Monthly Archives: July 2018

Indie Shorter-Than-Usual-By-Necessity-Land: Masters of Anima

I’ve made bad memory jokes on here before, right? Right. I make these on here every so often, mostly because my own absentmindedness is a never-ending source of hilarity for me, and I always worry whenever I do this that my stories seem to far-off. Too made-up. Like I’m just telling tales to entertain, instead of relaying the way my brain is fundamentally pointless.

Remember that Steam even that ran a month or so ago? The one with the checklists with games that you might enjoy? On a whim, I looked at the list of ‘games you should give a second chance’, and was surprised to find Passtech Games‘ and Focus Home Interactive‘s Masters of Anima. This was surprising mostly because I didn’t remember ever giving that game a first chance. But then I did some digging (of both the memory and email varieties), and sure enough, it turns out that I thought this game looked really neat and I got it for review purposes. In April, when it launched.

I worry that stories like ‘I bought a game because I thought it was cool, but misclicked the Steam install link and as a result almost instantaneously forgot about it for several months’ are too far out. Sometimes I’d really like them to be.

(N.B. This review will be a little shorter than you’re used to for previously documented reasons of tomfoolery. You didn’t miss much, honestly: The opening page would have included a whole bit about me not being able to tell Scottish and Irish accents apart, which — listen, I know, okay.)

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Masters of Anima, as much as I still remember of it. It’s been like, two days since I last played, I can feel my knowledge slipping.

I Got Fraps’d

So a while back (about a year and half ago) I wrote a short piece about my review writing process. In that piece, I mention using Fraps for screenshot purposes, partially because it works with almost all games and partially because I’ve just gotten used to it. It works with almost all games, but I’ve had exceptions; for instance, most HTML-based games ignore Fraps entirely. So generally, what I do before I start a review play process is test my setup: Play with the frame counter a little, take some quick test shots to see if everything’s working as intended.

Generally, I do this test process before every game.

I spent most of this week playing Masters of Anima. Really did my best to try and get through the whole game before review time. Guess what I forgot to check.

This is one of those nightmare scenarios. Except it’s all too real.

What I’m going to do is this: Without screenshots of the early game, I can’t do my traditional full review, which relies heavily on reconstructing my experiences after the fact. So tomorrow I’ll write basically only the second half of the review, and stitch that together with quick Steam screenshots I grabbed a little earlier — not quite enough for my liking, but the alternative is replaying the entire damn game, and that’s no alternative at all.

Not the kind of post I’d wanted to make after last week’s grandiose slip-up, but I guess 2018 makes fools of us all. And by us all I mean me.

Indie Time Flies When You’re Having Fun Land

…hmm? Oh hey, what are you guys doing back so soon? I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I generally only post on Mondays. So unless you were really banking on me having unexpected inspiration, showing up on Wednesday or whatever day it is right now seems uncharacteristically optimistic.

What do you mean, ‘it’s Monday again already’? That doesn’t make sense. I posted the previous review like, yesterday. And then I decided to boot up Stardew Valley again, for the first time in like a year. But just to check out my old farm. And maybe look at some of the new possible farm layouts. That’s it!

What do you mean, ‘you played like thirty hours of Stardew Valley last week’?

What do you mean, ‘you were well aware of the effect this game had on you last time, and could have known in advance that it would drain all your time and energy, leaving you stranded on the couch in a drawn-out attempt to synchronize crop cycles and give jars of mayonnaise to everyone in town’?

What do you mean, ‘this particular framing device loses power through repeated over-use’?

What do you mean, ‘chickens are great and Shane should hug them mo’ — no, actually, I totally get what you’re saying here.

Okay, okay, for real though: I got sucked into Stardew Valley, meaning I don’t have anything to review this week, and I apologize. This might mean I needed some time away from playing games through a critical lens, but I still try to be more up-front about these things. Springing it at the last minute isn’t cool.

In lieu of a new review this week, a fun thing you can do is re-read my old Stardew Valley review, which still pretty much stands — up to and including the part where it attempts to claim all my free time, everywhere, forever. Given that this review was written on launch, though, you’ll have to mentally append the following new features:

  • Shane now has a proper character arc, meaning he actually has personal development beyond the tidbits that were teased.
  • You can now marry Shane.
  • Shane can come live on your farm and look after chickens all day instead of having to slave away at a soul-crushing, life-draining job at the megacorporation supermarket that nobody in town likes and everyone resents existing despite being unable or unwilling to boycott it until such time as you fulfill literally every demand of the community market fairies.
  • This game actually has some confusing messages re: Late-stage capitalism, come to think of it (see also: Linus’ whole deal).
  • There are four new farm types to pick from, which is pretty cool — not only do they look meaningfully different, but each one emphasizes a different skill set over ‘just farming’: There’s a Forest Farm for foraging, a River Farm for fishing, a Mountain Farm for mining, and an After Dark Farm for posting things you don’t want to have on your main fighting monsters.
  • Emily also has a character and romance arc now? I guess?

    And if that’s not enough Stardew Valley for you, or alternatively, if you’re worried direct Stardew exposure will have the same effect on you as it did on me, might I recommend taking a look at the online Stardew Valley plot planner — a game that at this point in time I think I’ve played even more than Stardew Valley proper?

    For real though.

    This got wordy for an apology post. Anyway, to summarize: Stardew Valley still rules. Sorry for not having a proper review up. I’ll have something for you next week.

    Always romance Shane if given the opportunity.

    – Jarenth

Indie Shortieland: Shape of the World

Having a memory as bad as mine comes with a lot of downsides. I require external measures and software to keep track of birthdays up to and including those of my immediate family; I’ve developed a habit of patting down my pockets ‘to check I still have everything’ as a security measure; I really need to get my jackets dry-cleaned soon; I genuinely can’t remember if I’ve done this bit for an intro before or not. It is, all in all, not an experience I would recommend.

The one upside of excessive forgetfulness, though, is that it’s really relatively easy to be surprised. For instance, take Hollow Tree GamesShape of the World. I backed this game on Kickstarter back in 2015, and subsequently between then and last week proceeded to forget every single detail about this game and why I chose to support it, up to and including forgetting that it even existed in the first place. No, really. You might think that should be impossible, especially given that Kickstarter update emails are still a thing. But, what can I say? I take my absentmindedness seriously. And 2015 is at this point several decades ago.

You’ll notice from the title that this Indie Wonderland is of the shorter variety again. I’d intended to play Shape of the World sight-unseen this week, but part of what I forgot is that it’s the sort of game that doesn’t gel with the full Indie Wonderland formula well. For reasons of critical accuracy, this time, not for reasons of experience-spoiling. How do you write a full review about a game that can accurately be summed up in four sentences?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, ???. Mechanical, sorta.)

(Game source: Backed it on Kickstarter, apparently.)

After the break: If you thought I was above holding those three lines hostage to get you to click this link, then guess what – you apparently don’t know me all that well.