Back on the Pile Gang - Pile of Shame September 2020

We go from Grease to the Pretenders... Really showing my age here. Golden Girls on tap for next month.

We're rapidly approaching the last thread of the year. Next month is October through December. Get those games in and good luck!

Some housekeeping notes.

If you're interested, m0nk3yboy, has the 12 month 2020 pile plan thread over here.

A quick reminder, in order to be considered "Pile of Shame" the game needs to be at least three months old. Otherwise, it's just a new game you haven't gotten to playing yet.

Also, if you are curious about some of the previous threads, Picks of the Pile, etc... Please go here and check out the spreadsheet I setup.

Let's get on to the games!

Better late than never
This month's Pick of the Pile is

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time

"Thieves in Time follows from the conclusion of Honor Among Thieves; Sly is faking amnesia to be with his love interest Carmelita, Murray is racing with the team van, and Bentley and Penelope are constructing a time machine. However, the words began vanishing from the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus, and Penelope disappears, so Bentley reforms the gang to repair the damage to the Coopers' history and find out who is responsible. Meanwhile, Carmelita discovers Sly's deception after she catches him robbing an art museum to steal the Feudal Japan-era dagger to get to Feudal Japan, and wants to permanently get her hands on him for lying to her." (Wikipedia)

Assassin's Creed Revelations - bobbywatson
The Beginner's Guide - AUs_TBirD
Blackwell Deception - Eleima
Forgotton Anne - brokenclavicle
Jotun - brokenclavicle
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II - bobbywatson, Malkroth
Moonlighter - charlemagne
Psychonauts - AUs_TBirD
Pyre - Stele
Sayonara Wild Hearts - AUs_TBirD
The Sexy Brutale - Stele
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time - brokenclavicle
Trails in the Sky SC - JohnKillo
Wasteland 2 - Malkroth
Ys: Memories of Celceta - brokenclavicle

Battletech - jdzappa
Throne of Darkness - AUs_TBirD
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth - jdzappa

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - AUs_TBirD

Xbox One

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo WiiU
Star Fox Guard - Forlorn Hope
Star Fox Zero - Forlorn Hope

Somewhat more ambitious this month:

  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (multi)
  • Assassin's Creed Revelations (multi)

Trails of Cold Steel is a bit of a stretch, that thing seems to go on forever... Revelations should be doable.

I'm feeling bold this month, so I'm carrying over last month's remaining pile picks, and adding one:

Ys: Memories of Celceta (Multi)
Forgotton Anne (Multi)
Jotun (Multi)
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (Multi)

Here’s what I have:


World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

I’m going to try and get through Moonlighter (Switch) this month.

Carrying over from August:
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4) - about 2/3 through the game.
Throne of Darkness (PC) - nearing the end. Hopefully in the next 3 days.

Picking back up from early this year:
Psychonauts (PC/everything) - guessing I'm about 40% done.

Got a big game I have been working on for months that should wrap up this month, so I am going to declare:
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 (multi)
Wasteland 2 (multi)
I have not played Wasteland 2 in over 3 years but I think I was about 2/3 of the way done. Should try and wrap that up. If not, I will probably dump it for good.

I finished Pyre ( PC, multi ) on Sept 1, so put it down as carryover but complete.

Not declaring anything else yet. Got a few things to dabble with during the long weekend and I'll make a choice next week what to stick with for this month.

Thanks Hemidal for carrying those over for me.
The biggest hurdle is going to be taking my Wii U out of storage and hooking it back up.

I'm declaring Blackwell Deception (Multi) for the club. Not sure what else yet, I'm in a bit of weird place right now.

Woohoo another game clear in the first week.

The Sexy Brutale (PC, multi) went down last night. I just started it on a whim Friday night, and with 3 nightly sessions it's complete. This one will be in 2020 GotY contention. It was a nice adventure game that didn't require a walkthrough for the puzzles. Each murder you prevent was segmented into a certain section of the house and there weren't a lot of extra items to find to clutter up your inventory. I enjoyed puzzling things out and didn't get frustrated.

Battletech is down! First game I’ve beaten in a few months.

Stele wrote:

Woohoo another game clear in the first week.

The Sexy Brutale (PC, multi) went down last night. I just started it on a whim Friday night, and with 3 nightly sessions it's complete. This one will be in 2020 GotY contention. It was a nice adventure game that didn't require a walkthrough for the puzzles. Each murder you prevent was segmented into a certain section of the house and there weren't a lot of extra items to find to clutter up your inventory. I enjoyed puzzling things out and didn't get frustrated.

Most excellent news. I’m looking forward to it, it’s on the list of candidates for the GWJ Adventure game club.

Trails in the Sky SC

Just put the finishing touches on Forgotton Anne. Lovely little platformer with Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka flair. It actually made me care about the story, even though the beats and twists was predictable enough. There were a handful of puzzles that had me scratching my head for a good bit, but nothing too difficult that I would be stuck on it for more than a half hour at a time, at the most.

I heartily recommend this to anyone into puzzle platformers in the vein of old Prince of Persia, Flashback, and Oddworld.

Mid-month update

Throne of Darkness (Sept. 6th) - Defeated the big bad at the end of this Diablo-clone and uninstalled. I'm looking forward to never playing this again. Total playtime was a bit over 80 hours, and while I'm sure some of that was me "playing the game wrong", a lot of it was simply spent waiting and in inventory management.

Throne of Darkness, released in 2001 by ex-Diablo developers, is innovative in several ways. The setting, Japan during the Sengoku period, is one I have not seen in other ARPG's, and it is spiced up by lots of mythical creatures and demons. I assume they all come from Japanese folklore, but in most cases, I simply don't know for sure.

Contrary to Diablo, the player controls seven different combatants (Leader, Ninja, Swordsman, Archer, Brick, Beserker and Wizard), and up to four of them at a time. This is a year before Dungeon Siege released. In theory, all have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. In my playthrough, they were all purely melee fighters (of variable squishiness) except for the wizard and archer.

Melee will be your primary form of combat for most of the game, as the effectiveness of magic is limited during the early game, and comes with a relatively high mana cost. Sure there are mana potions that can be consumed, but they cost gold, and I had a real gold problem for at least the first half of my quest.

The reason for this is the strange economy of the game. Loot drops cannot be sold. They can only be donated. Regular items are donated to the blacksmith to grant him the parts to create new items (for gold). Magical items are donated to the priest who will grant you extra skill points depending on the value of the donations (long before the end I was drowning in extra skill points as most skills just didn't seem very useful to me, and I had maxed out all the others). The only gold that can be collected comes from either chests/caches or enemies, and early on they drop very little. Gold drops can be increased via magical talismans and crafting items with enhancements to gold drops.....and crafting ALSO costs money (sometimes a LOT) in addition to the base item (armor/weapon) plus the crafting components (upwards of 50 different types), that have names such as "debu blubber", "tengu feathers", "gaki bones", "red soulstone", or "yama-inu pelt". In most cases it's impossible to know what something does without trail-and-error or a guide. Hint: the most important component for the wizard is "yama-inu blood" which leeches magic from enemies.

So potions cost money, making and upgrading items costs money, identifying and uncursing items costs money, and repairing items (most of which are constantly on the verge of breaking it feels like), ALSO costs money. Thankfully, at least the donating/repairing of items and identifying/uncursing them can be done without having to travel to the priest or blacksmith. All told, a huge amount of gametime is spent in the inventory screen.

Due to the lack of money and therefore lack of potions, I spent lots of time waiting for my characters to heal up/restore their mana by sending them home to the diamyo's throne room. The diamyo is also the only way to resurrect characters. Sending characters back and forth and resurrecting thankfully is fairly easy, but the diamyo's magic must also recharge, so....more waiting.

Since I had read that the wizard would be very powerful by the end of the game with his area of effect spells (true), I spent numerous hours leveling only him, as I had ignored him for a long time. By then most of the other characters were very powerful as well, but there were still enemies that could one-shot them. This of course meant more sending back and forth to the diamyo, resurrecting them, and the buying of tons of potions.

On paper, the 4-player combat seems like a great thing, but I honestly found it too chaotic to control many times. I eventually focused mostly on controlling only the archer or wizard and letting the melee characters do their thing, as chasing after the enemy AI (especially ranged enemies) with a close-combat character was often an exercise in frustration.

In summary, Throne of Darkness had lots of potential, but it simply has too many design flaws to recommend. At least I can stop thinking about "that interesting game that I stopped playing after only an hour or two 19 years ago".

Side note: apparently the multiplayer was an interesting version of King-of-the-Hill. I never tried it, but I wonder how successful the execution was, given the single player game.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (Sept. 11th) - What a fun (and emotional) ride! Bullet-spongy enemies and mass murder aside, the highlight of UC4 is the relationships between the characters and how the story presents them. That it's interwoven with a mostly fun game with a roughly equal mix between exploration and action in fantastical environments with a great soundtrack is an impressive feat.

As I mentioned in my writeup of The Last of Us, the sheer volume of unique art assets Naughty Dog creates for their games is astonishing. The environments are drop-dead gorgeous (although not terribly believable), and at times, the game borders on fotorealism. Seeing post-treasure-hunter Nate trying to adapt to a "normal" life and eventually get convinced to return to his old life "one more time" (and the struggles this creates) was a great setup, and seeing it unfold in the quest to find Avery's treasure and uncovering what happened hundreds of years ago with paralells to the present was generally well executed.

Highly recommended. I just wish Naughty Dog would improve the game parts of their games a bit.

I'd also like to nominate the after-dinner scene early in the game as one of the best in recent memory.

Made progress on:
Psychonauts - picked this back up last night. Defeated a tank.

At the risk of becoming overly confident, it seems like I'll easily finish my pledges this month.

Text deleted. Sorry to bother you.

I think there’s some confusion between this, the monthly Pile thread. And the yearly Pile thread.

Moonlighter done! Finished the DLC as well, but it turned into a bit of a grind for upgrades at the end.

Just put the finishing touches on Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. It was fun, as all games in the series have been, but the controller tilting shenanigans for Bentley's minigames was too much. I hope we never see that sort of gimmick again (I'm looking at you, Breath of the Wild 2 or whatever it is you are officially dubbed).

Makes me wistful about a possible Sly 5 and how unlikely it seems to be. Oh, well, now there's only two games left from my month's picks. I might actually make a clear run!

Jotun is down. That took me the better part of the day, too. I'd made it to about the halfway point throughout the month, but I decided to hunker down and get it done today. Easier said than done. In the end, the final boss was nowhere near as difficult as some of the bosses that preceded it. One boss had huge mobs and visibility was the most difficult thing to deal with - the lack thereof.

Not a bad game, not a great game. I'm not sure how much of it was fun and how much was frustrating. The lush animation and visuals make you want to see more of the world, but the mechanics can make it less hospitable and enticing. Tough games are not something I dislike, but I expect a certain degree of polish and balance... this game may have been lacking that last bit.

Now, I only have one more game to beat if I'm to cross every single one of my picks for this month... and I'm not actually sure I have the time and stamina for it. Still have four days, though, so maybe.

Finished two very short undeclared games:
The Beginner's Guide (PC) - was an interesting experience. I wouldn't call it "fun" like The Stanley Parable was, but it probably had more meaning behind it. There are multiple theories online about what the plot is truly about. I tend to think it refers to


Davey Wreden's personal experience, since he hasn't released any original games (only a deluxe edition of Stanley Parable) since The Beginner's Guide in 2015.

Sayonara Wild Hearts (PC/multi) - picked it up based on the glowing praise it got on the podcast, but didn't play it until a few days ago. Gorgeous art style, a fantastic soundtrack and gameplay that, while initially seeming a bit simplistic, becomes increasingly complex. It starts a bit slow, but stage 3 is where it really takes off. I can best sum it up with "WOW!", especially that one stage - you know which one I'm talking about; the one with the clapping. Tough, but fantastic! SWH is one of the very few titles to remain installed on my PC after the credits rolled.
Speaking of the credits - finding out who the narrator was, was a great moment. What a score for a small indie dev!

Close, but not there yet:
I'm nearing the end of Psychonauts and might finish tonight. There really are some great levels in this game, and I'm loving most of it.

Put a stake through the Meat Circus and Psychonauts Sunday, staying up way too late to do it. First declared this one in February, so it's good to finally mark it off.
I'm a bit torn, as I now wish I had played it upon release just to support such fantastic level design and writing, but at the same time I'm glad I waited because apparently more checkpoints were added to the Meat Circus after a few years, which made the stage somewhat annoying, but nothing near the rage-inducing experience I had feared it would be.
It took me a while to warm up to the summer camp setting, but by the second mind-dive I was getting intrigued. Milla's stage was where the fun really started, and it only got better from there - Milkman Conspiracy, Black Velvetopia (confusing, but loved the art style!) were the real standouts, but none of the others were slouches. The various powers were fun to use in different ways, and I liked the puzzle-like nature the game often took on, having to figure out which combination of powers and items to use in various different situations.
The thing that sneaks up on you, is that in spite of the lighthearted presentation, and the way the characters shrug off what would normally be horrible (and fatal) events, there is a tragic story unfolding about deep emotional scars. The magic is that the game manages to blend it so seamlessly into everything else, so that it never feels like a downer, even though various story threads should be.
I can highly recommend Psychonauts. Just don't play the PSN version (which is the PS2 version) - it's muddy and runs/controls terribly. I stopped my PSN playthrough, restarted on PC, and never regretted the decision.
Now it's time to play Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin (VR) before Psychonauts 2 drops next year.

Feels like it's the first time in quite a while that I not only completed all my pledges, but also knocked off a few extra titles. Let's see if I can keep up the momentum through the end of the year!

I tried to find the new thread, but no luck yet. I just wrapped up Blackwell Deception, I'm only five days late! :)

Never mind. Found it. Sorry about that!

Eleima wrote:

I tried to find the new thread, but no luck yet. I just wrapped up Blackwell Deception, I'm only five days late! :)

Never mind. Found it. Sorry about that!

You're stealing from my playbook! I'm the one - or one of the few - who always has trouble finding the new thread!

Same. I thought there used to be a link in the old one when the new one was started?

I'm a lazy person...

New thread here.