took my breath away, large enemies that I had no clue would be in it until I saw them and they were trying to swallow me whole.

The idea of reviews like this going forward is you will see it in two parts. A first glance which you now have, then, later on, you can have a completion of the whole game. I find it is hard to really review something when you don’t have all the information. Some games are destroyed in the last five hours of gameplay when the final battles are just bad. Others spend all of their flash in the beginning and have hours of mundane play that follows.

Regardless, let me know what you think in the comments and sign up for email notifications on the sidebar if you don’t want to miss any of these. More exciting news, the page can now be found at forthesakeofgaming.com as well! So share away and I’ll see you tomorrow.

P.S. I just thought this was pretty

The Long Walk

Let’s take a moment and talk about gaming fatigue.

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This is a topic that I mentioned briefly in the first little bit that I wrote and one that I wanted to get back into before it flew from my mind. The idea that you “have to game a lot” to be a gamer. One that in and of itself can lead you to just not want to play games at all. Then before you know it you are back to the “Goodbye Micheal” episode of The Office on Netflix instead of doing anything productive or meaning full.

Be prepared for this read its full of segues

So to start, I believe most people play games for two reasons. To have fun and to get a feeling of accomplishment. Look at many of the other social trends, movies, TV shows, new songs, books. People enjoy them at the time and then the accomplishment of adding something to their internal list of “I did this!” We like knowing we finished a movie so we can talk about it. Like having binged watched that whole season of Umbrella Academy very much the same we like beating games, to stay social.

It could be that you beat a single match and the rush and thrill of sitting at the top of the leader boards or making a good dive and getting a “Penta” thrill you. It could be you finally finished the game on your backlog (Looking at you God of War) and want to tell your friends. Beating a game has many definitions. Back to it, fun and accomplishment.

Sometimes that leads to us not wanting to get back into a game. You hit a wall in the game or in your mind and don’t want to pass it. One such example is From Softwares Soul games, or more recently Sekiro. A Game that I have enjoyed a lot lately and even wanted to write about today, but video recording set me back briefly.

Sekiro, Shadows Die Twice is not what most would describe as an easy game. One that many people will die in front of a boss thirty to fifty times before you move forward. You have to learn the mannerisms of the boss that can down you in two hits to the point you know you need to jump just from the flex in the drunkard’s arm or the tilt of the bull’s horn. Sometimes that kind of boss detail can make you hit that wall and then the game gathers dust on the shelf.

When you aren’t growing you are dying. Its a phrase used time and time again in the self-help world to kind of shock you awake. A cold shower to your career or relationships. More true in games that you literally die twice in. So that sudden stop in-game progression stonewalls you and people give up. Competitive games are no different.

Most great magic players I know lost more matches than people would believe. The best League of Legends player I know has more losses on his all-time record than most people I know as well. They grind through it and get that next level. No joke, that gets tiring. To many older generations, it seems like a joke that gaming would even step into the connotation of “the grind” since games are for fun.

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Games have changed vastly in the last thirty years. A simple game like Space Invaders where all that matters is the high score. Now competes with full-fledged esports and games that blur graphics to the point you have to blink twice to make sure it isn’t a real actor. Immersion is the name of the game and the story we tell ourselves of being the hero feels more real now than ever.

It isn’t just a game, it’s a culture.

There are parts of games where achievements and trophies tempt you to try it a little harder. Or go a route you normally would never try. The grind of completing one giving you that rush when it sits done and you can talk to all your friends about how sweet it really was. Many close friends of mine still bragging over the original Seriously achievement from Gears one.

In fact every summer I make a goal to beat at least fifty video games. Usually, I tap out around thirty or so. It gets to be a lot and sometimes you lose sight of the fun. The gaming fatigue sets in fully and you can barely move past a character creation before you say, not tonight.

Oh, man, did I google how to get over that!

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I found there were a few answers to help that I found myself. One is a phrase you have heard a million times now from Shia Lebouf to Nike. Just do it. When I have told myself I just need to beat this game the third time I just jump on and say five hours. If I can’t give the game that then it really just isn’t ever going to be worth it to me. Five hours.

More often than not after hour two or three I fall into hours seven then twelve and before I know it I have another game beaten. Shooters go especially quick in this regard. Games on rails are a quick afternoon or late night binge. The open sandbox games can take some time.

That’s why the second one is, don’t do it. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but hear me out. How many times in your life are you chatting with a friend about anything else in the world and you get an itch to play the game you stepped away from out of the blue. You are chatting about how cool space is and then you hear how the people who made a space game you like also made a fantasy game. You get an opinion and that leads to “the itch” and suddenly Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2 are beaten in the span of a week.

Stepping away from a game I don’t like at the time or can’t sink any time at all into is one of the best things I did for my gaming hobby. Man do I hate feeling like I need to play “or else.” I play for the sake of gaming (self-promotion plug) and that is it. I will go on kicks where I only play my PC and then switch to my Xbox for months. I will plug in my GameCube and find myself yelling how unfair Metroid can be even still. It helped lead to one of the best gaming experiences I had in years.

Photo by Enrique Vidal Flores on Unsplashenrique-vidal-flores-1388819-unsplash

Breath of the Wild really opened up a lot of my gaming joy after a long hiatus of not beating anything. I delved deep into its open world and genuine fun. Beating it twice in completely different ways. The number of games I beat multiple times for pure joy not numbering above ten.

The game I was stuck with at the time I played it? Ryse Son of Rome. Completely different in every regard. I started that opening sequence what felt like five times and then just said, not now. I flipped on my switch I hadn’t played much and dropped deep into Zelda. Soon after beating it I saw a Spartacus episode and in I went back to Ryse. That game was done in a night and I’m glad I added it to my completion list.

Now I’m winding down here and won’t keep you much longer. The biggest point of this post was to telling you one thing. Just play what you like when you want to. With that, please, pretty please tell me what you are playing. Much like how I read books, I like jumping to games organically by what my friends suggest. Comment down wherever that tab is and say what you like. Say what you are stuck on or that one game that is on your to-do list.

Then when I visit this topic again, maybe you can tell me how far you have come. Until then just keep playing games and having fun.

 

Fall Back In

Fallout 76

There are few games that have been attacked as hard in recent memory as Fallout 76. Not simply just a few upset people here and there attacking a game because of a trend or a meme but all out anger. So my stupid self is going to attempt to defend it some.

Now it is months after launch and quite a few fixes and updates in. To test how some of it felt I made a planned night with a few good friends and said let us hop on and see how things roll now.  Plus stash upgrades are nice.

Before I get into how that went a little bit of information from before. This is a game that had already eaten many late night hours of mine. I had not touched the game since January, but before that time clocked in around eighty hours. No small feat when my gaming time priority falls to a bare minimum during the holiday season. A few all-nighters even took place, unintentionally. Many times the depth of some of the “dungeons” in the game led me to spend two hours in one without realizing it. Others being short and sweet and leave me craving to see another.

Yes, of course, there are pitfalls and downsides to this game. Before last night I would have a random crash from time to time. I had seen some really strange character model issues with enemies and sometimes things just didn’t work right. I may be a bit luckier running it on a One X instead of a basic model, but even my friends only rarely crashed. Many times hoping right back into the server within two minutes. Only rarely leaving the game feeling like an early access title.

All of that aside I was still impressed with how much fun it was with friends. So be warned that even though only about half of my eighty hours of this game was solo the co-operative play was where this game really shined. So if you think you will never, ever have a chance to play with another person with a headset then I will admit, you won’t be able to enjoy this game all the way sadly.

In fact, what I have grown to start describing this game as to people is a certain type of Fallout DND. Where your party is a hodgepodge of random and you have to scrape together enough loot to progress and make it ahead. Without them, a Scorchbeast can be a terrifying creature. With a party of four, sometimes they are a joke.

Fallout 76

So some more on the game. When you are alone or solo so much of the game is put into listening to the well-made holotapes and finding key components to continue upgrading your equipment or crafting new guns. A lot of which you have to find plans for before you can really start upgrading them yourself. A gameplay element that made a lot of players again furious, but I’m the odd one out. I feel this did something special to the game.

You actually end up using different guns as you level and progress. From having a favorite hunting rifle you slowly build into a sniper or finding a homemade rifle that you really make into your own. It is actually called the homemade rifle (See gun in images). In fact, when I started progressing I was so focused on rifles that I was able to help pass on things for shotguns to one friend and pistols to the next. I can’t forget to mention how important it was to trade for ammo as well. You go from, “I have a thousand rounds” to “I’m almost out” every session it seems.

Although last night was more of a let’s see where things lie now than anything else it went good. Hunting down missions that were left untouched for months and helping some friends catch up on some much-needed achievements. The last whole hour hiking through the Cranberry Bog before stopping right outside the Fissure Prime site for a long dungeon experience we planned to play on another night soon.

What the bog loos like in some areas. With ravines running just below the surface.Fallout 76 (6).png

Before letting up on it, I want to mention that this game also does a great job at not giving you too much to go off of. In fact, a good ten hours were spent with a friend hunting down the illusive Mothman. Getting hints off of terminals deep in swamps and off dead bodies. At one point leading to a campground where blood-curdling screams and random earthquakes happened. Until someone pointed out that there were eyes behind me…

He saw me firstFallout 76 (7).png

There are so many of these cryptids in the game that one I only saw for five seconds before it teleported away. It has many different well-made enemies that I always see something new. Even when there are literally hundreds of scorched around everywhere you go, there are many more enemies to whet your appetite for railway gun carnage.

In fact, the scorched are really just a very basic replacement for raiders in this one versus the other games in the franchise. A replacement that makes lots of sense if you get into the story. One where I hear people say they hate that there are no human NPC characters in the game. I always reply with, “Well you know why right?”

Regardless the story is there if you are willing to dive in.

Last bit before I call it good in this small segment of 76.

I think it was awesome that the developers were willing to take a chance. To make a game that is absolutely ginormous. To make the weather systems able to be seen from across the map and the lighting to look great as you walk through the mire. I think that most great games have to come from something first. A game that has free content added into the players’ worlds all paid for by an in-game shop that players never need to spend a dime on.

I think that it can help build into something amazing going forward later on. That too often people get punished for trying something big. Even though some of my favorite memories in games are big moments no one dared to try before. Things like the fight with psycho mantis where you have to switch controller ports. Things like the first time you played a great FPS with RPG elements. This like pulling the Master Sword out and going forward in time for the first time. Or watching as The Last of Us dared to take it all away in one moment of gameplay.

So I’ll check in on this game from time to time. I like being the rifleman in the party. I like screaming how I need screws and a friend saying, ” Well how many caps do you have on ya?” I like finding a location in the distance from a high mountain

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And making it not so distant

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Really, in the end, I just like Fallout

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