I wasn’t entirely sure what (if anything) I wanted to bring to Lessons Learned week for Blaugust 2021, but then this tweet came across my timeline this morning, and it was like I got hit over the head with a giant lightbulb. Please excuse the mixed metaphor, but the takeaway here is huge as a blogger, especially as a hobbyist blogger (as opposed to one who is trying to make a revenue stream happen).
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.
It’s a funny sentence, in it’s own way, but I think it’s a conflict that just about every type of creative faces at some point. Everything you have ever done? Probably could have been done better. But how much better and what would it have cost you?
Sometimes, I have the barest glimmer of an idea, and I think, man, I need to ruminate on that. Or I just push it aside because I don’t trust my ability to make that idea into a compelling post. I think it’ll be too short, or worse, far too long. I have no graphics. I’m not ready to write it.
And that, friends, is why I have so many months where I post less than half a dozen times. I don’t want to put in the effort unless I think it’s going to be perfect.
But you know what? Perfect never happens, and done can be immensely satisfying.
I continue to be grateful to Belghast and the Blaugust community because revisiting blogging at the start of a blogging marathon meant that, if I wanted to win, I didn’t have time to get bogged down in the details. I didn’t spend months looking through layouts, trying to find something that was just right. I picked something that I didn’t find visually offensive, slapped a name on it, and got down to doing what I was there to do, which was writing.
And it’s stuck for over two years now. Sure, there have been fallow times, but I’ve – more or less – kept up with my oh-so-meager planned posts. I’ve tried a lot of things I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I’m getting words onto the screen and sending them out into the world.
It’s not perfect, and it hasn’t transitioned into other projects in the way I had hoped, but man, it feels good every time I hit publish on a new post.
I always feel a little left out when people talk about the games from their formative years (whatever that means for them). Mostly, they’re going to be console games, probably Nintendo, and I had almost no Nintendo experience at all until the past 6 months or so. Since I was already a diehard PC gamer from my teenage years, the games that I remember really grabbing hold of me are usually off the beaten path of most people I know, even when we’re similar in age. I fell in love with Tamriel playing Daggerfall, and have picked up every Elder Scrolls title since on release day. I spent an obnoxious amount of time puzzling my way through The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour. I oversaw the rise and fall of great empires in Zeus: Master of Olympus, and watched people plummet to their fiery demises due to lax safety inspections in RollerCoaster Tycoon. And I got my introduction to the wild world of 3D platforming collectathons playing the original Psychonauts.
Despite platformers being one of my least played genres, since I’m awful at them, Psychonauts stuck with me. I held onto those discs for years, until finally re-purchasing the game twice – once for the XBox 360, and again on Steam. Now, mind you, I didn’t actually finishthe game until 2018. Even if it did take me 13 years to complete, it’s still one of my proudest gaming moments.
So, obviously, I was a little bit excited about the sequel finally releasing.
And boy, was it a sequel worth waiting for. DoubleFine took everything that made the original Psychonauts so memorable – the characters, the story, the absolutely bonkers settings, and turned it up a notch. They then looked at all the things that were … less great … and made adjustments so that both returning players and folks new to the world could enjoy it even more than the first one.
Obviously, not all gamers were thrilled with the fact that the game would feature an Invincibility mode, and I am firmly in the camp of any game developer who decides to include a stress-free option for people who want to just enjoy the world and the story.
In fact, there are multiple difficulty toggles (listed under Accessibility in the options menu), for people who want less of a challenge than offered by the base game, but a little bit more than God Mode. You can choose to enable an easier mode for combat (where you do far more damage to enemies) or one that negates falling damage, if the platforming is what’s holding you back.
Despite the fact that I am struggling hard (I spent approximately 3 hours redoing a boss fight until I beat it), I have not yet elected to mess around with these options, but it’s good to know that I won’t have to leave this one unfinished for a decade or more.
I’m closing in on the mid point of the game’s main quest, just under 8 hours in. I have spent a minimal amount of time just exploring because I am really caught up in the story. Which leads me to another great change from the original – there is no point of no return. If you’re the type who likes to play through the story and then run around picking up collectibles and looking for secrets, you can absolutely do that. However, once you are past the midpoint, you will be locked out of certain areas until a future point in the story, and the game warns you very clearly about this.
I’ve had to take a bit of a break due to hand fatigue from the being unused to playing for long periods of time with a controller, but I honestly haven’t been this excited to play a game in a long time.
My interest in World of Warcraft pet battles comes and goes. I enjoy the collecting part, especially pets that can be caught from wild battles. The leveling part is somewhat less enjoyable for me, mostly due how long it takes and how very many pets there are that need to be leveled. I currently have just shy of 750 pets, and just over 200 of them have been leveled up.
If you’re like me, and you’re a somewhat casual pet battler with some catching up to do, and you played enough in Warlords of Draenor to have gotten a level 3 garrison up on at least one of your characters, then you might want to set aside some time this Thursday, August 26th. On this date, not only will the pet battle weekly buff be available, but Squirt will be the daily challenger in your garrison, a combination of event that the pet battle community has dubbed Super Squirt Day.
On Super Squirt Day, you can level just about any pet from level 1 to level 25 in two battles, provided you have two appropriate support pets already leveled up to 25. I use my Enchanted Broom and Boneshard, but if you are looking for alternative strategies to fit your stable, Xu-Fu’s Pet Guides has 43 other team options that you can check out.
If you use the add-on Rematch, you can save teams, and also set up a leveling queue. If you make your third pet in your Squirt Team a leveling pet, Rematch will automatically pull the first pet in your leveling queue onto the team once the previous pet reaches max level. This saves a ton of time sorting through your pet journal and deciding what to level. If you have specific goals, like leveling the pets you need to conquer the Celestial Tournament or the pet battle dungeons, it’s worth taking the time to do some research and make sure you have the correct pets queued up for leveling.
Once reset happens on Thursday, Squirt will be available in your garrison to battle all day long, so put on your favorite podcast or start up an audiobook, and settle in for some serious battle pet levelling. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t give your character any experience, but it’s still a great way to get a lot of battle pets leveled in a short period of time without needing any consumables whatsoever.
I’m going to make a bold statement here: every person who has ever started a project of moderate to large magnitude has hit a stumbling block at some point in time. They may not have realized it at the time. They may have simply decided the project was no longer worth pursuing and quit. Or they may have gone full out steam-roller mode and just plowed through regardless. Maybe it slowed them down a lot, maybe it only stopped them for a second, but we’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. We may have kicked a pebble or ran face-first into a brick wall, but every one who has done anything worth doing since the beginning of time has most definitely stumbled.
I stumble a lot. Too much maybe. But I think it’s more about what you do when you stumble than the actual stumble itself. And for me, identifying my stumbling block is the first step in getting back on track. Now, when I sit down to blog and I feel like I cannot possibly get myself to write a single word, I look to see if I’m struggling with one of the following issues.
I have absolutely nothing to talk about.
This happens to me most frequently when I’m struggling with things outside of the nerdisphere. Either I’ve been too busy and haven’t touched a game in days, or I’ve been feeling poorly (either physically or mentally) for a prolonged period of time, which wreaks havoc on my ability to concentrate. Sometimes, this feeling also comes from a bit of imposter syndrome, when I cannot fathom why anyone would care about my thoughts on any given subject.
Honestly, this is probably my least favorite stumbling block, and the one I come up against most often.
Normally, my way of dealing with this is to close up WordPress, open up Steam, and just start downloading anything that looks intriguing. One of the benefits of having a large library spanning many genres is that something, eventually, will catch my interest, and although it might take a few days to get back to my blog, at least I stop worrying about it for a little bit.
Alternatively, I go seek out what others are doing for inspiration. Sometimes that means reading other blogs, or creeping my activity feed on Steam to see what my friends are playing. Sometimes, that takes me to Discord or to Twitch or to Reddit. I seek out people actively pursuing the hobby that I’m struggling with. Sooner or later, something will pique my interest, and before I know it, I’ll be back in the game, both figuratively and literally.
I have no visuals to support my content.
More than once, I’ve been tempted to write about something I played on the Switch, but I stillhaven’t bothered to figure out how to get screenshots from that machine to my PC, and that’d only be helpful if I had remembered to take any in the first place. Or I get deep into a game and sit down to write some first impressions and realize that the only screenshot I took was the title screen. Oops.
Of course, those are irritating, but easily remedied with a little extra time investment. Worse, for me, is when I want to write something that’s not specific to a certain title, and I get nervous because I tend to ramble on, and no one likes a giant wall of text. Do I spend the time creating custom graphics? Do I go hunting through PixaBay for something that kind of sort of fits what I want to talk about?
(The answer to that one is almost always yes, by the way. PixaBay is a gift.)
The irony of me getting caught up here so often is that, mostly, I don’t care if there are images throughout the blogs that I read. I’m holding myself to a standard that I’m not entirely sure even exists. Obviously, having relevant pictures is great, but I’m not sure it’s really required. There’s also no reason I cannot add images after doing the writing work, but … I don’t actually ever do that. I always feel like I need to have all my ducks in a row before I sit down to actually write, so when this one hits, I go find some ducks before I can proceed.
I have no idea why I’m bothering with this blog anyway.
Oof. This is the doozy. This is the one that hurts when I run into it.
Naithan of Time to Loot did a great post that sticks with me about finding one’s motivation to blog. Now I want to stress the importance of remindingyourself of that motivation when you feel like your struggling. Maybe the writing you’re doing (or trying to do) is no longer serving your purpose. Maybe your interests have changed, which has turned keeping your blog into a chore. Maybe the schedule you set for yourself is too limiting, or not structured enough to really work any more.
Do not be afraid to change something that’s not working!!! This is double extra bonus true if your primary audience is yourself. Sure, if your blog is an important income source in your life, maybe you won’t have that freedom, but if you’re a hobbyist? You absolutely do. Embrace that. Write something totally outside your normal flow, even if you don’t actually hit the publish button. Revisit your motivation, reexamine your structure, heck, redesign your layout if you think that might help.
If it feels like work, and it’s not work, then you probably should stop treating it like work and go do something that sparks joy.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Are you familiar with the common stumbling blocks you tend to run into most often? Do you have a strategy for combatting them? If you haven’t really thought about it, consider figuring out your common stumbling blocks and brainstorm the best methods for you for dealing with them.
It’s been a slow few days around here, at least as far as my engagement with nerd stuff is concerned. After three days in a row where there were Many Things That Needed to be Done, Sunday was spent in full on recovery mode, and today was mostly about playing catch up. This pattern actually has a lot to do with why I normally have so much time to spend on hobbies – my limiting factor is almost always my energy, not my time.
Now, it’s Monday evening, and perhaps there’s enough time to start up something new, but since I’m also very aware that I have a few small commitments over the next few days, and that I should be able to dive in Psychonauts 2 sometime tomorrow, I don’t really want to start something new.
These weird “gaming gaps” aren’t really that uncommon for me. I’ve finished – whatever that means for me – the last thing I was playing, and I don’t really have the energy or mental bandwidth to jump into something new. However, during a Blaugust where I’ve already missed a couple of days, they’re awfully inconvenient.
Full disclosure – I would have been perfectly content to just let HUMANKIND slide right on by me until either there was a complete edition at a rock bottom price or it ended up in the Humble Choice or something. Not because I was completely uninterested in it, mind you, but merely because I’m not the type of gamer who needs multiple 4X titles in my life. In fact, I wish they’d stop reinventing the wheel in the Civilization series, but that is a completely different post.
However, since I do have an active Game Pass subscription, and since Psychonauts 2 isn’t out for another 5 days, and since I blew through Boyfriend Dungeon in around 6 hours, I had some time to kill, and figured I’d give it a shot. I played for about three hours over a couple of days, and while I don’t hate it, I also don’t love it.
If you’re coming into it with no previous 4X (or as HUMANKIND calls it, historical strategy) experience, you won’t have any habits to unlearn that won’t serve you well here. However, as someone who’s been playing Civ games since the second iteration, I had many, and I am almost as slow at unlearning as I am at learning. This did not serve me well, especially in my first game which dropped me in with more opponents and a higher difficulty level than I would choose for myself.
Bombarded by systems I didn’t understand, and frustrated by my glacial pace compared to that of my AI opponents, I quit that game, poked around until I found the settings, and got myself into a game that looked a little more my speed.
I’m perfectly fine admitting that the game systems are probably not as obtuse or complex as they seem to me; despite having years of experience, I fully admit that I was never actually goodat this type of game. The biggest thing that sets HUMANKIND apart seems to be the ability to evolve into different civilizations, which may completely change how you proceed with your empire based on their special benefits and bonus fame type. So I was more than a little confused to discover that not only can you choose not to change, but that you get a flat bonus for choosing to transcend (stick with the culture from your previous era) rather than evolve. I’m sure I’m missing something, and that bonus is not actually as beneficial as it seems, but it feels counter-intuitive to the concept to let you keep right on doing what you’re doing.
You can settle a new territory (which is called an outpost) with any type of unit, and the area you gain control over feels huge. You can also send your scouts and warriors out to just randomly explore the map and basically forget that you have them if you want to. Most (all?) battles that come up will give you the opportunity for Instant Resolution, or you can do a Manual Battle if you’re more tactically inclined than I am. For someone like me who just wants to handle building, research, and a little diplomacy and trade, this is pretty great, although probably not particularly efficient.
Each era provides a list of objectives that can earn you stars, with objectives matching your cultural type giving a larger benefit than all the rest. Once you get a set number of stars, you may advance to the next era, although you can delay that if you want to. I’m not sure if it’s the only victory condition, but at least it’s the primary one – get more Fame than everyone else on the map to win.
HUMANKIND is not a simple game, even at lower difficulties. There always seems to be a lot of things going on, the tech tree is sort of similar to genre expectations, but of course, not identical. It’s definitely pretty to look at, when it’s not forever spamming you with notifications. Those notifications (which require the player to click “Acknowledge”) often felt like something I should have been worrying about, but rarely like something I had any idea of how to deal with.
Fans of the genre will probably enjoy the tweaks to the formula, more casual players might be as overwhelmed as I was. If you’re on the fence, a month of Game Pass is far less of a commitment than a $50 purchase, and I feel like most people won’t know if they really like it within the 2 hour Steam return window.
For today, I have another small thought experiment. Feel free to steal the questions / images for your own blog post, or just to chat about things in the comments.
For the purposes of this thought experiment, I’m going to say that when considering the questions I’m adding an unspoken “for one year” because man, forever is a long time. I’m also going to look at each question individually rather than assuming I’d have to do all of these concurrently. If you choose to answer, obviously, you can set your own parameters.
This one, at least for me, is a no brainer. I do own a Switch, so it’s not like I don’t even have a console to consider at all, which was the case until about 6 months ago. However, I would still absolutely choose my PC every time. Firstly, my library is so much more robust for the PC, but there are also so many more games available.
While I am guessing most gamers would struggle with this question as well, and although I would miss the few multiplayer games I dabble in, single player is the clear winner for me. I grew up playing almost exclusively single player titles, most of my preferred genres are either designed for the single player experience, or work just fine without multiplayer. There’s definitely more I would miss here than I would by giving up the console, but I could absolutely give up my multiplayer game time.
Sure, this question was more than a little bit inspired by my Low Spend 2020 plan that went completely off the rails. In spite of that, I think my choice would be to play games I already own. That covers a lot of territory, and although I am very much distracted by the new and shiny, I think it would be somewhat easier to avoid that temptation than to be locked out of all my comfort games.
Discounting for a moment how little it takes to challenge my physically, I’m still going to go with mentally. I don’t want to play Dark Souls anyway, or any game that wants to be like Dark Souls, or arcade shooters, or precision platformers. All of those things make me crazy anyway, so giving them up wouldn’t represent much of a hardship. However, I love strategy games, and puzzle games, and I think those are the types of games I’d sorely miss.
This one is going to hurt either way. I’ve really been enjoying shorter games over the past year or so – there’s something very satisfying about a compact experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even still, I think I would go with the long or endless games, because that would give me a good excuse to tackle some mammoth RPGs interspersed with some rogue-lites, some city builders and simulation games, as well as still spend time playing my preferred MMOs, which for all practical purposes, are never over until they go offline for good.
I know this one is my own fault because I came up with these questions, but this one is downright evil, and I spent more time thinking on this one than all the others that came before it. I absolutely love diving back into classic games, but I think I would still go with the last 10 years, just because of the absolutely blossoming of the indie game scene in that time frame. It would also (maybe) push me to play some of the newer entries in series that I keep putting off because I feel like I should play them in order and I don’t want to play the early titles.
Before I dive into this review, I want to say a few things. One, this might be the first time I’ve seen credits for three games in less than a week and I’m kind of flabbergasted. Two, I want to apologize because I was absolutely wretched about taking screenshots throughout this play, so this post is going to be a little image-light for me. Finally, THERE WILL BE SPOLIERS but I promise to clearly mark where they start – scroll past that point only if you are okay with being spoiled.
I am very familiar with the feeling of playing a game I think I’m going to like, and then not liking it at all. What I’m far less used to is playing something I expect to not like to satiate my curiosity, and then blowing through it in a couple play sessions. And that, friends, is how I managed to finish Boyfriend Dungeon the day after downloading it from XBox Game Pass for PC.
Of course, the majority of the appeal came from the bizarre premise & genre mash-up. What if some people could turn into weapons, and some people were Wielders, who could use those weapons, and what if you could make a little bit of cash beating up monsters in a mall instead of paying for therapy? What if we used this premise to make a game that is part dating sim and part action dungeon crawler? That’s Boyfriend Dungeon. I had to try it, and then I could not stop playing.
Make no mistake, this is a fairly short game. I didn’t chase every achievement, but I did max out each relationship path before embarking on the “point of no return” quest. It’s also not a particularly difficult game – I’m not great with this type of game, and I don’t feel like there were too many points even I found challenging. Overall, while I found the game to be pretty compelling while playing, as soon as I stepped away from it, my feelings changed more to a “Well, that was fine.”
I actually prefer my games pretty low on the difficulty scale (especially games, like this one, that really benefit from the use of a controller), so that didn’t bother me at all. I’m really not a huge fan of dating sims normally, so I’m not sure how much awkwardness is par for the course, but the vicarious embarrassment, which was nearly constant and pretty intense, wasn’t too much of a problem for me. Instead, what keeps me from feeling like this game was pretty damn good is that the pacing is downright awful.
The early game really made me feel like I was in for a damn long haul – everything felt so slow, despite being bombarded with information (and characters) that ended up coming to absolutely nothing. A couple hours in, I decided to check the expected game length on How Long To Beat, and was surprised that I was almost halfway through despite feeling like I just started. At that time, I had only met 3 out of the 7 dateable characters, and hadn’t proceeded very far in any of their storylines.
And then, Kitfox Games threw a cinderblock on the gas pedal, and the result is what feels like it should have been way more game crammed into a package that doesn’t fit it. I’m not sure why they decided to release the game at this point because it’s pretty clear while playing that there is stuff they either cut out or just haven’t added in yet. There are holes, and they’re easy to see while playing.
Early on in the game, the main way of gaining relationship points with your chosen weapon(s) is to traverse the dungeon with them. Of course, you’re not all that powerful early on, and when you run out of health, that run is over. If you make it far enough, you will unlock floor skips, but this is definitely a slow process, and it’s interspersed with unavoidable “dates” with characters who are not really part of the plot.
By about the midway point, you have access to a fair amount of money with which you can purchase gifts, as well as having unlocked at least some gift crafting recipes. This is about the time that relationship gain feels pretty satisfying, but that only lasts until the you max out your first relationship path. At that point, you’re granted an item which doubles all relationship point gain regardless of source. The same item also grants the ability to early points over each level’s cap. This means that if you hadn’t been giving out gifts previously, and you choose to start doing so now, you can practically skip multiple relationship levels with a judicious gift or two, or simply by progressing through the second (of only two) dungeons. Sure, you still get the interactions, but its a little jarring when date requests start coming back to back.
This ended up working to my benefit, because I had almost completed the game’s plot when I realized I had missed a person. A couple meetings, a couple gifts, and a few dungeon floors let me go from never having met the person to maxed out in less than an hour of game time. Which was for the best, but only because I was really out of things to do other than grinding for the sake of grinding. I was mildly concerned that I maybe I had rushed the game, but my character level didn’t slow me down any on the final boss fight, so unless the intent is to add more content, there’s no reason for the potential character level to be even as high as it is. This could potentially be a frustration for someone who wants to hit “max level” before finishing the game – there’s just no way that it’s necessary if you’re even moderately competent.
On top of that, there are a few character / story issues that are troublesome for quite a few players. One of the romance options doesn’t have a satisfying “good” ending, no matter what you do. The character who turns out to be the main antagonist is outrageously problematic long before you realize he’s the actual bad guy of the game, and not just a horrible person, and hooboy, the ending to that arc felt … really unsatisfying, as the game wants you to feel like that taking oneself to therapy is adequate punishment for kidnapping and mutilation in this world. Opinions seem to be more divided on the absolute utter lack of consequences to getting romantically involved with absolutely everyone; for me, I think what was lacking was the ability to communicate that fact in a lot of instances.
For me, by the midway point of the game, every time I the option came up with a new character, I chose a platonic route. It locks you out of absolutely nothing, and it soothed my conscience a little bit. Which also kind of leads into a personal issue I tend to have with dating sims, and I don’t know if this is a thing that happens with people who are bigger fans of the genre.
To me, it always feels like there are one, sometimes two, characters that are presented as the right choice, and the rest of them are just there to sweet talk you and wave a whole bouquet of red flags. Of course, in Boyfriend Dungeon, it doesn’t really matter if you choose one person or all of them – you don’t get your happily ever after, at least not within the game.
The main character arc was a little painful – you arrive in Verona Beach as a person of indeterminate age who has never so much been on a date. In no time, you’re the object of a madman’s obsession, and absolutely everyone is tripping over themselves to get next to you, including a 200 year old vampire, and a K-pop celebrity, because, I suppose, you are the main character. It was extra weird for me since the two main fears you’re fighting throughout the story are the fear of change and the fear of intimacy. It’s like, maybe you were never actually ready to date at all?
But then, even once you’ve conquered your fears, and destroyed the bad guy, you’re rewarded simply with a day on the beach and a plane ride back home. All the characters who have been declaring their undying love for you throughout the whole game are suddenly like “It’s been real, keep in touch, maybe we’ll see each other again someday, I guess.”
It’s a let down. I would have – at the very least – been able to choose one character I connected most to and gotten some kind of little epilogue of what happened with that relationship after the credits. The ending definitely needed something, because I was sitting there, shaking my head, thinking that’s it?
Maybe it’s a little too much to expect emotional authenticity and a satisfying resolution from a game that has living weapons and a datable cat (who is also a weapon).
I feel like I’ve done a lot of complaining here about a game I actually liked. It was weird and out there and the dungeon crawling – for me at least – was enjoyable, but probably would just be frustrating for someone who likes their combat more challenging. For the most part, the relationship candidates had interesting personal stories, and spending time with them, both inside and outside of the dungeons, felt good.
No, Boyfriend Dungeon isn’t a bad game, but it’s a game that feels incomplete. It’s a game where you can see the supports through the gaps in the finish. For me, the attempt to make everyone happy by letting you do pretty much whatever you wanted missed the mark. I wanted more meaningful choices. I wanted to be able to say the wrong thing and have that have lasting consequences. And maybe, just a little, I wanted someone to beg me not to leave.
It’s been a bit since I’ve had an active Game Pass subscription, but I knew a renewal was coming in the very near future as Psychonauts 2 will be available on its release day, which is only a little over a week away. While I had every intention of waiting to get the max number of days to spend with that title, I couldn’t help but poke my nose in to see what else they’d added since I last checked, and well, long story short, my subscription has been reactivated, and I’ve started downloading.
So what are the games that enticed me back early?
I have such a weird mix of feelings when it comes to Library of Ruina. I’m almost sure I won’t like it because it’s a JRPG with a card game battle mechanic, but also, I really want to like it because I very much would like to turn my enemies into books and store them away. I’m fairly certain that the storytelling here is going to be the major tipping point for me between “Oh, yes” and “Oh, no“
Either way, trying it out via Game Pass will definitely let me make a more informed decision if this is something I want in my library, and I don’t expect to actually play through the game while my subscription is active – for me, this one’s a demo.
Monster Train is another title that looks like something I should like, but also, card-based combat. Which is not to say that I never ever like card-based combat, just that it hasn’t worked for me far more often than it has. If I love it, I can pick it up the next time there’s a decent sale. If I hate it, I can stop thinking about it. I plan to give this one whatever time it takes for me to figure out how I feel about it.
So, Boyfriend Dungeon wasn’t even on my radar until a couple days ago, and honestly, there was no good reason why it should have been. But now, I’m curious, and since it’s available, I need to see this genre mash-up of dating sim and action RPG. Another one I’m unlikely to spend a lotof time with, but … I think I just have to see it for myself.
I do enjoy the occasional dip in the mayhem pool, but I find these types of games where you just run around messing stuff up to be so hit or miss. Even if I really like it, Rain on Your Parade is a pretty short game, so I might actually play it all the way through.
Although neither of these titles are actually showing up in the “Coming Soon” section of the PC version of Game Pass, there has been some non-platform-specific news that they will be on some version of XBox Game Pass as Day One releases, so it’s possible both of these titles could pop up over the next few days. I’d certainly be very interested in trying them out if they’re available, but I am not counting on either one.
There are also several other titles I might be inclined to check out, especially if I keep my subscription through mid-October, as I’m currently planning to do, but they’re games I’d say I have moderate interest in, at most. Some, like The Medium look enjoyable, but aren’t as high up on my list because they’re outside of my preferred genres, and others, like Greedfall look interesting, but also, an awful lot like a dozen other games I already own.
I really appreciate the availability of these types of subscription services, and am always willing to utilize them for titles I expect to have little to no replay value for me, or for things I am completely unsure if I will actually enjoy. I don’t feel the need to own everything I play, and when I know I want to revisit something I’ve, well, basically rented, I know to keep an eye out for a deal and don’t feel bad about it.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: If you now subscribe (or have in the past subscribed) to Game Pass or other video game subscription services, what do you think about them? Otherwise, go check out the list of games currently available on Game Pass and talk about one (or more) that you would highly recommend.
I really think there should be a word for when you are simultaneously surprised and also not surprised by something. Because that’s absolutely how I’m feeling about blowing through Alekon in a couple of days. It’s not that I expected it to have more content, but more that I didn’t expect that I was going to be starting it up every chance I got until I saw the credits roll.
Borrowing heavily from – and throwing some occasional good natured shade at – the Pokemon Snap games, you are tasked with taking photographs of critters, which in the Alekon-universe are called Fictions, in a variety of poses. Initially, you are tied to a path, where you have full range to look around, but cannot move or control the speed at which you move. Capturing good photos will award you with Creativity, which is necessary to open additional islands where you will find more Fictions to photograph.
That part of the game play loop was pretty much what I was expecting, and what I was looking for. One of the things I did really enjoy that I wasn’t expecting was that, once you do what you need to in order to open three different paths on an island, and you traverse each one at least once, you are given the option to explore the island in its entirety in Wander mode. This is exactly what it sounds like – you have full ability to move around everywhere, with no time limits or limits on how many photos you can take. When you want to return to the hub world, you just click on any of the many portals scattered about.
Upon returning to the hub world, your photos are automatically sorted, and the best one of each Fiction in each individual pose is judged, and the points added to your Creativity total. After judging, you can click on any greyed out outline on the wall to get hints for what other poses you haven’t captured on film yet.
Additionally, once you photograph a Fiction for the first time, a copy of that creature appears in the hub world, and every single one of them will – eventually – have a minigame for you to play to obtain even more Creativity. The minigames come in a lot of different styles, and there were some that I tried once and said “Oh, no, no thank you” and moved on. It’s important to talk to the Fictions, though, even if you’re not really interested in the mini-games, because some of them do grant you additional abilities that you will need to complete puzzle sections throughout the game.
I completed the game without capturing every available pose, or completing every available minigame. In fact, I don’t even think I discovered every single Fiction. The win condition of Alekon definitely gives you some wiggle room to prevent the game from becoming overly grindy or frustrating. You can, however, finish up the game and then return to the hub world and resume playing mini-games and taking pictures, even though the game does its darnedest to make you think that you cannot.
The story was serviceable for a game that is basically about playing with a camera and meeting fantasy creatures & helping them with their problems. A couple of times I got stuck trying to figure out how to open a path, complete a mini-game, or solve an environmental puzzle, and since the game is so recent, there aren’t any real guides out there yet. However, stepping away for a bit and coming at it with fresh eyes always did the trick for me.
While I might not have minded another island or two to explore, I can also appreciate that Alekon didn’t overstay its welcome, and I definitely left more than a few things unfinished, so there’s potential for a bit more play time without replaying the game in its entirety. I spent just under 6 hours with the game, and almost every single minute I was delighted by the art, the music, the game play and the character design. It really is just a lovely chill little game, and I honestly think I might have been more satisfied overall with my experience playing Alekon than I did with Pokemon Snap.