Game Reviews

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Re: Game Reviews

Post by c_nordlander » Sat Sep 11, 2021 8:55 am

It's just some sand in my eye, is all...
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Fri Nov 12, 2021 7:16 pm

This isn't a proper review, because I haven't played the game anywhere near enough to have a fleshed out opinion, but I'm quite hooked on Dyson Sphere Program.

I find it most unfortunate that, since the game is clearly inspired by Factorio, it's too tempting to talk about the game entirely in terms of comparisons, because I usually dislike comparisons. I prefer to talk about something in its own terms, rather than "how much this thing is not that other thing". But I really like the look and atmosphere of the game, its more relaxed pace, the space exploration element (which I just barely got into at the moment), and just the style of construction and development that the game determines. There's this balance between how daunting to road ahead of you is, and the satisfaction of getting every new bit done. I think the element of challenge is pretty spot on, and there were just a few things that got me puzzled for a moment before figuring it out eventually. I still have trouble controlling the robot in sail mode, but I'm hoping it's just a matter of getting used to it.

For a game that's in early access, it's extremely playable and robust. The most lacking aspect is the English localisation, which has clear flaws, but is still mostly understandable. So far I wasn't utterly stumped because of a grammar problem, but I do wish they put in the resources to iron those issues out and make the texts shine.

The best part of playing this game is that it actually makes me appreciate some things about Factorio that I took for granted. At this stage in the game, my factory in DSP hasn't grown that much in sheer scale, but it gets quite convoluted quite quickly because of the amount of resources and products that are needed, so it still requires a lot of planning and rethinking. Also, because you already start off with building drones and there's less micromanagement (the sorters are more simple and flexible than inserters, for example), the beginning of the game feels more welcoming and less foreboding; after all, it's not a survival game, and more of a peaceful 4X game (... uh, wouldn't that make it 3X, then, since there's no eXterminate?). Like I said, it's a very different game, and I like it for what it is. And looking back at Factorio, the way that you start off mining rocks with an axe and evolve to build those humongous factories with trains and whatever else, it makes me enjoy how cool that is too. So I really love how these two games actually make each other look really good. It's like adopting a second cat, and watching them become best buddies and look really cool when hanging out together.

Also, for months now, I've been kinda unable to get into gaming because of a weird feeling of remorse for "wasting my time," or for fear of getting addicted and unable to the "productive" things like music what others. However, I just felt great playing this game. It was quite therapeutic in a way. I'm just really eager to see how the game evolves from here, and I hope it has a very successful path.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by c_nordlander » Fri Nov 12, 2021 8:17 pm

Sounds like a fun game, and I enjoyed reading your mini-review.
SirMustapha wrote: Fri Nov 12, 2021 7:16 pm after all, it's not a survival game, and more of a peaceful 4X game (... uh, wouldn't that make it 3X, then, since there's no eXterminate?).
*LOL* I can see game companies getting in trouble with parents if they marketed their games as triple-X.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by gkscotty » Fri Nov 12, 2021 11:58 pm

I enjoyed the game, but felt it started to drag too much once flying through space became a thing. It's a lengthy trip and not one made lightly, which isn't great for how often I needed to transfer between planets.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by Meteorite » Fri Dec 03, 2021 10:23 pm

Hi, hello, I just need to let out some ranting. So, here I go.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are poor remakes. Remasters. Whatever you wanna call them. Point is, they're not good.

...Okay, maybe a little harsh. The main game itself is fine I suppose, but there's just a lot of disappointment strewn through it.
  • The experience system is flawed. Experience gaining has changed in recent Pokémon games. Instead of experience being doled out to whoever took part in the battle, now the entire party gets experience, just by being there. While I (and many others) would appreciate the option to revert to the old-style experience system, at least the new games were built around this. Diamond & Pearl were not, and if you don't just immediately plow through the story, you'll quickly over-level your entire team. The post-game ramps up rematch fights, but by that point... ehhh okay? I've already beaten the game. I shouldn't have to wait until now to feel challenged.
  • Several features of the original games are just gone, or poorly implemented. I can accept some retooling of things for quality of life, but these feel gutted of their original charm.
  • The Pokémon Contests have been simplified into a one-button rhythm game instead of having to have a pokémon with moves wholly unsuitable for battling, but perfect for showmanship.
  • The player-built Secret Bases are no longer able to be decorated with furniture, in favour of being filled with statues to alter pokémon availability in the vastly expanded Underground.
  • The Pokétch, which sat nicely on the touch screen of the original DS, now occupies the upper right corner of your screen, and cannot even be interacted with unless you bring it up to fullscreen mode, which renders features like the Itemfinder (which requires repeated tapping after moving to pinpoint hidden items) incredibly frustrating to use.
  • Making poffins, which again utilises the DS's touch screen by spinning your stylus around it, now requires you to manhandle your joycon's stick with the same ferocity (so that's sure to help matters with joycon drift issues...) and the touch screen of the Switch isn't even an option for some godforsaken reason.
  • The Pokéradar is genuinely bugged. The original Pokéradar allowed you to chain pokémon encounters of the same pokémon, gradually increasing how good the pokémon's stats will be, and odds of it being shiny. It wasn't perfect, but generally you had a 40% chance of making it to encounter #40 (ideal shiny odds) without any problems. In the remakes however, you have a 5.5% chance of making it to encounter 40. And those improved stats? Only at every tenth encounter will you get improved stats; every other encounter in-between will be garbage.
  • The game is poorly put-together. Yeah, I'm just gonna say it. There's softlocks (thanks to the new 8-directional movement), glitches, and just outright crashes. Most of it has been patched, but it still feels like I've bought a knock-off Pokémon game. Some features just aren't in the game yet, like the global trading service, or even trading from your other games, due to be put in early 2022. I've started noticing little things, like a window that was placed off-centre (which of course, wasn't off-centre in the originals). It feels like a game they've rushed out, and it shows.
...I dunno man. I mean, it's still Pokémon, and I'm still enjoying parts of it, but it honestly could've been a lot better. It should've been.

...but hey, at least the casino was replaced with a clothing shop. Yaaay.
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<gkscotty|drawing> most people play Pokemon games with GameFAQs or a Pokéwiki open
<gkscotty|drawing> you seem to have TVTRopes :P


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Re: Game Reviews

Post by c_nordlander » Sun Dec 05, 2021 3:44 pm

Yeah, that sounds incredibly shoddy. Not a way to treat fans; here's hoping you'll get a better game in the future.
No fear of pain! The only fear we claim is the fear of shame,
Of breaking the ancient and sacred consecration we're obeying!
Should you see us kneeling, it's merely because we feel like praying!


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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Sat Dec 18, 2021 4:44 am

A few updates on my journey with Dyson Sphere Program:

I have come quite a long way since my first "review" of sorts, to the point that, today, I have actually started building my Dyson sphere around my home system. To give you some context: before you start working on the sphere, you can shoot solar sails to orbit the star and form a Dyson swarm. The usefulness of the swarm is that it generates energy, which you can then use in every planet in that system. The problem with the swarm is that the solar sails disintegrate over time, so you have to keep shooting them into the swarm to keep the power output stable. Later on, you can start building the Dyson shell, which then drags in in the sails from the swarm to form the Dyson sphere proper. And the sails in the sphere don't disintegrate, so there's no waste, and the power output just keeps steadily increasing as you shoot more sails. So it's a pretty exciting moment in the game.

So, other things that have happened since then: I've unlocked planetary logistics, which uses drones to transport goods between planetary stations. They're expensive, but extremely worth it, as you can really spread out and expand production over the surface of a planet. Also, I've unlocked interstellar logistics, which allows transport between different planets. This (along with upgrades) drastically reduces the boredom and wasted time of travels between planets, and the pace of the game really takes off at this point. From here on, the chain of production just keeps getting more and more convoluted, with more and more balancing problems to sort out (especially with hydrogen, which is always one of the weak links of the production chain) and more problems designing the layout of the factories. The good part is that, with faster space exploration, you can branch out to other planets and systems, outsource production and build better layouts on larger planets. To sum it all up, there's a lot to do in this game.

Also, to me, is maddening how the game can compute so much stuff: you're on the surface of a planets, watching the assemblers and belts and sorters working, drones delivering cargo everywhere, and you look up and you see the Dyson swarm, each individual solar sail orbiting the sun. And then, you see other planets, as well as distant stars, and then you take off and you can go to those stars, nearly seamlessly. I'm honestly baffled that the game runs and looks so smooth with so much stuff going on. It's crazy.

Overall, I find that, when I was a kid, I often had these pipe dreams that maybe in the future a game like this could exist. I created these huge, fancy concepts in my head, and said to myself, "ooh, wouldn't it be cool if something like this existed?" Well, this game exists. It's no longer a pipe dream. My inner child is seeing a dream come true.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by c_nordlander » Sat Dec 18, 2021 6:24 pm

Doesn't seem like my kind of genre, but that does sound amazing.
No fear of pain! The only fear we claim is the fear of shame,
Of breaking the ancient and sacred consecration we're obeying!
Should you see us kneeling, it's merely because we feel like praying!


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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Sat Jan 08, 2022 2:38 am

So yeah, I just completed my first playthrough of Dyson Sphere Program. My first completed mission.

Of course, the game doesn't stop once you do that: you can just keep on playing ad infinitum if you want it. Also, what counts as "completing the mission" is that you have to research one final tech, which requires "universe matrices". Those matrices, however, require antimatter, which can only be produced once you have a sufficiently large Dyson sphere. This can be achieved with a relatively small sphere.

In other words, I did not build a complete sphere in this playthrough, as that would take way too much time. Also, my productivity really suffers from bad design and a severe underestimation of how much the factory would grow, so I'd need to do way too much stuff to get the construction up to a decent pace. So, what I'm just going to do is, well, play the game again from the start. I'm gonna do the whole thing again, incorporating the lessons I've learnt, trying to plan things better and making better designs. It's essentially how it happened with Factorio: my first attempt was an awful mess, so I just kept replaying and replaying until I became, well, okay at it, I guess.

And this is such a satisfying game to play! It's complex, it's challenging, it's even infuriating at times, but it feels so good to play. Time just flies by. I loved every second of it, and I'm already looking forward to trying it again.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Mar 21, 2022 5:24 pm

So, in another one of my "reviews for games I haven't completed yet": Satisfactory

First things first: I hate that title. Seriously? We're naming our game after a pun now? And a pun that gives us such a lame, uninspiring, unimpressive title? "How's this game? Oh, it's satisfactory. Not brilliant, not great, not even good, just satisfactory." I understand they meant it to be "satisfying + factory", but the result is lame! I understand they needed a title that pointed to "factory" somehow, because that's the game's main point (and Factorio did it with a nice neologism), but, geez, they could've tried harder. I swear to god, I was embarrassed by that title for a long time. I still am, but at least I kinda got over it now.

Anyway. Remember when I commended Dyson Sphere Program for being a very distinct and individual game, despite its connections to Factorio? Well, the same thing applies to Satisfactory. I mean, one of the most obvious things about this game is that, well, it's in 3D and in first person. But the game really takes advantage of that, and makes the hands-on exploration aspect crucial to the gameplay. And the world is really nicely design to create a sense of foreboding and wonder at the same time. It's a very picturesque, interesting world, and very often I just found myself walking around the place to discover whatever secrets and treasures there were to find. it's really, really cool to go out exploring.

The factory building aspect itself also provides its own unique challenges and quirks. At first, there's no grid, and having to place buildings and structures from a first person perspective can be... tricky at best. Later on, you develop tech that makes this job a little easier (foundations allow you to put stuff on a grid, and lookout towers and architectural structures let you see things from above), but putting stuff together is still difficult, but in a rewarding way. It's really nice when things just start working, after the brainache of trying to visualise and assemble things. Most importantly, however, is that the game understands that the pace and scope of the game has to be very different from the other similar games: you're not gonna mass produce oodles and oodles of iron plates and circuit boards, but instead focus on slower, more complex chains. And I really like that approach, because the emphasis is put in a different place, and even though I was doing "smaller" things than in Factorio or DSP, the sense of accomplishment was the same. It's like, "hell yeah! I have finally automated one assembler making modular frames now! Go me!!"

Also, some mechanical choices just make a lot of sense, such as forcing the player to craft items only at specific places, and unlocking things not by producing "science packs", but by producing materials to hit the milestones. Electricity also has a crucial difference: if consumption exceeds the production, instead of just getting the factory running at a lower speed, the circuit breaker trips and the whole thing shuts down. It's aggravating in the right way, because it puts pressure on the right place. It would be too easy to just neglect to supply enough energy and have the factory running at 25% of speed, because you could just go out exploring for hours and have all the materials ready when you come back. But nope: you gotta manage electricity, 'cause it's either all or nothing, and until you can unlock an automated power generation such as coal power, you have to manually feed those burners, so initial exploration is adequately limited (and there's always the risk that you screwed up your coal line somehow, or you forgot to check it a consumption peak could trip the breaker).

I do have a few grievances here and there with the interface and controls, and I had a really frustrating time getting my first automated truck delivery system running because of a minor, but rather esoteric interface quirk that I couldn't figure out on my own (I guess I should've searched for in game tutorials, but I always forget those exist), but this game is being a real blast to play. I'm loving every second. Oh, and I'm also streaming the whole thing on my Twitch channel, but I don't have a very regular schedule, 'cause I just do it when I'm free to do it. I only didn't stream my Dyson playthroughs because I wasn't confident enough, but I wanna do that sometime. Oh, and did I mention I had a second playthrough of Dyson? It was wonderful. I only hit one massive roadblock with it, which is that the Dyson sphere proper absolutely murders my FPS, and it got a little hard to play. But I do have plans for a third playthrough, and I think I know how to circumvent the FPS issue... (without having to buy a new graphics card, that is)
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by Nidotamer » Mon Mar 21, 2022 6:02 pm

So would you say you found the game... enjoyable?-- D'OH!
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by c_nordlander » Tue Mar 22, 2022 11:15 am

Sounds like it lived up to expectations!

Glad I'm not the only one who has a problem with Satisfactory's title. In addition to the issues you mentioned, it takes serious balls in this day and age to name your work something completely un-Googlable.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Tue Mar 22, 2022 6:23 pm

Nidotamer wrote: Mon Mar 21, 2022 6:02 pm So would you say you found the game... enjoyable?-- D'OH!
Well, the Rolling Stones couldn't get no Satisfactory, but like Bob Marley, this game did Satisfactory my soul. It pushed me and then just touched me 'till I could get my Satisfactory.

Also, just thought I'd mention: I acquired the latest "Stand with Ukraine" Bundle, which gave me a few repeated games (such as Satisfactory and Starbound) as well as others I'm not particularly interested in. So, if anyone would like any of them as a gift, just get in touch with me.
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Re: Game Reviews

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Mar 28, 2022 5:58 pm

Thought I'd just tell a little anecdote to share some of the rush that these games give me.

In relation to other factory games, Satisfactory has a different sense of scope and pace, which I believe is justified by its fully 3D environment: at least in these early stages, this is not a game where you build massive columns with dozens of smelters, or huge lines of assemblers to keep up with the massive volume of stuff you need. Satisfactory is less about volume and more about complexity, and trust me, the chains of production get pretty complex.

So, when I had to face the music and accept that I needed to automate Heavy Modular Frames, I did what any self-respecting veteran in automation sims do: I cobbled together a mess of belts and plugged them into an assembler. Now, those frames require FOUR inputs (it's the first recipe in the game that necessitates something so complex), and the chain of production goes like this:

Iron ore -> Iron ingots -> Iron rods -> Screws (tons of 'em!)
+
Iron ore + coal -> Steel ingots -> Steel pipes
+
Iron ore + coal -> Steel ingots -> Steel beams + concrete -> Encased industrial beams
+
Iron ore -> Iron plates + Iron rods -> Reinforced iron plates + Screws -> Modular frames

If it looks like a mess, it's because it is.
And keep in mind, at this stage of the game, 80% of my production is concentrated to a centralised can of spaghetti that I call my "main factory". The only external outposts I have are for smelting steel, and for refining oil and getting plastic and rubber.
And I need those heavy frames. They're essential to unlocking the next milestones. But, the assembler was running at, like, 10% of efficiency. And it's already slow as molasses. The main culprit, as I diagnosed, is the modular frames.
The issue is that it looked pretty much infeasible to increase the production of frames without pretty much tearing down half of my factory. And worse is that I had to split my pathetic production of frames into three: part going to the heavy frames, part going to the versatile frameworks (necessary for completing phase 3), and part going to storage to be used for construction.

Also, I just needed more iron, plain and simple.
So I had an epiphany: modular frames are made ONLY with iron.
That means, if I could find some available iron veins, I could theoretically build an entire assembly line for modular frames. And to my delight, there were not one, not two, but three veins right next to my main factory.
After doing painstaking calculations and a lot of planning, after a couple of hours, I had a little factory that took in three belts of iron ore, smelted it, processed it, and spit out 7.5 modular frames per minute. Compared to the 4 frames per minute that I had to split in three, that was a pretty major advancement.
And because i'm trying to look a little bit dignified, I surrounded it with actual walls and a roof, with neat windowed walls for receiving the iron belts and sending out the frame belt. it's... wonderful. It's a tiny little box that eats ore and churns out modular frames. It's like magic.

It sounds banal when described like this, but I swear, I could just sit for hours and just watch that little thing work. So efficient, so clever, so neat. And I made it with my own hands.

See, even though this game follows very closely the recipe of factory games (or automation sims, as I like to call them), the feel is very different. Factorio had those moments where I'd set up a massive outpost for, say, producing circuit boards, and it gave an awesome sense of power to see the trains come in and produce that river of green chips. Dyson Sphere Program had that thing of going out to a remote planet, mining some spiniform crystals, setting up a huge processing line, and suddenly seeing your nanotube production skyrocket, and feeling super futuristic and high-tech in doing so. Satisfactory is a completely different kind of rush: this very hands on, literal first person perspective of planning actual buildings, trying to make things look minimally tidy and rational, and just seeing it work, and then topping it off with some walls and a door with a cute little sign on top saying "Modular Frame Facility", is so damn cool. It's not the sense of power of conquering a hostile world, it's not the feeling of dominating the stars, it's very real and very tangible, you know? It's like, I was there, I built it.
This game is making me feel like an impressionable 12-year-old again. This game washes away all these layers of adult cynicism and disillusionment, if only for a few of hours per day (err... more like 5 and a half hours per day, to be honest). I feel rejuvenated, and I think that's why I can't stop playing this thing.

God bless Wube Software, god bless Youthcat Studio, god bless Coffee Stain Studios. I know it sounds corny, but those people gave me so much energy and so much joy with their games, and pretty much created a genre that is not only reliably fun, but fertile for diversity, experimentation and innovation. I can only wish that more designers can take this "essence" of factory games and keep moulding it into fresh, intriguing and unique games. ... but then again, I'm yet to build a 100% complete Dyson sphere. And there are all those Factorio mods to try...
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