Shmee Plans Cities’ Skylines!

Are you someone who obsesses about budgets, and do you think that you could do a better job as City Planner than the dude or dudette they currently got in charge?  Colossal Order made the game for you, Cities: Skylines.  You are in charge of planning a city from the ground up, but you also have to provide services and keep that city running.  Which would be simple if the citizens of your city would just be happy with being sick, uneducated and stop setting their houses on fire.  That way you could spend all your time laying out roads and placing parks.

Cities: Skylines is actually a pretty simple game, you pick the grade of road you want, and then zone the areas on either side of that road for different things, like residential or heavy industrial.  Of course you will need to provide power to those areas, and clean water.  Not to mention those people will probably want their kids to go to a good school.  Then for some reason they like to start fires and get sick all the time, so you will have to manage the budget.  Which means setting the tax rate and overfunding or underfunding the schools and hospitals, that sort of thing.  Which sounds bad, but if you have too many schools for your small town, they don’t need to be fully funded to meet your town’s needs, but on the other hand, if you don’t have the money to build a new school, overfunding the ones you have can get you by for a few months.

That is the game: drawing roads, zoning, budgeting, and planning out city services.  All the while your citizens are doing everything they can to make your life difficult, but if you can keep everything under control, they will build an amazing city that you can watch grow.  It is fascinating and engrossing.  You will make plenty of mistakes, and you will want to tear everything down, but you would hate to evict all the people that are just doing the best they can.

For some this game sounds terrible, but don’t knock it until you have tried it.  It is always super cheap on Steam, and it is included with the Xbox Game Pass for now, so it is worth giving being a city planner a shot.  I think you have what it takes, but if not, you will at least apricate what the poor saps in city hall are going through.

Shmee Takes On A Clustertruck!

Remember when you were a kid and you were on a road trip with your family, and when you were daydreaming looking out the window you envisioned yourself jumping from the top of one semitruck to the next? If not, I did all the time.  Well apparently the guys over at Landfall Games did the same thing when they were kids, and they made a game about it, Clustertruck.

In Clustertruck you just jump from one truck to the next, but these trucks are not just driving down the freeway.  They are falling off cliffs, exploding, being pushed in to the air, being sucked in to vortexes, and all sorts of random things, and you have to do your best to jump your way out of danger and get to the end of the level.  To help you do this, the more levels you complete, the more style points you get, and you can cash in those points for abilities like stopping/slowing time, double jumping or dashing, and bunch of others, so while the levels get harder, you become a much better jumper.

It is a simple fun idea that was executed well.  While there is not a lot to the game, it is also very cheap, so it makes for a perfect quick diversion if you don’t want to get in to something deeper.  If you have Game Pass or a couple extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, there are worse things to spend them on.  The worst thing I can say about Clustertruck is that it isn’t very robust, but it was never supposed to be.  It was always supposed to be a game where trucks were going crazy and you just had to get from one to the next.

So that is another one of my childhood backseat daydreams turned in to a game, and it was not one I was expecting.  My other major window gazing daydream was using my feet to grind on everything, but Sunset Overdrive and Jet Set Radio delivered on that one in spades.  Who knows, maybe we will get a game about punting brothers out windows for crossing invisible lines next.

I Am Not Sure How I Played Morrowind On The Original Xbox

Yesterday I started playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind again thanks to it coming to backwards compatibility on Xbox One, and the first thing that struck me while playing was how much smoother it was.  Sure the bump in resolution up to 1920p (on the X) made it seem like I was wiping a thick layer of Vaseline off of my TV screen, but on the original Xbox the framerate would take massive dives, so that it seemed your character was trudging through molasses.

I was shocked to find out that the Xbox version of Morrowind was targeting 60FPS, even though it almost never hit that mark, sometimes dipping down in to the teens, but the Xbox One does a better job keeping things above 30FPS, and the Xbox One X almost manages to keep things at 60FPS despite pushing out more than 16x the pixels and adding 16x anisotropic filtering.

The game still looks dated, and it makes me want to find a way to push out the draw distance because everything is popping up like ten feet in front of my face, but game is still fun, and I find myself getting lost in it again.  There is something about playing Morrowind on a console that just makes me happy.  Below is a video comparing the Xbox One X, the Xbox One, and the original Xbox.  It is pretty impressive to see what Microsoft has done by just tweaking their emulation.

Shmee Plays Some Bro Recon: Brolands!

Thanks to heavy discounting I decided to pick up Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and for the most part it has been a good decision.  The shooting is solid, the graphics are amazing, and there are a variety of things to do.  The problem is that it should not be called Ghost Recon.  Wildlands has more in common with Far Cry than Tom Clancy; it is just you and a group of bros assassinating a bunch of dudes down in Bolivia.

With the older Ghost Recon titles, the games were always about finding the best way to tactically take down your targets.  To make sure that you were never taking fire because that meant instant death.  In Wildlands, you get out your drone, mark all the targets, and then make sure to get them all as you do what needs to be done.  If you want to go in guns-a-blazin’ that is fine, just don’t stand out in the open too long.  Even better, why not jump out of a helicopter, or crash a car through the front gate.  Again, you don’t quite have the god-like powers you do in Far Cry, and you have to kind of make sure to scout the place first, but it definitely doesn’t take the skill and planning of the older Ghost Recon games.

To add to this, all the secondary audio seems like it was added from an ‘R’ rated military cartoon.  The bad guys brag about murdering people on the radio, and your squad says pretty offensive things at times.  Meanwhile the main story cutscenes and media are dead serious.  Tonally this game is all over the place.  It seems like they didn’t want to make another Far Cry game, so they slapped the Ghost Recon brand on it, and to justify that they gave you a squad of bros, made you slow down, and kind of think about what you are doing.  A little.

Listen, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is around $20 these days, and it has enough positives that make that a worthy investment.  It is just a shame they couldn’t commit to a playstyle for this game.  Because an actual open world Ghost Recon game would have been pretty sweet, but this is just Far Cry’s slightly more grown up bro.  Waiting for you to come murder sicarios with him.

Shmee Enters The Wild Wild Country!

It is always amazing how quickly things are forgotten.  It turns out that when I was very young there was a cult that tried to take over Wasco County, Oregon, and that they poisoned over a hundred people in The Dalles with salmonella.  They wore bright colors and meditated a lot, and they tired to assassinate the Attorney General of Oregon.  It seems like it would have been such a massive happening that people would still be talking about it, but until I watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix, I had never heard a thing about it, or if I had it must not have been talked about with any importance.

Wild Wild Country is a docuseries that interviews all parties involved with setup of Rajneeshpuram, the commune created for the followers of Rajneesh. Those who made it happen, and those that tried to make it go away.  It is an amazing tale, and all I could do is watch in disbelief as I heard of some of the things that went on out in the middle of nowhere Oregon.

The documentarians do a good job of leaving their voices out of this series, and letting all the people have their say, so it ends up being surprisingly nonjudgmental.  You can see both sides up to a point, and that point is obviously committing several Federal crimes.  Then you realize some terrible stuff was happing out on their ranch.

Wild Wild Country was fascinating to watch.  It is so crazy, I can’t believe this was the first time I really heard about all this.  If you are like me, and have never heard about any of this, it is must watch, or if you do remember it, but want all the info it is still worth your time.  Obviously due to the subject matter it is rated TV MA for a reason, so it is not a history lesson for young kids, but if you are of age, it is a mind trip worth taking.