Take Your Health Seriously, or Risk The Video Games You Love

You may have noticed we’ve had another one of our little breaks here at nowisgames.com, not for quite as long as in the past, but a sizeable gap to be sure. A summer holiday of sorts, even though it poured with rain here in England for most of August.

I’ve been aiming for two posts a month since my last return, which I was hitting reasonably well, until recently. This wasn’t a break I intended to take, I really didn’t have much of a choice this time.

I stopped streaming a little while ago too, because I was tired of sitting at my desk all day for work, then all evening to stream. I took refuge in The Last of Us Part II and Spider-Man trophy hunting/second playthroughs. All of this to escape the apocalypse that is 2020.

It was all going so well, my platinum trophy was awarded for TLOU2 after another 25 hours, 5 consecutive hours a day for 5 days. I went to bed that night feeling like I’d done something. Felt something.

When I woke up, I was in agony, both arms were tingling from the shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Shooting pain right to the fingertips.

As the day went on, my arms didn’t spring back to life, they just got worse. My wrists were feeling sore, numb, sharp pains, then numb again. My left arm and shoulder felt cold on one of the hottest July days.

I knew at this point I’d overdone the video games, the controller based play in particular. Both Spider-Man and TLOU2 require some serious button mashing at times and I was chasing trophies and 100%. I’m a grown man, I knew what I’d done, I knew why I’d done it, I am starting to become aware of the long term consequences some five weeks later.

Repetitive Strain Injury

I’ve been aware of RSI for a long time, which has other names too, but it was a big deal back when computers were starting to appear in homes all over the world, just as Bill Gates had predicted.

I’ve always, always taken RSI seriously; I’ve used ergonomic keyboards, mice, always sure to take those silly workstation assessment things, tried to sit up straight and so on.

Here’s where taking it seriously stopped, sloping around on my sofa pretending to be the webhead swinging through New York? Seeking revenge against Abby in Seattle?

Clawing my controller with hook hands and staring at the TV for 4 hours at a time is comfortable right? Sure, unless you take it too far like I did. 🤦‍♂️

I’m too young for this!

This isn’t the only catalyst responsible for this turn of events, I recently moved into a new house of my own, so I’ve been doing DIY, gardening and more activities involving my upper body and so on. This lockdown encouraged gaming stint was definitely the tipping point.

I couldn’t lift or carry my own son, open jars, use a keyboard for long, the controller was out of the question. Any day to day task you can imagine became either impossible or very bloody painful.

“I’m 38 years old, I’m too YOUNG for this.” I thought, so I turned to the ibuprofen to make it go away. This helped, but I swore myself off the video games, which is how I knew this was serious. Little did I know, five weeks would pass before I started to feel like things were improving.

While I was no longer playing video games, I continued to watch Twitch streams, binged Community, Fringe, dozens of films, copies of EDGE magazine. I avoided typing at much as I could for work too.

It’s fair to say I sank further into an existing depressive state, giving up all exercise or even just movement beyond sitting at my desk and walking up and down my stairs.

Painkillers have their own dangers

I gained weight (obviously) and comfort ate to keep up with the influx of ibuprofen, which destroys your insides if you’re not careful.

This isn’t a long term solution. After two weeks, you’re not really supposed to take things like ibuprofen tablets apparently, so my doctor told me to use ibuprofen gel and treat the pain directly, which was way more effective. Thank !@#.

Unfortunately, within a few days of finishing the gel treatment and starting to feel like things were on the mend, back pain kicked in out of nowhere and I began feeling “ill” shall we say.

That is an unwelcome side effect of:

  • taking so much ibuprofen
  • not staying even remotely active
  • eating way too much junk
  • not drinking enough water

My digestive system had enough and my body was generally turning against me at this point. I had to snap out of it, so I went for a walk and sorted myself out. I’m feeling much better 6 days later as I write this.

Crucially, I’ve booked an appointment with my doctor to talk about the depression and anxiety I was already feeling before this stupid !@#ing virus changed the entire world and made everyone unhappy, instead of it feeling like just me. What do you do when the whole world is pissed off?

In the middle of all this going on, I read an incredible blog post from Athena over on Ambi Gaming. Sanity meter in 2020 you say? Yeah, mine was definitely depleted. It made me realise how I was feeling and helped put a few things in perspective. I started to take real action at that point, thank you, Athena. ♥

Take those breaks

I still love video games, I still have a ridiculous backlog to get through, so how can I take this hobby forward more sensibly? I’ve been preparing to introduce my son to technology, including the restrictions he will have in place, why on Earth am I not thinking about the restrictions I should be imposing on myself too? I should be setting an example!

How many of us regularly play video games for several hours at a time? Can you sit through a 3-hour movie without taking some kind of break? How about a 3-hour session of your favourite video game, completely different right? No problem to just keep going, at all.

Xbox has a feature to remind you at chosen intervals how long you’ve been signed in/playing, to take a break. You can get software on the PC to do the same thing, you’ve got timers on your phone, smart speakers, who knows what.

Make use of the technology available to take a break from that technology, it does break the immersion, but your health in real life is more important than the health bar on the screen.

Watching Multiple Twitch Streams With multistre.am

With so many people streaming these days, there are often times when I end up trying to watch multiple streams at the same time.

What started as a few overlaps, maybe 20 minutes here, an hour there, a couple of people at a time, tonight I find myself watching 4 streams. The same thing happened last night for a short while as well.

A few weeks ago, while looking for a solution to this, I found a site called mutlistre.am, which greatly simplifies the process of watching multiple Twitch streams.

  1. Open a browser window and log into Twitch.tv as usual
  2. In the address bar, go to multistre.am and then enter the channel names you would like to watch
  3. Experiment with the layout to your liking, you can cycle through the windows, have one chat with a dropdown for the list of channels
The end result, definitely worth a quick go.

By hovering over a feed, you can refresh just that feed, or remove it, view the channel profile or mute all audio apart from that single feed. You can also switch both the chat and audio to that feed.

Any URL you have in the address bar can be used by others to copy your layout. For example, the feed about is:

https://multistre.am/laterlevels/magiwastaken/thatgreendude95/thelawfulgeek/layout10/

You’ll see me posting these layout links in the #stream-shoutouts channel on the Support Role Discord.

Realistically, this is more useful if you’re trying to watch two streams because it’s completely possible to fully engage in that many streams, in my opinion. Once you hit three or more, you can have a presence and jump around, but it starts to get difficult to keep up. Maybe you’re better at multi-tasking than I am though!

Yes, you could just use multiple browser windows or tabs, but I’ve found this to use slightly less resource, removes Twitch clutter and provides a simpler way all round to engage with multiple streams.

Happy viewing!

Five Most Impactful Games In My Life

While completing my answer sheet for the Great Blog Crawl 2020, one of the questions was on a post published a few months ago, on a great blog I only recently started following, McKenna Talks About Games.

The post in question was the 5 Most Impactful Games In My Life and McKenna credits Meghan Plays Games as her inspiration. Honestly, I’m not sure where the true origin lies, but it may be a Twitter hashtag.

Without further ado then, in reverse order!

5. Alex the Kidd In Miracle World

The Master System II wasn’t the first console we had during our childhood, it wasn’t the last either. We’d seen the Atari 2600 at some point, with the usual games, but it was the Master System II and the built in game, Alex the Kidd In Miracle World, which stands out to me.

As I write this, the Rock Paper Scissors battles just sprang back into my mind. Damn, that was some nostalgia!

Oh wow this takes me back

I watched my Uncle play this game, I played it myself, my younger siblings also dabbled in it too. I don’t think I ever saw the end of the game, but we definitely played this quite a bit. We didn’t own too many games on the system, the only other game I remember now is Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but I was never a huge fan.

This was when I started to really take notice of video games.

4. Worms

Consoles fell out of favour for me, PC was where it was at by the mid-nineties. Other games at the time were obviously a big hit, stuff like Quake, Doom and the usual. For me, a huge portion of my time was invested in Team 17’s Worms series. Worms United, Worms 2, Worms: Armageddon and Worms World Party specifically.

Worms 2 and Worms: Armageddon, originally an expansion for Worms 2, were the pinnacle of the 2D series

My passion for the Worms series was strong enough during that 2D golden era, I ran a blog for a time, called the Worms Think Tank. When I search for that now, I can’t even find it on the Way Back Machine, but it does turn up here, against community member worMatty.

I don’t even feature myself on that site, but I went by the name Concrete Cowboy, something I stole from an episode of the Rugrats once haha. If you look closely during my streams today, you might notice some of my current profile names contain Ccowboy or something like that. Now you know why 🤣

Matt looked after the site for me towards the end of its existence, as I was going through a rough time with mental health. Eventually, I left the community and the site behind, I did improve my mental health situation though, not because of the games I must add.

Worms was ultimately responsible for me even knowing about HTML, CSS and blogging.

3. Grand Theft Auto

My mother and I argued a little about this game, as I was 15 at the time this released. Although my parents had recently separated at the time, my mother tells me she instructed my father not to allow me to play the game. It was an 18 rated game.

That obviously didn’t work, because I acquired it somehow, my father probably even purchased it for me! 😆

What a time to be alive. I still remember setting fire to anything that moved, running over pedestrians, jumping bridges, blowing up remote control cars. I remember acquiring a 4MB Voodoo 3DFX card and enabling the option in GTA for the first time. Absolutely incredible! My poor, tiny, fragile little mind.

How tame does this look now, compared to modern standards?

It makes this list mostly for the series as a whole though, rather than the first game alone. I’ve played many of them, but there’s a lot of gaps in my experience too. GTA V and GTA Online, however, well they’re thoroughly covered.

Around the time of my wedding, I was heavily involved in GTA Online, it was definitely a crutch I was leaning on, but it did the trick. Sleepless nights were filled with deliveries of substances, riding bikes up the side of mountains, stealing jets from the army base, cruising around the highways on motorbikes. Mostly with total strangers in a group I found myself in.

There’s nothing quite like it. For a long time, it will probably remain the game I’ve sunk the most time into, around 1800 hours at the time of writing.

2. Left 4 Dead

Here is a game which I’d been keeping tabs on for a short while before it released, hyping up my friends. The demo Valve made available was approximately 2 of the 5 levels which made up the full No Mercy campaign.

This didn’t stop my little group from playing the demo for several hours, we couldn’t get enough. When the full game launched, we devoured it, nothing else mattered.

Around this time, I went through a pretty heavy break up after 5.5 years with someone. We were living in the same house, which we’d mortgaged together. Honestly, it was like hell. In the several months I stayed in the house, in the tiny bedroom I once used as a teenager, I had no idea what to do with my life.

While I figured that out, I would play Left 4 Dead as much as possible. This routinely meant starting around midnight, after finishing a shift at 11.30pm, or starting much earlier in the evening when not working, but always going to 4am or longer.

Staying up late and chatting with strangers on the internet, smoking way too many cigarettes, perched on the edge of a double bed my sister had donated to me, ready for my impending move. It was a simple time, a few hundred hours of Left 4 Dead under my belt, I cut my losses and moved out with my name still on the mortgage, I couldn’t handle the situation any more.

A series of events began after this which led me to meet my wife for the first time.

That zombie game, the definitive zombie game in my eyes, saved me in the real world.

1. Half-Life

This was the point in my illustrious gaming career when I realised the story was more important to me than anything else. My love for FPS games was suddenly presenting me with this vehicle for telling an amazing story.

I lapped it up, the set pieces, the dialogue… Opposing Force and Blue Shift expansions too, over and over again. Using the command console to play short segments of the game I enjoyed, again and again. Using mods. Drinking it all in, so amazing.

I still remember seeing a sales chart countdown on TV, which showed Half-Life “still at number 1” with a quick video of the section shown above, with a solider running across the damn

Half-Life 2 came along and further transformed storytelling and even physics in an FPS, then episodes 1 & 2, it was all thoroughly brilliant. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to become a serious story nerd.

This would eventually lead me on to entirely different experiences, away from my comfort zone on the PC, back to consoles and on to third-person action games such as The Last of Us, RPGs, walking simulators and so much more, all in pursuit of an interesting story.

Today, I value the narrative, characters, lore, worldbuilding and storytelling above all else. The shiniest graphics can’t save you from a bad story.

So there you have it, the five most impactful video games in my life today. Many others would make the list if it carried on from there, but these are the most important to me!

What would your five most impactful games be? Sound off in the comments or write your own post, if you missed this the first time it did the rounds like I did 😁

A Thank You Post For Content Creators

Well, the time has come, various restrictions on our movements and daily lives are being removed after 3-4 months of what many of us have never experienced in our lifetimes.

Here’s a shout out and thanks to the many people within the WordPress community and further afield, who have helped me through this time, by creating amazing content. To be completely transparent, what follows is largely in chronological order.

Later Levels

For me, this is where it all started, with the 50-day challenge for Special Effect. Right at the start of 2020, I finalised the purchase of a house and had crazy fast broadband installed the day after. Going from 2.5Mbps to 350Mbps and finally being able to watch Twitch, I was hungry for live content. During the month-long DIY-fest, Kim and Pete were my constant companions. I didn’t catch every stream, but damn did I watch a lot of Twitch. I even joined in on several occasions, which was awesome after an 18-month hiatus from multiplayer gaming.

Once we’d moved into the house, this obsession continued, as Kim and Pete reached the end of their 50-day challenge and continued streaming. It was around this time I started streaming myself, with their help and encouragement.

I’m proud to call them my friends and always happy to cast their faces onto my TV!

Thanks, Kim and Pete ❤.

Gaming Diaries

Then something I could never have predicted happened. A global event, one which would see me thrust into my conservatory instead of a cosy office in Bristol. You know what I’m talking about…

I was faced with working from home for an unknown amount of time, a situation I had only just changed to my liking in November 2019, after changing job and working from home 2 days a week instead of 5.

While some of us changed location and tried to carry on working, others were furloughed and suddenly found themselves with time on their hands. Gaming Diaries was one of these people and I’m so glad she picked up the microphone and started streaming. I honestly don’t know whether my mental health could have survived in that conservatory without Gaming Diaries and Zoo Tycoon at in the drive time slot for company.

Not just that, but everyone in the chat too, as more people were sent home or furloughed, her audience grew and grew. In just a couple of months, affiliate status was reached, which was no surprise to me.

What Gaming Diaries did for me during this time is something I’ll never forget. I’m so glad to see from her own post on this subject that it was a huge positive in her life too. I hope the streams will continue, so we can continue to be a welcome relief for her, as she was for us. Thank you, Gaming Diaries ❤.

Athena from The Ambi Gamer

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Athena did a charity stream to raise money against The Thing I won’t mention by name, for fear of search engine robots.

The streams have continued long after the success of the charity drive, I’ve caught some Fable sessions and Dragon Age, which I’ve never seen before.

Athena also sings, very well in fact, I’ll always remember the first stream I managed to catch because it featured an interlude of the song from Portal. Thank you, Athena.

Jett from In Third Person

I forget the exact moment I discovered Jett’s blog and Twitch channel, but I know it was at exactly the right moment. Despite the time zone difference, on many a sleepless night or Sunday afternoon post/pre-roast dinner, Jett has always been very entertaining to watch when I’ve been able.

Not just this, but his attitude towards knowledge sharing is exemplary. One of his posts, in particular, helped me over the hurdle of microphone troubles in a matter of minutes, where I may have struggled for hours otherwise. I’ve seen him help so many others as well. Over on the Support Role Discord, he has often jumped into the #streaming-and-video-advice channel to share his expertise. Thank you, Jett.

Ian from Adventure Rules

Jett helped Adventure Rules on his journey into Twitch streaming, despite his limited access to technology to make this happen. A discussion about this tech in Twitch chat prompted requests for a blog post, which was recently published. This post outlines just how low the technology bar can be to get into this streaming business.

What Ian brings is a delightful window and insight into video games I’ve never really played myself, such as Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door and Undertale.

Within minutes of catching his first stream, I had to ask if he’s ever had acting lessons. Turns out he has and it really shows, as he is quite the showman! He’s also very good at keeping up with Twitch chat during his streams. Recently stepping up from one to two streams a week, I hope Ian’s channel continues to grow as it has been a wonderful late night delight for me. Thank you, Ian.

Frostilyte from Frostilyte Writes

I’m not sure when Frostilyte appeared on my radar, but he was definitely someone else suddenly thrust into the working from home situation, similar to myself. He was also often spotted in the chat during Gaming Diaries’ streams.

He took to streaming on Fridays after work, which soon became Frosti-Fridays and another institution in my schedule, as it was around 9pm in the UK. I haven’t been able to catch them all because it clashes with date night (when the wife is interested), but I’ve watched way more Hollow Knight than I’ll ever play 😂. Thank you, Frost.

Support Role Discord and Support Role TV

Join the server here. Just do it, here’s why.

Kim from Later Levels and Luke from Hundstrasse started this Discord community some time ago, but it has become my number one Discord server and home throughout this time.

An extension and amalgamation of the WordPress/Twitter community hubs and spokes stemming from Later Levels, it’s been wonderful chatting in real-time with these folks.

I’ve also discovered new blogs and streamers through this server who might otherwise have slipped through the net, thanks to WordPress Reader being awful and Twitter becoming a cesspit.

Support Role TV was short-lived as a broadcasting Twitch channel in its own right, but it was something to focus on for a time and helped me get to grips with Twitch’s various foibles, while I was getting ready to start my own channel.

Stream keys are available if you’d like to try streaming somewhere yourself, before going live on your own channel. We can help you configure and troubleshoot your setup. Head over to the Discord and ask!

It currently lives on as a place where I consolidate the various streaming schedules using the Twitch Schedule feature, giving an overview of the week’s streams coming from the community. I do this for myself mostly, planning my viewing for the week, but hopefully, this is useful for others too.

Other community mentions

As my obsession with Twitch has increased, I’ve ended up following quite a few streamers and bloggers within the WordPress community and beyond, but notable mentions are, in order of discovery:

I may have lurked in your streams, or I may have engaged to some extent and possibly played something with you, either way, I was there and so were you. Thank you for providing me with entertainment!

Beyond this community

When there were no streams or blog posts to read within this community, I ventured further afield with my newfound broadband capabilities, finally able to dive into the YouTube rabbit hole without fear of buffering.

Critical Role

I’m not into DnD at all, even a little bit, sorry not sorry. I just prefer video games. I discovered Critical Role because several of the members/players are prominent video game voice actors, such as Ashley Johnson and Laura Bailey. I’m slowly working my way through their Between the Sheets series, which is a wonderful insight into the lives of the people behind the video games.

Play, Watch, Listen.

You can find this podcast here on YouTube, but it’s also on the usual podcast channels.

Alanah crops up on my recommended videos from time to time, but with the release and subsequent obsession I had with The Last of Us Part II, this was happening every day.

One video in my watch history containing Troy Baker (the voice of Joel) caused the algorithm to point me towards this monthly podcast, started towards the end of last year.

During the current situation, they’ve stepped this up to weekly, which has been amazing for me. I binge-watched close to 16 episodes. The stories they have to tell about the industry are fascinating, covering voice acting, development, managing a studio, music and audio, journalism.

They’re the perfect blend of representation and I hope this continues for a while. If it doesn’t, there’s some great content about the development of indie games, The Last of Us, what working in video game journalism is like, so many topics.

noclip

I’ve mentioned Danny’s channel a few times over the years, but I need to call him out specifically here too. A former video game journalist, Danny creates awsome video game documentaries funded by Patreon.

During the last few months, he’s had to close down the physical studio space he was in the process of creating. It couldn’t be used for its intended collaborative purposes. This was heartbreaking, but I’m sure he’ll explore this again when he’s able to in the future.

Back at home then, like many of us, he’s continued editing and filming remotely for new documentaries and some archive footage. He’s continued to put out great content as a result, I’ve particularly enjoyed his series on The Outer Worlds.

nowisgames.com

Wait, isn’t this where you are now? Well yes, but along with consuming more content, I think I’ve been creating it more consistently as well. This has been a great comfort to me during this time.

Everything I’ve done, including the Twitch streaming, was going to happen regardless after the house move and broadband installation, but the current situation has allowed for increased focus on gaming, blogging and streaming thanks to the removal of my commute.

I’ve finished a few more games during this time than I otherwise would have, such as Dead Space, Spider-Man, SteamWorld Dig. I’ve chatted with many of you in your own streams as well as mine. I watched the PlayStation presentation with Gaming Diaries and Phil from Later Levels, something otherwise boring which was a blast with other people you know.

I’ve grown my blog followers by around 20, the biggest single leap its ever experienced, rookie numbers by some standards but a huge growth for this site!

We’ll never be huge, but we’re a small part of something much bigger now, something I never expected when I got into this video game blogging lark. The last few months have only been possible because we were part of this community.

I don’t know if I’ve ever taken the time to thank you, but here it is, a post dedicated to you, the readers, the WordPress community, those of you on Twitch, watching or broadcasting along with me.

All of you were there for me and others in the last several months. Content creation is not always easy, but for those of us who like to consume, a huge thank you for being there and doing what you do, we all really needed it.

On that note, I’ve spent over two hours writing a blog post when I should have been working, something I’m probably guilty of a little too often lately. This is almost as long as my The Last of Us Part II review 🤣.

I need to renew my focus on paid work, as exams and a new Chief Technical Officer joining my organisation loom ever closer. I also have a house to renovate, which costs money.

I’ll see you around on Twitch, Discord, Twitter, nowisgames.com a few times a month, and the comments sections of bloggers out there in the WordPress community.

Thank you video games, and thank you, everyone, who made it to the end of this post. Loves ya ❤.

Steam Sale Fatigue

Sixteen years of Steam sales have left me in a state of “meh” every time I get that email; oh joy, 20 of the items on my wish-list are on sale! Again!

There was a time when such sales meant steep discounts of 80-90% for older games, 50-75% off newer games. At least that’s what I remember, I have no data to back up this claim, I’m just ranting here. The discounts on Steam just don’t seem as high as often these days, or is it just me?

Regardless, unfortunately for Valve, so much time has passed since I began using the service, so many games have been purchased and un-played, I now scrutinise everything on my wish-list. There’s enough evidence of poor purchasing decisions in my backlog to suggest I shouldn’t buy anything until I’ve exhausted what I’ve already picked up.

Let me walk you through some of my decision making for this year’s Steam Summer Sale.

Doom Eternal. The re-imagining of Doom, released in 2016 was a spectacular video game. I was expecting to switch off my brain and shoot things, which is exactly what happened for around 10 hours. Glorious and gratuitous shredding of hell beasts.

Doom Eternal has been on my wish-list for a while as a result, released only a few months ago, it’s topping the Steam Summer Sale chart with a 50% discount at £24.99. Highly praised, it looks great, but it’s staying on my wish-list because this would blow my budget for the entire sale.

If Doom Eternal is anywhere near as buttery smooth as the 2016 instalment, this will be very nice, looks good too.

Far Cry: New Dawn. My first foray into the Far Cry series was only a few years ago, with Far Cry 3, thanks to you guessed it, a Steam Sale. After being introduced to the delights of Uplay via The Division, I started going on a Uplay splurge during Steam sales, because honestly, Uplay wasn’t that bad. I loved Far Cry 3, adored Far Cry 5 and I’m currently playing through Far Cry 4 for the first time. They’re all essentially the same, let’s be honest. I can wait for this one, at 60% off and £15.19, this is still a little too steep. I’ve also still got Far Cry 2 and Primal to get through.

A continuation of Far Cry 5, with a bit more colour, oh this does look sweet too, but I can wait.

Eastshade. This isn’t my usual cup of tea, as you’ve probably guessed from the constant mention of FPS games on this blog. I’m a recovering FPS junkie OK, I’m getting there… Eastshade and other walking simulators are something I’ve taken a fancy to over the years, thanks to titles such as Firewatch. Eastshade, Kim off of Later Levels tells me, is worth a play, there’s zero combat and its all about painting what you see, which is all beautiful. Is it worth 50% off at £9.74 though? Sorry, but nope.

This looks amazing too, but I’ve got dozens of films to watch, I’m not really feeling the need for a walking simulator right now, although the escapism would be welcome.

Chuchel. This looks bananas, I’ve had this on my wish-list for a while, a comedy adventure game from Amanita Design. I saw Kim and Pete playing another title from this developer during the 50-day challenge for Special Effect earlier this year, I forget which title it was, but it was hilarious to watch. Can I see myself playing this any time soon, even for 70% off at £2.39? No, I just can’t!

Super cheap, but totally unnecessary and it will just further swell the backlog.

Costume Quest 1 & 2. This was recommended as a purchase by Gaming Diaries during one of her streams, I forget why it was mentioned in the first place, but it looks great. Double Fine productions have quite the pedigree too, this Halloween themed role-playing game won me over with its art style and the fact that you can apparently collect a bunch of costumes! Sign me up, just not yet because it’s nowhere near Halloween.

Doesn’t feel right to play this outside of Halloween, if Steam do a sale then, I’d wager this will be included.

Dead Space 3. This is an interesting one. EA has recently started releasing some of their back catalogue on Steam once again, after many years of trying to exclusively push Origin as its own thing. I guess that isn’t working out as well as they’d thought it would? In the wake of Epic Games’ dodgy exclusives practice last year, EA announced they’d be doing this, sure enough, we can now buy the likes of Sims 4 on Steam. Well, I never.

As for Dead Space, I started streaming the first game a while back, so I’ve just picked up Dead Space 2. A measly £8.99, 50% off the usual price, but hang on, how old is this game? Are you having a laugh EA/Steam?

There’s every chance I might play this, however, because I’ve been really enjoying the first game, so I might stream 2 and 3 immediately after. Will I get there before the inevitable winter sale? Probably. I’m also interested in how EA is managing integration with Steam. I think this might be my first actual purchase so far.

Oh Isaac, you unlucky and overworked space fella. I’ll see you there.

I could go through my entire wish-list here, but I’ll stop!

Sod it, I think Dead Space 3 might be my only purchase throughout the entire sale because it’s the only game I feel likely to play before the next sale.

Everything else I can talk myself out of, either because I don’t think I’ll get round to it soon enough, doesn’t offer a high enough discount etc.

Even the games that are super cheap, once added together, I start convincing myself I don’t need to spend £10 on games I won’t play, then the basket gets emptied once again. I also don’t need to jump into the sale straight away either, those impulse purchases are the killer, the sale is on until 9th July, I’ll hang on for now.

It doesn’t help having just dropped £52 on The Last of Us Part II either, because I don’t usually buy games on release day, but I had to make an exception there.

I’ve started using GOG Galaxy to keep track of all my games, across all platforms, which tells me I have 550 games currently. Most of those are un-played, so maybe that will do?

Where are the Steam sales of old I say though?! Give me those sweet 80-90% discounts so I feel no guilt! Oh, I probably still won’t buy things that cheap any more, but… others might?

Has your wallet or purse been duelling with Valve once again, what have you picked up, or not picked up (and why) this time? Let me know in the comments.

Review: The Last of Us Part II

I consider this post spoiler-free, but if you’re at all concerned, don’t read it, play the bloomin’ game instead of looking for blog posts and videos about it 😉

There are no screenshots in this post apart from the featured image. This is deliberate, prepare yourself for two thousand words.

I recently tweeted “Here’s to staying up way too late and playing video games!”

This week has been one of those occasions for sure when my physical copy of The Last of Us Part II arrived on release day. Robbing myself of sleep was guaranteed.

Averaging 5 hours of play and then sleep, for 5 consecutive days. After a total of just over 25 hours, early on Wednesday morning, the credits finally rolled.

It had to happen this way, after 7 years of waiting, I had to know first hand what happened next. I did my best to avoid spoilers, all of the trash talk going on throughout Twitter, Reddit etc. It’s amazing what people get angry about.

Part I recap

Rewind back to 2013; the first console I’d purchased for myself, the PS3 Slim, was patiently waiting under the TV for this game I’d heard about, The Last of Us. Along with GTA V, it steered me towards the PS3.

It was amazing, despite my inability to play with a controller (I’d struggled with GTA V too) I pressed on through the 12 hour-ish campaign, it was remarkable. A truly gripping narrative, but what was achieved with PS3 hardware was quite the accomplishment. As a primarily PC gamer back then, I was awestruck. Maybe consoles weren’t so bad after all?

I also never played it again, until a month ago when I dusted off The Last of Us Remastered. This was picked up over 2 years ago, safe in the knowledge I would play it only when Part II was fully cooked and about to arrive. It would make me ready, emotionally more than anything, to jump straight into Part II and continue this journey.

The remastered version of the first game confirmed everything I remember from my only prior playthrough; an intense, frantic, and violent journey through the wastelands of civilization, punctuated with moments of absolute beauty. The graphical improvements amplified my feelings of immersion, a larger and better quality TV also didn’t hurt. It was great to be back.

Seven years of console ownership and thousands of hours of controller use surfaced some feelings I wasn’t expecting; sheesh, the combat is wonky. Maybe I wasn’t as bad at this as I remember?!

Some of it was the game, in my opinion. I played at a higher difficulty level this time and felt way more at ease, but there were definitely some dodgy moments of clumsy combat. I overcame them easily enough, so it didn’t ruin my enjoyment too much or slow me down as it had 7 years ago.

Part II, you son of a… I’m in.

So here I was, fresh off a playthrough of the remastered first game, with a couple of weeks to digest the story again. Confident in my controller skills, I was ready.

Let me be upfront here, without trying to spoil anything; what happens in the first few hours of Part II is ruthless, almost without context (until later on), meant to shock you, meant to make you angry. It was also inevitable.

The entire narrative is driven forward for the rest of the game by that moment, its why the game even exists. Without this story to tell, what else could this game have been about? You’re missing out if you bail at that point.

Story aside for a moment

We’ll circle back to the story again later, in much the same way the game continually circles around and threads plot strands together, there’s more to say about other things first.

A technical marvel

As a video game, something technical, but also a piece of art, everything is masterfully represented and executed here. Naughty Dog has squeezed everything they could from the PlayStation once again.

In my entire playthrough, there were only a few times where the seams were visible. The rare animation not stitched together correctly, slight drops in frame rate (on PS4 Pro where water is involved, as noted by Digital Foundry) and other totally minor things.

The visuals

Visually striking, you start with some stunning vistas, rendered to perfection, at the seemingly controversial 30fps. For me, this works fine, because it remains almost entirely consistent throughout.

As you progress through the story, you’ll be taken to several locations which are increasingly impressive, full of detail. There are so many memorable locations and views, I don’t even want to be that guy who spoils any of them for you, by taking screenshots.

It is also incredibly dark at times, not just in tone, but pitch black in terms of lighting, forcing you to fight for your life with only a torch to guide you, against some fairly tough enemies. Much of the game is played in darkness, rain, and snow.

The violence and gore, nightmare fuel

The environments have to look as good as they do, however, because the pendulum swings both ways. On the one hand, it shows nature reclaiming the earth, beautiful sunsets, stunning mountains etc. On the other hand, violence and gore are also rendered in the same kind of excruciating detail. If you’re upset by this kind imagery, you’ll be looking away often. How do you feel about murdering Alsatians? Best of luck to you.

In one section, I set 4 trap mines, as I expected to be rushed by the enemy once detected. Sure enough, they came for me, one after the other triggering an explosion. Once I’d dispatched their friends, I went into the room where the traps had been set. The walls and floors were crimson, with arms, legs, intestines, heads, all rendered in extreme detail, with uncanny wetness to it all. It was honestly disgusting, but over the years I’ve been de-sensitised to the sight of it, so I just moved on, “it’s not real” I acknowledged.

This is a great game if you need some more nightmare fuel.

The hills are alive, with the sound of death

I played the entire game using stereo headphones plugged into the controller, these to be precise. These particular headphones allow sound you wouldn’t otherwise hear with other headphones to shine through.

Playing late at night, when the rest of the house was totally silent, I was fully immersed in the stereo audio.

In one section, something is crawling around the ventilation, or somewhere above you; the sound is so subtle, but it really raised my heart rate. Playing through the TV, I would never have heard it.

The same is true throughout, very subtle ambient sounds, crunching of the ground underneath the enemy, distant clicks from the Clicker enemies, grunting from the Runners, wind whistling past your ears.

Every arrow in your shoulder, shot fired, explosion, Molotov, rustle of leaves as you walk through the undergrowth and whistle between enemies in the distance. Every squelch during a silent takedown with a knife. Enemies don’t always expire straight away, sometimes they’ll scream, silently choke on their own blood. Seriously, this is not for sensitive types.

Combat, punchy punches are very punchy

This was my only real concern going into Part II, would the overall combat experience improve from the first game? The answer is a resounding yes. Absolutely.

The dodge mechanic is the only wonky thing about it all, often the camera would spin around while I was dodging, showing my back to the enemy while they attacked me.

Maybe I just don’t get it yet, but this was very frustrating at times. I felt like I was fighting the camera more than the enemy, but I’ll work on this.

When the dodging works, it fits so well into other melee animations and the environment, the whole thing looks scripted, much as it did in the E3 demos of the past. It really does play as well as it looked in those demos, for a change.

You’re running through gaps in walls, dodging giant sledgehammers, returning punches, slashing desperately with a knife. You have to, in some cases, to survive at all. It’s all extremely satisfying.

Combat situations don’t always pan out the way you’d hope, you’ll die gruesomely, but when it does work and the dust settles, you’ll gather your thoughts and be desperate to do it all over again. More than once, I carried on when I knew I was doomed, or reloading the save would make more sense, just to get some practice and enjoy more of the combat.

Other notable points

The crafting returns, which has improved, I’m also happy to say there are way more resources in the maps on “Moderate” difficulty compared to the first game. This is necessary, otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed to defeat the enemies presented, unless you stealth a great deal more. I hate stealth!

Puzzles return too, slightly different this time, but still interesting. I’m not much of a puzzle fan, but these were completely understandable and fun to solve.

Accessibility options are well represented here, Naughty Dog is receiving huge praise for this, I can’t imagine what this means to people who need them, but it is great to see.

Overall, everything which isn’t story related is top-notch. This is a highly polished video game, the time gained delaying release was clearly well spent.

The length of the game

Here’s where some of the problems start to surface. The game is so arduous and exhausting, so intense in every way. I’ve seen tweets from people saying they’ll take their time, savour the game, reflect on what happens.

This is absolutely the way to go unless you’re impatient. At 20-30 hours it just feels a little too long, I was expecting something more succinct like the first game. I felt as though I was playing Part II immediately followed by Part III.

The thing is, its so addictive to play, I just had to keep going. I wasn’t rushing it for the sake of writing this or to prevent exposure to spoilers and so on. The story was just so intense, so demanding, I had to keep going.

Back to that story

The story is the other problem for me, but also many others.

It’s divisive, there’s a reason the internet has gone wild over this game. Spoiling the plot, review bombing on Metacritic, attempting to boycott the release, all the usual rubbish.

You’ll never please everyone, Naughty Dog knows this. For everyone who loves that you get to play as thingy-me-bob, there’s someone who hates Naughty Dog for “what they did” to the story, they’ll never forgive them for it.

I can deal with all that, but towards the end of the game, it seems to lose direction.

The actions on screen felt massively at odds with the character progression I’d experienced to that point. I felt forced to “do things” that didn’t seem right, given the situation, but in the end, shrugged it off for the sake of progressing to the end. I straight-up murdered people because I couldn’t find any bottles or bricks.

The ending

I’m saying nothing. No, I’m serious, go and play the damn game, or watch someone else play it if you don’t want to spend money.

It builds on the first game in every way, is fun to play (most of the time), scary as !@# in places, an adrenaline rush, a tear-jerker, mouth-open-OMG-moment-during-cutscenes kind of game.

The Last of Us Part II is everything you want it to be, but also nothing like you wanted it to be or hoped it would be. How could this possibly live up to your expectations, after the end of the first game?

If you have any passing interest, just play the game for yourself, no amount of reviews or YouTube videos can take the place of experiencing it first hand, then making up your own mind, like an adult.

I’ll be playing New Game+ (which shipped at release) and going for the Platinum trophy, which probably tells you I liked it overall. You might not though, but judge for yourself, don’t let the internet sway you.

We’ll be talking about this game until Part III comes along.

Go-Go Trophy Hunter: My First Platinum

It all started with a conversation one evening with Phil from Later Levels. “What is the appeal with trophy hunting?” I asked. The answers came thick and fast, but the one which sticks in my mind the most is “I would never have played these games as much I have if it weren’t for the trophies.”

I like to get my monies worth too, but killing a hundred virtual pigeons? Picking up 100 pieces of paper in an open world map? Hmm. Sounds like busywork.

Then the subject cropped up time and again, with Solarayo from Ace Asunder also showing us the light. Let’s just say, she’s got a few trophies of her own…

It was becoming such a hot topic, Later Levels dedicated a Save Point chat show topic to trophy and achievement hunting, which was a great stream if you missed it. Fair warning though, there was also lots of talk about roast potatoes haha.

What is a platinum trophy?

Trophies on PlayStation are awarded for doing stuff in a game, like completing a chapter, eliminating a certain number of enemies. It’s really up to the developer.

A platinum trophy is awarded when you’ve earned all of the other trophies in a game.

Many other platforms have similar systems by different names, such as Achievements on Xbox or Steam.

Finding the right game to test the waters

I wrote some of my thoughts about Marvel’s Spider-Man once I finished the main story, I’ve since completed the DLC too, such a great game folks.

A few things then happened, which were never my intention:

  • I replayed the game immediately with the New Game+ mode, the first platinum requirement; I usually wait months or even years before doing this, but I was still really enjoying the game
  • All the talk of trophies led me to play Ultimate difficulty, another requirement for the platinum trophy, I figured if I was replaying, I may as well attempt all the trophies
  • Heck, I even streamed the whole thing too, which isn’t something I’ve really announced, but yes, nowisgames.com is now streaming, just like everyone else seems to be 🙂

There was one thing about Spider-Man that made me do all of these things above, going for that coveted first platinum trophy, despite a lifelong ignorance and disinterest in the pursuit; it seemed entirely possible.

Play the game and get rewarded

Studying the requirements and matching them against my experience of the game, I believed it was possible without much deviation from enjoying the game a second time around.

There’s no multiplayer, so no problem having to rely on randoms. No over-the-top requirement to collect 100 bits of paper or some other trinket, the numbers were sensible and the targets all easily reachable. The only real stumbling block, the ultimate difficulty. Would I be able to see that through to the end?

Don’t be so difficult!

I seldom play video games on the hardest difficulty available, I usually go mid-range or straight in for easy. There’s no shame as far as I’m concerned, there’s also a big reason for that, which is time.

I don’t have as much time available as I used to for playing video games, real-life and all that, it sort of gets in the way, so I consider my time valuable for this hobby. I can manage the harder difficulties, depending on the game, I just choose not to unless I really want to be challenged and have the time and patience for it.

So I practised Ultimate difficulty a little, without much bother, then set about my journey towards those final two trophies, believing it was all possible. That shiny platinum trophy would be mine.

Relying heavily on the gadgets available in the game, as well as the haphazard fighting style I’d developed throughout my first playthrough, I settled into a groove that served me well, until the last enemy faction was introduced.

Those guys are heavily armoured and shoot you, a lot, with rockets and snipers. They were quite challenging at times, but after a bit of practice again off-stream, I ploughed through the remainder of the game.

By the end, I was very much doing it for the trophies, I was ready to move on and replay the game some other time, likely shortly before Spider-Man 2 comes along.

How can I get into this too?

Marvel’s Spider-Man is an excellent choice for your first platinum trophy in my opinion, or “easy” platinum if you’re a seasoned professional like Phil and Solarayo.

Ultimate difficulty is not as difficult as the name suggests, by the time you reach New Game+, you’ve likely unlocked everything you’ll need to tackle the game on that difficulty, which is to say all of the suits and gadgets. You’ll need them, trust me!

I would suggest using PSN Profiles to look at your own profile and find something you’ll enjoy investing that time and effort into. Don’t bother trying to navigate the PlayStation user interface, it will take too long for this 😀

Does this make me a trophy/achievement hunter?

I’m not sure it does, in the traditional sense. I’ve never gone out of my way to get the platinum in any of the games I own, nor do I have any intention of doing that.

I was burned by Valve having achieved 100% completion of Left 4 Dead when they released DLC with multiplayer trophies, which I was just never going to get. Since then, I’ve never really bothered.

But there is a certain sense of satisfaction from seeing 100% against the game…

Which game is next then?

OK, you’ve got me despite what I said before, I’m already looking for my next platinum trophy. Research suggests I’m not a million miles away from the platinum in Horizon Zero Dawn, after one playthrough two years ago. I skipped the hunting lodge stuff and there’s a quest line I can replay without doing the whole game.

With the PS5 close and HZD2 probably on the way in the next couple of years, I think this is one I’m going to try and tick off the list.

I’ve also pumped so many hours into Borderlands 2 I feel like I should invest some more time and effort into getting all the achievements on that too if I can. We’ll see!

In summary, I wouldn’t call myself a trophy/achievement hunter, but I am definitely paying more attention to them now than I was previously.

How do you feel about trophies and achievements? Is there a platinum trophy or an achievement you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.

Update: I screwed up when I was writing the post, NG+ and Ultimate difficulty aren’t requirements for the platinum trophy in Spider-Man. At the time, I was just trying to get all possible trophies available, which I managed to do by the end of the NG+Ult playthrough!

Have You Ever – Gaming Edition

Scrolling through the WordPress Reader one evening, I stumbled on a post from A Geek Girl’s Guide: Have You Ever? Gaming Edition. I’ve since seen these popping up in a few other places.

Normally I don’t partake in these things, but this one looked like a bit of fun. Without further ado, have you ever…

Rage quit a game

I’m ashamed to admit this, but yes. Once or twice I’ve been known to drop out of Left 4 Dead 2, or back in the day, Counter-Strike. I don’t really play either game these days and I’m generally much more chilled in life. If something isn’t fun, I don’t continue, or start in the first place. I definitely don’t rage about it, there’s better ways to spend your energy 😉

More recently, Overwatch has been rage quit because of the stupid loot boxes.

I’ve had fun playing Overwatch, but I’ve also been incredibly frustrated by various aspects of it at times. All for what exactly? Now, I just don’t play it at all.

Earned all achievements in a game

I have definitely done this, only to have it taken away from me by the release of free updates or DLC! Left 4 Dead might have been the first, only to have multiplayer achievements I have no hope of acquiring, so it put me off the whole pursuit, until recently…

Inspired by Phil from Later Levels and Solaryo from Ace Asunder, I’ve started trophy hunting on the PlayStation. Specifically, I’m going after the platinum trophy in Marvel’s Spider-Man, because it seems attainable, also the game is a great deal of fun. I don’t know if this is the start of something, we’ll see!

Pulled an all-nighter gaming

Most definitely, although it depends what you class as an all-nighter! I’ve routinely stayed up until 3-4am over the years, although less so recently, as I’m getting old and sleep is more precious. With an almost two year old sprog around, a year or so ago there were definitely some sleepless nights of Overwatch. Bless him though, he sleeps from 7.30pm until 7.30am these days, so I can’t use him as an excuse. Also, he wakes me up at 7.30am.

I stayed up until 6am once, playing NHL 98 (the demo) with my sister, sharing a keyboard and mouse.

Livestreamed your gaming

This is something I was hoping to do since the inception of the blog, but more so around January and February this year, when I was in the throws of home ownership, DIY and watching Later Levels do their 50 day challenge for Special Effect. Going from 2.5Mbps to 350Mbps broadband also didn’t hurt.

Once things settled down with the house purchase, I started dipping my toe in to Twitch streaming. Now, with the whole lockdown thing, there has been a great deal of Twitch watching and broadcasting going on in this house, to pass the time!

Remember the whole achievement thing I mentioned? I’m streaming my Spider-Man run for those final two trophies, New Game+ and Ultimate difficulty.

Pre-ordered a game

I generally avoid doing this, I think it’s a little shady, mostly because the pre-order bonuses dangled in front of you are often found for free or extremely cheap later on. That said, I have been known to pre-order a few games, most recently, Borderlands 3 on the Xbox.

Bought a game and never played it

What sort of passive-aggressive question is this?! I mean, the answer is most definitely yes haha. What gamer isn’t guilty of this one? I don’t even want to put a number on it, because its in triple figures.

GOG Galaxy tells me I’m the owner of around 450 games across multiple platforms. Most of those are un-played, but 2020 is the year of the backlog for sure!

A thing of beauty! VIDEO GAAAAAAAAAAAAAMES!

Games on the list include Max Payne 3, the Batman Arkham series, the Call of Juarez series, Dead Island, F.E.A.R. 2 & 3, the Just Cause series, Mad Max, the Overlord series, Remember Me, Sleeping Dogs… I could go on, but you get the point.

Been jump-scared by a horror game

Horror games aren’t really something that appeal to me, so I don’t tend to pick them up, I’ve definitely had a few jump scares over the years, as well as chills down the spine.

Most notably was playing F.E.A.R. back when it released, in my dark living room with 5.1 speakers and not a soul in the house but my own. That first time you “see something” straight up scared the !@# out of me.

Too many jump scares can have the opposite effect, becoming more annoying than scary in any way

Jump scares have to go to Doom 3 though, really obvious and stupid ones. Forcing you to use a gun or a flashlight? Sod that, I just never finished it.

Had a set squad for a specific game

Back in the day a group of close friends were brought together by Counter-Strike and moreso by Left 4 Dead. Around that time we started doing LAN parties as well. Left 4 Dead 2 followed pretty quickly so we routinely played that together.

These days the same group still plays Counter-Strike, but I’ve long since given that up, I was never any good and it just fills me with rage! I’ve pretty much given up Overwatch for the same reasons. These days, I’m mostly single-player focused, but the better broadband has started to change that.

You’ll see me playing with Pete, Phil and sometimes Ben from Later Levels on their Twitch channel on a Wednesday evening.

Bought a game on multiple platforms

Sadly I have to admit to this, because it has become something of a habit, although I try and keep it under control.

I think it started with Grand Theft Auto V, which I purchased at release on PS3. I then purchased it again on Xbox One for the 1080p goodness, then again on PC (after a long delayed upgrade) for the 60fps and multiplayer goodness!

Since becoming a bit of a console gamer over the last several years, I’ve purchased a few titles in Xbox and PlayStation sales, so I can enjoy them again in 4K HDR on the TV. These include Fallout 4 and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection.

Argh, why am I doing this? My poor wallet.

Got a console for the games specifically

Yeah for sure, I picked up a PS3 back in 2011 in anticipation of The Last of Us and GTA V, then twiddled my thumbs while waiting for those to come out. Playing Blu-rays (the main reason I picked the PS3 over Xbox 360) and some pre-owned rubbish for a couple years.

Buying the same game three times? With a combined playtime of close to 2000 hours by now, I think I’ve got my moneys worth out of this particular title

I own a PS4 today for similar reasons, I wanted to play Horizon Zero Dawn and some other PlayStation exclusives like The Last of Us Part 2, God of War, Spider-Man.

Amusingly, some of those are now coming to PC, or are there already!? Not sure what is happening, but if The Last of Us Part 2 were to ever come to PC or Xbox, I just wouldn’t need a PlayStation in my life.

We’re all done!

If you’d like to take part in this, copy the following headings into a blog post of your very own! I won’t be tagging anyone either 😉

Rage quit a game
Earned all achievements in a game
Pulled an all-nighter gaming
Livestreamed your gaming
Pre-ordered a game
Bought a game and never played it
Been jumpscared by a horror game
Had a set squad for a specific game
Bought a game on multiple platforms
Got a console for the games specifically

Review: GOG Galaxy 2.0 Game Client – Open Beta

I wrote about GOG Galaxy 2.0 last year during the “Launcher Wars”, which were sparked in part by Epic Software’s incessant desire to gobble up a bunch of exclusive or timed big name releases on PC. This is a practice which continues in 2020, with titles such as Assassins Creed Valhalla.

The aim of Galaxy 2.0 was to unite all of your PC digital storefronts and associated launchers into a single, universal library, under one client to rule them all. This isn’t a new idea, other options such as Playnite have been doing this for a while.

Automatic Update From 1.0 Isn’t Well Received By Some

Many people who use GOG.com have likely never bothered installing the Galaxy client, it is yet another launcher to think about. It’s mostly unnecessary as well, you can download DRM free installer executables from GOG.com and store them wherever you want. If you don’t wish to keep your games up to date, you don’t have to do that either.

Despite the Galaxy 2.0 client receiving regular updates and continually improving over the last several months, an immediate misstep, unusual for CDPR, is currently being observed by the very people they probably shouldn’t be pissing off.

Those choosing to install the Galaxy 1.0 client are likely the more serious GOG.com users, with the largest libraries. They want the convenience of downloading and updating their games like any Steam or Uplay user would expect.

Without any real warning, it seems 1.0 clients are being upgraded to the 2.0 open beta, which some users are finding rather unpleasant, a questionable decision in my opinion.

They apparently didn’t sign up for this or any beta. They’re finding ways to roll back and then prevent the update from happening again, such is their distaste for the upgrade. Poor show CDPR, not everyone wants to use beta software.

Connections to Third Party Platforms

Connecting your Steam, PlayStation and Xbox (amongst other) libraries is one of the main draws of Galaxy 2.0, so how does this work?

Under settings, you have the option to connect these and several other platforms to your Galaxy 2.0 client. Sign in to your platform of choice, and that’s it, Galaxy 2.0 can now synchronise information from that platform.

The open source nature of the functionality remains in place, with the community still working to fill the gaps left by CDPR, which are numerous. All the major players are covered to a degree, but if you’re the sort of person who uses the itch.io client you’ll be left wanting.

During the private beta, this functionality would routinely misbehave, losing connection and forcing you to log back in to services such as PlayStation Network over and over again. In the version currently rolling out, this appears to have stabilised.

On the whole, this functionality now works well, with much fewer disconnections from the various services I’ve tried, including Xbox Live, PSN, Uplay, Origin and Epic Games Store. More work needs to be done by CDPR to convince other platforms to open things up a little, allow downloads to be tracked and managed fully by Galaxy 2.0 for example.

I can’t help but feel like this will go the way of Windows Phone, where the likes of Facebook and Twitter ultimately pulled support for integrating their platforms into a “Social” feed natively in the OS, because this negated the need for users to open the dedicated apps. This harmed advertising revenue for Facebook and Twitter, which is how they exist in the first place. Valve and others will know this is the case for their own stores, if they allow Galaxy 2.0 to be too feature rich.

General Stability and Performance

This has been improved significantly from the private beta releases over the last several months, likely contributing to this becoming an open beta.

Frequent disconnection from “GOG Services” would restart the entire client throughout the private beta period, for me at least. Thankfully, this appears to have entirely stopped. I also haven’t experienced any crashing games, fingers crossed.

Playtime Tracking

This remains my biggest disappointment with Galaxy 2.0, despite some great refinements to the user interface around this feature. The simple fact is, playtime just doesn’t seem to tracked accurately at all. Not even close.

Countless hours spent playing GTA Online on Xbox One with the Later Levels crew have fallen by the wayside in Galaxy 2.0. It remains stuck on 18 hours, a figure which was accurate months ago. Repeated attempts to get this figure to update, let alone track again, have all failed.

Other Xbox titles don’t appear to have any time logged against them at all. Some of my Steam titles, which are in fact just a wrapper for Uplay installations, have duplicated playtime, adding the playtime of both platforms together. This places them higher up in my list of “Most Played” titles than they should be. Unforgivable haha!

There’s also a cumulative playtime chart on the “Recent” page, which is wildly inaccurate for me. Entire weeks or months suggest no play time occurred, which definitely isn’t the case.

Friends List Integration

Another disappointment, so far, we still can’t chat across platforms. I assume they’re still working on getting the platform owners on board with this, but it is desperately needed. Also seems rather unlikely.

We can now at least see our friends presence, but there’s seemingly no way of matching users between platforms, so you’ll see the same person in multiple places if you’ve added them to multiple platforms.

Game Launching

Multiple executables are supported, if you’re into modding your PC games.

Titles which are owned across multiple platforms are also catered for, with the option to select which platform launches by default per game.

You’ll still need to manage updates and downloads through the relevant client, for now, but launching games exclusively through Galaxy 2.0 should be no problem.

In Summary

I still think it’s a crying shame this is even a thing for PC users, or that Valve haven’t got their thumb out and done this stuff with Steam in the last 15 plus years. On the other hand, this has definitely ignited something over at Valve, between this and Discord’s meteoric rise over the last couple of years, the improvements to Steam have been coming steadily ever since.

You’ve got very little to lose by giving GOG Galaxy 2.0 a spin during the open beta, I’ve found it stable enough so far to use as my primary launcher. It’s quite amusing using Galaxy 2.0 to launch Far Cry 4 in Steam, just for Steam to launch Uplay.

I really wish the playtime tracking were a little more robust. I’ll be sticking with it for now over Playnite though, as the user interface is more to my liking.

Have you been using Galaxy 2.0? What do you think so far? Let me know in the comments.

Thoughts on Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

This whole world-on-a-lockdown thing sucks, right? One thing it has allowed me to do, completely guilt free, is tackle some video games on my backlog.

Some of them have been there for a long time. Others, such as Spider-Man on PS4, have been intended since release (2018), but only recently acquired.

Something made me start this game within weeks of picking it up, quite unusual for a backlog slave such as myself. In just a few minutes, thanks to an explosive, action packed introduction tutorial, I was hooked. This is a pretty spectacular video game. This has been 3am stuff for me, I definitely have a problem.

If you’re a Spider-Man fan and PS4 owner, this video game is a must play. Of all the superheroes out there, Spider-Man is without a doubt my favourite. I’ve never really been into the comics, but I did watch the cartoon as a kid. I also adored the Sam Raimi directed trilogy of movies, the first of which is a shocking 18 years old this year. Re-watching these movies, to take a break from playing the game, took me back to a simpler time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Enemies vary enough for my tastes, but there’s a lot of repetition

Back to the video game; rinsing the collectibles, challenges, research stations, basically as much as the game had to offer, before the final hour or so, nothing felt like a chore. Swinging through the high rise buildings of New York and continually levelling up Spider-Man, unlocking new abilities, suits and gadgets. It was an absolute joy.

This was a very rewarding story to follow too, with a satisfying ending, great motion capture and acting throughout. The action, combat, cinematics, UI, music, animation, controls and I can just go ON AND ON. There’s so many good things about this video game, it becomes much easier to talk about the handful of things I didn’t care for.

A few of the boss battles are against two villains, I found this hugely irritating, particularly earlier on, before I really got to grips with the game.

I couldn’t keep track of two of them at once, with so many visual effects on the screen it was baffling. I was getting the stuffing knocked out of me by villains and attacked I couldn’t even see coming.

Sometimes the momentum you build up is so vast, you overshoot where you’re aiming for despite your best efforts. This becomes incredibly annoying when precision is required, against the clock or otherwise.

Some of the unlocks are gated behind “challenge tokens” which are quite, er, challenging. I’ll never be good enough to acquire some of the challenge tokens from the base game. Thankfully it seems the DLC and New Game+ released since launch might address this, for those of us not up to scratch. I want to unlock everything, but I’d hate for it to be behind the kind of skill barrier I don’t have time to overcome.

A number of physics items in the game world can be utilised during combat, including bringing down shelves, lobbing manhole covers, returning enemy grenades and rockets

The DLC will make or break this game for me. New Game+ does add a certain amount of re-playability, in addition to the increasing difficulty modes (I played somewhere in the middle). If the DLC adds another 6-10 hours of interesting gameplay, I can see myself revisiting this title in the future, otherwise it might just be a little on the short side at 25-30 hours.

I’m intending to stream a playthrough of New Game+, possibly on the hardest difficulty too, but we’ll see how that goes!

For now, I’ll return this week to tackle the DLC at a normal difficulty, as I’m keen to see how the story progresses. I’ll update this post if more words spring to mind.

Pick this video game up and you won’t regret it, I’m sure, definitely if you’re a Spider-Man fan. You’ll likely know whether it is to your tastes within the first 15 minutes, it starts as it means to go on!