More Black Mesa and clocking over 230 hours in Skyrim

Why are games so fun? Seriously, how am I supposed to get shit done with all these awesome games sitting on my hard drive?

So, anyway I’ve had a chance to get a bit further in the game, and it’s still great. Now I’ve had a chance to explore the additions and detail a little bit more, and it’s genuinely pretty impressive. There are some additions that are very fun, like added gore onto the source engine, animated health-station function and huge amounts of clutter around black mesa. Cans, empty bottles of cleaning solution, discarded tools, whatever, stuff that really brings the facility alive, making the original really look like minecraft by comparison. Especially kudos for adding trivia and detail in the chapter Questionable Ethics. I was really reluctant to leave the research facility, and loved reading all the dorky, detailed notes made by the scientists. The medical robot gone berserk, swinging saw-blades and surgical knives the size of katana swords in every direction? Priceless.

Black Mesa Notes

Also, the enemies are quite fun, especially once the hooting, obnoxious army-boys start rolling in. The soldiers act much in the same way as combine, in both good and bad. They act quite well in numbers, seeking cover, flanking and searching for nuclear physicists, but suffer somewhat from the common npc syndrome: running directly in front of you, standing still and resolutely firing until running out of a) physicists to shoot, b) ammunition or c) life, caused by, being repeatedly bludgeoned with a crowbar. But scientifically.

I do wonder the army’s somewhat sexist recruitment policy. All the lads get

Long fall boots!

camo trousers, assault weapons and get shipped off to be murder scientists and minimum-wage security guards, while all the girls get nothing bigger than a silenced glock, and are trained to be fucking ninjas, spending most of their time practicing splits and cartwheels. Also, as a funny detail, the military apparently outsourced the footwear to aperture, and now all the aforesaid ninjas sport Chell’s long-fall-boots.

By Schrödinger’s Cat!

Most criticism to be given black mesa has much less to do with the conversion, and much more with the 1998 original HL. Let’s face it, compared to the awesome city 17, Ravenholm, Nova Prospect and the rest, the Mesa facility is a bit fucking dull. Not that it isn’t cool as well, with grimy corridors, varied environments, and I haven’t even been to Xen yet. But when comparing them to the huge outdoor environments, City 17 and the absolutely awe inspiring combine designs in Half Life 2, they really can’t reach the same level.

The monsters are cool, fun and imaginative, but aren’t they also a bit silly? The houndeyes and bullsquids didn’t make it into HL2, and maybe it’s not that bad. The real part that is a bit shite, is the mind-bogging amount of jumping involved between the varying definitions of platform. At least the game loads again quite fast after plunging and splattering for the 26th time, after jumping just slightly off a crate held up by a single steel wire, and swinging around in every possible direction.

Yeah, it’s easy to see why that would get toned down, leaving a bit more room for physics puzzles. Generally, the puzzles in Half Life / Black Mesa follow the line of: 1) something blocking the way, or machinery has fucked up 2) it’s up to the overly qualified theoretical physicist to find and push one or more buttons/turn wheels. Or possibly find the wheel that’s fallen out, and put it back. Then turn it. Anyway, as a bonus, Black Mesa has incorporated inserting plugs into sockets, possibly the least exciting puzzle since “push button to open door”, or “shoot enemies to make them die”.

But still, having a great time, and very thankful to all the people who were there to make it.

Skyrim. How much of my time have you taken?

Well, since Steam is nice enough to show me exactly how much of your life you have wasted playing every single game on the list (Steam games at least), I do know that more than 230 hours are gone and past.

So yeah, it’s good. Actually it’s pretty much great. Actually actually, it’s one of the best fucking games I’ve played, even better than Bethesda’s Fallout 3 and New Vegas, and just spreads awesome on everything it touches.

Thankfully, the endless hordes of retards that went around speaking entirely in popular culture references and annoyed everyone to fuck with “arrow-to-the-knee” jokes have all either choked in their own vomit in front of their flickering monitors, went on to meet girls, or grown out of it feeling a deep sense of shame and resentment at their embarrassing behaviour. So, I think the biggest hype is truly gone and past and we’ve grown into a more deeper and mature relationship with Skyrim, and we’ve finally got our first DLC, Dawnguard. And it’s OK. Not necessarily great, just OK. Gets you more stuff to do and some more fun with vampires.

So yeah, it’s all epic, imaginative, fun and all those things, and it’s got fucking dragons and giants, with a huge amount of lore to wade through if you want, with absolute freedom to do virtually what the hell you want, room for tinkering with all sorts of details, and very importantly, fully moddable. What’s really surprised me is how long the game can keep you entertained and stay challenging, especially with the help of the modders.

Some of these very cool mods include enhanced high-level game play, making enemies tougher and generally tweaking some things to keep things challenging. I mean I’ve reached level 64 or something, have enough gold to buy most of Tamriel, am head of companions, bards, wizards, thieves and some other bloody things I’ve totally forgotten about, invested with every bugger that’s come across, own houses all over the place, Thane in every hold and everything like that, cranked difficulty up to maximum ten levels ago, and still there’s enemies that can hand your ass to you in two minutes. This was a bit more of a problem with the Fallout’s, as once you get past a certain level, you just become absolute lord over life and death, and there is absolutely nothing that can even aspire to touch you. You just didn’t give a fuck. A deathclaw. Don’t care. I’ll beat it to death with my fists. Not like it can do anything about it. And it could get a bit dull. Anyway, more about cool mods at some other time.

I have spent months and months over this game, and there’s still no end in sight. After that, there’s still Dawnguard, which I haven’t really gotten into yet, and after that…there’s Oblivion…Game of the Year Edition. Which was 5 euros in Steam sales. So thank you Bethesda, you have doomed me into an eternity of wasting away in front of my screen, having an absolutely awesome time, while my wife’s disapproval and resentment grows with every passing day. Except I just bought her Patrician IV, should keep her quiet for a time.

Fus-Ro-Dah!

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