Monday, June 24, 2013

What I'm Playing 06/24/2013

One reason I haven't been blogging as much as I did in years past is that I've been reserving more time to play games just for fun -- taking the time to document my experiences and capture screenshots has the unfortunate side effect of making my gaming time seem more like work.

So I'm going to try an experiment -- I'll just write up a few notes from time to time on what I've been playing, informally from memory, and see if I can come up with anything interesting to say in the process.  So here goes...

My wife and I have been playing Borderlands 2, working our way through the main campaign together; I'll reserve any detailed comments until after we're done, but I will note that this installment clearly benefits from a larger budget than the original Borderlands.  Even the minor, optional quests have more steps and more surprises along the way, and the quirky character-based humor is even more abundant and over the top.  We're thoroughly enjoying it; if we were the type of people who put out a family Christmas letter, we would have to mention that "we slagged hundreds thousands of bandits with the most powerful guns we could find" and alarm our extended families.

On my own, I finally finished playing SEGA's Viking: Battle for Asgard late this past Friday night.   There are some spoilers in the following, so I'm going to put it below the fold.

My final play session ran later than I planned, as the end-game turned out to be one of those annoying stretches of save point-free drudgery that afflict many games I ultimately fail to finish.  The final battle took me a couple of unnecessary hours -- after fighting my way into the Big Bad's stronghold in a big battle scene, then hacking and slashing my way up the seemingly interminable stairs to reach the top of the tower, I found myself desperately wishing that my army of Viking warriors, whose loyalty I had spent so much time earning, had not decided to take an extra-long break for punch and cookies after breaching the fortress walls.  Stupid drinking, huzzahing Vikings.  Don't they know it ain't over until the credits roll? 

I made it up to the top of the tower on my own, using two of my three maximum-strength health potions to get that far, and then discovered that the final battle consists mostly of knocking out a series of magical pillars while being attacked by enemy creatures from all sides.  I got stuck here for way too long, trying to strategize the best way to hit the pillars, defend myself, and not get knocked into or stupidly run into the walls of flame festooning the environment, which kick on and off seemingly at random and too often coming on just as I was trying to run through them to get to another pillar.

I was trying to figure out the best strategy to allow myself to attack the pillars and anticipate attacks, but I wasn't getting very far -- usually I was dead before I had three pillars down.  As the hour grew later and later, I finally gave up on strategy and hand-to-hand tactics, and just started button-mashing as aggressively as possible -- and lo and behold, that actually worked!

The final battle with Hel which followed was rather anti-climactic -- she went through some cut-scene histrionics, then transformed into a version of the game's standard Giant model, with her upper body awkwardly grafted on where the head would normally be.  At least this fight was short, with a new checkpoint and a health refill as it began -- it consisted of fighting her more or less the same way one deals with the Giants, by which I mean, a bunch of random attacks and dodges, until the B button icon starts flashing behind her back, at which point a series of Quick Time Event sequences are used to finish her off.  If we mess up the timing, we have to fight some mild enemies for a while, and the game was fairly generous with health-refilling green orbs during this sequence.

Then it was all over, as an awkwardly-recounted and simply illustrated final cutscene told of our hero Skarin's final meeting with the goddess Freya, on whose orders he had been pursuing this whole adventure, and then some further awkwardness ensued about how his defiance of the Norse gods somehow led to peace and prosperity for his countrymen, unless, say, a sequel gets funded, and then the credits rolled.

It's a shame, because I was rather enjoying Viking: Battle for Asgard up until the end -- I like open-world games that allow a choice of objectives, and while the gameplay was kind of repetitive, it was competently executed enough to be entertaining for an hour or two at a time.  But at least I'm done with it now -- the illusion of productivity is maintained, and I can move on to something else in my Steam library without feeling like I've got one too many games in progress at once.  Onward!


  1. Me and my Mrs also worked our way through both Borderlands games. Waiting for the last of the B2 DLC which should be any day now. We're always on the lookout for games similar to Borderlands because the wait for the third installment could be considerable.

  2. One game we were surprised to find has a certain Borderlands vibe is Dead Island -- it's much more melee-based and a bit repetitive in comparison, but it has RPG elements and we enjoyed playing through it together. Between Borderlands games, I should note. :)

  3. I think you're spot on about Dead Island, and that might be where we go while awaiting the next Borderlands. Warframe looks like it could be a contender also.

  4. We'll have to take a look at Warframe ourselves -- we're still working our way through the standard Borderlands 2 campaign at the moment.