First Victory

Sea Battle 2 • Earned first victory

I know this sounds silly, but I still consider Battleships to be one of the ultimate military strategy games. For a long time I’ve loved strategy and the narratives that surround them – think Command and Conquer, or even something more contemporary like Company of Heroes – but Battleships is a game that is raw strategy. There’s no storyline – no ‘Axis vs Allies’ or ‘The Brotherhood of Nod’. Just pure, unadulterated gameplay.

And then, of course, some developer called Byril OOO brought it to mobile.

I like the concept. It’s pretty much hard-and-fast Battleships, with a pretty good pen-and-paper design and the option to go one player versus AI, or against an online opponent. For this achievement I just kept it simple – one game, medium AI … as much to give myself a sense of the game over anything else.

I haven’t had a good look at the achievement list yet, but I will see if there’s anything else worth picking up in the meantime. You never know when a backup iOS Achievement will come in handy!

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Secure the Southern Border

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Make America Great Again: The Trump Presidency • Complete the Trump Wall

When Donald Trump was elected, I thought it would be slightly amusing to create a Spotify playlist that represented everything I feared for the Trump Administration. Sure enough, Trump is working hard to ensure those expectations are met – but it seems like there are plenty of other creatives looking to muscle in on the Trump Phenomenon (deliberately capitalized like a proper noun). Enter this … this monstrosity.

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I don’t even know where to begin. This is a mediocre resource-manager at best, and then it goes and throws in a basic side-scrolling shooter, and what’s worse is that it has Donald Trump’s face all over it!

I mean … I know that’s the point, but … wow.

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This first achievement is for building Trump’s infamous wall. The ‘moronic idea‘ designed to sate the appetite of racist conservative bigots along the Southern border of the USA. If there wasn’t an achievement in it – I almost certainly wouldn’t be implementing this as good policy … particularly when a large part of the game involves pumping oil (after building the Keystone Pipeline) and selling it to Mexico.

Side RL note: Trump is also the one who claimed that Mexico was going to be the next China, so putting up barriers – physical and metaphoric – just makes terrible, terrible policy sense.

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There is a few other game mechanics which I haven’t quite mastered yet. For instance, there is a function to deliver aid to parts of the world to help bring down your ‘World Anger’ rating and just stave off WW3. I managed to only do this once though, as there seems to be a cool down timer or something similar which isn’t letting me fly around the world saving the day at will.

Of course, I suppose that is thematically consistent with Trump’s values anyway.

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Much of the other mechanics seem to focus on timing and economics – ironic given the subject matter. I am certain there’s a good chance to flex some policy muscle later in the game – particularly when the likes of World Matriarch, Angela Merkel, and Trump lapdog, Malcolm Turnbull, make feature appearances.

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Is this a good game? No. I can’t say with any guarantee that it is. Will I play it again? Again, no, probably not. I’d like to be able to squeeze out a few more achievements, but the clunky gameplay, rushed mechanics and the fact I have to look at Donald Trump for a period longer than my blood pressure will allow all contribute to a less-than-stellar desire to go back and … ahem … ‘Make America Great Again.’

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Dismantled

Middle-Earth: Shadow of War • Disable an Outpost

Believe it or not, there is 59 different shaders you can use in photo mode on Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. The problem is, they all look a bit ‘meh’, and following the simplicity by which I was able to take shots on God of War, this clunky, mediocre effort actually makes me irrationally mad.

Thank God the rest of the game is, so far, ‘OK’.

There’s not a lot different between the original Shadow of Mordor and this outing, and I’m absolutely alright with that. Sometimes, games need to stick with what they do well, and that is it. Call of Duty is perhaps the best series which fell off the bandwagon when they introduced the most ridiculous mechanic in gaming in the last twenty years: the wall run.

In terms of achievements, this is a surprisingly slow burn. It’s taken a solid hour (though I’m sure it’s much more) before this first achievement popped – and judging by the achievement list, I’m can’t really see a path to quick-and-dirty achievements. Most seem to be unlockable through just routine gameplay, while others are for what I can only assume are key story beats.

Either way, it’s good to have a few runs on the board. I am a huge, huge fan of the WB Middle-Earth games, regardless of all the carry-on about loot boxes and micro transactions, I think a solid game is a solid game. I can’t wait to get into it a bit more!

Glasslands

Halo 5: Guardians • Completed Mission 3

I felt like playing something ‘meaty’ tonight. Something that I could really sink my teeth into – an epic story with characters that held meaning, a winding narrative arc and a hand crafted world that offered the pinnacle of escapism.

That game was going to be Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, but with a 30GB update, I’ve managed to play a few different games and even now the update has just ticked over 22%.

Malcolm Turnbull’s National Broadband Network, ladies and gentlemen.

I decided to venture into Halo 5, purely following some discussion, nothing in particular, but loose comments made about Halo Infinite. I am fairly confident that I’ve got another 2-3 years before I need to be across my Halo lore (which I’m still terrible at), but even still it seems like a glaring omission on my nerd, and especially my Xbox, credentials.

Here’s the honest truth, though: Halo isn’t really my cup of tea. I understand it’s influence on gaming culture and why it might hold the hearts of many a gamer, but the cartoony style graphics, the gunplay, the pacing, none of it really tickles my tits. I play these games so that they are ticked off my insurmountable pile of shame, but give me a mindless puzzler or even a more solid shooter any day.

Will I continue with it? Sure, I can’t see why not. I offer no promises as to how quickly though. If it is any indication, it’s been about one year and two weeks since I last picked it up.

Perhaps that Halo Infinite date isn’t looking so far away after all …

Father and Son

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God of War • Obtain all other trophies

It’s done. Valkyries, Ravens, Artifacts, Mists, Chests, Rifts … well, actually, I think I’m still missing a rift … but either way, the Gods of Trophies have seen it fit to bestow on me the Platinum Trophy for God of War.

In the famous phrase from The Handmaid’s Tale: Praise Be.

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I will be honest … this last, final grind towards 20,000 blood mists was incredibly tedious. I can see why people who ‘don’t care’ about achievements or trophies might just as easily skip over this part. For many of my last few battles, I was facing a steady stream of Wulvers and Trolls, which – while not necessarily difficult – were annoying.

I’ve spent a fair part of my afternoon wondering ‘what’s next?’. I started off with a quick 10 minutes of Dark Souls (not the remaster, just the good ol’ fashioned classic) to see if it floated my boat (it didn’t) before I ended up on Rocket League for a few mindless matches against the best the web could throw at me. I have to say: I loved every minute of it. After the mental drain of a trophy cleanup, sometimes it’s good just to snuggle up with a contemporary classic.

I might treat myself to another few hours of it.

Allfather Blinded

God of War • Kill all of Odin’s Ravens

Tonight started off about collecting all the relics, and finished with a tricky little walk around the Iron Cove and some sneaky axe throwing work to kill the last of Odin’s Ravens.

One trophy to go.

Earning these last few trophies has felt more like relief than satisfaction. Part of this is frustration that I missed or didn’t work more systematically through the game in the first place.

Still, for want of a better cliche: better late than never.

I’m hoping that a solid Friday night session tomorrow might be enough to round-out the GoW trophy hunt, but I’m also conscious that it’s going to be a grind – so, worse case scenario, it might be a weekend job.

Cliche 2: Time will tell.

Treasure Hunter

God of War • Use treasure maps to find all of the dig spots

Look, I’ll be honest – I just wanted to talk about God of War a bit today – because I’ve been putting in the hard yards and I feel like I’ve earned a ‘bit’ of a narrative around my journey to platinum.

First things first – yes, I beat the Valkyrie Queen. Yes, it felt good. And yes, I am officially on ‘the home straight.’

The battle itself was, as expected, tough. Very tough. For all the guides I read and the videos I watched about how to beat her, I ended up essentially doing my own thing and just pressing the fight. It involved a bit of mastery around the relic attacks, and once I spent some time tweaking them to maximise the chance of actually hitting her (one of them, for instance, the ‘spinning axe’ attack, seemed to always fall a touch short) and getting better at dodging her attacks (except the one where she jumps into the air and slams down on top of you … I never quite mastered that), I started to slowly find her health get lower and lower each encounter … to the point at which I actually had her health at zero and then got killed by what must have been a last-minute projectile.

That one, in particular, was almost controller-through-the-TV worthy.

My trophy for this entry, however, is part of my ‘cleanup’, and involved finding three final treasure caches that you are guided to from maps you’ve collected along the journey. My fairly significant exploration of the world had already uncovered all the maps that I needed, and so for the final three steps I had to look up a bit of a guide to see what I might have missed. Sure enough – the caches were just in tricky little spots that I had already explored, but were just off to the side of an area that likely had a battle that caused me to rush through it – or they were ‘just’ aside the main path. In short, there was no big revelation or new area that I discovered while doing this trophy, but it is another milestone on the path to platinum.

So, there’s only a few trophies left. The first is unlocking all the workshop chests, which largely amounts to a bit of grinding. I was tossing up between doing this and killing the Valkyrie Queen, and I have to say – I’m glad I killed the Queen. Now I have the luxury of just killing bad guys and opening chests, and I feel like that is the right level of catharsis that I’m seeking from God of War at this stage.

That is, of course, until they patch in New Game Plus.