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Spoilers for some points in Horizon Zero Dawn’s Frozen Wilds DLC.

Butch:

Well, I played, but it was one of those “move things along” and “Well, we haven’t jumped of late, so let’s jump” bits.

Finished up with the pipes, and, ironically, the least themey thing there was the quest giver, I thought. We talked yesterday about Gildun and his motivations for getting the mirror, how we have this moment described and it’s just left there. Well, I did find the last entries for the band, and the real gut punch was the last written one, where the woman is saying good bye to Laura, who was wearing that fancy dress that her mother always wanted her to wear, for some reason, knowing she’ll never see her again. How “There once was this band…and for a second it was the best band in the world, and if you find this, you’re lucky, because you’re the only one that’s ever heard it.”

Damn, man. That’s some stuff.

Because here, again, we have what we KNOW is a story. Who are these people? Why are they so close? Why are they so mad? Where is this in time? All along, we thought they really WERE the last girls on earth, literally, hanging out in the dam until the deathbringers came, but now we know they aren’t. Laura was leaving with…someone..who? Maybe all this was from well before the real end of things, and the Last Girls on Earth is a metaphor. Why was Laura wearing that dress? There’s so much! But what matters, the ONLY thing that matters, was that moment they played music. You’re the LUCKY ONE, not because you know their story, but because you shared that one, special, perfect moment.

Just like what matters to Gildun is that one, special, perfect moment.

Which is another interesting contrast to all this sweeping Baunk legend, Nora legend stuff, where we’re talking about hundreds of years of myth and story and all that. Big stories do not focus on moments. But, maybe they’re wrong to miss the moments.

All that thinking was the first ten minutes of playing.

The rest of the day was jumping. Cuz I went up the path there, and got to the bunker and stopped. I would’ve gotten farther, but I could NOT get the hang of those damn water bridges. Who invented those fucking things?

At least I had the sense not to fight the frostclaw. Whatever that was. That was something one just hauled ass by. Nope.

Feminina:

Those water bridges were weirdly tough, considering it was really just about the timing. I mean, how hard can it be to time it right? Uh…kind of hard, actually. I certainly fell off them multiple times.

But when I got up there, I DID actually fight the frostclaw. Also, I thought that was a nice cutscene when they first introduced it, when it comes roaring out of the trees as you’re clinging to the cliff, and then disappears by the time you’re up, so you don’t get a super good look at it. Spooky.

But then when you do get to the point where you actually do get a good look at it, I realized it was going to be a piece of cake. Then I punched it to death with my bare hands. Two minutes, tops.

Hahahaha, no. I mean, I remembered the first scorcher we met and how it was already wounded, and metagamed and thought “well, sometimes they kind of cut you a break the first time you meet something, and it’s a little easier to kill than it will be later, so I better have a try now.” Then I engaged in a lengthy battle that involved a lot of hiding, shooting, then running around rock formations and hiding again. But eventually I did kill it.

Every time I’ve seen one since, I’ve noped the hell out, because, again metagaming slightly, I figure they might be even tougher next time we fight.

And yeah, what the hell IS that? Like…a sort of robot-bear-gorilla? That thing is nasty.

Last night, which I spent almost entirely in wandering around picking up bluegleam from the bluegleam map after dealing with some cultural relativism, I ran into a daemonic thunderjaw.

Haul ass on by, indeed. Enjoy your tramping around here, thunderjaw! Don’t mind me, just passing through on my way to some bluegleam! Have a nice life or whatever!

Butch:

SERIOUSLY! Who’s all “Hey! Looky at this water filled log thing! SO smart to make bridges out of it!” Trail of Trials my ass. Trail of Annoying Bridges.

That was a very cool cutscene. And one where I was ready to fight. Usually, when you get a cutscene with a new and obviously unpleasant monster in it, that’s a lead up to a fight with said monster. So I was pumped, man! Then the fight didn’t happen, which was cool.

Nicely done actually fighting it when the option did come up! I probably should’ve fought it, because there’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to HAVE to fight one at some point, and I probably should’ve practiced on the first one as, as you say, they tend to be a little easier. But I didn’t. I was tired. It SAW me, and Aloy was all “So, we’re gonna do this, Big Boy?” and I said “Why no, Aloy, we are not.”

Good to nope.

T SHIRT!!!!!

I think bear was the inspiration for those. Some northern grizzly thing. Big nasty bear. Cuz bears can stand up on their hind legs. I think.

Daemonic thunderjaw: Oh HELL no.

Have a long, happy, daemonic life.

T SHIRT!!!!!

And accurate, because HELL no.

We’re doing well this week! I’m proud of us.

Feminina:

It’s weird how productive we can be when we actually play games.

Oh, and about the rock music, yeah, that was a nice touch. It’s not about the music being “good,” it’s about it being THEIRS, and you’re the lucky one because you got to share that, to share a bit of what they had, for just a minute.

Also a nice little fake out, since as you said, at first you assume The Last Girls on Earth is literal because we know the end of the world is coming, and then it turns out that no, they’re just stuck in a boring job with a horrible boss, making the best of it, and eventually losing even that, which is this depressingly realistic personal tragedy but not one on the scale of the one that’s coming. It’s the end of that little world they created together, the end of their little story (though it’s nice to imagine they really did keep in touch…for the few months they probably had before the literal end of the world). Some nice layers there.

Butch:

Very nice touch. Cuz it was so intentionally bad, and, while I was listening to it, it was rather painful, but then, with the rather tender, earnest end, I did feel lucky to share in what was theirs.

And yup, I thought for sure it was a thing where they were left to man the dam, as the last employees there, until the robots came. That’s why they were putting stickers up, being all “Fuck it, might as well trash the place and play music” because they’re the Last Girls on Earth. But, in the end, it’s more Gone Home than The Last of Us.

I also want to reiterate: This is a SIDE QUEST in a fifteen dollar DLC. And it’s this good.

This game does spoil one for other games. Poor, poor MEA.

Feminina:

This game spoils one. It’s making me think about open world games…does this do something better than others in terms of using that format? Or were we kind of starved for good, subtle stories and robot dinosaurs, and we know this DLC is finite, and so we’re not in the mood to be annoyed by things that did annoy us somewhat in the larger game?

Because, I mean, we did gripe a bit about the usual things we gripe about in open world games. Overwhelming numbers of side quests to do, multi-step quests that lead you all over creation, collectibles all over the map. We did complain some: our HZD coverage wasn’t COMPLETELY a lovefest. (I should go back and reread some of it, but who has time?)

Overall, we loved the game and forgave it the things we gripe about–was that based on the awesomeness of the stories, or did we think it was better at balancing the open-world issues…? I honestly can’t completely remember.

Butch:

Except we didn’t gripe about most of that. It didn’t have crazy all over the map quests. Two of the sets of collectibles (the figurines and the vantage points) had rather themey stories attached to them (MEA’s rocks did not). And the side quests were pretty contained in narrative.

We didn’t like the UI and the inventory management. We complained about that, and it hasn’t gotten any better.

But it was pretty much of a lovefest.

Feminina:

Yeah, the inventory management, and the totally random assignment of challenge levels, you’re right.

But also, I distinctly remember a few instances of “this GAME, man!” towards the end, where it was like, “come on, I thought I was almost done, and now there’s more, and not that I don’t love it, but SERIOUSLY?”

We loved most of the quests, and got lots of discussion out of them, but there were many, many quests.

And lovefesting. Lots of that, you’re right. Because another thing I distinctly remember is missing this game when it was done, like “I’m enjoying MEA all right, but I kind of wish I were still playing HZD.”

That’s love. According to the save screen, I put almost 96 hours into the main game, and have done a bit over 10 so far in the DLC, and I still want more.

Butch:

That there were, many, many quests. But we also talked about the lack of feeling slog.

I want more, too. And we talked about just wanting to preorder a sequel from the credits. While I will play another ME, because ME, I didn’t feel that way after MEA. It wasn’t SEQUEL. NOW. This game, certainly. Not that that’s unique. Felt that way about the Witcher, and even DA.

Feminina:

Yeah, I guess maybe the primary takeaway of my review of this game would be WANT MORE.

I know you never had this experience of AC, but back in the day, AC2 and Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed was like this. WANT MORE.

The climbing! The sneaking! The beautiful environments! The sprawling, fantastic storyline playing out bit by bit! The characters!

Games, man. They can be so good.

Butch:

That they can.

I did not have that experience with AC4, I did not.

But yes, they are a wonderful, fascinating, fun art form. We should play them more. And talk about it later.

Which we do so well.

Feminina:

Did you play 4? I thought you only played Black Flag. But no, we did talk about Connor, didn’t we? And the fact that you could ride right by where your house was going to be. It’s all coming back to me…

Anyway, by the time we got to either one, no, it just wasn’t the same. I don’t blame them for the decisions they made, they had to make some changes if they wanted to keep the franchise moving forward, and they couldn’t have just stayed in Renaissance Italy forever. But that’s where the magic was, for me, and they haven’t ever managed to get back to that level of MUST PLAY MORE NOW engagement. Meh.

Ah well. We had some good times. And we’ll always have those exhilarating, confusing, blasphemous memories, of climbing cathedrals and uncovering alien plots hidden in our genetic memory and trying to assassinate the pope. Good times. Good times.

Barring the pope assassination, HZD has a lot of the same cool stuff, though! Climbing, exploring, sneak attacks, uncovering a strange (though not strictly ‘alien’ history) in the world…hm.

Throw in some romance, heists, group hugs, and fancy dress balls, and you’d have pretty much the perfect game.

Come on, Horizon Zero Midday Slump!

Butch:

We did talk about that, but I didn’t play that game. And Black Flag WAS 4.

It’s ok, this was a while ago.

And some things are similar, but not the total confusion. AC made NO sense. Like, none. You tried to explain it to me, and YOU made no sense. Horizon does make some degree of sense.

Feminina:

Oh yeah…you’re right, it’s been a while. I was forgetting Black Flag actually had a number, instead of just a subtitle the way they do now, so I assumed the US Revolution one (which had no subtitle) must have been 4. But no, it was 3.

They tried to do some interesting things in that one, and I respected some of the choices, but the game never really grabbed me. Black Flag either. Oh well.

I still have the possibly slightly muddled but fond memories of the ones I DID love. Basically the first two segments of 2, I guess.

Butch:

Still, I will always have a fond place in my heart for Lowlands Away.

Feminina:

True! The chanteys were definitely a great addition. And a nice way to make you actually care about a collectible, since chasing down the sheet music let you add songs to your pirates’ repertoire. That part was well done.

Even the games we don’t love can give us some enjoyable moments.

Butch:

Except, in typical AC fashion, they were the most annoying ones to get. The shanty flew away. Fucking shanties.

Feminina:

Man, so true. I remember chasing those damn things across rooftops, through trees…but I WANTED them, because music! I can’t remember if I ultimately got them all or not.

At least HZD’s collectibles stay in one place.

Butch:

But you have to wander all around those damn circles. I have run around so much I’ve gotten dizzy.

Feminina:

You do often have to run around in circles, that is true. Sometimes the item is right next to the map marker, and sometimes…not. I spent about 20 minutes wandering around and around this one fishing camp, looking for pigment. But at least the pigment stayed put once I found it!

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