SIGNALIS – Survival Horror Done Awesomely

It’s relatively rare that a contemporary game invokes so much feeling of games like Resident Evil or Dino Crisis, yet don’t become overly difficult or annoying. Much less, one that tends to have a more entailing story than DooM or Zombie Master.

SIGNALIS on the other hand….wow. Not really into the pixel art inspired style, but I love the choice of a quasi top down twin stick approach (and tank controls for you gluttons out there). It even tickles my inner wonders for how much our future has in common with Blade Runner.

By and large though, I think SIGNALIS is the closest I’ve experienced to the original Resident Evil since the original Resident Evil and its Director’s Cut on the original PlayStation. One thing I also love, is that it draws a similar balance: there is plenty of opportunity to prefer running past and dodging the monsters out to eat^H^H^H slice your face off, and a fair enough supply of ammunition to shoot your way out of hostile situations. But both talents are advised given the ratio of enemies and ammunition. You can run past or blast most enemies, but certainly not all the enemies.

While the door animations thing in RE was somewhere between dull after its zillionth door more than suspenseful, the occasional first personification of puzzles and certain environments are neat. Somehow it manages to invoke both that classic survival horror genre “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” along with keeping it simple enough that the back tracking is not extreme, and like good ol’ RE, often if you explore everywhere it’s likely that some clue or solution will eventually present itself.

Being a fan of Metal Gear Solid, I also rather loved the radio frequencies bit :).

Since the games use of German exceeds my limited ability at reading it, and I’m unable to read the occasional Chinese characters that pop up; I’m also quite happy that the game manages to be quite friendly to those of us who can’t read All The Things ™ in the art language and need translation; or at least, with some effort there is usually enough English available that it isn’t a problem. More often you’ll be asking yourself what can you do in a puzzle than needing to worry about translation.

Also, did I mention it was great fun? Well, at least if you enjoyed some of the survival horror games around the turn of the millennium.

Even with the M2 Pro, Mac gaming is as bad as it’s ever been – MacWorld

An interesting subject, and one that I find amusing in some ways.

You see, there is exactly one reason I maintain a Windows machine at home. DirectX based video games that are only released for Windows. Otherwise, I would have switched to BSD and Linux based machines eons ago. By now, I’d also have dropped the desktop form factor if it wasn’t for the ten pounds of GTX problem.

With Rimuru’s recent motherboard replacement, I was left without my gaming desktop. Fortunately the games I was most playing at the time (Subnautica: Below Zero and Subnautica) have 64-bit Intel versions that my Air can play under Rosetta 2. In Below Zero’s case, it’s even a really good experience.

But there’s a reason why I consider the Macintosh a joke of a gaming platform, and this article nailed the crux of it: there’s just a few games! This problem until recent years, was also shared by GNU/Linux and even that is still an on going concern IMHO.

The comparison between a beefy Mac mini and a comparably priced gaming PC, is about what you would expect. Dollar to the pound, as nice as Apple Silicon is, it can’t out perform a dedicated Windows gaming machine — which will have both the games, and be at the forefront of developer’s optimization and quality assurance (lol) processes. I think it’s kind of awesome how capable Apple’s GPUs are, and let’s be fair, if you really do prefer a Mac, the price difference may be worth it to you versus a PC. Good financial sense, not likely, but to each their own tastes in technology.

What really doesn’t have a solution is the games. Using my own Steam library as an example, about 1/5th support macOS — and most are simply not possible to run because they require support for 32-bit Intel apps. Ones I’ve tried on my M2 MacBook Air, have left me impressed with the performance of Rosetta 2 for running 64-bit Intel apps. 

This is about the same amount of my Steam library that is Verified compatible with Valve’s Steam Deck. If we expand the criteria to “Verified and Playable”, Steam Deck is compatible with half my library. Include those that are simply untested, and the search selector suggests that 80% of my collection can at least “Attempt” being run on a Steam Deck. Those numbers are likely skewed a bit thanks to Renpy and various indy things that are more inclined to offer Linux binaries for 64-bit Intel.

That doesn’t even consider that Steam’s own app has superb quality on Windows, is meant to be the focal point of SteamDeck’s UI, and that on macOS it really has an “Valve also ran” grade of hit and miss quality issues. You won’t love Steam on macOS unless Valve makes it a significantly higher priority, and there is little reason they should when it’s most useful on Mac for streaming games from a PC!

MacWorld on the other hand makes an interesting case for investment. Apple has a lot of money at present; for years, they’ve fit the demographic I dub “More money than GOD”. I’m not sure if Apple simply bribing publishers and developers to support macOS is legally wise, but boy, that would be an interesting idea.

Sadly, I don’t think Macintosh has offered a lot for games since floppy diskette was the prime distribution media. And even then, I would probably have been inclined to explore CP/M and MS-DOS coprocessor options if such things weren’t comically out of our price range back then. Actually, I still have no idea how my mother afforded a Tandy 1000 series PC in the first place :^o.

One of the things I rather like about Subnautica: Below Zero is that it’s a fairly safe environment to explore but not devoid of dangers. Mostly though, its predators are more a nuisance to navigation than a major threat once you’ve crafted a knife or a sea glide. The crocodile like things in warmer waters, for example, will mostly flee if you bop them with the blade and largely stick to their personal territory. After building the drill arm for my P.R.A.W.N. mech suit, I figured out that you can actually eliminate these.

And then there’s the leviathan class predators. Mostly those are classified as apex predators, those I typically choose to avoid. But some are more pragmatic than others.

The ~40 meter or so Chelicerate are large enough to tell from squid sharks by the time time you want to mossy along. Avoiding becoming a snack is always a good plan. An initial attempt at neutralizing one of these that proved too aggressive did not go very well. Attempting to rope it with the grappling arm and drill the sucker while avoiding its teeth, ended with nearly being chucked into a cave near the edge of the tree spires. Round two was more like being dragged into open ocean and ended in a draw. Glaring at each other while repairing my equipment on the other side of a vent garden.

Mostly though, I’ve managed to avoid those. But then the search for story items sent me to the purple crystal caves, where I previous decided to return to base after the heads up of a particularly large leviathan class predator in the area. Joy.

Well, good old “Claw Face” is a very aggressive bastard about ~60 meters long. The Shadow leviathan is like some kind of cockroach slash snake from hell with all the peaceful happy feelings of Darth Vader. Attempt to explore the caves and it will try to eat you. Drive it off for a moment’s reprieve and it will quickly circle back for another attack run. Since the area isn’t conductive to swimming and just about any kind of noise and activity will attract it, it’s less a nuisance and more of an obstacle!

Acquiring the Torpedo Arm for my P.R.A.W.N. and the docking module to haul it by Sea Truck, I decided on an experiment to see if these things can die. Unloading over a dozen poison gas torpedoes did little more than piss it off, and I was forced to retreat and rebuild. For round two, thanks to a big of foraging and the assistance of the Sea Monkey Army, I returned with nearly twenty poison gas torpedoes and over half a magazine of gravity vortex torpedoes.

Found a nice little nook where it’s possible to retreat and repair, while hoping not to be snatched and ate hole. Attracted its attention with the drill arm and jets and made for a second bout. Unloaded all the torpedoes. More than a few of them down its gullet along side the drill arm. Again, and again, and again it shrugged this off. I probably would have withdrawn and declared it mission failure, if ol’ Claw Face didn’t tend to cycle back and try to EAT me while repair tooling my mech suit.

In the end, I was standing on the edge of my nook, waiting for Claw Face to swoop in for the kill and using a mixture of drill arm and mech-punches. Eventually, I switched to punching with both standard arms as this seemed to drive it off much faster. One attack run would do about 30% damage to my P.R.A.W.N, and it might return before repairs were completed. It took about a battery and a half of this, punching the crap out of it after unloading two dozen torpedoes. 30-40 minutes, but finally the thing died. I wonder if it healed from the first wave.

In any case, when the player has 100 HP and the leviathans have 5000 HP, it takes quite a lot of punches in the face to kill something that orny with fifty times your health!

Dusting off DooM ’93 for a refreshing break, I managed to leisurely make it through most of episode 2 before my watch reminded me that I should in fact, get off my fat butt and walk around a bit.

I’m well reminded of how the map designers were often out to get the player. E2M6: Halls of the damned has a rather obtuse layout by modern norms but really good flow for a DooM map. Magic closets unleashing enemies are kind of overused, but it’s a pretty nice map.

On DoomMaps: we can see a fair look at the various curves and bends that funnel you towards monsters.

Having survived the dance of shotguns between mobs, painted the halls in plasma and exploding lost souls, and said screw it and chainsawed through hordes of Pinkies, I eventually came across a second exit door guarded by the yellow skull key. It’s been long enough since I’ve played episode 2 that I had no real recollection of this, but of course by that point in the map I was really not surprised when this turns out to be a fake exit door leading to Cacodemons, shotgun guys, lost souls, and other things making the back of my mind shout, “PLASMA, PLASMA!!!”

Confession: when the closet full of demons opened up on the way back to the real exit door, I opted to whip out the chainsaw in order to conserve my plasma cells and chaingun bullets for E2M7.

One of the reasons that I love choice-based adventure games is that it offers opportunities for both introspection and escape. Will you put yourself into context, or will you role-play a part? Games like Detroit: Become Human and House of Ashes offer much opportunity for both.

In my experience, choices in games tend to reflect me. Not purely the role of the character or an artificial mentality. Actually, I think it would be neat to see statistics about how players respond to such games.
Become Human is even more thoughtful than most because of the issue of Android rights and revolution. I love that the story keeps making you evaluate this. Do you thrash the square, or do you send a message of civil disobedience? Do you respond to violence and injustice with justice and violence, or do you believe an eye for an eye is how the world goes blind? When things heat up will you stick to what you believe or evaluate. Where will you draw the point of no return? I found the point following the fall of Jericho especially pointed.
Thinking about my play through, I do think that as I get older that I am becoming more of a pacifist at heart. I believe that conflict will exist as long as humanity does, but I also see there is so much protentional in our species. Hopefully, if someday our creations become alive as we are, they will learn the right things from us.
Note: Spoilers below.
An earlier version of myself would likely have opted for revolution after the fall of Jericho. On the notion of social justice, it’s certainly a difficult point where you need to decide which side of the line you’ll land on. Even for peaceful people, turning it into an android revolution may be a valid response to the situation. Of all the choices in the game, I found that probably the hardest to make.
Choosing to march the Androids down to the recall camps and sit, demanding freedom wasn’t something that I would have imagined. Choosing to sing at the Android’s last stand as execution closes in lead to a beautiful ending. I love that the game doesn’t necessarily turn it into a brutal moment rather than one of hope and humanity. A path that says much about both mankind and the androids.
On the prospect that someday our machines could one day become alive rather than simply automatons, I kind of hope whatever our creations learn from mankind: it’ll be a lesson of hope. That, and for us humans to be wise enough not to repeat our own mistakes instead of rise above them.

Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human is one of the more emotional games that I’ve ever played. As a story-based adventure game, it’s superb.

Connor the Deviant Runner, Kara the mother, Markus the revolutionary. Each character’s story twists and turns and entwines until by the end they veer off again but continue to be influenced by the choices that lead them, your choices.

I found the story very emotion provoking. Kara’s story especially resonated, and I think perhaps she is the most human. Connor’s story splits down the middle. Whether you choose to role play or be yourself eventually his paths will make you decide who he really is. Faced with Android slavery, Markus can follow a path that would make MLK proud or paint the streets in blood, or somewhere in between. It’s left up to you and many a quick time event.

As a human, I find the games choices remarkable. Kara may represent the best in us in a grey, grey world. The crisis of conscious an identity Connor experiences aren’t that far off from what most people will eventually face. Markus’s story stabs us right in the belief, perhaps even more so if you’re familiar with America’s history. It’s even neat how the main menu Android fits into the picture, and Kamski’s test is an awesome test of humanity.

I’d give it 5/5 except for technical issues. To play via Steam Link: you need to set the game to regular Windowed mode, not Fullscreen or Boardless Window. Probably related to the company’s fondess of rolling their own tech rather than using a common game engine. Periodically the screen will go black except for overlay based UI (like interaction prompts) or go to a fuzzy outline, as if certain shaders crashed and broke the rendering until quitting to desktop and restarting the game. That may be because I have an old GTX 780, or because I don’t have the kind of AMD GPU you’d find in a PlayStation 4. But those issues were relatively minor, and most often occurring right after a check point save or major scene change.

“Wait, isn’t that downloading too fast?”

“Alexa, what’s 45 times 8”

“Well, yeah, I guess that is a lot of bits”

Let’s just say I don’t miss the days when downloading a game’s patch could make me glad that no one called for 3 to 4 consecutive hours. Although with file sizes of modern games being measured by the Blu-ray scale, I still prefer it when the phone doesn’t ring :^o.

Passing thought: Bestheda’s release manager used to ship new games. Then he took an arrow to the knee. 

When I was younger, my friends loved Oblivion and in retrospect it’s one of my favorite Elder Scrolls games. But Skyrim was actually the first game in the series that I played, and by then it was long enough for it to have a decent sale price. Even though it had yet to be re-released in every edition known to mer kind.

Actually now that I think of it, between PCs and consoles: I’m not sure I want to fathom how many hours I’ve spent playing Skyrim over the years. Probably more than most ES games with Oblivion coming in as a second. Hmmm… damn it now I’m tempted to play Skyrim again.

When I saw AI: The Somnium Files added to Game Pass, I sheeplishly added it to my download queue but more caught up with the new Avengers game that landed about the same time frame. Somium seemed like a game that I might enjoy or be bored of, and I really needed some stress relief at the time. Thus smashing AIM kill bots as an alternative to exploring planet 4546B was my plan. Finally got around to trying it this weekend.

Well within a few minutes of the first “Somnium” with the quirky Aiba made me able to guess which it end of the spectrum it would be. The initial crime scene investigation is about as serious as an icepick stabbed corpse lashed to the merry-go-round. However the Aiba messing with the protangist’s dream is about as serious as smelling a potted plant and it flying up your nose.

The game manages to follow the investigations track fairly well but is peppered with insanity, game and movie references, jokes, and all kinds of quirk characters. I positively love the Boss’s office and her crazy remarks. Having reached the part where Aiba calculates the “Best” way to deal with the goon squad^, and Iris’s Somnium being a Minecraft inspired danceathon to defeat UFOs….oh so cinches it.

If these folks are making another AI/Somnium game, I am so buying it. Unless the murder mystery ends in a way that makes me want to chuck the controller through the screen. Thus far AI: The Somnium Files has been one of the most fun games I’ve played all year, lol.

^ If you weren’t amused at how underwear, porno mags, and a muscle loving bartender fit into resolving a shootout then Aiba’s trick with the fire extinguisher will surely amaze you!