In the groove

Game: Wargroove

Developer: Chucklefish

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

That opening cinematic was awesome. Like a late 80’s cartoon opening.

The tutorial is a pretty good balance between teaching me the game and the lore/characters/background. It’s entertaining.

I’m enjoying the little fight animations.

The half VO where characters voice a word of two of their dialog is somewhat distracting.

Having a Hero unit that can lose the battle if it dies feels a little weak. It’s strong but I don’t want to use it in situations where it can make a difference

Really feels like attackers have an advantage you want to really pay attention to move ranges and goad people into fights where you get to attack into them.

Feels really hard to use crits for the knights because everyone can move around so much. Almost just need to be lucky

I like that the 5th mission or whatever has the objective to lead the villagers to escape. Having objectives that aren’t just kill everything feels good.

I don’t think I really care or like the star rating system? The levels aren’t fun enough where I want to play them again to do better.

So far every level does feel distinctly different from each other level. I appreciate it.

There seem to be lots of side levels that aren’t part of progressing the plot, but without a progression system I feel like I don’t need to play them?

Some of the ultimates feel useful (the heal, the shield) but the dog’s extra turn doesn’t seem valuable unless you really positionally play to it.

I really like the catapults and trebuchets. Feels fun to rain down projectiles from afar.

The alchemists heal costing money is an interesting decision. It would be interesting to see how the design of that played out.

Actually feels pretty good on a controller too.

The silliness of the plot feels a little too silly at times. I appreciate the humor but it takes a bit away from what I’m doing being important/meaningful.

After introducing the fog of war, I got to a level with no fog of war. Not sure why.

Kind of torn on the fog of war mechanic. I prefer the levels without it, but it adds strategy.

You have impressed the gods

Game: Jotun : Valhalla Edition

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

I really love the narration being in Icelandic with English subtitles. It feels so great.

I love the music.

I love the background art.

I like how the camera sometimes zooms out to show you more of it or to make a point of a certain area. Feels very cinematic.

I’m glad they made the main character female. It would have been so easy and typical to just make it a viking dude.

I’m somewhat torn on the character art. It feels a little out of place to me I think?

The exploration areas are really cool – I like the level design a lot. Each area feels significantly different from the others, with different challenges.

I also really like the larger than life bosses and how fighting them really feels like fighting the gods. You feel like you’re at a real disadvantage.

The controls feel a little sluggish to me, like they’re just not as responsive as what I want. Some of the combat and avoiding obstacles feels frustration because I can’t move the way I want.

I appreciate that it’s easy to get back to the nexus area.

I like the way they handle the map, where it’s slightly abstract and doesn’t contain a lot of specific information. And how after you get the key to an area the hidden items show up, I think?

The area with turning on the electricity to match the constellations was a bit tedious. Felt cool at first once I understood it, but after the first one I kind of dreaded seeing more.

Not surprising, but the game was overall too difficult for me. The length of the boss fights just mean that I have too much time to make too many errors and will eventually get sloppy or lose focus and take a really bad hit.

Baba is Who?

Game: Baba is You

Developer: Arvi Teikari

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

I appreciate that there are a decent number of easy win levels before the difficulty ramp up occurred. So often with puzzle games, especially with indie games, I feel like I don’t get to enjoy them before they start getting really difficult.

I’m not sure what the map added to the game. As someone who saw the numbers of the levels I just wanted to play them in order, so having the option to play different levels didn’t appeal to me. For my desired experience it could have just been a linear game.

I really really appreciated the undo mechanic and not having to just start over any time I made a mistake or wanted to try something else. That was so valuable and a great user experience.

I also appreciated that reloading levels was fast and painless. Feels like that’s such a huge win for puzzle games. It avoids a lot of frustration when experimenting

The music is a little repetitive. It’s the first game I can remember my wife asking me to use headphones while playing.

Gameplay was easy to understand and pick up. At first there were some times that I died that I didn’t understand why, but the undo mechanism made it easy to use trial and error to find things out.

The setting to make everything stop jiggling was very welcome.

I like that each level is just a single screen where you can see all your options in front of you at once. It’s great to be able to at least know you’re able to see all your tools and potential moves right up front. And then the HAS keyword appears and ruins it all.

Finding it hard to leave more specific feedback. The underlying game was simple, straightforward, and fun. There’s nothing I’d want it to change or do differently, felt perfect for what it was.

As eventually happens with puzzle games, eventually the difficulty level caused me to churn out. It just started feeling like work and individual maps took too long.

Third time on the dark side

Game: Darksiders III

Developer: Gunfire Games

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Playing on easy.

Like a lot of hack and slash games I feel like I’m just mashing buttons and not really obtaining any mastery of the combat system. Most non trivial enemies will damage me in some way and I don’t feel like I dodge effectively at all.

I appreciate the environmental design. Gives a good feeling of exploration and openness while still being mostly a series of single corridor hallways.

The exploration is netting me a lot of secrets to collect, but none of them seem to be very valuable or interesting to me.

The advancement system of putting attribute points into health strength or arcane doesn’t seem very interesting. I’m putting most points into health because I don’t want to die. None into arcane because I don’t feel like I’m using arcane power at all for anything.

I don’t like it when a currency can be spent on permanent upgrades (levelling up) and also on consumables (health packs) because I feel like any consumables I buy are just putting me further behind the curve.

Giving the main character a buddy character (that disappears during combat) was a good idea so their random dialog and banter can be interesting and help advance the story.

I didn’t know I had an auto heal mechanic at all and kept using consumables until I went to google to see what Nephilim’s respite was.

It felt weird that you collect items in your inventory that are just bundles of the currency, but I guess that’s done because you lose all the currency when you die, but not the inventory items. Losing all your currency also feels like a bummer, but I guess that’s done because the enemies respawn – so losing the currency prevents you from farming through dying.

Wrecking things with physics

Game: Besiege

Developer: Spiderling Studios

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

Building was pretty intuitive and it felt like the editor was working with me rather than against me most of the time. Occasionally I would get the camera into a weird state and need to reset it.

Really appreciated being able to save and load my machines.

Building and testing was a very cool lego type feel, reminded me why I loved building things with lego as a kid. I liked being able to rapidly iterate and feel like you were close and just needed to make a few tweaks to finish the level.

It seems like sometimes the game was non deterministic or the physics is just really twitchy. I could run the map and sometimes parts of my machine would fall apart right away and other times they wouldn’t and I didn’t understand what the difference was.

Because of the above point, a few times I would just brute force my way through a level and just play it like 20 times in a row with the same machine until finally just luckily getting the results I needed to beat the level.

Unsure why pistons seem to be the most explosion resistant piece there is. Is that a bug?

As it seems like is usually the case with these types of indie puzzle games, I felt the ramp up in difficulty was too steep. I would have appreciated way more tutorial style levels that show me the basics of each type of part.

The second land, where flying was introduced out of nowhere, got way more difficult and frustrating way too fast.

So many of my frustrations boil down to not knowing what certain pieces did, how to use them, why to use them, or why things weren’t working as expected. I had to go to the internet for tutorials, something which I never enjoy doing.

Basically I want my hand held much more for much longer until I’ve clearly been introduced to every mechanic and piece.

Having to then operate the machines was fun as well, and being able to iterate and make tweaks was cool.

For levels that had achievements for completing them a certain way it would be cool to see them written out.

I want to be able to recommend this to kids who are interested in engineering but I think the difficulty level is just too high. It’s a shame, this could be such a tool for good for teaching fun engineering problems and solutions.

The levels that don’t have objectives at all are kind of frustrating. Not sure why they would do that.

The sheer amount of flexibility and power when building is awesome. I think with better level design and more tutorial levels I could play this game for a really long time.

I liked the mixture of kill everything, destroy everything, and achieve a specific task levels. It was good that it kept you from just trying to make an uber machine that could beat everything.

Towards the end, the sheer amount of time necessary to build a successful machine was off putting.

The whole “skins” feature seemed unnecessary

Fenix Down

Game: Gears 5

Developer: The Coalition

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

I’m not really interacting with the Jack upgrade progression. I don’t go out of my way to find the currency and rarely even open up the UI to upgrade anything.

Each sequel increases the complexity of the game in ways that just seem frustrating to me. I miss the days of just hiding behind cover and shooting, but I understand why they have to evolve the gameplay beyond that.

The area where I had to use a Jack upgrade to get past the fire was frustrating. I spent quite a while trying to find a way around the fire without knowing I could go through it.

The local multiplayer experience isn’t great. Text is so small.

The open world part in the second act was unexpected. I more or less ignored it and just went on with the plot. But piloting the skiff was interesting. Ended up doing a few of the side missions and I appreciated how obvious, short, and quick they were. Didn’t care about the progression but the level and encounter design was interesting enough that it ended up just being more content.

There are quite long stretches without encountering any enemies

The secret lab seems to be channelling a horror game. But to me that feels very antithetical to the series, which is all about massive guns and macho characters. While they don’t appear to be afraid, the mood seems to go against main themes of the series.

The slight open world of the second and third acts was welcome and it added to the game rather than detract from it. I’m glad they went that route.

The choice to kill one of the main characters off was a pretty bold step. Not sure I liked it, and it feels like it’s going to make more work for the sequel. Also, the controls for this part were awkward enough and different enough from the other choices I had made in the game that I died the first time I encountered it, and almost the second time, before figuring out how to choose. That kind of disrupted the emotional impact of the moment.

I miss some of the fun departures from standard gameplay that I’ve had in previous games in the series, like piloting the massive robot in the previous game. I like the occasional moments of feeling immensely overpowered just to add some diversity.

The mind control and shield mechanics of Jack were pretty cool and could make for some fun situations.

Once again I didn’t like that the game ended in the middle of a cliffhanger without a true triumphant ending feel. I wish the Gears and Halo franchises would stop doing that.

Bringing color back to the world.

Game: GRIS

Developer: Devolver Digital

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer Blizzard Entertainment. These are my rambling notes to myself as I play the game. I respect and appreciate the hard work of all game developers.

Notes:

The 2d with platformer depth takes a little getting used to. Hard to tell what I can jump on sometimes.

I like the way the camera zooms in and out to have more intimate moments or to go out and give a sense of scale.

The world is really interesting to me. What is its story. Why are things run down. What happened here.

Use of color is really interesting.

I feel like I’m missing exploring huge sections of the game. It feels like there are often two paths and I choose one and the other one is cut off from me. I’m constantly making forward progress though so maybe this is a wrong perception.

I like my little box buddy who eats box apples.

I wish I had a bit more knowledge of what I’m trying to do – what the plot and backstory are here. I don’t feel like I have a purpose that I’m trying to achieve.

The part with the huge bird shadow creature was cool. In a game where you can’t die and don’t fight, that still felt like a fairly suspenseful boss battle type moment.

I enjoyed the water section quite a bit, especially after getting the boost swim upgrade. Movement felt very natural and fluid.

The eel chase scene was interesting, but maybe a bit long. Not sure why I got limited control over my character on a narrow track.

The fireflies that act as flashlights to reveal terrain was pretty cool.

I like the singing upgrade that can make plants bloom. I also really like the song itself, no matter how many times i bring it up I don’t get tired of it. It really has the fantasy of being able to change and manipulate the world, and in this case make it more beautiful and alive.

There are moments in this game that just inspire awe and appreciation of beauty. Like this point where I sang and it created this massive tree in a cutscene.

I’m enjoying how much more elaborate the environments are getting over time.

The mechanics have a cool way of blending in to each other and building off each other too. The water, and the gravity reversal. Very cool stuff.

I can’t hold the whole map of most areas in my head, so I really don’t know where I am or how to get back to anywhere. But it feels like for the most part, the game doesn’t ask me to do this and leads me to the correct location.

That ending felt like a triumph. Though I’m still not sure what was going on.