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September 2021 Retrospective

If August was a stale month than September was utterly banal. Life has become a rote slog. Wake up, go for a walk, shower, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, play video games, sleep. With very little variation. I know this is my fault but when I finish work and dinner at 7 o'clock in the evening I find myself completely burnt out and unable to try anything new. I'm really considering some sort of sabbatical where I find a new place to live and try out all sorts of hobbies that I have been unable to indulge in. Work has utterly dominated my life for the last eight years and now that I am finally in a position where I could be without a job and survive I'm starting to think it is a risk worth taking.

But enough of this self-pity. What did I manage to accomplish this September?

The Good

Lost Judgment

Judgment was my 3rd favourite game of 2019 and I am happy to report that the sequel, Lost Judgment, matches or exceeds the original in every way. The writing, characters, combat, and environments are all still fantastic. But all of the tedious side quests or gameplay mechanics have either been done away with or reworked to be more engaging. I seldom feel as if I am wasting my time in Lost Judgment which is rare for open world games. There is always a side quest to do or a bad guy to beat up and it has yet to become repetitive or tiring.

This is a game that leans heavily into Japanese culture so I know it is not going to appeal to everyone. But I do think that if you are a fan of open-world beat 'em ups with a great story, then you owe it to yourself to give Lost Judgment a shot.

Deathloop

Deathloop is an absolute masterclass in game design. Not everyone is going to enjoy the decisions that were made but Arkane's focus on pure gameplay is something that should be studied by all game developers.

In Deathloop you play Cole Vahn, a man doomed to relive the same day over and over again. Whether you die or survive the full 24 hours, you will always find yourself waking up on a beach of some deserted island. But there is a way to break out this hell. You must kill eight "visionaries". Other occupants of the island whose existence is somehow powering the loop. Kill all eight of them in a single day and you can escape. Unsurprisingly, these visionaries and their followers aren't too keen on you destroying their paradise and will try to stop you at every turn.

The only other thing I'd say you need to know before trying Deathloop is that it is a first-person shooter with both stealth and action elements. So if all of that sounds interesting to you stop reading right now and go play Deathloop. Very few games have surprised me like it did.

Noclip's Prey documentary

Rick and Morty Season 5

I know some people think Rick and Morty has jumped the shark but after watching season 5 I'm just left watching more. Hopefully that means more Mr. Nimbus.

The Bad

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is one of the most bipolar video games I have ever played.

There were parts of it that I absolutely adored. The metroidvania-like exploration was fantastic. The combat was simplistic yet deep. The visuals were beautiful and the writing constantly made me want to learn more about the Kingdom of Hallownest and its inhabitants.

But every time I found myself enjoying Hollow Knight I would inevitable run into the same problem that all games like this have. So game developers, if for some reason you are reading this, here is some free advice to make your game better. Not every fucking video game has to be Dark Souls! This obsession with penalizing players for doing the stuff they enjoy in your video game makes absolutely no fucking sense.

In Hollow Knight, if when I died I kept my resources and didn't have to go back to my body, it would have made the game 100 times more enjoyable. There were numerous instances where I stumbled across a boss fight, was ill prepared and died. That's OK. I don't mind dying in a game. Ideally in this scenario I would have two choices. Do I go back and try to fight the boss or do I forget about them for the time being and go explore some other area of the map? But in these Dark Souls wannabe games the only answer is go and get your teeth kicked in for the next hour while you "git gud".

I know these words are causing many people (who are obsessed with the size of their e-peen) to go apoplectic so let me extend an olive branch. I don't think causing you to lose your resources is a bad game design mechanic. But I do think it is something that you should opt in to. Instead of punishing every player of your game (some of who are enjoying large portions of it) why not reward those want to take additional risks? Stuff like Ironman Mode in the XCOM games or Shovel Knight where you can destroy checkpoints to get more treasure.

I played 15 hours of Hollow Knight before it broke me. I encountered a boss that was a good five to ten minutes from the nearest save point and I would fight them for a minute or two before getting killed. So every attempt at this boss would take close to 10 minutes. That meant in my final hour of playing Hollow Knight I only made six attempts at defeating this boss. When I realized how much of my time I was wasting, I decided that if a video game was not going to have any respect for my time then I wouldn't have any respect for it.

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

Speaking of video games that don't respect my time, let's revisit Monster Hunter Stories 2. I got a good 40 hours into the game before the difficulty spiked through the ceiling. My only option was to spend several hours grinding to get brand new monsters and gear that would allow me to survive being killed in one-hit b every boss I was encountering.

Why are game developers so obsessed with punishing their players like this? How in 40 years have we not come up with a better game mechanic than having every brand new powerful thing start at level 1 and you need to grind for hours to make it strong. This perverse obsession with a game taking more time therefore it must be good has to die!

So yeah after I realized I was going to have to grind out the utterly boring combat for at least ten hours to just allow me to continue with the game, I put Monster Hunter Stories 2 down for good. I actually still enjoy the core mechanic of collecting monsters (probably because I love Pokémon) so much that I almost want to make a mobile game of this and cash in on it because Capcom has proven they are incapable of it.

Honourable Mentions

Blood of Elves

I finally read the first book in the Witcher Saga, Blood of Elves, and was surprised at how hard it was to hold my attention. Having read the two short-story collections, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, I had expected Blood of Elves to be of a similar vein but it was much more bland. Everything is important and adds a lot of backstory to the characters but none of it was that interesting. It is a lot like The Phantom Menace in that regard where the character building is needed but you really only care about the podracing and Duel of the Fates. I'm glad I learned more about Ciri and political machinations of the Northern Kingdoms but hopefully the next book, Time of Contempt, has a bit more meat on its bones.

2021 Russian Grand Prix

Please take 10 minutes out of your day and watch this bizarre ending to the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.

Foundation on Apple TV+

I've only watched the first two episodes of Foundation but it has my attention. The bags of money Apple threw at the creators seems to be paying off and I am a big fan of the world Isaac Asimov created so fingers crossed the next eight episodes keep on delivering.

Sunset Overdrive

I'm gonna be honest. Before I sat down to start writing this review I didn't realize how many games I had played this month. I also didn't realize how many games I had quit because they just didn't respect my time but lets go ahead and add Sunset Overdrive to the list.

It was the least offensive of those games because both the combat and traversal in Sunset Overdrive never stopped being fun. Unfortunately after about four hours I hit a wall of "grind to get resources to unlock new abilities" and that was where my interest fell off a cliff. I died during a five minute fight which granted those resources and when I realized I got nothing for losing I saw another timesink that I did not want any part of.

Review September Goals

October Goals

#MonthlyRetrospective

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