Game of the Month - November 2021

As my AAR here showed, still playing AI War 2. It’ll be some time before I stop yet. Another DLC dropping in Jan.

Played a couple of complete campaigns as Macedon in the new DLC for Imperiums: Greek Wars called Age of Alexander. Still think this series has some of the best diplomacy around. It never gets old having AI nations initiate cofederation or federation offers. And once formed seeing their armies come to my defense and their settlers coming to my nation to make improvements.

Working my way thru a Sword of the Stars campaign using the mod called Bastard Sword of the Stars. It’s going to take awhile, but it never ceases to amuse me firing up a space game with an honest to god 3D galaxy map. It’s made it hard for me to take seriously every other space game played on a 2D plane (feels artificially flat).

It’d have to be Shin Megami Tensei V, the great new Switch post-apocalyptic demon-collecting/fusing JRPG!

Until recently, Dragon Quest Builders 2 dominated my time. I think I’m at least 60% through the game, but now I’ve diverted onto detective hacking game Song of Farca and replaying the Settlers 7 campaign on a lark.

Final Fantasy XIV Online. I don’t think I even played anything else, except for a few quick sessions of Slay the Spire and Guild Wars 2.

And sadly I won’t be able to play FFXIV today because it’s updating for Endwalker. I fully expect some withdrawal symptoms. ;)

Hot damn, that’s your Twiglet Struggle :O

I have been playing Nier Automata early in the month. I got to the second of the 4 or 5 endings, and figured I’d go back to the start.
So I played Drakengard/Drag’on Dragoon first. Incredible game, apparently absolutely butchered in its English release. It is a very exhausting game though.

After seeing its five endings, I went on to Drakengard 3/Drag’on Dragoon 3, which is not good game. It’s a true “kusoge”, with stuff so bad it’s hard to not have some affection for it. But it was quite unsatisfying overall, and while it provides a couple of elements I’ll reflect upon when I’ll come to draw a map of the whole Yokoworld, it was not time particularly well spent, especially to watch all of the extra endings.

Of note, the game features a no-miss, one-hit=restart terrible rhythm game sequence that lasts for eight freaking minutes as the ultimate game sequence. It has to be seen to believe it. I can’t even detail all the “fuck you” thrown at the player’s face during this phase of play, even to nearly the last second. It constitutes now, to me, the worst trolling in all of videogame history, period.

I’ve now started playing the original Nier Replicant on PS3, the original Japanese version of Nier Gestalt, that was localized for the first time on PC this year. I have a few ideas of where this is going, and I’ll reflect more upon it when I’m really done with both this game and Automata.

Semi-spoilery rant for people who played those games and don't mind me.

One of the common denominators for all those games, from my looking around, is that the English versions were butchered at different levels. They are not easy games to translate for a variety of reasons, but the choice to “edulcorate” the text and themes is a very dubious decision to me. This is especially true of the two Drakengard games, the two games I have been to explore a bit more as I have completed them.
But when I was contemplating whether to play Gestalt or Replicant on the PS3, while I was casually trying to exchange with a friend who had played those games, it came to my attention that even Automata got a bunch of discutable adaptation choices, and he didn’t quite know sometimes what I was referring to.
As for the Gestalt/Replicant dilemma, I was not fond of playing some bro/sister Japanese couple. But after figuring I’d be lost with the English differences to the lore, I am playing the Replicant game and I know now that it actually is a very important part of the plot, as well as why the game is designed the way it is, I’m very curious about how they managed to make the main character a daddy without sacrificing some major points the game had tried to make so far.

Another aspect in the Japanese version is that there is one very specific voice actor that is present in all the works. He is such a unique, specific and charismatic presence. His performance provides a strange detachement feel to the games, a sort of irony that is particularly rare in Japanese works, and sometimes a sort of warmness that is mostly absent from those cold worlds and their unsympathetic protagonists.

Well, I’m far from done with Replicant, so stay tune for more ramblings!

On my Switch, I’ve been playing Stranger in Sword City, which is a very pleasant dungeon mapping experience.

All this Japanese gaming has prevented me from spending as much time as I want with State of Decay 2, which quite literally obsesses me like the first game when I think about it.

I’ll go with Drag’on Dragoon as my game of the month, because it is such a unique game. Also for its incredible soundtrack, that apparently got the composer to be locked away from working on soundtracks for the rest of his career (jump to Nobuyoshi Sano if you’re interested in some of the most painfully frank talk I ever read in an interview of a Japanese game contributor).

Total Warhammer 2 and Monster Train. No contest.

Northern Journey, quite possibly my GOTY (even over Death’s Door). I’d never heard of the damn thing a month ago, then Twitter buzz made me curious and suddenly it’s consuming me. It’s hard to describe, maybe Morrowind-lite (it’s not really an RPG, but the feel is there) with occasional Dear Esther, set against a frankly unique Norwegian mythological backdrop. For an indie game I’m surprised how great it looks, with spectacular, screenshot-worthy outdoor scenery coupled with bizarrely unsettling low-poly NPCs and creatures. Areas are sprawling, incredibly vertical, and constantly loop back on themselves, and regularly introduce new ideas. Walk speed is “frantic” and yet it suits it perfectly. It also has a prediliction for arthropods and borderline horror, so if you’re not a fan of critters with multiple legs that behave in a quite realistic manner, best steer clear! Excellent music, atmosphere that can be cut with a knife, and the kiind of retro “adventure” that’s rarely seen anymore (including its slightly awkward, ranged-only combat), but damn I love it.

Phew, what else rates a mention? I just finished Planet of the Eyes which is a short (90 minute) Limbo-like platformer with a much brighter, sci-fi aesthetic. Easier, less frustrating, a nice gaming snack.

Arkos consumed the start of the month, a “boomer shooter” that feels like Hexen, except with a single-height layout where everything is made of voxels, and enemies and items explode into a shower of glowing neon bits when you destroy them. I’m a sucker for that. Another game with great music! In fact, if you put great music into your game, I will probably buy it.

Into the Pit is a kind of roguelite Doom Eternal, with short arenas, kinetic combat and plenty of mobility. I put it aside while I’m consumed by Northern Journey, but I will be back. Oh yeah guess what? It has great music.

I’ve seen some of your travel journal entries in my activity, and while the game looks 100% like my thing, it looks also quite unnerving and terrifying enough in its architecture for me to not expose myself to it.
Ah, gaming is so hard!

Deathloop for me. I picked it up a few months back, but only fired it up finally a couple weeks ago, knowing almost nothing about the story or mechanics. It’s not the deepest game out there, but the mechanics are fun and I’m having a blast following threads and gradually putting the plot together.

Makes me think I should give Prey another shot.

It’s actually not as bad as you might think when it comes to vertigo. It’s weird, it’s super vertiginous in places, but it doesn’t freak me out like some games do. Perhaps it’s the 120 degree FOV default that the game uses, which gives it a slightly otherwordly feel. I didn’t adjust it to find out, it seemed wrong to do so.

I’m sold! Will be grabbing a copy tonight.

Runners up:

  • Outer Wilds - PS4 - I gave this game a second shot when hearing recent talk of the DLC. I engaged with the detective trail as intended this time and completed it and the DLC in short order. Probably my late GOTY unless something remarkable shows up.
  • Shin Megami Tensei 5 - Switch - Really fun customizable JRPG battles. I may not finish this one because the story isn’t grabbing me, but it’s a satisfying mechanical climb.

Winner:

  • Magic: The Gathering - Boardgame - After dabbling in Magic for the first time this year with Magic: Arena online, I thought attending a set prerelease event would be a fun and less-intimidating way to try out the paper version. And it was! Highly recommended to anyone wanting to see what the fuss is all about.

The week spent reading about the current set and learning how to build sealed decks to prepare for the event pushed its hour count higher than anything else this month.

I just watched it on YouTube and that last note and some of the other rhythms can go fuck themselves to put it bluntly. I’m pretty decent with rhythms but that just looks infuriating, not least because the visuals seem to be a huge distraction/troll too! Oof!

Oh, very interesting! I’m keen to play this myself.

My game of the month is Inscryption without a doubt. Constantly surprising and intriguing but the card game itself has a lot of moving parts that feel like they’re always evolving. Just a really cool and unique experience.

Still

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (original Xbox)

Digital Gloomhaven!

My love of Nier Automata has me signed up for Nier Replicant v1.2… this Christmas. If I wanted to play Drag’on Dragoon, I would need to discover if I still own a working PS2. Maybe it will be available on whatever Sony’s upcoming service is. Even so, Nier Replicant will have to be a great game to make that journey to the past worth undertaking.

Othercide had the plurality of my November time and affection.

Library of Ruina’s a strong runner-up. I might have spent more time with it, but I was only watching a friend play through. I thought the dice would annoy me. They actually do quite a bit at the start, where the early battles feel heavily RNG. It adds other levers, and they give enough control to make combats feel much more a result of one’s decisions. Each character in the team has a nine-card deck. That’s very satisfying to make changes to. Every card will be seen. Then there are different results from mixed action types that contribute to the strategy in choosing where to target actions. The surreal setting of the story really works for me. There was some unexpectedly good translation.

I also very much enjoyed Remnant: From the Ashes (solo, PS) and Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep (co-op, PC). Arietta of Spirits was fine but has nothing strong for me to recommend it.

I played a lot of Forza Horizon 5 earlier in the month, I was obsessed with it. Then I started playing AC: Odyssey, which I had played near release and quit. Mixed in some Football, Tactics and Glory which is a cool turn-based tactical soccer game. I feel like there was some other stuff too - oh yeah, I replayed Metro Exodus and did the DLC. I wanted something to make use of my new computer and monitor and it did look great!

I’ve been racking my brain and I can’t think of a single Game of the Month since I finished Dragon Age Inquisition. I’ve just been bopping around a lot of little things.

Pac Man
Grow Home
Age of Empires
Martian Dreams (supposed to be my next big RPG, but I haven’t really gotten sucked in yet)
Robotron 2084
RetroWave
Talisman Origins

Stick with it! It’s one of my absolute favorites! But I would say it helps to think of it as an adventure game built in an RPG engine. If you’re going to it for RPG mechanics like combat and leveling, it probably won’t satisfy much.

Yeah, I’ll stick with it for sure. Just haven’t quite hit critical mass yet.