In Review – July 2020

It’s only a little dramatic to say that this month nearly killed this blog. It wasn’t even the month that I posted the least often (I only made four posts during last December), but it was the month I felt the worst about the lack of posts. There was a nearly overwhelming feeling of having completely run out of things to talk about, and it was magnified by the fact that I also had a less-than-stellar month on a personal level.

Weirdly, this was also a month where almost all of my other hobbies took a back seat to gamestuff, but actually sitting down to write something was crazy hard.


July, for me, was a month of binge-gaming, and the gaming hangovers that often follow.

The first half of the month, I was deep into No Man’s Sky. It was occasionally wonderful, and sometimes frustrating, but after about 40 hours, that started to flip around. It started to feel as if I had seen a whole bunch of cool stuff, sure, but that’s about how long before it started to feel kind of same-y. By itself, that’s not a huge deal, but it was also when I hit what felt like a pretty major progress slow-down.

It wasn’t a brick wall, but kind of a winding path into tedium. I discovered I didn’t much care for ship combat, although I did enough to get the free freighter. I didn’t much care for land combat either, and the majority of the missions I was seeing were of the “kill sentinels” variety. I spent hours poking around trying to get Vy’keen daggers for a quest at my base, and never spotted a single one. I spent an entire evening hunting crashed ships, and only found distress signals from strangers needing my help. After a couple frustrating play sessions, I lost interest in logging in.

The latest update seemed to be highly focused on combat, and just wasn’t enticing enough for my play style. Even if I don’t go back, I am satisfied with the time I spent with it.

A little over a week later, I spent a really intense four days with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Oddly enough, it took getting spoiled on a pretty major plot point in the first chapter to get me to push through the first three hours of the game. I’m not sure if it was actually the slowest open of the three main games, but I am sure it was the weakest of the three overall.

To be clear, I still really liked it – I mean, I kind of had to in order to put in 26 hours over four days.


Unfortunately, Danganronpa is a visual novel, not an RPG, so it didn’t qualify for #JRPGJuly and the Community Game Along. With so much of my gaming time over the month invested into only two titles, I didn’t make a whole lot of progress on any actual JRPGs, although I managed to poke at a handful.


Most of my in-between gaming this month was spent with Bloons TD6, which is actually kind of perfect for when you’ve only got a few minutes to poke at something. In 15-30 minute intervals, I managed to spend almost 8 hours watching monkeys pop balloons.

On a whim (and a very deep discount), I decided to try out Treasure Hunter Simulator, despite mixed reviews. It’s pretty much as mediocre as I was expecting, so I can’t say I was disappointed, but I wasn’t exactly jazzed either. At full price, I probably would have requested a refund, but for less than $4, I don’t mind having it around when I need something brainless to poke at.

I’ve also been continuing to poke a SMITE on and off – mostly in training mode for now, meaning I don’t have to deal with people who get frustrated because my current skill is not up to the standard of my current level.


I am not usually a person who is too affected by celebrity deaths, but I did find myself rather obsessively rewatching the early seasons of Glee in the wake of Naya Rivera’s death by accidental drowning. While the show is incredibly problematic in a lot of ways, it is also Super Effective at manipulating the emotions of the audience, in spite of frequently falling short of making you actually care about its characters.

I never finished fully watching the series the first time through, and it’s now been almost two weeks since I’ve felt the pull to watch more, so it seems unlikely I’ll finish it this time either. That said, there’s something that just feels right about looking at the arc of the first three seasons as something complete – from introduction to the major characters to their graduation. The show carried on for three more seasons after that, but – at least for me – it never recaptured the intensity of its early seasons.

They might have been able to auto-tune the voices, but the facial expressions of the actors are usually even more potent than their singing.


Overall, even though I felt like I did a whole bunch of nothing this month when I started this post, I put a lot of time into nerdy pursuits. Given the numbers I know for certain, I’d estimate about 90 hours were spent gaming, and another 40 hours were spent on my Glee re-watch.

That said, going goal-light this month also often left me wasting time trying to figure out what how I wanted to spend my leisure time. Should August’s goals be more rigid? I guess we’ll figure that out tomorrow.

World of Final Fantasy and Other #JRPGJuly Adventures

It’s a weird feeling to absolutely not be able to get into something that seems to be wildly popular. It’s even weirder when I know I’ve played (and really enjoyed) other games that are styled after more traditional JRPGs, such as the Siralim trilogy.

World of Final Fantasy was my second attempt a getting into the Final Fantasy universe by coming at it sideways. After trying (and failing) to get jazzed about the MMO so many of my friends absolutely love, I thought maybe dipping my toes into a cutesy Pokemon-inspired would be an easier introduction – I’ve enjoyed other critter battlers in the past, and let’s be honest, I needed something light after Danganronpa V3.

Well, I was right that it was cute, and that it’s a critter-battler. In World of Final Fantasy, your minions are called mirages, and from my (admittedly very limited) Pokemon experiences, the capture mechanic seems to be pretty similar. In fact, a lot of the mechanics seem to be similar, and I’m at least passingly familiar with how it all works.

I gave the game about two hours, and made it to the first boss battle. Part of me wants to complain that the game is needlessly complicated, but if I’m honest, I don’t think that in and of itself would have put me off from playing. I don’t mind a learning curve. I don’t even mind difficulty necessarily, as long as it’s of the “use your brain and maybe take notes” variety rather than the “smoosh buttons flawlessly and fast” variety. In fact, I though the little puzzle switches in the dungeons were perhaps the best part of the game I had seen yet.

I think the biggest turn-off, for me, is likely more of a port-to-PC problem than anything else. For someone used to mouse & keyboard play, the keybinds are terrible; the most egregious is probably the mapping of Pause to “B”. The pause screen is the only way to get back to the main menu. More traditional menu access keys (like ESC, Tab, or even F1) do nothing.

As someone who’s spent very little time with consoles over the years, I don’t use a controller for much of anything. I will break it out sometimes, but I’m not used to it, and I can’t indulge in extended play sessions while using it. While I understand the game was designed for consoles, and therefore needs to be controller-friendly, I’m not sure why it had to be quite so keyboard-unfriendly.

I also really disliked the “Active Time Battle” system – I was expecting something more classically turn-based, and felt like the combat was a lot of waiting punctuated by super-limited decision making. I understand that for all intents & purposes that early game combat is going to be simplistic, but the delay between turns felt like eons. There are different settings for the battle system, but after poking at all of them, I still found combat overly tedious to the point where I was hoping NOT to run into Mirages to battle.

For me, nothing was intuitive, and it just made it too hard for me to get into the game of the game, even though I thought that (at least so far) the characters were interesting enough and the story had potential. It looked and sounded good, but it played like I was being punished for playing it on the wrong system.


World of Final Fantasy was my last ditch effort to actually get into the meat of a JRPG for the Community Game Along. I didn’t have the opportunity to try out everything I had under consideration, but I did at least TRY to play a couple of other titles throughout the month.

Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure was another game that probably works better with a controller, and I just didn’t find it engaging. Knowing that I was up against action combat and not loving the controls made me step back from this one after about 30 minutes.

Lost Dimension was so close to being a success for me, and because of that, is a game I will revisit in the future. Unfortunately, it’s another game with a very slow start, and with combat that I didn’t hate, but wasn’t exactly excited about either. The combination of psychic powers and the find-the-traitor mechanic are two things that really do appeal, I just lacked the patience to get to the good part.


I think my disconnect from JRPGs – even ones that are pretty universally loved – comes down to a problem with patience. I find that as I get older, as my library grows more and more bloated, and as the time I can dedicate to gaming seems to keep decreasing, I just don’t want to spend two or three hours to get to the good stuff.

I don’t want to spend my evening fighting the controls, desperately searching for a save point, or just plain not being all that interested in what I’m doing. My tolerance for exposition is probably at an all time low, which is frustrating because I like getting invested in a good story. I can respect the slow burn, but then I really need the game play to feel good to hold me over until I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

I’m not yet ready to shuffle the entire genre off to the nope list, but I still haven’t found that JRPG that makes me say “Aha! Now I get why people love this!”

Game Over: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

The Danganronpa series – and V3 in particular – are really hard to talk about in any meaningful way without spoilers. In fact, to go any further into the meat of the game other than the basic premise has the potential to ruin the experience for someone who hasn’t played yet.

In fact, I managed to inadvertently spoil myself twice during my play through, so I fully understand how annoying that is. So I’m going to keep this free of spoilers for the characters and the plot line, and focus more on my relationship with the series as a whole, and some of my issues with the mechanics of this game (as well as its predecessors).

The Danganronpa games are part murder mystery visual novel, and part friendship / dating simulator, with some very twitch action sequences, which as far as I’m concerned, plays as oddly as it sounds. In each installment, you have a group of teenagers with memory issues that need to figure out who they are, why they’re trapped together, and how to deal with the evil teddy bear who wants them to kill each other.

Each game is divided into three separate segments that alternate throughout the story, as well as periods of pure VN exposition. Player choice is limited to who you choose to spend time with during the daily life segments, and how much effort you want to put into figuring out (and obtaining) gifts for those characters. Investigation segments have no fail state – in fact, the game will prevent you from moving on until you’ve found all the necessary evidence.

The class trials are where that evidence gets put to use, and get progressively more difficult mechanically as the game progresses. Although these segments are my favorite parts, they can also be the most irritating, as they require a level of skill that the rest of the game doesn’t (although turning down the difficulty for the action portions should give you far more time than you’d ever actually need).


It was a little over a year ago now that I dived into the world of Danganronpa for the first time. Initially, I was drawn to it because of the “stranger in a room” conceit – I love well told stories that start with this premise, and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was extremely well-reviewed. Despite not being a huge fan of the aesthetic, and in truth, not really enjoying a good portion of the elements of the game, I still charged through the twenty-odd hours of game, being dragged along behind a whirlwind story, and mostly unconcerned about the other elements.

I only managed to wait a couple of months before similarly devouring the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, putting in about 25 hours over the course of a week. As with many successful sequels, it was more of the same, with minor improvements, and with the outlandishness kicked up a couple of notches. The things that didn’t impress me from the first game were still key to the game’s completion, but I was so invested in the plot, it was – at most – a minor inconvenience, providing me with an opportunity to catch my breath in between the parts I found more interesting.

After I finished it, I tracked down the “third episode” anime – I wasn’t ready to be finished with the story, and according to the fans, this was the next step. Once I finished watching that, I was more or less content with that being the end of the story.

I knew there was a third game, I poked around enough to learn that the ending really divided the fanbase, and I decided that – especially considering the $40 price tag – it wasn’t something I needed to play, and so, I mostly put the Danganronpa universe out of my mind until the Steam Summer Sale, when I decided to get Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony for about $12.


I have spent 26 hours in the last five days with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and in a lot of ways, it’s my least favorite of the series. However, part of the reasoning for that is how deeply uncomfortable the game made me in places, and for me, that’s a sign of a successful piece of art. It doesn’t matter if you love it – what matters is that it makes you feel something.

It may seem obvious – of course a game about teenagers being forced to kill each other as a mystery game is going to be at least a little bit uncomfortable, right? Well, having seen this exact setup twice before now, the game has lost some of its shock value. It wasn’t the plot twists either – if I could get this far in the series without expecting plot twists, I clearly hadn’t been paying attention.

In fact, I would say that, as a video game, DV3 plays well into its own established tropes. There are characters you’re supposed to love, and characters you’re supposed to hate. There are mysteries of all sizes to be solved, and sometimes the player will feel clever, and sometimes they won’t, but in the end, they’ll get the answers they’re looking for. None of this is subverted.

So what was it about Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony that actually made me squirm in my seat? It was the offhand background commentary, the stuff played off for laughs. Although the game is around three years old at this point, there are several moments that feel especially poignant as someone living in the United States in 2020. One or two references felt absolutely like foreshadowing of current events, and although my logical brain realizes that in a lot of ways, that’s a result of the writers throwing a lot of things at a lot of walls, it still broke me out of the in-game universe and sent me back into my own reality.


In all three games, there have been characters I felt were solid, some of them almost in spite of their unlike-ability, while others were just painfully absurd, but overall, I felt as if the characters in the third game were the least interesting when taken as a group. This meant for the first half of the game, I was less invested in the outcomes of the cases than I otherwise might have been. Sure, I wanted to know what happened, but I didn’t much care about the victims or the murderers, which for me was definitely a weak point, and if I hadn’t been invested in the universe as a whole, I might not have continued playing through what – for me – are the dull parts, and just read a plot summary on the internet somewhere.

I wouldn’t classify myself as a hardcore Danganronpa fan – to be honest, I have never even poked into any of the bonus modes that unlock at the end of each game. For me, when the story is over, there isn’t any point in continuing to play, because I play for the mysteries. Still, I was satisfied with the game as a whole, and the ending didn’t ruin anything for me, rather, I appreciated it for what it was and how it fit into the themes of the game as a whole.

Backed It! Beasts of Maravilla Island

I am forever looking for the next deeply chill game to add to my library for days when I just want to relax and not think too hard. I’m also kind of a sucker for games where taking pictures is the main way of interacting with the world, despite the fact that my IRL cameras mostly collect dust these days. So when I stumbled across Beasts of Maravilla Island on Kickstarter, I didn’t even hesitate.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a meager $5 pledge gets a digital copy for either PC or Switch, and that the game is anticipated to release before the end of the year. Sure, Kickstarter is always kind of a risk, but I’ve pledged quite a bit more for projects that I was less excited about.

There is a demo of Beasts of Maravilla Island currently available over on Itch.io, so even though I’d already backed the project, I decided to give it a whirl. It’s a little glitchy at the moment, but it’s also adorable and delightful, and it just made me more excited for the full game.

There’s some light puzzle-solving, but mostly, you are expected to wander around and take photos of all the creatures of Maravilla Island. You have your grandfather’s journal, full of his observations and drawings of the local wildlife, and you have a photo album to fill (as well as a checklist to help you fill it).

Ideally, the developers would like to release Beasts of Maravilla Island for free, but they haven’t made a final determination of the release price – it may end up being more than the $5 you’d get it for by supporting the campaign. They have already reached their Kickstarter goal, but they’re just over a week in, so there’s plenty of time to back this one if you’re so inclined. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!

No Man’s Sky – Screenshot Sunday

In the past week, I’ve spent 40 hours with No Man’s Sky, and yet, I still don’t even feel like I’ve scratched the surface. I’ve managed a small base that doesn’t look like it was assembled with Lincoln Logs, and have poked my way through the multiple quest lines.

But really, what I’ve been spending a lot of time on (other that just general exploration to see what the heck is over that next ridge) is doing missions from the space stations – specifically the ones that want me to scan things (because I’m going to do that anyway), and those that request photos.

I freaking love photo missions – not least of all because it reminds me to take pictures of all the really cool places I’m finding.

I think that, once I get myself situated with a nice spaceship, and all the convenience upgrades, I’m going to load myself up with all the things I need to survive in space, and just do exploration-type missions. That will be my end game.

Quick Look – No Man’s Sky

I have a very mixed relationship with sandbox games in general – I love the idea of just going off and doing my own thing (and I frequently do in other types of open world games), but I am also likely to get bored or frustrated with too little direction. For me, the ideal is to have Things I Am Supposed To Do with no penalty for just not doing them.

So when No Man’s Sky came to XBox Game Pass on PC, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to satiate my curiosity. I really expected to bounce off of it in 30 minutes or less. What ended up happening was that I played for two straight hours, and decided that it was something I definitely would play.

Obviously, it wasn’t a game I played back when everyone hated it, and I since I had mostly talked myself into not liking it, I didn’t follow the updates too closely. There is more tutorial here than I was expecting – every time I think “This is it, I’m going to be on my own now.” the game teaches me about something else. Even better, there’s a thin thread of story behind everything you do, so it doesn’t feel like an endless tutorial, and at any point, you can just wander off and do whatever thing you might be interested in.

So far, I’m really enjoying just scanning random things on whatever planet I end up on. I’m not as into the constant need to manage my ridiculously limited personal inventory and flying my spaceship, but with more play time, one is getting easier while the other is getting more annoying. There is a full on creative mode I haven’t tried out yet, but I’m unsure if that will actually do what I want it to anyway.

Minor irritations aside, I find myself looking forward to each new story beat, and each new planet. Although I’ve had to deal with a couple of combat scenarios, so far there hasn’t been anything I couldn’t handle (even if I did handle some of it by going really fast in another direction). I can see spending hundreds of hours just seeing what’s around the next corner, uploading data on everything I come across, and steadfastly avoiding any multiplayer components.

Steam Summer Sale Splurges

I realize there’s still a few more days until the end of the Steam Summer Sale, but since I’ve wrapped up my shopping, I figured now was as good a time as any to chat a little bit about what I picked up this go around.


Most of the time, during the major sales, I fill a cart with seriously deep discounts, and a small game or two I don’t want to forget about. My deep discount choices this time were Treasure Adventure World and Bloons TD 6, both of which were going for 90% off, which is about as good as it gets in the Steam Sale world.

Koral is a game that, if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t even consider spending $12 on. I actually like short games, and I’m all for something that’s more experimental, and I’ve been looking for more water themed games lately. For three dollars, I absolutely wanted to make sure I grabbed this – a pretty, relaxing game with some light puzzling sounds lovely right about now.

My last early pick up was a game that wasn’t even on my radar until this sale; I discovered Nexomon in a list of hidden gems over on Reddit. Not being a console person, I’ve missed out on a lot of the Pokemon hype (and also, a lot of the Pokemon gripes), but pet battles is one thing that keeps drawing me back towards WoW. Sure, it’s a port of a mobile game, but the art looks good, and reviews were pretty decent. Knock-off Pokemon, here I come!


I spent most of a week planning my next cart. Once I decided that I was not going to make the larger purchase of Disco Elysium I originally intended, it got a little bit more complicated, but when I finally pulled the trigger today after the Humble Choice reveal, this is what I ended up with.

If you read my goals post, I was heavily debating between Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Megaquarium for mybig” purchases. Well, they both ended up shelved because I decided to make a bigger purchase – just not on Steam.

Using my Humble Choice subscriber discount netted me another $6 off the already discounted price of No Man’s Sky, which I finally got around to trying out on GamePass and fell in love with. Of course, I still wanted to take advantage of my $5 Steam coupon, so I bought a little more than I actually planned on overall.


I probably spent the longest time debating which of three different Early Access base builders I wanted to pick up. Mercury Fallen ended up being the one I chose, but I was definitely back and forth for a few days.

The other two games I considered were After the Collapse and Keplerth. They all have regular prices under $20, and each of them had less than a 50% discount, so I didn’t really feel like I could make the decision based on price alone. In the end, I think Mercury Fallen won out by being the least combat-focused since micromanaging combat tends to be my least favorite part of base building games.

I’m not quite willing to admit that Keplerth is a “not for me” game, because it’s full of things that I really enjoy, but there is also a considerable portion of the game devoted to underground dungeon crawling and boss fights, which I expect I’d find very frustrating.


Next up, I plan to ruthlessly whittle down my wish list. After the Steam Games Festival, I topped out over 350 wish listed titles, and it has just gotten unwieldy for me. There’s a lot of things on there that I don’t even know what the original appeal was, and a lot more that I’ve since lost interest in the genre or concept. There’s probably a handful of abandoned Early Access titles, and way too many free games I just haven’t gotten around to downloading.

… right after I add the 7 games I’m interested in from the July Humble Choice to my Steam account. Although I seem to be in the minority, I thought this was a fantastic reveal.

Anyone want to take a guess at which games I’ll be keeping this month?

Nerd Girl Goals – July 2020

This is me, fully admitting I have no real and actual plan for the month.


Community Game-Along

Normally, I try to pick out what I’m going to play for the theme of the month way before the month starts. Usually, this isn’t too hard, because either I only have a couple of games that might fit the theme that I’ve even vaguely interested in, or I have a ton because it’s a theme I already really enjoy so there probably won’t be a bad pick.

But I’m going to make a confession here: JRPGs confuse the heck out of me.

Using Steam’s Dynamic Collection feature gives me 54 games to choose from this month. My own (admittedly sort of haphazard) organizational system shows that I have 73 choices. Not a single one of those games have I played for more than a few minutes, and clearly I don’t necessarily know what a JRPG even is.

So, I downloaded a whole bunch of stuff to dabble in and see if anything sticks.


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.

Oh, look, it’s another spot where I don’t quite have anything definitive to say. The Steam Summer Sale is going on through July 9, and I’m waiting to make my bigger purchases until after the Humble Choice reveal on the 3rd. Not that I’m expecting overlap, but why go through the hassle of doing returns if I don’t have to?

I had originally planned to get Disco Elysium as my big splurge game, but I’ve been poking around, and there’s a not-insignificant number of reports of frequently crashes by people playing on AMD graphics cards, so that one got pushed back in priority for me.

Now, I am primarily debating between Megaquarium and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Triology – neither of which I truly need, but I can see either one of them being something I’d enjoy playing sooner rather than later, so whichever one I choose, I’d like to put some hours into it this month.

I’d also like to dabble in whatever else I pick up, big or small. So far, I’ve bought four little games that looked good to me, and I’ll likely pick up another handful of sub-$10 titles. I don’t feel like I have to play them to completion immediately, but I want to put in enough time to confirm they’re good games for me.

I’d also at least like to take a look at No Man’s Sky before my XBox Game Pass for PC runs out in about a week.

On the MMO front, I’ve reinstalled RIFT. After reading Syp’s recent post about it, I decided to take another trip through Telara, just to see if there’s any joy left there for me.

As far as Smite is concerned, I’d like to get familiar with more of the gods that have been added since I last played, and try to find a couple in each role that I feel at least moderately competent on. The group I’m playing with is made up mostly of folks new to the game, so I’m not dragging them down overly much just yet, but I would like to be able to be a little more flexible than I am at the moment.


Mid-Year Reset

I don’t think 2020 has been what any of us expected it to be when we were looking forward back in the fall and winter of last year. I gave myself a couple of challenges, and as it turns out, neither of them are really working out for me. I have decided I’m no longer going to work on either Low Spend 2020 or my Ten Games to Tackle ideas.

I think my Low Spend idea has succeeded, in that I put a lot more thought into what I’m buying. If I don’t see myself playing it reasonably soon, or if I already have something (or multiple somethings) unplayed in my library that I expect will offer a similar play experience, I don’t make the purchase. I’ve also found myself thinking a lot more about spending more on interesting independent games, and less on blockbuster titles that I just seem to collect and never actually play.

As far as taking on some of the bigger, more intimidating titles in my library, what I’ve mostly discovered is (a) big games are still overwhelming and (b) I often feel like I have to play a game because it’s a huge success and it shows up on Must Play lists. I think I need to give a little more thought to what makes games work for me – while it’s good to step outside my comfort zone now and again, I need to accept that my taste, skill level, and tolerance for frustration just make some games unplayable for me, and there’s plenty of other choices out there.


For a post about my monthly goals, this one feels extremely nebulous. It’s strange to be so forthright about just not having any idea what I want to do right now.