First Impressions: Gravity Ghost

I have a tiny bottle that lives on my bedside table. Inside this tiny bottle, there lives some sparkling blue sand, little seashells, and a tiny, clay fox that smiles when you shift him out of the sand. Finally, I know that this fox’s name is Voy.

Gravity Ghost is puzzle physics game by Erin Robinson’s Ivy Games and I played it first at PAX in 2013, where I acquired my tiny bottle and Voy. I was immediately drawn in by it’s soothing music, whimsical colors, and girl floating through space. Gravity Ghost was still a full year and a half away from release at that point – it came out yesterday, January 26, 2015, and is why I just so recently learned the fox’s name. I had pre-ordered, so I was able to get in a few days beforehand. Score.

I finished Gravity Ghost in four hours, across a three-day period. This series is called First Impressions, where I generally talk about a game before I finish it. I started writing this a few times before I finished, but I couldn’t finish it before I was compelled to finish the game. You know those dreams you have, when you suddenly slam awake, gasping for breath, feeling like you just fell? Gravity Ghost doesn’t wake you up gasping for breath, but you do fall, and when you fall, you keep on falling, around planets and in circles and through stars. That is to say, I couldn’t write beginning thoughts without finishing it, as I fallen headfirst into its music, story, and characters. What I can write here are my middle thoughts, because even though I’ve completed the game, I’m nowhere near done with the story (or talking about).

The main character is Iona, a ghost girl searching for her fox friend. Along the way you learn about her family and friends, and meet new animal friends too. Gravity Ghost is physics based and its means is through planets – you jump and swing around them, collecting flowers that increase the length of your hair (why this doesn’t exist in real life, I don’t know). Your hair acts as your inventory, storing the animal friends you find along the way (I, also, keep animals in my hair). Eventually you gain abilities to terraform planets, through elements like ice and fire. You collect stars that open up new levels and puzzles and you reunite your animals with their bones, freeing them to scatter more flowers into the stars as they joyfully bound away.

Sound quirky? It is. There are a few problems, of course. The gameplay can be repetitive and some levels feel frustrating. I thought the skill level ramped up with no warning, which is just my take on it as someone who is admittedly bad at actually playing games. Those levels are few and far between, though, and most outlets have called Gravity Ghost out for not being challenging enough, so take that as you will. The game also uses its main three voice actors for several different characters and while they all do admirable jobs, it’s a bit jarring in practice. My main problem was the length: I could easily, easily play for much longer in this planet system.

The flaws are far from distracting, however. This game is everything that I love about indie games. It feels tender and touching and heartbreaking. The music and almost chalk-like art work together flawlessly. It’s scored by Ben Prunty, who brought us my personal favorite soundtrack, the soundtrack for FTL: Faster than Light. When I heard that he was doing the music for Gravity Ghost, I was excited. Rightly so, it turns out. The game opens with the Ivy Games logo, and then the following quote by Charles Simic: “Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships.”

When the quote fades, you see Iona and Voy the fox happily playing together. Together, the quote, the words, and the music took my breath away, before I even exited the menu screen.

Maybe that “waking up, grasping for breath” metaphor works, after all.

You can purchase Gravity Ghost on Steam here, and the soundtrack here.

Advertisements

2014 GOTY List

Welcome to my very first top of the year list! This list will be more focused on games. If you want to know what I did in 2014, in terms of writing and other stuff, you can find that here. For this unnumbered, unfiltered, RAW OFF THE CHAIN list, you will find games that I played and enjoyed, even if they weren’t necessarily released in 2014. So! Off we go! Spoiler: there are only five, because thinking of ten was too hard.

Threes!

What can be said about Threes! that hasn’t already been said? Not much, but I’ll try. Threes! is a mobile puzzle game, made by a team of three (hah). The music is undeniably catchy and whimsical. The look is pastel and pleasing and the voice work is so satisfyingly on point. Really, what else can I say about Threes!? Threes! reinvented mobile gaming for me. I’ve always been picky about what games I have on my phone, because I don’t use my time on just anything, and Threes! opened my eyes to what mobile gaming can and should be.

Desert Golfing

Desert Golfing showed up relatively late on my consideration for this list; that is to say, about a week ago, when it first started showing up on GOTY lists across gaming sites. I downloaded it and blew through to hole 200 immediately. I like Leigh Alexander’s piece on it quite a bit, which you can check out here. Like Threes!, Desert Golfing is mobile and simplistic in its design. My partner prefers to chart out his moves, while I prefer to blast through each hole, my score for each hole repeatedly in the double digits. And I don’t care. If I randomly get a hole-in-one, I’m ecstatic and pumping my fist in the air. If I miss it, it ain’t no thing. And I like that. There is no fanfare except what I abscribe to a hole-in-one. There is no punishment, except a seemingly arbitrary score ticking away at the top of the screen. But in this game, it’s just you and the sand and the hole and the ball. You are your worst enemy. You are your best friend. Sometimes there’s a cactus, but mostly it’s just you. I’m obsessed; I’ve started writing fanfiction. I haven’t written fanfiction about a game in years. Thanks, Desert Golfing, I thought I was finally clean.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone introduced me to CCG’s. I’ve written previously about Magic the Gathering, and how Hearthstone eased my way into it, with a softer landing than I would have experienced had I gone in with zero CCG experience. Hearthstone is an experience all on its own – its presentation is sleek, on both mobile and desktop, the art is stunning as always, and the core game mechanics are as brilliant as anything Blizzard has ever done. I haven’t played Hearthstone in a few months, but I’ve given it up in favor of Magic, and its more intense gameplay and human interaction. I have grown to love Magic in a way I didn’t think was possible and I owe some of those feelings to the gentle way paving of Hearthstone.

Quing’s Quest VII: The Death of Videogames

This is a game made by Deirdre”Squinky” Kiai, who brought us the unique Dominique Pamplemousse. Quing’s Quest is made in Twine and in a few words: it is a sparkly ball of light, with feelings of intense joy and lots of glitter. This is the only game this year where I romanced anyone – sorry, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Nero, you foxy, smart, wondrous thing, you, I will romance you every day if you let me. Anyway. 2014 was an ugly, ugly year for gaming culture, with the rise of Gamergate and all the awfulness it entailed. It was easy to feel hopeless; frankly, it’s still easy to feel hopeless and frustrated about video games, to wonder why I even care about advancing this medium of art. Quing’s Quest took those feelings and personified them, literally. I don’t want to give away the ending, because this game is an utter delight that you need to play immediately if you haven’t. Seriously. Stop reading this and go play it.

Smite

Smite is my GOTY. I’ve written about Smite before, and a little about why I love it, and the problems that I feel it has too. Those problems haven’t gone away; if anything, it’s even more of a glaring offense now, with the addition of gods that continue to fit the mold of Nearly Naked Lady Syndrome, culminating with Awilix, a Mayan god who, when she dances, leans forward and wiggles her chest. Hi-Rez, PLS. It’s extremely aggravating, considering the time I put into Smite. So, then, why is this my GOTY? Let’s say you’re a girl who played baseball when she was younger, but was never any good. Or really, felt any good at anything. Even video games. I wrote a little about that before, that Smite makes me feel like I can play video games, and that I can be good at them. That feeling as only intensified. My favorite game of all time is Kingdom Hearts 2, and the feelings I feel when I play Kingdom Hearts 2 all come down to happiness and love and connection, and when I play Smite, the feelings more boil down to adequate and self confidence and good enough. Have I felt those in other games? I think so, but never do I consistently feel them as I do in Smite. Other than that, I’ve simply spent more time in Smite than I have in any other game this year. It’s awoken me to an interest in e-sports, a career path, something to strive for.

Just fix your goddamn ladies Smite, and we’ll be peachy as all get out.

So that’s my 2014. A lot of small games, and mostly mobile. I had a lot of things happen in 2014, and I wonder if that’s why most of these games are repetitive and able to be played on the go, without the use of my main rig. For 2015, I hope to play “bigger” games – games like No Man’s Sky and Night in the Woods, games that have an end. I’d like that. And maybe I’ll even take a crack at Dragon Age: Inquisition, and romance someone other than Nero for the whole year.

First Impressions: Elegy for a Dead World

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game quite like Elegy for a Dead World. The closest I can think of is Lydia Neon’s game Player Two, which invites players to explore their feelings in a safe environment, by responding to open ended questions in a chatbox. Elegy for a Dead World plays similarly, asking for your words in chatboxes, except the scope is much larger, and the prompts more varied.

Eerily pretty, Elegy for a Dead World places you as an astronaut, floating in a vividly bright space, with stars twinkling in the background as you fly along. The central area is surrounded by clouds, and you are meant to fly toward bright, circular portals that will lead you to the worlds written by three famous deceased authors: Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bhysse Shelley. As you explore these worlds, you are tasked with completing writing prompts. Yes, writing prompts. This game wants you to write.

Imagine that!

I was instantly sold. Challenges emerge from these worlds, ranging from songs to rhyming couplets. The game asks you to create stories told from the perspectives of people who lived on these worlds. The “gameplay” is fairly simple: you enter one of the worlds and choose a writing prompt. From there, you fly or walk, side-scroller style, until you find more words to help you complete the prompt. You keep going until you reach the end and from there you can re-read your story and edit, and then, if you choose, publish it on Steam Workshop. There, other players can read and “commend” it. If you get enough commendations, you get a Steam achievement (hot diggity).

There’s also a free writing exercise, which lets you drift through the world without a prompt. I went in thinking that I would like this option better, since I consider myself a writer already. I can think of my own prompts! I thought smugly, as I sat down to play it. And then sat there for a few minutes trying to think of what words to put into this bold, colorful universe. Properly chagrined, I selected what seemed like a simple enough prompt, without too many constraints, and blasted through it, enjoying the fuzzy ambient sound. I published it and moved onto another prompt eagerly. This one tasked me to write about a villain who had destroyed a world and write about what had happened. In the middle of my solitary journey through the landscape, it was revealed that had destroyed the world. Uh-oh. I enjoyed flipping the narrative, though I did have to go back and make some adjustments to my earlier writing.

I’m looking forward to working my way through more of the prompts. As I floated through space and what felt like time as well, I wondered what my younger self would have done with a game like this. I filled up notebooks and notebooks with words when I was younger, mostly fanfiction – which, if you think about it, Elegy for a Dead World sort of feels like, since you’re taking the atmosphere of dead poets’ worlds and springing from those. This is a game that I wish younger me would have had. She would have really enjoyed it.

Twitch’s New Rule: Cry More, Boys

Multi-million dollar company Twitch changed their Rules of Conduct recently (not to be confused with their Terms of Service – a distinction worth noting). The new rule is below.

Dress…appropriately
Nerds are sexy, and you’re all magnificent, beautiful creatures, but let’s try and keep this about the games, shall we?

Wearing no clothing or sexually suggestive clothing – including lingerie, swimsuits, pasties, and undergarments – will most likely get you reported by the community, as well as any full nude torsos*, which applies to both male and female broadcasters. You may have a great six-pack, but that’s better shared on the beach during a 2-on-2 volleyball game blasting “Playing with the Boys.”

* If it’s unbearably hot where you are, and you happen to have your shirt off (gents) or a bikini top (ladies), then just crop the webcam to your face. If your lighting is hot, get fluorescent bulbs to reduce the heat. Xbox One Kinect doesn’t zoom? Move it closer to you, or turn it off. There is always a workaround.

We sell t-shirts, and those are always acceptable. #Kappa

(it’s worth noting, also, that the third paragraph, the one starting with an asterisk, was added after the initial post).

While Twitch’s new rules seem designed to specifically make streams family friendly, in terms of nudity, at least, the response has been anything but heralding the now Amazon-owned property as “friendly.”

People don’t have problems with male nudity, it seems – only problems with girls who do it for the attention.

Listen, guys, I get it. You don’t have lady parts. You know, instinctively, that breasts are attractive – most people do, myself included. Ain’t no shame in that (unless you’re the weird, grabby, oversexualizing type of person, in which case, yet, get the hell away from women). I can, maybe, see why you would call it an “unfair advantage” if women have their breasts prominently displayed on a cast, especially with Twitch being such a cutthroat place do business in. What I don’t understand is why you take it personally.

I get it! It’s a tough place for men out there who feel personally victimized by a woman’s success. It’s a tough place when you think that women are successful solely based on their sex appeal and not on their merits or entertaining personalities. It must be tough, going to the front page of Twitch and constantly seeing rows of men on the front page every single day, knowing that you’ll never achieve their success and somehow thinking it’s because their entertaining and maybe one day you can be them, if only for those damn breasts. Must be tough, in a world where men make 23% more than women (not including women of color – a number far more grim, where men make something like 32% more). Must be tough, in a world where women now make up more than half of people playing video games and your special toys are no longer so special.

Twitch has its problems, don’t get me wrong. But it isn’t women who stream with low cut shirts. If people complained half as much about the hate-speech filled language that fills chats, maybe I would care more about what they said. But no, the hill that people are choosing to die on is the hill filled with sexist, misandrist speak, already on fire and burning from an industry that already turns its face away from women suffering.

Livestreaming, I firmly believe, is the new frontier, the understudy in the wings waiting for its chance to shine, and Twitch is at the very forefront. Amazon and Google seem to believe this too, if you remember the chatter when Google was first rumored to buy Twitch. With all this press and the pressure to live up to, we need to be vigilant about the precedent it will set when it bursts onto the stage of mainstream consciousness. Girls with low cut shirts isn’t what we need to rein in if we want to keep the image of games as art progressing forward – it’s the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, the hate speech that lurks in every Twitch chat and around the corner of every stream. If viewers on Twitch want to burn something at the stake, let it be that.

The Wolf Game

My earliest childhood obsession was with wolves. The fluffy, large, possibly fierce kind, with claws and teeth and tails. I was an animal lover, always gravitating toward books about animals, and somehow I ended up obsessing over wolves, reading everything I could get my hands on – picture books by National Geographic photographers, fiction books like Julie of the Wolves, and classics Jack London classics Call of the Wild and White Fang.

The obsession never completely died – in my early teen years, when I discovered the internet, I ran straight to wolf forums and boards. When I was fourteen I discovered a wolf roleplaying board, which is exactly what it sounds like: I roleplayed as a wolf in the wild, hunting, fighting, and living a wolf life. It was a completely written activity, which paired with the fact that I had been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. I stayed with roleplaying wolves for six years –  all throughout high school, into my sophomore year of college. It was my primary reason for using the internet (a reason compounded by the fact that my overbearing father disapproved of the internet nearly entirely and by claiming that I was “writing,” I could weasel my way onto the computer).

During my early college years, I discovered a site that ran neatly side by side with my wolf obsession, a wolf breeding simulator called Wajas, or, as I remember calling it, “the wolf game.” It would be years before I fully understood what the term “simulator” meant; to my 18 year old self, it simply meant collecting prettily drawn wolves and pairing them to create more prettily drawn wolves. My roleplaying friends all joined and I had people to instant message with over AIM, people to trade wolves with and compare and swap notes about breeding and markings and finding ways to earn Waja money to buy more Wajas.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 6.56.56 PM

Continue reading

First Impressions: Duels of the Planeswalkers

Magic: The Gathering was always something that I wanted to play. Out of all the nerdy things I found in high school to love, MTG seemed like the most nerdy of them all. Naturally I was fascinated, but never took my fascination to the level of actually playing the game. I had a few friends who played, frequently at our underage drinking parties (oh, to be young again). I would watch with avid interest and once or twice they asked me to play, painstakingly trying to teach me how, and I would inevitably get flustered and lose and quit.

I’m in my mid-20s now with more confidence, so when I went to the Games Developers Conference as a volunteer and there was a group teaching Magic, I decided to stick around and learn. And it was excellent. I had already played Blizzard’s card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and so had some of the fundamentals of a game with mana and beasts and spells under my belt. After leaving GDC, I was lucky enough to chance upon The Lady Planeswalkers Society, a group dedicated to creating a safe, friendly environment for women to play Magic in. Sign me up!

It’s been about three months since I started playing regularly and I’m still learning – which brings me finally to Duels of the Planeswalkers. I had dabbled in Magic Online but when I first tried it, the terms still flew over my head. Haste? Trample? Vigilance? I have a better understanding of these things now, though I still consider myself very new and liable to mess things up at any given time (I always preface my in-person matches with “I’m still new, please let me know if I mess up!” I also use this tactic in Smite when I play a new character and surprisingly, it somehow works better IRL. Who knew that people are less likely to be assholes when I’m actually staring them in the face? Such a mystery). Duels of the Planeswalker sees my trepidation as new Magic player, nods, and then goes wild with making sure that nothing goes over my head.

“You’re confused about haste, new player? Let me pop up a window and explain it to you every single time you get a card with haste.”

“Oh, this is your COMBAT stage. I will remind you of this every single time you COMBAT.”

“Oh myyy, that’s a mighty big creature he’s got there, panic!” 

Okay, that last one isn’t true. But good lord, do some of the beginning tutorials last forever and throw big creatures at you without the ability to return battle in a proper way. Deck building at first seems nonexistent and you have to earn cards through the campaign play, winning booster packs for the AIs you defeat. You choose your starter colors – I originally chose the blue-white combo, as that’s what I used in the physical Magic 15 pre-release and won handily with, but ended up switching to black-red, my old standby – and are handed pre-chosen cards in that color to play with. I’m disappointed that a lot of the cards appear to be called “premium cards,” meaning that you have to purchase them to play with them and they can’t be gotten through simple grinding.

I guess that’s the nature of the beast, but I still find it disappointing.

Duels of the Planeswalkers also suffers from some technical mishaps. I have the game on my Kindle Fire, my partner has it on his iPad, and I have it on Steam as well. All three versions suffer from non-responsiveness to touch and click and while I understand why the game tries to be meticulous, the excessive need to confirm and re-confirm your choices wears me out. It doesn’t feel good to play, especially compared to the smooth sailing of Hearthstone, which is extremely responsive both on iPad and online.

With all that negative stuff out there, I still am enjoying Duels of the Planeswalkers so far. I appreciate the care it takes to coach new players through – if I’d had this tool back in high school, maybe I’d have actually played with people I knew and made new friends. The art is superb, as it always is, and the core game is still the same timeless, nearly flawless game. I find it a fantastic tool to keep learning more about Magic, so that when I play in-person, which is still my favorite way to play, I’m a better, tougher competitor. Maybe it’s working – last night I won two more physical booster packs at an event with my white-black deck. It felt good.

First Impressions: Smite

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these – primarily because I’ve been too busy playing Smite to play and write about anything else. The title isn’t exactly correct, either, because my first impressions of Smite have turned into second looks, third glances, and now tenth or eleventh eyerolls and bulging stares as I learn more and more.

Smite is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), like Dota 2, League of Legends, and Blizzard’s new entry into the territory, Heroes of the Storm. Smite is developed by Hi-Rez Studios, is free to play, and was officially released out of beta into the wild in March. Smite’s camera is third person over the shoulder, utilizing WASD instead of clicking and directing your character with your mouse. You have 3 basic attacks, with one ultimate attack, a passive ability, and a store to choose items from depending on your build. You play as gods, some with name recognition, like Thor, Odin, and Athena, and others that you’ve never probably never heard of, like Bakasura, Ullr, and Geb.

Continue reading

DayZ Journal 7 // Experimental

I have never been more frustrated with this game than I have been lately.

The last patch on experimental was pushed out a week ago – and let me tell you, I have been wide-eyed in wonder at what I’ve seen so far.

First of all, there are now animals. Real, live (hah!), breathing (double hah!) animals, that can be chased, by both you and the zombies. They can be killed in all the regular ways, yielding raw meat and pelts. (Aside: don’t eat raw meat. For all the obvious reasons. I know this from experience.) Pelts can be combined with sticks and rope to create the hottest fashion trend in Chernarus: to the jealousy of your peers, you now can sport a leather courier bag. It’s hip, cool, and fantastically not animal friendly at all.

As expected, you can also eat the raw meat from dead animals. (Again, do not eat them raw. Even if you think it might be funny. Because you will get all geared up and then half an hour die a painful death when you could have just not eaten raw meat to begin with.) Which brings the next addition to this patch: cooking! You will need rocks, logs, and a pot or pan. Rocks stack now (as do wooden sticks), saving you precious inventory space for all that raw meat you’ll get from your kills. In addition to cooking meat, you can cook anything that comes in a can, plus the assorted vegetables. Can you say boar stew, with savory bell peppers and potatoes?

I can’t, because I haven’t been able to accrue all the items you need to cook with. Alas.

Which brings me  to my frustration with this patch. This game is in alpha, as I quickly point out to all my other friends that get frustrated with the game. Things break or simply don’t work. I can work with that. What I can’t work with is the constant rubber banding. What I can’t stand more is that there’s a new, huge world out there, and I can’t see any of it because I’ll play for about half an hour before I’m trapped in a house for the indeterminate future

Rubber banding is simply a term for snapping back to a place you were recently at. To try and sum up the development post about why this happens, an error occurs between the game and the servers concerning where a player is located in the game; the server wins this particular war, meaning you snap back to where you were a few moments ago. Which means I am constantly warping between the street in front of a house back to the top room of a house. I run back downstairs and out onto the street again. I get a few feet, and then I’m warped back. Run downstairs, warp again. Run, warp. Run, warp. Run, warp.

What I notice between my imprisonments is that it seems to happen when you’re around buildings and especially when you’re in large towns like Svetlo. If I walk a little more slowly, sometimes I can escape. If I change directions, sometimes I can escape. If I run out a different door, sometimes I can escape. Sometimes it’ll happen once or twice and then I’ll be free to continue about my journey.

But most times I end my play sessions frustrated because I can’t escape a house after having tried for nearly ten minutes. In addition, there are only a handful of experimental servers up right now and they are always almost as full capacity. I could switch servers, which sometimes fixes the problem, but in addition to being punished with the server hopping timer, chances of me getting into a new server are not optimal.

It’s extremely frustrating and as such, I’ve not been playing as much as I normally do. That’s not to say this isn’t an amazing patch, because it’s the patch a lot of players have been jittery waiting for – it’s introduced survival elements with the animals and campfires, new clothes, new guns, new items, and (praise be) fixed up the melee weapons back to their usual state of efficiency (no more uselessly whaling away at zombies). It’s all amazing content that I wish I could play. When it rolls out to stable, or a smaller patch for the rubber banding is fixed, I will be back in full force, ready to go.

For now, I leave you with some pictures of the adventures I’ve been able to have, plus some new gear I gathered and then lost.

Continue reading

First Impressions: Altis Life

Altis Life is a mod of Arma 3. If you want to see what it looks like, you should check out Frankie’s video series. I’ve been eyeing Arma 3 for months, and last weekend Bohemia Interactive had an anniversary sale, so I finally picked it up. I had idly wanted it for some time, but after finding Altis Life videos, I couldn’t wait to own it.

I haven’t even touched the Arma 3 part of the Arma 3 game. Oops.

Altis Life is a roleplay mod, with two factions (normally; servers can choose to switch things up if they want): civilians or law enforcement. Most servers have some sort of application process or you need to know someone to play a cop. I happen to not like filling out applications and I happen to not know anyone either, so my experience has been playing as a civilian. Civilians (and I assume cops) are awarded a paycheck ever 5 minutes or so, ranging between 500-1000 dollars, and most servers start you off with a respectable sum of money to get going, enough to get food and a cheap vehicle.

altislife2
Oops.

My current day job is fisherman. I bought a wet suit (after buying a diving license) and swam around, gathering fishes and selling them at the fish market. Eventually I earned enough to buy a boat, so I bought a cheap rescue boat (after buying a boat license) and now I can go into deeper waters, where there are bigger fish that earn me more money. There’s something oddly relaxing about being underwater, snatching tuna from their home, and then taking them off to be eaten. On a good haul I earn about $7000 and if I spend a whole day just fishing I can earn up to $30000.

altislifeOff we go, into the wild blue yonder~

 It’s slow work, considering the fact that another prime job is running drugs. My foray into the drug business was extremely brief: a random fellow asked me if I wanted to sell with him, I said yes, he drove me to his safe house, and the cops were raiding the place. Busted. I talked my way out of a ticket and have been looking for a side job of running drugs ever since. No such luck.

Once my day job is over, I take up my night job: harassing cops.

altislife3altislife4
Watcha goin do, watcha goin do when they come for you?

I hang out in front of the police complex, randomly yelling when they drive by and trying to engage them in conversation. Once, I was able to distract them long enough for a new friend to escape. He had stolen a gun. It was exhilarating. When I see them arresting someone I run over and yell at them that this is a police state, this is communism, this is unfair, film the police, no justice, no peace.

It’s basically what I used to do in my past that I can now recreate in a video game. No video game has offered me the opportunity to do that before.

Altis Life is not for everyone. It’s a roleplay game, above anything else. Like my love of DayZ, my love of Altis Life comes from character interactions and the opportunity for player relationships. I play mostly on the same server (because it’s run well and also because I’m quite, quite rich now) so I run into the same players when I’m around at night and it’s a really unique, lovely feeling to see the same people around, living their lives as I try to live mine.

Right now I’m saving up to buy a helicopter. I’m still about 400,000$ away from that. I will continue with my fishing, to try and make my way as an honest worker, to build up my tuna catching empire. Once I get an in on the drug trade, though, I’m through with that petty stuff. My life of crime awaits.

First Impressions: Child of Light

Child of Light is absolutely stunning to look at and listen to.

The characters, the background, all is made in a waterpaint-esque way, drawings that hearken to children’s books and imagination. You are Aurora, a princess with red hair that flows behind her, leaving stains on the sky as she goes, a crown perched on her head.  Igniculous, her firefly companions, follows in her wake, collecting wishes from flowers that let him shine so brightly he can scare back dark creatures that would attack. Her companions will come to include a jester looking for her brother, Aurora’s sister, and a down on his luck, older than he looks gnome wizard seeking redemption.

It’s dreamy, whimsical artwork is accompanied by a dreamy, whimsical soundtrack that I want to listen to for hours on end. The battle theme makes my heart race every time; your heart soars with the flying music. I don’t think I’ve had such a strong visceral reaction to a game soundtrack since I played Thomas Was Alone. If Child of Light isn’t your type of game, I still highly suggest you pick up the soundtrack.

All of these whimsical, dreamy touches are appropriate because the story is a fairy tale, telling the tale of Princess Aurora, she with the flaming red hair, and her journey through Lemuria to bring back the sun, moon, and stars, and to return to her father. It’s so goddamn pretty to look at and listen to that I’ll delay winning battles just to watch and listen some more. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the extreme and the story isn’t shabby either – Aurora’s got a temper and snubs being called a princess. She’s hellbent on getting back to her kingdom and her family. Her friends have their own stories and their own goals to achieve. From what I’ve seen, the Queen of the Night, who captured the celestial bodies and spirited Aurora away from her home, is shaping up to be an interesting character with her own mysterious reasons for her sins.

Combat is turn based, which is not something I normally love in any game. However, as characters gain speed boosts throughout battle, there is a visual representation of how speedy they are on the screen, with your marker surging past enemies’ markers as you boost past them. There’s also a gem crafting system, which lets you craft larger gems that drop from enemies and appear in random chests throughout the world. Each crafted gem can be slotted into a weapon to increase speed or add more damage to a sword or a shield. I’m not a big crafting person, but the system is very easy to understand and gems seem to be plentiful, so I never feel like I’m raging against an invisible, non-gem producing wall that wants me to fail.

What grates at me right now is the text. Like a fairy tale, everyone speaks in rhyme. And by God, is it not one of the most annoying things I’ve ever seen in a video game. Some of the rhymes are enchanting, especially near the beginning. But as the story progresses, the rhymes keep getting cheesier and cheesier. Lines fall flat again and again as more and more rhymes are shoved down your throat. It’s a chore to get through. I appreciate what the creators wanted to do with the game, to stay in line with the fairy tale the game is telling, but it starts feeling tedious and uninspired quick.

Still, the story that Child of Light is telling feels fresh and beautiful. If you can get past the cheesy lines, it’s worth a play.

I think that last single player game I played was Jazzpunk, which I only put about an hour into before my attention waned. The last single player game I put any real time into was Gone Home, which was a magical experience for me. Child of Light feels almost like that in a way – I’m invested in Aurora’s story, just like I was invested in Sam’s story in Gone Home. After sinking hundreds of hours into multiplayer games since i finished Gone Home, it’s invigorating to find a good game that can still hold my attention.

On a more personal note, I never thought I’d be a keyboard and mouse player. I’m using a controller for Child of Light, and goddamn, do you lose your muscle memory for a controller after not using one for awhile. Past Kim would be shocked and appalled at how far I’ve fallen.