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As my Patrons and YouTube viewers know, I've been working for the past several months on a lengthy retrospective of Star Trek video games. I currently have 2 preview clips of that lengthy retrospective project available to my Patrons, and I plan to give my Patrons exclusive early access to the entire completed project, while the general public will have each episode released one-at-a-time over the course of multiple weeks. So if you want a preview of that project, or early access when it is finished, you can become a Patron and support my content creation.

As part of that retrospective, I've bought a lot of old Star Trek games to play or re-play. A lot of these games are buggy, or don't run well on modern systems. The Steam version of Starfleet Command, for example, required me to modify an ini file in order to prevent the game from constantly crashing. But of all the old, crappy, or broken Star Trek games I've played, the absolute worst has been Star Trek: Bridge Crew for the PS4/PSVR.

I've been buying and playing old Star Trek games as research for a retrospective.

Bridge Crew is a multiplayer VR game that was released in 2017 by Ubisoft for PSVR and PC. It's a live-service game that uses both the PSN servers and Ubisoft Connect servers to run the multiplayer. I initially skipped this game back in 2017 for a couple reasons. The first is that I didn't have a VR headset. The second is that it was based on the reboot Kelvin-verse films, which simply didn't appeal to me as much as the Prime canon. But I found out recently that the game does actually have DLC that includes Original Series and Next Generation content. Armed now with a friend's PSVR headset and the more appealing prospect of playing VR on the bridge of the Original Enterprise and Enterprise-D, I decided to buy the game and give it a try.

Despite being a 6-year-old game on an obsolete console, Ubisoft and Sony are still charging full price for it, $30. So I assumed that the game must still be fully functional and playable. Or at least, I assumed the single-player would be. In fact, PSN actually lists the game as being a "1 player" game. I had no expectation that the game's multiplayer lobbies would be full of prospective playmates, but I figured that I could at least try out the single-player and see how far I could get.

I was more interested in Bridge Crew after discovering it has TOS and TNG DLC.

After playing through the tutorial and getting through the first 2 story campaign missions, I called it quits for the night. When I came back a couple days later, I found that none of my progress had been saved. The game was prompting me to do the tutorial before starting play, my rank had been reset, all the campaign missions after the first had re-locked, and even my avatar had been reset to a random face. Was there a manual save option in the menus that I had missed?

No, there wasn't. After some online research, I discovered that Ubisoft had recently ended official support for the game and had shut down the servers. Apparently, for the PS4 version of the game, all save progress was stored on the Ubisoft servers. With those servers now offline, game progress could no longer be saved. It's unclear to me whether the online multiplayer still works, as that may go through the PSN instead of Ubisoft's servers. There's nobody in the multiplayer lobbies, but it's unclear if that's because the lobbies go through servers that are offline, or if there simply isn't anybody trying to play the game anymore.

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A few months ago, the Jimquisition had an episode about gamers criticizing game reviews and reviewers for "not finishing the game". James/Stephanie Sterling correctly points out that this complaint with a game review is most often employed to deflect from valid criticism of a game -- usually because the person complaining likes the game and gets overly defensive in response to any criticism. While I agree with James/Stephanie Sterling's response in the original video, I also have strong feelings about other practical concerns regarding whether a video game reviewer should need to finish a game in order to review it. As an amateur game critic and YouTube essayist, this particular brand of attack against reviews and reviewers is relevant to me, my gaming habits, and my content creation, so I hope that I have a worthwhile perspective about this topic.

This essay was inspired by a recent episode of The Jimquisition.

As for the underlying issue of whether a game reviewer should have to finish a game before reviewing it: the answer to that question is a resounding, absolute, unequivocal "no".

As an amateur, who plays games and creates written reviews and video essays, all on my free time, outside of a full-time job, I cannot play every game to end credits -- let alone to 100% completion or a Platinum Trophy.

And you know what? Neither do most players.

This essay is available in video format on YouTube.

Go ahead, take a look at the achievement or trophy metrics for any game you play. You'll probably find that the achievement for beating almost any game will be owned by well below half of all players, and might actually be less than a quarter of players for many longer games like RPGs. And while there are certainly some players who play offline and don't report their stats to Steam, Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo, the achievement stats for the vast, overwhelming majority of games is very closely representative of the population, since most players don't go to the trouble of playing "off the grid".

Finishing a game is a relatively rare thing for the average gamer to do, which means the average gamer isn't going to care if a particular review finished the game or not. That average gamer is probably not going to see the end of the game anyway, so a review that only covers the first half or so of the game will still be perfectly adequate and informative for such a player.

Most games are completed by well under than half of all players.

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So as an "average gamer" who plays as a hobby and writes reviews and other content on the side, as an un-paid amateur, not finishing a game is good enough for me too. Yes, I will try to finish the main campaign of a game that I review, if it's possible and practical. For most shorter games (with campaigns less than 20 hours), I do, indeed, almost always hit the end credits before I publish a review. It will usually take me a few weeks to do it, which is why, even if I bought the game on release day, my reviews will still be several weeks late, or longer. Most of my reviews are practically retro reviews by the time I get them out.

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A video retrospective of the last few years' of Cities: Skylines expansions and DLC is on YouTube.

I recently published a new video essay to my YouTube channel about the last few years' worth of expansions and DLC for Cities: Skylines. I will not transcribe the entire essay here, since most of what is in the essay has already been presented in my various reviews of the relevant expansions and DLC. This video features my impressions of the Campus, Sunset Harbor, Airports, Plazas & Promenades, and Hotels " Retreats expansions, as well as the World Tour DLCs (including the Financial Districts mini-DLC and content creator packs).

In summary, while most of these expansions were even more limited in scope than the earlier Cities: Skylines expansions, they started to show some signs that Colossal Order was starting to address some of my long-standing complaints and criticisms with the earlier expansions. Most notably, the newer expansions started to back-port new features and mechanics into the older expansions, such as adding new buildings if players have other expansions installed, or adding new mixed-use transit options that combine transit methods in the new expansions with transit options found in old expansions. It's a lot of subtle stuff, but it goes a long way towards making all the expansions feel more robust and homogenized.

In addition, the newer expansions and content creator packs started introducing assets that I had been asking for for a very long time. These include native parking lots and garages, sports parks such as baseball diamonds and football fields, and new sports stadiums. Sadly, we still don't have public beaches, water parks, or golf courses.

These subtle changes to the way that the expansions also expand other expansions has me very excited and optimistic that Cities: Skylines II will learn lessons from the original game's expansions' faults, and will offer much more robust and complete expansions.

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For Halloween this year, and in anticipation of Konami announcing new Silent Hill titles, I have adapted an old blog post about the Lakeview Hotel of Silent Hill 2 into a YouTube video essay. The video essay includes some revisions, including clarifications of certain points, further explanation of some of the assumptions and head canon that go into my interpretations, and so forth.

This video essay was available exclusively to Patreons for 2 weeks prior to public release.

This video was available exclusively to Patrons for 2 weeks prior to its public release. If you would like to support my content creation, and get perks such as early access to content, please check out my Patreon page and consider becoming a contributor. And be sure to take the Patron entry survey to tell me which content you like the most, so that I can try to produce more of that type of content.

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Editing of the video and its release to Patrons was completed a couple days before Konami announced its upcoming livestream in which it would announce new games, so I sadly did not know about the new slate of Silent Hill games (including the official announcement and trailer of the Silent Hill 2 remake). At the time of releasing this video, all of that was still rumor -- and not entirely convincing rumor, considering the bevy of Silent Hill rumors that have been floating around since the cancellation of Hideo Kojima's Silent Hills all the way back in 2015.

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I recently posted a new video to my YouTube channel about my frustrations with the design of Control's "challenging" gameplay. I'm not going to transcribe the entire video here on the blog because most of what is in the video is already in my previous written review of the game.

In summary, the video compares the "tough but fair" design philosophy of From Software's games (most notably, Dark Souls) with the way that difficulty is implemented in Control. Even though I found Control to be a much easier game overall, and I suffered far fewer deaths in Control compared to Dark Souls, I did feel that Control lacked that "tough but fair" feeling that Dark Souls is famous for. Control uses a lot of seemingly cheap tricks to artificially inflate the difficulty of the game. If deliberate, then they are cheap tricks. If not deliberate, then they are faulty game design. I may not have died as often in Control, but the few deaths that I did suffer rarely felt deserved.

The full critique is available on YouTube.

The video also contrasts Control's healing system with that of Doom (2016) and Bloodborne. All three games seem to be trying to encourage fast-paced, aggressive play by rewarding the player with health for relentlessly assailing the enemy. Yet this intent doesn't come through as clearly in Control because the player needs to be close to where the enemy dies in order to pick up the health, but most of Control's action is done at medium or long range. Doom and Bloodborne, however, give health to the player when the player performs melee attacks, ensuring that even if the health is dropped on the ground as a pickup, that the player is always close enough to immediately get it if they need it.

One thing that I neglected to mention in the actual video, but which I want to add here, is that Control also has enemies with hit-scan weapons. Most enemies have machine guns that instantly damage the player if the enemy has line of sight. Attacks are not always projectiles that travel across the arena and which can be dodged, blocked, or otherwise avoided. This means that exposing yourself to crossfire is almost certain death if your health is critical in Control, and it contributes to the player needing to slow things down and play cautiously and defensively, instead of maintaining that fast-paced, aggressive play.

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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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