We tap into our primal instincts this week: What’s the game mechanic that keeps the endorphin rush going? Is it the “ding” of leveling up? Is it opening a crate or chest? Is it seeing your story progress as a percent complete?

Oh, also Far Cry Primal comes out tomorrow. Tying it alllll in here.

Wednesday, 8:59 am – Gavin

One thing I need to see in games is a demonstrable increase in my abilities to accomplish a task.  If I’m still doing things at the same level near the end of the game that I was at the beginning, then I feel like I haven’t really accomplished or learned anything.  It becomes difficult to gauge if I’m improving or not.  One of my favourite games of all time, Illusion of Gaia, was actually pretty bad for this – you leveled up, as you went, but you never ever fought the same enemies twice, so you had no way to determine the extent to which you were improving.  You only had micro-improvements based on the level you are currently in, and beating a level only takes about half an hour or so.

Contrast that with something like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, or Final Fantasy – you can (and do) face similar enemies numerous times as you traverse territories, but your obvious skill improvements allow you to easily see victory over those enemies.  In Earthbound, the systems are such that enemies actively run away from you once you’re at a certain level.  It’s magnificent!

Sorry to hear that your interest in gaming has been waning, Albert.  I hit a sort of malaise like that earlier in 2014 and 2015, once I knocked off some massive titles.  I often wonder if we’re less invested in our games if we don’t pay full price for them.  It’s easy for me to write off the potential for emotional investment in a game if it only costs me $5.  I recently acquired Need for Speed: Most Wanted for free, a generally well-reviewed racing game for the PC.  I barely got about 15 minutes into it before I decided that I didn’t care at all.  Meanwhile, driving around in GTA IV gave me nothing but thrills and chills.  Was it the fact that I felt more connected to the world because I could just simply get out of the car and perceive the world in a more tactile sense?  I don’t know.  Certainly the driving in NFS Most Wanted feels more realistic – cars are more difficult to control at high speeds, which makes sense because nobody is as good a driver as they think are.  So what was it?  I’m betting the price had something to do with it – there was nothing lost by not liking it.

The same thing can be said for any number of games that I have, up to a certain price point.  But if it costs me $20 or more, I’m much more likely to buy into it and forgive its flaws, sort of like how I tend to think that Splinter Cell: Blacklist is one of the best titles of the series, despite not bringing back some of the mechanics that made Chaos Theory one of my favourite games of all time.  The kicker was spending $30 on Blacklist.

Maybe that’s what we need to do more: buy fewer cheap games, and instead spend enough money to be invested on a title with enough replay value to justify the cost in the first place – something like a Skyrim, Witcher 3, Deus Ex, etc.

I played and beat Firewatch over the weekend.  It’s very difficult to talk about without spoiling any part of it, so I won’t.  It’s a game that unapologetically tells its own story.  The dialogue is masterfully crafted and the chemistry between the characters is among the best I’ve come across in games.  It’s beyond gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and it is strongly emotionally resonant.  I rank it just below Gone Home in terms of “first-person experience” -type games.  Well recommended and worth it at full price!

Monday, 6:30 pm – Albert

I’m really going back to the well (aka Steam backlog) to get me through my valley I’m feeling with “gaming”. Somehow, I am trying all these games that I bought on the Winter Steam Sale and I am not feeling the pull into each game I play. Granted, I’ve been giving each game around 20 mins to 1 hour before I decide to go to the next game or delete it off my computer all together. I feel like that time is adequate but what do you guys think? What is the minimum amount of game time you give a game before writing it off?

I finished X-Com 2. The last mission took me 2.5 hours with several reloads. I was playing on Veteran which I believe is only the second level – it’s Normal. The game has a lot of awesome features and fixes. The geoscape is redone so instead of intercepting UFOs, you’re flying your own ship from place to place making contact with people. The new classes of the Ranger and the revamp of classes, especially the Psi-soldiers is a great addition. The building meta-game got an update as well, although I did not feel it was overly open but more linear in scope. Regardless I still came away from the game with a feeling of disappointment rather then the burning desire to jump right back in like I did ala X-Com: EU or EW. Strange. I can’t really put the words together to describe why I am so over the game already. I played XC:EU through 5 times and beat it every time. I went through specifically to gather achievements… and yet with XC2 I cannot even find myself wanting to explore the robust and awesome Steam Workshop content. Perhaps it is a personal time period I am in where I cannot find the time or energy to reengage myself with the game at the time. It’s a good game… so why am I disappointed?

Far Cry Primal had looked interesting when I first discovered it through a trailer. However, seems to be like much more of the same and that seems to be echoed in Jeff (from GB)’s review. The tired “basics” and “design” of Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, CODs, etc are waning heavily on me. Perhaps it is too much to ask for more creative or evolving game mechanics but the constant cookie-cutter templates are not appealing to me. I cannot have steak for every meal no matter how delicious that is. For my tribal gameplay, I’ll be looking forward to Horizon Zero Dawn. Let’s hope it renews my (apparently dreary) faith in gaming.

Monday, 12:05 pm – Ricky

Gaming: What is it? How do I get more of it? I’ll actually maybe have some time tonight! Far Cry Primal is gonna be wayyyyyy back in the backlog though, despite how much I enjoyed Far Cry 4. I’m already FPSing with Fallout 4, and I have Wolfenstein: New Order I want to play after that. I hope it reviews well at least!