For the week of April 1 through 7

Click here to see the games I played last week

I’m keeping the intro short this week as I don’t have too much to share. The standout game this week for me is Fallout 76, thanks to the new Amazon Prime series. I’ve played it a lot this week and even jumped back into Fallout 4. The rest of the week was ok, but nothing stood out as much as Fallout 76 did.

Racing in Lego 2K Drive

April 8 – Lego 2K Drive

While I enjoy racing games, I’m not always rushing to play each one. When I first saw Lego 2K Drive, I didn’t think much of it. But, now that it’s available through Game Pass, I wanted to check it out.

This is a kart racer with Lego written all over it. You ride different vehicles across different terrains. Don’t worry about the brakes, it’s all about speed and doing crazy stuff. The game ushers you into various races and environments, but there is more to discover if you seek it out.

The races themselves aren’t difficult. Outside of the intro race, I managed to win every other race in on the first try. Like most kart racers, power-ups and using your turbo is the key to victory. I had fun with the races, but the non-race events weren’t as enjoyable. One stage has you trying to prevent aliens from damaging three power sources. You complete this, you need to run them over. This stage wasn’t hard, I didn’t have fun doing it.

I don’t see myself playing much more after this, but that’s not to say this is a bad game. I have a limited experience with Lego-based games. But for younger gamers, this is still an easy recommendation.

Brenda Song's character from The Quarry in discussion with a character off-screen

April 9 – The Quarry

Until Dawn was a surprise when I played it back in the day on the PlayStation 4. But even with that, I have not played the other games that Supermassive Games develops. While I enjoy the cinematic experience, I’m not a big fan of horror games. Now that The Quarry is available on Game Pass, I thought this was a good time to see their latest effort.

From what I remember of Until Dawn, the suspenseful sequences were more frequent. On the flip side, The Quarry’s pacing feels much slower with more focus on the characters. The prologue and first chapter don’t throw too many sequences at you. I guess they didn’t want too much of the story changing early on, but I was expecting more.

At the same time, I still don’t have a strong connection with the cast. They try to shed light on everyone but it’s clear some are more important than others. I’m curious about where this goes, so I’d want to play more. My only other gripe is the game’s darkness. You must play this in a dark room to see certain stuff on the screen. I began playing this mid-afternoon and it was difficult to see certain sections.

An early cutscen from Astra

April 10 – Astra: Knights of Veda

I was looking for suitable games to play on my Macbook, I came across Astra: Knights of Veda in the App Store. This isn’t a game designed specifically for macOS or one that takes advantage of their M chip technology. I still thought it would be playable even if not fully optimized.

Unfortunately, its performance on my M3 Pro was disappointing. Thankfully, this is a game that has a PC version (on top of its mobile version). So, I downloaded it through Steam and began playing. The game’s graphics remind me of Vanillaware’s Unicorn Overlord. This is an easy-to-grasp game, but not enough to keep my attention.

I went through the game’s first few battles and slowly got the jist of the story. However, this type of game doesn’t have the long-term appeal to keep me engaged. The combat is fine and easy to grasp but I was relying on its auto-battle option, so I didn’t feel like I was playing the game. The story is unremarkable and I had no real connection with my character.

There are probably better games like this available on mobile and/or Steam that I would enjoy more. Although I won’t seek them out, if I need a game to try out, I won’t be shy to consider them.

My character in Fallout 76 posing for a photo while standing inside The Wayward.

April 11 – Fallout 76

The launch of Amazon Prime’s Fallout (which I began watching this weekend) got me wanting more. The only Fallout games I have never tried are Fallout Tactics and Fallout 76. I decided to give Fallout 76 a shot because I remember all the negativity the game got at launch in 2018. At the same time, I also heard about its improvements over the years.

To be fair, in the first two or three hours wandering outside Vault 76, this does remind me a lot of Fallout 4. There is a lot to explore. Like in 4, they encourage crafting as stations are very easy to find. And yes, there are still plenty of graphical issues. Thankfully, those visual quirks don’t hamper the game. But, unlike the upcoming graphical update for Fallout 4, this won’t get the same kind of love.

My world wasn’t populated with other players. Considering how it’s more-or-less a free-to-play game, I was expecting more. The map shows other players on the map, I never came across them naturally. It might also stem from the fact that most of the early missions don’t need other players. Some sections are meant for group play, but they aren’t core to the story (as far as I can tell).

Fallout 76 is regularly discounted. At the same time, Amazon is giving the game away until May 15. For the small cost, this is an easy recommendation until Fallout 4‘s 4K update. After I finish the Prime series, I will be back to play more Fallout.

An early section of the second level of Ghostrunner.

April 12 – Ghostrunner

The record for finding the game I dislike in the shortest amount of time goes to Ghostrunner. I could not get into this first-person action platformer. This is a game all about timing, and one hit kills you. In the first level, I died 76 times as I attempted to progress through it. Most of my deaths were because I was trying to juggle running, jumping, dodging, and attacking. But in every death, I was either an easy target that I didn’t know what was there or what to expect.

For some people, these types of repetition-necessary games are perfect challenges. For me, I don’t enjoy them. I don’t have the rapid/twitch reflexes to play them well. Even after understanding the mechanics of the first stage, I started the second and still encountered problems. It starts you off with the ability to grapple, but then a blade device took me out and I knew my time with the game was up.

Thank goodness this was free through the Epic Game Store. I would be so disappointed if I paid for this. Again, I can see this kind of action platform having an audience.

Exploring Outbuddies

April 13 – Outbuddies DX

I often buy PC games through Fanatical and one of the many free games they’ve given away was Outbuddies DX. This is yet another retro-inspired Metroidvania. It’s also one more on the list of games from that genre that I don’t enjoy. My problem this time was that the early parts lacked variety and I wasn’t enjoying the combat.

This takes place underground. You’re spending most of your time either exploring caves or swimming in water. Like other games of the genre, you need to explore to find new and better weapons or skills to unlock additional content. But for the hour I spent playing, there was very little variety in enemies or the environment. Worst of all, the weapons you do pick up, aren’t much of an improvement.

The only kind of cool aspect is that your character has a robot companion. You can use the robot to scan ahead to see enemies or locate items in the environment that can help you reach other sections. But, this is still limited. I was expecting the robot to be able to scan hidden locations that would allow me to use my bombs. Unfortunately, it does not.

Examining my ship's upgrade in Skull & Bones

April 14 – Skull and Bones

Without question, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag is my favorite game of that series. So when Ubisoft announced a pirate-themed game based on the best parts of Black Flag, I could not wait. Now, a decade later, we have Skull & Bones. It’s not what a lot of people were expecting and to be fair, it’s also not as bad as it could have been. The biggest problem is that this is has Ubisoft’s gaming blueprint and that’s a problem.

You start with a pretty eventful opening scene where you are given the illusion of what is possible in this game. That’s taken away and you begin again from zero with the quest of being the dominant pirate of the Indian Ocean. From the prologue to the first few tutorial missions, you can see exactly how this mirrors other Ubisoft games.

To be fair, I enjoyed the traversing. It’s a lot of fun riding your ships across the limited areas you have to explore. But there isn’t much after that. You can hijack ships but you don’t get to participate in the plundering. Harvesting is limited to a timing-based mini-game. Meanwhile, the NPCs all look, animate, and sound so cheezy.

The worst part of this all, you can see that this should and could be a much better game. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants. It’s trying to combine both single-player and multiplayer experience and does neither right.

I managed to play one major 2024 release this week. While it was what I expected it would be, glad to finally try Skull & Bones. Looking into the slate of games available this week, I will probably rely again on Game Pass and other free trials. Other than that, it’s pretty open, but I hope I find something that I enjoy.