609 Reviews liked by bazzleby

Interesting deconstruction of the Harvest Moon genre - instead, the game focuses on a farm where it's hard to get by - where your town is nothing but a stopover for tourists and the rich on the way to the moon. Will you stay despite the routine and mundanity? Or leave everyone you meet behind for "The Moon?"
It's nice to see the few familiar faces also getting by, getting used to their rhythms, sometimes odd ones. I enjoyed the way some expanses of wilderness were just sitting next to your farm, full of some strange items that I never figured out the use for. Lovely art too!
Now to digress, generally speaking farming games make me wonder more about like - how do farmers live life and make meaning? Can a game express that...? The Harvest Moon format of farming games is obviously so stale and worn out... but I still think there's some kind of truth to life that the format of 'planting crops/gardening' could still convey. I like that this game tries to explore that format, even if I found the moment-to-moment kind of unengaging (even though that is of course, partially the point).
Farm work, I assume, is physically grueling. But is there something fun or satisfying in that? Something unique that establishes particular rhythms of life for farmers of different types around the world?
Beyond the typical HM-loop of watering my squares and selling the pixel vegetables for money every few days?

Personally I wish I spent less of my 20s completing games like this but I guess it was a pretty entertaining time. Fun to go through the radiated parts and try to like, find crap. Crap-finding simulator... I remember wearing a hard hat and like, jumping along underpasses.

This review contains spoilers

This is the first Dark Picture that feels like it works well no matter how the story plays out. It felt unfair to review previous entries after a single play-through. What if you were one mistake away from a tighter plot, more thematic closure, better character arcs?
Surprise surprise, maybe Baldur's Gate 3 has really changed the way I approach gaming: pre-BGS3, when I tried Man of Medan and Little Hope, I thought that "winning" meant keeping everyone alive. A death, even open conflict between characters, meant that I had strayed from the "correct" path. I finished both games stressed and unsatisfied.
Once you realize that these games aren't really about keeping characters alive, or molding them into heroes, you play them completely differently. You see themes laid out in the prologue, and then try to shape the narrative around its premise. You note the archetypes of each character and realize that, actually, yes, some of them SHOULD be ripped apart by bat vampires in order to serve the story. And when things don't go as expected, you see opportunities for delightful chaos.
Does that make these games RPGs? I'm a dipshit and don't know enough about game genres to say one way or another, but I feel like they can be approached as such, to great effect. Give away some control to the designer's intentions and judge the writing and pacing on its own merits.
As far as House of Ashes goes, the setting and themes are so rich, the production values so great, that even if the plotting misses a few QTEs of its own, and the story stacks hats on hats (imagine watching the Descent, Aliens, the Mummy, and Ghosts of Mars at the same time), it all coheres. Top notch voice acting. An action director's sense of camera placement. But, most importantly: one moral character, another who could be redeemed, and three others who really need to die for the sins of American Imperialism. Hilariously, one of them is Ashley Tisdale.
Look, there's no number of ancient alien infestations that can absolve America of the innumerable crimes done to the Iraqi people. The American presence in Iraq in 2003 was the only the most recent extra-terrestrial visit. Like the British before us, we were outsiders trying to re-form the world's oldest civilization in our own image, and left only death in our wake. Maybe Salim should drive a stake through our hearts, too.

Since jumping into Starfield on its Gamepass release date, I’ve become even more of a disgusting gremlin than I already was. No longer cognizant of the passage of time, I have let my already unhealthy sleep schedule become positively obliterated. My baby son’s life passed by in the blink of an eye. I spend my days bathed in the sickly light of my television, creeping to the kitchen periodically to get a tasty treat. The only evidence of my wife’s survival is a missing Diet Coke or two from the fridge.
Starfield is not ’No Man’s Skyrim’. It’s actually more like a better version of The Outer Worlds. I have gripes with it that keep it from a top score, like a pretty weak opening, the lack of interior ship customization, repetition of outposts, and the fact that you can’t have a fleet of ships captained by your ai companions… okay, they didn’t necessarily promise that last one but having only one ship out at a time seems like a missed opportunity. While you can’t circumnavigate every planet on foot, many have multiple biomes and topographical features, with plenty of secrets and activities to discover. I ran into a crazy amount of weird side quests just because I took the time to explore and root around on land and in space.
I can only speak to my expectations and experience with the game, but I think this is the most actual roleplaying a Bethesda game has allowed since Morrowind through its skills, quests, and traits. Many of the quests allow multiple routes for completion, with different avenues of play and endings. The central followers all being goodie-two-shoes is another qualm I have, but I usually play the good guy anyway. The main quest isn’t excruciatingly annoying this time around (Have you seen Shaun, my baby… Shaun he’s just a baby, a brand new baby little baby child!), with an ending and New Game+ that serves and a direct answer to me restarting Skyrim 1,000 times over the years.
But I love exploring strange new worlds, constructing spaceships, getting into dogfights, and expanding my crew. In many ways this is a dream come true game for me, far surpassing No Man’s Sky with its inclusion of compelling side quests and narratives, even if I can’t seamlessly fly from a planet to space. Another gripe. But for my worries going into this game and relative displeasure with Bethesda over the past couple years, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had loosened up on me as a player. I’m stoked for The Elder Scrolls VI, because I think they’ll almost certainly resolve some of my complaints just by toning down the physical scale a bit. Not saying it won’t be big, but I don’t think it’ll have 1,000 planets and therefore will probably have less repeated content; I’m glad they tried it here even if I don’t feel it’s right for Elder Scrolls or Fallout.
I have spent too much time away from the game now… the Starfield is speaking to me. I give myself to it. Goodbye.


I think a lot of people have that game from childhood. The one that we immersed ourselves in without really understanding it, stumbling around in the dark but still so enthralled that we weren’t ready to give up. We threw ourselves at the same things over and over again, weathering down the barrier between us and story, experience, and understanding, until only a sharp bond remained - one strong enough that after all this time, it still cleaves through years and cuts to the marrow of childhood fascination. That game for me is Baldur’s Gate.
Sitting in a sea of game materials - a pc game box designed like an ancient tome, a map of the sword coast, a manual that might as well have been written in a different language - I remember installing the game for the first time, and even that seemed like an epic adventure. It’s silly, but an installation that spanned over five discs and several hours was an event. I could not take my eyes away from the drawings on the screen while I sat and stared at the loading bar slowly journeying its way across the bottom of the screen.
I had always wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, but there was no one to play with. My step-dad had told me stories of his campaigns, epic and funny stories of exploration and fighting grand battles. I remember one in particular was about a wizard who stopped an entire army in their tracks by stopping a catapult through simply holding up his hand and casting a spell. The boulder smashed against the wall of force that he had conjured, but to the opposing army, it just looked like this wizened old man smashed a boulder with the heel of his hand, so they fled. I wanted so badly to partake in stories like this, and Baldur’s Gate was my first chance.
With this wizard in my mind, I rolled up a Mage without understanding how the stats worked, and ventured forth from Candlekeep only to be killed almost instantly. I honestly can’t remember what I died to anymore, but I know that rather than being upset, I just kept making characters. I didn’t really understand the rules. I read the manual, but couldn’t quite figure out everything it was telling me, so I just put it aside and kept playing.
The Sword Coast had swallowed me up and I could not escape. Around every corner was a new adventure - an artist who just wanted to finish his final masterpiece, a troupe of silly monsters that offered me an autograph, a chance encounter with one of the heroes from a book series I loved, a cranky wizard in his tower, and more. I didn’t even care or know what was going on with the main story. I just kept playing because I wanted to experience more of the world and the characters within.
I had been offered freedom in a video game that I had not known at the time, and I think that freedom and richness still holds up today. It’s why I’ve kept playing these games now for over 25 years. Eventually, I did figure out the mechanics. I did learn the story beats. I did save the Sword Coast. There was no definitive moment, but rather just a gradual deepening of understanding over time, which I think is primarily what makes this series so special to me. My progress mirrored the protagonist. At level 1 leaving Candlekeep, they have no idea of what is going on. They are fragile and disoriented, but piece by piece they begin to understand and grow in strength, and by the end of it (and the saga at large) they are ready to take on any challenge thrown at them.
Baldur’s Gate was truly an amazing adventure for me, and remains that way after all this time. I think this is its biggest strength and triumph as a saga. It manages to weave together small vignettes of stories that are rich and interesting through a large overarching plot, allowing every moment to feel grounded and important while still servicing a grand narrative that leads from childishly fleeing in the night out of terror to challenging nations, powerful sorcerers, terrible dragons, and even gods themselves. Humanity and character expression remain the forefront of the writing in Baldur’s Gate regardless of the stakes, which makes these games timeless, and continues to make me fall in love all over again each time I play. I hear those first words, “Nestled atop the cliffs that rise from the Sword Coast, the citadel of Candlekeep," and I'm 10 years old again, ready to begin my adventure.

A dark jam on cut-throat euro paintings. Powerful visuals and non-derivative occultism drive its beating heart, pushing fresh blood through naturalistic bones of stone and timer and glass and steel. I always come back skeptical and always finish amazed.

The story of a young man who becomes so hungry for nationalist glory that his deceased grandfather emerges from his wounds and puppets his blade in war-general regalia.
From's take on their historical home turf. Powerful visual metaphors loaded with cultural introspectiveness punctuate wordless exploration, critique, and celebration of history, religiosity, myth, institutions, and folklore.

the whole uproar about its premature release aside, i would say that (both collectively speaking and for myself) the primary grief with cyberpunk 2077 is its familiarity. there is—understandably, i think—a sort of unspoken and paradoxical desire for cyberpunk to simultaneously push boundaries and somehow return to what most would see as its conceptual roots: neuromancer, blade runner, and other works which set forth the feel and iconography of future worlds run by tech and overwhelming corporate power and corruption, as well as a profound posthuman interest. all of these ideas are well beyond familiar, now. this doesn't mean there aren't new frontiers for the genre... it just means that cd projekt red opted for nostalgia and pastiche. this isn't entirely a bad thing. (even those recent shadowrun games were very character-driven, nestled comfortably in their established and frankly derivative universe. and they're great!) it's a perfectly serviceable backdrop for character-driven stories, and for better or for worse, 2077 is abundant in this realm. for the most part, i think it's all really good! i mean, i really like some of these characters and enjoyed spending time with them unreservedly. to the point that... well, the culmination of my time with some of them almost left me feeling a bit empty, knowing there would be little left to look forward to outside my own imagination. (sux 2 b lonesome... heh heh.) maybe there is something "cyberpunk" about playing a game that makes one feel so forlorn in this era of everyone being so terminally online, connected by tech, yet no closer for it... seriously, i fuckin dream every night of finding someone who loves me and... uh, i kind of love those dreams despite the bittersweet aftermath of awakening.

I never had much of an attachment to the original Separate Ways campaign, so this reinterpretation pretty handily outclassed it. It expands the base game’s story in some really thoughtful ways while adding some excellent new mechanics and bosses.
It’s also helped me articulate my feelings on the remake in general. When I first finished it earlier this year, I was enamored by the way it touched up certain weak points of the original while not attempting to recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle gameplay mechanics that continue to make it such a thrill to play.
Now that the dust has settled and I’ve finished this DLC, I still really love this whole package. I don’t think anything will replace my love of the original and I will always prefer it, but this remake has its own strengths (particularly its stronger atmosphere and writing) that will certainly keep me coming back for future replays. I love it! I love both! Resident Evil is cool!! I would let Ada kick me down a flight of stairs!

yeo's environmental design, soundtrack direction, and laissez-faire approach to 'structure' elevates the somber and dour proceedings here and the title's very much so animated by its refusal to guide the player in any strict sense. it's commendable how driven yeo is towards theme and feeling and the world has just enough in the way of flourishes to stimulate a sense of role-playing but too little to fully and succinctly become immersed in; yeo does well to play with this disconnect, causing the complete and utter listlessness of the game to swell and swell and continue to swell prior to the game's climax (if you could call it that) on a frigid november day
on the other hand...there's a dearth of particulars here for me to really feel invested in or compelled by. backtracking here: ringo ishikawa's ultimate success lies in a delicate marriage between the formal & aesthetic language of a kunio-kun game, and the - you'll have to forgive the reductive if undemanding comparison - exploratory, life-sim mechanics of something like shenmue. and the idea's so obvious, so axiomatic even in the kunio-kun games that ringo does little to iterate upon that idea, with certain environmental backgrounds and even mechanics feeling directly lifted from its NES progenitor. thrusting the lifesim framework to the forefront, then, is the most transformative quality of ringo and it achieves this by inviting players to test the boundaries of the world and create their own sense of meaning within that structure - that ringo obscures how tightly directed the game actually is only serves to further entrench just how well-considered and intelligent its design is as well. the game is also underscored by honest-to-god literary ambition which all eventually coalesces into an absolutely devastating ending but whatever i digress
point is, stone buddha...bit less going for it. it's a mood piece first and foremost - which, to its credit, its executes with total conviction and belief in the premise - but everything that you'd expect a game which probes into ennui would have is here, which honestly does it no favours. a lack of concrete narrative + good deal of economical prose invites some lovely interpretations, but you can see this specific ending coming a mile away and there's just too little that's actually transformative about it to really have the same sense of emotional resonance
sounds like im ragging but it's still a great time. unpolished sections and inelegant difficulty curve, sure, but it doesn't overstay its welcome and yeo's willingness to eschew conventional game design continues to delight. there's a lot to love about how the mechanics inform the atmosphere and how you eventually build an innate and instinctual feeling for exactly what you're supposed to do (and i particularly did enjoy how rote it felt when finally mastered - that contrast between what's supposed to be kinetic and improvisational versus the reality that you're a slowly advancing turret) but im also unconvinced that that part of the game was supposed to be intentionally monotonous like everyone says or whatever which does make me feel a bit of internal conflict. id bet my apartment on yeo designing the combat with a bottle of beluga going like 'yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa'. good for him