What Are You Playing Wednesday

Edna, a young woman holding a blue toy bunny, standing next to a bed containing 2 men who are wearing one sweater.

Edna, a young woman holding a blue toy bunny, standing next to a bed containing 2 men who are wearing one sweater.

Happy Wednesday everyone. I hope you all have been having a great week. It is time for our usual roundup of mid-week questions:

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

I am hoping to spend more of 2013 clearing out my backlog, and focusing specifically on adventure games. As such, I started and finished Edna and Harvey: The Breakout this week. It is a point and click adventure game with cartoon style graphics. I found the game play enjoyable but the storyline contained many problematic aspects.

So, what have you been playing?

25 thoughts on “What Are You Playing Wednesday”

  1. I got Heavenly Sword and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for Christmas. I am going to try to play both before I get the new DmC game.

    This past weekend I went to MAGFest. I tried to go to the Women and Gaming panel, but it was full 20 minutes before the session began. I am sad to miss it, but I am glad that it had so many peeps attended.

  2. Still League. Can’t seem to get enough, which is bad as I’ve not finished Dishonored or started my long road to complete the AC games.

  3. I’ve been enjoying XCOM a lot, but I’m interested to hear other people’s take on it. One of the things I loved about the original X-Com was the spirit of international cooperation; that your (randomly assigned) soldiers could be from any of several nations, including Asian, African, and South American ones, and there was gender and racial diversity among them.

    All of those things remain in the new game. While you can edit the “race” and skin-tone of your soldiers, I left them as they were randomly generated, and was please to realize that without any effort on my part, the team of veterans I took into my final mission contained only one white character, and only two men. It was the most diverse “cast” I’ve ever encountered in a major-company release (even if it was randomly generated).

    There are problematic aspects as well. It felt to me like female-bodied recruits happened less often than male-bodied ones (yes, I like to think some of my soldiers are genderqueer or trans, and nothing in the game contradicts me) but that could be confirmation bias talking. There is an achievement for taking an all-female team into a battle, which I rolled my eyes at (not that I’m opposed to doing so, but I’m opposed to the idea that it somehow deserves special recognition, as if it were more difficult). There’s zero body diversity — only a big space-marine male template and a typical small-framed female template. Despite the XCOM project being international, all your soldiers and three of the four story characters have American accents (I’m hoping someone will use the sound files from other localisations of the game to patch this). Only one of those main story characters is a person of color, only one is a woman, and all of them could be seen as stereotypes (The White Male American Leader, The German Doktor, The Asian Engineer).

    There’s also the fact that, if you build your base in South America, you get a bonus to autopsies and interrogations called “We Have Ways.” Besides not liking the obvious reference to torture, that’s really insulting when the other continents give you things like cheaper aerospace tech, more engineers, or more scientists.

    As far as the gameplay itself, however, I really enjoyed it and as someone that’s been playing the original for over a decade, I think they made really smart choices about what to keep, what to expand, and what to par down.

    1. As a non-native speaker of English, I think forced, stereotyped accents are worse than making everyone sound American. The German researcher in XCOM was a prime example of this (with a voice actor who clearly didn’t speak any German, as revealed in the intro), so frankly I’m relieved they did not go that route with the player characters.

      BUT. I think it would’ve been cool for them to say things in other languages, like troops in Civ games (maybe not Civ V, IIRC?) acknowledge the player in their own language.

      Only one of those main story characters is a person of color, only one is a woman, and all of them could be seen as stereotypes

      Well, there are only 3 main story characters overall, so ratiowise it’s not that bad, but I strongly agree with you re: stereotypes. (Though I think the white dude wasn’t a “leader” per se, he was the player’s aide de camp, at least that’s how I thought of him…? Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my behalf? LOL sigh.)

      I enjoyed the gameplay – will probably go back to it now that the new free DLC is out -, but some of the plot was really the worst B-movie tropefest evar. (I saw the ending from a mile off.) I don’t mind the tongue-in-cheek B-movieness (for example in the artwork style), but some parts seemed to have been taken seriously by the writers.

      I want to discuss the ending and its Unfortunate Implications (I think they say a lot about diversity and people’s undeclared discriminatory assumptions…) but I don’t want to spoil people…? Are there rules for that?

      1. Ah, yes, Dr. Valhen’s accent. I just looked up the voice actor and you’re correct: Moira Quirk was born in England. The most telling part is that she mispronounces her own last name, which I admit I didn’t catch as an (unfortunantly) mono-phone English speaker.

        I agree that having the all-American accents is better than having poorly-faked localized ones. Still, it would add a lot to the game if they’d done it well (or, preferably, had many languages, not just accents).

        When I referred to 4 characters, I was including Mr. Shadowy Council Representative (that reminds me of Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget). I suppose it’s possible he wasn’t white and that’s just my internalized expectations playing up. As for Central Officer Squarejaw, it seemed like he was Second-in-Command to the player as he did appear to hand out orders to the other NPCs.

        I just realized I didn’t mention that every anonymous Scientist and Engineer appears to be a white guy. The SAME white guy, even. Guess we beat the aliens to cloning after all.

        The plot… yeah. I mean, the original X-Com had a very “Mars Attacks!” feel to it (the trading cards, not the film based on them), which requires a mix of grim realism in spots and outright camp in others. I wasn’t expecting a Bioware-quality storyline, and honestly don’t think it would have fit. But it could have been a touch less Sy-Fy Movie of the Week. As is, the ending left me feeling pretty flat.

        I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ending – I actually didn’t pick up on anything problematic and am going to have to go back and rewatch. Maybe it’ll be fine if you put a big, all-caps “Spoiler Warning?”

  4. I whipped through the 20th Anniversary PSP edition of FF1 in about a week for my “play all the FFs in order and blog enthusiastically” project. This version was remarkably easier than the original, which honestly is a good thing in my opinion as I do not have months to beat my head against the wall of the infinite grind. (Most of the easing had to do with quicker levelling up and an adjusted magic system that was less D&D spells-per-day and more later-FF MP bank.)

    I also finished playing Tales of Lagoona, which is an ancient and ridiculous hidden object game about an orphanage under the sea. If you like hidden object games, it’s a lot of fun, though it leaves rather a lot to be desired in terms of its writing; it’s full of rather painful puns and has heavily stereotypical/archetypical characters. The hidden object part was really fun, though.

    I’m now back to Final Fantasy Dimensions, having just finished Chapter 3 this morning on the train. Only one more to go! And tonight, since I’ll have the apartment to myself, it is definitely time to go back to Chrono Cross. Those dragons won’t fight themselves, after all.

  5. My SO surprised me with a full set of armor and a new pistol and shield for my newly maxed-out Charr Engineer, so we wandered around the Iron Marches mowing down raptors for a while to try it out. Still haven’t gotten further than Claw Island for the story quests. Meh. I started an Asura Thief, too, who I plan to play until the story mode gets boring for her as well. The early Asura story is pretty entertaining so far.

    I also caved a couple days ago and picked up Style Savvy: Trendsetters, and have been playing a lot of it. It’s very cheerful (and a lot more fun than working real retail, I tell you what). I’d like to see more body types in the sequel, though. Even a simple Small, Medium, Large setup would be better than everyone being the same Small.

  6. Lots of PC gaming for me this week, again, thanks to having a gamepad to play games through Steam (running in Big Picture mode on my TV). I spent my time on quite a few different games this past week: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bastion, Sleeping Dogs, Deadlight, Metro 2033, Nimbus, Toki Tori, and Blocks That Matter. Enjoying them all quite a lot c:

    Finished my playthrough of Bastion, which was fun. Going to finish Deadlight sometime within the next few days, and I’ll probably start up Mark of the Ninja at that point. If anyone’s played that: thoughts? Can’t remember seeing anyone mention it in the WAYPW posts here (I could have forgotten seeing mention of it :’c!)

    I’m spending a lot of my playing time on Deus Ex: HR, though it takes a lot of patience sometimes because I’m doing a no-alert, no-kill playthrough. It’s quite satisfying each time I complete an area, at least. Whenever I manage to finish that game, I’ll probably resume my playthrough of Alan Wake from a while back. I’d also like to specifically devote more time on some of the many point-and-click adventure games in my backlog, with Syberia and The Book of Unwritten Tales at the top of that list.

    Yay for games!

    1. PC gamers represent! As a fan of stealth games, I cannot recommend Mark of the Ninja enough. Whenever I play, I find myself thinking that this is the game I have always wanted to make. Given your approach to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you would definitely find “Mark of the Ninja” to be an enjoyable experience. The Game+ mode will keep you busy, too.

  7. I just finished an indie game called “Cognition.” It’s an episodic murder mystery, so I’ve just played episode 1, “The Hangman,” from the devs’ website. Episode 2 comes out later this month, and I think I’m going to get that too, since even though I had a few criticisms of the game I see a lot of potential in it, and I’m really interested in the way the style mixes point-and-click adventure games and motion comics. Here’s the website if anyone’s interested in checking it out : http://www.postudios.com/cognition/index.php

  8. I’m still playing Borderlands and it seems I’ve run out of side missions, so I guess there’s only story missions left now. I’ve never been much about loot, but this game is making me addicted enough that I actually replay some areas just to see if I can get some better loot. Weird but fun!

    I’m looking forward to Borderlands 2 of course, which I’ll probably play as a Mechronome or Siren class. I’m also considering a new playthrough of Alan Wake. XCOM also looks really good judging from the demo, but I haven’t bought the whole game yet.

  9. I rediscovered Echo Bazaar, now called Fallen London, and a bunch of the new sister browser games on their Storynexus site. I quit Echo Bazaar a long while back when I got stuck in what felt like an endless grind for items, and I lost the ability to tweet for more actions to make it go any faster.

    But now, not only does it seem that Fallen London has added a little more content so I’m not endlessly farming glim, when my actions in that game run out I can switch over to Winterstrike or Samsara. Actually, I’m enjoying Winterstrike and Samsara slightly more at the moment, as both allow a bit more gameplay per chunk than FL does, and I haven’t seen the cards a hundred times already.

    Samsara is particularly intriguing, as it’s a historical fantasy set in Bengal during the mid eighteenth century. You play a low caste person (I don’t think gender is ever asked or specified) who is elevated to a high position due to your ability to walk in dreams. This power makes you a valuable spy. I’m not sure how well or badly it does with race and colonialism, but DAMN it is nice to play something that isn’t set in Magic Europe.

    In WoW news, I’ve very sadly quit my guild. I’m afraid it just emptied out in MoP. I have fond memories, but it’s been pretty lonely for a while. So I’ve decided to strike out in search of friends and green text. Can anyone recommend a good busy social/RP guild on Wyrmrest Accord Hordeside that might take in a wee drunken undead rogue? I’ll bring cookies!

  10. Playing Saints Row the Third co-op with boyfriend via Steam. I usually don’t play this genre, but having a blast with the game. The achievements/progression seem a bit touchy with co-op though, any sort of disconnect can distort some of the progress.

    Also working on SoulSilver on my DS. Saw the announcement this week about Pokemon X & Y and having mixed feelings about it since I feel like I’m the only one left who prefers 2D environments.

    1. I like the 2D art style of Pokemon a lot, I think it’s cute (I’m actually making a game in a similar style). And I wonder how some of the weird tile-based mechanics (such as all the step counting and calculations that go on per “step”) will translate to 3D.

  11. After Phantasy Star II (from the Sega MegaDrive Collection for PSP), I began Phantasy Star III, but decided to skip that game as it isn’t really part of the canon, and stars three generations of male PCs. Seriously, the first gen hero marries one of two women (player’s choice), offspring is again one male hero in either case, who again marries and has a kid with one of two women (player’s choice), and again either choice leads to a male hero. Didn’t any of the developers think that was a) sexist, b) boring, and c) statistically unlikely?

    So, I’m now playing Phantasy Star IV. What an improvement over the grindfest that the second game was. Battles are quick, movement is quick, experience is plentiful, and monsters don’t have huge amounts of HP. One thing I don’t like is how quickly most of the female PCs get removed from the party (it happens to male PCs too, but there are more of them, and some stay longer). Aside from that it’s definitely the best of the original Phantasy Star games though.

    I found out the other day that there’s an English translation patch for the PS2 remake of the first game, but I’m not going to play it again just for that I think. I will look for a PS2 emulator though, as that’s where the newer generation of PS games are. Or maybe I’ll try the Windows versions on Wine, not sure yet.

    In other gaming news, I’m going to import a N-American 3DS soonish. Curses on Nintendo and their region-locking. I’ll need one for Etrian Odyssey IV, which still isn’t coming to Europe. And I don’t want to be the last one to play it anyway. I’m disappointed though that this is still the only game I’d want a 3DS for. For the Vita I had at least some other games to look forward to.
    If anyone knows of an online store other than Play-Asia that will sell&ship a N-American 3DS to Europe I’d like to hear it. I bought my Vita from them, but they put the full price on the package, which customs gleefully slapped a huge tax on (ouch).

    1. Get an American friend to buy it, package it with lots of bubble wrap – I’m always afraid of long-distance electronics shipping – and mail it to you as a gift? Customs might open the package regardless, but it’s worth a try… Of course, IDK if you have an American friend you can trust with that amount of money. :X (I’m in Europe too, so I can’t be of much help. I had luck with packages from Asia, not so from North America, customs-wise. But maybe that’s only Hungary.)

    2. Let me know how PS2 emulation works out for you…? I have a PS2 (bought it about 3 years ago, after the PS3 came out and prices dropped even further) but I’m afraid it’s going to fail one of these days, and now they are no longer being manufactured. Wish I had one of those old PS3s with backward compatibility, but I probably shouldn’t go on yet another anti-Sony rant… (but, if MS could do this, why can’t they… played several 1st-gen Xbox games on my Xbox and only found one title that wouldn’t run)

  12. I’m traveling so I only have access to Steam. This means DE:HR is on hold and I’ve been playing a bit of Faster Than Light. Got it from my brother as a birthday gift – he bought me stuff from my Steam wishlist, which was definitely appreciated. :]

    It’s cool. I thought the learning curve would be steep (roguelikes can be like that…) but I could jump in right after playing the tutorial, the UI and controls are very intuitive. Miles above even AAA+ titles. (DE:HR I’m looking at you.) I wish it had controller support – using the mouse can be painful for me so I can only play for short stretches -, but I don’t have a controller with me right now anyway, and FTL has short runs so it’s good.

    I played 4 hrs in the past few days and made it to the endgame confrontation once already, but died a painful death there. My scores are improving (seems like a mostly linear progression, but maybe that’s only me). I’ve only unlocked one ship though :~[

    Maybe tonight I’ll also try out Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery, which I got from a friend as a gift. I still have work to do, and I also want to read a bit. (This is somewhat related – I’m reading On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard, which is a SF novella with a far future Vietnamese setting, inspired in part by Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the Chinese classics. It’s great so far, so check it out! BTW the author is Vietnamese-French, if you’re not familiar with her.)

  13. Aside from Don’t Starve, where I died due to the complete brainfart of forgetting to put my armor on before attacking a spider nest, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Orcs Must Die 2. Sadly it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, given the typical crappy design of the sorceress — but like with the first game (in which she was the behind-the-scenes antagonist) I’m having a lot of fun. That is, when I’m not snarling in frustration. The difficulty has definitely increased, and I see now why some people say the game feels as if it was designed mainly with two-player co-op in mind, not flying solo. It really makes me doubt that I’ll be able to repeat my “five-skull everything on Nightmare difficulty” accomplishment from the first game. Before I can even think about trying that, though, I need a working five-skull strategy for the last level on normal difficulty.

    Still, occasional frustration aside, there’s something tremendously stress-relieving about blowing a ton of cartoonish orcs and other enemies into chunks with traps and magic. The music underlines the sense of merry chaos very well, and the much-expanded upgrade system allows for trying out vastly different strategies.

    1. I never finished five-skulling everything in OMD1, was able to complete OMD2 in nightmode mode – but in co-op. So, yeah, the single player difficulty is much different than it was in the first game.

      I found that in the end, the strategies (least, of the people who posted them online) ended up just being a mix of the same things. People shove things into a “kill box” and that’s it.

      One of the better features is the endless mode. I find that it was a great addition to the game.

    2. I love OMD!2, played it a bit with a friend finally and it was loads of fun. The sorceress is ridiculous, but hey at least she is awesome to play as! I think she’s way better than the other guy. If you ever want to play it with someone (I’ve only just started nightmare) feel free to add me: shorxrore on steam, I’m down to play it most times.

  14. I’m playing Orcs Must Die! 2 which is tons of fun, Half-Minute Hero funny and lotsa fun as well, Spacechem which is driving me to the brink of insanity – i have never played anything so hard, Dustforce – also incredibly hard but in the classic NES game sense, and I’m fiiiiinally playing the Longest Journey – which is, of course, amazing so far.

    I’m also eagerly waiting my friends to get off their post-holiday asses and play Torchlight 2 and Castle Crashers with me

  15. I’ve been playing a whole lot of Pokemon White 2, trying to get through the main story. I’ve also been breeding a team in White 1, and over the weekend I hatched a shiny Houndour!!

    I have also been playing AC3: Liberation. I wished I liked actually playing it more because I LOVE Aveline. I wish there were so many more playable game characters like her. She’s so cool sometimes I just spin the camera around and look at her. It’s actually kind of upsetting to me how happy I am about playing as her? If that makes any sense?

  16. So the weekend following this I tried playing Dragon again, this time with all the subtitles on and my earbuds off, with a deliberately ridiculous character based on an old, regrettable, expendable Mary Sue.

    There’s actually quite a bit of interesting stuff there. Also, the whole ~the Dragon is not anywhere, Seoul is merely a place of convenience~ and the isolated nature of that particular neighbourhood certainly help add a layer of deniability to make everything bearable as the old-school Dragon really just playing dressup or something.

    (The fact that I finally encountered in another area a normal NPC with an Asian surname, albeit one whose face is completely obscured by her biohazard suit, likely contributes to the re-opened benefit of the doubt.)

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