In previous years I have looked and evaluated each game that I have played and given a brief synopsis, but this year I wanted to do something a little bit different. You see, 2019 is probably one of the second worst years that I have had the misfortune of going through, with the other being 2012. So instead of looking at my year of gaming, I wanted to look at my year as a whole, with the games thrown in after a synopsis of what happened - if you want to just look at my games, I don’t blame you, I tried to make those sections obvious. Also, as a preface, I had a lot of fun parties this year, and some good vacations. It’s unfortunate that a lot of looking at the past is defined by only the bad instead of the good, so I feel like I have to say that this isn’t a full year summary, just the things that made it harder than it should have been.
For those of you who stayed on, this year has been a dumpster fire starting in February. Last year, my grandmother on my mom’s side died. A year before that, her husband. About a decade before that, my grandmother on my dad’s side died, and it was in a heartwarming way - she was always soft spoken and loving, and when she felt that something was wrong in a quilting store, she turned to another customer and told them “I don’t want to alarm anyone but I think I’m having an aneurysm”. Turns out, she did. And my grandfather took care of her, and as I later learned, wrote letters every day where she was unconscious about his undying love for her. He himself is a beast of a man, well over 6 and a half feet tall, strong facial features, working out every day, and laughing the loudest when he heard a joke through his hearing aid. Compared to my dad who has been working with drywall for 30 years and smoking a pack a day, and my mom’s family who has had a history of heart failure and obesity, it would be surprising if this giant of a Dane didn’t outlive them both by 50 years.
Come February of this year, he was diagnosed with cancer in his lungs. He previously had issues which had been removed, but this time it had come back and had begun to metastasize in his other organs. At the time, he was in Florida with his retirement home lady friend, and my father without hesitation drove from Illinois down to see his dad. The speed which he left leaves me with nothing but admiration - I detest driving any more than half an hour, so to take a 20 hour or so trip with no pause leaves me filled with pride about the man who raised me. My grandfather’s condition only got worse over time, and seeing someone I had idolized get sick took a toll on me, but more than that, my dad was also affected. Several times he wasn’t himself, and couldn’t bring himself to talk to anyone but my mom because he didn’t want to be seen grieving. It was enough where my mom was saying she didn’t recognize him at times.
At one point during the whole process, my dad requested that I send him this gif, as it explained his relationship with my grandpa's lady friend. The process was not going over very well...
On the homefront was a cairn terrier that they had adopted a few months prior (my mom is obsessed with the Wizard of Oz, so Toto was a given, although her name is Scout after To Kill a Mockingbird). A puppy was too much to handle for my mom in addition to living alone for an extended period of time and seeing my dad crumble as his father’s health faded. She was going to give up the dog until I threw my hat in the ring that I could take care of her until things had settled down. I was in a period where I had felt genuinely helpless - my sister and her husband had both volunteered to fly down to Florida from Boston to help however they could, and I was left in my cushy seat doing nothing. Even if the dog destroyed every item of value in my house, it was something that I could shoulder to make life easier for my family. It was my burden to bear in the process. And I was fine taking it if it made my family’s life easier. We determined that would meet on Saturday halfway between our homes at the Mississippi river to exchange the dog like some back alley drug deal.
The week before I would leave to do that one of my good lady friends got in touch with me late at night asking if I wanted to hang out, so naturally I had to say yes. Turns out, she had been drinking and wanted to be with her friend so we stayed up late chatting, and she invited herself to my bedroom to sleep it off. She has previously been overly flirty, but it always ended up 'not in my favor' to say it generously, so I was pretty okay with a decent turn. I do want to state that all we did was share a bed - she was drunk. But it was nice, confusing, and stressful at a time where I didn’t need more to think about. As I woke up, the house was extraordinarily cold. Turns out that night, the furnace decided to die. It was, as I learned in the inspection, well past its prime, and the guy from the company told me he had to declare it a fire hazard and no one would fix it and so I had to buy a new one. So I ran to get space heaters as I figured out what to do, shutting all the non essential rooms and closing the vents. They could only fix it after the weekend, which was less than ideal. After I complained to my dad about it (who definitely didn’t need it, but sometimes in your panic, you have to turn to fatherly wisdom) he said anyone worth their salt would install a furnace on the weekend, so I called around and found one that would do it - at extra cost of course. So now the house was back to being warmed, and my bill should have decreased, but furnaces are not cheap, folks. Finally, I was ready to go and pick up the dog.
But even this had to be a bear of a task. My car’s lease was ending on that weekend, so I needed to get a new car. I had been in discussions at a dealership for a month about getting a new lease for what I really wanted, but somehow after putting money down to reserve a car, they sold that same car. They could get another one it, but it wouldn’t be until after I needed it. So that Thursday I had to drive up to Toyota to turn in my old car and buy a new one with the worst chips on the table - if they wanted to, they could have raked me over the coals and I would have to take it. But in the end, I got what I felt was a fair deal in one day as opposed to several months. I know this is a total ‘hail corporate’ thing, but Toyota bailed me out and made the process pretty pain free. It was really what I needed. I drove the car home Thursday, took it for a 20 minute drive Friday, then on Saturday drove it for 3 hours to the Mighty Miss.
Best McDonalds view ever
I arrived before my mom did, so I stopped in at the McDonald’s that I will argue has the best view of all fast food places for some tendees and fries. Naturally, these killed my stomach and I had to stop a half dozen times, once at the side of the road, to address the problem. But finally, I had Scout, and was ready to do my part! She was about 3 or 4 months old at the time, I believe, so not potty trained, loves biting, and wasn’t socialized. If you take your eyes off of her, she would find trouble. So I gated off my guest room turned gaming room so I could watch her and my other dog, Nora, while still having fun. I have my childhood NES and SNES attached to a TV there, so I decided I could play through some old games I had laying around. The first of which was:
Secret of Evermore
The game has an incredible amount of charm. Its dialogue is campy, self referential, and occasionally 4th wall breaking. It has so many good mechanics that never got explored to their fullest potential, which at the very least makes it an interesting game to play through. That being said, it is unbalanced at best, and labyrinthine at worst. Several areas are incredibly complex without guides (looking at the market, specifically), and some spells and items are wholesale unusable. That being said, if you are someone who can overlook flaws in mechanics for a fun story or interesting experience, I highly recommend it.
To be honest, I am just happy this cart doesn’t belong to my brother - he is in a rough spot, and I could see him selling rare SNES games to pay for rent, so I felt obligated to play through this game for the first time in probably 15 years. Similar to Evermore, if you can look past some extremely glaring flaws, the game is fantastic. It either breaks or defines a lot of tropes that we see today, and provides an engrossing story. My friend played it when I leant it to him, and he didn’t make it to when Poo appears, and honestly? I get it. It can be strange, it can be a slog, and it can be a pain. But it is so unique with such heart, that I have to say it is a great experience, even if it isn’t a great game to play. The ending, even after however many years is stellar.
Final Fantasy 3
I always said this was my favorite Final Fantasy, so I figured it was a natural progression to play that next, but this time around? I couldn’t stand it. Everything was so open on where to go, and there were treasure chests that you should be psychic about and not open. Now, I used a guide for Earthbound, so I guess I’m not opposed to using them in general, but using it on this game rubbed me the wrong way, so I never made it more than a few hours in before I decided I had bigger fish to fry. I don’t know if RPGs have changed or if I have changed, but it was kind of sad not to be able to go through it because I remember almost none of the amazing story beats.
The whole crew
I have another dog, Nora, who I raised as soon as she was done with puppy shots, so I was used to puppy training and had started to get Scout breaking her bad habits. The worst one that she held on to to this day is that if she didn’t want to come in from outside, she would run and hide wherever she could. Many times, this involved running down the street until she cornered herself. A few weeks later, my hot water heater broke. I saw the brand on the sticker of the old one and I trust the judgement of the lady who owned the house before I did, so I called them up for another, and opened my wallet for yet another slamming. Fortunately, this process was pretty painless, and the guy who installed it was a lot of fun to talk to.
As it turns out, my grandfather passed away from cancer. As things looked worse, my sister and her husband flew down to Florida to help my dad keep things together, and to organize everything that had to be done. I found out later that they got the tickets the same day they were asked, and flew out the next day after my sister had a dental appointment. The whole time she was still in pain from it, and a little bit numb, but she never mentioned it because it was the smaller of 1,000 other problems. I’ve heard from my sister that afterwards my dad would spend hours out on a rowboat, in the middle of a lake, dealing with his feelings. My mom at times didn’t recognize him, and while I normally called him every weekend, there was a period of about 2 or 3 months where I didn’t call just to say hello because he didn’t want to show weakness to anyone except my mom. It was difficult to lose my grandfather, but it was almost worse to see the suffering that it brought to my dad. To make things worse, there was an estate to deal with, and my grandfather’s lady friend (who was legally entitled to nothing) made every step of the process a living hell. From trying to get him to sign property over to her on his literal deathbed, to squatting in his home threatening to change locks (again - she has no relationship to him, especially in the legal sense).
I went back to Illinois to see my family when they were all together - my sister, her husband, my dad, my mom, and my brother who is noticeably absent from most of this story. He lives the closest to my folks, and never once offered help, or even to keep my mom company while my dad was in Florida. They all had driven up from Florida in two different vehicles, in miserable weather - the front of the car was caked in ice and salt about a half inch thick.
When I saw them all enter the door, it was like something out of Lord of the Rings in my mind. They had all made this incredible journey with awful hardships to be welcomed home. I can’t underscore enough that my sister and her husband were both heroes in this - they acted so quickly and so selflessly to do what needs to be done, and I constantly wished I could have helped as much as they did during the entire process. Things were still too hectic to deal with Scout, so she was going to be mine for another few months (and spoilers, they never would take her back, so now she is mine, and resting joyfully on my lap as I type). There were a lot of things to sort through - belongings, legal documents, bills, and clothes. The clothes were pretty sad to rifle through, but it is funny that me, my dad, and my grandfather all wore the same size pants. My grandmother had kept a collection of things from my childhood - clippings from newspapers when I got to meet one of the Bulls, floor hockey pictures, the playbill for choir concerts, Christmas lists, and where she scribbled my date of birth, weight, and gender on a piece of paper when my dad called from the hospital announcing my birth. It was incredibly moving to go through all of that for all of us. After a week of memories and tears, I went back home to Iowa to continue the grind. It was a little bit easier now after seeing sanity return, and mourning turn to hatred of my grandfather’s lady friend. It felt more ‘natural’, so I was able to settle in better and play some more games!
Didn't mention this, but this was the church's announcement that had my birth, but its way more entertaining that the SALAD BAR is over
Far Cry 5
I’ve always been a sucker for Far Cry games, so it was a no brainer to get this when it was on sale, and guess what? If you have played any game since 3, its exactly that. A nice little comfort food of exploring watchtowers, killing wildlife, upgrading gear, and getting bored about 3/4s of the way through and never playing it again.
This game was getting mad attention on Reddit, and I forgot if it feels shilled or if it was a grassroots thing. It has some okay physics and some OP magic with a crafting system that really makes no sense. It is fun to go on a power trip for a short time, but at the end of the day, there isn’t a lot of substance to keep it interesting or entertaining.
When Super Mario Galaxy came along, my friend said that Nintendo found a way to print fun on a disc. Microsoft figured that one out with Sunset Overdrive. Every single facet of the game is fun - moving around the world is like JSRF meets Spiderman 2, the gunplay is like Ratchet and Clank, and the story is like Saints Row and Borderlands had a baby. Everything is fun centered, and it’s a crying shame this game didn’t do better. Easy recommendation.
I really love Dark Souls, so more Dark Souls is always good. This isn’t more Dark Souls. Its if you play Dark Souls as a parry only character, and it is brutal. If you don’t play it the way it wants to be played it is impossible, and I had several breaking points. Up until Genichiro the game hadn’t clicked and was an exercise in frustration. You can’t grind it out, you can’t beat it with patience, you just have to play perfectly. I think Dark Souls is 10/10, but Sekiro is about an 8 just because it forces you on one specific path. At the end of that path is one of the hardest bosses I have had the displeasure of fighting, but also one of my greatest gaming achievements. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but the people who like it would probably love it.
Also, Scout was very empathetic when I was playing this game - when I would cuss out a boss after I lost to a razor thin margin, she would run up, give me kisses, and run away. I can tilt pretty hard if I have to make dozens of attempts, and honestly her little puppy kisses really helped me come out of that.
Sword of Ditto
This game sat on my list for quite some time because I always thought it looked beautiful, and spoilers - it does. The hand drawn art style looks great in motion, and the gameplay hooks are there. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for playing it was killed off after I managed to beat the game and it rolls a new character. Usually I am all about roguelikes, but the cycle of life to rebirth is really long - maybe 4 hours? For some reason that was enough for me to be one and done with it, but if I had it on the switch I could see jamming a lot of time into it while watching TV or something.
Trover Saves the Universe
Do you like Justin Roiland? This is Justin Roiland the game! And that is kind of like an all syrup slushie...you think it would be a good idea, but its too much, man. The jokes are all samey and often get repeated multiple times so that they lose all effect they may have once had. The gameplay itself has some interesting hooks, and works really well in VR, but at its core is pretty bland. At 3 or 4 hours in I looked up how many hours I had left, and it was too much to continue on with, so I never beat it.
The Mouse in Moss is the cutest protagonist I have ever seen. The VR aspect of the game is amazing because you get a sense of scale with how small you are, and the ability to peek around the maps is nice. And the Mouse gives you high fives! It is eyebleach the game with how cute it is. Unfortunately, I never beat it because it is very hard to be in VR and keep both dogs and the cat happy and/or not peeing on the carpet. I may go back to it later, as I am not opposed to lengthy VR games (I loved Serious Sam 3 VR), but it didn’t grasp me enough to risk the dog sitting aspect.
I really wanted a game to play with a HOTAS, which I got for Battlezone only to find I couldn’t map it properly, so I got Overload. Playing in VR with one of those bad boys feels amazing. It is total immersion, and a lot of good high octane action. Due to me not having my HOTAS ‘sea legs’ I actually hit a skill cap ceiling with the game, and found the late game enemies to be exhausting to fight. So it was either go back to the starting levels to get good, or give up. I gave up, but make no mistake - this game is tight as dick skin, and I highly recommend it.
Borderlands 2 is such comfort food. I remembered how good the DLC was and wanted to replay that, but instead of just going that far, I decided I wanted to get to the super endgame and Zer0. The main story? Great. The free extra missions? Pretty good. The Torgue expansion? Incredible. The D&D DLC? Legendary. A game so simple shouldn’t have such great story beats. Pirates? Pretty okay. Hammerlock is just bad, though, unfortunately. And as I played, the Fight for Sanctuary was released before I hit the levelcap, so I even got new content! And that content is also really, really good, especially at the price of ‘free’. Whenever people look down on DLC, I think my go to example will be Borderlands - I just wish Pitchford was a better person so I could support it more freely. The end game grind gets very hard to do solo, so I only made it to OP3 out of 10, but I felt like another 100+ hours for a game I already owned was pretty damn good.
This puts me right in the middle of May, which just so happened to be my birthday! There was a girl who I ran into at a party, and one night I got really, stupidly drunk, and asked if she would like to join me to my birthday party and she said yes! We went to a Brazilian Steakhouse, which is the absolute most hedonistic way to eat food and I love it for that, followed by board games at my house. After that, she invited me to hang out for dinner - presumably a date! We got food, went to her place, watched movies, and made out. It was amazing! Then she went to Florida for vacation, decided she hated Iowa, and also discovered that we had something I can only describe as ‘spiritual differences’, and had to call it off. This is very helpful for this blog, because I remember being in the Captain Scarlett DLC when she messaged me that it was over, so its very easy to place when all of this happened! Unfortunately things didn’t end well after she pressured me for more information after I gave a generic ‘good luck, see you never’, so things got ugly between us, and also a large and strange blow to my self esteem. After 18 months, a date that went so well ended in a relationship that goes so, so poorly.
Around here is also when I got another new boss at my work. I’ve been passed on to different departments since I started, and I keep getting further and further away from doing things that I like doing. I told my old boss how I felt about not liking my current projects, and he flat out told me that it wasn’t going to get better. So while it isn’t a total dead end job, it is a job doing something completely boring with barely any supervision, at home, in pajamas. Most days I have YouTube playing as I wait for emails to come in with something interesting to work on. It wouldn’t be bad for a week, but its unfulfilling, and frightening that I may be ‘found out’ and have to look elsewhere for a job.
This was the point more or less where I learned that Scout was ‘mine’ to do with as I please. My parents said they wouldn’t feel bad if I sold her, or just gave her up to a good home. I feel bad for her because how much debate I have had on her - she’s unwanted, was a total burden, and I shouldn’t have to fix my parent’s mistake of adopting a dog. My mom hadn’t yet retired, so she wasn’t able to help with training, and my dad who is retired didn’t want to put forward the energy in training a new dog, so it was a really bad idea in the first place. But now it was ‘gifted’ to me as a problem. And to an extent I did resent her and hated that the decision was forced on me, mostly for her sake - it seems so cruel for her to jump around from home to home until she finds someone who would take care of her, so I felt some obligation to take care of her. As time has gone on, she is a great dog with a ton of personality - she is very empathetic, very smart, and a great cuddler when she is tired. She also happens to be incredibly stubborn and self pleasing, which is where a lot of the frustrations come from, but I am glad she is with me now, even if how I acquired her was less than ideal. A good friend of mine told me adopting my first dog that ‘there is no good time to get a dog’, and it still rings true.
Finally at around this time, things started to heat up politically with the Mueller report, and I hate to say it, but it does weigh on me. Being able to constantly read each news story, to see each scandal, to be able to read through pdfs that congresspeople are too lazy or juvenile to read took a rather pessimistic toll on me. Nothing matters politically, and there are enough assholes in the world where we will never live up to what we could be, and in many rights should be. Constant school shootings, people defending racists, and families being split apart for nothing more than politics. So what better way to deal with every facet of the world burning than to turn to a better, virtual world?
Fire Emblem 3 Houses
The Switch is such a strange console to me. When it gathers dust, it gathers dust hard. When there is a game I am interested in it, it doesn’t ever get put down, even if I travel across the country. I never played a Fire Emblem game before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and this entry was pretty stellar to me. Enough where I back to back beat 3 campaigns, and only got worn out on the 4th. It was cute the things that I didn’t know didn’t matter - I thought I could get Bernie out of her room more if I talked to her, made her cook, and had her on the front lines. While things are pretty linear in character development as it relates to gameplay, they do create complex characters. The unlikeable traits that they have are given good reasons, and it instead of them changing, sometimes the player’s view changes enough to forgive them. Oh, and the gameplay loop is good, but somehow not the focus?
Deux Ex Mankind Divided
I tried to play this game a few times previously and only made it an hour in. I decided I was in a bad mood when I did that, so I decided to give it another try. At every single interaction the game fought me, and showed me how annoying it could be so I determined to beat it out of spite. I wrote a lengthy blog about it, but it boils down to a pretty good engine around a really bad story in an unrealized world.
This one came out of left field for me. I’m a big fan of DotA, so when the original chess mod came out, I was pretty annoyed because my favorite streamers were playing a game I didn’t understand. Long story short, I got my dad’s extra iPad and decided I could give it a go because, hey, it was free. I think I spent 100 hours on it without any other games between, playing it on the clock, playing it while pooping, playing it in my sleep. At its core it is a simple enough game, but somehow the cream rises to the top each time. I was able to climb pretty high up the ladder to Boss rank (3rd from the top). All of this is while the game was basically in alpha. Now, the game has a ton of features that I’m sure makes it better, but I don’t know if I can touch that crack cocaine again. Fantastic game, better still because it’s free.
This was pretty fun for a while, mostly just letting the computer play against itself. At the end of the day though it is a standard gachapon style game, and you have to go through a daily grind to get anywhere. Its beautiful to look at, a faithful adaptation, but still a little bit too free to play to be enjoyable for me.
Unlike Sunset Overdrive, not everything in the game is fun, but the gunplay sections are tighter than a tiger. Traversing the world is boring, searching for upgrades is meh, and the plot is pretty garbage. But man, that gunplay just feels good enough to overlook it all, so I would love to see more. The cheats are pretty fun, too, especially the NBA Jam announcer pack.
At this point, things have settled down quite a bit. Scout is a happy part of the family, and only occasionally poops on the carpet. Things with the family have settled down, even if they aren’t the happy ending we had hoped for. The estate for my grandfather is settled, and that brings up the last complaint for the year. Now, having any amount of my grandfather’s money isn’t what I want. I want him back, and I want everyone happy how they were. That being said, my parents did receive a large sum of money from the estate, and they have been an absolute nightmare about it. They have mentioned to their children, not paraphrased, that they could burn all of the money and it would be fine, because it’s all extra, and all theirs. While my sister and I both have a mortgage that could easily be paid for, our parents are telling us that it’s their personal windfall, and they could spend it all on gambling and be happy because they are already set with their retirement from pensions and 401ks and the like. So there is this childhood assumption that we had growing up that if things were different, we would be taken care of, but because of the way things were we had to work through it all. Now the truth is coming out that our parent’s just aren't very good people - they constantly flaunt how much they have to my mom’s side of the family who in many cases don’t have money in the bank to pay rent for the next month, or to my brother in law’s mom who is also in a deep financial situation. Just saying how much they have to anyone with an ear to feed their egos, and acting like it was something that they themselves had earned. I’m not against them spending money, and living in relative luxury in their retirement, but my dad has literally purchased a truck worth more than my house, and they constantly post memes on facebook about how Thanksgiving might be tight this year, or that they may not be able to pay for presents for Christmas. Its insulting, and is creating a dynamic that didn’t exist before, which is frustrating. So now while I make payments enough where I don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance, I have to consider which newer releases I would like to purchase.
The only other Dragon Quest game I have played is the first one, so I was surprised how many throwbacks there were that I understood. The game is lovely, goes on forever (in a pleasant way), and has a really great story. It does provide an interesting perspective on how much player agency is needed to be considered a game, though - there is an option to let your entire party fight battles for you and right until the end game it works just fine. So really I was just pointing at enemies and letting the computer level me up. It felt one step away from being a lets play, but it was still very entertaining. I put nearly 100 hours into it, and beat everything that I could (that last super secret trial is too much for me, man), and ignored the tockle village. A wonderful game if you are into JRPGs that don't break the mold.
Untitled Goose Game
I still feel like 20 dollars is a steep price to pay for this game - it doesn’t have the content to justify that price point, and personally I didn’t find the gameplay to be super intriguing. The fun comes from describing the game to other people, as well as that that Katamari-like feeling of someone making a game that has never be made before, reinventing its own genre as it defines it. And that deserves 20 dollars.
It just isn’t Borderlands 2. It’s good, and they had a lot of improvements - especially in regards to being color blind, I feel. The new characters fall flat on most front, and recurring characters lost their spark. The ideas and themes feel like they should work, but the execution just wasn’t there. Still, as a looter shooter timesink, it is a lot of fun, and their blatant rip off of Diablo 3’s endgame really works for the series, I think. I am eagerly awaiting balance patches and DLC!
And that will probably be all for the year. I think replays of Borderlands 3 plus the holidays will take up all the game time, and even if they don’t, I doubt I will be able to finish anything else. There were a few pleasant surprises for the year as far as games go, but in general, 2019 was a dumpster fire. I’ll be glad to be done with the year and hopefully onto bigger and better things.