PC Gamer Confessions

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I read an article at PC Gamer quite a while back (actually it’s from October 2015) about gaming confessions. They talked about being opinionated; about having pet peeves and quirks.

During the years of completing now around 500 games (mostly on PC) I have of course maintained my own internal list of these. So why not steal this idea and try it out for myself? I guess it’s time to let it all out.

If you’re been looking for post where you’ll see really questionable opinions, this will be it. I’m sure there’s going to be a few oddities below that will make almost anyone’s head spin.

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.

Screenshot

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: Pretty Pictures, Part 4

Here’s a gallery of 18 HUD-less screenshots I saved while playing Blood and Wine – the last expansion pack for The Witcher 3. They are all from the new zone called Toussaint.

There should be virtually no spoilers in these screenshots – it’s mostly just Geralt and nature.

UPDATE: Since the creation of this blog post I’ve finished the expansion, saving another batch of HUD-less screenshots. I’ve overhauled the gallery with better screenshots – only four of the original ones remain.

I’ve used a Jetpack plug-in for WordPress to show the gallery in a nicely tiled manner. If you’re reading this in an RSS feed, open the blog post in a new tab in order to browse the screenshots in a viewer.

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.

Screenshot

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: Pretty Pictures, Part 3

Here’s a gallery of 14 HUD-less screenshots I saved while playing Hearts of Stone – the first expansion pack for The Witcher 3. Most of them are from the upper right corner of Velen as well as Oxenfurt.

There should be virtually no spoilers in these screenshots – it’s mostly just Geralt and nature.

I’ve used a Jetpack plug-in for WordPress to show the gallery in a nicely tiled manner. If you’re reading this in an RSS feed, open the blog post in a new tab in order to browse the screenshots in a viewer.

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.

Screenshot
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.

Botanicula

Developer: Amanita Design | Released: 2012 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

I absolutely loved this one. Irresistibly cute and easy on both ears and eyes. Made by the creators of the Samorost series and Machinarium, I controlled a small team of five weird inhabitants of a tree culture, walking along branches to solve puzzles or collect items for a broader purpose. The game is filled to the brim with hilarious animals animated in an even more hilarious manner, and the sound effects performed by humans match perfectly.

Each of the half dozen of levels consists of a large number of flip screens to traverse. Some of the screens just have weird creatures to interact with for entertainment, others would eventually reward me with an important item or open up a new passage. Pointing and clicking is not the only thing, I also had to nudge floating or swaying items. Sometimes I even had to choose one of my team members for a specific task. Everything is shown with animations or signs, there is no language involved in the gameplay.

The game generally felt easier than Machinarium, but some of the later levels had quite a few screens or items to collect, such as 14 chickens from small huts all over. The penultimate level contains a staggering amount of screens, so many that the developers felt it necessary to put helpful icons on each exit. There was a leaf in my inventory that functioned as sort of a map, but I didn’t find it necessary to refer to it.

Without spoiling too much, I only controlled one of five in the last level of darkness. There was one section here that kind of simulated a shoot’em up by alternating clicks on a floating character versus incoming enemy icons, but it wasn’t difficult. Not a lot of dexterity was required to get through this game.

It took me about four hours to get complete it. I got 104 out of 123 cards and 42 out of 53 achievements. Fraps wouldn’t grab any screenshots as it was essentially a Flash game.

Version: Steam | Length: ~4 hours

Spate

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Developer: Ayyo Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

Another Saturday, another shorty. This one lasted barely two hours and turned out to be one of those art games with more mood and style than gameplay. It was constantly raining hard, the grass was waving, and the 3D engine added multiple layers of surrealistic shapes. I was controlling an alcoholic detective yearning for his lost daughter, and he was narrating both this story as well as various findings on my way.

There are several good things to be said about balancing tough challenges with streaks of nothing to gear down, but this game felt like it was overdoing it a lot. The game was for the most part easy and only offered more or less dexterous jump puzzles. Sometimes a cannon had to shoot a seesaw to get it in position or I could fly a small airship for a while, pressing one button to thrust it upwards past the saw blades.

But then as a sequence of this was done, our hero was merely wandering along for minutes and minutes, no jumps, no nothing. Maybe a very long bridge or past a small town. This is typically where he started narrating a lot about his miserable past and how he deserved his fate. These passages were so long that it made the game feel like part platformer, part walking simulator. It was too much of a good thing.

The Witcher 3: Pretty Pictures, Part 2

Check out the this gallery with the second half of more than 50 HUD-less screenshots from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This part contains screenshots from Kaer Morhen, Velen, and various islands in Skellige.

There should be virtually no spoilers in these screenshots – it’s mostly just Geralt and nature.

I’ve used a Jetpack plug-in for WordPress to show the gallery in a nicely tiled manner. If you’re reading this in an RSS feed, open the blog post in a new tab in order to browse the screenshots in a viewer.

Check out part 1 for the first half of the gallery.

The Gravity Gun, 45 Years Prior to Half-Life 2

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When Half-Life 2 was released in 2004, everyone was taken aback by the marvelous gravity gun – a beam weapon that could pick up and throw objects. It paved the way for a lot of awesomeness. Enemies could be defeated in entirely new ways and puzzles could be solved by stacking or moving stuff around.

In fact, the gravity gun was so ingenious that it has since been copied by many other video games. One of my personal favorites is Rochard from 2011, a side-scrolling platformer with an emphasis on puzzle solving. I have also seen similar gravity manipulators in e.g. Dead Space, Doom 3, and Singularity.

But did you know that Valve didn’t actually invent the gravity gun? To be absolutely fair, the honor of envisioning it should really go to the Belgian comics artist André Franquin – more than 40 years before Half-Life 2 was even conceived. Just take a look at this:

Spirou and Fantasio: The Prisoner of the Buddha