ABZÛ

Completed this one yesterday. It was short – just shy of two hours.

It was a marvelous underwater diving adventure, swimming among fish, whales, squids, jellyfish – all the ocean can offer, and lots of it. I was often more or less engulfed in an explosion of color and life. It was also very easy. If it didn’t happen 99% underwater, many might call it a walking simulator.

Apart from exploring the oceanic areas, I could free small bots that could later help me remove an organic net to a passage. I could click on ocean floor pools to free a specific species, or collect shells. Even meditate on a statue. The only action marginally resembling using my brain was that some areas needed me to use two gadgets to open a door. Typically spinning chains attached to each side.

Sometimes I could also hang onto a larger creature for a bit of speed (usually wasn’t much of an advantage) or hit schools of fish in the flow of a tunnel. These tunnels popped up between areas from time to time.

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One thing that surprised me a little was that it actually had a shred of a story and purpose. It wasn’t just an ocean floor simulator. I found portals leading to a ghost temple where offering a light sphere grew a coral stalk and opened a door, I started encountering mechanical triangle structures, and I even befriended a big white shark. It was all subtle and fit in well with the rest of the game.

Except perhaps the exploding triangle mines. I could have done without those.

Apart from the nature of our hero – which I won’t spoil here – probably the biggest surprise in the entire game was that I could get up and walk around in temples toward the end of the game. Not much – typically just to activate something and then back into the water. But still. Didn’t expect that one.

The music was absolutely flawless. Symphonic and often with choirs. Sometimes the strings reminded me of old Tomb Raider games, at other times I thought of the adventurous encounters in The Abyss.

I completed it using a mouse and keyboard. Sometimes I fumbled up and down, but otherwise it was fine.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
ABZÛ
2016 Giant Squid1h 52m 1
2018-12-08
2018-12-08
9

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Closure

Played a few hours of this one.

It’s a colorless puzzle platform where only stuff being lit has substance. Darkness means falling and dying. The goal is simple – reach a door somewhere else, and sometimes bring a key to unlock it too. To help me out with lighting I can bring light orbs, place them in pedestals that sometimes move the orb somewhere else, turn hinged spotlights to shine elsewhere, and more. No enemies to dodge.

And sometimes I had to swim through water, but no oxygen was required.

After a brief tutorial with a four-legged creature, I came to sort of a hub with a choice between 3 x 24 doors with levels. Some static, some bigger and thus scrolling when needed. For each hub, the creature turns into someone else. One looks like a miner, one a woman, and one a small girl that even starts out in her room in a house. Music was much better than I expected – no chiptune stuff here.

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I had trouble running it in 3840×2160. It showed a quarter of the screen with menu controls out of reach and I had to edit a configuration file to fix it. I then settled with a resolution of 2560×1440.

Most of the levels were reasonably easy and could be completed in a minute while some had me stumped for a few minutes. The game had a creepy atmosphere and I was constantly afraid of exploring with a light orb and suddenly falling. Hitting a lower level never meant death (no matter how far down) but falling into the black abyss meant retrying. It was also possible to lose a key or a barrel, forcing me to restart.

One thing I thought was very cute – definitely the charming gimmick about the game – was the way I could walk or stand on wall structures that were only partly lit. Because the continuation of the wall piece was in darkness, it didn’t exist and I could pass through. It took some getting used to, especially when having to follow an orb transitioning to somewhere else.

I never found out what the clock I sometimes found meant.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
Closure
2012 Eyebrow Interactive

8h

2

2018-12-05
2018-12-06
8

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

Consortium

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This was an FPS+ on a big plane promising to be somewhat akin to Deus Ex, with multiple paths and dialog choices. I pledged $20 for its failed Kickstarter back when it was announced in 2014.

It turned out to be sort of a virtual reality game where I inhabited the body of a soldier on a hi-tech plane in the future, already flying high above the ground. Everything took place on this plane and it took me just over 4 hours to play through it, making it feel like a DLC for another game. In truth, the game is to be construed as an intro for a trilogy of games – the next one taking place around a big tower.

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But truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’ll stop after this introduction as there were quite a number of things I didn’t like about it. The ironic thing is, bugs are actually not on that list. Playing this game so many years later means patches must have ironed out most of them.

Anomaly 1729

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This was a third person puzzle game with inspiration from games such as Portal and Fez. At times it also felt like a distant sibling to Tron 2.0. I controlled a robot finding my way through chambers of blocks. A hub area filled with blocks led to secluded chambers where I had to puzzle my way to an exit door.

There were three major areas in the game, each concentrated around a hub. The first was dominantly blue with square or rectangular blocks. The second was more cyan with pentagon blocks. And finally the third was blood red, surrounding a big structure with ability-draining fields that had to be turned off.

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The robot could shoot orange or blue energy from each hand (mouse buttons) and jump on the blocks. Red jump pads boosted me away or blue gravity wells sucked me in, and their type could be switched with a shot. Later, blocks and platforms also floated on beams. Platforms of this kind had a certain pattern they went through, while the blocks could be started and stopped with a shot. Smoldering platforms were also used although thankfully sparingly, as they disappeared in seconds and always made me frantic.

Inside

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Spoiler warning! I will pretend that you have already played the game.

This game was so permeated in atmosphere it was almost dripping from it, but it also helped that it was the very first game I played on my new 32″ Acer Predator XB321HK monitor, and in 4K of course.

It was very similar to Limbo, the previous game by the same developer. So much so that it almost felt like Limbo II. Again it was a platform puzzle game mostly scrolling to the left, and again I sometimes had to run for my life from evil men in a story without a beginning. It even started in exactly the same way – here’s the kid; now go. No backstory or tutorial for you.

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Where Limbo was almost all black and white, Inside had a very faint use of color. The kid in my control was wonderfully animated, especially considering that he didn’t have a face. Music was rare. Most of the time it was a humming ambient sound to complete the feeling of an amazing atmosphere. And the controls were incredibly sparse. Move, jump and interact. Sometimes interacting in a direction.

Papo & Yo

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This third person adventure game was completed in less than four hours, but somehow it felt a little longer than that. It was for the most part easy but also charming, and with many original puzzle ideas. The closest thing I can find to compare it with is the American McGee’s Alice series, only without the combat. It had the same level of surrealism and also felt like it could maybe sort of fit into that universe somehow.

The game touches upon a light story of the small kid Quico and his alcoholic father in a few brief cutscenes, but by far most of the game is spent solving puzzles in arena after arena with metaphorical substitutes. In the beginning there’s another kid that teases you, and it doesn’t take long before you get the small robot Lula on your back as a jet to make double jumps possible. Lula can also be asked to fly over and activate a circle by clicking the right mouse button.

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A general style of puzzle design is that white chalk lines means interactive stuff. Animated cogwheels drawn on walls can be clicked to make a building walk to a different place so you can jump across roofs. Handles can be pushed or pulled to tip over a stack of buildings into a “snake” you can run across. Keys can be turned to open up a passage, typically by walls and buildings being lifted away.

The Witcher 3: Leftovers

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2016 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

I completed the main story of The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine (the second expansion pack) in the end of December 2016 and wrote a blog post about it, but I still had a few question marks and secondary quests to finish off and I did so in January. I must say that some of these secondary quests were really funny and absolutely worth completing. I’ll get into detail about some of them in the spoiler section below.

It also turned out that there were a few additions to the game that I had not discovered yet in my previous blog post. One was the “Hanse” bases – unique map icons of fortified castles or caves swarming with bandits. Clearing these out could be challenging, especially if some of the bandits managed to light signal fires to call upon reinforcements. A base cleared out would be followed up by a short cutscene of soldiers taking over the place. Bandits in the surrounding areas would then have dispersed.

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Another change was that clearing out a town had a different cutscene. In the vanilla game, villagers would immediately walk in and settle down. Now Geralt started meditating instead, a timelapse of a day passing by was shown, and as Geralt came back to his senses, villagers were now living and working there. It made sense that the developers wanted to make this change. The previous cutscene felt like the villagers were just outside the combat area, waiting for Geralt to finish off the monsters.

“Great, he killed them – let’s go!”

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2016 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

I had a vacation between Christmas and New Year and I managed to complete the main story of the second and last expansion pack. I was invited to a new zone by a couple of noble knights in shining armor. The new zone had a different color palette, more vibrant and saturated, and the buildings looked like something from the southern part of Europe. But to be honest it didn’t really feel all that different. The dungeons, the caves and even the big town felt like it could just as easily have been part of the main game.

At least the people there were much friendlier towards Geralt. No more spitting as I passed by.

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The second expansion followed the trend of a harder difficulty that the first expansion introduced. I was particularly miffed at the spewing plant monsters that spawned around a monster area, confusing me with bubbling pods and forcing me to run around all over the place. Sometimes I avoided a spot in the distance because I could see those pesky plants warming up for a fight. Some of the vampire enemies, especially the naked ladies, were also a bit too tough for my liking.

The Witcher 3: Hearts of Stone

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

It took me almost 17 hours to get through the first expansion pack – main quest, secondary quests, treasure hunts, question marks and all. Again the writing of the story and quests was of a very high quality, and there was a lot of both awe and humor to behold. If anything, some of the tasks fulfilling the three wishes of Olgierd von Everec were quite arduous and that actually held me back a few times.

“Should I play some more today? Urggh, that wedding/heist… I think I’ll watch some Netflix instead.”

I was also slightly disappointed at the generally higher difficulty. The last half of the vanilla game had lulled me into a great feeling of superiority, defeating monsters with ease, but in this expansion pack I constantly had to be on my toes. I reckon most players like that, but I’ve always liked having it a little easier. And it was not just the bosses. A giant toad and a mage with crazy tornado skills were tough, but as bosses that was kind of expected. The new enemies like boars and spiders ran all over the place and it was hard to get close to them without using freezing bombs. Even old vanilla enemies were not easily defeated.

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Geralt of Rivia, Gaunter O’Dimm and Olgierd von Everec – the three main characters of the expansion.

There was also a new “temporary” love interest in the expansion in the form of the red-headed medic Shani, which unfortunately I couldn’t remember at all from the previous games. She reminded me a whole lot of a younger version of Catherine Willows in CSI.

The Witcher 3: Part 1

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Developer: CD Projekt RED | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Third Person

This may very well be the prettiest game I’ve ever played so far. The texture detail is really out of this world. The faces of the 3D models are extremely detailed, with stubble, pimples and birthmarks accompanied by realistic facial animation that fits the lines of dialog well. The clothes really look like clothes, whether it’s dry or wet from rain – it’s almost like I can feel its volume at times.

Graphically, this game sure is a feast for your eyes.

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But as is typically me with big and complicated RPG these years, it didn’t actually grab me until the third session or so. It felt too overwhelming to begin with. Tons of screens, skills, inventory tabs, a tutorial that frequently paused the action, and words on the internet about enormous maps with a never-ending amount of question marks to find and reveal. I persevered because I knew it would be like this for me in the beginning and it turned out to be the wise thing to do.

Eventually it finally managed to grab me because of how meticulously it was designed. Although I didn’t agree with all of the gameplay mechanics, it was clear that the developers really tried to do their very best in many areas. If one part of the gameplay made me frown a bit, five other things made me grin like a child being offered an ice cream that needs to be held with two hands.

Especially the side quests have been really impressive so far. So many RPG pile this up with quests about acquiring ten bear asses, but in The Witcher 3 they are almost all interesting and varied, with lots of dialog and often a bit of detective work. Borrowing from games such as Rocksteady’s Batman series, I can turn on my Witcher senses (a fish eye effect then occurs) to spot evidence in red, examine it with comments, then perhaps following a red trail of footprints or a thread of smell meandering through the air. Surprisingly many side quests have this part built into them and it’s a nice digression from smacking monsters.