A View From the Summit: One Man’s Journey to the Top of Backlog Mountain
I stand here at Base Camp, the cold January wind whipping around me, as I gaze upon the animal I am to tame. Before me, like a great hulking beast, lays my opponent, the Khan to my Kirk. Those who have come before have given this monstrosity a name; they call it Backlog Mountain.
It’s likely not the largest mountain in its range, but it’s my mountain, and I will conquer it. At 136 stories in height, my goal is simple, to reach the summit within a year’s time.
Chapter 1: Zeno Clash
Rather dramatic, I know, but if I’m going to do this I should have some fun with it. The goal is, again, to defeat my Backlog. 128 games that currently reside in my Steam account that I’ve paid precious money, and precious little attention, on. In order to make this both challanging and fun, I’ve compiled a few simple rules.
Rule 1 – In order to experience the game, I need to spend a minimum amount of time on it, in order to allow myself to get past any of those arduously long introduction and tutorial sequences. I’ve given myself a minimum of five hours per game.
Rule 2 – To keep me focused, I’m limiting myself to a single game at a time, and furthermore I cannot start a new game until I’ve put in the requisite five hours into the last game I started.
Rule 3 – No matter how brain-pulpingly terrible the game is, I’m not allowed to simply shove it to the side and call it done, just in case it picks up and I’ve missed something that could have been a gem.
Rule 4 – The games MUST have a single-player mode or campaign. Not that I don’t enjoy multiplayer games, but there are a few games that no longer see any real usage (I’m looking at you “The Showdown Effect”).
Rule 5 – So as to keep this from being even more rediculous, I’m also not playing Collections, and any game I’ve already put the requisite five hours into.
In order to keep things fair, I’m also not picking what games I play, but instead letting chance decide for me. I’ll be using a random number generator to pick both what leter the game starts with, and which game out of that letter gets played.
The first game up is Zeno Clash, something I just recently picked up in the Humble Weekly Bundle, and that I know almost nothing about. What I do know is that it’s a first person fighting game that runs of Valve’s Source Engine, the same engine that powers their Half-Life 2 games, and has been used by many other games in its nearly ten years in existence.
First Impressions: I spent an initial two hours in the game before wrapping for the night, and while I’m enjoying the blend of first person melee and occasional weapon combat, the game feels like a distorted mesh of Mad Max and a Jim Henson acid trip.
The story is played out between “current time” chronicling your escape from your home, and flashback sequences that tell the story of why you have to escape, but it still feels disjointed. There is no backstory beyond the days prior to the act that forces your character out of his home, so why the world looks the way it does, where that world is, none of it is given any exposition.
After three and a half hours, I’ve managed to punch, bash, shoot, and skull grenade my way to the ending, which makes as little sense as the rest of the game. Hopefully the sequel, Zeno Clash 2, will clear up the loose plot threads. Which is to say, all of them, sadly. The next step is the challenge maps, which take the form of a lofty five floor tower, and a three floor pit.
Over all the game presents itself much as I imagine it wanted to, but without a little further explanation on the game’s part, I’m at a loss to explain what that is. Surrealism isn’t something I enjoy at the best of times so this game didn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t recommend it personally, not for technical issues, but just because it didn’t make any sense to me. All in all, the game left me feeling a little flat.
Stay tuned, as next time I’ll be trying to strike Europa Universalis III off my list.