Monthly Archives: November 2023

The search for (ever)greener pastures

As November draws to a close, I thought it was time to talk about my plans for the upcoming year, both about my work and about my online social presence. On the work side, it’s been so long since I’ve released anything that you could be forgiven for forgetting that I write fiction. On the social side, unless you were on Twitter, you probably wouldn’t know I exist without a lucky hit on Facebook or Google’s search results. A lot of that is on me, so let me start with a modern mea culpa. My bad.

The thing with deciding not to publish is, during the earliest days of the COVID lockdown, I saw a lot of writers with traditional publishers struggling to sell new books because readers were facing months of financial uncertainty, and even a cheap ebook was becoming a luxury purchase. So I decided that since I had a job editing and very rarely writing for a trade magazine, we would be all right if I just hit the pause button and dropped out of the book trade until the worst of this mess blew over.

Then of course, COVID refused to blow over, and instead blew up into so many variants that there will never be a post COVID world. This fucker is with us along with the cold and the flu for good. Continue reading

Game review: Divinity: Original Sin II for Steam

It’s rare for me to mention how much time I played a game before reviewing it, but I think saying upfront that I played five hundred and thirty nine hours of Divinity: Original Sin 2 can help back up some of what I’m going to say. This is because for as much as I loved a lot of the game, I also hated it in equal measure. In fact, I can’t think of a single game that challenged me more to wring enjoyment from it while it in turn tried to aggravate me to the point of wanting to break a controller.

Oh, fair warnings are in order. This will likely be a long post, and there will be spoilers. So if you wanted the short and sweet, spoiler free version: great combat systems cannot balance out terrible enemy AI, nor can it absolve the schism between Pratchett-like humor and grimdark world building, and it cannot overcome not one, but two terrible control schemes.

So, spoilers and long-windedness after the cut m’kay? Continue reading

Game review: Lara Croft Go for Android

Ages ago, back when I was using a Windows Phone because of the Zune music service (another great idea Microsoft abandoned even though they had the better service over Spotify AND Apple Music) one of the first mobile games I paid to play was Hitman Go, and I very much loved it. It was set up like a board game on a diorama with little plastic figurines, and while there was some light puzzling to it, I didn’t have too much trouble breezing through its levels. Even so I came away feeling pretty positive about it aside from some finicky control issues.

When Lara Croft Go came out, I put it in my Want To Play list, but as so often happens, I forgot it existed until it recently got pulled off the market. When it got put back up for sale a few months later, I said, “No, this time, I’m going to buy it.” So I did, and I’ll say right upfront, this could have been a 5 star game. It loses a star for stupid greedy reasons, but I’ll get to that in due time.

The first thing to know about Lara Croft Go is, the designers altered the formula to be less of a board game, and more of a puzzle game. And let me tell you, some of those puzzles are real brain ticklers. I played several levels where I had to put the phone down and come back to it with fresh eyes the next day. One level near the very end had me so perplexed I surrendered and went to watch a YouTuber try it, and seeing them fail the same way I did actually made me realize what I was missing, so I closed the video, went back to the game, and nailed the solution on the first (twenty-first, is more accurate) try. So when I say this game is a joy for puzzle lovers, I mean, this is going to really test whether you are paying attention or not. Continue reading

A Vampire Survivors: Whiteout update

Before we get into the  reviewy stuff, I should apologize for missing updates and explain. I was rushing to get reviews together from a book I’ve been loving, a mobile game I have mixed feelings on, and an RPG that’s damn near broke me. All of them were close to the finish line when my dog Toffi died. It’s been close to two weeks since then, and I’m still waking up and looking around for her. The husband is still calling for her when it’s time to take the other furbabies out for walkies. So, yeah, we both needed time to process, and we’re not really done with that.

On top of that, I’m using November’s NaNoWriMo as the kick in the ass I needed to get back into writing books like I used to. I’m making steady progress there, but that means I might be a little light on reviews because I was too busy trying to plan crimes most heinous for my characters to solve. So if I miss a few posts, just bear with me, and I promise the new book is going to make up for my lack of reviews.

With all that out of the way, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that it’s rare for a review to be the final word on most games these days. There’s constant tweaking and balance changes for some that can drastically alter a game for better or worse. Otherwise there can be added content, either as paid DLC or as free updates.

The vast majority of the professional review sites rarely revisit games to offer new reviews in light of these changes, but to be fair, most have been struck from the lists for early review copies for daring to call game publishers like EA, Activision-Blizzard, and Ubisoft out for their shitty policies. I respect them for that, but it means they have to buy games on release day, and then play them as fast as possible. It’s a race to see who can put out the first proper reviews, so they don’t have a lot of free time to pick an old game back up and try out the shiny new toys that got added after their review.

I however, have lots of free time, and given that Vampire Survivors remains high on my list of favorite games to chill out with, a recently released winter-themed update boasting a new character, weapon, relic, bonus level, and character morph sounded like the perfect excuse to get back into the senseless slaughter of thousands of rampaging monsters. Continue reading