May 2024

Well this will for-sure be the shortest recap post I’ve ever had. Why? Because I almost literally played 1 game for the entire month. Aside from popping in to a few others for 5-10 minutes here and there to get a daily achievement or something, it was a monogamous month.


Fallout 76 — Like so many others, I really enjoyed the Fallout TV show and caught Fallout Fever from it. I decided to give Fallout 76 another chance and boy howdy did it ever stick. I created a new character, one that is now level 125 or thereabouts. I completed the Season Pass. I’m nearly done with the main story quest lines in spite of trying to savor them over time. I’ve learned about builds and gear and mutations and the world and the more I learn, the more fun I have. It really deserves its own post or series of posts, so I’ll leave off for now. But yeah, the only game I played for any length of time this month was Fallout 76.

Fallout 76 character paying respects to a child's grave
Fallout 76 can be both silly as heck, as shown in the picture at the top of this post, and very sad, as when you find this grave of a child behind an NPC’s camp.


Renegade Nell (Disney+) was pretty enjoyable. Not a must-watch but it was OK. It was a lot darker than I expected it to be. Basically it’s about a highwaywoman who has on again, off again superpowers due to a sprite or pixie or something. Swords and flintlocks and girl power. What’s not to like?

The Dead Boy Detectives (Netflix) was quite good. It is based on, I believe, a Neil Gaimon graphic novel series and (guessing even harder) I think it takes place in the Sandman universe. A couple of British ghosts wind up in Washington State (?) helping other ghosts move on while fighting a witch and dodging the afterlife bureaucracy that is hunting them to send them back to where THEY belong. They are accompanied by a few living friends who can see them. I LOVED Brianna Cuoco (sister of Kaley, of Big Bang Theory fame) as the resident adult and goth butcher shop owner who rents them all rooms.

Star Trek Discovery (Paramount+) continues to underwhelm me. In fact we kind of drifted away and need to make a point to go back and finish it as some point.


The summer heat is back and that means less time lounging outside reading. I’m in the midst of Baptism of Fire, the next Witcher novel, but haven’t finished it yet.

And that’s it! Short May recap but I am doing a TON of gaming, it’s just all been in Fallout 76!

Spring Cleaning Event – Fallout 76

There’s an event running in Fallout 76 called “Spring Cleaning” and I was talking about it on Mastodon and figured maybe I’d share the same info here. As a relative noob to Fallout 76 there were some details that tripped me up, so in case they trip other people up, too, I figured I’d share the little I know.

Getting Started

To get started, open up the Atom Shop and look in the Skins section. There should be a “Free” bug on it to help guide you. In the Pip-Boy tab you’ll find an Abraxo Cleaner skin, which is free. Buy that and log in.

Screenshot of the Atom Shop showing the needed skin
Here’s the skin you need

Now find an Armor station, and go to the Modify tab. Find your Pip Boy and you apply this new skin to it as a Paint Job. Just leave that on for the next 2 weeks while the event runs.

Screenshot of the armor station modding screen
Mod your Pip Boy!

What To Do?

Open your map and then open the goals UI. On the Xbox you do this with the right arrow button. It’s the same place you see challenges and such.

Screenshot showing week 1 of the Spring Cleaning task list
Here’s the Week 1 List

As you can see, I knocked out 5 of them last night and got some nice utility-ish rewards. You can find brooms, soap and Abraxo cleaner in kitchens and bathrooms around the wasteland.  Spoiler[ Outside of the Whitesprings Mall, near the north entrance, is a Maintenace building that has almost everything you need. ] A quick way to do the “Scrap” tasks is to create bulk items, then just scrap them. It’s a little cheat-ish but hey.

The Monkey Wrench

There is one monkey wrench thrown into the works if you’re just coming back to Fallout 76. For two of this week’s tasks you need to use the Cremator weapon, and as far as I know you can only get that via Seasons Rewards, and it is on page 4 of the Seasons (you need to be Rank 22 in the Season to unlock this page).

Screenshot of season rewards, page 4, showing the require Cremator
The Cremator is a gift from Page 4 of the Seasons Scoreboard, unfortunately for newly returning players

Given that the event runs for 2 weeks, you might (I haven’t done the math) be able to get to page 4 for week 2 if you use Score Boosters and such, but I of course don’t know if these tasks vanish at the start of week 2 or not. Basically if you haven’t been playing you probably can’t complete all the tasks (well I guess you could purchase levels in the Season Pass if you REALLY wanted to) but the interim rewards like Repair Kits and Perk Card Packs still make it worth doing, given how easy it is.

Stay safe out there, 7-6!

April 2024

Farwell, April! Hello, summer hellscape!

I almost didn’t do a recap this month. I’m just not feeling it; it’s a little crazy that writing 1 post/month is starting to feel like a chore, but that’s my brain for you. Back in the day I used to write a post a day for IT World and still had words left over to write here! Getting old…I tell you, I don’t recommend it. Though as the old saying goes, it is better than the alternative.


Diablo IV — I went into D4 with a weird mix of low expectations due to everyone I know having not stuck with the game for very long, while on the other hand having personally been waiting so long to play it. (Knowing that Microsoft was trying to buy Activision inspired my inner cheapskate to hold out for it to hit Game Pass.) When it arrived, I found I liked it in small doses. Weird thing about subscription services is, for me at least, it kind of colors my reaction to things. If I’d spent $60 or $70 on Diablo IV I might’ve been a bit sour on it too. But getting it for “free” (obviously not truly free since I pay for Game Pass) makes me feel pretty forgiving.

Horizon Forbidden West — I’ve pretty much drifted away without finishing. I do want to go back at some point. Poor Alloy.

Dungeon Encounters — This is a pure dungeon crawler with turn-based combat that is on the PS5. I’ve been playing it on the Playstation Portal before bed as it’s an ideal handheld game. It feels kind of mindless; fun for 15-20 minutes before I turn the light out but back when I first played it on the big screen it couldn’t really hold my attention for too long. On the Portal it’s ideal.

Immortals of Avernum — This hit the PS Plus Extra and it was a game I’d always wanted to check out. I was really enjoying it, and feeling a little guilty about not buying it, given that the developer has all but gone out of business based on the lack of sales. This is another one I want to get back to, though. It’s kind of a magic-shooter, almost.

Fallout 76 — And this was the Great Disruptor this month. Like so many others, I enjoyed the Fallout TV series quite a bit. And like so many others, it put me in the mood to play a Fallout game, and this is the one I chose. I’ve picked up Fallout 76 a few times in the past, on a few different platforms, but never got very far. I think my highest level character was 22 or so. This time I started fresh (of course) and this time it stuck. As of the end of the month my new character is level 35, and I’m around level 40 on the Season Scoreboard, earning tickets to buy things to make my camps (I have 2) shinier. I bought the Fallout 1st subscription because it was 50% off, so only $6 & change, and I’ve been bouncing between a Private server and Public servers. I generally go Private to do my daily Season Scoreboard quests so I’m not competing for resources, and Public for everything else. I’m really enjoying it this time around and I think it all has to do with sticking with it long enough to get a decent weapon. I found a “Handmade” at about level 20 and suddenly I felt powerful, at least for a while. (The game scales everything to your level.) Anyway, I have half a mind to write a whole post about it, though I know Fallout 76 is a game that brings out the worst in a lot of people who DON’T play it, so not sure I will. But I’m having fun. It just pulled me away from all the other games I’d wanted to play!

Vault Dweller kneels in front of the statue at Vault Tech University



Fallout (Amazon Prime) — We loved this and we’re excited season 2 was greenlit. I found it interesting that @partpurple enjoyed it as much as I did even though she isn’t really familiar with the games.

Sweet Tooth (Netflix) — With the 3rd and final season coming in June, we decided to re-watch Season 1, and watch Season 2. Season 1 is kind of an origin store and road-trip show. Season 2 was more about how the world came to be and classic good vs evil stuff. It looks like season 3 might go back to road-tripping. If you’re unaware of the show, it’s a post-apocalypse world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a plague, while at the same time half-human/half-animal hybrids are being born. The titular Sweet Tooth is a half-deer boy around 10 or 12, and he’s being hunted by bad guys!

Star Trek Discovery (Paramount+) — We’re a little late starting this last season. I feel compelled to watch it as a lifelong Star Trek fan but I can’t honestly say I enjoy it very much. Kind of glad this is the last season. I have to say of all the Star Trek series, this is my least favorite.


Finished Blood of Elves & Time of Contempt, the Witcher series books three & four. Lola is slowing down and our walks are as much laying in the grass as they are walks, which means I’ve been getting a lot more reading time. What surprises me most about these books is that they’re really about Ciri and not Geralt. Who knew?

And that’s April in a nutshell!

The Playstation Portal

When Sony announced the Playstation Portal, a Playstation peripheral dedicated to Remote Play, the Internet collectively jeered. It was too expensive, there were other devices that did the same thing (and more) and “no one” would buy this thing. In a lot of ways the Internet was right, except for that last part. Either Sony only manufactured a handful of these things, or plenty of people ARE buying it. I wanted one but couldn’t find one in stock, try as I might (and I will never support eBay scalpers).

Last week I finally got lucky when an account on Threads that tracks these things mentioned that Best Buy had some. I immediately hit and snagged one before they sold out again.

So let’s dive in to the Internet’s complaints (don’t you like how I treat the Internet as if it has a single unified voice!). The Playstation Portal is $200 and it really does just one thing: it is a device that offers Remote Play from a Playstation. If does not run games locally and it doesn’t even support Playstation’s Streaming Game service (though many of us hope that feature gets added). The argument here is that there are other devices that you could use for Remote Play. The Steam Deck and the Logitech G Cloud are often mentioned. Both can be made to support Remote Play and both do a lot of other things, too. The G Cloud will stream GeForce Now and Xbox XCloud and the Steam Deck can be made to do both of those things and of course runs games natively. On the other end of the spectrum, you can get a peripheral for your phone (like the Backbone) that adds a controller and uses the phone’s screen and do Remote Play that way.

These are all good arguments but I still wanted the Portal. First, I have tried Backbone-style devices but my phone’s screen is just too small for my old eyes, so that was out for me. I do have a Steam Deck and have used it for remote play off the Xbox, and that was almost enough to make me bail on the Portal since there is an open source Playstation Remote Play app called Chaiki that seems to work well for most Deck owners. For two reasons I gave up on that. First, the Portal supports all the neat haptics of the Playstation controller, and second, I didn’t want to have to fiddle with things. The Xbox remote play worked great until something or other would get updated then I’d have to futz with it and of course this always happened when I just wanted to play a game.

So yeah, I went for it. If the Playstation 5 is a luxury item, the Portal is a luxury’s luxury. I’ll be the first to admit that. But so far I love it. It has a big screen (8″) which makes it the most comfortable (for my eyes) handheld I’ve used. It feels good in the hands and it just works. I kind of like the design of it, too. It just looks like a screen with a couple of controller handles attached.

I got it for two very specific use-cases. I like to watch sports, particularly football [soccer] and there are definitely times when the action slows down. I wanted an easy way to play console games at the same time I was watching TV. I’ll have a turn-based RPG (or something very pause-friendly) running on the Portal and when a team is killing time or officials are reviewing a penalty or something, I pick up and play. This might get me back to watching NFL games come fall; something I stopped doing due to all the ad breaks. And the other use case is gaming in bed, because who doesn’t want to do that?

I really only have one complaint with the Portal and that is in how they support the track pad on the Playstation controller. Since the Portal has a touch screen I assumed the screen would just act like a giant track pad, but no. In fact you have to tap the screen to enable ‘track pad mode’ which reveals two rectangles on either side of the screen. These are your ‘trackpad areas’ (and they are mirrored so you can you either hand to access them). Then you have to double tap in one of these to emulate a trackpad press. It’s a little cumbersome though I am getting used to it.

I’ve used the Portal every day since I bought it, so no buyer’s remorse so far. $200 IS a lot, but it is $100 cheaper than the G Cloud and $200 less than the cheapest Steam Deck and it has a bigger screen than both of those. Yes it also does less, but if you only want to do one thing with it, why not save some money and get a device that fully supports the service you want to use. The Playstation Portal certainly isn’t the right device for everyone, but it’s the right device for me.

March 2024

This might just be the shortest recap yet! I was pretty focused on one game for most of the month though as we head into April that has all changed.


The first half of March was all about Dying Light 2. I played nothing else until I hit the end credits, then I wrote a post about it so nothing much to recap here.

With that put to bed I went back to Horizon Forbidden West; I think my save there is at something like 60 hours and the PS5 tells me I’m not even 50% through it yet (which kind of tracks based on what I know about the main quest and by looking at how much of the map is still hidden). But HowLongToBeat says it has a 30 hour campaign and their “Completionist” figure is 88 hours so, yeah, just me being me and managing to turn every game I touch into a 100 hour marathon.

The weird sidetrack this month was Match-3 games (like Bejeweled). I suddenly got the itch to play one of these and went looking. The match-3 landscape is bleak, or I was just in the wrong aisle of the virtual game store. First I tried Gems of War which has fun gameplay but the most predatory microtransactions that I have ever seen. A great example are shrines. As you beat levels you get a certain in-game currency that is used to fill up shrines. Once you finally fill one you can PAY REAL MONEY to open it and get whatever is hidden inside (I did not pay). So yeah, you grind to earn the opportunity to spend money. And there are CONSTANT pop-ups to spend $5 or $10 or $50 for some item or other.

Screenshot of Gems of War taken around easter when the skulls have bunny ears
On the plus side, the skulls got bunny ears for Easter, so that was fun.
Screenshot from Gems of War prompting a $49.99 add-on purchase
On the negative side, about every 3rd screen you’ll see is something like this. I don’t think we can call these micro-transactions any more!

Then I tried Puzzle Quest 3, a much-maligned game just because folks enjoyed PQ1 & 2 and both those games used that old-fashioned “buy it & then play it” commerce model rather than being free-to-play microtransaction farms. I haven’t played as much PQ3 but so far it doesn’t seem quite as awful as Gems of War in terms of trying to pry open your wallet. It also has an interesting mechanic (I don’t recall if this was in the earlier games) where you make 3 (or more based on buffs) gem moves before anything happens. So you set up your moves, then gems go poof, then the enemy does the same thing. Otherwise same basic principles apply. Gems give you mana to cast spells, and skulls cause direct damage. Erm, which is how Gems of War works…I guess I didn’t mention that, did I?

Screenshot of the character sheet from Puzzle Quest 3
Puzzle Quest 3 feels a little more RPG-ish than Gems of War. For example here is a character sheet which feels like it could be from any rpg.

I also looked around on Apple Arcade for a good match-3 game that didn’t have microtransactions but by the time I got around to doing that I was reaching a point of Match-3 satiety so I didn’t get too far there. I havent’t tried it yet but from what I’ve read you can sync Puzzle Quest 3 progress between Xbox, PC and Mobile (but not Playstation cuz Sony) so maybe I’ll just go with that.

And then on March 28th Diablo IV hit Game Pass so I’ve been playing that, but since it’s just been a couple days I don’t have much to say beyond that I’m having fun so far. I’m also kind of obsessed with the look of my character, Petra (the header image for this post) named after the character in Horizon Forbidden West, not the character in Destiny 2. Not that it matters!

And that is all the gaming I’ve done! I didn’t even play Snowrunner this month! *gasp!*


Not a lot here either

Constellation (Apple TV+) has a slow burn sciencey-ghosty story. I have to admit we almost bailed after like 2 episodes but we wound up sticking with it and it got pretty compelling. But if you’re a “it has to hook me in the first half hour” kind of viewer, don’t bother. Also it has such a generic name that I always have to Google to double check I have it right.

Halo Season 2 (Paramount+) was really good this season, we thought. Apparently Paramount is about to fall apart so I dunno if we’ll get a 3rd season or not, but I hope we do!

And that’s it for new(ish) stuff. We’re now re-watching S1 of Sweettooth (Netflix) because at some point a 2nd season came out and a 3rd and final has been announced, but we’d both forgotten everything about the show so are doing a full re-watch. It’s about a kid who is like 80% human, 20% deer, hanging out with an ex-football player in a post-apocalyptic world. Yeah, it’s weird, but pretty good.

Other than that I’m watching a lot of football [soccer] what with the EPL closing in on the end of its season and MLS and NWSL both just starting. Watching a lot of football [soccer] has me for the first time wondering why we Americans assign the name ‘football’ to a sport where the (non-spherical) ball is more often carried or thrown rather than kicked. Sometimes I consider using futball for the kick-the-ball sport and football for the NFL sport, but then that makes me seem like I’m posing as a European or something.

New Toy Segment

Oh and tangential to what we’re watching… I decided to buy an Apple TV. We’d been using a Google TV w/Chromecast streaming device and it worked well, but a few things aligned. First, for some reason Halo on Paramount+ on the GTV stuttered a lot. As weird as this sounds I found other reports of this specific show (and one other, which I’ve forgotten) on this specific service streaming on this specific device, stuttering. So it wasn’t just us. Second, I discovered there’s a free service called NWSL+ that lets you stream replays of all (I think?) the NWSL games, but the app isn’t available on Android devices, but it is on iOS devices. Third, the GTV was full and I kept having to remove apps to install new ones (there are work-arounds for this involving external USB storage), and fourth, I just was having that “Need a new toy” itch.

So I bought the biggest, fanciest Apple TV 4K with 128 GB of storage and an ethernet port. @partpurple was dubious; this thing is stupid-expensive ($149) compared to the GTV 4K ($50) but it turns out, I was right for once. It is super snappy to use and we both swear content looks better. Maybe this is observational bias or maybe I had something set wrong with the GTV, but we’re both pretty happy with the purchase so far.


Slowing working through Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (it’s one of The Witcher novels) but mostly just while I’m out walking the dog and she decides to flop down in a patch of grass for a while.

And that’s the recap for this month! Guess it was longer than I expected. I just talk too much.

GeForce Now Revisited

Last November during all the Black Friday madness I bought myself a new wide screen monitor. Nothing crazy fancy, it’s a 34″ curved Dell, 3440×1440. I didn’t go for 4K both due to cost and the fact that I didn’t think my PC could push 4K’s worth of pixels at a decent rate. I’ve got an RTX 2070 Super that feels like it is showing its age. I wasn’t even doing much PC gaming but I was having some issues with my setup of two 24″ 1920×1080 monitors. Anyway, point is, I bought a monitor that was much nicer than what I had. Higher resolution, HDR, curved screen.

It made PC gaming a lot more fun. One of the many reasons I enjoy console games is that playing in front of a 65″ 4K HDR TV with a good sound system is so immersive compared to sitting at a 24″ 1080P SDR screen with crappy speakers. A new monitor changed that (aside from the sound…still working on that). Problem now is that aging video card. I can still run older and indie games OK as long as I don’t push the settings too high, but I started thinking about either upgrading the GPU or just buying a nice new gaming PC. I really didn’t want to lay out all that cash though.

Then I noticed Scopique had started using GeForce Now again, and he seemed to be having good luck with it. I’d tried GeForce Now in the past and it had been OK, and I’m kind of fascinated by the idea of streaming games. I was a big fan of the Stadia technology, if not the business model, and playing games on Stadia had always felt good. On the other hand, playing on Microsoft’s XCloud always feels pretty bad. One thing I’ve learned is that your experience with streaming games is highly dependent on where you are and who your ISP is. I know folks who say XCloud works amazingly and I believe them. It just doesn’t work very well for me.

Anyway I decided to give GeForce Now another go. These days we have 1 GB Internet via Google Fiber with no data caps or anything. In practical terms a speedtest usually shows around 700 mbps up & down from my PC, so that includes any loss of speed due to internal networking and such. And my PC has a wired connection, so I was feeling pretty confident.

Screenshot from New World as played through GeForce Now.
My current system actually can play New World without too many issues but being able to jump in without the install and patch times made it kind of a treat!

I tried the free tier of GeForce Now and that was NOT impressive. First, the queue’s are crazy long. One night there were 210 people in front of me. I waited. After 20 minutes I was at 180 people; I figured at that rate I’d get a rig at about 1 am so I quit. Eventually I snuck in early on a weekend but even then there was a queue and when I did connect it was to a data center in Miami, and I’m in North Carolina. For folks not in the US, that means a data center about 800 miles or 1290 km away. I know that there are at least two data centers much closer to me, including one just over the state line in Virginia. I suspect that I got connected to the first usable slot and it happened to be in the Miami data center. With this set up the service worked but it wasn’t a great experience.

Undeterred and based on Scopique’s experience, I finally bit the bullet and bought a month of the Ultimate tier, which is required to go above 1080P anyway. And, aside from one glitch caused by some ‘optimization’ software running on my PC, so far the experience has been almost magical. At least for me and my puny PC. I’m playing on a 4080 rig with settings cranked way up and I’m getting 120+ fps on the server, though closer to 60 fps at my machine. But still I’ve never seen games look this good. Since becoming a paid member I’ve connected to that Virginia data center every time, and no more queues.

So now that I’ve drunk deep of the Kool-Aid I thought I’d talk about some pros and cons.


The Premium tier is $20/month which initially seemed really high to me. You can save a bit by going 6 months at time, which is $100 or $16.66/month (or $200/year). But remember, you’re playing on a 4080 which would cost you about $1000 right now. Spending $200/year instead might make sense depending on your needs. I kind of compare it to buying vs leasing a car. My brother has been leasing cars since forever and he just keeps rolling over to a new lease period and getting a new car every 3 years or so. This kind of feels like the same thing. It’ll take 5 years of GeForce Now to spend the same as you would on a 4080 today, but presumably Nvidia will keep bumping up the hardware so by then we’ll probably be playing on some even more powerful hardware. If you spend $1000 on a 4080 today, in 5 years it will no longer be state of the art.

On the other hand if you’re a “buy it once and run it into the ground” person then the monthly fee might sting a bit. My truck is a 2012, paid off long ago and no plans to trade it in. I’ll run it into the ground. So the monthly fee for GeForce Now is a little more concerning for me. My brother would love it, if he was a gamer. On the third hand, I pay $90/month for YouTube TV; the idea that I can cancel that for 2 months/year and cover GeForce Now is so compelling that I just canceled YouTube TV!


So far performance has been incredible. Games look amazing and the performance is so high it almost feels too high for me. I tried Doom Eternal and almost made myself sick, everything was so quick. I’ll have to get used to everything being this snappy. But what about the lag? I’m sure lag is there and if you’re a competitive gamer than a service like this isn’t for you. But as a 60-something dude with 60-something reflexes, I honestly can not detect any lag. I am NOT saying it isn’t there…just that my brain is too slow to notice it. Also bonus points for my PC staying completely quiet while I play. No more fans kicking into overdrive when I play a demanding game.


This is a mixed bag. The good news is, I don’t have to worry about driver updates or anything. I can play on any machine. I don’t have to worry about drive space. I am not a sequential gamer so I like to have a bunch of games installed and my hard drive is constantly full. No longer an issue. On the other hand, if the service goes down or something, I’m totally out of luck. I can’t install mods. And of course not every game is on the system. So if I’m interested in a new game I have to both find it in a game store like Steam and also make sure it is supported on GeForce Now. And I had to assume that games LEAVE the service too so you could wind up owning games that you can’t play without upgrading your PC.

I initially thought I’d also be playing GeForce Now on the TV in the living room via the Nvidia Shield streaming box but that doesn’t work as well as I would hope. The tech works but so many games pop open some kind of login field or anti-cheat dialog or something that it feels like more trouble than it is worth. If I were willing to connect a mouse and keyboard to the Shield I could solve this issue, but I’m not really interested in doing that due to the “Cluttering up the living room” factor.

Some games also come with their challenges. Forza Horizons 5 (on PC Game Pass) would not run in widescreen mode and it is new enough that I have to think it is capable of doing so. And Metro Exodus (Epic Game Store) would only run at a low resolution or at a higher res but tucked into a corner of the screen. I haven’t really spent time debugging either of these issues but I think it boils down to “When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t work… well you’re just out of luck.”


Overall I am absolutely delighted with how well the service works. I still don’t know if I’ll keep it past this initial month just due to the cost and the fact that I have the Xbox and the PS5, both with big backlogs, and do I really need a 3rd gaming platform that comes with a monthly fee? Probably I don’t. But damn, games look SO good on this widescreen monitor with a Nvidia 4080 pushing the pixels!! Decisions, decisions… 🙂

Dying Light 2 Main Story Finished

I bought Dying Light 2: Stay Human at full price when it launched, and I played for over 50 hours before drifting off. That said I never completed the story. When developer TechLand announced a new update that introduced guns to the game I decided it was time to go back and finally complete the game.

Of course the usual happened. I booted it up, realized I did NOT remember how to play, so started a new game. The plan was to just play through the tutorial then move back to my old save but of course I never moved back. 99 hours later the credits finally rolled. Not that there isn’t a TON more content to do if I want to. It’s a huge game. But with all the other titles that are calling to me I’m thinking 99 hours is enough zombie bashing for now.

Overall I (obviously given the number of hours I put into it) liked the game. The combo of over-the-top violence to zombies and lots of first person parkour traversal worked together nicely and kept the gameplay fairly varied. Some times I’d be in the mood to get down on the streets and battle the hordes, other times I preferred to flit across the rooftops using my parkour skills. As you move through the main story you get new tools like a paraglider and a grapple that makes traversal even more fun.

A first person shot of the player paragliding over the city
Look ma, I’m paragliding!

The actual story was less interesting to me. You play as Aidan, a wanderer who is looking for his little sister Mia. Aidan and Mia were experimented on as children, and then were separated. These experiments are what make you such a super zombie slayer. It sounds like a decent setup but honestly I never really warmed to Aidan and didn’t really care about his sister. Maybe I’m the monster! The supporting cast was a little more interesting and I’m not really faulting the voice talent or even the writing. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but the story just never grabbed me.

The story also has some branches. Do you support Faction A or Faction B? Do you save Person A or Person B. I generally like these kinds of choices but for some reason Dying Light 2 doesn’t make it easy to explore the various branches. There is no manual save system so you can’t make a choice, then go back to an earlier save and make a different choice. You’re expected, I guess, to replay the entire story over and over again to see the different branches? On PC I expect you could just manually back up your save files but that’s not quite as easy on console. But if the devs think I’m going to put in another 100 hours to see if my decisions change things, they’re fooling themselves!

Zombies flailing about as they burn
Officer, I did not set these zombies on fire. Another zombie set them on fire.

Another aspect of the game that bugs me personally, but this is 100% a personal thing, is that there are lots of Challenges. I am pretty much turned off by anything that is timed and awards bronze/silver/gold medals based on how fast you get something done. I DO NOT like being rushed; I’m by nature methodical. There’re a LOT of these Challenges in DL2 but happily you can just not do most of them.

Changes Since Launch

In the years since the game launched TechLand has made some changes to it. Some are good, some (to me) bad. They’ve added some toggles to make the parkour stuff a lot easier on your stomach, if you’re a person prone to getting motion sick in first person games. I remember when Dying Light 2 first came out I had to play in short sessions until I built up a tolerance. (It doesn’t help that it is one of those games that from time to time takes control away from you and swings the view of the world back and forth as your character looks around…this never works well since we don’t keep our eyes fixed straight ahead when we move, but that’s what happens in games.) Anyway whatever magic they did (I turned on ‘motion sickness mode’ and turned down head bob) I was much more comfortable playing now. They also added some parkour toggles so you can make it a little more automated, or give yourself more control. Whichever works. Both of these are great additions.

First person shot of the player doing a drop kick
It took me a lot of tries to grab a screenshot that takes place mid-drop kick.

On the other hand, at some point they made the nights much more deadly. I guess long-time players were complaining the game was too easy. At night super-zombies called Volatiles come out and if they spot you they Chase you. Chases are a discrete aspect of the game and you get bonus xp based on how long you survive a chase. With the new update there are volatiles everywhere and as soon as you step out of safety they start chasing you and at low levels they WILL kill you if they catch you. So yes, night is much harder now, but that is a problem because there are areas, some tied to quests, that you are intended to go to at night. The fiction is these places are like nests where the zombies stay during the day. There are HUGE numbers of zombies in these locations while the sun is up, so you have to go at night when all the zombies are out on the streets roaming around. With the new update getting to these spots at night is really difficult since there are so many Volatiles waiting to chase you. In the end I just skipped most of these locations, which I remember being quite fun back at launch. Now when I had to do one I’d get near the location then hide in some bushes and wait for night to come. By which I mean I’d set the controller down and flip through social media on my phone or something while time passed in game. Not a great experience.

I’m hoping at some point TechLand adds a toggle for the “More Volatiles” mode so you can opt for the original experience or this new “challenging for long-time players” mode.

There’s a DLC pack called Bloody Ties that is now free, but it is all about doing more Challenges so I noped out of that pretty early on. The entire point of the DLC is that it is a fighting contest where you have to score well to advance.

What About The Guns?

Lastly, about this gun update, which is the entire reason I came back to the game. After 99 hours I have a pistol and that’s it. Guns aren’t found with the rest of the loot you come across. Instead they are purchased from a vendor for a special currency you earn by grinding stand-alone side missions. The game encourages you to do these in co-op though they can be done solo. I didn’t do many of them because I was focused on finishing the main story, and maybe this is by design. Maybe the devs don’t want you to have guns until the post-story game because even the pistol you get is pretty OP. I personally found this system disappointing; I was hoping to find guns out in the world.

Dying Light 2 is kind of a quasi-live service game, I guess. You have the story and the world that was delivered at launch, but there are a few of these reputation systems that you can grind to get better stuff so that you can kill stronger zombies and get better gear to kill even stronger zombies. In the base game the character level cap is I believe 9. I was 6 when I finished the story. Post level 9 there is some kind of Legendary level system which I don’t expect I’ll ever see.

The player about to hit a zombie with a scythe
Me beating up low level zombies post game

So those are my thoughts on Dying Light 2. As is typical of me, I think I’ve focused too much on the negative. I have put 100 hours into this game in the past 3 weeks or so. It is pretty much all I’ve played, and I was hooked to the point where I was getting up early to play a bit before work. So yeah, I really enjoyed my time with it and if the idea of over-the-top violence (and I should note you decapitate a fair number of humans in addition to zombies) and a robust parkour system sounds fun then I would absolutely recommend the game. I’m very glad I played it.

Shot of the player grappling with a zombie
When a zombie wants to eat your face

Why Am I So Weird (When It Comes To Games)

I’ve been thinking about my taste in games recently, mostly spurred on by Skull & Crossbones. The general vibe on the Internet is a negative one, and yet I really enjoy it. If this was a one-off I wouldn’t think much about it but it seems to happen fairly regularly with me. I loved No Man’s Sky when it first launched and was getting pilloried online. I loved Anthem when it seemed to get nothing but hate. Snowrunner is another example to a lesser extent. While it does have a dedicated fanbase it isn’t a widely popular game. In general when “open world” is starting to become a dirty word (or phrase) I still love open world games. All those towers that Ubisoft gets mocked for? I f’ing LOVE climbing those and getting that panorama fed to my eye holes!

I just started to wonder if I just like things to be contrary. Y’know? Like back in high school when you were too cool to like the popular stuff so you liked the other stuff.

But no, I think there’s a more practical reason. I think I just like to travel & explore in games. I loved No Man’s Sky because I enjoyed flying to different planets and seeing the sights, and the fact that I could lift off, fly to another planet and land without any loading screens. I didn’t let a single planet go Unexplored (which is part of why I never made much progress). Anthem I loved because flying around in those suits felt so damned good, and the more you played the better you got at it. Snowrunner is all about driving around, albeit slowly. And Skull & Crossbones? I just ADORE sailing around that world. Some nights I hardly do any fighting. I love trimming the sails way back and gliding silently through a strait between two islands, listening to the sounds of the surrounding jungle and watching the sun set and the moon rise.

The more I think about it, the more this makes sense. I tend NOT to use fast travel options (which is a big part of why it takes me so long to finish a game). I spent like 200 hours in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey just traveling back and forth across the map seeing new things and exploring. It’s almost like actual gameplay is just an excuse for me to travel around these virtual worlds. I am never particularly interested in being challenged by games (as long as they’re not so easy as to feel trivial, I’m fine). If combat is serviceable, that’s OK for me. I do want to be able to take my time. Really fast paced games, like Warframe for example, never last with me. I want to be able to smell the roses and poke around. Back when I played MMOs what drove me was getting strong enough to move into the next zone to see what was there.

I won’t deny I don’t also enjoy seeing numbers go up, but really it is just important to have a new vista to explore over the next hill.

I guess I’ll need to keep this in mind going forward, and before I recommend a game to anyone I’ll have to stop to decide if it is actually a good game, or if it is just an interesting/pretty world that weirdo me enjoys exploring. Because I know many, maybe most, gamers are much more gameplay and goal driven than I am.

February 2024

This month I’m more or less taking a break from doing a proper recap. It has been a crummy month and I haven’t been taking notes or many screenshots so this isn’t going to be much more than an overly verbose list of what I’ve been playing. I just don’t want to skip a recap because if I skip one, I might skip two, or three, or never get back to them.


Hardspace: Shipbreaker — I wound up completing this one and even after taking my time, I still kind of wanted more. Very unique game about breaking up old space ships, ideally without breaking up yourself in the process. You’re in zero g in your space suit with various tools of destruction at hand. I even kept playing for a bit after the final credits and it is still installed. I may keep poking at it once in a while.

Shipbreaker screenshot of the termination agreement from Lynx Corporation

Horizon Forbidden West — Still plugging away at Alloy’s latest adventure. Too many distractions though and god this game just goes on forever and ever. I should maybe stop doing side quests and just push the story forward…if I could remember the story.

Snowrunner — I dunno when, or if, this one will leave the list! It is still my go-to “chill” game for when I’m feeling low energy.

No Man’s Sky — The Omega Expedition hit and it was intended as a way to introduce or re-introduce, as the case may be, the various gameplay loops of No Man’s Sky. I started yet another new save and played through it. First time I’ve completed an Expedition, but by the time I was done I’d had enough of No Man’s Sky for the time being.

Persona 3 Reload — I went hard at this for a couple days after the leak debacle, loved it, then got distracted. Really would like to get back to it.

Skull & Bones — Unlike the rest of the Internet, I love this game. Even wrote a post about it.

Helldivers 2 — Unlike the rest of the Internet, I don’t like this game much. Buyer’s remorse over this one. To be fair, the fault here is mine. It isn’t billed as anything other than a co-op game but after seeing a YouTube video on “Tips for playing Helldivers 2 solo” I got it in my head that I could play it solo. And while technically you can, there’s a bit of luck involved in getting a game session to yourself, and then it is NOT balanced for solo play.

Survivalboxes — I bought 3 PC survivalbox games in the past 5 weeks: Palworld, Enshrouded and Nightingale. Then never played any of them much. FOMO was getting at me big time. I need to stop that; I don’t have piles of cash laying around to spend on games I’m not playing. But I do WANT to play all of these so it’s not really a buyer’s remorse situation. Just I need to be more frugal.

The NPC Puck from Nightgale

Dead Island 2 — This hit Game Pass and I figured what the heck, let’s give it a go. And y’know, it was OK. Super gory, super cheesy and often fairly funny. They lean into the fact that it takes place in Hollywood, with all its unique (and wealthy) personalities. And here’s a thing: It has Alexa Voice Commands built in, and they work pretty well. You can say “Select my best weapon” and poof, your best weapon is at hand. The only real issue with Dead Island 2 is that it came to Game Pass right about the time that Dying Light 2 got a big update that added guns to the game which led me to…

Screenshot from Dead Island 2 showing globs of blood in the air from hitting a zombie, which is almost off-screen. Trying to keep the post from being too gross
I’m sure it’s just ketchup!

Dying Light 2 — I wanted to check out the guns update, but couldn’t remember how to play. So I started a new game and it kind of stuck… so now I’m playing Dying Light 2, I guess. I tried to split my time between this and Dead Island 2 but my brain got too confused and I kept trying to use the controls on one game while playing the other game. 🙂

Let me compare and contrast Dead Island 2 and Dying Light 2 for you. DI2 has more of a sense of humor and feels generally “lighter” (at least in the start) than Dying Light 2. (Though both games are incredibly gory so “light” is used relatively here.) DI2 doesn’t have the intense parkour system (which can cause motion sickness in some people, including me if I don’t stay in practice) that DY2 has. DI2 lets you pick from a few pre-made characters with different abilities, while in DL2 you always play a dude named Aidan. DI2 has a shared stash so you can trade gear between characters if you want to run an alt. The parkour stuff is the biggest different. If you wanted to play a zombie bashing game but Dying Light 2 made you queasy due to its first person parkour, Dead Island 2 might be of interest.


Fall of the House of Usher (Netflix) — We’d started this last month, when I was a bit concerned about how much time was spent on the sexual depravities of the various Usher family members. I said then that I hoped we’d get past that soon, and in fact we did. We liked this series more and more as it went on and the mystery became more clear. It’s only 8 episodes and is a complete story with no loose ends or dangling bits for them to tie a season 2 onto. It was creepy, gory, and overall, a lot of fun.

Bodies (Netflix) — Murder mystery with a time travel twist! This is a mini-series (that’s what we used to call ’em anyway) about a body that keeps showing up in a particular alley in London, about every 51 years, and the various detectives who investigate it. We went into this one pretty much blind and were delighted. We really enjoyed it, but it does mess with your head a good bit. There were points where we were like “I have no idea what is happening, but I love it!”

Halo 2, Season 2 (Paramount+) — This one is still on-going and I sorta wish we’d gone back to re-watch S1 again. But so far, so good.

Ghosts, Season…3? (Paramount+) — We don’t watch a lot of comedy shows, but this one keeps us entertained.

Attack on Titan (Crunchyroll) — I dunno why I got it in my head to watch this show. I’d watched S1 back when it was the hot new thing and found it vaguely disturbing. But with it being finished I went back to S1 and watched all 4 seasons and I guess I’m glad I did…I think? It was this weird situation where I didn’t really like it, but I was curious enough about WTF was happening that I kept pushing forward. But man, it has been a long time since I watched a show with such a large cast of characters, all of whom were completely unlikable to me. Usually if I watch 4 seasons of a show like this I’m a little sad when it ends because there’re a least a couple of characters that I’ll miss. But not here!

I struggled more and more as we got closer to the end. I don’t want to go into why for fear of spoilers. Maybe I’ll do a little post about it. But overall, really glad to be done with it and would never, ever watch it again. I did like the world building and the mystery of the titans quite a bit, but I felt like overall the show moved really slowly and I hated most of the characters. I think maybe we were supposed to hate them. I think the overall message was “Humans are awful and the planet would be better off without them.” Cheerful stuff!


No Reading to speak of this month.

So that’s February and good riddance. Hoping March will be better. Think it will be, but I don’t want to jinx things!!

I’m Enjoying Skull & Bones

Back in the stone age, Ubisoft announced that they were making a stand-alone pirate game based on the ship-to-ship combat in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. I was ecstatic because I LOVED that part of Black Flag. As time passed the game (Skull & Bones, just to be clear) kept changing focus. There was going to be a single player campaign (yay) and then there was not.  At one point it sounded like it was going to be an esports title. It was going to be open PvP all the time (boo!) and then it was not. It got delayed approximately 5,429,232 times and by the time it started to seem like it was really going to launch I had completely lost track of what it was supposed to be. I did know the single player stuff had been scrapped which killed a lot of my interest.

View from the crows nest

There was an open beta a while back and I downloaded it, fired it up and lasted about 10 minutes because it just didn’t feel good, and I was immediately annoyed by reading all the dumb gamertags/player names. As far as I could tell wind direction had no bearing on sailing my ship and I kept hitting a boundary where I was leaving the mission area. It was just a bad experience. When the game finally launched, I ignored it aside from raising an eyebrow at the generally mediocre reviews it was getting (as I write this it has a score of 64 on Metacritic). Then Ubisoft announced a free trial and for some reason I figured, what the heck, let’s give it one more try. I was surprised to find that the trial was a generous 8 hours long.

There’s a free trial

When I jumped into the trial I was immediately disappointed. For one thing, my open beta character was still there; a character I had spent like 30 seconds customizing because hey, it’s a beta who cares? (In fairness Ubisoft did tell us progress would carry over, I just wasn’t paying that much attention.) There was no way to reset/restart, either. I wound up watching a YouTube video of someone else playing the intro to re-familiarize myself. When I logged in I was on a dock somewhere and I was unimpressed both with how my character looked and how he moved. Then as I was trying to follow the tutorial steps (I hadn’t even made it out of the tutorial in the beta) some bug hit me where I was constantly being told that my death warrant with some faction had been rescinded. I closed the game again and went on social media to tell everyone what a train wreck it was.

Following a bigger ship through a narrow channel
Sunday afternoon traffic. I wish this guy would pull over so I can pass!

But then the next day I tried again and I’m not even sure why. But I played until I actually got to the title screen! And then I played some more. I upgraded to a proper ship with cannons and put out to sea and…

The magic was back. That old wooden ships and iron men magic. Once again I was firing broadsides (OK this little ship has 2 cannons on each side and 2 forward chasers so not sure you can call that a broadside) and having to time things with the heaving of the ship due to the swells. And wind definitely has a huge bearing on battles, thank goodness. The ‘boundary’ that a fight had to take place in was gone, though so far most of my battles have taken place in the straits between islands, but at least it isn’t a big imaginary marker in the sea. Yes there were other players on the seas with me, but that wasn’t so bad and more than once I’d see someone getting pounded and rush in to try to help; something I could do without grouping or communicating. And though the land graphics are definitely dated, I find the at-sea graphics to be very pleasing.

I used up 4-5 of the free trial hours before I said “Heck with it” and bought the game.

I like it, but…

Now all that said, I do agree with the few reviews I’ve read. The game is buggy and the character models are really dated, as is just walking around on land. I can’t comment on the end game, which is also getting some heat. There is no specific narrative and no specifically single player content, but you can definitely just go it alone (I’m sure there are parts that will require a group but I haven’t gotten that far yet). Think of it almost like Destiny. It does not feel like a game that should be $70 and a big part of why I was OK with purchasing is I happened to have enough Sony Reward Points to cash in for a $50 PSN card, which I did. So Skull & Bones cost me $20+tax out of pocket.

Corpses hung for display in a new overlooking the channel
Glad I checked this place out from far away, I don’t think they like pirates there

While there isn’t a campaign per se, there is a story of sorts. In the intro of the game you’re in an unwinnable battle and after it you are rescued by a couple of sailors in a dhow (basically a dingy with a sail). For whatever reason they put you in charge and now you have to make a name for yourself. You wind up in Sainte Anne, a pirate refuge run by John Scurlock, who has a deal with someone back in New York. He sends goods in exchange for weapons. And it just so happens he needs pirate captains to help acquire these goods, but first you have to make a name for yourself. And off you go.

That said though, most of the story is going to be the one you tell in your head and by your actions, supported by quite a bit of lore found in the form of notes and letters left strewn about.

A view from the helm
The view from the helm, though I usually play from a 3rd person viewpoint

I will survive

Surprisingly, there’s a little survivalbox in Skull & Bones. Everything you need to become a famous pirate has to be crafted from materials. Some of these materials you’ll find floating around. Others you’ll get from the wreckage of ships you destroy. But some of it you get by exploring and harvesting. You generally harvest from the ship which is a little odd but there ya go. There’s a mini-game involved which is at least different from typical survivalbox games, but  I can’t decide if this is an improvement or not. There’s also a progression of better tools you need to craft in order to gather better materials in order to make better gear. Having played Palworld and Enshrouded recently this felt very familiar.

It doesn’t take very much time before you’re sailing around, listening to the crew sing shanties, meeting various factions and getting quests from them and generally living the pirate life. I found I could re-customize my character so I could ditch the bad decisions I made in open beta. There’s a lot of emphasis on bling for both you and your ships, and there are a few currencies for this, one of which you can buy for real-world cash. They emphasize this is all just cosmetic but I haven’t really looked into it to see if that is true. I feel like a lot of the game is about earning a cool look for yourself so buying it feels like cheating myself. (A lot of Ubisoft games, including the AC games, have a similar system that I’ve never felt the urge to utilize.)

There’s more on-land content than I expected. I was rewarded for exploring various outposts in terms of finding materials, lore items and quest givers. I don’t think there is any on-land combat. In fact the only personal combat I’ve seen is harpooning things when you’re in the little dhow that you start off in (and even after you get a better ship, at least one mission required using the dhow).

The spectre of death

I was sunk once and found that when you sink everything in your ship’s hold is left at the place of your death and apparently anyone can pick that up. That seemed to be the only death penalty, at least at low levels. You do have a magical warehouse where you can store goods; magical in that many small outposts have a “cache” which is connected to that warehouse so you can store/retrieve things from it. So if you get some really valuable loot you can nip into an outpost and put that loot in your cache, then retrieve it from the warehouse once you are back in town.

There don’t seem to be any difficulty levels or anything of that nature, but I suppose that is to be expected in an always on-line game.

A crew, in the abstract

Shot of the crew with an arrow pointing at me at the helm
See? There I am at the helm!

This is one of those cases where I’m really enjoying a game that most people seem not to like very much and I don’t really blame them for not liking it. But I love pirate lore and I LOVED the ship combat in Black Flag and the combat here feels just as satisfying. I’ve seen people suggest that Sea of Thieves is a better pirate game and it might be if you have a crew to sail with, but I don’t. Sea of Thieves limits me to the smallest ships (unless something has changed since that game launched) since each part of sailing (steering, trimming sales, repairs, anchoring, loading and firing weapons) has to be done by a human and if you’re alone you just can’t do it all on a bigger ship. Anyway in Skull & Bones I am a captain and I command a crew so I have no such limits.

Crafting system showing that we're making grilled hippo
Listen this hippo attacked ME first so it feels OK to eat it

Speaking of the crew, they are basically represented by a stamina bar. Trimming the sails uses stamina, and sailing with full sails drains it constantly (you raise/lower sails by tapping a button and there are several presets between “sails down” and “fly every inch of canvas”). I am not sure yet if firing the guns uses stamina. You can feed the crew to give them a stamina buff (you get food by harvesting/cooking it). I like this mechanic of abstracting the crew to this extent. I don’t have to futz around with hiring a crew, but they still have a bearing on battles. (Slightly disappointing is that boarding another ship is completely a hands-off affair.)

So I like it, but will you?

Anyway this is all based on just 4-5 hours of playing. I would NOT recommend anyone run out and buy Skull & Bones but I do think it’s worth downloading and taking the 8 hour trial for a spin. If you do, play long enough that you get your first proper ship with cannons and do a couple of missions. The prologue/tutorial does NOT do a good job of representing the game; in fact I’d say it actively hurts the game. If you enjoyed the combat in Black Flag, you might find this is actually a Buy for you. Though even then, might be best to wait for a sale or at least until we see how well supported/patched it’ll be. I’m writing this at 9 PM ET and it’s because the servers are down for maintenance which is both a little annoying and maybe a little encouraging. At least they’re working on things!

[UPDATE: After I posted this I read some more reviews/thoughts on the game, and it seems a lot of people are disappointed that Skull & Bones is JUST a ship-to-ship combat game. They wanted sword fighting and burying treasure and such. That’s a 100% valid criticism. For me personally, I have dozens of sword fighting games, but not very many games about age of sail combat. So S&B is offering me something I’m personally very interested in, but I certainly get why this wouldn’t be for everyone.]

Sailing the dhow into the sunset