In Review – January 2021

Another month gone by, and again, it was dominated by World of Warcraft. That said, I played a bit less than I did in December. I had predicted that my time would likely increase a bit as I spent time on alts and old content, but what I found in actuality was that when I didn’t have firm plans for my play time, I tended to wander off and play something else, or indulge in other hobbies. I’ve completed all four convenant campaign stories on the four characters I leveled initially, and I’m finding that I’m not really feeling a sense of urgency about catching up my other characters. I’m enjoying Shadowlands enough that I’m expecting I’ll keep subbing throughout (unless something changes majorly to detract from the fun I’m having), so I figure I have at least another 18 months to level alts. No reason at all to rush.


I manage to complete three different games during #PuzzleGameMonth for the Community Game-Along, although I did go completely off-script from what I had planned. I did try out Outer Wilds, but the combination of feeling like I just wasn’t getting the concept and the fact that I’m a goddamn awful spaceship pirate left me looking for something else, although I do expect I’ll revisit it at some point in the future.

Short games seemed to work best for me, as all three that I completed all took me around two hours to complete. Other puzzle games I dabbled in this month included Animated Puzzles, Peggle Nights, Munin, Simply Puzzles: Codewords, and Doodle God, but I wouldn’t say I made any significant progress in any of them.


I also added a couple of new games to the library which were impulse purchases, but in a surprising turn of events, they were impulse purchases which I proceeded to install and play!

The last time I had peeked at Amazing Cultivation Simulator, English wasn’t a supported language, and despite the fact that the game otherwise looked right up my alley, I figured not being able to read any of the text was going to be a deal-breaker. However, when the game launched version 1.0 last November, it came with English language support, so when I spotted it on sale, I knew I wanted to pick it up. Sure, I don’t need another massive time suck colony management game (especially since I haven’t even looked at Rimworld in around two years), but I just found the whole concept and art style so appealing. So far, I’ve only spent about half an hour with it, slowly making my way through its robust series of tutorials, but I imagine at some point in the not-so-distant future, this game will take a good chunk out of my gaming time.

My other impulse pick-up was Hardspace: Shipbreaker, which has fantastic reviews, despite still being in Early Access. I’d been keeping an eye out for a new low-commitment chill game, and breaking down derilict space ships to pay off massive amounts of crushing debt is actually fitting the bill. I am taking advantage of the easy mode while I get comfortable with the 3D movement and figuring out how everything fits together, but not being limited by shift length and oxygen drain really does make this game almost meditative. It’s something I will definitely poke at here and there until the release of the first chapter of story mode coming in the next major update, at which time I’ll likely shelve it until full release.


It’s been quite a while at this point since I was investing so much of my time into a single game over a period of months – even when I was playing ESO regularly, I wasn’t dedicating half this much raw play time. It has definitely made an impact on how much other stuff I’ve had time to play around with, but really, it mostly has gotten rid of the hours I was spending trying to figure out what I wanted to be doing.

I won’t lie – pandemic life has gotten really old, even for someone who is as introverted as I am, and mostly happy to stay home. Mostly, I feel like I’ve missed having a schedule, and MMO-life has brought a little bit of that back with scheduled guild events and weekly chore lists. It’s comforting having something that manages to be both new and familiar all at once.

World of Warcraft – Anima Conductor Treasures – Ranked by Covenant

I feel like most of the major pros and cons of the different convenants have been discussed to death, but I haven’t seen much talk about the Anima Conductors overall, and the treasures unlocked by the first level anima conductor in particular. Sure, even a terrible treasure is still treasure, but after having done all four covenant’s treasures many times, I’m prepared to rank them, from worst to best.

Number Four – Necrolords

As far as Anima Conductor treasures are concerned, Necrolords comes in dead last – and it’s not even close. The treasure is located in the House of the Chosen, which is full of hostile mobs. However, just getting there isn’t enough – it’s a Runebound Chest, so you have to clear all around it so you can deactivate the three runes before you can open it. This is the one treasure I don’t bother with most days – it takes far more time than it’s worth.

Number Three – Kyrian

This one is pretty awful as well, but the most awful part (having to fight your way through a mob-dense area to get there) is made better once you unlock the second tier of your Transport Network, which provides a portal exactly where you need to be. However, like all things Kyrian, you need to prove your worth by ringing a bell, which will silence you and slow your movement speed, and then maneuvering through moving patches of bad on the floor. Touching that blue ick will bring you back to the beginning and stun you for a second, so this can get frustrating. The debuff lasts for two minutes, which is plenty of time to get to the treasure itself, but limits you from just changing your mind and leaving. I quickly learned that if I ring the bell in ghost wolf, I get to stay that way, so the movement debuff is less noticable, but overall, the Kyrian treasure is pretty irritating.

Number Two – Night Fae

The Night Fae treasure is a Large Lunarlight Pod, which you may have encountered elsewhere in the zone. This one is right next to the flight path at Glitterfall Basin, and you won’t run into any hostile critters while looking for the Lunarlight Buds you need to light up to unlock it. Sure, it takes a minute or two to find them all, since they’re not always in exactly the same place, but with it being close to a flightpath and in a safe space, the worst you can say is that it’s a little tedious. As an added bonus, once you have the second level of the Queen’s Conservatory, this is a fairly regular source of catalysts, which is a nice bonus.

Number One – Venthyr

There’s a lot of things that are irritating and confounding about Revendreth, but thankfully, the Anima Conductor treasure is as easy as they come. Like the one in Ardenweld, it’s right near a flight path, and there are no hostiles between where you land and where you need to go. Once you click the tombstone, you just need to walk up the ghostly stones to the ghostly treasure chest. You do receive a debuff that doesn’t allow you to mount, and you are on a (very generous) timer, but although this may look like a jumping puzzle, it’s really a pretty simple walk. It also frequently gives almost as much anima as your average world quest, which is a great bonus.

Obviously, the ease of access and quality of Anima Conductor treasures is probably a worse reason to choose a covenant than fashion, but I thought this might help someone decide what to reinforce first on an alt. If you’re Venthyr, the treasure is quick and easy, and if you’re a Necrolord, well, you might be better off going after the rare.

Game Over – Hook – #PuzzleGameMonth

Over the years, I have amassed quite the collection of short, minimalist puzzle games which I load up once, play a handful of levels, and then proceed to forget about while I shop for more short, minimalist puzzle games. It’s a problem. However, I decided to see if I could actually finish one during #PuzzleGameMonth, and at only 50 levels, Hook seemed like it’d give me a pretty good chance at completion. In about 90 minutes, over a couple of evenings, I managed to finish all 50 levels, although more than once, I was sure the game had beaten me.

The concept is simple – click on the large black buttons to pull pins, until you have no pins left. The image above is one of the earlier puzzles, and it’s not too difficult to figure out the order of presses to make the pins come away smoothly. Press the button in the upper left, followed by the button on the right, and lastly, the one in the lower left.

But again, this is an early level.

As you progress, you’ll have more stuff to mess with in order to make things work. The image above is from a puzzle near the midgame. Still not terribly hard, but it’s starting to get complicated. Some levels have pieces that you need to rotate, some have pieces that send out a signal, and some have both. In the latter half of the game, you really have to think about every possible pathway. The game does eventually start giving you more than one mistake before it fully resets the level, but there were quite a few that took me several tries.

Hook has absolutely no story, no text, and you will need to learn from the game as you progress through it, but the puzzles are absolutely satisfying, and picking it up at full retail will likely give you at least an hour of puzzling for only a dollar. I’m glad I pulled this one out from the deeps of my library to play.

Game Over – Donut County – #PuzzleGameMonth

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.

World of Warcraft – Game Goals & Deciding How Much is Enough

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.

Game Over: Fort Meow (#PuzzleGameMonth)

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.

Steam Winter Sale Splurges

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.

Nerd Girl Goals – January 2021

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.


Community Game-Along: #PuzzleGameMonth

I’ve decided to play Outer Wilds during January for #PuzzleGameMonth. This is a game I’m either going to absolutely love or 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.

I still have a few outstanding game-related stuff I’d like to finish up over the next few weeks, but there’s plenty of stuff I haven’t already talked about I’d like to add onto my plate this month.


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.


Other Nerdstuff

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.