December Humble Choice

It’s December 6th as I write this, and also I’ve mastered the forbidden technique of shuffling my posting schedule around so that this comes out while there’s more than three days left to actually buy this month’s Humble Choice. What’s in the box?

Wasteland 3 is the third game in the series to which Fallout was already a hidden sequel towards. The guys who made Fallout wanted to make Wasteland 2 but were unable to get the rights away from EA, so instead they made their own. 25 years later, with the power of Kickstarter, someone finally got Wasteland 2 made, which I heard about, and then apparently also got Wasteland 3 done, which I did not. I’d want to play at least Wasteland 2 if not Wasteland 1 (it’s a DOS game from 1988, but I’ve had plenty of fun with those before and it’s considered a classic) before Wasteland 3, but it can’t hurt to snag 3 now.

Greedfall is a fantasy RPG that swaps your standard late medieval setting for a more 17th/18th century Age of Sail vibe. Apparently you’re exploring some kind of mysterious magical land in a way that may or may not be racist, I guess I’ll see when I get there. I vaguely recall some kind of criticism about this game at its release many years ago, but I never looked closely enough to figure out if there’s actually some lazy writing going on or if Twitter was just bored that day. Either way, it’s not, like, a Nazi manifesto or anything, so I’ll give it a look for myself (eventually).

First Class Trouble is yet another multiplayer deception game in the Mafia/Among Us genre where some number of people are the Mafia and everyone else has to try and figure out who. This one’s on a cruise ship and the infiltrators are robots. If I had a group I played with regularly, I’ll bet I’d enjoy the variety all the entries in this genre provide, but I’m not, and I don’t think these social deception kinds of games are very good when played with random strangers. Nobody knows each other, so it’s basically just a stereotype roulette where I find out whether this group of random strangers finds my use of statistics to be trustworthy or suspicious.

Backbone‘s pitch starts with “[y]ou’re not special. You’re not a hero.” Which would not be a terrible start if it were one of those video games where the premise is that, other than having unlimited retries, you aren’t any tankier or deadlier than a random NPC and have to get by in a world where three stormtroopers represents an overwhelming threat. That’s not what Backbone is, though, it’s a mystery adventure game with a linear plot. One of its promises is that players will “come to terms with the universal pain of existence and loss,” and it cites Sartre directly, so it’s a game that thinks it has something to say but is threatening to be a treatise on how the aimless ennui of being a mid-20th century French bougeouis academic is a universal human experience, when in fact that is both extremely rare historically and also not something I’ve personally ever experienced anything remotely similar to. You do play as an anthropomorphic raccoon, and weird stuff like that is normally a good sign for creative vision, but I’ve got a huge list of games to get to without spinning the wheel on whether this game’s artistic merit outweighs its pretentious solipsism.

Toem is some kind of adventure puzzle game where you mainly interact with the world by taking pictures of it. It sells itself as a chill, cozy experience. While I appreciate the cozy vibe that indie games have been gravitating towards (I think it might be the next indie phase now that “ruins of a forgotten kingdom which has suffered a mysterious calamity” seens to be wearing off), I don’t think this one has the gameplay to back it up.

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a game where you play as a real big skeleton (at least, you appear humongous on the world map – maybe that’s just because it’s the world map, but this isn’t just the scale being weird if you think about it, the game frames you as towering over the landscape) in depression-era America, gathering stories from some people to later retell them to others. It’s got decent visuals and really good soundtrack and voice acting, but its gameplay seems limited to trying to pick which story to retell to which character. There’s actual success and failure in that, but I still worry that this is one of those video games that really should’ve been a short film and stapled some gameplay on because getting short animated films Kickstarted is much harder than getting indie video games Kickstarted, and that the main thing added by the gameplay is that you can make the ending of the story really unsatisfying if you pick wrong.

I love Blade Assault’s sci-fi aesthetic, but it’s another Rogue-lite game. Rogue-lite games are major time investments and you spend a lot of that time re-experiencing the same content over and over again. For a game like Hades, I don’t mind – it’s really good at creating a game where build options are diverse enough that I can sink a lot of time into exploring them all and it doesn’t feel repetitive. But for a game whose main selling point is that it’s cool to watch a girl with pink hair and a trenchcoat slice robots in half with a katana, Rogue-lite means four hours of cool visuals and story stretched thin over twenty hours of gameplay.

Plus, their ad copy doesn’t capitalized the “Rogue” in “Rogue-lite,” suggesting that the genre is based on, like, being a rogue or something, and not gameplay similarity to the game Rogue. This is unconscionable and I am boycotting the game as a result.

Super Magbot is a platformer game where you can use a magnet ray to either attract or repel from certain platforms. This looks and sounds like a Flash game I would’ve played on Kongregate in 2012. It makes me kinda sad that this isn’t good enough anymore. XKCD was wrong. I mean, that comic was published in 2008 at which point it was very much true and it never claimed to be a permanent state of affairs, but here in 2022 browser-based games just aren’t the cauldron of mad creativity that they used to be. Genres that developed out of the limitations of Flash became irrelevant to a world where even cheap computers can run PS3-era graphics no problem. Free knock-offs of bigger games, like Portal: Flash Version or Feudalism (knocking off Mount and Blade, which wasn’t even out yet but which had been announced over a year ahead of the release of Feudalism), aren’t really relevant to me when I have a game backlog that’s currently bouncing back and forth between 165 and 175 games long, with new additions coming in for an average of about $4, plus I’m no longer 16 and working for hours on ChaCha to squeeze out the price of a single last-generation video game from GameStop.

So, yeah, Super Magbot is, to me, a relic of a forgotten age. People who like platformers in particular might dig it, though.

That’s two acquisitions from the Humble Choice, plus seeing Wasteland 3 made me realize I never added Fallout to the backlog because I got it through GoG, not Steam. I did beat the original Fallout, but I skipped past a lot of side content near the end to do so, and I’ve been meaning to go back and give it a thorough playthrough for like five years now. Also, it turns out I never got Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night into the backlog on How Long To Beat even though it was in my backlog category on Steam. So that’s four new games in the backlog, all of which are fairly long, sending me back up to 172. I spent November playing through lots of long games, mostly. Raji and Morbid were short, but also things I got that month and unloaded from the backlog almost immediately. The other games I completed were Project Wingman and Hollow Knight (using my cunning new strategy for the final few DLC boss rushes), and I’m also nearly through with Hades. While I’m pretty much totally cleaned out of very short games, these games were still much longer than games I could’ve been playing. So it’s up in the air whether or not I’ve hit the point where my backlog is expanding as fast or faster than it’s contracting (and it’s worth noting I may never hit that point – this month’s Humble Choice almost certainly added more hours of gameplay than I’ll actually have this month, but I haven’t really been keeping track of whether that’s typically the case).

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