Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Video Games

Doki Doki Literature Club–Not Your Typical Japanese Dating Sim

When it comes to gaming, I am a bit of a weirdo. I don’t like any one genre, though I do dislike several. In the later category, anime, dating sims, visual novels, and JRPGs. I have several reasons for this, which I’ll save for another post, but then Ian told me about a game called Doki Doki Literature Club by Team Salvato, which at first glance looks exactly the opposite of up my alley. I mean:

which are you gonna choose?

It looks like everything I hate in a game. Sexualized schoolgirls, romancing said schoolgirls, it’s all very PUA-like. Say the right thing to get the right girl to like you. It’s all creepy and gross, and normally, I wouldn’t even look twice at it. Plus, it’s all froo-froo pink and fluffy. Bleah.

I gave Ian the side-eye, but he reassured me that there was more to it than met the eye, and it wasn’t really a creepy dating sim, even though it’s marketed as such. I trust Ian, and it’s free on Steam, and I’m in between games (though I just bought Night in the Woods, and I’m really excited to try it), so I downloaded it and fired it up. I will say the fact that it has a disclaimer and makes you sign it before it actually starts is my first indication that this game hopefully is deeper than it appears.

The first hour is pure agony, I will confess to you, dear reader. It follows down the dating sim path introducing you (the main character) to four girls. One is your perky, upbeat neighbor, Sayori, who you’ve known forever (girl with red bow), but have grown apart because she has trouble meeting you in time to walk to (high) school together*. She tricks you into joining her club which is the Literature Club, of course, and the other three members are also cute girls. Monika, the club leader, and the most popular girl in school (long brown-haired girl). Yuri, the goth of the group (dark-haired girl), and Natsuki, the annoying brat who’s covering up the softness inside.

You don’t want to join the club, but once you realize there are four cute girls with very distinct personalities, well, of course you join. What else is there to do, especially in a video game? What follows is an endless amount of talking and me mashing the button to get through the dialogue as quickly as possible. I read really fast, but still. You have to write poems for this club, and supposedly, the words you pick to write the poems will fit one of the girls better than the others. Or something.

Warning–spoilers to follow. I’m going to try to keep them as light as possible, but it’s hard to talk about the games without spoiling it somewhat. If you have any interest in playing this game, quit reading now and play it. It really is best played with minimal knowledge. For those of you still with me, the rest of this article will be below the cut.

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Nioh V. Dark Souls: An Unfair Comparison

I recently tried out Nioh again after a long period off from it (because I was sick and did not want to sit at my desktop. It refuses to run on my laptop. At all) because I read about a Jutsu (magic spell) that supposedly trivialized bosses. I didn’t have it, but I ‘bought’ it and equipped it. I went through some old sub-missions, and I can’t say it made a noticeable difference. I encountered a ‘boss’ in one of the sub-missions, but she’s not the same as an actual boss, obviously. In fact, she becomes a common enemy in another mission.

I like to do old missions in order to farm and to brush up on my skills. I have to say going from Dark Souls III to Nioh (and back again) is not easy. I am so used to the DS controls (right bumper and trigger for weak attack and strong attack respectively, B for roll/run, A for interaction with items. X is for using the consumable item in the down position on the D-pad, and Y is to two-hand your weapon), that when I play Nioh, it takes a good half hour to adjust to the buttons. X and Y for weak attack and strong attack (like The Witcher 3 and apparently most games), A for dodge/run, B for interaction with items.

Both games have systems that are almost impregnable. I think the members of FromSoft (devs of Soulsborne games) pride themselves on their menus being counterintuitive and byzantine. They change their stats every goddamn game, and there’s always one stat that just doesn’t do jack or shit. One small example of needless obfuscation*–in every game, there is a consumable item (souls in the Souls games and coldblood in Bloodborne) that if you crush, you get a large quantity of souls/blood echoes. The thing is, they all have these weirdass names and refuse to tell you exactly how many souls you’ll get for crushing it. So you might pick up a Soul of an Intrepid Hero, a Large Soul of a Proud Paladin, and a Soul of a Great Champion (all names of consumable souls in DS III), but you probably wouldn’t know they give you 2500, 1000, and 50,000 souls respectively.

They decided that wasn’t opaque enough and went even weirder for Bloodborne with the consumable blood echoes. There are categories such as Coldblood Dew and Thick Coldblood, for example. Then, in most of the categories, they are numbered. Therefore, Coldblood Dew (1)  is 350 blood echoes, and Kin Coldblood (12) is 20,000. I’ve played Soulsborne games countless of times and still cannot tell you how much each consumable soul/coldblood is worth without Googling it.

Nioh is obviously influenced by Dark Souls, and I feel as if they took a look at DS’s menus and saw it as a challenge. “You think that’s obscure, mate? Take a look at this!” I don’t know why I made Team Ninja British when they and FromSoft are Japanese, but so be it.

Another reason it takes so long to reacclimate to Nioh’s control buttons is because there are so many things to do with the buttons.

*taking a deep breath*


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Dark Souls III: Bossing My Way Through NG Pluses

down to the wire with the dancer.
Tears of Denial saved my ass!

Hi, my name is Minna Hong, and I’m addicted to Dark Souls III. I have written before how it’s not the best Soulsborne game (Dark Souls. No question. But, man, is it so janky and has issues), but it’s the most replayable–at least for me. It’s also a game I can comfortably play on my laptop, so it’s my go-to when I’m in the mood to play something, but I can’t be stuffed to get up and go to my desktop. (Like when I was sick. I didn’t even want to get up and move the two feet to the recliner I use to play Bloodborne on my PS4.) I’ve also gotten back into Binding of Isaac: Rebirth to finish off the achievements, but that’s another post for another day.

I’ve played all the Soulsborne games more than once except Demon’s Souls, which I haven’t played because I don’t have a PS3, please god let it be remastered for the PS4, but I hadn’t done more than NG+ on any of them. I also hadn’t played a tank character up until I finished Dark Souls III and decided to give it a try. I’d heard all the griping in ‘the community’ about how easy magic/casting made the game, that it was babby mode, that only scrubs used magic, and I decided I had to give another build a try so I could make a comparison of my own. Before being a tank, I would still have argued that being a caster is more difficult because I had less health and stamina, had to wear lighter armor, and I didn’t have enough magicks/pyromancy/miracles to make my way through a whole area or boss fight. That meant I had to do some melee, usually with a starting/first area weapon (battle axe was my jam), which meant plinking away for potato damage until I reached a bonfire and replenished my spells.

One of my favorite changes to DS III was switching from a limited number of spells to mana (FP, focus points, but it’s mana) and having two Estus Flasks (Ashen Estus Flask to replenish the FP bar) which you can allocate any way you like. By the end of the game, I had fifteen gulps of my Estus Flasks, and I had a ten/five split between regular and Ashen.

Once I finished the game as a pyromancer, I decided to do another pyromancer run and a tank run (separately). I needed to know if my hunch that being a tank would be easier in the long run was right or wrong. Short answer–right. Having that fat health bar and endurance for days made such a difference. Being able to wield the Greataxe (what I used for my first tank run) or the Executioner’s Sword (another early fave) with ease meant dishing out massive damage. Being able to use more than a base shield meant blocking was viable, and if I wear the Wolf Ring +3, I don’t even flinch when I get hit.

When I started the first Dark Souls game, I chose pyromancer because I like fire, yes, but also because I thought being ranged would be better for an old, slow-reaction gal like me. After playing a lot of tank, however, I have to say that being a tank is better if you have slower reactions. Why? Because as a caster, I had to do a lot of dodging. A LOT. As a tank, I could trade blows and come out mostly intact. Right now, I’m rocking the Black Iron Set with the matching Black Iron Greatshield +10. If I wanted to truly cosplay as Black Iron Tarkus, er, Knight Slayer Tsorig, I’d use the Fume Ultra Greatsword, but I find it too unwieldy and, frankly, underwhelming. I switch up weapons during different playthroughs (and for different bosses), but my main is Lorian’s Greatsword, which is by far my favorite weapon in the game.

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How I Digest Popular Media

I just finished my umpteenth rewatch of Poirot (David Suchet. He is the only one in my mind), and I have a few thoughts on it and my popular media consumption in general. I wrote a post about the show specifically, so I’ll keep that part brief and move on to the broader issues in general in this post.

First of all, Curtain, the final episode (and final novel in the series. Fun fact: Agatha Christie wrote it in WWII in case she got killed, and it sat in a vault for thirty years before being published.) It’s interesting to think about the fact that she wrote it before she wrote roughly half of the later novels. I cried buckets watching Curtain–again. The last few series were darker than the originals in general, and the final episode was drenched in melancholy. I’ve written before how Curtain is the perfect episode. From the oppressive atmosphere to the exemplary acting across the board to the fact that for once in the later series, they stuck pretty close to the source material, it’s a solid ten.

I need to talk about Hugh Fraser in this episode. During the whole series, he’s our eyes and ears as the affable, hearty, naive, tenderhearted but thoroughly English Captain Hastings. He is our stand-in, and he grew into the role over the years. If David Suchet IS Poirot, Hugh Fraser is equally Captain Hastings. I’ve written before that the allies in the series haven’t gotten the credit they deserve, and the series really wasn’t the same without them. They brought back Hugh Fraser for Curtain, and from the first second we see Captain Hastings, it’s clear that the ravages of time have visited him. He’s still a fine figure of a man, but there’s grey in his hair, and there are lines on his face that previously weren’t there. There’s also a sadness in his eyes because of the death of his wife. The grief is heavy on his ramrod straight shoulders, and it’s not helped by the fact that his daughter is a more modern woman who doesn’t have time for useless emotions like grief.

The look on Captain Hastings’ face when he realizes that Poirot is dying/dead still haunts me. It’s the one still from the episode that stays with me long after I watch the episode (and makes me bawl my eyes out). As much as I adore David Suchet as Poirot, it’s Hugh Fraser’s Captain Hastings who carries this episode. Usually, he’s a bluff, hearty man who’s ready with a smile and a quick joke, but in this episode, he’s a shell of his former self.

In the last post, I wrote about my issues with the book series and a few with the TV episodes as well. I think it’s important to be aware of these issues, but it’s also inhibiting at times. I like to say that I don’t like movies, and while it’s not strictly true, I do find it an inferior medium to books (same with TV). I don’t like TV and movies in general because I find it difficult to believe what is happening on the screen is actually real. I rarely get lost in a movie or TV show the way I do novels, and I think it’s, ironically, because I’m being given too much detail whereas in novels, I have to imagine them myself. In fact, I don’t like books with too much description and just skim those sections.


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Games that stuck with me in 2017

I started a list of different games in 2017 that meant something to me one way or another. You can read the first part of the list here. I didn’t finish the list because it was getting long, so here are the rest of the games that stood out for me in 2017.

The best game that I wasn’t good enough to finish

Hollow Knight

I loved everything about this game from the minute my little bug-like creature starting smiting people with her trusty rusted nail. She was a big-eyed, rabbit-eared silent protagonist who was weary with the world, but she had a mission, and she was going to do it, damn it. I loved the gentle oppressive gloom that surrounded her, and I loved the gorgeous environments. I played through the second boss, and I loved the game with all my heart. However, there were two things that stopped me from continuing, and while one of them was tweakable (by the devs), one was not.

I suck at platforming. I hate it in the Souls games where it’s really awful, but I also hate it in games in which the platforming is the focus. I can jump from platform to platform if I concentrate hard enough, but I can’t do the jumps AND fight at the same time. In the beginning of the game, the platforming was low-key and manageable. When they started ramping it up, I was quickly out of my depth, and it was no longer enjoyable for me.

The other thing is that the currency received/prices of items ratio was way out of whack. Like Souls games, the XP you get is also the currency.  If you die, you lose it on the spot. If you die again before you make it back to your soul, you lose the souls forever (for example). In this game, you have to fight a shadow version of yourself to get your souls back, which is an added wrinkle. In addition, the amount of souls you get for killing enemies is a pittance compared to how much you have to pay for items is ridiculous. I remember I wanted to buy a key, and it was something like 900 souls. In a Souls game, that would mean killing one or two enemies (that aren’t the standard hollows), but in this game, you get 2 or 3 monies for killing each of the standard enemies. That’s a lot of souls to bank, and it took me a really long time to get that much. Then, the key didn’t even open up the lock I thought it would. How disappointing.

I love this game still. I just wish I could actually play it.

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My Weird-ass Game Awards

So, most end-of-the-year game award posts/videos are about the top ten games of the year, which is fine, but not that interesting. Sure, there is slight variability, but it’s mostly the same games over and  over again. In addition, I’ve probably played little more than ten games this year, and not all of them were great. Or new. So, I’m going to do my own twist and just give out the game awards that tickle my fancy in no particular order. Ready? OK! Oh, and, this way be spoilers.

The Best Game I’ve Been Replaying Obsessively Despite My Previously Being Done With It Months Ago

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

I’ve put countless hours into this game back when it was Rebirth, and several into Afterbirth, then lost complete interest when Afterbirth+ came out. I’ve already complained about the expansions and how they’re for the hardcore players, which I’m not (and I have Real Platinum God!). Hardcore meaning those who did all The Lost shit without the Holy Mantle (I did it with), which means not getting hit the entire run (barring the use of certain items). Since I’ve been sick, I mostly game on my laptop, and BOI: R runs easily on it. I reinstalled it and fired it, and I rediscovered the joy I originally had playing it. There’s been a ‘booster pack’ added since I last played, which means more items, trinkets, and cards. I stick mainly to Isaac, Eden, and Azazel, but I’m also trying to finish The Keeper’s Post-It Note. I only have MegaSatan and Delirium to finish off, but, man, it is no fun at all.

Still. A run can take up to and over an hour depending, and I like to do the rerun of the run immediately following. If I’m playing Eden, I can usually win the run without much problem IF I start with more than one heart, decent speed, and decent damage. By the way, speed makes such a difference in this game. Anything under the base of 1 makes it really difficult for me and my slow-ass reactions. It’s funny because I watched Pat and Woolie (of Super Best Friends) play the game for the first time, and it was both hilarious and frustrating as hell. I actually yelled at my monitor when Woolie (on the sticks) or Pat (giving commentary) did or said something stupid. It was especially funny when Pat would declare something confidently, and he was 100% wrong. He does that a lot, especially in the Souls series. He’s not so much factually wrong there as he’s taking his own personal feelings about something to be universal.

Anyway, BOI: R is my version of comfort food, and I’m enjoying it once again. It’s a way to turn my mind off and give it a break, and I am thankful for that.

The Most Anticipated Sequel That I Had Given Up Hope Would Ever Happen

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!

I loved the original game, and when the sequel was announced soon after, I was hyped! Then, a year came and went with no sequel and nary a mention of it. Then, the sequel was announced, and I was hyped again! Then, it was postponed, and I feared it would never happen. The roller coaster of emotions! The ups! The downs! When the release date was announced again, I held my breathe. When it released, I was overjoyed. I dived in and was immediately transported back to my frenetic pounding on the keyboard days of CSD, the original.

The sequel is better in so many ways. The chores are more streamlined and no longer feel as intrusive. The food is gorgeous, and it makes me want to eat every time I play the game. I like the info on all the food, and playing is as intuitive as always. The menus are better than in the original, and I love the ability to design my own restaurants. It’s a wonderful sequel, and I’ve played the shit out of it. There are constant updates, and I’m glad the emails are back. The sequel was definitely worth the wait!


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Too Tired to Think–and Dark Souls III

I’m writing this on Christmas, and I’m feeling out of sorts. Not as bad as in past years, but there’s still a vague ‘I should be celebrating, but I’m not, and that makes me a bad person.” As I said, it’s much more subdued than it has been in past years, but it’s still there. I like to say I’m immune to advertising*, but there is still enough societal pressure that makes me low-key feel bad for not celebrating.

I still feel like shit with congestion and cotton in my brain. My ears are scabby and gross, and if I pick the scabs (I know, I know), pus oozes out. My lymph node is almost not-swollen any more, which is good, and it’s barely tender. I’m still going to go to the doc after the holidays, though, because I need to get a grip on this. I also need to get my thyroid meds checked, which may help with the sinus crap.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve cut out gluten and dairy, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it–except for cheese. God, I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back. As Tim Minchin says, “I cannot Camembert any more.”

Why does cheese have to be so goddamn delicious???? And why is it so hard to duplicate? “I love cheese, but it’s plain to see, that cheese doesn’t love me. I am such a fool in love; I just cannot get enough, but it’s an unrequited love!” Sing it, Tim! The rest of it, though? Not. I’ve gone back to my Taiwanese roots and reacquainted myself with rice. Which, by the way, smells so delicious while cooking. And, PSA: rice cooker all the way for a perfect cook every time. Anyway, rice is way tastier than bread, and it’s way more versatile. I’ve also discovered non-gluten tortillas, bread, and bagels which are all nearly as good as the originals.

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The Video Game Equivalent of Comfort Food

lorian's greatsword to the face!
You, sir, ain’t no Sif!!

When I’m sick, I mostly want to hunker down on my couch with my cat, Shadow (who is snoozing on my legs right now), sipping my honey ginger lemon tea, moaning inside my head about how terrible I feel. If I’m going to game, it’s going to be on my laptop as I don’t want to go to my desktop or sit up to play Bloodborne on my PS4. By the way, I think Bloodborne is a brilliant game, but there is a section at the end (plus the DLC) that I absolutely hate. LOATHE. It’s quite possibly my most-hated area of a Souls-like game ever, and that’s including Blighttown (which I actually didn’t hate that much), the original Izalith, and the invisible reindeer area of the snow DLC for DS II. It makes the last part of the game such a downer for me, but I really should just plow through it with my tank.

Anyway, I haven’t played Nioh for about a week. I still think it’s a great game, but it juuuuuust misses the mark for me. Whatever the *it* factor that Souls games have for me is missing from Nioh, and I can’t tell you why. The combat is fantastic, even though I don’t switch between stances during a fight. The weapons are great–I’m maining an axe with the odachi as a strong second. The stagger with the odachi is real, yo. The magic is interesting, but too diffuse. I’m mostly using regen jutsu, and while it’s helpful, it’s not flashy at all. The biggest problems with Nioh are one, the environments. Not only are most of them drab and dreary, they’re ugly. They look last gen, and it’s really disappointing. Plus, they’re repetitive within the environments, and I get lost very easily. There’s a mini-map, but it’s not helpful at all. In fact, I get less lost in Souls games, even though they’re more labyrinth-like and don’t have maps. At all. Related, the enemies are not varied at all. Granted, I’m only half-way through the game, but there the hollows on the one hand and demons on the other. The bosses have been half and half (though some are both), and I’m suffering a little sameness fatigue.

The other biggest problem is two-fold. One, you start with a set number of elixirs at the start of each mission, and you can pick up elixirs as you go, but you are capped off at eight. That’s not nearly enough, which is one reason I use regen health jutsu. I really think the Estus Flask system is nigh-on perfect. I liked the way it was done in the original Dark Souls the best. You started with five Estus at most bonfires, but you can kindle to ten (which is what Firelink Shrine starts as) with a humanity, and later on, you can kindle up to twenty. I hate farming for Elixirs, just as I hated farming for Blood Vials in Bloodborne, and it’s made worse by the other part I don’t like–the mission system. In BB, if I needed to farm Blood Vials, I’d run to the first area and kill all the scrubs until I had enough Blood Vials. Or, later in the game, I’d buy them and be done with it. In Nioh, you can’t buy Elixirs (as far as I know), and yes, you can make offerings and maybe get Elixirs in return, but it’s not enough. You can store infinite amounts, but I never manage to have more than fifty or so in storage. That sounds like a lot until you come up against a hard boss. Then, you can deplete your storage in a hurry, or rather I can, and I can’t just run to the first area and farm them up. Why? Because once you start a mission, you have to finish it or you have to do the whole thing all over again. I really hate that I can’t jump from mission to mission without negating the entire experience.

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The Politics of Art

So, I love to write. A lot. Prolifically. Garrulous. It’s the equivalent to a chatterbox who cannot keep her mouth shut. I can’t keep my fingers from banging away at my keyboard, and I have many broken keyboards to prove it. In fact, this one (on my laptop) is on its last legs, and I should replace it pretty soon. The problem is, people are reading less and less. Rather, they’re reading less of actual longform pieces and novels. I’m old woman shaking my fist at the clouds, but I also acknowledge that it’s probably not going backwards any time soon.

What’s the new big thing? Videos. Streaming. It’s all the rage with the kids these days, an it’s something I’ve thought about doing myself. The problem is, first of all, I hate the way I look on camera. Now, of course, I could stream a game without face-cam, but from what I’ve seen, you get more views with the face-cam on, especially as a woman. Which, therein, is my second issue. The world of video games is still a man’s world with a very bro-y culture. I don’t watch streams on Twitch (except Ian’s! twitch.tv/eenbou) because the chats are fucking toxic. I don’t use that word lightly, but it’s sadly true. Anything over ten viewers, and it’s ‘fuckbois’, ‘faggot’, and ‘i’d fuck that ass’ all the damn time. There’s a streamer I did watch occasionally when he wasn’t too big yet, and I already felt not included by dint of being a woman in my forties. I watched a vod of a recent stream, and he’d changed from being low-key and lovable to low-key and ‘fuckbois’, and it really disappointed me. I’m not naming  him because it’s not him–it’s the ethos of chat. I’m stil working on my Theory of Dudes in which the more dudes you have in one place, the grosser the culture becomes.

Anyway, I watched a podcast with four female streamers, and they were emphatic about not being just boob jigglers, but one of them is known for that, and another is known for being bro-y in her chat. They were all young and conventionally pretty, which is another double standard for women who stream. Dudes can be any age, shape, size, or look, but the women have to be young, not fat, and hot. In addition, most of the female streamers are even bro-y-er than their male counterparts as a way to overcompensate. It’s the same with streamers girlfriends/wives. They put down women, make sexual innuendos, and are pretty jerky. They also feed into the stereotypes of the nagging wife, which is annoying as hell as well.


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Looking For the End Game

try the lasagna. it's great!
My funky colorful Italian-themed restaurant

Still sick. Still grumpy. Still worn-out. Had the trots the other night for a solid (ha! Sorry fo the TMI) twenty minutes, and it was exhausting. I’m wondering if there’s another food I’m sensitive to or if some gluten and or dairy had crept into something I ate. It’s snowing lightly, which makes me happy.

Anyway, I’ve been playing more Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!, and I have to say although it pains me, the end game isn’t great. I really hate to say it because I love this game and the original as well, but it just peters out instead of ending with a bang. One of my main complaints about the first game is how grindy it was in order to complete each level and get another star. You had to finish twenty days along with several objects, and what usually ended up happening was that I’d finish the other objectives around day eight or nine, and then would have to just play the other days to finish the level. It was tedious, and apparently, other people felt it, too. I appreciate getting rid of the set number of days in order to level (it’s now based on XP), but it doesn’t take away the grinding.

Actually, come to think of it, I think I prefer having the set days rather than experience points. I hate being so ungrateful because it’s clear David Galindo (the developer) really listened to CSD fans, but I don’t think his solution was a hard improvement. The endless day in ‘my’ restaurant feels formless and vaguely unsatisfying. I liked getting restaurant improvements when I got another star in the original game, but I really like playing around with the designer in CSD!2!! as well.

The problem is that now I’m at the end game, there really isn’t much reason to play any longer. I have two achievements I could shoot for, but I’m pretty certain I will never get one of them, and I probably won’t get the other. I reached 10 stars, and nothing happened. I mean, I got the usual loot crate items (which I still like), but nothing else. That was deflating, especially as they hinted that it was a big deal when I reached 5 stars. Now, I can’t level up any longer. I also found a really easy way to cheese getting XP.

So, what’s left to do? All the shifts in the Chef For Hire restaurants. Which, fine, I guess, but it’s not really that much of an incentive for me to continue playing. I want to emphasize that I still love the game and think it’s well-worth buying, but I just wish the end game could have been better.