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.

Not sure who Esther was

Game: Dear Esther

Developer: The Chinese Room

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 don’t mind the slow walking speed when first progressing through an area, checking out the environment and paying attention to the dialog. But sometimes when having to backtrack or unable to find the exit from an area the slow speed is frustrating.

I don’t feel like I’m making any choices here. I’m just walking around until I find the correct way forward. This is all I need to do to advance the game. Doesn’t feel meaningful.

Some pieces of dialog feel very disjointed and out of place. I’m not understanding what’s going on. Who am I, what am I doing here, who is the narrator and what is their relationship to me.

The music and ambient weather effects (especially the wind) were great at creating atmosphere and mood.

The environments were gorgeous, and I loved the inside of the cavern area.

I just don’t get the game though. At the end I’m still extremely confused about what happened and what story it was telling.

Not sure who the King was

Game: The King’s Bird

Developer: Serenity Forge

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 like the hard open. Feels so much more immersive than a title screen.

Pretty impressed with the platformer controls so far. Feels like I have very good control of the character.

They’re able to do some cool animations with the somewhat limited art style they’re using.

Wish I had a little more direction in that first level. I feel like I’m trying to guess where the game wants me to go.

Having lots of checkpoints in the early stage really helps me not be frustrated by repeated dying. I feel like I’m able to master the basic moves and improve and progress at a reasonable pace.

Getting past the opening sequence and winding up in a series of time trial levels wasn’t what I was hoping for. I was wanting a narrative experience, and I generally churn of of games that deliver their content in this format.

As the puzzles got harder I didn’t feel as in control of the platforming. Didn’t feel like I was achieving mastery at the rate the difficulty was increasing, and soon got frustrated and gave up.

The Flapjack Fire

Game: Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo

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 narrative at the beginning with the wife was emotionally rough. Did a great job of hooking me into the game though.

Games have made me skeptical of whether any of my dialog choices really matter. So I’m curious if anything I did in the beginning makes a difference.

The atmosphere seems really ominous, between bears and thunderstorms and creepy strangers.

Environmental navigation feels a little unpolished

Narrative and mystery was extremely compelling. I was always eager to jump back in and start playing.

Voice acting was really engaging.

I appreciated the extreme loneliness they put me through. Having a game with virtual no tangible human contact was a cool experience. The radio as my only real lifeline of a relationship was a super interesting touch.

The travel time got a bit tedious sometimes, but overall the game did a pretty good job at not making me waste a bunch of time moving around. When it did, it felt like it was because there was dialog it wanted to deliver.

Ending felt a little unsatisfying. Solved the mystery, but it wasn’t all that deep, and there wasn’t much resolution. Kind of just back to where I started. Not sure how the game really ties in to the story about the wife. Feels like two totally separate things.

I liked that the pictures I took showed up at the end in the credits.

I probably won’t but I’d be interested in playing through again and making significantly different decisions to see what changes.

In Velvet and Gold

Game: Omensight

Developer: Spearhead 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:

The voice acting was a little rough.

Collecting the gems while my npc buddy is just waiting on me feels a little silly – and the VO even calls it out. It doesn’t really satisy my exploration itch since it seems like the barrels and chests are just right there, it’s just a matter of taking the time to walk over to them.

It feels a little weird to be fighting on the opposite side of the war from the side I was fighting on in the first level – but maybe my goal of saving the world is bigger than the war.

I love the art.

The murder mystery story is already really compelling. I’m excited to figure out what happened.

I appreciate that the number of health pickups you need is dynamic when breaking barrels. It feels like the mechanic is there to get me back to 100% after every major fight without seeming wasteful. Although why not just refill my life and remove a somewhat unnecessary mechanic?

I really appreciate being able to “skip” to the major decision point.

I like the plot twists – thinking one character is good or bad, and then getting new information that changes your point of view.

I got to a point where going through the same areas is getting a little old, although having different allies and different goals is keeping it somewhat fresh. Probably saves a lot on environment building! There’s also something to be said about having mastery and intimate knowledge of an area – and having the ability to unlock more secret areas on successive times is cool.

It’s hilarious that the allies make fun of you for smashing barrels or rolling around. I love it when games are self aware.

I really like Ratika and the musical aspect of her character.

The big clue UI is pretty cool. The game keeps telling me to go there. But I don’t feel like it’s really affecting my decisions. I’m kind of just picking what sounds cool when deciding who to join up with next.

Towards the end of the game (I think?) some of the play sessions before going back to the Nexus are just too long. I like to always end the night back there, but sometimes it’s over a half hour before that happens.

The difficulty is a bit inconsistent. There are areas (like when preventing the rats from blowing up the big siege machine with Indrik) that feel much harder than anything else.

The last level was great. Not having a weapon for a bit was a cool departure. Then having a weapon that can obliterate the mobs I’ve been fighting the whole time was great.

The boss fights on the last level were a little bland. The difficulty felt right but they didn’t feel like anything special. Felt kind of derivative of earlier fights.

The ending was kind of a bummer. I wonder if there are better endings.