Well that’s another terrible year sorted. I’m going to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure if I should do a year in review, or simply continue with my normal ol’ month in review posts. That was more thought than I wanted to invest though. Buckle in because I have a feeling this will be a long one.
Note while editing: it is indeed a long one.
Best Post: Learning to Charge Backwards with May
Best Post: The Awesome Combo Trainer of Them’s Fightin’ Herds
After finishing my Wildermyth article, I started working on a Guilty Gear Strive post, but decided to put it and all blog related activities on ice. When you’re constantly sprinting to the next objective it’s really hard to reflect on what you’ve done and consider where you’d like to make changes. With the aggressive posting schedule I had last year I never had time to sit and reflect. Thus, a three week break where I could come up for air seemed well overdue. I now have an idea for a target state I’d like to hit by this time next year, even if I haven’t worked out how to get there yet.
That’s future goals sorted, but what about past goals? Well, for 2021 I wanted to increase my blog’s traffic, and looking strictly at the numbers I did. However, I think this was a shithead goal. The reason being that while you can put your work out there, you can’t actually make people engage with it. So having a goal that is entirely decided by the whims of randomness was, frankly, a terrible idea. What’s worse, because my success was determined by randomness, I don’t even feel anything seeing the culmination of the effort I put in over the past year. Do you have any idea how awful it is to look at a year’s worth of work and feel nothing? Trust me when I say you don’t want to.
That said, look forward to a continued stream of content here in 2022. Feeling nothing after looking at my past year’s worth of work isn’t going to dissuade me from continuing to share my thoughts on the games I’ve been playing. There are still things I want to discuss that don’t work well in an audio format, so my blog will continue to act as a home for such things.
Oh, I’ll also have an obligatory top and bottom games of the year list coming sometime soon. With the December freeze I haven’t done much aside from figure out what will appear on both lists. I thought about skipping this annual tradition, but I know people love lists regardless of how degenerate I think they are, so I’ll have something to that effect shortly. Unfortunately, only about half of the games will be 2021 games as Chives cut quite heavily into my free cash budget. Though experience tells me that’s not a deal breaker for anyone, but it always feels a bit odd heavily featuring older games on an annual list.
Given I spent almost no time working on blog related content I had plenty of time to play games. Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of said time playing Guilty Gear Strive, but there were also a few other games in there that I have some stray thoughts on.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
I finally got around to playing the final game I bought during the big Steam summer sale just in time for the winter sale. Mankind Divided is a fairly fun game, but I do wish it put a greater emphasis on immersive sim mechanics. The game features a distracting amount of role-playing, even if it clashes with how you’ve chosen to play the game. Nothing quite takes me out of an experience like having characters comment on how I was too violent and shouldn’t rely on my firearms after I killed one person by accident in an otherwise non-lethal, stealth infiltration mission. Yes…definitely need to do less shooty shooty pew pew even though the guard was killed walking into a puddle that was exposed to an electrical wire. 100% my fault. Good job, game.
Speaking of, the writing in Mankind Divided is completely asinine, doubly so after what happened in 2020 and 2021. I appreciate the effort to put out a game that is trying to say something, as opposed to nothing (Ubisoft), but comparing a bunch of super-human augmented folks to people of colour has to be one of the most tone deaf things I’ve ever seen in a video game. There is no fucking comparison that can be made between a group of cyborgs that can jump six feet in the air, lift cars, and shoot swords out of their wrists and the people who regularly face discrimination and systemic oppression because of their skin pigmentation. It especially doesn’t help when the player controls, arguably, one of the strongest augmented individuals, which further demonstrate how ridiculous the comparison was in the first place.
Now, looking past the dogshit writing, Mankind Divided is actually a pretty fun game. I don’t think players are given as much freedom as they are in other system driven games, but what’s available is utilized quite well. You’re regularly given a variety of different ways to approach every problem in the game, which makes the whole of Mankind Divided criminally easy, but no less enjoyable for it. There are so many valid ways to navigate each of the different areas and I often felt like I had too much choice in my approach, which resulted in some great examples of how stupid I am.
Guilty Gear Strive
At this point, I don’t even feel like I need to call out that I was playing Strive. My assumption is that most will just assume I’m playing it because it is my fighting game of choice right now. With Baiken finally announced to hit the game sometime in early 2022, I’m not likely to stop playing anytime soon.
That said, December was the month where I finally decided to watch the five hour cutscene that is Strive’s story mode. It is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever watched, but it was truly captivating. The story one hundred percent crosses the line into so bad it’s good territory and after the first thirty minutes I was hooked until I saw the conclusion. I barely understood what was going on most of the time, but where else are you going to see a jacked up muscle bro drive a motorcycle off of a gunship with the president of the United States, while a Gundam fights a vampire samurai? 11.5/10 would watch again.
Oh, right. As stated earlier, I am planning to resume writing a piece on Guilty Gear Strive. I hope that it’ll be the last piece I write for a while that is explicitly about Guilty Gear, so you will all have that to look forward to. My hope is that it turns out well so I can feel satisfied enough to not keep bringing it up for elongated periods of time on the podcast or within posts like this one. With Baiken’s imminent release I don’t know if that’ll be the case however.
Almost forgot I played Death’s Door in December. I know I’d written that it would be one I’d tackle in the new year, but I decided to borrow it from Miranda instead of waiting for a sale.
Overall, Death’s Door is a fun game. The combat is satisfying, though I liked the purity of Acid Nerve’s previous game Titan Souls a lot better. The boss fights in Death’s Door make up far less of the game, and aren’t as purely focused on action as I’d have liked, but they’re still enjoyable romps. In fact, I’d favourably compare most of them to what you’d find in Zelda games. The level exploration also reminded me of Legend of Zelda, albeit there appear to be some other influences mixed in that I couldn’t quite nail down.
I think one of the absolute stand-out features of Death’s Door, however, is the music. The different tunes that play throughout the game’s world are fantastic and work well for enhancing every area you explore. The music also sounds great on its own, so you can give the soundtrack a listen without the context of the game for some great background music. Good stuff.
I’m of the opinion that Death’s Door is worth a look if you’re into action adventure style games with a heavier emphasis on exploration and combat. It won’t change your mind if you’re not already a fan, but it certainly delivers in spades on the few things it focuses on.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I’d meant to start this one in the new year, but I had nothing to do over Christmas so I spent most of it playing Breath of the Wild. I have a lot of thoughts on the game, some positive, some negative, but I think they’ll be better disseminated in a post entirely focused on Breath of the Wild. I realize this is a bit of a tease, but look forward to a big dumb Breath of the Wild post in the future. Hopefully I’ll be able to write, edit, and share that in a timely manner.
As with every month, here are five posts from around the community that you should read if you haven’t already. Yes, even though I wasn’t writing stuff I was still reading posts, albeit many folks also decided to take mini-breaks in December. Still – here are some stand-out pieces I read in December:
The Flames of Dark Souls Have Been Extinguished – Backlog Tale by DanamesX
Video Game Marketing and Manipulation by drmabian
Talking Shop #1: Grammar and Style by AK
[But…Why? #1] House Flipper by Naithan
Portal by Ellie
As always, thanks for reading my ramblings. See you in the next post!
Short of purposefully writing for SEO to a greater degree, or spending much more time networking specifically for the purposes of traffic generation — both things I personally find disgusting (pseudo edit: To spend time doing myself!) I think you’re right, beyond a certain point it’s really down to chaos and random happenstance.
WordPress recently informed me of surpassing 100k lifetime views — and while this wasn’t ‘nothing’, I certainly felt less for it than passing 500 published posts, which WP didn’t feel was important enough to notify me of. (Although it looks like wp.com does tell you of published post milestones, just for whatever reason that wp.org doesn’t — even with Jetpack installed.)
Glad you’re going to keep going in any case. I love your work. 🙂
re: Mankind Divided — I played it a long time ago and, this is going to shock you, I didn’t finish it. So it’s entirely possible I’m missing or forgetting something particularly egregious or that nullifies my next point.
That caveat firmly in place, I’m not sure we should have such a problem creating parallels for racism or other isms. Ideally they wouldn’t be required but since we’re not there I think, when done well, they offer a way to reach people and plant at the very least a seed that would otherwise be impossible to reach. Give them that, ‘Hey! These people are cool! I like these people! … But people are mean to them because of single-xyz-thing, that’s not OK!’
I don’t expect that, alone, this is exactly going to go out and change very many hearts and minds but perhaps as part of a broader set of exposures to the concept, repeated versions of this message being sent, well, maybe some good can come from it.
Of course, I don’t expect ‘social good’ is very high up on the list of reasons most commercial entities would pursue such a story though. Heh.
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I getcha. Neither of those things are really my preferred wheel house either. Albeit, some of my best content is very SEO friendly, but that was more a happy coincidence than something I thought about and planned for prior to releasing the article.
Re: Mankind Divided – I generally agree with what you’re saying, and, as I said, I appreciate the effort to actually try instead of going with something safe that doesn’t really say anything. I still don’t think Mankind Divided works well drawing a parallel with racism because the augmented folks are regularly shown to possess a great deal of power that could be used to change their immediate situation or otherwise fight back against their oppressors. Jensen himself could easily take out an entire police squad, and (spoiler) in the final mission of the game a group of augmented terrorists kill an entire specialized security team without sustaining a single injury. Augmented folks in Deus Ex are regularly painted as being nothing short of super heroes in terms of what they can do. The same can’t be said for people of colour (in North America) who are regularly powerless against the day to day oppression they face from institutions that are supposed to protect them or otherwise have their best interest at heart. That’s why the parallel doesn’t work: one group can reasonably fight back against their oppressors, while the other can’t.
So…generally speaking, I think Deus Ex MD comes off as tone deaf, but I still like that Eidos tried to say something. The specific parallel may not have worked, but I’d still give them a gold star for trying. Though, keep in mind I’m not a person of colour, so someone who is might have a better insight into if trying and failing does more harm than not trying at all.
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I know what you mean about seeking out views. My feeling about it is that unless you’re working with a profit motive, it’s not all that worth it, though of course I’d always like to have more readers. But you’re right about the difference between having readers and having engagement. I’d much rather have one-tenth the readership and the same level of engagement with comments and discussions than ten times the readership but no engagement at all. It really would feel empty (and at that point, I may as well try to monetize, which would defeat the purpose of writing for me as an escape from my working life.)
Best wishes this year, and thanks for the link! I have more to bullshit about this month once I get the current work I have off my back.
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That’s a fairly good way to look at it, I reckon. And I bought the basic wordpress plan specifically to remove ads from my site so I have no plans of monetizing my work…ever. I mean that’d be a cool pie in the sky kind of thing, but I definitely don’t have the kind of readership or engagement numbers to support such a thing.
Thank you and same to you! And you’re quite welcome. I look forward to reading whatever it is once it manifests.
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