Oh lord, the backlog.
February 27, 2020 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Why am I still playing Skyrim? [PC Gamer] “Journey to the Savage Planet. Dragon Quest Builders 2. Phoenix Point. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Shenmue 3—those are just some of the games I'm yet to finish in the last few months. Some I haven't even started. In this relatively fallow period for PC releases, my pile of shame is somehow still growing. I should be catching up on the games that launched in the frankly silly September-to-November 2019 bottleneck. I need to clear the slate so I'm ready and refreshed for Doom Eternal, Resident Evil 3, and Cyberpunk 2077. Instead most weekday evenings go in precisely the same way, as if my life is being directed by the dullest screenplay imaginable: with dinner done and the washing up to one side, I have about an hour of games time if I want to get to bed at a reasonable hour. I have every intention of starting something new or making a beeline for the credits on a game I once put to one side. Then, there I go: I'm playing Skyrim again.”
posted by Fizz (72 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm Always Playing Stardew Valley.

Hey, CA just released another free content upgrade with 1.4 and he's promised another in 1.5. And there are all these mods I haven't tried yet. And I still haven't seen everyone's 10 heart let alone their 14 heart events.

Plus, I can play in 20 minute chunks, which is about perfect for me.
posted by bonehead at 9:35 AM on February 27 [10 favorites]


Comfort. We all need comfort in these trying times and that is the main reason why I keep on going back to the same game over and over again. It's a safe space to play inside of, the rules make sense, I already know where I'm going and there's a sense of accomplishment for the things I've already achieved in the game. I'm forever playing The Binding of Isaac. There's always some new synergy or new accomplishment that I can tick off. And I still have another expansion to look forward to. God bless Edmund McMillen.
posted by Fizz at 9:38 AM on February 27 [10 favorites]


While I'm unlike the author in that I don't have a backlog of things I should be playing, I definitely tend to let newer games I've been playing drift out of focus in favor of a few old standards, Bully being foremost among them and the most like Skyrim. I've played it countless times, and despite its being a much smaller game than Skyrim, I love the seemingly inexhaustible number of small things I discover each time I play. Coupled with the familiarity the author mentions, it makes for an evergreen experience, and it's a delight simply knowing I can always go back to it.
posted by heteronym at 9:54 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


Why am I still playing Skyrim?

Because it wouldn't be a Bethesda Game Studios game unless the engine trashed the save file every couple of a dozen hours.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:55 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


Why is Bethesda's underlying technology like war? Because like war, Bethesda's engine never changes, and it's good for absolutely nothing. (say it again!)
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:11 AM on February 27 [11 favorites]


Okay, you do you, but Dragon Quest Builders 2 is outstanding, wonderful, comforting, you can pet the animals in it, and it's doable in short chunks, and in the end you have a lifelong bond with a cute dragon boyfriend, whereas in Skyrim you're just yelling at the dragons? So I don't really know what nostalgia other people are aiming for with Skyrim but replaying DQB2 sure feels like the path to take for me... When I'm done with this latest go-around of Stardew Valley... at which point Animal Crossing will be out... oh god, I'm you, but more casual...
posted by Mizu at 10:15 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


god i wish I could enjoy Skyrim, I keep trying and bouncing off hard. the combat is just so vaporous, it's like what the fuck is even happening??? and how every dungeon is like here's a 15 minute stroll through hauntingly familiar caverns full of barely challenging minions and then you get locked in a tiny room with half a dozen demi-liches and BOOM you're back at your autosave point. NNNGGGHHHHH also the fukken dog (thank god for "no barking" mods) keeps jumping in my melee range and that's a reload because i am a no kill shelter. god damn skyrim.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:17 AM on February 27 [8 favorites]


I loved the concept of Skyrim, and I played a lot of it when it first came out. But there's the tired scene of becoming the Exalted Leader of the Mages Guild in a very shallow way. And then the Exalted leader of all the other guilds. And stealthy sniping is so powerful that it puts all other tactics to shame.

Eventually I fell into a hole of modding it, which becomes more of a meta-game of adding mods that it becomes something playable. Then my PC wasn't doing well, and I developed bad arm/wrist strain from so much kb&m use at work that I gave up PC gaming.

I have a big backlog of PS4 games now. But I'm in a pretty dark place right now in the real world and I just can't even bring myself to play much of them. I buy them on sale and put them aside. It's pathetic.

Just restarted Monster Hunter World. That's pretty good. Just wish there were more Monsters versus Dinosaurs.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:22 AM on February 27 [5 favorites]


I don’t care. I love skyrim. Pure escapism. I’ve been playing it since it came out. Plus my estranged 8 year old loves it and it’s a great way to bond when they’re over for weekends.
posted by my-username at 10:24 AM on February 27 [5 favorites]


seanmpuckett, the same thing happens to me. My kingdom for a "detect threat" spell that works on dungeon entrances, or any kind of in-world indication how I'm about to die.
posted by lumensimus at 10:26 AM on February 27


Bethesda makes jankey games, and I've made my peace with it. That being said, I do not understand why they've not ported Fallout 3 and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion to the Switch. Like just take all my money. Those games are ugly as hell but the gameplay is so much fun and I'd love to have them on the go.

Skyrim on the go is super fun though and I always tell myself that I'll play a new character, but every time I load it up, I end up picking an elf and I spec all my points into magic, stealth & archery. I keep telling myself I'll play a tank some day, but I'm forever rolling as a glass cannon thief who kills from afar and then steals all your shit.
posted by Fizz at 10:27 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


Because the tank characters are way less fun to play. Just mash the attack button. Pause and eat 17 apples. Unpause and mash the attack button.
posted by SoberHighland at 10:34 AM on February 27


Horizon Zero Dawn is this game for me. It is the only open-world game I've ever played where I've been even remotely tempted to 100% it.
posted by invitapriore at 10:36 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


My plea to author in the OP; Try Morrowind, please :(
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:38 AM on February 27 [4 favorites]


I wish I could get into Bethesda. I remember back in the pre-XBox days, Daggerfall, Arena. That was all shareware and never got into it. Then Morrowind happened (and I got it for the Xbox) Didn't feel it, got to the Ashen lands and stopped.

I made it farther there than Oblivion or Skyrim. And try as I might, I just don't "get" it. I thought the more accessible Skyrim and prettier graphics would get me finally. Nope. I think it was my least favorite. Story/intro was cute. Maybe the plots are good I got to the point where I got to some giants after that first small village where you, IDK, go to a prince and kill some mage dude IDR... And it was like meh.

So - my addiction - should be playing other games instead of this (all 100+ on my backlog)... Nope, just break out Tetris 99. Again. Play for hours. Every night.

It's just. I have no mind anymore and i can kick back and zen the fuck out with falling blocks. Dopamine dopamine. It's damn near close to my "Crack" of a game.
posted by symbioid at 10:46 AM on February 27


In this relatively fallow period for PC releases, my pile of shame is somehow still growing. I should be catching up on the games

Games are supposed to be fun, not things you have to do. I mean, I get this guy writes for PC Gamer and there is likely a professional obligation to have a look at new releases, but hey - if Skyrim is your comfort food right now, don't feel guilt about it. There's enough in this world trying to make you feel guilty. And this - "I really should properly give fighting and strategy games a go—I'm narrowing my horizons as I repeatedly chase Skyrim's." Not every game is for everyone; I suck at fighting games and shooters so I don't play them.

There's a firehose of content in all media right now; we have to pick and choose and not feel guilty about it, even if it's old and familiar and comfortable.

(Goes back to Civ IV)
posted by nubs at 10:50 AM on February 27 [14 favorites]


My plea to author in the OP; Try Morrowind,

I've been told this by so many people but I've never been able to grok onto this specific game. I think I'm just too used to the more modern Bethesda gaming model. I know that there are mods that add some quality of life features, but that reaches a level of fussing for a game that I'm often too lazy to bother with. Ah well.
posted by Fizz at 10:52 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


After MrsMogur passed away in 2018, I basically went to Skyrim (the region, not just the game) for six weeks. I think it saved my life.
posted by Mogur at 10:53 AM on February 27 [48 favorites]


I think it saved my life.

After I dropped out of teacher's college due to stress and anxiety, I did the same thing with Binding of Isaac. It just clicked and it kept me from losing my mind. This kind of engagement with a game is something I absolutely 100% understand. I'm sorry MrsMogur passed away, but I'm glad that Skyrim was there for you.
posted by Fizz at 10:56 AM on February 27 [21 favorites]


stealthy sniping is so powerful that it puts all other tactics to shame. There are other tactics? This is just totally how I always want to play these games, so they seem just perfect to me. Mind blown.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:01 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


After spending a really tremendous amount of time in open world games, MMOs, 4X games, whatever Crusader Kings II is, roguelikes and so on, I have a rule of thumb against playing games that don't have a defined beginning and end. I've just put so many hours of my life into them that I've hit my quota. Open world games are okay if I restrict myself to specific goals. I make exceptions for sort-of-games like Rocksmith and VR games which are technically endless but in practice limited and occasionally practical, insofar as for example playing guitar is practical. And there are a handful of comfort food games that I'll play just because.

Speaking of Morrowind, it's an excellent game but for whatever reason I was really taken by the Bloodmoon expansion set in Solstheim. When Skyrim came out two games later, it was a sort of dream come true -- essentially my favorite Morrowind expansion expanded into a full game.
posted by bright flowers at 11:08 AM on February 27 [1 favorite]


AC:Odyssey; you get to play a heroic muscular woman who straight-up murders every patriarchal Spartan asshole she runs across. Whether it's because you've dropped an eagle on their head, you've put an arrow through their head, or simply jammed a spear entirely through their skull and out the other side, it's all good.

The only real downside is that they respawn; it'd be nice if it were possible to entirely cleanse the map of Spartan villainy. Also, after the first couple hundred murders they should be running away in terror at the sight of my wondrous flowing mane.
posted by aramaic at 11:34 AM on February 27 [9 favorites]


i have owned skyrim for 7 years, for 2 different consoles, i still have not played it, and i will not do so until rodd coward comes to my home to fight me in person
posted by poffin boffin at 11:36 AM on February 27 [2 favorites]


This strikes me as a very strange orientation towards video games specifically and leisure (or forms of activity I assumed were leisurely?) in general. The author seems to have a bizarre sense of obligation to engaging with video games:

those are just some of the games I'm yet to finish in the last few months. Some I haven't even started.

Why is this even worth noting, that there exist games which haven't been finished but also haven't...been started? Nobody has unlimited time, so honestly, what does this even mean?

In this relatively fallow period for PC releases, my pile of shame is somehow still growing. I should be catching up on the games that launched in the frankly silly September-to-November 2019 bottleneck.

The idea of feeling ashamed about one's "progress" in video games is genuinely baffling to me. I can't even begin to understand that emotional orientation to play time, and I've played plenty of video games in my life.

I need to clear the slate so I'm ready and refreshed for Doom Eternal, Resident Evil 3, and Cyberpunk 2077.

I feel like maybe what this person actually needs to do is grow up a bit, or at least evaluate their emotional and psychological relationship to playing video games, because it sounds rather disordered, frankly.
posted by clockzero at 11:44 AM on February 27


Typically when someone talks about catching up on their "gaming backlog" its more about games they bought (usually cheaply during a sale) and the guilt that comes from having not played them yet (guilt of wasting money, too).

I'm guilty of this with books, I have a reading backlog of book's I've bought compulsively.

Now if we're not talking about a purchased game backlog and just games the author feels they have to play...well....that's not healthy. In a way, though, how are must-see movies or must-read books any different?
posted by Snuffman at 12:02 PM on February 27 [9 favorites]


This strikes me as a very strange orientation towards video games specifically and leisure (or forms of activity I assumed were leisurely?) in general. The author seems to have a bizarre sense of obligation to engaging with video games:

It's not exactly uncommon to feel like this about your ostensible "leisure" activities. See also: people who feel guilty about re-reading old favorites instead of something new from their enormous to-read pile, people who keep their favorite album from a few years ago in regular rotation and haven't gotten around to listening to such and such new album yet, people who re-watch the comfort sitcom of their choice instead of getting around to that new show they've been meaning to try and that everyone's talking about...

It's a kind of FOMO, I guess. You're not quite in the right mood or headspace for a new thing, but you're also worried you're missing out on the new thing. Or maybe it's a symptom of burnout or being overwhelmed by the flood of content available to us at all times. Add in a sense of ostensible professional obligation to be on top of new releases, and it's totally understandable. I wouldn't call it disordered, per se.

Personally, I don't feel it at all with games; I'm happy to play Stardew Valley off and on all throughout the year, but then, I'm a casual gamer. I definitely feel some of the same conflicted FOMO with music and books though.
posted by yasaman at 12:03 PM on February 27 [17 favorites]


Borderlands 2 player here. After all this time invested in the game, I still keep finding hidden chests and even ladders that I somehow missed in my previous playthroughs. I have a queue of other games ready, but when I have the odd hour or so to play, I find myself again on Pandora.
posted by SPrintF at 12:04 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


After MrsMogur passed away in 2018, I basically went to Skyrim (the region, not just the game) for six weeks. I think it saved my life.

Uh.

I started this with the thought "Oh wow, I just started another playthrough of Skryim. For like the 16th time! That's a coincidence."

Six months ago my mother died. I'm in therapy now trying to sort through my feelings and it's really, really hard. I'm desperate to get back there often through the week.

So. Yeah.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:05 PM on February 27 [14 favorites]


Borderlands 2 player here. After all this time invested in the game, I still keep finding hidden chests and even ladders that I somehow missed in my previous playthroughs. I have a queue of other games ready, but when I have the odd hour or so to play, I find myself again on Pandora.

I discover at least one new chest every time I do a play through, and that's even before reaching the DLC, such as the one near the beginning of the game when Scooter sends you into the bandit camp to "liberate" a part necessary to fix catch a ride.
posted by Beholder at 12:19 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


Typically when someone talks about catching up on their "gaming backlog" its more about games they bought (usually cheaply during a sale) and the guilt that comes from having not played them yet (guilt of wasting money, too).

This is exacerbated for those of us building up our Switch libraries simply because SALE*SALE*SALE.
posted by linux at 12:32 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


Fizz I feel so called out right now. Also going to Solstheim after killing Alduin is so damn satisfying.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:37 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


I have so many new games to play -- heck, I have a new (to me) PS4 that a friend gave me, and games for that -- and I keep wandering back to Elder Scrolls Online or Stardew Valley instead. It's all about comfort-gaming. I only have a little time to play, and I'm usually super tired after work, so the idea of figuring out controls and such for a whole new game is daunting, so I just go back to those two games instead. If I'm feeling a real need for comfort-gaming, I'll play through the Mass Effect trilogy again, too.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:40 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


I only have a little time to play, and I'm usually super tired after work, so the idea of figuring out controls and such for a whole new game is daunting, so I just go back to those two games instead

Watching other people play games on Twitch is also super enjoyable and satisfying for those times when you're too drained to pick up a controller but still want to be "gaming adjacent". I throw on streams of people speedrunning their way through Binding of Isaac all the time because it's easy to just have that on in the background while I'm puttering around doing other things.
posted by Fizz at 12:44 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


Inertia is real, and it's possible to feel like you're in a rut and want to change what you're doing, but lack the momentum to do it.

I've had mornings where I put on one episode of a TV show while I eat breakfast and drink my coffee, and I end up watching 2 more because of auto-play, when I know I'd rather be spending my weekend doing other things. But in the very moment? I haven't mustered the willpower.

Sometimes I'm in the mood to watch TV and it's a deliberate choice. Other times, I'm being pretty mindless and I'd have more fun and/or feel more satisfied if I did something else.

It's easy to get trapped in a cycle of "one more game" and I do that with League of Legends a bit too much. I know I want to play a new game, and it'll probably be more fun...but changing gears is hard.

This isn't about treating a hobby as a job or obligation, but about wanting to do one thing, and then accidentally choosing the other, easier thing, and feeling a bit of regret about falling back into a pattern.
posted by explosion at 12:58 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


The one I keep going back to is Katamari Damacy. I've had every console version of it. PS3 Katamari Forever's probably my favourite; most recently I have the Switch update, though its controls are a bit too finicky.

In terms of backlog, I finally got around to playing Assassin's Creed last year, after finding a copy for 75p at the CeX in Derby..
posted by acb at 1:07 PM on February 27


This resonates with me, for strategy games. For years Rise of Nations was my comfortable game. I kept trying new nations, approaches, and maps.
Then Civ V.
posted by doctornemo at 1:28 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


I only have a little time to play, and I'm usually super tired after work, so the idea of figuring out controls and such for a whole new game is daunting, so I just go back to those two games instead

I feel this. I can't get into most console games anymore because I don't want to dedicate the time and energy into the first few levels.

Gimme a machine that plays Quake III Arena and I'm happy. I've played some of those levels probably thousands of times by now.
posted by jzb at 1:55 PM on February 27


For me it's Train Sim World on Xbox. Yeah, I know, you don't even need to steer, but it's just really relaxing after work. Pop open a craft beer, put some music on and off you go.
posted by mrbarky at 2:23 PM on February 27


I recently came to a realisation that's helped me immensely with my backlog: I don't like all genres of games and that's OK. Growing up, I would play everything that came recommended and, mostly, enjoy it regardless of genre. As the field has exploded and there are too many games for literally anyone to keep up with, I find myself accepting narrowing my focus and actually defining what I do and don't like about games.

What helps with the lingering FOMO of not banging my heads against the latest hip maso-core platformer that everyone loves is watching streamers play the game and, eventually, speed runners. I get to participate in the zeitgeist and I can appreciate the game from a distance.

I do still buy all the popular horror games that I only play for 15 minutes before getting too scared. Just checked my play time in Amnesia; I managed 96 minutes of Dark Descent (though I swear thats probably 3-4 attempts) and 19 minutes of A Machine for Pigs.

And my go-to comfort games are still the initial Monkey Island trilogy. It's like a warm hug every time I go back to those games.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:31 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


Two years ago I realized I hadn't bought a new game in years, so I looked at what was on sale on Steam. I got Arkham Knight, but my video card wasn't up to snuff for it, so I added Rocket League, though I've rarely played "twitchy" games since high school and hated online games. I've played Arkham Knight for about 2 hours. I've played Rocket League for over 2200 hours (jeez, I really should be better at it). I watch Rocket League YouTube videos every day; I subscribe regularly to two Twitch streamers (and watch a bunch more -- I sometimes wonder if I'm the oldest subscriber to those streams); I watch RLCS every weekend. I practice playing a video game for at least half an hour every night.

I would like to play other games. I'd like to finish Arkham Knight, maybe see what Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program have been up to, but that would be cutting into my Rocket League time, so...
posted by dirigibleman at 2:45 PM on February 27 [4 favorites]


Obligatory Mass Effect post: that's ME for me, at least the original trilogy. (Andromeda I have mixed regard for; there are some great parts in it, but goddamn does some of it, especially driving the Nomad around endless acres of sand dunes or glaciers, get purely tedious.) It's not even a matter of if I'll do yet another complete playthrough--with maybe a slight modification of the parameters--but when.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:47 PM on February 27


It does come down to comfort. And that's fine. Time is finite, we know what we'll get with some games or shows. I can run a dungeon in Enter the Gungeon and that's a rewarding, challenging experience for me. I do like when I get out of my comfort zone sometimes, but there's nothing wrong with taking comfort either.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:57 PM on February 27


The idea of feeling ashamed about one's "progress" in video games is genuinely baffling to me. I can't even begin to understand that emotional orientation to play time, and I've played plenty of video games in my life.

It baffles you to know there are say all the best picture Oscar nominated films you haven't seen (if you're into cinema) or the 100 best books of the century you haven't read (if you're into reading), etc. etc. etc.?

Because it shouldn't. You're just making this sound weird like videogamers shouldn't want to experience their hobby when we're humans and FOMO is kind of a central tenet of our brain for most people.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:02 PM on February 27 [4 favorites]


Semi off-topic, though it was brought up here:

What is the appeal of The Binding of Isaac? I bought it for cheap on Steam a couple months ago. I tried playing it about 6 times or so and I just cannot understand the appeal this game has. It seems extremely basic and very hit-or-miss skill-wise. But... what is the gameplay appeal?

I'm genuinely curious. I've heard such high accolades for this game. Is there some nostalgia factor that I'm missing? It reminds me of cheap Flash games from 10-15 years ago.

There has GOT to be something I'm missing here. I'm not trying to bash the game, I'm genuinely curious about it. I can get past the low-fi graphics. I guess I could boot it up again, but the gameplay was so... nothing(?) to me.

Please explain!
posted by SoberHighland at 3:04 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


I recently came to a realisation that's helped me immensely with my backlog: I don't like all genres of games and that's OK. Growing up, I would play everything that came recommended and, mostly, enjoy it regardless of genre. As the field has exploded and there are too many games for literally anyone to keep up with, I find myself accepting narrowing my focus and actually defining what I do and don't like about games.

This is basically my approach too. I love trying new games, but I tend to drop them after a short time if I'm not finding them compelling (or if they're open-ended and I find them too compelling). It's part of why I get pretty annoyed at prolonged "tutorial" sequences. Just let me play the game, man. I don't want to spend 10 hours for it to "open up".

There are a couple of developers with near-impeccable track records (Arkane and FromSoftware, basically) where I will drop everything to play a new game of theirs. Everything else is expendable.

(Currently playing through a 23-year-old 2D game -- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night -- because it was on sale for PS4 and it had a Reputation. Turns out it's really good after all!)

What is the appeal of The Binding of Isaac? ... I'm genuinely curious. I've heard such high accolades for this game. Is there some nostalgia factor that I'm missing? It reminds me of cheap Flash games from 10-15 years ago.

See, the funny thing is, it originally was a cheap $5 Flash game! I kind of have a love-hate relationship with it -- it can be a lot of fun to see what crazy upgrades you'll get next, but also if you get a bad roll of the dice it can turn into a punishing grind. Optimal play often involves doing boring things, so it's not great game design. It throws a ton of stuff at the wall, and some of it sticks pretty well. The constant stream of New Stuff (you unlock certain upgrades by doing stuff in the game) and the potentially-high difficulty (some of the optional challenges are near-impossible) greatly appeals to a certain kind of gamer.
posted by neckro23 at 3:20 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


I'm not a heavy gamer in terms of breadth... In the past 5-6 years I've only purchased...maybe a dozen games? If I can't sink a couple hundred hours into a game, I don't usually end up purchasing it. I like games that are fairly deep, and not a lot of those come out. I had high hopes for Outer Worlds, and still might pick it up when it comes out at discount, but it sounds so short?

I'm *checks steam* oh god, 180 hours into my first play-through of skyrim, and haven't completed the main quest. My 'in process' quest list is stupid long, and I'm fully aware that I'm missing plenty. That's an inordinate amount of time for having picked the game up two years ago on a steam sale for like $20. I never purchase games brand-new, but would probably make an exception if the same team that released skyrim put something new out that promised to be as massive.

I find myself routinely going back to skyrim just because it's so big. Both it and No Man's Sky are my favorite "I am going to walk around and do stuff for a bit" type games. A game that lets you wander is a rare one, and one you can enjoy wandering around in is even moreso.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:33 PM on February 27


I guess Binding is just not for me, then. It does have that punishing difficulty factor. Maybe if I played it while bored at work? Kinda game that retrying a bunch of times with a lot of curveballs in the mix? One you can jump into and play for a couple minutes and then put down?

Oh, wait... I'm still unemployed.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:34 PM on February 27


For me, it's Baldur's II. It's funny, I barely play any other games, but I played the shit out of Baldur's Gate II. When pillars of eternity came out, all these people were saying how hard it was, and I just didn't get it - I'm usually rubbish at games, but then I realised by hours and hours of baldur's gate meant I was really good at this one very particular type of game.

I enjoyed Morrowind quite a lot back in the day, but really hated Oblivion (so, so bland). How would I go with Skyrim do you think?
posted by smoke at 3:44 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


Ah, Baldur's Gate II. I could never get past the Beholders without cheesing them (summon fire elementals and let them fight). It's hard to believe they used to release video games so complex. So many spells in that game—including so many (basically) useless spells. Maybe I should try the enhanced edition. There was a real charm to that game.

Pillars of Eternity never clicked with me. All the phony language stuff turned me off. And the names that used! I guess they were going for Welsh names or something? And the whole thing was a downer. PoE2 had even worse phony language stuff and terrible naval combat that never worked for me either.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:05 PM on February 27


I went back to Skyrim a few months ago when I discovered my Steam copy had a Japanese language option. I'm at like, high beginner low intermediate level in Japanese, and have been trying to find ways to get immersion without knowing any native speakers or being able to visit the country. Skyrim is a super immersive place to be, so I figured, hey, this will be exactly like going to Japan except the culture will be 100% different and the dragon attacks will be 50,000% more frequent and the train service won't be quite as good.

It's been fun! I understand very little of what's going on, but thanks to the menu-based conversation system, my outgoing Japanese is perfect, even when I myself have no idea what I'm saying. (This is how I am currently the archmage of a magical university, I guess?) And if I learn nothing else from the experience, I'll always remember nusumu (steal) and suri (pickpocket).

(It was also very exciting the first time I realized a guard was telling me he used to be an adventurer like me until he took an arrow to the knee, or the time one said "dareka sui-toro-ru wo nusumareta" & I was like "sweetroll, passive past form of nusumu... HE JUST SAID SOMEONE STOLE SOMEONE'S SWEETROLL! I remember that being a thing in this game!")
posted by taquito sunrise at 4:22 PM on February 27 [8 favorites]


I think I might have the record for the oldest "comfort" game I'll still pick up quite often: Chaos Overlords. It still strikes me as a beautifully complex and often difficult game - came out in 95 I think?

That and Civ IV.

Maybe I'll try Skyrim... finally...
posted by emmet at 4:33 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


Pillars of Eternity never clicked with me. All the phony language stuff turned me off

Try the Pathfinder game, imho it captures the baldur's gate vibe more effectively. POE got a bit too wrapped up in its mythology I thought. The pathfinder game was apparently dreadfully buggy on release, but when I got round to playing it, it was totally fine.
posted by smoke at 4:40 PM on February 27


smoke: I enjoyed Morrowind quite a lot back in the day, but really hated Oblivion (so, so bland). How would I go with Skyrim do you think?

The basic first-person-RPG interface is similar between Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. Leveling details are significantly different. As others have said, most Skyrim characters eventually turn into stealth archers, so be happy with that or be prepared to play a below-par build.

Morrowind is a stranger place than Skyrim, for example the fast travel equivalent of silt striders in Morrowind is just plain old horse-driven carriages in Skyrim. You can also fast travel in Skyrim directly from the map.

Skyrim quests are more on-rails than Morrowind quests. In Morrowind you can kill basically any NPC, and too bad for you if they're critical to some quest you didn't know about, or for the main quest there is a difficult alternate path to finish it. In Skyrim essential characters are simply unkillable.

I thought the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild questlines from Oblivion were some of the best between all three games. The best Skyrim quests are comparable.
posted by bright flowers at 4:43 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


Also, there's a VR version of Skyrim, which I haven't played but many people like. If you have VR or are considering getting into it then you might consider doing your first playthrough there.
posted by bright flowers at 4:47 PM on February 27


I've been getting back into the Skyrim since it came with the PSVR I got recently (Craigslist FTW!)...it is a totally different experience. Everything is so big and scary and jumps out at you from nowhere. The wolves, they come from everywhere. The giant spiders are terrifying. Definitely a good reason to get VR. (Also No Man's Sky...it's like being there.)
Someone mentioned Borderlands2? Try the Pre-Sequel. The jump-slam attacks are super-fun and the Baroness is one of the best characters they've come up with...she's basically along on the adventure because she just wants to kill a bunch of stuff because she's bored. Her honesty is refreshing ;)
For me though, the tetris-shaped hole in my life is filled by twin-stick shooters. Robotron, Smash TV (I Love It!), Super Stardust, Geometry Wars, Etc...there's a newish one,Nex Machina, by the guy who designed robotron and smash tv (and published by housemarque, who did super stardust), that I've been meaning to try. Diablo3 fills this hole pretty well too...that's a game I go back to a lot...esp when people are over...the couch co-op is super-fun. Enter the Gungeon is great too, but having to use the trigger button to fire makes it a different experience.
Oh and wipeout, I play that one a lot too.
So yeah, I don't really go back and play older games a lot...just Skyrim, Borderlands, Diablo3, wipeout, No Man's Sky, and a bunch of old twin-stick shooters. Oh and Fallout.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:27 PM on February 27


If anyone's scratching their head about the stealth archer thing, it's because of two things: one, stealth is broken, at max level you are basically invisible, and monsters have no chance finding you if you're any distance away; two, with the right perks you get massive bonuses to shooting and stabbing from stealth. So the effect is that you can invisibly shoot what is effectively a high-powered sniper rifle using cheap equipment you can find from common enemies. Plus, as a bonus, high-damage archery gives you lots of cool killcam deaths like in this video. And, there's also armor that increases backstabbing damage even further for when shooting is too slow.
posted by bright flowers at 5:30 PM on February 27 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm going to play FTL again tonight and there's a 5% chance I will get to the mothership and a 0% chance I will beat it

But there's a 90% chance my crew will die when I blow all the hatch doors to put out a fire and my O2 system is down
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:34 PM on February 27 [3 favorites]


I had high hopes for Outer Worlds, and still might pick it up when it comes out at discount, but it sounds so short?

I mean it ain't bad, I played it on PS4, got maybe 40 hours out of it, but didn't actually finish it as I grew quite bored of it. Lots of fetch quests. I get that's what RPGs mostly are, but bouncing back and forth between planets got pretty boring and I didn't do the endgame. The UI could use a lot of work on console as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:58 PM on February 27


XCom2 for me.
posted by snwod at 6:23 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


For me the nostalgia game is WoW- whenever I got bored of my main I would create new alts and re-live the fun of discovering the class mechanics and exploring the starting zones. Most of my alts are L10 or less. My interest sort of petered out once I hit the 50 character limit. Also, I acquired a dog with zero tolerance for me sitting at the computer. :D
posted by simra at 7:27 PM on February 27 [1 favorite]


After MrsMogur passed away in 2018, I basically went to Skyrim (the region, not just the game) for six weeks. I think it saved my life.

In 2011 my wife passed away after a long illness. In 2013 I found myself between assignments but still nominally employed, suddenly with oodles of free time to waste. Having just gotten a new, more or less cutting edge gaming pc the year before and having bought a huge amount of games I'd missed out on, the logical choice was to start video gaming.

Skyrim was one of the games I wasted hours in, but it was Mass Effect 1 and 2 that really got me. Hundreds of hours making sure I'd make it through the suicide mission with all my team mates surviving, even the annoying ones. First ever fanfic written out of discontent with how ME3 was supposed to end.

It made me go on a quest to find similar games, similar media with strong female protagonists that weren't just a bloke's fantasy of what a strong female character is. Because Shepard is the same person whether you play him as the boring male default or as the obviously superior Jennifer Hale voiced femshep, she's treated as normal, not an anomaly.

Trying to find similar sorts of characters led me from video games to anime, because they clicked for me, but why they did I only realised very very late in the game. On some level, I was looking for a surrogate for what I'd lost, which is a bit pathetic, to be honest.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:49 PM on February 27 [5 favorites]


What is the appeal of The Binding of Isaac? I bought it for cheap on Steam a couple months ago. I tried playing it about 6 times or so and I just cannot understand the appeal this game has. It seems extremely basic and very hit-or-miss skill-wise. But... what is the gameplay appeal?

This game didn't click for me until I had watched some streamers play through it and then the gameplay loop hit. It's not super obvious at first because you're just sort of dropped into a dungeon and it's up to you to figure out what's next. The core loop is: find items, buy items, get stronger, get protected, battle monster, get even stronger, battle more monsters, find more items, buy more items, get even stronger, battle even more monsters, lather, rinse repeat.

The thing of it is to find that optimum path that works best for you. In every dungeon there is a golden door which leads to a item room that gives you a tear effect or some kind of buff. You might increase the number of tears, the damage of your tears might intensify, you might shoot tears in orbitals, or maybe a buddy will attach itself to you and provide a bit of defense, and on and on. Once you clear this room, you can go around battling all the other monsters in all the other rooms, slowly picking up coins, keys, & bombs. Keys get you into shops and other special item stores where you can buy yourself items if you have enough coins. Eventually you'll get to your dungeon boss and after you clear that boss, they'll drop another item that gives you another power up. Now you're ready to descend.

It's this loop that keeps repeating. The joy for most of us is in finding the types of synergies and power-ups that do weird things. On a recent run I had one giant gear that I could move around with my one directional, another run recently gave me quadruple tears that shoot in a spread along with electricity so that it kills anything in between the tear spread. It's these types of weird synergies when you combine one item with another that makes for fun. And it's not always good synergies. You might pick up an item that makes you poop bombs at unexpected moments and if you don't get away from your poop bombs, you take damage.

You learn very quickly which items are worth picking up and which are worth skipping. Along with items you also have pills and cards. Cards are single use only, they apply some kind of an effect, some are permanent, some are temporary. For example, the Emperor card teleports Isaac into the Boss Room of a floor. You might pick up a pill that you consume that gives you extra health, or it might confuse you and now your map is covered with question marks so you cannot see where you've been or where you're going.

There is just enough randomness built into this game that the core loop of find item, get stronger, battle monster, get more items, battle more monsters, etc. is never dull.

Give Northernlion a watch. He's a Twitch, YouTube streamer that plays a lot of games but is mostly focused on Binding of Isaac. He'll talk about the game sometimes (though mostly he's just riffing on some random thing that happened in his life). He'll use terms that aren't familiar to you like: guppy, deal with the devil, boss-rush, etc. It doesn't really matter, just watch what he does and how he moves in and out of rooms. Watch at least 5 or 6 of these if you're really wanting to get into this game and see if it can truly click with you. Watching someone as good as him just power through a game is what finally made it click for me.

And here's the thing, he's not even the best, he's just really really good and has been doing it for a long ass time. NL will make choices that make me scream at the screen, but he also picks up items that intentionally fucks up his runs so that they are harder or weirder in some way. He likes that kind of zany randomness.

Sorry for the word vomit, hopefully it'll give you a bit of a peak into our brains and why those of us who do love this game, always seem to love it with such intensity. Once that thing clicks, it just doesn't let go of you.
posted by Fizz at 4:42 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


I think my most-played comfort game of all time is Borderlands 2. I have 722 hours in it, which is quite a lot for an adult with a full time job and a kid.

It's the sort of thing where I have played through the game multiple times on each character, but also rolled new characters to play through co-op with a friend who gets the game.

Repeat again and again. Plus, Tiny Tina's Attack on Dragon Keep is one of the best DLCs of all time.

I went through the whole thing again just recently when the Handsome Collection was on sale before BL3 got released and a friend of mine picked it up. He got a few of us old-timers back into it to play on co-op and share the lols. Also my son got old enough to play, so I've played through it with him, and friends have jumped on to join us.

It's an experience that keeps on giving.

My second most played comfort game is Overwatch, which is still in my regular rotation. Any time I want to play something but don't have a lot of time or don't feel like investing in a story, I hop on Overwatch for a bit. Matches take 10 minutes, and I can choose between a standard quick play, or one of the arcade modes like capture the flag. With so many playable characters, I can choose what play style I feel like for any given moment.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:08 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


You don't need to be a stealth Archer to be invincible in Skyrim. With my crafting skills maxed out I can build an outfit to make me overpowered in any play style. (This is without using the fortify restoration trick.). You can go from never using a two-handed weapon to one-hitting 90% of enemies with a great sword.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:25 AM on February 28


For a melee character in any game what can happen is that you'll see a group of enemies and think, I should thin the ranks a bit before attacking. In a more balanced game you might attack one with a weak bow, run away while they chase you, wait for them to separate, eventually engage a straggler, and then repeat several times until the group is manageable and you charge in. In Skyrim with overpowered stealth archery you can instead effectively delete enemies without risk from a distance, so instead of only taking out some of the enemies, you can just take them all out.

Another issue is you're often facing enemy archers or mages or, crucially, flying dragons, so there's an incentive to level up archery anyway. So in the early/mid game you can either be a good archer, or mediocre archer and mediocre melee, or good melee but ineffective against certain enemies.

I definitely agree that other playstyles are viable but it requires approaching them as a sort of challenge mode, with self-imposed rules like "I will only use bows against dragons."
posted by bright flowers at 8:58 AM on February 28 [3 favorites]


I guess the challenge was making hundreds of iron daggers and useless potions. But at this point no tactics beyond "wade in and wave the sword around" are required.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:19 AM on February 28


I thought the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild questlines from Oblivion were some of the best between all three games.

Oblivion is ultimately pretty disappointing, but the Thieves Guild story may be the most inventive thing in the whole run of Elder Scrolls games.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:07 AM on February 28 [1 favorite]


Oblivion would have been better if those stupid gates to oblivion wouldn't have kept crashing down in my sandbox. I adored Morrowind.
posted by dreamling at 11:28 AM on February 28 [2 favorites]


It was Far Cry 3 (Don't judge me!) for me, and before that Civ (earlier vesions). HZD has all the potential, I just haven't gotten back to it. Still in RDR2.

I used to work in a plant that manufactured X-Box games. You get used to watching the firehose of content go by and carefully picking what's worth your time.
posted by achrise at 12:00 PM on February 28 [1 favorite]


we're humans and FOMO is kind of a central tenet of our brain for most people

If that's the case, I bet someone could make a whole lotta money if they figure out a way to exploit this phenomenon.
posted by some loser at 7:29 AM on February 29


Am I ignoring my Steam backlog to play Skyrim once again? Fus-Ro-Duh!
posted by xedrik at 7:49 AM on February 29 [1 favorite]


I am literally playing skyrim instead of composing a thoughtful comment on this post.
posted by gamera at 1:25 PM on February 29 [1 favorite]


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