2014 in review

Of the Tabletop, and other, lesser varieties.

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Koa
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2014 in review

Postby Koa » Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:09 pm UTC

I'm curious what others' thoughts are on the games this year. There have been a lot of big titles that haven't gotten threads here, I'm sure people have unspoken opinions. So, however you want to do it: top 10, random thoughts, disappointments, conventions, certain social movements with certain hashtags. Full anarchy. 2014 Go.



Transistor is easily my game of the year. I think I said everything about it in the accompanying thread, but it has a gorgeous art style,l music that I listen occasionally outside of the game, and a tactical combat system that was fun to experiment with for the two playthroughs. The narrative is subtle and grim in a way that resonated with me. Since my last posts on it they have released the soundtrack with Red's humming, and there have been a few articles discussing the story. I liked this one (spoilers of course).



I picked up Planetary Annihilation when it was dirt cheap on the winter sale. I've been interested in it for a while but had some hesitations. Apparently a lot of people are upset with it, and I can see that for those who bought it for its price at release ($50-$90). It's not very polished, multiple planets (5+) is pretty much unplayable, and the single player is worthless. I've been having some fun with it though. I just recently played a 2v2 where I contained their team and then they went full defensive with heavy artillery to try to pick at us from their fortress. I don't know how they were expecting to win, but it was pretty fun breaking them. http://youtu.be/GWP8F6SPv-8



I can't say Alien Isolation disappointed me, but mainly because I went into it with zero expectations. Initially the visual design blew me away. I don't think I need to elaborate on that. But the alien never came across as intimidating, which was kind of the whole point. Annoying, sure, even comical at times. There was one point where I was in the dark peeking out of a vent, and the alien was 15m ahead of me behind two closed door with glass windows, among other clutter (the reveal area). It suddenly charged me and kills me. Oh, so when I'm directly behind a chest high obstruction right next to the alien I'm invisible, and if not I guess it has superman hawk vision.

The story that is there is barely passable as motivation for all the backtracking, and apparently frustrating for fans of the IP. Amanda Ripley regularly sounds incredibly emotionally distraught, and all the while playing as her I couldn't care less. Relax, nothing on this ship looks under desks. They use WarioWare microgames for security. We got dis.

As the game progresses it becomes more of a typical albeit slow paced FPS while the game drags its feet a little to the end. It was still okay. On the small scale, it has some good moments in it. On the large scale, it's forgettable. They made the alien feel so gamey. It pops down from a vent, you sneak around it while it pretends not to be following you. Eventually it pops up the vent, and then you're fine and dandy until it pops down again. I don't even need to talk about the flamethrower. The only reason the flamethrower is okay is because the stealth is more like a minor inconvenience. More like conveniencethrower, amirite?


I also played the most expensive video game demo ever, Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes. The gameplay is solid and decent fun. The story is bearpants. Not anything like Metal Gear Solid 2 where it feels like Kojima is trolling you. It's like they're trying to be Call of Duty while also retaining the MGS melodrama, and the MGS humor is trying desperately to squeeze in between the two. I don't get it. They're playing it so serious and yet it's so very corny. The ending cutscene:
Spoiler:
Snake carries Paz to the evacuation helicopter. The whole time she's mumbling things like her stomach hurts, and there's blood all around her torso. They get on the helicopter, and Chico notices that Paz is wounded. Snake, startled by this, turns and yells for the medic. What the hell, medic? What are you even here for, the plot? You're not even going to glance at her bloody torso? Why didn't Snake think to check her by now? ... ...They remove the bomb.

They land on Mother Base under attack. Snake rescues Miller, and some redshirt gets shot in front of Snake. Snake then performs the most pathetic roaring revenge charge I've ever seen. He takes two steps, fires a few bullets at nothing, and runs out of ammo. Miller holds out his hand. "Snaaake!" Snake turns around to grab his hand in super slow mo. Am I supposed to laugh at this as a satirical commentary on blockbuster action movies/games, or...? PLEASE SOMEONE HELP ME

Miller suddenly throws a tantrum on Paz. Paz gets up and notifies Snake that there's another bomb... somewhere. How does she know? Did what's his face tell her? Has he not read the Evil Overlord List? Was she conscious during the operation? If so, how did she know they were bombs? How did the medic not notice the second bomb when they were digging around inside her gut? That thing was pretty big. I bet Para-Medic would have noticed. Why has this thing not gone off by now? Why does it go off immediately after she falls the exact safe distance such that Snake survives?

I think there's another cutscene after that. I was done with cutscenes. There are plenty of similar things going on in the earlier MGS games of course, but it's clear that there's always something light hearted behind it. This is so tonally deadpan serious and dark, so I treat it as such and my mind shatters with questions. The only decent answer I can come up with is "Japan." Like whatever happened to Final Fantasy.


Apart from that, it's strange to me how they changed the codec from game stopping quirky conversation time to banal gameplay hints. It strikes me as a false compromise. Unless I'm missing something, I imagine both long time fans and new players will dislike that.



This War of Mine is a simple economic simulator. The little events that can happen are neat, and I like how you can effectively make your own story, but it still just boils down to a simple economic simulator in my head. Rummage, steal, manage inventory, manage depression. Use the things you get to develop your shelter so that you can make more things so that you can develop your shelter. And as you might expect, it's not terribly accurate. I felt I saw everything I cared to see after a few hours. My interest piqued and then fell off a cliff. I suppose I liked it for what it was though.



NEO Scavenger is a pretty interesting turn based roguelike survival game. You start the game with just a medical gown, and then you're thrown into the post apocalyptic wilderness. You're likely to die within a few days of hypothermia if you don't get adequate clothing or shelter. You can only carry one thing in each hand until you find containers or packs or clothing with pockets. There's a lot of options for combat, and combat is as brutal as you would expect. Blisters, scrapes, bruises, fractured ribs, concussions, interal bleeding, it's a game about how to die rather than how to survive for me still. I'll be damned if I don't figure out what that glow is about eventually.
Last edited by Koa on Wed Dec 31, 2014 3:44 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby SirBryghtside » Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:49 am UTC

I was sorting out my GotY list earlier today, and I really felt like there'd been a dearth of cool games this year - which puts Transistor, my current fourth favourite game of all time, as an easy victor. I understand the criticism's it's attracted - the game doesn't explain itself well at all with regards to gameplay or narrative - but I adored exploring those features at my own pace, and the combat, art style, music and storyline seemed almost fine-tuned to my tastes. A really special game for me.

Nothing else this year really came close to matching that, but there were a few highlights among the rest. Pokémon Alpha Sapphire was a wonderful addition to the series, fixing quite a lot of the issues I had with the original while sticking to the Pokémon formula that I love by default, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS contains my favourite iteration of the game engine, but it also ditches a lot of the interesting single-player content which I really found disappointing, and Hearthstone has become an addiction for me, perfect for someone who loves TCGs but does not enjoy spending money on them. I'd also like to take time to throw some appreciation towards a couple of freeware titles I enjoyed - Mazing is an incredibly tightly-designed and simplistic arcade game which I love wasting time on, Barrier was a great way to scratch the itch that completing Super Hexagon left, and Roguelight was a really fun, interesting rogue-lite from Daniel Linssen, who's quickly becoming one of my favourite indie developers on the scene.

So yeah - I've still got a couple of titles to play that really interest me from 2014, most notably Alien: Isolation, Wolfenstein: The New Order and FRACT OSC, but in general I found it kind of mediocre, Transistor being light-years ahead of any other offerings. I'm guessing that this is partly due to the recent release of the PS4 and XBox One, so I'm not too worried about the future, but it's still a shame.

Oh, one last thing - can anyone explain to me why Shovel Knight is being put at the top of GotY lists? I played through it in the last two days to see what all the fuss was about, and while I appreciated the art, humour and gameplay (to some extent), it felt like just another platformer, not really doing anything to make itself stand out. Am I missing something, or do people just really love the NES aesthetic?
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Zcorp » Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:34 am UTC

Transistor was good, but wouldn't top my list for the reasons I mentioned in the thread about it, certainly in the top 10 of this year though.

I don't know how I'd rank these but a quick list of the best games I played all year:
Child of Light - nearly everything in this game is of great quality, including the light co-op element
Thomas Was Alone - originally released a bit ago but released on many new platforms this year
Persona Q
Fantasy Life - wonderfully designed game for explorers and collectors with light combat elements, great for my girlfriend who perfectly fits the demographic this was designed for.
5th Ed. DnD/DnD Next
Tales of Xillia 2 - worth mentioning even though it had some annoying balance problems.
Dark Souls 2

This year felt pretty weak for PC games :( although I have yet to play This War of Mine.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Koa » Wed Dec 31, 2014 10:08 am UTC

I was originally going to mention that I felt it was kind of disappointing too. A disappointing year, but also an interesting year for disappointments. I'd like to hear about Destiny and AC:Unity. I thought it was kind of morbid or poisoning the well to open with that.

For the first time I have a decent backlog of critically good games that I have almost no will to play. I feel like I have played Shadow of Mordor in so many other games that it would have nothing new to offer, apart from that one little feature that everyone talks about. Dragon Age Inquisition seems a bit too much like WoW or something, for the most part. A well designed world with an OCD treadmill to run. The camera and tactics complaints really put me off as that would probably bug me more than it would others. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong about these things though.

Oh, one last thing - can anyone explain to me why Shovel Knight is being put at the top of GotY lists?

I was also going to mention Shovel Knight. I had a lot of fun with it for my first playthrough. It was more like a sugar rush of platforming goodness. Good fun for the first run, but then it stops there. After struggling a little to complete a level for the first time, I had zero trouble on retries. The difficulty is designed for the one playthrough. People say to smash the save points to make it harder, well, now I don't die unless I'm experimenting. That's a risk mechanic that is only relevant to new players.

Even though I got into gaming somewhere around the 8bit era, I can't say that I really felt whatever sense of nostalgia some people talk about. The music was good though, the story was cute. The game is very well designed. I can see why it hit a few GotY lists. If I try to remove the nostalgia goggles (quite sticky things) on the 8 bit titles from the early 90's, I feel like Shovel Knight might be one of the greats. But it's like a weekend rental game, and that hurts it the most. Too short, too easy, too well designed for its own good. I think the divide is on whether or not you appreciate the work put into the design, or felt like it made the game too forgiving and short.

Wolfenstein: The New Order and FRACT OSC

Wolfenstein was great. I was very surprising how involved they were with the storytelling, and how genuinely good it was. It at least rivals Half Life 2 in that respect. It just doesn't bring anything new to the table for the gameplay. Shoot nazis some more. I guess that's all it needs to do, but that's the only place it fell short. Oh, and skippable cutscenes would be nice. I wanted to go straight into a second playthrough and blast things some more. A 5 minute cutscene starts and my mind wanders. A couple more cutscenes later and I figure I should find something else to do.

Love me some FRACT OSC, but I can easily see why others wouldn't. I need to speedrun it at some point. My walkthrough video became more and more like a psuedo speed run as it went on. I can't leave that half assed.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby You, sir, name? » Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:02 pm UTC

The best big-budget games in my opinion were Alien: Isolation and Wolfenstein (for reasons already explained). Feels like Wolfenstein continues as the next logical step in the retro-style FPS revival (Shadow Warrior made good strides toward reviving the genre in 2013, and Duke Nukem: Forever gets a participation trophy for showing up).

Shadow of Mordor also needs honorable mentions. Some genuinely new and fun ideas being tossed around there. It wasn't particularly long or anything, but the Nemesis system really worked incredibly well. When you get me to play a sand box game, you've really done something amazing, because I usually lose interest in 2 hours and never play the game again (I'm talking to you, Just Cause 2). Its forgiving mechanics also appeals to me, because I have zero hand-eye coordination and just mash buttons at random in fighting games.

South Park: The Stick of Truth was also a surprise. For what it is, it's a really solid game. Which is extremely rare when it comes to TV-show adaptations.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was also pretty good. D3 was a pretty dead game before it came out, but the expansion really brought it back to life. Sank quite a lot of hours into that one...

2014 was also arguably the year of the Kickstarter RPGs. Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun: Dragonfall. A bit rough around the edges, but still some of the most hardcore CRPGs we've had lately (unless you count very small-budget efforts like Inquisitor). I have high hopes for what comes next out of these studios. If the '90s are any indication, it does take a couple of games before RPG-makers produce their best games.

Dishonorable unmentionables go to:
* Watch_Dogs. It was simply not a particularly enjoyable game.
* Dragon Age: Inquisition. It's a single player MMORPG in every sense of the word. The benefit of single player is that you don't have idiots bunny hopping all through the game. But you're still constantly supremely aware of the fact that you are playing a game. I expected more out of Bioware. Why do I keep doing that?
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Zcorp » Wed Dec 31, 2014 4:33 pm UTC

Divinity Original Sin is what I was trying to remember when I posted. They did quite a few things well and only a few things poorly, unfortunately one of those was co-op and general UX, generally very enjoyable for fans of TBS though.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Dec 31, 2014 6:38 pm UTC

Wolfenstein: The New Order
This was a bit of fun. I played through Return to Castle Wolfenstein around the same time as a comparison.
It felt very inorganic; move along a corridor and into an "arena" where you're going to have a big shoot out. RTCW was more tense, more natural; you'd move along a level and find a couple of guards talking, or someone patrolling in a corridor, not empty passageways with everybody waiting for you in a big hall.
But it was still fun, the final boss fight was also refreshingly simple and nostalgic.

I played Alien: Isolation for about an hour; I just couldn't get into it and checkpoint systems drive me crazy.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
I guess I hoped this would breathe some life into what's essentially a broken game for me.
It didn't.

Shadow of Mordor
This was ok, but kind of forgettable for me. I'd played AC: Black Flag not too long before this, and I felt the free running stabby-kill stuff was better done in that than SoM and it varied things up more. I got bored of stabbing orcs in Mordor pretty quick.

The Fall (Steam)
Cute little adventure like game. Has some simple combat, but it's frankly the weakest part of the game (although it doesn't clash with the narrative or tone).
Nice story and it's got good atmosphere. Ends on a bit of a down note.
It's supposed to be the first part of a trilogy, but it stands on its own as a story.

Hearthstone
So I've played this a lot more than I thought I would, typically a few games a day. Slow paced enough that I don't get the feelings of angst when playing online that I get in games like Starcraft.

Also, Starcraft II LotV was announced and it looks pretty interesting, which is nice.
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:00 pm UTC

Xenomortis wrote:Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
I guess I hoped this would breathe some life into what's essentially a broken game for me.
It didn't.
Ha! You're nuts! RoS is an amazing improvement and the game is in a crazy good place!

Koa wrote:NEO Scavenger
This seemed really interesting, and I think I'll check it out now.

I also want to add KSP. I know it wasn't released in 2014, but it's gotten a number of large improvements and in the last few months was officially moved to beta. The game is mountains of fun, and I strongly urge anyone who has an interest in space to give it a go.

Also, nod to Transistor for once again making a game that while I don't particularly love to PLAY, I find myself absolutely engrossed with the story, the art, the music and vocals, and wanting to just reach into my heart/wallet and give it to the designers.
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Xenomortis » Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:05 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Xenomortis wrote:Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
I guess I hoped this would breathe some life into what's essentially a broken game for me.
It didn't.
Ha! You're nuts! RoS is an amazing improvement and the game is in a crazy good place!

Maybe it did improve it.
Maybe lots of people are playing it again.
But it's not a game I want to play.
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby KnightExemplar » Fri Jan 02, 2015 2:02 am UTC

Smash4 (3DS specifically), Pokemon, and Mario Kart bring it up the rear for Nintendo players. Nintendo is finally in full stride, get your WiiUs while they're hot!

Guilty Gear Xrd finally makes a showing for the niche hyper-fighter gamers. But I'm not sure how many people are in the hyper-fighter niche.

XBox One digs itself a hole with announcing Tomb Raider as XBox Exclusive, and then backtracks immediately by re-announcing it as only "timed" exclusive. Sony pulls the same stunt by announcing Street Fighter 5 as PS4 / PC Exclusive. Gamers rejoice.

Microsoft has lost a lot of "goodwill" between it and the internet community. People just don't trust Microsft. Heck, the fact that people trust SONY more than Microsoft is a bit concerning. Hopefully Microsoft can rebuild its brand in 2015.

Steam makes a big showing as Japanese developers hop on. Valkyria Chronicles, Ys, Trails into the Sky, Record of Agarest War, and FFXIII all saw good Steam releases this year. Sure, these are years-old niche JRPGs ported from other systems... but it really demonstrates the behemoth that Steam has become.

Niche JRPG gamers can enjoy Hyperdimension Neptunia sometime in 2015. Even Metal Gear Solid 5 is going to see a PC release as Japanese Developers warm up to the PC platform.

------------------

I feel 2014 was the year of "epic fail" with the more mainstream games. WoW server issues, Assassin's Creed Unity bugs. Watchdogs disappointment. Lackluster Halo launch. I'm thinking that the developers are simply having issues learning the development environment of XBox One / PS4.
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Jan 05, 2015 2:17 am UTC

Bayonetta 2 was my big purchase the latter part of this year.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX

Professor Layton v Ace Attorney

I have Transistor, but it failed to thrill me.

I have trouble remembering what came out this year rather than last year (even for the things I picked up fairly quickly after release).

Lately more of my gaming budget has been going on boardgames anyway:

Tiny Epic Kingdoms is probably my pick there.

Quartermaster General looks promising, but I've only played it the once.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Xeio » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:37 pm UTC

My favorites from last year:

Dragon Age: Inquisition. For all the obvious reasons, continuation of Dragon Age, and felt a lot like the first game to me. Though there were some criticisms I had of the game, overall it felt like a very solid installment to the series, it felt like a true improvement to Origins, without the serious backsteps that 2 made.

Child of Light. Breathed a lot of life into the bland turn-based action common to JRPG-esque games for me. It didn't hurt that the game was visually beautiful and charming, if a bit cheesy.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. I was really surprised at this one, mostly because I almost never play tie-ins to existing non-game franchises. But this did the open world-y gameplay really well. Really really well. The rival system was also a lot of fun too.

Middling:

Wolfenstein: The New Order. This game made me fall in love with killing Nazis all over again. I think my main complaint is I didn't as much like the gunplay (admittedly, that's a lot of the game), and the game seemed to toss you into situations with nary a clue as to what you're supposed to do. The story seems to hold everything together very well though.

Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online. Both for different reasons of similar scale. They both had pretty terrible launch windows (not uncommon for MMOs, but that doesn't give them a free pass). I've had a lot of fun in both (and still regularly raid in Wildstar), but it felt like there were things heavily overlooked launching the games. Both games seem to be on the road to fixing their respective issues, I'm looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings to the table.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Mishrak » Mon Jan 05, 2015 5:59 pm UTC

Dark Souls 2:
The launch was much hyped, and while I enjoyed my blind run of it, I grew bored of it rather rapidly after that. I personally felt like Miyazaki's influence was incredibly missed and I felt like they really dropped the ball on a couple of areas that I wanted to play. Particularly Pyromancy (no pyro starting class, weird weird weird spell locations) and level design (which was not nearly as diverse and creative as its predecessor). It also didn't attach me emotionally the way Demons Souls and Dark Souls both did and so I was always confident and never concerned or fearful of what was around the corner. I couldn't even watch people speed run the game. When they re-release the game this Spring, I'll give it another shot.

Diablo 3 RoS:
I picked this up the last two weeks of December (talk about late), but I did enjoy the changes quite a bit. It's still flawed in several areas (No trading at all makes me sad), but it's such a dramatic improvement over vanilla D3 that they're hardly even the same game. I've been impressed with it.

Wasteland 2:
I backed the Kickstarter on the first day at a level where I could play the Beta, and then proceeded not to play it much to avoid spoilers. It's weird, but I didn't even follow its development as much as I had anticipated. I still haven't gotten more than probably 3 hours into the game, although it's definitely one I want to sit down and tackle. I've been too occupied with other things I guess. The atmosphere is excellent though and after loading it up yesterday for the first time in awhile, the changes they have made have been noticeable and huge quality improvements.

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Re: 2014 in review

Postby SirBryghtside » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:29 am UTC

Koa wrote:Love me some FRACT OSC, but I can easily see why others wouldn't. I need to speedrun it at some point. My walkthrough video became more and more like a psuedo speed run as it went on. I can't leave that half assed.

Follow up - I just played through this game, didn't click with me but I can totally see how it would with others. Really liked the aesthetics :)
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Re: 2014 in review

Postby Koa » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:59 pm UTC

I forgot to link the wikipedia page on games released this year. Not even close to a complete list but it's useful in case people forgot some of the major releases.

Mishrak wrote:Wasteland 2:

I wanted to write something about this game but I haven't played it enough either to have a good understanding of what it has to offer. I like the combat, but it's such a slog to get through an area. Supposedly in the second map (second half of the game) the storytelling picks up a lot and there's more interesting things going on.

Even looting stuff is so draining. Come across a locked door, check the door and find it's trapped, select your demolitions character, select the demolition skill and use it on the door to disarm the trap, select your lockpick, select the lockpick skill and use it on the door, open the door, find a locked safe inside, select your safecracker, use safecracking on the safe, open the safe, and finally find some underwhelming randomly generated loot. Repeat ad infinitum. Combat is pretty much the same. Run into 10 enemies, spend 10 minutes killing them, walk forward, run into 10 more enemies, on and on.

After a few hours you might find something kind of amusing like the hobo code thing, or see how the quest resolves itself. I just find it very difficult to keep coming back to the game despite the fact that I kind of like it. It's too much of a time commitment. If you save scum the bad skill checks you'll be stuck in a level forever.

Izawwlgood wrote:
Koa wrote:NEO Scavenger
This seemed really interesting, and I think I'll check it out now.

I've done about 20 runs or more by now, longest life was 10 days when some armed city guards approached me to have a chat. After I said farewell and started to walk off into the woods, they followed me and killed me. I would like to think they found me too enticing. I had a shopping cart full of cooked food and various supplies, along with several bottles of alcohol, caffeine, medicine, and a couple pieces of high tech equipment.

The run before that I was doing alright as an archer crafting my own bow and arrows. I was starting to get hungry just before the sun was about to rise, so I went into a nearby forest to go squirrel hunting. I end up in an encounter, but I didn't expect anything of it and continued to scan the area. It was still too early to be able to see well. The next thing I know a werewolf lunges at me and tackles me to the ground. I desperately try to crawl away from it and shoot off a barrage of arrows. They connect and stun him, but only for a moment. We both recover and I try to fire off one more arrow at him as he closes the distance again. The arrow merely grazes him. The rest is gruesome. The sun rose shortly thereafter.

The one before that I was sleeping in an abandoned city, and I kept waking up to another survivor stealing from me. I let him go the first time, but when he came back the second I chased him down. I ended up tripping, and he turned around thinking he had the upper hand, but by then I was already on my feet and he had no chance. He cuts my arm with a bottle and I mauled him with a monkey wrench. He was desperately trying to retreat but I kept slowly following him while he continued to bleed out. Eventually I caught up and executed him. I was pretty battered from previous wounds and exhausted so I tried to dip out into some nearby woods. Since I thought it was still kind of dangerous in the area I choose to rest for a bit rather than sleep. Unfortunately, I had so much blood loss that I passed out. Next thing I know there's a pack of wolves on me and they made quick work of me.

It's pretty difficult. I'm not sure how much of the game I've seen but there's a few interesting events and quest lines. The writing is pretty good, not that there's too much of it. I find it interesting how biased it is. It doesn't hesitate to tell you how you think something is a trap, and how much that pisses you off.


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