Thursday, February 4, 2016

Distant Star: Revenant Fleet - 5/20 hours

Imagine you're on the beach, and you walk up to the water's edge, to the area where the sand is still damp, and you know that it's below the line of the high tide, but you decide to make a sand castle.  Is it worth it?

Because that's what playing Distant Star: Revenant Fleet is like. I pick out my starting fleet and I know that I'm at the shore during low tide. And then I go through missions and earn credits to upgrade my ships, and to buy more ships, and I'm building up the ramparts of my sand castle, and then I get to the last level, and the tide turns, and everything I've built is washed away.

And I guess I shouldn't have a problem with that, right? Is life not just a series of experiences? A continuous procession of sensory impressions that is only given meaning by the narrative imposition of the consciousness? Thus, a wrecked sand-castle is really just the prelude to a new sand-castle. It is a thing that happens before another thing can happen.

But, I don't know. There's just something about roguelikes that makes me really existentialist. Maybe because it's a genre that deliberately models mortality, and thus the question of how one is able to live in the face of oblivion is one that immediately leaps to mind.

Distant Star: Revenant Fleet had the advantage that's it's not actually a very good game. I mean, it's not terrible, but at the same time, I'm not really super invested in the story or my fleet or the few named characters. Thus, while my inevitable death is always disappointing, it never manages to make me truly angry. I just have this numb weariness. I've got these dumb ships that I have to push around and it's only a matter of time before they blow up. Then I get to do it all again.

Maybe the winter is getting to me. It's always difficult to separate my feelings about a game from my general mood. However, I think there are basically two types of games. There's games you "fall into" and games you "get ready for." And the main difference between the types is their perceived energy investment. When your energy is low, you can play a "fall into" game for hours without ever having to rouse yourself out of your stupor. On the other hand, when your energy level is high, a "get ready for" game can be immensely rewarding.

Note, that those two categories are at best orthogonal to game quality, and where a particular game falls probably varies a lot from person to person. Like, for me, 4-X games are almost universally "fall into" games, but then, so is solitaire, and as much as I love Civilization, I actually hate solitaire, but there were definitely days when it was just so easy to play hand after hand of solitaire that I wound up doing it for hours at a time. Similarly, action games, rpgs, city-builders, and RTS games are all "get ready for" games for me, and some of them I absolutely adore (Mass Effect, anyone) and some are a real chore . . . like Distant Star: Revenant Fleet.

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