RIP RDO

Photo credit: RDR2 gameplay on PS4

Two months ago, Rockstar Games announced there would be no more Red Dead Online updates. Those of you who know me, read this blog or follow me on Twitter (@cindyjacks) understand what a loss this is for me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my favorite alternate reality. And the chance to create my own character in that simpler, albeit much more violent, time…well, I was hooked at once. And now living in Kansas the wild, wild west feels even more relevant. Seriously, look up Cowtown, the replica of old Wichita. It’s totally Blackwater.

Granted, the online version was never quite fully baked. The beta period only offered four story missions and you had to grind like it was your job to level up. Nary a bird flew past me without meeting its death. Hey, they were 10xp each! But there was something about going on , hunting and fishing and embracing the simulation of living off the land. It is my understanding, however, that skinning a deer or rabbit is much more complicated than depicted in the game. Who knew? πŸ˜‚

Once the game left beta though, there were moments of brilliance. The addition of the trader, bounty hunter, and collector roles. The evolution of the trader to moonshiner, the collector to naturalist. The addition of the Call to Arms saved us from complete boredom and frustration with the lack of updates. The world evolved and allowed me to sink deeper into the fantasy of living in the Wild West…but, you know, without the actual risk of dysentery or tuberculosis. Or being barred from owning property cuz I’m a girl, lol.

It got to the point thatΒ  Halloween wasn’t Halloween without the RDO update. Christmas, too. But when the last Christmas “special” coat was nothing more than a black leather coat that looked much like every other black coat in the game, I could see the writing on the wall. The end cometh.

To be honest, I haven’t played the game much since then. I steeled myself for the inevitable demise of RDO. And now that it’s official, I feel as though I’ve lost a group of friends. In a way, I have. Cripps, my beloved Bacchus (he’s my favorite horse), Maggie, the lady with the awesome voice who narrated the cutscenes for the legendary bounties. Even Sean McGuire, who it was lovely to have alive again (oops sorry, mild RDR2 spoiler, my bad).

Granted, Rockstar hasn’t deleted the servers so all those folks are still there for me to visit. I probably will from time to time once the sting of the game’s stagnation wears off. But I’m level 260-something so without new content, there’s not much for me to do other than the same mind-numbing loop of grinding. Perhaps I’ll stalk a 3-star whitetail buck or reel in a massive sturgeon, just for old times sake.

There’s also the Call to Arms to take out the day’s frustration with, but since me and my honeypie have mastered all of them, well, the thrill is gone. RDO has become that lover who doesn’t switch up things in bed. Ya like what they do, but ya wish they’d throw you a curveball every once in a while. Alas, there will be no gimp suits and gagballs lurking in RDO’s closet. Sorry, I took that metaphor too far, lol.

Being the gaming addicts we are, Charles and I have found some substitutes for the gaping hole RDO has left in our co-op playtime. State of Decay 2 has a decent substitute for the Call to Arms. We’ve yet to best Daybreak so that’s on the agenda for this weekend. But having fallen in love with a cowboy and living in a state that is literally part of the Old West mythology, there’s nothing to do but wait for a dev to creat a new Western masterpiece. I suspect it’ll be a very long time before I crush on a game quite so passionately. I suppose time will tell.

My dearest RDO, you will be missed. You filled many a dark day with joy and laughter and headshots. No other game could ever replace you and you’ll be in my heart always. Whenever I sip a little Tennessee whiskey, I’ll pour a some for you in remembrance.

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

Floundering in the Void

Photo: Me and my Freddie

I’m irritated with myself. See, I started this blog as sort of my own therapy session and to talk about gaming. But lately I haven’t been blogging or writing at all. It’s not that I’m stress-free, far from it in fact. But I just don’t feel inspired.

Part of the problem is I haven’t played a game that really moves me to put pen to paper (okay, I don’t really write with pen and paper, but “tap the touch pad” doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been thoroughly abusing my GamePass on my XBox Series S. State of Decay 2, Elex, Guardians of the Galaxy, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, The Outer Worlds, Outriders. The list goes on and on. They’re all good games, lots of fun, but nothing that’s really spoken to me and definitely nothing that’s blown my mind.

Where’s the next The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2 or Horizon: Zero Dawn (okay, Forbidden West was pretty bad a$$, too, but where’s the 3rd installment, huh?). I need another fix of that good good, that sweet that nasty that gooshy stuff, but I’m just not finding it. Alas, I fear I’m a junkie chasing down that next great high. As I’ve stated before, I realize I’m low-key a gaming addict and I’m okay with that. It’s far better for me than other temptations.

Scrolling through Game Informer new releases, I don’t feel too hopeful for the last quarter of 2022. Not to say there aren’t some very good games coming up, but I don’t see greatness. That being said, I would love a new release to prove me wrong.

My plan? To continue sifting through past games, looking once again to experience that rush and to get lost once more. Hey, it’s better than dealing with real life, right? If y’all have any suggestions for what I should play next, please leave them in the comments below. See ya next Friday! (I’m serious, it’s happening this time!)

If I’ve entertained you or added some value to your day, that’s wonderful! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter @cindyjacks. If you’d like to support my blog with donations you can do so at ko-fi https://ko-fi.com/grownupgamergirl or cash app $cindyjacksbooks. All donations to my online content are much appreciated, but definitely not required to keep coming back to visit! Game on, my friends!

Buggin’ Out: Dying Light 2 Stay Human

Photo credit: Dying Light 2 cover art, Techland

SOME SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THIS POST! You’ve been warned πŸ˜‰

I wanted to love Dying Light 2: Stay Human like I loved the first one. And I did love the story because it’s a complex tale filled with difficult choices. Not to mention the choices really do affect your outcome at the end which reminded me of one of my faves: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Unfortunately, the state of the game at release really bugged the $h!t out of me, but I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s focus on the positive.

So the good stuff about the game: I loved the story. I loved how you could align yourself with whatever group spoke to you the most. I chose the Survivors because I tend to be a “teamwork makes the dream work” kind of softie. I loved the romance you could spark with Lawan. The combat with the infected and bandits was a lot of fun. The weapons and the way you could mod them thrilled me to no end. I mean, who doesn’t want a machete that can set an opponent on fire?!All in all, I loved 90% of this game. But…yes, we knew there would be a but…

Oh…where to start? Perhaps with the blue screen of death that happened at least twice per gaming sesh. Keep in mind I’m not gaming as much as I once did so that translates to the game crashing about every couple hours. Then there were entire cutscenes that skipped through the dialogue. Even the closed captioning skipped ahead so I missed big chunks of what the characters were talking about. Granted, I’m always slow to jump on new games so there were lots of videos out already where I could watch the content I missed. But really? For $60, I shouldn’t have to cyberstalk Aiden just to hear what he had to say to Lawan, lol.

There were other parts of the game that felt a little half-baked like the parkour system. My Aiden died far more from platforming mishaps than those pesky volatiles. That being said, as I’ve freely admitted on this blog, I am a less than stellar platformer so there is that. But games with smoother climbing mechanics such as AC Odyssey and Horizon Zero Dawn gave even my old reflexes far less trouble. I also felt the side quests could’ve been a bit less fetch-y and a little more insightful into Aiden’s character.

I mentioned the bugs and glitches to my beloved who replied, “Yeah, but that’s every new game these days.” He has a fair point and while the state of Dying Light 2 wasn’t as catastrophic as other somewhat recent releases that shall remain nameless (you know the ones that broke everyone’s heart…you know what I’m talkin’ about), it was far from release ready, IMHO. While it’s true that 90% of what flawed this game can and most likely will be remedied by patches and updates. But as gamers and consumers, I think we deserve more for our hard earned money than “Oh, that? That’ll be fixed later.” So endeth the soapbox portion of this blog post.

Yes, yes, let’s get back to what Dying Light 2 did right, which was something I consider paramount to any story game: an engaging narrative that fosters genuine reflection into the human condition. In this case, I couldn’t help but appreciate the double meaning of the game’s title. Of course there is the fact that toward the end of the prologue you’ve been bitten and for the rest of the game, if you spend too much time without UV light or linger too long in a patch of infection-accelerating chemicals, Aiden will turn into one of the nameless and doomed Infected. This does, of course, pose the question: are the Infected no longer human? That is a philosophical and ethical question for another day, but given the way everyone who hasn’t turned in the game slaughters Infected wholesale, we can gather this post-apocalyptic society has decided no. No, the Infected are not human.

But here’s what I found beautiful about the title: Aiden’s journey is riddled with many difficult and thought-provoking choices. Which faction to side with, who to save and who to forsake, which folks are worth helping, and often sacrificing personal comfort and safety for the greater good. Aiden even had the opportunity to fall in love. It’s this interpretation of the title that struck me. How, when the world is a mess and plagued with disease does one fundamentally stay ‘human’. Being human means making tough choices all the time. And in our very real time of plague and disease, there have been moments where we as a society have behaved subpar. I’m looking at you, those who when COVID first broke out hoarded all the toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and ramen noodles. Okay, I’m being flippant about a very serious subject mostly because I don’t want to delve into more serious debate about vaccines and mask wearing. And please, let’s avoid such diatribes in the comments should you leave one. No matter what side of either debate speaks to you, I think we can all agree that though our outbreak was nowhere near as severe as that in the game, our selfishness and drive to put our own needs above the needs of others did show. I can only imagine what would happen if COVID did turn some of us into bloodthirsty, mindless killing machines. How hard would it be to stave off savage and cruel instincts then?

While Dying Light 2 was far from perfect, I think it had enough meat to the story and interesting missions to make it worth playing, even with the blue screen of death lurking around every cutscene. And I am a sucker for games that force the player to make choices with sometimes unforseen consequences. Art imitating life is always a mirror worth gazing into. And let’s not forget the fire-infused machetes. Never forget those! If you’re on the fence about buying it, I’d give you this advice. Wait a couple months for the patches and fixes to come out and then do buy it! Especially in this current round of economic set backs, you can’t go wrong with a zombie tale. At least that’s what the psych experts say…and I tend to agree.

Why Does He Keep Losing His F*&king Gun?! Alan Wake Remastered

Early morning mist clings to the streetlights, sun still hiding behind the horizon. Sipping a cup of convenience store coffee that’s better than it should be and listening to love songs as I text my man, I feel at peace. That’s been a rare commodity these days. But one question circles in the back of my brain, threatening my quiet moment: Why the f*&k does Alan Wake keep losing his f*&king gun?!

***A few mild Alan Wake Remastered spoilers ahead! You’ve been warned!***

I know it’s been a while my fellow gamers. Meh…some circle of life stuff’s been going down and it knocked me off balance for a bit. And while I haven’t been writing or hanging out on social media, I have been gaming like a fiend. Last month I burned through four story-game titles: Lost Judgment, Far Cry 6, Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, and a replay of God of War on hard. Yeah, I’m masochist, but we knew that.

For some reason, the inspiration fairy didn’t hit me with any of those games. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed each of them, but it took Alan Wake and his f*&kwittery to move me to write. And the question remains: why can’t he seem to hang onto a motherf*&king weapon? One would think, other than survival, that would be objective #1. And one has a much better chance of surviving if one isn’t constantly having to scrounge for new armaments.

Yes, yes, yes, I know it’s part of the challenge, that and Alan is slow, stamina impaired, and in no way a bada$$. Which only strengthens my case for holding on to a pump-action shotgun for dear life! Needless to say, the combat in Alan Wake Remastered wasn’t the smoothest or most satisfying. In fact “frustrating as all hell” would be the phrase I’d use. The story, on the other hand, is a quirky, creepy masterpiece. It also gives the player some pretty accurate insight into what it’s like to write a story.

Early on the game pays homage to Stephen King and rightfully so. The premise of the story smacks of The Dark Side, but not so much that it’s predictable. In fact the devs borrowed from a lot of horror greats, such as HP Lovecraft and Clive Barker and then made the story their own. And the iconic last line of the game will stick with you forever, as you pull your hair out wondering WTF it means. “It’s not a lake, it’s an ocean.” I read the devs explanation of it and I still don’t really get the point, though that’s part of its charm.

Speaking of the cryptic ending, let’s talk about the DLC. Okay, I understand that DLC is invariably more difficult than the main game. This makes perfect sense in games such as The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn. By the end of those games, you’re character is a total freaking bada$$. You need beefier, more deadly enemies to keep you engaged.

Alan Wake does not have that kind of progression. Why then are the enemies in The Signal and The Writer more copious and more difficult to kill? I mean, Alan still can’t hang on to a weapon to save his motherf*&king life. Literally. I got so irritated with it last night I shut off the game lest I chuck my controller at the TV. Don’t think Charles would much appreciate that. But seriously, Alan had no more health, speed, or common freaking sense than he did in the main game so why…why…WHY?!

Alan Wake will leave you with more questions than answers and sometimes that’s okay. The writer in me loves that the story isn’t tied up in a neat bow at the end. The gamer in me did enjoy the unique challenge of weakening my foes with a flashlight. Yep, you read that right, a flashlight. But the realist in me says if Mr. Wake loses his godd@mn gun one more time, I’m through with him. Okay and I might be tempted to dive into the shmup Charles is playing. I guarantee you his character in Hired Gun ain’t constantly misplacing their arsenal. And Mama needs a brand new distraction.

#GamersUnite

Photo credit: Circle chirpty.com

When I started writing again after years of stress and loss, I knew I’d have to use social media to communicate my project to the wider world. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. As I’ve stated before, I’m painfully shy. Some of that is natural introversion. Some of it’s learned through pain, heartbreak, and betrayal. Engaging with other people can be scary.

I started posting on Twitter again after years of never opening the app and I didn’t know what to expect. First, most of my followers from my former life are authors of romance and erotica. Would anyone give a $h!t about a middle-aged woman blogging about her passion for gaming? Well, I didn’t start this journey for readers. While truly grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my ramblings, this is my vision. It’s my story. So I put on my grown-up gamergirl pants (well, leggings) and decided to start engaging with other gamers on Twitter.

What I discovered surprised me. Most of the gamers I’ve engaged with on Twitter are the nicest, coolest people I’ve ever met. Yes, there’s the occasional person who just wants to hit on me. And there are others who just want to promote their projects and that’s it. But the vast majority are intelligent and funny and kind and genuinely interested in sharing the joy of gaming.

There are different factions. Some staunch retro gamers. Those that only play on the cutting edge. Some strictly Nintendo. Some XBox devotees and those of us married to the PlayStation. Not the mention the PC players.

There are vast differences in ages, anywhere from teens to those of us who are a *little* more seasoned. You got sweats and casuals. Ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographic region…the list of differences goes on and on. But here’s the really awesome part: none of the issues that divide the general pop seem to apply. A gamer is a gamer. All are welcome.

Now there are certain rules: no yucking someone else’s yum and never ever suggest From Software add difficulty levels…kidding, kidding. There really is only one rule: respect for your fellow gamer. The virtual world is large enough to for us all to find our own bliss. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the real world worked that way?

So, I’d like to thank my gamer tweeps for helping this grown-up gamergirl find a place where she feels she fits in. When I returned to Twitter I had somewhere around 1400 followers, a month and a half later I’ve got about 2000. That’s 100 new friends a week. No, it’s not about the numbers, never that. It’s about feeling welcome. It’s been far too long since I’ve felt at home. #GamersUnite. Y’all know how we do πŸ˜‰

Same Old Song

Image credit: Google search

Gotta give a shout out to Unwantedlife.me for inspiring this post. Unwantedlife’s comment on my Memorial Day post stated:

…I use[d] to be an avid gamer until the PS4 came out. The PS4 killed my love of gaming with games that were carbon copies of the previous generation, just with slightly better graphics

Unwantedlife.me

Excellent point. And unfortunately, the PS5 is no different. Currently, there are few games designed solely for the new gen consoles, unless you count Cyberpunk 2077. Ohhh, low blow. I’m sorry CD Projekt Red, you know I still love ya.

As I play my way through Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I wonder: Is re-releasing older games on next gen consoles only about the Benjamins? Re-master, remakes, and re-releases, to quote MGK, let’s talk about it.

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, for me, is proving a good ROI. That is, of course, just personal opinion, but this is Cindy’s world so that’s allowed. I feel I am getting $60 worth of entertainment out of the titles. Yay! That’s not always the case, even with seminal games such as Final Fantasy VII Remake. Hated it!

But what about the folks who have already played the originals? Say, they purchased the Mass Effect games when they first released. Games were slightly cheaper then, but still that’s about $150 invested. To turn around almost fifteen years later and ask for another $60. Hmmm…yeah I see it. I see the outrage of gamers everywhere. The industry sends us lots of messages that state: we couldn’t give a f@#k less about y’all.

Allow me to play devil’s advocate for just a second, though. Complaining that game devs and distributors don’t care about us is tantamount to complaining that our drug dealer isn’t concerned with our well-being. Well, duh.

So, let’s examine the industry partyline on remakes and remasters. First, they are driven by nostalgia and fan demand. Re-releases also introduce older classics to a new audience. They have the added effect of bolstering interest in newer titles in the same franchise. Plus, these past hits are almost guaranteed to hit again. Kinda like a sure bet. I’d add a citation here, but I had to check in with my gamers friends to confirm this list. When studios talk about their makeover titles, they mostly speak about the added value and not so much the reasoning behind the project. Added value, that’s a classic sales technique which bolsters the “all about the Benjamins” side of this debate.

Again, Imma play devil’s advocate. Yes, I understand the gaming industry is a money making machine, but I am grateful for the opportunity to play the amaze-balls (sorry, I’m over caffeinated) Mass Effect trilogy in its new incarnation. Let’s see, when game one was released November 20, 2007. I had a three year old and was smack in the middle of my corporate wh0r3 days working 60+ hours per week. Yeah, no effing way I was getting anywhere near a console.

Mass Effect 2 released January 26, 2010. We did have an XBox 360 by then, but my son was seven and I had lots of PTA, housewife stuff to do so I missed that one. Mass Effect 3 in 2012, same story. Those were heavy Minecraft and Skylanders days and I don’t regret a minute spent playing with my boy. Man, don’t even get me started on Stealth Elf. She was my go-to girl. But all that time spent caring for my family meant little to no time to play grown-up titles.

Now, that my son is a year away from being an adult and he’s not about to game with Mom, I got the time. It is cool to revisit the games I missed cuz, you know…life and stuff. I’m sure the same applies to the younger generation who were too young to wield a controller back then.

What gives the Mass Effect games that “it” factor is the perfect trifecta. The mystery and pageantry of the story combined with kicka$$ RPG, shoot ’em up gameplay, plus the recurring characters you really care about, yeah…that’s the good stuff right there.

That being said, aside from Yakuza Kiwami, most of the updated re-releases I’ve played aren’t all that. They’re like that older celebrity who from a distance looks gorgeous but when you get closer you can tell they been heavily “refreshed”. This brings me to a crucial difference: remaster vs. remake.

A remaster is like touching up an old painting. The colors are brighter; the shading and lighting effects and reflections are more realistic. Of course, everything is in HD. Gameplay is smoother, bugs and glitches fixed. And these days devs also add HDR and 4K compatibility (techradar). But for the most part it really is the same old song.

In a remake, the game is rebuilt from ground up. There might even be changes to characters or even storylines. The studio and devs get to express their artistic interpretation of an old favorite (techradar). In my opinion, a remake gives gamers a lot more bang for their buck. Unless it’s Final Fantasy VII the Remake, then I say don’t bother. That’s right, emo-boy Cloud Strife, I’m looking at you. Just kidding, I know the game speaks to a lot of people, I’m simply not one of them. I’m not their target audience…product of its time…yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

Sorry, that’s my last outburst, I promise.

Okay, here’s the problem I have with all these re-releases: there are precious few quality game releases each year. When I rekindled my love affair with gaming about a year and a half ago, I was shocked at the molasses-in-January rate at which new titles are released, especially triple AAA games. There is no other industry on the planet that can put out a trailer three to five years in advance of the product. Say what? That’s right, we’re expected to drool for years. And we do!

There are also lots of fluff releases and studios blatantly ripping off successful games. When you burn through a new game every two to four days, that’s a nasty habit to support. Sometimes the supply of quality games just isn’t there.

Image credit: https://www.italymagazine.com/dual-language/story-behind-michelangelos-david

In a decidedly instant gratification society, this seems a poor business model. I would guess the flood of remasters is the gaming industry’s way of keeping money rolling in while they chip away at their Michelangelo’s David. Still, wouldn’t those masterpieces move along a teensy bit faster if resources and staffing allocated to do-overs were poured into new projects? Just saying.

When it comes down to it, gaming studios only gonna do what we, as gamers, allow. We keep buying the re-releases so they will continue to pump them out. Then again, what the f@#k else are we gonna play in between truly playworthy new releases? Definitely a double-edged sword.

Time to hear from you guys: Do you think re-released titles are worth playing or do you think it is just about the money?

Please like, follow, hit me up on social media, it all helps. And if you’re a fellow bloggers, please feel free to drop a link in your comments. I love to read almost as much as gaming. All comments and follows returned.

Sites cited:

https://www-techradar-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.techradar.com/amp/news/game-remakes-vs-remasters-whats-the-differencehttps://www-techradar-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.techradar.com/amp/news/game-remakes-vs-remasters-whats-the-difference