Quick Look – The Almost Gone

There will probably never be a time when I’m not tempted by a game that is described as a narrative puzzle game, which is strange, because more often than not, I find them way too heavy on the puzzles and a little bit light on the narrative. I picked up The Almost Gone back in May when it hit 80% off, so I only spent a couple of dollars on it. Still, I wish I had liked it more than I did.

The Almost Gone is a story told in five acts of escape-room style puzzles. You’re granted small bits of narrative while examining your surroundings, and although it’s pretty likely that everything is going to come together in the end, completing each act left me unsatisfied. The majority of puzzles I encountered through the first three acts were logical, but there was definitely a lot of tedious back-tracking that needed to be done in order to figure some of them out without resorting to a walkthrough. In fact, the time I did need to resort to a guide, I was greeted with this:

For me, the progression just felt off. The puzzles didn’t really feel harder as I moved through, just more arduous. It bugged me to no end that the game only allowed you to zoom in on certain slivers of the dioramas, whereas I would have much preferred to control the zoom on my own. Mouse control also felt somewhat clunky, and I think the game is probably far better played on a touchscreen device than a traditional PC (although I can’t even fathom trying to play on a tiny screen, so that would be an issue).

The art and sound are both fantastic, and there was a moment when something seems to be straining to escape from the fridge that I found to be very very creepy. What this game gets right is the atmosphere, the mystery, but at least for me, the pacing was so bad, I couldn’t overcome it, and I usually really enjoy a non-linear story. This one was just a little too darkly tragic, a little too convoluted, and there wasn’t enough there for me to get invested enough to want to transverse seven or eight screens repeatedly to double check for whatever I might have missed that would have allowed me to move forward.

I’m not 100% sure I won’t return to it – it’s a fairly short game, and I bounced off in the middle of the fourth of five chapters. I kind of want to see how it ends, which I guess makes it interesting, but there wasn’t anything making it feel fun for me.


Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Do you enjoy narrative puzzle games? Have you played a good one – or a bad one – recently you want to write about? What’s your favorite narrative puzzle game of all time?

Why I Play to Satisfaction

thanks to Naithin for this topic idea!

Going back through my old posts, it looks like my plan to “Play to Satisfaction” is almost as old as this blog. I started back in July of 2019, dove hard into Blaugust 2019, and I spotted my first mention of Play to Satisfaction on my very first post of September. I can’t definitively say I remember my thought processes around it, but my best guess was that I felt like I needed to give myself explicit permission to … not play something I wasn’t enjoying.

It sounds absurdly simple, doesn’t it?

But for a very large part of my life, I equated not finishing something I started as a failure. I don’t like to think about how many books I hate-read long after I was getting any pleasure out of them at all just so I could say I completed them. Add to that some sunk-cost fallacy (“I already paid for this, I’d better play it!”), and hobbies started to turn into chores.


While it’s nice to have come up with something that seems to resonate with people, I also need to admit that I don’t always fully utilize it! I have the hardest time applying this idea to subscription based games; there’s that sunk cost fallacy again! I’m far more likely to keep playing something I don’t love when there’s a ticking clock and a hard end-date to when I will either have to pay more money or lose access.

The other side of the coin is that, because I’ve given myself permission to drop a game at any time, I often don’t give things a fair chance to capture my whimsy. I didn’t realize how much of a problem this was until fairly recently, and tried to set some parameters to make sure that when I am looking for something new, I dedicate enough time to each title in order to make a reasonable assessment of whether or not I’m going to find the fun there.

I’m sure to some folks, this sounds like a lot of work, and a lot of rules, and writing myself an unnecessary permission slip for something that seems really obvious. But as someone who feeds on structure, and who, for the most part, lives a rather structure-free existence, I actually find it very comfortable. I don’t mind skipping out of the new stuff when I’m fully engaged with other options, and I find that I spent less time in a decision paralysis loop than I did even a couple months ago.


Bonus Blaugust spin-off prompt ideas: What decisions to you make around gaming (or reading, or other geektastic hobbies)? Do you only spend money on things you’re going to use immediately? Are you overwhelmed by your backlog / library? Do you always finish what you start? Do you never finish what you start? Are you a completionist, or are you a main-quest-only type of gamer?

Blaugust: Motivation & Momentum (or the Lack Thereof)

When Belghast first posted about Blaugust 2021, I told myself it’d be absolutely ok to go for one of the lower tiers. After all, I know I can do it – I’ve taken the Rainbow award for daily posts during 2019, and in the slightly different but ultimately similar 2020 Blapril.

But waking up on August 2nd without a post ready to go just felt weird, so it appears that I am going to try to put a little more oomph into this than I had originally planned on. Which is a bit awkward since my blog motivation has been super-low the past few months, which I think is due in large part to my overall motivation being equally low as of late.


The question then is this: where do you find motivation when it’s not in the places you would normally find it? When I start to lose motivation towards the end of a project, I can usually push through solely on momentum, but that’s not really an option at the beginning. Without motivation or momentum to rely on, I’m stuck with what always seems to be my default position of sheer stubbornness!

I’m still not sure exactly how Blaugust 2021 is going to go for me, but watching other participants come out of the gate strong and with a whole lot of gusto has invigorated me. I think my biggest stumbling block is not going to be the time actually spent writing but rather the time where I need to be doing (or at least thinking about) something interesting enough to be writing about.

… which this particular post probably is not, but in the interest of not starting out way behind, it’s what I’ve got today.


Welcome to Blaugust 2021, participants and readers!

Nerd Girl Goals – August 2021 (#SciFiGameMonth)

GAMING

Play to Satisfaction

For me, saying “Play to Satisfaction” gives me explicit permission to drop a game that’s not working for me, but also to grind away for nerd points if I’m really loving something. I’m trying to make it a policy for myself that I will always play to satisfaction – no more, no less.

August has the potential to be the kind of month where I want to do a million different things, but no single thing really gets all that much attention. In a way, this is kind of great, since August means Blaugust, and it seems like having more things to write about can only be a good thing.

Usually I go into Blaugust with the intent to get my Rainbow award for 31 posts, but this year, I’m going to set my sights a little bit lower and see where I end up.

World of Warcraft

With all the recent allegations (and the accompanying lawsuit) being exposed, a lot of people in my blogosphere and social media circles have uninstalled their entire collection of Blizzard / Activision games. I have not, and while I expect someone somewhere will judge me harshly for that, I want to stress that I did not make this decision because I don’t believe the horror stories coming out about the work environment, rather, it is because I understand that the entire tech sector is rampant with these exact issues. Maybe this is the beginning of positive changes happening in the industry, or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Either way, I fully understand that I already continue to give money, time, and attention to many corporations that do shitty things, and enable shitty people to do shitty things all the while drawing a paycheck, and for me personally, a Blizzard boycott would feel an awful lot like virtue signaling. I absolutely respect the decisions other people have made for themselves, but when neither choice feels completely satisfying, I’m going to go with the one that lets me spend time with the people I’ve gotten close to over the last 10+ years of gaming together.

I am not finding the 9.1 content so compelling that I’m playing as consistently as I once did, but so far, I’m liking the new zone, and the new raid, and the new story. I have a little bit of catch up to do, in part because I switched mains, but also because I missed a couple weeks, so I’m slowly playing catch-up. I’d like to dedicate enough play time to keep my raiding main, and my forever main up to date, as well as to keep the gold flowing well enough to continue to pay for my sub via token purchases.

Community Game-Along – #SciFiGameMonth

Since I am going into August anticipating a lot of different things I want to do this month, I’ve chosen a relatively short and linear game for #SciFiGameMonth. Eliza is a science fiction visual novel about an artificial intelligence counselor, and is short enough that I should be able to play through it in a single evening.

I don’t play too many visual novels, and I would have been very unlikely to purchase this game individually, but it was included in the February 2020 Humble Choice, and looked interesting enough to add to my library.

For the first time in a while, I haven’t actually given a lot of thought to back-up games for this month’s theme, partially because so much falls under the Sci-Fi umbrella, and partially because I cannot really see any reason I wouldn’t be able to play through the initial game I selected.

New Releases, Beta Builds, and Early Access

I am a little concerned that my library is going to be ignored this month in favor of new and shiny things. All my kickstarter backings are starting to bear fruit all at once. I’ve been playing quite a bit of the beta release of Kainga – Seeds of Civilization. My Coral Island alpha key is about to hit my mailbox. Starmancer is finally going to drop an Early Access release on the fifth, only a couple of years overdue! Last but certainly not least, Psychonauts 2 is set to release towards the end of the month, and I am far more excited about that than I should be considering it took me over a decade to actually beat the first game.


In all honesty, I really don’t know what I’ll be playing throughout the majority of August. My handful of must-dos aren’t all that time intensive, and I have a lot of fairly recent additions to my library that are still calling out for attention. We’re also planning on further home renovations in August (including a bathroom rework that I’m absolutely dreading), so I’m not sure how that’s going to impact my gaming time. This could be a great month, filled with lots of new-to-me stuff and tons of blog posts, or I could just get totally burned out and paralyzed by choice, and spend half the month in bed reading or watching TV. Right now, both feel about equally likely.

In Review – July 2021

Data pulled from ManicTime.

July was another month that went completely off the rails for me. We are still dealing with contractors (although for the past few weeks, they’ve only been working outside, thankfully), and on the ninth, I managed to really mess up my right hand in a dog-walking accident. That left me with nearly two weeks where I couldn’t properly use a mouse, so I was pretty limited by that.

Thankfully, I had already started playing Persona 4 Golden for #JRPGJuly. Although I didn’t think I’d play too much of it, it turned out to be the perfect game to keep my occupied while my hand healed. In fact, that was probably the biggest contributor to my game time being so much higher this month – I’d been spending more time doing crafts which also weren’t an option for about half the month.

This also meant that I missed my guild’s first raid of 9.1 in World of Warcraft, but that ended up working out for me as I decided to switch which character I’m maining for this tier, so I had a little extra time to get caught up. Due to an overabundance of shaman on our team currently, and a complete lack of summoning portal and health cookies, I am running my warlock for main raids this go around.

A late addition to this month’s gaming was the Kainga – Seeds of Civilization closed beta. Kickstarter backers received our keys this past Tuesday, and I’ve been firing it up whenever I had a few spare minutes over the past couple of days. It’s probably a little over-tuned at this point; I’ve only managed to win a handful of scenarios over nine hours of play, and even a long scenario only runs about 20 minutes.

Game (Almost) Over – Persona 4 Golden – #JRPGJuly

The good news is, I actually played a whole lot more Persona 4 Golden this month than I expected to. The bad news, however, is that I have reached a point where I don’t expect to actually finish the game. In a way, it’s sort of a shame to have spent almost 45 hours with it, but for me, there were just a few too many annoyances to get past, culminating in the solution to the Whodunit being wholly unsatisfying.

When a story is a twisty as this one is, there really is no good time to throw in the towel, because until the credits roll it’s always possible that unsatisfying story elements will slide into place in an epic A-HA! moment. In fact, when I last closed down the game, I didn’t intend to stop playing, despite being somewhat grumpy about the direction the story was taking. However, for me something had changed. Before the Big Reveal, I found myself playing at least a little every day, interspersed with a few marathon sessions when I wanted to see a particular story beat resolved before saving for the day.

Somehow, the appeal just disappeared. Sure, a big part of it was that I felt cheated by a major story point that – to me – made very little sense. But another, not insignificant, factor was the fact that I realized I was running out of time, and it was going to be impossible for me to do everything I still wanted to do. Being inefficient in the early game when I didn’t know any better meant that I just didn’t have enough slots of free time left to wrap up all the things I wanted to wrap up. I’m generally not a New Game+ player, so anything I couldn’t finish was going to stay unfinished, and that knowledge sapped my will to continue.

While it’s not that unusual for me to leave something unfinished, what is strange is actually deciding to do so, especially when it’s something I put this much time into. Did I get enough out of it? Yes, I think I did. There were characters I really loved, bits of story I really appreciated, and overall, I felt like it was a really solid game. I just wasn’t, necessarily, the right game for me. I tend not to pursue efficiency while gaming, and I’m not the biggest fan of time limits in a story focused game, even when they make sense inside of the plot, as they do here.

Quick Look – Persona 4 Golden (#JRPGJuly)

I’ve been playing so many shorter titles over the past year or so, it feels a little bit weird to be doing a quick look when I’ve already put more than ten hours into the game. But that is, of course, the good news – I’ve stuck with Persona 4 Golden for over ten hours now, which means I may just have broken my long streak of bouncing hard of JRPGs in general. The bad news is – at least for me – there’s still a lot of game left to go. Using the game play length estimate from How Long to Beat, I figure I’ve gone through approximately 15% of the game.

I do feel like I’ve finally gotten a handle on why JRPGs generally don’t work for me: one thing they all seem to have in common is the pacing of the early game is painfully slow. I would estimate that I wasn’t given a meaningful decision or bit of game play for about the first three hours, and that’s a long time to expect a player to hang in there to find out if they even like the gameplay loop.

Thankfully, this time, my patience was rewarded because I do (mostly) enjoy the game play here, both the life-sim style and the turn based combat of the dungeons. You will spend quite a bit of time with the former, where you build friendships (which are referred to in game as Social Links) and improve your character’s stats. The combat sections are firmly tied to in game dates, so you cannot jump into them until certain story beats are met. However, there are a lot of other things you can (and probably should) be doing, so it rarely feels punishing to need to wait. In fact, due to some early game blundering around, I have felt a little rushed from time to time, and that’s even considering that there are parts of the game I’ve either completely ignored or have yet to figure out.

The visuals on the boss designs are absolutely delightful so far.

I still don’t actually expect to get through the entire game this month – but I’m starting to lean towards the idea that I will finish a play through of the whole story. I am playing through on easy, and am consulting a walkthrough to make sure I’m not irrevocably screwing up my save file, so I don’t think I’m going to run up against a point where I just cannot continue. Thankfully, save points are abundant enough that – for the most part – Persona 4 will work for me to fill in some of the smaller bits of gaming time I have.

Steam Summer Sale 2021

I have – mostly – been doing better about impulse purchases since I really took stock of both my game-buying and game-playing habits about a year and a half ago, but I definitely allow myself a good-sized splurge twice a year. Both the Steam Summer Sale and the Steam Winter Sale are less exciting than they once were for me, but I still always manage to fill up a cart or two with stuff that has caught my eye.

Towards the end of June, I did pare down my wishlist significantly (at least, as it pertained to games that were already released), but I’m not sure if that made deciding what to pick up easier or harder this time around.

My first cart towards the beginning of the sale was a small one, and I pulled the trigger primarily because I wanted to pick up Exodus Borealis while it still had its release discount. Tametsi is a neat looking puzzle game, which is a spin on Minesweeper, and Koi Farm is a chill little simulation game I’ve had my eye on for a bit. I made the call to otherwise put off doing any shopping until after the reveal of the July Humble Choice, because buying a bunch of stuff just to see it pop up there is something that would absolutely happen to me.

This cart was my big purchase for the sale.

I’ve been meaning to pick up LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories since playing the demo last year, but I knew I wanted to wait for a sale because $20 felt a little steep for what was on offer. I then added my other bigger purchases to the cart – Before We Leave, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, and Weedcraft Inc. before poking through the smaller games that looked just interesting enough to spend a dollar or three on.

Ticket to Earth is a combination of a match-3 and a tactical RPG, and I’m excited to see how it comes together. I’m not sure if Galimulator is going to be up my alley, but the idea of a galaxy simulation with three different game modes was interesting enough to at least give it a try. Finally, I picked up The First Friend, which a short story-driven game with beautiful art, and maybe a little bit of a mystery to it.

My biggest Summer Sale purchase wasn’t made on Steam, but rather on the Humble Store, as I picked up Planet Zoo Deluxe edition for just under $20 – my subscriber discount made it just a little bit cheaper than it was on Steam. I’ve been eyeballing that one for awhile, and I have been talking myself out of it, and then almost immediately regretting not picking it up as soon as it goes off sale.

To top everything off, there were seven games in the July Humble Choice that I have a more than passing interest in, so even with the headliners being meh for me, this bundle is going to be a great addition to a library that’s already pretty overstuffed.

All in all, a great haul for this sale season. Now I just need to find the time to play all of these games!

Nerd Girl Goals – July 2021 (#JRPGJuly)

GAMING

Play to Satisfaction

For me, saying “Play to Satisfaction” gives me explicit permission to drop a game that’s not working for me, but also to grind away for nerd points if I’m really loving something. I’m trying to make it a policy for myself that I will always play to satisfaction – no more, no less.

Patch 9.1 is finally here! I suppose the reason it feels like it’s been forever is because, well, it’s pretty much been forever, although it’s really only been a little over a couple months since I decided to take a break.

I’ve just barely dipped my toes into the new content, but it looks like even if I only focus on a couple characters, there’ll be enough to keep me interested for a bit. I still have many alts to level, and I’d like to start working on one of those (either the hunter or the priest, most likely) in earnest.

I’m also going to need to get back on my money making game, because I used my very last hoarded token to reup my sub, and token prices have nearly doubled since the last time I was in the market.

Community Game-Along – #JRPGJuly

I haven’t had a whole lot of success playing JRPGs – for whatever reason, they tend to just not grab me. Which is a shame, because I keep right on buying them, thinking this one will be different. For July, I’m going to dive into Persona 4 Golden to see if this one will actually be different. I have no delusions of actually finishing it during July, but we shall see how far I get.

As per usual, I’ve selected a couple of back-ups – this time, they’re games on the periphery of the JRPG genre, but just outside of it for one reason or another. I have Rune Factory 4 Special for the Switch, and Siralim 3, which I bought forever ago and never actually fired up. While I’m sure genre purists would say that neither of those count, I’m ok with pushing the boundaries a bit for a theme I’m not super comfy with.


I’ve filled out my “try these games out” category back to the 15 – I’m finding that number gives me a good amount of choice during the month without triggering decision paralysis. I’m also considering adding some itch.io games from the two ginormous bundles I picked up, because, I’ll be straight with you – I frequently forget I own those games!

So far, I’m pleased with this small, low-pressure project, even if it’s mainly resulted into me kicking some games into the “not really for me” part of my Steam library.

I am anticipating spending some serious time with a a game that I kickstarted that is supposed to drop its backer build some time in July – Kainga: Seeds of Civilization. I played the demo version for over two hours during Steam Next Fest, and that came with just barely a teaser of content. I’m hoping I find the rest of the beta to be equally engaging. I’m also planning to spend some time with the new city builder / tower defense hybrid Exodus Borealis that I just picked up a few days ago.


Lastly, the Steam Summer Sale is running through July 8th, and I’ve started poking around and building my cart, but I may have finally hit the point where these sales are just not as fun as they once were. I’m still loving doing the Steam Sale Santa thing, but I’ve already gone through and pared down my own wish list quite a bit, at least as far as things that have already been released are concerned. I may actually have hit the point where I have more stuff on there that isn’t out yet than stuff that is. Still, I have my eye on a handful of stuff, but am leaning towards waiting until after the Humble Choice reveal next week to actually purchase things, just in case.

In Review – June 2021

Data pulled from ManicTime – Total June gaming hours: 49.6

I am really glad I started June strong, because we have had contractors at the house almost every day since the ninth, and that has wreaked havoc on both my energy and my ability to focus on, well, just about anything. Stardew Valley still managed to be most played game this month, and that’s due almost entirely to my weekly game night with a friend, but I also managed to bang out a goal I’ve been working on for awhile:

I don’t know that I could have pulled all that off without the Stardew Valley Wiki and MouseyPounds Stardew Checkup tool. I abused the heck out of both of these tools during this entire playthrough. So while I’m not exactly done with the game for now, I think I’m going to take a break from solo play for awhile.


Community Game-Along

I did manage to play two games to completion for #FashionGameJune, but I ended up abandoning the Sims 3 project I wanted to do because I couldn’t get the game to start consistently with only the expansions I had selected. I put just over two hours into it, but everything felt janky and well … outdated, which I suppose it is, but I decided long ago I wasn’t putting any more money into the Sims franchise.


Steam Next Fest (Summer 2021 Edition)

I did manage to carve out a few blocks of time to try out some of the demos from the summer 2021 edition of the Steam Next Fest, but I’ll be honest – I really jumped headfirst into all the virtual cons when they first became a thing, but each time there’s a new one, it’s harder for me to get excited about it. I still managed to go through most of the demos I wanted to try, and I’m still really glad that playable demos are making a comeback.

My top five game demos were Let’s Build a Zoo, Bear & Breakfast, To The Rescue, Kainga: Seeds of Civilization, and Atrio: The Dark Wild. I’m noticing as time goes on, I’m getting more and more stuck in my ways as far as what games I gravitate towards, and I’ve gone so far as starting to remove games off my wishlist that have mechanics that make them difficult for me to enjoy, no matter how cool they might be in concept or art style. I have plenty of games in a wide variety of genres in my library already for when I need to mix it up more. These days, I’m mostly interested in simulation, puzzle and strategy games, with a smattering of shorter, story-focused titles, casual games, and simple rogue-likes. If I can’t finish a title in a few play sessions, I want it to be something that’s easy to pick up and put down.


Although I didn’t get as far along as I had hoped in my backlog project, I did play four titles from my list for at least 40 minutes or so, and managed to gets posts up about all four. I’m planning to keep fooling around with this, with a goal to try at least this many every month, and to keep adding to my custom category on Steam each time the choice starts to thin out.

I’ve still been picking up the free Living Stories chapters from Guild Wars 2, but I haven’t actually been playing it at all, even though I keep saying I’ll get back to it at some point. However, just yesterday, Patch 9.1 dropped for World of Warcraft, so I’ve re-upped my sub and am looking forward to diving back into that later today.

The only other game I spent any significant time with in June was Sun Haven, which released into early access this past Friday. I only messed around for a few hours, but it was enough to tell me that – at least for me – it’s not quite in a state just yet that motivates me to keep playing – major story quests are still incomplete, and some basic QoL features (like a map!) are still absent. I did drop in to the game’s Discord, and I can tell the developers are working pretty much around the clock to squash bugs and make small improvements, so it’s definitely something I plan to revisit once it’s a bit further on in it’s development.