Backloggery Beatdown February 2021

No, I have not given up on these write-ups. As I have mentioned earlier, I was playing too much DotA. The International 2021 getting delayed until October did not help. I usually play DotA during the TI season and move on with life. Now, it is in stasis. Nevertheless, I have found the time to write some things.

Redout: Space Assault

I wrote a review for this at GUG. tl;dr, this is a game developed for mobile devices that was released on PC. Not worth my time.

2/10

Spiritfarer

This game’s art direction captured my attention before I realized that it is one of Thunder Lotus’ projects (see also: Sundered, Jotun). The brown girl should have been a clue! Still, I had no idea what I was getting into honestly, but immediately caught on the moment Charon “retires.”

Undergirding Spiritfarer’s adventure game veneer is a base-building resource gathering, crafting game. Maintaining relationships with the spirits the protagonist Stella rounds up requires her to first befriend, or create an empathetic relationship with each. The method for ameliorating this is food. Exclusive islands grow the necessary ingredients or sell the seeds to grow them on ship, while there are regions in the sea where specialized marine life can be caught by the ol’ rod and spool. After earning the trust of these spirits personified as anthropomorphic animals, they request that Stella take them to certain locations to handle unfinished business before they declare that they are ready to transition for eternity.

As early-game spirits transcend, later game spirits become higher maitenance, requiring rarer resources and higher level facilities or greater quantity of resources to satisfy. In this way, Spiritfarer can become a grindy timesink, especially if the player (me!) misunderstands when one of the spirits gives a hint or que to do something specific, and all the other spirits become mute or repetitive, halting the game’s pacing until I figure out that nothing else will happen until I get that animal off my boat, their former dwelling becoming a permanent memorial.

I mourn not because of their deaths, but because I cannot keep them around longer so that they can help out, or just hang around so I can make something of a neighborhood. Of course, the mechanic of everything remaining in stasis until he player lets go is intentional, for that is part of understanding how death is oftentimes disruptive of what we actually want. One makes progress in this game after providing solace to those in need, until Stella’s own work is finished, her purpose fulfilled.

8/10

Hades

I believe that The Last of Us Part 2 deserved GOTY across industry outlets in 2020. Under normal circumstances, I would have played an indie game through the year that I felt deserving of the accolade, rolling my eyes at the mainstream choice. However, I have to admit that TLOU2 is legit.

Hades is a GOTY alternative, the game that many folks cheered for in good and bad faith (the latter of whom raised critiques about female characters that they do not question in games that are male-dominant). Like TLOU2 and any other GOTY candidate, I went into Hades with incredulity. Granted, Bastion, alongside Braid was one of the first indie games in the 21st century that established independent development as a viable alternative to the voluminously expanding budgets of HD gaming during the PS3/60 era. I love me some OSTs and hand-drawn assets, so Supergiant Games already had my attention with Transistor and Pyre, too. Art Director is Jen Zee is a beast and Darren Korb is a savage.

Thus, naturally, the artwork in Hades is on point, especially with its diversity, possibly beginning a trend in the industry to re-think pantheons traditionally depicted as white. Its OST is one of the best of the year (SOR4 and Ori: Will of the Wips are #1 and #2). Where Hades falters for me is how it integrates its story with its gameplay.

I can see how some would appreciate the idea of Hades, being a roguelite, revealing a little at a time about all of its characters as a reprieve from the natural expectation of repetition. This genre tends to be difficult, and death frequent; players should expect to repeat interactions with characters in the atrium a lot. With every failed run, Hades mocks his son Zagreus. Megeara grows colder with every defeat. Orpheus increases in remorse. The sheer number of VA lines is staggeringly impressive.

Because I am better than the average-skilled gamer, I experienced Hades differently than most. I beat it the first time on my 11th try. By the time I had completed the game for the required tenth time to unlock the true ending, a significant amount of content remained for me to discover; even after thirty-seven consecutive victories, I had still yet to befriend the pantheon of gods to earn the secret ending. Granted, I enjoyed Dusa’s awkwardness, Eurydice’s song, and making my favorite goddess, Artemis, squirm in the discomfort of the attention that I was giving her. Callisto has competition!

Yet even with the variety of weapons, including their hidden aspects, and Pacts of Punishments increasing the difficulty, defeating Hades became routine for me. The game becomes a grind against the RNG in order to finish the myriad of story threads. To minimize boredom, I began to limit my runs to one per day. I had my fun with Hades, as it is a great game, and would have made my best games of 2020 list, but it is not a 2020 GOTY candidate to me.

8/10

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