Try-It Tuesday: STYX Shards of Darkness

My husband’s been after me to play this game because he knows how much I like stealth in video games such as Skyrim, Thief and Dishonored. I’ve also got a soft spot for green guys like orcs and mutants. So, I tried the free demo for Playstation 4.

STYX: SHARDS OF DARKNESS is about a sassy green goblin rogue named Styx, who has magical powers, and sneaks, climbs, poisons, and steals. Some have compared his humor to Deadpool — irreverent and sprinkled with pop culture references.

Developed by French developer Cyanide, this sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows (2014) was released in March 2017 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

I enjoyed it enough to buy the Styx bundle, with Master of Shadows and Shards of Darkness, on sale for $14.99.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #1 – 1988

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. The oldest is one I remember listening to while cruising around Palm Springs in 1988. Dustin and I thought we were so cool, playing Bach at top volume the way other kids played rock or hip hop music. Some of these songs are from the 60s and 70s, but I listened to a lot of older songs in my teens. Still do.

1) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 – Johann Sebastian Bach
2) Thirteen O’Clock – Labyrinth soundtrack
3) Hallucination – Labyrinth soundtrack
4) Hotel California – Eagles
5) Something – Beatles
6) Because – Beatles
7) Strawberry Fields Forever – Beatles
8) Norwegian Wood – Beatles
9) Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds – Beatles
10) I Will – Beatles
11) All You Need is Love – Beatles
12) Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – Hair

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: EVENTIDE 3 Legacy of Legends

Earlier this year, I tried Eventide: Slavic Fable, a point-and-click puzzle adventure game, and enjoyed it so much I bought and played the entire game. EVENTIDE 3 is a 2017 sequel, developed by House of Fables and published by Artifex Mundi, which came to the PS4 in June 2018.

See other Artifex Mundi games I’ve played here

Try the free demo here

Mary Gilbert returns as the protagonist in EVENTIDE 3. She must rescue her brother who is kidnapped by flying creatures and taken to a realm in the clouds.

The game is a mix of hidden object games, brain teasers and environmental puzzles, set in contemporary times but inspired by Slavic myth and magic. I think that the artwork in the Eventide series is even more beautiful than the other Artifex Mundi games.

Rated “E +10” for everyone age 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE ORDER 1886

I bought THE ORDER: 1886 on sale for $3.99. The action-adventure, third-person over-the-shoulder, single-player game is a 2015 Sony exclusive, showcasing the graphics possible with the Playstation 4 console.

Critics have praised the graphics but generally disliked the game’s story, gameplay, and short length. With words like “Victorian,” “werewolves” and “alternate history” attached to it, I really wanted to like THE ORDER: 1886, but it reminded me too much of Beyond: Two Souls, a “walking simulator” with quick time events, cutscenes, linear level design, and clunky controls for movement and combat. Though I think Beyond had better storytelling.

At each turn, THE ORDER: 1886 seemed to say, “Look at all of the beautiful things you can’t explore and which ultimately mean nothing.” Doors and gates that can’t be opened. People with whom you can’t have a conversation. Objects to be admired but not touched, or touched and then set right back down again.

Where the gameplay lacked, story and characters might have enticed me to play more. But I’d seen the “steampunk King Arthur” idea years ago in the Gaslight Chronicles series by Cindy Spencer Pape, and the characters in THE ORDER: 1886 were forgettable. I didn’t care about any of them enough to carry on and discover their fates.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, and strong language. But even the promise of sex and violence aren’t enough to make me continue playing THE ORDER: 1886. I’ll just go watch Penny Dreadful again.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: UNRAVEL TWO

Almost a year ago, I tried Unravel, a single-player side-scrolling puzzle platformer developed by the Swedish company Coldwood Interactive and published by Electronic Arts. I enjoyed it so much, I bought the full game and played it for my YouTube channel.

Click here for the free demo

In June 2018, EA announced and released UNRAVEL TWO. This week, I played the free demo for PS4. My 14-year-old daughter played with me and we had a good time.

Unlike the first game, UNRAVEL TWO may be played as either a single-player or a multiplayer local co-op. There are two Yarnies who must work together in order to solve puzzles and manipulate the world. Gameplay is similar to the original, with lots of jumping, swinging on string, and manipulating objects in order to progress through the environment.

The free trial includes the first level and most of the second. There are only seven levels in UNRAVEL TWO, compared to twelve in Unravel, but the sequel also includes twenty bonus challenges.

Rated “E” for everyone, with mild fantasy violence. Like the first game, the sequel has some dark story elements and complex puzzles that might not be understood nor appropriate for younger players.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE

I’ve played about 1,200 hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, as well as a bit of Arena and Oblivion, so I’m often asked if I play THE ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE. I’ve yet to find a “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) game that I enjoy, so I never tried ESO until now.

I still haven’t found an MMO that I enjoy, but it was fun to be “Telyn,” the Dunmer ancestor of my favorite follower Teldryn Sero, for a little while.

The free demo started me in Morrowind and the first quest involved one of the Morag Tong assassins, which was cool. But the experience got goofy pretty quick as I found myself surrounded by other players leaping around like frogs, whacking me, and shouting into bad microphones.

Some people relish the MMO experience. My sister, a World of Warcraft and Overwatch player, watched my ESO livestream and immediately bought the game for herself. There is no single-player offline mode, so I’ll just keep waiting for The Elder Scrolls VI.

Released in 2014 for PC and 2015 for consoles, ESO is set 800-1000 years before the events of MorrowindOblivion and Skyrim. As with other games in the franchise, the player begins as a prisoner, has the option of playing various races and classes, and is free to explore, though some areas of Tamriel require additional purchases or membership in certain factions.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, sexual themes, violence, and use of alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: N.E.R.O. Nothing Ever Remains Obscure

N.E.R.O.: Nothing Ever Remains Obscure is a 2016 game from Storm in a Teacup, the Italian developer currently working on BioShock lookalike Close to the Sun (trailer). Regular price was $14.99 but I was able to pick it up on Playstation+ sale for $2.99 so I thought I’d try it out.

N.E.R.O. is promoted as “a wonderful journey in a world of incredible beauty, a story driven first-person game with puzzles and intuitive controls where the environment is connected to the characters and their past. The world of N.E.R.O. is magical and varied, making exploring an ongoing challenge.”

I think “incredible beauty” is a bit of a stretch. In a game where “nothing ever remains obscure,” most of the scenery is dark and difficult to see. At one point, the game’s glowing storybook sentences promised an area so “magnificent that it defied a human imagination” but delivered a shadowy shanty town and a few stone arches.

The plot of the “story driven” game seems to be not one but two, possibly three (?) tales involving parents with a sick child, brigands, and gods. Only, the gods might be the parents, or the sick child might be the leader of the brigands, or … something. Hard to say. Again, obscure.

Exploration is certainly an ongoing challenge, mainly because I kept getting stuck on the rocky terrain, unable to jump and incapable of moving at more than a snail’s pace, even when engaging the “run” button (R1). It is what many gamers would call a “walking simulator.”

By comparison, I tried The Unfinished Swan a couple weeks ago and it, too, had a story about a young boy exploring a magical land full of puzzles. But I enjoyed that game enough to play all the way through. I have no interest in finishing N.E.R.O.

>> Try-It Tuesday: THE UNFINISHED SWAN

N.E.R.O. is available for PS4, PC and Xbox One. Rated “E” for everyone, but I don’t think this is a game for children. They would probably find it quite boring, with most of the pretentious storytelling going over their heads.

If you decide to play, just remember to aim high. I wasted a lot of time before realizing the spells orbs were lobbed in an arc that dropped below the intended target, not cast in a straight line.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: FAR CRY 5

Usually, on Try-It Tuesdays, I play games I know almost nothing about. But in this case, I watched my husband play FAR CRY 5 while I convalesced after surgery, so I saw a good bit before trying it myself.

As much as I love the soundtrack, scenery, graphics, crazy side missions, variety of weapons and vehicles, stealth mechanics, ziplines and potential pets, the characters and story left a lot to be desired, and those things matter quite a bit to me.

Even if you try to ignore the plot and just enjoy yourself, as one might in an open world like Fallout 4 or SkyrimFAR CRY 5 will eventually force you into unavoidable kidnappings, drug-induced cutscenes, repetitive missions, and ultimately a shitty ending.

I don’t want another BioShock Infinite experience, where I spend hours slogging through a game with a lame, unsatisfying and unavoidable narrative. So, while it was fun for a Try-It Tuesday, I won’t be continuing FAR CRY 5 but I’m interested in trying other games in the franchise.

Rated “M” for mature audiences, due to blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, and use of drugs and alcohol.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: THE UNFINISHED SWAN

THE UNFINISHED SWAN is a 2012 video game in the vein of Flower or Unravel, with puzzles, nice music, and an emotional story that centers around a boy named Monroe who — like Alice, Dorothy or Coraline — enters a magical, mysterious and sometimes dangerous world where everything is a metaphor.

Click to buy

THE UNFINISHED SWAN begins with a white screen. Scenery becomes visible only with the strategic lobbing of black blobs of paint, then the world becomes progressively more complex, introducing new colors and mechanics with each level. As Monroe pursues the titular swan and explores his surroundings, he learns the story of a lousy, self-centered king in need of a good therapist.

The game mechanics were original, the levels interesting, the artwork lovely and the levels fun. I bought this on sale for $2.99, which is a bargain for four or five hours of entertaining gameplay. Full price is $14.99. After completing the entire game and collecting every balloon, you can replay individual levels with new game features such as a fire hose or sniper rifle that shoots paint.

I completed the first two out of four chapters during Try-It Tuesday and finished the game the next day. Here’s the second half:

Nominated for three BAFTA awards for Original Music, Game Innovation, and Debut Game. The Original Music award went to Journey but THE UNFINISHED SWAN won the other two categories.

Available for Playstation 3, PS4 and PS Vita. Rated “E 10+” for everyone 10 and up.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Fallout 4 fanfiction: Eve of Destruction

Another story based on my first playthrough of Fallout 4. My Fallout 4 fanfiction doesn’t include the entire story of the Sole Survivor but is intended to fill in the gaps between the quests and storylines experienced within the game. In other words, it’s “headcanon.”

“Eve of Destruction” takes place after Fiona finds her son, and after the battle of Bunker Hill, but before she defends the Castle and destroys the Institute. Told from Hancock’s perspective, she’s romanced with MacCready but finds little comfort in the relationship as she buckles under the pressures of leadership.

If you’d like to see a tour of my actual Castle in the game, check out my video on Youtube.

Story spoilers, strong language and sexual references.

1,700 words

* * *

Part 1: MacCready’s Lucky Cap – MacCready meets Daisy & leaves the Gunners.
Part 2: A Home No More – Fiona adjusts to life in the Commonwealth wasteland.
Part 3: MacCready Meets the Mayor – MacCready arrives in Goodneighbor.
Part 8: MacCready’s Wooden Soldier – MacCready & Fiona share a moment.
Part 9: Wanton Wasteland – Hangman’s Alley – Adults only! In a dystopian, post-apocalyptic Boston, the ghoulified mayor of Goodneighbor indulges in whiskey and voyeurism.
Part 10: Happy Birthday, Fiona – Hancock deals with unrequited lust that just might be love.
Part 12: Eve of Destruction – Hancock helps Fiona cope with the stresses of leadership.

* * *

“EVE OF DESTRUCTION”

Fiona kept a bonfire burning on the battlements of the Castle. “A beacon of hope,” she called it, “to guide people lost in the wasteland.” When MacCready said it might also attract unwanted attention, she’d shrugged and replied, “Trouble will find us, whether we light a fire or not.”

Hancock appreciated her attitude. Reminded him of a certain ghoul mayor who hung a bright neon “Goodneighbor” sign over his door.

When the Minutemen weren’t busy cleaning weapons or repairing armor, small patrols ventured into the nearby ruins, scavenging supplies and more fuel for that fire. And so Fiona burned down the Old World, one building at a time, while she rebuilt the new. The fire became more than a light in the darkness, it became a symbol. The fire was Fiona’s rage, her sorrow, her hope. She rose like a phoenix from its ashes while new recruits flocked to the ranks of her growing army and new settlements joined the cause.

That’s where Hancock found her, looking out at the city. Light and shadow danced over her in the darkness but she didn’t move, didn’t greet him, didn’t even turn to glance in his direction or acknowledge he was there. He added some wood to the blaze and sat in the grass, listening to the crackling flames and the voices calling across the parade ground below.

They expected a full-scale assault from the Institute, any day now. Fiona had done what no one had ever managed to do before. She’d entered the Institute and lived to tell the tale, and there was no way the Institute was going to let her get away with it. That’s the story everyone knew. What they didn’t know, but he and MacCready did, was that her kid led the whole damn operation, and they called him “Father” like some sort of religious cult.

“Hey, gorgeous, come here often?”

MacCready’s voice shattered the pensive night like a bullet through a Nuka-Cola bottle. He stood at the top of the stairs, a pup with his ears perked up, hoping to be petted. Fiona didn’t turn around for him, either.

“It’s quiet… too quiet…” MacCready laughed. “What’re you doing up here by yourself?”

“I’m not. Hancock’s with me.”

Hancock wondered how she knew it was him.

MacCready rounded the bonfire and sat beside him, resting his rifle across his knees. “Hey, Hancock, you ready? This is going to be a lot bigger than a mutant invasion or a raider… raid.”

“I’m always ready, MacCready.” Hancock pulled a pack of fresh cigarettes and a gold-plated lighter from his coat pocket. Both were gifts from Fiona, swiped from the Institute before she told Shaun to fuck off. It was a goddamn generous gift, but he tried not to read too much into it. She and MacCready were planning to get married when the dust finally settled. If they both survived.

She’d asked Hancock to do the wedding, him being mayoral and all. He tried to defer to the pastor in Diamond City, but she wanted it right there on the ramparts of the Castle, broadcast on Radio Freedom. A grand, romantic event to inspire the Commonwealth. She was going to squeeze the Wasteland by its fucking balls until it covered her tits in Happily Ever After, and no one was going to get in her goddamn way.

Against his better judgment, he’d agreed, but he gave it six months.

Preston joined their little gathering. “No songs tonight, General?”

Sturges gave her a guitar for her birthday several months ago, and she put it to good use entertaining the troops. She knew a helluva lot of songs that weren’t on Diamond City Radio and probably hadn’t been heard for over a hundred years. Hancock had a real thing for music, which is why he paid through the nose he didn’t have to keep Magnolia around the Third Rail. Fiona’s musical talents were just icing on a big-breasted, tight-assed cake that Hancock wanted to have and eat, too. For the umpteenth time, he cursed the day he ever suggested she hire MacCready.

She turned, her profile lined in orange light. “I’m not really in the mood for an uplifting sing-along, right now.”

Hancock took a long drag and spoke as he exhaled. “Then what are you in the mood to sing?”

Fiona didn’t reply, but after a few minutes he heard her voice drifting with the wind and the rush of the waves breaking on the shore. She sang slower than the song’s usual tempo, soft and low.

“It’s all over but the crying, and nobody’s crying but me. Friends all over know I’m trying to forget about how much I care for you. It’s all over but the dreaming, poor little dreams that keep trying to come true. It’s all over but the crying, and I can’t get over crying over you.”

Her voice cracked a little. She wiped her eyes and disappeared down the stairs.

No one moved. After a minute or two, Hancock pounded his cigarette into the grass. “You going to go talk to her?”

“Me?” said MacCready. “She’s been up here all night, then I come up here and she leaves. I think she wants to be alone.”

Hancock couldn’t fathom wanting to be alone. Sure, he’d been alone plenty, but he never wanted to be. Fiona didn’t, either, he was certain, or she’d have left when Hancock first showed up.

Preston offered the biggest fucking understatement of the year. “She’s got a lot on her mind.” But he didn’t get up to go after her, so Hancock went himself.

She goddamned needed to know she wasn’t alone, that she was appreciated for everything she was willing to sacrifice and endure. He had to do it, if no one else could or would.

He crossed the courtyard, passed the radio tower, and went straight to her quarters, where he pushed open the double doors and found her sitting at the meeting table, bawling into her hands.

He sat beside her. “You wanna talk? I’m all ears. I don’t actually have ears, but you know what I mean.”

She pulled a blue bandana from her pocket and blew her nose.

“Everyone’s got such a hard-on to fight the Institute and I don’t blame them. But they don’t understand, and there’s no way I can tell them, oh, yeah, by the way, my kid’s been killing your family members and replacing them with synths. My son, my whole reason for staying alive in this… nightmare… My whole fucking reason for doing any of this…”

She waved her hand in a sweeping gesture and he assumed “this” meant the Castle, the Minutemen, and the Commonwealth.

“Now we’re mortal enemies. Mother and son.” She twisted the bandana in her hands. “What’s the goddamn point, now? Every broken coffee mug hauled back to Sanctuary Hills, every cap fished out of a filthy fucking raider’s pocket, every bullet scavenged from a dead Gunner? Turning tin cans into turrets? Rubble into a village? When will it be enough?”

“Enough for what? You think you do enough good, life will stop taking a shit on you? That’s never gonna happen.”

“I know. That’s an Old World myth. Good, hard-working people get a good life. It’s the lie we told ourselves so we didn’t have to admit how fucked up and unfair the world really was.”

“You coulda stayed at the Institute and not worried about the rest of us.”

“For fuck sake, Hancock, you know there’s no way I’m going to sit by and let anyone do this, even my own son. The Institute might have flushing toilets and hot water, but theirs is not the world I want to live in. The things I saw, the files I read. They abduct people, torture them, turn them into mutants, murder them, replace them. They manufacture humans and then treat them like slaves.”

“I know. They’re the worst kind of tyrants, the kind who think the end justifies the means.”

“All this time, ever since I left the vault, I just kept thinking, if I found my son, things would go back to… well, not normal, but something like normal. Me and Mac, we’d take Shaun and Duncan and live at Taffington, work on the house, plant a garden, watch the boys grow up, maybe have another baby. Live the life that was cut short by war. But… now… none of that makes any sense.”

“Why not?”

“Because I feel responsible, somehow, for the things Shaun’s done. And I refuse to see a broken world and do nothing. I’m not a mutant or a raider or a Gunner or the Institute. I’m Fiona, general of the fucking Minutemen.”

“You’re goddamn right you are.”

She was a natural leader who reveled in wasteland justice, with an overdeveloped need for excitement, achievement, admiration, adventure, chems, sex… Ok, maybe he was projecting just a little.

He fiddled with the gold lighter. He liked the way it sounded when it snapped open and shut, and it gave him something to do with his hands. Because what he really wanted to do was drag her into that bed in the corner, pop some Mentats, drown her in whiskey, and fuck her until she forgot everything for a little while. There wasn’t any happy ever after, only happy right now, and that’s the best anyone could hope for. He wanted to give her that. He wanted to give her that until she couldn’t walk right. The two of them together, they’d be unstoppable. The king of the underworld and the queen of hearts, they could bring together the poor and the poorer, make a better world, spend a little more time being high and hopeful.

“Thanks, Hancock.”

“Hey, any time. It’s tough at the top. I get that, you know.”

“I know. That’s why I like having you around.”

Did she, now?

She stuffed the bandana in her pocket. “I just hope we’re ready. I hope… I’m ready. It kills me, walking among them, knowing that… for some of them, these might be their last hours on earth.”

“They’re volunteers. Ain’t nobody being forced to risk their neck that don’t wanna be here.”

“Including you?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

~ J.L. Hilton

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