Weekend Gaming

Thanksgiving kicks off the “Holiday Season” officially, with its extended weekend and treat-yo-self mentality that really lends itself to some extended me-time, in the form of some video games.

So what is everyone playing this long weekend? Myself, I have a handful of ideas I’d like to get to.

Most importantly is not gaming in and of itself, but a means to a more glorious form of PC gaming — the process of acquiring new components for a new PC build. Taking advantage of Black Friday deals has netted me a new AMD motherboard/CPU combo and RAM. Thanks, Micro Center!

I’ll be waiting for a couple days for my monitor and GPU to show up, so in the meantime, here’s what I’ll be playing this weekend:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: This is the weekend it all comes together — I am finally going to finish BotW. I’ve collected all but one memory, I have crafted a huge pile of food and elixirs to sustain me during the assault of the castle and I’m coming for you, Calamity Ganon.

breath of the wild

Some of the Buttonmashing crew took advantage of the gift Blizzard bestowed on us all with a free copy of Destiny 2, so I’ll be jumping in and out of that as time allows.

Dota 2: the 7.20 game patch came out last week and all its accompanying game-changing updates. Dota 2 has an eternal place on the Weekend Gaming rotation.

What are you going to be playing this weekend?

Is it Fall Yet? Weekend Gaming

My gaming frequency increases as the weather outside feels less and less conducive to spending time outdoors. It’s not quite fall yet, but as the calendar flips over to September and College Football is in the air, I can feel the pull toward gaming more and more.

While the boys in the house are firmly consumed by the Fortnite tidal wave, I have been wandering here and there, looking for something to stick. I have a handful of games that have been abandoned (but not forgotten) but nothing has gripped my attention completely. In the spirit of posting semi-interesting content after a stream of monthly releases, I am going to take a new look at my gaming threads and pick up one or two this weekend to make some progress. Here is where some of those hanging threads are at:

Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I am actually SUPER close to finishing BotW. I have found the Master Sword, discovered all but the last memory and done enough shrines that my health and stamina keep me alive for quite some time. I really should close up that chapter and move on to something else on the Switch.

Super Mario Odyssey: I grabbed Odyssey the day it came out, played it for a few hours (loved it!) and then moved on. After I finish up BotW, I think I will restart SMO.

Pillars of Eternity: I recently restarted my PoE campaign. I have made it past Lord Raedrick and now that the game has opened up, I’m really starting to get into the flow of things. I imagine I will make some progress in Pillars this weekend.

Tokyo 42: I picked a handful of games in the Summer Steam Sale but haven’t even downloaded yet. I was super excited when information about Tokyo 42 starting trickling out and I pulled the trigger recently but still haven’t touched it. I may give Tokyo 42 a go this weekend.

This is just a smattering of the games that I’ve touched in the past few months. I have limited gaming time which forces me focus my gaming on one or two games (which lately has just been Dota 2, but that’s another story).

So for this weekend, I think it will be Pillars and Breath of the Wild.

What are you playing this weekend?

Breath of the Wild’s Puzzles Are Better Than Portal 2’s

I might regret that title, but let me talk it through. Are Breath of the Wild’s puzzles better than Portal 2’s puzzles? I love the puzzles in Portal 2! It’s almost a perfect game and now I’m questioning how good it really is? How did I get here?

Core to the enjoyment of solving a Portal puzzle is the satisfaction felt at the end of a level. At the outset, everything you need to solve the level is in front of you. The tools are dead simple: two portals. You, your portal gun and your wits (and maybe the occasional Companion Cube or two). As you go along, additional tools are added, but they only serve to enhance the portal principle. Pure satisfaction is yours when you reach the end, feeling like you’re the only person that has ever solved this puzzle in the way you did. It really taps the brainzone where pleasure and satisfaction is registered. As the levels progress, the ideas and solutions build upon themselves until (spoiler alert) you’re opening a portal on the moon. Each step along the way is another accomplishment, success building on another success until you finally make it to the end.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has tapped into that same brainzone for me, to the point that I’m wondering if BotW’s puzzles are better than Portal’s. But why?

In BotW, you have a few more tools at your disposal. The runes on your Sheikah Slate give you more options for solving a particular puzzle, along with your weapons. It’s up to you how you use them, as most puzzles can be brute forced. But solving a puzzle with an elegant solution feels infinitely more satisfying.

Case in point: there is a puzzle where huge metal balls are tumbling down a sloped surface that is interspersed with blocks and obstacles that impede the descent of the metallic balls (think a giant pinball machine, and you’re half-way there). There is also water falling over the back wall and down the slope. You, being a brute, could use magnesis (the rune that allows you to manipulate metal objects) to freeze one of the pinballs and force it near the end of the slope. But you’ve got to maneuver the huge pinball while avoiding the other pinballs that are tumbling around you. One false move and your precious pinball is going to miss the last obstacle and tumble over the side, with no other pinballs left to manipulate. Brute force is doable, but not easy (and I would assume, not as satisfying). I know it’s not easy because I tried it. Over and over again.

The elegant solution is to use crynosis (the rune that allows you to create up to three pillars of ice out of water) to deftly guide the ball to its destination, gently moving it down the slope into the awaiting receptacle. The solution presented itself to me as I was about to give up after the fiftieth attempt to brute force my way. It was an “a-HA!” moment of the highest order. Elegance in and of itself is a reward. There’s an added satisfaction that you figured out what the level designer had in mind. He deemed you smart enough to eventually figure it out and rewarded your superior intellect with an extra satisfying ding at the end. Your brainzone was touched. You didn’t get an extra spirit orb for doing it “right”. You didn’t get a rupee bonus. The feeling of accomplishment is a reward all its own.

This experience happens over and over again. Some puzzles are easier, some are less elegant, but all end in a feeling of accomplishment.

And that’s not even mentioning the puzzles contained in each of the four Divine Beasts. Not only are you manipulating the physics around you but you are also physically manipulating the level, rotating it or turning it on its side. It’s an added layer that magnifies the difficulty and demands more of the puzzle solver. But again, elegance is found in the solution.

So why am I feeling like BotW’s puzzles are better than Portal 2? I think part of it is the variety. Puzzles in Portal are the game. They are the means that lead to your escape. The puzzles in BotW are both essential (solving the Divine Beasts) and superfluous (you could ostensibly finish the game without completing every shrine). There are also hours of the game spent not solving puzzles. The crafting, exploring and fighting space out the puzzles at a reasonable pace that allows for puzzle satisfaction to come at regular intervals.

So maybe I’m saying The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is just a better game than Portal 2. Because it is. But in the end, I think the puzzles are superior, too.

My Favorite Sequence in Breath of the Wild

No, this isn’t buttonmashing’s pivot to video, but I’m posting this for posterity’s sake. I have unlocked all but one Sheikah Tower in Breath of the Wild, so I won’t be seeing this little cinematic interlude anymore and I can’t bear to lose it. It’s easily my favorite 10+ seconds in Breath of the Wild:

(stay tuned for more Breath of the Wild content coming soon)