Month in Review – January

You know I still can’t believe it’s 2022. I know I published my best games of 2021 post last month, but ever since Covid began things feel completely stagnant. Even more stagnant than they felt before in fact. I have to imagine I’m not alone in feeling this way, however I’ve not yet decided to take to the streets like a complete degenerate as a means to vent my frustration. I don’t know how much circulation Canadian news gets in the world wide scale, but fuck those white supremacist’s marching in Ottawa. Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves for defacing a monument that represents the freedom you so desperately crave.

Speaking of degenerate behaviour, some of you may have noticed that I decided against posting a bottom five games list this year. Historically, this annual tear down of five games I didn’t enjoy playing has been one of my better performing posts. However, I decided that I no longer wanted to write an entirely negative slanted piece. Even my less favourable reviews tend to highlight some aspects of a game I enjoyed even if I found the overall experience lacking. Plus, I’ve gotten better at putting games down when I’m not enjoying them, so most of the games I didn’t like I only played for an hour or two. I barely remember the majority of them, so I think writing a full length post about why I disliked them would have been quite difficult.

Instead of spending my time writing a negative list, I spent the majority of January chronicling and editing my thoughts on Breath of the Wild. I’ve spent the bulk of that time working with my mysterious editing benefactor who has been a great help. She’s been very patient with me as lessons about commas, transitions, and style slowly sink in. It’s been fun to actually be learning again as I felt like my writing was at a standstill for quite some time. Having someone to help push me through that barrier has been awesome. Hopefully, I’ll internalize all of what I’m being taught such that I can stop bugging her, but in the meantime I am eternally grateful for my unidentified editor. She’s dope.

Unfortunately, as I continue to spend increasing amounts of time on editing, posting will slow down. I’m very okay with this as it gives me time to breathe, think, and learn which is ultimately the point of this exercise. However, that also means there is a huge lag time between when I actually finish playing something and when my written thoughts manifest on the subject. That said, I hope you all will enjoy reading my extended thoughts on games a month after hearing me talk about them on the podcast. And yes, that means once I finish working on Breath of the Wild, I’ll be moving over to writing about Dark Souls. So there’s a lot of good stuff in the works to stay tuned for.

Games

Based on the previous paragraph it should come as no surprised that I finally took the plunge into Dark Souls this past month. I finished my first playthrough with a character named Big Chungus, and am midflight on another named Scrungaloid. I’ve wanted to try out a proper Souls games, having played Sekiro, but I was always under the impression that the games would be super obtuse and frustratingly hard. As such, I recruited Meghan from Meghan Plays Games to help with onboarding me to Dark Souls. She was a great teacher and I had a fun time, though I think we were both expecting that I’d get my ass served up on a silver platter a lot more often.

After finishing the game almost two times, I feel my fears were unfounded. I’m not going to call Dark Souls easy, but I found it a lot more straightforward than I expected. The tempo of the game is a lot slower than I was expecting and that actually worked in the game’s favour. It’s a lot harder to get mad about dying to an attack when you had a 3 second telegraph to react to. Furthermore, deaths in Dark Souls just don’t feel like much of a setback. Sure, the runback from the bonfire can be a bit tedious, but it also provides the player with a moment to calm down and evaluate what changes are needed in their next attempt. That’s a far cry from what I’m used to in other games which either shunt you back to the start, or throw you back into the grinder with no time to reflect.

While I enjoyed Dark Souls, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have if you’d handed it to me several years ago. The various experiences I’ve had over the past few years and my changing mindset with regard to how I approach games are likely responsible for my enjoyment of it. I’m glad Meghan’s guidance gave me the courage to finally play Dark Souls and am eager to share extended thoughts on my time with the game in future.

On the topic of games I’m eager to share my opinions on, let’s delve into Monster Hunter Rise. There was no way that after playing World for over a thousand hours that I’d experience the same amount of enjoyment in Rise and unfortunately that is the case. While I like some of the changes in Rise, there are other things that feel like a massive step backwards. The environments work within the context of the game’s mechanics, but feel comparatively empty, monster interactions are extremely limited in scope, and items have been made almost entirely useless. I don’t think it is unfair to say that Rise feels hampered by the limitations of the Switch, which is where it was originally released.

That’s all without mentioning how I’m a little salty about the changes to the Hunting Horn. I was cautiously optimistic after playing the demo, but after playing 160 hunts with the revised Horn I can say it isn’t very good. Make no mistake, the weapon is fun to play, but it isn’t for the same reasons that made it fun in World. Positioning and song management don’t factor into your gameplan at all and those were aspects that distinguished the Hunting Horn from other weapons. Now players simply mash the same combo until they build up a meter and then unleash a super move. In a lot of ways it feels similar to the Charge Blade, or Long Sword but without any of the florishes that make both of those weapons unique. In short: I hate the new Hunting Horn.

While I don’t like the changes to my favourite weapon, other weapons made it out a lot better and I’ve had fun messing around with them instead. Furthermore, there’s a huge increase to the visual variety of monsters and weapons which is a much needed breath of fresh air compared to World. The wirebug mechanic (it’s basically a grappling hook) also makes combat a lot more fast paced which has ups and downs, but I view it as a net positive. So, while aspects of Rise left me underwhelmed, I still enjoyed it. I just don’t think I’ll put anywhere near the same amount of time into Rise as I did World.

I didn’t just spend all of January playing action games though, as I also played Room to Grow. This is a puzzle game where you have to push objects into their specified goal areas while having an ever expanding body. Think about it kind of like Snake except as your body gets bigger it runs the risk of getting in your way. Many of the game’s puzzles lure you into thinking they’re simple before you find out that you’re a little too big to finish them. As such, a lot of Room to Grow, ironically, focuses on how you can minimize your growth while still achieving the specified goal.

Even though you’ll focus on minimizing growth, levels tend to build on one another so I’ve felt an excellent sense of progress working through the game. If you’re in the market for a puzzler and don’t mind scratching your head until you finally unravel the solution then I’d recommend checking this one out. Unlike Rise and Dark Souls, I won’t be writing an extended piece on Room to Grow so consider this my recommendation if what I’ve described sounds at all interesting. I promise Room to Grow is worth the asking price.

Community

As always, it wouldn’t be a Month in Review without bringing up 5 swell individuals from around the blogging community who put out awesome work last month. Here are my January picks for things you should read if you haven’t already. Each is a great read.

Ian Shepard | Adventure Rules: I Hope You’re Ready for Me to Not Shut Up About Wildermyth

Ellie | The Almighty Backlog: Celeste

Naithin | Time to Loot: The Challenge of Picking a Main

Irina | I Drink and Watch Anime: What’s The Point of a Worst Anime of the Year?

Dan | Indiecator: PornHub is fine but Steam isn’t?


That’ll be it from me for now. Look forward to a big Breath of the Chungus retrospective in the coming weeks and perhaps something on Dark Souls. At the rate I’m writing I don’t want to overpromise on what I can actually deliver. See you in the next one!

2 thoughts on “Month in Review – January

  1. I saw you rocking through the achievements of Dark Souls on Steam, no surprise between your MH experience and Meghan holding the reins of your learning. 🙂

    I seriously think having someone — be it either in a coaching situation like this sounds to have been, or even just via a prerecorded walkthrough series — is maybe not the ‘only’ but certainly the best way to get into the Soulslike genre. 🙂

    Was great catching you and then later Meghan (by way of your raid on her Sister, hah) this month too! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It certainly minimized the amount of times I would have popped into Google to look something up, at least at the start. There were a few times where Meghan definitely provided a hard carry though – before I went to Blighttown she sent me back to the Asylum to collect the rusted ring, and also gave me a heads up to wear the curse prevention ring before running into the first encounter with the bald dragon. I’m also pretty sure I’d have missed 100% of the optional bosses without her there to point them out because those are really well hidden haha.

      And thank you for stopping by. It was nice to chat during the stream. Chatting with random folks from in the community as a replacement for my normal Friday night pub run was why I started streaming in the first place, so getting to chat while I game is always a plus.

      Liked by 1 person

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