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No real spoilers, we haven’t played that far yet

Butch:

Dear GOD I hate swimming.

Ok, ok, that wasn’t a fair way to start talking about this game. But dear GOD I hate swimming.

So I played up until the swimming bit where you had to hit square a billion times to get through rocks and not drown. More on that in a second.

But first, a stream of thoughts:

This is the first honest to god 4K, HDR GORGEOUS game I’ve ever played and I’m not sure I ever want to go back ever ever. Yes, I have a pro, but everything I’ve been playing has been upscaled, older games that have had a coat of paint slapped on to look better. And they do look better. But this game was MADE to be all 4K gorgeous and HOLY SHIT.

You put that with the fact this game has…wait for it…PHOTO MODE and I’m gonna waste a lot of time getting the perfect screenshot that I will then send to you to show off even knowing you’ll be all “Yeah, yeah, nice. Knock it off.”

Starting with day of the dead is cool cuz anything with day of the dead is cool. I have a feeling that’ll be a metaphor or something later.

I couldn’t help but smile thinking that, once again, my friend Femmy had to play a long sequence of game where everyone was dressed for day of the dead and she couldn’t sprint. (Even though you COULD have sprinted in Grim Fandango.)

The feature where you can choose to have all the NPCs talk in their native language is amazing and every game should do it. Did you turn that on?

The feature where the aiming crosshair turns red when it’s a guaranteed head shot is less cool and I may turn it off. Too hand holdy. Did you turn that off?

One knock on this game was that the controls, at times, were a tad mushy. The only time I felt that way was swinging from a rope. Took me forever to get to that cave entrance. Died maybe five times. Just couldn’t figure out where to aim when I jumped. Hopefully I’ll get used to it.

But mostly:

Swimming sucks. It just sucks. I hate it and I always will. I will especially hate it when it comes early in games, when you’re not used to the controls, and you aren’t told what exactly the fuck to do. Like this.

First, the eel. I guess you didn’t have to do anything with that eel. But I didn’t know that.

But the worst? The rocks. Did I have to push up? Towards the light? I DON’T KNOW! So I just pushed up. And got stuck a couple of times and died. And then it had a flashing square! And I mashed and I mashed and I died. So. Many. Times. So many times that I started to thing that it wasn’t a button mash. Cuz I was mashing! So I tried wiggling sticks, holding the button, EVERYTHING. I had to check the internet to make sure it was a button mash.

I was so mad.

And then, eventually, it worked and I don’t know why cuz I really just did the same thing I had been doing.

And THEN I was mad because I have no idea if I did something differently that I’ll have to do again and I don’t know what it is that I did.

So I stopped cuz I was mad.

Which is too bad, because it was good until then. I shouldn’t have had my last experience with the playing session be mad, cuz it was good.

But swimming sucks.

Feminina:

I was thinking of you, during that swimming. Thinking how much you were going to not love that.

I didn’t actually die under the rocks in the water. I don’t know why not. I just pushed square a lot. And that makes it, in a way, even more maddening–that we both did exactly the same thing and the results were so much different.

And like you I totally, totally hate it when you do the same thing over and over and eventually, randomly, it works. I mean, at that point you’re just glad it worked, but also, it’s infuriating not to know WHY it worked. What is the logic that made that time different? Presumably some very picky matter of timing, like you have to hit square exactly on the flashes, or something, but when you don’t understand what’s happening, there’s no possibility of satisfaction at getting it ‘right.’ Whatever ‘right’ is.

I regret to tell you, but there is probably more swimming to come–there are a couple of skills related to swimming, so you know there will be ‘opportunities’ to use them. Hopefully at least they won’t all involve hitting square.

If only you could set the difficulty on swimming separately!

And I don’t know if it was the same rope-swingy bit, but I also had a rope-swingy bit where I just. could. not. get the aim right. It was really stupid and annoying and I started to question whether that was even the right way to get where I was going, but it was just a ‘not aiming quite right while swinging’ issue. I died many times.

And eventually when you get fire arrows, dear GOD I could not figure out how to use fire arrows. It tells you how to CRAFT them, but it does not tell you how to select them so that you can actually shoot them at things. I wasted many arrows.

(Tip: hold down the same button you use to craft them WHILE shooting. That was…not obvious to me. I even went to the menu to look for instructions! And you know I never do that, even if sprinting isn’t involved. Nothing. Had to consult the internet. It will probably seem perfectly obvious to you when you see the text about fire arrows, just like the swimming was not a big deal to me. I found it maddening.)

So some minor knocks in terms of motion/aiming mechanics and tutorials. But those are fairly small, though extremely frustrating in the moment.

Even without the Pro, it looks gorgeous. The lighting in the Day of the Dead scenes was amazing.

And I do like the way people speak their native language, although it’s a little weird when Lara just speaks English in response, so you have a conversation in two languages where both people apparently understand each other perfectly well but don’t pick a language (like, say, the one predominantly spoken in the area). Which I guess could certainly happen, but it seems odd for that to be the default. “I’ll assume you understand me, and you’ll assume I understand you, and we’ll both just chat!”

I would kind of love it if Lara would speak Spanish (or whatever other languages we encounter, perhaps with varying degrees of fluency) too, but of course that’s a lot of additional dialogue recording.

As it is, I’m just imagining she’s actually speaking Spanish, which is what I’d be doing if all the dialogue were presented in English…it’s just a bit more distracting when the two sides of the conversation don’t match. You know?

I don’t know about the headshot thing, I’ve actually only shot one person so far…mostly I sneak up on them. I kind of like that you can hide against vine-covered walls now.

And of course there’s the handy feature where you know there’s danger when you start to sneak, and know the danger’s over when Lara stands up. “I don’t see anyone else, but there must still be a dude alive around here, because I’m still hiding…”

For the most part, I’m into it. The story seems a bit over the top to me, but hey, it’s adventure melodrama, we eat that sort of thing right up.

Butch:

Ah, lovely when we have a playing session where we both have something where we have terrible memories and experiences.

I did not love that. Your thoughts were spot on.

Dude, I was pushing square so much that after about nine deaths, I started pushing square as fast as possible before I even got the prompt to make sure I wasn’t wasting a moment and I STILL died. Was it, like, you had to get the speed of the pushing right? Or something? 

Even the internet was very casual about it, just “hit square, surface” blah blah blah. Shit, some walkthroughs didn’t even mention it. “Swim towards the light and you’ll find yourself in a place.” Like, you’re missing a KEY STEP walkthrough. But they must have thought it so trivial that they didn’t feel the need to tell me what to do.

That’s fucking terrifying, because if everyone else is just doing it, and you’re doing what they’re doing and dying, you eventually think “bug.” And this sort of bug is a game breaking bug.

And one fears game breaking bugs.

More swimming. Oh fantastic. But not a surprise. I sort of figured that when they put this shit in the tutorial before, like, COMBAT, that it was something they really wanted me to learn.

Well, one thing I learned from my internet rage panic was that there is a setting where you can change “mash button” (I think they called it “button tapping”) to “hold button,” so you could just hold square. That’s good to know.

Yeah, the aim. And it kept taking me back to before you learned “wall walking,” which I got on the first try. So there was much “Yeah, yeah, I KNOW aaaaaand I’m dead.”

Grumble.

So you have to push three buttons at once? Aim, pull, choose fire arrows? I have two hands. This is some Heavy Rain contortion shit?

And I knew HOW to swim. The text made sense in terms of diving/breathing/etc. I just could’t get past the damn rocks.

But oh, dude. Gorgeous. And, as I have HDR color, SO much pop on the details. The people are still kinda video gamey (teeth. No one has nailed teeth), but the environments? All the carvings on all the walls? Look real. The shadows IN the carvings. Like, shit. And that’s not even cutscenes!  

I’ll say a lot of additional dialogue. Impressive enough they did the NPCs twice. And, apparently, there’s gonna be times when NPCs speak shit like ancient Mayan or something, so it isn’t just, like, Spanish. (Actually, the Spanish isn’t all that impressive, as there are whole translations into Spanish and Japanese and other stuff. But I don’t think they did a dub into ancient Mayan, so props.)

You can hide against walls? Haven’t learned that.

I, too, have only shot one person (that dude who was going to execute the other dude, who waited very patiently to execute the dude so I could get that red crosshair). It’s a little cheaty.

Haven’t sneaked, either. Hasn’t been much combat. Been a lot of dying underwater.

We do eat this up. And hey? What did we expect? You sorta know what you’re getting into with Tomb Raider.

Feminina:

Oh, man, I hate it when I’m stuck on something and the internet doesn’t even know it’s a problem.

“Just go over there and do the thing: here’s how the thing works!” it says merrily.

I know how to do the thing, I just CAN’T GET OVER THERE, what are you talking about, HOW do I go over there???!!!!!

Fury.

With the fire arrows, it’s not that you need three hands, it’s…great, now I’m forgetting exactly which button it was so I’ll probably have to look it up again, but I think it’s that you loose the arrow with R1 instead of R2. Yeah…because you hold R1 to craft the fire arrows, so I did that, and then I kept trying to shoot things (normally R2!) but only shooting regular arrows. So you just aim the arrow as usual, but press R1 instead of R2 to loose it. I think. Maybe.

You may find that the text explains this, but I did not. At least the internet had my back on the question, so apparently some other people were also confused.

I think it was extra confusing because rope arrows, which you get earlier, are also Special Arrows, but you shoot them EXACTLY the same as regular arrows, except that you shoot them at coils of rope that someone helpfully left around the jungle (same as in the last game). So I was kind of primed to expect that the action of shooting would be the same with the next kind of Special Arrow.

But I was wrong.

Don’t be wrong like I was. (Be wrong some completely different way! For the blog!)

It was very nice of that dude to wait so patiently for you to kill him before he could execute the other dude. Considerate villains are the best. I’ll send his family a fruit basket as a show of my appreciation.

Butch:

Fury and fear. Fear of the bug.

The game breaking bug is almost as scary as the lost save. Maybe worse.

I already was wrong in a different way! I think.

And yes, the rope thing not being special and, therefore, confusing happened in the earlier games, too.

But also we didn’t GET rope arrows for a while, right? There were things that were roped off that we had to go back to, later. Last night I felt like “Already? Really?” But maybe I remembered wrong.

Feminina:

I think the rope arrows came later in previous games, yeah. But that’s OK, really…”she already knows this trick, so here, we won’t make you wait around.”

The game-breaking bug is indeed the most crushing fear. I’ve never actually had it happen, but we still live in terror. I think the closest I’ve been was one game (I can’t remember which one now, which I suppose is a mercy) that was basically broken in one particular aspect, but the internet kept saying “they’re working on it!” and then eventually they did in fact release a patch and I was able to finish whatever it was.

I distinctly recall checking on the discussion boards for updates, and seeing that they patched for the Xbox first…I just don’t remember what game it was. Now this barely related tangent will occupy my mind all day.

I can’t find it in the blog archives…might have been before then.

Butch:

Makes sense. But it makes me wonder how they’re going to keep us out of places we are not meant to go yet.

No! Don’t get distracted! We NEVER get distracted!

Ha.

It’s just like saves. Thanks to my kids and minecraft, my backups in the cloud are getting to the limit allowed by PS+. I still have AC4 saves in there. This would clean up a lot of memory. But I can’t bring myself to do it.

To put this into perspective, I gave the disc to the library. But I can’t delete the saves.

Can I? Help.

Was anything before the blog?

Feminina:

There was Fallout New Vegas, mostly. And Dragon Age: Origins. That’s all I remember.

So we have something to revive if we ever enter a long dry spell and need to fill the blog with “blast from the past” commentary or something.

So far they’re keeping us out of places the same old ways, with barriers we need a rope arrow or shotgun or whatever for, only it’s “you lost your equipment and have to find this thing you used to have.”

At least it’s not “you somehow forgot how to do stuff you used to be great at.”

Unless that thing is “shooting fire arrows,” anyway.

Deleting saves from the cloud…that’s rough, man. Maybe buy a backup hard drive to store them all on first. Only sort of joking.

Butch:

Ah, yes. Those. Makes sense. And you had the Assassin’s Creeds I didn’t play.

Ah. Got it, lost equipment. But they have to do it somehow, right? Only fair.

Feminina:

Yes, I’m totally willing to accept “lost all my gear” as an explanation for why I’m not as powerful as I was at the end of the last game. It’s plausible (stuff gets lost!–and without certain stuff, certain things are harder!), and it doesn’t require that “I was a superhero now starting again at 1st level” suspension of disbelief.

And even though we ARE going back to first level in terms of skills, they at least gave all the skills new, region-specific names, so we can imagine that OK, we got really good at stealth-killing people in the particular environment of the last game, but this is a new place and maybe we have to learn how to operate effectively in it.

I mean, it’s still a suspension of disbelief, but at least it’s something, and it didn’t involve us dying and coming back from the dead (which takes care of a lot of discontinuities very nicely, but which a series can really only get away with, say, one time).

Butch:

Witcher 2 was the first game I played that really did the gear thing. In the first scenes, you lose your silver sword, which effectively says “You can’t kill any monsters at all” until you get it back. Nicely done. And you lose it in a moment of triumph. You have to fight this dragon, and you drive your sword into it’s mouth and you’re so happy….and then it gets stuck and the dragon flies away.

The idea of “new place” is a pretty good one. Fighting in the snow would be different than fighting in the jungle. I’m cool with that.

Feminina:

Yeah, plus we’re hunting different animals and plants now, so we need different skills for that…even climbing and movement can be a little different with different types of rocks and trees…I’ll accept it.

Butch:

Ah, yes. Panthers and shit. SO different from the…what…panthers and shit in the winter.

Feminina:

These are jaguars, dude. And a different kind of wild pig. COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

There is an interesting new addition to the ‘healing herbs’ mechanic, which is that you can now gather different types of herbs, and one of them heals you like we’re used to, but one of them sort of turns on your ‘survival instincts’ or whatever they call it (otherwise known as the “making important things glow” trick we use every 5 steps) for a period of time.

It only works on plants and animals, not mission objectives and so forth, but you can basically use this herb and then walk around and all the useful plants and huntable/predatory animals will glow. I’m not sure if it works on humans, actually, I only practiced it out in the jungle when no one was around, but assuming it does highlight enemy humans, that could come in pretty handy in combat. And it’s kind of a nice thought, and again fits in with the general theme of a new place: new plants, new tricks, relearning some old tricks to work better in the new environment.

 

Butch:

Totally. Totally.

OOOOO!!!! I like that! Cuz I always forget I can’t walk and instinct. It’s embarrassing. I keep forgetting to survive.

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