Diary Games: The Beginning of the Millennium

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This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the many games I played from 2000 and onwards, translated and adapted from Danish.

In fact, this is the very first one with the first play sessions in 2000. As is the case with so many hobbies just like this one, it started in a casual manner and only gradually became more serious. It wasn’t like hitting a switch and suddenly I was writing hundreds of lines in each session.

I started writing diaries about my life in 1996 and have kept it up since then. Games were rarely mentioned as something I played one evening. I wasn’t really into gaming until I had sort of an epiphany with Gunman Chronicles, as you can read here below. In the end of the 90’s, it was mostly about coding and composing. I did complete Rama, Sanitarium and the first three Tomb Raider games in the end of the 90’s, but their sessions were sometimes months apart and the comments very brief.

Although better for the following ten games, the descriptions are still plain and the details few. However, it gets a lot more interesting in later blog posts as I dig deeper into my diaries. Later I also started grabbing my own screenshots, but for this blog post they are all courtesy of MobyGames.

Alien: Isolation

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Developer: The Creative Assembly | Released: 2014 | Genre: FPS, Horror

As a first person horror action/adventure, this game was quite true to the first movie and really managed to exude the same atmosphere. Especially the prefabs and corridors were an amazingly close call. In the beginning it also felt like a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, in part because of the ominous graffiti on the walls. And it was quite a looker. Lots of details, all high resolution textures, and a solid lighting style with small whiffs of smoke here and there.

The gameplay was mostly sneaking around, avoiding androids or the alien using various tools for opening doors and a bit of crafting for e.g. creating distracting bombs and health syringes. I could hide inside lockers or crawl through vents. Weapons were weak and ammunition sparse, and most of it would barely scare away the alien anyway. The androids in the game were also tough bullet sponges. Fighting one felt just as absurd as when Ripley fought Ash in the movie, just as it should be.

The levels were quite linear to begin with, but the later areas got bigger and with adjoining corridors. If the area felt particularly open with lots of options for moving around, chances were that the alien would be tagging along there as well. There was also a lot of backtracking, either to get back to a hub (such as the tram stations) or to open previously blocked doors with newly acquired hacking or cutting tools.

But it’s true what they all say – it was way too long (a whopping 19 missions) and sometimes relentless. I heard the rumors and prudently selected one of the lower difficulty levels, but still. There were actually a lot of levels where the alien wasn’t even present, but when it was, it felt like it was tethered to me. Sort of like if it could sense my aura and know not to go too far away.

Fallout 4: Part 4

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Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, First Person

After some random exploration, various side quests and most of the quest line for the Minutemen, I have finally decided that I’ve seen what I want to see of the vanilla version of Fallout 4. Maybe I’ll be back for some DLC later. I got to level 55, with 264 locations discovered and 108 quests completed. I maximized hacking and lockpicking relatively early and kept to mostly using single shot rifles, sometimes assisted by an automatic rifle with explosive bullets whenever I had ammunition for it.

The game generally had a bit too much street fighting for my liking. There were hardly any place I could go in the world where a gun fight wasn’t taking place somewhere in the distance. It often sounded like New Year’s Eve. Brotherhood of Steel was also quite aggressive and often had a Vertibird or two flying around. Hey, we have a skirmish over here, come on over and help us out! Sometimes it spiced up the action and was fun to take part of, but as said before, I still think they overdid it. There were situations where I just wanted to do a quest and was constantly pestered with skirmishes on the way.

By the way, I have a weird tip for you in case you’re bored watching loading screens. You can rotate the model by holding down the left mouse button and then move the mouse around. You can also toggle the green soda filter by hitting the V.A.T.S. button. I wonder if there’s more that can be controlled like this on the loading screen? It’s important.

Fallout 4: Part 3

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Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, First Person

I’ve completed the main quest and a bunch of side quests as well, and have reached level 43. I’m far from having completed the game though, as there’s still a ton of spots I’ve never visited on the map. Knowing Bethesda, there’s bound to be a lot of side quests I haven’t seen yet. As an indication of this, I’ve only found half a dozen companions so far and I know there are a lot more. That being said, I actually played solo for a while after having maximized Piper’s and Nick’s devotion. I don’t know, I guess I can’t ever shake the desire to be a lone wolf in games like these. I like not being dependent on anyone else than myself.

That sounds awfully familiar, actually.

My main weapon focus has been on rifles. I maximized the perk for rifles, and I currently have a legendary combat rifle on the first slot plus a legendary shotgun on the second. The shotgun does awesome damage but also have a ginormous recoil as part of the legendary attributes, which probably explains why I can’t mod it away. I also made a Gauss rifle my first sniper choice. A long scope, warming up the shot, and then holding my breath for a precise shot – not a lot of enemies can survive a direct hit from that. And finally, I have a missile launcher for when the enemies get too close to each other.

Fallout 4: Part 2

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Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, First Person

I’m now level 27 and close to completing the main quest of the game. After a lot of random exploration I decided I wanted to see some quest action, so I went down to Diamond City, got myself a bunch of quests, and started following their chains. If there was still a samey feeling of going through the motions, the fresh quests along with getting to know the companions helped a lot to keep this at bay. Some of the quests even have better writing or humor than I expected.

Given how much the quests spiced up the game for me, I’ll have to say that it’s a shame there are so few of them in the beginning for my type of player. I didn’t want to bother with the settlement crafting quests offered for Sanctuary Hills, and then it was only when I reached as far down as Diamond City that it felt like I finally had a nice palette of quests to work on.

The companions have been upgraded a lot compared to all previous games made by Bethesda. They’re no longer boring automatons just for extra firepower or junk storage. They comment on a lot of stuff, even small things like me picking something up. They sit down for a drink while I sniff around in drawers and desks. At my home they will use the crafting tables that I’m not currently using myself. They like or dislike my moral actions to quest dialog choices. And if they like you well enough, they will offer you a personal quest. There’s no doubt in my mind that BioWare has been subject to a lot of scrutinizing here, but it’s also one of the areas that I approve of the most. It adds a great layer of immersion and maybe it also makes me want to try out more companions.

Fallout 4: Part 1

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Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, First Person

I’ve played almost 8 hours now. My first impression of it is that it somehow feels like Fallout 3: Remastered. True, the graphics are much better (especially the lighting) and there are some new elements such as the settlement crafting – but turn a corner, and you’ll find the same hacking and lockpicking mini games, even some of the same posters and radio songs. It has been refined in many areas, but it also disappoints by still offering a crap UI that Bethesda should have been able to improve upon ages ago.

Still, it’s hard to not get caught up by the magnificent open world atmosphere and the way it pulls you in, wanting to explore the seemingly desolate buildings. I loved Fallout 3 for the very same reason and it feels like Fallout 4 will deliver in spades as well. But will it turn into too much familiarity; “been there, done that” at a later point? Maybe. The danger is certainly there. Both feelings are dragging me from opposite directions. It will be interesting to see which one of them wins.

SiN Episodes: Emergence

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Developer: Ritual Entertainment | Released: 2006 | Genre: FPS

I didn’t really like this one all that much. Although I’m fully aware that I played it 9 years too late, it still felt somewhat uninspired. I played the original SiN and its expansion pack back in 2002 – didn’t John Blade used to come with snappy wisecracks? In the less then 3 hours it took me to complete the game, I think he barely said 10 confirming words. The level design was the typical oldskool linear style where the level itself sort of tangled into itself. That corridor or the room I barely saw past that fence or through that window earlier? I knew that eventually I was going to be there in 10 or 20 minutes.

Screenshot

The worst part was the difficulty, though. It was not only rock hard, it was extremely punishing. I was never a fantastic FPS player, but this game certainly made me feel like the worst of beginners. The type of FPS where the enemies always hit you perfectly and drain a good chunk of health each time. Later, bad ass bullet sponge armor soldiers popped up with miniguns, just as I thought it couldn’t get much worse. About halfway through I had enough of that nonsense and turned on GOD mode. It’s funny, because the game did have two of the most intricate difficulty selectors I have ever seen.

Screenshot

Singularity

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Developer: Raven Software | Released: 2010 | Genre: FPS

I’ll try to change the format a bit starting with this review. There will be a short summary in the beginning followed by two lists of minutia – one safe to read, and another with the usual spoiler-ridden stuff. Everything will also be in past tense. To be honest, I’ve never been comfortable with writing a “real” review and I’m trying to figure out how to put my own personal touch to these gaming posts.

After arriving in a crashed helicopter on a Russian island, this FPS felt a lot like BioShock with movie projectors, big statues, and the same level of dilapidation and dread. It didn’t last long before this feeling crossfaded into solid Half-Life 2 vibes instead. After completing it, that’s what I think the developers really wanted it to be. There was even the athletic girl saving your ass and the old scientist that you visit in his own laboratory. Add to this time travel, weird weapons with unique powers, a blatant copy of the gravity gun from said game, enemy soldiers mixed with zombie-style monsters, and self-opening shop lockers. In the first half, I often found myself completely out of ammo for my starter gun. But the good thing about the game was the way it added new powers and weapons a good once in a while, thereby often changing the way I played it. In the last half of the game, I had no problems defending myself anymore.