There is no hope

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Kholat • You’ve collected a note in the tree area • 35G • 19.45% of gamers unlocked this

I have actually waited quite a while to score myself an achievement from Kholat. A quick search of this blog notes that I tried back in November last year without much luck to get Kholat working on the 2012 Macbook Pro, and so with my new sexy and beefy gaming PC, it was about time to give this one another go.

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If I’m perfectly honest, the only reason I ever got this game was because it looked affordable on the Windows store and I needed more Win10 titles on my laptop to get me through ’emergency’ sessions during the 2017-18 run of Xbox-only achievements for this challenge. But, it wasn’t free – and so I did actually part with some hard earned cash to get this game, and with that in mind it seemed silly just to leave it parked on my account without ever having fully experienced it beyond 10 FPS and frequent crashes.

I tried reading more about the real life circumstances that surround the game of Kholat but it’s one of those genuinely unexplained mysteries that just don’t sit well with me. There are instances like The Staircase, where there are a whole raft of situations that could have happened – up-to-and-including an attack by an owl on Kathleen Peterson, causing the head wounds and her ultimate collapse at the stairs. We’ll never know exactly what happened, but there are scenarios that are plausible and in the absence of any further facts, then I’m happy with them as options. Kholat, or the ‘Dyatlov Pass Incident,’ just raises more questions than answers – and that aggravates me. With that in mind, I can still enjoy the scenario of the game without needing those further answers – I appreciate this game has a far greater supernatural element to it than what reality might dictate.

For the most part, it feels a bit like a walking simulator, though I did conclude today’s playthrough with a terrifying encounter with what I can only describe as a ‘flame man’. Other than a quick snapshot of the man-come-creature grabbing you and a cut-to-black, it’s a bit hard to understand the circumstances and the reason ‘why’, let alone the ‘how’ of being killed, but from what I read on the internet, I guess I’m supposed to treat this as part of the ‘journey’.

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Look, it’s not a bad game – and in terms of horror, I think it can rub all the right triggers nicely, but I very much am a spoon-fed gamer these days, and I don’t have the inclination to explore and experiment and learn as much as I feel like developers want me to. I just want to play a game. It’s nice to have the soft dulcet tones of Sean Bean introduce me to the game, but I’d be lying if I said it was enough to keep me there.

Today’s achievements are largely for picking up notes along the walking track. I might go back after reading some more, but there’s certainly no rush. I don’t know if there’s tactics I’m supposed to employ or some sort of order I’m supposed to work through the game, but in either event, I’m nonetheless glad that I’ve got something on the gamerscore board after waiting this long to play it properly.

Torture myself with whimsies

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Orwell • Show the rebellious side

Because I’m unashamedly a digital hoarder, I almost always go out of my way to add a free game to my gaming libraries … regardless of whether it’s Steam or GOG or Origin or your distribution-model-of-choice. And so when Humble Bundle (part of IGN) gave out free Orwell codes this week (which I assume was part of a promotion for the sequel), I naturally jumped on it and added it to my Steam library. Of course, normally I just add and cancel the installation, but somewhere along the way I must have let this one go – and so when I jumped online today to play something, I saw it there willing me to give it a click.

So I did.

The game itself plays out a bit ‘desktop detective-y’, where you rummage through a computer desktop and a pseudo-internet to uncover clues about an attack in the city of Bonton. There is some Orwellian undertones in the game – “The Party”, “The Capital”, etc. It is actually a good narrative use of nouns, as it kind of both adds to the authoritarian nature of the world, but doesn’t overburden the core story. Orwell himself is a literary genius.

I had to look up the context of this achievement because it didn’t seem progress-based, and this is what I found:

Show the rebellious side

  • From her timeline page, upload Cassandra’s posts about her support for the Plaza bombings – proponent of violence.
  • Do not upload her conflicting statements from the Thought blog.

So on further investigation, it appears that there’s actually a few different paths and endings that either the game itself or the individual chapters can take. A complete runthrough of the game, then, seems to require multiple playthroughs following multiple story branches. It’s a good game – but time and inclination don’t really grab me for such an in-depth examination of Orwell, and so I’d like to get to ‘an’ end, but whether it’s the right one … I’m not too concerned.

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If I’m perfectly honest, my preferred method to play Orwell would be to follow an online walkthrough and just ‘smash out’ the story, but the best I can seem to find is a few achievement lists and how to earn each one (see above). No sequence to tell me ‘what’s next’ or ‘here’s what to click’ … just the cold, quiet void of digital silence.

Sometimes I wonder if the internet really is just for porn.

Complete Area 7

Angry Birds Pop • Beat all levels in area 7

I feel like after such a cop-out with tonight’s achievement that I should include this last minute entry I earned just before I packed it in for the night. Right now I’m laying in bed, writing this post on the same device I just earned the achievement on, and it feels decisively more like an actual achievement than tonight’s tick-and-flick.

Right now I’m in the happy microtransaction overlap where I have just enough purchasables to get a ‘taste’ for what’s on offer, but not really enough to survive for an endless barrage of prohibitively tough levels. Everything is geared towards ‘just spending a few bucks,’ and while I don’t really care what people spend their money on, I’ve made a fairly conscious decision that Angry Birds Pop wasn’t about to shake me down!

Though, I certainly feel like I’ve got a few extra pounds around the middle … perhaps ‘pop’ is a far more accurate word!

Rookies

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Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime • Finish the first level

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am writing this to you from my brand, new shiny, and – most importantly – working gaming PC. I have given it a good run this evening, undertaking the first few opening missions of Destiny 2, and getting a few slow-burn games and MMOs patching ready for longer sessions.

I also successfully managed to get my dual-monitor setup working, so I am even happier. This is the first proper gaming PC I’ve had in perhaps the last twenty years … back in the day when it was either a PC or a Master System II (see the parent blog for my lament about that this week). But, for all the new, shiny games that I look forward to playing on this PC – business must come first, and for me – business means achievements.

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It took me a lot of time last night to look at my Steam Games’ library and find ‘something’ that I could use as my christening achievement. Of course, if Battle.net had a similar achievement system, I could have used that – and I’m still a few steps away from downloading my GOG library to this PC, and so I went with something that I wouldn’t normally be able to play during my working hours, and certainly not something that would be quick-and-easy on the laptop generally.  Bonus points for a bit of nostalgia as well came in the form of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime – which, in reality, has nothing really that much in common with the classic Ghostbusters anyway.

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This is a game that would most likely be a twin-stick shooter if it was on console (it might be on console, I haven’t checked). It’s essentially a room-by-room, wave-based challenge game that requires you to clear out a series of ghosts of varying difficulty until you eventually arrive at a ‘big’ boss, which is a long, but (in the first level, anyway) not entirely difficult.

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What surprised me most about this game was how much I died in this first level. The AI seemed quite responsive and moved to revive me quickly, up until one stage where there were 3/4 people knocked out, and it seemed a fortuitous piece of timing that saved us at the end of a wave. I think that a controller might make this game a bit easier, but not by much – and so I’ll put it down to just ‘one of those things’ you need to factor-in as an inevitability, and use that to balance out strategy as much as positioning and timing.

As I get more comfortable with PC gaming and start to build up a more contemporary library, there’s a good chance that games like this will eventually drop out of rotation – and judging by the size of my Steam library (and pile of shame), that is going to be quite quick. I’d like to go back and give another level or two a go just to compare the experience as the game progresses, but time and inclination both need to be balanced nicely for that to happen and, well, I’m not convinced that’s an easy accomplishment.

But … if I don’t do it, then … well, who am I gonna call?

I’m sorry, I’m having a terrible ‘Dad Joke’ day. There’s no reason the blog should be spared.

Star-Crossed

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Qora • View the Valley Telepathy Sequence

In all honesty, the marketing materials for this game made me think it was something entirely different. There is a game on Vita which involves little more than just walking around on a 16-bit island as the seasons change, which – judging by the brief background images on the Steam library page, this could easily pass for.

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As it turns out, this is rather a slow moving platform puzzler that probably doesn’t quite move at a satisfying pace for my gaming appetite. I mean … would it kill them to include a ‘run’ mechanic? The protagonist would have to be the slowest-moving little white blob I’ve played in a game – and I’ve played a few.

What will probably kill this game for me is that it doesn’t have a quick save and exit function. As I grew increasingly bored with the game (I pushed through as far as I did just to get a few achievements), I went to exit and – well, it told me my progress would be lost.

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Lost … on a game that moves as slow as this? Ah, no thanks. I’m not a ‘complete in one sitting’ guy at the best of times … let alone on Slowly McSlowface over here.

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Don’t hold your breath for a return to Qora on this blog. I mean, nothing is impossible, but I’m certainly leaning towards the improbable. The game itself is easy enough, but it’s also not something that I can easily whip through on a lunchbreak. The burn is far too slow for my liking.

Beat Level One

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Save the Ninja Clan • Beat the first level

As I said yesterday, today was going to be pretty much tied up with family commitments, so it was a toss up between something passive like a Telltale game, or something more ‘meaty’ like … well, like this: Save the Ninja Clan.

I have to say, this concerned me at first, because it said a controller was recommended, but the first few levels seemed to work fine with a keyboard and mouse. It’s possible that there are more complicated mechanics to come, but for now I’m satisfied that I can get through the basics on my own.

I know it’s early days, but this is a good game. I’m enjoying the quick death, quick replay value, and the premise, so expect to see this one on my achievement list again.

Promise Keeper

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Issue a Death Threat, and then successfully kill the target • 20G • 31.15% of gamers unlocked this

A bit more Middle-Earth today, and – if I’m honest – this was a bit of a cherry picked achievement. For much of the last week, I’ve really just been working my way through Mordor and killing and building up Orcs for my army without any real rhyme or reason. I think the mechanism is a bit different from the previous game, in that the ‘pleb’ orcs don’t hang around and they certainly don’t do anything for you beyond fight in the here-and-now (or, at least, not attack you), which is frustrating, but it’s also equally fun – and so while I am likely not making much narrative process, I also feel like I’m doing what gaming is supposed to be about – having fun.

Today was all about threatening and then killing a particular orc. The ‘worm’ orcs seem to play a more important part in this title than the first installment, in that they are more numerous and serve as a logistical force behind a lot of the emergent gameplay, and it wasn’t hard to find one – send a threat out to a random captain, and then … well … then kill him.

In other news, I still haven’t heard about my Ryzen PC, which – regular readers will know – has been sent to the technicians for troubleshooting and repair. It’s quite frustrating, I had hoped for a weekend of gaming that I have otherwise had to miss out on because of my potato PC, but if this blog has taught me anything, it’s that the vicissitudes of life tend to prohibit these plans on a not-uncommon basis anyway.

There is a temptation to call the technician and give them a hurry up, but a saying which I was always fond of repeating springs to mind – good things come to those who wait …

… or does the squeaky wheel get the oil?

Avenged

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Complete a Vendetta Mission • 15G • 59.36% of gamers unlocked this

I’m going to attempt to going back to adding in more detail about my achievements in the initial leader line because I think, in some instances, that context is useful. In some ways, differentiating between a Bronze or a Gold trophy, or understanding it’s difficulty in terms of earn-rate (percentage) provides a rich picture about the achievement beyond my usual musings and often over-tired and shoot-from-the-hip style of writing.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not sure if this achievement is glitched or not, but from what I could tell, it unlocked while I was still in the middle of the titular Vendetta mission. While I did complete it in the end, I was actually in pursuit of my Orc target when it unlocked – which caused me to raise an eyebrow, briefly, before resuming my chase and eventually cutting down the tricky little blighter who had killed me twenty minutes prior.

It seems that I have progressed far enough in Shadow of War now so that my time is to be split between managing my army and playing the game itself. I am still having my hand held by a lot of the tutorial and help screens for this part of the game – but from what I can tell, it’s a good evolution of the already-excellent nemesis system.

One of the more emotionally-charged moments of the game came this morning when ‘Tarz of the Black Gate’ came on me and decided to taunt me with his admission he was there on the night that Talion’s (the protagonist) family were killed in an Orc attack. I’m not sure if this was a dynamic or scripted introduction into the game, but I loved it. Loved it. It triggered just the right of emotion into the battle that I felt like Tarz needed more than a simple sword-to-the-face. I wanted him to be properly punished. I wanted him branded.

So I did.

To add insult to injury (for Tarz), the delightful war troll, Brûz – who is best known for his appearance in the original gameplay reveal – rolled in shortly after I dominated Tarz and suggested that I make him my bodyguard. Great suggestion, Brûz. With a couple of controller clicks, I had converted Tarz, the taunting, family-killing orc captain into a minion under my control.

Delicious.

I’m still slowly working my way through this region of the game, and pretty much just undertaking quests if-and-when they occur. There is a method to working through the quests in sequence, but – to be honest – I’ve just been having fun levelling up Talion and, now that I’ve unlocked it, branding Orcs to fight for me.

Now if only they have the brilliant mechanic from Shadow of Mordor that allowed me to explode their heads en masse, we could have some real fun!

Wordsearch Workhorse

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Lexica • Complete 12 Puzzles

I thought I had finished 12 puzzles yesterday during some after-hours dabbling in Lexica, but it turned out that I was one short. So a quick flick of the wrist, and a bit of word manipulation and ‘presto!’ the first wave of puzzles done.

Admittedly, this lot was the ‘easy’ grouping, so I would be lying if I said that this was a particularly onerous achievement – it was more a case of just finding the time to complete it. Much like Apple, this game (at least in the first levels) is easier the less you think about it. When you stop over-engineering your thinking, you tend to find the simplest solution.

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In other gaming news, I finally gave up on trouble-shooting my PC and have taken it to a technical specialist. I suspect that there is a misalignment between my old hardware and the sexy new motherboard + processor combination, but rather than tweaking different things each night when I get home and spending more money on more hardware – I figure I’m just going to let someone who has the time, and the tools, to troubleshoot it for me.

If there’s one thing I like about capitalism, it’s that you can outsource your problems.

Secure the Southern Border

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Make America Great Again: The Trump Presidency • Complete the Trump Wall

When Donald Trump was elected, I thought it would be slightly amusing to create a Spotify playlist that represented everything I feared for the Trump Administration. Sure enough, Trump is working hard to ensure those expectations are met – but it seems like there are plenty of other creatives looking to muscle in on the Trump Phenomenon (deliberately capitalized like a proper noun). Enter this … this monstrosity.

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I don’t even know where to begin. This is a mediocre resource-manager at best, and then it goes and throws in a basic side-scrolling shooter, and what’s worse is that it has Donald Trump’s face all over it!

I mean … I know that’s the point, but … wow.

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This first achievement is for building Trump’s infamous wall. The ‘moronic idea‘ designed to sate the appetite of racist conservative bigots along the Southern border of the USA. If there wasn’t an achievement in it – I almost certainly wouldn’t be implementing this as good policy … particularly when a large part of the game involves pumping oil (after building the Keystone Pipeline) and selling it to Mexico.

Side RL note: Trump is also the one who claimed that Mexico was going to be the next China, so putting up barriers – physical and metaphoric – just makes terrible, terrible policy sense.

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There is a few other game mechanics which I haven’t quite mastered yet. For instance, there is a function to deliver aid to parts of the world to help bring down your ‘World Anger’ rating and just stave off WW3. I managed to only do this once though, as there seems to be a cool down timer or something similar which isn’t letting me fly around the world saving the day at will.

Of course, I suppose that is thematically consistent with Trump’s values anyway.

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Much of the other mechanics seem to focus on timing and economics – ironic given the subject matter. I am certain there’s a good chance to flex some policy muscle later in the game – particularly when the likes of World Matriarch, Angela Merkel, and Trump lapdog, Malcolm Turnbull, make feature appearances.

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Is this a good game? No. I can’t say with any guarantee that it is. Will I play it again? Again, no, probably not. I’d like to be able to squeeze out a few more achievements, but the clunky gameplay, rushed mechanics and the fact I have to look at Donald Trump for a period longer than my blood pressure will allow all contribute to a less-than-stellar desire to go back and … ahem … ‘Make America Great Again.’

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