Category Archives: archived features

Valentine’s Play

Even though our 2020 Game of the Year coverage is dead and buried with the rest of 2020, there’s still one list that I felt needed to be published in regards to the games I played last year. See, my partner and I started dating towards the end of 2019 and like most people, were put into a really challenging position when it came to maintaining our relationship while we were both quarantined. Luckily we both had Nintendo Switches and were able to have “date nights” where we’d just play games and talk for hours, something we still do only now in person thanks to them moving closer to my place. So in celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are some of the games we played and continue to play together that they have specifically called out as their most memorable games that we’ve played together in no particular order.

Trine 1&2

I don’t recall exactly when it happened, but at some point there was a really good deal on all 4 of the Trine games that were bundled into one package that we took advantage of. Both Trine 1 and 2 were big hits around these parts as we’d both been craving some sort of cooperative game with some light progression elements (my words, not theirs). I’d dabbled in the Trine games before, but never really dove into one like we did last year.

The amount of laughter and joy that would come out of our Trine gaming sessions is something that I’ll always treasure. Despite the game being overtly cooperative, my partner found a way to make it competitive by having to be the first one across any gaps or even just the first one to collect the various pickups and collectibles scattered around the levels. It was a really fun pair of games that we were quite simply hooked on for a few months last year.

While we both had a chaotically good time with the wacky physics-based mayhem and puzzle solving of the first two games, we only made it a few levels into the third entry of the series before we hit a wall. Trine 3 ditches the solely side-scrolling nature of the first two games in the series in favor of this 2.5D kind of approach where characters have to travel along the Z-axis to progress through the levels. While I was used to games that either dabbled in or lived completely in the third dimension, they weren’t as comfortable with it and bounced off of the game pretty quickly. It also didn’t help that Trine 3 is buggy as hell and that third dimension makes a lot of the mechanics they had come to know and understand be a lot more fiddly and unresponsive. But none of that can take away from the fact that the first two titles were great fun for the both of us.


I have this terrible habit of accidentally introducing my partner to games that I kind of like, only to have them turn around and demand they be the only games we end up playing. Overcooked might just be the epitome of this unwelcome trend, but it’s something my partner truly enjoys to the point where it’s the only thing they want to play lately. I wasn’t exactly sure what specific things they enjoy about the game itself, so I just went ahead and asked them.

“I like that we have to work as a team for a common goal. And it is fast paced so we really have to focus on communicating (well) and figuring out a strategy to complete the objective.” While they enjoy the fast-paced, communication heavy gameplay loop that Overcooked is all about, I just find myself unable to work that fast while focusing on several different objectives at once. Luckily, their brain seems to be significantly more capable of keeping track of multiple concurrent objectives without entering a fugue state, which is basically what happens to me whenever we play.

But the point is that Overcooked is a game that’s been wildly popular among the two of us, and while it might not be my favorite game, they sure do enjoy the hell out of it. One thing we can both agree on however, is that the game itself is overwhelmingly charming, from the character designs to the music, Overcooked is a delightful game to experience with another person.

Dr. Mario

I did not anticipate launching the NES or SNES virtual console thing that’s on the Switch as often as I had last year, but we both did because that’s where Dr. Mario lives. The classic puzzle game not only boasts two of the best music tracks in video games ever, but it was fun enough to become a long time favorite for my partner and I. Now, I really liked Dr. Mario as a kid, but I don’t know that I’d consider it one of my absolute favorite games of all time. But my partner, well they were and still are pretty obsessed with the good doctor’s particular brand of hurling pills at their patients until a cure happens.

It was seriously the only game that we’d play for a while, offering a good distraction as we made conversation. However, there’s only so much Dr. Mario I can personally endure before the siren song of the “Fever” track becomes an unwelcome ear-worm that won’t leave no matter what I do. Like I said, I enjoy Dr. Mario, but my partner fucking loves it.

Heave Ho

Heave Ho is the kind of game that is so absolutely hilarious to play that a person might have to sprint to the bathroom mid-game in order to avoid pissing their pants. That to me is the surest sign of a game being great fun. Both my partner and I absolutely loved Heave Ho so much that even now we still boot it up and bash our heads against some of the super challenging levels that you unlock after beating the game. There’s just something so delightfully stupid about what you’re doing at any given moment in the game, whether it’s locking arms with one another and trying to swing across the level or just plummeting to our death and watching the blood splatter fly up and coat the other person.

If you haven’t played Heave Ho with at least one other person, you’re truly missing out. It’s easily been one of our favorite games to play together and is probably my favorite game on this entire list.

Nidhogg II

Nidhogg II is a lot like Overcooked for me in the sense that I like it well enough, but not nearly in the same way that my partner does. I don’t know what it is about Nidhogg II that they enjoy so much, but whatever it is has led to me playing way more Nidhogg II than I ever intended to. They’re crazy about this game in a way that I personally didn’t expect, although it’s pretty hilarious to both of us whenever I unsuccessfully try to outrun a sword that’s spiraling through the air in my direction. Or maybe it’s when I accidentally roll off the side of the stage like a goober. Or maybe it’s when I slam my head into a doorway. Or maybe it’s when I hit the jump button too many times and just bounce around waiting for something pointy to pierce my flesh.

When asked, my partner said, “I like how competitive it gets, and that it is just us against each other. One slip up an you can gain a lot of ground, so you have to be focused and make sure you keep pushing in your direction.” While I agree with that sentiment, I think my ever growing ambivalence towards competitive games keeps me from enjoying it as much as they do. But hey, it’s still a good time when we do end up playing Nidhogg II.

NES Pro Wrestling

Image credit: u/mastablasta26 on reddit

Let me be clear when I say that neither of us have any sort of affinity for wrestling at all, but something about this game makes us lose our minds and breakdown into fits of laughter. I personally love the ridiculous characters like Star Man and King Corn Karn, but I’m pretty sure my partner is more into how their button-mashing ability out performs my haphazard attempts at learning the controls. I think I’ve only managed to land one spinning back kick on my partner, whereas they’ll transform their character into a whirling dervish of limbs that has a natural ability to connect with my face.

Whatever it might be, all I know is that against all odds we found great joy in a game that neither of us would have gone out of our way to try had we not been bored during our distanced quarantine. There’s also one on the SNES virtual console analog that’s also very good, but nothing beats the classics I suppose.

There were plenty of other games that we played together that I really enjoyed that I wanted to call out specifically. Things like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Castle Crashers jump out to me as games that defined our time in quarantine. But this is just a slice of the games that we’ve tried together. I’m still trying to get them to try out Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game with me, as it’s easily one of my favorite beat-em-ups of all time with a crazy good soundtrack to boot, but we’ll see how that goes.

But just today, February 12th, the Nintendo Switch port of one of the greatest Mario games of all time is being released. Of course I’m talking about the incredible and easily overlooked Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, a title that just rolls off the tongue. That ranks incredibly high up on my list of Mario games and I can’t wait to share with my partner how delightfully chaotic that game can be in multiplayer. I predict many instances of getting hurled off of the side of a level that will be immediately followed by a barely stifled giggle on their end and a sigh of resignation on mine, a constant theme that exists throughout most of the games we play together.

And that’s kind of it really. Video games are a big part of our relationship, and I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting experiences for us to try out. I’m still trying to figure out what games will be a hit and which ones won’t, but I’ll get there. One day I’m going to get them into something more dense and complex, but I have no idea when or what that will be. Anyway, enjoy your Valentine’s Day if you’re celebrating it, and for the love of God, don’t go out to eat at a restaurant. Just stay home, hang out with your partner, and play some dang video games.

Demos of the Steam Game Festival 2021

It’s times like these that I’m really grateful that my internet provider hasn’t saddled me with data caps, because I’ve downloaded a ton of demos from the ongoing Steam Game Festival that would certainly have resulted in some sort of additional charge on my bill. But the point is that as of February 3rd, 2021, you can open up Steam and download a bunch of demos for upcoming games. While I could never play all of them, nor would I ever want to be in a position where I had to, I did play some of the titles and have a few thoughts about what you should try and what you should avoid.


Lunark was the first demo I jumped into once all of my downloads from the festival completed, and while that might sound like some appraisal of its value, it was just the first one I clicked on. Looking back on it, I’m kind of glad I got it out of the way first because I really didn’t enjoy my time with this particular demo.

Lunark is a 2D side scrolling action and puzzle game that boasts a chunky-pixel aesthetic and plays kind of like the original Prince of Persia or Out of this World. If those references go over your head, it’s a very deliberate game that prioritizes the animation of what you’re doing over responsive controls and easy to use controls. Everything from running to climbing feels like there’s a giant lag between your button press and what happens on screen. It’s clear that Lunark is trying to illicit the same feelings of those other games, but it ends up feeling more convoluted and tedious than anything else.

Aside from mechanical issues, the game looks pretty cool with those big and beefy pixels even if it isn’t necessarily my aesthetic. The soundtrack also seemed pretty decent as well, but neither of those things seemed good enough to make me want to play the full version of this game. I don’t know about Lunark, but maybe it just isn’t for me.


Now here’s a game that I could really see myself spending a lot of time with. Chicory is a delightful little game about being a cute little dog person who has the ability to paint in the world around them. There’s context as to why they’re able to perform these artistic feats of magic that tie into the central plot of the game that (obviously) wasn’t fully explored in the demo, but it left me eager to see where the story goes.

Your quest to find out what happened to all the color in the world isn’t just a fun story hook, but it has mechanical repercussions as well. Your magic painting powers will allow you to navigate the environment, solve puzzles, help random citizens and oddly enough, fight enemies. I’m really curious to see how the mechanics evolve over time as you progress through the story.

For as delightful and joyous as Chicory appears on the surface, the end of the demo really takes a turn that I didn’t expect and basically transforms it into something of a bullet-hell. The controls work without issue for most of the demo, requiring you to use the right stick to move your brush around and the right trigger to actually paint, but it gets a bit dicier when you have to manage your paintbrush and move around at the same time. I’m sure it’s one of those things you get better at as time goes on, but even with that slight hesitance, I really think Chicory could be something special.


It feels mean to say that Retro Machina is squarely in the camp of “style over substance,” but I really felt that it was a game I’d rather look at than play myself. In Retro Machina, you play as a robot who was working at a nondescript factory alongside of their other identical robot buddies, who suddenly decides to not follow their orders because they saw a butterfly. I’m sure there’s more of a story there, but that’s all I gathered from the demo.

You escape the robot police and somehow get launched into the wilderness where you begin your search for a robot mechanic or upgrade station or something? Whatever the motivation, you end up in this different factory/office building where you have to solve puzzles and fight other robots to continue on. From a perspective that’s purely based on presentation, Retro Machina is great, but when you find yourself engaging in combat is where the experience kind of fell apart for me.

It isn’t that the combat is aggressively bad or anything, it just lacks any feeling of momentum or impact. The biggest thing that bugged me about the combat was the way that enemies can destroy you incredibly quickly, but not because they’re super powerful or anything, but because the game isn’t great about letting you know you’re taking damage. That led to a lot of moments where I’d exit a combat encounter with a fraction of the starting HP despite only having to fight like one robot. What I’m saying is that there isn’t great feedback for when you’re taking damage.

Aside from the combat issues however, the puzzle-solving aspect of Retro Machina seems promising. Despite needing or wanting an upgrade, your robot is extremely capable, boasting the ability to possess other robots to make them flip switches or navigate through otherwise inaccessible areas for you. There wasn’t a ton of innovative stuff I saw in the demo in regards to the puzzle mechanics, but it seems like that’s all primed to get insanely complex later in the full game. Overall the game seems neat, but I don’t think it’s something that I’d end up putting much of any time into.


While it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Sherwood Extreme sure seems like it’s trying to do the whole Bulletstorm thing in a low-polygon art style, replacing space marines with a Robin Hood-looking character who’s killing orcs. Sherwood Extreme is a level-based arcade-styled action game, where you’re trying to rack up the highest score you can by chaining together kills and acrobatics throughout a level in order to keep your combo meter up.

You run around with a crossbow and shield and shoot orcs while flipping in the air in slow motion like you’re in some medieval version of The Matrix. The shooting and score chasing aspect of Sherwood Extreme seem pretty solid, I just hope you unlock some more abilities or something because after only two or three levels, I was looking for some more variation. However, the game moves a lot slower than I initially thought it would because there isn’t a good feeling of momentum to running around or flipping, and it all just feels a bit janky. But hey, it’s a demo of an unreleased project.

Obviously I can’t speak to how Sherwood Extreme is as you get further into it, but there’s something there that’s worth paying attention to, I just wish it controlled and flowed a little bit better than it currently does. Hopefully that gets ironed out as the game develops, but even if it does, it’s one of those weird circumstances where I don’t dislike the game, but something just isn’t clicking with me. I wanted to enjoy Sherwood Extreme more than I actually did, but I don’t know if that’ll happen.


Speaking of games I wanted to like more than I actually did, let’s talk about Narita Boy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Narita Boy is a 2D pixelated action-platformer with Metroidvania elements. Right off the bat I will say that Narita Boy presents itself very well, both in terms of the art style and the soundtrack. And when you eventually do get to fight things, that feels pretty dang good too. You get this very cool sword that feels great to swing around and slash up monsters with, but you can also turn it around and use it as a shotgun which is objectively rad as hell.

While I think Narita Boy looks cool and has some neat combat mechanics, I don’t think this demo does the full product any justice. Like a lot of these demos, it starts with a world-setting cut-scene, but then it dumps you into a portion of the game that would probably be way more tolerable if it wasn’t the first and longest thing you do in the demo. You have to suffer through endless dialogues about the world and your place in it before you actually get to do anything cool. Even when your task is to go find the cool sword you have to trudge through more dialogue and an obscene amount of screens where you literally walk in a direction until you can press a button to open a door, just to do that again in a different room.

I’m sure the story is interesting, but they front load so much of it in the form of people just talking at you in dialogue boxes that I began to lose interest almost immediately. And it isn’t like a few sentences, these are full on paragraphs that talk about how cool it’s gonna be when you get that sword but first they have to describe the sword’s power in excruciating detail. Needless to say, I buttoned through a lot of dialogue because I just wanted to play the damn game. I think Narita Boy is really cool, but if that demo is indicative of what playing the full product is like, I don’t know that I can handle the pace of it.


Yes, okay, Steel Assault is a pixelated 2D action game. I feel like I’ve written that so much today, but that’s not the point. Steel Assault reminds me of Bionic Commando, Contra and even the Metal Slug games a bit. It’s very much a “shoot everything” kind of game, but it has this interesting tether mechanic that I unfortunately was never able to wrap my head around, but was still very cool when I did manage to use it correctly.

The basic rundown is that you have a cool laser whip that you can kill bad guys with as well as the ability to fire a tether in two directions at once to make a zip-line or tight rope that you can use to traverse distant platforms. For instance, if I’m on a platform and fire the tether up, one end connects to my current platform and the other tethers to the one above me. From there I can climb up the rope and also whip guys while hanging from the rope which looks very cool.

Yet despite how cool it looks, I found Steel Assault to be difficult in kind of bullshit ways. First and foremost, the enemies constantly spawn, leaving you no respite whatsoever. Now I’m sure that’s not an issue a lot of folks out there, but when I was trying to get a handle on what was going on it became incredibly frustrating. But that alone wouldn’t sour me on a nostalgia-driven action game, however what did get me was the readability of everything that was going on. I rarely have this issue in games, but I had a really hard time clocking enemy projectiles. The first sequence of the demo is you fighting a flying robot while you’re on a boat that’s speeding through the canals of a city. That robot fires bullets at you that basically vanish into the colors of the boat as well as the background, which might be more of an issue with the heavy retro-styled filter they put over the screen. I died a lot because of that.

Steel Assault was the only demo that I wasn’t able to get through just because of how difficult of a time I had with it. I don’t think it’s a bad game, I just couldn’t get into a groove with it. You’re mileage may vary, but if you think you’re a bad enough dude to play Steel Assault, you should go for it.

And that’s really it for now. I have a couple of other demos I want to try out before the Steam Game Festival wraps up on the 9th, so maybe I’ll gin up a “part 2” before that happens. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what demos are currently available, so I recommend you check out the offerings for yourself because there’s definitely stuff that’s exceptional that I didn’t or probably won’t end up covering here.

Some Notes About Baldur’s Gate III

Before I dive into the bulk of this article, it should be mentioned that no video game could ever truly capture the Dungeons & Dragons experience solely because there are static limitations to any video game. You can account for a lot of things as a game designer and try to cater to dozens of styles of play, but no game could adapt to the wild and imaginative things that players regularly ask of their DM’s quite like a living, breathing person present. Yet in spite of all of that Baldur’s Gate III already shows incredible promise when it comes to representing D&D and is a game I’m genuinely enjoying.

Don’t get me wrong, Baldur’s Gate III is a technical mess at the moment but I know what I signed up for when I decided to buy a game that’s in early access. I’m not going to harp on the performance of the game too much, but if you’re curious about what I mean by a “technical mess,” I can summarize that really quickly.

In its current, fresh into early access condition, Baldur’s Gate III runs inconsistently, usually fluctuating anywhere between running at 20 fps to 144 fps on my machine. Lip syncing for the new “cinematic” conversations is basically non-existent, and graphical glitches from T-posing, duplicating NPC’s you’re actively talking to, and ragdolls going wild are common occurrences. That kind of stuff is all bound to be smoothed over during the course of their early access period, so I’m not worried about that.

With that said, there are some things I would very much like to see fixed, changed and improved that pertain more to how the Dungeons & Dragons rules are translated into a video game. While this article isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, it does represent the things that I have personally noticed. I really love D&D, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in its mechanics or lore, so this is truly just representative of how I enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons.


In D&D you have a core set of skills like strength or wisdom, that as you pour stat points into them you’re granted a higher modifier. A modifier is the number you add to your roll or in some cases subtract from it, representing…well your skill at a particular ability. For instance, a rogue is going to be pretty good at sneaking around, picking pockets and doing cool flips, so their dexterity score and thus, modifier are going to be higher. Without just explaining the rules of D&D anymore than I already have, the rogue would have a couple of numbers they can add to a D20 roll in order to clear the difficulty class (DC) that represents how hard what they’re attempting is.

A DC of 7?

Baldur’s Gate III does this as well, but oddly enough reverses it. Instead of you adding numbers to a roll to clear a DC, all of your stats and bonuses subtract from the DC. It may not sound like a big deal, but after years of playing D&D it’s an incredibly jarring change. I suspect that the reason for this change is to make it simpler for new players with little to no experience with D&D to comprehend what’s going on. It’s obfuscating the math as not to confuse people and just have them focus on the dice roll itself, but that should definitely be something I can toggle on and off. As a player and a DM, I want to see those numbers.

Also, it just feels better to roll higher numbers than it is to roll low ones.


Considering that there isn’t really a DM in Baldur’s Gate III outside of a narrator who pops in regularly to make you feel like everything you’re doing is wrong, there isn’t much of a way to just perform random skill checks as far as I can tell. In D&D, if I find myself in an ancient library as a barbarian, I’m going to just sit back and contemplate how flammable these “books” as you call them, actually are. Yet if I’m a big brainy wizard, I’m going to be rolling arcana and history checks like they’re going out of style.

Half of the fun of playing D&D is being able to uncover clues or lore about the world through performing well timed checks. Being able to do a perception check when I enter a room or run a nature check on a potentially poisonous berry are just a sliver of ways that players get to feel powerful and useful as their characters.

There isn’t really any of that going on in Baldur’s Gate III however. The way that certain skill checks are handled is kind of bizarre and a little too passive for my liking. The only active checks I can perform are in dialogue situations, where I pick the line of dialogue that allows me to roll an insight or deception check. I understand this limitation in conversations because the alternative would be an colossal feat of programming. Allowing me to just roll whatever check I want in any and all conversations seems akin to asking Larian Studios to work on Baldur’s Gate III till the end of time.

But outside of conversations and combat, it’s just weird to me how pushed into the background a lot of these checks are. Almost every skill check that occurs while exploring is transformed into a passive check. I assume the game is rolling a dice in the background, but it’s still incredibly weird that I have no say over what check I’m rolling and when. I wouldn’t mind if there was some sort of “active DM” situation that would prompt me to roll a stealth check when I wander into a bad situation unwittingly. And if I do succeed on a passive perception check it would be nice to know what it is I noticed, because virtual Ari might see it, but flesh Ari does not.

While I’m bellyaching about the checks in Baldur’s Gate III, I wouldn’t mind if the game slowed itself down entirely to act like a DM. If there’s a trap I’ve wandered into, stop the game and bring up a menu that says, “hey, you fucked up and didn’t check for traps cause we don’t let you just do that, and now you’ve gotta roll dexterity saving throws for these party members. Good luck!” That’s the kind of D&D stuff I’m looking for from Baldur’s Gate III.

I think I just want Baldur’s Gate III to capture the feeling of sitting down to play D&D more than I want it to capture the world and lore. Sure those things are important to me, but when I ask for more transparency in dice rolls and checks, it’s because I’m trying to get that rush of playing D&D out of Baldur’s Gate III first and foremost.


This one is genuinely confusing to me, because it’s such an important part of the communal experience of D&D that its absence from the game is beyond odd. In D&D, your character cannot and should not be a skeleton key that can just do everything. Your characters are supposed to be flawed and fallible, which is why adventures travel in parties. The wizard may be a really smart magic-man, but he needs the fighter and her strength to defend him cause he’ll just get squished like a bug.

In its very early access state, Baldur’s Gate III seems to miss that mark by a wide margin. At the moment, my party has a cleric, fighter, rogue and a warlock, all with different skills and proficiencies that should work fairly well together. In combat, different skills and abilities work wonderfully together. Having the rogue shoot an oil barrel causing its contents to create a puddle under my enemies, followed by my warlock igniting said oil was a satisfying example of synergy, but outside of combat that isn’t really the case.

What isn’t in Baldur’s Gate III is an easy way to compare the skills and proficiencies of your characters without having to dig through a menu. So when I’m trying to break down a door or disarm a trap, I have to make an assumption on the fly of who to send to tackle said obstacle. Giving me a prompt or tool tip that just says like, “lock picking check” and then an ordered list of who in my party has the highest relevant skill for it would be nice.

But the most infuriating example of this is in situations where you have to talk to people. Baldur’s Gate III doesn’t do a great job of incorporating the rest of your party into your conversations. Sure, their lifeless husks will loom in the background unblinking while a man tells you the sad story about his brother or whatever, but they won’t help you in any way. For instance, if my character had a super low charisma score, I’d have to live with that every single time I entered into a conversation with someone. I wouldn’t be able to let the smooth talking bard (who isn’t in the game yet) do their thing and schmooze people over, no, instead Gronk the dwarf with a brain injury is going to ruminate on the income disparities that run rampant throughout the city of Waterdeep. That’ll fucking go well.

All I’m saying is, the adventuring party relies on one another for their talents and abilities, and I feel like Baldur’s Gate III doesn’t deliver on that in certain aspects of their game to varying degrees.


There are times in D&D where a player might have a plan in their mind that they try to enact, only to find out that mechanically it wouldn’t be possible. That’s the good thing about having a cool DM, they’ll let you know that your harebrained scheme isn’t going to work or they might even work with you to make that nonsense happen. What’s even cooler is when a DM let’s you rewrite your turn upon finding out that said nonsense isn’t going to work.

Baldur’s Gate III is not a cool DM and is a bit of an asshole when it comes to you being able to fix your mistakes. Now I’m not asking for Baldur’s Gate III to allow me to just try out spells on enemies till I get the result I like or anything, but I don’t think it would be a big deal if it let me undo my movement if I haven’t taken an action yet. With the camera and path-finding in Baldur’s Gate III being what it is, which is to say it’s bad, being able to undo your movement in your turn would be extremely helpful.

Too often I’ll find that I’ve wasted my movement, taken an opportunity attack, and ended up in prime position to be blasted by 3 wizards and an archer. All of this could be fixed with a simple “undo” button. To be entirely fair though, that button may exist somewhere, but lord knows I haven’t found it yet.


I never thought an isometrically oriented game could have so many camera and movement control issues, but here we are. It’s borderline maddening how many times I’ll try clicking on something that I can clearly see, only for my character to interpret “go there” as, “climb that mountain behind you.”

Part of this frustration has to do with the camera, which might function exactly like it did in Larian’s previous titles, but I couldn’t say for sure. But in Baldur’s Gate III, the camera does this cut away trick to reveal the area in front of and around you while dissolving any trees or natural coverings that would normally obscure you to account for whatever angle you’re viewing the action from. Think of how The Sims does it, where those things are still there, but you need to rotate the camera to see them again.

What Baldur’s Gate III does which has resulted in my great frustration, is allowing me to click on things that I can’t see. There was an instance where there was a natural stone archway that formed out of the side of mountain that had a road running underneath it. I made the mistake of stopping too close to the archway I suppose, which resulted in me trying to click further up the road to progress forward, but the cursor actually clicked the top of the archway that was dissolved away by the camera. I couldn’t see the thing I just clicked on, but my party tried to climb that archway with gusto.

Luckily for me though, there wasn’t an actively burning fire on the way up the mountain or else my party would have just charged right in there without any sort of self-preservation in mind. For instance, during the tutorial you find yourself in an area where fire is happening all around you and you need to kind of just walk past it. There’s a pretty large path to follow, but your characters only know of the most efficient route to get to where you clicked, which is barreling straight through regardless of what’s in their way.

The amount of accidental fire damage I’ve take in Baldur’s Gate III already is alarming, and I really hope the path-finding gets better cause I’ve already wiped my entire party because instead of running around the combat encounter, they walked right into and stopped in a puddle of grease putting them in prime roasting position. It was a nice present for my enemies I suppose.


Look, I don’t have a ton of experience with games like Baldur’s Gate III so I’m sure that a cluttered inventory and unorganized hotbar are just expected at this point, but the way in which Baldur’s Gate III “organizes” your spells is truly abysmal. For those who don’t know, casting spells in D&D is a bit of a process that involves making sure you have the spell slots available, picking a level, and then casting the spell and rolling its damage. If that didn’t make any sense to you, that’s fine, just know that Baldur’s Gate III makes finding your spells a chore.

Instead of giving me a list of spells I could cast and then asking me what level spell slot I want to burn on it, they just give you an icon for each spell at each level. Wanna cast magic missile at level 2? Well you gotta scroll through the hotbar to find the magic missile icon with a little roman numeral 2 on it. It’s painfully unintuitive at the moment, but I suspect it’s a remnant of trying to shove the D&D mechanics into Divinity: Original Sin II‘s engine.

Your spells are also just kind shoved into the hotbar all willy-nilly, something I think you can reorganize, but it crams everything your character can do into it with no organization. For instance, I have a fighter in my party who can perform strikes that can cause the fear condition in an enemy. I recently leveled her up in a way where she’s received some spells she can use as well. Instead of separating those skills into folders that are marked as “fighter abilities” or “cantrips,” it’s just all kind tossed in there for you to click through along with the myriad of spell scrolls you pick up, making combat kind of a slog when it’s the turn of a magic user.

In the same vein, the initiative tracker is absolute garbage and needs to be changed entirely. There are times where it’s supposed to be my turn, but then someone else just gets to cut in front of me for some reason. I’ve even had instances where a character I’m controlling will get two turns in one round. It’s bizarre.


I don’t want to be that guy or anything, but it sure does feel a bit like the enemies in Baldur’s Gate III are just kind of freestyling it when it comes to their abilities. I noticed this very early on when there’s a goblin attack you find yourself in the middle of. I’ve played enough Dungeons & Dragons to know the goblin stats pretty damn well, so I took notice when the goblin took more than 7 HP worth of damage and still lived.

Goblin – D&D Beyond

It’s a really weird an unwelcome choice to tinker around with the stats of enemies when you’ve got literal books worth of reference material to pull from. I understand the need to alter things to make them work in a video game, but this one seemed completely unnecessary. Now I can’t use the Monster Manual as my own personal strategy guide.


If there is one thing to me that is more damming about Baldur’s Gate III than anything else I’ve already mentioned, it’s that this game feels awfully similar to another Larian Studios game, Divinity: Original Sin II. I didn’t play very much Divinity: Original Sin II, but I sure as hell played enough to recognize it when juxtaposed with what’s supposed to be a game recreating the D&D mechanics. Aside from both games having a ton of visual similarity, there are two mechanics that I’ve personally seen that made me feel like I was playing a version of Divinity that was cosplaying as D&D.

First and foremost has to be the movement and map structure. I know it’s way more dynamic and interesting if you can have free access to just about anywhere on the map during a combat encounter, but for a game trying to present the rules of D&D accurately, there should be some sort of grid-based movement. In D&D, each grid block is supposed to represent 5 feet, which is important to know and be aware of considering how many things are tied to your precise position.

I hate this stupid hat, but it gives me +1 to dex saves

For example, I tried to set up this choke-point in a hallway that would effectively be a gauntlet of blades for the enemies trying to escape and alert their buddies. I managed to get 3 of my party members in what I assumed was stabbing range, but these enemies just found this sliver of daylight and plowed throw untouched like they were Barry Sanders or something. It’s things like this that make me yearn for some grid that confined movement or even an arrow I can point that’ll alert me about what I’m getting myself into if I move somewhere.

The other Divinity-esque thing I’ve seen is how much Baldur’s Gate III incorporates environmental effects and hazards into its gameplay. At first, the ability to knock over a bucket of water onto an enemy and light them up with a lighting bolt for extra damage seems awesome, but then you might find a pathway obscured by some fire and have to make the choice of burning a spell slot on it or not. These choices certainly come up in standard D&D play, but the frequency at which these hazards present themselves are a little too much for my tastes.

Like I said, I haven’t played a lot of Divinity: Original Sin II, but from my understanding you have less resource intensive ways of dealing with things like that than you do in D&D.


Okay this one is really just me being ridiculous, but I stand by the fact that it should be more fun to roll the dice than it actually is. Clicking a big die and watching the numbers change is fine and all, but what if there was like a physics driven dice I could roll? That would be a lot of fun for me, a simpleton who is easily amused by physics in video games. It would also make it feel more like I was playing D&D proper.

Despite all of my bellyaching about some of the mechanics in Baldur’s Gate III, I’m really enjoying it for what it is. It’s very early and I’m sure I’m not saying anything the developers haven’t already heard, but as someone who plays Dungeons & Dragons regularly these were just some of the things that stood out to me. I haven’t dipped into the multiplayer just yet due to reports of it being busted, but I look forward to giving that a shot once a few patches hit.

I know worrying about certain mechanics that are present in this current version of Baldur’s Gate III is premature at best, and I’m sure Larian Studios will make great strides over the course of their period of early access. It’s going to be a long time before Baldur’s Gate III fully releases, and by then I’m sure I’ll barely be able to recognize it as the same thing I’m playing now.

Ultimately, I might be looking for something that Baldur’s Gate III cannot or isn’t attempting to deliver on. I want that feeling of playing Dungeons & Dragons more than anything else. It’s a big ask for sure, but I feel like this is the closest I’ve come to getting to play a single player D&D game in the rule set that I know. I might take a break from Baldur’s Gate III until some more patches and fixes get implemented, but I can assure I’ll be reading the patch notes that come with every update just to see if it’s the right time to dive back in.

About That Avengers Beta

Since their surge in mass popularity during the 2010’s, I’ve been yearning for an Avengers game that would appropriately blend the varied powers of the Earth’s mightiest heroes with actual fun gameplay. Things were looking very promising when Marvel’s Spider-Man released two years ago on the PlayStation 4, but all of those positive feelings slowly drained away as I spent some time with Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers beta.

The beta opens with the San Fransisco demo that’s been shown off before, swapping you between Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Black Widow throughout various points in the level. In another, better game, swapping between the heroes every few minutes would be a lot of fun, granted it managed to nail that blend of power fantasy with the cohesion of team dynamics that the Avengers are known for. But based on this beta, Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t succeed at either.

From the start, you have to confront the awkward and unresponsive controls. Everything feels delayed, undermining the brawler feel that other superhero games have done well like the Batman Arkham series or even Marvel’s Spider-Man did. Some of the special abilities and heavy attacks pack a good punch, but by and large most of what I played in the beta felt pretty bland in the combat department.

Marvel’s Avengers combat failings stem from its desire to be a live-service game. Enemies have bloated health bars and can take multiple massive green fists to the face because my gear score or whatever wasn’t high enough. I understand that’s just an aspect of how a lot of these games are, but this decision honestly robs Marvel’s Avengers of letting the player feel like a superhero. The Hulk should not be getting taken to task by some generic robots holding shields.

There’s also the issue of the game not explaining a lot of stuff to you, but I acknowledge that this might just be a beta issue and hopefully will be addressed, but there’s a lot in Marvel’s Avengers that I just never understood. For instance, you’ve got a health bar at the top of the screen with a mysterious superhero specific bar underneath it. What this bar is, I don’t know. What I do know is that while I was getting my ass kicked by a swarm of robots, the bar went down. Was that the health bar? If that’s the case, then what’s the other one for? Are all of my special abilities on a cool-down that might get faster with better gear or skill upgrades, or can I do something in game to impact them?

Maybe all of this is explained in the mess of a pause menu they’ve got, where the landfill of gear, crafting materials and currencies live. It’s one of those screens where your eyes just glaze over because of the sheer amount of garbage that’s on it. Luckily, there’s a button you can hit that will just equip the best gear for you, letting you avoid the nightmare of that entire menu.

What’s upsetting though is how none of your gear has any visual representation whatsoever. There’s plenty of articles of clothing to equip among the Avengers themselves, but none of it actually shows up at all. I actually understand why that isn’t a thing though. Marvel probably isn’t onboard with people making new Iron man armor from welded together scraps you found in a factory or a jungle. They want to “preserve the identity” of the characters or something, and letting you to adjust their appearances to something that isn’t “on brand” is probably a no. Also, I’m positive that buying alternate costumes is the monetization strategy for Marvel’s Avengers.

Ultimately Marvel’s Avengers just feels like a big miss on every front. It’s not a good action game, it doesn’t make you feel powerful, and it seems rife with ways to nickel and dime its player base. I can’t say definitively that it’s a disappointment yet, considering it isn’t actually out. This is a “beta,” and technically everything is subject to change. Sure the full game releases in just a few weeks, but maybe this is an older build of the game. Whether that’s true or this beta is indicative of what you can expect at release however, this was a miserable first impression.

Exploring My Biases Against Certain Genres and Mechanics

Have you ever seen a trailer for a game and immediately knew it wasn’t for you? This happens to me consistently, and all it usually takes is a trailer or screenshot for me to see the mechanics at play to know a game isn’t for me. While I try to keep an open mind about every game, it’s a challenge for me to look at certain mechanics or genres and still feel compelled to play it despite what the critical reception is.

There’s been a lot of great games that have already come out this year, but I honestly haven’t played most of them because of this inherent bias I have against certain mechanics. It isn’t a qualitative judgement about the game or the mechanic in question, it’s just something I know won’t jive with me.

I guess you could just chalk it up to personal taste and knowing that every game isn’t made with me in mind, but sometimes I feel like I’m doing myself a great disservice from not giving these games a fair shake. That’s why I wanted to do a deeper dive into the elements and genres that immediately rebuff me, and try to get to the bottom of why that might be the case.

Starcraft 2 – Blizzard Entertainment


It’s weird to start this list off with something so broad and nebulous as “tactics,” but allow me to make my case. There are phenomenal tactics games out there that people have raved about for years that I’ll never play. Games like the X-Com series, Starcraft, and even the Divinity series all seem so interesting from a distance, but rebuff me the second I get a little too close. It’s hard to nail down exactly what it is about these games that’s kept me away, but honestly it’s less about an inner conflict with the mechanics themselves and more about me being incapable of properly strategizing a coherent plan of attack in these kinds of games.

Quite frankly, I’m miserable at these games to the point where they just feel overwhelming. Usually I end up walking away from these games feeling like an idiot because I’m just so bad at applying foresight to these combat encounters. There’s also the issue of learning the internal mechanics that make things work in these games. For instance, when I played Divinity: Original Sin II, not only was I having trouble figuring out a good plan of attack, but I was also trying to learn what spells and attacks were effective against the enemies and the environment. It felt like I was learning two games at the same time and failing at both.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 – Larian Studios

I’m not great at strategizing in general, which is why real-time strategy games like Starcraft and Warcraft never appealed to me. My only tactic is to build my army as fast as I can and click on enemy troops and buildings in the hopes something happens that I like. There’s also a lot of plate spinning in these games, where I’ll have to contend with a multi-pronged attack plan, while managing the defenses at my base, while making sure troop and supply production lines are working and so on and so forth. It’s a lot for me to focus on at once, and I inevitably fail miserably at each of them whenever I try to play one of these games.

There is one glaring potential exception to this however. At some point in the next few weeks, Baldur’s Gate III is supposed to enter early access. Now, I’m incredibly excited for the game for numerous reasons, but the main one at this point is because I know the inner working mechanics it’s going to be using. It’s running off of the Dungeons & Dragons 5e rule set, something I’ve become very familiar with over the years. It’s led to me looking at Baldur’s Gate III as less of a strategy or tactics game, and more of a way to play D&D by myself. There’s a lot of mental gymnastics going on in my head to make me feel at peace with Baldur’s Gate III, and I completely acknowledge that.

Magic: The Gathering Arena – Wizards of the Coast


Like most kids in the 90’s, I was a big fan of Pokemon and would consume everything it touched, from the show, the games, the toys, and of course the cards. The thing is, despite owning a ton of the cards and organizing them into a nice binder, I never actually did anything with them. I’ve never once actually played Pokemon as a card game before. I just wanted cool little pictures of them to collect.

That mentality has shifted as I’ve gotten older, but not in the direction of actually playing card collecting games (CCG) whatsoever. I’ve moved in the other direction, away from collecting cards and even further away from playing CCGs. There is something incredibly boring to me about building a deck of cards filled with spells, monsters and other stuff, and playing against other people with it. I’ve had people try to get me into Hearthstone and other games before, but I just don’t have the patience for any of them.

Hearthstone – Blizzard Entertainment

The CCG genre is incredibly popular and beloved by so many people, and I’m not trying to take anyone’s enjoyment of these games away from them. Focusing on games like this are extremely difficult for me because of just how slow and methodical they inherently are. You’re supposed to take your time and strategize, but as we’ve discovered earlier, I’m bad at that.

You might ask, “why not learn to play them so you can get better?” A good question to be sure, but I’ve only got so much time on this planet, that I’d rather not try to force a square block in a round hole for more of it than I already have to. CCGs are great fun for the people who can focus and really wrap their minds around them. Hell, my Discord channel is currently filled with Magic: The Gathering Arena optimal deck links and people constantly playing it. While I’d love to be able to engage my friends on this topic, I know it just won’t happen and I’ll end up just grousing about how much I dislike everything about CCGs to them.

Outlast 2 – Red Barrels


To be completely honest, I don’t know why people enjoy the horror genre in any aspect, whether it be games, movies, TV shows, or even going to haunted houses on Halloween. I don’t like any of it, and it’s because I don’t enjoy being scared. Nothing about the emotion of fear seems fun to me at all, and I don’t get how some people are so eager to get frightened.

I get that some people get a great adrenaline rush out of a scare, or can appreciate a nice haunted tone in a movie or game or whatever, but I’m not one of those people. To me, fear was something I wanted to avoid and steer clear of as best I could. I don’t enjoy feeling on edge, I don’t admire the artistic talent it took to evoke that spooky tone, I just don’t like any of it.

Resident Evil 3 Remake – Capcom

Call me a coward or whatever, but fear was just never something I actually wanted to experience. That’s why when people clamor about the latest Resident Evil game or talk about the masterpiece that P.T. was, I can’t even begin to have that conversation with them. They might be stellar games through and through, appealing to everything a horror fan wants, but to me they’re just an expensive way to feel uncomfortable and have nightmares.

Once again, you can enjoy and praise the horror genre all you want, but none of it is going to make me willingly pay money to be scared. We haven’t even talked about games that like to throw in a jump scare in it just to shake things up. Bioshock Infinite had one of those and I’m still angry at it for including it.

Final Fantasy VII Remake – Square Enix


If I’m being honest here, JRPGs combine two things I’m really not that crazy about into one package that I don’t have any reverence for. As far as anime goes, I think I’ve enjoyed maybe one or two of them in my life, and they’re pretty mainstream if I’m being honest. I know that people really enjoy anime, and I’m not here to take that away from you because I truly believe that certain anime media can be really cool, particularly in the badass fight scenes that I’ve seen posted online. Anime can be cool is what I’m saying.

But the other half of that equation, the turn-based RPG part of it? That’s the part that I can’t handle as much. In my life, I’ve played part of one Final Fantasy game, and watched a childhood friend blast through large sections of Final Fantasy VII when it came out. Both of those experiences were pretty agonizing for me. And I know it’s unfair to target the Final Fantasy series here, but they’re one of the few touchstones I have in this genre of games. I never had the urge to play anything in this genre, so I’m well aware that there might be something that I might find interesting somewhere out there.

Persona 5 – Atlus

Similar to my issues with tactics and strategy games, I’m just a poor planner when it comes to gaming… and probably everything else in my life. So making sure I’ve got the right party members, items and buffs never really appealed to me in video games. I used to point to the fact that taking turns in combat made no sense to me, but that’s a pretty juvenile argument that I no longer use especially considering my recent reverence for D&D.

The reasons I won’t play those games today has changed significantly since I was younger, but they basically boil down to the fact that a lot of JRPGs are way too long and dense for me. Those games usually have so much going on in them that I can’t keep up. It’s the same way I feel about intense classic RPGs like the old Fallout games or last year’s Disco Elysium. They’re highly regarded games that I just don’t have the patience for.

The Long Dark – Hinterland Studio


There’s the concept of “plate spinning,” or the idea that you need to manage and keep tabs on a lot of moving parts at once. I notice this mostly in survival games where you need to worry about your food, thirst, stamina, temperature and so on. Both this and time limits feel like two sides of the same coin that I want to just throw into a storm drain.

Sometimes these mechanics are intrusive and steal the focus away from anything else in the game. When that happens, a switch flips in my head that instructs me to stop any forward progression and just hoard everything I can find for the next few hours. Maybe that’s how you’re supposed to play the game, but it just feels like paranoia-fueled busy work to me.

Minecraft – Mojang

There are some exceptions to this rule however, and it only occurs when a game isn’t too intrusive about it. For instance, Minecraft has a hunger and stamina meter, but it’s such an afterthought that you really don’t need to do much aside from carry a few steaks on you at all times. The ‘survival’ portion of the survival mode in Minecraft mostly applies to you not dying in whatever monster-filled chasm you inevitably arrive at.

Even Red Dead Redemption II had some light survival mechanics that were easy to fulfill. If you find yourself in town, you might as well snag a hot meal and a bath and refill your dwindling meters. Both of those last for days as well, and you’re never really in danger of starving to death or passing out from exhaustion. It’s that kind of light touch approach that I can deal with when it comes to plate spinning, but games that are designed around your ability to multitask efficiently just stress me out.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battlegrounds – PUBG Corporation


Remember back in 2017 when we could go places and do stuff but ultimately decided to stay inside and play PLAYER UNKNOWN’S Battlegrounds instead? I do. In fact, I played a whole lot of PUBG, to the point where it started to get tiring which ultimately led to me falling off of it about a year later. It was a marginally better time.

But now if you asked me to play a battle royale game with you, I’d probably find any excuse I could to avoid doing so. I don’t necessarily have anything against the genre itself, but I have played enough of one of the most popular ones out there to have had my fill with the genre entirely.

Ring of Elysium – Aurora Studio

This feeling was cemented when I tried to play Fortnite a few times, and bounced off of it almost immediately. From PUBG, to Fortnite, to Apex Legends, Ring of Elysium, Radical Heights and The Culling, I’ve played a lot of these games, and I think I’ve had my fill of the entire concept itself.

These games can still offer up a lot of entertainment and satisfaction, but they can also be sources of immense anxiety and stress. I’ll never forget the tension that would fill the air when you’d hear a gunshot ring out in the distance during a round of PUBG. Hell, everything in PUBG was incredibly tense when I think about it. The sound of a car, the sight of already opened doors, the literal ring of death that’s slowly closing in on you, it was all designed to be stress inducing.

Stress inducing as it was though, it was a lot of fun. But I just don’t think I need that in my life at this point. I like having stakes in games, I like tense moments, but battle royales seem to luxuriate and bask in these moments to the point of sensory overload for me.

A lot of what I’ve talked about here are just some personal examples of things that turn me off when looking into new games. They’re not value judgements or statements about the product itself or the people who actually enjoy them, they’re just my personal proclivities and nothing more.

Something also interesting to note is that just about everything I’ve listed here plays into my personal issues with anxiety and attention span. It’s weird how you can know all these various facts about yourself, but not be able to see how they’re all intertwined until you actually write them out and try to find a connective thread.

Ultimately I’d like to impress upon you that liking these things is totally valid and I want you to keep enjoying whatever it is you’re playing. If everyone felt the same way as I did, then these games wouldn’t be made anymore because people would stop buying them. The world is filled with different people with different tastes, and while some of these mechanics and genres aren’t for me, I celebrate the people who garner enjoyment from them in my place.

A Look Back at The Steam Game Festival

As we watch the corpse of E3 gently float down the stream with golden coins placed over its eyes for The Riverman to grant it safe passage, we find ourselves in the midst of constant press events that look to fill vacuum E3 left in its wake. One of these events came in the form of the now concluded Steam Game Festival, where developers could directly market their upcoming games via Steam and allow us to download demos of upcoming games. I played a couple of these demos and wanted to provide a little bit of insight into each of the games I got my hands on.

I want to preface with the fact that most of, if not all of the demos I tried, were of games that were not done and clearly needed more work. I am not judging these demos as full products, nor would I want to imply that was the case. These games are in development and are subject to change, so consider this article as a time capsule that describes what these demos were like.


Griefhelm is a side-scrolling action game that sees you, a knight, sword fighting their way through waves of increasingly deadlier enemies. While it sounds fun on paper, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The controls feel floaty and unresponsive at times, often resulting in the mistiming of blocks and strikes. Griefhelm uses a similar combat system to Nidhogg in terms of having to correctly angle your sword stance between low, medium and high, in an attempt to parry and hit your opponents. While technically that system works in Griefhelm, it doesn’t feel anywhere as responsive or satisfying as Nidhogg.

There’s also another layer to the game that lives in-between skirmishes, where you select which mission you want to go on. Each mission offers a different kind of objective, although they all boil down to just killing dudes and not dying with the promise of some sort of reward that you can use in other levels being bestowed upon you, as well as new pieces of armor for your knight.

While I don’t think Griefhelm is there just yet, I think with some refinement to the controls and mission variety that it could be a really fun game.


Remember everything I said about Griefhelm? Then get ready for Unto the End, a game that is cut from the same cloth as Griefhelm, but does just about everything better. Well, except for showing me anything outside of the combat mechanics of the game, because the demo is literally just the combat tutorial and nothing else as far as I could tell.

Unto the End is a much more visually appealing version of Griefhelm, that’s easier to control and more satisfying to play. It uses a similar combat system that seems to be a little more fine-tuned and responsive than Greifhelm. Outside of those examples however, there isn’t really much else to glean from this demo. I look forward to seeing more of Unto the End despite knowing next to nothing about it though.


Windjammers 2 is a game that I forgot existed at all despite it being the sequel to one of my favorite Neo-Geo games, Windjammers. If you have no idea what Windjammers or its sequel actually is, you could call it a mix between pong, air hockey, and that aggressively 80’s attitude that we all love so much.

Windjammers 2 boasts a new hand drawn art style that I’m actually really into, along with a couple of new offensive and defensive capabilities that allow people who know what they’re doing to completely devastate others. Completely unrelated, the demo only allows for online play at the moment, and I definitely didn’t get obliterated by every opponent I faced.

I will always champion Windjammers as a game everyone should try at least once in their lives, although I don’t know that I am foaming at the mouth in anticipation of a sequel. I’ll see how I feel about it when the full game is released, but for now I’m okay with the first installment that currently lives on my Switch.


Long before the days of Shark Cards and orbital strikes, the Grand Theft Auto series started as a top-down action game where driving a car in a straight line was borderline impossible. The early GTA games also showed off some of that trademark humor that Rockstar is infamous for, but nowhere near as loudly as they do it now.

With that history lesson out of the way, Rustlers is the fantasy version of those old GTA games, emulating everything from the top-down camera angle to the inability to ride a horse in a straight line along with some really hit and miss attempts at humor.

The combat is sluggish and unresponsive, often times defaulting to you just mashing the attack button in the hopes you land a hit on an enemy that’s also flailing wildly, but somehow better at it than you are. Riding a horse is a laborious process that will almost always end in you crashing into something and falling of said horse, which ultimately became the way I dismounted my horse every single time.

The only somewhat redeeming factor is the sense of humor Rustlers has. There were some moments where I might have softly chuckled to myself, like when I saw a cow on a roof that had the word, “horse” spray painted across its body, or when the medieval cops were after me and had one of those rotating red and blue police lights on their helmets. There were also a lot of not so great jokes that I endured, most of which involved being drunk, excessively cursing or soiling yourself.

I don’t think I like Rustlers at all, but maybe you’ll enjoy it. If that’s the case, more power to you.


A while ago I wrote about the newest Mount & Blade game, specifically mentioning how I thought it was way too much for me to contend with. I know that it’s a very beloved series, but it just wasn’t for me. I only bring that up because I share a lot of the same feelings with the Mount & Blade series as I do The Bloodline.

The Bloodline does itself a massive disservice by starting you out in a mostly abandoned castle with barely anyone around. You create your low-poly character and head out on an adventure that is mechanically similar to something like Mount & Blade. Just like those games, you’ll split your time between first or third person combat, traveling and exploring the over-world, and recruiting allies to join you in what I’ve heard are fairly massive battles.

One of the first things I encountered on my travels was a massive tower that was devoid of any enemies, but had a big bell hanging at the top of it. The game and I agreed that I was to make it to the top of the tower and ring that bell. Luckily The Bloodline gives you a grappling hook that works about 70% of the time which is all I needed to make it to the tippy-top. That and I don’t think there’s any fall damage, so that helped too. I got to the apex, rang the bell, and got 1500XP for my trouble, and was teleported back to the world map. Then I traveled to a town, looked around for people to recruit, and the game crashed.

I haven’t loaded it up again since, but the demo is so rough and janky that I think I’ll wait for a more polished release to continue on my The Bloodline adventure.


Do you like rogue-like games? Do you also like unnecessarily horny representations of anime characters? Well friend, you might just love Nigate Tale, a game that apparently is both of those things and I had no idea. Not like there’s anything wrong with liking these things, it was just a lot to absorb all at once.

See, I don’t enjoy rogue-likes at all. It all just feels a little too grindy for my tastes, but I get the appeal of them, and for what it’s worth Nigate Tale seems like a pretty competent one of those kinds of games. The controls are responsive, the enemies provide a real challenge, and the game has a pretty good look to it as well. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t know what makes a good rogue-like, this seems like it’s all right.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m trying to “yuck anybodies yum” or anything, I just was not prepared for the 3 scantily clad anime ladies I would encounter within the first 5 minutes of playing. All of that confusion immediately faded away when I met a large hamster-like creature who gave me some special powers, cause their presence alone was easily the high point of Nigate Tale.

I played a little bit of Nigate Tale, and I genuinely have no idea if it’s good or not. It felt good to play, but I was constantly at a loss because the in-game translation isn’t fully there yet which made it genuinely hard to understand what powers I was picking up or even what the story was. I hope this thing gets properly localized and people can get their hands on it, cause it seems all right for what it is.


Skellboy is the kind of game that I can get behind. It’s this action game where you play as a skeleton that acquires new body parts and weapons from their fallen foes, and wears it on themselves. A new head might give you more health or the ability to spit projectiles, while new feet could make you run faster. It seems ripe for a puzzle solving game where you’re swapping parts of yourself out to progress through certain obstacles, but you don’t have an inventory so you just pick up and discard things as you go.

The game also boasts this almost Paper Mario-esque art style, except instead of everything being made of paper they’re just chunky pixels. But the way the perspective shifts as you move through a level gave me some really strong Paper Mario vibes that I very much appreciated.

The only criticisms I really have with Skellboy is that the combat not only feels slow, but there isn’t much impact to anything you’re doing. I found myself losing a lot of health because I just didn’t realize I was getting hit, and the same thing can be said about attacking. Outside of that however, I really dug what I played.

There it is, my not-so-comprehensive coverage of The Steam Game Festival. Overall, I like how Steam has run this event and gave people access to a lot of neat upcoming games that I would have otherwise not known about. Considering E3 would be over by now, it’s been nice to get a constant trickle of announcements and events like this one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other publishers tried similar things. Everyone has their own launcher these days, so it wouldn’t be outrageous to see someone like Ubisoft announcing a game one day and simultaneously allow people to try a demo or beta of said game on their own platform. We’ll see what happens over the course of this summer I suppose.

I Wanted to Play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, But Apparently That Was Too Much to Ask For

Recently the Epic Games Store ran their “Epic Mega Sale,” in which not only were games on sale, but they issued ten dollar coupons to everyone to entice people to buy more. Needless to say, this offer worked and I picked up Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for only a couple of bucks, thus starting a several day journey of actually getting to play the damn thing.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey clocked in around 81 gigabytes for its initial install time. I wasn’t surprised by how massive it was considering I knew how big of a game it was. Sure having to wait a few hours for something to install sucks, but it’s an unavoidable part of playing just about any game these days. This was something I anticipated and was prepared for.

What I wasn’t ready for was the disconnect between the Epic Games Store and Uplay, a factor that took me alarmingly long to realize and fix. See, when you launch a Ubisoft title outside of Uplay itself, Uplay still has to launch and authorize that you actually own the game. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I hadn’t actually launched Uplay for a long time, so it needed to update itself as well, but since I was running a shell of UPlay the actual program itself was unable to update.

I was met with a blue dialogue box in Ubisoft colors that said something to the effect of “looking for updates.” This box never went away. It was looking for updates but couldn’t find any. After some time of waiting, I decided to just launch Uplay by itself to see if an update would automatically initialize. Luckily, that did the trick.

So now I was ready to go, right? Of course not. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey had a 30 gigabyte update ready and waiting for me. You would think that in buying the game I would have received the most updated version of the dang thing, but no. For some reason, far beyond my comprehension, I still had an update that was nearly half the size of the game to install before I could have my fun stabbing adventures.

Finally, the update was applied and I was ready to go, right? Nope! Because suddenly Uplay was asking me for a CD key for the game I just bought, and I couldn’t find that information in my cursory searching through the Epic Games Store. So I restarted the Epic store to see if that might refresh some entitlements or something, and it kind of worked out. I had to link my Epic account to Uplay, something I could’ve sworn I already did when I bought The Division 2 when it initially released. So I did that and finally I could play the game, right?

If that was the end of the saga, I might not have written this article at all, but unfortunately for me a new problem appeared just in time to properly piss me off. The game launches, I do the intro mission and start to progress. Not five minutes into actually playing the game as the protagonist, it crashes.

The first mission in the game has you face off against two hooligans who come and harass you on behalf of some gang leader named “The Cyclops.” After roughing them up, you get to make your first choice in the game of whether to kill them or let them live. I chose the latter. A cut-scene happens and you have to make your way a short distance to the next objective. On that journey, I was ambushed by the hooligans I had spared and had to properly dispatch them this time. Upon killing the final enemy in the group, the game crashed.

It did this every single time. I have played this 3 minute portion of the mission a total of 5 times already in the hopes that something different would happen, and I could finally enjoy the fucking game I paid for. I don’t even want to play the game that badly anymore thanks to the multi-day calamity that I’ve been through with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but part of me doesn’t want to let the game get away with this bullshit.

This whole article has been pretty directly pointed at Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but this is the kind of shit that can happen in the world of PC gaming and digital distribution. Now, I love playing games on my computer and consider it my go-to place for gaming, but this kind of nonsense is the exact kind of thing that makes me think I’d be better off just playing it on my PS4. But this isn’t unique to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey considering that just last year I went through this exact same thing with Red Dead Redemption II, also through an Epic Games Store purchase.

I know that all of this sounds like I’d end this article bashing Epic or Ubisoft, but I kind of get why it’s such a mess. Publishers want to make as much money as they possibly can, which is why almost all of them have their own PC launcher and storefront. But they also want to put their games where people will actually see them like Steam, Epic or GOG, and still be able to verify purchases and track their players habits in game. That’s why whenever you buy a Ubisoft game on Steam, it launches an extra layer of DRM in the form of Uplay. It’s cumbersome and annoying, but I get it. The problem is that while these problems don’t always crop up, when they do it’s usually because the solutions aren’t as seamless or elegant as you’d hope. I don’t know what the solution to all of this is, but I do know that I’m going to fucking play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey even if I have to reinstall the god damned thing.

UPDATE #1: I have verified the files of the game and unfortunately was greeted with the same crash in the same place, every time.

UPDATE #2: I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to have to reinstall this game, and have already begun that process. It’s been two hours and I’m around two-thirds of the way through the download.

UPDATE #3: The installation process is complete and I have officially completed that mission without any additional hiccups. The frame rate is a little wonky though.

UPDATE #4: I haven’t played the game in days. This was a really good use of my time.

Cyberpunk 2077 and its Already Massive Fandom

Since its announcement and various gameplay reveals, I’ve noticed this low yet consistent stream of cosplay, projects and fan art surrounding the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077.  It’s not that it upsets me or anything like that, I just find it really strange that there’s this fandom that exists already around a game that won’t be released for some time.

I’m well aware that fandoms exist for literally everything as people are eager to celebrate their interests, but I’m finding it hard to make the connection with Cyberpunk 2077, especially because we know very little about it outside of its structure and aesthetic. It’s an open-world action RPG set in a cyberpunk dystopia, and aside from a few gameplay videos that are out there we have no other real indication of how this game will come together.

People seem to be confident in Cyberpunk 2077 and what it will shape up to be based on the legacy established by its developer, CD Projekt Red, makers of The Witcher series.  I can understand that logic considering how impressive The Witcher 3 was on its own, but it’s still strange to me how big this fandom has become for a game that’s just a date on a calendar so far.

I get that people are excited for the game and want to express that in whichever artistic avenue they see fit, and that’s genuinely great.  Honestly, the aesthetic that Cyberpunk 2077 is boasting is gorgeous and very much worthy of admiration and celebration, but for my money I’d want to actually get my hands on the game before I declare my fandom for it.  Clearly that’s just me, and I’m essentially acting like an old man who can’t understand why the kids these days are crazy about some genre of music.

I guess my ultimate fear with all the celebrations around Cyberpunk 2077 is my worry with every upcoming and very hyped game — what if it sucks?  I don’t want Cyberpunk 2077 to be bad, in fact I’d very much like it to be good, but that possibility is always looming above every piece of media that exists.  What if it’s bland and boring or even worse, what if it’s got some real problematic content in it?  All signs point to no on that last one, but you never know.

There’s also the distinct possibility that because this game was revealed back in 2012 and has delivered a slow drip of information over the past 8 years that I’m just hyper aware of it. I imagine this kind of thing is going to happen with games like The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield, considering they’ve been officially announced for some time now and people are probably hungry for any information on it.

This whole thing sounds a lot more skeptical and cynical than I actually want it to, because I’m not trying to be out there telling people not to be excited about the game, but it just feels weird to me that so many people are all in on this thing they haven’t played yet. Be excited, do your artwork and cosplay till your heart’s content, but also be cautious. I’m hopeful that Cyberpunk 2077 will be a tremendous game that’s worthy of celebration, but maybe we see how it turns out first? Or do your thing, I’m not here to ‘yuck anybody’s yum,’ especially these days where happiness is in short supply.

Cancel the whole article!  I’ve decided to just mind my own business instead.  Have fun and be safe, that’s all that matters.


Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s been way too long since we’ve have a good skateboarding game, with 2010’s Skate 3 being the last game worth playing.  Since then, there’s only been one notable release in the form of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, a game that even if it wasn’t absolutely dreadful, was no longer the kind of skateboarding game I’m looking for.

When the Tony Hawk series of games was good, those games were all about racking up points, completing absurd objectives, and defying the laws of physics every time you ramped off of anything.  No one really managed to be a real competitor until 2007, when the first Skate game was released.  As the Skate series gained more traction with it’s more realistic gameplay, the Tony Hawk series started to decline both in popularity and quality.


But it wasn’t until very recently, when two early access skateboarding games hit the market, positioned to be the next big thing in the apparently defunct skateboarding genre.  These games are Session and Skater XL, two games that are striving to take the elements people loved about the Skate series, and build upon it.  The problem is, I’m finding that both of these options are way more than I was looking for from a skateboarding game.

Both Session and Skater XL unquestionably are striving to give players more control over their actions in an attempt to provide the most realistic skateboarding games ever.  That’s definitely a good strategy, considering over the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen that change happen, so this just seems like the logical next step.  Plenty of people are looking for this level of realism and simulation, but I find it’s just too much to deal with.

Skater XL

The simplicity of Skate was brilliant.  With your right analog stick you did everything from ollies, to flip tricks, manuals and grinds, while your left stick was general navigation.  There were other modifiers as well to allow for other tricks and abilities, but the core conceit was that with your two analog sticks, you could basically do everything.  It wasn’t too simple, but wasn’t too complex.  To me, it was the perfect balance I was looking for in a skateboarding game.

Session and Skater XL however, take things way too far for my simple mind.  Each analog stick controls a foot, your triggers are how you lean while skating, and perform reverts and spins.  It doesn’t sound like too much on paper, but in practice I find myself trying to turn and instead popping up into the air like an idiot.  Turning with the triggers doesn’t ever feel good, and the simple act of performing an ollie never felt natural, instead feeling more like dumb luck that I was able to do it on command.  The idea that you pull one stick down and push the other up to mimic the actual motion of the feet sounds good, but I’ve never found it more than cumbersome.

Skate 3

To me, the Skate series nailed the balance between an arcade skateboarding game, and a simulation of the sport itself.  It’s also why I’m incapable of mustering up any excitement for either Session or Skater XL, because I know I’ll end up getting frustrated while playing it.

Clearly this is just me complaining though, because both Session and Skater XL are currently rated “Very Positive” on Steam, with people mostly complaining about bugs on their respective forums.  This kind of intense simulation is clearly what people were looking for out of a new skateboarding game, but I can’t seem to get onboard with them… pun intended.


Hoop Dreams

Like a good chair, video games can provide a sense of comfort and security despite their subject matter.  Maybe you play League of Legends every night, or World of Warcraft religiously, or something else entirely, but odds are that there’s a game you keep coming back to when there’s nothing else to play.  For me, I sink dozens and dozens of hours into the NBA 2K series of games because I’m a massive fan of the sport along with the games themselves.  That’s not a qualitative statement however, because I think there’s tons of room for improvement in the series, from bug fixes to features, and even new modes entirely.

Before I jump into what I’d like to see out of a new entry in the series, let’s talk about what’s in it already.  If you recall, last year there was a massive hubbub around the gross monetization practices around NBA 2K20, thanks to a trailer showcasing literal slot and Pachinko machines inside of a basketball game.  NBA 2K as a series has a long and gross history of shitty monetization in the form of a virtual currency called “VC,” which is literally short for virtual currency.  From upgrading stats, to unlocking apparel, moves, and basically everything else in the game, VC is integral to certain competitive modes in the series.

Despite wanting to engage with some of these modes, particularly the career mode which has you making a character and bringing them through their career as a player, the reliance on VC keeps me away.  Instead I focus on the franchise mode, where I can take control of any team or teams I want, and play through something like 80 seasons before it ends.  I’ve never made it to the end of the mode, so I genuinely don’t know what happens.

So with that context in mind, let’s talk about the future of the NBA 2K series.  As a child of the 80’s and primarily a fan of 90’s and early 2000’s basketball, I tend to gravitate towards that style of play in the game.  Focusing on traditional player roles that don’t really jive with the realities of today’s game.  Modern basketball has kind of made the traditional big men positions obsolete, opting for shorter, faster and more dynamic players who can space the floor better than their massive predecessors.  It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how the game is these days.  But when I craft my teams I usually end up filling the gaps on my roster with players that reflect an older style of basketball.  Since it’s a video game, it works out just fine for me, but it does feel like I’m playing wrong from time to time.

Let’s put aside workload, licensing issues, and literally every aspect of reality that would impede my pitch for a new mode in the NBA 2K series, and let’s just pretend it could happen.  I would like to be able to combine my love of the franchise mode, with the eras of basketball I remember.

I want the vintage teams, jerseys, and stadiums to reflect this era of basketball.  From different announcers, fans, and even retro styled graphics packages in the game, I want to relive this heyday of basketball in a video game, the way I dreamed of when I was kid.  As of right now, I can play with the 98′ Bulls if I wanted to, but it’s literally just taking that roster and putting them on a modern court.  That’s fine, I appreciate that functionality, but I want to relive vintage seasons and rewrite history.  I want play styles, game tempo and rule changes to be represented, and not just feel like a retro skin for a modern game.

It’s a lofty request that is far too specific for it to ever become a reality, especially when you consider what I’m asking for is to travel back in time with modern computers and design sensibilities, and make NBA 2K1996… or NBA 1K96?  I have no idea what it would be called, but you get the point.

Maybe I’m being overly nostalgic, maybe I have too much time to think about new modes for games and a need to write things for my gaming website, lest I go insane.  Or maybe I just watched the first few episodes of the excellent ESPN and Netflix documentary series, The Last Dance, that chronicles the final season Jordan played with the Bulls, and want to interact with it.  Who could say?