Month in Review: December

You know that was probably the easiest December I’ve had since high school. With things being in lockdown I was actually able to relax over the weekends through December instead of becoming progressively more and more burned out from different Christmas related functions. Anyway, month in review time!

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Best performer: Looking Back: 2020 Post Mortem

Ending on a high note.

While I didn’t manage to surpass my highest view total in October, December is far and away my highest month for unique traffic which is something to be celebrated. This month also saw me narrowly climb over the 6000 view threshold for my annual stats, which I’m proud of. Looking at the stats for the year I can’t see any trends in as far as what worked and what didn’t, so I guess I’ll continue trudging along and hope that I can surpass that in 2021.

One idea I did have over the course of December was to rebrand my reviews to more of a mini-review series called you should play. The intention would be to cover games with a more positive slant and focus on one or two unique things that I liked. I’ve already written the first of these and intend to have at least two go out in January, so look forward to those.

Other than that I don’t expect much will change. I still have a couple back-logged tag posts I need to address and I’ve had a few different ideas for posts rolling around in my head. We shall see if any of those ideas get put to pen (or…keyboard?) and materialize in the coming weeks.

Gaming

Nexomon: Extinction

After talking about Nexomon: Extinction with Jason on the Frosty Canucks I decided to give it a go. I thought it was fairly unremarkable, but still enjoyed playing it. The weeks where I played it were fairly rough at work, thanks to some back to back over-night stuff, so I didn’t have a whole lot of energy and the brainless turn-based combat on offer was exactly the kind of low impact gaming I needed.

However, if you’re looking for a cheap alternative to traditional Pokémon you could do far worse than Nexomon. It hits all the right notes to pull off a successful imitation of Pokémon. Plus it has some pretty great creature designs and there is actually a story to motivate you forward instead of relying on a somewhat arbitrary set of goals to maintain forward momentum.

Doom Eternal

There was a time when I thought Doom Eternal would sneak into my top games of 2020, but (spoilers) it didn’t. I liked it a lot more than the Doom reboot from a few years ago owing to some fantastic combat arena design and greater enemy diversity. There was also more down-time between fights which gave things a much better sense of pacing allowing me to play through several levels at a time, which made it much easier to stick with to the very end.

However, while Doom Eternal does a lot right there are a handful of baffling design decisions that hold it back. The weak points that certain enemies have to specific weapons makes it feel as though you only have one correct option for dealing with about half of the enemy types. In addition, buff totems and Archviles are such an overwhelming threat that whenever either is present in an arena you need to eliminate them first removing any kind of decision making you would have made about prioritizing your targets. Both of these interrupt the simple flow state that made the previous title so satisfying.

Oh…also there is the Marauder. This enemy doesn’t take damage unless you shoot it before it attacks you. It is so antithetical to the design of the rest of the game by being both slow and incredibly tedious to deal with. I can’t understand how it even made it into Doom Eternal and it alone stands tall as the biggest blemish on otherwise quite good title.

Carto

Carto is a neat little game about cartography where you solve puzzles and explore by assembling and rearranging a map. I wrote about it last year in one of my indie variety hour posts and finally got around to playing it on Gamepass. Look forward to hearing more about it in the coming weeks.

No More Heroes

I’d never properly played through the cult classic No More Heroes and Mir fixed that by buying the Switch port when she couldn’t find the original Wii copy her brother used to own. I’m hesitant to call it a remaster because nothing about it really seemed to be remastered and the Joycons capture gesture controls a hell of a lot worse than a Wiimote does.

Despite my misgivings about the port, I still really enjoyed my time with No More Heroes. I don’t think I’ve played anything this intentionally stupid since Bayonetta and that made the experience very entertaining. Some of the boss fights weren’t my favourite owing to a heavy reliance on nonsense gimmicks, but generally they were the highlight of the game. I could have done without the goofy side-quests though had I played this back when the Wii hadn’t entirely outlived its welcome I’d have likely found them novel. Overall No More Heroes is dumb fun even though it aged like ass cheeks.

Carrion

Similar to Carto I played this one on Gamepass and you might be reading about it again in future.

Carrion is a reverse horror game where you play as the monster. It makes a handful of interesting decisions that I thought really enhanced the experience. For starters you have no map, which actively forces you to pay attention to the world around you to keep track of where you’re going and where you’ve been. This has the knock on benefit of causing players to take in environments looking for places they can slither by undetected so they can scoop up oblivious NPCs for a gruesome death.

The other neat thing is that you’re not incapable of dying. The game is designed such that if you run in unga-bunga style you’ll usually be ripped to pieces as the more damage you take the weaker you become. This encourages players to get into the headspace of a sneaky monster only revealing themselves and striking at the perfect moment.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon

Last mention for the month is Yakuza: Like A Dragon. This was my Christmas present from Miranda and I spent most of the holiday weekend playing it. I’m only about a third of the way through, but I’m enjoying it for a lot of the same reasons that I enjoyed Yakuza 0. The story and characters are well written, the side-quests are worth completing because they tell great self contained stories, and the mini-games are a fun distraction. It’s Yakuza through and through.

Despite that I do have two major misgivings. The first is that Yokohawa is too big. A part of why I liked Yakuza 0 was down to how small the map was. It was small, but dense. This meant you could run from one side to the other in less than a minute, but there was a ton of things to do across the whole of it. By contrasts, Yokohawa is easily three times the size and areas of interest are further apart which makes getting to the interesting places a lot more tedious.

The second major complaint is that all of the typical JRPG mechanics present are incredibly mediocre and actively harm the experience. They’ve added almost nothing of value while removing part of the charm of previous games. The short version of this complaint is that the relationship system is shallow, the job system doesn’t provide enough of an incentive to engage with it, and the turn-based combat is tedious and lacks meaningful decision making. I’m keeping things short for brevity, but I think there is a whole post’s worth of content here if I expand on my thoughts so hopefully I can delve into that in future.

I can appreciate wanting to do something different, but I’m glad all of the normal strengths of Yakuza are present to carry all of the JRPG sholk that severely holds Like A Dragon back from greatness.

Art

Here’s last month’s monsters.

Going through 2021 I need to learn to draw adhering to proportion sizes. I’ve watched a few tutorials on Youtube to figure out how to do that and I hope I can put that into practice for a more consistent set of art over the course of the year instead of free-handing everything to where nothing looks similar from drawing to drawing. We shall see.

Community

As with every post here are five posts from around the community that you should give a read if you haven’t already.

Irina | I drink and watch anime – What Even is 2020 – My Year in Search Terms

Do you ever get some really ridiculous search terms recorded on your WordPress site? Lord knows Irina does. Here she takes us through a year’s worth of the most interesting terms that were used by the lost souls of the internet to guide them to her blog.

Quietschisto | RNG – Random Cocktail Spotlight: The Gibson

Quietschisto walks us through the brief history of the Gibson cocktail, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I read his post on it. It’s a little random, but one of the few times I’ve spot-lighted content that is actually educational.

AK | Everything is bad for you – The shark says a: Exploring the appeal of VTubers

I didn’t know what a VTuber was and now I do thanks to AK. He walks through the basics of the streaming trend that has taken the internet by storm over the past several months. If you ever wanted to know why you keep seeing stream clips with cute anime girls in them then give this post a read. It is truly enlightening.

Nepiki | Nepiki Gaming – Emulation and video game piracy: is it really that bad?

Nepiki takes a look at emulation and piracy after Nintendo repeatedly whipped their johnson around over the matter this past Novemeber/December. While it isn’t legal by the letter of the law, Nepiki makes a handful of great points in favour of various edge cases where emulation is the only available option.

Kim | Later Levels – Sharing the gift of gaming

In the spirit of Christmas and as a tie in to DanamesX’s EXP Share community collab, Kim shares some of the times she’s shared the gift of gaming with others throughout her life. It’s a heart-warming post that covers a wide array of people and events from throughout her life where gaming helped to build or strengthen a bridge between herself and those around her.


That wraps things up for today. Stay tuned as my best and worst games of 2020 are next and I just know how everyone loves to read those. Stay safe out there and thanks for reading.

14 thoughts on “Month in Review: December

  1. After having to fight a couple of them, I am starting to get annoyed by the Marauders. Specifically the dog spirit thing it does. Pisses me right off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the link! If I can pull one reader into the VTuber rabbit hole with me by the ankles, it will have been worth it. I’ll also owe them a sincere apology.

    Watching your Carrion stream got me interested in that game. And regarding Yakuza, I can also appreciate how much they packed into the two districts in 0. They feel like real lived-in places, which I think must not be an easy thing for a game designer to pull off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re quite welcome.

      Yeah well you also had some help from Valomek (if you remember him from my stream chat), though I’m still on the fringe with this stuff looking in. Probably doesn’t help that the one I enjoy the most Garu does a lot of minecraft and that is a game I have no interest in watching hahaha.

      Carrion is certainly a neat game. Only about 5 hours long too, so it’s easy to dip in, try out, and complete in a sitting or two.

      Oh man. Yakuza 0 has such a good map. The density of that map and all of the things you can do in it really goes a long way in making the world come alive. It is one of the few open-worlds I’ve actually enjoyed entirely because it didn’t take super long to get to all of the good stuff. Also glad to hear you’re enjoying Yakuza 0 so far. I can’t vouch for 1-6, but I know Jay really enjoyed them. Hopefully you will too when you get to them. Though I do know that a lot of the side activities have overlap from game to game, so it might be advisable to split up your time with them. I dunno how quickly you’ll get burned out doing the same shit over and over again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I do remember Valomek’s help on the stream. Thanks, Valomek!

        As much as I like Gura, yeah, Minecraft is one game I will not watch on stream. I think some VTubers and streamers use it as a way to chill out and talk to viewers a bit, but then there are also plain talk streams for that. The funny thing is in that same group, there’s another English-language VTuber (Kiara) who I initially wasn’t into, but it turns out she’s a fan of weird niche JRPGs, which I’m all about. Not that I have time to watch seven-hour streams of Atelier Ryza but I appreciate that she’s doing them.

        Repetition can definitely get to me, but as long as the game gives me enough options to stay entertained, it’s fine. I like how Yakuza 0 doesn’t mind if I put the story on hold for hours to do whatever I want. If I end up just running through/skipping duplicative stuff in later games, I don’t mind that either, though it does sound like putting some of the side content aside in 0 isn’t a big deal for that reason.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. He’s constantly dragging me down weird ass rabbit holes.

          Ah so most streamers use it the same way I use art streams…or at least that’s half true. Art streams also give me a regular interval to practice a skill I’m constantly trying to improve too. But it seems like there is a vtuber for every flavour, so I’m sure there is someone out there who regularly streams something I’d want to watch.

          I’d say that is a fair estimation. The people who 100% all of these games blow my mind. I can’t imagine doing everything in each of the titles. And yeah that is nice. I found myself doing a lot of story for a few hours -> side stuff for a few hours until I finally got bored of the side stuff and shotgunned the main story. Yakuza, as a series, seems to really understand that putting the player first is the most important when it comes to games.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I have not heard about any of the games on your list, but I still have to say something about it. (Yes, it’s time for the first mega-comment of the year)

    Nexomon: I like how everyone always translates the words “unremarkable” or “average” as “bad game”, when in reality, it should be “neither good nor bad”. As you said, it doesn’t have any glaring issues and is generally enjoyable, but there’s nothing that other games haven’t done a lot better. I believe we talked about this for a bit when I played Valley, right?

    Doom: The Marauders have been criticised by everyone and their mom, but the weakpoint system has generally been praised for having you using different weapons all the time. I, too, can’t imagine how that won’t get annoying pretty fast, but hey, maybe it’s something that really works once you get used to it (or rather, I get used to it). Well, I still have Doom64 and Doom (2016) to play before I can start this one.

    Carrion: That sounds super-cool, playing as the bad guy is such an underrated thing! As I said in “VGs don’t make me love my wife enough”, villains seem to get the better end of characterisation. Plus, every game that decidedly has no (mini)map needs to be looked at. I’ll spare you the details, as I’m working on a post that discusses exactly this.

    Huh, that wasn’t so bad, now, was it? Anyway, Happy New Year!

    Also, this time you linked to one of my posts, and I *still* did not receive a notification…WP hates me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Re Nexomon: yes that’s more or less where I come down on it. With Steam’s binary review system that forces me into using a thumbs down since I wouldn’t recommend it on the basis of it being entirely unremarkable, but as you said that doesn’t make it “bad”. And you had mentioned it with Valley over discord, yeah.

      Re Doom: I really don’t know on that one. It did force me to use different weapons, but I was already doing that in Doom (2016) because the enemies had less obvious weaknesses to certain weapons. By making it so black and white I feel like some of the nuance to discovering what was most effective was entirely removed and replaced with a clear cut “you must do this” style of play that reduces some of the free flowing nature of the combat. It also boils a lot of decision making down into an optimizable decision tree, in some but not all instances, which is a little frustrating. I dunno…I liked it better than Doom (2016) in general, but there are aspects of Doom Eternal that really rub me up the wrong way.

      Carrion: Alrighty. Hopefully I can get off my lazy ass and write something a little more full bodied about the game to further push you into playing it. 😛

      Well…I’m sorry but I don’t have any control over that.
      Happy New Year and hope you don’t mind that I merged your 2 comments into one.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Islanders (alhtough I haven’t bought that yet…but I will, once it*s heavily reduced)
            Disco Elysium (I did not regret that at all)
            TitanSouls (I’m not sure if I bought that because of you or if I got that in a bundle prior to that, but I have it on my radar because of you)
            Besiege (Bought that after your horrible fail with the steering^^)
            Return of the Obra Dinn (your best recommendation so far!)
            I feel like I’m forgetting a procedural generated game…
            There are some others that you wrote about, like Outer Wilds, but those aren’t on my radar because of you, you just happened to play them before me.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the shoutout! It’s definitely sad to see that Nintendo keeps shooting themselves in the foot again and again, the last few months of 2020 were horrendous. They have every right to unfortunately, but sometimes they take it a bit too far. They’re definitely not helping with game preservation at least, with most of their games still locked behind specific consoles at high scalper prices, and then they also have the audacity to make the 3D Mario Collection AND the first ever Fire Emblem game a limited release that will disappear from digital storefronts after a specific date. It honestly makes me mad that they’re able to get away with everything they do but oh well, I’m afraid that’s just the reality of Nintendo’s main audience.

    Also good to hear that Nexomon is a competent game! I’ve had it on my wishlist for quite some time now and expected it to be nothing more than an inferior Pokemon game, but that’s not necessarily bad for me; as long as the actual game is not bad. Will definitely pick it up when I get the chance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nintendo is gunna Nintendo. It’s just how it is. Though I echo your frustration with people continuing to allow them to get away with it.

      Yeppers. I think Pokémon has the deeper battling mechanics, but the actual campaigns never ever ask you to make use of them, so on that basis Nexomon really is a successful imitator. For around twenty dollars it’s hard to go wrong though. Even if it does turn out to be a bit lackluster in your eyes it has a far cheaper entry price than Pokémon.

      Liked by 1 person

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