Star Trek Resurgence - title

Dramatic Labs is a relatively small, independent studio releasing their first game. As such, I want to give them some slack when it comes to the technical aspects of the game. That being said, the technical problems here aren't just superficial things like a choppy framerate or texture pop-in; they are things that have a big impact on the story, and which are impossible to ignore.

Even in the opening chapters (which I would expect to be the most polished part of the game), the dialogue frequently glitches out. It will replay the first line of a character's dialogue, and then skip the last line of their dialogue. At first, this was only a minor inconvenience because I was able to read the subtitles. But a few minutes later, the subtitles started disappearing as well, making it impossible for me to know for sure what was supposed to have been said. In a game that is supposed to be one long, interactive cutscene that requires the player to respond to dialogue, these problems with the playback of dialogue and subtitles is a big deal.

Furthermore, I suffered from a hard crash to the PS4's dashboard, and another soft lock when the game got stuck in tricorder mode and wouldn't accept any scan inputs. The tricorder soft lock happened at the same place in both of my playthroughs of the game, while trying to scan a miner's locker room for traces of DNA. If I walked to a certain corner of the kitchenette and pulled up the tricorder, the game wouldn't let me put the tricorder away or scan anything. In both cases, I had to exit to the game's main menu, reload the level, and then avoid that corner of the kitchenette in order to proceed.

Most of the game is responding to dialogue, so it's a big problem that some of the dialogue gets skipped.

These crashes and soft locks are particularly annoying because in both cases, they forced me to have to redo a large chunk of lengthy chapters of the game. And with no way to skip non-interactive sequences or dialogue, these replays really dragged. I don't necessarily mind having to sit through cutscenes and dialogue if I'm doing an alternate playthrough of the game, and hopefully seeing different scenes and experiencing different dialogue, but when I'm replaying the same section of a single playthrough and replicating the choices that I made verbatim, it's pretty annoying.

Also, this isn't really a "technical issue", per se, but the developers didn't bother to hide the PSN trophy information, and many of those trophies provide fairly explicit story spoilers. I also think they accidentally swapped the icons for a couple of pairs of trophies. Heck, even the save files (on PS4) aren't given useful labels. They all just say "Save Data". So if you wanted to backup and reload a save to find out what changes, you'll have to know the date and time of the relevant save because the filename won't help you.

Trophies spoil the story, and the save files all have the same name.

So let's get this out of the way right up front: if you want to play Star Trek Resurgence, you'll have to put up with a lot of technical problems and, let's call them "beginner's mistakes".

Playing with tricorders instead of phasers

But even though Dramatic Labs and co-developer Bruner House are not very experienced with creating games, they definitely do seem to know their Star Trek. If you can look past the glaring technical problems (most of which will hopefully be fixed with post-release patches down the line), Resurgence is a solid piece of Star Trek writing.

This "Telltale formula" is a very good fit for Star Trek, and I'm surprised that it's taken this long for someone to make a Star Trek game like this. Heck, I'm surprised that Telltale themselves never got the license to make a Star Trek game, since they seem to be huge nerds, and Trek seems like it would be right up their alley.

Tricorders might get more screen time than phasers.

A lot of Trek games fall into the trap of trying to adapt Trek into an action-heavy game genre. We've got examples like Elite Forces being a first-person shooter, Armada being a real-time strategy StarCraft clone, Invasion being a dogfighting Colony Wars clone, and so forth. These games usually prioritize phasers and photon torpedoes as the primary way that the player interacts with the play space. Resurgence, however, largely eschews phasers in exchange for pulling out a tricorder.

The Telltale formula (which is probably closest to old-school point-and-click adventures of LucasArts fame) allows the story and characters to take center-stage without having to try to force the majority of player interactions into the rigid boxes of a particular ludic genre. Resurgence is a "Choose Your Own Adventure" game, driven mostly by dialogue. It's basically one long, interactive cutscene that stops every minute or so to ask the player to chose 1 of 3 options for a response to a question.

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Déraciné - title

I've been enjoying the PS5 and the PSVR2. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that when all is said and done, the PS5 might end up being my second favorite console after the PS2. Its novel controller has even rekindled a long-lost love of Gran Turismo. The PSVR2 has been a bit more of a mixed bag. The few games that I've played on it have been good. The set itself is an improvement over the previous hardware in almost every way. It has 1 wire to connect to the console instead of the million cables required to get the original PSVR to connect to the console and TV, and the screen is a lot clearer and more vibrant. The only real downside of the physical hardware is that it is not as comfortable to wear as the original PSVR.

The biggest problem with the PSVR2, however, isn't really a problem with the PSVR2 hardware itself. The problem is the lack of things to play on it. It doesn't really have any killer apps at launch. There's a handful of games that are hardly more than tech demos or glorified expansions for other games. The only full games to be playable in VR at launch were Gran Turismo 7 and Resident Evil: Village, which were already a year or 2 old when the PSVR2 released.

Worst of all, however, is that the PSVR2 does not support any of the original PSVR games for PS4. This is despite the fact that the PS5 was always marketed as being fully backwards compatible with PS4 games. I get that the PSVR2 hardware works under totally different principles compared to the original system (using motion-sensing hardware instead of tracking the headset's position with cameras). But that doesn't mean that Sony couldn't have developed an API to translate the inputs from the PSVR2 into commands that PSVR games could understand. In any case, the net effect is that those of us who bought a PSVR2 are stuck with the hardware's limited library and don't have the luxury of the back-catalog of great PSVR titles. That means no Star Wars: Squadrons, no Resident Evil VII, and no Ace Combat 7, among other PS4 VR games.

The PSVR2 is not backwards-compatible with any of the PS4 VR games.

I actually wasn't aware that the PSVR2 wouldn't support PSVR games when I bought the hardware, and I never owned the original PSVR unit. While I was waiting for the PSVR2 hardware to be delivered, I already bought a fancy new flight stick with the expectation that I would be able to play Star Wars: Squadrons and Ace Combat, and I also bought another PS4 game that I never got around to playing because it was only available for VR. That game was FromSoftware's experimental little VR game, Déraciné. And since the PSVR2 wouldn't play these games on the PS5, I had to ask a friend if I could borrow his original PSVR headset so that I could play them.

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Madden NFL - title

I'm going to change pace a little bit for this installment of "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football". Previously, I've focused on the rules of the game and on on-field gameplay. This time, I'm going to go off the field and start talking about team-building and coaching strategies, which are key to creating an engaging Franchise Mode experience.

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The COVID years have been hard on a lot of people, and many of my Patrons had to discontinue their support due to financial hardships. I want to take a moment to wish all my former Patrons the best. I hope that 2022 treated you better, and that 2023 will be better yet. I'd also like to thank my current Patrons and those who stuck with me. To all my Patrons -- past, present, and future -- thank you for your support.

Now let's talk football! I'm writing drafted this essay in the month or 2 leading up to the 2023 NFL Draft, so this topic will actually be kind of relevant at the time that it is published.

The full video on YouTube contains additional commentary and examples.

One of the ways that Madden is most different from real life football is that in Madden, the exact skill level of every player in the league is known to everyone all the time. Because of the way that Madden implements player attributes and progression, users don't have to evaluate player talent at all. Ever. In the vast majority of cases, ordering your depth chart is a simple matter of sorting the players by their overall ratings. And if it's not the overall rating, then there's usually a single other attribute rating that determines who starts and who doesn't. It's usually speed. For example, I favor kick and punt returners with speed, and usually put my fastest reserve player as my starting returner, regardless of his overall rating. So yes, there are some edge cases where a user gets to make judgement calls about which player better fits your play style. But for the most part, it's all about that overall rating.

This means that there is no mystery or question about which players are actually good, which players aren't so good, and which players are outright busts. It also means that Madden doesn't have true position battles. One player is objectively better than the other in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, even if it is just marginally so. It means there's no question whether a free agent or trade will be an upgrade over the players already on your roster. It means that there isn't much value in testing out rookies in the preseason because you already know exactly how good those players are, and whether they are deserving of a starting position or roster spot based on their overall rating.

All of the intrigue and "what ifs" that go into roster movements and decisions in NFL front offices are simply non-existent in Madden because so much of the game is based on these absolute numbers that are completely open and transparent to everybody.

Trubisky vs Pickett
photo credit: Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Dean vs Edwards
photo credit: John Jones / Icon Sportswire
Every year, there are questions about who is the best player in many teams' lineups.

Think of some of the big questions from early in the 2022 season: Is Mitch Trubisky better than the rookie Kenny Pickett? Should Devin Singletary get more carries than James Cook? How about Tony Pollard or Ezekiel Elliot? Should the Packers look to Allen Lazard or Sammy Watkins to replace the lost productivity of Devante Adams? Will Nakobe Dean play well enough as a rookie linebacker for the Eagles, or should they stick with their veteran starter from last year? Is Bailey Zappe better than Mac Jones? Is Trey Lance better than Jimmy Garoppolo?

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Chicago Bears alt logo

After the end of the NFL season, I was expecting (and hoping) for the Bears to prioritize taking an offensive tackle or a wide receiver. Those were the 2 weakest spots on the offensive, and the things that would help Justin Fields the most. Defense was also problematic, and I would have been fine with a defensive pick. But I wasn't hoping for any particular defensive pick because the defense was just kind of bad on the whole, and there wasn't really 1 or 2 positions that could single-handedly fix the defense. The defense would need a lot of work in free agency as well.

But then the Bears made some free-agency moves that changed things. The first was trading away the top overall pick to the Panthers in exchange for DJ Moore. That filled the wide receiver need, and Darnell Mooney can go back to a secondary or slot role, where I think he will do much better.

The Bears also traded David Montgomery to the Lions. This left them with an underwhelming backfield of Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, and Darrynton Evans. Herbert could probably be a serviceable starter, but only in a rotational role. I was high on him when he was drafted, but I don't see him being a productive every-down back.

DJ Moore
photo credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
David Montgomery
photo credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images
The Bears acquired receiver DJ Moore from Carolina, and traded David Montgomery to the Lions.

So considering that the defense needs a complete overhaul that couldn't be satisfied with just a single draft pick, and the offseason moves, my personal top two priorities for the Bears heading into the draft were running back and offensive tackle.

Another developmental tackle?

Even though the Bears did take an offensive tackle with their 1st-round pick, I was kind of disappointed by the pick. I was hoping for the Bears to take Peter Skoronski, the offensive tackle from Northwestern. He was the highest-rated offensive lineman in this draft class, the only offensive lineman who was a consensus top-15 pick, and the one who was considered the most "pro-ready" by scouts. And he was still available when the Bears went on the clock with the 10th overall pick

The Bears have been relying a lot on veteran free agents in their offensive tackle positions for years now, and have been repeatedly looking for young players to fill those positions long term. They tried drafting Teven Jenkins to play tackle, but he struggled at that position in his first year, was moved to guard, and has been doing well as a guard. Then they threw Braxton Jones into the fire of offensive tackle and traded for Alex Leatherwood from the Raiders to play the opposite tackle. Jones and Leatherwood were serviceable, but inconsistent. Jenkins, Jones, Leatherwood, and also reserve tackle Larry Borom have all proved to developmental projects.

Darnell Wright
photo credit: Daily Herald
I wanted an offensive tackle, but Darnell Wright was not my preferred pick.

Instead of Skoronski, the Bears picked Darnell Wright from Tennessee. Wright is supposed to be a very good run blocker who will probably play right tackle. I fear that he's going to be more developmental when it comes to pass blocking. Unless the Bears find an elite veteran to fill the left tackle position, that position will be a battle between Braxton Jones, Alex Leatherwood, and Larry Borom. If one of them steps up and shows dramatic improvement from last year, then maybe Justin Fields' blindside will be well-protected. If not, Fields may find himself running for his life a lot in 2023, as he had to do in 2022.

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Deliver Us The Moon - title

It's really nice to be seeing more pure science fiction games. Not sci-fi action games like Mass Effect or sci-fi horror games like Prey, in which the sci-fi is just incidental set dressing. But actual science fiction games that explore the human condition as it relates to our advancing technology and understanding of the universe. Games like Outer Wilds, Tacoma, Silicon Dreams, Event [0], and others have been a nice distraction from shooting endless hordes of zombies, demons, and robots.

This is especially true considering that most sci-fi movies and TV shows are more action-heavy and less cerebral. While a movie like Arrival or The Martian comes around every few years and totally blows me away, the days of movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are long gone. Even my beloved Star Trek is trying too hard to look and feel like Star Wars, instead of embracing the low-budget stories and techno-babble that helped make The Next Generation so beloved.

Well, the indie gaming sphere has been pumping out new sci-fi games pretty reliably over the past few years. But they can't all be gems like Outer Wilds. Most are pretty mediocre. Deliver Us The Moon has the potential to be a real gem, but it is held back by poor technical performance (on the PS5) and a final chapter that dragged on and had me more frustrated than contemplative.

The basic concept is that, in the coming decades, humans discover a new isotope of helium on the moon. This isotope is a potent energy source that is mined and processed on the moon, and beamed back to the Earth to supply almost all of humanity's energy needs. However, after years of successful operation (and after humans on Earth have become dependent on the cheap, abundant moon power), the moon colony suddenly shuts down with no word or warning as to why. After years of silence and darkness, our playable character is launched to the moon to figure out why the energy stopped flowing, and to hopefully turn it back on.

In space, no one can hear the game crash

Right off the bat, I was annoyed by the camera controls. Within 10 minutes or so of starting Deliver Us The Moon, I had to go into the settings to increase the camera's sensitivity on the X-axis. Even after doing this, rotating the camera still felt sluggish. I'm not sure how much of this is deliberate. An astronaut in a space suit should feel a bit clunky to move around. But movement and camera panning are different things, and I don't know if clunky movement for an astronaut should translate to sluggish movement by the camera. This wasn't helped by the fact that quickly panning the camera often caused the framerate to stutter (which may also have been a reason for the slow default camera speed).

Earth will be largely without electricity unless we can restore the moon colony.

I was surprised and disappointed by how poorly Deliver Us The Moon performs on the PS5, especially considering that it's a pretty small game that mostly takes place in the confines of a small moon base. It's not like it's rendering a massive open world, or computing enemy pathfinding, or combat A.I., or supporting dozens of players in multiplayer. Yet the framerate is constantly dropping while just walking around the station.

In one case, I walked around a desk to check if the computer had any open emails that I could read, the game just crashed completely. It autosaves frequently, so I only lost a minute or 2 of progress. But still, why does such a simple little game have such horrendous performance problems on a "next-gen" console? I don't know if the PC or XBox versions are this bad, but regardless of which platform you play on, be prepared for crashed, freezes, and framerate drops.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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