I never thought about my thumb before it started being a problem. It makes sense. Why would I think about my thumb? I have two of them and they do what they’re supposed to do. Period. That’s good enough for me. Until my left thumb started twinging in pain. Nothing big. Not often. Just once in a while, it would tweak. And the joint would pop and lock when I bent it. This was perhaps two or three times a week. The clicking didn’t hurt; it was just annoying. Then, about a week ago, things escalated dramatically. The base of my thumb started hurting more regularly. Again, not in and of itself, but if I touched it or moved it in an odd way. Not hurt, but more like ached. The clicking was deeper for a lack of a better word, but still did not hurt.
It was highly annoying, however, and I knew I did not want it to get worse. I Googled it because that’s what I do. It’s rheumatoid arthritis also known as trigger thumb in this particular case. There are stretches recommended for it, which I’ve been doing every day. In addition, I have picked up a splint for it that I am wearing most of the day and night. Is it helping? I think so? It’s hard to say.
I have to say, before I got the splint, the pain increased dramatically. the base is painful to the touch, though not inflamed-looking. The clicking is more often than not, ranging from a quick, barely-audible click to a deep, grinding click. Bending the thumb is painful at the base and the clicking itself hurts sometimes. Once in a while, the bending pain is excruciating, but it’s bearable most of the time.
I’ve been playing more Tales of the Neon Sea by Palm Pioneer and am completely charmed by it. I wrote about my initial hesitations, but I’m all in. Why? Because of the cats, bay-beeeee! Also, murder mystery that is being handled well so far. I’m only two hours in, but I’m loving every second of it. Well, not every second, but most of them. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Let’s start with the murder mystery part. i have tried for years to find a murder mystery video game that I liked to no avail. I’ve played almost all of the critically-acclaimed Sherlock Holmes games, and not to put too fine a point on it, I hate them. I know this is a me-thing and probably because I had specific expectations for the game which were not in any way fulfilled. I wanted to be able to deduce and figure out murder mysteries. Instead, I had to do a bunch of typical point-n-click games like how to cross planks atop a building in order to get to the other side but some are crumbling. Plus, the trope of seeing a thing that you KNOW you’ll need at some point, but you can’t pick up yet. Everything I did took away from the mystery aspect and I never finished one of those games.
I also tried the Poirot game because I am a HUGE Poirot fan. But, it was a crashing disappointment and I didn’t finish that one, either. I loved Paradise Killer, but it made me constantly nauseous and had to finally, reluctantly, quit. I played several point-n-clicks and fell off all of them sooner or later. The one that hurt the most was Kathy Rain. It was so great for the first two-thirds of it (as long as I ignored the usual point-n-click bullshit like endless backtracking and esoteric puzzles that only make sense if you’re high as a kite when you try to solve them) as a retro ’80s feel to it with a strong female protagonist. Badass who smoked cigarettes and drove a motorbike. There was an interesting story about her mother going crazy and her searching for answers. Her father disappeared and it was really building up to be something special.
We’re coming up to the end of the year–a really weird year, by the way. Doom Eternal was released this year? The Last of Us 2? Animal Crossing New Horizons? ACNH came out near the beginning of the lockdown which is probably the biggest reason it was such a hit, and to me, that feels like ten years ago. But also like yesterday. Time is meaningless at the moment. Anyway, normally, I do a few posts about my games of the year and give cute categories to each winning game. I’m still going to do that, but first, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes as to how I make these decisions.
First of all, I don’t play that many games a year. I wrote a few years ago that I would rather have three games a year I really liked than play a couple dozen ok games. Ideally, it would be more like four or five, but three is basic. I hit that floor this year, but just. In the meantime, I played a bunch of games that were meh or worse for a variety of reasons.
I would like to point out that I did both the Dark Souls not-plats this year. That took up a lot of my time and effectively killed my love for Dark Souls III for some time. I’m back in it again at a casual rate and it’s good to be home. It’s funny how it takes less and less time to snap back to my Dark Souls controls, which is the first game I ever played on a controller. The first time I went from Hades to Dark Souls III, I nearly decked NPCs more than once because RB is light attack in DS and interact with someone/something in Hades. The next time, it took less than a minute. The next time, it didn’t take any time at all.
Anyway, doing the Dark Souls not-plats took quite a bit of time. I also ended up 100%ing Spiritfarer and Hades because I was so close by the end of the game that it seemed a shame not to finish them off. I will say for Spiritfarer there was an achievement that you could only get by doing both the options for one certain quest. I was able to go back to an earlier save to choose the other dialogue option to proc the achievement (and it made no difference), but had I not been able to do that, I might not have bothered playing the game again just for that achievement. Oh, hell. You know I would have. I also cheesed a few of the Hades achievements by doing them on Heat Zero because I was not about making it any harder than it needed to be.
So. Hades by Supergiant Games. What a great game. It’s addictive with that ‘just one more run’ feel to it. It looks great, feels great, and sounds great. And I’m thinking of quitting. Why? I touched about it in my last post about the game and would like to expand on it here.
Side note: It’s going to sound familiar because I had the same issues with Children of Morta by Dead Mage, another great game that I quit cold turkey for similar reasons.
Look. I know balancing a game is hard especially if you’re making a game that is based on difficulty to a certain extent.
(Do NOT mention FromSoft and Souls games. Damn.)
But, my pet peeve in any game is throwing tons of mobs at the player in the name of difficulty. I hate, hate, hate it because I think it’s lazy, boring, and because as someone with terrible reflexes, it’s very stressful. And not in the fun way. I think many of the criticisms for Dark Souls II were overblown, but the one I agree with was that they threw way too many mobs at the player as a way of artificially inflating the difficulty.
What’s more, it’s usually the same enemies over and over again, which makes it boring on top of frustrating. I do not mind the same enemies for the same floor, but this game really overloads the type of enemies for each floor and many of them are ones in which twitch reactions are important. I don’t do twitch reactions, so it’s really frustrating to me.
In my quest for the next meaty game I can sink my teeth into, there have been misses and there has been one game I’ve been keeping my eye on. It’s called Hades, and it’s a rogue-lite-like by Supergiant Games. Supergiant Games in an indie company that is beloved in the indie community as it were. Their previous games include Bastion, Transistor, and Pyre. All three games were hailed when they came out, and I’ve tried each of them. I’m sure you can tell that I did not fall in love with them by the tone of what I’ve written, and you would be right. I tried. Honestly, I gave at least the first two a fair shake. I could see why they were held in such high regards, but neither of them clicked with me. The third just wasn’t my type of game at all, which I knew before I bought it.
I will say that each game looks gorgeous. Supergiant Games does aesthetics well, and while you can tell an SG game by the look of it, they change it up with each game. They all have vivid color palettes and a dreamy-like look to the graphics. From memory and a few stills, Bastion has earthy tones, Transistor is pastel-y, and Pyre has a more intense but darker color palette. Hades is just bright (but with the same richness of colors). I love the cartoony without being cartoonish feel to the characters (another staple of the games) and I love the theme of this game. I was obsessed with mythology when I was younger, so this is a nice way to scratch that itch.
I gave all three of their prior games more time than I normally would because they were so well-regarded in the indie community. I wanted desperately to like them, but I didn’t. Or rather, I didn’t feel compelled to keep playing. I thought each game was well made and could absolutely see why people were gaga over them. I couldn’t make myself like them, however, and I reluctantly moved on from each. Each time, I felt as if I were the problem, not the game, as if it were a personal failing that I couldn’t really get into the games.
This is the reason I was apprehensive when picking up Hades. In fact, I avoided it for a bit because I was worried that I would feel that way yet again. This game is more beloved than the others, if that’s possible, garnering outstanding scores across the board. The worst Metacritic score is 8.5. That’s the worst. I did watch a YouTuber try it out and liked what I saw, but who knew if it’d be the same when I actually played it? Still. I needed a game and it recently came out of Early Access. That meant it was on sale, so I picked it up. I was hoping it’d be like Binding of Isaac: Rebirth in that I’d be able to play it endlessly despite frustrations with it. BoI: R is far from a perfect game, but there’s something really comforting about playing it.
This has been a shit week. Yesterday, for a brief moment, there was the exhilarating news that the remastered/remake of Demon’s Souls (by FromSoft, but the remake is being done by Bluepoint games) was going to be on PC. That brightened my entire week, and I was so stoked. I mean, look at it.
If you know anything about the game and even if you don’t, you gotta admit it looks amazing. If you look very closely at the end, you’ll see it says it’s coming to the PC. And there was much rejoicing! What a boost on an otherwise shitty day (well, the day itself wasn’t shitty, but that’s not the point).
Then, later in the evening, it all came undone. It turns out that it was NOT coming to the PC, no how, no way. Nuh uh, why would you think so never mind the text that said it would actually come to the PC? Oh, that? That was human error a rep of Sony said. Was never meant to be! Look over there. *flees*
Ok, that wasn’t exactly what happened, but it’s how my brain interpreted it. The human error comment is real but the rest is just head canon. What Sony said in the walkback was that the text in THE ACTUAL GAMEPLAY TRAILER was human error and that the remake of Demon’s Souls was a PS5 exclusive. Period.
To which I say, bullshit. Why? For several reason. One, the push for Dark Souls on the PC played a significant role in catapulting the series to the lofty heights it enjoys today. Two, it wouldn’t have been in the text if it wasn’t a consideration. Three, because I want it to be bullshit.
Look. I know they were in a hard place when this snafu happened. The hype the PC announcement created could not be put back in the box. PC gamers (and I am one) are rabid about our PCness and our gaming. Souls fans are on another level. So, yeah. I can see how they would be cringing at this point. Let’s face it. There’s no satisfactory response except, “Why, yes, it’s coming to the PC.”
Here’s what I think happened. A Demon’s Souls remake is big. Fans have been clamoring for one for years. Screaming for it. Pleading for it. Offering their first born children for it. I don’t think it’s a leap to say that it’s one of the top two things most requested by FromSoft fans* and with the arrival of the PS5, that seemed like a perfect time for the remake to be released.
Given this as a backdrop, it makes sense that Sony would want it as a PS5 exclusive/launch game. I don’t blame them for selling their consoles however they can. My theory is that they wanted it to be an exclusive for a year or so (which is more or less the timing of exclusives) before announcing the PC launch.
At least, I hope that’s the case. If it’s not, then I guess I will not be playing Demon’s Souls for the rest of my life, which is sad. Or, I’ll do what I did for Bloodborne–buy a PS4 (PS5 in this case) years later at a ridiculously low price in order to play one game.
Anyway. Back to the shitty week part. One way I can tell how depressed I’m getting is what games I play or more importantly, don’t. Oh wait. We have to go back because that’s the way I roll. I am picky about the media I consume in any form. I’ve written about this in the past so I’m not going to rehash the details. Suffice to say it’s difficult to find things I like/click with, and I don’t gel with far more things than I do. When I do, I play the hell out of them but it takes me forever to get there.
Actually, that’s me in general. It takes me a lot of energy to do anything even something I enjoy and if I’m not enjoying it, I abandon it pretty damn quickly. So in the case of gaming, it takes me forever to actually buy a game. Unless there’s a demo that I immediately like such as Spiritfarer.
Ah, Spiritfarer. Can we take a minute so I can reminisce about how much I adore this game? Ok, minute over.
I try to give each game a fair shake, but I know myself. If something doesn’t grab me within five or ten minutes, it’s never going to do so. You may think Dark Souls is the exception to the rule, but it’s not. While I ended up hating the game by the end of the first playthrough, it had me grabbed the entire time.
On my best days, I can try a new game and see what I think of it. On my worst days, however, I don’t have the energy for that. I know it sounds very twee and precious, but, yes, I need energy to try a new game. Just like I need energy to, say, go to the grocery store (not these days ‘coz I’m not going there no way no how) or make dinner.
On the days when I just can’t, there are games I keep in my back pocket.
Here’s another monkey in the wrench. Is that the phrase? It is now. The Souls series used to be my go-to, specifically Dark Souls III. Ever since my two non-plat runs, however, I’ve been on a break of sorts from the Souls games. Note I say that I have two of the plats. I do not have the plat for Dark Souls II for a few reasons. I started with the original game because that’s what Krupa (of RKG) was doing. Then, I moved to DS III because that’s my favorite of the three. Then, I was completely wiped out and done with it. I put aside all the games indefinitely and have only now started diving back into them again. And by them, I mean the third game.
I’m currently re-watching a few Let’s Play of the original game, and I kinda want to play again. I started up the third game again and it’s feeling good. I’m watching a playthrough of the second game and, well, it’s complicated. I want to play it again, but I know if I do, I’ll try to not-plat it. I don’t want to not-plat it, mind you, but it’s just how I am.
Anyway! The one game I can play no matter what is Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.** I’ve put so many hours into it–no, not gonna tell you how many–that I could play it in my sleep. There are a few new rooms even now which is interesting, but it’s as familiar to me as my skin. I would like to note there is going to be another update soon. I’m reaching the point of new content fatigue, but I know I’ll play it, anyway.
Here’s the time when casual games really stand out. When I can’t handle learning a new ‘hardcore’ game, I can fall back on a solitaire game or a hidden object game and still get a gaming fix without putting too much effort into it. I used think it weird that I would flip back and forth between hardcore and casual games on the regular, but I’m fine with it now. It’s a nice way to unwind on a day when I’m stressed out, anxious, or just plain distressed.
I still can’t wait for Elden Ring, though.
*BB II is number one. Not going to happen, my friends.
**Obligatory yes I know that’s not the current iteration of the game but it’s the one I want it to be.
In a year that has blown all the chunks all over the place AND has thus far had nary a word from FromSoft on Elden Ring, Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Game has blown into my life like a breath of fresh air. I tried the demo which was fifteen minutes long, and I immediately fell in love with the game. It’s bittersweet, lovely, charming, and very emotional. Last week, I wrote about my issues with the game, but emphasized that they did not take away from the game overall.
I will note that there’s one additional issue I have with the game and this was a rather big one. There were two passengers whom I could not stand. I realize that it’s part of the bigger picture–not everyone in our lives is someone we like. Also, there’s a reason Stella has run into this wide array of people (something I found out in a newsletter but was not made clear in the game). While I understand it on an intellectual level, I still reacted to these two characters with a visceral dislike.
The first was one of two brothers. Bruce and Mickey. Mickey was a water buffalo who didn’t talk. It became clear that he was comatose and his brother, a hummingbird, was caretaking for him. Bruce was a huge asshole, and I actively avoided him as much as I could. In addition, the rest of the passengers’ moods were negatively affected by the brothers as they all ‘felt bullied (ha)’ by Mickey. His story was really sad, but it didn’t balance out how incredibly unpleasant Bruce was. When I took them to the EverDoor, I was so relieved to get rid of them. I felt some sorrow for them because of their story, but I was happy to see the back of them.
The other was Elena, a dog. I think a greyhound or something similar. Something lithe and sleek. She’s an ascetic who is very monk-like in her Spartan attitude. She’s also a complete asshole. She was a teacher in life, and she took pleasure in breaking her students who she viewed as beneath her. She’s the one who assigns you timed events, and if you don’t do them to her specifications, she berates you. I felt bullied by her, and I stayed away from her as much as possible. Yes, there was a poignant reason why she was the way she was, but at that point in the game, I didn’t care. She’s the passenger who didn’t like to be hugged, by the way, not to anyone’s surprise.
Mortal Shell by Cold Symmetry is one of the few soulslike games that I was cautiously hyped for when I saw the trailer for it.
I mean, look at it. It could BE a Dark Souls trailer, down to the many bosses reveal. By the way, I never watch trailers for FromSoft games because they give away so many bosses. I always wait until after I play the game to actually watch the trailers because I don’t want to spoil the surprise of bosses for me. I am on the far end of ‘don’t want to be spoiled’ when going into a FromSoft game, which isn’t easy in this day and age.
Anyway, I knew the basic premise of the game which was that you were a…zombie? A walking skeleton? Something in between? Unclear. What was clear was that you could put on different ‘shells’ of enemies you…found? Beat? Unclear. But it was a cool concept, and I was intrigued. The graphics were gorgeous and very Souls-y, and the atmosphere was properly epic and bleak.
When it came to closed beta, I was doubly intrigued. It was so popular, they opened the beta. I downloaded it from Epic and hopped in. Immediately, I was aware that I was in a soulslike. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, mind, especially one that was as high quality as this game. There was a cutscene much like the ones at the beginning of the you-know-what games, and then I was dumped in an area much like the tutorial area of Dark Souls III but with much harder enemies. The shell I had at this point was that of a knight, and my weapon was a big fuckoff sword. Were we about to get OG Dark Souls up in this bitch? Apparently so.
They do tell you what the different buttons do, but it’s a lot to take in. They’re different from the Souls buttons, and they add a wrinkle that the first time you press B (Xbox One controller), you dodge. The second time you press B, you roll. I don’t like not having a dedicated roll, but I have to admit it’s an interesting conceit. In addition, it makes you have to be much more deliberate about your movements, which has both positives and negatives. Yes, combat is deliberate in Souls games, but it feels…almost clunky in Mortal Shell–at least in the beginning.
Still feeling pretty shitty, though my migraine is mostly gone. Still lingering nausea and headache, but nothing I can’t power through. The thing is, though, when I feel like this, I can’t really play anything difficult. Or rather, it’s not something I want to do. Mostly, I just loll on the couch and watch videos on a low volume, trying not to vomit. Or at least just dealing with the feeling of nausea because I don’t involuntarily vomit.
There are some games I can play without really thinking about them. One is DemonCrawl by Therefore Games, which is a Minesweeper rogue-lite about fighting, naturally, demons. It’s too random, and it feels like RNG Jesus has to smile down on you in order to actually win a run. There’s too much guessing, and there is not enough tutorial. There is still a bunch of stuff I don’t understand, and I haven’t gotten any of my crafting slots or whatever they are unlocked. I looked it up, and you had to beat the game on normal in order to unlock them. Just did that, but you also have to find blueprints in chest? Apparently? Who knows? Look. I’m used to playing games with opaque or no tutorials. I’m a FromSoft fangrrl for fuck’s sake. But, there’s a difference between a tutorial that is just goo through it and learn (FromSoft) and, what, a tutorial that actually explains the mechanisms about the game? Hahahhahahahha (DemonCrawl). Or maybe I’m Stockholm Syndrome with FromSoft games, which is entirely possible.
Speaking of, I finally got summoned in Krupa’s plat-run. It was weird because I got summoned on my TV, but I didn’t see it on stream. I assumed I had been summoned by someone else (though it would have to be someone in the stream as we were using a password), but then, ten seconds later, I showed up on the stream. I was watching my TV screen more than the stream, and I was confused because the person who summoned me was wearing the same hat as me–as was Krupa. That’s when I realized he had probably summoned me, and I needed to get my head in the game.
I sucked as a summon. I was pretty sure I would because my way of playing the game is very stealth-based. It’s harder to do in someone else’s world when you’re going through the area with him, and we were in the dreaded Catacombs. I had my Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo going on, but it’s harder to tell when it expires in ghost form. Two of the whirling dervishes (Carthus Swordsman Skeleton) were on me the second I became visible again plus the invader who decided to go straight for me. Krupa had three summons, but one died immediately. The other one didn’t appear for whatever reason, so it was just me and Krupa. I knew my duty was to protect him, so I kept the enemies engaged (and the invader) and immediately died.
I felt really bad and embarrassed because I didn’t help at all (cold comfort that the other two summons didn’t, either), but I also had suspected that would be the case. You get less health, half your Estus, and nerfed to the level of the summoner. All of which makes sense, but it means that I am not great, even with my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword. the problem with my character is that I’m not really powerful until NG+ and beyond when I’m maxed out on all my spells. I’m sitting at the end of NG with my PS4 character, but I don’t know if I’ll put down my sign again. I honestly think I’m better in chat, but it’s a bit depressing because it’s my favorite game.
So. I’ve been trouncing my way through Lothric again, this time on the PS4. I’m doing it so I can help Krupa on his DS III plat run for the very first time ever! Usually, I’m the ‘well, actually’ gal in the chat, asking him if he has a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Vamos. He was a blacksmith in the original game, and he was the one who turned your weapons into fire and chaos. So, we pyros decided he was our god. After the last stream, I decided to try to tone it down a bit because it can be too much. In addition, in an aborted session, he mentioned that this run was mostly just to finish NG. He said if he was about to miss something important to tell him, but not something that can be had on a subsequent run. I think it’s because we were all shouting at him about the Sage Ring last time, but it’s really good for a caster.
But, yeah, I’m marching merrily through the game, and I’m up to the Duke’s, er, Grand Archives–right before the Twin Princes and my beloved Lorian’s Greatsword. I have the stats to wield it, and I have all the base stats I want. Well, maybe I could throw a few more into Dex so I can use Black Knight weapons in the DLCs, if I do the DLCs. I don’t need to do them to help Krupes, but I don’t like skipping. Plus, it’s a good way to beef up my stats.
Krupa is up to the Cleansing Chapel and promises an extra-long session on the Fourth of July. I find it amusing that he’s doing it on America’s Independence Day, but that’s a Brit for you. I was ready to go last time (for the aborted session), but I wasn’t feeling great about it because my character is so damn fragile in the beginning. I have to get 12 levels of Attunement for my spells to start. Then, to use my favorite pyromancy, I need 6 in Intelligence. One in Faith for Tears of Denial, but if I want to–wait. I’ll get to that in a minute. I like to use the longbow for many things, and that’s 5 in Dex. My base for Vigor and Endurance is 20, and I start with 11 and 10 respectively. My Vitality starts at 8, and I drag it up to 10 to begin with. Ideally, I like it at 15.
Let’s get even more specific. Strength-wise, I need 19 for my beloved Executioner’s Greatsword. By the way, shout-out to an overlooked weapon. It has low necessary requirements for a greatsword, and you get mana back with each kill. Focus Points, yeah, yeah, yeah. My even more beloved Lorian’s Greatsword takes 26 in Strength, and I have that. I was behind in Faith, however, because my favorite chime, Crystal Chime, takes 18 points of Faith. When I found it in the Grand Archives, I eagerly went back to upgrade it and realized to my dismay that I was one point short. I was able to level up one more time, and I’m set.
Here’s the thing. From now on out, I can level whatever I want. This is the point where I finally feel as if I’m swinging in my weight class. To be clear, I haven’t had much trouble with the game. I mean, I’ve played it so much that I can do it in my sleep. Oh! I will say, though, that with the help of a message, I found a chest I’d never known was there before. Or if I had, then I’d forgotten and hadn’t opened it in the last dozen or so times I played the game. That’s one thing I adore about FromSoft games–there are so many secrets, you can go for years without knowing them all.
I’m back to loving the game after my month-long hiatus. The not-plat run nearly broke me, so I’m overjoyed that I can play the game again and with pleasure. Still don’t love the PS4, but I’ve gotten used to it. I still can’t play for more than an hour or so, but that’s because of my outdated TV.
I’ve been trying out games that have caught my eye for one reason or the other. Summer Steam sale is a go, and I’ve been picking up things with abandon.