November 20

Thoughts on Circadian Dice

Circadian Dice have been out for quite a while on itch, but it was added to Steam a while back (I think it’s a few years at this point) with a big overhaul update and a very affordable price tag. It’s a well crafted little game that no one interested in mechanicly deep puzzle games should miss out on. It might look unassuming at a first glance, but make no misstake, this is quite the gem.

Developed by Shuffle Up Games from the mind of one of my former programming teachers, Sanny Syberfeldt, Circadian Dice is a game with a simple premise and recognizable fantasy settings, who puts just about all it’s focus on the gameplay systems. If you’ve played and enjoyed any sort of deckbuilding game, this will feel familiar to you.

Circadian dice is really a masterclass in system driven design. As most similar games, it relies heavily on it’s game systems and rulesets to craft the player experience rather than visuals or story. You learn and explore the gameplay as you unlock new classes and types of dice, making the first few hours very exciting as you get a steady stream of new content.

You start out with just one character and one dungeon to play, but you quickly unlock new content. Aside from new dungeons with increasing difficulty you also get new characters that adds new mechanics to be applied on the dice for all the classes . At the end of the game there is a myriad of different challenges to take on and a number of different ways to play. It’s really much bigger than what it first appears to be, which is exactly the feeling you want to get when you get to the end in a game like this.

As it is a dice-building game instead of the traditional card-building it feels quite fresh, even in these times where a new roguelite card game shows up every other day.

Each time you start a scenario, you also select a class you want to play as well as starting equipment for that class. Depending on the scenario you can have a varying amount of equipment, in the early ones you can only bring one, and in the later ones you can bring more to further deepen the strategy your going for.

A scenario is basically a number of waves of monsters that you have to defeat, that include at least one boss monster at the end. Monsters have health and damage as well as a myriad of different special abilities, some traditional like lifesteal, toughness and regeneration but also more innovative ones that affects certain faces on the die. You normally start out with two dice, and you have three re-rolls each turn. You can decide to keep what you get or re-roll, once you keep you get the effect on the current faces (attacking, gold, blocking, etc.). There is a lot of randomness involved but as the scenario goes on you collect gold which you can use to replace the worst faces on your dice with new ones to more and more hone in on your strategy.

The core gameplay of just roling dice, using abilities and customizing your dice as you continously defeat monsters is really fun. The game is no visual marvel to be sure, but it does the job well enough. Circadian Dice offers unique gameplay that you can’t find anywhere as far as I know and it deserves to stand as one of the finest in the suite of deckbuilding-esque games. Easy to play bitesized or something that you can spend an entire evening on with generous content progression that lasts for many hours.

January 24

Thoughts on Midnight Suns

Midnight Suns Logo

I don’t often buy games at their release. I have too much to play already so I can’t often motivate myself to do so.

I especially do not pre-purchase games. Since I have so much to play already, it often feel like throwing money in the lake. It’s better for me to wait and see what sort of reception the game gets before I deem if it is worth spending time on or not.

And I’ve just about never bought a game’s season pass before the game was released. I want to know if I like the game before I commit to DLC.

…BUT contradicting all I stated above, I pre-purchased Midnight Suns: Super Special Legend edition (or whatever it was called!) that included the game, the season pass for the first four DLC and some other random cosmetic goodies. On paper the game just fits my profile too perfectly; it’s like the developer looked at my play history and decided that they wanted to make me a game. I’ve been playing Midnight Suns a lot lately and I’m having tons of fun. The game have some pacing issues, confusing difficulty, several bugs (including crashy ones) and a lot of awkward diagloue; but it is still freaking fantastic. I forgive it all when the game lets me be best buddies with Peter Parker aka Spider-man aka my childhood hero.

A gourmet table for the Marvel Comics afficionado. The references to characters, events and stories from the Marvel universe go far and wide. As a long time fan of that world, it is such a pleasure to be able to befriend some of it’s biggest characters and help them overcome their problems. You also get to know lesser known characters like Nico from the Runaways, Magik the queen of Limbo and Robbie Reyes, the lesser known Ghost Rider.

Even if the lore and the characters are fantastic, it is in the tactics gameplay where the game shines most. At times it even feels like other stuff is getting in your way when all you want to do is bust some Hydra skulls with your best buddy Spider-man. Tactics gameplay is centered around card mechanics where you bring three characters to a mission, each of them with a set of cards that you setup when you prepare your loadout. Each of these character decks are shuffled together as one pile that you draw from (pretty much how we did it in SteamWorld Quest 😉 ). Each character has their own health and offense, and of course when a character goes down you can’t use their cards anymore.

A typical battlefield at the start of a mission.

Except for the cards it is also important to position your heroes and make use of the environment. There are a number of different actions you can perform on each battlefield that you make use of by spending “Heroic Points” (which is the same resource you use to play cards). These actions can be stuff like jumping of platforms to strike down on enemies, throw boxes at them or hit explosive barrels. At their core a battlefield is just an open field, but thanks to the different environment actions and some other minor differences, they feel different enough for the game to never go completely stale.

There is a lot I really like about Midnight Suns, not only because I’m a huge Marvel geek and a big fan of card games. The game has a lot of interesting stuff going on. There are a bunch of systems that all feed into each other. You can explore the area around The Abbey (basically your home base in a pocket dimension away from the bad guys), this gives you ingredients that lets you craft items and resources as well as reward you with special cards for the main character. You can befriend the different heroes, this gives you small stat bonuses and also improved co-op attack during missions. Each mission awards you with new cards and there is a constant stream of new characters, so you’re never out of toys to play with. Even though the systems can sometimes be a bit chore-like, most of the time they present meaningful choices that impact other aspects of the game.

Another thing I really like is that you unlock difficulty levels as you progress. You unlock new ones quickly, you just have to finish a couple of missions in a difficulty level to unlock the next one. This naturally and quite smoothly gets you to your optimal difficulty. Each increase in difficulty also gives som extra cosmetic resources and bonus experience points for your heroes, which is a nice bonus to not make it feel as bad when you decide to pick it up a notch.

The only gripes I really have is that even though the dialogue for each individual hero you meet is well written, some of the interactions with your character “The Hunter” can become quite awkward and often the social encounters or the exploration gameplay feels like chores to get to the real gameplay, the missions.

I also feel like the difficulty can be a bit uneven at times. As mentioned before there is a difficulty setting but the enemies also scale with your levels. The problem is that even though your character have high stats, they may not have the cards to back it up, so some levels end up being ridiculously easy while others spike, depending on what loadout you have available.

That said, I’m really looking forward to DLC. The first one has just been announced and apparently it is Deadpool who is joining the crew. It’s gonna be great to go through his dialogue, see his cards and play through his missions. Maybe I’ll write another piece about this game down the line.

April 18

Thoughts on itch’s Bundle for Ukraine, Part 1

I tried to support the people in Ukraine through a few different organisations, but one of the more “fun” ways to support is the bundles that have become a staple on itch when humanity needs assistance. It is amazing to see the indie game community come together to spread help and awareness while also delivering an overwhelmingly large numer of colorful games.

As with the previous bundle I’ve started to try as many games as I can muster and I decided to write a little bit about each one I’ve tried. Disclaimer that my thoughts might be a bit harsh, since there are so many games I had a rule that I would not continue to play a game if it somehow lost me from it’s grasp (be it because of bugs or gameplay). I only played for close to 10 minutes on certain games which is too little time to make a nuanced report. That said, I have the greatest respect for anyone who puts their game out there and manage to find an audience, hats of to you, but these are my raw experiences playing through the first few games in the bundle.


Developed by Stone Lantern Games and published by PQube.


I thought the art style was pretty neat for this one, especially the particle effects. They were colorful, playful and pulled me into the game. Unfortunately the main character and esp. it’s animations were a bit lackluster and didn’t really follow up on the first impression.

Having played my fair share of platformers before, it’s a really hard sell for me and the game is gonna have to present me with something really tasty to hook me. Evergate is a puzzle platformer with a sort of sling shot mechanic where you fire the main character through objects to gain a movement boost. It was a bit hard to understand at first but I got a lot of time to figure it out and the game had a nice step by step tutorial.

After the tutorial I went into some sort of portal that took me to China from 300 years ago if I understood the UI correctly. I thought: “Cool, maybe I get to play through a historic event or something considering I’m some sort of death god that travels to earth for the first time.” Unfortunately I was majorly dissapointed when I was introduced to a very classic puzzle game setup playing through room after room of small action puzzle challenges. I got tired of it after two rooms and turned the game off. Did not at all understand the connection between the gameplay and the narrative.


Developed and published by Glass Bottom Games.


I was a bit hype for this one. This was one of few games on the vast list that I’d heard about before and really wanted to try out. Also my partner is a big fan of birds so we’ve played a lot of Wingspan (board game by Elizaberth Hargrave) and this felt like it tried to evoke the same emotions through it’s art. I was also a big fan of the Tony Hawk skater games when I was younger, although it was probably 20 years ago I played it last.

The main menu and especially character creation screen is absolutely brilliant! Immediately I got all giddy and tried out plenty of different looks for my little skater bird. There were a lot of options and every bird I made ended up super cute!

The gameplay was a mix of self-expression and mission based, mostly the early missions required me to understand one of the different tricks I could perform with the skateboard. It was a pretty nice learning curve, starting out not being able too do much before falling but steadily becoming more proficient in controlling the board.

I could probably continued playing for an hour or so? But turned off the game after around 30 min feeling quite done after that time. This type of game is not really my jam anymore.

Fuzz Dungeon

Developed and published by Jeremy Couillard.


This game was a crazy ride. Really felt like I was looking into another persons mind with a bunch of references, imagery and sequences that I had no idea of what to make of.

Unfortunately I had some troubles with the game getting stuck and me having to restart. That combined with the fact that I didn’t vibe particularily well with the amount of weirdness I was presented with, resulted in a very short gameplay session. I felt like this game had needed some sort of additional context for me so that I would have a driving force to get through it. One thing it had above the other two above in this list though, I had no idea in which direction this game was headed.

March 30

Thoughts on Elden Ring, Part 1…?

From Software have really been on a streak, continuing to release critically aclaimed games. I haven’t even gotten around to play Sekiro yet but when I heard the impressions from reviewers with Elden Ring I felt I wanted to join the hype train at launch. I was not dissapointed, the game is probably one of the best I’ve played. You get nauseus about the amount of content is packed into the game.

I’ve banked around 70 hours into the game by now and it’s time to write something about it. I’ve hit some kind of rough patch when it comes to playing the game. I haven’t really touched the game for a week and last time I ended my session I had just lost a bunch of runes after dying a few times in one of the infamous Hero’s Graves dungeons which contains the worst enemies in the game.

In the end of the day though, I love Elden Ring. It really lived up to the hype. It’s as close to perfect you could get within reasonable boundaries with a huge game like that. From Software have learned their lessons from previous titles and really sharpened their loops, mechanics and progression systems to something that feels really good. Elden Ring borrows HEAVILY from previous Soulsborne games (Sekiro included) and the novelty it takes on from Breath of the Wild. A pitch that would sound ridicolous but that makes so much sense when you see the results.

First Hour

The “first” first impression was that Elden Ring has used most about everything from previous games. Fonts, UI, animations, game systems, etc. So much that during the secret tutorial I was sort of dissapointed, I was a bit worried that it might “just” be another souls game, but my frown was soon to be turned upside down. From Software have basically invited their own genre, so why fix what isn’t broken? As soon as I got out onto the open world though and secured my horsie, my mind got blown over and over again.

Huge Open World

Exploring the world is so much fun. There is so much content that it hurts my poor brain looking at it all. A lot of hidden goodies to find, plenty of amazing vistas to look at and packs of mysterious characters to be intrigued by. The horse-goat-thing is really what makes it joyful, before I had found it and had to travel by foot and sneak around everything to not get killed, it was instead really scary out there. That makes it so much more intense when you go into dungeons, since you can’t bring your horse down you have to rely on good old shield and rolls to keep out of danger

Combat, any way you want it

Combat is excellent as always. What really makes this game glow is all the options and all the ways you can break the game. I like that the game is a little broken and that there are plenty of OP strategies you can find. It lets you make the game easy if you want to and make the research for yourself. This kind of game is also nearly impossible to balance properly, so certain strategies are bound to be more powerful than others. That said, I’m not at all playing multiplayer so the PvP scene might be completely whack, bu that doesn’t concern me.

Characters and Quests

The characters you encounter are as mysterious as ever and the quest lines need to be googled to be followed with precision. This is the only case where I allow myself to google help in the game, everything else I must explore for myself or discuss with someone else live, but the non-player characters’ storylines are bloody impossible to follow sometimes. It’s basically Where’s Waldo again and again in one of the largets game worlds ever in this genre. They often leave close to none clue of where they will show up next. That said, when you actually manage to figure something out, you feel very smart. That feeling of pure satisfaction when you succeed with something is what makes the souls game so great overall and it is true for its questlines as well.

To be continued

I have more to write about this of course, but this will have to do for now to at least get something on the board. Hopefully I won’t let four weeks pass until next post. Ciao!

February 8

Thoughts on Legends of Runeterra

Think what you want about Riot games as a company, they are quite controversial these times, but they have some solid developers in their midst. Growing up I was a Dota-boy and I transitioned to LoL as early as Beta version. I played it a lot with my brother and some of my friends. Made a lot of new friends in the game. Played it with my students when I became a teacher. Needless to say, the game and especially the characters holds a special place in my heart.

The last six months I’ve started playing Legends of Runeterra a lot; Riot’s card game set in the same world. I played it quite a bit at release as well but I fell off because of other interesting games that popped up. Now I’m really hooked, much thanks to me buying a new phone where you can actually play games. Since digital card games these days are so well adapted to mobile screens it works just as well to play on the phone as it does on the PC.

Rather than talk about how the game works I thought I’d focus in on the stuff that I really like about it.

First: The Champions

Each deck can have up to six champions. You can have fewer if you want to but generally the champions are pretty powerful units so you want them in the deck. You can have a maximum of three copies of each champion in the deck(as with any other card). Champions have a level up condition, when leveled up the champion will switch to a more powerful form which will often speed up the game considerably if not dealt with quickly. The champion often have an effect that helps them on their way toward their level up. Conditions are things like seeing units die, dealing damage, targeting enemies or seeing specific keywords on allies. Champions are often the build around cards for each set. Each champion comes with a set of cards that are designed to use with them, but many champions have overlapping effects where you can double down on a specific strategy or creating interesting combinations.

Second: The Attack Token

To win in LoR you have to lower your opponent’s crystal’s health to zero, the most straightforward way to do this is to attack. This is by no means a unique rulest for card games, what is unique is the way the attack order works. Who gets to attack is determined by an attack token. The attack token starts with a player chosen at random and is then passed back and forth between the players as they pass turns. Since you can attack at anytime during a turn as long as you have the token, this creates a very interesting choice: Do you “open attack” or do you “develop”? The one who has the attack token always takes the first action, so an open attack is simply to attack as the first thing you do on a turn. This often means that you aren’t attacking with at much as you could have, if you have any units in your hand, but it also means that the opponent can’t develop any more blockers than what they have. The other option is to spend your mana to develop more attackers and then attack. Which of these options is the correct one is often not trivial to figure out as it depends on match up, what cards you think your opponent have and what the current health total is.

Third: Spell mana

Often the more simple feature contributes the most to elevating certain games from being mediocre to being great. Spell mana is such a feature. Starting from zero, at the start of each turn you gain one extra maximum mana and then refill. Any excess mana that you don’t spend are lost to you, except if you have available spell mana slots. There are three spell mana slots and you can use them to bank mana for future turns, but you can only use that mana to cast spells. There are three types of cards in LoR: units, spells and landmarks (these were added in one of the expansions). Units and Landmarks stick on the board and have lasting power where spells often have an immediate effect, often a more supportive one. This makes it so that there is a merit to saving some of your mana but only makes it available for certain plays.

Fourth: Passing the turn

In LoR you take turns doing one action each during a round. Passing the turn might seem like a mundane thing at first, but it’s actually quite a brilliant chicken race mechanic. You often don’t want to be the first one to commit to something big, as if you don’t have any available mana left your opponent knows that you can’t deal with anything they play. This makes for a fun dare game were if you have the most developed board state you can dare your opponent to act first or spend their mana.

Finishing thoughts

Apart from those four points, LoR is just a well made game with tons of good voice acting, interactions between the characters on the cards, cool mechanics and right now a really fun meta. They also have expeditions (a form of drafting) and a single-player mode. They also have an extremely generous economy. I haven’t paid anything and I can still make any deck I want. Only reason I would want to spend money on it would be to support the developer, which is something I really should do I just haven’t decided what I would want to buy. There are some cosmetic items that are pretty cool but nothing has fully caught my eye to warrant a purchase.

Well, that’s a few thoughts. Might make another post later about it.

February 1

Thoughts on The Gunk

It’s always a mixed bag of feelings when you release a game you’ve been working very hard on. You both desperately want to keep working on it because there are so many flaws you can see, but you also want to never see it again because you’re so tired of it. Now with some distance between me and the development, I feel that I can be proud of our achievement and think on the game with a clearer perspective.

The Gunk has gone through a lot of phases. It ended up being a short but sweet adventure game where the primary focus on exploring an alien planet and secondary focus on the relationship between the two protagonists. The story and atmosphere are top notch and it has one of the best depiction of a two person relationship I’ve ever experienced in a game. The writing and voice acting between Rani and Becks feel so real and believable that I could almost see myself going to a theatre just watching two stage actors performing the script on a stage.

The game mechanic is quite simple and never gets that challenging but it focuses on rewarding the player and making them feel good about what they’re doing. There are enemies, so there are some risk, but the game never gets difficult enough to put a break to the story or atmosphere. This wasn’t always the goal, so even though I’m quite happy with the end result, there were often times I was worried that we were making a too simple and forgetable game.

Our previous games have had a lot of focus on systemic gameplay where everything else came secondary to the main loop. In The Gunk we started out with that same mentality but as the games focus shifted with time, we also had to change the amount of effort with put in each discipline so that we would have time to finish it all. I eventually shifted gears completely and accepted the fact that gameplay wasn’t really the focus of this game. I would have to work to make gameplay just “good enough” to work with the story and the world.

With that said, I really wish we could’ve done more with the gunk sucking mechanic. That mechanic feel so nice and we put so much effort into it that it’s kind of a shame that it doesn’t evolve more. How it starts out is pretty much how it ends even though there are some smaller developments. I think we should’ve had more focus on that mechanic and perhaps completely removed the enemies and instead made more gunk-related hazards.

The same goes with the upgrade system. In it’s first iteration it had much more in common with a crafting system but it had to be simplified to the point where it’s barely more than a shop menu. Collecting various ingredients in a strange planet fits the fantasy and the story so well. It would’ve been a good thing for the gmae if collecting was more varied and more exploratory. I think we ended up with a good compromise and some juicy loot container interactions, but more experimenting with a more crafting-like feature would’ve made more sense.

All things aside, I’m very happy on how the game has been recieved. Many has had a lovely time with the game and enjoyed it for what it is. The reviews have also been fair in their assesments often pointing out things that we already knew; the game isn’t for everyone but those who it’s for will really like it.

January 25

Thoughts on Deathloop

I think that I could write several posts on this game. It has quite a lot going for it; tight action gameplay, meaningful stealth gameplay, intriguing story, good voice-acting and a clever gimmick to make it stick out. The first few hours were amazing, I’m not at all surprised that it was so well recieved from both players and journalists, but I feel that the appeal didn’t reach all the way through the entire experience. The last few hours or so I just wanted the game to be done and give me the ending. I also had som issues with the game freezing up a couple of times, and since the saves are pretty far between it made me lose considerable progress.

The games story starts as a classic amnesia experience. We have seen it all before (none has made that story as well as Disco Elysium did). We wake up as Colt on a beach, the environment suggests we’ve been drinking and we must retrace our steps. This gets me going, I love Hangover stories. We later discover he is trapped on an island where “the visionaries” (a bunch of asshole scientists, rich people and artists) have created a time loop that lets them party for eternity. Colt is not pleased with this and wants to break the loop so that he can escape the island. Only Colt and another one of the visionaries, Juliana, remembers time between loops and she is fully determined to stop Colt from ending the loop.

It’s a pretty neat setup. What you spend most of your time doing is exploring different parts of the Island on different parts of the day, there are four locations/maps and four time slots. The locations keeps their basic layout but a lot changes between the different time slots. This also lets ju tamper with something at the start of the day and then get an effect at a later time. If you die, the loop restarts and you lose items you haven’t “Infused” yet. Infusing an item lets you keep it between loops.

There are quite a few strategies you can use to traverse a level. You unlock a bunch of differente abilities, weapons and powers over the cours of the game and at the end of the game you have a lot of tools at your disposal. Since you don’t really get much from killing enemies, I felt like stealth was a much more viable tactic than it usually is. That said, I still went for a more tanky build with fire power, I just don’t have the patience to sneak around when I can just kill everyone instead. At certain points though I felt like my usual tactic was challenged and that I needed to switch up.

In fact at the start of the game I died quite a lot. Especially from invading players; if you enable online play other players can take control of Juliana and invade your timeline. Juliana is a tough son of a gun and the more experience the player have with her and the game itself, the more dangerous she is going to be. I turned of online mode later because I felt like it prolonged the game so much when I had to take care of Juliana first each time I entered a new area. I liked the feature in theory but didn’t really want to interact with it, much the same way I feel about red phantoms in the souls games.

Much of my joy came from the banter between Colt and Juliana. Juliana taps into Colts com radio at the start of each map and they have some not-so-friendly banter between them. I also liked getting info about the other visionaries and their relation to Colt. The end goal of the game is to kill all the visionaries on a single day, and to do that you have to collect information about them to make sure they are at a place that’s convenient to you. This was a real fun problem to solve, you get quite a lot of help from the UI of course so if you don’t want to think too much you can often just interact with anything you find and follow the arrows.

The ending left me pretty disappointed as I feel like it didn’t give me the katharsis that I feel the game warranted. I assume that you could explore more and find out more about the world and the story, but not sure that I will come back to it. Maybe to try and play Juliana some, but we’ll see.

January 18

Thoughts on Fortnite

I never thought that I would play Fortnite.

I thought of Fortnite as something that young people, youtubers and other influencers play. Not even from a proffesional angle, to analyse one of the most succesful games in history, did I think that I would ever play Fortnite.

Then it happened.

It was after we had been to visit family in northern sweden. We have a nephew that is old enough now that he and his friends have started more mature games, like Fortnite. He had carefully asked me a few times if I wanted to try and play Fortnite with him (we had played other games together before) but I had kinda blown it off as something that I really didn’t have time to learn as properly as I would’ve wanted.

But then, at that visit, he told me that this season was the SPIDER-MAN season! As I explained in my earlier post, I freaking love spider-man, dude, so this was a powerful catalyser to start me in my Fortnite journey. I agreed to play with him and try it out one time, another draw being that I wanted to try it out on the PS5.

I was hooked after the first match (which we won, and then went on a ten game win streak. Just spittin’ facts y’all).

The game had so much more to offer than I first would’ve thought. The map itself almost fell like a small MMORPG with a bunch of tasks and events that you could take on while the actual battle royal is happening around you. The first few hours I treated it pretty much like any other Battle Royale shooter as I’ve played quite a lot of Apex legends, but the game continously evolved as my nephew presented new features. Tents, cars, hens and of course, constructing.

The building part of Fortnite is was makes it really stick out from other shooters. I feel like it’s such an unlikely feature to add to a game like this and it really gives off the vibes that this isn’t the intended form for this game. Seeing more experienced players use constructing buildings in tandem with firing guns. And there is really a great deal of strategy and tactics in using the building aspect, it creating ways to hide, disrupt enemy fire, isolate targets, etc. I’m not sure I’m particularily fond of it, but I respect the mechanic for what it brings to the table.

And then there are the skins. Holy moly, there are so many skins and it feels like a new one shows up in the shop everyday. I mean I have pretty good impulse control when it comes to most things so I only had my sights set on the Spider-man costume, but it’s hard not to get mesmerized by the sheer volume of skins, emotes, music tracks and weapons. Actually that feeling sums out the game pretty much, “a game with a mesmerizing volume of content”.

There is always more, it never stops since Epic is doing a fine job of keeping the game fresh. Mechanics, items and stage hazards are added or removed continously. Each season often brings entirely new areas and NPCs. This season for exampel introduced web shooters which let’s you swing by shooting strings of webbing, like Spider-men. This allows for unprecedented movement capabilities and is new for this season. Each season also brings new storylines with new quests (although both the storylines and the quests are often quite simple).

And beside everything else, Fortnite is still a fine shooter you can play with your friends where each match can be played within an accepted time frame.

Even though I’ve acheived what I set out to do and got enough levels to earn myself the Spider-man skin I might still continue to play the game some more, but not like I have been. This game has eaten up a lot of my spare time lately, but I don’t regret it because it’s been fun and I’m glad I tried it.

July 30

Thoughts on God of War

Third-person hack’n slashes are not a comfort game genre for me, the mechanics are ofte a bit too execution heavy for my taste and they are seldom varied enough. That said, I’ve enjoyed just about every God of War game that has been released. I think I’ve finished each one except for God of War 3, there aren’t many long running game series I’ve been that loyal to. They’ve often delivered extremely satisfying combat and amazing scenes were you battle gigantic monsters and beings.

I was interested in this game from when it was released, because of the connection to norse mythology. There are some great stories to take inspiration from and I also liked the prospect of the dynamic between Kratos and his son. When the game released I have fond memories of all the “Boy!” memes that flooded the internet and I heard great things about the game. Still, as it often goes, I have not had time to play it until now. I decided to make it this years summer vacation game and it has been a mixed bag with some really nice highs and some dissapointments with some decent gameplay inbetween.

First thing that struck me as curious was that the game had suprisingly little emphasis on combat. All the God of War games that I can remember had a very heavy focus on combat and felt more like arcade games. This was much more of an action/adventure game with quite large doses of exploration, narrative and puzzles. If I would have to guess I would say that I spent maybe 25% of the game time actually fighting? Most of the time I was running around exploring the world.

Second thing that stuck out was how well written the characters were. The narrative was the number one reason for me to want to play the game through. I loved the dynamic between Kratos and his son Atreus, how their relationship constantly shifted and how it affected how Atreus would act in combat. Truly a wonderful story of a single parent trying to raise their child after a tragedy. At the beginning Atreus is really unsure of himself and is extremely respectful towards his father, but as they discover the world together, meet new people and defeat new challenges, his demeanor change with time.

I had some difficulties getting into the combat. At the beginning I died quite a few times so I decided to lower the difficulty level one step, playing on normal. After the first hurdles and when you could start using equipment and skills to optimize your strategy I got comfortable with it. I did get tiresome after while though, when you’ve seen the same combination of enemy a few too many times it becomes more of a chore to push through than something actually enjoyable. I think I would’ve wanted the games main story to end slightly sooner, maybe removing one of the dungeons or making some of them shorter. At the end I was only in it for the story.

The progression system was pretty cool. You have a lot to play around with. Experience to buy skills and upgrade your special moves, silver to buy equipment that give you stat boosts and enhancements that you can slot into equipment. It felt like an interesting enough system that you got rewarded enough for interacting with it. Although I had a hard time figuring out excactly what the stat increases were worth too me.

The boss fights were probably the most dissapointing part of the game. I was expecting to face off against some of the greats in the Norse pantheon but I didn’t feel like that fantasy was fullfilled. There are some really epic fights, especially one against a dragon, but they did not have the proper narrative weight that is often associated with taking down gods in God of War. Most bosses were variants of each other and there were few that were memorable at all. You handle them pretty similiar to how you handled normal enemies. As I mentioned before, would’ve liked a somewhat shorter games with less content repetition and a more balanced expectation from the game for what I would be facing.

Continuing on a similar thought, hitting stuff as Kratos feels kinda awkward. Sometimes he is super duper strong, and sometimes his hits feels very mediocre. Just bashing a monster and getting no visual reaction from it other than small *thuds*, health bar decreasing and a small visual effect. Often not enough of selling the fantasy of you being a super strong god that is killing random undead. Combat feels best when performing gory finishes or when battling really squishy enemies so that you would clear a small army with relative ease. That felt more appropriate to how Kratos should be able to perform.

Last thing to note: Exploration. The exploration gameplay was really excellent. There were a lot of variation on things to look out for in the environment. When looking around for secrets or bonus content, there were always something to find. I’m not a completionist player so I didn’t do too much of the extra content, but the world felt very big because of it. I especially liked the treasure maps, which gave you a written hint and a stylised screenshot of a location where you would find your treasures, and also the rune chests, which were chests with three runes attached to it that you needed to find in connection to the chest and deactivate them to open it.

So to sum it up: Great characters, great exploration gameplay, decent combat but with somewhat dissapointing bosses. Noteworthy is that I might’ve missed something big since I didn’t do much of the optional content, but I never force myself to do stuff like that when I feel done with the game.

February 8

Thoughts on Mass Effect: Andromeda

I loved the first Mass Effect game. Probably one of my favourite space opera stories. The plot has as a nice dramatic development that feels natural and not too over the top. The characters are almost universally memorable. You even remember the bad ones because they stick out so much from all the awsome character design.

Mass Effect: Andromeda has maintained very little of those aspects. The characters are dull and not memorable at all, the directing and acting is sub-par and the animations are attrocious. Bioware clearly had some development issues during the making of this game.

At first I was pretty intrigued by the gameplay, the setting and the story. The gameplay is pretty similar to other mass effect game but I particularily liked the different progression systems in the game. You have a LOT of choices in developing your playstyle, which can be awesome if the combat design can support it. Unfortunately in most fights I felt that it didn’t really matter what tactic or strategy I used, I didn’t feel like one was better than the other. Probably had the wrong difficulty setting, but still I didn’t feel invested enough with the game to switch that around (the power of the backlog gives tough competition).

I really like the setting with a bunch of space travellers that are among the first to explore a new galaxy. The intro sets up a pretty solid premise and I was into it even if I didn’t enjoy the characters, acting or directing. I kept hoping for it to get better, but didn’t feel that my persistence got rewarded.

After putting something like five hours into it I decided to cut my losses and go ahead and continue over to a new game. Maybe I’ll get back to this at a later time to hype myself for the remakes of the original trilogy.