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

TV

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.

Reading

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.

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

Nothing

TV

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.

Reading

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.

TV

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.

Reading

Not a thing. 🙁

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

December 2022

December has been a bit of a strange month. I guess that may be true for a lot of people, what with the holidays and all. But I feel like I’ve just kind of flitted around and haven’t really gotten deeply involved with anything. Having the Steam Deck has been a pleasing distraction as I’ve messed around with it a bit, and the knock on effect is that I’m paying attention to PC gaming again. I haven’t really PLAYED many PC games but over the holiday break I started watching a bunch of YouTube videos about great deals in the Steam Sale, as well as watching lots of gaming-related tech videos.

Last Month’s Games

Pentiment completed, and got a blog post.

Genshin Impact is back in rotation but once again I’m ruining it for myself by being fixated on the “Battle Pass” and playing to advance that rather than playing to enjoy the game. Not sure how I can break myself of this habit. I still haven’t started Chapter 2 of the story, for example.

Dying Light 2 got an update that includes a ‘prevent motion sickness’ setting, which led me to reinstall it. The setting in fact helps, so after making a huge announcement about how I am DONE with that game…I’m back to popping into it now and then.

Gotham Knights is, I guess, dropped for now. Haven’t played it at all recently, but I DO want to get back to it. I was liking it well enough, I just get so easily distracted.

Spiritfarer I guess I have to admit, is dropped. This was an Indie darling in 2022, I think, and I kind of like it but the pace is just so slow.

New Games This Month

Steamworld Heist completed. I’ve been poking at this on the Switch for months. Maybe years. It’s kind of a space opera. You control a crew of Steambots on a series of missions. Movement is turn-based but shooting requires aiming a wavering gun at the enemy. It was a pretty good game that, for me, overstayed its welcome a bit. Might have been due to how I play games, since I kept trying to keep all the characters leveled up which meant replaying missions over and over. Once I started getting bored I just focused on 4 characters and moved through the game fairly quickly. I ended up finishing at something like 26 hours when Howlongtobeat says it should take 12.5. So yeah, just me being me.

Geralt rides past a hanging tree.

The Witcher 3 got that Next Generation update so I decided to start it up again. I’m TRYING not to get distracted and do a ton of side quests because the last time I had a go at The Witcher 3 I got bored out of my mind because I became so over powered. That said, I noticed there is now an option to Scale Enemies and I don’t know if that is new or just something I never noticed before. As I write this I’m in Crookback Bog so still pretty early.

Immortals Fenyx Rising is a game I bought at launch since it was made by the team who made Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game I simply LOVE. But Fenyx is a lot more puzzle-based which I wasn’t expecting, and I bounced off it pretty hard. Now I’m giving it another go, starting fresh and knowing to expect the puzzles. I just got going with this one in the past week so we’ll see if it sticks or not.

Wasteland 3 is a game I’ve started a few times but never made a lot of progress in. Giving it yet another go. I mentioned I’ve been watching a lot of PC gaming videos on YouTube and they’ve created an itch to play something turn-based and tactical and Wasteland 3 seems to fit the bill. I’m playing it on the Xbox, but it is on Game Pass for both Xbox and PC and I’m a little conflicted. It definitely plays better with mouse and keyboard but I spend a lot more time gaming on the TV than I do on the PC so… we’ll see.

Final Fantasy, the pixel remaster, is my first Steam Deck game. I actually started it on the PC a while back and picked up where I left off but, boy howdy they don’t make this easy. There is no kind of quest log or anything and so I have NO idea what I’m supposed to be doing. I finally had to look at a walkthrough and I’m using that as my external quest log. You forget how hard these old games could be in unexpected ways!

TV

The Peripheral (Amazon Prime) was really good. It’s run by the same folks who did West World on HBO and has kind of that same trippy vibe. But it’s also the kind of show I don’t want to say much about because you should discover it all for yourselves!

Mythic Quest S3 (Apple TV+) has been quite enjoyable. Love this series.

Star Trek Voyager continues plodding along as our lunchtime viewing. I find it all really uneven. Some episodes are decent, some are super cringy. But you probably know this already. Who hasn’t seen Voyager?

The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+). It’s (I’m guessing) late in the 19th century and the fishing village of Essex is in a panic over a mystical/mythical serpent which may or may not exist. Meanwhile in London, well-to-do Cora is freed from a horribly abusive marriage by way of her husband dying. An amateur naturalist, she gets it in her head to go to Essex to determine if the serpent is real or not. She finds a village still in the throes of dark age religion, with the exception of a handsome vicar who tries to re-assure the villagers that the serpent is not real. He is constantly undermined by another religious figure (I was never sure of his rank) who preached fire and brimstone and claimed the serpent was sent from god to punish the villagers for their sins.

This is a 6 episode limited series that quickly turns from an interesting mystery to a painful romance. The first 5 episodes are grim, but it doesn’t take long for the serpent to be forgotten in favor of watching Cora be horrible to the people around her, all of whom, for reasons that I never understood, seem to be in love with her. She encourages them all before friend-zoning all but the one married man in her circle of influence, breaking hearts left and right with apparently no awareness she is doing so. Then in episode 6 all the bad stuff goes away and suddenly it is rainbows and butterflies. Even the people who die seem to get a happy ending somehow. It’s all very bizarre. I loved the first couple of episodes that focused on Essex and the serpent but it quickly went downhill from there, with many mysteries just being dropped along the way and a very unsatisfying ending. I’d skip this one.

Bocchi The Rock (Crunchyroll) was a delight. Thanks to Rakuna for recommending it. It’s about a painfully shy girl who decides to learn to play guitar so she’ll be popular. She ends up joining a band. I found the show laugh-out-loud funny at times, but even though the main character’s social anxiety is the source of much of the humor, it isn’t mean, which is quite a feat. In the end it’s a funny, heartwarming show and I found every character very likable. I sure hope we get a season 2. This was my favorite show for this month.

See (Apple TV+) posits a post-apocalyptic future where (almost) everyone is blind. Sighted people are considered witches and are killed, because it was sight that caused the end of the world. We’re in the last season and for me I’m kind of hate-watching it, though PartPurple enjoys it more. It just seems really implausible. Every character seems to have some kind of sonar or something. It’s also super violent and has some really detestable characters. Jason Momoa stars and he gives it his all and kind of carries the whole show. I was happy to see Joe Flannigan and David Hewett are both in the cast; they were both Momoa’s co-stars on Star Gate Atlantis, which was, IMO, a much better show than this.

The English Game (Netflix) is a period piece about the beginnings of football in England. It was recommended by Bree TruLove or I’d never have found it. It was created by Julian Fellowes, who was also behind Downton Abby and The Gilded Age, so if you liked those you’ll probably like this. Good stuff.

Conversely The English (Amazon Prime) is a western starring Emily Blunt so I was pretty excited for it, but after I sat through 2 episodes I was done. It’s just one long trope. Skip it.

Reading

Aside from my annual re-reading of A Christmas Carol, no reading this month. 🙁

And so we charge headfirst into 2023. What new disaster awaits us this year? My Resolution this year is not to make any resolutions so I don’t have too much interesting to say about 2023…yet.

November 2022

Here we are, 11/12ths of the way through 2022. I love this time of year. Honestly November and December are about the only part of the year I really love. We need to move back north so summer can once again be something I look forward to instead of dreading.

Big news for me this month is I broke down and ordered a Steam Deck. It hasn’t arrived yet; I guess it is my Christmas present to myself. I’m not even sure WHY I want one but it just got stuck in my head that it was a cool gadget I needed in my life. I haven’t really bought a ‘toy’ since the new consoles 2 years ago so I don’t feel TOO guilty about spending the money.

Last Month’s Games

Spiritfarer is still being played every once in a while. I wrote a post about why I’m more or less done with it, but I still take a poke at it every now and then.

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below got completed: here’s a post about that.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris has been dropped. I haven’t been able to shake off the ill will generated in the first part of the game.

Actually a lot of games have been dropped for no particular reason other than too many games, not enough time:
Fallout 3
Yakuza 0
Destiny 2
Cyberpunk 2077

New Games This Month

Dying Light 2 wound up warranting its own post. I have a complicated relationship with this game. In fact I finally had to uninstall it because I kept finding myself playing it even though I wasn’t enjoying it much and it was making my physically ill. Uninstalling it broke the cycle and I’m FREE!

You can pet the dog, so you know it’s a good game

Pentiment is a nifty little narrative adventure from Obsidian. It is (so far) all just talking to other characters so it is pretty chill. I really enjoy what I’ve played but that game play loop of just reading dialog is always a struggle for me. I always think “Heck, I should just read the book.” I do want to finish it, though. There’s been a murder and it must be solved.

Gotham Knights was a Black Friday purchase and despite my best efforts I’ve only put a short time into it. I’m enjoying it, but it is such early days I don’t feel qualified to say much about it.

And just at the very tail end of the month, I let Genshin Impact back into my life. 🙂

TV

Andor was great. Rogue One is my favorite ‘modern’ Star Wars movie and I really enjoyed the darker, more serious tone that Andor shared with that movie. Can’t wait for Season 2.

Winx: The Fate Saga was bad. Granted I’m not the target audience, but I’m kind of over these shows where some young person thinks they know every, and go off and do whatever they want, and wind up being the hero.

Star Trek Voyager is still voyaging. I think it generally has gotten better (I think we’re in Season 5 now?) but not consistently so. Some episodes are real clunkers.

Currently we’re watching Wednesday, which I expected to be a rather silly show, but has turned out to be kind of a dark dramedy and we are LOVING it. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s about Wednesday Addams of The Addams Family after she’s been sent away to boarding school for non-human types. Now that I think of it, Winx is about a teenage girl sent to boarding school for non-human types as well, but the two shows are night and day in terms of quality.

Reading

Nadda. I’m back to not really doing any reading. 🙁

And that’s November. Wow, that was a short recap, eh? Hope everyone has a great holiday season and I’ll be back with December’s recap next year! Har! A dad joke to finish things off!

October 2022

We had a little bit of a shakeup happen this month at Dragonchasers. My Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription ended as of October 28th.

So first of all, why did I let this happen? Mostly it had to do with Playstation Plus Premium. When Sony rolled out their new ‘subscription service’ tiers for Playstation Plus, I wanted to try them but I had banked about a year of old-school PS+ time via sales and so forth. I had to convert this time to Playstation Plus Premium which cost me around $60, but it set me up with PS+P until next July.

It turns out that having TWO “play all you want” subscriptions feels kind of wasteful. I only have so many hours to play games, right? And since PS+ was paid for, it seemed to make the most sense to let Xbox Game Pass lapse, at least to see how that felt. I knew I might get too much FOMO from this but I figured, if nothing else Black Friday is coming so maybe I could get a good deal on it if I took a break even for a month.

All that said, for me Xbox Game Pass is a far better value than PS+ Extra or PS+ Premium. Microsoft regularly adds new games to the library, and I mean new both in terms of “new to Game Pass” and “newly released”. Sony, so far at least, adds games once a month and they are predominantly older titles. There’ve been 1 or 2 exceptions like Stray, but for example in October these were the games added to Playstation+ Extra:

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City — The Definitive Edition
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age — Definitive Edition
Dragon Quest Builders
Dragon Quest Builders 2
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below
Dragon Quest Heroes 2: Explorer’s Edition
Inside
Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker
Hohokum
The Medium (PS5)

So one additional new-ish PS5 game (The Medium is fairly new to PS5 though was on Game Pass long ago) and one new-ish (Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker launched at the end of August) PS4 game, then a bunch of older titles from last generation.

In the same month Microsoft added Scorn, A Plague Tail: Requiem, Ghostbusters Spirits Unleashed & Medieval Dynasty to Game Pass, all of which are new games. (This is not all they added, just the new titles I can think of off-hand.)

In spite of all this, the optimistic plan was to run with PS+ Premium until it expired then go back to Game Pass.

In the end, it took me less than 24 hours to resubscribe to Game Pass. A lot of this is because I forgot that without Xbox Live Gold I couldn’t play Elder Scrolls Online (which, tho I never mention it in these recaps, is a game I play pretty consistently at a low level). So I needed Gold anyway, and once you have Gold you can upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate for $15, no matter how much Gold you have banked. So I bought a 1 year Gold subscription from Amazon for $60, then I bought seven 3-month Gold subscriptions using MS Rewards points. That left me with Xbox Live Gold until July 2025! Then I bought a 1-month Game Pass Ultimate subscription (also with MS Rewards points) which converted all that Gold time to GPU time. End result, I now have Game Pass Ultimate through August 2025 and I spent $60 out of pocket (plus a lot of time spent idly clicking on things with my coffee every morning in order to earn MS Rewards points.)

Pretty good deal.

Anyway on to the recap.

Last Month’s Games

Genshin Impact took up a good chunk of my October before I finally bounced off it. Overall I played this game nearly exclusively for about 8 weeks. The first 6 weeks were SO much fun as I sat alone in the corner with my PS5, noodling around in the world of Teyvat doing whatever seemed fun at the time. Then I started getting drawn into conversations about the game and the ‘right’ way to play, while at about the same time I decided I was going to try to max out the monthly Battle Pass. Net result: instead of wandering around the world having fun, I was logging in, doing my daily commissions then focusing on most efficiently burning through my daily resin allotment in such a way as to max out my progress both of my characters and of the Battle Pass. It didn’t take long for this to begin to feel like a total chore and for me to start playing GI just as a daily commitment I wanted to get out of the way as quickly as possible. Once I hit the end of the Battle Pass I was done. So I’m setting Genshin Impact aside for a while. I hope someday to come back to it and play it for fun again because I was having an utterly lovely time before I decided to “git gud.” (I dunno why I do this to myself but I do it often.)

Spiritfarer I am still playing, barely. One or two sessions all month. I would still like to get back to it so I don’t want to let it go. We’ll see what happens; I might have to let this one go next month if I don’t re-engage more significantly.

Yakuza 0 is a Game Pass game so I dropped it once I’d accepted that I was going to let my sub run out. Now that I reversed that decision, I have to decide if I want to bring it back into rotation.

Destiny 2 has fallen by the wayside. Not for any particular reason. I think Genshin just pushed a lot of games out of my limited brain capacity and Destiny 2 was one of them.

Cyberpunk 2077 never really got going but I did purchase it so I might get back to it. I’m on the fence with it. I think I just need to decide to devote 4-5 hours to really getting going into it so I get to the good stuff.

New Games This Month

Beacon Pines is a strange little game that is part choose-your-own-adventure story and part point & click adventure. The game is framed as a story book and at certain times a page of text will come up that describe decision points. You have to fill in a blank, Mad-Libs style, but you can only choose words that you’ve collected via exploring. The twist is that at any time you can (and I think, will have to) ‘rewind’ the story to an earlier decision point and try something new. Frequently by this time you’ll have found new words (eg new choices to try).

Might be a case where a picture is worth 1000 words…

Beacon Times node tree Beacon Pines book page

It’s a very chill game (honestly, the challenge level is quite low), though also kind of creepy at times. I found the story to be really enjoyable, and at around 5-6 hours it’s the kind of game you can easily play through in a weekend. I think I finished it in 3 sessions over the course of the month. Recommended.

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below is something I bought back in 2015 and never really played. When I saw it and its sequel were coming to PS+ Extra I decided to dust it off and give it another go to see if I maybe wanted to play the sequel. I put about 18 hours into it playing it seriously, but then I started to get a little bored. It is predominantly a musou game (think Dynasty Warriors or Sauron in the flashback battle at the start of Fellowship… it is you against dozens or hundreds of enemies, but each swing sends 10 or 20 baddies flying) with a bit of tower defense in the form of placing ‘tamed’ enemies to defend areas.

Shot of a chaotic battle in Dragon Quest Heroes

It is fun, but musou isn’t a favorite genre for me and after a while I needed a break and I thought I was done with it. A few days later I was back. So now I’m playing a level or two (which is like 15-30 minutes) every other day or so. That feels like a sweet spot for me and this genre.

Here’s 5 minutes of random combat. Don’t watch it all, you’ll get bored. But this shows the kind of game it is. All the combat feels pretty much like this!

The story, such that it is, feels really shallow. The side quests are super-low effort, along the lines of “go replay earlier areas until you kill 75 of enemy X” with zero narrative hanging off them. There are a ton of characters so if you love just grinding through enemies in this type of game you might really like it. There’s also some real QOL issues. Lots of talking to NPCs that should just be menu items. Some dialogs that you can’t manually advance through and just have to wait for the game to decide you’re done reading them. Things like that. Good reasons to quit playing. And yet… I keep going back.

Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris is another game I bought a long time ago. At launch it had a ton of technical issues so I just set it aside. Genshin Impact had me in an anime mood so I decided to give it another go. So far, not loving it. The first 10-15 hours are just clicking through dialogs and cut scenes which re-tell the anime. Every so often you’ll fight an enemy. At one point I went 2 hours trying to get to where I could make a hard save but it was just cut-scene, dialog, cut-scene, dialog with no opportunity to get to a save point. TWO HOURS.

Kirito and friends arrive in a small village.  It is night and rain is falling

Once the game finally “opened up” I was so sour on it I didn’t care any more, and I’m having a lot of trouble understanding the combat system (there were some tutorials but they were so long ago I’ve forgotten what they said) although so far button mashing has worked fine. I think there are far better RPGs out there to play, so this one is going back into the backlog.

This month there was all kinds of fuss made about Fallout having an anniversary so that somehow translated to me booting up Fallout 3 again. I’ve never finished it, and for once I resisted the urge to start over, so I’m level 7 or so, wandering the wasteland shooting stuff in the face and selling everything I can carry. The game runs really well (as you’d expect) on the Xbox. It’s not something I can spent 3 hours playing, but it’s a fun game to just dip into here and there. Maybe I’ll actually finish it someday. Not that I can remember what my goals are!

TV

She-Hulk ended up being really good after a somewhat slow start (for me). Mind you if you’re very serious about your Marvel content you might take exception to the more light-hearted tone (and 4th wall breaking) in the series, but I found it an absolute delight.

Sticking with the House of the Mouse, Andor is also really good, only here my caution is exactly the opposite. If you enjoy Star Wars because it is generally fairly ‘light’ then Andor might be a bit gritty for your tastes. But hey, it has the first Star Wars booty call that I am aware of.

I almost gave up on House of the Dragon after the first few episodes but I’m glad I didn’t. About half-way through, there’s a time jump (and some of the actors are replaced since the characters have aged) and at that point the series gets really good. There’s a bit less of the gratuitous and over-the-top violence and the story gets much more interesting. It is still for the most part a political drama though. If you’re tuning in primarily for lots of sword fights and dragon flame, you might be disappointed. I can’t wait for season 2. Someone please confirm we’re getting a season 2!!

Sadly Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power never really found its stride for me. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, and writing the recap of it now, a few weeks after the last episode, honestly I can hardly remember it. I do kind of feel like a more binge-ish re-watch might help me to get more out of it. We watched 2 episodes at a time with 2 weeks between each session, which probably did the show no favors.

Tales from the Explorer’s Club (Discovery) is a ‘light’ documentary show talking about the real-life adventures of members of The Explorer’s Club, an organization that’s been around for over 100 years. It’s hosted by Josh Gates who we’ve watched since he came on the scene with a silly cryptid/paranormal show on SyFy called Destination Truth. These days he deals with topics closer to reality, like some of the first polar explorations or exploring the depths of the ocean. This one was quite a surprise and we enjoyed it a lot. Sadly there are only 6 episodes.

Star Trek: The Lower Decks was amazing. It is always amazing. It’s renewed for another season too, which is also amazing!

Star Trek Voyager is really kind of dumb. I’d forgotten how dumb it is and how many huge plot holes there are in it. It is getting a little better now that we’re into season 3, but seasons 1 & 2 were like “Waaa?” constantly

Reading

OMG I finished a book. Cibola Burn is the storyline that takes place on Ilus, which I thought was a great season of the show, and the book was pretty great too. Now I’ve started Nemesis Games. I didn’t like that season of the show too much so we’ll see if I find the book more interesting.

So that’s October and good lord, I need to start doing mid-month recaps or something. This is way way too long!

September 2022

Today I put a sweatshirt on for the first time since March or April. It was awesome! Granted it had more to do with staying dry (Hurricane Ian is drenching us) than staying warm, but it is a step in the right direction. Tolerable weather is just around the corner!

Anyway, on to the recap.

Last Month’s Games

Something new I’m trying this month, because these recaps aren’t already way too long, is following up on the games from last month’s recap that I didn’t finish, and to check in to see what’s going on with them this month. In part this is to try to get me to be a little more deliberate in what I play. Sometimes I still WANT to play something but the game gets pushed to the back burner until I’ve been away from it for too long to re-engage easily. I figure if I make public choices about what I’m still playing and what I’m done with, that might help. We’ll see.

So anyway last month’s unfinished business consisted of:

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. This one I finished early in the month and wrote a post about it. TLDR I think I would have enjoyed it more had I played it differently (focused more on the story quests rather than trying to do every side quest).

Tribes of Midgard — I played once or twice. After being hot on this game for 4-5 days I may be done with it, for now. I’ve beaten 3 of the 4 big Jotuns and I think there’s some baddies even bigger than those that comes after, but I’ve also upgraded all my crafting stations and stuff and it’s all starting to feel kind of same-y. Plus the last straw might be frustration with the world design. The maps exist on 3 or 4 levels with ramps that lead you up and down between them, but terrain is so chaotic you can spend a lot of time looking for a way to climb up to the next level. Initially that was kind of fun but now it’s a PITA. You CAN build stairs to go up but there’s a finite limit on the number of structures you can place in the world so leaving stairs behind might cause issues later on.

Basically I gave Tribes of Midgard a shot when they revamped Survival Mode and what we have now feels almost like an Early Access game. The basics are there and decently fun but (assuming the devs keep working on the game) I think it’ll be a better game after a few more patches/updates, so for now I’ve taken it out of rotation while anticipating that I’ll come back to it some day.

My Ascent character looking kind of...meh

I jumped back into The Ascent around mid-month and it’s a pretty good game, but I had just enough issues with it to decide to set it aside. For me it is a little uncomfortable to play on console. The levels are cluttered with tons of details and twisty paths but they’re all just a tad too small for my old eyes to parse. It feels like it was designed to be played on PC and is probably a great game on that platform. (Gamers with younger, stronger eyes than me may not have the same issues on console.) I also find the loot system a little bland and the character model for my character is not great. In the end something has to give, and I wanted to finally give Cyberpunk 2077 a try so needed to free up a slot in my schedule. So I think I’m done with The Ascent and probably won’t come back to this one, unless I get on a PC gaming kick and play it over there. Even though I’m leaving it behind I would recommend it if you like dual-stick shooters and cyberpunk worlds. Particularly if you’re a PC gamer and will be playing it from 2 feet, rather than 10 feet, away.

Spiritfarer – I haven’t been playing this as much as anticipated but every time I do I enjoy myself. So this one stays in rotation. I’m actually not sure WHY I’m not playing it more, other than being obsessed with other games.

Kiryu looking confused as he teases apart a complex plot line

Yakuza 0 has been a real slow burn. I keep thinking it is time to kick it to the curb then I boot it up ‘one last time’ and have fun and keep it around. So that’s where it is, out on the edge but still in rotation.

Destiny 2 — I had planned to play a LOT of Destiny 2 in September but then Genshin Impact happened and knocked D2 right out of the running. Still in rotation, though!

Genshin Impact took over my life this month. Still very much in rotation! Heck it kind of IS the rotation!

New Games This Month

The Artful Escape was a single-day game that I rather enjoyed. Here’s the post about it.

Like so many others I jumped into Cyberpunk:Edgerunners on Netflix and caught the bug. With Cyberpunk 2077 being on sale for half-price and the general buzz being that it has been fixed, I decided it was time to finally jump in. I created a character and did the tutorials and then… well not to sound like a broken record but… Genshin Impact!

Steamworld: Heist: Every so often I get the urge to break out the Switch and play something on it. This month that ‘something’ is Steamworld Heist, a game about robotic space pirates. It’s a funny little game. Turn-based but you have to aim your shots and these bots have really unsteady aim.

So yes, a very boring gaming recap this month. I’ve been playing Genshin every night, generally logging in to get daily tasks done before I move on to playing something else, then I get involved and before I know it, it is bedtime.

TV

With Star Trek: Deep Space 9 finished, we rolled right into Star Trek: Voyager. I have so many issues with this show in terms of the arc and plot holes. If Voyager is traveling in one direction towards home for all this time, how is it they keep running into the same characters over and over again? Wouldn’t they be leaving these people behind? How does Neelix (god there is SO much of the super annoying Neelix) know about every place they go? It’d be like me knowing the best place to get pizza in Tokyo since I am from earth. But hey, it’s our lunchtime viewing and we tend towards ‘don’t think about it too much’ content at lunch.

Fort Salem: Motherland (Hulu/Freeform) is an alternate history show where the Salem witches reached an accord with the government. In exchange for not being executed, they would serve the US military (or I guess, what would become the US military since the witch trials took place while the colonies were still colonies). The show follows a group of young witches at Fort Salem (in more or less present day) which is basically a military academy but for witches.

It’s a really interesting premise but I couldn’t get past the main characters being very “understanding” about welcoming a terrorist who killed hundreds of innocent people, brushing it off as “You did what you thought was right.” There are 3 seasons. We watched them all (SOMEONE in the house liked the show a lot more than I did). S2 was the strongest, S3 was a trainwreck. S1 was somewhere in between.

LOTR: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime) & House of Dragons (HBO): I’m lumping these two together because I have the same feelings about both. I WANT to love them but I’m still on the fence with both of them. I think Rings of Power will be a lot better when I can go back and do a binge re-watch. @partpurple isn’t too excited about the show so I’ve been using my bi-weekly movie-night pick to watch 2 eps every 2 weeks and it doesn’t exactly flow, watching it like that. House of Dragons just doesn’t seem to be able to decide what it wants to be: a political drama or a super-violent, super-gross ‘edgey’ show. Hopefully they’ll sort that out but for now I’m kind of meh on it.

Star Trek: The Lower Decks is amazing in Season 3, as it has been in Seasons 1 & 2.

She-Hulk is another show I’m struggling to get past the @partpurple censor. I like it, I think she is lukewarm on it. But again I feel like I’m going to want to go back and binge it.

In general I kind of feel like I’ve lost the ability to really enjoy a show in the traditional ‘1 episode per week’ way. I’m just all-in on picking a show and watching it start to finish. I feel like I get a lot more enjoyment that way.

There’s a lot more TV but not much worth discussing. I mean I could talk about Casey Jones, starring Alan Hale (which originally aired in 1957) but I doubt that would resonate with many readers. I’m getting a kick out of it, though. It might just be the novelty of seeing Alan Hale playing someone other than The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.

Reading

*crickets*

I’ve been playing on the Switch before bed. I have started to sneak in a bit of reading while out with Lola now that it is getting a bit cooler and we can just find a spot and chill, but I haven’t actually finished a book in months. Haven’t even been reading old-timey comics this month!

So that’s September in the books. Now to endure 31 days of ‘spooky’ stuff happening. I like Halloween well enough but I think like a week of any holiday is plenty. I don’t need 31 days of Halloween or Christmas or any other holiday. Though maybe 31 days of Thanksgiving would be fun: all those turkey dinners!

August 2022

Well we finally got August out of the way. Another month or so of heat and life outdoors can start again. Mind you we had a week in August where it was hot but not completely oppressively hot, so that was nice. A couple times I took the dog out around midnight and it was actually pleasant out there.

Yeah kids, it’s true. The older you get, the more you prattle on about the weather. So let’s get into the recap because it is stupid-long this month.

Games

Mafia Definitive Edition got its own post. Spoiler: I really enjoyed it.

Mafia 2 Definitive Edition also got its own post. Spoiler: wasn’t too much of a fan.

Ni No Kuni II is in the recap for the third month. Unless I give up on it, it’ll probably be in next month, too. I don’t know why I DON’T give up on it. I started it in June and here it is, end of August and it still hasn’t really grabbed me. There’s no reason to think it ever will. So why am I still playing? FOMO I guess? This series gets so much praise and I’m trying to figure out why, beyond that it has a lovely art style.

I just find it pretty boring. Maybe I should be playing on a higher difficulty level or something. I’m also not really a fan of the tone which is that kind of breathless child enthusiasm as seen on shows like “Leave It To Beaver.” (Am I dating myself?) But mostly it’s the boredom. The other day I spent over an hour in a session where all I did was solve “quests” that involved fast travelling/running to a waypoint on the map where some random character tells me “Gee whiz, yes I’d LOVE to join your kingdom!”

Well for now I’ll keep plodding along. There was a really dark moment at the very start of the game and I’m interested to see what happens in the story, with regard to this moment. Which I won’t spoil even though it happens at the very start of the game.

Moving on…

Every month a handful of games leave Xbox Game Pass. You generally get at least a few weeks warning, so whenever a new list comes out I scan it and if anything looks remotely interesting I’ll at least boot it up once to see if it appeals to me. That’s how I found Spiritfarer. Spiritfarer bills itself as a “cozy management game.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I like Spiritfarer quite a bit. In it you play Stella who has taken over for Charon. The river Styx feels more like a harbor or even an ocean. Stella sails around in her boat (which is also her base — you can see my version at the top of this post) visiting islands where she finds souls that need her help to pass on to… presumably a better place.

In order to help these lost souls Stella will have to gather resources to both improve her boat and provide for her spirit guests. She also spends a lot of time talking to the spirits to find out what they need, and I find their stories intriguing. It’s a pretty low stress game; I don’t think you can die or fail, though I’m not 100% sure. The spirits I have aboard seem pretty patient. For example, if you don’t prepare meals for them they’ll get unhappy because they’re hungry, but they won’t die (they’re already dead!), and I don’t think they’ll leave. I haven’t had anyone leave anyway.

It’s the kind of gameplay we’ve seen before but the spirits’ stories and the aesthetics are what make it special. It’s all hand-drawn, seemingly hand-animated art full of clever touches. For instance, Stella has a cat companion named Daffodil (you can have a friend join your game and they’ll play as Daffodil). Daffodil follows Stella everywhere, but when Stella goes swimming Daffodil follows her by balancing on a tiny ball of light which floats on the water because, y’know, cats and water. It’s cute as heck. Stella can give the spirits a hug to lift their…erm… spirits, and every time she does this I swear I feel it in my heart, these moments are animated so well.

I like Spiritfarer so much I bought it so I won’t lose access when it leaves Game Pass, so more to come on this one.

I’ve always heard great things about the Yakuza games but never made much headway in any of them. After being in the US mob in the Mafia games I decided to join the Japanese mob by playing Yakuza 0. So far, I have to say, it’s not really grabbing me. Running around the streets of the city (which you do a lot) feels really clunky in that old-school Resident Evil way. Other than that you mostly brawl. I’ve heard there’s a ton to do in these games so maybe they just start slowly. There’re a lot of very long cut scenes (my Xbox goes into idle mode during them, they’re so long). I don’t really mind these since the story is actually kind of interesting, but I mention it as a warning for folks who aren’t a fan of extended cut scenes. I’m on the fence with this one. Someone whose opinion I trust really loves these games which makes me lean towards keeping on with it for now.

When I first heard about Tribes of Midgard I was pretty excited because, hey it’s about Vikings! I also really dug the art style. Then I learned it was best played with others and I sadly crossed it off my list. At some point I got a copy for free (Playstation Plus, I think) so gave it a try and yeah, it was terrible solo. Well, terrible for me because you had to really rush around and maximize your actions in order to do what a team would normally be doing. The idea is that during the day you gather resources to improve the defenses of your village before night falls. There’s also some fighting to be done. Then when it gets dark your village gets attacked and you have to defend the village. All the while a giant boss creature is slowly moving towards your village and you have to defeat it before it arrives. I just found it really challenging to fight and gather and build during the daylight hours while keeping to a time table that would get me strong enough to defeat the boss before it crushed me and my village. Anyway, I deleted Tribes of Midgard and moved on.

This month a new update to Survival Mode came out. (I’m not sure I even tried Survival Mode before this.) No longer do you have a village to defend, unless you choose to make one. Instead it plays a little like Valheim. You gather, you craft, you find enemies to fight when you want to fight. When it gets dark harder enemies appear but you can fight them or avoid them: your choice. Eventually you’re supposed to take down some boss enemies but you do this on your own timetable. I do not like being rushed so this lack of a timetable made a HUGE difference for me, and now I’m enjoying Tribes of Midgard, Survival Mode (the other mode is Saga Mode which still operates as described above and is still much too frantic for me). It isn’t going to become my main game or anything but it did totally suck me in for a few nights. I killed 3 of the big boss critters before I got distracted by another game, but it’s still in my rotation.

Over on Twitter a bunch of folks I follow were talking about a new game called Tower of Fantasy which was being compared to Genshin Impact. Since Tower of Fantasy isn’t on console and Genshin Impact is, I decided to join in the fun one step removed and finally play Genshin and I have to say, it’s a lot of fun this time around. I have played it, some, in the past and bounced off it. It might have been Paimon, the little creature that follows you around yammering at you in that “adult voice actor doing a screechy child’ voice and referring to their self in the third person. Or it might have been my belief that it was an MMO, or my concern over the gacha mechanics. I just can’t remember.

Whatever the reason this time I came into it somewhat more educated. I’m still in the very early game but so far the vibe I’m getting is that this is a single player game with some of an MMO’s benefits in that it is constantly changing/being updated. I love the anime-inspired aesthetics and in the course of playing you get enough characters that you don’t have to enter into the gacha stuff if you don’t want to. Gameplay is a mix of action combat and some environmental puzzle solving, mostly involving how to get up high enough to get some item floating in the air.

Like I said, I am still VERY early in the game so maybe there’s a big ugly ‘gotcha’ (as opposed to gacha) waiting when I hit some point but for now I’m really enjoying it.

Last up, and I almost left it out because I just started playing last weekend, is The Ascent. Folks in my Twitter timeline were talking about a new season in Path of Exile and it put me in the mood for an ARPG, but PoE has never resonated well with me. I actually fired up Diablo 3 a time or two but, y’know, it’s still Diablo 3. Then I remembered The Ascent which is on Gamepass and which I thought was an ARPG. Turns out it isn’t; it’s a twin-stick shooter. Granted the difference is fairly subtle but I was getting my butt handed to me until my brain re-aligned itself.

The Ascent, which takes place in a cyberpunk-infused alien world, doesn’t make a great 1st impression. You start off in the bowels of some gigantic city fixing a sewage issue. You’re an indentured servant and life ain’t great. The titular Ascent is a mega-corporation that you work for. Soon after you get the toilets working, Ascent announces it is bankrupt and basically pulls out of the city leaving a power vacuum that plenty of gangs are looking to fill. You end up working as muscle for your unsavory boss, who, to his credit, is trying to get the gang leaders together so that some semblance of order can be maintained. And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten, but after that first mission the game gets pretty fun. You shoot a lot of baddies, scavenge and/or buy better gear, including implants and upgrades to your cyberdeck and fun stuff like that.

If I’m being vague it’s because I’ve barely gotten started, but here’s a combat demo for you:

And a super last-minute addition is Destiny 2, which I’ve come back to have a few years away. That one I will save for a separate post, though.

TV

For All Mankind S3 (Apple TV) was really good. We’ve enjoyed this alternate history of the space program quite a bit. Wondering if we’ll get a 4th season.
Sandman (Netflix) was also really good. We had only the vaguest notion of the comics so the first couple eps we were a bit lost but by episode 3 or so we were well and truly hooked. A couple weeks after release they dropped a ‘bonus episode’ which consists of two short stories that take place in the Sandman universe but that basically stand alone. This episode is worth watching even if the main series wasn’t for you.

Westworld (HBO Max) is such a fun, nerdy, confusing show and Season 4 didn’t disappoint. I’m going to have to rewatch it. The series always twists and turns and rewards a second viewing. Heck I’ve watched the first season 3 times now and am looking forward to a 4th time. I always pick up on something new. All that said if you enjoy your narratives nice and neat and tidy, Westworld probably won’t be for you.

The Old Man (Hulu) was a pretty great spy series with a strange ending that to me felt rushed and disjointed. A second season is planned and I’m hoping it’ll ‘backfill’ some of the “WTF?” moments from the ending of Season 1. In fact I might suggest waiting for Season 2 before you dive into this one.

We finished our re-watch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Well it was a re-watch for me anyway. I remember not being thrilled with DS9 when it first aired and having watched it again, I haven’t changed my mind. Still I was somehow sad when it was over. I do remember really not liking Quark or Odo back in the day and this time they were my favorite characters, at least in the early seasons when Quark was always running schemes and Odo was always foiling them. Perfect set of frenemies, those two. And then the weird friendship between Bashir and O’brien. But most of the command crew: Cisko and Kira and Dax… meh, I never felt very connected to any of them. General Motag (?? the Klingon) stole every scene he was in. I’d watch a show based on him!

With Deep Space Nine behind us we rolled right into Star Trek: Voyager (another rewatch for me) which I am enjoying much more than I did DS9.

The Wilds (Prime Video) – The synopsis said this was a show about some young women stranded on a desert island after a plane crash. I was thinking “Lord of the Flies” but nope. The show opens with the women being interviewed after their rescue, which immediately drains a lot of the tension from things. Then over time you learn that there is something strange happening. I started thinking “Lost” but nope. Turns out [spoilers tho you learn this in the first couple of episodes] that there wasn’t actually a crash and these women were put there deliberately (though they still think they crashed). I wasn’t really enjoying the individual episodes but I did want to know how the ‘arc’ resolved. Unfortunately by the end of Season 1 it didn’t completely resolve. There’s a Season 2 but I decided I didn’t care enough to sit through 10 more episodes of angst. This might be more interesting for younger people, I’m not sure.

And still more TV, but in the ‘too early to say’ bin: She-Hulk (Disney+), Star Trek: The Lower Decks S3 (Paramount+) and House of the Dragon (HBO+). Of these, we love The Lower Decks seasons 1 & 2 so we feel pretty confident about that one, but the other two the jury is still out on.

Reading

Still on the classic comics, where I learned of a villain named Paste Pot Pete and now I wonder why he doesn’t have his own movie franchise. Basically he is armed with a gun that shoots paste. Terrifying!

The scary part about these classic comics is that there are SO many of them. I’ve only made it through a year or 2 of issues. Stuff I’m reading right now came out in 1963! I might have to start skipping around.

And that’s it for the overly verbose recap. I should’ve split a couple of those games out into their own posts, I guess. Hope your September is cool and crisp and dry in a way that I know mine won’t be!!

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?

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!!!