Try-It Tuesday: THIEF

I typically try out games I’ve never played before, but this week was a “Try-It AGAIN Tuesday” with THIEF, the reboot developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix.

I played this game on Playstation 3 and wrote about it back in March 2014. Since then, I’ve played Dishonored, Dishonored 2, Death of the Outsider, Fallout 4 and many more games. I wanted to revisit THIEF with the free demo available on PS4, to see if it was as good — and as bad — as I thought it was three years ago.

The graphics were as beautiful and Garrett just as sexy as I remembered. The demo does not delve into the story of THIEF but does give a good sampling of gameplay, the majority of which is spent sneaking, stealing and avoiding the city watch in narrow alleys of a Victorian-style city.

I managed to fight two jewelry store guards at the same time, without dying, but this game is really about observation, stealth, agility, and patience, not brute force.

The audio is still problematic, with voices that seem to be in the same room when they’re actually outside, and repetitive prattle from the guards. The world still feels cramped and restrictive, and the game mechanics clunky, though perhaps not as bad as before, as I’m a more experienced gamer now. I would have preferred something more akin to Assassin’s Creed or inFAMOUS, and less searching for bird poo to indicate a rare climbable ledge.

As one of my viewers said during the livestream, there’s something endearing about THIEF, in spite of its faults, and I enjoyed playing it again.

~ J.L. Hilton

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I don’t usually play games like FORTNITE BATTLE ROYALE, a third-person shooter PvP MMOG (that’s “Player vs Player Massively Multiplayer Online Game” for the uninitiated). But getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things is what Try-It Tuesday is all about. Plus, the fact that the game is free doesn’t hurt!

In FORTNITE BATTLE ROYALE, you’re dropped onto an island with 100 other players and nothing but your wits and a pickaxe. You can search for weapons, ammo, bandages, first aid kits, shield potions and other useful items to help you survive. You can also use your pickaxe to collect wood, stone and metal, to craft stairs, bridges, walls, towers, or entire bases. The last one standing wins.

To make things even more interesting, there’s a strange storm surrounding the island. Every few minutes, it shrinks, forcing the players into closer and closer combat quarters. If you’re caught in the storm, you die.

Play alone in solo mode, or team up with others in a duo or squad. Available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One & Mac. Rated T for teens, but be aware there is the ability to chat with other players via a headset, and you never know what complete strangers are going to say.

The game does have a code of conduct, which prohibits discriminatory language, hate speech, threats, spam, and other forms of harassment or illegal behavior, cheating, griefing, exploiting bugs and glitches, impersonating others, or sharing account information. There is the in-game option to report other players, or you can submit a report to Epic Games.

Matches tend to be short and sweet, especially if you suck at it, like me. To watch a winner, check out Starfish_central.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: CLOCKWORK TALES Of Glass and Ink

This week I tried a game called CLOCKWORK TALES: Of Glass and Ink, a throwback to my days of playing point-and-click puzzle adventures on the PC. A decade or so ago, when my kids were little and I didn’t have a lot of time or energy for longer, more challenging games, I would entertain myself with the likes of Azada, Mystery Case Files, and Dream Chronicles.

In CLOCKWORK TALES, you are Evangeline Glass and must save your mentor Dr. Ink, who disappears while investigating the cause of powerful earthquakes in the small snowy town of Hochwald. Developed by Artifex Mundi and published in 2013, the game has hand-drawn scenes inspired by the steampunk genre, and includes a clockwork crow companion, “steambugs” (clockwork insects), a Victorian dollhouse and an airship.

As far as game mechanics, it isn’t much different from the game I played last week, Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Investigations, just a little more complex because it’s meant for teens and adults, not children. You move through a level, interact with people and objects, and figure out how to use those assets to progress through the story. But this one also includes brain teasers and hidden object games.

If you like steampunk and you’re looking for a casual game with an interesting story, check out the video from my livestream where I played the free PS4 demo of CLOCKWORK TALES.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Poem: Still Waiting

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He’ll come and he’ll say, “Lady?”
And I’ll answer him, “My lord?”
And it will be
Beneath this tree,
Twisted in its wood.

“Why leaves here?” he’ll ask me,
And he’ll touch a strand of hair,
Then he’ll brush
The earth and moss
From the gown I wear.

I’ll play for him some music,
And he’ll choose from flute or harp,
A melody
Of stone and ley,
Playing in the dark.

“Why so long here, lady?”
And he’s answered with a breeze,
The moon will rise
Upon the wise
Who dance between the trees.

He’ll come and he’ll say, “Lady,”
And I’ll answer him, “My love,”
With longing need
Burns the faerie blood.

~ J.L. Hilton (c) 1992

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Fallout 4: Two Roads Diverged in a Wasteland

*   *   *  SPOILER WARNING  *   *   *

Rose is my second Sole Survivor, a melee build who became raider overboss in Fallout 4 by level 22. Today, I reached episode 111 of Rose’s journey on my Youtube channel, and a very special bonus video “111 Kisses” tells the story of Granny’s Kiss, her rocket-powered baseball bat, available 11/11.

For a long time, I focused on Nuka World content, clearing the park, restoring power, grabbing the Quantum X-01 Power Armor, building raider outposts throughout the Commonwealth, and completely ignoring Preston Garvey in Concord.

But when I eventually made my way to the Institute in episode 78, I knew Rose had some important decisions to make. Role-playing is my favorite part of video games. As a writer with a vivid imagination — and a psych degree — I love the mental exercise of working out my characters’ motivations, envisioning how they would interact with other characters and react to situations in the game.

This story is about a crossroads where Rose must weigh the options of Fallout 4‘s main questline from the perspective of a reluctant raider overboss, rather than the heroic ghoul-loving perspective of my first Sole Survivor Fiona, general of the Minutemen.

What Rose decides here will set the path she follows throughout the rest of the game, and determine the fate of the wasteland.

Rated M (Mature) for language, sexual references, drugs and alcohol.

1,100 words.

*   *   *

Two Roads Diverged in a Wasteland

The Institute teleporter placed Rose so close to Starlight Drive-In, she could smell vodka and hear Redeye singing in the distance. She headed down the broken pavement of the pre-war road, toward the lights of the outpost, and waved to the raider at the gate. He looked like he belonged in a morgue, not on guard duty.

“Hey, Overboss, you raising hell?”

“Ain’t nothing but hell around here.”

“Right on.”

She hadn’t meant that in a good way, but she didn’t bother explaining. Fuck it. Scanning the half-assed shacks for a glimpse of Gage’s mohawk, she searched the scavenger’s shed, Python’s junk shop, and the chem cooker’s crash pad. Nobody talked to her, because nobody gave a shit. And she didn’t talk to them because she didn’t give a shit, either.

Nobody knew she’d been grifting the Brotherhood of Steel, sucking up to that puppy dog Danse and the big prig Elder Maxson so they’d build a molecular relay. Nobody asked why she was out alone, or wondered where she’d been the past two days while she was inside the most mysterious fucking headquarters in the Commonwealth, where her own son was the big boss of a high-tech gang that made mutants and synths.

And they wouldn’t believe her if she told them. They’d just laugh and offer her more chems.

Gage found her before she found him. “What the fuck are you doin’ here?”

That’s what passed for warm a welcome from her second-in-command. She turned around and met his eye. Just the one, because he wore a stupid-ass eyepatch that he didn’t really need but thought made him look mean or some shit.

She twirled Granny’s Kiss, her rocket-powered baseball bat, and placed the end of it against the welded bars of his armored chest. “Looking for you.”

Gage nodded at the big drive-in movie screen. “I was up top. Saw you come in. Also saw a big flash of light. What the hell was that?”

“I used the relay to get back, same way I got in.”

“So, it worked.”

Rose headed up the stairs to their personal penthouse of burlap canopies and old furniture, high above the jet-heads and shitbirds. Gage followed. The platform above the movie screen gave them a 360-degree view of the wasteland. She could even see the Brotherhood’s militarized airship, the Prydwen, in the distance, floating above the old Boston airport.

“Nope, didn’t work. I turned into green goo and they replaced me with a synth.”

Gage scowled harder than usual. “I hope that’s a joke.”

She set Granny’s Kiss on the table and dropped onto the couch. The same couch where she’d fucked him two days ago, which had seemed like the thing to do before going off on a crazy suicide mission. “Would a synth know you have an 8-inch cock that only lasts five minutes?”

“Ha, ha. It weren’t no ‘five minutes,’ more like ten.”

“And you’re bragging about that?”

“Best ten minutes of your life.” The scowl softened into a look of mild irritation. “Damn it, boss, you come strolling in here like you were just out picking hubflowers. I thought I’d never see you again. I was fixing to head back to Nuka World, hand everything over to the next asshole who made it through the gauntlet.”

He actually, sorta, sounded like he cared. Rose pulled a pack of fresh cigarettes from her pocket and lit one with a shiny gold lighter she’d boosted from an Institute egghead, and asked, “Still not interested in running the place yourself?”

“You know how I feel about that.”

“Yeah, you don’t like having a target on your back. I know.”

“You find out anything about your kid?”

“Shaun’s alive and well.”

“Well, that’s good, right?”

She took a long drag and tapped the ashes on the metal floor. “I guess.”

“I didn’t exactly peg you as mother of the year, but I thought you might care a little more than that. You gonna just leave him there?”

“He’s not a kid any more. Turns out, they took him out of the vault years ago and he’s grown now, works for the Institute. That’s why they let me come and they let me go.”

It wasn’t exactly the truth, but close enough.

“Damn. Who was the kid with Kellogg?”

Rose shrugged. “Some other kid.” A synth version of younger Shaun, but she kept that to herself.

“So, what now, Boss?”

“We got the Brotherhood and the Institute trying to make the Commonwealth their own Cola Cars Arena. Just a matter of time before one of them starts breathing down our necks. I guess it’s too much to hope they wipe each other out and leave us alone.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem with having shit. Somebody always wants to take it away.”

Rose flicked her cigarette butt at the raiders below. “This lot can barely organize itself to clean latrines or go on a raid. They won’t withstand serious heat from the Brotherhood or the Institute.”

“We got an inside guy, though, right? Your kid?”

She shook her head. “I might be his mother but they raised him. He won’t help us.”

“Gunners won’t do jack shit but shoot us. Half of ’em probably signing up for the Brotherhood right now.”

“The Railroad hates both sides.”

“Bunch of kooks.”

“Crazy or not, if I thought we could use them, I would, but from what I’ve seen, they don’t have the resources to take a mutant camp, let alone an army of synths or a battalion of power-armored paladins.”

He leaned his hard ass against the railing and crossed his arms. “So, what do you suggest?”

“You left your family to be on the winning side. Would it be much of a stretch to leave Nuka World, too?”

“I ain’t joining the Institute. Fuck that.”

“Well, yeah, fuck that. No matter how clean and shiny it is – and it is very clean and very shiny – it’s fucked up. But what if I tip the odds in the Brotherhood’s favor? Give them some insider information about the Institute?”

“Seeing as you’ve been inside.”

“Exactly. So let’s join the Brotherhood. It’s just another gang, with better weapons and no chems. Isn’t that what you want? You’re always bitching at me whenever I use mentats or jet.”

“I’m not very good at behaving myself or taking orders. That’s why I never joined the Gunners. Well, that, and I don’t get hard for assaultrons.”

“You don’t seem to mind doing what I tell you.”

“Because when you tell me to do something, it makes sense. And if it don’t, I let you know.”

Or you grab the next sap who survives the gauntlet and help him kill me.

Rose had no illusions that Gage loved her or that his loyalty would last any longer than her usefulness. She decided it would be best, for now, to go on playing all sides and see what panned out. When and if the time came to jump ship, with or without Gage, she’d be ready. She’d survive.

~ J.L. Hilton

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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of livestream viewers

I’ve streamed hundreds of hours of video gaming on my Youtube channel, and I’ve noticed that viewers fall into a few basic categories.

Good – These are the best! They are viewers who “like,” subscribe, and sometimes even pledge money on Patreon. They might be Lurkers who quietly enjoy the content, or they might be active participants who ask relevant questions, give helpful suggestions, offer friendly banter during live chat, and leave supportive comments on my videos. I love and appreciate them all.

Bad – Viewers who detract from the overall experience, but are easy to deal with and only mildly annoying. They tend to be one of the following sub-types:

  • Me Monster – I love hearing about my viewers but the Me Monster takes it way too far. They seek therapy, job advice, homework help, or an audience for political soapboxes, dominating the chat room and making other viewers uncomfortable.
  • Mod Maniac – Talks about nothing but mods and asks about mods until I finally give my “Why I Don’t Use Mods” spiel, then they vanish.
  • Self-promoter – Viewers who only talk about their own channel and ask for subscribers. I understand the desire to build an audience, but promoting yourself during someone else’s livestream — uninvited — is uncool.

Ugly – Youtube has tools for moderating inappropriate comments and blocking unwelcome visitors, so other viewers may not even realize these abusive folks exist. But, trust me, they do. If I seem to be distracted during a livestream, it’s probably because I’m fending off some jerk using multiple accounts to harass me in the chat room.

  • Hater – Jumps into the chat room with “you suck,” “this game sucks,” and other negative garbage.
  • Misogynist – A variation of the Hater but opens with such gems as “suck my dick” in the chat room. They often repeat “bitch,” “cunt” or “slut” over and over again.
  • Splainer – Isn’t as obvious as a Hater or a Misogynist, because the seem nice enough at first. But there’s an undertone of bullying or condescension to their “helpful” comments, and they will often try to dominate the chat room like a Me Monster. Splainers join a livestream titled something like “Skyrim episode 92” to explain how the game is played (despite the fact that I’ve obviously been playing for at least 92 livestreams); tell me what weapons and armor I should use while totally ignoring my build, play style, difficulty level and/or the needs of the current mission; and give spoilers, such as discussing rare artifacts or plot twists, which 999 times out of 1000 I’ve already collected or experienced anyway.

If you’re just getting started or considering livestreaming, try not to be discouraged. Fortunately, the Good far outnumber the Bad and the Ugly.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: ADVENTURE TIME Finn & Jake Investigations

After the month of October, chock full of Halloween creepiness and games like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, The Town of Light, and BioShock: The Collection, it was time to try something simple and lighthearted this week.

My 13-year-old tried the free demo of ADVENTURE TIME: FINN & JAKE INVESTIGATIONS and asked me to buy the full game and the bonus Artifact Checking adventure with Marceline, so I decided to play it, too.

This game was published in 2015 for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. I’ve seen it referred to as an “action adventure” and I guess that’s accurate, but this isn’t Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed.

ADVENTURE TIME: FINN & JAKE INVESTIGATIONS is a kids’ story game with occasional arena style battles but mostly, as the title suggests, investigations. It’s similar to a escape room mobile game, where you explore a very limited map, pick up objects, and figure out how to progress to the next part of the story by using the objects in creative ways.

As someone who’s played a ton of point-and-click puzzle adventure games including Azada, Dream Chronicles, Myst, and Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy, the levels were too easy for me, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. I’ll be playing CLOCKWORK TALES next week, which should be a little more of a challenge.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: UNTIL DAWN Rush of Blood

My husband got UNTIL DAWN: RUSH OF BLOOD back when he got the PSVR, but we’d forgotten all about it until I found it the other day, still wrapped in plastic. Such serendipity! The perfect game for a Halloween Try-It Tuesday!

Warning: Turn down your volume, I’m a screamer.

This is an arcade survival horror first-person shooter, developed by Supermassive Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment in October 2016. In this spin-off of Until Dawn (which I haven’t played) you ride a twisted roller coaster through a cheesy carnival-style haunted house while shooting at creepy objects and even creepier enemies.

Virtual reality is super cool and I wish the PSVR didn’t make me nauseous and give me a headache. As games go, this was an incredible experience. Really well done. Takes first-person-shooter to a whole new level.

But I don’t usually play horror games, so this was extremely outside of my comfort zone. I don’t mind spooky stuff. I don’t even mind violence. I’ve seen the movies Crimson Peak and Stonehearst Asylum, and every episode of Hemlock Grove and Penny Dreadful. But I don’t like the serial killer clown kind of horror, so I won’t be playing any more of UNTIL DAWN: RUSH OF BLOOD any time soon.

I watched my husband play the second level, which featured a pig slaughterhouse and a pornographic dollhouse. He wore the VR headset and I watched the TV screen. Much better for my blood pressure that way.

~ J.L. Hilton

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With Halloween a week away, I decided to try the psychological horror game THE TOWN OF LIGHT. Developed by LKA, it was released for PC in February 2016 and for consoles earlier this year. The setting is based on an actual mental hospital in Tuscany and the protagonist, Renée, is based on medical files read by the developers.

I usually avoid scary movies and games like the plague, but from what I saw, it lacks jump scares, monsters and blood splatter. The real horror is what human beings do to each other. The most frightening shadows are those within us.

I liked THE TOWN OF LIGHT more than Murdered: Soul Suspect, another story game aka “walking simulator” I played recently. I like first-person POV much more than third-person, but I think it’s more than that.

THE TOWN OF LIGHT felt mature and engaging in a very visceral way, with better storytelling — not just better writing, but the way the environment created a narrative with lighting, sound effects, object placement, and camera angles. Like comparing an Alfred Hitchcock film to Ghost Whisperer. Both enjoyable, but one’s on another level.

I’ve heard that there are four possible endings, depending on choices made in the game. I’m really interested in seeing more than the free demo.

~ J.L. Hilton

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I’d never played a Metal Gear Solid game before, so when Playstation offered the 2015 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN free for PS+ members, I decided to try it. From a few Youtube videos, the game looked like an open world military stealth adventure with really good graphics and a few weird elements, such as hiding in cardboard boxes and capturing things with balloons.

Well, based on the hour-long totally over the top tutorial level, the game is even weirder than that.

As the protagonist, “Snake,” I woke up in a hospital to discover I had no left arm, been in a coma for nine years, and contained over 100 pieces of shrapnel, some of which were other people’s bones and teeth. Then an assassin killed my doctor and nurse with a wire, and a guy without pants (or underwear) helped me escape. We were chased by the X-men’s gimp on a flying flame unicorn, an army, Pippi Longstocking, and a helicopter-eating red whale, but were saved by a cowboy. And, no, this wasn’t a dream sequence. Then I picked flowers and went on a mission to return a man’s sunglasses.

If that makes any sense to you, maybe you’ve played a Metal Gear Solid game before. Honestly, the whole thing felt like someone watched a 10-year-old boy playing with a box of old toys at a yard sale, and then turned that into a video game prologue.

None of it seemed to have anything to do with the actual gameplay, which — once I got into it — was pretty much like DISHONORED without the corpse-eating rats, lore books, bath salts, and crumbling Victorian architecture: Sneak around, kill people, hide bodies.

From what I understand, if I continue playing, I’ll have my own secret base where I can kidnap soldiers to work for me, punch them for morale, and ogle at a woman who is medically required to wear a bikini.

The Phantom Pain also used this amazing song, written by David Bowie, which somehow I’d never heard before.

~ J.L. Hilton

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