This is where I track the games that I'm currently playing. I try to update it once per month if I've been playing something new (to me).

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March 2020

Escape From Tarkov

Tarkov is a looter wrapped in an FPS. You, and teammates if you have them, are spawned at random places around a map and your primary goal is to make it to your designated exit alive. Your secondary goal is to get as much loot as you can, either by killing players and NPCs or finding loot in the world. It's a decent enough game, conceptually, and the loot is (painfully) detailed -- down to the individual rounds you can load in a magazine. Your "main" character can play any time, but you also have a disposable "scavenger" character that can spawn in every fifteen minutes -- with a random loadout. This gives you a chance to get loot without really risking anything. Again, conceptually this game is pretty solid. The execution is lacking, however. The game runs terribly and the server infrastructure is pathetic given the number of players the developer is trying to support. The player movement is lumbering, the controls are cumbersome, and the "realism" of not having a HUD to see your teammates is zero fun and makes you not want to play with your friends. This was a game hyped by streamers who were paid to hype it, and my gaming group bought into the hype. It was a waste of fifty dollars as far as I'm concerned. It's also not available Steam or any major platform, and runs in its own launcher, which is another huge negative. This is an unpolished early access title that's selling for full price, and if it doesn't improve I won't be playing it again. I consider it a $50 lesson in why nobody should ever trust YouTube and Twitch "influencers," and how you can be affected by their dishonesty even if you're not a primary party to it. Caveat emptor, no refunds.

February 2020

Apex Legends

Driven away from PUBG by absolutely rampant cheating, my gaming group decided to give Apex Legends another try after first playing it about a year ago. We weren't overly enamored with it previously, and the sentiment more or less holds now, but the game has improved somewhat since our first go-around. Apex is a free-to-play, hero-based battle royale which pits teams of three against each other in a fight to the last team standing. Each player chooses a character for the match, with different heroes having different special abilities -- one on a short cooldown, and one ultimate on a longer cooldown, as well as some passives. The game makes its money via paid faster unlocking of additional heroes and cosmetics. The grind to get unlocks without spending real money is fair, and not too arduous. My team seemed to win our fair share of matches initially, but we seemed to rapidly move into much tougher matches - presumably via the game's matchmaking. Within a couple weeks of play we were no longer winning any matches and we rapidly lost interest. Studies in lab rat play-fighting show that if they don't win at least some of the time, they stop playing, and I guess we aren't that different. Still, it was a nice break from getting hacked in PUBG.

January 2020

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

I usually play an hour or two of a Tomb Raider game and then shelve it, but this title drew me in a little more with its immersive setting in the Peruvian jungles and its stunning visuals. (click to enlarge high res image) For those unfamiliar, Tomb Raider games are typically over-the-shoulder adventures chock full of platformer-like jumping, climbing, shooting, looting, and plenty of stealthing around -- with puzzles. The closest I could compare to another series would be a more linear and constrained Far Cry, with a more polished environment. I'm about ten hours into the campaign and I think I'm getting close to finishing it, but I haven't done any side missions or exploring so my completion percentage is probably not that high. Like other Tomb Raider games before it, Shadow suffers from an excess of long cut scenes, and the occasional twitchy sequence that makes you feel like you're playing an 80's laser disc game, guessing the right keys to press at the right time to keep from dying. On the whole, the puzzles are satisfying, the plot is more than tolerable, and the gameplay in general is fun. The game's beautiful environment and the design of tombs and crypts are very well done, and I recommend giving it a shot.

→ previous year (2019)

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