Games I’ve been playing – December 2022

Happy New Year!

I swear December felt like it just flew by in the blink of an eye. Despite not having accomplished every goal I set for myself I still got enough done that I am not feeling bad about it.

It almost got derailed though as I did get an itch to play Minecraft, even installed a modpack to test out but thankfully didn’t get absorbed by it.

I did however spend far more time than I expected in Blue Archive (more about it in a bit).

Another unexpected event was me moving fully from Twitter to Mastodon. My plan was to do it early this year but it was feeling like Musk was changing the rules of the service every week and I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

There is another important migration I am planning to do this year but I am still in the initial stages of studying it. I will post more about it when I have something to show because it is something concerning this blog.

For now, let’s talk about some games!

Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered

Spider-man squatting on top of a building at night
You know I thought this screenshot didn’t look quite right when I took it but it actually looks pretty good!

I was enjoying my time in this game until I unlocked the Challenges. Now normally I’d be fine just dabbling on this kind of content, figuring out it wasn’t for me and then completely ignoring it.

The problem however is that in Spider-Man those challenges give tokens which unlocks different suits with their own powers and also to upgrade certain gadgets. Since I want to unlock all the suits I am being forced to do them. And if I want to upgrade everything to maximum then not only do I need to do that but I need to get a gold rating in all of the Challenges which means having to do them without committing any mistake and fast.

This annoyed me so much that the game went to the back-burner for now. Honestly this kind of “open-world but with tons of pointless mini-games” is one that I do not enjoy. I’d much rather they kept the open-world part but had some system for continuous random-crime so we could just swing around, beat some criminals and have a good time.

I will probably get back to it this month and see if I can finish it. Despite my gripes with the mini-games I do like this game and I do think they nailed the essence of Spider-Man both in terms of story and gameplay.

Legend of Mana

The male protagonist is on a forest next to an anthropomorphic turtle on it's back.

The turtle says "Hello. I'm a turtle."
I was going to poke fun at this line but Tote is a cool guy so I can’t.

This is another game I wish I had made more progress in but between No Man’s Sky’s expeditions and Blue Archive (more about those in a bit) I didn’t get to play it much.

One thing I need to be careful of is to not obsess over getting the best pet/best crafted gear.

I don’t remember if that was the cause of me dropping the original game or if it was placing the artifacts willy-nilly in the map only to realize too late that their locations matter. Probably a mix of both.

For the first problem I don’t think it is necessary to have the best pet/crafted gear to beat the game. That would be just for bragging rights or beating the game at the highest difficult, both that which I have no intention of pursuing. As for placing artifacts I am following a guide to make sure I am not locked out of any stories.

This is another game I’d like to play more in January but I doubt I will be able to finish it this month. We’ll see how it goes!

The House in Fata Morgana

The Maid in front of a fireplace extending her hand towards an empty rocking chair
So many hits to the feels in this game. So. Many.

This is a game I just finished yesterday and what an incredible journey it was. I can’t think of many stories that can tackle well the themes of love, betrayal, hatred, the chains that are imposed on us either by society, circumstances or ourselves and finding the strength to overcome them. Even less stories that can do so in a masterful way as The House in Fata Morgana did!

Also, I am not the type to cry easily however The House in Fata Morgana almost made me cry a few times near the end. The only reason I think I didn’t actually do it is because I was stressing myself out trying to complete my self-imposed desire to finish the game before the new year. I know, it is ridiculous and I should just have relaxed and enjoyed my time with the game but that is just how I am.

Anyway, I loved it so much that it became my number two Visual Novel of all time. Number one would be either Steins;Gate or Fate//Stay Night. Or both. Or maybe I should make all three my number one since they are all great in their own ways!

One thing that I realized though is although I do not believe I am a slow reader I am certainly not a fast one either! This could spell doom for my project to play 23 Visual Novels in 2023 as it would required me to finish about 2 games per month. Unless I play nothing but visual novels, which I won’t do, it is very unlikely that I will reach that goal.

Still I want to give it a try and even if I just finish half a dozen visual novels that will still be six new games that I will have enjoyed this year!

No Man’s Sky

The player next to a big alien poop. The button prompt says "Search Dung Sample"
I never expected I’d have to analyze alien poop in a game but here we are!

Starting in December, Hello Games has been doing a redux version of expeditions 5 through 8. Since I didn’t do the original run of any of those I have been trying to complete the redux versions instead.

Of those the ones I disliked the most were expeditions 6 and 7. The sixth one involved a lot of fighting and for me the combat in No Man’s Sky feels pretty weak. But Expedition 7 Redux was even worse as it had a permadeath component to it. This made me very tense through the entire run, fearing that any death would prevent me from finishing it. Fortunately I only had two deaths that were required for milestones. I will admit however that I did follow a guide to complete it.

Now there is only Expedition 8 Redux left and then if I am not burned out of it by then I might try to play a normal save.

Blue Archive

Michiru with a feudal japanese mansion in the background, looking confused.

She says "Wait, so we went through the whole obstacle just to fight her?"
That is pretty much every gacha gameplay in a nutshell.

In December this game saw two events: “An Unconcealed Heart” and “Special Operations: Decagrammaton Edition”. Unlike the summer event I found myself having a much easier time with these two.

Granted, it is still not easy enough to clear the event shop and do the challenge quests like I do in Fate Grand Order events but it is still progress.

One good side effect though is that going back to the Main Quests I have been able to blow my way through them. With the exception of some hard mode stages, I completed everything up to area 13. This allowed me to unlock almost all of the story I wanted to see.

But now I am stuck on the boss fight for Volume 3, Chapter 3-23 in the main story. Usually we have to do these fights in the main story with “NPC” versions of the characters involved but for some reason this boss fight we have to do with our own roster of characters.

So I am not sure if the problems I am having is due to my strategy or the way I have been haphazardly leveling up my students. Probably a mix of both.

For now I am trying to clear as much of the main quest as I can and trying to level up the skills and equipment of certain students to see if that helps any.

Lastly I must say that I am loving the story in this game, anime tropes and all. But reading all those cutscenes back to back took quite some time!

Fate Grand Order

Santa Karna in one of the hallways of Novum Chaldea saying "Perhaps something like, "Nobody move. Santa Claus is here.""
Karna, I don’t know what you think a Santa is but that is not how you should introduce yourself!

December was the time for the traditional Christmas event in Fate Grand Order. One interesting fact about this one is that we got our fist male Santa, Karna.

Another interesting change is that they added a sort of secondary, smaller lottery to it. But to get items from this second lottery you need Black Gift Boxes which you could only get from the main lottery.

They also made it that once you completed 20 boxes in the main lottery you could just do 100 rolls or as much as possible at once with the event’s currency. That certainly made grinding the lottery easier.

Still I didn’t grind as much as I used to. I was in a pretty good position in terms of QP and Mana Prisms and stopped at about box number 30 or so.

As for the story, it had its funny moments but like Heyian-kyo it still felt off for me. I think I know why. When Part 2 of Lostbelt 5 was released on Japan I heard that Nasu, the creator of the franchise and main writer for Fate Grand Order had left the company. At the time I thought it wouldn’t affect the story much since stories in games tend to be developed by a group of writers. Plus Fate Grand Order’s story is far from being high literature.

In retrospect that was very naive of me. Regardless of the quality of the story, when the main writer changes you do feel the difference. Also to be fair, it is still much better than the first five singularities stories. :p

Oh, and this version of Karna is much more interesting than vanilla Karna too. :p

TTRPG – Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soulbound

After many delays our group finally started our campaign of Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soulbound (Just Soulbound from here on out). We are playing a pre-written campaign, Shadows in the Mist.

Much to my surprise we were able to finish Book 1 in about two sessions. Combat continues being stupidly easy, even the one I made for a player character’s personal goal following the recommendations from the Bestiary.

It was so bad that even my players didn’t enjoy it. So from this point forward I am going to try to rebalance all encounters.

This will be tricky because none of us have that much experience with this system. Plus two of the characters are more on the tanky side while the two others are squishy wizards. And one of the wizards always starts the round by buffing the party’s defense.

Finding the right balance between interesting challenge and something that doesn’t drag for an hour or more will take some experimentation. On the other hand I have an idea of what their strategies will be in combat now. So that will help.

Another part I didn’t like is that the first book is extremely railroady and the “twist” at the end was just poorly done. I tried my best to mitigate both problems but my skills just weren’t up to it.

So my advice for anyone who decides to GM this campaign is to either skip the first book entirely (the second book has some suggestions on how to start off the campaign of you decided to do that) or just use the main adventure hook, the more interesting NPCs and ignore everything else.

The only reason I didn’t do that is because 1) I want to test the viability of this system for long campaigns and the more adventures the players go through the better. 2) I still don’t have confidence in my own skills to come up with good adventure hooks for the players so I just went with the plot presented almost 100% as-is. For the future I might just do more drastic changes assuming the group still wants to play it after the second book.

In unrelated news, I decided to adopt FATE as my go-to system for all those campaigns/settings where either I or the rest of the group don’t like the system they were made for.

The reason I resisted FATE for so long is because it is based on Fudge, a system that I loved back in the days and opened my mind to a different sort of RPG design. However my first impression of FATE’s Aspects and Stunts was that it was overcomplicating what was an elegant system for no good reason.

Now that I’ve sat down and properly read about Aspects and Stunts I finally understand the idea behind them and actually like it. I will admit I am still struggling figuring out what makes good Aspects and Stunts though. But I am sure this is just a question of making some characters and playing some sessions to get the hang of it.

The other reason for my resistance is that there are other narrative-driven systems that I prefer over FATE. However they don’t have great support for FoundryVTT or I was struggling on how to implement certain subsystems like magic for example. Or both.

They aren’t insurmountable problems but FATE does have great support in FoundryVTT and a bunch of subsystems that other people already designed that works close enough to what I want. So I might as well stop being stubborn, save myself some time and grief and use FATE instead.

No clue when our group will be playing with FATE though. After we are done with this Soulbound campaign, if the group will still accept me as a GM, there are is at least one or maybe two other systems I’d like to try out. But they aren’t as adaptable.

Honorable Mentions: Minecraft, Final Fantasy XIV and Judgment.

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