I heart the Forza Horizon series

It’s funny, I would never actually race a car. I’d be too afraid of the consequences – like scratching up the bumper or, ya know, dying in in a fire.

But I LOVE car racing games. Specifically, I love the Forza Horizon series.

Right now, for Gold Members, Xbox is giving away Forza Horizon 2 10th Anniversary Edition. and it is definitely worth downloading. I just went and started up my old game to see if it still held up after all these years and was immediately sucked into racing for 90 minutes, completing championships, racing a crop duster, and taking pictures of cars for easy credits.

I purchased Forza Horizon 3 when it came out, and it takes everything from the first two games and makes it better and then puts you in Australia. The open world in all three games means you can just cruise around and enjoy the scenery, “collecting” roads, going through speed traps, and finding XP billboards.

It’s not all just fast, shiny cars. Driving around, you discover “barn finds”, rare and classic vehicles that are hidden throughout the world. Once discovered, they are repaired so you can drive them and most of them are about style more than speed. I just did a retro hatchback championship and drove a car that was only slightly younger than I am, could maybe hit 100 if I was on a long, open stretch of road. The next championship I signed up for was for Hypercars and I used my credits to buy a Bugatti and now my brain can’t process driving at 200 mph down the tiny Italian roads! The variety of races and car types means you can pretty much play these games forever.

But each time they put out a new one, it is hard to resist the latest features. Forza Horizon 4 will have seasons that change weekly, meaning that the races and challenges available will change each week too.

I mean, just LOOK at this video (from my favorite YouTube gamers on Outside Xbox)

Oh, and the in-game radio stations are not too bad either! I mean, after you’ve played for 6 hours, they can get a little repetitive, but if you change them up enough, there is always something good for driving (or you can always turn them off and have Spotify running in the background since Xbox has an app for that).

So, if you have Games with Gold, do yourself a favor and download this one! And if you have an Xbox One and like racing, I’d definitely recommend any titles from this fantastic series!

Gaming Thoughts: Witcher 3 (PC)

Wow, I haven’t updated this blog since January! I may have too many blogs. 😛

I grabbed Witcher 3 during the Steam Summer Sale, it was $20 for the game + DLC so I jumped on it. I could have just played Tim’s copy, but that would require me to chase him away because Steam’s family share only works if the other person is not on their computer. So that was my excuse…I mean, to be honest, I am a nerd and I wanted to collect the Steam Trading Cards.

Well worth the money though, I’m loving it. I really liked Witcher 2 and I could feel myself becoming obsessed with the world (I even started to read the books) and Witcher 3 is everything and more and OMG SO PRETTY!

But I really love the characters. This is a STORY HEAVY game, even though there is plenty of action, adventure and exploration. I think Witcher has the edge on other games in this genre because of the novels and the very rich world that the game writers had to pull from. Compared to a series like Tomb Raider, let’s say, where Lara Croft is pretty much THE character and you know about her and everyone else is just set decoration. Witcher has characters all over the place, people with backstories that they are happy to share with you if that is your play style. (I can’t help but play Geralt as the badass with a heart of gold, sorry if it is cliche. Maybe the second time through I’ll be a dick to people and tell them to suck it up when they are crying to me about their dead wife).

I’ve logged 16 hours so far in the game, Tim completed the game and has 222 hours. So I have SO much game left to go through, so many stories. When the game starts, it seems like you can just go from point A to point B and complete the story. But riding around pays off. Yesterday, I was meandering around an area and I found an abandoned village full of ghouls. Geralt wiped them out and when he killed the last one, the townspeople returned and set up shop!

And not every quest ends in a battle. The quest I did last night, I had the option of fighting the monster or using the monster for a ritual to make it into a protective spirit. Of course, getting the monster to the right location took a little bit of fighting, but nothing too difficult for Geralt. After he did the ritual, I followed the creature to gather clues about the story. It is so satisfying to make a choice in the game and have it actually be a choice and not just a dialogue option that leads to the same outcome no matter what.

Most hilarious quest so far was going to find a villager’s goat that had wandered off. It liked a little bell, so Badass Geralt is walking around the woods, ringing a little bell. LOL. It was fantastic.

Anyway, I’m only 16 hours in so obviously I have barely scratched the surface, but if you are into games with great story (and you can put the difficulty all the way down to pretty much just play the story) watch for this to drop back down to $20 and grab it. So worth it.

Also, did I mention how pretty? (also, Geralt’s voice? Rawr. It’s probably the thing that worries me the most about the Netflix series. The voice actor for the game was so unique, how could I accept another voice?)

Witcher 3 - Geralt in the Rain//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Bonus: I carried over my save from Witcher 2 and I never got around to getting Geralt’s tattoo removed after the “Hangover” style quest in that game so when I started up Witcher 3, there is was. **facepalm** sorry Geralt! Don’t drink so much next game!

video game thoughts: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

video game thoughts: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

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I cannot stop thinking about this game. I flew through the 8 hours of gameplay time (well, it took me more than that because I am a very cautious fighter LOL) and I miss Senua already.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the story of a warrior woman whose lover was murdered by invading Norsemen and she has decided to go into hell to free his soul.

But Senua is not a normal woman – she hears voices. Her mother heard them too. They whisper to her, constant companions since she was young. These voices have kept her separated from the rest of her tribe, which is why she wants so badly to find Dillion’s soul – he was the one person who truly cared for her. I know this sounds cliche, but I have to say that love is the one force out there that will make people challenge gods, even if those gods are not their own.

I love how the game just drops you into the story – no tutorial mode, not even a flash of instruction on the screen to coach you. You must figure it out (even if that simply means hitting “pause” to bring up the control menu) – the game designers have faith in your abilities to play from the start and they don’t want to pull you out of the narrative to go through some clunky “What does the A button do?” screen or cheesy flashback to find an excuse to learn how to make your character walk.

I really feel like this game is another great example of video games as art. I feel like to show how a thing is art, you must give examples of how it brings out emotions in us that no other format can; how it can tell a story that would not be nearly as powerful as just a printed page or even as a moving image.

I played Hellblade as the creator’s suggested: with headphones on. This let me experience the voices the way Senua did – hearing them immediately as our shared quest began and growing both frustrated and fond of their chatter. I don’t think the printed text of a novel could have done this for me and while I can be emotionally connected to a character in a movie or tv show, you can’t become them the way you can in a video game. And while I don’t think I was ever Senua, I felt like I was with her the whole way.

I know this game is already getting a lot of push back from people with mental illness. Ninja Theory, the game design company, did a lot of homework in trying to represent the different ways psychosis can feel. I’ve seen at least one reviewer who are not happy because they suffer from mental illness and didn’t think the game represented them, and I can understand that. The designers could only do so much and they reached out to professionals and got as much feedback as possible but they can’t know what it is like for someone and no game will really ever replicated that experience.

I am coming from a completely different place, and this game really made me think a lot about all of the voices in everyone’s head and how some of us can shrug them off and others are forced to hear them. The voices of self doubt, of fear, of resignation beside the voices that also push you on. I’ve never suffered from psychosis and I can’t even begin to understand what life would be like for someone living with it, but for those 8 hours, I had those voices in my ears and it made me think of how hard that can make everything – if I was struggling in a fictional world to run forward and stay focused, what must it be like for someone in modern society? No idea, I know I can never know.

While I didn’t love the ending (too soon, I wanted more), I loved the game as a whole. I really enjoyed that it was more than just a button mashing fighter game and that the (thankfully few) boss fights all had strategies to them. It reminded me of Legend of Zelda and how each “boss” was more than just a simple fight, you had to pay attention. There were just as many puzzles and hidden things to make me want to keep going, and bits of Norse legend peppered through-out which made me want to go find Neil Gaiman’s new book and see if there were more to those legends.

It was a beautiful game, I loved seeing it on my screen, watching Senua wander the mystical world. I really hope we have more adventures with her.

For more details about the game and how to buy a (digital only for PC and PS4), visit the official Ninja Theory site.

gender and entertainment

I know this topic is discussed and beaten to death all the time but I found it amusing that today in my blog feeds I had a female author lamenting the “girly” book covers forced upon her work and a male gamer lamenting a publisher pushing a gender-neutral game as “for girls”

Marketing is a scary thing.  I am happy that, as a librarian, I tend to try to market everything to everyone.  This is probably because my goal is not to make money but to educate patrons in the joys of reading, researching etc.. 

I feel bad for guys because it seems their entire existence hinges upon them showing that they are “tough” and “manly” at all times.  It feels like they eventually can move beyond that,eventually but only if they are really lucky…

Think for yourselves.  Remember that a book cover is not chosen by the author but created by a marketer, scientifically crafted to appeal to a demographic chosen at random, not a demographic the author was trying to write for.