I recently played an indie sci-fi game on the PS5 titled Deliver Us The Moon. It was alright. I rather liked the story, and most of the methods that the game uses to deliver that story. It's very similar to Tacoma in terms of how it tells its story, but with a greater emphasis on player-driven problem-solving and puzzles. It's biggest problem, however, is the surprisingly poor performance and frequent technical problems. Even on the PS5, this borderline walking sim was barely able to keep a steady framerate, and I experienced multiple hard crashes.

That being said, I still recommend it for gamers who happen to be fans of hard science fiction, because our options in that particular sub-genre are fairly limited. We have butt-loads of fantasy sci-fi games about space marines shooting aliens or robots, or about dog-fighting in outer space. You know, you're Mass Effects, Halos, Dead Spaces, StarCrafts, Colony Wars, and so on (remember Colony Wars? Man that would be an excellent candidate for a reboot on modern consoles, especially if it includes full VR support!). These are the games that are "sci-fi" in the same way that Star Wars or Transformers or pretty much any comic book movie are "sci-fi" movies.

But as far as the video game equivalents of harder sci-fi movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Arrival or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the well is considerably drier, and most of what we do have is relegated to smaller indie titles. Don't get me wrong, we have some great options! Games like Soma and Outer Wilds are some of my favorite games ever.

So when I see a hard sci-fi game like Deliver Us The Moon pop up on a gaming storefront, I try to make an effort to play it. There's plenty of total flops in this sub-genre, but there's also some real gems. And I think that if Deliver Us The Moon could have its performance stabilized, it might qualify as one of those gems. But this video isn't a review of Deliver Us The Moon. I have a full written review on my personal blog at www.MegaBearsFan.net, if you want to read it. Instead, I want take a few minutes to dive into one particular aspect of the story and premise of Deliver Us The Moon that just kind of grinds my gears. It's a problem that I've seen repeated multiple games and movies that try to address this particular socio-political topic, and I worry that it might be doing more harm than good to the public's perception of this issue.

A big issue that I have with Deliver Us The Moon is its near-future depiction of apocalyptic climate change.

This essay was released early to Patrons in video format.
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Endling: Extinction Is Forever - title

Hey! I finally actually downloaded and played one of the PSN free monthly games for a change! Endling: Extinction Is Forever has been on my Steam wishlist for a while, but I passed on buying it during this summer sale because I instead spent most of my summer sale money on vintage Star Trek games as research for an upcoming video essay. Well, I got lucky because a week or 2 later, Endling showed up, for free, on the PSN!

Endling: Extinction Is Forever may look like a cutesy little indie game featuring a cute little fox taking care of her cute little fox babies in a beautiful, lush, vibrantly-animated forest. But as the game's title should hopefully suggest, this game is not nearly as cute and pastoral as the thumbnail suggests. Endling is actually quite a bleak and depressing game that addresses ecological collapse, species extinction, corporate greed, the cruelty of humans when they're desperate, and other similar themes.

It has sparks of optimism. There are opportunities to show compassion and to cooperate with other animals and humans. But they are fleeting, and often punctuate tragedy anyway.

There are brief flickers of compassion and optimism, but Endling is an overall bleak game.

So yes, if you download this game, you will get cute, cartoon foxes frolicking in vibrantly-colored woods. And they are adorable and charming. But then again, Bambi and The Land Before Time were also colorfully-animated movies about cute woodland critters, and ... well ...

Motherly instinct

The game begins with the player controlling a fox escaping a raging forest fire. She reaches her den and it is revealed that she is pregnant, and she immediately gives birth to four little fox pups, which the player can customize with different colors to add your own personal touch to the game. But before you can even get around to naming them, a monstrous human hunter reaches into the den, grabs one of the pups, and kidnaps it. You now have 3 little fox pups who are wholly dependent on you, and it is your job to keep them fed and safe.

The gameplay loop consists of leaving the den each night to explore the forest and scavenge or hunt for food to feed your remaining pups, while also, occasionally picking up the trail of the human hunter who kidnapped your fourth pup. Then you must return to your den before the sun comes up, or else the forest will become populated with human hunters and trappers who will relentlessly pursue you and your pups for your meat and skins. And if you fail to find enough food in a given day, one of the cubs will starve to death.

As the game progresses, the humans destroy more and more of the ecosystem.

As you explore, your cubs may also learn various survival skills of their own, which allows them to reach new places, or access food that the mother fox cannot reach. There are some skills that all the pups can learn, but most skills can only be learned by a single pup in a given playthrough, which means that using that pup's skill to access a hard-to-reach place will mean leaving the other cubs behind.

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Star Wars Armada wave II

I might have been a bit unfair to X-Wing when I originally reviewed the Star Wars: Armada core set. I gave Armada a pretty glowing recommendation and praised it for giving the player more meaningful decisions and for fixing a handful of complaints that I had with X-Wing. But I kind of neglected the fact that the Armada core set has pretty much the same fundamental problem that stopped me from giving a similarly high grade to X-Wing: the limited content of the package.

X-Wing had three small ships, and a handful of alternate pilots and upgrades to add some replayability. But the game really needed some expansions to really come into its own. And I pointed that out in my review of X-Wing's core set, and docked its final score.

Don't get me wrong, Armada does offer more content in its core set than X-Wing did! It also has three ships, along with alternate ship cards and upgrades. But those three ships are different sizes and strengths, and there's ten fighter squadrons to go along with them. Armada's core set also includes the objective cards that helped to give that game more structured play, while X-Wing only had a couple of scenarios. So I still think that the Armada core set offers more value than the X-Wing core set.

However, I also knew that having a roster of expansion ships would improve the game, and I baked that assumption into my review for Armada. This may have been unfair to X-Wing, especially considering that the Armada core set has other problems that X-Wing doesn't have.

The core learning scenario doesn't do the game justice

It's been difficult for me to get friends into playing Armada. X-Wing has always seemed to be the more popular game. It took me a very long time to finally figure out why. During the past couple years of the COVID pandemic, it hasn't been viable to get together large groups for bigger board games, so I focused more on playing smaller, 2 and 3-player games to limit the number of people over at once. Games like X-Wing and Armada were ideal for that situation. In doing so, I tried a new technique for introducing friends to Armada that would hopefully get them up to speed faster, and which also seems to be much more successful than my earlier teaching attempts using the Learning Scenario.

Put simply: Armada's learning scenario is kind of crap. After teaching friends and co-workers to play the game through the learning scenario, their responses to the game has always been a resounding "meh". I then have to spend thirty minutes or an hour explaining [in vain] the merits of the full game to people who have already lost interest.

The learning scenario takes most of the strategic decisions away from the players.

The problem with the learning scenario is that it puts pre-configured fleets up against each other with no upgrade cards, no objectives, and no obstacles to navigate around. Without upgrades giving ships special abilities that can turn the tide of a game, and without objectives that give the players something to fight over, the early-game decisions of setting the starting queue of commands are really the only significant decisions in the entire game. Unfortunately, the learning scenario takes those decisions away from the players by recommending a default starting queue of commands! Once ships have been pointed at each other and met in the middle of the board, the last 3 or 4 turns of the learning game easily degrade into a passive process of drifting ahead and mindlessly rolling attack dice. Or the players forget to queue up a Navigate command, and the ships fly past each other in round 3, and spend the rest of the match trying to circle back around to get back in firing range.

Sid Meier, the designer of the original Civilization PC game has defined a game as "a series of interesting decisions". By that definition, the learning scenario of Star Wars Armada isn't even a game at all because all of the interesting decisions have already been made by the rule book before the players have taken a single turn.

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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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