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ike's steam platinums blog (latest one: 165. railbound)


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hey hey

As the title says, I've been playing a lotta Steam games. When the pandemic started, I had six games at 100% Steam achievements, on an account in constant use since 2005 - or, more relevantly, whenever the hell Steam added achievements. I like how the PS calls it platinum, so I'll probably use that as the term for the rest of this thread. In 2014 I platted Orcs Must Die! 2 and then Dark Souls; in 2015 I added Risk of Rain, Dark Souls 2, and Cook! Serve! Delicious! to that list. Starting at my sixth plat game (Beat Hazard) in 2017, there's a long break, and then lockdown started and I got sent to WFH and had a lot of free time not commuting, being in meetings where nobody could see me, waiting for simulations to run and not going to bother coworkers, suchlike.

Since March of 2020 I've added 76 more games to that list.

This is their story.


I waffled on starting up a blog or something but this does the dual purpose of getting me off my ass to check SF more often, so I'm just gonna toss it in here and post in it when I want to. Noted epic moderator Parrhesia usually gets the bulk of my thoughts, but I think a structured writing exercise like this will keep things fresh and interesting for me.

So what's the deal?

Debriefings, mostly. How was the game, how were the achievements, did I play it on KB+M or which controller, shit like that. It's a surrogate for a blog. I'm only doing these in retrospective, I won't post about a game before it's done.

What's my, the reader's, role in this?

Captive audience, but you're also free to debate me in real life (or here) if you think I'm spewing shit, or share your own stories about whatever games I'm postin' about.


Since I'm at 81 now (and growing!), I'm gonna work through the backlog in chronological order, while also dumping a post about any new game I polish off and put on the shelf as I go. There's no schedule, not really, and I don't typically dedicate myself wholly to a game until it's done unless I really like it (Yakuza 6) or a weird bug bites me and I binge it in a weekend (Elderborn). Here we go.




Crazy Taxi

Behold the Kickmen

Bad North

Dark Souls 2 / Scholar of the First Sin

FTL: Faster Than Light

Half-Life 2

Orcs Must Die! 1 & 2



Half-Life 2: Episode One

Mount & Blade: Warband

Plants vs. Zombies

Half-Life 2: Episode Two


Empire: Total War

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Valkyria Chronicles

Project Warlock

Slay the Spire

Call of Duty: WW2

Age of Empires

Titanfall 2

Dark Souls 1 / Remastered

Doom 64

Dark Souls 3

Spyro the Dragon / Ripto's Rage / Year of the Dragon


Sniper Elite V2

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Generation Zero



Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Rocket League

XCOM: Chimera Squad

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries

Long Live the Queen

Duke Nukem 3D

Infested Planet

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger

Spec Ops: The Line

Portal 2

Road Redemption

Skyrim + Special Edition


Soul Calibur 6

4 Resident Evil

Möbius Front '83

Mark of the Ninja

Total Warhammer

Just Cause 3

Untitled Goose Game


Yakuza 0

Zombie Night Terror

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3


Save Room

Crush the Castle

Killing Floor 2

Yakuza Kiwami

Golf With Your Friends

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Yakuza 3

Yakuza 4

Into the Breach

Yakuza 5

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Amid Evil

Papers, Please


Yakuza: Like a Dragon


Boyfriend Dungeon

Sonic Generations

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine

The Bible

Monster Hunter World

Lost Judgment

Fashion Police Squad

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes

Total Warhammer 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Like a Dragon: Ishin!


Sonic Lost World

Gunfire Reborn

Sonic Forces

Total Warhammer 3


Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warrior

Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Mega Man Legacy Collection

100 Games!

Dark Deity

Tank Mechanic Simulator

Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark

Beat Hazard 1 & 2

Overcooked! 2

Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun

Etrian Odyssey


Crazy Machines 3

Bioshock 2

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Dungeons of Dredmor

Cats Hidden in Paris + Cats Hidden in Italy

Yeah! You Want "Those Games," Right? So Here You Go! Now, Let's See You Clear Them!

Powerwash Simulator

Risk of Rain 1 & 2

Sonic Frontiers

Quake 2

Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga

Counter-Strike: Source

Counter-Strike 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Wargroove 2

Battle Brothers



Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Cats Hidden in Bali

Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

Cats Hidden in Maple Hollow

Black Mesa

Resident Evil 5

Katamari Damacy

Fallout: New Vegas

Gibbon: Beyond the Trees


The Great War: Western Front

Orcs Must Die! 3

Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy II

Mega Man Legacy Collection 2

Final Fantasy III

Dave the Diver

Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy V

Mega Man 11

Final Fantasy VI

Lies of P

Cats Hidden in Georgia

Helldivers 2

Super Algebrawl

Final Fantasy VII

Save Room: The Merchant

We Love Katamari

Mega Man X Legacy Collection


Sonic Mania


Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)

Mega Man X Legacy Collection 2

Final Fantasy VIII



Edited by Integrity
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Finished: 20/10/22. Playtime: 5.6 hours. Played on a Switch Pro controller.

Hickam Air Force Base, 2000. A pretty bad year for me overall - rung in the millennium playing Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, a game I'm pretty sure is really terrible; I was hospitalized for a week in September for a hip issue that bugs me to this day; and worst of all I turned nine. My sister and I would go into the arcade on base and want to play this fancy arcade machine: Crazy Taxi. Problem is, there were two of us and it was pricier than the other singleplayer games, so we played a shitload of Gauntlet Legends mostly. She still whips my ass at racing games to this day, and I blame that machine.

22 years later, time to dredge it back up.

Kind of a quiet one to start this project with. Getting the top scores in 10-minute mode was trivial, so most of the actual game was the Crazy Box - a series of 12 short challenges. Some were nasty, some I aced on the first try. Being an arcade game, there's not much to talk about. It's a simple loop with a lot of depth under it to keep you playing, and it mostly worked for me. Says enough that the introduction story was longer than the recap.

Pretty good overall.

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Finished 27/3/20. Playtime 3.6 hours.

We're going to start here, ahead of the six listed in the OP, for two reasons. One, that I last played any of them on the brighter half of COVID, which may as well have been about 35 years ago at this point. Two, that all of them except one are franchise games that I'll bring up another entry in later, so I'll just roll them in there. Beat Hazard stands alone, but I've been poking at finishing off Beat Hazard 2 here and there for years, so when I inevitably manage that I'll put it there.

Behold the Kickmen bills itself, facetiously, as a completely accurate football game. This is true. It's a really simple gameplay loop for you to play a pastiche of sports, kicking three-pointers from midfield with wonky controls against a fairly-tepid AI. It's a joke game, made as a joke. I mopped it up in under four hours, and it's under four dollars when not on sale. I think there's a good place for games like that in our society, and this isn't the [EDIT: last lmao, yes it is the first] couple-buck one-note game I'll bring up that absolutely doesn't outstay its welcome.

Acing it was not a difficult task. Pretty much everything comes organically by winning the World Cup of 1965, which is also the story of the game, such as it is. There's two fun facts about the achievements, though! One is that there used to be an achievement for kissing your rival, Pedro, who antagonizes you during the story. If you're nice to him and say the right things in every event in the visual novel part of the game, you might get a hidden option to kiss him in the final interaction. For some reason, the dev couldn't get the achievement to unlock reliably for people who managed the herculean task of kissing Pedro, so he just deleted it quietly sometime in 2019.

The second fun fact is that there's an achievement called Come on the Lads, and I'm still fifteen.

Worth the money overall. Nothing special, not a game for the ages, but a good few chuckles and then a game to put down an afternoon later and never play again for a few bucks.

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Finished 18/9/20. Playtime 31.9 hours.

The football is on and I guess that puts me in a mood to write so I suppose I'll keep going.

Bad North is an odd little bug. Most of what I have to say about it is honestly pretty positive - it's a very Distilled real-time tactics game, where you defend small randomly generated islands from invading vikings from all sides. Progression is pretty shallow but powerful. Unit matchups are clearly defined. Nothing's particularly bullshit about it, but it can skew a bit hard. It's one of those games where it's not hard to tell it was designed for Mobile Devices (though it actually came out on the Switch first, huh), but not in a derogatory way. I was, overall, a big fan of the three or four legitimate campaigns I did of it.

One may note the word 'legitimate'. On August 1 I got the penultimate achievement - the top hard one, beat the campaign on highest difficulty without failing to recruit a commander and without losing a single one of your own. I finished the game six weeks later. This will come up a few times later, but I find the design of achievements to be absolutely fascinating, especially when they haven't been particularly thought through. The worst example I can think of is Shogun 2 Total War - one of the game's achievements is to be the number one person in the world on the competitive multiplayer leaderboard. That's absolutely bugfuck insane. Bad North has a different example of an achievement where things just weren't particularly thought out - Bathed in Blood.

You're killing vikings, right? The top tier killing vikings achievement is for killing 15,000 vikings. It's a meaningless number without context, so here's the context: if you deploy multiple times per round, on the absolute top difficulty (which floods you in vikings), and play perfectly, an entire campaign (5 hours or so) might crest 3,000 kills. Now, playing the whole game six or seven times through isn't a particularly outlandish question to ask - this exact thing will come up later and way worse - but with the context that everything else is pretty achievable in two campaigns or three at most, it begins to look a little silly to have more full runs of the game just farming up the kill number than you actually had to do to get everything else combined. I ended up churning out campaigns where I'd just pick pikemen, take early maps with only melee enemies, and watch movies while the vikings died on my spears instead of playing the game after my fourth full clear.

As a game? Absolutely recommend it to pretty much anyone with even a passing interest in tactics. As a project to 100%? Man, that was tedious.

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Finished: 6/7/14. Playtime: 205.9 hours. Played on a Steam Controller.


Finished: 27/9/20. Playtime: 59.5 hours. Played on a Steam Controller.

I'm planting my flag in the ground early: hbomberguy is correct, Dark Souls 2 owns, and people who don't like it are dumb and suck and may, in fact, even not be considered as people.

That said, I really did enjoy my time with both Dark Souls 2s quite a lot. 2 itself accounts for about 40% of my hours in the five games in the series. I've never enjoyed the PvP in the series, so the whole fiasco around soul memory (a pretty dumb system) just didn't affect me at all. Adaptability was a dumb stat to be mostly-mandatory to dump 14 points into, but it's not the Souls franchise's first, worst, or last weirdly dumb gameplay decision. The world isn't all super connected and shit like Dark Souls 1, but who gives a crap, nerd. Game's fun. Build diversity in PvE was superb, even counting the absurd gutting Miracles got in a patch. NPC quests are simple, but this means that unlike every other fucking game From makes they're actually possible to experience without having a browser open, and somehow that gets marked as a bad thing. The bosses get flak for 'all being the same big guy with a big sword', but that ignores the two issues that it doesn't really have a higher proportion of big guys with big swords, and that many of the bosses that aren't big guys with big swords in all the games are bad fights. It's not a perfect game, but it's a real damn good one.

Scholar's a bit more of a contentious beast, even for me. I thought Scholar was generally fantastic, but it also feels like a Kaizo hack of Dark Souls 2 rather than a remix/rebalance. While I loved it, I genuinely can't imagine someone picking up Scholar as their first Souls game and having a good time. I wish it had existed as, like, you go through Dark Souls 2 and, when you NG+ it, you get Scholar's remixed harder world. That would have been sick. It's my favorite entry in the Souls games, but with a big fat * next to the word 'favorite'.

Acing the Dark Souls 2s is definitely the most straightforward of the three games. Get to NG++ midgame, go all over the world and gather every spell ever, and you're all squared away except for precisely one piece of shit: Hidden Weapon. For all the multiplayer-focused stuff you need in the Souls games, there's always a workaround for if there's no people and/or you just suck at PvP. Sometimes it's easy, like most of the covenant stuff in 2 - get to NG++ and buy it from the castle steward. Sometimes it's 3's random drops which are obscene but I'll get to that in a while. One time in the series, it's been Hidden Weapon.

Hidden Weapon unlocks as the middle tier of the Bell Keepers covenant, and no other place in the game at all. The Bell Keepers inhabit two optional zones in the game and let you engage in the shitter of the two asymmetrical PvP modes in the game (the other, the Rat King covenant, owns bones). Hidden Weapon is awarded to you for vanquishing 30 bell tower invaders, which typically means going to other players' worlds and killing them. 60 invasions, assuming you're batting even, is a bit of a thing to ask, but what if there aren't any more players to invade, for instance if the servers are offline because of a massive security hole? The failsafe in this case is the Mad Warrior. The Mad Warrior spawns sometimes (estimates vary from 7 to about 15% every time you rest) in one of the two towers (there's a parallel guy in the other tower but he's a pain in the ass). It's a good 15 or so seconds of walking from the nearest checkpoint before you can see if he spawned this time or not, and if he did you still have to kill the bastard. The best method for farming him is to literally have Task Manager up and write down your resting memory usage, and see if it spikes when you walk into the tower, and that usually lets you know if he spawned or not. It's absolutely fucking ridiculous. It's the only time in all of the games that I've voluntarily done PvP because the alternative was so awful.

Oh, he also drops his unique gear with a low drop rate on top of his low spawn rate, so if you want that eat shit I guess lmao.

All in all, fantastic game, not a particular chore to platinum, so good I did it twice as part of an extended joke, or possibly my first of several really bad ideas I've had. My ideas will get far worse later, don't worry.

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Finished: 14/10/20. Playtime: 164.6 hours + God knows how many on the old iPad when I was doing the college in 2013.

There's a certain amount of pride I do take in this ultimately meaningless hobby. I make a lot of jokes about what a super gamer I am, how I'm good at literally everything, etc. But I do genuinely take an amount of pride in this silly scheme to put video games on a shelf that says I did them.

Far above the baseline, I'm fuckin' proud of myself for seeing FTL through.

FTL: Faster Than Light is a spacefaring roguelike, and it's an incredibly good game with a single questionable design decision in it. Slightly unfortunate that that questionable design decision is the final boss itself, but it's questionable at least, and not just bad. Some disagree with me, and they have good points, but this is my soapbox. There's a delightful amount of variety to how you can approach the game within its pretty-simple framework, although not all strategies are even close to created equal. It's quick to play, it's snappy to respond, there's a lot of heart and soul in it, and I've bought it probably five times. There's not many games I recommend more.

Platinum is a matter of unlocking everything. Everything is... a horror show. See, FTL has ten ships and three variants of each. Each ship has three associated flavored challenges - for instance, as the Stealth Cruiser, one of the three is to make it to the final sector without ever running into a random hazard, because the base variant of the Stealth Cruiser has a long range warning system against those. One of the ones for the default ship, the Kestrel, is to have six of the seven (eight with an expansion) different races aboard, because you're representing a multiracial federation of worlds. Each ship has two that are supposed to be relatively easy, and one that's supposed to be relatively hard. FTL makes the correct call that you unlock the B-type of each ship by getting any two from the three challenges, so if something sucks a lot you can mulligan it. Each challenge is, however, an achievement. That means doing the really crap ones, like getting a boarding drone (a fire-and-forget guy who tries to murder enemy crewmen and is about as good as 1.5 dudes) to kill 4 enemy crew during a single boarding action. You cannot heal the boarding drone. The only way to reasonably achieve this is to carefully lower enemy health with weaponry without destroying the enemy ship, or to send your own crew over to fight but carefully not kill anyone, and if the enemy has a medbay you're just hosed. And! You have to have a modestly powerful drone bay on top of this, plus the boarding drone itself. Woof.

The worst, though, is the Crystal Cruiser. See, an FTL campaign is eight sectors (first and last are fixed) of a variable number of worlds each. In its original form, the Crystal Cruiser unlock procedure was to:

  • In specifically Pirate, Engi, or Rock sectors (6 types out of about 18), a random event might spawn with the first step. If it does, you have a random chance to get first item unless you're the Rock ship, which can guarantee it (and one of their challenges is to unlock the Crystal Cruiser as a Rock ship, so).
  • After that event (can occur in minimum sector 2), a Zoltan sector has to spawn. If it does, you might run into scientists at a random beacon, and if you do they can progress you to the next step free of charge.
  • After that event, the Rock Homeworlds must have spawned in whatever amount of game you have left. If they did, the final area will be marked when you arrive in them.
  • If you get to that beacon, you go to the Crystal sector. A final quest marker is in this sector, and you can absolutely die to the fairly-hard Crystal ships here and come up short of unlocking it.

Note that at any point you can be stymied by the right sector not spawning, or by not finding the correct random event at the correct sector even when you get there. The amount of RNG that goes into this is infamous. Patches and the expansion made this a little easier, but it's still nasty.

I've unlocked this three times over the 2010s, because I need a therapist or an intervention.

Most everything else in the game is some combination of waiting for the RNG to give you a set of circumstances, asking you to pull off something legitimately challenging, or a mixture of the two. Some other RNG gets bad, but nothing nearly as bad as the Crystal Cruiser.

All told, FTL's a fantastic game and an easy recommendation. I would never put somebody through 100%ing it. Please learn from me.

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FTL is definitely a good example of a classic completionists conundrum. A super fun, cozy game that you'd search for any excuse to play more of, but the 100% checklist is just outrageous. I've long resigned myself to a strategy whereby if I ever did 100% a game like this, it'll be through years of casual runs here and there, and not through deliberate grinding. That way the game can remain fun.

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yeah i only committed myself to the 100% on it when it became clear i'd wrung all the blood from that stone. i'd guess between the various editions of FTL i've bought i've played probably 500+ hours of the fucker. it's such a good, cozy game to just Play.

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Finished: 15/10/20. Playtime: 16.5 hours.

It's kind of impossible to talk about Half-Life 2, honestly. It really can't be stressed enough what an absolute gamechanger in the world of gaming it was, not just the game itself but also what it did to the still-nascent Valve. What does PC gaming look like today if Half-Life 2 wasn't as good as it was, didn't launch Steam as a viable platform basically singlehandedly? It's a butterfly event of almost unfathomable magnitude. When I was a kid, it was almost a mythical game. My dad came home with it one day as a present to me and I was afraid of the headcrab zombies so I mostly just played Counter-Strike: Source and HL2 Deathmatch for hours and hours. I eventually got my guts together and slugged through the game and it was incredible. Everything came together perfectly. It was nearly the peak of gaming in 2006.

It's somehow both disappointing that it's only pretty good now, and baffling that it still holds up pretty well. The contemporary milspec shooters of the time were Battlefield 1942, which looks like hot garbage, and Call of Duty, which looks a lot better but I wouldn't say good. Half-Life 2 just still looks quite good, even subtracting the revisions to Source over the years. Time's a funny thing.

A lot of it was stuff that was being basically invented - the kind of huge open maps that HL2 touts so often weren't something you ever saw in that kind of blockbuster fidelity in 2004; they were limited to janky immersive sims like Deus Ex. Now, with some standards under my belt from the intervening 18 years, they feel too big, a noble crack at a new idea but ultimately flawed, etc. etc. But man, they had magic back then. A big point of contention is the ultimate 'you think you want it, but you don't' bit of HL2 - in-gameplay cutscenes. Nobody spoke a bad word against this in 2004. This was obscene! You can walk around rooms and interact with the physics objects while people are talking! It's not just a static camera! Now, again, with standards, the cracks show, and in a lot of ways it's less interesting than actual, regular cutscenes. But man, they had magic back then.

There's still a lot about HL2 that was great then and is still great now. Ravenholm is an all-timer for a reason, and everyone copied the Gravity Gun (sorry, Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator) because even today it's so much fun to use. They slammed it out of the park first try. Even the kinda-bad levels like the sand pits and the canals have a vibe to them that elevates them. It's not a perfect game, but it's not a hard game to recommend someone to play for the first time literally today. I played it on Hard; don't. It makes enemies obscenely spongy. I don't know why I saw this through to the end instead of just turning it down, but 2020 was a weird year.

Achievements were added way later and there's not much to say there. Find all the secrets, beat the game. There's two notable challenges: beating Ravenholm with only the gravity gun, and crossing the pits without ever touching the sand. I honestly found both of these to be really fun, even it the sand pits one was a bit janky. A single run through the game with a guide open for the lambda caches and it's done.

Sometimes a game's great because of the context it released in or the impact it had; Wolfenstein 3D was absolutely jaw-dropping for when it came out, but it's an absolute chore to play. Some games are great simply because they withstand the test of time; Heroes of Might and Magic 3 wasn't particularly groundbreaking when it came out, but it's shocking how good it still looks and plays 23 (23????) years later. Half-Life 2 is simultaneously both, but not really either. It's a weird one to see become old. Definitely still recommended.

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17 hours ago, Integrity said:

Since March of 2020 I've added 76 more games to that list.

Wow, that's a lot. I have 28 games on Steam sitting at 100% achievements, and I have friends who think that's a lot. But it's not even close to you.

14 hours ago, Integrity said:

This will come up a few times later, but I find the design of achievements to be absolutely fascinating, especially when they haven't been particularly thought through. The worst example I can think of is Shogun 2 Total War - one of the game's achievements is to be the number one person in the world on the competitive multiplayer leaderboard. That's absolutely bugfuck insane.

It is weird to me that the games industry at large has pretty much agreed that achievements probably ought to be a thing, but hasn't really reached any consensus about what they're actually supposed to be for. Sometimes you just get achievements for progression, sometimes for finding hidden stuff, sometimes they serve as a checklist of things you can try if you feel like it, sometimes they're just to put an exclamation mark on cool moments, sometimes they're pure grind, and sometimes they're supposed to be genuinely difficult and purely for bragging rights.

13 hours ago, Integrity said:

All told, FTL's a fantastic game and an easy recommendation. I would never put somebody through 100%ing it. Please learn from me.

Oh god. Yeah no. No way I'm trying to 100% that one. It's a great game, and I have 55 hours in it (and kinda want to play it again now that you've reminded me that it exists), but going for 100% sounds like it would suck any and all fun from the game.

1 hour ago, Integrity said:


This is the game that convinced me that I do not like FPS games and am never going to like FPS games. Like, I already knew that I wasn't particularly into them, btu this sealed the deal for me. I own a copy of it, because I really, really wanted to play Portal, and back in the day, the only way to get it was with the Orange Box, so I've tried playing it a couple of times. And nope. Just not fun for me. And if I couldn't manage to find the fun in something that beloved, it was time for me to give up on the genre. (Also: holy hell, how is this 18 years old?)

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1 hour ago, lenticular said:

It is weird to me that the games industry at large has pretty much agreed that achievements probably ought to be a thing, but hasn't really reached any consensus about what they're actually supposed to be for.

this is part of why i find achievements so fascinating - not even franchises can agree internally on what's an achievement! yakuzas 0, 1, 2, and 5 all require the in-game completion log to be filled out as an achievement, but yakuzas 6 and 7 don't have anything meaningfully associated with it, and yakuzas 3 and 4 have minigame challenges separate from the completion log that exist only as achievements. it's bizarre!


1 hour ago, lenticular said:

This is the game that convinced me that I do not like FPS games and am never going to like FPS games.

honestly, while you probably just don't like fps games, i wouldn't tout half-life 2 as the pinnacle of them either for fps purists or for fps novices. it's a weird game that's really good but also really isn't for anybody, you know? it isn't really the fps to convert someone who isn't into them, and it also really isn't an fps to appeal hard to the veterans.

it's a game with such a strange legacy and place in the gaming pantheon.

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Finished: 19/10/20. Playtime: 21.9 hours.


Finished: 12/1/14. Playtime: 65 hours.

I will go to bat any day of the week for the stupid OMD! franchise. On the action-to-tower-defense scale, it's skewed to the action half, but both halves of the equation are satisfying enough that making a mix of them to suit your needs always feels personal and fun. I played the first back when it was new, aced the second straight out as the first platinum game in my Steam library, and then under lockdown decided to go back and add 1 to the list all these years later. Replaying 1 really showed how fundamentally strong the concept of shredding orcs alongside your trap maze was - even lacking so many of the options of 2 (and later 3) and having much more straightforward enemy compositions and optimal strategies, the basic game remained fun. For ten bucks without a sale, it's easy as hell to recommend to anyone with a passing interest in action games.

OMD!2 adds a bunch of options and more complex maps and generally does everything a sequel should do, but adds the only fundamental thing OMD! was missing: co-op. The game completely shines with a mate. I've played the whole campaign, with DLC minicampaigns, about four times with three different mates. It's absolutely sublime. It's not exactly evergreen - clearly, at 87 hours to ace both, less than half of FTL alone - but it's a great week spent with a bud to slug through the campaign, or twice if you want to do the Nightmare difficulty that unlocks afterwards. God, I love these games.

Platinum on the first game isn't too much to talk about. A run through the game with no leaks on normal difficulty isn't terribly difficult, and a second run through the game on Nightmare is significantly more difficult but very likely mops up 85% of the achievements between those two runs with no real focus on getting them. Couple individual maps later (kill x guys in one map with y environmental hazard, beat a map with/without using z category of traps, etc.) and it's packed up. The second is very similar, with the caveat of coop campaign (and other) achievements that are require a friend to beat, and the addition of Six Degrees, the last one I got.

Fuckin' Six Degrees.

There's a concept that some, fortunately few, games have of a viral achievement. The idea is that you get the achievement by playing a game with, or in some cases winning a game against, someone who has the achievement already. The developers start with it, play the game opening weekend with randoms or some such, and then let the achievement pervade the playerbase.

These achievements are crap and they suck.

I'm bitching about it now so that I don't go on at-length for the few other games that have them - I'll just point it out and grumble and move on. But man do I hate these, mostly irrationally. For the record, if you're reading this thread and get inspired to polish up a game I'm postin' about and it has one of these, feel free to DM me and I'll hook you up.

Finally, big shoutout to my boy Jim for running the coop campaign with me so much ten years ago and getting all those achievements done. I'll make a point of crediting the dudes who helped me get multiplayer ones where relevant. Many of them are posters or former posters on this very site!

Orcs Must Die! 3 will appear in this thread too, but they added a new DLC with new achievements that I haven't gotten yet. Bastards.

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Finished: 20/10/20. Playtime: 20.2 hours.

Bastion is one of the finest games ever made.

That's the review. It's not a perfect game by any means, but it is one of the best pieces of art to grace the medium. Play Bastion. It's not long, it's not expensive, and it's not hard to get into.


Acing it is a little bit of a pain in the ass, though. Playing through the game twice gets you about halfway there. After that, each of the challenge rooms has ten difficulty modifiers that can be lamped on, a weird and not perfectly done system that would later form the basis of Hades many years later, so thanks for that genuinely. Beating each of the challenge rooms (not particularly easy fights to begin with) with all ten challenges activated (some of these suuuuck) forms the backbone of what's left, and then a modest foray into the mostly-forgettable Score Attack mode polishes it all up.

I'm keeping this one simple and clean because I want to preserve the focus of the post: buy and play Bastion.


Fun fact: it released on my birthday!

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Finished: 3/11/20. Playtime: 15.1 hours.

Alphabear is a mobile game in every sense of the word. Turn your letters into words to make your fat bears fatter. It's a mobile F2P game with a sequel still kickin' around and it's a good time.

And, for some reason, the original made it onto Steam for a few bucks.

There's nothing to say here. It's a fun game for what it is. The achievements are nothing to write home about - play normally for a while and they all happen.

Edited by Integrity
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Finished: 12/11/20. Playtime: 3.2 hours.

The promise of the Half-Life 2 episodes was absolutely insane. More Half-Life 2, continuing the story in reasonably-spaced chunks.

We were fools.

Compounding this is the looming tiny issue that HL2E1 is ....kind of bad, actually.

Don't get me wrong, there's good ideas in it, and some of them are even executed pretty well. The extended dark sequence where you still don't have a gun, but Alyx does, is actually very interesting for the time and holds up quite well. Not giving you a proper gun for half the runtime is a pretty bold choice overall, even. That's where the praise kinda ends, though. Most of the rest of the game is ideas that don't kind of go anywhere, and the story is a complete nothing burger bridging Half-Life 2 and Episode 2 - which is its own beast we'll get to.


HL2E1 has the frankly raddest achievement in the history of gaming: One Free Bullet.

One Free Bullet is a challenge achievement that, I think, makes the entire game far more interesting (which is to say interesting at all, natch) to play and also enhances the story dynamics significantly. See, One Free Bullet has a simple proposition: when you pick up the pistol, your first gun, there is a padlock that you have to shoot to get out of the room you fell into with the pistol in it. For the rest of the game, you are not allowed to shoot another bullet.

The game rules lawyers this nearly completely. Alyx is free to shoot. If you set up a turret, it is allowed to shoot - that's not you. You can use your submachine gun to fire its grenade launcher - that's gun, but that's not bullet. This limits you to anything that explodes, your melee weapon, and the gravity gun. This makes combat far more involved (making the game much more fun to play), and also makes Alyx absolutely essential for the parts she's fighting with you (making the story a lot better by equalizing your partnership). The one sad thing is that the crossbow will void the achievement despite not firing a bullet, but ah well. It still deserves a whole lot of credit for being an obscenely well-designed challenge achievement in a relatively bad game.

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Finished: 20/11/20. Playtime: 206.8 hours.

You ever have a game that just captures your tiny brain and gets elevated to far more than it is? Then, many years later, when you crack into it again, rather than the good old neurons firing, you see through the whole facade and it just ....doesn't work? That's Mount & Blade, the concept, for me.

The core conceit of Mount & Blade is that you start as nobody and travel around the world, with the 'freedom to do anything', but in reality you have a pretty structured progression from small band mercenary helping towns -> medium mercenary helping lords personally -> large mercenary signing a contract with a king -> minor feudal lord with a fief to defend -> so on so on until you're king of Calradia. There's just enough content in other facets of the game (e.g. trading) to convince the casual viewer or player that these are also things you can do, but they all funnel into this progression in the end. As a younger boy (you know, nineteen), there was just enough meat on those bones to get every receptor receiving every good chemical. Building out a guy and making my army bigger and bigger was absolutely captivating. It was so good that I sank a hundred hours and slam bought the kinda crappy sequel (With Fire and Sword) instantly. I even played the multiplayer, which was a chaotic hack-n-slash that was the crappy version at home at a time when the premier version wasn't Chivalry or Mordhau, but fuckin' Pirates Vikings & Knights. The mod, not the standalone game.

I picked it back up in about 2019 for another shot, start from the bottom and make my way up again, and none of the receptors received. It was fine, intellectually, but I'd struggle to call it good, let alone great. That was kind of devastating, especially at a time when the fabled Mount & Blade 2 was finally making visible progress and might (gasp!) happen. Bannerlord came out during lockdown and I just couldn't get myself to care too much. The ship had sailed, and the frustrating thing is I still don't really grok why it did. But it did, and now here I am. I still slugged through Warband, somewhat lovelessly, cheesing everything I could with the ancient knowledge of my pre-college years just to be able to put it on the shelf with a weird sense of purpose borne from ....a love lost? I don't know why I did it, but I did it.

Acing the game is a horror show, and one I would never have undertaken if that idiot teenage me hadn't convinced himself that the multiplayer was fun. For a crowbarred-in shitty deathmatch multiplayer game, it contributes about a third of the game's achievements, and they're not trivial ones, especially if you're trying to do them legitimately in servers with people you don't know. One horrible one requires you to kill fifty enemy horsemen while on foot - but if the player dismounts to fight you, as benefits them, killing them will no longer count. If the player runs away, being as you're on foot, or simply refuses to engage or harasses you with projectiles, there's little you can do. If you accidentally kill the horse (which has a larger hitbox than the rider), knocking the player alive to the ground, killing them will no longer count. You have to do this fifty times in matches that generally go up to 16v16 if you want to retain even a semblance of agency.

Warband also has one of my favorite silly things that occurs once in a while in achievement lists, particularly in nearly every Yakuza game - two nominally separate achievements where one can (or sometimes must) be implied by the other. You see, there are no real progression-based (e.g. 'kill 50/100/150 enemies with melee weapons') type multiplayer achievements. The overlap between these is nearly nothing, except that there exists both a 'kill 25 enemies with throwing weapons' as well as a 'kill 50 enemies with throwing axes' achievement. Dunno why, it's silly to me.

The singleplayer achievements can essentially all be done in a single, very specific, run. The remaining progression after I cut it off earlier is to build up a power base and strong friends under a legitimate king, convince those friends to back you as your own king, and then conquer lands from the other kings until you've painted the map Integristani. So, essentially, if you roll a woman (there were a bunch of achievements added years later for being, specifically, a woman, for some reason), establish yourself, put a pretender on a throne, get more power because the new king adores you, betray him and go independent, and paint the world, you'll be able to amass everything the singleplayer game has to offer except precisely one achievement along the way. Only male PCs can elope, for some reason. Tagging back to the previous paragraph, this will also get you, simultaneously in each case, 'declare your own faction' and 'declare your own faction, but as a woman' as well as 'paint the entire map' and 'paint the entire map, but as a woman'.

Nowadays, there is no reason to recommend Warband to anybody. The classic mods for it, huge and detailed as they are, have always been really bad unless you're a huge number cruncher or absolutely glisteningly damp at the setting itself. The core, Calradian, gameplay looks like it's just been done much better by Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord, so just get that instead. I won't be, but you might.

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Finished: 5/1/21. Playtime: 40.3 hours.

Let's ring in the new year with an absolute unquestionable classic. Planets vs. Zombies is still a fantastic little tower defense game to this day, and nothing has changed. There's nothing I can say about it that hasn't been echoed by a million people over the last thirteen years.

Acing it was simply pleasant. Complete the game twice, do well in a few of the (generally quite fun) minigames, play a few levels wrong as a joke. The only blight on this superb game is one achievement (grow the tree to 100 feet) is absolutely unreasonably grindy, but there's an exploit to get around it, so I proudly say fuck it. My only line in the sand is third-partying except where there exists no other option.

If you somehow haven't played Plants vs. Zombies in 2022, do it.

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Finished: 17/1/21. Playtime: 5.9 hours.

Pleasantly completing the trifecta of Half-Life 2, and unpleasantly reminding me that the Orange Box completion will never happen, the conclusion of Freeman's saga.

HL2E2 is a weird beast and not one I entirely endorse. I'm not gonna go on some big gamer rant about cliffhangers and Valve can't count to 3 and etc. etc., I just don't think Episode 2 is all that great. It's serviceable. It's good, even, in parts. As its own game, though? It's just a bit whelming. It kind of carries forward some of the same issues Episode 1 did - how do you follow up the Half-Life 2? The answer, I guess, is you don't. You stitch together some ideas that might have made the cut for the original game, if you'd thought of them in time, and call it a day.

That's a little unfair, though. Episode 2 is nowhere near as nothing as Episode 1 is. It strives to be something more and, honestly, that makes it more admirable when it falls on its fucking face. The first third of the game is samey and unfun. The middle third of the game is a road trip we've already done, but a little bit more directed. The final third of the game is an interesting concept that doesn't completely realize its own potential. It's better than Episode 1, but both of them kind of fulfill the niche of 'well, if you're really hungry for more HL2, here it is'.

Episode 2 was the first to be designed with achievements from the go, and that means they're the worst. They do, credit to the game, run the gamut from simple story completion to collecting collectibles to doing this one hard thing to playing the campaign with a handicap, but there's just these little fuckups here and around. 'Get all the collectibles' is a solid premise - but the actual format of the two are 'squish every single grub in a series of samey tunnels, by the way there's three hundred of them and tons of points of no return' and 'get every cache spread across the road trip that takes up the middle third of the game, there's only six though'. Both of them are miserable. Hell, there's even a third one that takes place entirely within the confines of the same levels where you're hunting grubs.

Then there's Little Rocket Man. There's Little Fucking Rocket Man.

It's time to reverse the screed about One Free Bullet. Little Rocket Man fucking sucks. The premise is similar - at a certain breakpoint in the campaign, you have to make a single decision and follow its consequences through the rest of the game. In this case, there's a garden gnome in the first house you run into in the first chapter. You have to carry this gnome, through thick and thin, to the bit before the final battle. Conceptually, this is a neat idea and plays with the physics that Half-Life 2 popularized so well. In practice, there's the road trip that's the middle third of the game.

You see, there's no dedicated slot on your car to put the gnome into, and Source physics are notoriously janky. You can settle him perfectly into the passenger's seat and then simply watch him clip through the entire car as you begin to drive. You can get him to clip halfway into the hood and stay there, and then if your car is ever shot he falls through the world and becomes unrecoverable. When you're going on foot from arena to arena, stashing him so he doesn't get hit by explosives and smashed out of the way, it's a weird handicap but funny in a random way. The second you get the car, Little Rocket Man becomes a fucking nightmare.

Unfortunately, there's not much else to talk about for Episode 2. It's kind of a sour end for the series, but there's no real changing that now. Pity.

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Finished: 19/1/21. Playtime: 9.2 hours.

I sure wish there was a way to find all the gamers at this party!

Continuing a trek through all-timers: man, Portal. This shit was a phenomenon in 2007. We didn't even really have memes back then, so I'll posit that Portal just invented memes whole cloth, why not. Simultaneously wildly overrated and somehow underappreciated today, it's kind of occupied a Seinfeldian niche where it seems pedestrian and blasé because all the things it did, it popularized. What a wild ride. I'm positive you've played or seen someone play Portal or its sequel.

The achievements weren't much to write home about. Two sets of not particularly offensive campaign-wide collectibles, one playthrough (or re-playthrough, in my case) was sufficient. Then there were the challenge rooms. Super straightforward from an achievements perspective - just get all the gold medals! Good lord, some of these were hard. But, much like Crazy Taxi, 'do this simple yet ballbusting task' isn't too interesting to write about.

What I'm saying is that Portal is just Valve's Crazy Taxi.

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Finished: 6/2/21. Playtime: 294.2 hours.

@Parrhesia asked on the Discord server a short time ago: what Fire Emblem game do you love far moreso than you think it's actually good? That's a real interesting thought exercise in general, being able to separate something you love for a personal reason from any particular objective statement of quality. Empire: Total War is that for me.

It's kind of a shit game, honestly. It's a complete slave to its own ambition, wanting to be a game about the entire ("civilized") world c. 1700, and in seeking to be Big it forgot to be particularly Substantive. There's 42 factions spanning three continents, but a full half of them are just Armies in the European Tradition who will vary by a few unique units - if they're lucky. The astonishingly vast and diverse Indian subcontinent is three identical factions and the Maratha, who are slightly different in that they're shittier Europeans. The map's genuinely pretty, at least, and the game did cobble together a granddaddy of the major/minor settlement divide that would eventually be sublime in Total Warhammer many years later, so there's little nuggets of goodness here. Empire touted, for the first time, naval battles - but naval battles control poorly and run worse. They were hardly playable on my rig in 2009, and even my 2020 rig running the newest Call of Duty and Total Warhammer 2 and the like chugged in anything bigger than a fleet skirmish.

The combat? The draw of any Total War? It's slow. In, say, Shogun 2, the next game along the line, two units of yari ashigaru would shred one another in a minute tops, with someone breaking and running, let alone if there were any support around. The core of Empire's combat is line infantry, and two units of line infantry can plink at each other with muskets for minutes on end, shedding a few men each volley, locked in interminable combat. Strong melee infantry can make things faster if they can get significant numbers into melee, but they're kind of obsoleted when better bayonets get invented. Cavalry charges can shock morale if executed perfectly, but cavalry are achingly fragile - a cavalry unit is 45 men on horses with hardly any more health than an infantryman each, which come in units of 120. On top of that, in the beginning, you don't have any firing drills - the front line of infantry will fire and then reload and then fire, and every man behind them will stand and wait for his turn to step up if someone dies. It's unbelievably slow. Technology helps, at least - firing drills allow your extra men to use their weapons, better artillery shot improves their killing potential substantially, and so on.

So why, given all that, is Empire still my most-played Total War game? It's hard to quantify. I just listed several (nowhere near all!) the reasons why tactical combat is slow as shit, but it's a slowness I enjoy. There's a degree of maneuvering during combat you can do in Empire that you can't really do in other games in the series without godly micro. The factions and progression therein are incredibly samey, but it's accidentally a same I enjoy - is there any real difference between playing Empire as <anyone> again and playing Total Warhammer as Beastmen again? One will always have a favorite faction or playstyle, and by complete happenstance the generic Empire faction is something I like to play. The world is too big for its own britches and, beyond an initial consolidation, is just fighting stacks of differently-colored same-type dudes until you paint the map. On the other hand, lategame always becomes an autoresolve fiesta unless I have an army I particularly want to watch go, typically something with an obscene amount of artillery, so in practice this issue doesn't really come up. The earlygame consolidation in most other Total War games are against subfactions or rebels of your faction, so the initial samey battles in Empire aren't really any different from the initial samey battles all over the series. There's a laundry list of things that, on paper, are absolute negatives, but in practice end up just not mattering too much to how I play the game.

Naval battles are indefensible, though. If it's time for a naval campaign, just build a shitload of boats and autoresolve every combat while watching one of the old A&E Horatio Hornblower made-for-TV films.

Acing out Empire sucked ass. There's an achievement for each difficulty, but Empire's of the era where that means running a campaign on each difficulty because you don't get the smaller ones when you get the bigger ones. There's achievements for doing every single non-combat thing a lot of times, and they're really not all that useful to do, so you just end up sitting a bunch of gentlemen agents to do useless things over and over again. Credit to the campaign achievements, though - instead of 'conquer the world' they had three separate achievements for 'conquer all of Europe / America / India', giving you the option to not carry one campaign long past the point of any engaging gameplay. There's a suite of multiplayer battle achievements, but you can rig them all to your heart's content versus AI (which still takes a while) except for completing One Ranked Battle. Fortunately that said 'complete' not 'win', so I started with an army full of light cavalry, sat in queue for over an hour, and then when some dude was looking for an Empire: Total War ranked match in TYOOL 2021 rushed him straight down the line and lost horribly.

And then, after all that, there's Kill One Million Guys. Battles can be several thousand on each side so, on paper, this isn't really a huge task considering you need to complete three entire campaigns, conquer the world in thirds, and fight fifty multiplayer battles at the minimum. You could hypothetically kill six, maybe eight hundred thousand guys during the course of all of that.

Problem is, the fucker's bugged.

Possibly by design, any casualties caused from automated results doesn't count. No autobattling, and anything your guys 'catch' after you declare victory doesn't count. This is possibly by design, even if it's a bit insane. On the other hand, in a game built entirely on the interplay of infantry, cavalry, and artillery as equalizing forces of the army, artillery kills do not count. That's not entirely true - anything directly hit by an artillery shell is credited as a kill to the team - but in practice somewhere between 95 and 99.8% of artillery kills will not be counted. Compounding this, as army sizes get bigger towards the lategame, artillery gets better and begins to make up more and more of your kills, including all of them in some fights. The reason for all this is that any secondary effect (e.g. an explosion) credits its kills to Mother Earth herself, so it's a fundamental-to-the-game bug; artillery crews basically do not gain veterancy through the campaign.

The result of this was that I finished every single achievement except for the kill half a million and kill a million men ones after about 260 hours of gameplay. Please note that that isn't even halfway to the milestone. I rigged up a custom battle where I had nothing but max veterancy U.S. Marines and the AI had nothing but Native American militia troops with hatchets, closed my eyes and tried desperately to ignore the optics of the optimal zero-input battle, and churned that battle over and over again in a window while I worked or played other games for four days. Four days. Randomly, while playing Mechwarrior Online with some mates as the battle ran in the background, it finally ticked to 1,000,000 profile kills around 2100 on the 6th of February. Jesus.

So, in the end, what's Empire's legacy? I still don't really know. The pre-2016 Total War games have been almost utterly superseded by Total Warhammer and its sequels in my brain, but there's still a little tickling bit of my brain that acknowledges that Empire is a really quite bad game, and also wants to go start another Ottomans campaign and fast tech to percussive shells and build a shitload of huge mortars.

The punchline is that I lied earlier when I said the next game in the series was Shogun 2. The next game was actually Napoleon, which tried, mostly successfully, to address every negative thing I said earlier, and which I didn't enjoy nearly as much. Isn't the brain a funny thing?

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5 hours ago, Integrity said:

I sure wish there was a way to find all the gamers at this party!

I hate that I get that moist and delicious reference.

Don't have much more to say, except that the first time I've booted up Faster Than Light, I died at the very first encounter. I think my ship was boarded...? It's been on my "OK, I do want to learn how to play this" list since.

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On 10/21/2022 at 6:07 PM, Integrity said:

this is part of why i find achievements so fascinating - not even franchises can agree internally on what's an achievement! yakuzas 0, 1, 2, and 5 all require the in-game completion log to be filled out as an achievement, but yakuzas 6 and 7 don't have anything meaningfully associated with it, and yakuzas 3 and 4 have minigame challenges separate from the completion log that exist only as achievements. it's bizarre!

I love that it isn't even just that they changed their mind on how they wanted achievements to work part way through the series. Oh no. That would be too simple. They changed their mind, and then changed it back, and then changed it again to something completely different. That's impressive.

On 10/21/2022 at 6:40 PM, Integrity said:


According to Steam, I played this for about 3 hours back in 2011. I remember very little about it. I think maybe I had been looking for something more on the side of tower defense and it wasn't what I was after? I can't remember at all.

On 10/21/2022 at 6:40 PM, Integrity said:

Fuckin' Six Degrees.

There's a concept that some, fortunately few, games have of a viral achievement. The idea is that you get the achievement by playing a game with, or in some cases winning a game against, someone who has the achievement already. The developers start with it, play the game opening weekend with randoms or some such, and then let the achievement pervade the playerbase.

These achievements are crap and they suck.

Agreed that these achievements are terrible. There are basically two possibilities. Either you get them super easily with no effort at all and don't even notice that they're there, or trying to get one is a near impossible slog of suffering and pain. Neither option is fun, and there is no in-between.

On 10/21/2022 at 8:04 PM, Integrity said:


Finished: 20/10/20. Playtime: 20.2 hours.

Bastion is one of the finest games ever made.

That's the review. It's not a perfect game by any means, but it is one of the best pieces of art to grace the medium. Play Bastion. It's not long, it's not expensive, and it's not hard to get into.

Agreed with this. Bastion is amazing and everyone should play it. So good that I bought it twice (on Steam and 360) and don't regret the double purchase. I never did 100% it on either platform though, since I was kinda bad at it and couldn't do the max difficulty challenges. The second game that you've mentioned that I kinda want to replay now.

18 hours ago, Integrity said:


The first of your list that I have also 100%ed. And another one that I bought multiple times on different platforms. Fun game, and I'm still a little sad that it never got a proper sequel, that wasn't either a microtranscaction-filled mobile game or a change to a completely different game genre.

7 hours ago, Integrity said:


And make that three games that you've mentioned that I now want to replay. And unlike Bastion and FTL, 100% sounds like something that I might actually be able to do without making myself hate the game.

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21 minutes ago, lenticular said:

I think maybe I had been looking for something more on the side of tower defense and it wasn't what I was after?

yeah, if you were looking for something more on the tower defense side it wouldn't have tickled your pickle - it was the kind of tower defense action game where you were fully expected to be able to handle the first few waves with your swords and light help from traps before the engine got rolling at all, and you could never get the towers to autonomy. more of an action game with a tower defense side to manage than a tower defense game with an action side to make up with.

21 minutes ago, lenticular said:

I love that it isn't even just that they changed their mind on how they wanted achievements to work part way through the series. Oh no. That would be too simple. They changed their mind, and then changed it back, and then changed it again to something completely different. That's impressive.

the funny thing is, you're right but not quite for the reasons you think -

the timeline of the series is actually 3 - 4 - 5 - 0 - 1 - 6 - 2 - 7 thanks to remakes

so what this means is it was minigame achievements -> completion log achievements up until the release of yakuza 1's remake, and then 6 was 'nothing meaningful', 2 was 'the whole thing', and 7 was 'nothing meaningful' again.

this becomes even funnier when you count in the judgment spinoff games, which are essentially the same framework of game but with a new set of characters and such

this expands the post-1 to 6 - 2 - judgment - 7 - lost judgment

this rules because judgment and lost judgment both require the entire completion log for 100% achievements - so now it's full completion log through 1, then one game where you randomly don't, then two when you do, then one when you don't, and then they go back to you do.

E: there's another remake coming out in february and i have no idea what it's going to entail re: completion log. super hyped.

Edited by Integrity
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Finished: 13/2/21. Playtime: 21.8 hours.

The other two Call of Duty: Moderns Warfare will show up at various points later, but MW2 was the one that was in my library initially and which I could actually finish at the time.

I've got a long history with the Call of Duty franchise. I played Call of Duty 2 a million years ago and thought it was incredibly okay. In 2007, I was a huge Battlefield 2 stan, and I picked up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare because I was sick of hearing about it and wanted to make sure I hated it before I got into fights with people online about it. I loved it instead, oops. I quickly became a Prominently Online Member of the Call of Duty 4 Forums, a fansite, and got into a fight with one of the Treyarch community reps during the World at War beta. World at War came out and was pretty bad, and then I didn't buy Modern Warfare 2, because I was like seventeen and didn't grok the studio differences. I wouldn't return to the franchise until a run of the campaigns of the three Moderns Warfare in the mid-10s, which is why I had 2 and 3 in my Steam library but not 1 (I still had a DVD drive back then), and then I'd leave again until Black Ops 4, which was incredibly okay but somehow convinced me to buy Modern Warfare (2019), which had a lackluster campaign at best but I fell right back into the multiplayer like I did the original Modern Warfare, even though I was like thirty by then.

In any case, I'll talk more about my individual relationships with each Modern Warfare as I get to them in the chronological list. This one's MW2.

Let's shoot the elephant in the room immediately: No Russian is a garbage level invented only to stir controversy, and the actual implementation is completely gauche and tasteless even by the standards of 2009 and it's only aged worse since then. If you think the addition of No Russian was fundamental to the identity of MW2, I implore you to reevaluate your entire life.

With that out of the way, MW2 has the best campaign in the Calls of Duty I've played, and it isn't particularly close. This is a little bit unfortunate, because MW2 represents a shift to Elite Operators, Hard Men Making Hard Decisions which Call of Duty would never recover from. Maybe if MW2 hadn't been so Goddamn good, that could have been averted, but such is society. I'll leave the pontificating on that for the MW3 post, though.

Even at its worst (pretty incontrovertibly the favela levels), MW2 is still a good milspec FPS campaign. At its best? There's an outside shout that Of Their Own Accord and Second Sun into Whiskey Hotel may represent the absolute best milspec FPS campaign maps ever put together, with the only genuine competition I can think of coming from its direct predecessor. Far from expectable ups and downs, MW2's campaign runs a rating gamut from about 7/10 to a perfect 10. Even its mandatory dumb gimmicks don't go on too long, the endgame boat chase notwithstanding. The shooting feels relatively fantastic for the era, even if we've had better since. Locations and objectives are varied enough to keep it interesting for the runtime of the campaign. On all fronts, it's just about as well put-together as one could feasibly expect a Call of Duty campaign to be.

The Special Ops missions are absolutely a proof of concept, though. It's achingly easy to tell that Infinity Ward had the idea in the buildup to MW2 and crowbarred it in, mostly successfully. This is the one bit where MW3 would be distinctly superior, but MW2's missions are fine dumb fun, with no particularly terrible sticking points.

One might expect some talk about the multiplayer, but I have had several entire hours of experience with MW2's multiplayer years after its heyday, found it to be completely miserable, and thankfully the achievements require none of it.

Acing MW2 follows the same pattern the Moderns Warfare will all follow. Complete the campaign on Veteran, get all of the intel briefcases, 3* all the spec op missions. Each of the games have a little something extra, and MW2's was just a mostly-forgettable series of minor challenges, only one of which is noteworthy. Desperado asks the player to kill five enemies consecutively using five different weapons, and this codifies the way I've always wanted to play Call of Duty - fuck reloading, get a new gun, Hotline Miami style. Turns out? Maybe not so strict requirements in general, but it's fun as hell to do.

Both other Moderns Warfare will have more achievements talk than 2, and both of them will have more for the strictly negative. Look forward to those jumpscaring you randomly.

I'm sure it came across in the review portion but genuinely, Modern Warfare 2's campaign is nearly as good as it gets for this kind of game, and you really don't need context to play it. If it's the kind of thing you think you'd like, get it for a tenner on a Steam sale and enjoy it.

Big shoutouts to @Parrhesia for, despite Australia to east U.S. ping, helping me run the two or three mandatory-coop spec ops missions. Love ya.

Edited by Integrity
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