Hidden Gems of Xbox Game Pass

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Compared with the slow, deadly unfolding of a game like Below or the gradual mastery of a Mystery Dungeon game, We Happy Few's loose roguelike mechanics feel tedious and simultaneously underdeveloped and overdeveloped. There's a blueprint for a great immersive sim or roguelike in here, but there's not enough friction or interaction between the game's elements to bring it to life. And at the same time, the story and setting are pretty interesting and surreal. Interesting enough that the immersive roguelike bits in between the story parts feel like a barrier.

I finished the first character's story in We Happy Few, and I'm comfortable at this point saying that I'm done with the game and ready to move on. Everything I wrote above holds true to the end of the game, and the additional characters don't really add any major wrinkles to the gameplay. The other two characters place limitations on what you can do, but they're either easy to work around or don't really matter.

It took me ten hours to play through the game as Arthur. That's about how long I would have wanted to take to play through all three characters. Or if each character were going to take ten or more hours to play through, I wish the gameplay had more bite and the world had been better designed. If the game had been tuned to have a bit more friction, it could have been a good immersive sim. If it had been tuned to have a bit less friction, it could have been a good narrative game. The mushy middle is a bit of a letdown.

Is there any indication of how long the 'introductory' pricing for $5/month for PC Game Pass is going to last for?

After finding precisely zilch of interest in the Steam Sale, I'm thinking that between this and the constant drip-feed of freebies, I'm not going to be buying a whole lot of games for the rest of the year (with exceptions for VR-titles).

Jonman wrote:

Is there any indication of how long the 'introductory' pricing for $5/month for PC Game Pass is going to last for?

After finding precisely zilch of interest in the Steam Sale, I'm thinking that between this and the constant drip-feed of freebies, I'm not going to be buying a whole lot of games for the rest of the year (with exceptions for VR-titles).

Thats not the intro price AFAIK.. thats the price.. the $1 for Ultimate price ends this month I believe.

TheGameguru wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Is there any indication of how long the 'introductory' pricing for $5/month for PC Game Pass is going to last for?

After finding precisely zilch of interest in the Steam Sale, I'm thinking that between this and the constant drip-feed of freebies, I'm not going to be buying a whole lot of games for the rest of the year (with exceptions for VR-titles).

Thats not the intro price AFAIK.. thats the price.. the $1 for Ultimate price ends this month I believe.

Official site shows that the price will be $10 eventually

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Also, it looks like [email protected] will be having an indies Game Pass showcase tomorrow morning at 9 AM Pacific on their YouTube channel. I hadn't realized that Blair Witch was from Bloober Team (Layers of Fear; Observer). That makes me much more excited about it!

Coming soon:
- My Time at Portia (PC/console)
- Bad North (PC/console)
- Worms W.M.D. (PC/console)
- Gonner (PC/console)
- Banner Saga 3 (PC/console)
- Yoku's Island Express (PC/console)
- Unavowed (PC)
- Machinarium (PC)
- Timespinner (PC)
- Undertale (PC)
- For the King (PC)

Yoku's Island Express is great! It's a very cheery pinball / metroidvania adventure.

Argh! I just bought Portia! Oh well, at least it was on sale. It really is hard to think of a good reason to buy anything other than new AAA games as a Game Pass subscriber.

Dyni wrote:

I finished Void Bastards last night and really enjoyed my time with it. It's a shooter, but the focus is strongly on exploration and crafting. It's technically a rogue-like, but death is a much, much smaller penalty in VB than traditional rogue-likes. This will probably turn off a lot of rogue-like fans, but for those looking for something a little more laid back, VB will be much more appealing because there's very little in the way of backward progress. The most you lose when you die is your ammo, food, and fuel supply, all of which are very easy to build back up.

I found it to be relatively easy on the normal difficulty. The beginning is a bit tougher, but once you start to build up a reasonable stock of food and grab a couple weapon upgrades, it's smooth sailing. I think I died 3 or 4 times in total.

I started Void Bastards up last night, literally at random. I've died more than Dyni has, and I've got a bit to go before finishing, but I agree with everything he wrote here. Because you don't lose any parts or upgrades on death, your power curve accelerates very quickly, much more so than in other games in the genre.

The only piece of advice I'd add to Dyni's excellent post is to just run past a lot of enemies. Look at your map, plan your route through the ship, and don't kill anything if you can outrun it instead. And if you die, it's really not a big deal.

I've wanted to try Unavowed and Bad North for a while. Glad to see them coming to gamepass so I can.

Yoku's Island Express was really fun on Switch but I never ended up finishing it. Definitely an interesting gameplay mixture worth trying to see if it is your thing. I liked the gameplay.

Microsoft released a video introducing some of these upcoming [email protected] Game Pass games:

There are some other interesting games mentioned in there like Creature in the Well that look pretty fun and reminds me a lot of Hyper Light Drifter meets pinball.

Spoiler:

0:16 - My Time at Portia
0:50 - Games Coming Announcements (Unavowed, Bad North, Machinarium, Timespinner, Undertale)
2:31 - Blair Witch (a sitdown with Bloober Team)
5:51 - Pathologic 2 and Secret Neighbor (a sitdown with tinyBuild)
7:55 - a sitdown with Devolver Digital (Broforce, RUINER, Hotline Miami, The Messenger, Hatoful Boyfriend)
10:28 - Way to the Woods (Anthony Tan)
11:49 - Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus - NIcolas Guérin)
13:11 - Creature in the Well (Flight School Studio - Adam Volker)
14:33 - UnderMine (Thorium Entertainment - Derek Johnson)
15:43 - Star Renegades (Massive Damage - Ken Seto and Jacqueline Joy)
16:59 - Gameplay Highlights (Totally Accurate Battle SImulator, Unto the End, Night Call, Felix the Reaper, Dead Static Drive, Ikenfell)
17:45 - More Games Coming (Worms W.M.D, For the King, GoNNER, The Banner Saga 3, Yoku's Island Express)

I started in on Wolfenstein 2 and after 20 minutes, I started recognizing things. 5 minutes later I realized that I had actually played it before, so I quit and uninstalled.

Installed Vampyr instead and after a couple of hours I have to say I really like it. Yes, the combat is janky and not very interesting, but the characters, world and general foreboding feel they managed to get into the game makes it interesting to me. Considering lowering to lowest difficulty just to get the fights over and done with. The general consensus is that it's a very mediocre game, but I am wondering if people went into it wanting a vampire third person fighting game instead of a role playing game?

Fredrik_S wrote:

The general consensus is that it's a very mediocre game, but I am wondering if people went into it wanting a vampire third person fighting game instead of a role playing game?

For some people, maybe. But it was more likely the other way around. When you hear about a Vampire game from the developer that gave you Life Is Strange, those bad combat scenarios are not what you are coming for.

Dyni, I seriously have no idea how you finished Void Bastards with just four deaths. I'm also about to pass you for number of ships looted, but you have a dozen more upgrades than me.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Dyni, I seriously have no idea how you finished Void Bastards with just four deaths. I'm also about to pass you for number of ships looted, but you have a dozen more upgrades than me.

I got to three deaths before I learned to leave Screws well alone.

I quite enjoyed Vampyr. I think the fighting is the worst part of the game (and was the most notable feature that made me say "oh right, the people who made Life is Strange also made Remember Me") but everything else about the game is good enough that I wouldn't call it mediocre. A flawed gem, perhaps!

After maybe a dozen hours with Moonlighter, I uninstalled it. It's a good game, I think, and maybe in a universe where I paid $15-20 for it, I might feel more compelled to see it through to the end. As it is, although I enjoyed the gameplay loop, I didn't want to carry that cycle through for another 10 hours or so to complete all of the dungeons. Good game, but I feel like I hit the point of diminishing returns earlier than I'd originally expected.

I played through Tacoma this weekend via Game Pass. As a fan of Gone Home, I'd been very interested in Tacoma throughout its development, I'm not sure why it took me so long to play it (and it's not just the cost--I had it for free on PC via Twitch Prime or some other free service for months). It's a good walking sim with some interesting gameplay mechanics. What I'd heard of it initially--that you're watching little wireframe animations of the crew telling their story--sounded much less interesting than it ended up being in practice. There was just enough puzzleness and problem solving to provide the interactive layer on top of the story. I particularly enjoyed the world building stuff in all the documents--I don't know if Fullbright have said what they're up to next, but I would be very happy if they ended up doing something else in the Tacoma universe.

I also played the tutorial for Astroneer. It's weird! An interesting game to play in the context of my recent time with Surviving Mars and Outer Wilds. It feels like it has some slightly more simulation-oriented aspects that are in some relationship to Surviving Mars, while having some of the slightly goofy but also quite perilous exploration elements of Outer Wilds. Unfortunately, the interface lets the game down. I found it too clunky and confusing. It's hard to describe how unintuitive all the controls are, or even why that is the case, but all I can say is that, despite following the tutorial step by step, I was constantly confused about which buttons did what, what menus meant, and how to accomplish the most basic goals set forth for me. I thought it was very interesting that, when I finally completed the tutorial (took me maybe an hour?), the achievement that popped for finishing the tutorial was a "rare" achievement that had been earned by only around 8-9% of players. Maybe that's a function of this game having been in (or still being in?) Xbox's "game preview" early access equivalent program...maybe the tutorial wasn't there for a significant share of the game's players? But it also strikes me as possible that this shows that many people played the game and found its controls as baffling as I did such that they didn't even finish the tutorial. I suspect there is a pretty neat game in here if you can get past the controls, but I reached my limit.

mrlogical wrote:

I also played the tutorial for Astroneer. It's weird! An interesting game to play in the context of my recent time with Surviving Mars and Outer Wilds. It feels like it has some slightly more simulation-oriented aspects that are in some relationship to Surviving Mars, while having some of the slightly goofy but also quite perilous exploration elements of Outer Wilds. Unfortunately, the interface lets the game down. I found it too clunky and confusing. It's hard to describe how unintuitive all the controls are, or even why that is the case, but all I can say is that, despite following the tutorial step by step, I was constantly confused about which buttons did what, what menus meant, and how to accomplish the most basic goals set forth for me. I thought it was very interesting that, when I finally completed the tutorial (took me maybe an hour?), the achievement that popped for finishing the tutorial was a "rare" achievement that had been earned by only around 8-9% of players. Maybe that's a function of this game having been in (or still being in?) Xbox's "game preview" early access equivalent program...maybe the tutorial wasn't there for a significant share of the game's players? But it also strikes me as possible that this shows that many people played the game and found its controls as baffling as I did such that they didn't even finish the tutorial. I suspect there is a pretty neat game in here if you can get past the controls, but I reached my limit.

I love Astroneer, but (i guess controls for consoles as well) the tech tree is hard to work through. There were some things i never could build because i couldn't get the prerequisites pieces to work.

Jonman wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

Dyni, I seriously have no idea how you finished Void Bastards with just four deaths. I'm also about to pass you for number of ships looted, but you have a dozen more upgrades than me.

I got to three deaths before I learned to leave Screws well alone.

At this point, I stun most enemies and just call it good, but Screws are definitely the toughest enemies around.

Patients were giving me a hell of a time until I finally got the part to make the rad spike. Also cluster bombs comboed with locked doors are your friend for all kinds of enemies.

But I'm at seven deaths and think I'm maybe only 2/3rds of the way through the game.

ranalin wrote:
mrlogical wrote:

I also played the tutorial for Astroneer. It's weird! An interesting game to play in the context of my recent time with Surviving Mars and Outer Wilds. It feels like it has some slightly more simulation-oriented aspects that are in some relationship to Surviving Mars, while having some of the slightly goofy but also quite perilous exploration elements of Outer Wilds. Unfortunately, the interface lets the game down. I found it too clunky and confusing. It's hard to describe how unintuitive all the controls are, or even why that is the case, but all I can say is that, despite following the tutorial step by step, I was constantly confused about which buttons did what, what menus meant, and how to accomplish the most basic goals set forth for me. I thought it was very interesting that, when I finally completed the tutorial (took me maybe an hour?), the achievement that popped for finishing the tutorial was a "rare" achievement that had been earned by only around 8-9% of players. Maybe that's a function of this game having been in (or still being in?) Xbox's "game preview" early access equivalent program...maybe the tutorial wasn't there for a significant share of the game's players? But it also strikes me as possible that this shows that many people played the game and found its controls as baffling as I did such that they didn't even finish the tutorial. I suspect there is a pretty neat game in here if you can get past the controls, but I reached my limit.

I love Astroneer, but (i guess controls for consoles as well) the tech tree is hard to work through. There were some things i never could build because i couldn't get the prerequisites pieces to work.

UI for the tech tree isn't great. There are four categories selectable with bumpers, for different "sized" things you can build, from things you can build from your backpack, small printer, medium printer, and large printer. In each category you slide up and down between rows of categories of things to build like "energy" or "vehicle stuff" but they aren't labeled.

Progression is locked behind traveling to at least a few other planets. e.g. you need things like iron or argon, but those aren't on the starting planet, so you have to build a ship to go get some of what you need to progress. There might be very small samples of what you need scattered around any planet, but you can't depend on it. Once you get more of the tree unlocked there are easier ways to getting the missing materials than space travel, but you have to bootstrap your way to that with a trip or two.

The in-menu encyclopedia shows which materials are specific to a planet, but not which materials are common on all planets. So you can plan ahead once you see what you need in the tech tree.

Overall I think as a progression system this is a decent compromise between mandating you have to travel between planets a lot vs having the planets be just scenery changes. But really you have to figure this all out organically via exploration. To some extent I think a game that allows this experimentation requires a bit of opaqueness, but I agree there's a bit of UI tweaking to be done to help you know what's possible.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

Dyni, I seriously have no idea how you finished Void Bastards with just four deaths. I'm also about to pass you for number of ships looted, but you have a dozen more upgrades than me.

I had a really good run with my second character, so that set me up for success. I think completed almost half the game with him. He had increased movement speed and an ability that made all doors open automatically upon approach, even locked ones, so running away from things was very simple.

If you can keep a character alive long enough, food, ammunition, and torpedoes become non-factors, so you get to enter every level at full health, use whatever guns you want, and only visit ships with the parts you need. It makes a big difference. That character's run was ended by me entering a flaming ship before I had the fire resistance upgrade.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Jonman wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

Dyni, I seriously have no idea how you finished Void Bastards with just four deaths. I'm also about to pass you for number of ships looted, but you have a dozen more upgrades than me.

I got to three deaths before I learned to leave Screws well alone.

At this point, I stun most enemies and just call it good, but Screws are definitely the toughest enemies around.

Patients were giving me a hell of a time until I finally got the part to make the rad spike. Also cluster bombs comboed with locked doors are your friend for all kinds of enemies.

But I'm at seven deaths and think I'm maybe only 2/3rds of the way through the game.

I loved hacking the turrets to make them defend you. I would also just mess around with the enemies. Try to find funny ways to take them out. The cat bot was a hoot.

More games being announced tomorrow. I can't keep up!

It's funny to have watched this thread turn from "what hidden gems might be in this pile of games" to "what should I drink from this firehose of good stuff" in just nine months.

RawkGWJ wrote:

I loved hacking the turrets to make them defend you. I would also just mess around with the enemies. Try to find funny ways to take them out. The cat bot was a hoot.

I under-valued the cat bot. The upgraded version that drops cluster charges on death is amazing.

Not really “hidden” gems, but I’ve spent the last few weeks playing through the campaigns of all of the Gears of War games with my son using Game Pass now that he is old enough. The remaster of Gears 1 was good, and I was very impressed with how well the original versions of Gears 2 and 3 held up. This was my first time playing Judgment and 4. Judgment was definitely the weakest campaign, but was still enjoyable in its own way. I completely ignored 4 when it came out a couple of years ago, but we really enjoyed its campaign. Now we are both really looking forward to 5 releasing in the fall.

Next we turned to Halo using the Master Chief collection. While even Gears 2 still felt modern and has aged gracefully, the same cannot be said about Halo 1 even with the late 360 era Halo Anniversary reskin contained in the Master Chief Collection. The Halo 2 remaster that is part of the collection looks a LOT better and the gameplay even feels a bit better, but still hasn’t aged well. We were 5 or 6 chapters in when he left for a few days at his mother’s this evening, but we’ve already started talking about skipping the rest of Halo and jumping over to the Borderlands games.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

More games being announced tomorrow.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War (Console/PC) – 7/4​
My Time at Portia (Console/PC) – 7/4​
Undertale (PC) – 7/4​
Blazing Chrome (Console/PC) – 7/11​
Dead Rising 4 (Console/PC) – 7/11​
LEGO City Undercover (Console) – 7/11​
Timespinner (PC) – 7/11​
Unavowed (PC) – 7/11

ClockworkHouse wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

More games being announced tomorrow.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War (Console/PC) – 7/4​
My Time at Portia (Console/PC) – 7/4​
Undertale (PC) – 7/4​
Blazing Chrome (Console/PC) – 7/11​
Dead Rising 4 (Console/PC) – 7/11​
LEGO City Undercover (Console) – 7/11​
Timespinner (PC) – 7/11​
Unavowed (PC) – 7/11

Leaving this month:
Aftercharge (Console) – July 9th
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 (Console) – July 10th
The LEGO Movie Videogame (Console) – July 16th

Jasonofindy wrote:

Not really “hidden” gems, but I’ve spent the last few weeks playing through the campaigns of all of the Gears of War games with my son using Game Pass now that he is old enough. The remaster of Gears 1 was good, and I was very impressed with how well the original versions of Gears 2 and 3 held up. This was my first time playing Judgment and 4. Judgment was definitely the weakest campaign, but was still enjoyable in its own way. I completely ignored 4 when it came out a couple of years ago, but we really enjoyed its campaign. Now we are both really looking forward to 5 releasing in the fall.

Next we turned to Halo using the Master Chief collection. While even Gears 2 still felt modern and has aged gracefully, the same cannot be said about Halo 1 even with the late 360 era Halo Anniversary reskin contained in the Master Chief Collection. The Halo 2 remaster that is part of the collection looks a LOT better and the gameplay even feels a bit better, but still hasn’t aged well. We were 5 or 6 chapters in when he left for a few days at his mother’s this evening, but we’ve already started talking about skipping the rest of Halo and jumping over to the Borderlands games.

I played Gears 4 recently as well and enjoyed it more than I expected but I played it solo (my kids are still too young) and some parts of that game are NOT designed for solo play. In particular the Snatchers are basically an instant death if they get you because your AI teammates seem incapable of releasing you. I had to cheese some areas to get through. It’s frustrating to have a game so thoroughly discourage single player mode. I am interested in Gears 5 but still worried it won’t accommodate solo play very well.

I’ve replayed the Halo games a bunch but have to say it’s nostalgia that keeps me going on the older ones. Halo 3 and later games still hold up OK for me tho. ODST is still worth my time. I was going to retry 5 now that I have an Xbone X but now I’m tempted to wait for the PC versions.

If anyone needs a co-op partner for Gears, hit me up. Wouldn't mind another trip through.

On a whim, I ended up playing The Turing Test over the weekend. It's really good!

You play a character who emerges from a cryogenic sleep on a space ship near Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. TOM, the ship's AI, has woken you up earlier than planned as you are needed to help with some emergency that the rest of the crew is dealing with. You bring with you a tool that resembles a gun, which can grab and shoot out little energy orbs that power machines. You then play through a series of puzzles as you work your way through the facilities on the moon in search of the rest of your crew. Through a short exchange of dialog with TOM at each level, you learn a little more about what's been happening.

TOM explains that he needed you to come to the facility and complete these puzzles because they are a sort of Turing Test, as they require human ingenuity to solve them in a way that makes them not solvable by an AI like him. That explanation doesn't really make sense--these puzzles require some creative thinking, but I don't believe you couldn't program an AI to solve them--but whatever, I'm willing to suspend disbelief to allow for the game's premise. It is strange, however, that no one remarks upon the fact that your character is named Ava Turing. It feels like maybe they initially were going to just call the game the Turing Test because you're Ava Turing and you're completing these tests, but then they decided no, let's talk about who Alan Turing was and what the real Turing Test means and connect the game to that concept except they forgot to rename the character to Ava Smith or something. None of this has any effect on my experience with the game, it just struck me as odd.

The puzzles are really quite excellent. In many ways, the game feels like a more serious and straightforward Portal--the gameplay of Portal with the vibe of the movie Moon. The game is divided into 7 chapters of 10 puzzles each, with one optional side area puzzle that leads to some narrative bits in each chapter, as well as one non-puzzle narrative area at the end of each chapter. I found the puzzles to be uniformly challenging but fair and solvable. I cleared all 77 puzzles in about 8 hours of play, so probably about 4-5 minutes per puzzle after accounting for the time spent looking at narrative stuff. There were only 3 puzzles in the game that frustrated me to the point that I resorted to guides to solve. I also am quite certain I solved the very last puzzle in the game in a way that was not intended by the game--I accidentally created a weird physics interaction that I realized I could replicate in another way and caused the game to blast a controllable robot over a barrier rather than work through all the steps to turn switches on and off to cycle the robot through the barrier instead.

I found the story to be a bit lacking. There's not really any surprises there for the player; from the moment the game starts, anyone who has interacted with any science fiction in their lives would likely guess there are a maximum of two different ways the story could play out, and you'd be right. It's fairly well done, although I felt like the game raised an interesting question that it didn't realize was interesting? Or at least, it failed to do anything interesting with the question. Spoilers on specifics of the story and the ending:

Spoiler:

Basically, the crew has been exposed to an alien bacteria that repairs DNA in a way that can heal all forms of life. It's pointed out that, although that sounds pretty cool in theory, it can be quite dangerous in practice if people won't die and also perhaps viruses won't die, pests won't die, plants won't die, etc., etc. For all that the game does to cast the AI as cold and slightly sinister, with the humans saying "you can't condemn us to die here!" it is resolved in a disappointingly binary way: as TOM, you can either shoot the humans who are charging into the room where TOM's programming lives, or you can just let them shut you down and potentially return home to Earth, spreading this contagion. Neither resolution really makes sense. The humans KNOW that TOM has a machinegun in the room, so I don't understand why they run in there. Even if they do shut down and manage to leave the moon, why wouldn't they just be shot down on their way home? And, for all that TOM is played as questionably evil, it does seem like a very fair and reasonable concern about what exposure to this lifeform could mean, so why are the crew so oblivious to the concern? And why are the only options to condemn them to death on Europa or let them come home immediately? Couldn't they study this stuff further? I get why they felt they needed a hard binary ending (I ended up shooting the humans, although mostly because I assumed if they were like "yeah we're running into this room that has a machine gun controlled by TOM" that there must be more to it than that and I would discover something else upon firing, but...nope) but I dunno, they didn't justify it to my satisfaction.

I was surprised by how well-made this was given how little I heard about it. I vaguely recall hearing a tiny bit of discussion about the game when it was released, but I think this deserved a lot more attention. It's a perfect Game Pass game, I played through it in maybe 3-4 sessions of about 2 hours each, 100%'ed* it and got 1000 achievement points, and deleted it.

* Actually maybe I 99%ed it, because in the Xbox's stat tracking for the game, it shows a leaderboard which indicates a couple of my friends somehow completed 78 puzzles to my 77? I am tempted to figure out what this other puzzle was, but eh, I solved every puzzle I found and got every achievement, so, I will leave that mystery hanging.

Played Steamworld Dig 2. Pretty fun rogue-like platformer. Think Dig Dug, with RPG elements. Actually finished it, which is pretty rare for me.

While I enjoyed the more open city aspects of Dead Rising 3 more, I bought DR4 at launch and still enjoyed the hell out of it. It's stupid camp, but it's pretty hilarious stupid camp.