What I’m Playing Wednesday – Little Dragons Cafe

Well, I was right about Utomik not being great for my backlog. Little Dragons Cafe has sucked me in. I’ve been struggling with motivation for a few days, so allowing myself a day or two of play (which is usually only 15-30 minutes) has been ideal for a mini-reward as I tackle other real life tasks.

You play as one of a pair of siblings running a cafe after their mother has fallen ill. Turns out, whatever is wrong with mom is due to the fact she’s half dragon because obviously. So while you’re making sure to keep the cafe going, you’re also raising a dragon, also because obviously.

And the dragon? Is adorable.

This game is about as far from fast-paced as you can get (although once you reach a certain point, the work of actually serving customers can feel just a little hectic) – you wander around the island, exploring and gathering ingredients and recipe parts. Sometimes you fish, but it’s the easiest fishing “mini-game” I’ve ever seen.

Cooking is a two-step process – first, you need to select appropriate ingredients, then you need to complete a rhythm game. The first part is really just balancing quality versus quantity. Ingredients that you find early on in the game will be plentiful, but ingredients that you find as new areas open up will be of better baseline quality. Ingredients also come in four qualities each, so there’s a lot that can go into each dish.

It feels like higher quality ingredients (as well as adding extra ones past the minimum requirements) make the rhythm game more difficult. However, sometimes a dish you prepared less successfully will still have a higher rating than a dish prepared perfectly depending on what goes into the dish. There is probably some min-maxing that can happen here, but as long as you have some pretty decent dishes on your menu – which can only hold 10 dishes at a time – it doesn’t seem to much matter.

Which brings me to the thing that will make some people hate the game – it really doesn’t seem to matter at all what you do, if you participate in the daily work of the cafe, or even if you go to bed as soon as the story beat for the day has passed. There are no real fail states. Sure, you can stall the story by running out of food and treating customers horribly and only serving the very worst of the worst food. You can also stall the story by ignoring the requirements for satisfying each story customer. But there doesn’t seem to be anything you can’t recover from just by playing.

This is an immensely casual game that someone felt good about sticking a $60 price tag on, and therefore, nothing I ever would have played if it hadn’t be available as part of my subscription. However, since I started it, I find I’m having a good solid relaxing sort of fun with it, and over the past several days, have managed to put in quite a few hours and get about halfway through the story.

Of course, I stumbled across this gem on Reddit, and I felt that it was too perfect not to include it.

Apparently, I’ll see you all in a week with a nearly endless supply of cooking ingredients that never seem to spoil, and, oh yeah, A DRAGON. No strategy required – good on me for playing a game you can’t die in.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – The Elder Scrolls Online

Since I’m still muddling my way through Gray Matter (a game I thought I’d easily blow through in a day or two), I figured I’d use this What I’m Playing Wednesday to talk about my current “main game” and only MMO I’m actively playing, The Elder Scrolls Online.

Having been a huge fangirl of all thing Elder Scrolls since Daggerfall, there was no question that I was buying this game when it released in 2014. In fact, it was one of the rare occasions that I pre-ordered, splurging for the physical Imperial Edition with the Molag Bal statue and the beautiful book.

I played pretty obsessively for about six months after release, but then money was tight, and time was tighter. I was a guild leader in World of Warcraft at the time, so I stopped my subscription to focus on that. Just a few months later, it went to a subscription-optional model, but I didn’t get back into it for real until February of this year.

Every other time I’d gone back to it, I’d been overwhelmed, unable to remember how to spend my character’s points, and probably spent more time downloading it than actually playing. This time, I decided to start fresh – I deleted all but two of my old characters, and created a new one to relearn the game on.

Now, I have 6 characters that are level capped, and although I occasionally dabble in trials with a couple of them, nothing I have leveled so far feels like the right class for me at endgame.

Recently having had to take off most of a month while my husband recuperated from back surgery and playtime was highly limited, I’ve decided that I’m going to take a step back from my fully leveled characters, and spend some time trying out the magicka specs of the remainder of the classes, and unlike most MMOs I’ve played in the past, I’m genuinely excited to be leveling again.

Despite the hefty amount of time I’ve spent just questing and exploring, I still have oodles of content I haven’t finished, and quite a bit I’ve not really even started. I do keep up my ESO+ subscription, so I have access to all the minor DLCs, and I have purchased all the chapters, including Elsweyr. I still have so much to do.

My plan is to take it slow, to kick back and enjoy the story lines I haven’t yet experienced, as well as revisiting some of my favorites. I’ll mostly pass on crafting, and some of the grindier skill lines. I even want to take the time and play through some of the level appropriate dungeons instead of just speeding through them later.

I’m really looking forward to this soft restart, and just enjoy the world of Tamriel more or less on my own for awhile.

What I’m Playing Wednesday – Gray Matter

Gray Matter – Estimated Length 11-15 hours.

Since finishing Danganronpa 2 (and the prequel/sequel anime), I’ve been kind of floundering around, trying to find something else to fill that niche. I soared through both Danganronpa games in a matter of days because I had to know what happened next. A mystery-focused point-and-click adventure seemed like a good choice to keep that story-focused delight going.

Enter Gray Matter, a point-and-click adventure game, written by Jane Jensen (who also wrote the Gabriel Knight series in the early 90s).

Now, it’s been a long time since I’ve played an old school style adventure game, and I had forgotten just how frustrating adventure game logic can be. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter before I was hunting for a walkthrough (which is now just hanging out on my second monitor, waiting for me to desperately need it again).

Over the past few days, I’ve put in about 2.5 hours, some of which was trying to get the persnickety thing to run smoothly and not like a scratched up DVD. After an uninstall – reinstall – reboot loop, I was able to actually watch the opening cutscene, and kind of revel in how glorious the artwork is.

A still of Samantha Everett from the introductory cut scene.

Music and sound, at least so far, is pretty fantastic. Voice acting ranges from decent to really really good. The puzzles themselves are satisfyingly challenging but not obtuse, at least as far as I’ve played, although at least a couple felt entirely too simple. Since your player character is a street magician, I thought the addition of the “magic trick” interface was brilliant, although it initially felt needlessly fiddly, once it clicked for me, I realized it was quite well put together.

I even like the dual story aspect, at least so far. Seeing how (or even if) the stories come together as I progress through the game may or may not change my mind on that one.

Gray Matter also has an interesting progress meter, which would be more useful if it gave you any real way to know what activities encompassed each section title. Since I’m not the type to admonish myself for using a walkthrough, I don’t see myself struggling too much to complete this game.

Gray Matter’s Progress Meter for Chapter 2.

Other than a few niggling grumps (like long cut scenes that aren’t pauseable and are key to understanding the story), so far, I’m content with my choice. It’s certainly not the most difficult point-and-click adventure game out there, and it’s holding my interest.