Steam Summer Sale 2015 post-mortem

Like a good Puritan, I have always abjured the temptations of Lord Gabe. Steam sale or no, if a game doesn’t grab me by the jugular, or I know I won’t have time to do it justice, I simply pass. So I don’t really know what it’s like having a backlog of dozens of titles.

Last week, Murf threw out a great suggestion on dumping backlogged games: give the act finality by writing a post on why you’re dumping each one. Not something I see myself ever having to do, but a fine sentiment nonetheless – though I wonder how many variations of ‘no time’ busy gamers can come up with!

This year is no different. Of all the treats on display, I bit only two (which happened to be among the cheapest.

Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria is something I haven’t tried before. An XCOM-like battle system, with echoes of Mass Effect, in a Nipponized anime version of World War 2? That’s four loud dings for me, and I didn’t hear wrong.

The game is proving as entertaining as it is challenging, and fans of any two out of those four should feel the same.

Unfortunately, part of the challenge is adapting to a UI obviously not optimized for PC. I had the same experience with Oblivion and Skyrim back when, but here, with the weirdly structured ‘book’-style menus, navigating through the game’s information architecture is starting to feel like playing Starcraft with a joystick!

How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition

How to Survive proved a considerably less stellar experience. I picked up the full bundle for co-op, and duoing a game after soloing through its base edition twice is something I’ve never tried before either.

On Normal, the zombies are pretty manageable all by your lonesome, so I went into co-op expecting ezmode. Which it is. (We haven’t explored the DLC content yet, though, so I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation of his reaction to those unkillable electrified zombies.)

No, our biggest threat, as we quickly discovered, turned out to be necessities. Sharing provisions to stave off both our hunger, thirst, and fatigue is proving pretty draining, even with my solo runs to stockpile meat and water-filled jerricans. And them guarana roots are fast becoming worth their weight in gold!

But I suppose that’s part of the fun. What’s not so fun is the game’s co-op mechanics.

H2S feels like multiplayer was bolted on late. One of the most obvious signs: the host player is the ‘only player’ where quests are concerned, except when it comes to turn-ins – where players share inventories.

In other words, the game treats Player 2 as a Robin to the host’s Batman. Both can work towards the objective, but only Bats gets the reward. Not a big deal, but it leaves me feeling like some corners were cut in development.

Another sign is the way the game binds both players to each other. We can’t split up by more than a screen’s length, cutscenes and quest dialog initiated by my buddy apply for me as well, and gameplay freezes until both of us have either skipped or watched through scripted content. (As I’ve already seen it all twice, I’ve taken to window shopping in the Steam store to while away that downtime.)

I get that the point is to stick together to survive, but come on. Turning us into Siamese twins? I guess the devs just didn’t want us badasses going all pincer attack on the zombies, and clearing the islands twice as fast. Or, more likely, letting us free-roam would screw with some game mechanic or other – some single-player oriented mechanic or other, I should say.

And perhaps most glaringly, players can’t heal each other. Not a big deal, since assisted suicide followed by a revive seems a viable way to deal with low-health situations, but it still feels like a cop-out. I mean, Left 4 Dead not only had this, but actually rewarded players for co-op healing…

It’s clear H2S was designed with the single-player foot firmly forward. Whoever needs help should be the one hosting; the other’s just the sidekick. Don’t forget that.

That’s it for this year’s Steam Summer Sale. Now, if only Lord Gabe were to reach down to earth and strip away the region locks, I’d be all, like:

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5 Responses to “Steam Summer Sale 2015 post-mortem”

  1. I picked up both of those, and a couple others. I didn’t spend too much, but wish I could have spent more. Despite the weight it would put on the backlog.

    • That gives me an idea. All those lifestyle gurus preaching debt-free living – let’s do a spoof on backlog-free gaming.

      • If only there wasn’t all the temptation. I have attempted to keep a clean backlog but sometimes games don’t click the first time, and when you come back later they do, or you write off games altogether.

        Most of the time I play something, if it doesn’t immediately grab me I’m off to something else, and say I’ll come back to it. Hence the backlog in the first place. Doesn’t help that MMOs are plentiful and take even more time.

        The only real way to clear out a backlog is to never purchase anything else. Good luck trying that.

      • Hmm, I’m going to have to say I don’t know what you mean, given that if a game doesn’t grab me out the gate, I dump it and never return. Sometimes I dump them even if they grab me, due to time constraints or situational factors: my own best example of this is Witcher 2. I was off to slay the kayran in late 2012, and I’m no closer in mid 2015.

        We just have to come to terms with opportunity cost in fun, I suppose. Or maybe Murf’s ‘burn pile’ method works, at least for those who blog.

      • I just mean that there are games I know are fantastic in my library, that I’ve had for years, that I haven’t gone back to, that I still mean to go back to eventually.

        These are separate from the ones in which I wasn’t grabbed and was willing to just uninstall.

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