Try-It Tuesday: FALLOUT 76

This week I tried FALLOUT 76, the infamous online multiplayer RPG developed by Bethesda Game Studios and released last month amidst tremendous hype and player backlash.

Viewers of my YouTube channel are split between those who think FALLOUT 76 is garbage and those who enjoy it. I’ve been asked about a hundred times if I would play and even had some very generous people offer to buy the game for me.

Despite being a huge fan of Bethesda’s Skyrim and Fallout 4, I’ve had little interest in FALLOUT 76 because I don’t like multiplayer online games. Same reason I didn’t get around to trying Elder Scrolls Online until just a few months ago, though it came out in 2014.

To satisfy my curiosity and the requests of my viewers, I decided to stream FALLOUT 76 when I discovered I could rent it from my local Redbox kiosk for the day. It took me about 40 minutes to download the required update before playing, but I have high-speed internet so your mileage may vary.

I discovered that FALLOUT 76 is not only multiplayer, it’s a survival game, with elements similar to others I’ve played like 7 Days to Die, Minecraft, No Man’s Sky or Don’t Starve. Bethesda might have been better off calling it Fallout Survival. Players have to worry about eating, drinking, diseases, and the weight of ammunition, as with survival mode in Fallout 4. Also, weapons and armor must be constantly repaired, as these items have a “condition” bar similar to Fallout: New Vegas.

The multiplayer aspect didn’t have much of an impact on my experience. I saw very few people, and they were either friendly or ignored me. No one seemed to be able to harm me or steal my stuff. I didn’t miss the presence of NPCs and enjoyed the little notes and stories I found scattered about. Like this one I found in an outhouse:

I don’t think FALLOUT 76 is horrible, but I’m not excited by it, either. If I wanted to play a survival game, I’d already be playing 7 Days to Die, since that’s my husband’s favorite. But I’m not into survival games right now and putting the protagonist in a vault suit isn’t going to change that.

FALLOUT 76 is available for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Rated “M” for mature audiences, for blood and gore, drug references, intense violence and strong language. Online interactions and in-game purchases are possible, which are also not appropriate for younger audiences.

My livestream was interrupted by loss of internet on my end, not a problem with Bethesda’s servers, so here’s part two:

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: OMENSIGHT

I had a pleasant surprise this week when Spearhead Games emailed me a keycode to play OMENSIGHT on Playstation 4.

In OMENSIGHT, you’re the “Harbinger,” a magical warrior who appears in times of crisis. As the game begins, you witness the end of the world but have the power to relive this final day, again and again, while investigating what happened and making decisions to change the course of events.

It’s a cool idea for a single-player game, and what really piqued my interest was Chris Avellone on the writing team. He worked on Fallout: New Vegas, Prey and many other games, and is narrative designer of the upcoming Dying Light 2.

Gameplay is third-person isometric, somewhere between a side-scroller and a top-down game. The only isometric game I’ve played at any length was Diablo III years ago with my family. I’m currently playing Horizon Zero Dawn, which is third-person, but it’s not isometric and I have more control over the camera angle. The uncooperative camera made OMENSIGHT frustrating at times, especially during battles and when looking for hidden chests. Veterans of this type of game might be used to the quirks but I’m not.

Graphics were my least favorite part of OMENSIGHT. For me, the clashing primary color palette and anthropomorphic animals just didn’t gel with the cataclysmic seriousness of the story. Or, as my oldest daughter put it, “What’s with the neon furries?”

The voice acting and general audio were good, from what I heard, and the fighting reminded me a bit of Kingdom Hearts or NieR: Automata, with pretty standard controls — jump (X), hit ([]), heavy hit (hold []), dodge (O), etc.

If you like the idea of playing a button-combo, isometric, neon furry Groundhog Day where you save the world, this is the game for you.

OMENSIGHT is available for PC and PS4. A Nintendo Switch version is available for pre-order Dec. 6 and release Dec. 13.

Rated “T” for teens for blood, violence, mild language and use of alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: DOOM

This week, I tried DOOM, a reboot of the game I played about twenty-five years ago. Doom (1993) wasn’t the very first first “first person shooter” (FPS) game, but it had a huge influence on subsequent shooter games and video gaming in general.

The 1993 and 2016 versions were both developed by id Software and the 2016 version was published by Bethesda Softworks, which also publishes the Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Dishonored franchises, three of my all-time favorites. So, when I found the free Playstation demo of DOOM, I just had to try it.

This game is a ton of fun, all run and gun. I loved the music, composed by Mick Gordon, who won a bunch of awards for the game’s soundtrack and also worked on Wolfenstein and Prey.

DOOM is rated “M” for mature audiences, for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. It’s available for PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ENIGMATIS The Ghosts of Maple Creek

In ENIGMATIS: THE GHOSTS OF MAPLE CREEK, I searched for a missing girl in a mysterious Vermont town. This 2011 point-and-click game is another by Artifex Mundi, like several I’ve tried in the past year.

It’s available for Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC and mobile phones. I tried the free demo on PS4 and enjoyed it so much, I bought the game and finished it a couple days later.

ENIGMATIS: THE GHOSTS OF MAPLE CREEK is rated “T” for teen, for blood and mild violence. My teens played through it with their friends and had a lot of fun hunting for hidden objects, finding clues, and solving puzzles together.

After playing the main adventure, I unlocked the “Last Chapter” bonus level that tells the story of Jim Gibbons, the knife thrower trapped in the mirror world. I played through on Halloween and it was an excellent epilogue.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: FOUL PLAY

Victorian daemon-hunter Baron Dashforth and his sidekick, the ninja chimney sweep Scampwick, recount their thrilling adventures in FOUL PLAY, a 2013 steampunk-style side-scrolling brawler developed by UK-based indie studio Mediatonic.

Single-player or two-player shared-screen couch co-op. The game plays out across an endless stage, and the object is not only to defeat enemies but to thrill spectators. Characters do not die but it’s curtains for them if they cease to entertain the virtual audience.

The story is told via dialog boxes that must be read by the player(s). There are exclamations — “Gah!” “Oh!” and such — but no voiced protagonists.

FOUL PLAY is rated “E+10” for everyone 10 and up. I thought it was great fun and will continue playing at my leisure with family, but not for my YouTube channel. I’ve already got my plate full with Horizon Zero Dawn, Skyrim, Fallout 4, Fallout Shelter and other games this month!

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #4 – 1991

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is straight from 1991, the year the Gulf War ended. It’s also the year I moved back to Los Angeles and dated a guy named Ron in college. Most of the music is sampled in bits and pieces, as so many full-length songs wouldn’t fit on one tape otherwise.

Who Wants to Live Forever (Queen, 1986)
Princes of the Universe (Queen, 1986)
It’s a Kind of Magic (Queen, 1986)
Englishman in New York (Sting, 1987)
Children’s Crusade (Sting, 1985)
Hotel California (Eagles, 1977)
Bring Him Home (Les Mis, 1985)
Red & Black (Les Mis, 1985)
In My Life (Les Mis, 1985)
One Day More (Les Mis, 1985)
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Les Mis, 1985)
Castle on a Cloud (Les Mis, 1985)
Blowing in the Wind (PP&M, 1963)
If You Leave (OMD, 1986)
Remember the Feeling (Chicago, 1984)
The Search is Over (Survivor, 1985)
Evening Falls (Enya)
Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds, 1965)
I Dreamed a Dream (Les Mis, 1985)
Somebody (Depeche Mode, 1984)
Guinevere (Camelot, 1967)
If I’d Ever Leave You (Camelot, 1967)
I Loved You Once In Silence (Camelot, 1967)
Sailing Ships (Whitesnake, 1989)
Take My Breath Away (Berlin, 1986)
Part of Your World (Little Mermaid, 1989)
Cuts Both Ways (Gloria Estafan, 1989)
If You Want (Depeche Mode, 1984)
In Time (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Robbie Robb, 1989)
Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel, 1966)
Take On Me (A-ha, 1984)
My Love I’ll Always Show (Stryper, 1986)
Twilight (ELO, 1981)
All for Love (Nancy Wilson, 1989)

Ron’s Songs:
The Ghost in You (The Psychedelic Furs, 1984)
Little Wing (Sting, 1987)
America (Simon & Garfunkel, 1968)
Scandalous (Prince, 1989)
Julia (John Lennon, 1968)
Twin Peaks theme (Angelo Badalamenti, 1990)
Falling (Julee Cruise, 1990)
One of my Turns (Pink Floyd, 1979)

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 Monsters Overboard

I wanted to play something with a Halloween theme for October, so I rented HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: MONSTERS OVERBOARD from a local Redbox.

This single-player game continues the story of the Hotel Transylvania 3 movie. The player can choose to be Dracula or Mavis. With the help of little creatures called Impa, they fight enemies, solve puzzles and save their monster friends on the mysterious Lost Islands.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 is rated E+10 for everyone 10 and up. While some rated-E games can be fun for the whole family — such as Unravel Two, Eventide 3 or The Unfinished Swan — this one is just for children. There’s not much in the way of gameplay, story, humor, graphics or excitement to be found for adults, but if you have little kids, it might be worth renting for a day or two before Halloween.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: FALLOUT SHELTER

FALLOUT SHELTER was released as a mobile game, in advance of Fallout 4, just after both games were announced at Bethesda’s E3 2015 showcase. It was available as a PC game in 2016, Xbox One in 2017, and then Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 earlier this year.

I played it three years ago on my phone, before moving on to Fallout 4 and other console games. I thought it would be fun to see what it’s like now, with all of the updates they’ve made over the years, and on a much bigger screen.

Click here for the free PS4 game

In FALLOUT SHELTER, players build a large, underground bomb shelter aka “vault,” and manage the lives and resources of the vault dwellers. It shares some elements in common with Fallout 4‘s settlement building system and with community simulation games like Virtual Villagers or My Tribe.

Legos inspired the standardized colonization modules in my Stellarnet books, which were published in 2012. In my novels, pre-fabricated living spaces called “blocks” were linked side-by-side and stacked on top of one another to form enclosed, self-sufficient space colonies. The vault sections in FALLOUT SHELTER work in a similar way.

As free-to-play games go, FALLOUT SHELTER is casual and enjoyable. In-game purchases are optional and, so far, I haven’t felt like they’re required. When I played this game years ago on my mobile, I maxed out my vault – full size, full population, 100% happiness – without spending any money.

I didn’t play long enough to experience the content I hadn’t seen before, as I needed more vault dwellers to unlock the Overseer’s Office, Weapon Workshop, Outfit Workshop and Theme Workshop. But I might start playing this game on Fallout Fridays, once in awhile, along with Fallout 4.

FALLOUT SHELTER is rated “T” for teens, due to mild violence, suggestive themes, and alcohol references.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ABYSS ODYSSEY

ABYSS ODYSSEY (2014) is a video game by ACE Team, an indie developer founded in 1997 by brothers Andrés, Carlos and Edmundo Bordeu, headquartered in Santiago, Chile. They also made The Deadly Tower of Monsters (2016) and Rock of Ages II (2017) that I tried out during previous Tuesdays.

Click here for the free PS4 demo

While Deadly Tower was an isometric platformer with a retro-scifi aesthetic and Rock of Ages II a tower-defense with Monty Python-esque style, ABYSS ODYSSEY is an Art Nouveau inspired side-scroller.

The fighting reminded me a bit of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, with lots of button combos, hack and slash. It’s roguelike, with procedurally generated levels. Character death means starting over from the surface and plumbing the depths of the abyss all over again, to find new layouts and different enemies each time.

Rated “T” for teens, for partial nudity and violence.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #3 – 1990

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one, labeled “My Special Tape,” is a melancholy miscellany that reflects the personal struggles of my young adulthood. Love, loss, longing.

I can remember holding this tape so many times in my youth, wondering who I was and what I would be, and here I am, holding it in my hands again, almost thirty years later. It feels strange, as if I’m in two places at once, the present and the past, the east and the west, the old and the young.

In true mix tape style, this is not only a collection of songs but also pieces of songs, reconstructed into a kind of poetry:

In sleep he sang to me, in dreams he came (1)
And I know it’s only in my mind, that I’m talking to myself and not to him (2)
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed somehow you would be here
Wishing I could hear your voice again, knowing that I never would (1)
These dreams go on when I close my eyes (3)

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven (4)
Take these broken wings and learn to fly again (5)
She’s like the wind (6)

Build a stairway to heaven with a prince or a vagabond
And may you never love in vain (7)
A little fall of rain can hardly hurt you now (2)
After all the rain (8)
After the rain washes away the tears and all the pain
Only after the rain can you live again (9)

It’s only forever, not long at all (10)
Who wants to live forever? (11)
I remember a time I knew what happiness was (2)
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget (4)
Masquerade, paper faces on parade,
Hide your face so the world will never find you (1)

Sources: (1) Phantom of the Opera (2) Les Miserables (3) Heart (4) Led Zeppelin (5) Mr. Mister (6) Dirty Dancing (7) Rod Stewart (8) Cheap Trick (9) Nelson (10) Labyrinth (11) Queen

~ J.L. Hilton

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