Windward

This might be a bit confusing, but I am going to start this review by talking about a completely different game.  It makes sense – trust me.

Patrician is a game where you sail ships around and buy low, sell high, eventually raising your rank and amassing a massive merchant army that rakes in tons of income per trip, making you a magnate of the seas. It is often described by haters as a spreadsheet with graphics, but I apparently really love that sort of game.  I even have a whole “Trade” section in my Steam organization list that is dedicated to merchant style games. Eventually you can buy up land within the towns, corner the market on factories, depose all the mayors, drive all your competitors out of business, and start price fixing once you control 100% of a commodity. It’s slow, but it is oh so very rewarding to get angry messages from NPC mayors as you slowly boot them out of their towns and build your mercantile empire.

Windward is like Patrician, except with all the content removed from it.

I really would like to like Windward – I’ve already sunk 4 hours into it – but I just feel like there’s no point.  You can level up the towns by doing quests for them, or make cash with the typical buy-low-sell-high formula (which it conveniently(?) indicates right where to sell it on the commodity so no thinking will get in your way at all.)  You sail your little ship from place to place (100% procedurally generated which is nice) and buy low sell high, or run quests like deliver passengers from here to there… and then you amass some gold and buy a ship that has more cargo slots.  Cargo slots are the be-all-end-all because no matter what your cargo is, it takes up one slot.  You can’t adjust for the amount of, say, rice you can carry vs big ass bolts of silk or whatever, because they all take 1 slot and 1 slot only, so the bottom line per slot is everything.

It’s also difficult to trade across regions, I found.  These guys are willing to buy stuff at way higher prices than the guys in my starting area, but there is literally nothing for me to take back (yet, anyway).  It’s all the same goods, but more expensive.  I found myself abusing fast travel just to insta-port to a dock, buy goods, then insta-port back to the other zone to sell them all.  But once you’ve sold one or two to them, they don’t want it any more.  So you’re stuck with goods you can’t even sell at a loss.  Unless you create an instanced trading zone to unload it all, which feels kind of like cheating.

I can’t even go to the next region until I’m level 12, and just trading for profit is apparently more lucrative but less exp-generating than running quests all day, so it ends up feeling like a bit of a grind.  I was initially pretty excited about taking over the world in the name of the Exchange, but the level restrictions on areas are so cumbersome that I find myself losing interest.

I am worried that I will be forced into combat soon.  I keep avoiding the pirate-focused quests because I tried a couple fights and it just wasn’t for me.  I didn’t pick a combat faction, and the controls are kind of clunky (must keep a certain side of your ship pointed at the enemy, have to hit certain buttons to make things fire, etc.).  My worst experience came when I tried my hand at a smuggling mission and every single fucking ship in the zone apparently picked up immediately that I was carrying illegal goods, and they all chased me down in a gigantic pack and slaughtered me instantly.  Maybe there is a skill to not display a big blinking “HEY GAIZ I AM CARRYNG ILLEGAL SHIT OVR HERE” sign or something.  It was a little discouraging.  But the next zone is not at all controlled by my faction so I wanted to see how bad it was to capture towns and expand our influence.  I am worried it will be 100% killing pirates and not at all about trading.

I would like to like this game, but so far it feels pretty shallow, and mostly makes me want to play Patrician or Anno again, both of which at least have a “speed up time” button so that trundling from town to town doesn’t become tedious :/

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Parallels

We clicked on “Parallels” almost entirely at random, with only Netflix’s flawed prediction algorithm to guide us. Our decision process went something like: “It’s sci-fi, it involves parallel Earths, eh why not.”

The description for the movie literally says “follows a band of people across parallel Earths” and it is named “Parallels”  so imagine my confusion when the movie seemed to spend the first third of its run-time bringing the characters to the realization that, hey, this might be a parallel earth, guys.  Like, fuck the exposition was so fucking slow my god.  This is one of those movies where you’re yelling at the TV because it’s not well written. First we have the obligatory scene where all the characters meet up, but they all know each other, but oops the audience doesn’t know them so let’s throw in some bullshit reason that they all need to explain to each other who they are, just to bring the audience into the loop.  *dust hands* problem solved!  Okay now we know who the characters are, even if that was awkward as fuck.  NOW let’s spend 45 minutes having them figure out the basic plot of the movie.  Good job team!  We only need to fill like, 20 more minutes and we’re done!

I often find the emails I send while in a drunken rage while watching a movie are the best indication of how much I enjoyed the movie. This is literally the email I sent to my friend while watching it:
“The premise of the movie is that they are travelling to other versions of Earth, and then they encounter some graffiti describing alternate earths. Then they accidentally travel to an alternate earth and THEN.  THEN they spend 15 minutes figuring out amongst themselves that this might be an alternate earth.  GOOD JOB GUYS.”

Then I sent this one:
“The rebel loner guy is named “Ronin”.  At least it’s not “Cypher Raige” I guess.”

Then we ran into “obligatory hot Asian chick” and it was facepalms all around.  But, ironically, the plot started getting better after that.

BUT not better enough.  JUST as we got to the part where it was actually getting interesting and telling us something we didn’t know from the god damn movie description, it…………………… ended.

My husband said “That wasn’t a movie, that was a TV series.  You read it wrong when you clicked on it.”  and I said “No, it was DEFINITELY a movie.”  “No, that was DEFINITELY a TV series and you should find the next episode.”

So I did what any reasonable person would do, and I Googled it.  He wasn’t wrong!

Parallels was created as a television pilot, but Fox Digital Studios morphed it into a stand-alone movie”

Mother. Fucking. Fox. Studios.

And then I found this one:
Parallels is a 2015 American science-fiction adventure film and possible pilot”
Which is like… hahahahaha ‘possible pilot’ INDEED.

Anyway.  Long story short: do not waste your time.  It’s only barely interesting as a premise, and you can learn everything you need to know from the description.  If it does make it to full blown TV status it’s probably going to suck anyway.  There are a large number of bad movies on Netflix that I endorse because the monthly fee removes all of the guilt you may incur from having watched it… but they should excise this shit from it immediately.

The Talos Principle

I’ve been holding off on writing about Talos Principle because I wanted to get further in it and reveal a bit more of the story, because it’s one of those super mysterious “something reaaaallllly interesting is here and if you just get a little bit further you might get to reveal some of it!” sorts of stories, and it seems like a disturbingly large percentage of the time the reveals turn out to be complete balls.  But I am just loving this game so much that I am going to talk about it anyway.

The Talos Principle is a puzzle game, but it is also a journey into philosophy.  It wins my “Best Game Ever” award for two simple reasons:
1: The options screen has a “Motion Sickness” section where you can adjust things like FoV and turn head bobbing off.  These developers get it and I love them for it.  Game of the Year for that alone.
2: In one of the story snippets there is a burn on Twilight.  Excellent.

The premise is that you are a robot who has been dropped into a series of tests, which is all very Portal-esque, but instead of a sarcastic murderous robot you have a somewhat self-righteous god-voice by the name of Elohim (definitely not an improvement over GlaDOS, I have to say.)  As you venture through your trials you also uncover snippets of story that hint at the goings on outside of your own little personal rat-maze, as well as philosophical musings for you to think about as you go along.  Things like “How does someone know they are a person” or “How do you know you really exist”, alongside things like “Could a robot solve these sorts of puzzles or would it take a human mind to do it?”, where it all becomes very meta because in the game you are a robot and you are solving those puzzles but REALLY you are a human solving those puzzles right?? right?? so if you solve that puzzle that only a human could solve it does that mean a robot solved it or does it mean a human was still needed to solve it??? Or is it even talking about you at all????? Don’t play it while high or you might feel entirely too clever for yourself.

But actually mostly it makes me feel dumb.  But then I solve something and feel like a genius.  And then the next one makes me feel dumb again.  I was incredibly disappointed with how easy the puzzles were at first.  I was just going from puzzle to puzzle feeling like “…is this it?  Really?”  Sometimes a puzzle would be SO easy that I’d pick up the prize and then run back and forth for a bit wondering if I had missed something.  A lot of them take the same sort of logic too, so they almost get repetitive at times. The most disappointing part is when you get stuck on something for ages and ages and then finally you come across the solution and it is so god damn fucking easy and then you hate yourself for not figuring it out right away.

But then I ran into some of the hidden puzzles and my brain broke and I lay awake at night thinking about them.  Most of the puzzles are self contained, but the hidden ones require “outside of the box” thinking, and a lot of “outside of the level” thinking.  Most of them span levels, requiring you to break the fourth wall and figure out how to get bits from here to there, or how to cheat the system to get what you need to the area you need it.  In some cases it almost seems unfair, like, you can’t take items through the barrier so who would guess that you can shoot the fucking laser through it?!?!? (but then again, fair enough to catch me out on assuming that something would not be possible without trying it.  Fuckers.) There was one where I sort of figured it would be something pretty skookum, and I had an idea of what I would need to do, but I decided that I would be a horrible person and be lazy and not do it and just look up the solution.  I was reaffirmed in that choice when the description said “Hardest star in the game” and I was like “yep going to ruin this one for myself”, and I am kind of sad that I cheated but also I don’t think I would have figured it out otherwise.  It’s pretty epic.

And as I advance into the later worlds, the “easy” puzzles are less and less easy.  Every now and then I’ll bumble around in a level for so long that Elohim comes along and gently suggests I go to a different level.  Fuck you, God.  What kind of God is all like “Well if you haven’t figured this out by NOW you may as well just give up.”

You should buy this game.  It is excellent mysterious storytelling that almost makes me nostalgic for Myst, with a mix of puzzles that will make your brain hurt, but are not so tough that you need a walkthrough to get anywhere.  And also some philosophy crap that you may or may not enjoy. The world is beautiful and fun to explore, especially since there could be hidden mysteries or easter eggs around any corner or under any bush.  It’s just good old fashioned “I’m going to try this and see what happens” exploration fun, and it is highly rewarding.