in 2023, i completed 39 games — my lowest since 2015 — but for a good reason. now im going to review them all!

Doc Burford
69 min readJan 21, 2024
armored core 6, a game i did not finish this year, but this screenshot is mine. i’m working on it.

This was both the best and worst year of my life. I’ve been dealing with some intense medical stuff since May, when my doctors started focusing on my intestines, which has led to a whole lot of complicated medical shit. It’s been rough! Real rough! There’s also been some personal tragedy, grieving, stuff like that. It really slowed down my game-playing time.

That said, the single biggest time expenditure I’ve had other than bedrest was… dun dun dun… making two video games! One of them is quasi-announced. That’s Waifu Death Squad, formerly known as Waifu Death Squad Zero.

This is because we were working on Waifu Death Squad 2 at the time, hoping it would be the next game after Adios, but we realized it would cost too much to make, so we worked on a prequel to the incident that sets off the events of Waifu Death Squad 2. We started calling it Waifu Death Squad Zero. But when we got it funded, obviously it has to be the first game, so Waifu Death Squad became Waifu Death Squad 2, and Waifu Death Squad Zero became Waifu Death Squad.

I try to talk about it a lot on Twitter so that when it’s done, people can play the game, compare it to my tweets, and see how the ideas evolved over time. I use the phrase “waifu death squad” because it’s easy to search and we haven’t revealed the game’s more appropriate real name yet.

Talking about it on Twitter is kind of my version of a developer commentary or journal. As you know, if you’ve been reading my articles, I want to show you how to draw the whole rest of the owl, so to speak. No “so you come up with a couple ideas, then you make a game.” I’m showing as much of it as I can in the hopes that it will help you make your own stuff.

Obviously, I’m not tutorializing how to actually build the software itself — that would involve tutorializing a ton of disciplines, from 3D Modeling to programming to making music, right? That’s a bit much. So for now, I’m just setting up the theory side of things — helping you figure out how to plan out your game. Learning the software will be up to other instructors. Consider this Game Design Theory 101.

I think game development is often too secretive for its own good, and I’m saying that as someone who wants to release a coffee table book with our entire script and redact a bunch of spoilers for future projects while leaving notes in the margin talking about the script. I like that kind of thing; I like to consume that kind of thing. I’m the guy who has like four terabytes of special features ripped from my DVDs and Blu-Rays, and I watch ’em just to learn stuff!

That’s what drives me! Sometimes, people read my articles, and they’re not really the intended audience for them. Anyone’s allowed to read what I’m doing, obviously, but some people are coming at this from an enthusiast standpoint; they’re looking for hagiographic coverage of their favorite devs and games. I’m interested in describing the machinery; I’m fascinated by understanding how it works. That’s why I play what I play — to learn and get better at this stuff.

Also there’s the whole “going to another world” thing I like doing.

It’s really cool to see actors like Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside discussing, say, working on the set of the movie Extreme Prejudice and talking about working with guys like Nick Nolte and Rip Torn. In my own way, I want to try to provide that same material for you. I hope you enjoy it. Buuuut… Waifu Death Squad did cut into my gaming hours a bit. I’m working all the time now, haven’t been this busy since 2021 when we were shipping Adios — honestly, we’re more busy now than ever before. I’m pacing myself, trying to structure my time so I don’t burn out, but the time is occupied. No more waiting for publishers to get back to me and so on.

Also, I’m not gonna say who it is yet, but I really, really love the publisher we’re working with. The people are friendly, energetic, and seem genuinely excited in our game’s success. Like… the vibe I get is that plenty of them would be fans of our game even if they weren’t publishing it. That’s exciting.

My team’s been crushing it too; so grateful to all of them for the work and energy they’re bringing. Harder to talk about them, because I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything, but trust me: these fellas fuckin’ rock.

At Mischief, we also developed multiple projects, did some work in non-game media we can’t talk about yet, and set up the basis for a second video game. That can be pretty hard to do, but hey, I’m a disabled dude who lives alone. I don’t got much on my plate. So, yeah, I dropped from 74 game completions in a year to 37. Ultimately, it was invigorating to be working on a bunch of creative stuff.

Just counting the number of projects — movies, games, television, other stuff, you name it — I worked on this year, there’s Waifu Death Squad, and then there’s maybe six or seven more after that, all in various stages of completion? That’s awesome! I think it’s crucial that we celebrate our wins — it’s important to bolster our self-confidence — and we’re fuckin’ killing it.

alan wake 2

As for Waifu Death Squad, which we began developing in April, I just ran my latest check and we’re at 220,000 words written! For reference, my average article lately is like 15,000 to 20,000 words, and that’s another ~25,000 words a month or so on top of it, in addition to all the business and team management and publisher meetings, which is a lot. I’m incredibly excited, and the early impressions of the script from people I trust to let me know if it’s bad ranges from “this is very interesting” to “phenomenal,” so I’m feeling we’re on the right track.

Now, let’s see what we were hoping to get to this year and whether or not we did:

Deathloop
Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy 12
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Digital Devil Saga
God of War 2
Persona 4 Golden
Dragon’s Dogma
Dark Souls 1, 2, and 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna: The Golden Country
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Persona 3 Portable PC

Well, I missed a lot of them, but some for… really fun reasons. Deathloop, no, I just missed that one. Final Fantasy 9? Well, I was having serious computer problems, reinstalled Windows… and discovered that Final Fantasy 9 doesn’t use Steam cloud saves, it has its own custom cloud save bullshit.

That… dispirited me pretty heavily. I meant to go back, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried playing Vagrant Story, but really struggled with the gameplay (only a couple frames to hit a button that makes your attack better and it’s essential gameplay? sorry, either the emulator is bugged or my disabled ass just can’t handle fast button presses like that anymore, but considering I can finish Like A Dragon’s Karaoke stuff without missing a button, I dunno). I loved the vibes of Vagrant Story, but man, that could use a remake.

Because of that, I didn’t get to Final Fantasy 12. KOTOR, I’ve dropped for other reasons. I’ll be open to the possibility of returning to it, but I’m going to leave that in someone else’s hands.

Digital Devil Saga, I actually started. I’m playing it now. I’m having fun. I’m also playing Persona 4 Golden — just recently finished Rise’s dungeon and am waiting on the next phase in the story to begin. When I realized how far behind I was in games, I put them on the back burner since they were pretty big titles.

I finished Dark Souls with some friends, and we got nearly all the way through Dark Souls 2. For disability reasons, I can’t really play it on my own; I count on other people and their willingness to play it. Should be an early completion here in 2024, but who knows? A big issue was that Dark Souls had some server/remote code vulnerability stuff in 2022, and when it came back up, we couldn’t connect until we found out that having more than 16 characters in a Steam name will make it impossible to connect with your friends. Fun fact.

speaking of games i need to finish… Destroy All Humans! (the remake)

God of War 2, well, I remembered I had not finished one of the other God of War games, so I finished that one instead. Easy substitution. Persona 3 got a remake announced, so I held off on that, but the plan was initially to start it after Persona 4 Golden.

That just leaves the Xenoblade DLC and Xenoblade 3. They felt way, way too big to actually get to — those games are dozens of hours each — and I already played some utterly massive expansions this year, which I’ll talk about in this article, because they were so massive, they could have been full games themselves. Seriously, I think Cyberpunk’s Phantom Liberty DLC was like a solid 30–40 hours of game.

So let’s talk about what we played this year! Hopefully I can beat a few more next year if my health improves! Of course, if any of the Secret Projects we’re working on bear fruit, it’s entirely possible I’ll play even fewer games. Who knows?

Now, before we get to the writeup, I have to rattle the tip jar. However, this one is a bit different. I’m linking my friend Laur here first; Laur’s been through a lot, she’s looking for work, and I don’t have a lot of money myself, but I figured, hey, I could include her link here and help her make rent next month. So, I’m going to include Laur’s link here, and if you’re thinking of tipping me, please consider tipping Laur first. While I can use the help, Laur needs it more and deserves all the help in the world.

Laur’s Paypal

The bit after this is the usual boilerplate that I include in every article. It’s still true, helping me does help, but please, please, please help Laur.

This is how I pay for medical care. I apologize for having to post it, but, hey, the articles are free. I’m just making a bet that some people out there think my work is cool enough to support.

If you want to support the work I do, like this article about the biggest pitfall young writers face and how to get around it, then hey, hit up my tip jar.

I figure this kind of writing helps inexperienced writers the most — which means people who might not have the finances to afford my work if I kept it behind a paywall. A paywall would help me, obviously — I could guarantee a certain minimum that would ensure my ability to continue writing these articles — but the people who need my help the most cannot afford it. So I gotta rattle the tip jar. I know it’s not

I, personally, can only do this with your support; if I wasn’t doing this, I’d have to get a second job, and as disabled as I am, that’s really not great. I have to spend between $145 and up to an entire Nintendo Switch’s worth of my income on medical care every two weeks. Seriously, it was $300 not too long ago. That’s an extremely difficult burden for me.

So it’s either do this or get a second job, and a second job would not be ideal given my current disability. So when you send me a tip, you’re not just helping a disabled writer like me, you’re helping tons of students, disabled people, and others without access. Thank you.

paypal.me/stompsite

ko-fi.com/stompsite

@forgetamnesia on venmo

$docseuss on cashapp

Here are my other writeups:

  • 2016: 52 games completed, 6 DLC completed, 100 games removed from backlog
  • 2017 (unwritten. i should write it this year. might be fun): 52 games completed, 8 DLC completed, 180 games abandoned
  • 2018: 65 games completed, 12 DLC finished, 235 games abandoned
  • 2019: 57 games completed, 0 DLC finished, 227 games abandoned
  • 2020: 73 games completed, 11 DLC finished, 55 games abandoned
  • 2021: 79 games completed, 3 DLC finished, 0 games abandoned, 1 game SHIPPED
  • 2022: 74 games completed, 0 DLC finished, 1 game abandoned
  • 2023: well, that’s this one, but the summary is 39 games completed, 3 DLC finished, 2 games abandoned.

2023 is definitely the least-busy year ever, but, hey, it’s still a lot! So let’s talk about the games we finished — because I did play more than that — then!

Here’s an important rule: the games are listed in the order they were completed, not ranked. I do not like to rank games; it’s not really possible to compare all the games I play in a year. What could I do to compare, say, Dark Souls and Dungeon Village 2? It’s not possible. Instead, I give them grades based on how much I liked them on their own merits, with an S-rank going to a game I would definitely replay and (not always, but sometimes) learned a lot from.

as usual, all screenshots are ones I took unless stated otherwise. if i don’t have a screenshot, i tend to just use trailers for roundup articles like these.
  1. Dark Souls (PC)

A while ago, I wrote an article about how difficult it was to play Dark Souls on my own due to my disability. Obviously a lot of very stupid and shitty people jumped in to say, basically, “how dare you! The existence of variable height on a basketball hoop invalidates Michael Jordan’s achievements as an athlete so there shouldn’t be variable heights depending on the size of the people playing the game! Small 4' tall children should be required to play at the same height as Michael’s 6'6” frame found comfortable!”

It’s preposterous. But, hey, some very good friends offered to help me out through the series, and I was able to get through them. Dark Souls is definitely my least favorite of what I’ve played so far (Demon’s Souls, then Bloodborne, then Elden Ring, and yes, then Dark Souls. I’ve technically finished Dark Souls 2 minus some DLC stuff; a couple bosses and blam, time to finish Dark Souls 2. Also Nioh 2, if we’re counting that).

We also played through the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, which was neat. Good fight.

Ultimately, I think Dark Souls suffers from a couple things — the really, really big one is that the first two levels are some of my least favorite in the series. While the whole game is interestingly intertwined, I found the halls a lot more narrow than later games (though it also felt like Demon’s Souls had larger combat spaces too). As a dex build, I found my weapons degrading pretty fast! Didn’t love that. I think on the whole, Bloodborne still has my favorite game feel.

Dark Souls gets better over time — I really liked the underground volcano-type place a lot, for instance, though I didn’t like the Bed of Chaos fight itself because I hate platforming in these games, haha. They don’t feel like they’re made for jumping in.

Good game, see why it launched the phenomenon, least favorite in the series. Dark Souls 2 is way, way more my speed and vibe.

2. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)

“Fucking huge” is an accurate way to describe every Xenoblade game. They’re easily 80+ hours in length, grandiose epics in amazing worlds, rich with fun characters and awe-inspiring vistas. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is no exception, though I still don’t get the obsession with the alien creatures called “Nopons.” They’re annoying and I should be allowed to destroy them.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a story about the most annoying boy on earth, named Rex, and his epic quest to get not one, not two, but three girlfriends who are also the same person. He does this, somehow. Do we know why these gorgeous babes want him? No. Rex sucks.

And yet the game is funny and exciting. It’s a good, rip-roarin’ time, and I will always give Xenoblade games the room they need to breathe. I could’ve beat more games in 2022, but I wanted to beat Xenoblade. Didn’t quite make it — ended up finishing in January 2023, but, hey, we did, ultimately, make it.

To understand how games impact people, I spend a lot of time introspecting; why did I do this? say this? feel this? What drives me? What did I notice that made me go “oh, what’s that”? Then I talk to other people, try to figure out their motives (without sounding like a weird scientist). People can attest — when I’m watching them stream on Discord or whatever, I’m going “what does that do? and why do you do something like that?” and so on.

Xenoblade Chronicles, for me, is a game I play because I like checking off checklists. Always have. Tick, tick, tick. Just doing things and ticking the box when it’s done. I just did that in Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (you’re gonna have to wait a while for my opinions on that, sorry. just finished it on January 19, 2024); it satisfies me. Not everyone is motivated by that, though. Some are gonna like the story, the world, the combat, whatever. But for me, yeah, it’s “doing all the quests I can find, maxing out bars, filling out checklists,” and all that.

I think I’m gonna start Xenoblade Chronicles 3 after I finish Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth.

3. Dead Space (Remake) (PC)

Was I expecting Dead Space to be good? Honestly… I wasn’t sure. Most remakes aren’t as amazing as Resident Evil 2 was, but, hey, Dead Space absolutely fuckin’ delivered. There were a few changes I wouldn’t have made (level design stuff), but plenty that made it a better experience. I still prefer Dead Space 2’s breakneck pace and more daring set pieces, but Dead Space (remake) reworked the Ishimura into more of a place to explore.

Dead Space, the original, was a loose remake of System Shock 2, though not as good because it didn’t have the character writing that made System Shock 2 so special. Dead Space still followed the same rough progression, improved the art (at least, as far as the near-decade gap between 1999’s System Shock 2 and 2008’s Dead Space could get you), had way better combat thanks to the cool weapon beam system and more fluid use of physics… but System Shock 2 was just… a bit more special, in my opinion.

Some people were upset that Isaac now has a face (he also had one in Dead Space 2, that’s how you get the needle in the eye bit! it’s kind of important!), but it’s his original voice actor’s face and it works, so who gives a shit?

In my gut, Dead Space (remake) is mostly a better game than Dead Space (original), but it loses a bit of the visual identity — that sort of quasi-retro thing that Dead Space (original) had going on — in the process. I think they sanded off a couple of the edges I wish were still there, but the gameplay is, mmf. Oh yeah. It’s tight.

Playing Dead Space (remake) is weird — it’s not how you remember it, and the friction from that realization is strange, but it was deeply fun. I wasn’t expecting it to be one of the best horror games I’ve ever played, but hey, it was. I do think I might slightly prefer the original game, however. This is one of the rare, rare games I gave an S-rank rating to. I don’t normally talk about ratings, but that one got an S-rank from me.

4. Ixion (PC)

Saw a friend streaming Ixion and had to give it a try, and I’m really glad I did. It’s a linear city builder — the city is built on a space ship traveling from point A to point B. I decided to do some market research for Various Reasons and check it out.

It’s really good! Great music, amazing vibes, awesome premise (you’re in a colony ship which you are repairing as you travel throughout space) that’s real similar to something I’ve been working on for a while. Had to admire what my peers were doing.

It makes a few mistakes — for instance, I accidentally set a machine to melt some ice to make water, and then the machine filled up with water, and I had too much water, but no way to transport it anywhere. I couldn’t destroy the building to make room for a more essential building because I couldn’t figure out a way to get water out of the building. Ixion won’t let you destroy a building without removing the resources, but water, apparently, isn’t a resource you can store. Only ice.

Occasional things like this meant I had to restart the game a few times, which could be a bit frustrating. That’s all in the tuning, though. The core design is quite cool.

I didn’t love the story, but it’s hard to do a story at this scale. I’m hoping one day someone will be able to crack it. Ixion doesn’t. But it did give me plenty of entertainment over a long period of time. I’d probably buy a sequel or DLC if they sold it. Those 11k positive reviews definitely aren’t wrong.

5. High On Life (PC)

High On Life is basically a playable Rick and Morty episode, which means that, unfortunately, Justin Roiland is there, though the company got rid of him after a bunch of legal shit, so at least there’s that.

What I wasn’t expecting to tell you is that High On Life is one of the best games I played in 2023. My enjoyment definitely would’ve been ruined if I knew more about the Roiland situation, but a friend had gifted it to me and I wanted to be a good friend back.

I wasn’t expecting a genuinely fun Metroid Prime style game with significantly better controls, some genuinely funny writing, and great weapons; High On Life knows it’s a sci-fi game and it’s determined to make sure the weapons live up to that premise. Tim Robinson (from “I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson”) is one of those weapons. If they did a DLC where Joe Pera was another one of those weapons, I’d probably buy it in a heartbeat.

Anyways, Fuck Roiland, but he’s gone now, so go check out the game. It’s funny as shit, but if you hate the writing, turn off the sound and just… run around in it. Use the grappling stuff, check out the game feel. There’s something there, man. I really like it.

6. The Outer Wilds (Xbox)

Well.

You should play this one. It’s a fascinating mechanical orrery of a game that I can’t really even begin to describe to you. I can tell you it’s first person, and I can tell you it’s the only game I’ve played so far where deduction actually felt like a significant part of the play experience.

The reason it works is because you’re deducing “what to do next” or “where to go next,” and treating the entire space you are in like a puzzle. You’re learning about where things will be and then getting there in time to be able to access them on a 20 minute timer (the sun explodes every 20 minutes, obliterating you).

In detective fiction, most deduction tends to be character focused — “why did this guy murder that guy?” and that sort of thing — but that’s way, way harder to do for a computer because, like, how do you actually measure player intent? How can a player ‘deduce’ something? Most people — and, hell, we’re doing a bit of this on Waifu Death Squad — put down a bunch of clues like puzzle pieces. Figure out the correct order, and bam! Do that. Danganronpa games do it, Alan Wake II does it, it’s kind of the accepted way to do things… but The Outer Wilds’ approach feels more like deduction.

The Outer Wilds bypasses intent and just goes for more of a “when/where/how do I find the parts I need?” You just need to figure out where something will be, go there, and wait to see if it shows up, which, if you deduced correctly, it will. It’s a spatial puzzle.

Obviously, you can’t do that for every game. In The Outer Wilds, the universe resets every 20 minutes; you can get a good sense of when something will happen, so you know where you need to be in order to make it work. If we were doing the same quest in an open world game like Mafia III, which is dozens of hours long… well, think about all the things that would need to occur to let the player know where a character is gonna be.

There’s a limit to what you can accomplish as a developer — making a sixty hour game with the same kind of spatial deduction as The Outer Wilds would be impossible; The Outer Wilds presents a specific solution to a specific problem that can only work with the rest of its design as well. I don’t think you can apply its solution to, say, what we’re doing in Waifu Death Squad.

It is a game I greatly admire with a singular presentation that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I’m not sure quite how I feel about the ship controls, and I had to Google a couple of the puzzles, because I’m very dumb about puzzles, but I do think this is an essential game for people to play, not to imitate (because I don’t think you can imitate it), but so you can go “oh, wow. Okay. Games can do things outside of the usual paradigms, huh.”

7. Hot Springs Story (PC)

I love management games. As a person with chronic pain and chronic fatigue issues, I often find that laying in bed and playing a chill management game is legitimately a great way to get out of my own body for a while.

Kairosoft makes games I’d argue are among the best of the best; it always bummed me off how some different developer I forget the name of just copied Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story to make their own game dev-story-clone game. It especially bummed me out when that game got a lot of positive press for including “oh wow, people are pirating our games! that sucks!” in their ripoff. Like, sure, it’s not the same as piracy, but you’re still taking someone’s work, doing nothing to transform it in an interesting way, and then acting like you got some kind of moral high ground against the people stealing from you, like a guy who gets mad at people ‘stealing’ his AI art prompts when his AI model is trained on unauthorized art.

At its core, a Kairosoft game has three basic currencies: money, which you use to buy rooms, buildings, ingredients, or even recruit people, experience, which is usually gained passively by achieving specific goals that unlock tools to help grow your economy, and research points, which also let you unlock tools to grow your economy.

So maybe you buy a building (in a game like Epic Astro Story, which, between the time I began drafting this and today, as I return to it, on January 20, 2024, I just completed a few days ago), or facility (in a game like Hot Springs Story), or an ingredient/theme (if you’re doing their Sushi/Ramen/Manga games).

After people use that object enough, maybe you get a set amount of experience. Earn enough, and you rank something up. Meet enough of the unlock requirements — ranking things, building a set number, having it used a certain amount of times — and you’ll be able to use research points to buy the ability to unlock the thing and gain access to it regularly.

With this simple framework, Kairosoft does a billion different things. Hot Springs story is about taking a building and physically expanding it, running a hot spring, like you’d expect. Epic Astro Story is about exploring the map and unlocking new facilities. Game Dev Story is about putting together a crew and finding the right ‘ingredient’ combinations to make a compelling game.

That’s… well, that’s really it. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. I like this kind of game a lot.

8. Ninja Village (PC)

This entry will be short because it’s another Kairosoft game, so I’d just repeat myself, even though a bunch of the things you do are different. That Kairosoft core is still there. If Hot Springs Storage was about managing a single business, Ninja Village is about both building and growing a village and also conquering nearby villages by growing an army and sending them out on missions. I liked it a great deal. Highly recommended. You already read the above bit about Kairosoft! There’s nothing more to say! I love just about all of these games!

9. Yakuza Kiwami (PC)

Oh, man. Oh, man.

Yakuza Kiwami is a remake of the original PlayStation 2 Yakuza game. The series sold enough to get sequels, but I’d argue that the series wasn’t really huge until the release of Yakuza 0 for PlayStation 4, a prequel to Yakuza. It was followed shortly after by Kiwami and Kiwami 2, remakes of the first two games.

The series is called “Like a Dragon” now, to bring it in line with the Japanese name for the series, with that transition point beginning in Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and now with Like A Dragon: Ishin! (which I’m playing off and on) and Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name (which I just finished. it made me cry in a good way).

Where Dead Space was a total rework of the original game— rich with improvements or structural changes — Kiwami and Kiwami 2 don’t change quite so much, especially Kiwami, though it does have the Majima Everywhere system, where Goro Majima, the long time nemesis/rival/ally of series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu, will appear in different forms to try and pick fights with Kiryu.

The thing is, the meat is still here — this is an interesting game about cool characters doing neat shit. When Kazuma Kiryu goes to jail to protect his bro, Nishiki, he loses touch with the woman they both love, Yumi. When Kiryu returns, he discovers that Yumi had a daughter while he was in prison, but not with Nishiki. Shit gets wild from there.

It’s a really good game, but it’s not as fully fleshed out as later Yakuza games would be. Having begun the series with Yakuza: Like a Dragon (a soft reboot), Yakuza 0, and then then Judgment and Lost Judgment (side stories), I wasn’t expecting a game quite this stripped back, but it was still a good time.

Ultimately, I think Yakuza Kiwami might be a good way to start the series — as a pretty faithful adaptation, it doesn’t add a lot, as I understand it, but it’s a great way to dip your toes into one of the best video game series there is.

10. Digimon World Next Order (PC)

I love Digimon. It’s the whole reason I’m here — watching that first bumper on Fox Kids at my friend Hiram’s house after we got done watching an episode of Magic School bus blew my mind. Devidramon looked so cool menacing those kids as his boss, Myotismon, headed out to go take over the Earth.

It’s hard to explain how formative that series was for me, but I never really got around to playing the games, since I grew up not really having access to games other than what I could sneak onto my computer growing up, and I didn’t know about emulation for a long, long while. So I just… kinda missed ‘em.

And then along comes Digimon World: Next Order, which is a sorta reboot, sorta not reboot game. I liked it a lot, though I did eventually get to a point where I was tired of just doing the quests and making sure my Digimon’s physical needs were met.

It’s a very strange game, with a lot more life sim elements than something like Pokemon, which is a more traditional JRPG.

11. Resident Evil 4 (Remake) (PC)

There was a rumor a while back that after the nigh-flawless Resident Evil 2 (faithful, but willing to improve) remake and the very, very flawed Resident Evil 3 remake (which deviated a lot from the already small original game to make it even smaller for some reason), that the people working on Resident Evil 4 tried to reboot it to make it more like Resident Evil 2 Remake. According to that rumor, execs at Capcom pulled that team off the project, put some different people on it, and encouraged them to make some changes.

I am not sure how I feel, having heard that.

Resident Evil 4 remake feels good to play, no question. However… little changes to the level design and pacing of the game mean it doesn’t quite have the chunky differentiation that made the original game so memorable. It’s like they sanded down the lows, which is good, but they sanded down the highs, too, making for a game that just… doesn’t quite hit Resident Evil 4’s peaks as an experience, but is vastly superior as a basic survival horror game in terms of things like “how the player character moves when you push the joysticks” and stuff.

It’s a game I like, but the changes don’t feel as considered as they did in Dead Space. It’s not as vanilla as Yakuza Kiwami was either. It’s just kinda…

Well, here’s an example: there’s a cliff face you traverse at one point in the original game. In the remake, I was looking forward to getting there, and it took me a long while before I realized I’d already passed that location. We went from a big cliff face overlooking a huge lake high in the mountains (which the engine can do — there’s a similar sequence in Resident Evil 8) to… a very narrow canyon.

The mechanics are there, but the vista changes, and with it, the feeling of being a small little guy on an epic cliff face. It’s a change that makes it look more like that area of Spain, but… less awe-inspiring at the same time. It’s a game; you should be focusing on the feelings you’re trying to create!! That’s the whole point!

There’s a bit in Resident Evil 4, the original, where you sneak into a temple, up a ladder, and find a bunch of goons doing some evil god worship stuff. You can throw a grenade in the middle and kill nearly all of them. It was clearly designed as an encounter for you, the player, to feel empowered with, a kind of “fucking finally, I feel strong!” Resident Evil 4 remake completely reworks that scene — the enemy placement is changed so that little moment of victory is no longer possible. Instead, it’s Just Another Encounter, not A Reward Where You Get To Feel Awesome After A Difficult Journey.

Resident Evil 4, on a basic mechanical level (push forward, Leon moves forward, pull the trigger, shoot the guy, and so on) plays so much better than the original, but the encounter design, the discrete chunkiness of it all, is gone.

12. Dredge (PC)

How to explain Dredge? It was going to be my Game of the Year until something else came along. Dredge is zen, which is really strange, considering that it’s a horror game, but there you have it.

I read an essay once by Thomas Grip, one of the Amnesia developers, who argued that planning is the reason a game feels good. I also recall Dan Pinchbeck of The Chinese Room saying in a 7DFPS video that there’s basically two kinds of shooters —reactive shooters, like Doom 3, where enemies jump out and surprise you, and the strategic Halo style, where you can see the level ahead of you and plan things out.

Dredge is, you could say, a strategic game. Because it’s on the ocean, there isn’t exactly level design — the ocean is simply a big flat plane, after all. Not a lot of cover, moving up and down, or other stuff you expect in a normal 3D video game. Instead, you look around, and while you’ve got some islands you can putter around, most of the points of interest you’re going to look at are resources that you need to dig up.

So, Dredge is a game about finding resources, getting to them safely, and then bringing them back home. The various dangers that lurk in the ocean — and they are weird, like the ghost ships that turn out to be anything but — and you’ve got to avoid them on your way back.

Fishing itself is a series of various rhythm minigames — think about the original Alan Wake’s generators, where you wait for a dot to move around a circle until it hits the green bit, then you press a button. Now imagine other variations of that kind of minigame. Dredge has several; it breaks things up well.

It’s incredibly elegant — never does too much, never does too little. It has just enough to keep you engaged at all times, with a world that’s built so well, tuned so perfectly, that nothing ever takes too long; you never get bored.

I remember an interview with Todd Howard once where he was asked what he thought Bethesda did well; instead of the usual PR drivel of story or art or whatever, he just goes “I think we space our points of interest out really well,” which explains a lot about why Bethesda’s games tend to sell insanely well and get so many people pumped, even though the hardcore gamers get mad that the games aren’t ‘core’ enough for them.

Dredge is one of those insanely rare games where everything is spaced so well and paced so beautifully that it’s easy to just get lost at sea, picking up scraps of wood and fishing for the right kind of fish to sell.

13. The Dark Pictures: The Devil In Me (PC)

I have a weird relationship with Until Dawn, a game I quite liked, in part because it didn’t chicken out and make the scary supernatural shit some kind of metaphor for the character’s guilt that they’re only seeing because it’s in their head. It was like “hey, this is real, this is bad, this is scary. Got it? Alright, cool.”

There were weird, sometimes cool things in Until Dawn, like the butterfly effect system, or “don’t move your controller while the bad guy walks past,” and stuff that did a good job trying to help you act the part of the scared teen/college student hiding in a closet, holding her breath while the bad guy searches for you. Perhaps the weirdest one is how everyone’s just… mean? Not funny, not interesting, just… like… shitty. Shitty people. People who I wouldn’t normally watch a movie about.

It’s like… an exaggerated version of some of the least interesting slasher films of the 1980s; too many of the characters are shitty people, like you’re supposed to enjoy watching them die or something. Thing is, if you want to make a game scary, you have to make the characters likable, because you want the audience to feel tension when the characters are in danger. You not wanting them to die is that makes their peril interesting. If you want them to die… it’s just torture porn. I don’t care about that.

I’m not sure if this is because there was so much discussion about how much people hated Emily, and Supermassive went “well they’re talking about her a lot, so we should make more characters like that” or what, but so many of these games just… have people who bicker and fight and argue for no real reason? It’s why I fuckin’ hated the first Dark Pictures game as much as I did.

The Dark Pictures games, which are sort of a lower-budget version of the studio’s (Supermassive) games Until Dawn and The Quarry, feel like a thoughtless mishmash of those larger budget, more-considered games. “Why is this happening?” I tend to find myself asking.

That said: The Devil In Me is the most interesting of The Dark Pictures games by a lot. The characters have reasons to be the way they are that actually make them compelling — it’s the best character piece by a lot, honestly.

It might be my favorite game of Supermassive’s since Until Dawn.

i cannot make this picture any larger. it is a screenshot i took on my literal nintendo 3ds using some custom firmware to allow me to take screenshots

14. Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) (no link ’cause you can’t buy this one anymore)

I actually don’t know why this one is so well liked, but I mean, I beat it without even figuring out how to make most of characters fuck like Fire Emblem is supposed to (I did manage to pair Crom with Sully!). I’m pretty new to this series.

Okay story, but I’m not really a “king coming to reclaim his thrown after an evil wizard takes it from him” kind of story-admiring guy. The idea of people being predestined for greatness just… it irks me. It’s upper class propaganda about how they’re born, destined to receive their parents’ inheritance and become amazing, and that shit’s stupid as fuck. I don’t give a fuck about nobles.

I liked the gameplay a lot tho. Just… dickin’ around, fightin’ dudes, eventually I just kinda got bored and decided to try something else because the narrative wasn’t propelling me along. I definitely enjoyed Three Houses a lot more.

I’m glad Awakening revitalized the series — I think relationship systems are cool and I did see an awful lot of support conversations and stuff. Apparently, if it didn’t do well, Nintendo was gonna kill Fire Emblem forever. It did so well, we got like twenty more games out of it, including the amazing Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

Neat game.

gungrave MOOOOORE

15. Gungrave G.O.R.E. (PC)

Gungrave G.O.R.E. is the most PlayStation 2-ass video game ever released. Yeah, it got a little repetitive. Yeah, it got a little tiring. It would have been a 7/10 even in 2002… but it’s also exactly what you’d expect from a mainline Gungrave game. Do I have any idea what went on in the story, even when trying to pay attention? No. I don’t.

Did I enjoy it?

Yes, I did.

Could I recommend it?

I dunno, it’s a fun game to turn your brain off to and run around shooting dudes in, I guess. Can’t say I learned much from it, other than “yeah, this is why they don’t make ’em like this anymore.” But I did have some fun.

16. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII REUNION (PC)

Well, fuck.

There’s one thing I don’t like about Final Fantasy VII or VIII, and that’s the way the characters are connected without, like, remembering each other. Sure, sure, okay, so Cloud’s memories are kinda messed up, but there’s just… something about going “oh yeah, well, there was this guy who looked like Cloud named Zack who was also Aerith’s boyfriend and that’s why Aerith likes Cloud but also Tifa met Zack one time and also Tifa met Cloud but I don’t think she realized he was Cloud and Yuffie was there for some reason even though she’s an optional character and also…”

Making everyone connected, rather than telling the story of these people actually meeting and connecting with each other… it just… makes the universe feel small. The story loses some power once everyone is still connected.

Square Enix made a lot of that with Final Fantasy VII, and it made money because people liked those characters, but they don’t tend to talk about those stories that much. Final Fantasy VII is still the story, just like only a few people really truly like the Halo extended media, but everyone mostly just remembers the original games.

I was actually thinking about this in Waifu Death Squad — how are characters related to each other? I don’t think I want to fuck up like Star Wars and make everyone connected. I would have been completely fine without Yuffie showing up in Crisis Core.

Crisis Core is ostensibly a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, but you get to meet just about everyone from Final Fantasy VII in it, and their lives all connect, which makes the scenes with them meeting up like total strangers in a later game feel kinda weird and coincidental.

The story… well, they knew the beats they wanted to hit, but the scenes aren’t quite emotional enough to make them work until the one at the end, which absolutely goes hard as fuck and makes the whole game worth it.

The short version: Zack — a palette swap of Cloud — is the guy Cloud based his identity off of in Final Fantasy VII when Cloud was missing a bunch of his memories, the stupidest part of Final Fantasy VII to begin with. Zack is a big fan of the villain from Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth, not knowing that Sephiroth is evil. The famous real world musician, Gackt, is there as another super soldier like Sephiroth and Zack.

This tries to be the story of how Sephiroth goes evil, destroys a town, gives Cloud traumatic memories, and Zack dies. It tries to explain the memory loss and everything else. All noble goals.

Not sure going “also Aerith is there, also Tifa is there, etc” also works. Don’t really think “some of the super soldiers are being turned into monsters or some shit” really works. Didn’t really care at all about that one guy with the stupid hair and single wing that looks like he’s from Godsmack (Angeal). None of that is really interesting.

It’s got a fairly simple fighting system with a fun roulette wheel attached to it; I played a lot of it and had a great deal of fun. As it stands, it’s a PSP game that seems to use the actual PSP animations and combat and systems, but now it’s got the skin of the Final Fantasy VII remake… sometimes. It doesn’t really seem like Angeal or Genesis got the same graphical redesigns that most of the other characters got.

It’s a weird game.

But man.

That ending.

Wow, that ending.

17. Stasis: Bone Totem (PC)

I don’t like point and click adventure games, but I love isometric point and click adventure games. I cannot tell you why this is. Seriously, I wish I could, and maybe, one day, I will be able to, but for now, I can’t.

When I talked earlier about introspecting and spending a lot of time working to understand why I do things, and then working to understand why other people do things, I didn’t tell you about the phase where I just don’t know things. There’s lots of things I do not know, obviously — I don’t know how to work an oil rig or solve quadrilateral equations — but there are things I am still in the process of figuring out that need to percolate.

Sometimes I just have to sit there and let it rest. I don’t know why I like Sanitarium, Stasis, The Bookwalker (which does have some combat but is mostly an adventure game), but I do. I really like that particular format of isometric adventure game. I’d argue that Disco Elysium fits in this mold as well, even though it’s also an RPG. It’s definitely got a lot of adventure game DNA.

Stasis: Bone Totem is awesome. The story is cool, the twists are exciting, the characters are great. It’s legitimately character-driven and builds up in a really, really fucking good way that I’m trying to be vague about because damn, you gotta play this, man. You gotta, okay?

Stasis: Bone Totem was up there with Dredge as a frontrunner for game of the year. It almost won, too. But… something else came along. We’ll get to that game in a bit.

18. Pikmin (Switch)

Everyone calls Pikmin a real time strategy game. It… I kind of get it. You have workers. The workers go around gathering resources, and that lets you get more workers, which gather more resources, which get more workers, and eventually you get through all the goals and you finish the game.

Pikmin is charming, it’s cute, and it’s fun. I don’t know why, exactly, I began playing the series with Pikmin 3, other than it being available on the Switch.

What’s funny is, a few months before this thread, I talked about how I didn’t think it was right that Nintendo was punishing people for pirating copies of games they don’t legally said. If you can’t give Nintendo money in exchange for a legal way to play Pikmin 2, I asked, why should Nintendo be allowed to stop you from pirating the game?

Nintendo should sell all of their games, so I can give them money to play those games, or they should release them to the public domain.

Well, Nintendo made Pikmin and Pikmin 2 available on the Switch, so I bought them as soon as I had the money to spend. I really enjoyed my time, though I felt like tracking the deaths of my titular pikmin always felt like a punishment. I feel differently about them than I do about, say, the villagers in Age of Empires, where I just build more when I need more. Dunno why losing even one feels like a failure, but it does. Maybe it’s because of their cute death wail. I dunno.

Final boss aside, I loved the game.

19. Dave the Diver (PC)

During a particularly difficult time in my life emotionally, Dave the Diver was there for me. It’s a lot like Dredge — which made it one of my potential game of the year contenders — because it’s got a super tight, meditative loop, just like Dredge.

Go into the ocean, get the fish, come back, make food, make a profit, use the profit to buy better gear, go back into the ocean, and so on. It’s the platonic ideal of a well-designed video game… and then they keep on layering on mechanics, giving it a richness and complexity that other games can’t even hope to match. Farming! Photography quests! Mixing drinks! Collecting racing seahorses! All sorts of stuff.

It’s just… it’s a good time. The biomes are all distinct, each doing something different from the other ones. Tropical coral reef, deep sea, icy depths, hot lava… you need different equipment for all of them, and you’ll have to go on different quests to do it.

Dave the Diver wants to ensure you’re never bored, but rather than getting excessively top-heavy, it balances everything with a deft touch. Dave changes things up enough to keep your interest, but never so rapidly that you feel like you never got a chance to breathe. Things change just about the time you’re starting to get bored. It’s beautifully designed and incredibly relaxing.

DLC 2: Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak (PC)

I like playing Monster Hunter with friends. It’s fun. I don’t know what else I can say about Monster Hunter; Sunbreak is an expansion that adds a new story and some new enemies. It’s more Monster Hunter. You know what you’re getting; the series always has a few little changes, like the wirebug, but the core is the same:

Go hunt big monster. Cut off various body parts. If you do it in a team, you’ll have a better time. Combine that with Capcom’s best-in-class boss design skills and all the special attention paid to the monster designs, combined with the simulation-esque aspects of things like “if the monster gets tired, he’ll run off to get a snack so he can fight you at full strength and that means changing arenas,” and it’s different than a typical boss game where you enter The Boss Arena and Fight The Dude.

The fantasy of the hunt matters.

I’m… just… I grew up without games, for the most part. So I came into games without any real experience doing things like button combos and the like. I’m not good at memorizing the inputs required to do certain movies. It just… never really gelled with my brain. Somehow, the inside of my brain and the outside of it just don’t… connect with that shit.

What I mean is: if I wasn’t playing this with friends, I probably wouldn’t. Could I learn? Maybe. But after so many false starts and stops, I think I’m just gonna stick with longsword and do like 15% of the team’s damage instead of maxing this shit out. I don’t know what I’m doing and no matter how much I try to learn, I just can’t get it.

That’s okay, because I still had fun. I don’t need to be the best.

20: Pikmin 4 (Switch)

Another contender for Game of the Year, Pikmin 4 is just… wow. It’s the best of all the Pikmin games, with new twists, and none of the weaknesses. Even better, just as you think it’s over, nope, there’s more to do. This shit is beefy and well worth the $60 it cost to pick it up in the first place. It was a joy the whole way through.

The frustration was minimal, but the game never felt too easy either.

A lot of the good design I encountered this year was about keeping the brain occupied without offering too much or too little cognitive load. If your Pikmin have bad pathfinding, like in Pikmin 1 or 2, they’ll run off a bridge and drown in the water underneath it instead of just… y’know, not being stupid (it’s game AI, so it’s not actually stupid or smart, but it can be perceived as such), then the game will feel bad.

Pikmin 4 solves those problems — it’s easier to select Pikmin, make them do what you intended rather than something unexpected that forces you to restart a level — and the anxiety-inducing time pressure is minimized significantly, while still serving as a meaningful motivator for some of the side content.

People should be copying this and learning from it. We need more games like Pikmin 4. What a great example of balancing the player’s cognitive load in fun ways that never go too far.

I played Pikmin because I wanted to finish it before Pikmin 4, to see how the series had gone. I even got a good start into Pikmin 2 before 4 came out, but once 4 released… man, I had to give it a go. It’s a testament to the series that I finished three of them in one year. That should tell you how much of the Pikmin experience I wanted to have.

Maybe I should play the very Pikmin-esque Tinykin…

21: Final Fantasy XVI (PS5)

I don’t know if I liked this game.

The structure and pacing, like modern Final Fantasies, is very weird. The game is for adults — characters say fuck and actually fuck — but there’s this… look, fans of Final Fantasy XIV like the producer, YoshiP. I get that. But then you hear things like “I told everyone to watch Game of Thrones when making it” and it feels a bit silly. Some people love the composer — only one track really stood out to me.

The game’s structure was more repetitive than I’d like, go to a dungeon, blow up a crystal, move on. There were some narrative elements that I enjoyed, the combat was the best the series ever had (makes sense, it was from one of the guys who did combat for Devil May Cry V and Dragon’s Dogma.

I didn’t like how every dude got to keep his powers, but Jill had to give hers up to Clive so the player could get more powerful and grow his kit. It’s not like any other dude Clive got powers from lost theirs, now, is it?

This is a game that felt like its quests and structure were designed by MMO guys, so it’s… nowhere near as good as a proper grand adventure. Everything feels compromised, as if it was designed within a very rigid framework that mostly just allows for fetch quests.

When the game first came out, I commented on something I mentioned earlier in this thread: I am not interested in stories about a guy who’s born a royal, making him better than other people, or the injustice at him losing his birthright, and then him fighting to reclaim being more important than other people.

I prefer a worldview where everyone is special because there’s no one else quite like them. Everyone could be their own main character — it’s why I write every single character in my games as if I could tell their story, and it would be a compelling, fascinating, exciting adventure on its own. Sol, who shows up in exactly one scene of my last game, Adios, is so rich a character that I have an entire, massive crime epic planned for him.

So having the one guy who’s the magic guy who reclaims his throne? I don’t like that so much. Fuck the divine right of kings and that shit.

Thankfully, the game makes it clear that Clive genuinely wants to make a better world. Cool. He’s like “why should I reclaim my throne when we could make a world where there are no thrones?” and I respect that. Some of the set piece bosses are ludicrously exciting; they just should not be this dramatic, and yet they are.

It’s just… the story also kinda goes “well he’s the most important guy who ever lived, he’s an avatar of a really important being, blah blah blah.”

I think my issue is… destiny takes away from the person. If you have someone destined for success, then who they are as a human being ultimately does not matter; they are destined for success.

Clive has magic blood so he’s destined to defeat Ultima. Wow. And he does. Okay. It’s kinda boring. I didn’t like that plot direction. Clive doesn’t really have free will, even though the whole story is about how Ultima is trying to make sure he doesn’t have free will. He’s destined to be The Hero. So he is. And for some reason, he takes Jill’s powers, but everybody else gets to keep theirs. So that’s… not great.

Basically: the fucked-up pacing (that most modern square enix games have — look at Final Fantasy XV, a much better game in most respects, that shits the bed starting around Chapter 9), the not-that-great story, and the “well, you were born special” stuff kinda doesn’t sit right with me. It’s a compromised game that feels like it would have been an excellent MMO expansion. Instead, it’s just a mediocre AAA game with some really good fights throughout.

22: Starship Troopers: Terran Command (PC)

I know the rule is “if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all,” so there’s very little I can say about Starship Troopers: Terran Command. I liked the story, especially some of the things characters ended up doing within it, but as a game… it’s… rough. We’re talking “sometimes soldiers won’t shoot the monsters coming at them,” or “attack move is kinda hinky,” and a bunch of other stuff. I did a thread on it at some point, just listing a lot of the basic mechanical issues with the game. I think it shipped too early.

When I tell all my soldiers to attack a guy, I don’t want one unit to engage and the others to stop. I’m trying to hit him with a blob of my units!!

23: Signalis (PC)

Oh! Well! That sure is a heckuva thing. I was always predispositioned to like it; the art direction channeling Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! made that abundantly clear. The typesetting is phenomenal as well. Sometimes, when artists make a game, that’s all there is; the game really only has the art going on for it. I was very worried that’s what I was gonna get here.

And then? And then… I started seeing some things that concerned me. I do not like horror stories that are about characters dealing with the guilt of their own actions, where the horror and stuff is a metaphor for some true thing that’s actually going on. Everyone who does it is, ultimately, a kind of chicken, and the fact that the experience wasn’t really lived by the character, just imagined, makes it kind of… not… special.

It is my pleasure to report that Signalis, as a fucking excellent game, does something really interesting that is adjacent to this concept. I worried it might be doing that, but no, it goes another direction. A different kind of horror. A fascinating kind of horror.

I’m not sure that I loved the limited inventory system, and I’m personally usually not a top-down guy (unless it’s being made by Housemarque or is an isometric adventure game like Stasis: Bone Totem), but man, oh man. I loved Signalis. Loved almost every second of it.

I got the Promise ending.

Another contender for GOTY, I must insist you play Signalis. Go in as blind as possible.

24: The Shape on the Ground (PC)

You should play this.

When I wrote about walking sims, I argued that their big limitation was that they don’t have a lot of verbs. You’re just walking around listening to some shit happening and that’s… really it. I said that hey, sure enough, they are games — or at least, they can be included in the concept of ‘video games’ — and that any attempt at going “but they’re not really games” is mostly just an attempt to somehow ‘disqualify’ them from discussion.

But so what, if you don’t want to talk about them, then don’t talk about them. Trying to make it so they ‘don’t count’ doesn’t make them stop existing, and it certainly doesn’t make them not worth writing about. Walking sims are still interesting, and they do interesting things.

The Shape on the Ground could be considered a walking sim, but I’d like you to consider it like an interactive art exhibit. You ever been to a museum with a goregous exhibit you walk through? I remember one that had larger-than-life-sized computer parts. A capacitor taller than I was at the time (I was a kid, so maybe 5 feet tall?), a CPU that was like 8 feet by 8 feet. The lighting was bespoke; it was trying to make you feel like you were inside a computer. I want to say it was part of a traveling Smithsonian exhibition, which is also where I saw Abe Lincoln’s hat.

Anyways, The Shape on the Ground is like that: it’s an art exhibit. You are supposed to soak in the vibes and just… be. Feel it. Breathe it in. Become a part of it.

If you do that, then this hauntingly fascinating little experiment will get to you. Be receptive. Be open.

25: Wanted: Dead (PC)

If Gungrave G.O.R.E. was a game from the Playstation 2 era (1999–2005), then Wanted: Dead is a game from the Xbox 360 era (2005–2013). It’s a third person shooter about… well, honestly, I can barely remember the story. There were betrayals, some really fun combat, some really frustrating combat, a minigame where you ate a bowl of ramen. At one point, a random Australian narrator begins speaking, explains a concept, and is never heard from again. Why did it happen? Couldn’t tell you. Some cutscenes are 2D animated, most are 3D.

As I played the game, my buddies watching it commented, often in a complimentary tone, about how amazing some of the things it was doing was. We all agreed it was janky as hell, but I really had fun with it, when all was said and done.

Stephanie Joosten, who plays Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V, plays the Gunsmith. She also, apparently, did some of the cutscenes, and you can tell — they feel really well done compared to… a lot of the rest of the game.

I liked it, got a bit tired of some of the gameplay as it ramped up near the end, but ultimately found that I was surprised and delighted by a lot. I think there’s a way to make a more coherent, focused, interesting game here, but I enjoyed the experience.

DLC 3: Resident Evil 4: Separate Ways (PC)

Some people were disappointed when Separate Ways was not included with the Resident Evil 4 Remake. That’s alright, because this $10 expansion dramatically improves on the original. If Resident Evil 4 filed off the edges of some things, Separate Ways, while not necessarily better, is still fuckin excellent.

I had issues with Ada’s voice actor; I really, really liked the person they got for Resident Evil 2, who did a fantastic job and really made the Ada/Leon relationship work. The new person… sometimes she just seems bored, or like they just included a line reading of her work, as opposed to actually getting the performance. Just like “oh, yeah, that’s how this line sounds.” Like how we do in some of our reads on Waifu Death Squad; we’re not acting, we’re just reading.

She is much better in this DLC, but still… the vibe I got was that this is a person who acts for the screen, which is a little different from voice work; it’s one of the reasons Michael Madsen is amazing in a lot of the movies he’s in, but dull as a brick in video games. Sometimes, that’s a voice director issue — I remember once thinking “these voice actors suck, which is weird, because they’re all amazing actors” in a game, looking up the voice director, and finding that, lo and behold… he’d also directed voices on other games I thought had shitty voice direction. Sometimes, it’s the director!

I’ve played a bit of Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, and the vocal performances sound pretty fuckin’ terrible, to be honest, which is strange, given how amazing Judgment and Yakuza: Like A Dragon were. A lot of people put that on YongYea, the YouTuber voicing Kazuma Kiryu for Infinite Wealth, and yeah, he’s… at the very least, horrifically miscast, because he doesn’t sound at all like a 50 year-old Kazuma Kiryu.

As I was talking to some friends about this, one of them informed me that right-wing chuds were being shitty to Ada’s voice actress. I don’t like talking about right-wing chuds because my audience isn’t right wing chuds, so I’m just preaching to the choir. You know they suck, I know they suck, we’ll leave it at that.

What I can say is, without knowing anything about that, I did not love the voice direction for Ada and thought recasting her was a mistake. Resident Evil 2 Remake is the best Resident Evil game ever made, hands down.

That said, man, I loved how fucking big this DLC was. It’s way, way bigger than the original. I didn’t really time it, but I feel that “five hours” is probably too short, and “9 hours” is probably too long, so basically, for $10, you get a game that reuses all the maps from Resident Evil 4, but so satisfactorically remixes them that it’s like, hey, more of an excellent game. I’ll fucking take it. If this had just been a Resident Evil game, I’d tell you it was a fantastic one.

26: No One Lives Under the Lighthouse (PC)

As you can probably guess, I have some thoughts about indie horror, having put one together with some friends several years ago. That means I tend to be very particular about a lot of the games that followed in its wake. I like the visuals of No One Lives Under the Lighthouse. It has some legit scares and cool environments. It, importantly, gives you a shotgun. There’s some great sound design in it.

I did have to look up a few things about what to do, and I’m not sure everything works (especially running away from the big monster in one particular sequence), but it was really cool to see how different people approach this specific style of game. It was neat.

27: Alan Wake II (PC)

Well, there’s a clear Game of the Year here.

Let’s get the setup out of the way: Alan Wake is one of my favorite games. I loved Max Payne and Max Payne 2, so when I found out Remedy was making a game for the Xbox 360, I figured out a way to buy an Xbox and hide it where I wouldn’t get in trouble for having one. I was living in a church at the time, because the trailer I’d been staying in lost heat, so it was… well, things were odd, I’ll put it that way.

That game got me through a lot. It meant the world to me. I was disappointed it didn’t come to PC, understood the complaints about the combat (having to perform Extra Steps to kill an enemy is why Legendary, a game where you have to cut off every single werewolf head after shooting it, is a bit dull) even though the combat is actually really good and about controlling enemy positioning instead of anything else.

I understood but was largely unsympathetic with the complaints that the game set in the Pacific Northwest, so the biomes never really changed. What, were you expecting a water level, a lava level, a jungle level, and all that shit or something? Come on, ya’ll. It’s a story set in the Pacific Northwest. You’ll never believe how consistent that environment kinda is.

The story was fascinating, that kind of knowing schlock that Remedy had mastered with Max Payne — not badly written, but expertly-written examinations of badly-written work. The difference? They’re commenting on badly-written work, not just imitating it. Alan is a hack.

Remedy is great because they make games that do things you’ve never seen in other games. They will surprise you; you’ll go to a fangirl’s house and she’ll drug you and then you’ll have to escape the cops. You’ll escort a guy wearing a costume through dangerous city streets so the bomb inside of the costume’s head doesn’t detonate.

Max Payne 3, which Remedy didn’t make, doesn’t just suck cause the gameplay is a confused, contradictory mess with bad writing and awful encounter design, it sucked because the story sucked too. Just a bland ripoff of the excellent movie Man on Fire with no real character work.

Contrast that with Alan Wake. I was enthralled by this demo. I’ve got the artbook. I’ve got the soundtrack. I bought an Xbox One because of Quantum Break, hoping it would give us more clues into Alan Wake (QB is the only Remedy game I do not like). I was disappointed by Microsoft’s decision to kill the PC port for ‘comfy couch’ gaming, even though all I do these days is play games from the comfort of my couch… with a lapboard so I can still use a mouse and keyboard, lmao. I did love the PC port’s reference to that remark, basically pointing out Alan Wake is great on PC too.

Some games are more suited for the intimacy of the PC, and others are best played from the couch in front of a larger TV screen. We ultimately realised that the most compelling way to experience Alan Wake was on the Xbox 360 platform, so we focused on making it an Xbox 360 exclusive. Both Microsoft and Remedy have long histories in PC game development. This decision was about matching this specific game to the right platform.

Huge props to Epic Games for funding the development of Alan Wake II.

Also, hey, I loved Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, a game where Alan’s wife Alice helps Alan along, even if she doesn’t necessarily know. It also shapes Mr. Scratch, who is allegedly created by the Light Presence to be Alan while he’s gone, into more of a villain character.

I still… kinda feel like in Alan Wake II, Mr. Scratch is retooled into something a bit less interesting — without spoiling it, he’s not ‘a new guy made to take Alan’s place while Alan is in The Dark Place,’ than I understood it to originally be.

I can’t possibly explain what it’s like, 13 years after Alan Wake and 11 years after American Nightmare, to finally return to this world. Remedy’s Control, like Quantum Break, is about things I’m not that interested in — I just don’t find The Oldest House that compelling of an exploration of its literary ideas as I do Alan Wake.

Max Payne 1, 2, and Alan Wake/American Nightmare were character-driven. Alan wants to get to Alice because he fucked up their last interaction; he made her feel bad, and he owes it to her to try and fix what he broke.

In Quantum Break and Control, it’s basically “some bad, reality-altering shit is happening, and a character we’ve labeled ‘your brother,’ so you know you’re supposed to care about him, is in trouble and you need to help him.” I didn’t find that particularly motivating. I got to know Alice, and I got to know Alan, so I know why that conflict was dramatically compelling. Control and Quantum Break are more… genre, less character. They don’t feel as good.

I liked Control (though the performance slowdowns when dealing with physics on the Xbox One X were a bit much back in 2019), but more like the way I like Knife Party. It’s cool, but it’s not Pendulum, you know? When I finally heard Pendulum’s new music from 2023 EP Anima, I lost my shit. That’s the good stuff! That’s what I was waiting for!! Sure, I like Knife Party, but I love Pendulum.

So I was worried about Alan Wake II. I was. I was worried that Alan Wake II would be… well, idea-based, not character-based. It’s… well, kind of both. It’s got a lot of characters who are quirky, good, and interesting. Not including Barry was a huge mistake that I do not understand.

But the game?

Oh, man. The game. When I tell a story, I figure out what medium it belongs in, and then I tell that story with that precise, specific medium. If my story is a game, it’s gonna go one way. If it’s a film, it’s another. Alan Wake is… a game that understands, as we all should, that games are a composite medium. Other games have messed with this — hell, I’ve tried myself — but Alan Wake got to actually be that game.

It’s a game about movies, and theatre, and games, and poetry, and novels, and everything else. It uses those mediums to tell the story it’s trying to tell. It goes places you don’t expect. It is an act of magic, like the Grant Morrisonian-esque sigil magic (audio warning at the start, a very loud yell).

They solve a lot of problems: the biome issue? Gone. Now, all the spaces are distinct, folding in on themselves, opening up over time. The lessons of Control’s level progression are firmly evident here.

I’ll be writing more on this game later. I’m several thousand words into that one already.

Alan Wake II is probably Remedy’s best game. I’m not sure that it’s my favorite, because of some minor quibbles about story, but it constantly had me on the edge of my seat, goign “what the fuck are they doing? What are they planning? How are they doing that?”

So often, Remedy made the choices I would’ve made, and I love them for that. These are kindred spirits. We see many of the same things. Thank you, Remedy, for making this game.

I did have one complaint — I believe enemies that teleport really fast kinda suck, and this game has a lot of that. They’re up there with “fast, flying enemies that dart around” and “small agile creatures like rats,” and “huge tanky guys who you have to specifically position yourself to defeat.” More enemy behavioral variety would’ve improved the game a bit.

Fucking loved the Silent Hill-ass reflection monsters, though. God tier shit.

As amazing as games like Stasis: Bone Totem and Dredge and Pikmin 4 were, Alan Wake II towers above them all. Push the medium as far the fuck forward as you can!! Fuckin’ do it! It’s amazing!

Get this game. Right now.

“It’s not on Steam” shut the fuck up, get over your weird anti-Chinese racism that was fomented by some asshole on reddit (who, by the way, made up a ton of absolute bullshit about Epic being spyware — did you know Steam sends more of your personal data to Valve than Epic gets? Some guy did a great debunking of it. anyone who hates the EGS is a fucking loser who is just mad they have to use a store that isn’t Steam. Shut the fuck up). Get the fucking game and play the fuck out of it.

Support Remedy for this and support Epic for publishing this kinda shit. They got a Fumito Ueda game coming up next.

It’s not a loop, it’s a spiral.

28: Echo (PC)

I am going to be frank about this one. I like it. Some of you like it. It has a fierce, devoted fanbase, and none of those fans seem to understand why it didn’t sell, so I’m going to describe it to you as clearly as I can, and if you love the game, you’re probably gonna be a little upset at this, but I’m telling you the truth as best I can, because if Ultra Ultra ever gets to rise from its grave and make something again, or if you ever want to make a game like this, you should probably understand why it didn’t succeed, even though it was incredibly cool. So here goes:

Echo is one of those games with a pitch that sounds cool to some people but fucking annoying to a lot of other people. “Enemies learn what you do” makes the player go “oh, I see, so basically, if I want to have fun, the game will use that mechanic against me, and I won’t have fun?”

What the marketing failed to communicate is that Echo is a puzzle action game where enemies in the next turn will copy your moves, but if you don’t use those moves in subsequent turns, they will forget them again, so it becomes a game about picking and choosing what mechanics to use and when, but you never permanently lose a mechanic from your move set.

It’s a game that people who gave it a shot feel compelled to champion — they love the aesthetics, the world building, the idea of it. And I can’t blame them; the story is fucking fascinating (other than the ending). The world is so goddamn cool. The characters are awesome.

If you gave this team a fucking Mass Effect budget, they’d make the most Iain M. Banks-esque sci-fi ever. That game would fucking rip.

Echo is a game for people who have really good taste but maybe don’t understand how humans interface with software, so they say “this game deserved better,” when the truth is, the game got exactly what it did because parts of its pitch were communicated poorly and, in some cases, off-putting.

I remember a friend of mine once saying that the reason Mario is successful is because of how Nintendo spent so much time perfecting how he feels to control.

29: God of War: Chains of Olympus (PS3)

My PS3 died a few days ago, so it’s with some bittersweetness that I write about Chains of Olympus. I don’t remember why, exactly, I picked this one first — I think for a while, I decided to try to play the games in chronological order, and that kinda fell apart, but whatever. I felt I couldn’t leave this one undone if I wanted to start God of War 2, directed by Cory Barlog, the guy who directed God of War No Subtitle or Number But Not a Reboot 2018.

I wasn’t fond of God of War 2018, with it being a soulless (a term I never use, much like ‘generic’) but one that definitely applies to that game grab bag mishmash of game mechanics from the current era of game design and that one-take sequence that compromises its ability to be visually compelling in the way the previous games were. I think he also produced Ragnarok.

I jokingly posted a picture of this game with Kratos facing a wall and said “see, this is what I miss about God of War” or something like that. Even wrote an article about New Coke talking about that experience.

Well, Barlog saw the tweet somehow, and either did not get the joke, or did and had a terrible response. He ended up sending a bunch of very, very stupid fanboys my way and it made being on twitter kind of annoying.

I don’t like the direction the series has taken, in case you couldn’t tell. I do like some of the storytelling in Ragnarok so far — the casting choices are fantastic and the performances are good — but man, the one-take camera thing compromises the game so much. “We did a complicated thing” okay and your game’s worse as a result, so who gives a shit? Other people already did one-takes, like Dead Space. This isn’t really impressive, it doesn’t really enhance the art of the game. It’s a meta thing, a marketing thing for the gaming press to ooh and ah over since they forgot Half-Life 2 doesn’t have any cuts either.

Half-Life 1 didn’t need any cuts, but they knock Gordon out and take all his guns and honestly, that made the game better. The arbitrary rule of ‘no cuts’ is dumb.

Anyways, I like the old God of War games a lot. Remember how everyone hated The Elevator from God of War Ascension because it’s an insanely complex fight? Well, when my muscles didn’t have as many issues with uncontrolled shaking or twitching, I fucking aced that shit. To me, that combat system was excellent; the game, like the original Alan Wake, suffered because it only had two biomes (Hecatonchires and Archimedes’ Tower) so it felt small. The gameplay was tight — it’s a better game than God of War 3, often considered people’s favorite — but the game felt small because of that lack of environment variety.

It was nice to play an old-school style God of War game. This was what I was missing, even if it has a kinda shitty Angry Kratos and not the more textured one I’ve been having fun with in Ragnarok.

I want to play Ghost of Sparta and 2, but with my PS3 having died yesterday, the 19th, I can’t do that now. So RIP to me. I’m working on trying to get it repaired, maybe picking up a replacement if I have to.

30: Astro’s Playroom (PS5)

Sony must never be forgiven for killing Japan Studio. However, I was glad to know that at least some of those developers survived, taking the forgettable (but arguably the best) PSVR game Astro Bot Rescue Mission and fucking KNOCKING IT OUT OF THE PARK with one of the most charming, enjoyable 3D platformers I’ve ever played.

Eat shit, Super Mario 64. Not that you were ever as good as anyone said, especially compared to the greatest 3D Platformer of all time, Conker: Live and Reloaded.

But man. Man, I loved this one. I collected everything in it. I think there were a few challenges left to do, but I had so much fun finding objects like the PS3 and PlayStation Vita.

Effortless, endless charm. A wonderful time.

31: Cult of the Lamb (PC)

Speaking of tight fuckin’ loops: I don’t like roguelikes. I don’t like Binding of Isaac. In the grand scheme of the universe, these things are what we’d call “not for me.”

But man, I do love games where you have a base that you manage, and then you go out and do things, and then you come back and you upgrade your base. I love that shit. Fuck, man. I love that shit.

So, here I am, playing an action game where I walk around hitting dudes with weapons. It’s kinda like Binding of Isaac, but rather than just “survive the room,” it’s “kill the gods at the end of the run, and also get enough resources to bring home to make your base work gooder and keep your clan alive.”

I love the fuckin’ aesthetic, that mix of cute and evil. It’s like Happy Tree Friends, in a way. Cult of the Lamb, and my cult, Very Cool Guys, had a great fuckin’ time slaughtering our way through a bunch of eldritch gods. I really, really loved it. Like Dredge, like Dave the Diver, the loop’s just so goddamn tight.

32: The Flower Collectors (PC)

It’s kinda like the movie Rear Window, where a guy in a wheelchair is bored, watching stuff out his window, and then some shenanigans ensue. It tells a surprisingly interesting plot about the world in Spain and the dictatorship, but it does it with uh, well, anthropomorphic people. This isn’t a furry game, it’s more like… I dunno, Blacksad or something.

It was short, interesting, and I liked it a lot. Didn’t overstay its welcome. Different approach to what we did with Adios (few characters, limited locations), and a really neat experience.

33: Pikmin 2 (Switch)

I’ve said so much about Pikmin that there isn’t much left to say.

When playing, my co-writer on Waifu Death Squad, and a good friend of just over a decade, Philip Bastien, pointed something out: every first Nintendo entry in a series is interesting, but likely imperfect. Every second Nintendo game overtunes it. From the third game onward, they strike the right difficulty and quality of life balance, and then they’re ready to make good stuff. He’s right.

Pikmin 2 has way more dungeons, the dungeons are too long, the AI is so stupid that the Pikmin will put themselves in danger and die. It… was the most frustrating Pikmin game of the bunch, probably my least favorite. All the good stuff got put in Pikmin 3 and 4. All the bad stuff got left behind.

I still liked it, but it’s the Least Good Pikmin of the four main games.

34: Marginalia (PC)

I like Connor Sherlock’s games. I thought the writing and voice acting in this one was particularly good. Treat them like art installations — you go there, you bask in the vibes, you leave. Take the game on its terms and you’ll probably like it a lot. I did struggle a bit figuring out where to go at one point — the game was just a bit too dark — but after that, it was smooth sailing. If you’ve never played The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home, you should play that too.

35: The Moon Sliver (PC)

Not my jam.

36: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (PC)

Alba is a cute, fun game about being a small girl who visits an island off the coast of Spain, I think? She runs around the small, charming open world taking pictures of a bunch of animals.

What can I say? I love checklists.

37: Yakuza Kiwami 2 (PC)

Yakuza Kiwami 2 was described to me as the best game in the series by several people. I think Like a Dragon and The Man Who Erased His Name are better games, but Kiwami 2 was pretty good! Lots of fun quests, some deeply emotional shit, a good villain, a bit… kinda… weirdly “the Korean Mafia are The Real Baddies and the Yakuza are basically not that bad” for my taste. Then there was a huge twist at the end that was kinda silly, and a dramatic kiss… with a woman who’s never seen in the series ever again (I’m told she may make an appearance with Infinite Wealth).

It was a bit silly to see a giant castle emerge from the Earth, but I fought two tigers in it, so that was really fun.

It’s Yakuza! You run around punching guys! You do sidequests! It mostly takes place in Kamurocho (and iirc, Sotenbori, but I’ve been playing several Yakuza games in prep for Infinite Wealth, so I’m confusing a few of them). It’s paced like every other Yakuza game, it plays like every other Yakuza game. Sure, occasionally, there’s minor changes — and this particular one had a minigame where you run around doing insane bullshit for your ward, Haruka.

Like every Yakuza, it hits a point where you kinda gotta just grind shit out before getting back to the main campaign (Lost Judgement is the exception, I didn’t realize the game was almost over because it had been so easy, I felt I was just getting started).

I liked it. I don’t think it’s the best. But it’s essential. The Man Who Erased His Name feels like a more mature version of the game, despite being mostly locked to Sotenbori (they even talk about spending time in Yokohama but you don’t really get to! It’s very brief!).

38: A Mortician’s Tale (PC)

I learned some stuff about how you make bodies. There are two screens — the room in the screenshot above and the room where you do the medical parts of being a mortician. It’s okay.

39: The Chameleon (PC)

Get this. You’re a guy in a Hawaiian shirt with the worst moustache I’ve ever seen (this is a compliment). And you’ve got the ability to shapeshift into being other dudes. So you run around a base, do some light puzzle solving, and then you find out that you were a monster that just looks like the guy in the Hawaiian shirt, rather than a Hawaiian shirt guy with monster powers, and then it’s over.

It’s a short game, the levels definitely have that “oh, I’ve built levels like these,” but man, it’s… like, it’s really interesting. This feels like a first game, and given the Steam store page, I assume it is.

When I wrote about The Last of Us 2, I think it was, I said we can criticize the big AAA games all we want — I mean, it’s a $200m budget. The Chameleon is scrappy, it’s interesting, it’s trying things, and I’m sure it didn’t have a $200m budget. So you could say “yeah I’d like to see a few things done differently with the character controller” and “the way the game’s energy system is tuned doesn’t feel great” or whatever, but that’s all bullshit. It’s like a $6 game that’s an hour and a half long and it oozes style— “Objective: Escape the Moon” is such a cool moment.

There are just… these moments where your brain goes “oh! Wow! Holy shit!” and that’s awesome.

Good stuff!

DLC 4: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty (PC)

This could have been a whole game. No, seriously, it’s like thirty fucking hours long (admittedly, I did some of the stuff that was added in an earlier patch that I didn’t get to, but it’s not a lot of content — most of that really is just the DLC).

It looks so fucking good. I always try to avoid talking about graphics and art direction because A) Digital Foundry can do it way better than me, and B) I remember reading a long time ago that was like… the single biggest factor in game reviews, according to an early PS3-era test by Insomniac (I wish I could find that blog post) and I didn’t like that at all. Why? Easy:

According to Insomniac (this is me doing my best to recall this from around 2010 so don’t, uh, don’t take my word for it), according to all the reviews they looked at, they found that graphics and art was the thing the reviewers focused on the most, which is why they decided to stop making games 60 frames a second and were moving to 30 for the PS3 era (yes, this is where that whole discussion started. crazy, right?). So I thought “fuck that, I’m gonna get past that. I’m gonna write about games as they are.” Art is expensive, and if the only reason a game is good is because it’s expensive, then there’s no point in writing “oh, they spent a lot of money on this,” you know?

I’ve seen people make games that don’t look amazing but play beautifully. I’ve written stories I like to think are pretty good, and the response seems to be the same. Some people are mad we spent less money making this game than it costs the average American to buy a house, but I did what I could with what I had, so it doesn’t seem right to write about the problem that can be solved simply by having infinite money.

That’s why I like so many mid-tier and non-American AAA games; so many of them are actually quite well made, they just don’t have the same polish as the biggest AAA games that you’re gonna get from some studio in Los Angeles or whatever. Give me a Yakuza game, where half the dialogue is just Kiryu saying “ah” while more complicated text plays, rather than voicing every single line in Fallout 4, you know?

Then along comes Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, and good god, game, I cannot stop staring at you. I got lost just trying to find a decent screenshot earlier. I picked this one not cause it’s the best one I took, but because when I saw this in game, I knew I was fuckin’ back. I often will just grab a picture if I think it looks good, but yeah, this one’s here for emotional reasons: I legitimately fell back in love with Cyberpunk right then and there.

A perfect title drop… that was still surpassed by Alan Wake II’s.

As you’ve probably guessed, I still play Genshin Impact. I’m not entirely caught up, but I’m loving what I’ve played so far. It’s still an absolutely excellent game I cannot recommend enough, unless you have problems with gacha games. Please play responsibly; if you feel that you cannot, then please do not play it. You wouldn’t go to a casino if you knew you were at risk, right? So don’t play Genshin unless you’re not at risk. I like it, but the warning is needed.

I played a lot of Destiny this year in preparation for the new DLC, which slowed me down some. Ultimately, I didn’t like it all that much. I think my relationship with Bungie is over — they let go some of my friends this year in a way I think is real shitty.

Some friends wanted me to play Warframe — I spent a lot of time playing that, and honestly, I don’t really like Warframe anymore. Ember ruled, and she doesn’t now; I do like playing with my friends, though, but ultimately, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it.

I also started up Honkai Star Rail and decided to stop playing Arknights — I got stuck on a story sequence in Arknights and couldn’t progress because the boss requires like, stupid amounts of timing and I prefer to play Arknights without having to worry about timing because it’s a fucking tower defense game!!

You shouldn’t have to do timing in a tower defense game! Fuck 9–7 or whatever the level is with the pillar-dropping stuff. I realized I was spending a lot of time doing dailies and not really having much fun with the game, the story was falling off… just no point to keep going. Honkai, on the other hand, is really easy to get in and make some progress with, and the writing is really good. I like Honkai a lot, and it’s made by the Genshin guys, but it’s a turn-based game rather than an open world adventure. Definitely a fun time.

Overall, I’m cutting back my service-based game time in favor of game completions; I like visiting as many worlds as possible, not just one or two as comfort food.

Because of work stuff, there’s some games I didn’t get around to, or games I began and am actively playing. Starfield, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, and the absolutely astonishing The Bookwalker, a phenomenal game I’m madly in love with, are all games I should be finishing in 2024.

So, what’s 2024 look like?

Well, we’ve got Waifu Death Squad in development. Cameron and I started talking about it in 2021, shortly after Adios. We made a few false starts (tower defense and turn-based versions of the game), but ultimately, we found funding right before the industry funding hit the shitter, so we get to live. I stressed a lot about trying to get deals made and Adios on things like EGS free games or Amazon’s game giveaways.

We now get to work with some cool people, both familiar faces and new developers. They’re all amazing. I cannot praise them enough. Our publisher has asked us to keep things on the down low, and I really love working with them, so of course I’m gonna honor that request. I can’t wait to tell you more. That time will come.

I have this rule, and it goes like this: if people wanna work with you again, you’ve probably done a good job. So I try to run my teams that way. Not everyone wants to, but you can only control your own actions, not the actions of others, so I do what I can to make Mischief a good place to work.

I’m being more open about building rockets, a hobby I began as a kid, and one I stopped doing for a while, but I finally started messing around with my collection and remembering how to put these things together. No idea what I’m going to do with all of them, no way to paint them, but I’m having a lot of fun.

Got a couple really amazing things on the way that I can’t talk about yet, but they’re potentially life-changing. Still dealing with this gallblader/intestine/liver stuff that I’ve been dealing with since May. I have a lot of bad nights, muscle tremors in my leg going off, making it hard to sleep.

Here’s the list of games I want to beat in 2024 from earlier, adjusted as time has moved on.

  • Deathloop
  • Final Fantasy IX (long shot, I have to redo SO MUCH to get to where I was)
  • Final Fantasy XII (depends on if I finish Final Fantasy IX first)
  • Digital Devil Saga (already started)
  • God of War 2 (I WAS gonna finish the other God of War PSP game first, possibly God of War as well, before getting to it, but my PS3 just died, so… we’ll see if I can get it fixed)
  • Persona 4 Golden (I am in the month of July; that should tell you where I am)
  • Dragon’s Dogma (already started)
  • Dark Souls 2 (almost done; technically I’ve beaten two of the three DLCs and only have two bosses left and the entire project is over, but I’ll leave those DLCs for the 2025 writeup on the 2024 games)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (I am itching for a Xenoblade and have been for a while, so I might go ahead and start, but I wanted to finish a few more games first, particularly Planescape: Torment)
  • Persona 3 Remake (in the old list, this was Persona 3 Portable; I was gonna finish Persona 4 and hop right in, since I always try to have one Atlus game in rotation at all times)
the bookwalker

Games I’ve started that I’m looking forward to this year include:

  • The Bookwalker (an utterly enthralling game I simply haven’t finished yet)
  • Starfield (I love getting lost in Bethesda games. I usually put 100+ hours in them)
  • Etrian Odyssey (originally, I was doing market research for a Waifu Death Squad spinoff)
  • Like A Dragon: Ishin! (i started this one, then decided I should probably find out what’s going on in Kiryu’s life so I can be ready for Yakuza: Infinite Wealth on release day)
  • Planescape: Torment (this game is kinda awful to play, tbqh)
  • Persona 5 Tactica (I love it so far)
  • Naissance (atmosphere is amazing, platforming, not so much. still… i wanna finish it)
  • Armored Core VI (fatigue issues set in and I had to put it down for a while)
  • Voice of Cards 3 (the final game I’m gonna play)
  • Several other games I’ve been commissioned to write about that I’m not gonna spoil
Naissance

Games I hope to play in 2024 that I haven’t started yet:

  • Baldur’s Gate (not 2, not 3… the original; but I want to beat Planescape: Torment first. I don’t want more than one big RPG in rotation. Then I’ll go into BG2 and BG3.
  • STALKER 2: Heart of Chornobyl: I love the STALKER series. It made me who I am.
  • Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth: So excited. You have no idea.
persona 5 tactica

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Doc Burford

I do some freelance work, game design consulting, and I’ve worked on games Hardspace: Shipbreakers and created games like Adios and Paratopic.