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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

6 Amazing Games

After a long day of gaming. by ocean.attic from flickr (CC-SA)

Now that Google+ got murdered by Google, I'll go back to reviewing stuff on this blog. I should probably start coming up with backup plan in case they murder Blogger too. Oh and maybe I'll dig through my Google+ posts and report reviews here as well.

So here's 6 video game recommendations of games I played relatively recently. These games are not merely good and enjoyable, they go far beyond that. If you like games and game design, it would be utter silliness not to try out every one of them.

Her Story

My memory is fairly poor when it comes to stories. Even if I enjoy a movie or a book, I would have a lot of trouble recalling much beyond general outline and a few highlights. Video game stories are usually even less important and less memorable, usually just providing some background on which the actual game takes place.

And yet, somehow I remember every minute of playing Her Story. It just burned into my memory like no other game ever.

It doesn't "tell a story". It invented a completely new genre, which lets you discover what might have happened, in a way that naturally leads to emergent plot twists, and apparently people end up strongly believing completely opposite conclusions on what the story was depending on which way their exploration went, even if they've seen the same content, just in different order, and with different mindset. This level of story engagement is unprecedented.

I very strongly recommend everyone to play it without any spoilers, as soon as possible. It's a one evening game.

I hope more games like that get made, but it was such a masterpiece of story construction and acting that maybe it's too difficult and it will remain a singular masterpiece forever.


It's Steam's second highest game of all times, behind just Portal 2, so throwing another endorsement to million other endorsements might feel a bit redundant.

Factorio invented a new genre of automation games. You start on a new planet, manually extract some resources, and gradually setup more and more complex manufacturing chains so everything runs without your participation as much as possible. If everything in base game is too simple, you can ramp up complexity by another factor of 10x by getting some mods, which are conveniently available from in-game menu.

It's been such a great hit that new Factorio-style games like Satisfactory and Factory Town started coming out, but I don't think they're really there yet.

I don't love all their choices - color palette feels depressingly desaturated, and combat feels like a distraction from core gameplay (it can be turned off when starting a new game). It's still first and so far the best game in this new genre. It wouldn't surprise me if Factorio did to automation what Minecraft did to crafting, and it became regular feature in new games soon.

And it did it all while still in "early access". It's been far more ready for years than most games are on publication day.

Warning: The game can easily take hundreds of hours of your lifetime.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

Everybody knows Skyrim by now, but special edition brought new life into the game. Games like Skyrim only truly come to life with mods, but setting up mods for them was always pain. I still remember wasting a weekend setting up modded Oblivion for it to only glitch itself into unplayability as soon as I left tutorial dungeon.

Special Edition wasn't just the usual remaster with some better graphics, it brought 64 bit support (which enables big mods), and built mod support into the game itself, so installing a hundred mods at once is fairly easy. It still doesn't have perfect detection of mod dependencies and conflicts, but you'll only face problems if you take things too far, and they'll probably be fairly minor.

You can use third party tools if you're setting up particularly complex mix of mods, but you don't have to, and it will probably going to be fine anyway. Amount of content provides by the mods is enormous, and many of them are of very high quality. And many are not. It's all good fun.

Special Edition even brought mods to console playing peasants! Much more limited, but still, give them a taste of what PC gaming is like.

Annoyingly you need a special mod to enable achievements on modded games, which is basically the point of Special Edition. And between game bugs and 100 mods at once, I ran into bug in main questline, and didn't figure it out right away to reload, so I couldn't actually win this time, but it was so much fun anyway.

It's not a game for everyone, especially because you need a lot of time to play it, but it's definitely best in its genre of vast open world games.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

This completely free game pretends to be a dating sim taking place in literature club of a Japanese high school, but it turns into... Well, I can't say without spoilers. There's a bit of gameplay, but it's mostly a really great mindfucky story.

As the trailer says "This game is not for children or those who are easily disturbed", so I can't recommend it for everyone, but other than that, do it, it's amazing. Play without any spoilers. It probably helps if you enjoy anime visuals, but it only really pretends to be a dating sim. It's a one evening game.

Sniper Elite 4

Having played Sniper Elite 3 previously, I was expecting a decent stealth shooter, but I got a lot more.

The levels are huge, and allow a lot of approaches. Very few games ever tried that - Far Cry 1 and its sequels Crysis 1 and Crysis Warhead did it and then the whole concept died out, probably because console hardware had too little memory, and PC exclusives don't sell quite as well. It's those console peasants' fault as usual.

The second great thing is what happens when you break stealth. In basically all other games every enemy within some distance would magically know where you are, and now you'd have to run away or face a shootout against overwhelming odds. That's fine, and even Sniper Elite 3 did basically that. Sniper Elite 4 has a better idea. Enemies lack this magic, and only guess you might be based on when you've been last seen or where shots have been heard from. They'll try to suppress and flank your suspected location, throw grenades, and even artillery strikes to get you, but you can use it to your advantage.

This change makes breaking stealth a tool, not a fail mode. You can shoot to reveal yourself to lure enemies in direction you want, straight into some mines you just put, while you take advantage of them moving away from their posts to sneak past. Blow something up to make them take cover facing completely wrong direction, while you backstab them staring at the blazing inferno. Huge maps give plenty of options for creativity. Oh and as is tradition of the series, you get to kill Hitler in a DLC, in many unique ways. You can even shoot him in his one ball.

A big downside is third person perspective, which offers less control and immersion than first person would. But it's still an amazing shooter taking the genre in a new direction. If you enjoy shooters, it would be silly not to give this one a try.

The game doesn't actually explain all that well that you can take this dynamic approach, and I guess many people will play it as a traditional stealth game, which also definitely works. But if you do, you won't see why it's so special.

Silicon Zeroes

So it looks like a puzzle game inspired by TTL era chip design. Except they didn't just take vague inspiration, by the end of it, you will actually be designing superscalar pipelined processors with bypass logic. A lot of details of real hardware are simplified, but problems you'll be solving are completely genuine. It's a total opposite of games like Shenzhen I/O where everything is as fake as fake gets.

It feels to me like the most successful educational game I've ever seen, and I'm not even sure if that's what they were aiming for, or just accidentally hit.

There's also some story in it, but it's totally lame (half of negative reviews it has are about the story). At least it's not much of a distraction, you can basically ignore it and just enjoy the game.

The game starts very easy, but final designs are sort of Microprocessor Design 101 finals level, and only 1.5% of people have achievement for completing all challenges.

Oh and there's a free downloadable demo with first levels. Just give it a try.

Good gaming!

Enjoy the games. For summary of key points:

  • Her Story - one evening game, avoid spoilers at all cost
  • Factorio - long and very replayable, little to spoil, it's more fun if you try your own designs first few times; then it's OK to see how others did it, but if you want to start by watching some let's plays it's all fine too
  • Skyrim Special Edition - very long, and mods make it a lot longer, spoilers are mostly fine, 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! - one evening game, avoid spoilers at all cost
  • Sniper Elite 4 - medium length, little to spoil
  • Silicon Zeroes - medium length, mostly avoid spoilers as it's a puzzle game

I plan to posting a lot more on this blog now.

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