In Review – February 2021

The World of Warcraft burn-out phase has begun in earnest; I’m down around 80 hours from last month, and it likely would have been more if I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time and energy leveling a healer for our alt raid. This past weekend, I did a few Mythic zeros with her, and since then, I’ve sort of forced myself to take a step back. It wasn’t an issue with the time I was spending (time is one of the few things I have plenty of), but the fact that I wasn’t enjoying much of it.

I have gotten far too comfortable with letting that be the structure in my life, and I would have been content to carry on that way for a bit longer, but it’s a lot harder to justify when I find myself dreading doing my virtual chores. This is the crux of my love-hate relationships with MMOs in general – when they’re fun, they’re really fun, and I really enjoy spending virtual time with friends. However, they’re built to make players feel a sense of obligation and a fear of falling behind, and I know I’m particularly susceptible to those influences, so I have to check in with myself often to make sure I’m doing something I want to do, and not something I feel like I have to do.

As a result, the tail end of February ended up being somewhat of a wasted week, because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do if I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft all the time. I still had our progression raid night, and I popped on a couple of times for very short periods, hoping to find a balance that will let me do the things I actually enjoy without feeling tethered to the game.

For #DatingSiMonth, I played Best Friend Forever and Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker, and I think I can confidently say that I’m just not mad for dating sims, and I think I’ve given them a fair shake at this point. Does that mean I’ll never play another? Probably not. They can be a fun little diversion (and I’m definitely more likely to seek out ones with some management or strategy elements, rather than pure visual novels), but romance stories aren’t really my bag in any form – I don’t read romance novels and I can’t think of more than a handful of rom-com movies I’ve really enjoyed. When #VNNovember rolls around, I’ll definitely be looking to play something a little bit darker.


Probably the thing that threw my month further off-plan than anything else was my acquisition of a Nintendo Switch. It was something I’d been toying with picking up for quite a while now, as I wasn’t sure it was something I would get enough use out of to make it worth the investment.

Well, on that point, I was absolutely wrong. My main concern was that I have absolutely zero Nintendo nostalgia – and first party Nintendo games are really the biggest pro to the Switch. I’ve dabbled in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I’m playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons super casually.

However, I’ve been playing Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth for over 30 hours over the past couple of weeks, and for me, this was pretty much the perfect game to get me comfortable with the system. I mostly don’t know what I’m doing, and the game isn’t great at explaining things. I was well into chapter 10 before I blundered into how to actually use all that equipment I’d been picking up. I am just now starting to get to Digimon battles that are challenging enough that I actually need to plan ahead and make sure I have the right ‘mons for the job. This probably means I’m just shy of the point that I’m going to go have to grind some levels somewhere, since I’ve been Digivolving my little friends pretty much willy nilly, but I’m pretty sure I’m okay with that.

And if I understand correctly, this is only the first part – once I beat the main story, there’s a second, DLC-style story. No regrets at all on dropping $30 on this one.

I’ve started checking DekuDeals a couple of times a day, and am very slowly building up a Switch library, mostly made up of things I am interested in, but unlikely to play on PC for one reason or another. I have grabbed a couple things that I already have in my Steam library (Cattails seems to be well suited for handheld play, and I’ve always meant to get back into Crashlands), but the console tax and my desire to pick mostly replayable titles is keeping me from going too crazy.


Otherwise, I pretty much just dabbled this month. Even the Steam Game Festival didn’t inspire me to check out a bunch of new things – obviously at this point, I am spoiled for choice, and I’m really feeling a bit overwhelmed when it comes to what I want to play next. I picked a couple new games, the first of which (Best Friend Forever), I bought knowing that I’d play right away. However, I did spend an hour or so with Dysmantle – I enjoyed it less than I expected to, but not enough less to return it. Since it’s an Early Access title, I am optimistic that some of the rough edges will get smoothed out with time. But if I’m being honest, I kind of regret grabbing that title instead of the Valheim, which seems to be the survival game that everyone is playing right now.

I’ve also started playing Cook, Serve, Delicious 2 again – from scratch, because I know I’m going to need to rebuild the muscle memory to do well at it. This will be at least my third restart, and I’d really like to work towards getting all the gold medals in the Chef for Hire restaurants this time around. If it becomes frustrating rather than satisfyingly challenging, I’ll likely drop it again, but it’s a goal to work towards that feels achievable.

Game Over – Best Friend Forever – #DatingSiMonth

Put dogs in something, and I’m going to at least be interested, if not immediately grabbing my wallet. So despite not being a huge fan of dating sims in general, I knew from the minute I first heard about Best Friend Forever, I’d need to give it a playthrough eventually. I played the demo during one of the Steam Game Festivals last summer, but I only got around to actually picking up the game a couple weeks ago.

Now, I read reviews before diving in, but logically, I would think that adding management aspects to a dating sim would increase the length. Not so here. A full play through took me just under two hours, and really, there wasn’t much I could have done differently to pad out that time. This is fine if you’re the type of person who replays dating sims multiple times to romance all the available characters, or to hunt for any bits of story the first play through might have denied you.

Unfortunately for me, picking a different dog to adopt holds more interest for me than pursuing a different romance route, and the dog choice is mostly cosmetic. The character I chose to date for my play through was the only one who felt right – in part due to my personal tastes, and in part, because there are only six characters to choose from! While I think it’s absolutely fantastic that you can choose your gender, and it doesn’t lock you out of any of the romance paths, none of the other characters really appealed to me, even if I were to disregard gender. It sounds like I’m complaining, and ok, I am, a little bit, but I was absolutely satisfied with the story route I chose. It was a great romance! There just … isn’t much left for me after playing the game through once.

For anyone hoping for deep management mechanics, you won’t find those here. Training your dog is simple, as is caring for them, once you figure out how the fiddly bits work. The interactable events during story blocks are a neat addition, but it really does amount to a bit of flavor. Now, it’s a flavor I like a lot, but there isn’t a whole lot of strategy going on here unless you’re chasing achievements or have your heart set on your new pooch graduating at the absolute top of his or her class. I’m sure it’s possible to fail puppy parenting classes, but I think you’d have to work a whole lot harder at that than you do at succeeding.

At first, you might think that motivation points are going to feel restrictive, but that wasn’t my experience – of course, I wasn’t feeling out different romanceable characters, so someone else might find it unpleasant not to be able to pursue every possible encounter. I appreciated that I needed to make choices, although the ability to spend time with everyone every week certainly would have increased the play time, but I think that would really be detrimental to the pacing.

My only other gripe would be the plot point you’re hit with after the second major event; I’m not sure what I was expecting as far as resolution for it, but it felt kind of cheap to toss in a moment of “bad things just happen sometimes” if it wasn’t a mystery that would end up being solved.

Best Friend Forever isn’t a perfect game, but it was a nice way to spend an evening. I likely won’t return to it unless it gets significant upgrades or DLC, so I’m glad I waited for a discount to pick it up. If you like dogs, dating sims, and a mostly light, fun story, I don’t know there’s much else out there that quite scratches this itch.

World of Warcraft – The Difference a Week Can Make

I have been procrastinating doing any more leveling in World of Warcraft because I am finding plenty to do with four characters at max level, and I just really haven’t been excited about the leveling process. However, after finding myself in a position to need to be a healer for our alt raid, and my only viable choice being my druid, which I’m really not enjoying, I set myself a challenge.

When I sent that tweet, my paladin was just shy of 51, having made the trek through the Maw intro, but otherwise, just hanging out in Oribos waiting for her turn. Since she was also pretty neglected through all of Battle for Azeroth, I enlisted some help from my husband to get her into some Shadowlands starting crafted gear, turned on Threads of Fate, and made my way out into the Shadowlands to melee DPS my way through a bunch of quests and bonus objectives.

Now, I played a lot that day, and for the next two, but I managed to hit 60 with her on Friday night, at which point I ran a solo-raid on the auction house for some crafted blues, and got ready to start the Covenant Campaign quest line slog and do a truly excessive amount of world quests.

I took Saturday off from the project, due to the aforementioned alt raid and just really needing a break. But now, one week later, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape.

I haven’t done much at all in the way of dungeons, but I’ve managed to heal my way through four Layer 8 Torghasts, and have a 210 legendary for my holy spec to show for that work. My convenant renown is at 18, which means a lot of catch up happened, but I’m holding onto my weekly renown quests until after I go on a mythic world tour later this week. My hope is that I’ll end up with enough renown to max out my covenant gear in any slots I don’t fill out doing Mythic Zeros and LFR. The one place I’m feeling really behind is in Conduits, but I’m optimistic that plowing through a whole bunch of dungeons will help with that as well.

Now, to be fair, for most folks, I do not recommend doing what I just did. It was definitely more hours tied to the game than I like to dedicate outside of the first week of a new expansion. That said, I was honestly surprised how fast everything is coming together – if someone needed to change mains in a hurry, it’s still a significant effort, but it’s not as bad as it has been in previous expansions. I expect my paladin’s item level will be comparable with my other alts before the next reset, and I’m far more comfortable with the style of healing she offers as compared to the druid.

Of course, this has set back the rest of my plans a bit – I still want to play through at least one more title for #DatingSiMonth, and I’ve been sneaking some late night gaming sessions with my new Nintendo Switch, but I definitely put a hard pause on my other hobbies during this period, including most of the blogosphere and social media time. It was a lot, but man, what a difference a week can make.

Game Over – Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker – #DatingSiMonth

It’s not too often that I spend over ten hours with a game that I have such mixed feelings about, but Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker was equal parts compelling and irritating, but I just kept going back to it. I won’t even get into all the things that – at least in my opinion – it gets totally wrong about dating. I really want to mostly look at it from a complete play-feel perspective.

Although I chose this to play for #DatingSiMonth, I was expecting it to be more of a management game, and in that, at least, I wasn’t disappointed. The management aspects were a little more complex than I think they strictly needed to be, but I suppose if you consider the fact that human compatibility is super complicated, it makes sense. Each person who walked into the dating agency was one of ten different “types”, with a job, three interests, three preferences (for gender, hair, and eye color), and had a set of five traits (each one selected from a pair of opposite traits), as well as an affluence level, guilty pleasure, and bad habit. Of course, the game didn’t throw all of this at you at once – thank goodness – but by the end, there was a lot to juggle, and despite having unlocked the entirety of the little black book, it often felt like there wasn’t a good match to be found.

I think that would have all been fine, though, except for the fact that a lot of the determination of whether or not you were ultimately successful was in the hands of luck. Quite a few of the mini-games were infinitely game-able (I admit to using my phone’s calculator to determine tip percentage a few times), but some were just plain random, even if you knew what result you wanted – and oftentimes, I had no idea what I should be crossing my fingers to hope for. One of the mini-games you might encounter on a date required you to guess if the next card drawn would be higher or lower – something I would have found irritating even if it wasn’t tied to an event about flatulence. I’m sure some folks would find it funny, but for me, it managed to be both frustrating and uncomfortable.

It took me just under 11 hours to go from the employee ID on the left to the one on the right, and although my level steadily increased, my reputation was all over the place as I failed to make good matches, sometimes due to my own questionable judgement, but more often because a mini-game went wrong, or the Love Handle wouldn’t give me the topics I wanted my clients to discuss. Several times, I was unsure if I made a mistake or if the tip given to me about horoscope compatibility was misleading – many times I was pretty sure I had made a good match, astrologically speaking, but that wasn’t at all how it played out.

To be fair, I didn’t really deep dive into all the available systems – I mostly chose to ignore the gifting mechanic, and I didn’t do too much with client makeovers. I did unlock all the agency upgrades for those mechanics, but they weren’t all that alluring, and cost money I preferred to use on more upgrades. I did not manage to unlock all the available restaurants while leveling, but other than requiring nicer restaurants for more affluent clients and satisfaction taking a hit if you sent the same couple on a second date to the same place, there really didn’t seem to be a whole lot of point to it.

I did enjoy the fact that, after matching a couple successfully, you’d get a letter from a previous client letting you know how it all worked out, but for me, it was mostly flavor, not really adding any new information to what I already knew about the clients when I paired them off. Sometimes I got lucky, and a match that shouldn’t have worked did, but when they later broke up, I took a small rep hit (although far less of one than I took when I was unable to match a client and they took their business elsewhere).

There is a new game plus mode, once you finish the campaign and complete the final challenge. You’re sent off to start a new agency, but you keep all your unlocks and your reputation. In fact, you’re going to see many of the same faces in your little black book, despite the conceit that you’ve set up shop in a new town. For me, there’s no real reason to keep on – I feel like I’ve seen the majority of the game had to offer on my first play through, and this isn’t one that’s going to inspire achievement hunting.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker more than I did with the game I chose to play for last years #DatingSiMonth, but it also wasn’t enough to make me a fan of the genre. In fact, I definitely preferred the strategy and management aspects to the paper-thin story, but I definitely would have gotten more out of it if I was into the tone & humor of the game as well.

Nerd Girl Goals – February 2021

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.

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.

Subscription MMO – World of Warcraft Retail

I expect that this will be an even slower month for World of Warcraft – I haven’t been all that into leveling more characters, and there’s less and less in Shadowlands I feel like I have to do. I’d like to keep up with renown on all four characters, and continue raiding Castle Nathria normal. I’ll work on anima collection when the world quests are worthwhile, and I’d like to keep cleaning up unfinished stuff from old expacs. It still sounds like a lot, but since I’m pretty much in a holding pattern outside of raid progression until the 9.1 patch, if I manage my time well, I could probably spend about 1/3 less time on WoW this month as I did last month and not feel like I’m missing out on anything.

I am also excited to check out BlizzConline, which takes place from February 19th and 20th, which will hopefully give us some insight into what comes next for Shadowlands.

Community Game Along – #DatingSiMonth

I picked up Kitty Powers: Matchmaker during the Steam Winter Sale with the intent of playing it this month for #DatingSiMonth. I’m not a huge fan of dating sims as a genre, but I love the idea of combining them with a management game, so I think I’ll enjoy this one.

I’ve also selected a couple “back up” games for the month from my library – Speed Dating for Ghosts, and Hustle Cat, in case either I don’t find myself enjoying my first choice, or I burn through it quickly and am looking for more!

Subscription Game Service – XBox Game Pass for PC

With the amount of MMO time I’ve been putting in, I haven’t paid much attention to the subscription gaming services in a few months. However, the end of January saw a couple of additions to XBox Game Pass for PC that I’m very much interested in, but probably wouldn’t actually buy. This month, I’m looking at trying out The Medium and Control, but honestly, I’ll be happy if I get around to one or the other. I’d be giddy if I manage to squeeze in both during the same month.

Other Games

I’m still struggling quite a bit with the controls on Hardspace: Shipbreaker, so I’d like to spend a few more hours with it this month until moving around starts to feel natural. I have no idea when to expect the next major patch, seeing as one just came out, but I’d like to be able to dive right into story mode when it does.

Looking over this now, there’s a lot here, and as per usual, I know I won’t get around to half of it. However, I do game a lot more during the winter months, when other hobbies seem so much less appealing, so maybe I’ll surprise myself.