This Week I Played Colony Survival (and Learned about Motion Sickness)

Have you ever played Minecraft? I certainly have. I always wanted more out of the village mechanic. It seemed like if you found a village in Minecraft best thing to do was build far away from it so the villagers didn’t get killed by the hordes of zombies your mere presence causes. Colony Survival takes this approach to a whole new level. What if instead of hiding from the villagers you had to build their village, and defend it from the hordes of undead that result from your mere presence? This is the question Colony Survival asks of you.

Like Minecraft, Colony Survival is a game about one-meter cubes and carefully organizing them. Unlike Minecraft, the goal of your organization is to create a thriving colony rather than amassing a huge number of resources for a limited number of people. The cubes in Colony Survival go for a more realistic texture approach than Minecraft, as much as everything being cubes allows for that is. Although this falls a little flat. At first, the cubes are cute, in a novel way. Sadly this novelty does not last long. The cubes have seemingly computer-generated texturing that up close looks like a weird distorted mess. This mess quickly becomes off-putting.

The lighting is a little harsh.

At the time of writing, I would like to note that Colony Survival is in Early Access. My experience is certainly not meant to be taken as what the final game will be. When learning about Colony Survival it sounded like an ambitious game. In practice, it needs a lot of work, even for an early access game.

The biggest issue with Colony Survival is that your biggest threat is Zombies. The solution is of course building walls that funnel them into kill boxes, which is fine but don’t expect your builds to make any sense since you’ll need to use those same routes to leave your colony. Fundamentally this is a bit of a game-breaker. Your colony is expected to be more or less self-sufficient within its walls. The zombies aren’t a huge threat. The two ideas seem disjointed. Colony Survival is neither a colony management game, nor is it a zombie survival game.

In colony management games (I’m thinking of the Anno series or Banished) most of the game is balancing the gathering of resources with their consumption. Some resources require careful planning as they are somewhat limited or contested by other players. Colony Survival has no other players, and all resources are seemingly infinite.

Zombie survival games work because the player can’t be safe. You need to go out into the dangerous world (I’m thinking of games like Dying Light). In Colony Survival, nobody leaves the Colony. The idea of a city builder that is also a zombie survival game only works if the city needs something they have to fight the zombies for. In the time I played the game that never happened.

Attention colonists: strict neck rationing is now in effect.

I must confess, I did not play the game long. I try to play the games in review here multiple times throughout the week before writing about them. Colony Survival is the first game to give me motion sickness. I had to stop playing after merely a few hours, and can’t stomach looking at the game since.

Video game induced motion sickness was something I had never experienced before playing Colony Survival. Unable to play more of it, I decided to research video game induced motion sickness. I learned a few neat things. First, it has to do with your eyes viewing motion that would indicate your body should be moving, but without your sense of equilibrium engaged this can be confusing to the game. Games with multiple types of motion exacerbate this.

In video games when the perspective of the player moves this is one type of movement. When the second type of movement, such as head or weapon bobbing is added this can create a disorienting effect. This is why many games with head bob allow it to be enabled or disabled. Field of view can also be expanded to allow for smoother transitions at the edge of the player’s vision. Personally, I wonder if screen size has something to do with it as well. While movement and vision are the cause of motion sickness, why does it exist? As always the answer is in the brain.

There are a few theories as to why the brain causes a person to become nauseous when perceived motion does not match experienced motion. As I am not a medical expert I don’t know which theories hold up to scrutiny or not. I will say that my favorite theory is that the brain interprets the movement as a hallucination and tries to induce vomiting to expel and consumed hallucinogens. Which is kind of awesome if you think about it. If you want to learn more about video game motion sickness I found this article on Lifewire to be very informative.

My eyes do not like this. This image is not a crop that mess is me climbing a hill while walking past a tree.

For Colony Survival, my motion sickness may be due to the choppy nature of the world and weird light reflection of all the surfaces. This is even more jarring to the brain than Minecraft because of how unnatural and fuzzy all the textures are.

Motion sickness aside though, Colony Survival was not fun for me. I could not get into it. I found its mechanics too disjointed and the early game too slow. In building games, I need to be able to make visible progress in modest amounts of time. I was not able to do this in Colony Survival. That being said, the friend who I played with managed to pump 20 hours into the game over a few days. So maybe it is just me. In any case, I will not be going back to my little colony. They will only have the pile of sick I left on the road to remember me by.

I received Colony Survival as part of the Jingle Jam charity pack. I would highly recommend this pack as a way to pick up a lot of games for a reasonable price while supporting several deserving charities.

This Week I Played Teardown

Do you ever just want to take a hammer to a wall? Is the only thing stopping you knowing that you’re either going to have to fix it yourself, you’ll lose your security deposit, or that you’ll go to jail? Well, Teardown solves those problems and fills that need (Although you might still go to jail).

Teardown is a voxel-based destruct-em-up that is currently in Early Access on Steam. In essence, Teardown is a heist game with a level of sheer destruction that eclipses the Red Faction series. The player has to fulfill a set of objects for your clients. At first, these objectives are easy enough, knock over a building, drop a safe into the sea. Later the missions get harder and harder. You’ll have to steal paintings wired to alarms, drive cars around race tracks, and throw a different set of safes into the sea.


There are two primary mechanics in Teardown, breaking things and running. In most levels, once you’ve done one of your objectives you have a minute to finish the rest of them before the police show up and lock you up. This makes the game more about careful planning and less about random destruction.

The strategy I tend to apply to levels is to draw a loop that touches all of the required objectives, and as many secondary objectives as I can manage. Then it’s a matter of drawing as straight of lines as possible between those objectives as I can. And that is a total blast, literally.

Making your efficient path through the level involves bombs, guns, rockets, and your trusty sledgehammer. It is so satisfying to carefully make a bridge by dropping a third-floor balcony between two buildings or ramping a car off some stairs to lodge it into a building. Perhaps most satisfying of all is just running a payloader straight through a building just because. Doing these things alone in the sandbox mode is worth the price of admission. The timed insanity of the campaign is beyond perfect as well.

Omm nom nom

As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock new locations and weapons. You start with a hammer, a blowtorch, and a fire extinguisher. Then you’ll unlock a shotgun, pipe bombs, regular bombs. There will probably be even more items added down the road. On top of that, all the locations you unlock can be visited any time in sandbox mode. In sandbox mode, you don’t have to worry about things like ammunition or alarms. Have at it.

It’s hard to write about Teardown. You honestly have to experience it. The game has near limitless replayability. You have total freedom to do whatever you want however you want to. There really is no limit. There is also the ability to add your own levels. The game is still new at this point, but there are already a lot of creators out there creating awesome levels.

Amazingly, such a creative game is fundamentally about destruction. Even more amazing is that Teardown started as creator Dennis Gustafsson playing with voxel rendering and physics. He outlines on his blog part of the creative process that went into the game and it is a great read. In short though if you’re a tech nerd, Teardown has your back. Microsoft has been touting ray tracing coming in Minecraft. Friends, Teardown already has it.

Truck go brrrr

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some things that are frustrating with the game. There are times where even a decently appointed computer is going to get bogged down but the physics simulation. This is because as I mentioned the game started life as a technology test. I have no doubt this will get smoothed out as the game progresses through early access. But it is worth noting. This doesn’t affect gameplay too much. You’re rarely knocking things down while alarms are going off. Which is a small mercy.

Presently Teardown is available for twenty dollars on Steam. I have a rule about not giving hard recommendations to games in Early Access. With that said, Teardown is a fun and entertaining game. You can pick up and set down Teardown easily.

If you want to know more, I suggest you follow the creator on Twitter or check out the blog linked above. If you are the kind of person who has no qualms about buying early access games, then give this one a go. Those buildings won’t Teardown themselves.

This Week I Played Freedom Fighters

In 2003 I was a baby child who had just got the platinum GameCube for Christmas. One of the first games I got for it was Freedom Fighters. It is now 2020. I have once purchased Freedom Fighters. Earlier this week, on September 21st, nearly seventeen years after its initial release IO Interactive has re-released Freedom Fighters. This game, since I first played it, has been in my top ten list. I am glad to finally own it on PC.

Freedom Fighters imagines an alternate history. In 1945 the Soviet Union brought a bloody end to the Second World War by dropping a nuclear bomb on Berlin. From that moment forward communism becomes the driving political/economic system on the globe. First spreading in Europe, followed by Southeast Asia, then South America, and finally North America. In 2003 the Soviets invade the United States and that is when the game begins.

Its hard to believe New York City had so few polys in 2003. Trust me, this is what it looked like.

The player controls Christopher Stone, a 32-year-old Brooklyn plumber who has a younger brother he works with. They end getting called to an apartment rented by a “Red Watch” journalist just as the invasion starts. The soviets bust in and arrest your younger brother believing him to be the boyfriend of said journalist. You escape capture by having the mad skills required to hide behind a door. The Soviets, having arrested a suspect, decide to call it lunch and don’t bother searching the rest of the apartment.

You quickly leave the apartment and find a man that goes by the name “Mr. Jones” in the hallway. He teaches you important skills like shooting, running, jumping. All the normal game things. And you begin your adventures as the rebellion hero known by the Soviets as “The Freedom Phantom”.

Maybe if you didn’t make my actions seem so badass people wouldn’t be lining up to fight beside me.

Freedom Fighters is ostensibly a third-person shooter. It has the familiar “over the shoulder” camera angle of many modern games. However, it was made in a time when shooters were more about resource management rather than tactical thinking. Because of this, you’ll find your ammunition is somewhat limited, and your health requires items to restore rather than just taking a moment to not get shot. These game-play decisions, while also extremely popular at the time, served to force the player to rely on the game’s unique core mechanic, charisma.

Charisma is what the game calls experience points. There is one use for them and that is to recruit more fighters to follow you into battle. As you complete objectives or help the civilians of New York you’ll gain charisma and be able to recruit more followers. This continues until you have a maximum of 12 fighters following your orders.

You all go ahead. I’ll cover you from here with the machine gun.

Since Freedom Fighters is primarily an action shooter, the tactical commands are limited but powerful. There are three orders you can give: attack, defend, and follow. These three orders are all you need because your fighters are pretty smart.

The simplest and most used command is the “follow” command. With this command, one or more of your team will follow close behind you. From there they will shoot at any enemy that gets close enough to you but they won’t pursue them if your enemies retreat. This command is best used if you’re wanting to take the lead in the charge. Having all your fighters following you can become cumbersome when your squad of fighters is big. This is what the defend command is for.

Defending in Freedom Fighters is a bit of a misnomer. In a game about being a resistance fighter in an occupied city, you rarely are defending. Most of your actions are quick hits or sieges. The game doesn’t really throw waves of Soviet soldiers at you. Because of this, the defend command is more of a “stay” command. When told to stay, your fighters will take cover and spread out a little bit. In general, though, they’ll just hang out and maybe shoot anyone. They don’t get too rowdy. If you want rowdy order your squad to attack.

The attack command is somewhat insane. Issuing the command can be done against a particular enemy or an area. When issued the fighter, or fighters will charge forward firing at anything that gets between them and their target. What is most interesting about this command is they won’t charge stupidly. If they detect an enemy they won’t charge past. Instead, your fighters will deal with the initial threat before moving on. This can lead to unpredictable behavior. Once you get used to that behavior you can deploy groups of fighters to efficiently clear buildings while you deal while enemies elsewhere.

The enemies in Freedom Fighters are perhaps its greatest weirdness. The developers must have been working on the follower AI and kinda forgot to tune the enemy AI. Soviet soldiers will run around semi-randomly once a fight starts. In ways that make no sense in real life, but constantly puts enemies behind you. Maybe that is intentional as it sure makes for a challenge. Enemies will also take cover and engage your fighters. More often than not, while some of your enemies are shooting at you, the rest are jumping out a window. They won’t die from this. You’ll just run into a massive pile of enemies elsewhere in mission. This continues until you’ve gone through the whole level. Which means a climactic fight at the end. Which is usually pretty frantic.

The dreaded radial menu on PC.

As stated earlier, Freedom Fighters was first released in 2003. This newly released version is just that came recompiled for modern PCs. There have been no updates to the game-play. Because of that, some things in the game are rough by today’s standards. Go ahead and push that out of your mind. I am. I’m not going to judge Freedom Fighters by any standard beyond whether or not it is fun. Freedom Fighters is fun.

Any time or money you put into Freedom Fighters is worth it. Accept its limitations and have fun. There have been a lot of remasters and remakes lately, but a true re-release seems rare. While remasters tend to be hit or miss. A re-release of the original material presents the game just as it was. If you accept the game as it is, you’ll enjoy it. If it looks fun, have fun.

Freedom Fighters is available on GOG, Steam, and the Epic Games Store. For its first week, Freedom Fighters is on sale for $10. For that price, it’s definitely worth it.

This Week I Played Star Wars Battlefront 2 (the second one)

Friday before Labor Day I woke up to a glorious surprise. That surprise was that Star Wars Battlefront 2 was for sale on Steam for less than $15. I remember a huge amount of grumblings when the game first came out. I remember most of this being about how loot crates work. I wanted to just play the single-player.

Since its initial release in November 2017, Star Wars Battlefront 2 has had no shortage of trouble. Shortly after going public, it was embroiled in a legal battle over whether or not its absurd approach to loot boxes constituted online gambling. Since then, the game has had multiple large updates and some light overhauling after a lashing from Disney. When it was for sale, how could I pass it up?

Rey over looking a forested planet. Marketing image from DICE/EA
The maps do actually look this good.

As stated my interest in Battlefront is mostly for single player or LAN play. As a child, I would play hours of the conquest mode in the first Battlefront 2 (because screw naming) with my friends. We’d set the whole galactic map up and shoot at each other for hours. I was pretty certain that they hadn’t brought that mode back, but I was excited to see what they did have for a campaign mode. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found though.

I remember the campaign mode being advertised as focusing on an Imperial Commander who leads a special forces squadron. Which I can’t say I was excited for, because we all know how things work out for the empire, but Solo: A Star Wars Story showed us how grungy The Empire was. I welcomed a perspective from someone who might not have the opportunities the main characters of the movie have. Which is to say someone who isn’t in tune with the force, or is offered to join the rebellion like once every couple of minutes. I was looking for someone who was trapped. A person shoveling coal in a steamship has little choice of whether or not they’re going down with it. This is not what I got.

From this point on this post is going to get super spoilery. You’ve been warned.

The campaign in Star Wars Battlefront 2 follows an elite team of stormtroopers called Inferno Squadron. About 8 minutes into the campaign, the Death Star 2 goes kaboom and your character makes fun of the concept of hope, a whole bunch. Then a secondary character has a life-changing meeting with Jedi Master Luke “The Hand” Skywalker and catches a case of “the feelings”. When Admiral Your Character’s Dad tells you to help facilitate the destruction of your homeworld, that’s enough for you too and you go full rebellion. 

All of this is fine and it’s good to see people doing bad things realizing the errors of their ways, but we’ve already seen the story of a stormtrooper joining the light. But we have gotten that in a more nuanced way, especially if the game is to take place after The Emperor dies (or did he). Instead, we get a group of people who go full true believers in one thing to full true believers in another over a very short period of time and it feels entirely too much like the same Star Wars plot we’ve seen a few times now. Which is tolerable, I guess. because all the shooting parts are still fun. 

The battle of Jakku mission is far to short.

The blasters are weighty and nice. There is a certain franticness in the firefights that make them enjoyable. The starship battles, which are giant aerial deathmatches, are fun, exciting, and filled with delightful sound effects. Even if there are no longer soft “objectives” (such as destroying capital ships) during them, I think flying a Clone Wars era ARC 170 in the middle of a starship fight is its own reward. I haven’t been able to find a B-Wing though. You can fly the Millennium Falcon and several other hero ships. Although in my opinion, the heroes suck.

To its credit, flying the Millennium Falcon feels exactly as it should in my opinion. Which is to say you’re flying a cargo freighter in an aerial combat situation. So you constantly crash into everything and in general getting pantsed by starfighters designed for actual combat. Although in fairness the Falcon’s armaments are more designed for it to be a crew ship and Star Wars Battlefront 2 is pretty much an “every person for themselves” kind of affair. Other hero ships are more capable since most are powered up starfighters. The heroes themselves are rough though.

In Star Wars Battlefront 2 you have two basic types of heroes. Shooty heroes and laser sword heroes. Now the shooty heroes are like playing as normal infantry but you’re stuck in an over the shoulder camera in a game best played in first-person and you just shoot harder. The characters are really floaty and agile because I think they use the same movement as the laser sword heroes, which doesn’t work. The other problem is you’re stuck with sets of skills that would fit the characters archetypes in the lore of Star Wars, but kinda suck. Every time the game made me play as a shooty hero, I just wanted to go back to being infantry. Which was nothing compared to what the laser sword characters made me want to do.

Get ready to slam your body against mine in a display that isn’t as sexy or fun as that sounds.

The laser sword heroes suck, from a gameplay standpoint. They ruin the gameplay and made me want to stop playing altogether. They’re really floaty. The game gives them huge hit allowances on their abilities, otherwise, they wouldn’t ever be able to hit anything. They’re relatively slow considering nearly everyone you’re trying to kill has a blaster. When you run into another laser sword character, it feels exactly like when you played Star Wars with your younger sibling with your lego figurines (not Lego Star Wars, which is awesome). What I mean by this is that you’re just slamming your hero into the other hero until an arm falls off or the laser bit falls out of the handle.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 (the second one) has all the fun first-person laser blaster action that you would expect. If they had simply focused on the basics the game could have been amazing. Especially if they had found a way to make galactic conquest massively multiplayer. Not that I know how they could have done it.

All in all Star Wars Battlefront 2 is okay. It’s not the shiny golden past we’ve come from, but it’s miles better than the first remake.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) is available on just about everything and for sale just about anywhere. The game is currently in long-term support with no new planned content. If you’ve read this far, thank you. Please leave a comment about what you’d like to read about or if there is something you want me to make in your honor on my next cooking stream.

This Week I Played Overland

All you have to do to survive in Overland is keep moving. That is the one rule. While simple, following this rule is seemingly impossible at times. You may find yourself without fuel or supplies, but if you stay still you will die. Overland offers an uncompromising experience for the strategy game enthusiast. It will challenge you. Be prepared to fail many times before you find your rhythm. Just know you can succeed but there is a cost. You must determine the price you’re willing to pay. Are you ready?

Overland advertises itself as a game where you “take care of a group of travelers on a post-apocalyptic road trip” which is remarkably succinct. It has been the first survival game I’ve played set against a road trip that actually manages to live up to that promise. The single most important resource in Overland is fuel. You will find yourself taking many risks to find fuel. Remember though, what good is that full gas-can if the hands that hold it are dead though?

Gas stations are dangerous, which is why you should give your dog a knife.

The basic gameplay in overland will be familiar to anyone that plays strategy games. You start the game with one randomly generated character. They have two action points. Every action costs one action point. Moving, one action point. Attacking, one action point. Searching, one action point. You get the idea. Understanding this simple principle is key to enjoying Overland. My first few tries at the game fell apart because I did not understand the resources available to my characters. I also didn’t understand the characters themselves.

The game is presented over a series of uniquely generated stages each of which makes up a leg of the journey. These stages contain resources you’ll need for your journey. They may also contain companions you can recruit to keep the journey from being lonely, and extending your item storage. You start on the east coast, from there you move into the forest, then the grasslands, and so on as your journey to the west coast where safety is rumored to be. This is where overland starts to set itself apart from other strategy games. The stages themselves are small. You won’t spend much time on them. Your goal is to arrive, grab as much as you can carry and run. At the end of the leg of the journey, you’ll be taken to a special stage with something blocking the road and you have to clear it.

The closest thing Overland has to a metagame.

Developing a sense of what is important in a given stage and what can be left behind is key. You can’t just kill all the enemies and then loot the place. Killing enemies causes more to spawn. On any stage, your first priority should be fuel. If you can keep your fuel stocks high you won’t have to try to scavenge gas stations which can be some of the most difficult stages the game has to offer. Don’t take too great risks or your trip will come to a short end.

Overland is a game that you’ll need to try many times to make any real progress. The key to mastering it is paying attention. You’ll want to pay close attention to your enemies. How do they move? How do they attack? Some enemies have different amounts of action points compared to the characters you control. Learning how the enemies behave and learning how to use your characters will help you limit your risks.

This is fine.

The best piece of advice I can give you for playing Overland is: adopt a pile of dogs. Seriously, dogs are amazing and in Overland, they continue to be amazing. Dogs have as many actions as human characters, but they also have bonus abilities. Some dogs can attack, some can push enemies away, others search without consuming an action point. My best playthrough was one where I had one human character and a van full of dogs. Mind you, since what you encounter is randomly generated, you won’t be able to decide to encounter a dog. If you do encounter a dog, be sure not to leave them on the side of the road. They’ll repay your kindness a hundred times.

I really enjoy overland. I got the game as part of the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. You may have it now too and I suggest you check it out. The game is fast enough that failure doesn’t feel bad. Yes, you have to start over. However, at no point did I feel that my failure was the result of me not playing well enough. Games like X-COM rub me wrong because there is that metagame that you’re playing that slowly builds and any flaws you’ve built in may not make themselves known until it is far too late.

Overland is available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, XBOX, and PC. Presently it retails on for $24.99 which unfortunately feels a little high. A price closer to $20 or even $15 would feel better. That being said, I would not pass this up if you liked Bad North, Overland is a game you’ll enjoy. While you’re traveling Overland, if you see me on the road, please lend a ride.

Seriously, don’t leave me here.

This Week I Played Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

I completely skipped Tom Clancy’s The Division when it first came out, that was a mistake. Like countless people I recently picked up Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 while it was on a 95% sale to promote the release of the game’s new expansion Warlords of New York. I was hooked by the end of the character creator.

Initially, I skipped the first Division game because I was worried the online multiplayer nature of the game would lead to an experience similar to that of Assassin’s Creed Unity. Which is to say, terrible. My experience in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 thus far would indicate that was an incorrect prejudgement.

Viral outbreak, or music festival?

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is largely an open world, third-person shooter. The different regions are somewhat level-locked, but nothing is stopping the player from running through those high-level areas like I ran through Stranglethrone Vale back in my World of Warcraft days. Although The Division’s leveling system is much tighter than other games. There have been times where enemies only a level or higher than me were incredibly tough. Which keeps the game well-paced.

Presently I believe I have about half-way through the PvE story and the game has transitioned in difficulty smoothly. Early on your enemies are armed with clubs, pistols, and SMGs. Later they transition shotguns and assault rifles. Where I’m at in the game now the occasional sniper or special enemy has been added to the mix. There have been times where it seems like I’ve hit a plateau and the enemies become bullet sponges. These periods are shot and generally don’t impact the overall gameplay.

In Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, you play as an agent for the titular agency, The Division. Set in a post-viral-apocalypse United States, your job is to clean up the streets of Washington DC before the rebuilding of the nation can begin. You can do this in real life by not voting for Republicans.

Cleaning up the streets of DC is done by discovering settlements and handling whatever missions and projects they have. You also fight back against the gangs running around the capital by taking their control points, engaging them in skirmishes, and liberating and hostages and supplies they have along the way. This is always achieved through government-sanctioned extrajudicial violence, which is a problem.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 has a strong pro-government message that isn’t carefully examined by the game itself. Littered in optional collectibles and a few story cutscenes and quick quips about how everything is better now that there isn’t any red tape. Really? Everything is better now that most of the population is dead and you can kill whoever you wish without needing to bother to get a warrant or even establish cause? I’m not going to dwell on this too hard because I get that it’s a platform to build the gameplay off of. As far as state-sanctioned violence goes, the game would just be better if it didn’t try to justify your actions as being better than things were before. Because once we go there we have to realize that there is no central government in this scenario and the division is no different than one of the many paramilitary organizations that litter the map. The only difference is that your group controls the White House. While the framing of the game is certainly problematic, it is something that can be forgiven and doesn’t impact the experience once you dive in.

The game features day/night and weather cycles. Some of these make for very difficult situations.

Gunfights and skirmishes in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 are where the game really shines. The weapons feel crunchy and mechanical. While shooting, cover is both needed and easy to transition to and from. This makes gunplay exciting and feels more tactical than many of The Division 2’s competitors. There are some clunky issues with the grenade and gadget controls on PC at times, but usually, you’re opening combat with those so you have time to fiddle with them. The only thing really missing is destructible environments.

See the cooking pot on the right? Details like that litter the world.

Speaking of environments, while playing with my close friends we all constantly commented on how well crafted the environments were. Most games set in cities feel sanitized, this is not the case in The Division 2. Streets and alleys are cluttered with trash. Abandoned vehicles clog the streets, parks, and nearly anywhere a driver could cram it before abandoning it.

Sadly, the 95% off sale has ended so sadly the game has returned to a price that, at the time of writing, is just north of forty dollars. I would still recommend this game, with one caveat. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is only fun when you’re playing with other people. If you have friends that play you should pick this game up now. If you have friends you can convince to play as I do, you should convince them to play. The Division 2 is by far the best cooperative shooter I have ever played. I regret not playing the first one and I hope you can learn from that regret.

4 Questions From Hitman Absolution That Need Answering

Hitman Absolution was a wildly different game from the rest of the titles in the Hitman series. One of the biggest differentiators is how it’s universally decried as a weak entry in an otherwise strong series. The other huge difference was it was primarily story-driven. Unlike other titles the story was placed front and center for the entire game, there are no levels unrelated to the main plot. In doing this, Hitman Absolution left some questions that need answering. Major spoilers for Hitman Absolution ahead.

What happened to Cosmo Faulkner?

Most of the way through Hitman Absolution we’re introduced to Chicago PD detective Cosmo Faulkner. He’s been trying to track down agent 47 since the incident at the Artemis Hotel. He seems to know enough about what went on at the hotel to have a conversation about Agent 47 where 47 is referred to as “The Hitman”. 

Cosmo’s problem is that the only people that seem to know anything are either wearing tinfoil hats or are covered in bird crap. At the end of Hitman Absolution, he’s seen hanging a poster, that looks remarkably like the wanted poster in Hitman Blood Money, as an informant who goes by the name of birdy walks into the room.

The impression we get is the Cosmo Faulkner is an intelligent and dedicated adversary. How Agent 47 and Diana deal with this problem is never addressed.

What happened to Birdy?

Birdy is a weird dude in Hitman Absolution he functions as a sort of informant who Agent 47 visits early in the story. Later on, it’s discovered his allegiances are more flexible than a rubber band. He pretty much allies himself with literally everyone throughout the game. As mentioned moments ago at the end of the game he’s seen walking into a Chicago Police Precinct looking for a new random group to align himself with. Birdy knows too much about Agent 47 and the ICA to be left alone. His fate is as of yet unknown, but he’s a loose end that needs to be tied up.

How big is the ICA?

The major plot of Hitman Absolution is about an ICA division head named Benjamin Travis. Travis has a lot at his disposal, he has multiple helicopters, a mobile command center, and a robotic arm. Travis has also been doing some shady genetic experiments to create his own private army of super killers. His base for this army is a teenage girl named Victory. Later in the game, it’s revealed that Travis is doing this without the knowledge of the ICA. In an attempt to get Victoria back and kill Agent 47, Travis takes over the town of Hope South Dakota, Sends a squad of sexy nuns to blow up a motel, and occupies a public cemetery. These are the resources at one division head’s disposal and the ICA board has apparently no idea what he’s doing. This causes us to wonder just how big is the ICA?

What happened to Victoria?

Agent 47’s primary drive throughout Hitman Absolution is the care, and then recovery of a teenage girl named Victoria. Victoria was created in a fashion similar to Agent 47 by Benjamin Travis’ scientists and researchers. She’s then kidnapped by Blake Dexter who wants to figure out how to replicate her.

Eventually, 47 does manage to save Vitoria from this fate. Although this isn’t before she kills several people and proves that she’s already more or less become what Diana wanted to save her from.

After killing Benjamin Travis we’re given a short scene that shows Diana is alive and is caring for Victoria. That is the last we see of Victoria without knowing what she chooses or what she wants to do next.

When 2016’s Hitman comes around Diana and 47 are back working for the ICA. Some events from Hitman Absolution are shown in a montage at the beginning of the game, so we know the events took place. There has yet to be a mention of Victoria though.

Those are 4 questions I had leftover from Hitman Absolution. I think each is worth answering in the current Hitman games. If you have other questions left over from Hitman Absolution, or any other Hitman game, please leave them in the comments. If you liked this video please like and subscribe.

I originally wrote this as a script for a YouTube video that I never made. I don’t want the effort to be wasted so I hope you liked it.

This Week I Played Vampyr

Vampyr is a dark and gritty game that combines the action stealth of the Assassin’s Creed franchise with the mind-bending mysteries of a David Cage game. Set in London during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, Vampyr is a dark and moody mystery. You play as Dr. Jonathan Reid a medical doctor and veteran of the First World War. Sometime before the start of the game, through unknown means, you are turned into a Vampyr.

From the start of the game Vampyr makes it very clear that while your character thirsts for human blood, you do not need to kill people. This creates the most interesting difficulty system I have ever encountered. Very early in the game, you are told explicitly the more innocent people you drain of blood, the easier things will be for you.

To be effective in Vampyr you’ll need experience points to buy skills and abilities with. There are very few ways to gain experience points. The most common method is completing missions and investigations. You also earn a small amount of experience by defeating enemies. Draining civilians of all of their blood, and therefore killing them, is a way to earn massive amounts of experience. Doing this can be very tempting because combat is very hard.

The enemies in Vampyr have many options to make your nights on the streets of London a total nightmare. Depending on what they are, as they may also not be human, enemies can reduce your maximum health pool through either fire or draining your blood. That combined with the games love of deadly opponent mixes means you’re normally up against a bruiser while a crossbowman with a torch is trying to drain your health. These deadly encounters constantly tempt you to drink the blood of the innocent to buy more skills to increase your chances of survival. Or it would be tempting if the game didn’t have some serious problems.

Unfortunately, Vampyr’s tempting experience and difficulty mechanic is ruined by a few poor design choices that ultimately led me to abandon the game. There are two major problems. The first is that combat revolves around the idea that you lock onto an enemy. This keeps your character oriented towards them and therefore any attacks you utilize that involve lunging or pouncing will head toward your target. This in itself is fine. It works well. The problem is that you change lock targets by moving the mouse left or right. This doesn’t work. The camera controls are tied to the mouse.

Like most third-person games the direction your character moves when pressing ‘w’ is determined by the camera’s orientation. Meaning as long as you don’t need to adjust the camera, you’ll stay locked to your intended target. The second you move the camera, you lock moves, and not in an intuitive way. It moves to the next target to the left or right of your current one, even if that target is behind you. Which is how you end up “dodging” directly in the very attack you were trying to avoid. This issue can be somewhat forgiven as the result of porting the game to PC if that is indeed what happened, but for me, it made the game unenjoyable.

The other major problem is the game punishes you for exploring. When I say this I don’t mean it in the way that some games try hard to keep you out of areas without explicitly erecting invisible walls. What I mean is you can discover tasks, that are impossible given your level and skills, but you still you need to complete them right now to avoid negative consequences. This happened to me in an unfortunate way.

After completing the first couple of missions I was sent into the next district to continue one of my investigations. On the way through an alley to the point that I needed to reach to find the next clue, I passed an openable door. Most doors outside of safe zones that I’d encountered to this point led to safe rooms where you can rest and refill your supplies. This one did not. This led to a mission area where there was a man trapped by some blood-sucking skals. The game immediately informed me that I needed to save this man or he would probably die.

I charged into battle and then quickly died as the skals were twice my level and made a snack out of my body. This is where the problem became apparent. I could not defeat these skals even if I drained all the civilians in the entire district of blood. Why? Because to level up, you have to rest. If you rest any civilians you discover in danger but don’t rescue die. I couldn’t reload because the game uses an aggressive autosave. The irony here is that during most load screens the game tells you to live with the consequences of your actions. The consequence here was that I stopped playing.

I know it sounds like I rage quit. Maybe I did. I feel that the game unfairly trapped me. It didn’t tempt me, it punished me for opening a door that was along the road I was walking. It punished me for exploring the new area of the map it had just told me to go to. I was excited to play Vampyr. I am still in love with how it seeks to tempt you. Unfortunately, the temptation doesn’t feel fair. This isn’t a challenge where I can see the other side and if I could just jump from a slightly higher ledge I could make it. This is more like getting hit by an invisible fly swatter, one that I had no warning about.

I might play Vampyr again. I really want to see how it plays out. Unfortunately due to the poor controls making combat frustrating and the surprise gotchas I can’t.

If you played Vampyr and your experience was different than mine, please leave a comment below. I really want to hear something good about this game.

5 Reasons Why Hitman Absolution is an Action Shooter

Like many people, I was surprised by all the changes brought to the Hitman series by the game Hitman Absolution. I felt the linear nature of the game didn’t fit well with the series’ history of large, open, choose-your-path style missions and that a lot of effort went into features that the game punishes you for using. Recently I went back and played Hitman Absolution while waiting for new content for the current Hitman game. I wanted to know if I had judged the game too harshly in the past. I had not. What I learned was Hitman Absolution is best enjoyed as an action shooter, not a stealth game. Here are 5 features in Hitman Absolution that prove why.

#1 The cover mechanic

In previous Hitman games if you made the mistake of getting in a firefight you had no choice but to try and kite your enemies around walls and other obstacles as you picked them off one-by-one. Not anymore. Hitman Absolution has more chest-high walls than a Gears of War game and the tutorial is just itching to teach you about them.

Not only can you hide behind these lifesaving barriers, but you travel along them. You can fire around corners, Slap chop enemies from behind, and survive an all-out siege as you toss proximity mines blindly across the room. No more hiding for Agent 47. Now all he has to do is keep firing end eventually he’ll come out on top.

#2 Dual wielding never felt better

Perhaps the most iconic feature of the Hitman series, until 2016’s HITMAN all caps, was Agent 47’s dual Silverballers. In previous titles when 47 was dual-wielding he would fire both pistols simultaneously. In Hitman Absolution 47 will alternate firing the left and right pistols. This allows you to conserve your ammunition and line up more headshots with half the reloading.

If that wasn’t good enough, it isn’t even just the Silverballers that 47 can dual wield. Any time 47 comes across two pistols of the same model he can let loose with a barrage of bullets from each hand. Sadly he still doesn’t reload any faster.

#3 Quick-Time-Event based combat

The first mission when Agent 47 gets to Hope South Dakota in Hitman absolution takes place in a biker bar. As soon as 47 shorts out the jukebox the whole place erupts in an all-out brawl where he is free to beat up as many people as he pleases whatever way he sees fit. This quickly forces you, the player, to get familiar with the game’s Quick Time Event combat.

This a feature that is completely new to the series, and admittedly feels somewhat out of place at first. After smashing in a few heads and braining people with a few beer bottles though, you’ll find it hard to go back to sneaking around.

#4 Linear levels

The biggest problem with Hitman Absolution is the departure from open world levels. All of the levels are small isolated corridors or individual floors of a hotel or similar structure. If you get noticed while trying to murder your targets, there aren’t many places to run and hide. These levels are lousy for stealth but are better utilized for running and gunning. Sure 47 can’t hide but neither can his enemies. When the shooting is done, 47 just needs to exit through the door at the end behind which is another hallway of incompetent guards who are oblivious to the carnage left in his wake.

#5 Point Shooting

Point Shooting is a mechanic that is only found in Hitman Absolution. Unlike instinct vision, snapping cover, or quick-time combat it was not adapted and carried forward into 2016’s HITMAN. That is because point shooting has no place in a Hitman game if you’re playing the game correctly.

For the uninitiated, point shooting is an ability Agent 47 has where he can pre-mark targets and then execute a series of rapid shots to hit them. This uses your instinct meter. This meter can be refilled by completing objectives or shooting enemies in the face. This feature is amazing and it is completely disappointing that the game punishes you for using it because you’ll be hard-pressed to find an applicable moment for it when you’re sneaking around trying to murder your targets quietly.

If you throw caution to the wind, you’ll find that Point Shooting is your best friend. It allows you to quickly clear rooms of enemies in one swift motion and continue on to the next room with maximum health and ammunition remaining.

Those are my  5 reasons why Hitman Absolution is better enjoyed as an action shooter than as a stealth game, even if the developers didn’t intend it. 

I originally wrote this as a script for a YouTube video that I never made. I don’t want the effort to be wasted so I hope you liked it.