Three Demos That Didn’t Convince Me

Not every game is going to be for me, and I am 100% okay with that. That said, I like to try things that might be outside of my comfort zone to see if I can instead expand my comfort zone. All three of these games looked to be if not precisely in my wheelhouse, at least wheelhouse-adjacent, so I decided to give the demos a whirl.

All three were interesting in their own ways, but none of them left me needing more.

BattleCakes

A turn-based RPG that’s both sweet & salty.

Turn-based combat isn’t my favorite, but given the right packaging, I can get behind it. BattleCakes has you playing as a party of sentient cupcakes (only one of which is customizable). Fighting is not necessarily the solution to all your problems, though – you can use friendly moves in combat to see if perhaps you can win the baddies over to your side instead of beating them up.

While I appreciate the aesthetic, and the puns, and the super-snarkiness of the dialogue in the (very short) demo, the combat – for me – was lackluster. You cannot choose your class (or the class of your party members), and the abilities seem to be hit once hard, hit twice less hard, or hit a bunch of times like a Wet Noodle. I’m sure there’s strategy there, but I wasn’t feeling it.

BattleCakes is slated to release sometime in 2021.


Lumberhill

Co-op lumberjacking in chaotic situations.

I might be more jazzed about Lumberhill if I had a bunch of friends who were also into this sort of chaotic game style. It’s reminiscent of Overcooked, in that you have a job to do, and everything (probably including the other players) seem completely determined to get in your way and keep you from doing it.

I must have fallen off the edge of the map about 5 times in the tutorial level, which was about half a dozen times less than I set myself on fire. This was not due to me trying to solo a co-op game – this was due to the movement being a little persnickety and the fire being far larger than it appears.

I did manage 2 out of 3 stars on the first real level.

Obviously, a game that’s designed for multiplayer shenanigans is likely going to be a whole lot less fun solo, so I don’t blame the game at all here. In fact, I can see this being hilarious with a group.

Lumberhill is due out in September 2020.


Paradise Killer

You are pulled from exile to investigate murder on a dead world, but nothing is as simple as it seems – or is it?

Now this one I really wanted to fall in love with. I was expecting some Danganronpa-style mystery, and I was prepared for the weirdness that would come alongside it. But this? This might be too weird. Like, this makes Monokuma look positively mundane.

I thought I had the gist of things pretty well in hand, until I started talking to people and wow. I’m sure there is some scathing social commentary here to accompany your murder mystery, but I just kept feeling like I wasn’t getting it. Which is too bad, because the investigation mechanics look really solid, and I like the idea that if you build a convincing enough case, you can convict anyone of the crime…

… but that isn’t at all the same thing as solving it, necessarily.

I’m not ruling out playing Paradise Killer in the future – it may just be that this is the type of game that requires a specific mood to really get into. I also was trying to race the clock – since the demo was timed, I wanted to see as much as I could, so I didn’t spend too much time poring over the information I’d acquired before moving on.

For me, this is still intriguing, but nothing I’m going to rush to buy on release – more likely, I’ll check out the reviews on launch and wait for a sale.

Paradise Killer has no release date available on Steam, but is expected to come out sometime in the Summer of 2020 according to its website.

Madly in Love with Best Friend Forever Demo

In a world where there are cat people and there are dog people, I am absolutely unapologetically a dog person. I don’t have any problem with cats, but they don’t inspire in me the pure joy that dogs do. I feel like I might be a bit outside the norm for gamers, though, because you see a whole lot more cat-focused games than dog-focused ones.

I also don’t normally get super excited about dating sims, but I was prepared to make an exception for a (likely) Day One purchase for Best Friend Forever. Sure, it is absolutely a dating sim, but you also have a dog that you need to care for while trying to meet the love of your life in a new town. I was hoping would this would add just enough of a second game play layer to keep me invested.

Now that I’ve spent about an hour with the five-week long demo, I am completely and totally invested.

You’re new to a town where pretty much everyone owns a dog, so obviously, the first thing you do is go to an adoption event to get a dog of your own. You can choose from four Very Good Dogs (all of whom can be renamed after adoption). I chose Blocker, the silly mutt who couldn’t even pose right for a photo.

As with most dating sims, the majority of the game play revolves around choices you make in conversations, but you always have your best dog by your side, and sometimes, you need to pay attention to what is going on with him during conversations. Repeated clicks on your dog’s head can reassure him when he’s nervous, and if he’s pulling, you need to pull him back before he gets himself in trouble. When nature calls, you need to be right there to clean up after him.

When done properly, these tasks will improve your dogs stats, but if you neglect them, your dog will lose stats as well, so you absolutely need to pay attention. This game isn’t all about you, after all.

Because you’re a first time adopter, you will also need to perform weekly tasks to keep up with your dog’s training, or you risk losing him. Each week, you’ll be able to choose five enrichment activities, and three needs-based activities (such as brushing his teeth or rubbing him down with a towel). Some of these activities feel a little fiddly, and you absolutely can fail to accomplish the needs-based tasks, but so far, it doesn’t seem overly punishing.

You also will get the opportunity to do extra activities during the week, but those take motivation points which could be used on socialization activities or dates with the people in town. If you’ve already narrowed down the people that interest you, you might as well spend more of that time with your dog.

I am really enjoying the humor of Best Friend Forever (I feel seen), and I’m kind of madly in love with my fictional dog. The people you meet in Rainbow Bay aren’t half bad either. Although a final release has been pushed back a couple times now, I’m optimistic that the game will still be available for purchase before the end of the summer.

Touch Type Tale Demo (Steam Game Festival)

I both am and am not the target audience for Touch Type Tale. I’m not a huge fan of the RTS genre, but boy, am I a sucker for anything where the main way of interacting with the world is through typing. This is the first game I’ve ever seen combine the two, and I honestly didn’t expect it to work all that well, but so far? It certainly seems to.

You play as Paul, who is called upon to save his village by using a magical typewriter. In each scenario, you have set goals and a small map, and everything you do – from harvesting resources to building structures to deploying troops, you do by typing the words on the map for the object you want to interact with.

I can see this getting pretty chaotic – it seems easy enough to type words to mine gold, but that gold does you no good if you don’t hire laborers to haul it. Farms need to be planted, harvested, and planted again. Building a barracks will let you start auto-recruiting soldiers, but if you run out of money, the training will stop until you get some more coming in. You can split troops by using the Ctrl key (and typing commands), and cast spells using Alt (and typing commands). You’re going to also need the Shift key, because everything in Touch Type Tale is case sensitive. Trust me when I say you wouldn’t have time to use the mouse, even if it did anything for you.

The demo currently available as part of the Steam Games Festival gives you three levels to play through, and that was enough to convince me to add this one to my ever-growing, more than slightly out of control Wish List. There are five difficulty levels – I played this one on the second easiest and probably still would have been successful had I bumped it up to normal – and they are planning to have a skirmish mode as well as competitive multiplayer options in addition to the campaign mode in the full release.

There is no firm release date at this time, but Touch Type Tale is expected to come out some time this year.

Long Live the Queen! Turns 201-210

The Project Explained

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.

Turns 201-210

I’ve been given England in a fairly solid state – we seem to have a strong military, a good friend in Cleopatra, for a change, no one is at war with us, and our cities seem to be mostly growing at a good clip.

Let’s see what kind of mess I can make of this, eh?


The first thing of note that happens is that I get my hands on a couple of new envoys. I decide to send them both to Toronto – this bumps our production in all of our cities, and makes us their Suzerain. We have nothing more to gain from Stockholm, and this seems to be the best choice for immediate rewards.

I find a bored builder loitering about, and set him to work building a farm in Sheffield, and start an amphitheater in Leeds. Then Pedro pops up with a rather odd demand for money, which I am disinclined to give into.

We finish researching Astronomy, and I get us started on Scientific Theory. Our heavy chariot takes out some lingering barbarians to the east of Stoke-Upon-Trent and earns itself a promotion. After much debate, I start construction of an aqueduct in Birmingham, hoping to encourage growth with additional housing (and hoping I don’t short them on food in the meantime).

We finish up guilds and start working on Reform Church

Charles Darwin decides to come hang out with us, and I speedily send him off to Sheffield to take advantage of that Natural Wonder Tessa picked up during her turns. An extra 500 science finishes up Scientific Theory (thanks Chuck!), and let’s us start researching Military Science.

And then Pedro and his now-legendary shade-throwing makes another appearance. He’s so grumpy.

At least Cleopatra still likes us – even though we wouldn’t help with her war – and she asks to renew our declaration of friendship. I oblige. I’d much rather have her as a friend than an enemy, at least for the time being.

We’ve been really focused on military might and scientific advancement, and now, our city leaders are starting to complain. Leeds needs housing. Stoke-on-Trent needs food. Everybody wants something. I queue up some builders in a couple of cities with high production – I won’t get to do much with them, but they’ll be available for UnwiseOwl to start whittling away at our citizens’ issues during the next 10 turns.

I do send a crossbowman to the southwest just to make sure we won’t have any uninvited guests creeping up on our newest city of Sheffield – the barbarian scout I encounter down there, I take out with ease. I start building a Caravel in Bristol, which turns out to not only be very on brand (I like boats, ok?), but somewhat prescient, because we earn ourselves a Great Admiral on the very next turn.

I decide he can hang out in Bristol until our boat is ready there, since all of our other naval vessels are pretty much landlocked.

The last thing I managed to do during my reign is unlock a new form of government (Theocracy), but I decide to stick with Monarchy for the time being, but the option is available. I turned our attention to researching Exploration, which will unlock yet another form of government and allow us a couple additional trade routes to boot.


Next up, UnwiseOwl! Save file is here.

Quick Look – Pendula Swing: The Complete Journey

Although I played a ton of point-n-click adventure games throughout the years, my recent relationship with them has been rather rocky. They move slowly by design, and in itself, that’s not a problem for me. But endless walking from place to place, pixel hunting, inventory puzzles, and the now infamous adventure game logic usually lead to me losing interest long before the tale is told.

But I couldn’t resist the concept of Pendula Swing, which drops you into a fantasy version of the 1920s. You play as Brialynne, a dwarven hero who has been living a quiet life on a private island after retiring from adventuring. However, that quiet life is about to be disturbed when she finds herself the victim of a robbery in which the only thing taken is her axe.

If you’re the type of person who avoids side quests, preferring to get on with the main story as quickly and cleanly as possible, I’m sorry to tell you that Pendula Swing is not going to be the game for you. As I was exploring the world, I tended to stop and speak with just about everyone, and that’s the kind of experience I believe the developers were going for. Nearly every character has a story, and those small stories teach you about the world that your character has opted out of for quite awhile now.

Your journal will track tasks you have done, and tasks you have encountered that you have yet to complete. Once you’re a ways into the game, if you find yourself really stuck, you can just visit a nearby phone booth to get put back on the right track, and thankfully, you can indeed travel by map. I’m also pleased to report that in my first two hours of play time, I have yet to encounter a single place where I needed to go pixel hunting or combine esoteric items in my inventory to progress the story.

In fact, Pendula Swing feels a lot like a genre mashup to me – while it’s definitely an adventure game, there are aspects that remind me more of a visual novel, and others that remind me of role playing games. I’ve only encountered a couple of places that felt like puzzles so far, but I have also run into a couple of folks who seem to be interested in dating my character, which isn’t exactly your standard adventure game fare.

There’s a lot going on here, and for some folks, the lack of a strong genre focus might take away from their enjoyment. Personally, I’m finding the whole experience absolutely delightful. I’m not sure how far into the main story I actually am, but according to my journal, I haven’t seen very much at all of what this lovely game has to offer.

In a time where I’m struggling to find something to hold my interest, the hours have just melted away while playing Pendula Swing. It was one of the first games from the Itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality that I fired up, and I’m already looking forward to Valiant Game Studio’s next title Kaleidocraft, which will be coming soon to Steam Early Access.

Itch.io Releases Massive Fundraising Bundle

It probably isn’t news to you that I’m a huge fan of itch.io, and the opportunities afforded independent game developers by it. Sure, it’s a little clunky, a little rough around the edges, but just the fact that this type of platform exists and is supported makes it beautiful.

And when itch.io and independent developers decide to raise some money, they don’t kid around.

The bundle launched with over 740 products included – mostly video games, but also some development assets, books, comics, and tabletop RPG modules, but contributions to the bundle are still pouring in from developers who want to add their offerings to this fantastic deal.

Although there’s a lot of stuff on offer here that’s out of my wheelhouse, on my first pass, I added almost 40 of the items on offer to my library. I still have access to the entirety of the bundle (including new items as they are added), but due to the sheer size of this bundle, you have to manually add items to your library – a decision made by the organizers to prevent massive amounts of library clog.

Also included in the bundle were a handful of games I already own on Steam, like Cook, Serve, Delicious 2, OneShot, Oxenfree, and Verdant Skies, any of which I would recommend without reservation for the price of the entire bundle.

If you’ve never used itch.io, this is the perfect time to set up an account and start loading it up with great indie games. Although they do offer their own launcher, all the games are able to be downloaded, free of DRM, and installed individually.

Quick Look – The Spatials: Galactology

I’ve always had a soft spot for any kind of game where the main objective is to build things to keep tiny characters happy, and outer space has been a popular feature of these games over the years. I cut my space-station building teeth on games like Startopia and Space Colony.

After (just barely) talking myself out of picking up Space Haven, I decided to instead dive deep into the back room of the library to see what similar games I might already be sitting on, and decided to put some time into The Spatials: Galactology to see if it would satisfy my need to make something functional in a not-of-this-world setting.

At this point, I’m about 9 hours in, and I’m on my fourth colony, so I feel like I can probably scratch the surface of a quick look. So what can you expect from your first couple hours of game time?

Inadequate Tutorials

I get it – not everyone loves tutorials, and I do appreciate the fact that all the tutorials in the The Spatials: Galactology are completely optional. Just click the X to close the window the first time it pops up in different screens, and do your own thing, if you’re so inclined. But if – like me – you don’t relish the idea of wasting a lot of time on trial and error, tutorials can be great.

The tutorials here are not great.

If you’ve ever played any similar sort of game, it probably won’t be too hard to figure out how to put up some walls, and drop some floor tiles, and install a bed. You’re probably not a stranger to doing research to unlock new build-able items, and there’s nothing particularly revolutionary here. Now, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing – it’s the flavor of these building games that differentiate them, and there’s no reason to keep inventing the wheel as far as I’m concerned.

But it’s the flair here that’s completely left up to you to figure out. Aesthetics come into play when building and designing rooms, as well as noise. Of course, better aesthetics cost more, and credits aren’t always plentiful. In my first colony, I made the erroneous assumption that bigger rooms automatically are better rooms – and in The Spatials: Galactology, that’s absolutely not the truth. If you can fit everything you need in a 2 X 2 square, go for it. Having empty space does not make for a more pleasant room, and in fact, those empty squares hurt you by reducing the relative aesthetic value of the decorations & facilities you do add.

None of this is explained adequately in the tutorials, and worse, I couldn’t even really find much information on how to build well in the games help section. My first colony was doomed by overspending on building, and being left in a position of having no real way to fix my finances because I’d ignored all the other things I needed to be focusing on as well.

A Lot to Pay Attention To

If you want to succeed, you’re going to need gobs of raw materials. In a lot of games of this type, you just buy raw materials from faceless traders. In The Spatials: Galactology you need to go out, explore nearby planets, build resource collectors, storage units, delivery centers and recruitment offices. The first two allow you to pick up resources from a given planet, delivery centers allow you to sell ONE type of item on that planet, and without recruitment offices, you’ll never get anyone applying to work on your station.

You will start off with two spaceships, and they’ll have crew assigned to them, but once you set up your initial nearby trade centers, you pretty much lose one of those ships to constantly running around picking up resources. In my second colony, resources were coming in much too slowly – I had built the required resource collectors, but ignored storage units, so each planet would only store up to five of a given resource at a time. It slowed my production (and therefore my profit) to a crawl, and since that wasn’t the only big mistake I had made, I elected to start over.

Staffing Issues

Another critical piece of information that was easy to miss (well, I missed it, so I’m hoping it’s easy to miss) was the increased demands of your crew once you start promoting them into specialist roles. While I expected they would want nicer quarters and higher pay, I did not anticipate that Diplomats would suddenly refuse to eat anything but dessert, or that Scientists would revolt if you hadn’t built a library and stocked it with books.

The good news is, that your staff will appear to work happily in their red shirts making minimum wage pretty much forever. Just because you can promote someone, doesn’t mean you have to. Keeping your staff un-promoted also enables them to do ANY job on your station. There are very compelling reasons to promote, but when in doubt, it’s probably best to err on the side of leaving them all at entry level. This was the second major issue that lead to my abandonment of my second colony – I had specialized staff that I was completely unable to satisfy. You won’t believe what these guys put in pizza (the only food an Engineer will eat).

Support for Multiple Management Styles

I know it seems like I’m really beating up the systems here, but trust me, if I thought it was awful, I wouldn’t have lasted long enough to write this post.

Although it took me a bit to figure it out, I am impressed with the range of options you have as far as management style goes. If you want to micromanage production, you have the option to create bills at any work station, and even assign workstation to specific staff if you choose. If you’re more laid back about production, you can set your stations to global and indicate how many of a particular item you’d like to keep in stock – when you hit that number, production will stop, and when you fall below it, it’ll automatically resume with no input from you. This is great for things like basic meals and purified water – you’re always going to need these items, but when you’ve got plenty in stock, your crew members are free to go do other things instead.

If you want to start specializing your workers from the get go, you can do that with manual priorities. Otherwise, leave priorities alone, and they’ll pretty much work on set tasks from most urgent to least urgent. You can manually pick up stock from the neighboring planets, or you can create an autopilot loop which will keep the goods rolling in at a regular clip.

You’re given a lot of leeway in how much energy you want to put into managing things, which is great, especially considering that it feels like you have so much more to do than your average base building game.

Goals, Quests & Random Events

There’s an ever evolving list of goals in The Spatials: Galactology. You are pretty much open to focus on whatever you like during play, but if you’re at a loss for what to do, checking the goals list might point you in a direction you hadn’t thought of. Mostly, these are very small rewards for hitting milestones you were likely to hit anyway, and in the early game, you will be getting goal notifications left and right.

There are also quests – usually one planet per system will have a quest for you at any given time. During the early game, there’s a good chance these quests will kill your people, and after a few massacres, I mostly ignore them. However, I expect once you start meeting new civilizations that don’t already love you, these are going to be a hugely important part of working on inter-species relations.

Then, sometimes, this happens.

This was the demise of my third colony. I was taking things very slowly – possibly far too slowly – and all of a sudden, evil robot overlords. Although the occasional drop into my station was handled without casualties, neighboring planets started to be invaded, breaking trade routes, and leaving me with no access to raw materials, without which I was ill-equipped to build a liberation force.


So, now, I’m working on my fourth colony. I’ve learned quite a bit about building effectively, station layout, and how to make money (hint: it’s tourism). There are definitely some things going on that feel like glitches – for example, despite having showers and soap, um, no one showers. Maybe they’ll start eventually. But the bottom line is – I’m really enjoying getting my tourist trap – I mean, colony – up and running like a well oiled machine.

If you’re the type who hates restarting, rebuilding, and figuring out things via epic failure, you probably want to give this one a pass. I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what there is to do, and for a game with a retail price of $13 is kind of impressive. I’ve certainly already gotten more than my money’s worth – I paid $6.49 for the previous game and received this one for free when the developers decided to start over from scratch.

I know this has been rather lengthy for a quick look, and for that I apologize, but there’s just too much going on in The Spatials: Galactology to sum up quickly. It does have an early game that certain types of players will find frustrating, and you can easily find yourself up against a point of no return. It does lack the personality of some other colony / base builders, but it’s a solid play experience so far.

Nerd Girl Goals – June 2020

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.

Elder Scrolls Online

While most people dipping back into ESO at this point are checking out the new content in Greymoor, I’m going back in for (what I hope will be) a satisfying single player experience. At this point, I’ve seen almost all of the base game stories, but I’ve missed out on a lot of the DLC and expansion content.

I plan to focus on two of my lower level characters – both magicka based. The first is my Breton Necromancer, and the second is my Dark Elf Dragonknight. I’d like to take my necro through the Elsweyr content, and then head over to Murkmire. My Dragonknight will quest through the entire Morrowind – Summerset arc.

Having a plan of which content I’d like to do (and knowing that much of it requires ESO+) makes it a lot easier to justify the sub cost for the month.

Subscription Gaming

I have been struggling quite a bit with what to play lately, as well as with the need for NEW STUFF (which I don’t need at all, actually), so re-upping my XBox GamePass for PC seems like a no-brainer. There’s still a handful of things on there I meant to try out before letting my subscription lapse, and although there’s no firm date just yet, No Man’s Sky is expected to hit the service sometime in June. Hopefully, giving that a dabble while I’m subbed will quash the grabby hands that pop up inside me every time it hits a half price sale, because I don’t really believe it’s something I’m going to love.

There’s also a handful of games on Utomik I’ve been meaning to try out, but for whatever reason, just haven’t fired up just yet.

#RacingGameMonth – Table Top Racing: World Tour

I’ll fully admit I am rubbish at racing games, and I don’t know that I’ve ever played one on PC, so I decided to go with something a little bit frivolous.

Ten Games to Tackle in 2020

Overall, I’ve been disappointed with this project – I played one game to satisfaction, and the next three titles, I’ve decided weren’t for me. But since I’m starting to get the zombie-slaughter itch, I’m going to play some Dying Light on Story Mode & see how I feel about it.

Other Gaming

I realize I’ve already put a lot of options on my plate, and it’s not really that big of a plate, but I’ve been poking deep into my Steam library, and have found a few other things I’d like to sneak on there.

With the weather getting warmer (and travel still out of the question), I think I’d like to give ABZU a shot and go on a virtual dive. It looks like it’ll be chiller than Subnautica (the other contender for this spot), and is also pretty short, giving me a better chance of completion.

After realizing that I had plenty of options in my library to scratch my space station building itch, I downloaded The Spatials: Galactology to finally give it a fair shake at making me lose hours upon hours managing tiny people in space.

I didn’t think I’d like Saint’s Row with aliens, but I totally did, so it’s time to find out how I feel about Saint’s Row in hell.

Although I still haven’t gone back and tried out SR2, I’ve decided to keep pushing forward with Gat Out of Hell.

WATCHING

May turned out to be a month where I retreated deep into the comfort of books and of low-engagement television. I’d like to finish out my watch of Grimm this month.

But before that, I’d like to spent a few evenings with Interrogation on CBS All Access. When I had to replace the Fire Stick in the bedroom, I grabbed a Roku stick instead, and got a few free months of CBS All Access, and have yet to watch it once, so I’d like to check this one off the list before my free time runs out. It’s only 10 episodes, but I still probably won’t spend as much time with it as I originally planned, but I’m fascinated by non-linear storytelling, and this is so far up my alley, it’s actually in my backyard.

Steam Summer Sale – June 25 – July 9

There is very little that gives me the same oomph of excitement and distraction as the Steam Summer Sale every year – I even enjoy it more than the Winter sale, despite them being very similar.

In an attempt to make more conscious buying decisions, I’ll be preparing my shopping list ahead of time (completely with minimum discount to purchase), as well as plotting what gifts I want to send to others. I’ll likely blow through the rest of my Stay At Home budget here, and I’ll have to take another look at how I want to proceed with Low Spend 2020.