What I Played Today: January 26 - Feburary 3

The Witness, Life is Strange, Darkest Dungeon, Spellweaver

Sorry, I've been way too busy playing games this week than actually typing about them. That's because I've been really into two different games this week, and moderately into a third, and also dicking around with like five others. The important point is that I'm really bad at just doing one thing.

Anyway, The Witness came out and I was apparently waiting on tinterhooks for this, because I downloaded it immediately and was really excited to tackle this, and it's a hell of a game! There are so many puzzles and mysteries and it does a great job of both making puzzles that are just hard based on the rules on the board, and puzzles that explicitly interact with the environment, and also a bunch of puzzles just kind of hidden in the environment. Anyway, I've been playing THE CRAP out of this, and have completed all the main objectives and seen the end of the game, which means, of course, that there are still hundreds more puzzles to find and solve. I'm excited! If you get a chance and you like puzzle games and also like getting increasing just kind of angry at the game designer, check it out.

Also, my sister has really gotten into watching Twitch channels (?) and one game that is popular there is Darkest Dungeon, and I decided that I kinda wanted to try it, the combat seemed cool. So I played through a few weeks off and on, and it's fine. There's a lot of strategy game nonsense, with permadeaths and constant consequences and dealing with upkeep and yada yada. But it's kinda cool! I don't know...I always think I want to like strategy games and I rarely do.

Also I am constantly on the lookout for new CCGs, because I like them! There's a new one of Steam called Spellweaver, and sure it's a Magic/Healthstone clone, but there are so cool mechanics, like the color I chose has cards that use energy to do certain effects, and other cards that provide energy to cards. It's cool! Synergy!

I also got around to finishing Life is Strange, as it seems to be pretty big right now. I guess I could go into every detail of what happens, but that feels like it would take a WHILE, so I'm just going to do a highlight reel.

So anyway, Episode 3, which is a pretty solid episode in which you spend a lot of time just...sneaking around. This is when the game really turns up its riot grrl undertones, with a bunch of queer subtext, including a scene where you can kiss the girl. There's also a scene with a dog that I screwed up the first time. I can't imagine the people who would let that poor dog get hurt. And THEN there's the ending, which everyone knows about by now, because it's insane. You go back in time five years and prevent Chloe's dad from getting killed, ONLY for Chloe to get into an auto accident. Chaos Theory.

This entire alternate universe sequence, at the end of Episode 3 and the start of Episode 4, is just a real heart wrencher, because things are just so messed up and it is ENTIRELY your fault. Eventually, after having to make the worst choice, you go back to the real timeline, where you are apparently Sherlock Holmes and you have an evidence board and everything. You wonder around town collecting evidence for the board, including a really rough scene where I accidentally killed a drug dealer the first time around, only to find out that Nathan does in fact have something to do with Rachel Amber's disappearance. HINT: He has a murder basement.

So after discovering that the murder basement is responsible for TWO deaths, Rachel's and (indirectly) Kate's, because he has been dragging girls there to do creepy photo sessions, it's time to...call the cops? Haha, no! Instead you are going to try to kill him! That makes more sense. So you go to the party at the school, which is just a grand mess, and warn his next victim and do some other pointless talking, only to find he is one step ahead, and is going to destroy the body of Rachel! So you rush to where she is buried only to discover that Nathan isn't the villain, it's Mark Jefferson, the photography teacher. Also, he kills Chloe, so that's fucked.

And then Episode 5 happens! This episode is probably my favorite, because it does a lot of interesting things. Also a really frustrating segment in the middle, but it recovers. It starts where you are trapped in Jefferson's murder dungeon, and you can use your time travel powers to get out; both by your standard time travel and your ability to leap into photographs, and eventually you figure out a way to get back to the first scene of the game and get Jefferson arrested by Tuesday, undoing everything that happened but ensuring that you win the contest and get to go to San Francisco! Which is...weird, since the entire gallery is set up and everything, despite the fact that the winner was decided two days ago. That's a pretty quick turnaround time! Anyway, it's all for not, because in your haste you forgot about the giant fuck-off tornado that was going to destroy the town, and Chloe is trapped there, so you make a quick judgement and leap back so that you don't win the contest and so are in town so you can save her.

BUT time travel. Doing this sets off a chain of events that makes it so you could never go back in time in the first place, so Jefferson never gets busted, so everything rubberbands back and you are still kidnapped. Luckily, it turns out that David has come to rescue you. Unfortunately, he's bad at it, so you have to use time travel to help him, and it isn't easy, because there are three separate things you have to do. It was kind of a pain.

Now you are free and Jefferson is arrested, but you are still suck in the shitty timeline where Chloe is dead, and all your photos have been destroyed, so you can't go back in time. EXCEPT Warren snapped a photo of us the night before! If we can just get to him...through this insane tornado weather that is threatening to destroy the town. This part killed my momentum, because all the puzzles are kind of obtuse and too quick. You have to save Alyssa again, but it's set up in such a way that you think there's more to it when there isn't. The real way through the disaster area is through a building off to the left, which inexplicably crashed the game the first time I tried it. And then there's a fire that destroys my destination almost immediately, and the solution to the problem doesn't light up until you let the wrong thing happen at least once. It was...frustrating, so much so that a couple of conversations were skipped just so I could time travel back to the night before and skip all this mess.

So you do the right goddamn thing after calming Chloe down; telling the cops about the murder basement and saving Chloe's life again. Then you rubberband back to the beach, only for the tornado to be in full swing. You try to make a run for the lighthouse but you pass out, and then the best scene in the game happens.

I will not lie, I love trippy dream sequences whenever I see them, and this does a lot of good bits. There's the parts where everything is backwards (including the text), there's people popping in and out of existence, there's a bunch of insecurities laid bare, and there's a really fun scene in which you are trying to escape all the MEN in your life, who continue to say the most insane things. Even Warren pops up with some nice guy bullshit. Although I think I like the principal with glowing eyes just spinning like a top that you have to avoid. It also makes some fun metagame commentary, like how the bottle puzzle in Episode 2 was frustrating and difficult, and another puzzle being too hard. It was pretty funny! Worth a chuckle. And of course it ends with a series of vignettes of Max and Chloe over the past week and how much they really grew and connected. I loved it.

And then comes the final choice. Max has come to the decision that all the environmental weirdness is being caused BY her time travel, and Chloe agrees and says that there is really no choice. Something is wrong with the universe, and it's Chloe. She should be dead. The universe keeps trying to kill her, so Max's meddling are causing things to go awry. So Chloe wants Max to go back to the bathroom and just let...Chloe...die. And...it's an impossible choice. You DON'T want to do it. But to keep Chloe, you need to let the tornado happen. It will KILL everyone.

So, we decided to go back. To let nothing happen. To let things as they are supposed to take their course. And all that needs to be sacrificed in Chloe. Nathan is arrested for shooting Chloe, and these leads to Jefferson going down as well. The week goes by normally without any weird environmental oddness, and you end the game with Chloe's funeral. It's...super sad.

But yeah, this game was pretty good. I like it. There are a lot of little problems, but the whole is a pretty good story with a lot of weird moving cogs that masks its secrets in a way that keeps things surprising. There is a bit of an issue dialogue keeps hammering at you which choices you made, and there are a lot of moments when all your decisions are voided because of time travel shenanigans. (Like, say, all of them once you get to the end) And gameplay just kind of gets in the way of story a lot, a problem that Telltale Games eventually solved when the realized the adventure game aspect wasn't the best part. BUT yeah, good game, glad I played it.

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