Cities Skylines: Hotels and Retreats - title

Surely this has to be the last DLC that Cities: Skylines is receiving, given that the sequel is due out this fall. This last wave of expansions and content creator packs has scratched a lot of very specific itches that I've had with Cities: Skylines for a long time, and they've had me playing the game a lot lately. I've been building a large city up over 100 thousand population, and also going back to some older save files and either upgrading them to use newer DLC assets, or to replace old mod assets with analogous official DLC assets.

A near seamless fit

What I really like about Hotels & Retreats is how seamlessly they fit into the existing game. Like with Industries, Campus, and Airports, I feel that Hotels & Retreats could easily have fallen into the trap of replacing old assets and rendering them moot or useless. Like, if the DLC had added a "resort area" mechanic using the Parklife area painting mechanic with modular hotels and resorts, it could easily have caused me to stop using the After Dark leisure and tourism district specializations (just like I've basically stopped using farm, forestry, oil, and ore industry specializations because I use the Industries areas instead).

Hotels & Retreats works very well alongside other expansion content!

Instead of feeling like a replacement for the existing tourism districts, the content of Hotels & Retreats is a great supplement. In fact, it feels like it could easily have been part of the After Dark expansion. Or the Parklife expansion. Or the Airports expansion. Or Plazas & Promenades. Or even the previous Financial Districts DLC.

Each hotel has preferences for proximity to a combination of city landmarks, shopping, offices, or nature. How well the hotel's location fits its unique combination of those 4 preferences will determine how popular it is for guests, which in turn will influence how much (if any) profit it makes, and the player can set its pricing accordingly. A business hotel placed in the middle of an IT or financial specialty district, along with some nearby commercial districts, will generate high profit; while a rental cabin will do best if placed in the vicinity of a nature preserve, in the middle of a forest, or along a pristine scenic coastline.

Each individual hotel's profit is aggregated into a total profit margin for the "chain" of hotels, and higher-level hotels are unlocked by increasing the weekly profit of the entire chain. So improperly-placed or poorly-performing hotels can be subsidized by the fully-occupied, perfectly-placed hotels with higher prices and profit margins.

Cheap, unprofitable niche hotels can be subsidized by the more popular and expensive hotels.
[More]

Silent Hill 2 remake

By the time you read this, the remake of Silent Hill 2, being developed by Bloober, is less than 2 months from its expected release. So nothing I write here can possibly change the game. But there has been something that has been nagging at the back of my brain ever since the first trailer for the remake released. Since most of the concern about Bloober's Silent Hill 2 is focused on their historically awful depictions of mental health and trauma, I haven't seen a whole lot of content addressed at this particular concern of mine. So I thought I'd share my thoughts.

First and foremost, I will be discussing the story and ending of the original Silent Hill 2, as well as speculation regarding whether Bloober will change this ending, or somehow botch its execution. As far as I'm concerned, the announcement trailer has already shown that it will be one or the other: a changed ending, or a botched ending. But in any case, if you haven't played Silent Hill 2 before and don't want to be spoiled, then don't read this post. You've been warned.

The announcement trailer for Silent Hill 2: Remake.

Before moving on, feel free to check out the announcement trailer in its entirety, above. You can also watch this complete analysis in video essay format on YouTube.

This entire analysis is also available in video essay format on YouTube.

The original opening

For anyone still here after the spoiler warning, let's talk a little bit about the opening scene of Silent Hill 2, how it relates to the game's ending(s), how this same scene is depicted in the remake trailer, and what the changes to that scene mean for the ending. Silent Hill 2 opens as such:

A mostly calm and collected James Sunderland stares at himself in a dirty bathroom mirror, taking a deep breath, and then walking out to a scenic overlook to explain the premise of the game. He got a letter from his wife, who died of a terminal illness 3 years ago. The letter says that she's alive and waiting for him in Silent Hill. He knows it can't possibly be true, but if there's any chance that she is somehow still alive, he has to know.

This opening shows us a James who is supposedly 3 years removed from the death of his wife. He isn't necessarily grieving any more, but doesn't seem to have completely moved on; otherwise, why be here? Regardless, he is completely surprised by this letter and in disbelief. This is a subtle, subdued opening that gives the player little reason not to take this all at face value. And it goes on to follow this up with a slow-burn opening act to the game, in which James strolls casually through a wooded path along the lake and doesn't encounter anything overtly scary or threatening for a good 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the pace that the player is going.

The original is subdued and gives little reason to not take the premise at face value.

This puts the player in the same headspace as James. We are just as confused, surprised, and curious as him, but with that nagging certainty that all must not be as it seems. This allows the player to role play as James in good faith and sets up the game's eventual twist, and also sets a relatively clean slate for the various ending triggers. The player doesn't see James as anything other than a confused husband, desperately hoping to see his possibly-not-dead wife again. The player is able to play James as such, and how you role play as James will inform how he eventually deals with the game's twist revelation. But the game will be slowly pulling the rug out from under James and the player over the course of the game, gradually establishing him as an un-reliable narrator.

Considering the additional context that this is a sequel to Silent Hill (which was about a father trying to rescue his daughter from a demonic cult), players may have had even less reason to not trust James. They have no clue that this game is going to deviate from the first game's premise and be an introspective and metaphorical tale that is almost completely divorced from the first game's plot. They just know it has the number 2 in the title, so it probably follows from the story of its predecessor. Maybe Mary really is alive? Maybe she's another vessel for the cult's demon god? Or maybe her soul was also split and there's a psychic Mary doppelganger living in Silent Hill who is summoning James to help her stop the cult's plans? Or maybe that doppelganger wants to trick him into helping the cult? And hey, guess what? A few hours into the game, we do indeed meet a Mary doppelganger!

Based on the opening minutes of the game, Silent Hill 2 can go in a lot of potential different directions, either introspective, supernatural, cult-driven, or any combination thereof.

[More]

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.
[More]

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.

[More]

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.

[More]
Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

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.

Check out my YouTube content at YouTube.com/MegaBearsFan.

Follow me on Twitter at: twitter.com/MegaBearsFan

Patreon

If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:
Patreon.com/MegaBearsFan

FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

Random Post

After playing Maximum Football 2018, I'm in no rush to learn Canadian football anytime soonAfter playing Maximum Football 2018, I'm in no rush to learn Canadian football anytime soon08/06/2018 We finally have some competition in the football video game sector! Canadian developer Canuck Play recently released PS4 and XBox One versions of its Maximum Football 2018 game. Canuck Play is a small, independent studio with limited staff. In fact, I couldn't find a count of how many employees or developers they have, so as...

Month List

Recent Comments

Comment RSS