May Humble Choice

It’s the first Tuesday of May as I write this, so the new Humble Choice has dropped. What’s in the box?

Warhammer 40,000 Chaos Gate: Daemonhunters is a turn-based tactics game about Grey Knight space marines fighting some kind of Nurgle infection. Grey Knights are about the lamest part of the 40k universe, a Mary Sue faction with no new ideas but which tries to make itself specialer than the rest of the setting by fiat. The Grey Knights are just a space marine chapter and don’t need to be anything else except that, but their writers try to elevate them by making them a top secret branch of the Inquisition and use in-universe mouthpieces to talk about how much better the Grey Knights are compared to other space marines without actually coming up with anything they actually do that sets them apart. They’re space marines, they walk around in powered armor with chainswords and bolters and shoot monsters from heavy metal album covers, just like every other space marine chapter. Daemonhunters came with the bundle and it seems like it might be kinda like XCOM, so I will give it a try on the grounds that XCOM is great so a game trying to be like XCOM at least faintly has its heart in the right place, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out garbage. Particularly since it’s not clear how much influence the strategic layer of the game has, which always makes a big difference to how much I enjoy turn-based tactics games, and this one is already on notice for starring the Grey Knights.

Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition describes itself as a cozy management game about dying. It is a Sad Game, and I’ve heard that it’s good at it, and I’ll definitely give it a spin to see for myself.

Bendy and the Dark Revival already has one strike against it, which is that it is a sequel to a game I haven’t played. I’m not vitriolically opposed to jumping into the middle of a series, but generally only if there’s some major tonal or gameplay shift partway through (the Far Cry series starts at 2) or something. It’s also a lot easier if the game is less heavy on the overarching plot between games. If I feel like playing a Zelda game or a Final Fantasy game I’m happy to pick up whatever looks coolest right now and don’t particularly care if I’m playing them outside release order or especially if Final Fantasy X is technically a prequel to Final Fantasy VII in a dumb and convoluted way. But the Bendy games are telling a continuous story, so if I didn’t play Ink Machine, I already don’t want to drop into Dark Revival.

And on top of that, there’s a reason I didn’t play Ink Machine, and it’s that I don’t like mascot horror. I respect the first Five Nights for making an intense experience out of a minimum of assets, the second and third games polished up the formula and developed the lore to provide greater context to why these animatronics are so spooky, but even by the third and fourth games there were severe signs of aimless sprawl for the sake of keeping a profitable thing going and by the fifth its gameplay was completely dedicated to freaking out Markiplier live on camera and its story had disappeared completely down a rabbit hole of convoluted lore whose primary purpose was to bait MatPat into making Game Theory videos. And Bendy saw how much money that was making and decided to get in on it. It’s not devoid of creativity (I don’t know if it has anything to say about 1930s-40s era animation, but at the very least it has some genuine fascination with it), but its primary goal is to be consumed not by its end audience, but by content creators who will make Twitch streams and YouTube videos about it.

Operation Tango is a co-op puzzle solver and while its aesthetics look kind of cool, that is not a genre of game I want to play.

Windjammers 2 is advanced Pong, which is kind of hilarious but not something I’m super interested in sticking into the backlog. I might end up toying with it a bit as a time-waster when I’m too tired to work but don’t want to boot up something heavy like Yakuza or Borderlands, but I’m not even going to try to finish it.

Builder Simulator, like most of the Having A Job Simulators that come through the Bundle, is something I’m sticking in the backlog for when I run out of Far Cry games to play while listening to a podcast in the background (only two left!), but may or may not stick with depending on how well it hits the zen vibes in practice.

Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery looks like another one of those games like Gris or Where The Water Tastes Like Wine where it’s selling itself purely on its aesthetics with the only contribution of the mechanics being to either temporarily impede the unfolding short film or else to make it possible that you will accidentally choose an unsatisfying ending to the short film. Probably it should’ve just been a short animated film, but people who want animation expect to get it for free from YouTube or television, whereas indie gamers expect to buy their indie games. The mechanics, from what I can glean, are about being a painter and you go out into the world to find missing colors so that you can return to your studio and do some of what is essentially paint-by-numbers. It’s not like the game would’ve been better if it said “buy a tablet and learn how to make real art, asshole,” so I’m not complaining that this is unrepresentative of the real creative process, but I am complaining that it sounds like the gameplay was tacked on as a vehicle for the story and theme in an experience that didn’t really need or benefit from being interactive at all.

The Invisible Hand is a video game where you play a stockbroker and get ahead by breaking tons of laws. It sounds like it might have a reasonably astute critique of the modern finance industry, but its primary gameplay is spreadsheet management and its frame story is that you are a terrible person interacting with abstract financial instruments to make a variable representing your funds go up, and that is too nihilistic for me to bother engaging with even if it is a reasonably accurate reflection of actual attitudes in that industry.

That still leaves me at 169, a smidge under 170, although two of the three new adds are solidly mid-size games in the 20-40 hour range (Builder Simulator is shorter). Pace has been slow lately, mainly because Borderlands games, and especially Borderlands 2 with all its DLC, are real big and I’ve mostly been playing those. Probably not about to accelerate much because I only recently started Borderlands 3 and also I’ve also started playing the Yakuza games, and even though I am unlikely to bother being especially thorough with all their little mini-games, they aren’t especially quick games even if mostly sticking to the main path. As usual, I am slightly concerned by the idea that there are games I want to play but will never get to, but there’s no cure for this except to play lots more video games (turns out you need money to live) or to accept fewer games on the list (but kicking them out of the list because number-goes-up doesn’t actually mean I don’t want to play them anymore), so, eh, whatever.

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