Everything is so chaotic right now and it’s insanely difficult to focus on anything outside of the ever growing train wreck that is American politics. Even now as I write this, I fear that by the time this article goes live some horrible bullshit will have happened. I pray that everything goes smoothly and America doesn’t collapse in under its own weight, but literally anything is possible these days. But at some point I can’t keep staring at the wreckage and need to focus on things that make me happy. So here are some of the distractions I engaged in last week that brought me joy.
BALDUR’S GATE III
During my Game of the Year 2020 articles, I mentioned at one point that I wanted to check back in with Baldur’s Gate III and see how it’s evolved since receiving a few patches. Considering I had to restart the game because all previous version save files were no longer compatible, I trudged through the prologue once more and made it back to the first real explorable area. I can’t really say that I’ve noticed many differences in performance or features, but admittedly I’m still very early on and haven’t quite had the chance to really see the majority of content available in the game. They did fix the camera though, which is absolutely huge and was one of bigger issues with Baldur’s Gate III when it launched into early access late last year.
Even though I’m really enjoying playing Baldur’s Gate III, I’m still struggling with the idea of whether or not I want to dedicate too much more time into it. Considering it is an early access title, I can only imagine that save files are going to be in jeopardy a few more times during the course of development, and I don’t know that I want to play through that prologue more than I have to. It’s a decent enough tutorial level but I’ve already played it like 6 times at this point, so I might still wait on that. But in the meantime, I could always dip into Pillars of Eternity or Tyranny to get my CRPG fix.
The rebooted Hitman series of games that started in 2016, have become some of my favorite and most anticipated titles with Hitman 3 being no exception. Technically the game doesn’t launch until the day that you’re reading this, but knowing that I’ll have a Hitman game to distract me from whatever misery may come tomorrow is good enough for me to mention it. I think what I love about the series the most is how it makes you have to improvise and adapt on the fly, dashing all of your well made plans into pieces because some guard walked around a corner for the first time ever and spotted you choking the life out of your target. But that’s why you get a cool gun.
I don’t know if Hitman 3 will be any good, but the early reception on it seems overwhelmingly positive. I’m really looking forward to getting to play this one whenever the download finishes.
I didn’t expect to be this into a superhero themed TV show, but here we are. WandaVision is an insanely cool take on the Avengers characters of the same names, placing them in this incredibly weird and unsettling version of a 50’s/60’s sitcom. It’s like watching an episode of I Dream of Jeannie that occasionally does its best impression of a psychological thriller, which doesn’t sound like a great fit on paper but it totally works. While the first episode left my partner and I both unsure of whether we wanted to stick with the series, the second episode really got its hooks into us. Or maybe it just hooked me and they were being nice. Who can say?
All I know is that WandaVision is so far one of the coolest things that Marvel has done with one of their properties. My only concern is how well it will actually stick the landing. As of now, I have some ideas and theories about what’s happening or where this is all going, but it does feel like one of those stories that could end with a lame twist like saying it was all a dream or something. I don’t think that WandaVision will do that, but you never know. Regardless, we’re gonna keep watching the show.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
This one shouldn’t be surprising in any way, but it might be the biggest thing that’s brought me joy over the past few weeks. See, we recently decided to ditch our previous campaign in favor of one that was in a less boring setting. We landed on the Eberron setting, which is basically a magical version of the steampunk aesthetic that’s infinitely less insufferable. One of the biggest motivating factors for the change was the lack of any of the slice of life stuff that people usually engage with when playing a role-playing game. Our last setting didn’t have any real opportunities for the players to do anything outside of killing stuff and drinking ale, which made for a formulaic and uninspired game. I don’t think they minded it as much as I did, but I sensed a bit of fatigue with the module we were using. Also, I was fucking over it.
But that’s not the point. The point is that our campaign is set in a massive city that’s teeming with life and opportunity. We went through extensive character creation sessions where we really defined who their characters are. This was in service of not only creating fully realized characters, but to get my players invested in their avatars and understanding their motivations. Previous characters they made definitely wanted things, but without a setting to support those desires their characters were just walking murder-husks, devoid of any real direction.
I also changed our storytelling format to allow for more downtime and opportunities for their characters to grow through their actions. By using a combination of one-shots and custom campaigns, I’m able to hit them with story threads when they need it, and allow them to fuck around if they’d prefer that. It also allows me to react to their actions better than if I had tried to plan for said actions in advance. Everything about this campaign has been streamlined in a way that has taken a lot off of my plate. While I have a bunch of one-shots that are narratively linked together, an overarching story is something that’s entirely up to them and how they interact with the world. I might write in a bad guy here or a mission there, but I’m waiting for those plot hooks to come up naturally rather than me trying to force my players into it, all of which has made for a much more rewarding and fun Dungeons & Dragons experience for all of us.
So that’s it I guess. Hopefully when you read this, everything is cool and great. I would really prefer if we could just have something uneventful happen here at the finish line and I can go back to talking about video games without having to worry about if the former president is going to try and overthrow the government again. But yeah… good luck America. Good luck everyone, honestly.