Self Similar self similar’s personal gaming nonsense blog

9Oct/170

Lost in Erangel (…And in Space!)

This entry is so massively overdue that I’m honestly not sure where to even start at this point, so I’ll just dive in. Apologies if this is a little more “stream of consciousness” than my normal posts.

I started playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (AKA "PUBG") in early April, after an old friend from the TPG days and I linked back up and he mentioned being eager to start playing it with friends. Coincidentally, one of my favorite, randomly discovered YouTube channels, FUBARBUNDY, which is usually dedicated to antics within DayZ, posted a video of some PUBG action. I actually first became intrigued by the idea of this style of game after watching another FUBARBUNDY video in which he played the similar (and related) H1Z1: King of the Kill. I hadn’t seen anything quite like either game. They took some of the core ideas of DayZ and other, similar survival games, and gave them a mega dose of adrenaline.

Lying in wait.
"Lying in wait."

I didn’t mentioned it here, but I did very briefly dabble in DayZ. Only very briefly. I’ve been interested in the game since the early days when it was still a mod, but resisted trying it out, afraid that I’d either hate the harsh playstyle of the game, or become absolutely addicted to it. Again, I largely have FUBARBUNDY’s insane videos to blame for my more recent bout of interest. In DayZ’s case, it was for making the game look far more interesting and dynamic than it actually tends to be. That said, I loved the immersive feel of the world. Exploring the desolate, empty landscape, and the possibility of running into other players was endlessly intriguing, but I didn’t like dealing with zombies or wildlife, or how all of my minor injures started to add up until my focus had to shift from the seemingly impossible task of finding guns and ammo to finding first aid and medical supplies, or how most of the time when you do run into another player it doesn’t lead to teaming up, or an interesting conversation, a stickup, or anything besides a well placed bullet from afar. I took several stabs at it, but in the end the pace was just far too slow. PUBG though? It’s like DayZ for impatient people.

Scoping out a compound before I approach.
"Scoping out a compound before I approach"

Now, most people reading this will already be familiar with PUBG as it has become a bit of a phenomenon since it was released into Steam Early Access. Just in case though, here’s a quick summary:

You and 99 other players are air dropped onto a deserted island devoid of much outside of a disturbing amount of guns, ammunition, body armor, medical supplies, and the occasional vehicle. Your goal is to be the last person left alive. So, at it’s core you have a death match across a huge battlefield with an element of looting and survival tacked on. It’s not some bizarre social experiment though, games could last hours without something to give them a little more focus. Instead, inspired by the likes of Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, players are constantly being funneled closer and closer together, as the playable area of the map constricts, eventually forcing anyone left to end up in extremely close quarters. Because of this, matches tend to be over within 40 minute or so, and (more likely) much, much quicker if you die earlier on in the game.

Pro tip: Don't skimp on fashion.
"Pro tip: Don't skimp on fashion."

That is one of the strengths of the gameplay model: total, brutal elimination. The number of players left alive is always displayed in the HUD, and is constantly dwindling down. Thanks to a damage model erring on the side of “realism”, you can die very quickly in this game, and you, without a doubt, will. You will have bad games that end in someone beating you to death within the first few minutes of the match, you will have bad games in which you fully gear up, only to find yourself ambushed as you make your way across the map, all your progress vanishing in seconds, and you will have bad games when you make it to the very end of the match only to be outgunned with only a few other players left alive. The game is so brutal that I’m honestly surprised it gets as much love as it does. There’s something really special about the gameplay loop that just keeps you coming back though, and on those rare occasions when you do actually win? Amazing.

Running through the hay fields.
"Running through the hay fields."

Besides the frustration associated with taking a lot of inspiration from its earliest incarnation as an ArmA mod, tending to lean a bit more towards “realism” in various areas in addition to the aforementioned damage model, the effect of “RNG” on each match is also often a topic of out of game discussion. Where you can land, who lands with you, what items and vehicles you find around you early on, and where the playzone constricts to are all vital to your success. In fact, many of my best matches have been, not coincidentally, when the playzone ended up focusing the fight in the location I was already in, allowing me to spend more time on gearing up and fighting than traveling. Likewise, many of my worse matches found me traveling far across the map, often slogging it without a vehicle, and desperately lacking good gear.

Expect to meet strange men in their underwear, and shoot them.
"Expect to meet strange men in their underwear, and shoot them."

So I’ve been playing this game for something like 5 months now which begs the question "what do I like about it?" Well, I actually really enjoy the semi-tactical gameplay, with more realistic handling weapons, including quick time-to-kill, and the ability to move stealthily, or lay prone in wait. Like the ArmA series, I enjoy the wide-open battlefields and the tactical scenarios that kind of freedom can provide, including a nice mix of long range and CQB engagements. I also really enjoy sneaking around and loot old buildings, which is something I'm apparently just into. *cough* State of Decay *cough* I enjoy the intensity of having to spot enemies on the distant horizon and pay attention to the sound of their movements close around you. I also really enjoy the camaraderie of playing these matches with other players when in duo or team matches - being able to work as a team under these conditions is a lot of fun, especially with the added component of being able to revive your fallen teammates, massively altering your priorities versus playing solo.

Proof that I've won at least one match in my life.
"Proof that I've won at least one match in my life."

This game has, no doubt at all, sometimes frustrated the hell out of me. My friends and I have gotten into arguments and left sessions annoyed and irritable on far too many occasions. Yet, at the same time, I’ve also made some new friends and relished practically every “chicken dinner” (PUBG slang for a win) I’ve been able to score, whether I was instrumental in the win or carried by my teammates. With the game continuing to improve with every update, I’m glad I decided to take the plunge. I really don’t know how long its legs will continue to be for me, but I’ve already gotten my money out of it at this point.

Journey to beautiful solar systems...
"Journey to beautiful solar systems..."

Another game I’ve been playing lately is Everspace. Everspace is a cross between an old school, semi-arcadey space sim (think the Wing Commander series, Freespace, etc.) and a rogue-like. You journey from sector to sector exploring randomly generated systems filled with loot, enemies, and other resources but when you die, you die, starting over from scratch. Well, as these things go in rogue-likes, mostly from scratch; you retain any cash you gained in your run which you can spend on skill tree upgrades, and some other special items, such as crafting blueprints, that will also help you in future runs.

...and shoot everyone in them!
"...and shoot everyone in them!"

Not only is it fucking beautiful, but this game has also proven to massively addictive. Your ship controls excellently, even on a controller (I’m playing the Xbox One version) and the space combat is just deep enough to be fun and, at times, a little challenging. My only real complaint is that I wish there was a bit more variety to the random areas and enemies, or even some crazy random scenario ala another space themed rogue-like, FTL: Faster Than Light, as I’ve already hit a bit of a wall with it. Honestly, that's fairly typical with how I play rogue-like style games, so I can't cast any blame there. Even still, it served me well in allowing me brief but highly appreciated vacation into the space combat genre and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the genre.

Oh, and for you VR types, the PC version has Vive support!

17Nov/110

Spess Mehreens!

I've been seriously slacking on this update as I've been playing this game for well over a month now. Ugh. Anyway, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine!

Expect to be utterly drenched in Ork blood at least 70% of the time.
"Expect to be utterly drenched in Ork blood at least 70% of the time."

I know I've talked about it many times on here before now: I'm a Warhammer fan. I admit that I was a little skeptical about Space Marine for various reasons but when I heard that the multiplayer was apparently quite fun in preview events I decided that it would be cool to dedicate myself to an online game again, if only for a little while. Preorders (for the Xbox 360 version) were launched and, after a minor screw up with Amazon, I got my copy almost on release day. Since I was dedicating myself mostly to the multiplayer I, quite uncharacteristically, skipped the single player campaign and dove right in.

First, the game. It's developed by Relic Entertainment, the same guys who made the excellent Dawn of War games. Good pedigree, I think most would agree. The odd thing is that Space Marine isn't an RTS game, it's a 3rd Person Shooter with a side of "Character Action" which is definitely a bit of a departure for Relic. It was also released on consoles along with PC, again, a bit of a departure for them. You play as an Ultramarine captain attempting to secure some objectives (chiefly an Imperial titan) on a forge world during a massive Ork invasion. The forces of Chaos also make an appearance (don't they always?) You do a little over the shoulder shooting with bolters, plasma weapons, and the like but probably more notably you'll spend a lot of time wading into the huge mobs of Orks slicing and dicing with chainswords and power axes. Occasionally you'll also strap on a jump pack and go leap-frogging off of enemy heads while smashing them down with a massive thunder hammer. Talk about fun! The campaign itself is a pretty linear experience and while I'd imagine it might be pretty mundane for most people there's plenty of fan service here if you're a Warhammer 40k fan. So yeah, when I did finally play it I enjoyed it.

Stop! Hammer time!
"Stop! Hammer time!"

Anyway, back to the multiplayer: tons of fun! I've never played anything quite like it. The closest comparison, and one that is drawn often, is probably Gears of War, though it feels substantially different in numerous areas and anyone who thinks this game is just some shoddy Gears clone is definitely quite mistaken. I particularly loved the flexability and balance between the three classes: Tactical, Assault, and Devastator (and their Chaos equivalents.)

Loadout and armor unlocks and customization can be a little basic compared to some other games with persistent unlock systems these days, but there's still plenty of variety and the new rewards come reasonably quickly. The weapons and their various perks provide quite a bit of variety and I felt like most of them were nuanced enough to give experimenting with different load outs and/or going for each weapon's associated unlocks a good amount of depth. Personally, my favorite tactic was to run around as a Tactical Marine rocking either a melta gun (essentially a very short range shotgun) or a storm bolter (similar to sub-machine guns in many games) using the class's dodge roll maneuver to gain ground on long range opponents or out-position Assault marines. I also enjoyed my grenades and sometimes took the extra damage and/or extra grenade perks when I was feeling a little cheap. Other highlights: The heavy bolter, which the Devastator starts off with, is amazing once you get a feel for it, and the Assault class is all kinds of fun in and of itself.

This would be a fairly accurate screenshot of multiplayer if it weren't for the teamwork depicted.
"This would be a fairly accurate screenshot of multiplayer if it weren't for the teamwork depicted."

Anyway, all said I really enjoyed my time with the game and plan on dusting it off again soon with the recent release of the free Horde-like co-op DLC and the announcement of future paid DLC. It is kind of a shame that the game had to release so close to Gears of War 3, never mind it's generic name, because I really feel like it was passed over by too many people who would have probably loved it. Still, following some of my favorite gaming forums it seems that the game definitely did take hold with a lot of people, particularly on PC, so maybe there is some hope for an eventual sequel.

I also played Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team on Xbox Live Arcade which is... well, absolutely nothing like Space Marine. It's a fairly simple, fairly typical Twin Stick Shooter set in the Warhammer 40k universe - you pick your class, which determines your weapon, special attacks, etc. and make your way through a giant space hulk slaughtering Orks. Tyranids also make a bit of a cameo at one point as well.

Orks, fire, some chains... ahh fuck if I know.
"Orks, fire, some chains... ahh fuck if I know."

I played the demo and wasn't too impressed but figured I might pick it up eventually... then I got Space Marine and learned that thanks to a bit of cross promotion the only way to unlock the Assault class's power sword in multiplayer was by playing Kill Team and, what do you know, I was sold! I played through the campaign co-op and, all in all, a few annoying/frustrating sections aside, I had fun with it. The achievements didn't hurt either. 😉

A bit Warhammer'd out for a while, on to the next game!

As usual, not much in the way of good screenshots... which surprises me since *at least* Space Marine was also on PC, but I suppose not enough good blogs and forums go out of their way to make sure their images are indexes. :/ These are PR shots with no GUI shown but they do at least represent the game. The Kill Team one is accurate but simply not a great shot.