What I'm Playing - No. 64
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
- Neon Struct (PC)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Neon Struct (PC)
At the beginning of the year, in my Year in Review 2019 post, I mentioned wanting to finish more games in 2020. I think a good way to do this is pick shorter games from my Steam backlog, and work through them over a few short play sessions during the week. Indie stealth game Neon Struct is the first I’ve picked for this.
To be honest, I considered dropping it when I saw the art style. It’s very blocky and minimalistic, and in the first moments of the first level I was put off by this. I decided to give it a chance, and found some solid stealth gameplay within. Plus, some of the nighttime scenes look rather nice, with the angular buildings giving things a very striking look.
I played through this on Normal difficulty, but there was an Easy mode available as well as two harder difficulties. I feel like I made the right choice for myself, as I did pretty well in the early missions after I learned the ropes but did very poorly in the later missions. In those, I was very un-stealthy a lot of the time, and ended up getting the worst rating on several late game missions.
Neon Struct puts you in the shoes of Jillian Cleary, an ex-spy on the run from her previous employer, the Agency. She’s being framed for treason, and has no choice but to use her skills as former spy to escape capture. It’s set in an alternate 2015 where things like hover cars and bipedal mechs exist. The story was rather enjoyable and thought provoking, and brings to question the ethics of government surveillance, mandatory backdoors in software, and other contemporary topics. It takes place over several levels, where you’ll have a specific set of objectives in each. I founds myself wondering what sort of objectives and locations the next mission would bring, and each mission was pleasantly unique. They all involve some amount of sneaking around and/or espionage, and allow the stealth mechanics and level design to shine.
Another element I really enjoyed was the hacking mini-game. It’s a miniature Breakout/Arkanoid clone, but with the added stress that time doesn’t pause while the hacking tool is up. There might be times when you’re racing to finish hacking before a guard’s patrol takes them back to you, and it’s simply delightful. I learned later in the game that it’s better to position yourself in complete darkness while hacking whenever possible, so that if a guard does advance near you while you’re hacking, they won’t be able to see you.
My only real criticisms are of the AI and lighting systems. I’m not sure if there’s a difference on higher difficulties, but I found it rather strange that the AI didn’t react to light switches being toggled. I could sneak into a lit room with a guard in it and turn off the light, plunging them in darkness, and they don’t react at all. With the lighting system, you’re given an indicator on the bottom of the screen that shows how well lit the area you’re standing in is. However, it wasn’t always clear to me when looking at distant terrain what would be in total darkness and what would have 1 bar of light, and the difference is significant because total darkness will hide you even if a guard is staring right at you while 1 bar of light will not. Even with those minor complaints, Neon Struct was really fun though. It’s lingered in my Steam backlog for years, so I’m glad I finally played through it!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
After some exploring in the fiery region surrounding Death Mountain, I reached Goron City. There, I learned from the goron elder that Divine Beast Rudania is causing Death Mountain to be much more active.
The elder sent me out to find Yunobo, who’d been sent out to fetch painkillers for the goron elder’s back. But before I could rescue Yunobo, I had to equip myself in proper fireproof gear from the armor shop in town. Then I was ready to brave the extremely hot abandoned mine area. The lizalfos there gave me some trouble, their fire arrows hit me hard and forced me to eat most of the recipes I’d brought with me. Eventually I eradicated them all with ice arrows, and found a cannon to blast Yunobo free from the cave in which he was stuck. Yunobo is an interesting Goron. He’s pretty fearful, and doesn’t seem to have much in common with his ancestor, the goron champion Daruk. For the time being, I decided to deal with Rudania later, because there was something else I wanted to investigate first.
I followed the hints dropped by several NPCs and headed north to look for the Master Sword. This lead me to the Lost Woods, and what a beautiful incarnation of the Lost Woods it is. Thick fog surrounds you and limits your vision, and even swallows you up and sends you back to the beginning of the Lost Woods should you stray from the hidden path. Building on this, the music creates this incredible sense of importance and urgency. I didn’t mind getting swallowed up and lost in the fog, because the music told me I must persevere and find my way through. After a few failed attempts, I made it through the Lost Woods and found the Korok Forest, home of the Great Deku Tree and resting place of the Master Sword. One gripe I have about this area: the frame rate here is abysmal. It felt like 15, maybe 20 FPS at times, especially when moving the camera around. This was with the Switch docked, maybe it’s better undocked, but it tarnished the experience a bit.
Finding the Master Sword waiting within the Great Deku Tree’s glade was such a treat. I love that they put these two Zelda staples together in the same place, it hits me in the nostalgia so hard. The mechanic for pulling the sword from the stone is that it constantly drains your HP as you hold the pull button. If your maximum hearts is too low, you can kill yourself by holding on too long…which happened to me several times. I looked up the number of hearts I needed online and saw that I was just one heart away, and after a little hunting around for Shrines to gather a few more Spirit Orbs, I was ready.
With the proper number of hearts, the Master Sword was mine. The scene after Link pulls it out was so magical. First, he holds it aloft, and I felt like I was experiencing Ocarina of Time for the first time all over again because the same music plays. Then, another flashback cutscene plays. Zelda is shown placing the Master Sword there for safe keeping, and there’s just something special about seeing Princess Zelda together with the Great Deku Tree and the Master Sword all in one scene. Plus, the shot of the Master Sword standing in the pedestal is simply breathtaking.
Master Sword in hand, I was ready to return to Goron City, and take on Divine Beast Rudania. This meant teaming up with Yunobo to reach it, but first I had to rescue him from some monsters. After saving him, Yunobo became a living canon ball and allowed me to shoot him from a canon in order to lower the Bridge of Eldin. Despite sharing the same name, I don’t really see how this could be the same bridge from Twilight Princess…? Geographically, I don’t think the Bridge of Eldin was that close to Death Mountain in Twilight Princess, and in Breath of the Wild it’s literally next to it. But I digress.
Getting Rudania into a position where I could board it was…an experience. It was a mini escort mission where I had get Link and Yunobo past a bunch of searchlights, and if you were seen Yunobo would freak out and become even more useless, often running the wrong direction in a panic, and Rudania called down fiery rocks that knocked Link down for what felt like an eternity. I could complain about this stretch some more, but I think this GIF summarizes my feelings pretty well.
After saying good-bye to Yunobo and hoping he never got involved in the gameplay again, I boarded Rudania. As expected, this dungeon was really cool, definitely up to the same standard as the previous Divine Beast interiors. This one threw a curveball my way by plunging me into darkness at the beginning of the dungeon until the map was acquired. It was an interesting touch! From there, it was an enjoyable ride solving a few puzzles and activating beacons to make my way to the dungeon boss.
Fireblight Ganon confronted me. Remembering my struggles with the last Divine Beast boss I challenged, I readied myself for a potentially frustrating encounter. But unlike the last one, I had no frustrating roadblocks with this boss. I think maybe because I learned from my previous struggle, but when its second phase came up, I immediately began experimenting with different Rune powers, and eventually figured out how to damage it with one of them. It was also really nice having the Master Sword to fight the boss with, as it deals more damage against Ganon’s minions. After taking down Fireblight Ganon, Daruk’s spirit was freed, and Rudania was back under his control. Like the Divine Beasts I liberated before it, Rudania began blasting Hyrule Castle with its laser, and I got another neat spirit power: Daruk’s Protection, which protects Link from all damage while active and can be used to counter enemy attacks as well. Neat!
With that, 3 of 4 Divine Beasts have been liberated from Ganon’s clutches. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in this game now, even though I know there’s still a lot I haven’t seen. Chances are I’ll never see most of it, as I don’t really go for very high completion in massive open world games like this. But you never know, and for now I’m just enjoying the journey. It was a good week in Breath of the Wild!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)
Animal Crossing came to Nintendo Switch this week with the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. From everything I’ve seen so far, this is another excellent entry in the series, and succeeds in breaking new ground while also delivering everything I’d expect in an Animal Crossing game. I’ve really enjoyed the new gathering and DIY crafting mechanics. The new NookMiles system is basically like achievements too, which sounds great to me!
PatronusLight and I named our island Stardew, because PatronusLight could never remember the name of the Animal Crossing series. She’d always ask if it was Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon. She said naming our Animal Crossing island Stardew would help her remember, and I thought it was funny, so we went with it. We played co-op for a while on release day, but got discouraged when PatronusLight couldn’t donate insects or fish to Tom Nook, despite the fact that my character could, and we both had the same options up to that point. I’m not sure why that happened, but it was pretty sad. I’m hoping once we get a proper Musuem opened, we’ll both be able to donate, but we haven’t been able to test that yet because I donated so many things to Blathers in his tent that he stopped accepting donations in order to have the full museum built, but that’s going to take another day to finish. Actually, it should be finished by the time I post this!
I stumbled upon a familiar face from the series when I found Gulliver, shipwrecked and passed out on the beach. His groggy dialogue upon waking up is as entertaining as ever, if not even more so! To get an item from him this time, I had to find the 5 pieces of his broken communicator, buried in the beaches around the island. After finding and returning the communicator parts, Gulliver was able to text his crewmates, and promised to mail me a reward in a few days. He then proceeded to pace around the beach for the rest of the day as he waited to get picked up.
Gulliver’s reward showed up the very next day, a Statue of Liberty statue. I put it on display in my brand new house! Moving up from tent life was a big improvement, because not only is the house bigger, but you can customize the floors and walls, use the new “designer” mode to decorate (which I love, by the way!), and most importantly it has a built-in Storage inventory! Storage is awesome! Being able to dump stuff from my pockets into Storage after I walk into my house and not have them clutter the floor is wonderful. New Leaf’s closets and other containers were similar to Storage I suppose, and maybe better in some ways since you could also access those items from the lockers at the train station. But for all I know there’s an ability to unlock in New Horizons down the line that makes storage even more powerful, like allowing you to access it from other areas outside your home as well.
Naturally, having a house built is not free. Luckily, the Tom Nook repayment plan is as lax as can be. The cost of my home loan is 98,000 bells, but Nook charges no interest for this, and it can be paid off whenever. I don’t know how he stays in business like this, but I am a fan of this repayment plan! Also, he’ll be opening a shop on the island soon, which Timmy or Tommy will likely run, but he needs resources to do it. I’ve been tasked with gathering resources for the new shop. The wood was easy to gather, but the iron ore is a little more rare. Luckily, another new feature was introduced around the same time: the ability to fly to randomized deserted islands on mystery tours!
These random islands are cool for several reasons. One, they have rocks so I can use them to harvest iron ore faster. Two, they have random fruit, which should help me get all the different kinds of fruit on my island eventually. Lastly, you can find new potential villagers here! I visited two islands, one with the Nook Miles Ticket that was gifted to me from Tom Nook, and another I redeemed with my own Nook Miles points. On one island, I met Gladys, and on the second island I met Agent S. I invited both to move to Stardew, so hopefully they’ll show up in the next few days! I like the look of them both, but I’m especially excited for Agent S because he’s some sort of secret agent or Power Ranger or something? I didn’t get a good screenshot of him, but he seems like an interesting villager for sure!
That about wraps up my first weekend with New Horizons. It’s such a relaxing, chill game. I’d expect nothing less from Animal Crossing, of course! Thanks for reading, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to share about my island for weeks to come.