The simplest way to explain Donut County is probably that it’s like a Katamari game, but in reverse. Instead of becoming a giant ball of everything you’ve sucked up along the way, you play as a hole, which gets bigger and bigger the more things that fall into it. Mostly, this means navigating a level and finding items to gobble up from smallest to largest. Mostly.
There’s a story here – a silly nonsensical thing, which honestly, is kind of expected when you’re playing a game about dropping things in a hole. What I didn’t expect was the small, clever puzzles that were sprinkled throughout. On one level, you need your hole to be far bigger than the items you can absorb seem to make possible, but once you put two bunnies in the hole, they start reproducing, greatly increasing the surface area you have to work with!
The art style and sound design are lovely, the gameplay is satisfying, and really? Overall, Donut County is a fantastic (if very short) experience. It took me about 90 minutes to complete, although I missed some achievements along the way. The only stumbling block for me personally was the “boss fight” at the end; even though the characters basically TOLD me it was coming, I was unprepared. Still, even failing it once had it’s own reward.
No, my only real gripe is that the $13 price point seems a little bit steep for a game with limited replayability that you’ll finish faster than the runtime of most movies. I was gifted this title during the Steam Winter Sale 2020. If it sounds like something that you’d get a kick out of, I’d absolutely recommend it if you can grab it on sale.
I played World of Warcraft consistently from late Burning Crusade, all the way until about the midpoint of Warlords of Draenor, which is when I took my first extended break. I came back mid-Legion and stuck around through the second major patch in Battle for Azeroth. This latest break ended about one month before the launch of Shadowlands, and despite there being some pretty major flaws in this expansion as well, I personally am enjoying myself in a way I haven’t really since Mists of Pandaria (which was one of my favorite expansions).
However, since late Wrath of the Lich King, there’s been one constant in my World of Warcraft play – my guild. Stands in Bad was founded in 2010 after a bunch of us left our previous raiding guild due to some differences in opinion about guild culture. Although members have come and gone, we have to be doing something right, because there’s more than a handful of us that have been together for the entirety of that ten year period, keeping in touch via Twitter and eventually Discord, even when we weren’t actively playing the game. Stands in Bad has itty bitty spin off guilds in just about every major MMO, because it seems like no matter what we’re playing, we want to be playing it together.
All that was a super long introduction to a conversation that we were having in our Discord the other day about what our individual “end game” goals are in WoW. Although the majority of our guild is populated by people who play somewhat casually, what casual means is very different across the board. Some people have busy lives which leave them very limited play time. Some folks have health issues that limit their ability to play the game at the highest levels. Some folks just don’t want their leisure time consumed by something that feels more like a second job than a game. Our guild works because we’ve all tempered our expectations to match our personal realities, so our progression raid happens for two and a half hours every other week, and we don’t mandate participation in any content that our members don’t enjoy. Our raid requirements don’t actually require a whole lot of effort outside of those 2.5 hours.
I consider myself casual, despite play times that might indicate otherwise, because I don’t feel driven to pursue the most difficult content available. I like to raid, but I don’t like to raid enough to participate in meta-chasing, and I’m content to see the content at a fairly low difficulty to progress through it slowly and with people whose company I am glad to be in.
Early on in the expansion, I found myself joining in to the criticisms on the pace of gear acquisition in Shadowlands. The first month or so, it felt so very painfully slow. Now, I’m not the type to get overly caught up in item level, but when pulling a second overland mob had a 50/50 chance of resulting in my death, I wanted to gear to ameliorate some of that feeing of being painfully underpowered.
However, as I closed in on the end of my covenant campaign, the situation started to feel more manageable. Sure, I’d picked up a handful of upgrades elsewhere, but fully upgraded covenant gear is more than adequate for the needs of most players who do a lot of overland solo content.
After our most recent raid night, my main character is sitting at an item level of 198, but once I found myself in the mid-190s, gear stopped being a high priority for me. Getting gear past what I need to complete the content I’m interested in has never held a lot of allure for me. However, I realize that for a lot of people, increasing their item level, and hunting gear with better stats is their end game.
Quite frankly, I can understand why those people are supremely frustrated with the systems put in place for Shadowlands. The reduction of gear drops in max level content means that people for whom gear is the goal need to put in more hours for less reward, and I can’t imagine that’s a great feeling. Although runeforging and titanforging had their own issues, and I think most people are more relieved than disappointed to be rid of that one infinitely upgradeable item that you wont’ replace all expansion, it’s possible that, for a sizeable segment of WoW-players, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.
But for me, it’s a relief. I likely won’t return to LFR this tier on my main, because she has nothing to gain in there. The experience doesn’t translate well to an organized raid, and none of the drops (or associated Great Vault options) are going to be a significant upgrade. I’ll probably continue to run the occasional low-key (in both senses of the term) Mythic plus with my guildmates because I enjoy their company, but not the pressure of pushing keys. I’ll do the world bosses once a week, but more for the anima reward than any potential gear reward. It feels good to be geared enough to complete any content I am interested in for this tier so early on. If upgrades come, I won’t turn them away, but I’m not actively hunting for them anymore, which allows me to focus on the aspects of the game I really enjoy.
Until 9.1, I feel free to pursue the epic chase for achievement points, to farm anima (or not) to continue upgrading my covenant sanctums and play around with the minigames. I can pet battle, and play the auction house, and not feel like I am holding my friends back. I have enough, and now I feel like the real fun can start.
After trying out Outer Wilds, and finding myself incapable of landing a spaceship, I went completely off-script for #PuzzleGameMonth and fired up Fort Meow, a short physics-based puzzler in which you build a fort to keep some pesky cats out of your lap while you read through your grandfather’s journal. It’s every bit as weird as it sounds, but strangely satisfying to play. Different types of cats will effect your fort differently, and it after the initial few levels, I felt like I really needed some trial and error to figure out exactly how all the pieces worked together with the variety of enemies.
I’ll be frank, the story wasn’t great, and the whole game took about two hours from start to finish, but exploring the house to find new, interesting items for your fort was kind of great, and actually building your fort felt almost as good as watching it get destroyed. Early on, you’re restricted to common items, like armchairs and mattresses, but the further you progress through the game, the more interesting and game-changing the items became. I was particularly fond of the items like the toaster, which made cats fall asleep and not do damage, or the yarn launcher, which decreased the damage done by cats who had been hit by a ball of yarn.
There’s some additional play value in the “Challenge Mode” that unlocks after completing the game proper, but I found myself satisfied after completing the story mode. This one has been hanging out in my library since it was part of the Yogscast Jingle Jam back in 2018, and I probably would never have gotten around to it if I hadn’t been looking specifically for a puzzle game that I could play through in an evening.
Unless I am overtaken by an overwhelming urge to make just one last purchase, I am done with the 2020-2021 Steam Winter Sale. For someone with over nearly 300 games on her wish list, I found it surprisingly easy to whittle my choices down to a couple of dozen titles I was most interested in this time around. Many titles were eliminated from contention due to having seen better prices in the past, and I have quite a few games on my wishlist that have yet to release. However, I found that, while scrolling through, there were quite a few that I just wasn’t that interested in anymore, so I’m probably not far off from yet another wish list cleanout.
The First Cart – $50.82
I thought I had done so well, keeping my first cart under $50, but it ended up being just over once sales tax was applied. I finally gave in and picked up Disco Elysium – the new computer I bought in the fall has a NVIDIA video card, so I no longer have to worry about the problems reported with AMD cards. The news that the game is going to receive a giant free update means I’ll likely wait until then to play it, but I expect it’ll also see less deep discounts as that gets closer.
Godhoood has been on my wish list practically since it was announced, as I’ve been a big fan of all of Abbey Games’ previous titles, but early reviews weren’t great. Since it’s original release, it seems that things have improved quite a bit, since it’s now sitting at an overall Mostly Positive, and that was good enough for me to finally pull the trigger.
I picked up three small puzzle titles that I’ve had my eye on for awhile, but my big wild card choice was Uagi-Saba, a creature raising simulator that seems to have flown under everyone’s radar, having only a dozen reviews more than two years after release. I’m getting some major Creatures-vibes from this one, and I used to love those game (although they’ve aged poorly, in my opinion).
The Second Cart – $20.86
Another case of sales tax messing up my carefully budgeted purchase! I had already decided to skip getting any other “big” games, and instead to just pick up $20 worth of smaller titles. I debated far far longer over this cart than the first one.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker I decided to pick up to play during #DatingSiMonth. Archeo: Shinar is a game I keep only almost buying, but I love the concept of managing a team of archeologists, and it will probably be among the first games purchased this sale that I play. Despotism 3K is a resource management simulation game that is probably going to be too challenging for me to enjoy long term, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. My final pickups were two more puzzle games – apparently I can’t get enough of those – Animated Puzzles and Senna and the Forest.
Titles that I seriously considered during this shop, but that ultimately didn’t make the cut, included Firewatch, The Almost Gone, and Sagebrush, three narrative heavy games. Ultimately, I decided that games with less of a story focus were more likely to see playtime before the next major sale.
Games I Was Gifted
I received four games from friends during this sale, and although only one of the four was something I was considering buying for myself this time around, I’m pretty stoked to try out all of them. In fact, I’ve already played the tutorial level of Dawn of Man, which I expect to lose many many hours to, and have decided to start Outer Wilds later this week for #PuzzleGameMonth. I have no doubt I’m going to love Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and Donut Country is the kind of puzzle game I am likely to blow through in a weekend.
Overall, I probably acquired too many new games (especially in light of how many games I’m interested in from the January Humble Choice and the Fanatical Mega Bundle I scooped up a few days ago), but I’m absolutely delighted to have added all these titles to my library.
Can I just say it felt so good to type 2021 up there? Oh, 2020, I am not sad to see you go, despite all the big plans I had for myself at the start.
So, new year, new style graphic, same kinds of goals. Here we go!
Subscription MMO – World of Warcraft
I feel sort of like a broken record, but I’m still 100% in for Shadowlands. Stands in Bad starts raiding for real on the sixth, and I’ve managed to slowly crawl my way up to a 185 item level, so at least I have that going for me. I’m back on track to pay for my game time with tokens, but I think I’ll have to dedicate some actual time to farming if I want to keep it up.
I’ve got my legendary item made for three out of four of my max level characters, and I’m about to begin working the second set of four. A Twitter poll has indicated I should start with the priest, so she’s abandoned her spot in front of the engineer-only auction house to actually explore more of Shadowlands than just Oribos and start working her way up to 60.
Although gearing felt slow and painful in the early weeks of Shadowlands, now that we’ve unlocked several chapters of the covenant campaign, alt-gearing to the point where you don’t feel totally underpowered doing basic wizard chores is a breeze. This is fine for me, since I’m not overly focused on group content, especially with minor alts. I expect to have at least two more level 60s fully kitted out from covenant gear by the end of the month.
I’ve decided to play Outer Wilds during January for #PuzzleGameMonth. This is a game I’m either going to absolutely loveor it’s going to frustrate me to no end. That is, in fact, the main reason I’ve been putting off picking it up, but one of my lovely WoW-guildmates sent it over as a Steam Santa present. Whereas I would normally lose track of it in my library and maybe fire it up for the first time in 2025, I thought I’d put it on the front burner and give it a whirl.
As usual, I want to have a couple games on deck, in case I get into a fit of not knowing what to play (or in case my main game-along game doesn’t work out). This month, I’m going to choose a few different type of puzzle games as back up. Figment is a narrative puzzle adventure game, SpaceChem is a challenging logic-based puzzler, and Road Not Taken is a puzzle-focused roguelike.
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.
Outside of my MMO time, and my puzzle gaming, I would like to pick something else that’s non-narrative to dabble in this month. A couple of months ago, I picked up Megaquarium, but I haven’t even installed it yet. This feels like the right combination of engaging gameplay with a low-brainpower requirement to be my side game this month.
I’ve managed to squeak by on my GoodReads reading challenges the past two years, so I’m upping it to 48 books in 2021. I’m already a handful of books (and therefore podcast episodes) behind for The Pike Cast, but I also have oodles of other things I’d like to read or re-read, and I’d really like to redirect my energy there instead of just browsing Reddit on my phone while lying in bed.
I also want to make a plan to get back to more hands-on crafty stuff. My in-laws bought me a HUGE box of colored pencils for my birthday, so I’m dying to make myself a space to work and bust into those. I also can’t remember the last time I picked up a yarn project, or cross-stitch, or pretty much anything craft related. Although there are definitely home improvement projects that need to be done in order to have a decent space for myself for these kinds of things, I need to find a way to make it happen in the meantime.
I’d also like to restart an art journal of some sort this year. I’m comfortable with being pretty awful at all things related to drawing, and I don’t expect vast improvements, but I still enjoy doing a doodle every now and then.
I seriously considered skipping out on this post this month because (with some very minor exceptions), all of my gaming time was spent neck-deep in World of Warcraft. Normally, I’m a dabbler, but I’ve been all in all month long.
If I hadn’t been tracking it, I wouldn’t have believed I spent over two hundred hours with a single game over the course of a month. Of course, there’s no way to differentiate idle time from active playing time, and I do tend to leave WoW running and walk away to do other things.
I guess that means – at least for me – the $40 I dropped on Shadowlands was a good time-for-entertainment investment, even when you tack on a month’s subscription fee. Although I haven’t been making tons of gold, I did just pick up a token, so I should be able to go back to subbing via in-game gold again. Given my guild’s super-casual raid schedule, I’m expecting most of my play time over the next month to be spent leveling up more alts, and maybe spending more time in previous expansions increasing my nerd point total.
Happy New Year, friends. I hope your 2021 is full of all the best nerdery!
It wasn’t even a case of not liking the game – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is great! Early in the month, I played through the first two cases, The Fate of Black Peter and Riddle on the Rails, and I fully intended to get back to it.
But World of Warcraft has really devoured all my gaming time this month, and it’s not like December doesn’t have anything else going on. I just never managed to carve out 90 minutes or so where I could really get deeply involved with a story game after completing the second chapter.
That was, in fact, the only complaint I had about the game. I’m actually really glad it required thinking and paying close attention to the story, but that also made it nearly impossible to take an extended break in the middle of a case. More than a day or two, and I’m fairly sure I would have had to restart any given case. That said, carving out a couple hours to play through a case isn’t at all an unreasonable ask.
I loved that the game allows you to … well, it lets you totally drop the ball. Each case has a right answer, of course, but it’s also really easy to overlook something and end up accusing the wrong person (or the right person for the wrong reason). You also have the opportunity to make a moral decision at the end of each case, and that will effect the way the final scene plays out. As with just about any adventure game, there’s some tedious backtracking and some pixel-hunting, but overall, I found those things mild enough to not detract from the experience.
I absolutely intend to go back at some point and play through the remaining four cases, but this just wasn’t the time for me to play something so heavily story-focused.
… and I would be lying if I said it had been smooth sailing. The first week was pretty great; everything since then has been a tug-of-war between frustration and fascination.
In that time, I’ve leveled three characters to 60, and even managed to get my main reasonably well geared, considering the current state of loot overall. I’ve been in 6 of the 8 release dungeons (which is a lot for me), and even done a very small number of very small Mythic+ keys.
While I’ll admit, I don’t love the decisions in regards to decreasing the amount of loot from various activities, I can say that I absolutely hate the reduction in the number of viable paths to getting geared. Despite not playing for much of BfA, when I was active, I was all in for world quests and emissaries as my primary path to not being a complete dead weight when I poked my head into the raids. In an effort to make world quests and callings (the Shadowlands version of emissary quests) feel less mandatory, they also made the rewards … well, let’s be real. The rewards suck.
As a result, I’m doing more instanced PvP this expansion than I have since Wrath of the Lich King. Honor gear got me over the hump to the minimum item level required for heroic dungeons, and then again over the next hump to where I could queue for LFR. The perk from your covenant that allows you to upgrade your honor gear further is nice, and I even went all out one week and did a few rated battleground in order to complete the weekly PvP quest and get a chance at a piece from the Great Vault. It’s still not my favorite way to spend my game time, but I actually find it less painful than using the LFD tool and doing dungeons.
All in all, at least for me, Shadowlands feels like it’s in a very strange place. There’s a lot to do, but there’s not a lot that’s worth doing, which sometimes can leave me feeling both overwhelmed and bored at the same time. It’s a weird dichotomy. From what I’m seeing around the internet, it seems that most people have found something to be grumpy about, but not grumpy enough to play something else, and I feel exactly the same way most days.
Probably the biggest thorn in my side so far has been the whole legendary acquisition system. While I understand that I don’t have to have a legendary, it is probably the single biggest goal to work towards independently right now. Unfortunately, as someone who mains an elemental shaman, my best memory comes from a boss that won’t be available until this coming Tuesday. I’ve had the Soul Ash for awhile, and figured I’d go an pick up my base piece, which is when I discovered the second really irritating thing about the system.
Tailoring makes armor for three classes, and everyone can loot cloth. Blacksmithing also makes armor for three classes, with necessary materials that are a little more difficult, requiring either a character with mining or purchasing the ores from other players. Leatherworking, however, makes armor for 6 classes, also requiring a second profession to farm up, and so far, seems to require far more (and more difficult to obtain) base materials. As a result, if you don’t make your own base pieces, expect to pay at least twice what a plate wearer pays, and at least four times more than if you needed cloth.
As a result, a good amount of my time this week was spent leveling up a fourth character so I had access to do my own skinning. Using the Threads of Fate system, and moving around to the quests and bonus objectives that require the murder of the most skinnable creatures, it took me until level 57 to obtain enough materials to make the base item for my main characters legendary. If I want my main alt (a druid) to have a legendary for each of her specs, I can expect to need to do that twice more, and that will only get me the lowest item level for each.
It’s not a great time to be a leather or mail wearer. But it’s probably worst for folks who are waiting for the last wing of LFR for their legendary memory! Sire Denathrius won’t be available until February 2.
All my gripes aside – and gripes, I have many – I am enjoying playing Shadowlands more often than not. When I don’t want to do something, I generally just skip it. I will be able to take my main to raid with my guild for the foreseeable future, and I still feel like I have plenty of time left for playing around on other characters, even if they never do anything more intensive than their covenant story campaigns.
It’s that time of year again, and although I primarily enjoy the two major yearly Steam sales for the opportunity to send (deeply discounted) presents to my friends, I do also tend to spoil myself rotten. Since my husband and I mostly don’t do gifts for Christmas or our birthdays (both of which are close to the holiday season), we do tend to get a little splurgey on whatever fun stuff catches our eyes this time of year.
On the first day of the sale, I check out all the stuff on my wish list that’s marked down and try to prioritize. As per usual, I find myself debating whether I’d rather pick up some pricier titles with some real meat to them, or if I want to pick up a whole mess of smaller indie games. This year, I decided to make two lists of similar cost, and then turned those into a graphic to really look at my options.
Even throwing a couple of somewhat higher-priced titles onto the “cheap stuff” side, I was surprised that picking my top three “big” games actually would cost just a smidgen more than buying all fourteen titles on the right.
Although the graphic makes it look like this is an absolute binary choice, it’s absolutely not. In reality, it’s much more likely I’ll grab one from the left, and four or five from the right, and call it a sale. After I’m done with all my gift purchases, of course. In fact, between making this graphic and posting this blog, I can no longer just go for the three games on the left, since I’ve been hit by the Steam Sale Santa and gifted Outer Wilds as an early birthday present!
Are you planning any purchases this year during the Steam Winter sale? Or are you side-eyeing your backlog and making the choice to hold off on new games?
Long Live the Queen is a collaborative Civilization VI base game play through and blogging project conceived of by Naithin at Time to Loot. We have 8 players, and each player is responsible for taking 10 turns and writing about our progress. I drew fifth in the randomly generated line-up.
The Story So Far…
If you need to know how we got to where we are, just pop on over to Time to Loot, where Naithan has kept track of all of our shenanigans in a really nifty list of links. Tessa had to sit this round out due to an injury, so I’m taking over from Paeroka this time around.
Holy cow, there’s a lot going on here. I’m not sure how much of that has to do with just being late game, and how much has to do with England maybe not having the most cohesive growth plan ever.
I, however, have decided to put as much focus as possible during my turns on the Space Race. During turn 352, I am able to start the Earth Satellite Launch in Stoke-Upon-Trent, and then send Carl Sagan right over to finish it off. I then set them to working on the Moon Landing. Research into Sufferage completes, and I start us on Totalitarianism, despite the fact we’re still rocking a Monarch, more options are good, right?
We also have not one, but two great Admirals in London. I have no idea what we’re supposed to do with them, because I don’t think we have a single naval military unit on the map. Perhaps UnwiseOwl will be able to find some use for them.
Despite not focusing so much on Culture, I gave Roosevelt 30 turns worth of resources for an Edgar Allen Poe story. Which Pedro then immediately demanded I give him. Sorry Pedro, you have nothing to offer me – and I do mean nothing. Two turns later, Gilgamesh also asks us for the book, but I turn him down as well. Apparently, this is an exciting book, and I made a good trade getting my hands on it.
Once we finished our research into Robotics, I took a small detour into Plastics, in order to open up both more oil access and some extra food from fishing. I also started production on some additional builders (one in Ur, and one in Bristol) as our population seems to be stagnating, and having a little extra food never hurts.
We built three new farms near Ur and sent a builder in the general direction of the unimproved tiles between Stoke-Upon-Trent and Adab. I’m concerned we might be more restricted by space than food, but I’m going to be honest – there’s a lot going on and being away from the game for weeks to months at a time, I’m not feeling like I really have a handle on all the mechanics.
I also started up a few new wonders. I bought a tile near Ur to start work on Petra, and the Hermitage in Leeds. It seems like we have a pretty beefy military we’re not using, so if a particular city didn’t seem to have something critical to build, I set it to improving the infrastructure that was there already.
On my last turn this round, we finished our research into Plastics, and I wanted to make sure our research path was on track for what we were going to need for our science victory. We’ve researched most of the required technologies already, with just Nanotechnology outstanding, Unfortunately, there’s two steps in the tech tree we haven’t researched that are required for Nanotechnology, so I started us on the first step, Synthetic Materials.
With that, I turn over the crown to UnwiseOwl. Save file can be found here.