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20th May - Playing For Fun - Part Three

So it has taken till mid-March before I stumble across the first title that really, even briefly, made me want to quit and call it a day… and it would have been a crying shame as it’s a game I bought using the gift cards I received from work when I was hideously ill before Christmas… somehow that just doesn’t seem right.

I’m talking about Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales that I bought in a PSN sale and started after I completed Far Cry Classic Edition on PS4 rather than jump straight into another Far Cry game… especially as I have that ordered to replay again on the Xbox One already.

Back in the days of The Witcher 3 the game Gwent was something that I wasn’t overly bothered with at first… but then, as the game grew on me, I’d find myself playing the game for hours at a time instead of doing the other stuff that meant avoiding the main quest… and when, like me, you’ll avoid the main quest as much as possible this is a bad thing.

So a story based game with all the combat done by way of Gwent battles appealed immensely, and when it was on sale I bought it… and have now, obviously, started it… and all was… well… okay.

I’ve gone for the story mode, so if I find myself in a battle that I simply can’t win all I need do is “skip” that battle… which is handy as this is a different version of Gwent that I don’t truly recognise, only two rows instead of three, repeatable boss commands, cards I don’t recognise and puzzles to serve with a set selection of cards.

Graphically it’s basic, cell-shaded and top down, dialogue is on screen and spoken so no troubles there… but the battles can be frustrating… I had no idea what some of the cards did, wondered why, in some instances, they didn’t do the same as last time, and the enemy does seem to cheat at times… and it wasn’t fun to start with.

I skipped a battle, after a dozen attempts had failed, and slowly learnt the deck I’d been given… just in time for that chapter to end, the story to take a twist and I was suddenly playing with a different deck with different rules and different rules… but… the game does seem less punishing that it did before… I just need to work out what some of my cards do now.

The more I played the more I got into the game, a couple of chapters later and I was damn near invincible in a normal battle, attacking a castle to regain it from the invaders or fighting my way out of an ambush… but in non-standard battles I struggled, my normal “scorched” earth policy wasn’t always the best one and the checkpoint system sent you too far back to make simply exiting and re-planning your deck of cards an option.

The idea that certain character cars would leave your deck dependant on your decisions is a good one, I had stumbled across a Sorceress card in a battle, who agreed to join my party as a healer, having vowed never to kill in anger, and she was damn good at it… a couple of times her healing and boosting ability saved my neck in some of the battles… later she decided as out caused was just she’d help more against the enemy, so instead of healing my side my 80+ points when played she’d inflict some massive damage to turn the tide.

Later, having learnt of some deserters in my ranks, I decided to hang every third one of them to try and deter others from following suit (while decisions you make will affect some elements of the game going forward there is no option to micro-manage things like this) she decided that this was too much and could no longer continue to help… and left… arse!

This wasn’t the first time this had happened (potential spoiler ahead) in that a close aide to a king who has joined your party is a potential recruit after that chapter is done, you learn more of her upbringing in particular the ridicule she used to suffer for being the result of a human breeding with an Elf… she has a hatred of half-lings and thus battles against the elven bandits are something she loves… she even gets stats boosts as elves perish in battle… sadly this also extends to Dwarves and, in a later chapter, when you are tasked with looking for 40 Dwarves who have gone missing… she kills the lot when you find them bound and held captive.

In fact the whole game seems to work on this basis, character cards that join your party will leave, one Dwarf character had been my guide and a great card to use in battle throughout the whole journey through one area only to leave later when you discover that the very incident you’ve been sent to clear was the fault of his house he departed… another character who even saves your life in one story related episode turns out to be not what he seems either and another great card you’ll have been using regularly drops out of your hand.

At this point you’ve probably guessed that I had a good time with this one… the Geralt depiction on the games main screen is a little deceiving, he is in the game, but can only be used in a story related battle and, in that, Dandelion of all people is far more useful… the battle in question however does cover the part of the whole Witcher backstory of how he came to be Geralt of Rivia.

After around 26 hours I’d collected 30 of the 40 Trophies, missed two potential character recruitments due to my decisions (one, looking back, was very obvious) and one more for completing a set piece battle which falls under the “non-standard” banner where my deck wasn’t set up anywhere near properly to deal with what she threw at me… I could work through the game again and collect another 3 or 4 maybe, but with so many other titles screaming for my attention that won’t be straight away.

At the end of it this is something I’m glad I stuck with, it starts very slowly as there doesn’t appear to be an option to skip tutorials, and I made a total dogs egg of my save file (once completed you can go back to the start of any of the chapters to replay them, thus making it a little easier to see the multiple endings… but instead of skipping back to the Dwarven area to harvest a least one missed Trophy I opted for the very start of the game… doh!) later on… well worth a play and something that makes me feel happy that I still look to pick up titles that differ from the norm and are brave enough to try something different.

Following my fun times with the PS4 version of Far Cry 3 the chance to get the Xbox One version was too much to resist… and thus this was started as soon as it arrived, only for me to discover the disk had a crack in it… a second copy was sent to me by the store who didn’t want the cracked copy back… so I sold it… we already know how this one goes, and I don’t care that I played the game recently… so this is another fun time to add to the totals for the year.

It’s at this point that my Gamerscore whoring started to get the better of me… I didn’t start playing games just for points, but the stock piling of titles I’ve bought for next year is now close to double figures, and we’re not even halfway through April… one of them, Ben Hur, based on the recent(ish) film just appeared, as far as I was aware it wasn’t even available in the UK.

In similar fashion, as I put all my Xbox games into folders, I discovered that I had The Witness presumably from when it was free as part of the Games with Gold scheme although I can’t remember when.

And, naturally, I’m still buying games when I see them on sale… the backlog has hit 50 titles with the addition of another JRPG on the PS4, a sequel (of sorts) to one I played (and enjoyed reasonably well) a couple of years ago… and with PayPal funds sitting there it was rude not to buy it when the price dropped to £14.95

Now… it’s time to address one of the two large elephants in the room.

At the end of last year one of the most highly anticipated games for many a year was released, Red Dead Redemption 2 landed.

I’d pre-ordered it after E3 when my favoured online retailer issued a discount code that worked with pre-orders so it was mine on day one for the PS4… back then I still had a base Xbox One model and no idea that, by the time the game would release, I’d have two X’s in the house.

When it arrived I was sick as a pig, illness meant I was deaf as a post so it went unplayed until I could hear the dialogue properly… I wanted the full experience.

And… well… it just never grabbed me, the pacing seems way too slow and I haven’t been near it in over a month… so it’s being sold and I’m throwing in the towel… my backlog is far too big to grind through a game I’m really not enjoying when there are 50+ games I could start that might capture my attention and keep me going back day after day.

Maybe, had I started it at launch when all the gaming world was playing, it might have been a different story… and I feel bad for having to include it here in the “Bad Times” count for the year… but there’s no other place it really fits.

Now… the other elephant, Resident Evil 2 Remake, is something I still hope to get back to at some point... but we’ll see.

Running Total:

Fun Times… 6, Meh Times… 3, Bad Times… 1