Game Pass: Homestead Arcana

Continuing my run of negativity… the next recent Game Pass title I tried was Homestead Arcana.

What I expected: A farming game where your farm is surrounded by something called miasma. When not tending crops you’ll venture into the miasma, fight enemies in there and gather materials. You’ll eventually push back the miasma to extend the amount of farming land you have.

What I got was close but the differences were significant enough to disappoint. Plus…bugs.

Homestead Arcana is a crafting/exploration game with some light farming aspects. Your Homestead is surrounded by miasma and you will venture into it, but you don’t fight the monsters that call the miasma home. Instead you try to avoid them and failing that, you run from them. There are traps to be avoided too. You do gather materials in there and  you do push back the miasma but it is not an ‘organic’ process. Instead you find pre-determined places where you have to dump a crafted item which then opens up some new terrain to explore.

Homestead Arcana made a bad first impression on me as I couldn’t create a custom character that I was happy with. Then I found the interface was pretty clunky at times, and the art style wasn’t my cup of tea. Not saying it is bad (the art style I mean), but just not a personal favorite. There’s a tutorial of sorts but it is pretty vague. One of the first things you have to do is plant a stalk of corn. It must be planted in the garden. Where is the garden, though? It turned out to be the one place you WOULD NOT plant corn in real life: in the dirt right near the trunk of a giant tree. I know it’s just a game and all, and I wouldn’t have minded if the tutorial said “Plant the corn in the garden” and then the garden area was highlighted or something, but it wasn’t, and the ‘correct’ spot was literally the last placed I tried since it made no sense.

I was convinced this was the garden based on all the other gardening games I’d played. I assumed I’d be clearing this debris out to prepare the field and such:

This is NOT the garden. I’m not sure what this is, to be honest

Instead, this is the garden. By the way if this is gardening than I’m a gardener based on the fact I have a pepper plant in a pot on my balcony:

The actual garden because growing veggies in the shade of a giant tree makes perfect sense

So your garden consists of individual plants that you tend. It’s a unique system and probably the thing I found most interesting about the game. You can do the basic stuff like water or fertilize plants, but you can also do things like trim branches or even train them to grow in specific directions. You can also ‘channel’ mana into them to get them to grow faster and you probably will need to do that since you have so few plants and need so many crops.

This is the gardening UI. You can do some interesting things to the plants you grow

At the same time, having to harvest each ear of corn or each tomato individually loses its appeal pretty quickly.

If you use channeling too often on a plant you’ll damage it. The game does warn you about this, but not in specific terms (if the mana you gather turns purple you’re about to damage the plant). I learned this lesson on my only cotton plant. Damaged plants are supposed to recover on their own but I have no idea how long it takes. There’s also a potion that you can make to cure them. I made one but couldn’t use it on my damaged plant; this appears to be a bug since I’m not the only one struggling with the issue. If I can’t find another cotton plant or recover from this bug, my save is basically ruined.

I was considering restarting, but then I went a little deeper into the miasma and had an experience that just turned me off the game: encountering critters. These little mouse-like creatures live in holes in the ground and if you get too near one, they’ll jump out and chase you. If they catch you they kill you pretty quick. I found this more frustrating than anything, having to run away from a mouse.

There’s a potion you can drink to let you see how close you can get to their holes without triggering them but it lasts a very short time so you need a ton of them. Which means growing (in the case of this potion) a lot of corn, ear by ear.

Once you grow the corn you have to craft the potions, and that takes time. All crafting takes time. Generally not a lot, but long enough to make me impatient while I wait for the timer to count down. You also need to eat, and you are eating the same produce you’re crafting potions from. Maybe later in the game you get tools to automate some of this but I’m not going to stick around long enough to find out.

While I seethed over the killer mouse experience and hoped for my blighted cotton bug to resolve itself, I did some ‘side quests’ for the folks back home. There’re a ton of these, mainly around crafting something. You get these quests via letters…so many letters arrive. You craft what is requested and send it via UPS (or the game’s equivalent) and a couple days later you’ll get some currency and plans for (cosmetic, as far as I can tell) clothing items. At least that’s what I’ve gotten so far.

So yeah, this one is not for me. Even without the game-breaking bug I wasn’t enjoying it very much but I’m CERTAINLY not going to restart. But maybe I’m just a crank. What does the rest of the world think? Well there’s not a lot of buzz about it. It has Mixed reviews on Steam based on only 31 reviews. On the Xbox it has about 2.5/5 stars based on 137 reviews. So maybe it’s not just me.

Game Pass: Ravenlok quick look

I decided to try something really crazy. Instead of waiting for games on Game Pass to be “Leaving Soon” maybe I’d try them when they first hit the service. My goodness sometimes I impress myself with this kind of out of the box thinking!

So this morning I devoted a couple of hours to Ravenlok, which is an action-adventure game that seems to be targeted at kids or folks who just want to chill and not be challenged very much. You play as little girl who has just moved to the country with her family. First order of business is helping mom and dad with the move-in. Everything seems so ordinary until you find a magic mirror that sucks you into a Lewis Carroll inspired fantasy world. You’re immediately declared as being Ravenlok, the savior of the world. Then you’re put to work. You just go along with it.

Ravenlok’s job is to run around and talk to vaguely creepy looking creatures to get a ton of seemingly random quests almost all of which are fetch quests or “kill ten rats” type combat quests. You’ll spend most of your time roaming around looking for 4 of these or 6 of those in order to complete a quest. There is no map which can lead to a decent amount of back-tracking as you search for that last Macguffin.

One of the creepy “firendly” creatures who’ll give you a task to do.

Combat is pretty button-mashy and not very difficult. The biggest challenge you’ll face is the camera. Ravenlok has a kind of a 50%-3D world. What I mean is you can’t move towards the screen but you can move back into the screen. The trouble is that the camera only moves about 180 degrees. The net effect is that if you go too ‘deep’ into a scene during combat, enemies will end up ‘behind’ the camera and you can’t spin it around enough to see them.

This would be a game-crippling flaw if the combat wasn’t super easy to begin with.

I keep thinking this is meant for kids but then I have to kill things and drag their body parts back to a quest giver

I have to say, I didn’t like Ravenlok very much but I don’t think I’m the intended audience. It’d probably be a great game for a parent to play with a child, or just for a child to play on their own. Oh and if you need some Achievements you’ll get a bunch; in the hour or two I played I unlocked 13.

Other folks say the game is only 4 or 5 hours long, so it’s not a huge commitment. I’m not sure if I’ll go back. I was searching for 9 of something and had found 6 and was getting really tired of roaming around searching for the last 3 since it was about the 10th time I’d had to roam around searching for stuff. Basically I just found it all kind of boring.

Worth noting that on the Xbox it’s got an average of 4 out of 5 stars, though the PC version doesn’t fare as well. Opencritic has it at a 68/100 rating. If you’re not on Game Pass and want to give it a try on PC, you’ll have to go to the Epic Store or the Windows Store. It doesn’t seem to be on Steam, at least not yet.

Game Pass: Check out Before We Leave before it leaves

Once again I’ve been caught in the Xbox Game Pass “Leaving Soon” vortex. I saw a new batch of games (just a few this month) were leaving and one of them was Before We Leave, which at some point I’d heard enough about that I wanted to give it a try while it was still free.

Before We Leave is a city builder, I guess? I can’t keep my genres straight these days. We used to call these 4X games though one of the Xs was for eXterminate and I don’t think there is any combat in Before We Leave. At least not in the early game.

Let me back up. So the premise is that some unspecified disaster forced the population of this planet underground. Now decades or generations later, they’re ready to emerge, with your help. So you build them houses, you build them farms, you place a woodcutter to gather wood. Build a library to research new technologies. Very familiar stuff.

Couple things set it apart. The world is hex-based and you start on a fairly small island. Everything you build has to be connected together by roads, and a road takes up an entire hex. You have to really put some thought into where you build your roads as you can block yourself off from resources pretty easily. So that’s somewhat unique. And since your island is small one of your first goals is to build a ship to set off in search of a 2nd island and when you do, start a colony on it. You’ll almost certainly need to ship goods to your new colony to help them get started, so trade routes are a big deal.

Bad Road Layout
Here I’ve really botched things up with my road building. So much wasted space. Live and learn!

Riffing off this trading requirement, Research comes in several colors. (Why? No idea!) Each island seems to produce research of a single color, but some technologies require specific quantities of research of specific colors, meaning you’ll definitely have to ship research points between islands to get a Library stocked with enough of the right types of research to discover new tech. I find this interesting because it forces you to keep your colonies connected on some level rather than just building a bunch of self-sustaining colonies.

As I said, I haven’t played for very long but since it is “Leaving Soon” (in 10 days as of the time of this writing) I wanted to get this out asap. It’s on Game Pass both for Xbox and PC. It’s also available on Steam for $20 and has a “Mostly Positive” ratings with a bit over 1000 reviews. (The Steam version came out in 2021.)

Sending potatoes, wood, tools and research to our new colony, which has nothing to send back to us yet.

The thing that really hooked me is that the console UI is actually decent. So often strategy games feel pretty clunky on console, and to be sure there are a few rough spots in Before We Leave’s console UI, but it is definitely better than most strategy games I’ve tried.

The devs refer to this as a cozy game. What makes it cozy? I have no idea. Maybe that your new colony survives on the bones of its dead ancestors? (You ‘mine’ rock and iron from mostly-destroyed skyscrapers and such.) Or that fact that some of your buildings generate pollution that can adversely affect your people? Do these facets make it cozy? Really I’m baffled as to why they call this a cozy game, but based on my couple hours of play, it is a good game.

Definitely worth a try if you’re a Game Pass subscriber and you read this in the next ten days!


VR “Workouts”

So now I’m into VR again.

I’m honestly not sure how it happened. But something got a bug up my [redacted] and I updated the Quest 2 and controllers, cleared a space in the living room and fired up, what else? Beat Saber. And had fun!

And I discovered the Meta Move app, which is like a fitness tracker. I set calories burnt and ‘minutes moving’ goals and off I went.

The games I play would probably not count as a workout for a marginally fit middle-aged person, but for my old self who spends most of his time at a keyboard, I’m able to work up a decent sweat playing.

The only two games I’ve been playing are Beat Saber (which is all about cutting blocks to a beat using totally not light sabers because copyright) and The Climb, which is about mountain climbing. I don’t get why The Climb feels like exercise. You pull yourself up a rock face by your hands, but of course you’re just standing there. You’re not really carrying weight UP anywhere. And yet I get tired. Maybe just because of all the time waving my hands around over my head? But hey, it’s fun and gets my heart pumping….I’m not going to question it.

There’s a table tennis game I want to add into the rotation but since I just bought The Climb I’m waiting a bit and hoping for a sale.

After just a couple of days, the process of clearing space and getting the visor on has become routine. I’m really glad I sprang for prescription lenses for the headset as not having to fit it over glasses helps with ease of use.

I dunno if I’ll stick with it, but for now it is working and I actually tend to feel pretty good after playing. I’ve never bought into the, y’know ‘endorphins’ effect of exercise. Every time in the past I’ve decided to exercise I was left feeling like crap after. But this must be hitting the sweet spot because it is improving my mood and, dare I say it? My energy levels.

So who knows? Maybe I’ll stick with it for a while.

No screenshots cuz VR. Sorry!

April 2023

I generally write these recaps as a kind of running journal throughout the course of the month, then just hit publish on the last day. This month I haven’t been doing that. This sentence is being written on the 23rd, so while I do still have a week to work on the post, I’ve mostly forgotten what I did in the first couple of weeks.

Like almost every other thing I’ve ever done on a predictable schedule, the recaps went from fun to routine to a chore, so might be time to sunset them. On the other hand I DID just renew the blog’s hosting plan for 2 more years, though I’m feeling a bit of regret about that. So if I don’t do the recaps, what will I do other than let the blog lay fallow? I guess we’ll see. For now though…

Last Month’s Games

I finally got free of Genshin Impact. When the new battle pass started, I made a conscious decision to NOT go after points for it so that I wouldn’t get sucked into that cycle of doing tasks to earn points rather than because I wanted to do them. And when my $5/monthly sub ended I didn’t renew it so I don’t have the incentive to do my daily log in for free Primogems. Now I play it when I want to play it which hasn’t been too often. I still like the game, just need a change of pace for a bit.

Almost nothing else from last month remains. I did boot up Pillars of Eternity once or twice for a grand total of maybe 2 hours played all month, and I continued to play Age of Empires IV for the first week or so, but it too has been set aside.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns is in danger of being forgotten amidst a ton of new shiny things that have distracted me, but I’m not ready to write it off yet.

New This Month

Golf games (2K, EA, Everyone’s Golf) — Early this month I got on a golf kick, trying ‘realistic’ games from 2K and EA, and Everyone’s Golf on Playstation, which is more cartoony and uses the old 3-click system. 3-4 days was enough of golf, though, partly because I couldn’t decide which variety I wanted to play. Choice paralysis set in and I moved on.

Everybody’s Golf goes with a fun, cartoony style. My avatar is apparently an elf.

Meet Your MakerWrote a post about this one, played for a couple more evenings then uninstalled. I just need some kind of narrative hook to keep me playing a game (even if that hook is only happening in my ‘internal roleplaying’) and Meet Your Maker doesn’t have one. Don’t expect to be going back to this one any time soon, but I do still think it’s an innovative game and I hope it enjoys a lot of success.

Ghostwire Tokyo hit Xbox Game Pass and I enjoyed it for a few nights before drifting away. I quite liked it but I’m just struggling to stay focused on anything these days. It’s nicely creepy but somehow doesn’t feel like horror, which is a good thing for me because I’m not really into horror or being scared. Real life is scary enough. Being creeped out, though? That I can do. Somehow fighting headless school girls comes across as creepy rather than scary.

Ghostwire Tokyo teaches you a surprising amount about Japanese food, and y’know I find myself making a point of reading all these!
Combat always feels a little sloppy and a little too chaotic for my tastes, but the lore and setting is pretty interesting

No Man’s Sky & Star Trek Online are both games I’ve started SO many times and never gotten far. Now I’ve started them both again and… surprise! I haven’t gotten very far. For No Man’s Sky it was because I opted to play it on PS5 and for some reason couldn’t access my PS4 saves. I probably had to convert them or something but opted to start fresh. In Star Trek Online I was DETERMINED not to start over but then there was an event where if you started a new character you could earn account-wide awards so of course I had to do that. Thus a Vulcan Science Officer was born.

I bet most of my crew looks familiar to anyone who has ever played, as does the newbie ship in the background

Honkai: Star Rail is like Genshin Impact, only in space and with turn-based combat. It’s out on PC and mobile and is supposed to come to Playstation soon. I’m dabbling in it but doubt I’ll play it seriously until it hits the PS5.

First mini-boss fight. Took me a couple tries to beat it

This isn’t everything but it’s all I can remember and I haven’t played anything enough to have much to say about any of it. I’m cautiously optimistic about Redfall, but that’s not out until next week. Sad that it is capped at 30FPS on Xbox but I can live with it.


Picard Season 3 was gosh darned amazing. We just loved it. And cry? Yes, we cried… a lot.

The Mandalorian was pretty good, too.

The Walking Dead is a show we watched for like 10.5 seasons as it was airing before finally losing track of it. It’s finally hit Netflix so we decided to watch the last season and a half just so we can say we did it. That show got SO damned repetitive. We’re sorta glad we finished but I can’t see myself ever re-watching it.

School Spirits is basically an 8 episode mystery. It’s about a girl who was killed and is now a ghost, destined to haunt her high school. She can’t remember who killed her though. Show does a great job of leading you from suspect to suspect. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would even though I thought the protagonist was pretty horrible to everyone around her. It’s on Paramount+ and seems to have a modest budget, so even though many of the characters are ghosts there aren’t any special effects or anything which, it turns out, is absolutely fine. A good mystery trumps good CGI, I guess. My only real gripe was (of course) the ending which did present us with the solution to the mystery but in doing so opened some pretty big plot holes, AND then revealed kind of another level of mystery which, presumably, will be explored if they get a season 2. Overall I would’ve been happier with a tidy ending and a single season show, I think.

Also been watching a lot of Major League Soccer and English Premiere League football.


Finished Babylon’s Ashes and started Persepolis Rising. Yup, still doing The Expanse thing. Still enjoying them though, spoiler, there is a 30 year jump between the two which made me a little sad.

Sorry this month’s recap isn’t very interesting to read. It’s really mostly just a record for my own use if for some reason I ever want to remember what I was playing this month.

Not sure what next month will bring. While I like having a record, I feel weirdly embarrassed about starting so many games and not sticking with any of them. If I don’t do recaps I can just play what I feel like playing, whether it’s for 10 minutes or 10 months. But once I put it in a recap and then wind up dropping it by the next month, I feel like I’ve failed.

Might be time to go back to random “Hey I played this last night and it was kinda cool.” posts and leave it at that.

Meet Your Maker First Impressions

When the Internet Hype Machine started talking about Meet Your Maker I didn’t pay much attention. The sense of it I got (based mostly on headlines, I have to admit) was that it was a first person corridor shooter with a level editor included. My days of running through corridors frantically shooting are behind me, for the most part.

But then at launch it came to Playstation Plus Extra, so I figured what the heck, may as well download it and check it out. My first impression was not good. First issue, the aesthetics. Meet Your Maker’s look and feel is all grunge and grotesque. This is 100% personal preference and a lot of developers go with this vibe so it must be popular. Just not with me.

The main gameplay loop is you pick a mission from a war table in your headquarters. (The image at the top of this post is your HQ…seems like a nice place to work, right?) You get transported there and you have to make your way through a base to get a MacGuffin. Early game, at least, you are armed with a kind of crossbow that has 2 bolts (which you have to recover after shooting if you want to keep using the bow), a sword, and a grappling hook. Once you grab the MacGuffin you carry it out of the structure, teleport home and receive materials and various currencies which I’m still trying to figure out. Then you repeat the cycle.

The MacGuffin you are always after: a vial of pure DNA

The hook is that every base you raid has been created by another player. That means some of them are cakewalks and some of them are fiendish. So back to that initial bad impression. Issue #2: It so happened that I died over and over on the first base I went to. These bases are filled with both traps and enemies. Honestly more of the former than the latter in most cases. And it is 1 hit, 1 kill. Die and you restart from the ‘front door’ of the base.

In my case a) I was still learning to deal with the traps and b) the person who built this base had a devious mind. It was difficult enough that I ALMOST rage quit the game, but then I slowed down and started thinking. The bases are not randomized so each time I tried to make it through I learned more about where the traps are. Traps can be disabled by attacking them, either with bow or sword. Many only fire once so you can also trigger them and evade to get rid of them, but destroying them grants you resources.

Eventually I got through and decided that was enough of Meet Your Maker… but maybe after I try one more mission. The second base I hit was easy as pie. I knew how to deal with basic traps, and more importantly I had gotten it through my thick skull that this isn’t a base-rush game. This is a game that rewards patience and every base is more a puzzle than a corridor-shooter. I thought “I know that was going to be my last go, but I have time to try just one more mission…”

And then I was hooked.

Gross creature in a tank. It is the Chimera who orders you around in Meet Your Maker
This is the Chimera. It is your boss. I guess robots (I think you are a robot) can’t be picky when it comes to employers

I have since encountered a few bases that rival that first one, but each time after trying various techniques I finally figure out some game mechanic to deal with the challenge before me.

After running missions for an evening, the next night I had enough resources to try building my own base. The building tools, on console at least, take some time to get comfortable but they work well once you get familiar. Probably easier on a PC. Bases are assigned a maximum point value and everything you add to that base adds to that point value. You have to place a minimum number of defenses for the base to be viable, and there’s a little Harvester robot that walks in and goes to your MacGuffin and comes back out. That robot needs a viable path to its destination (which in turn means players have a viable path to it).

I didn’t have any grand plan and my base, once it was finished, wasn’t much of a challenge but I “Activated” it anyway. By the end of that night 4 players had raided the base (this doesn’t cost you anything). My base had only managed to kill 1 of them. But what is really fun is you can watch a replay of everyone who raids your base. I saw the ways players were avoiding my traps, so I went in and adjusted things. It still isn’t a very dangerous place but the process of watching players beat it, then making changes to try to trip up the next player, is pretty appealing.

The meta game here is built around earning resources to buy new kinds of traps, upgrade your gear, and buy new ‘plots’ for bases (it looks like you can have 100 bases with 10 active at any one time). I’ve barely scratched the surface of this part of the game.

The Build UI on console. The yellow dotted line is the path the Harvester bot will follow to the DNA vial

Overall I like it. The bases, at least the ones I’ve been hitting, are not very big. If there were no traps or enemies you could run through them in just a minute or two, which means you can visit a bunch in an evening (once you successfully raid a base you’re not supposed to ever see that base again).

And I am delighted to have an asymmetrical multiplayer game that, for once, rewards patience and thoughtfulness over bunny-hopping and moving as fast as possible. (Bunny-hopping and going fast may also be a viable technique, for all I know, but going slowly and observing is working well for me.)

I would love to see ‘more stuff’ to play with and I guess the developer is known for supporting their games for a long time (they made Dead By Daylight, too) so I’m hoping we see new tools and options added. I would love a ‘theme’ that is less grunge than what we have now, but until then I’ve come to terms with fighting in the filth against enemies who look like they were vat-grown in some dark lab tucked away in the corner of a fertilizer factory or something.

If you don’t have Playstation Plus Extra, Meet Your Maker is $30 (on Steam anyway) which feels like a pretty fair price.

I’ll end now with my one and only tip. If you see one of these, hit it with your sword:

Image of a tomb in Meet Your Maker
This is not just a grotesque decoration. This is a tomb. Smack it with your sword for some easy loot!

March 2023

Well, March kind of flew by, at least for me. And I’m still here, blogging a bit. Overall things are better with me. Got through that dark patch when exhaustion was really impacting my mental health. I firmly believe ditching social media and in particular stepping away from certain individuals has really helped. I had several ranting paragraphs about my issues with social media, and Mastodon in particular, in the first draft of this recap. It made me angry all over again writing it, though, and probably would’ve made me angry re-reading it at some point in the future. So I nuked it. It isn’t worth rehashing beyond saying I’m much happier without it.

Last Month’s Games

Genshin Impact once again took up a huge chunk of time for the first 3 weeks of the month. I finally got caught up on the “Archon Quests” (main story quests, basically), I completed the Battle Pass with something like 2 weeks to spare, and I hit the 300 hour mark according to the PS5. That all felt like a reason to step back for a bit to free up time to play some other games.

Pillars of Eternity (which I deemed ‘dropped last month, I guess prematurely) and The Witcher 3 are both being kept warm. I jump into both games maybe once a week just so I don’t forget how to play/where I am in them. I’m not ready to give up on either game yet!

Persona 3 Portable, however, does seem to be dropped.

New This Month

Outriders isn’t really new; I played it a good bit when it came out. I never liked it very much, but I came back to it mostly because I was nearing an Achievement and I needed an Achievement for a Microsoft Rewards quest. I was close enough to the end of the campaign that I decided to keep going so I could finish, delete and get the 100 gb or so of drive space back. The actual gameplay of Outriders is OK, but the aesthetics and the story are not my cup of tea. Like everyone else I guessed the ‘mystery’ within about the first 10 minutes of playing. I didn’t like the script, I didn’t like the voice acting, I didn’t like the character models, I didn’t like the character animations, I didn’t like the look of the gear you earned. But the combat was OK if you’re not a ‘hang back and pick ’em off one by one’ kind of player. Just out of curiosity after finishing the campaign and a couple of side quests (wanted to get to level 30 for another Achievement), I looked at the Worldslayer DLC. It is $40!! Oh hell no. $40 seems pretty expensive at launch, but this long afterwards that it is still $40 made this one an easy “delete and move on”.

The Settlers see blog post. I’m not sure I ever played again after writing that post. I went through a ton of tutorials and by the time I was done I was ready to move on! LOL It’s still just a bit too retro for my impatient old brain.

After dropping The Settlers I moved onto Age of Empires. First Age I Definitive Edition, but that, like The Settlers, felt a little too old school so I moved up to Age of Empires II Definitive Edition. It adds some QOL features like auto-scouting and patrol routes that make gameplay feel a little less fiddly. I skipped Age 3 since no one seems to like it as much as II, and then fired up Age of Empires IV, which is where I think I’ve settled, mostly because it’s the prettiest. 🙂 My only real gripe is that there’s a lot of live-service adjacent/e-sports type stuff when you first load it up. There is some kind of player level/score they pressure you to increase and I find that super off-putting, but so far I just ignore it and skip past to the solo stuff.

I tried one of the AoE games on the Xbox but nope, my brain just doesn’t like RTS with controller.

Screenshot of Age of Empires IV showing a very 1-side melee skirmish
Never tell me the odds!

Fire Emblem Three Houses — I hardly ever use my Switch and I’m semi-thinking of getting rid of it, or at least sticking it in storage or something. Before I do, there’s a couple games I bought and never played much. FE3H is one of them, even though I’ve loved earlier Fire Emblem games.  I think when I first started playing I didn’t like how much time you spent just talking to NPCs. I don’t mind that now. But what I do mind now is that the text is so small when playing in Handheld Mode. My plan was to swap the Switch for the Steam Deck for those “lying in bed” gaming sessions, but by that point in the day my eyes are too damned tired to deal with the tiny text of FE3H. I can of course play it on the TV but then it competes for time with Xbox and PS5 games. Talk about your #FirstWorldProblems, eh? But this is what knocked Persona 3 Portable out of the currently playing list.

I wasn’t planning on starting any other new games, but evil Microsoft made Marvel Midnight Suns one of their “Free Play Days” selections last weekend. I’d been interested in this game prior to launch, but once it came out it didn’t seem to make much of a splash so I kind of forgot about it. But for free? I’ll absolutely try it. And I really enjoyed it; enough so that I took advantage of a 50% off sale that was running to pick it up. Still enjoying this one quite a bit.

Midnight Suns gameplay example showing skill cards as well as super heroes arrayed for battle
Fighting some Hydra scum


We finally finished Star Trek: Voyager. Whew! Definitely not one of my favorite ST series, but we both agreed having watched Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager sequentially was a good way to be sure we were pumped for….

Picard season 3. I get that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it. Keep in mind though, we love it more or less as a reunion show than as great stand-alone sci-fi. There are so many little factoids that I’m sure would’ve zipped right past us had we not watched the old shows fairly recently. Like Professor Moriarty (from Sherlock Holmes) showing up as a security system. That comes from a Next Generation episode based around a holodeck program where Moriarty becomes sentient and attempts to take control of the Enterprise. If you don’t remember that episode I’m sure you’d be “WTF”ing when the character showed up in Picard.

Finished The Last of Us and loved it. It could’ve been longer, in my opinion, but maybe less is more when there’s a story about constant fighting with other people post-apocalypse. I’m looking at YOU, The Walking Dead.

Alice in Borderland — This show was way more violent than what I’m usually comfortable with, but the mystery of what the heck is going on hooked me. It starts when 3 friends in Tokyo, trying to hide from the cops for an incident that caused a minor traffic accident, all duck into a stall in a rest room. Then the lights go out briefly. When they come out of the stall, the city is seemingly empty. But soon enough they are forced to play a series of deadly games. Where are they and how did they get there? Watch and find out. Think Hunger Games meets Lost, I guess. But a lot of graphic violence, so you’ve been warned on that front.

We’d watched Season 1 of Locke & Key back when it came out, but this month we re-watched S1 and watched all of Seasons 2 & 3. And that’s it; the series ended. I’m very happy it did because I found it to be a really dumb show, but it was her pick so I endured it. I mean, a lot of these teen-based paranormal shows have characters doing really dumb things, but this one just seemed over the top with that stuff. And if I took a shot every time a character held up a key and stared at it meaningfully (often in lieu of running away from the Big Bad), my liver would’ve given out mid-way through Season 2. There also seemed to be a lot of inconsistences within the show’s own lore, but maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention. Also in my opinion, Bode, the youngest of the Locke children, was the true villain of the show.


Finished Nemesis Games (The Expanse book….. 5?) and started Babylon’s Ashes (Book 6). The TV show version of Nemesis Games was one of my least favorite seasons of The Expanse, but I enjoyed the book a lot more. And so far, Babylon’s Ashes is a good read, too.

I’ve also gone back to Marvel comic books. I had been working my way through all the comics in order but it was just overwhelming. I started this in Sept 2021 and I was still in 1964 two years later. Initially these old comics were a hoot but the novelty was worn off. I still want to get all the origin stories but at some point before I die I want to get into an era where the art is better and the villains slightly less cheesy. (Plus I’m learning origin stories change over time anyway; like originally Thor was some dude who found a magic staff that transformed him into the God of Thunder while he held onto it.) Anyway, I’ve skipped over to the 616 Essentials Order. And it’s still a lot, to be honest.

And that’s the recap for March. Life goes on… Hope you and yours are doing well, dear reader. See you next month.

Going Retro with The Settlers

A while back I bought some of the old The Settlers games off of GOG. Tonight I finally tried to play them. Settlers 3 had some challenges under Windows 11 but the GOG community had sorted them out and I got up and running without too much bother, but this one might be a bit TOO retro for me. At first I was running it at 640×480 because I forgot that back in the day there was a separate .exe file you’d run to access things like resolution!

So I went from this:

The Settlers 3 running at 640×480

To this:

The Settlers 3 at 1024×768

Definitely an improvement. I couldn’t figure a way to run it in Windowed mode though, and it didn’t much like being Alt-Tabbed out of. There’s also, as far as I could tell, no way to zoom in/out and it just felt like a lot of the UI was going to take a bit too much brain-rewiring.

I decided to move forward a few years and try The Settlers IV which runs at a glorious 1280×1024! Which, OK, doesn’t look that much better in a blog post but when actually playing it felt a lot easier on the eyes.

The Settlers IV at 1280×1024

It also has a much nicer UI, mouse wheel support to zoom in & out (the header image is of my baker, zoomed pretty much all the way in), and most importantly a time skip button. Neither game lets you adjust game speed as far as I can tell, but Settlers 4 skips head some amount of time (10-15 seconds, maybe?) when you tap the F12 button.

I also have The Settlers: Heritage of Kings, which is effectively Settlers V, but I haven’t installed that one yet. (I bought them all as a bundle for a bit less than $6 US.)

I’m not usually a retro gamer but I guess I’ve just been feeling nostalgic for the old days when I was all about the strategy. Not sure how far I’ll go with any of this but just installing them and booting them up and watching the low-res intro videos and stuff has been oddly enjoyable. For $6 I feel like I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

February 2023

Another short recap. The bad times I mentioned in my January recap ran into February and only in the last week or so have things really started to ease. I’m trying to appreciate the lack of crisis.

This was the month I pulled way way back on social media. I am not missing it, at least not now. I do maintain a Twitter account which I use mostly to follow games. I’ve been gradually unfollowing actual people. I deleted Mastodon, deleted Discord. I’d delete a bunch of others if I ever used them but remembering them and logging in just to try to figure out how to delete the account just seems like too much effort.

Even when work and stuff was just crushing me into a paste, I could feel this one parcel of my brain was feeling lighter thanks to avoiding the toxicity and toxic positivity of social media. The free periods I used to spend doom scrolling I’m now devoting to reading, which feels like a much better use of my time.

The one exception is Facebook, of all things, where I’ve found a small enclave of folks I’ve known for literal decades and who’re mostly content to exchange pleasantries now and then. It’s super low volume and hopping in once a day even feels like overkill. So that suits me pretty well for now. But damn is Facebook creepy. I bought a pair of windshield wiper blades from Amazon and literally within 5 minutes my Facebook feed was full of ads for wiper blades.

Anyway, on to the recap.

Last Month’s Games

Genshin Impact has been taking up like 90% of my gaming time. Still really loving it (obviously) and it’s been the perfect escapist kind of game for these trying times.

The other 10% is a bit of The Witcher 3 and a tiny slice of Persona 3 Portable which, in theory, I’m playing on the Steamdeck in bed. Except I’ve been staying up so late I tend to just collapse into sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. It’s a great fit for Steamdeck though, considering it was originally designed for a portable device.

Pillars of Eternity is, I guess, dropped.

New Games This Month



The Last of Us has been incredibly enjoyable for us. I, of course, have played the game. Angela has not. I think we both enjoy the show about the same amount.

The Bad Batch isn’t grabbing us as much as the first season did. We are in season 2, right?

Poker Face is a new kind-of detective show, I guess? It’s about a woman (played by Natasha Lyonne) who has one ‘supernatural’ ability in that she can always tell when someone is lying. But she is on the run from some bad dudes and from the cops. She keeps stumbling upon crimes and opting to solve them. We, and a lot of others, are picking up kind of a Columbo vibe.

And we’re still grinding through Star Trek Voyager. On the last season and I feel like you can just watch the writers running out of ideas/interest.

Oh and Picard S3 but that’s just barely started. So far we’re digging it.

I’ve also been watching a lot of soccer. EPL and US Women’s National Team, plus MLS just started.


Lola was having some health issues in Jan/Feb and wasn’t up to walking much, but still wanted to be outside. So I was standing around a lot, and started back on The Expanse novels, reading via the Kindle app on my phone. It feels good to be reading something again. Nemesis Games is the book I’m on.

And that’s the recap. Maybe my last recap; I’ve been thinking a lot of turning off the blog. But I won’t go into all that just now.

January 2023

The last couple weeks of January have been a hellscape for me so this month’s recap is gonna be short because my brain is just absolutely fried. And I better post this early over the weekend because I might not have time during the week.

Last Month’s Games

Genshin Impact is what I’ve been playing most. It has become, for me, that familiar comfort game that is just a way to escape from the world when you’re too wired and too tired to sleep and your brain is going 1000 RPMs and you just feel shattered and disconnected from the world. Which is how I’ve felt most of the time since mid-month. I’m back to doing some exploring and there are just some wonderful things to discover in this game. Lately it has been The Chasm which I thought was just a small area but oh boy, was I wrong. It doesn’t look that big on the map but the map doesn’t show how far down it goes. Great design. Loving it. Loving Genshin again.

The Witcher 3 is still sitting there waiting to be played and I keep saying “I’ll play that as soon as I’m done with Genshin for the day” but then I never get done.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is dropped. It just doesn’t grab me the way I need to be grabbed just now.

Final Fantasy 1 completed. Steam says I spent 23 hours in this game. About the first 8 were on PC, the rest was all on the Steam Deck, mostly playing in bed. Unpopular opinion: it wasn’t that good. At least not for me. I quickly became over-powered due to the constant random encounters I had to fight through while stumbling around lost. For the 2nd half (at least) of the game nothing could really threaten me, until I got to the last boss. There the difficulty spiked hard and I wiped a few times (first time I’d wiped in the game) until I read a guide. Beat the boss, now I can say I played it. Uninstalled and moving on.

Wasteland 3 dropped, just because the console version wasn’t great. The game itself seemed solid but the console port had some technical issues with button presses not registering, or sometimes registering twice. Or I’d think it hadn’t registered so I’d press a couple more times trying to get it ‘take’ and they’d all register at once and I’d confirm something I didn’t want to confirm. Still want to play this one, just not on console.

New Games This Month

Shapez was a random discovery that I had a good time with. Good enough to generate not just one, but two posts!

Pillars of Eternity landed on my plate this way: as mentioned I tried Wasteland 2 on console and it wasn’t great, But I really had the urge for a party based RPG. I tried the Pillars of Eternity Console Edition and it actually plays really well, but its a text-heavy game (if you dig into the lore) and I hate reading text from across the room. So then I decided to start it on Game Pass PC. Why didn’t I go back to Wasteland 3 if I was going to the PC anyway? Because I’m flighty, that’s why! Anyway I was really enjoying this until the January shit-storm landed on me; I hope to get back to it if/when things ease up.


Mythic Quest S3 ended, leaving me sad. Glad to know it has been renewed for a 4th season. This is one of my favorite shows of the past decade. I just adore it.

The Witcher: Blood Origin got so much hate and so many bad reviews but we enjoyed it. Sure it wasn’t life changing or anything, but it was a fun fantasy adventure. I mean, it has Michelle Yeoh in it. That alone makes it worth watching. It told the story of The Conjunction of Spheres in a way different from what I’d sussed out of the books I’ve read (I haven’t read them all), but that’s OK. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to be flexible about how stories are told in different mediums or at different times. A fresh, somewhat different, take on a familiar tale can be fun. Granted, younger me would shake his fist at the screen and yell “That’s not how it was in the books!” but younger me was a punk.

Star Trek Voyager still plodding along. Thank goodness they added Jeri Ryan to the cast as Seven of Nine or I dunno if we would’ve made it through. We’re late in season 6 with one more to go after this.

Willow was a big disappointment. I really enjoyed the first couple of episodes from the point of view of it being a classic “fellowship heading out on a quest” tale, and I loved the music. The first episode ended with Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” sung by an artist I’m not familiar with: Sir Jude. I was pumped after episode 1 but the show got worse and worse after that and turned into a very CW-like show. Perhaps it was popular with young people but I cared less and less about the characters as they developed. I’m really sick of teenagers in all my fantasy shows. A better show featuring Hurdy Gurdy Man is Britannia.

Doom Patrol was a hit in our house for seasons 1 & 2 but we’re in season 3 now and neither of us have a clue what is going on. Really the only reason we keep watching it is that it is SO damned weird we just want to see what comes next. But it’d be great if at some point (we’re on episode 7 of S3 at the time of writing) they pull a plot together from all the threads floating around.

I’ve also been watching a lot of YouTube. I’m finally appreciating “Let’s Play” content when I kind of want a gaming fix but I’m just too tired to play myself. Granted I tend to fall asleep while watching, but that’s OK too.


Not a thing. 🙁

So there ya go. January done, February to come. Hoping life can go back to normal soon.