The Best Moves

PlayStation

God of War • Fully upgrade a Runic Attack • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 53.8% (Common)

I wore some criticism yesterday for ‘giving too much away’ when it comes to God of War, which I suppose is a subjective assessment, but it still gives me an emotional reaction at the injustice of being called out. The modern risk of putting yourself out there is not so much an occupational hazard, but one of the vissictudes of life. Que Sera Sera.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to be spiteful and try and ‘spoil’ something else (yes, I’m that kind of person), I went with a trophy that’s a little more ‘mainstream’ tonight. My intent isn’t so much as to labor the substance of this achievement – I feel like it’s one that most people will get to in their course of learning the game (and a 53% completion rate seems to support that), but more so just to talk about these final few beats of the God of War narrative.

Tonight I had a range of battles, puzzles and encounters that start to tie-up the threads that have been left throughout the journey. I feel like the game is moving at a cracking pace, but sure enough, it’s nearly midnight and I have just put the controller down for the night – talk about a time-sink. I am left glancing at the clock every twenty minutes while willing the game to draw to an end, just so I can scratch this one off my ‘played’ list and return to hating on PlayStation and Sony.

Another solid session like today should bring the main narrative to an end, but a glance at the checklist to complete shows a much greater list of side missions and tasks to complete before I even get close to a Platinum trophy. I’m not sure if this is an ‘immediate’ priority for me, or whether it’s something I’ll go back to later in the year.

Either way, I’ve enjoyed the journey so far – and I intend to enjoy these final few steps as well.

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Till Death Do Us Part

Xbox

Tales from the Borderlands • Complete Chapter 2 of Episode 2 • 20G • 25.54% of gamers unlocked this

My journey into a weekend of being in pain and miserable continues, though I have a heatpack stuck (literally) to my back and I’m still popping pills, though I have tried easing off them over the course of the day. I figure there’s a balance between recovery and being in pain that I need to find – but mostly it’s about making sure I don’t turn into a horrible monster for my family.

Of course, the trade-off of using painkillers is that they make you drowsy, and so this afternoon’s session on Tales from the Borderlands was done as my eyelids got heavy and my head started to nod. Yes, I’m happy to admit that I fell asleep for about twenty minutes – just enough to keep me going for the afternoon, but I don’t think I’ll be in a position to repeat last night’s midnight gaming session-plus-overnight-with-the-toddler event, which happens from time-to-time, it’s all part of being a parent, but if the kids could time their annoyances to better days of the week, I’d be ever so much more grateful. So would be REM sleep cycle.

Of course, I didn’t spend the entirety of today’s gaming asleep – there were some decisions to be made. What did irk me a little was that I had to repeat a few sections of the game to get back up to where I was at last time. I remember this about earlier Telltale games, the ‘save’ feature isn’t actually for progress – quite often you’ll be past a save point or two, but if you turn off your game and then go back to it, you’ll find yourself twenty minutes earlier than where you thought you were. I’m not sure what exactly the game is saving – some of the Telltale games (and I’m thinking The Wolf Among Us) have other out-of-game things to collect (in this example, the Book of Fables), and a save makes sense there, but just kicking you back for the hell of it? No, that’s just annoying. I don’t think it’s a big an issue in later games, which means – I suspect – that it’s either been resolved at the Telltale Engine level, or there are a couple of project leads developing games that have made a conscious decision to make save points actually save the game.

Either way, I am happy with the progress.

Tomorrow it’s back to a weekday, which means I’m going to have an attempt at gaming with a bad back and a full day of work – but I think I’ll be able to get it done without too many issues.

Thank God grumpy, pain-fuelled barbs don’t translate to text very well.

Hello, Old Friend

PlayStation

God of War • Retrieve the Blades of Chaos • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 56.6% (Common)

I’ve tried to stifle the unbridled praise for God of War that swamped the internet. Quite against my character, I’ve tried to add nuance to the echo chamber of the Sony fanboi chorus holding God of War up as some idol of gaming in 2018.

Tonight, however, I am gladly adding God of War to my short list for Game of the Year.

To be honest, not much has changed. The puzzles are still on par with Tomb Raider. The graphics are brilliantly matched to the best the Xbox can offer and the combat is as good as anything else on the market (sans the satisfying thunk of an axe returning to your hand). But it was this very moment in the achievement which got me – the return of Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, made famous through – well, pretty much his entire career, and they look and feel just as wonderful as they did the first time you played God of War … and that goes for any platform at any point in history. You never forget your first time playing, and tonight I had every piece of nostalgia not just tickled, but caressed lovingly as Kratos flung those babies around like no tomorrow.

It was glorious. Glorious.

I really have no idea where I’m up to narrative-wise. I’m still stopping to complete the odd side-quest, so I’m probably not being as prompt as I could be, but Sony Santa Monica have done a brilliant job of making a quick half hour turn into a four-hour gaming session.

That’s a special kind of magic.

I feel like that if there was three acts, then we’d be about to kick-off the third, but I’m simply hypothesising, so don’t mind my shoot-from-the-hip approach to blogging. I’m just happy I got to experience this game despite my ongoing bitterness towards Sony.

Yes. God of War even has the power to break through that. If that doesn’t get bonus points for Game of the Year – nothing will.

Overcooked

Xbox

Overcooked • Extinguish a burning kitchen • 50G • 74.06% of gamers unlocked this

You don’t often get a titular achievement so early in a game – they’re often reserved for the Xbox equivalent of a Platinum, or certainly for something far more significant than today’s achievement which is issued for, well, stuffing up. When I saw this achievement in the list I figured that I’d get it sooner or later, and then almost instantly I burned some soup on a pirate ship, and then had to rush to work out how to put out the fire.

The net result was two achievements and the completion of the level a few minutes later.

I remember Greg Miller talking quite a bit about Overcooked back in his prime podcasting days, but since Colin Moriarty left him to go and try his hand at being a right wing pundit (let’s face it, in the American political climate it’s actually quite enterprising), then I’ve pretty much missed anything that Kinda Funny produces. Nonetheless, the fact that it rings so prominent in my mind makes whatever product placement money that they paid to the Kinda Funny team (if any) probably worth it, even after all these years it’s encouraged me to give it a go, and give it a go I did.

Will I keep playing though? Emphatically ‘no’, but I want to explain why. I don’t think this is a good game for Xbox. Vita? Perhaps. Mobile? Yes. But peak loungeroom console gaming, I think not. In saying that, there is considerable scope for couch coop and multiplayer options, so in those instances, it could be worth a shot … but I think there’s more fun to be had passing the controller from friend-to-friend in a single player game rather than just play couch coop for the hell of it.

But, as they say, d’frent strokes …

Coach Palmer’s Pride

Xbox

Laser League • Completed the Tutorial • 10G • 24.83% of gamers unlocked this

I was hoping for a bit more of a meatier achievement from the latest addition to the Xbox Game Pass, but after an inordinate amount of time waiting to get into an online game, I ended up just working my way through the tutorial just to make ‘some’ progress in an otherwise vanilla kind of game.

I don’t mean that as a cruel criticism of the game – I can see it’s potential – but without the online community behind it, it is doomed for a life of mediocrity and eventual shelving. Hell, even Cliff Bleszinski couldn’t get an online game going, so I suspect that a relatively unknown title is going to need a lot more to get over the line.

I have spent much of the afternoon about to fall asleep thanks to a combination of painkillers and a 4am child waking me up ‘for a drink’ so I’m about 30 seconds away from collapsing into bed and I am absolutely OK with that.

What A Beauty!

Xbox

Dovetail Games Euro Fishing • Caught your first fish • 25G • 74.18% of gamers unlocked this

I felt like playing something a bit ‘different’ this morning, and while I’m still a bit bitter and twisted about my bad back-slash-hip, a calmer game seemed appropriate. Thanks to Game Pass, a spot of fishing was in order.

For starters, I just want to put this out there: I am not a fan of fishing. I grew up in a household where we ate a lot of fish, and did a lot of fishing. I get incredibly sea sick, and I bore easily – so all variations of fishing make me irritable. Last time I went fishing it was to a trout farm near Bright, where I was taught how to stun a trout after catching it so that it died a somewhat humane death. Well, I tried that approach, and the thing was still moving after multiple bludgeons, so much so that it was still wriggling when we took it to the man for cleaning, where he promptly gave it a knock on the head, and it stopped moving straight away.

That was nearly five years ago … I haven’t touched a rod since.

So, the digital variety of fishing seems much more up my alley. Even my player character has a T-Shirt that speaks about the value of ‘research’, so catch and release is absolutely my kind of fishing. This first fish itself was fairly easy to catch … it all forms part of the tutorial really, so this was a bit of a no-brainer, but the tutorial itself gave a pretty good indication as to how the rest of the game would run.

Of course, this will appeal more to the micromanaging fisherpeople, as you get to choose your bait, your rod, your line tension, the angle of your cast, and every other detail you could set your hopes and dreams on if you’re into that sort of thing. Me? I’m a set-and-forget sort of guy. I’d like some sort of ‘ding’ that tells me when I need to pick up the controller again, and hold down LT to reel in the line.

There – I’ve summed up my ideal fishing simulator in 25-words-or-near-enough.

Tonight I’m hoping for a painkiller-induced early night, so I don’t know how much gaming I’ll get in – but I’ve also had a day without the Vita, so there’s a chance I’ll play something frivolous before the evening is out.

Better than a chance, actually. Almost a certainty.

Dragon Slayer

PlayStation

God of War • Defeat the Dragon of The Mountain • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 65.1% (Common)

Well, in terms of big battles, this really tickled my tits. It’s what I want out of Dark Souls, but it offers a level of accessibility that far surpasses any of From Software’s catalogue. This was a big, meaty fight that let you learn and respond to attacks along the way, rather than punishing you from the first strike for failing to study up on a particular combatants techniques.

I guess this also gives you a placeholder in terms of where I’m up to in God of War. Kratos and Son have been working their way to the summit of the mountain, and found a new friend (with echoes from Game of Thrones and Fallout 3), and started their journey back to the witch in the forest.

You can begin to see why you hear whispers of so many ‘false endings.’ Even now I have become accustomed to not getting comfortable about my place in the narrative, so every session continues to surprise and delight me.

With a few more setpiece battles like this … it might even start to convince me that it deserves Game of the Year.

He’s a demon too

Xbox

Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition • You helped Phineas by retrieving his eye • 10G • 32.86% of gamers unlocked this

I am off work today with a bad back. I never knew what a bad back entailed – I have had a soft tissue injury to my back before, but this morning I was so debilitated that I felt like screaming just to get out of bed. I had hoped a shower would fix it, but that nearly caused me to throw up (likely from the pain), and by the time my wife got to me, she described my pupils as pitch black, and my face ghost white.

Needless to say, I’m not doing well.

But, hell or high water, I was going to get my achievement. Even if it meant throwing more money at micro transactions in Age of Empires, or getting my son to bring me my PC in bed, I was going to make it happen.

As it turns out – what has been the most useful for me in regards to pain has been walking around. Just simply walking around the house. Even now, I’m walking as I write this on my phone – my back feels like it’s constantly about to give out, but it’s better than sitting and having the same feeling compounding the longer I sit. So, with a relatively new degree of mobility, I thought I’d make an attempt at one of the titles on the shame pile. Devil May Cry got the guernsey.

I actually had to complete two levels to get this achievement. Clearly the one the prefaces the Phineas level isn’t worthy of its own gamerscore, but all up it was probably a solid half-hour (on human difficulty) to navigate the world of limbo in pursuit of Rupert Murdoch … or whatever the fictional equivalent of him is, anyway.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past, but DmC requires an extraordinary amount of muscle memory to be able to pull off the truly great combinations. My piecemeal approach to playing DmC hasn’t helped me with the big scores, but I feel like a solid, straight playthrough is the best way to experience the game – if not just for narrative but for gameplay as well.

What it isn’t, however, good for is people with a bad back who can’t dedicate the whole day to a gaming cause.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to pace around the house some more.

Secret Moustache World

PlayStation

King Oddball • Find and complete the Secret Moustache World! • Bronze Trophy • Rarity 7.3% (Very Rare)

I’ve been slowly working my way through the secret moustache world on King Oddball for the better part of May. Lunch breaks, a bit before bed, and just casually while in-between other life events have all helped get this one across the line – but after finishing the first tranche of levels, to find out that the Secret Moustache World is essentially just those levels again except in reverse gives finishing this trophy a bit more than the usual amount of satisfaction.

There’s a few other worlds like the Moustache World left to complete that allow you to work through a series of challenges, but without a Platinum Trophy in sight, it’s a bit hard to find the motivation to go the whole way.

It’s lucky that the game itself is so easy and casual to play that the achievements are a nice byproduct, but there’s certainly a bit of fan-service lacking for the achievement hunters.

Mr. Sandman

Xbox

Minecraft: Story Mode • Completed Chapter 2 of Episode 6 • 15G • 7.73% of gamers unlocked this

A bit of an opportunity session this morning, and while I still had Minecraft: Story Mode on the recently-played / pinned list on the Xbox, I figured it was a good a chance as any to grab an achievement and liberate myself from trying to squeeze in a gaming session tonight. Because, to be honest, I could really go for a few more hours sleep.

Unlike yesterday, I actually sat and watched a bit of this episode. Not through any great desire to engage with the story, but more out of a sense of ‘nothing better to do’. The morning wasn’t entirely wasted, I still managed to get my son dressed while tapping whatever input I felt like at the time to keep the story going, and the lack of a huge combat scene helped … though Chapter 2 largely concentrated on the death of a character (that’s not a spoiler … we meet him for about 30 seconds), and the subsequent detective work that Jesse et. al. put in to learn ‘why’ he might have been killed.

I can kind of see what the intent behind Story Mode was. Almost like an episodic, monster-of-the-week style structure, that might have allowed it to continue in perpetuity. As Phil Spencer has alluded to in the past, the Xbox Game Pass is conducive to releasing episodic content like this, though I think it will take a different title to get me on-board after (and I know I’ve already whinged about this yesterday) the Story Mode season pass debacle.

With that in mind, there are plenty of fresh IPs waiting to be tapped, or even some older titles that could do with a reboot. If anyone has the sharp business mind needed to make it happen, it’s Phil Spencer.

In Phil We Trust.