Monday, November 25, 2019

Stage Select Start Looks at Polygon's 100 Best Games of the Decade (2010 - 2019) Part 2: Games I Have Played Part II

I should preface this article by saying that I personally, nor anyone associated with Stage Select Start is affiliated with or their parent company Vox.  However, if Polygon is looking for a new west coast-based writer to join their ranks, I am more than happy to enter into talks.  I do know a few lawyers if that helps.

Welcome back, and if you are just joining us, this is Part 2 of a continuing series where I read an article over on and then wrote an article about that article.  Okay, when you read it like that, it does sound like a page full of half-assery, but if you read Part 1 here, you will understand the train of thought I rode to get myself to this realm of semi-recursion.  But if you just want to start here I will try to catch you up-to-date.  Part 1 covered the first 14 of the 29 games I have played out of the 100 games listed in the Polygon article.  Those first 14 games covered games 100 through 71, while Part 2 will cover games 70 - 1, which covers Polygon articles part 2 and part 3 of their "100 best games of the decade (2010-2019) with 50 - 11 and 10 - 1 respectively.

So why don't we jump right back where we left off with the next title amongst the 100 games listed that I have actually played.

70. Diablo III
I have previously talked about Diablo III when I played it on the Switch, which means I came into the game six years after its initial release, giving plenty of time for Blizzard to iron out all of the wrinkles with the game it had upon launch.  However, I still had my own issues with the look and the mechanics overall, essentially leading me to, on several occasions, actually falling asleep while playing only to wake up a few seconds later with my finger still holding the attack button and standing amidst a towering heap of demonic corpses.  Based on this alone, I probably would have ranked the game lower than 70, if only because I did not feel like it had innovated anything extraordinary at that point, but I have also not started the Reaper of Souls DLC and only briefly participated in the ever-running Seasons and Rifts, so maybe I am missing something by not participating in an MMO-ish version of Diablo.  I don't think I like that.

61. Frog Fractions
I just played Frog Fractions before typing this one out because while I had played it, it had been some years, maybe 10?  Is Frog Fractions really that old now?  No, it's only seven years old, which is weird because I could have sworn that I played it before moving eight years ago. But is this a better and more innovative game than Diablo III  or Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain?  I guess that is really the subjective answer on this one.  Better?  I dunno.  More innovative?  Maybe, I have not played MGV: TPP, but what I can tell you is that Frog Fractions is hilarious in its self-awareness, kind of like a browser-based educational-parody Stanley Parable.  And I have now been playing this thing for about 35 minutes off-and-on and I do not see how I can possibly earn 25,000 fruit for the hyperdrive/light speed upgrade, so I may have to put the game down for now.

60. Bayonetta 2
I did play through Bayonetta 2 about a year-and-a-half ago and had both good and bad things to say about it all.  The good being such as the improved combat (to some extent), the overall scale of the story (to some extent), and the scale of the boss battles.  While the bad (more like critical) covered the creature design for the demons, the annoyances of some of the characters in the realm of voice acting, and the overall shortness of the main story with what looked like reliance on multiplayer battles and enemy/boss rush modes to pad out what for me was a  13-hour game.  I cannot really say if I would have ranked this higher or lower especially taking into consideration innovation because this was the second game I played from Platinum Games (the first being Bayonetta) and from what I have heard/read, the style is pretty similar to the Devil May Cry series.

First off, I want to say that it is kind of weird that Polygon listed both LIMBO and INSIDE at the same rank.  They are both different games, made six years apart.  While Polygon recognized that they are very similar titles from the same studio, writer, and director, I feel like they should be treated as separate entities.  Should Super Mario Bros. / Super Mario Bros. 2 (The Lost Levels), and Final Fantasy I / Final Fantasy II (Famicom) respectively be considered the same because they were created by the same company with the same writers/directors/composers?  Just wanted to throw that out there.

I first saw LIMBO sometime around the time of its release and watched Beardsnbourbon play through the first area, or at least up through the spider.  It wasn't until I started using Steam and picking up games through Humble that I was able to finally play LIMBO and very thankful that I did.  While the platforming was nothing that seemed particularly new, for me it was the initial simplicity of the art and the dark tone of both the visuals and the story in the game.  Since then, I feel like I have seen several games that very obviously took a cue from LIMBO to create their own experience, but 51 near the middle of the pack seems like a good spot for this wonderfully conceived and executed game, thankfully without a moustache.

As of yet, I have not played INSIDE but it is on my list of games that I would like to play.  Stay tuned for that one.

50. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I feel like 50 is the perfect place for Skyrim.  While the mechanics of the game since the first The Elder Scrolls: The Arena have morphed over time from somewhat complicated in terms of TES II: Daggerfall to the extremely user-friendly Skyrim, there is a lot to say about making an engaging game that is accessible to nearly all.  There is just so much to this game that I have talked about over the years, from the character creation process (or at least deciding what type of character you want to play as well as what play-style you plan for this umpteenth playthrough) to all of the lore that was pulled from previous games as well as new books written for this iteration.  This is the game that got me into the whole Elder Scrolls series and reintroduced me to Jeremy Soule's music will always hold a special place in my dead and blackened heart.

46. Fallout: New Vegas
Huh.  I guess I did not talk much about my experiences playing Fallout: New Vegas, which is odd because I am not against talking about my failings in getting games to load, play, or not crash.  I started FO: NV back when this computer I am currently typing on came with Windows 8 and only after I upgraded to Windows 10 did the problems start.  I even went the Nexus route and none of the mods seemed to prevent FO: NV from crashing or in some instances, even helped the game to open in the first place.  What I had played was about 23 hours of a Fallout game that used the Fallout 3 engine that felt more like Fallout 1 and 2 than did Bethesda's first foray into the Wasteland; although the game really could have used more than six songs.  What I played, I really liked and I would really like to start again on a stable game that had all of the numerous bugs fixed to the point where I would not have to worry every five minutes if the game was going to crash.  Maybe the version GOG offers on their site is more stable?  Is that a thing?

28. Portal 2
And now we jump 18 spots, the largest gap between games that I have played, which again, possibly has larger implications that I may get to on Friday.  

Hmmm, interesting.  Another game that I played very heavily in 2013 that I apparently did not talk about.  And by played heavily, I mean that I played through the main story twice, and through most of the multi-player levels with two different people (Duke and Dr. Potts).  The only negative thing I can immediately think of about Portal 2 is that Jonathan Coulton's credit song, "Want You Gone" did not have the same impact as "Still Alive," although both functioned both as a method of storytelling, world-building, and straight-up comedy song.  28 seems like a pretty decent place for a game that came out eight years ago compared to some of the more recent releases.

27. DOOM
I do not know if I would have put DOOM right above Portal 2, maybe flip the two?  I did try to play the game on my current computer when the demo became available, but when I maxed out at 15 fps on low graphical setting I knew that I would have to find another way to play this foray into the depths of Hell.  So when the game became available on the Switch, I pre-ordered it and then proceeded to gobble up this new vision for the series.  I never got around to writing/publishing an article beyond what I wrote for my First Impressions, which was before the performance patches that allowed for more stable frames per second, improved textures, and some audio issues that I experienced only a handful of times.  What id Software did though was create a more manic experience than what Doom 3 was about, which was stressful and exhilarating all at the same time, especially when accompanied by Mick Gordon's great death metal-esque soundtrack.

22. Stardew Valley
I have only limited first-hand experience playing Stardew Valley on the Switch.  I did start a character, received the notice from my Grandfather and moved into the mountainy rock-filled farm of my family.  I think I played a couple of days and have yet to return due to the size of my semi-growing queue.  That being said, I did watch Conklederp play a lot of SV which was pretty fun to watch, partly because Conklederp never took the game too seriously.  She never formulated time tables and spreadsheets to determine the greatest harvest yields.  For Conklederp playing and me watching, it was about experiencing a game that could occur at your own pace with a chill-ass soundtrack (which I do not think we have covered yet. . .).  I might have ranked the game a little bit lower, and not because I have not delved too deeply into the farming life, but because... .actually, you know what?  Let's leave Stardew Valley at 21.  This seems like a good place for it.

13. Gone Home
I first played Gone Home just over six years ago after another Humble Bundle and I can understand its inclusion here mostly because of how great of an experience the game itself was, but also because of how much it brought up the discussion about what constitutes a game, how long a game should be, and the cost of that game/experience; at least I recall there being a fair amount of talk.  I have only played the game once which may not sound like a great recommendation, but I felt that so much of that game was about uncovering various elements about a family in 1995 that that sense of the unknown is no longer there.  It is hard for me to explain especially since I am the kind of person that likes to replay, rewatch, and reread media I have already consumed, and I just do not think replaying the game will have the same kind of emotional impact I had on my first playthrough, and I do not think I would want to have that.

10. Fortnite Battle Royale
Yes, I have played Fortnite.  I still play Fortnite, but only since it was made available on the Switch.  When it was announced I wanted to see what all the positive and negative hubbub was about and since the game was free, all I was losing was the time spent downloading the game.  So I started playing during the end of Season 4 and spent about 20 hours playing the Battle Royale mode and at the start of Season 5, I gave Epic Games $9.99 knowing that I was going to invest more time in this free-to-play game.  What I enjoyed was playing an online multiplayer shooter, but not in the way that you are supposed to play an online shooter.  Knowing other battle royales games, or at least the style for Playerunknown's: Battleground was that you wanted to not let your presence known, that stealth and staying away from others was one of the keys to staying alive as long as possible.  I took this to Fortnite, which is not really how that game is designed to be played, but that is how I typically play it.  And here I am 300+ hours later and I will still boot the game up regularly to play 3-4 games before work as a way to destress and clear my head before that hectic day behind the ol' desk; I actually really love my job.

8. Dark Souls
I have a rather sordid past with Dark Souls that started about five years ago, and thinking about my journey through the game comes across more as a reason to not play the game than it is a ringing endorsement.  I picked the game back up in 2016 after a two-year break, created what ended up being, I think, my fifth character in as many attempts and later that year, beat the game.  Although I did forget about the DLC area and kindled the fire which then starts you off in a New Game+ file, unable to return to just before you beat the game, so I cannot say anything about fighting Artorias, a Black Dragon or anything else having to do with the Oolacile Township.  I am perfectly happy with this game being in the top 10.  The combat is tight, the world-building is amazing once you get beyond the vagueness of everything, and when the game clicks, it is one of those deep resonating clicks that is more like a 'ka-chunk.'  And it is oh so satisfying.

5. Pokemon GO
Like a lot of games at launch, Pokemon GO had some hiccups and lacked a lot of features people expected from a Pokemon game. I also was unable to play at launch because my phone was not advanced enough to hand all of the AR requirements.  Over the years, there have been many updates that feel like they both, should have been there since the beginning and have been there all along.  From being able to battle other trainers you meet out in the wild, to fighting Team Rocket and a reason for them taking over Poke-Stops.  The game is not a play-to-win which I very much appreciate and I find that I still will play it for week-long spurts and then not play it for another couple of weeks.  But for me and my understanding of the game, those updates to the mechanics have allowed the game to remain somewhat relevant, and had all of the features it now has when it first launched, I feel that the game that would have evolved out of that would not be as good as the game we have now; and in turn, might have been ranked significantly lower than the top five.

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild
I loved this take on a series that had been becoming less and less interesting to me over the last 10 years.  I loved the inclusion of a durability system to the weapons and shields which forced me to frequently adapt my combat style, and I liked that there was not a lot of music out in the world aside from the light flicker of notes from a piano or the individual themes that would play in towns.  I loved Link and Zelda's relationship, and with Zelda's story, how frustrated she was that she was not taken seriously with regarding the Guardians and her journey to all of the shrines to learn/be blessed with the power to stop Ganon.  I also loved the title of Calamity Ganon.  It just worked for me.  I spent about 125 hours playing and have found out that there were side stories that I never knew existed, like the town that you help rebuild.  No idea that that was a thing.  I also have not done any of the DLC quests, but perhaps I will after I get my copy back from Beardsnbourbon and I hear that a 30% Cyber Monday sale might be on the horizon for North America.

I do not know if I think that Breath of the Wild should be the #1 game of the last decade, but being ranked at #2 is nothing to shake a tree branch at.

1. Minecraft

I have, what might be considered by some, to be an odd history with Minecraft, or maybe it is not that odd.  I first heard about Minecraft sometime in 2011 and the idea of what essentially is a LEGO video game sounded interesting, but I never pursued it and I cannot specifically say why either.  A few years later through some kind of promotion through Amazon, I had something like $10 to spend in Amazon's app store and not really knowing what to do with that before it expired.  I ended up using it to purchase Minecraft, which ended up being the Minecraft Pocket Edition, which is essentially just the creative mode (I think?) and without Survival Mode.  I played for a while but eventually deleted it off my phone because I did not feel as engaged as I had wanted to be, plus I needed the space to make room for Dead Space Mobile.  I have since purchased Minecraft for the Nintendo Switch and dabbled in it for an in-game day.  There I lost track of time and was promptly attacked by a zombie while hanging out on an island.  Not having any weapons in my inventory, I quickly built a post of four dirt blocks and hung out there, in the dark, until the sun came back up and the zombie left.

I have wandered around a bit wondering what I should do and what I can do.  I understand that Minecraft is a sandbox game in the purest definition of the term, but for me, at the moment at least, it is almost a little too open.  I feel like I need an objective especially with a budding queue of games that I have not played and without a target to look towards, it feels like my interest in the game wanes.  I understand the cultural significance that Minecraft has played and a lot of the creations that people have made, from real-world locations to fully functioning clocks that work in real-time.  What people are able to create with these virtual LEGOs is astounding.  And for that, I can understand its inclusion as #1 in the list of games.

So that brings us to the end of my look at the games the writers of have declared as the best 100 games from 2010-2019.  I have managed to not play 71% of the games, which at first sounds like a lot, but that was one of the primary reasons why I put these two articles up.  Some games I have been unable to play because they were console exclusives (The Last of Us, Journey, and P.T., which I think just means I need to get a PlayStation 5), while others were too requirement-heavy for whatever computer I had at the time.  Or for games like NBA 2K12 and League of Legends, I just have no interest in despite having played similar games in similar if not identical genres.  I feel like it would be difficult to find a lot of people who have played every game on Polygon's list and that is perfectly fine with me.  This was not a list meant to be "100 Games You Should Have Played Between 2010-2019) because that would require a person to play these specific games, 10 games a year for 10 straight years.  I have a hard enough time finding the time to play and finish more than one game a month, especially a game that is supposed to last more than 10 hours; okay, now that I type it out, that does not sound too difficult.  But still.

If you have not yet become bored with Polygon's article, you may be able to look forward to my article on Friday where I look at the remaining 71 games that actually interest me.  Or at least interest me enough to write about them.  There might be some games that have my brain like, "Hmmm, I might want to play that game if someone bought it for me," but more than likely it will only be games that instead make me think, "Yeah, if I had that system I would toats play that game!"  I say this now to give you, dear reader who has trudged through this to the bitter end, a bit of warning for what may come on Friday.  I have, after all, already created a banner logo for the top and I cannot let that go to waste.


What News Have You Brought Unto Me?

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