The Outer Worlds Review

The Outer Worlds Cover Art
The Outer Worlds Cover Art
Released 2019 (Switch 2020)
Platform Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Windows
Publisher Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Developer Obidian Entertainment (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Open World (Hub World)
Adventure
RPG
Sci-Fi

Bethesda doesn’t like it when you call The Outer Worlds ‘Fallout in Space’. That will be because The Outer Worlds isn’t a Bethesda game.

Last year, I wrote about The Outer Worlds in a few Last Week’s Gaming articles. I inhaled this game. As a fan of the Fallout games, I was keen on seeing Obsidian’s take on a new world to explore.

This review was delayed partly because I played The Outer Worlds on Xbox with Game Pass, and my plan was always to buy it on Switch upon release and do a review. Launch delays, and the game coming to Switch just as I started getting busy work-wise, meant that this is a review long in the making.

Before I talk about the game, I am going to get the Switch comparison out of the way.

Like The Witcher 3: Complete Edition, there are visual sacrifices. The Switch is an impressive piece of hardware, but it’s not in the same class as the ‘proper’ consoles in terms of raw power.

There are texture popping issues, and frame rates dip when a lot of characters are in an area. A fight with about 8-10 enemies (which happens a couple of times in the first world), my guess is about 15-18 frames per second in handheld mode? I can only estimate from feel, but the dips are apparent, and if you are in melee combat, this will make things harder than ranged combat.

That said, I am now about 40% complete on Switch, and I have played almost exclusively in handheld mode. Yes, I have had to reload because of the fights I have lost. But I had to do that on the Xbox One S as well. General exploration and gameplay have been fun, and everything works well overall.

The Outer Worlds Sign Not Loaded In Properly
It looks worse when on a big screen, but the sign is only 'half loaded' - this is an example of texture popping

My biggest complaint is the ‘fuzziness’ of the screen when playing in handheld mode. The game is compensating for lower performance by dropping the resolution. When exploring the open world, it’s almost impossible to tell a tree from a human enemy at a distance. It’s not game-breaking, but I was using my gun scope to look at trees a lot!

I also have not seen any of the ‘loading circles’ mid-game other people complaining about at any time. I don’t know why. I have the eShop (downloaded) version, but I do have a slightly overkill for Switch SD card. The exact card from Amazon is: Samsung 512GB 100MB/s (U3) MicroSDXC Evo Select Memory Card with Adapter (MB-ME512GA/AM).

I am not trying to say this is the best card for Switch or anything like that, but if your using a slower card, maybe that is part of the problem? A lot of information needs to be loaded into the world, and a slower card may cause these pauses in play. But because I didn’t experience the issue, it’s a semi-educated guess.

Switch SD Card
This card is overkill normally for the Switch, but I got it on sale. Maybe my game isn't waiting for loads?

So should I play The Outer Worlds on Switch?

It’s a hard one. I am going to finish The Outer Worlds a couple more times at least, playing with different skill builds and faction responses. 

This week, I had an in-person meeting. The drive had the potential for a lot of traffic, but it was a good drive, and I got there pretty early. Being able to pull out my Switch and do a couple of quest steps and put it away was great.

Again, like The Witcher on Switch, being able to play wherever I am in short bursts like this is the primary benefit. The longest session I played continuously was about 3 hours, and I had to plug the charger in.

If you only have a Switch, you will enjoy playing The Outer Worlds. If you primarily want to play in docked mode and have a PS4/Xbox One (or a gaming PC), I would stick to those versions. The experience is better, but the gameplay is identical.

The Outer Worlds Ada is dissapointed
The humour is present throughout the game, often much more subtly than this

OK, so what is The Outer Worlds?

The Outer Worlds in a lot of ways is a typical RPG adventure. You play a character and become the hero to some and the enemy of others.

The story begins in a way I really enjoy. Short version, two colony ships were sent into the far reaches of space. Everyone was cryogenically frozen for the trip, and the idea was that a new solar system would be terraformed and inhabited.

Things didn’t quite go to plan, and one ship (The Hope) didn’t quite make it. All of the colonists are still in hibernation, and instead of being frozen for 10 years, you are woken up 70 years later.

The Outer Worlds Phineas Welles
You are 'rescued' by fugitive scientist Phneas Welles. Help him, or turn him in - it's up to you

From here, you set out to explore the new worlds. You can try and save everyone from the greedy corporations, or join them and make life very comfortable for yourself. The choice is yours.

Because your character is coming in effectively 60 years late, asking why the world works the way it does makes sense in the narrative. On my first playthrough, I asked everyone everything I could to learn about the world. The second time, I knew which questions to ask, and skipped asking about the corporations or who certain characters are.

The Outer Worlds Opening The Hatch - Switch
The first glimpse of a new world, as shown on the Switch. Now, it's up to you.

What The Outer Worlds isn’t.

It’s not Fallout. Obsidian developed Fallout: New Vegas, a game that on launch I couldn’t play. It was so full of game-breaking bugs I just had to stop. Over time, all of these issues were fixed, and New Vegas became so polished, too many it’s considered the best Fallout game to date.

There are very similar mechanics though, so the comparison for Fallout players is unfortunately natural. You can slow time instead of using the V.A.T.S. system, some conversations lead to side quests, and those quests can end in different ways with the choices you make.

While there is a lot of combat in the game, it’s also not a shooter or first-person combat game. You can solve a lot of problems with violence, but you can also talk your way through a lot of situations. If you have science skill, you can also use that to help/hurt people (and yourself).

The Outer Worlds Time Dilation
When you use Time Dilation, everything slows down and you get some extra tactical information

Fallout was built on 7 character statistics – the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system. The Outer Worlds has expanded the character customisation, but also made it still streamlined for a baseline experience.

But what do you do in the game?

Here is where it gets tricky. On the first world of Edgewater, you need a power regulator to repair your ship and leave the planet. Everyone does this, and it’s why I concentrate on only showing this world.

But even with this seemingly linear opening act, you can choose very different ways of reaching your own goal. You can help the people there or make more money supporting some more selfish characters.

You can help the settlement overall, or you can help a single faction for short term goals and let the colony suffer in the long term. Things you set in motion at this early stage can open choices later in the game – or close them.

The Outer Worlds Edgewater Summary
This is how my shenanigans in Edgewater ended. How will yours look?

Oh no, I don’t want an early choice to ruin the game for me!

It won’t. Unlike some adventure games I have played, there is no ‘critical’ choice you can make very early on. You will see the options being laid out, but it will be at least 8 hours in before you can commit to a path.

Character creation follows this methodology as well. You are presented with a screen full of statistics, but until you hit a level of 50 in a branch, you upgrade all skills within. From there, you can choose to specialise in particular areas. For example, you can increase ranged weapons to 50, but then decide to specialise in handguns. You can still use the other weapons without handicaps – you just don’t get any bonuses either.

The Outer Worlds Character Creation
It looks like a lot to keep track of, but the charcter system is very simple and helps you experiment

OK. So why would I want to play The Outer Worlds? You haven’t talked much about that.

It’s tough to talk about The Outer Worlds in detail without either a) spoilers or b) talking about potential story areas you might not see.

The Outer Worlds has a lot of humour to it, but it also has a story that can be as deep as you want it to be. The overall story is about corporate greed, but how you explore this storyline is up to you. You can play the game ignoring the lore, or you can explore deeper and form bonds with your crew and NPCs.

Bottom line, if you enjoy sci-fi and open-world RPGs, The Outer Worlds is a game that should be on your radar.

The Outer Worlds - Loading Screen
I love the style and humour in these loading screens

If you have a PC/Xbox and Game Pass and are on the fence, grab it on Game Pass. You don’t need a ‘great’ video card to play The Outer Worlds on PC, so even if you try it out before buying it for PS4/Switch you will have a great idea of what you are getting into.

Overall Thoughts

Take all the best elements of playing Fallout: New Vegas, and move it into a new environment. Multiple quests, character stats that allow you to play differently, faction relationships – it’s all here.

The Outer Worlds still isn’t perfect. For example, defeated enemies can disappear, making quests impossible to complete. Some of the choices you get are very black and white – not every storyline has nuance.

But if you enjoy a semi-open ended adventure, The Outer Worlds is a fantastic start to hopefully a new franchise.

Best play experience order – PC (mid-high tier graphics card) > PS4/Xbox One > Switch. That said, The Outer Worlds is enjoyable on every platform. The Switch version has the most visual sacrifices, but you can play it anywhere – it’s a pretty good trade-off.

Overall
9/10
9/10

Pros

  • Solid (if cliched) story
  • Plenty of player choice in story and upgrade system
  • Great atmosphere overall
  • Combat isn’t deep, so don’t need to be great at shooters to do well
  • Replayable for different endings/character types
  • On Game Pass if you want to try/play that way

Cons

  • Not a lot of enemy types
  • Hub style open world – lots of loading screens
  • You can get quest breaking bugs, especially when enemies you need to loot vanish.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The next big video gaming choice: Where do you want to play?

Switch on a plane

It’s not quite time to be talking hardware – there are other things to keep in mind still

Welcome back! So now you know we will be looking at the first step of hardware choices. Where do you want to play?

Most people will be saying “At home”. The gaming den is the dream of gamers everywhere. But this isn’t always the case. Spend a lot of time on public transport? That time could be spent gaming! Or maybe you catch up with friends for a LAN party regularly? Some people even need to move on short notice, and large gaming desktops computers do not like being transported easily.

This goes with your mindset. This is probably the most significant overlooked criteria I see when people look at what they want to do. It’s great to know you want total immersion, but if most of your free time is when you are out and about gaming on a desktop is all but out.

Switch on a plane
My Switch has helped with many a plane flight, both during and before! Image Source: Nintendo

There is no right answer here, it’s all about the right solution for you. So let’s have a look at some starting choices we will be building on as Talking Tech continues.

Some solid starting choices

Looking at all of the available games is daunting. Knowing what you want to play is even worse. Different people have different tastes. I love RPGs, and I am lucky that I can play them on almost anything. But how do you know what you want to play? 

Unfortunately, it’s like movies, books, music, or even cars – until you try them, you don’t know for sure. And you can’t try them until you make an investment. Of course, if you know someone that plays games and can try them out on their machines, it helps. But it’s not always that easy.

So if you are looking at playing a wide range of games, below I have some reliable starting places that you can look at as a safe starting choice. 

These aren’t recommendations – don’t look at them as such. But these will let you look at some options and the costs involved to get started from scratch and a feel for budgets, and we can build from here going forward.

At home gaming only

Bang for buck starting out, I would suggest an Xbox One S and Game Pass subscription. You can play hundreds of games for $15 a month (for ultimate), keep some freebies and try lots of different types of games.

Why do I recommend Ultimate Game Pass? It comes with Gold, which gives you free games each month for the extra $5. Plus right now, I can crossplay games with my desktop!

If the game is a Microsoft Game Studios one, you can even play it at launch on Game Pass. Look at spending AUD$400 + Game Pass subscription to get a good starter and excellent gaming experience.

Xbox One S Starter Pack
Xbox has starters and the digital only console. Every saving has some form of extra price.

You would have seen many headlines that PlayStation ‘won’ this console generation. While true in sales, that’s not really the whole story. I prefer PlayStation as a platform (I am a PlayStation fanboy), and it has more exclusive games than Xbox. That alone doesn’t make it the best console out there, but you can’t go wrong either.

PlayStation provides a great gaming experience, and you can usually get deals on the base PS4 and a couple of games for $500. Add $80 a year for PlayStation Plus, and you will get to keep a couple of new games each month as a part of the deal. If you want to dip your toes into VR as well, PlayStation is your console choice.

Today, you get access to some fantastic exclusive titles as well – more about that later.

PS4 Starter Pack
Starter packs are a great way to save a little money, but you still spend more

You can’t really go wrong on either platform unless you must play a title exclusive to one over the other. Have to play Halo? Don’t buy a PS4.

Looking for the Switch? Well, I consider the Switch a portable, even in docked mode. Check out ‘Gaming on the go’ for some Switch thoughts 🙂

For more power, choice and flexibility you would be buying/building a PC. You can get a system with a GTX 1660Ti/RX 5600 graphics card that will rip through games at 1080p for around AUD$2,000. This includes a monitor, keyboard etc. – the computer itself will be around the $1500 – $1600 mark. You can still take advantage of Game Pass, plus have access to Steam Sales and GoG.com which has great titles for much less than the console equivalent. Even Epic gives away a free game a week.

Does a system like that have all RTX this and 4K HDR that? No. But then again, I haven’t talked about the PlayStation Pro or the Xbox One X either. The highest performing graphic cards cost AUD$1400+ by themselves!

Basic Gaming PC
No flashy lights and bling, but works well (once you put the side panel back on :p )

Everything I have outlined here is for what I consider a solid baseline experience – 60 frames per second for smooth gameplay at 1080p (Full HD) resolutions. I wouldn’t look at anything less than these choices for a great experience. There are exceptions, but these are niche situations and should be looked at as such. For example, I would love a multi-game arcade cabinet at home, but I can’t play Resident Evil 3 on it!

Can you do better? Yes, in every single case. But future articles will start explaining these options.

Gaming on the go

If you want something you can take with you, then primarily you are looking at a Nintendo Switch or a Gaming Laptop.

For the Switch, budget about $330 for the Switch Lite (handheld only) or $500 for the version you can plug into your TV for choices. Add $60ish for a case and screen protector – you want to protect your portable! It’s a vague amount because the case you like could be cheaper or more expensive. They all do the job at the end of the day.

Then add about $80 per game you want to buy. Switch Online gives you some classic games, but no new titles like Sony or Microsoft. The Switch is a great platform, and quickly became one of my favourites. The downside is that games for it are expensive compared to every other platform.

The Switcher
Yes, there are compromises playing on a 'weaker' platform. But there are positives as well!

For a Gaming Laptop, I would budget for about $2,000 – $2,500 for similar specs to the gaming desktop I talked about before. It will still rip through games at 1080p and has all the same benefits as the desktop. It won’t be quite as fast performance-wise as the desktop though.

Don’t get put off by this statement – a lot of people talk down about laptop performance, and the hate talk is not justified. The differences in many titles will be within a couple of percent of frames showing per second (think the smoothness of gameplay). This difference is for a bunch of good reasons, and I will be making a comparison between Desktops and Laptops in a couple of weeks.

Asus Gaming Laptop
Looks and size are a big part of the price, but if you want to pick it up and game, laptops are always there

Portable means you can game almost anywhere, you just need power and maybe internet access.

The thing to remember though is if you want portable, you sacrifice computing and graphical power, and pay a premium. The same goes for the Switch compared to PS4 and Xbox by the way!

The trade offs for a Switch vs Xbox/PS4 are pretty obvious, but it’s still a great experience. I know a lot of people (and roll my eyes at lots of comments) that complain the Switch doesn’t have 4K HDR. It could, but you would be carrying around something the size of laptop anyway! It’s all pros and cons.

Another portable console that gets shunned by the general gaming community is your phone. Yes, I said it. Your phone can be an awesome gaming platform!

Will it play the latest games at fast frame rates and have all the bells and whistles? Nope. Mobiles rarely have the newest AAA games released on them. Gaming will eat through your battery as well. But a lot of us have pretty high-end phones we purchased on a contract.

But if you just want to check out Fortnite? You probably already have a way sitting in your pocket!

Rog Phone 2
You don't need this phone specifically, but gaming on mobile is fun

For playing on your phone long term, I would probably suggest investing in a Bluetooth controller. The PS4 DualShock works well for about $90. There are lots of different controllers but think of the DualShock as a reliable general choice.

So how do I know what I want to game on?

Really, it comes down to what you want to play. 

If you want to play first-person shooters, adventure games or role-playing games? Good news – you can play on pretty much anything. Real-time strategy? Not many come to console, but they exist. Personally, I prefer PC – keyboard and mouse is still better than controllers. 

The release of the Epic Store has introduced confusion because Epic has paid companies to only release their games on the Epic store. Mostly it’s what is known as a timed exclusive, meaning that you can only buy and play it from Epic for 6-12 months. Want to use your Amazon gift card to buy it? Sorry. You can’t. Well, not for a while at least. And then you have to get it when some other game you want to play is being released. This is a big part of the ‘uproar’ of Epic Games.

This has gone against the industry trend as a whole. Microsoft Game Pass (yes, I keep going on about it) is releasing Xbox games on PC. Older games need work most Xbox games aren’t available. Still, going forward Microsoft has been releasing their games made by Microsoft Studios to work on PC and Xbox. So in a few years, you won’t necessarily need an Xbox to play console games – your ‘gaming PC’ and Game Pass could be all you need for any Microsoft games.

Epic Games Store
Choice is rarely a bad thing, but gamers can be very vocal in their disapproval

Before last year, if a game came out on PC, it used to be on PC. Steam is the defacto PC store, and you could buy it there digitally. You could still buy it from other places though – you didn’t have to buy it only from Steam. Go anywhere that sold physical versions like EB Games, Amazon, JB Hi-Fi and you got the same thing. There are services like EA Origin that only sold their titles. Still, they didn’t have such a significant impact across so many titles. Eventually, such services ended up releasing simultaneously on other platforms such as Steam anyway because sales suffered.

These days, a lot of games come to both PC and consoles across the range. The idea of ‘exclusives’ are both dying off and taking strange turns locking you in, which does make choices confusing for new shoppers.

What are exclusives? Generally, it means a title tied to one platform. If you must play Horizon: Zero Dawn or Marvel’s Spider-Man you need a PS4. Your choice is really between buying a PS4 or PS4 Pro. Want to play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Buy a Switch. It’s not on anything else.

Cyberpunk 2077 Preorder
Apart from First Party (Hardware Makers) titles, it's rare to not be able to play on a lot of platforms these days

Even Sony has started to back down on its exclusives. Death Stranding is coming to PC, and rumours of Horizon Zero Dawn are out there as well. True, this approach isn’t as aggressive as Microsoft, but the fact they are backing down at all is a significant step for them.

Streaming is another factor in all this, but not one you need to worry about today. What streaming means is you can play games from your subscription on almost anything. As I said, for today, don’t worry about it. The tech is still new and not widely available, so while it’s coming don’t be put off by the next big thing. We will get benefits down the line, just not quickly enough you need to prepare for it.

How does this help you pick what you want to game on? If you don’t know what you want to play, you need a platform with the most choices for games.

Project XCloud
Streaming will mean you don't need specific hardware - but it's a ways off yet

As a rule of thumb, PC has the most comprehensive selection of popular games, followed by PlayStation with their exclusives, Xbox, and then Switch. Each platform has strong titles only available on that platform. Unless you need to play that one particular game/series, don’t let it be the only thing that guides you.

But now I am even more confused!

Possibly. And I am sorry about that. There is a lot of information and choices to take in, especially in one go. But what I have outlined today is only a small amount of the possibilities out there. The amount of choice is staggering. Even veterans get confused at this stage. I promise this is the only time I will have so many options laid out like this.

Not every choice is viable for everyone. If you only want portable gaming, then you can see there are only a couple of easy options now. You can get cases with screens for making your PS4 and Xbox portable. You can get small form factor desktops with handles to take with you. There is still more to think about, but if you want quick and easy, hopefully, the choices aren’t as intimidating now. All the other stuff is extras, like getting customisations on your car.

If you only want to game and/or keep costs down, consoles are a great choice. If you have spent a lot on a work desktop system, you can just add a better gaming graphics card. You might be surprised at how many games a ‘work’ laptop can actually play! All of this I will be breaking down in the coming weeks.

We need to know what you really want your experience to be so that you can explore the options that best suit you. Next week, we will take a look at console gaming in more detail.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

My Gaming Challenges for 2020

JohnHQLD Logo

I’m going to play so many games this year! That’s the plan anyway 🙂

So I have told you my favourites games for 2019. We looked at what I wish I could have played in 2019. We even went through what I am looking forward to in 2020.

But what about my gaming goals? Bottom line, we play ultimately to enjoy our gaming experiences. So what would setting goals do to help this?

I have seen (and in the past set) goals that have hurt my gaming. I was playing just to hit some abstract number. Playing games should be fun, and if you have to drag yourself to a game, that isn’t great for anyone.

But there is also the trap of “I can do it later”. We all know this one. Busy at work? We make the excuse of playing more later. But once you start going down that hole, it can be hard to come back up. That’s where the challenges help me.

As demonstrated by Last Week’s gaming, sometimes I play a lot of games, other times I hardly play anything. Not playing games isn’t a bad thing, except when that’s what you want to do. We all joke about gaming backlogs and the shelves of shame, but the goals will helpfully put a dent in all this.

All that said, let’s have a look at my gaming goals for 2020 🙂

Board Game Goals

Late last year, I made a few goals for myself about 1/4 of the way through the year. I came closer than the stats suggest, mainly because I keep forgetting to record plays!

I didn’t make it though. It’s not the end of the world, and I know why. So I am hoping that making my personal challenges ‘public’, this will change this year!

But why am I doing this? It boils down to just wanting to see how much I am sacrificing gaming time through the year.

Goal 1 – Record 100 plays of games that I haven’t recorded before

OK, so this one can be a bit of a cheat. In a perfect world, this would be play 100 new games, but that’s not happening. While I buy a lot of games, 100 new games would almost be all I played. So if there is an old favourite that I hadn’t recorded – it counts.

Recording 100 new games does sound insane. In the future, this count would likely be coming down. But when you think about the games Alpal continuously shows me and events like PAX Aus, it’s not impossible. Coupled with replaying games on games nights that just weren’t recorded, I think I can do it this year.

Goal 2 – Record 250 plays

This works alongside the 100 new titles. Now, I admit this sounds just as crazy, but not really. While not running at the moment, I have a regular games night at home. I also have separate game days with Alpal. Hopefully I will be starting a semi-regular date night games session Rabbit this year. This breaks down to only a few games each week, and that is pretty much what I do anyway.

Failing this last year was because I kept putting off playing games coupled with not recording plays. 2020, I hope to change all this. Partially for a better record for me, and because I am hoping to make my own recording app. That means comparing my test data against a known solid system like BG Stats.

Board Gaming Challenges 2020
Currently I use BG Stats to track my games. It's a great program, but I want to tweak a few things

Goal 3 – Make sure certain games make it to the table

This one is a mixture of finish playing some campaigns, and starting to play others. For all of the campaign games, I am hoping to actually finish the campaigns this year as well. Because these games take a long time, there aren’t many I am picking some, and I want to get into them!

Pandemic Legacy Season 2

I started playing Pandemic Legacy Season 2 over a year ago. We have a long way to go before we finish it! Holidays, Marriage, Work, Health – all of the reasons for delaying the games were there. The four of us couldn’t make our times click. Hopefully this year we can power through with a session every couple of months!

The 7th Continent

I don’t know if I will solo this or not. The 7th Continent has been sitting on my shelf as a “When I can dedicate the time to it” game, and that excuse is wearing thin.

A card-based exploration and expansion adventure, The 7th Continent blew up on Kickstarter a few years ago, and it’s time to finally put it to the test!

Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Inc

So a lot of my game night crew are also in my PAX Aus crew. Clank! is one of those push your luck games that became a board gaming hit. I have only played Clank! In! Space! so far, but having a campaign version with the Acquisitions Inc crew? Yes, please!

I am hoping that Clank! Legacy will be the easiest one of these that I can get through this year. A couple of rounds of Clank! on the table, then see who would want to play regularly. What could go wrong with that? :p

Pandemic Legacy Season 2
Just want to get this one finished before Season 3 comes out!
The 7th Continent
I have had this beauty on my shelf of shame for a couple of years 🙁
Clank Legacy
Who wouldn't want to see how far Jim Darkmagic can push his luck?

Video Games

Yep, I have video games as well. Looking through my backlog, I think I have about 2500 of games I want to get through. My problem here is one of my favourite genres are RPG games, and they can take hundreds of hours to do everything!

As you may have seen with my board game goals, every hour I spend on one sort of game pulls time away from the other. This is a delicate balancing act that we all know about. My video game goals are a bit vaguer because they aren’t something I can schedule in like game nights and stick to.

On game nights, if I am not feeling 100%, I can pull out a more straightforward game and still play. If I am playing something like The Witcher or Breath of the Wild, I can’t just put it down for a couple of months. I have learned that lesson in the past! Hence, there are a bunch of games I have started but not gone back to. Any of these games I need to start again, and then I tend to play something newer instead.

So with all this in mind, my video games goals seem conservative. According to PlayStation year in review, I only played about 160 hours in 2019. While the Switch did stop me from playing on the PS4, it didn’t stop me playing that much. I also started and finished The Outer Worlds on Xbox that I got this year as well.

I know I started and raved about a few games last year. Astral Chain is one such game. It was great, I enjoyed playing it with Rabbit, but I left it too long and away it went. Link’s Awakening met the same fate.

So my goals I am hoping will be realistic, but if I don’t make them – ah well 🙂

2019 PlayStation Year in Review
This used to be more my gaming a month instead of a year. Wow.

Goal 1 – Finish 10 games this year

That’s right – 10 games. Compared to my board game goals, this sounds tiny. But if the last couple of years have taught me anything, it’s that video games are the first form of gaming that I have been cutting out.

Now, finishing games to me means seeing the end credits. I get through the story. There are going to be exceptions – Kingdom Hearts 3 first DLC Re:Mind has just come out, and I will be playing it. It’s Kingdom Hearts 3 media – of course I am. But it’s extra content and bosses, not a new game, so it doesn’t count.

What does count? Games like Resident Evil 3 that I will probably spend the entire weekend finishing. Also, backlog games – Breath of the Wild and The Witcher 3 are candidates. But expansion content, no matter how big? Off the list.

Goal 2 – Platinum/Complete 5 games

So here is a bigger one. Finishing a game is one thing – getting through the story and being happy with that.

Getting the Platinum is a PlayStation thing. If you earn all the the Trophies (Xbox Achievements) in a game, you are awarded one additional Trophy – the Platinum. In my mind, if I get all of the Xbox achievements in a game, I still got the Platinum it. I just don’t get an Xbox bonus achievement equivalent.

Completing a game means something completely different. In game, there are usually collectibles and equipment to unlock, and Completing a game (with the capital C) means you got all of them. Searched every area. Opened every chest. Seen every possible ending. These days, you tend to earn the platinum before you Complete a game. These runs for me are reserved for games I truly love and can’t put down.

Final Fantasy XV, my first game finish and Platinum for 2020, is a great example. I have earned the Platinum. But I haven’t completed the game. I started a New Game+ instead of reloading my save, so I haven’t done any of the extra dungeons or got the best weapons. And there are additional chapters as well I haven’t started.

So, Platinum and Complete are different things. But it took me an additional 20ish hours to earn the Platinum for Final Fantasy XV and based on the internet about another 80 hours to ‘complete’ it. I could finish another game or two in that time! Hence, low goals.

Candidates for games to Finish/Platinum/Complete

What games do I want to complete? Well, until you finish a game, it’s tough to say. Why would I want to potentially double the playtime for a game I thought was only OK?

If you look at my anticipated video games for 2020, it’s fair to say these are all candidates. Backlog titles, I have a lot to choose from. A couple of options I have shown below.

Return Of The Obra Dinn
A game that flew under a lot of radars, but from all accounts is right up my alley
The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt
So here is hundreds of hours of game-play in one game
Sekiro Shadows Die Twice
Not the longest game, but the grind to learn is no harder than huge RPGs

The one thing I am worried about is playing multiple RPGs in a row though. Genre fatigue is a thing, so my next game now that I have ‘done’ Final Fantasy XV won’t be a large open world adventure. Maybe Luigi’s Mansion 3?

But there is a lot that goes into Trophy/Achievement/Completionist runs. More than I am going to go into here. So guess what I am talking about Thursday?

What about your gaming goals? Do you have some for yourself? Let me know in the comments, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter!

Good luck with the Yeti hunt tomorrow!

JohnHQLD

Top 10 Most Anticipated Video Games for 2020

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So many good games coming! What a way to see out a console generation

Getting release windows for upcoming board games is really hard. Video games almost have the opposite problem – there are a huge amount of titles to choose from!

We will still get new announcements during the year, but 2020 is shaping up to be amazing. And none of the next gen PS5 launch exclusives have even been announced yet!

As with all anticipated lists, dates can change. Two games on this list have already been delayed just in the past week! It doesn’t change the fact I want to play them, but it does make the 2020 criteria tricky.

Ah well, with all that said, what can’t I wait to play in 2020?

Number 10 – Outriders

Outriders looks really interesting. It is also being developed by People Can Fly, a development team that has flown under a lot of radars.

What is Outriders? All we really know for sure is that it’s a cooperative shooter for up to 3 players set in a sci-fi apocalypse like future. A lot of the visuals remind me of Stranger Things meets Death Stranding with guns.

People Can Fly have a pretty good shooter pedigree, even if their games didn’t necessarily meet with tremendous success. Bulletstorm comes to mind. It was a solid shooter with great visuals despite some story complaints.

So I am looking at Outriders similar to how I look at Borderlands – I think I will enjoy it. Still, I will enjoy it more if I can find a regular group to play with.

Number 9 – Gods and Monsters

I don’t know a lot about Gods and Monsters, but what I do know has my attention. Being developed by the same team that created Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, my first thought was Breath of the Wild in Greece.

I don’t think I am too far out with this assumption. At least, superficially.

The art style is gorgeous. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a game people tell me I need to play, with a vast open-world with hours of side-quests and story to explore.

I have a lot of games like this on my backlog. Gods and Monsters has made my anticipated list is because it managed to knock Assassin’s Creed Odyssee off my ‘get to it’ games list.

Number 8 – Destroy All Humans! Remake

This is a guilty pleasure choice for me. I have already ordered the collectors edition with the UFO (DNA Collectors edition). Destroy All Humans! is probably not a game for everyone, but I loved playing the original in the PlayStation 2 days.

An open-world adventure game set on late 50’s B movie style earth. The B movie setting works well, as you play an alien named Crypto that is trying to extract DNA from humans to save his race.

The humour is juvenile, the writing is intentionally corny, but it was amusing to relax, kick back and play. I am hoping the remake will be the same 🙂

Number 7 – System Shock

I love the System Shock games. They were my first taste of how a first-person shooter could be engrossing. Looking Glass Studios with System Shock and Thief were masters of this style of game, and for me, it all began with System Shock.

On the odd occasion, I have been known to run through System Shock 2 again. I can’t go back to the original. Not because it’s a bad game, but it hasn’t aged well control-wise. Even the Enhanced Edition couldn’t overcome this problem for me.

So why wouldn’t I be looking forward to an old favourite updated with modern control conventions?

Number 6 – Fairy Tail

I enjoy a lot of different anime. Some I enjoy for the multi-layered storytelling. Others are just mindless fun. Fairy Tail is one of the rare series that contains both depending on the story arc.

Given the success of the various Dragon Ball Z RPG games over the decades, it was surprising that no one had tackled a Fairy Tail game. All the elements are there. An extensive roster of characters to build from. The central guild/hub posting jobs for its members to earn money and experience. An established world with different terrains and conditions to explore.

And in 2020, I am getting my wish. I can form my team and go adventuring to my heart’s content. And as a turn-based battle system, so I can play that little bit longer when I am tired.

My only indecision is a question of which platform. PS4 or Switch? Oh, the choices!

Number 5 – The Last of Us Part 2

The Last of Us is hands down my choice of Game of the Decade. Are there games I enjoy more? Yes. But The Last of Us was a great example of gaming being both for adults and an artform. The storytelling is fantastic, and I don’t mean just the script. The non-verbal storytelling and diverse world and characters beat a lot of film and television writers.

So, of course, I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. But why the middling ranking you may ask? Not all stories need a sequel, in my opinion. I am not saying I don’t think Naughty Dog can do a proper sequel. But The Last of Us was so good, the potential for disappointment is real.

It’s also not a game you sit down and blow off steam with. The Last of Us was an emotional roller coaster that I had to get up and walk away from sometimes. Not because of a hard boss fight or difficult puzzle, but the story punches you hard at times. Well, it did for me at least.

I can’t wait to see what Naughty Dog has done with The Last of Us Part 2. But it’s a game I will need to be in the right frame of mind to sit and play through. This makes the next few games more likely for me to play before this one.

Number 4 – Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2

So, before the buggy Bethesda memes were even possible, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines was the poster child for bug-riddled adventure greatness.

Based on the World of Darkness RPG games from White Wolf, Bloodlines was an ambitious game that almost delivered on all of its promises. At least, once most the game-breaking bugs and glitches were patched out.

Waking up a vampire, picking a different clan didn’t just mean different starting stats, but thoroughly different play styles and story plots as well. Playing as a Nosferatu, for example, means you can only travel by sewer around the city. Your deformed appearance stops you from passing as human, and you must remain hidden at all costs.

Pick a dialogue choice that means an NPC sasses you as a Brujah? You are probably going to kill them in a blind rage.

Before the Witcher, Bloodlines was my open-world adventure RPG of choice. It still holds up well today with all of the patches. But a proper sequel? Yes, please!

Number 3 – Resident Evil 3 Remake

The remake of Resident Evil 2 was mindblowing. Keeping the game ‘Resident Evil’ while updating almost everything was no small feat.

Take that same engine, and do the same for Resident Evil 3? It was a no brainer. And I am not worried about the relatively short gap between releases. The original Resident Evil 2 and 3 came out closely together as well, partially because of the large number of reused assets. The Racoon City Police Departement can be pretty much lifted straight into RE3.

We even have hints of areas that will change playing Resident Evil 2 remake. We can see the aftermath of what we all knew were Nemesis battles, and now we can see them for ourselves.

Capcom has said they are changing even more in 3 than they did in 2, and on the whole, I can’t wait to see what they have done. I am going to miss the pick your path options from the original – apparently, they are out. But after the team did so well with 2, I look forward to seeing what they have replaced those choices with.

Number 2 – Final Fantasy VII Remake

The game that made a lot of people Final Fantasy fans. Three discs of epic adventure told with large amounts (at the time) of video cutscenes.

It was a console defining game for many. Even people that aren’t fans of the game can’t argue against its popularity.

And after cruel teases and years of outcry, we are getting more than we could have dreamed of. Not a remaster – there have been plenty of those. We are getting a from the ground-up remake that is still keeping all of the favourite fan moments.

The entire Final Fantasy VII story is being split into parts, making the remake more of an episodic game than a full release. If Square Enix is keeping their word, this is necessary. The already massive adventure is being expanded upon so much that Midgar is a game in itself.

This will go one of two ways. It will be received with Resident Evil 2 levels of praise, or it will be flamed entirely and is the only instalment we will get. Time will tell.

Number 1 – Cyberpunk 2077

I have been chomping at the bit for this since the initial teaser reveal 7 years ago. I am not the only one.

Already loving what CD Project Red had done with The Witcher series and being a fan of the original RPG, how could I not be? Rewatching the teaser over and over again, I remember yelling happily because of a poster in the window. The cinematic showed nothing gameplay-wise but showed vital pieces of the RPG lore to show they knew what they were making.

Watching the presentation at PAX Aus 2019 had me excited. Yes, it was scripted mainly. Showing specific areas and a couple of builds to show off options, nothing hands-on. But those options were there. You don’t have to tweak a set character to get through the game.

There were genuine playstyle differences in what was shown, with none being better or worse than the other. If you think one style is better, play that way. It doesn’t force stealth players to be shooters, or talkers to be hackers. Each option is viable, so you can play whatever way you think is the most fun.

We have a little longer to wait now. Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed until September. A lot of people have complained (the internet, how surprising). But think of the insane details included in The Witcher 3. If they want more time to do things, they can have it. And I will be waiting to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Honorable Mentions

Video game announcements tend to be made long before board game announcments, so there was a much bigger pool to pick from.

That said, there were four games I struggled to put on this list but just didn’t win out. In no particular order, they are:

Sports Story
Disnintegration
Iron Man VR
Bravely Default 2

Sports Story is the follow up to indie fun rpg Golf Story, which was a lot of fun. Light hearted and simple while remaining engaging, I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Disintigration looks really cool. A mix of RTS and FPS, where humans have been transferred into robots. Think Cayde-6 on a species level. There have been a lot of missteps in these mashups before though, so I am hesitant.

Iron Man VR I hope will live up to the hype, but I am also looking at maybe a 5-6 hour game if I am lucky. Well, based on past VR games – it might surprise me.

The really close one was Bravely Default 2. The Bravely series on the DS was amazing, and I really want to see how a direct sequel plays out. I can’t explain why, but I don’t think we will see it in 2020. I have a feeling it will slip to a 2021 release. But you never know – it could be an ‘available now’ after a future Direct!

What do you think? Is there a game coming in 2020 you think should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments, Twitter @JohnHQLD or on my Facebook page!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Top 10 Video Games 2019 (I Wish I Played)

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Oh how I wish more time. And energy. Mainly time 🙂

We all know that great equation. You need sleep so you can work and earn money. But you wish you could still play games and only have 4 hours sleep and still function 🙂

2019 had some fantastic game releases, and I only got to play a fraction of all the releases I wanted to. So welcome to the Top 10 list of games I wish I played last year!

Number 10 – Concrete Genie

Released late in 2019, Concrete Genie has been getting some great reviews. And it’s PSVR compatible!

At its core, Concrete Genie is a puzzle game that uses freestyle drawing and colour instead of pure logic and fetch quests to complete. What isn’t to be intrigued about?

I am a little concerned that my colour blindness could impact playing the game, but playing with Rabbit in the room should help teach me what is where.

By all accounts a laid back but challenging game, I will probably try and give Concrete Genie a go later this year.

Concrete Genie

Number 9 – Sea of Solitude

I remember when Sea of Solitude first caught my eye, it was 2016ish. It looked like an interesting premise, a young girl escaping monsters in a submerged city, with a world to explore and learn the story.

Then I saw it coming up in a few Game of the Year 2019 lists. I didn’t even realise it had released!

A story that focuses on a young girl facing her inner demons, both narratively and in-game. The monsters in the game are facets of her personality and the issues that bring them out. Building the story as she (and you as the player) is intriguing and challenging, so I wish I knew it had come out.

Sea of Solitude

Number 8 – River City Girls

River City Girls is more a throwback to the old school Double Dragon/Final Fight arcade days with a few twists. The most obvious one is that you play as high school girls rescuing their boyfriends, but the changes go deeper than that.

There are the standard moves, combos and power-ups that side-scrolling beat-em-ups are known for. But you can also beat up enemies and then recruit them to work for you, giving you the ability to customise your team and assistance when required.

River City Girls isn’t deep, but it is a retro arcade throwback that looks like fun and from all accounts delivers on that promise.

River City Girls

Number 7 – Borderlands 3

I wouldn’t say I am a huge Borderlands fan, but the series is fun and a shooter I would play over a lot of others. On my wish list to start is Borderlands 2 VR, and if I could get a group of players regularly would love to try and play all 3 in coop mode.

One thing I do hear about Borderlands 3 is it is more Borderlands. This isn’t a bad thing at all. But even though I enjoyed the first 2 games solo (I haven’t played the pre-sequel), the most fun is had when playing with friends.

I will eventually give Borderlands 3 a try, but I wish I had time to have already done so.

Borderlands 3

Number 6 – Trover Saves The Universe

I am a huge Rick and Morty fan, so this was always on my radar. I really want to play it in VR, and I haven’t had the time or the proper setup lately to do so. I also want to finish Virtual Rick-ality which I have problems touching the ground in PSVR, and I don’t want the same thing happening.

Is this a groundbreaking game with a deeply satisfying story? Nope. It is a fun platformer with the co-creator of Rick and Morty providing the jokes, so I imagine it will be a fun couple of days and then put it away. Think an adult-oriented AstroBot Rescue Mission. Oh alright, a childish adult-oriented version :p

But what a couple of days 😀 Final decision eventually will be stick with the VR dream, or pick it up on Switch where it was recently released?

Trover Saves The Universe

Number 5 – Doctor Who: The Edge of Time

I was so excited when I heard The Edge of Time was coming out, and then I just glossed over it. Partly moving, partly unhappy with PSVR setup, mostly just busy and forgot.

Like a couple of other games on this list, The Edge of Time won’t be for everyone. Having grown up on Doctor Who (Tom Baker was my first), the chance to explore different scenarios and in VR is very appealing.

I can’t say for sure (obviously or it wouldn’t be on this list), but I am getting a bit of a VR Escape Room experience vibe from The Edge of Time. Some of these are fun, some not so much.

Either way, I picked it up on PSVR with the Jan sale recently, so I will let you know in a formal review later this year!

Doctor Who The Edge of Time

Number 4 – The Outer Wilds

Consistently confused with and for The Outer Worlds launched at almost the same time, I heard the title but missed the pitch. Some blinders attached themselves to me and stopped me from seeing this title. And I really, really regret it.

Yes, it’s an open-world(ish) sci-fi adventure ala The Outer Worlds. Yes, you have to save the universe. But you can’t win the game without losing. And losing. And losing again.

Closer to space Groundhog Day, you have a small window of time to find out why your planet is destroyed and save it. But you can’t do it the first time. When you fail, you wake up again at the start of the game with your memories of the previous loop intact.

This sounds great, and it’s on Game Pass, so I will be giving it a try sometime.

The Outer Wilds

Number 3 – Control

I had a lot of doubts about Control when it was coming out. It wasn’t the game itself, Remedy has provided some great experiences over the years. It was the PC port and RTX that had me fed up with the hype.

Graphics help in many ways, but they aren’t all that makes a game. A lot of internet trolling about graphics effects not on their Xbox or PS4 because they didn’t have a brand new graphics cards that cost 3-4x their console just annoyed me. So I didn’t even look at it.

Yeah, I should have just picked up Control. It sounds like my style of game. Lot’s of exploration with a story as deep as you want it to be – it’s a JohnHQLD dream that I let tech trolls kill for me. Need to fix that.

Control

Number 2 – Luigi’s Mansion 3

I first played Luigi’s Mansion on a friends Gamecube. Never finished it until it came out on DS recently. I have Luigi’s Mansion 2 but haven’t started it. I don’t know if I will at the moment, but that’s because DS gaming is all but officially dead at the moment. But I digress.

Coming out on Halloween, why hadn’t I even started this game up? Well, because I was neck-deep in The Outer Worlds, but that was a whole another console!

I am pretty sure Luigi’s Mansion 3 will be a great palate cleanser between some of the big games I want to play in 2020 (More about that soon!), but the included mini-games might even make for a fun games night or two 😀

Luigi's Mansion 3

Number 1 – Death Stranding

Hideo Kojima. That is all I needed to hear to be onboard with Death Stranding. I even pre-ordered the PS4 Pro Death Stranding Console. Partially because I wanted a Pro that didn’t sound like a jet engine. Partly because it looks great without being overboard.

As regulars know, the end of last year was all over the place for multiple reasons. I wish I had time to sit down and play Death Stranding, but I just didn’t. Unlike a lot of open-world adventures (like The Outer Worlds for example), Kojima games tend to require more alertness to play. Bottom line, I was too tired to give Death Stranding the attention it deserves.

I have been trying to avoid anything substantially story related to the game, so I can enjoy as fresh as I can. As things go on, this will probably get harder. I have heard lots of opinions, but I know I am not walking into an action game. I just don’t know exactly what I will be walking into.

This will be rectified in the coming months 🙂

Death Stranding

What do you think? Is there a 2019 release you think I should be playing before any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Top 10 Video Games 2019 (That I Actually Played)

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What a great year to be a gamer

I had a better year for Video Games than I initially thought. I didn’t realise I spent a lot more time on one platform more than the others, and by a fair margin.

Spoiler, but for the first time in a VERY long time, I haven’t really played a game on PC. It makes sense. Usually when I sit in front of the computer I am getting ready to work, and if I am playing on the PC I always have work in the back of my mind. That will change in 2020 as well 🙂

Similar to my Board Game list, I have added a couple of cheat entries. Well, I call them cheats, becuase I haven’t finished them yet! They are weighted down thr lidy becuase of this, but the small amount of play I had still put them over other entries.

Enough explaining – on to the list!

Number 10 – Astral Chain (Switch)

PlatinumGames are evil. Here I am, a mid-40’s grumpy old man that can’t play twitch reflex games like he used to. Somehow though they manage to pull me back in to play another one.

I am enjoying the world-building of Astral Chain, and the story exploration is enough without being too grindy. Well, up to Chapter 5, where I am. And that is where I got up to.

I think it was PAX Aus prep after the site redesign that derailed me on this one? I am not sure. But if you like action games at all, you need to check out Astral Chain. It’s only number 10 because I haven’t finished it.

Oh, and if you want to play on the move, the Hori Split Pad Pro controller will do nicely 😀

Astral Chain

Number 9 – Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)

A classic game remade. I skipped a lot of the Nintendo consoles, with the original Gameboy being my only console until the DS a couple of years ago. Because of this, I missed a lot of classic NES gaming, including the Legend of Zelda series.

Now before a lot of people go berserk that Link’s Awakening is at the bottom of my list, I have two reasons. Firstly, I haven’t finished it. So it’s in my top 10 unfinished. Secondly, even though it’s my first time through the game, at its core, the game is 25 years old!

I am genuinely enjoying Link’s Awakening, and now that I have finished Pokemon Shield I intend to go back and finish it. But the older gameplay mechanics that drive the game, even though they hold up, keep it lower down on my list, most likely even if I had finished it.

Links Awakening

Number 8 – Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)

Fire Emblem on the DS was terrific. Huge story to explore, character interactions, permadeath – it was a turn-based RPG geeks dream. Fire Emblem on the DS was like Valkyria Chronicles for me on PlayStation – I can’t get enough!

And on a work trip, I got just far enough into it to know I didn’t have the time to invest in it just yet. I knew that the world was involved and you had to keep on top of what was happening. But in the DS version, you only had to worry about that at particular times. Quests were manually triggered, so you soon knew when to close it.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses will let you play this way, but only to an extent by what I have tasted. The between battle interactions are on track to take up 40-60 hours on their own!

If you enjoy turn-based strategy, pick up Fire Emblem: Three Houses for yourself. The casual mode will let you pick up and play no problem, and is still quite a challenge.

Fire Emblem Three Houses

Number 7 – The Jackbox Party Pack 6 (Switch)

Yes, it’s a collection of silly mini-games. It also let me run and join in for a games night with zero prep time.

For those that don’t know, the Jackbox Party games are just general games where the audience votes on winners. You can be designing T-Shirts, redefining the English language, or finding evil alien stowaways!

Buying the pack on a console (or PC, Apple TV, Pretty much anything) lets you host the game, and everyone uses their own devices with a web browser to join in. Then you follow the prompts!

Setup is easy, fun is great, and there is plenty of variety, so replayability is there. If you have groups of people that appear, this is an excellent standby as a group activity.

Jackbox Party 6

Number 6 – Untitled Goose Game (Switch)

Proof that gameplay trumps graphics 😀 Untitled Goose Game came out last year on PC, but not they are on consoles the game’s popularity has soared, and the Switch is where I got to enjoy it 🙂

Like any great simple game, from the description, it doesn’t sound great. Be a goose and do tasks that appear on the screen. They can be anything from finding a flower, all the way to terrorise a child enough to hide in a phone booth.

And it’s hilarious.

I played it in small bouts while travelling and needed something I could turn off without consequence. I thought it would be perfect. Word to the wise – losing progress bites :p

If you haven’t seen it, play someone’s copy now. I am sure they will let you. Twenty minutes later, try to give them back their Switch/Controller without honking at them – I dare you :p

Untitled Goose Game

Number 5 – Pokemon Sword and Shield (Switch)

So missing a lot of the Nintendo early consoles, I only played a few Pokemon games. Yellow, Ruby, Moon, Let’s Go and now Shield.

A lot of fans are annoyed and vocal. Competitive play has already banned Dynamaxing, a new battle mechanic. Apparently, DS assets like sounds and models have been reused, which people feel ‘cheated’ by.

I had fun with it. The story isn’t really anything amazing (nothing new there). The battles are fun, and I enjoyed cooking a meal for my Pokemon. The inclusion of the Wild Area I thought was fun. Yes, online has issues, but I also didn’t need it to complete the game.

If you enjoy Pokemon, to me Sword and Shield are excellent additions to the series. If you are new to Pokemon but want more than the Let’s Go series ‘simple’ gameplay, it’s all here and more. And because Pokemon were cut, there is also the benefit of not having so many Pokemon to learn, so your learning curve is only steep instead of a vertical wall 🙂

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Number 4 – Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4)

How long have I waited for Kingdom Hearts 3? And was it worth it? Mostly 😀

I love the series, but the timelines and retcons are crazy. Basically, I tell anyone trying to play the game to go with it, it’s much more manageable. What kind of timeline shenanigans are we talking about? Well at the start of 2019, the first Kingdom Hearts game is about the sixth in chronological order. It also includes movies, games, browser games and even concerts as authoritative entries.

That is not including most entries have been released and re-released with changes and story updates at least once. Usually as a full-priced game.

Bottom line though, I loved Kingdom Hearts 3. I would come home from work and work some more before going to bed just so I could get a solid 8-10 hours on Saturdays.

Everyone can play it, very few can understand it all, but a lot of fun no matter how you look at it.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Number 3 – Tetris 99 (Switch)

Well, talk about left field. Nintendo introduced one of my all-time favourite games and added Battle Royale. I thought they were mad. I thought it wouldn’t work.

Yeah, I was wrong.

With new play modes and little Grand Prix events always adding a bit of a carrot to come back, Tetris 99 still manages to be in the first few tiles of my Switch menu.

If you don’t know about Tetris 99 by now, check out my review. Better yet, if you have Switch Online, just jump on and play it. Really.

Tetris 99

Number 2 – The Outer Worlds (Xbox One)

So my first ever platinum trophy was Fallout 3. This was after voicing concern to my gaming group at the time that I was worried about bringing back Fallout and in a new game style to boot. In my defence, the previous couple of spin-offs weren’t great. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t wrong, though.

Flash forward to the next game from Obsidian Entertainment called Fallout: New Vegas. I was playing on PC, but that is putting it kindly. New Vegas was a bug-riddled mess of frustration. A year later, and after a lot of coaxing from friends, I said hello to my favourite Fallout game of all time.

Yep, the same team that made Fallout: New Vegas made a Fallout like game in space, and it’s fantastic. The multi-branching story, unforeseen consequences, and a relevant overarching story arc make The Outer Worlds a game I basically hoovered down. And it’s on Game Pass (hint, hint).

Playing it through the first two weeks, it wasn’t perfect. But it was far from an unplayable mess. The most significant bugs I met were apparently I was supposed to be given some more quest options. Still, I didn’t notice they were missing – the story made sense, and I could continue on.

Seriously, if you have Game Pass, put this on your drive (PC or Xbox). If you don’t, play it anyway. And apparently, it’s coming to Switch this year!

The Outer Worlds

Number 1 – Resident Evil 2 Remake (PS4)

Usually, as you can see with Link’s Awakening earlier in this list, I put a big negative in terms of weight for remasters and sequels. But then you get a remake that changes almost everything about the game, and for the better. This year, that game was Resident Evil 2.

You have the same characters, with some tweaks. The A/B Scenario system remains in place. And of course, item management and puzzles are still a concern.

Oh, and you still have good old Racoon City, the most magnificent collection of disasters of a city that never was.

Pretty much everything else is different though. Camera styles, combat, AI direction, even the Tyrant/Mr X – if you think you can use the same old tricks, be ready to reload your save.

I still remember playing this during the year, sitting on the couch with Rabbit reading/playing with her phone next to me. Hearing Mr X’s footsteps, she looks up to see what is making the noise. Then she sees him come through a door and lock on to me. “What the f#!* is that!” she yelled out, and it was at that point I knew just how well Capcom had nailed the remake.

If you haven’t played Resident Evil 2, then grab the new demo from your digital store of choice. That’s right – the ‘new’ demo. Capcom has started baking in Resident Evil 3 easter eggs into RE2, which is impressive in itself. Can’t wait for that to come out this year!

Resident Evil 2

Honorable Mentions

Tie – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (PS4)/Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (PS4)

So here are two very different games that share one thing in common – I played them enough that I can’t put them on the ‘I wish I played’ lists, but didn’t play enough to fairly put higher on the list.

Both games are graphically impressive (personally, Sekiro more than Fallen Order but it’s not a huge difference). Both have a control system that requires practice and gaining skill (again, Sekiro more than Fallen Order). And both games have been raved about since release.

I have played enough of both to know I want to play more. I have also played enough of both (about 3-4 hours each) to realise I need to be playing when I am fully alert. And when my joints don’t already betray me.

I honestly think at least one of these games would have pipped Link’s Awakening for number 10 except for one thing – I can’t just pick either of them after 6 months and know the timing. The controls are not brutal, but the nuances are.

So while I think I will love both of these games, when you don’t see them on my ‘I Wish I Played’ list don’t think it’s because I don’t like them. On the contrary, at least one will appear in another article soon.

If you have any interest in either pick it up. Yes, you will need to practice and ‘Git Gud’, but no one has said otherwise. All I can say is from what I have seen, I think it will be worth it.

What do you think? I couldn’t believe how much the Switch dominated my gaming this year. But with the portable nature of the console, it does make sense.

What about your favourite games of 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Jackbox Party Pack 6 Review

Released 2019
Platform PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, XBox, Switch (Reviewed), Amazon Fire TV, iPad, Apple TV, Android TV
Publisher Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Developer Jackbox Games Inc. (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players Usually 3-8 plus audience – recommend at least 5 players
Category Party Games

Sometimes, all you want to do is sit and mess with your friends. And Jackbox Party helps you do this ;D

I have plenty of party type board games in my collection, but most share a common flaw. They are all niche in some way. Geek trivia, Pop Culture, Dexterity or ‘gamey’ games. Whatever the niche, you are setting yourself up for just that game for a while.

None are bad games, but there are usually people that don’t want to join in because they feel they can’t win. The other issue can be the judging of answers. Even going with the written response, people can argue because there is a person to contend with.

This is where the Jackbox Party Pack shines. There is a central app that controls a series of different games, so any rules disputes are typically written off as ‘bugs’. It’s incredible how much this changes the focus of the group, and makes organisation and hosting game nights a breeze.

So it’s a trivia game? Pass

Like so many simple games, it sounds too simple to be any fun. But that isn’t where the Jackbox Party games shine.

Yes, there are trivia games. Word games. There are even drawing games. Each set features a unique host that has a series of jokes and quips that gets laughs as the game continues. The games each feel unique, even when using tried and true mechanics.

Having a host or forcing a player to get up and read a bunch of questions can make or break a games night. We have all been there. A great host can elevate Even a standard pub trivia night. Here is where Jackbox shines – you genuinely want to know what is going to be said next.

Yes, my friends were trying to skewer me for a small cash bonus. What a group :p

But why would I want to play a video game with a heap of people? No one has that many controllers!

One of the great features of Jackbox Party Packs is that almost everyone already has their own controller.

You need a device that ‘hosts’ the games sure, and in a party environment this works brilliantly on consoles as everyone can see the game on their TV. 

The players need a web browser to join in. And as almost everyone has a smartphone these days, everyone gets to play on a device they are already comfortable using. No mixing up XBox and Dual Shock buttons here!

OK, but how does this help with people that don’t want to play?

Say you are playing a game where you need to come up with clever wordplay. Some people do not enjoy this, and wouldn’t want to participate.

A great feature of Jackbox Party Packs is the Audience feature. You can have a few players competing, but everyone else can still be a part of the game by voting on the winning answers. Everyone always gets to play, and the audience has a vital role to play in picking winners.

The Audience feature is great for everyone at a party, but it has another bonus. If you are into streaming, you can stream your Jackbox game and have the room code as a part of the stream, including all of your viewers as well.

What can I say - I have a weirdly awesome group of friends to come up with words like this 😀

Playing like this has made the Jackbox panels at PAX Aus one of my ‘must-do’ panels each year – it’s so much fun watching the panellists playing, while at the same time participating in picking winners.

Well, that all sounds alright, but what do you play?

Each party pack comes with about five mini-games, each unique in their way. As you can tell from the title, this is the 6th such collection of games, with new packs coming out every year.

There is never the same type of game in each pack. As with every compilation, some that are gems, and some that aren’t.

Dictionarium

Dictionarium is a fun and fast word game. Players are given a word, and then everyone comes up with a definition of their device. Once everyone is finished (or the time is up), everyone, including the audience votes on their favourite.,

Round 2 has players writing a synonym based on the winning response. Once again, everyone votes for the winner.

The final round has players then using their synonyms in a sentence. Once again, the winner is voted for by everyone. Finally, you end up with a definition and usage of a completely new word!

Dictionarium is a great quick game that can start the night or a quick reset between some of the bigger games. While fun, it’s not a game I would want to play multiple rounds of back to back.

Role Models

Role models is a great game for a group of friends or at least people that know about each other. Players vote on a category (e.g. Olympic Sports, Heist Jobs, Girl Scout Cookies), and everyone chooses who in the group would suit roles in that category.

When everyone finishes voting, the votes are counted, and a player is assigned that role. If there is a tie for the part, a mini-game between the players plays out to pick a single winner.

‘Correctly’ guess the player for the role, and you can win the game! But really for party games like this, the end score is usually an oversite.

While this is a fun diversion, I think its more fun when players know a bit more about each other. Most of the fun is seeing peoples reactions to what the group thinks of them. For example, why am I better suited to Curling that Synchronised Swimming? You need to know the people to get the most out of this. Randomly assigning players because you have to isn’t as fun.

Joke Boat

For all of those aspiring comedians out there, Joke Boat is here to let you shine. It is also a great way to get a room of people laughing at Dad jokes 😀

There are three rounds in total, with each round mostly sharing the same steps. First, you have the brainstorming round. Enter a bunch of subjects for people to write a joke about.

Next, players select a setup that includes the topics from the brainstorming. Finally, you write the punchline. Simple, right?

Players get to deliver their joke, and players vote on the best. Do all of this twice, with the final round having players trying to write a better punchline for other players jokes.

Joke Boat sounds like a lot of fun, and it was enjoyable, but again not a game you will want to play over and over again.

Push The Button

Push the button is a different Jackbox game in that it doesn’t include audience participation. Every player is a player, and each round is a different mini-game on its own.

The setup of the game is relatively standard social deduction fair. Players are all crew on a space ship, but some players are aliens in disguise. The humans must work out who the aliens are and eject them to win.

The time limit is worked nicely into Press The Button as well. The aliens have uploaded a virus into the ships AI and will delete it entirely in 15 minutes.

Each round, a different player takes the role of the captain and picks a mini-game and crew members to participate. Most of the games have the same kind of setup – answer a question. The catch is the humans get one question, and aliens get a different one. You need to look out for the outlandish answers and responses to determine who the aliens are.

As the game progresses, aliens also get the ability to hack the games and can give the humans ‘alien’ answers, or aliens ‘human’ answers. Because everyone is on their phones, it leads to some exciting experiences.

Anyone can vote to ‘Push The Button’ at any time to vote out aliens. The player that pushes the button then nominates who they think are aliens, and everyone not being accused votes if they agree. If the vote passes, the unlucky players are ejected into space!

If one alien remains on the ship, the aliens win. By far the most complex Jackbox game I have ever played, but one of the smoothest social deduction experiences I have ever played.

Murder Mystery Party 2

Murder Mystery Party is probably my favourite of the games in this pack. It’s a typical trivia game, but with a very dark humoured twist.

Players are guests at a spooky hotel, and the host happens to be a serial killer. Each round, players answer general trivia questions for cash prizes. Get the questions right, and everyone continues.

Get the answer wrong, and the host will get to have fun with you with fatal consequences. ‘Losers’ get to play a random mini-game with the host and safe players/the audience. For example, losing players must drink from a goblet. The catch is the safe players have added poison to the drinks!

If you lost the mini-games, you are not out of the game. You become a ghost and continue playing, so no player elimination in the real sense.

When there is one player left, you can then try and escape the hotel. This is done by answering more trivia questions, with each correct answer moving you closer to the exit.

The other players are still playing, and the higher their score, the closer to the exit they are. There is another catch – if you are in the lead, you can only choose two of the three choices, giving the others a better chance of catching up.

With congratulations like this, is winning really worth it? 😀

If you take the lead as a ghost, you steal the life force of the other player and then everyone is against you. Also, just reaching the exit isn’t quite enough. You have to answer the final question perfectly to win.

Murder Trivia Party 2 was by far our most favourite game of the pack.

They all sound pretty good, what is the downside?

Overall there isn’t too much wrong with any of the games. There were some localisation issues as the questions have a significant US bias, but that increased the ‘us vs the game’ mentality of the group.

On the Switch, there were also a couple of times that I had to close the game and start again. Far from the end of the world, but when trying to change games, having it hang was a bit jarring.

Overall though, if Jackbox Party Pack sounds like something you would like to try, grab one of the older packs for cheaper and give it a go. Each iteration has had a standout game for me that has made the cost worth it!

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Access Denied Review

Access Denied Feature
Access Denied Feature
Released 2019
Platform Steam, PS4 (reviewed), XBox, Switch
Publisher Stately Snail (Website)
Developer Stately Snail (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Players 1
Category Logic and Deduction
Escape Room-esque puzzles

When you want to exercise your mind instead of your trigger finger

While I have been playing some action-oriented games lately, I do enjoy logic problems. Getting a puzzle and working it over and over until a solution is found is an incredibly satisfying experience.

So a few weeks ago when I saw Access Denied on the PlayStation Store, I thought “Why Not?” and spent the AUD$8 on what looked like a promising little title.

So I one afternoon when I was working from home, I started playing. I thought it would be a good thing I could pick up and put down as I was waiting.

What I didn’t expect was to finish after about 2 hours. And that was a distracted 2 hours. But more of that later – let’s talk about the good stuff first.

What Access Denied does well

Access Denied doesn’t hold your hand. You start the game with a control panel and some great rain sounds. Clicking start raises a box, and then you are pretty much on your own.

You can rotate the device before you, and change the viewing angle. The first puzzle is straightforward, but you still need to work out what you can interact with.

When the puzzle is complete, a little hologram orb appears, and the next challenge rotates in. Simple, straightforward, and satisfying when you complete a puzzle.

The difficulty curve I thought was about right as well. New mechanics are slowly introduced, and I never felt stumped. There was always a path I knew I could try.

All in all, it’s a generally smooth experience that allows people new to puzzle games a safe entry point.

Access Denied Level Complete
When you are finished, the game shows you so very clearly

And what could Acces Denied improve?

I have only played on the PS4, but the controls aren’t great. Maybe the touchscreen would be better? Moving the reticle and clicking isn’t too bad, but you have the problem of moving too much or not enough with the analogue stick. A way to adjust the sensitivity of the movement would be nice.

And dials. They are terrible. Using the dials was genuinely frustrating for me. They made straightforward puzzles unnecessarily annoying.

My only other real gripe is the length of the game, but at less than $8 (on PS4) I don’t expect a 40-hour game.

Access Denied Dials
There is a trick to it, but it's still REALLY annoying to turn dials

And then there are the trophies…

On PlayStation and Xbox are the trophies or achievements. Earning them increases your score or level on your platform, and is something either sought after or ignored generally.

For PlayStation gamers, trophies come in four ranks and are awarded for specific tasks in a game. Bronze for small achievements, the backbone of the system. Silver for harder tasks or hidden goals, recognition of extra work. Gold for outstanding in-game actions. Get every other trophy in the game, and you earn the platinum trophy signifying your mastery of the title.

Kingdom Hearts 3, my first platinum since Resident Evil 7, has 46 trophies in all. 32 bronze, 10 silver, and 2 gold – plus the platinum.

Batman – Return to Arkham: Arkham Asylum has 48 trophies. 28 bronze, 18 silver, 1 gold plus the platinum.

The Telltale game The Walking Dead: Season One also has a platinum trophy. It is generally regarded as an ‘easy platinum’ as you only need to finish all of the episodes. Each episode is essentially a mini-movie with the occasional choice, so they aren’t considered ‘hard’ games. The Walking Dead: Season One has 41 trophies over 5 episodes. 30 bronze, 5 silver, 5 gold and of course one platinum.

JohnHQLD Trophy Sample
Day of the Tentacle doesn't count as a short game - I have played it at least once a year on PC for years!

Among these titles, you now have an idea of how trophies usually are shared out in a game. You are given a semi-secret score for each trophy you earn, all of which add up to your gamer level.

What struck me as odd was how much my PSN level jumped when finishing Access Denied. Sure, I had earned platinum which is worth a lot of points, but it still didn’t seem right. Plus it was only 14 trophies; things weren’t adding up. Then I looked at the trophy distribution. 2 silver, 11 gold, and the platinum. Not a single bronze trophy in sight.

For $8 and a couple of hours of my time, I had bought a platinum trophy and more gold trophies than three ‘full’ games. Not going to lie – this left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t consider myself a trophy hunter, but this feels like an artificial sales incentive for Access Denied.

Want to get a lot of trophies quickly? Buy Me!

Access Denied stands on its own merits.  If I had just finished the game with nothing but a few bronze trophies, I would have been happy.  On PS4 at least this trophy grab incentive cheapens the game in my eyes.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Access Denied

Final Thoughts

If the biggest problem I have with a game is a perceived marketing ploy, it really can’t be a bad game.

Even the controls I could work around.  Access Denied is a game you pick up and play in short bursts normally.  Working around issues like that for a short time, especially for the price, is forgivable in my eyes.

If you are new to video game escape room type puzzle games, Access Denied is a fine game if you know it’s shortcomings.  If you have more experience, you can still grab The Witness for free on PlayStation Plus for a couple more days.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Solid introduction to video game puzzles
  •  Challenging puzzles
  •  Cheap

Cons

  •  Frustrating Controls (on PS4 at least)
  •  Short gameplay overall

Bungie brings Solstice of Heroes event with Moments of Triumph

Destiny 2 Triumph Rewards

Will this Solstice usher in Summer or Winter for the Forsaken expansion?

As previously mentioned, I left the original Destiny pre-DLC.  While I have enjoyed the return to Destiny 2 (mainly because of playing with friends), my enthusiasm has started waning.

The gaming news has been proclaiming heavily about Destiny 2 players being unhappy and ‘leaving in droves’, but I am back in a position where my main gaming partner Harls is currently enjoying Europe for a couple of months so I have been largely playing alone.  This extended leave couple with the large(ish) investment in Forsaken to ‘Complete’ Destiny 2 has had me wondering if I will play at all come September.

On Bungie Day (July 7th), they announced the Solstice of Heroes special event that includes the Moments of Triumph.

The Moments of Triumph are essentially lifetime play achievement awards, with four possible ranks leading to different rewards.

Most are in-game items, including a special Ghost, Sparrow and emblems.  One of the most interesting is the second reward – the ability to unlock the ordering of a special t-shirt from Bungie.  Yep – one reward is to give Bungie more money.

Destiny 2 Triumph Rewards
Some new rewards for lifetime play achievements are part of the Solstice of Heroes Event

While this might sound bad, I have to admit it’s not something I am against.  Yes you pay for a shirt no one else can get, but it’s a real reward for in-game achievements.  It’s also the second reward, and one you don’t have to claim.  If this was the ultimate reward, I might call paying for other than postage a bit on the nose, but this isn’t the case here.

Another bonus (well, to me) is that because it’s lifetime achievements, players that have actually done ‘everything’ in Destiny 2 will already be working to their level 3 reward.  Even someone like me, a largely casual player, have already achieved the first reward!

Destiny 2 Triumph Profile
It's actually easy to see what you have or haven't yet done, and even includes checklists!

If you want to see how you are doing before the Solstice of Heroes officially launches at the end of the month, check out your profile page on Bungie.net here.

But while the Moments of Triumph may seem the main reward, this is not the case.  In fact, because the Moments are ‘lifetime’ achievements, it’s only the reward for what you have already done (or can grind through before August 28th).

The real achievement grind prior to Forsaken’s release in September is the new level 400 prestige raid gear.  Already the ‘best’ armour and equipment in the game, now you can beat the current level cap of 385 before the expansion.

Raids are something I enjoy but get to do rarely, so I don’t have a complete set of any of the goodies just yet.  But to have the ability to get the jump on power levels before an expansion is a huge opportunity – just ask anyone that tried an escalation protocol on day one.

Destiny 2 Solstice Armour
There is new special Raid armour to grind for during August

Harls is still away until possibly halfway through the Solstice of Heroes event, and the other people I might be able to play with have yet to finish the original story campaigns.

I have a clan with some great people that hopefully I can coordinate some time playing with, but this is going to be a slog.  I am definitely interested in seeing what else the Solstice of Heroes event brings.  There are a lot of ‘Redacted’ entries in how to gain points for the Moments of Triumph.

Destiny 2 Triumph Points
There are still 165 points 'missing' to get to the event max of 400.

But will I buy Forsaken?

Only time will tell.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Battletech is almost here!

Battletech Feature

Can’t get through?  Build bigger mechs

My first experience with the Battletech universe was Mechwarrior when I was much younger than I am now.  Mechwarrior came out in 1989, I remember playing it in 1990 when my family got a PC powerful enough to play it.  Instead of being a soldier running around a battlefield, you piloted building-sized robots and blew up other robots.  Back then it’s all I needed to know.

This screenshot will give you an idea of what cutting-edge 3D graphics looked like in 1989.

Mechwarrior 1989
14 year old me couldn't get over the level of detail in this game

I had seen the name Battletech on things, but I didn’t care about it.  I wanted Mechwarrior.  I wanted to blow up bigger and bigger things – that was my only requirement.

Then came Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries.  I got exactly what I wanted.  There was some Inner Sphere story stuff that was getting in the way of me building my Mechs and shooting things though.

Later on the second playthrough, I started paying attention to the story, but that got cut short by life and a few other things.

Mechwarrior 2 Box Art
Bigger and Meaner in so much 3D glory

One of the things that got in the way was a game called Mechcommander.  I still had heaps of Mechs at my disposal, but now I was in the command chair rather than the cockpit.  I now knew about the Battletech universe, and Mechwarrior being one small aspect to it.  But I had what I loved, and I was hooked!

Mechcommander Strategy Screen
Planning squads and tactics was vital to keep your team alive
Mechcommander Battle
Amazingly detailed graphics let you watch your team ambush other Mechs like this

But all that changed over the years.  There were some other Mechwarrior and Mechcommander games, but I just kind of moved on for some reason.  I don’t think there was anything specific, I just kind of wandered away.

Then in 2015, a Kickstarter caught my eye.  Somehow.  I never do anything with Kickstarter as you know.

The first thing I saw was the title – Battletech.  Something triggered in my mind like I kind of knew it but couldn’t remember?

Then I opened the project, and saw this:

Kickstarter Banner
The Kickstarter Banner as is stands today

Then the memories all came flooding back.  Looking through the project, there were just so many positives for me to see.

First – it was being run by Harebrained Schemes.  Apart from having one of my favourite company names ever, they did the amazing Golem Arcana board game.

Secondly – and the clincher – they have Jordan Weisman on board.  The creator of the Battletech universe was bringing it back!

Now, at long last, the wait is over.  I have my Steam key and waiting for the preload.

April 25th, I will be able to once again command squads of Mechs and stamp the universe with my will.

Check it out on Steam or Gog.com!

Until next time!

JohnHQLD