July 2022

Hot enough for ya? July has been absolutely brutal in terms of the heat, not only here in North Carolina but seemingly everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Here at Dragonchasers HQ we’re all going a bit stir-crazy since it is so awful outside that we just sit indoors staring at the same walls, day in, day out. August isn’t looking much better in the long-range forecast, but in my mind I envision July 31st as existing at the bottom of a deep hot pit. May-July we’re heading down into the grossness, then come August 1st we’ve hit the bottom of that pit and are starting the slow climb back to temperatures that are comfortable (highs of 60-70F). We should get there by November.

Anyway, on to the recap!

Games

Deliver Us The Moon is part adventure, part puzzler, and part simulation. It’s fairly short, and I say that as a compliment because it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It also isn’t particularly hard. I suck at adventure games and only had to look up a hint once and that was really because I was tired and my brain was being lazy. Once I looked up what to do I realized I’d been looking at the ‘thing that can be manipulated’ without it sinking in that it was glowing as ‘things that can be manipulated’ do in this game. The story is both pretty implausible (you have to launch yourself in a rocket to the moon to fix a reactor that provides Earth with all its power) but also pretty entertaining. Definitely would recommend it if you haven’t played yet. You can easily finish it in a weekend. I played it on Playstation Pass (which is what I insist on calling Playstation Plus Extra- the tier that gives you a bunch of PS4 & PS5 games to play.)

Progress in Ni No Kuni 2 has slowed down. Now that I’m thinking about it, it has been a LONG time since I’ve stuck with an RPG for very long. They all start to feel so tedious since you wind up doing the same thing over and over for tens of hours. It’s really up to the narrative to pull you along, but generally these games have a 1-2 hour story stretched over 30 hours of game play. Same feels true here. It’s fun enough to play in short doses but I get bored after an hour and set it aside again.

Far Cry 6  completed and I wrote a post about that.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War also warranted its own post. After writing that post I spent an evening having some success and making what felt like progress. I thought I’d turned a corner. Then the next evening I was back to rage-inducing frustration, to the point where the rest of the family literally left the room to get away from me. Haven’t booted it since. Not sure I will. When a game gets you frustrated to the point that your dog gets upset & worried, it’s time to set it aside.

No Man’s Sky got a new update. New updates always bring me back, but because I’m weird I always start a new game and tend to drift away before I get to whatever is in the new update. Same thing happening this time; started a new game, sort of played for a few days. Then everyone on Twitter was talking about doing the new Expedition so I started over AGAIN in an Expedition and am sort of playing. I really like No Man’s Sky but it always feels like a real time-sink. It’s a good ‘on vacation’ kind of game.

Stray — Short and sweet. Probably helps to be a cat fan. I thought it was OK, but I am not in the camp that sees it as a game of the year contender or anything like that. Playing it soon after Deliver Us the Moon was maybe a disservice since DUtM gave me my fill of wandering around doing puzzles with no combat. While the narrative and tone of the two games are very different, they still kind of scratched the same itch in my brain. You walk around, solve some puzzles, talk to some people.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is another game I downloaded thanks to Playstation Pass. I just started it a couple days ago but I’m finding it pretty engrossing. Weird thing is, I’ve hardly PLAYED the game; mostly it’s been cut scenes and driving around. Hopefully when I get to the real interactive parts I’ll continue to like that as much as I’m enjoying the narrative bits.

There’s more; quite a bit more. But just a lot of things that I’ve dipped into here and there and I don’t want to try everyone’s patience any more than I already have!

TV

Stranger Things (Netflix) surprised me by having only 2 more episodes to air in the ‘2nd half’ of the season, but they comprised 4 hours of show.  It was amazing. They have one more season of the series but I guess it won’t be out for a couple years. The characters will have to be in college by then!

The Dragon Prince (Netflix) is a YA Netflix anime show that I really enjoyed. It is kind of sweet, kind of light in a lot of ways. But it also explores some aspects of human behavior that we don’t often see. Watching characters you like drift towards becoming a villain without ever realizing they’re becoming a villain. Or exploring what it is like to be one of the family members of the villain. There’re three seasons with a 4th season coming out this fall, I believe, and I’m really looking forward to it. Would broadly recommend this series.

Lillyhammer was one of the first original Netflix shows. It’s about a mob boss who goes into protective custody in Lillehammer because he watched some of the Olympics when they took place there. He’s a complete fish out of water in Norway but soon returns to his old ways. It’s one of those shows  that I really WANT to like (mostly because Steven Van Zandt stars in it) but honestly, it’s just OK.

RFDS (PBS) stands for Royal Flying Doctor Service. This was basically a soap opera that aired on PBS Masterpiece. It takes place in Australia. Doctors have to do emergency calls via plane. Drama ensues. I like it since it was such a change from what I usually watch. Plus, y’know, lots of Aussie accents. Who (in NA) can resist that?

Ms Marvel (Disney+) was an absolute joy and a surprise. I never expected to love this show as much as I did. It was just (dare I say it?) MARVELous! Sadly I think we’ll have quite a wait for a second season and I’m not sure if they’ll be able to catch lightning in a bottle twice.

Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) was so so good. I’m sad it is over. If you watched Discovery or Picard and have written off ‘New Trek’ I urge you to give this a try. Strange New Worlds recaptures the spirit of the original seriess and Next Generation.

The Sea Beast is a movie on Netflix that you really need to watch. It’s about a world where wooden ships set sail to fight sea monsters. It’s both a great sea yarn and a sweet story about understanding, and it has one of the sassiest young characters I’ve seen in a while. She is, as the ship’s captain (voiced wonderfully by Jared Harris) says, “pure vinegar.”

We’ve finally gotten around to season 3 of For All Mankind (Apple TV) and so far the show still delivers. I was worried that it might slip as we got farther and farther from what actually happened (the whole show posits an alternate timeline where the USSR beat the US to the moon and the space race never slowed down) but so far, so good. Mind you, we haven’t finished the season yet.

Reading

All I’ve been reading this month are ancient Marvel Comics. I’m using this site (that someone shared with me in a comment last fall) and the Marvel Unlimited app on the iPad. The “Read it Online” links on the former open the comic in the app, making it easy to follow the order. These comics (we’re talking issues from the early 1960s) are honestly not great but I find them very amusing. If it isn’t a random alien causing problems it’s the commies! And it’s fun to see how some of the superheroes we know today started out. Thor was a regular guy with a magic cane that could transform him into his superhero self. The Hulk used a machine to transform between Bruce Banner and Hulk, and Hulk was acerbic but otherwise talks normally. Antman uses a gas to shrink and enlarge himself, and he gets to the scene of a crime by launching himself via catapult and telepathically ordering ants to form a big pile for him to land softly in.

The big names back then were the Fantastic Four, and the Human Torch seems to be the most popular character. He often appears in his own in spin off comics. In the first Iron Man, Tony Stark is captured by the commmies (it’s always “the commies” or “the reds” in these old books) while in Vietnam. The
origin story is fairly close to the scene in one of the Iron Man movies where he’s captured by terrorists in the Middle East. He’s supposed to be building them weapons but instead builds his armor. Only since this was the early 60s it all happens in Vietnam, and Stark is a wizard with transistors! (Remember transistors were cutting edge back then). Next hero to get his own book is Spiderman. He’d appeared as a 1-off in 1962, but in 1963 the first issue of Spiderman hit the newstands. This has been a really fun project, reading these stories and thinking about what the world was like then.

And that was July 2022. Kind of a ‘meh’ month all-in-all. Besides the heat, Lola was quite ill, work has been sucking the life out of me and there’s just not much fun stuff happening, aside from lots of great TV. But again, July is the worst month in a lot of ways. August should be better, and September better still. Right?

Blaugust Announcement Post

There’s a very very tiny small slim chance you don’t already know, but Blaugust 2022 is coming. Blaugust being the annual festival of Blogging In August. You can learn all the details over at Belghast’s blog. He is who runs the program. I hope he doesn’t get pissed that I stole his header image.

I did it last year and it was pretty fun to do I guess, but my circumstances were very different last year. My workload was pretty light (little did I know it was because I was about to be demoted) and my head was in a decent place.

This year it takes all my willpower every day to lever myself out of bed each morning and work is a constant steaming pile of stress and anger.  It’s taken me 3 days to find a point where I have both the time and the energy in the same moment to write this short post.

So no Blaugust for me, but good luck to everyone who decides to participate!

June 2022

Well I hope you are well-hydrated (at least if you live near me!) because here comes the hellscape known as July & August. The kind of weather where you open the front door and step into a wall of heat and humidity that drapes over you like a (hot) lead blanket and makes you instantly and consistently miserable.

The only sane solution is to stay indoors in the A/C and play games, watch TV and read! I wish I could convince our Lola that this was the case, but dogs will be dogs. (In truth it gets so hot that even SHE doesn’t want to be outdoors any more than absolutely necessary.)

Anyway, on to the recap!

Games

I played a little more of I Am Setsuna, which I’d started in May. In the end I bounced off it. It seemed like a nice enough little game but the lack of any kind of map killed it for me. If I had been focused on just playing Setsuna this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but dipping into it once a week meant I could never remember where anything was so I’d spend too much time just wandering back and forth across the “overland” looking for the town/instance/dungeon I was supposed to go to next. Compounding that frustration was the very slow rate of movement in the overland. There seemed to be no reason for this; there weren’t random encounters or anything. At least not in the part of the game I played. In the end I decided there were better titles vying for my attention. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it.

I finished Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising this month. I have a whole post about that.

Akiba Strip: Undead & Undressed was another old game I had on the PS5’s hard drive, moved over from the PS4. I can’t recall if this was a PS+ freebie or just a super sale I was curious about, but it came out in 2013 and it was a port from a PS Vita or PS Portable title. It’s a game about being a vampire (sorta) fighting other vampires (sorta) in Akihabara. Vampires are tough though so you can’t hurt them in the traditional sense. Instead you have to tear their clothes off, at which point the sunlight will make them go poof.

This might have been intended as a fan-service game but the quality of the graphics means it all comes off more silly than salacious. Your enemies never lose their undergarments and they dissolve pretty quickly after you strip them. I’d say fully looting bodies in Skyrim is overall more NSFW than this game gets. I liked the characters and their banter, maybe because I hadn’t been watching any anime lately. They’re all delightfully otaku, mostly obsessed with manga and rare action figures, but somehow also fighting vampires (sorta). Side missions are sometimes goofy tasks like helping a shy guy get the courage to ask a girl out. Weapons and armor are all common items. The best weapon I’d found before I quit playing was an old laptop. So yeah I’d hit someone in the shirt with a laptop until the shirt got weak, then I’d tear it off. It’s all quite ridiculous.

Unfortunately each ‘area’ you enter is tiny and there are constant loading screens as you traverse the city. They’re pretty quick but still…so many loading screens. More seriously, I found that actual combat to be not very good, and the whole time I was running around a Japanese city brawling I was thinking I could be doing the same thing in a Yakuza game and probably having a better time. The novelty of the whole aesthetic wore off after a couple hours and I decided I’d had enough of that one for now.

Watching the Obi Wan Kenobi series put me in a Star Wars mood which led to me trying Jedi Fallen Order for a 3rd or 4th time. I wrote a post about how I finally found myself enjoying it and I finished it a few days after writing that post. In the end I got pretty hooked on the story and the characters and now I’m looking forward to the sequel. With the story finished, though, I felt no need to stick around and chase Achievements or anything. Still, it was a very enjoyable time.

Ni No Kuni 2 is another PS4 game that’s been on the hard drive for a long time. This one I remember buying for like $7 during a Black Friday sale or something. I never finished the first Ni No Kuni; I just got bored with it. Not sure if it was the fairy tale setting, or the lack of challenge. My memory of it is tons of combat that became really routine and dull. Ni No Kuni 2 swaps the turn-based combat for an action-RPG kind of system. It still isn’t very challenging but at least every battle doesn’t feel exactly the same. We’ll see how far I get; I’m currently at 12 hours or so and finding myself booting it up less and less frequently.

Far Cry 6 wound up warranting its own post. I haven’t booted that one up since that post. Time to either get back to it or uninstall it.

Marvel’s Avengers got a new hero, Jane Foster Thor, so I reinstalled it. I own this on PS5 and have it on Xbox via Game Pass. For some reason I installed it on both consoles. Weird thing is, I like it a lot better on Xbox. I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it is just because I am earlier in the game on Xbox (I’m just now doing the Kate Bishop operation.) Everything just feels smoother on Xbox for me. Maybe it’s the haptics on the PS5 controller? I should try turning those off.

My biggest issue with Marvel’s Avengers is that it is so damned big. It’s weird that the era of SSDs has once again made hard drive space precious, but that’s the world we live in. I wound up uninstalling it from the PS5, but so far it’s still lingering on the Xbox, but not sure for how long.

I feel like overall I’d enjoy this game more if I could just play with my character and maybe 1 AI teammate and have the difficulty scale accordingly. Having 3 AIs running all over the place gets so chaotic I get frustrated. Nothing like triggering an ability just as a team-mate knocks your intended target across the map. Really though, this game was made for multiplayer, so not really made for me.

TV

I finished up The Last Kingdom. I have that snooty “the books were better” feeling towards the series. Actually I felt like Seasons 1-3 were pretty authentic. Each season drifted farther from the books but they still felt right. Seasons 4-5 just felt like a different series with a character that happened to have the same first name. It no longer seemed like Uhtred’s story. It was enjoyable, just different. It didn’t feel like Danes vs Saxons any more, with a lot of archers with Legolas-like skills, and crossbows of all things. Plus England started to feel like it was maybe 2 miles across, the way characters bounced from town to town at will. The books are historical fiction. S1-3 of the series felt kind of like historical fiction. S4-5 just seemed like a fantasy series with no magic.

I expected Stranger Things to be not-great. I was wrong. But it ended on a cliffhanger. The good news is, the second part of the season starts July 1st. Hopefully the quality stays high.

Strange New Worlds continues to be amazing. Simply amazing. Best Star Trek show of the modern generation of shows.

Ms Marvel is a show that has really surprised me. I knew I’d watch it because, y’know, Marvel super hero stuff. But I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do. I just adore this show and want to give it a big warm hug.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was OK, but for me just OK. I think knowing that so many of these characters were going to be around for Episode 4 drained a lot of the tension out of the show. I mostly am curious as to why the meat on that gigantic carcass doesn’t spoil in the twin suns of Tatooine.

DOTA: Dragon’s Blood (Netflix). Here’s a show with a great cast and…nothing much else to recommend it. I watched 2 seasons and still don’t really understand what the heck is happening. This one was a waste of time.

Deep Space 9 is still our lunchtime viewing. We’re in the Dominion war now; second to the last season. I am missing the interplay betweeen Odo and Quark in this season, but we see a lot of Garrack who I enjoy as a character. Weird thing about this series is it’s all the non-Star Fleet characters I like best. The main crew… meh, I can take them or leave them. Except for Nog, who gets really likeable once he (spoilers!) joins Star Fleet.

The Toys That Made Us is a documentary on Netflix examining the history of toys like Barbie, GI Joe and Star Wars. It’s pretty fun if you pick the episodes about brands you can relate to, though after a while the stories start to feel very similar. Still, I enjoyed the episodes I watched.

That’s a lot of TV and that’s not even everything. I’ve been gaming less and less as I cast about for something that really hooks me, and as a result of that my TV viewing is going up and up.

Books

I finally finished Abaddon’s Gate, the 3rd (?) in The Expanse series. I’m now kind of mad at the authors because of some comments they made on Twitter, though. I don’t follow them; I’ve learned not to follow people who create the art I enjoy. Ignorance is bliss; I don’t need to learn they are asshats. Anyway I don’t follow them but someone I know retweeted a comment that got my nose out of joint so I’ve slowed down my reading of these books. It wasn’t even anything terrible, just an off-hand comment about how us old people are all evil. I’m pretty sure I’m not evil.

Instead I’m back to reading ancient Marvel Comics on Marvel Unlimited. The last time I talked about reading Marvel Comics someone left a comment showing me this: https://cmro.travis-starnes.com/reading-order.php and I’m using it now. The site has been reworked so when you click on Read Online on the details page, it’ll open that comic in the Marvel Unlimited app. At least, that’s how it works on the iPad I use for reading Marvel Unlimited. That makes things so much easier and I’ve been getting such a kick out of these old comics from back when times were simpler and them Commies needed to be stopped at any cost!

And that’s the endless recap. I’ve really been in a gaming funk lately. I keep starting games and immediately losing interest. I need something to just bowl me over and for me to obsess over. Or, y’know, to get an actual life and do something besides sit on the couch every night!!!

May 2022

Goodbye May, hello June, only 4 more months of hellish summer heat to get through.

I was saying just the other day, one of the things I hate about living in the south is that summer is no longer a season to be anticipated. We basically live for Halloween-New Years and the other 9 months of the year is about waiting around for the good quarter to return. Compare that to when I lived places where summer meant swimming and sailing and biking and stuff.

Anyway, been a crummy couple of weeks out in the real world anyway. Who needs it? I’ll stay inside in the A/C playing games. Speaking of which…

Games

For the first week of May I was still subbed to Final Fantasy XIV. I was having fun while at the same time missing playing other things, so when the subscription came up for renewal I let it expire. That really opened the flood gates because I’ve dipped into so many games this month.

A lot of my time was spent revisiting games I’ve played and enjoyed in the past. I started a new Division 2 agent, started a new save in No Man’s Sky, spent some time in Elder Scrolls Online & got back to my Horizon Zero Dawn replay. Good times across the board in these games; there’s something so relaxing and fun about revisiting a game you enjoy.

Newer (to me that is) titles played include Final Fantasy XIII-2, though honestly I didn’t get too far into that one. I wasn’t really feeling the new characters and…I dunno, it took a long time for FF XIII to get good (though in my opinion it never got great) and FF XIII-2 felt like it was resetting the stage and was going to be dull for another long swathe before improving. I decided life is too short.

(It’s worth noting that I’m at a point where I have SO many games in my backlog and so many new games coming out that I want to play, that I’m getting more & more picky about the games I stick with. I almost look for an excuse to cross a game off the list, at least for now. It isn’t like I’m throwing these games away, I can always come back and give them another chance if I ever run out of things to play.)

I also put a good chunk of time into Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. This game really toyed with me. I enjoyed the fiction of a bunch of Borderlands characters playing a not-quite-D&D campaign, but the gameplay never really hooked me. What made this tricky is that it constantly felt like it could and maybe soon would (hook me). At one point I rage quit and uninstalled the game when stuck on a boss, but eventually re-downloaded it to try again (I hate letting the game win). I did beat that boss & started moving forward again but it just wasn’t quite fun. I felt like the enemies were very bullet-spongy, and a common issue I have with Borderlands games is the excess of loot. There’s so much loot that you either start ignoring it or spend all your time sorting through it, neither of which feels satisfying to me. Most fights were more about resource (ammo) management than actually hitting the enemy, and eventually I decided it just wasn’t for me.

Floating somewhere between old game and new-to-me game is I Am Setsuna, which it seems I played in 2016 based on when I earned a few trophies for it. This title has been sitting on the Playstation hard drive for 6 years (apparently) so I figured it was time to play it or delete it.

In terms of actual new games, I spent a decent amount of time in Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, which popped up on Game Pass with a lot of hype accompanying it. It’s an enjoyable game in small doses and really lends itself to those “I have 20 minutes before dinner, what can I play?” sessions. Some reviews have faulted it for being repetitive or boring and I totally agree: it isn’t strong enough to be a ‘primary game’. But just as something to pop into now and again, it’s fun. Really fast and easy to jump in, mechanics are simple enough that you don’t have to go through that “OK now do I remember how to play this?” phase after a long break.

Currently I’m into Horizon Forbidden West but with just 10 hours into it so far I don’t have much to say beyond SQUEEEE! Loving it so far.

TV

Let’s see, for ‘family viewing’ we finished Picard, Upload, Halo, Moon Knight & Raised by Wolves. Of those I think I liked Upload the best, with Halo a close second. Picard was losing me then won me back in the last 2 episodes. Moon Knight and Wolves were both weird.

We’re enjoying the hell out of Strange New Worlds though we’ve set it aside to binge through Stranger Things S4.

And at lunch we’re still working through our rewatch of Deep Space 9. Just started season 5 of, I think, 7.

My solo late night viewing has been All Creatures Great & Small (the newest version, and it is a great ‘feel good’ series) and The Last Kingdom. I’m happy to report that the show version of The Last Kingdom is different enough from the books that it is enjoyable as its own thing.

Books

None! I haven’t been reading much, partly because it is so hot. I tend to do a lot of reading while out and about with Lola. While she wallows in the grass, I read. But it’s been too hot to spend much time outside so…not much reading time.

And that’s May. June should be an exciting time for gamers with lots of announcements (tho not a lot of new releases) so I’m looking forward to that. And to surviving the heat…

April 2022

Disclaimer: I’m not in the mood to write a post but I just want to keep a list of what is going on so…

April is already over. The oppressive heat of May-September is right around the corner. Here on the Internet folks (well, some folks) are quite concerned over Elon Musk buying Twitter. I have thoughts on that I keep meaning to write down but never do. I’m hedging my bets. No plans to leave twitter but it did spur me to check out the “Fediverse” which I’m finding to be an amusing experience so far. The Mastadon instance I’m on (https://mstdn.social) feels a little like Twitter in the old days (not that it is a new instance..it just has an influx of new people) where FollowFriday is still a thing and I’m finding lots of science and tech folks to follow and learn from. Have to say though, my favorite account is from someone in northern England who is a stonemason and who posts pics from their job sites. I have nothing but respect and envy for people who build things with their hands.

Games

This will be quick. I started the month still playing Guild Wars 2, then munged up my shoulder so using a keyboard was really painful. That led to me subscribing to Final Fantasy XIV and starting a new character (playing on the PS5 via controller). Both the good and the bad part of paying a sub (for me) is that it means I feel obliged to play that game pretty exclusively. Which is mostly what I’ve been playing this month, though just the other night I started a character in Godfall, which I found was pretty fun. So maybe more of that in the days to come.

Bloodborn, Code Vein, Horizon Zero Dawn & LOTRO have all fallen by the wayside.

Godfall with HUD

Books

I finished the 2nd Expanse Novel, Caliban’s War. I’m still not sure who Caliban is. I enjoyed it, but with the same caveat as book 1: the TV show is such an authentic recreation of the books that this all feels really familiar given it hasn’t been very long since I watched the show. Characters look different in the books, and yeah there’s a lot of details that are different, but the big picture feels very familiar. This didn’t prevent me from rolling right into book 3, Abaddon’s Gate, though. [To put Caliban’s War in context for TV show viewers, this is the book where Avasarala, Bobbie and Prax are introduced…hopefully that’s not much of a spoiler.]

TV

I dunno. Nothing that feels exciting to write about. As a family we’re keeping up with Moon Knight, Picard and Halo, as well as rewatching Upload (which I find both hilarious and depressing…the latter because it all seems so plausible). Oh and trying to get through season 2 of Raised by Wolves, a show we watch mostly to see how much more weird it can get. I’m not sure either of us really cares about the story or the characters any more. Oh and we’re still wading through Star Trek: Deep Space 9 at lunch.

For my solo viewing, I bit off another chunk of The Sopranos. I’m not sure why I am forcing myself to plow through it. Everyone made such a fuss about it back in the day that I keep thinking “It has to get really great!” but I think I’m in season 4 and it is still mostly just “OK.” When I burned out on The Sopranos I bounced around a bit before landing on All Creatures Great & Small which I’m finding very soothing. It’s a PBS Masterpiece show. Also been watching random documentary-ish shows from The Smithsonian Channel and PBS.

And that’s April. We’re 2/3rds of the way to the summer equinox. We’re halfway to Halloween! One third of the way to Christmas. I’m bracing myself for the long, hot, humid, miserable summer weather and am already looking forward to when it gets cool in November.

March 2022

I guess the fact that the post before this March recap is my February recap tells me it is time to let the blog die the next time it comes up for renewal. I just can’t seem to find the energy to post any more. Mostly I can’t find the energy to wrangle screenshots and images. I could gas on in all-text screeds for hours.

Anyway, onward to recap the glory that was March 2022.

Games

I have notes that tell me I played Horizon Zero Dawn and Bloodborne in March. I don’t really think I did much in Bloodborne. My HZD replay was going strong until it wasn’t. I still poke at it now and then, though I’ve quit my “never fast travel, soak in the world” methodology and am more about “let’s get to the end so we can go back to Horizon Forbidden West.”

The reason I didn’t make much more progress in Bloodborne is because I started in on Code Vein, which is an anime-inspired Souls-Like from Bandai Namco. I’ve made decent progress in it, but there’s a section called the Cathedral of Blood that is SUCH a maze that it has put me off the game a bit. Every so often I log in and try to find my way through this maze. The plus side is I’m leveling up like crazy which is making the game easier and easier. The negative side is, I’m getting bored running around the same area endlessly. Still, Code Vein is still in frequent rotation and it is probably the game I played the most this month.

More recently the MMO bug bit me. Belghast’s Guild Wars 2 shenanigans convinced me to patch up Guild Wars 2 and give it another go. Like Bel this is a game I’ve bounced off many times. But what the heck, right? I already own it…may as well give it yet another chance.

And that was going well until a random YouTube video put me in a Lord of the Rings frame of mind, which led me to patch up and start playing Lord of the Rings Online again. Not too long ago I started a new character, a female elf champion, and I’m liking her a lot. I realized after a bit that a big chunk of my issue with LOTRO is that the male character models just look too goofy. My elf looks so much better than any of the boys.

I mean, who would you rather play?
Female LOTRO characterMale LOTRO character

For a game as old as it is, LOTRO still has quite an active community. This shot was taken on a Wednesday night and crowds like this are not at all rare.
Screenshot of a crowd of players outside the Prancing Pony

My only real complaint about LOTRO is it can still be pretty janky at times, just in terms of lag pockets and such. I miss a lot in combat because the mob and I have clipped through each other and now I’m not longer facing them. But I don’t think you play LOTRO for the combat; you play it for the environment, which is still really enjoyable to me.

Guild Wars 2 obviously doesn’t have quite the lore-draw that LOTRO has, but I find the combat really fun thanks to trying out the Revenant class. It’s one of the few MMOs I can recall where I go out of my way to get into fights because they’re so enjoyable.

One thing both LOTRO and Guild Wars 2 seem to have in common is a mature community. In both games I’m comfortable leaving general chat open and I see a lot of theme-appropriate names and very few of those sorts of names that just make you cringe and want to report someone. Me being me, I never talk to anyone, but both games feel like being a newcomer in a local watering hole. Not ready to chat with the other customers, but happy to sit and kind of listen in on all the news and such.

I don’t have any big gaming plans for April. Just going to continue with what I’ve been doing. There’re no games coming out this month that I’m particularly interested in so I’ll just keep playing what I’ve already got.

Books

Just one book to report this month: Leviathan Wakes, which is the first of The Expanse novels. I’ve read it before, and of course I’ve watched the TV series a few times. I think this is causing me to read more slowly since it all feels pretty familiar. Plenty of nights I’ve gone to bed and just gone to sleep rather than do any reading.

TV

TV has been all over the place. @partpurple and I watched Raising Dion (Netflix), caught up on Star Trek Discovery (Paramount+), then bounced over to Archive 81 (Netflix) which was a fun creepy diversion before heading back to sci-fi with Star Trek Picard (Paramount+).

For my late-night solo viewing, I was watching The Sopranos for a while but drifted away and finished up 1883 (Paramount+) which I thought was fantastic. After that I went back to the Snowpiercer series, which I’m currently watching. I’d seen Season 1 before, but rewatched it, watched season 2 and now I’m in season 3 which so far feels like it might not be quite as good as the first two seasons. I did NOT like the Snowpiercer movie but the TV series I’m really enjoying, although you have to just roll with the kind of ludicrous overall premise of the last of humanity living on a train that can never stop moving. Well at least not until the plot calls for it to have to stop. Also in season 3 a lot of train track just starts mysteriously appearing to serve the plot. Oh well.

I have to say March kind of flew by in terms of leisure activities. Too many evenings spent working, I guess. We’ve been having dinner later and later and I sometimes tend to keep puttering around with work stuff until dinner no matter when that is. Gotta break that habit. By the time we eat and watch some TV together it is often nearly 10 PM so my gaming time is down to maybe an hour/night. Thing is, I feel kind of OK with that. Gaming in general isn’t the great pleasure it used to be. I go through these slumps from time to time where I just kind of need a break, then I get excited about games again. Hopefully this slump won’t last too long! Sad thing is gaming is really my only hobby and when I’m not doing it I’m just wasting time on YouTube or something.

February 2022

Another month ends and we say goodbye to what is laughingly referred to as winter here in North Carolina. I spotted an 80F day in the 10-day forecast. (Of course it’ll probably snow that day…in my next life I’m going to be a weatherperson so I can be wrong most of the time and get away with it.)

Games

The big take-away this month is an old lesson re-learned. Don’t pre-order games. I pre-ordered three this month and the results were not good:

Horizon Forbidden West — Nothing at all wrong with this game but starting to play it just made me want to go back and re-play Horizon Zero Dawn, which is what I’ve been doing lately. I probably could’ve just done that and picked up HFW later. Still it’s such a great series I don’t have any regrets about this pre-order.

Elden Ring — I pre-ordered the Xbox version of this and it flat-out did not work. There was some glitch in the update progress where I (and many others) had a version installed that would not connect to the networks, and there was no way to ‘force’ a refresh. On top of this, there are many reports about poor performance. The good news here is that Microsoft gave me a refund with no fuss at all. I’ll come back to this at some point in future when the kinks are worked out.

Dying Light 2 — This one I pre-ordered on the PS5 and it was so janky that I set it aside. No refund available. This was just money poured down the drain, though I’m sure eventually it’ll get patched and I’ll give it another go.

Those were the three games I had INTENDED to be playing.

What I actually wound up playing is, as mentioned, Horizon Zero Dawn. I have the Platinum trophy for this, earned 5 years ago, and re-playing it without hunting for trophies has been incredibly fun and relaxing. I am in no rush to finish, but I’m glad Forbidden West is waiting in the wings.

Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Hold was a Playstation+ freebie and I wanted to check it out to see if I’d be interested in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which I believe is out in March. I really did enjoy my time with this one and intend to go back to finish it at some point.

Dying Light 2 was not ready for prime time, though when it worked well it was pretty fun. Looking forward to playing this one when it is done. Still salty about paying $60 to beta test it, though.

Scarlet Nexus was a bounce-off. I really expected to like this game but ultimately I just never got in the groove, and the story wasn’t interesting enough to hold me in that world when I wasn’t enjoying the minute-to-minute gameplay. Don’t expect I’ll ever finish this.

Bloodborne is back in rotation now that Elden Ring is out. I haven’t been playing it much, just trying to keep the muscle memory alive until such time as I’m ready to dive back in ‘for real’.

Babylon’s Fall is coming soon and there was a demo available on the Playstation. I tried it and found it quite lacking. This is a game I might try when it’s in the “Games under $15” section of the store.

Lost Ark is a PC game that a lot of my friends are excited about. I tried it, uninstalled it, read more hype from friends, re-installed it, and I guess technically I’m playing it. I poke at it while I have my morning coffee on weekends. It seems… fine. I really don’t understand the excitement over it, but it’s free-to-play so maybe I’ll keep poking it.

Books

Well book, singular, actually. I finished Bernard Cornwell’s War Lord, the last book in his Saxon Stories series. At least the last so far, but Uhtred is so old in it that I’m not sure how Cornwell could squeeze in any more unless he goes back and fleshes out some periods earlier in our hero’s life. I have to say, it’s been a while since I read something this long (there are 13 novels in the series) without getting tired of it.

Having finished that, though, I’ve kind of taken my foot off the gas as far as reading goes. Gotta get back to it!

TV

So much TV!

With The Expanse finished airing, we went back and re-watched Season 5 & watched Season 6. I’m now ready for someone to pick up the rights and keep making this show. I was honestly not as enthusiastic about Season 5 as I was about Seasons 1-4 just because the gang was no longer together, but season 6 pulled me back in.

We’ve also started a re-watch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine though honestly we’ve both been a little lukewarm about it so far. We’ll see if it gets better after season 1. I remember not being a huge fan back when it aired but I was hoping that a re-watch would change my opinion.

Currently we’re rewatching Season 1 of Raising Dion before watching the new second season. This is the story of a single mom raising a son who has super-powers, which sounds like the setup for a comedy but it isn’t: it’s a drama (tho of course some funny things happen now and then).

My late-night, “watch the stuff @partpurple doesn’t want to watch” selection this month has been The Sopranos; my first viewing. I just started season three, if memory serves. So far it’s been OK but I’m not sure why folks made such a fuss about it back in the day.

Ascendance of a Book Worm is an anime about a young woman who dies and is resurrected in the body of a small girl in a fantasy world. She quickly learns to her horror that there are almost no books in this world so she sets out to ‘invent’ paper making and printing. It was a pretty sweet story; I hope there are more seasons coming.

Wrap Up and plans for March

So that was February. In terms of gaming I don’t have much planned for March. Keep playing Horizon until it isn’t fun and then…who knows?

In books I’ve started a re-read of Leviathan Wakes, which is the first Expanse novel.

And I have 4(?) more seasons of The Sopranos to get through, which will probably take all month. I’m not sure where @partpurple and I will go after Raising Dion. We still need to get back to Star Trek Discovery so we’ll probably do that. I dunno, can’t make plans without consulting with her.

Hope everyone had a nice February and here’s to March going out like a lamb. Preferably not a 90F lamb!

January 2022

I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers do some kind of “end of the month recap/plans for next month” posts. They seem like a good idea, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves “What was I doing last year at this time?”

So I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon, but I didn’t take any notes along the way and I have the memory of a dust bunny so to some extent I’m winging it this month. But let’s see what we can see.

Games

I spent the first two thirds of the month just kind of flailing around. Part of this was my new resolution to try not to hyper-focus on any one game since that was kind of getting in the way of having fun. Part of it was that nothing was latching on to me.

Then I caught the Bloodborne bug and I’ve been playing that obsessively for the past ten days or so. At this point in my current playthrough I believe I’ve beaten 8 bosses, about half of which were optional. At least 6, and maybe 7, were first time kills for me. Next up is Rom the Vacuous Spider, for those of you who are Bloodborne savvy.

I’m not sure I’m going to tackle Rom as I may have hit my saturation point for Bloodborne finally. We’ll see.

Other games I dabbled in this month: Elder Scrolls Online, Death Stranding, Nobody Saves The World, Kingdom of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, and Persona 5. I made SOME progress in Death Stranding and Amalur but played the rest very lightly indeed.

TV

Earlier in the month I was on a Western kick. I re-watched all of Yellowstone and dove into the 1883 spin-off, though when it skipped a few weeks I drifted away. I was also watching old Westerns from the 50s, 60s & 70s.

Then I jumped over to HBO for Mare of Easttown and now I’m working through The Sopranos, which I’ve somehow never seen. Still in Season 1 of that.

Family viewing has been Lost in Space (the reboot) and now we’re re-watching Season 5 of The Expanse before we roll into Season 6 (with The Expanse we’ve always waited for a full season to be available so we can binge, and we always rewatch at least the previous season to refresh our memories). We also finished our re-watch of all seasons of Star Trek The Next Generation.

Books

Another month of Uhtred. In January I finished War of the Wolf and Sword of Kings, books 11 & 12 of Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series. If you’re unfamiliar with these books, the TV series The Last Kingdom is based on it. The TV series only covers the first few books.

At this point. Uhtred is an old man who is dealing with the grandchildren of the people who were giving him a hard time when he was young. While the books do tend to get somewhat repetitive I’ve enjoyed just watching people enter and exit his life. Some random kid he rescues in one book might be one of his most trustworthy companions 5 or 6 books later.

On to the FUTURE!

February 2022

Games

February is going to be packed. On the 1st, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep: A Wonderlands One-shot Adventure hits Playstation Plus so I’m going to check that out in order to measure my interest in the full-length game coming later in the spring.

On Friday, February 4th, Dying Light 2 launches. I have it pre-ordered and will be playing on the Playstation

Two weeks later, on the 18th, Horizon Forbidden West launches. That will probably be a “drop everything and pay attention to me” titles, as Horizon Forbidden Dawn is in my top-3 all time favorite games. (Along with the first Red Dead Redemption and…I dunno what #3 would be, maybe HZD is in my top-2 favorite games.). Obviously I’ll be playing this on Playstation since it is an exclusive.

Then just a week later, Elden Ring comes out. I wasn’t very interested in this until I had my Bloodborne revelation. Then I got so excited I pre-ordered it, though I probably won’t be playing at launch because of Forbidden West. Though you never know, do you? Elden Ring I will be playing on Xbox.

TV

The Sopranos will probably get me through the month for my ‘me time’ viewing.

Family viewing, after The Expanse we’ll probably go back and finish up some left over stuff, like Book of Boba Fett, Star Trek Discovery and who knows what else.

Oh! One new thing we want to watch is Kristen Bell in The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window which is a mystery-parody. We’ll watch anything the Bell is in, having been big fans all the way back to Veronica Mars.

I haven’t seen much buzz around this one, so here’s a trailer:

Books

I’m going to finish up book 13 of The Saxon Stories then…I’m not sure. I’ve been reading these books for over a year now. Having to make a decision on what to read next just feels very foreign. Maybe I’ll finally read the books that The Expanse is based on. I think I’ve only read the first one… Leviathan Wakes.

So that’s that. Recap of January, some loose plans for February. Maybe in February I’ll start remembering to take screenshots so I don’t have to keep re-using the same couple at the top of my posts.

Comics are Confusing

I’ve been on a big superhero kick lately. @partpurple and I recently re-watched all the MCU movies. We watched WandaVision (loved it), Falcon and Winter Soldier (liked it), Loki (meh) and currently What If…? (loving it). We watched all seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. We watched and enjoyed all the Netflix Marvel shows.

And still I wanted more. But from where? Then it hit me. There’s a thing called a comic book. I should look into those!

Goofiness aside, I’ve never really been into comics. When I was a kid I’d read them now and then, but it was hard because 1) we didn’t have comic shops, we got our comics from the drugstore; 2) I was limited to visiting the drug store when my mom needed to go and she felt like dragging me along; 3) and I had no money so I had to beg her to buy me an issue or two.

End result was I’d read some narrow slice of a story, whatever was crammed into the pages of a single issue. What I remember most about comics from when I was a kid was Stan’s Soapbox (in Marvel titles, obviously). Stan Lee was the first adult I can remember who didn’t talk down to me. Of course today I realize he wasn’t writing Stan’s Soapbox for 8-year-old me but for a varied audience, most of whom were older. But I had no idea. To me Stan was writing directly to ME and he wasn’t patronizing me. Not that I knew what “patronizing” meant at the time. To this day I kind of think of Stan as a father-figure of sorts.

All of which leads me to the point. I subscribed to Marvel Unlimited [MU] to take another whack at getting into comics. And boy am I ever confused. (Full disclosure, title of the post should be Marvel Comics Are Confusing but I was going for the alliteration thing that Marvel seems so fond of.) I’m not complaining though, it’s really fun trying to sort this stuff out.

MU promises over 29,000 issues. So where to start? Well I like Spiderman, let’s look for Spiderman… I used to watch Spiderman cartoons when I was a kid, and I’ve seen the movies and played the games. Let’s just read Spiderman. OH MEM GEEE there are SO MANY Spiderman comics! Dozens. Maybe hundreds. Where do I start? It’s just overwhelming.

Page from West Coast Avengers as displayed on my phone. Source: Marvel Unlimited
OK OK let’s back slowly away from Spiderman. MU offers a “Get started” section for folks like me who are new to comics. First on the list was The Eternals which is currently running, I think. I read like 5 issues before it stopped which is why I think it is still running. The Eternals was not for me. It was just too high concept. Earth is a machine and the comic is narrated by it, Eternals hangouts are, y’know, hidden between 3 molecules of a day old pastry or something. No offense to folks who love this shit but I want something closer to street level here.

Next was Wanda and Vision. Ok here’re a couple of characters I enjoy. These books are from the mid-1980s. I read issue 1, it’s OK. Read issue 2 and then I see in the footnotes that the story they’re telling concludes in something called West Coast Avengers, a different series. So I go looking for that, where I find Hawkeye (who I know from the movies) and Bobbie Hunter/Mockingbird (who I know from Agents of Shield) and they’re married. Whaaat? And of course the character designs are very different. But OK let’s roll with that. So now I’m sorta juggling two books.

And they’re enjoyable enough, but my vague feelings of OCD really wants to find a character, read their original origin story and follow them through the decades to the here and now. I feel like there is this incredibly complex web of character storylines and I’m just skimming the surface. So far everything I’ve sampled (more than I’ve listed) leaves me feeling like I need to back up a little and figure out what came before to set up what I’m reading.

I’ll figure it out, eventually. I mean I’m digging it. Digging it enough that I went ahead and signed up for an annual subscription. But I’m not a very patient person and when I get into a new interest I want to be an expert as soon as possible. And as nutty as it sounds I kind of wish I could sort the books by publish date and start back in 1963 or whenever the earliest books on the service are.

In terms of the mechanics of reading, I’ve mostly been doing it on my iPad using the ‘smart panel’ system that zooms in on each panel/section of a page as you read. It works pretty well though at times I need to toggle it off and on. I have it set to show the whole page, then as I tap it advances panel by panel, then shows the whole page again to reinforce context, then on to the next page.

I have the app on my phone too (shown above, right side of the page) which is OK but it’s a little small for my tired eyes (that image is larger that actual size on my Pixel 3). Smart Panel works there too but not quite as well since panels vary in size and shape. Some fit fine with the phone held in portrait mode, others work better with the phone in landscape mode. I keep turning the phone back and forth. It works in a pinch but for me the tablet version is far superior. Progress does sync between the two, which is nice.

Anyway, if anyone wants to suggest a specific series title that they enjoy, please do so! I need help!

And Now, a Respite

Blaugust came and I started blogging again. I did daily posts for the month of August but when Blaugust stopped I kept going, right up until today.

And I’m tired. It’s time to take a break and recharge. I have been doing daily posts because an object in motion tends to stay in motion whether it is having fun or not. I had sort of hoped I’d form the habit of daily posts and I’d enjoy writing them, but that hasn’t happened. It still feels like a chore to blog every day.

Additionally, I need to work on self-improvement in terms of technical skills. In order to find time to do that I have to either give up the daily blog post, or give up gaming, or give up spending time with the family. Only so many hours in the day. Obviously not going to set family aside, and gaming is my primary form of relaxation and one of the things that keeps me sane. Plus I mostly blog about gaming so if I stop gaming I wouldn’t have anything to blog about anyway!! 🙂

So, taking a break. Hopefully it won’t stretch out to a year-long break! I just kind of feel like now I’m in the habit of daily posts and I need to break that habit. Once the ‘streak’ is broken I hope I’ll feel less pressure. We’ll see.

I can’t honestly say for sure if blogging is still for me. I’m not really happy with the quality or the content of my posts. A few of them were OK but most just read like filler to me. I don’t feel like 5 weeks(ish) of daily blogging is making me a better writer; I kind of think the quality of my posts has dropped, if anything. Yesterday I find a post in my drafts about my dog and after reading it, it didn’t really seem any worse than posts I wrote and re-wrote and tweaked. (So I published it, what the hell.)

Anyway I need to step back, think about things and decide what my next steps are. I may be back day after tomorrow and this may turn out to be the last post before the site shuts down. I’m just not really sure yet. But that’s what the break is for…to figure things out.

I definitely WILL keep reading other blogs though. That is a habit I’ve developed and that I definitely AM taking a lot of joy from. So the rest of you….please keep writing!

Until next we meet, be excellent to each other.