Towards the end of last year I was expecting to visit Canada to meet my teammates, which ultimately didn’t happen for COVID reasons. The dates got moved back to January this year, then March, and then the destination was changed to New York City rather than Ottawa. Exciting!
Well, the logistics have at last settled down, and in April we’ll all be meeting up in… London. I have mixed feelings about this: the location’s very convenient and I’m mostly relieved that I won’t have to travel on anything except my bike, but a small part of me is disappointed that this trip now won’t be the excuse to force myself to re-engage with the mundane reality of flying. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to getting on a plane but it probably would’ve been psychologically healthy to do it.
Is the universe is trying to tell me something? No, nothing means anything.
In a half-hearted attempt to diversify my habits I ordered a filter tasting pack from Workshop to see whether I liked any of their beans. They’re all very nice so far, although I haven’t yet found a variety to displace Lost Highway as my everyday default.
Speaking of Dark Arts, this week they released a £12,000,010 box of coffee with a £12m discount code, which I thought was a great idea.
The measuring cups arrived and I remade the polenta loaf. It worked much better this time, partly because I drained a small amount of water from the polenta before adding it to the dough, but mostly because the quantities were wildly different when I measured them volumetrically.
Half a cup of polenta actually weighed 100g, not the 80g predicted by the online converter I used last time; half a cup of pumpkin seeds weighed 75g, not 60g; half a cup of water weighed 135g, not 120g. How can they get water wrong?
I’m a handful of hours into Horizon Forbidden West.
It is, overall, good. It’s visually beautiful, the music & sound design is excellent, and I enjoy the writing and Ashly Burch’s earnest-yet-playful performance. I’m glad I bought it and I’m looking forward to playing more.
But, well, where do I start with what’s wrong with it? The people who designed this game have got the worst case of action RPG brain worms I’ve ever seen. Everything — everything — is ten times more complicated than it needs to be, and always in a way which contributes nothing to the experience.
The controls are an absolute mess: counterintuitive and unnecessarily fiddly, with tons of busywork and constant needless button-pushing for its own sake. The UI is the traditional barrage of overlays, popups, tutorials, tips, hold-to-dismiss modals, over-aggressive quest markers, menus inside menus inside menus, multiple skill trees, multiple inventories, crafting, upgrades, quest logs, and on and on. Would you like to play a board game? I would not.
The environments, while lush and beautiful, are not particularly legible, which is frustrating if you’re trying to explore by yourself instead of relying on markers. Traversal feels fairly ropey in general, although grappling is fun and reminds me of happier times in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Arkham Knight.
As in the first game, the story is convoluted and doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t really matter since the player can easily ignore it and just follow the quest marker. This game also has the same overwrought combat as its predecessor, which again isn’t a huge problem because on normal difficulty it’s straightforward enough to button-mash your way through without needing to understand what’s happening. But I’m a bit sad that both story and combat have been bloated and deadened rather than refined and simplified this time around.
It’s all too much. I understand that a large proportion of the audience must be asking for their games to be this overloaded with complexity — because, for them, learning to navigate the maze of obscure interlocking systems is the game — but for me it comes close to spoiling the whole thing, because I just want to enter the waking dream of being Aloy in a post-apocalyptic land filled with hostile machines, not this administrative nightmare.
What else? The text is — take a drink — far too small. When set to “extra large” the subtitles are still much smaller than subtitles on a film, and there’s no way to make any of the other text in the game any larger. All of the menu and popup text is tiny; when you read a datapoint, it’s displayed in a little font in a little rectangle which fills a quarter of an otherwise empty screen. Why? Because shut up, that’s why.
It’s a little technically rough too. There are flickering textures, wonky shadows, dodgy clipping and invisible walls, which will hopefully get fixed as time goes on. I don’t understand how anyone thought Aloy’s hair simulation was good enough to ship — it’s aggressively bad.
Anyway! Good game!
All of the above makes me appreciate the relative simplicity of Naughty Dog’s games that much more.
We’ve started watching Columbo, which is great.
On Tuesday night I went for a spontaneous beer in Hackney with Tom. The Reliance was absolutely dead upstairs, filled with ghosts of drinks past. It felt strange but rejuvenating.
My back’s basically better. 😅
I still recall how transgressive it felt, back in the late nineties, the first time someone at work sent a message on IRC while they were in the bathroom. Whereas now I can’t remember the last time I talked to anyone online who wasn’t doing a poo. ♻️