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August 2023 Retrospective

In September we are going to see arguably the biggest video game launch of this console generation, possibly even of the the last decade. Starfield is finally here and I honestly have no idea what to expect. Bethesda's last games were Fallout 4 in 2015 and Skyrim in 2011. Video games have changed quite a bit since then and so have players expectations. We've had the launch of the Nintendo Switch and Breathe of the Wild. The rise of the Battle Royale genre and Fortnite. The overhyped debacles of No Man's Sky and Cyberpunk 2077. We've even seen a God of War reboot AND SEQUEL since 2018!

Bethesda games have never pushed technical boundaries and it is a running joke that their games are janky as hell. But the gameplay was always so compelling that you just wanted to keep exploring. But nearly 12 years after the release of Skyrim is this enough? I truly have no idea. I could easily see myself viewing Starfield as a quaint amusement park that I quickly get bored of. I could also see myself becoming completely enamoured by this supposedly massive galaxy I can explore. Only time will tell.

Oh, but something that I will not give Bethesda (and Microsoft) a pass on is this release date bullshit. Starfield doesn't come out on September 6, 2023. It comes out on August 31, 2023. Just because you are deciding to charge $99.99 USD to access it in August versus $69.99 USD in September doesn't mean the game comes out at a later date. As soon as someone can pay it for that game has been released.

The Good

Read Dune

I put off reading Dune for years because I had convinced myself I could not enjoy it. I knew I would love the concept of Dune but this book was written in 1965 and is almost 900 pages long! I was so certain that Frank Herbert would spend five paragraphs describing a single grain of sand and I'd immediately be regretting my decision. I could not have been more wrong.

Honestly, Dune reads like it was written yesterday. It is astonishing how timeless this book is. Also, even though it is nearly 900 pages there is effectively no cruft or filler. Every chapter moves the plot forward in a meaningful way. A couple of times I actually thought I had missed or skipped a chapter somehow because there are major events that just get glossed over and you learn more about them after-the-fact.

I cannot praise Dune enough and truly believe it is something that everyone should read.

Watched BlackBerry

BlackBerry is an awesome film and as someone who attended the University of Waterloo during the height of BlackBerry's popularity, it hit really really close to home. It was both joyous and depressing being reminded as to how powerful the small town of Waterloo, Ontario used to be. Thanks to BBM the messages of literal heads of state had to flow through servers in Waterloo. These devices had the nickname "Crackberry" for fucks sake! Nowadays the engineers and computer scientists coming out of that city are more likely to move to the United States then work in Canada, let alone Waterloo.

Even before the COVID pandemic hit the number of homegrown Canadian tech companies was dwindling. Now that working from home is commonplace Canadian talent is being gobbled up by international companies left, right, and centre. Even I couldn't find a Canadian company to work for when I looked for a job in 2022. The opportunity and money just isn't in Canada anymore and unfortunately I don't see the country doing anything to turn it around.

Torchlight Games and Hobbies

I want to give a shoutout to Torchlight Games and Hobbies in Burlington, Ontario. It is undoubtedly one of the best hobby shops I have ever visited. Their selection was stellar and everyone was super helpful and friendly. I cannot wait to have an excuse to return.

Honourable Mentions

Played Baldur's Gate III

Baldur's Gate III may be the horniest mainstream game that has ever been released. Everyone is like supermodel level of hot and I have almost accidentally slept with three separate members of my party. The most innocuous comments are apparently the green light to hop into my bedroll at night.

All kidding aside, I've put 32 hours into Baldur's Gate III and it truly is a fantastic game. Particularly the storytelling, writing, and characters are amazing. Within a few hours multiple party members had endeared themselves to me such that I would kill for them (and I did). So much can occur while traversing the vast world that I genuinely forget what I'm doing and simply focus on surviving in the land of the Forgotten Realms.

The only "negative" of this game is the tactical combat and I readily admit that I only feel this way because apparently I suck at it. I cannot tell if the game is designed or explained poorly and it is at fault or if I am just really bad at 5th edition D&D. But even though the combat pushed me to the breaking point on more than one occasion, I kept coming back for more.

Zippo Butane Lighter Insert

I've owned a Zippo lighter for over a decade now but have never used it because it would foul the taste of a cigar. This month I learned that Zippo makes butane inserts for their lighters and I concur with Cigar Aficionado that they function splendidly. A Zippo is now going to be my goto cigar lighter recommendation unless you're in the market for one of those $100+ Xikar ones.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fine film. Not a bad film. Not a great film. A solid single thumbs up.

As a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd (I am currently sitting in front of books that go all the way back to 2nd edition) I obviously appreciated it for very different reasons than your typical moviegoer. But it has a good cast with a solid story that doesn't outstay its welcome. Back in the day we probably would have called this a "made-for-TV movie" but nowadays this was probably more suited for streaming platforms than physical theatres.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

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.

That is what I wrote last month and I am happy to report that I was wrong. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is a well constructed, well reviewed game that I am actually having fun with.

Any comparisons to Elden Ring or Dark Souls are completely irrelevant because Armored Core 6 is not that type of game. The only similarity is that are there big bosses who have lots of health, do lots of damage, and you need to carefully watch out for their telegraphed attacks. But the meat of this game revolves around building your own custom mech. This isn't Elden Ring where you can just dump souls into certain attributes and become more powerful. The strength of your mech is directly tied to how well each of its parts work together.

Armored Core 6 is all about experimentation. Any weapons or parts you buy for your AC you can sell back for the exact amount you spent. The game wants you to constantly be swapping parts out and trying to find what works best for every mission. This is where I think a lot of people are going to bounce off Armored Core because that wall of numbers you're shown when you try to swap out a part is incredibly overwhelming. I've played about five hours and it still scares me. But if you put in the time and enjoy trying to find that magic combination which allows you to become a death dealing giant robot then perhaps Armored Core 6 is for you.

I highly recommend checking out Iron Pineapple's excellent review on YouTube. He provides a great perspective for both Elden Ring fans and newcomers alike. I think this video does an absolutely perfect job at setting the expectations so you should immediately know if you're going to enjoy Armored Core 6.

White People Taco Night

We truly do love it the most.

The Bad

Extraction 2

Extraction 2 is what happens when a Netflix executive thinks John Wick didn't talk enough. It is two very long, well choreographed action scenes sandwiched between some of the worst acting and storytelling I have seen.

I really wonder if the people at Netflix are feeling any sort of pressure for the absolute shit they release? They only reason I would subscribe to Netflix nowadays is to watch sitcoms from a decade ago that I've already seen a dozen times. There is not a single bit of original content that interests me.

The Ontario housing market

I honestly don't know what is happening anymore. Back in February I complained that a $1,00,000 mortgage would cost you upwards of $5500 CAD. Six months later that has ballooned to $6500. If you had a salary of $250,000 that still means one of your two paychecks every month would be going to just your mortgage.

Review August Goals

September Goals