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July 2023 Retrospective

I really enjoyed predicting what my reaction to Final Fantasy XVI would be and seeing how close I was. I think I'll keep trying to do that with any other big games I plan to play in the coming month.

For August that would be FromSoftware's next game, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon. I feel this is probably where FromSoftware's luck (or good will with gamers) runs out and Armored Core VI will receive middling reviews. This is their first non-Soulslike game since 2013 and modern gamers are probably expecting more of that.

Personally I bet that I am not going to enjoy Armored Core VI but it will be a well constructed game. It is just going to be something that I bounce off. Just like I don't get angry at someone when they say a game like XCOM or Monster Hunter isn't for them, I am not going to be upset when Amored Core VI is not Elden Ring 2.

All of that being said I bet the sales numbers are going to be absolutely bonkers. Elden Ring took FromSoftware to the next level and since this is their next release the hype train is impossible to stop.

The Good

Saw Oppenheimer in IMAX

Oppenheimer is a fantastic film. I am not going to pretend that it's for everyone because it truly is a dense historical drama. Some parts were obviously tweaked for artistic purposes but at its core this is a really raw biography of Robert Oppenheimer and the people behind the Manhattan Project.

But everything from casting to writing to acting to set design is basically perfect. The ensemble cast absolutely killed it no matter how small the role. There are Academy Awards winners in Oppenheimer for a single scene and they didn't pull any punches.

Honestly the only negative thing I'd have to say about the film is the nudity was gratuitous and pointless. It did nothing to advance the plot or establish character. To be clear, the sexual actions definitely did establish character but you just as easily could have wrapped Florence Pugh in a bed sheet or shot from a different angle. There was no need to linger the camera on her breasts just because that's "realistic". I have to imagine if you cover the boobs and drop a couple of "fucks" the film could have gotten a PG-13 rating.

But the greatest praise I can probably give to Oppenheimer is that I saw it in "regular" IMAX and am already planning a second viewing so I can see the 70 mm version.

Ran 75 km

I managed to run 75 kilometres this month at an average pace of 5 minutes 17 seconds which is much better than I was expecting. I am still far from the sub 5 minutes form I had back in San Francisco but I am at least heading in the right direction.

The goal for August will be to hit 75 kilometres again while trying to speed things up. Gotta push myself while the weather is good because winter will be here before I know it.

Honourable Mentions

Tape to Tape

The easiest (but perhaps most reductive) way to describe Tape to Tape would be that it is NHL 94 meets Slay the Spire or Monster Train. But to defeat your enemies you must destroy them in a game of hockey!

However, I would say that Tape to Tape currently plays worse than NHL 94 and the skills and talents you gain navigating through a run aren't as engaging as Slay the Spire or Monster Train. But Tape to Tape is in very early access and I truly believe that the core idea is solid. I played about seven hours this month and am probably going to put it down for the rest of the year. Fingers crossed this is another Hades like game where the developers really perfect it through early access and upon release it is something special.

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life

Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life is a Nintendo Switch remake of Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. That game was originally released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube and it really shows. I don't want to be too harsh because this is a very faithful remake, for better and for worse. I'm sure there are people out there who are loving it but it appears that I am much more in the mood for the modern versions of these type of games.

The biggest problem was that I didn't really feel like I had much to do and the game was pigeonholing me into a very limited set of tasks. Compared to Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town or Animal Crossing where you can kinda just do whatever you want and explore the world at your leisure. In A Wonderful Life I was going through a very rote set of tasks to get my crops to grow and then going to bed at like 5pm because there was nothing else worth doing.

I feel like I really just gotta bite the bullet and play Stardew Valley but I am legitimately concerned that I could become addicted.

Read Liar's Poker

I am a fan of Michael Lewis' work especially Moneyball and The Big Short which both had great film adaptations.

This month I decided to read the book that originally brought him to prominence, Liar's Poker, and I have to admit that it struggled to hold my attention. Perhaps having lived through two financial collapses (one of which was indirectly caused by the shenanigans in this book) I wasn't really surprised by anything in Liar's Poker. I'm sure 30 years ago hearing about how Wall Street was essentially a frat house may have been surprising and interesting to a lot of people. But by now its such a well known and documented fact that the anecdotes of Michael Lewis' time at Solomon Brothers in the 1980s are almost tame.

The most interesting parts of the book were the few times he dove into the technical details such as how mortgage and junks bonds came to prominence and thrived during this period. Or how the demand for junk bonds lead to a massive increase in M&A and hostile takeovers.

The Bad

Read The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient is one of the worst books I have ever read. It is up there alongside other absolute pieces of trash such as Ready Player Two and Daemon.

The first 30% of the book was boring as shit. The general premise is spelt out to the reader but you really don't learn anything about the characters. They all have paper thin personalities with laughable motivations. Then suddenly the book takes a hard right turn and you're dropped into the ninth circle of hell where every character acts like a complete piece of shit.

By now I'm about 45% of the way through the book and have decided I'm just going to hate read it so my eventual 1-star review on GoodReads will be justifiable. But I was not prepared for how much worse it was going to get. The characters continued to act like unbelievable psychopaths and I started to recognize the asinine twist that the author was setting up. But at the same time I wanted believe that could not actually be the case because that kind of twist would be fucking stupid. Unfortunately exactly what I expected to happen happened, and then the book just suddenly ends. You're left sitting there realizing you wasted multiple hours reading a book that would have failed a creative writing course at community college. I imagine this would be the kind of story that M. Night Shyamalan wrote when he was like 10 years old.

At this point I looked into the author and discovered their only other works of note are three horrible screenwriting credits. I also learned that their follow up novel, The Maidens, has an abysmal 3.63 on GoodReads at the time of writing this article.

I believe this book is one of the best examples of literary Stockholm syndrome because otherwise I cannot comprehend how it got rave reviews. For the love of whatever god you believe in, no matter the praise you hear, DO NOT READ THE SILENT PATIENT!

Beat Final Fantasy XVI

Last month I wrote:

If I am making it sound like the game is horrible I apologize because it definitely is not.

I don't know if I was lying to myself or what but in hindsight Final Fantasy XVI is a horrible game and I regret ever playing it.

If you enjoyed the combat of Final Fantasy XVI you should play Devil May Cry 5 which is superior in every way.

If you enjoyed the story of Final Fantasy XVI you should play Persona 5, The Witcher 3, Dragon Quest XI, Mass Effect. Basically any other game that is actually an RPG.

In my opinion, one of the things that makes the Final Fantasy games so great is the party system. Obviously every game needs to have a "main" character, but in the Final Fantasy series they are rarely the most interesting one. Usually it is one of the party members that you add along your journey who flesh out the story and make the world feel real. In Final Fantasy XVI there really isn't a party. You follow the bland protagonist through an incredibly linear story with mostly optional side quests that basically add nothing to character development.

When I think about my favourite entry in the series, Final Fantasy VII, I think about how Barret got his gun arm, or Red XIII learning about his father, or Cid's dream of going to outer space. The characters and the world unfurl as the story progresses. In Final Fantasy XVI you (the player) effectively learn everything within the first couple hours of the game. The comical motivations of all the bad guys don't change and you're just beating them one after the other.

If I don't stop myself I am going to keep rambling about this for hours so instead I'll point you to this excellent Reddit post that is a great spoiler filled version as to why all of the characters are incredibly weak.

Review July Goals

August Goals