Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Dan Plays Video Games, Part 3

Previous episodes: 1, 2


This game is fucking dangerous. Absolute chronophage. One-more-run taken to the extreme. Makes brain chemicals go brrrrrrr. Cheapest casino you'll ever visit. Will devour your life.

Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga

A Fire Emblem-like that is all around decent. Not winning any awards for uniqueness and the story is eye-rollingly, but the gameplay is solid and it does what it needs to do. You can turn off ironman mode mid-campaign, which is a blessing.

Limbus Company

The idea of a bunch of certified freaks and weirdos named after characters from classic literature riding around in a demon bus in a post-apocalyptic city doing missions for an inscrutable patron that considers them disposable is a great setup, wasted on a gatcha game that somehow has a battle system that is simultaneously one of the most mind-deadeningly complex things I have ever seen while also being so simple it barely counts as a battle system.

20 minutes Till Dawn

A Vampire Survivors-like. It was okay.

Chants of Sennar

it can be a bit obtuse at times, but on the whole I enjoyed it a great deal. Great aesthetic. Loved the language puzzles, obviously. They're not super in-depth, but I think they're handled better than Heaven's Vault did (where I was often frustrated, especially later on, of knowing what a word should be and not being presented with the correct solution in my limited pool of options for any given puzzle.) A very chill game.

Path of Achra

For a game that is mostly choosing skills and pressing a single button, there is a certain meditative quality to PoA that is very difficult to adequately describe. It is a game of immaculate Vibes that are nothing like Qud but I keep thinking about Qud.


Have not played much of this, but picked it up on recommendation from Reycevick. Oozes style.

The Dungeon Beneath

Fun little roguelite autobattler. Bonus points for using an asset pack to one's advantage.

Blasphemous 2: Blaspheme harder.

It's more Blasphemous, the fuck else do you want. Game good, then they added more good to the game. not too much new stuff to make it seem like dead weight, not too little to make you think like it didn't do enough. The ideal iterative sequel. Did not beat it, got to the final boss, got tired of doing the first phase only to get bodied in the second. More games need a mercy mode for multi-stage boss fights.


It's not as OSR as Roadwarden or Fear and Hunger, but it is a great game if you want some lightweight fantasy tactics and some custom glorbos to run through some campaigns with. Honestly it is probably the best at simulating the idea of a tabletop campaign into videogame form: a campaign is three to five missions long, and takes maybe an hour to complete each mission. There's an overarching plot and side missions you can stumble into. It's not a "do anything" type of rpg campaign, but it is very good at establishing the mood and tone of one.

Also it has a solid modding community attached: I haven't tried any of those out yet, but it's always great to see.

Forgotten City

Been meaning to get back to this one, only played a small bit of it. Yet another game I wish my dad were alive to see.


I like soulslikes, I like Metroidvanias, this one never really clicked for me. Fine enough, but just slow enough that I didn't get much further past the first boss. Also based entirely around parrying.

Fermi Paradox

There's not much mechanical complexity underneath the hood, but it allows for some very fun sci-fi stories, and you get attached to your little civilizations. I had alien velociraptors who were convinced that they had angered the monkey gods (they were beset by disasters constantly), and sapient T-rexes that destroyed their homeworld, fled to another system, and then destroyed that one too.

Book of Hours

I didn't realize that Alexis Kennedy was behind this game when I bought it, and the further I looked into the matter the more mudlike it became. Regardless of his troublesome behavior, he is an extremely talented writer for a niche I desperately want a game to play in, and a terrible game designer.

Book of Hours is "hurry up and wait" writ large - all the sins of Fallen London, Sunless Sea, Cultist Simulator increased. You have a limited number of actions per day. Fine. There is no "skip to tomorrow morning" button, you have to hit fast forward and wait. And this is for a game where you learn EVERYTHING by trial and error, which means you are going to be hammering on that fast forward button and waiting a whole fucking lot, after wasting your time and accomplishing nothing.

I wish that either it was a better game, or that someone else was able to scratch the itch.


You are a robot. Go on a quest! A very well-made roguelike FPS. Plays a little like Doom 2016 with aesthetics a little like Borderlands. Decent but not incredible depth, shines primarily in the moment-to-moment moving and shooting gameplay. It just Feels Good (TM).


I cannot believe this game is free. Excellent, excellent, excellent RPG. Unfortunately, I have played very little of it, because the Steam Page is lying about the Steam Deck compatibility. This is not compatible in the slightest.

Brutal Orchestra

This is a weirdass game for absolute sickos like me. Difficult to describe. Purgatorial roguelike RPG where you're all playing a bunch of freaks. Vibe feels similar to Isaac in a way, just unapologetically weird and gross but in a different way from how Isaac is weird and gross.

Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

A game where you play as an exiled immortal space witch who summons a demon from beyond time-space and get to make your own tarot cards. With me so far? Sounds great, right?

I have never played a game that hit a brick wall this hard before. A nice, easy, enjoyable 55 miles an hour to dead 0 and a cloud of shattered glass and body parts in the space of a single sentence.

It's not anything special, really - a character drops a mention that only women can become witches. But it happens to be used in a setting where being a witch means you're immortal, spiritually potent, and immeasurably powerful. And it is used here in a specific narrative context where witchdom is correlated with a state of self-actualization - the entire scene is about a transwoman coming out to herself (and the scene leading up to this is very well-written!), and the line is dropped as sort of a "you see, if you've ascended you are definitely a woman, because men can't ascend" type of deal. It's meant to be reassuring.

I thought this was a mistake, at first. A blip in the script that didn't get caught on the editing pass. Turns out it was intentional, as per the dev response to this here Steam thread, to which I say "that's a crock of bullshit."

It's one thing if you're playing up this coven of space witches as hidebound and oppressive (this is, in fact, the main brunt of the plot), but to go and make it a cosmological constant of the setting and double down on it? That's a choice. There are Witches, but there are no Wizards. You cannot ever become a Wizard. Wizardry is entirely off the table. If you're a cis man, a transman, or a masc-presenting nonbinary, you're just fucked. You are ontologically incapable, within the universe of this game, of achieving spiritual ascendance or any measure of magical power and by extension the you are barred eternally from the self-actualization represented by that magic.

Man it's so nice down here under this bus, wonderful bit of asphalt, you should come visit some time.

And I wouldn't have even thought of it if they hadn't brought it up! Remove the line, and the empty space can be filled with "oh yeah, of course there are space wizards out there, pondering their orbs, but this story isn't about them so they don't show up." Even the extremely easy and well-in-line-with-the-plot out of offering the Peppermancer "hey you can join the Wizards if you'd like" and getting the response of "no, I think I'd rather be a Witch" was not taken.

If someone wrote a game with the exact same situation and the genders were reversed, they would rightly be pilloried for it. It's one thing to say "this magical occupation is gender-restricted due to loads of social and cultural factors that have built up over time, here's a story about breaking through those restrictions" - Pratchett solved this problem how many decades ago now? Equal Rites was '87, so...37 years ago.

God what is it with these tarot-based video games I keep having shit luck with? First Book of Hours and now this.


  1. All poker needed was a combo meter and the ability to get Big Number to get me on board.

  2. Really liked Forgotten City, played it back when it was just a Skyrim mod too but fortunately forgot most of it before playing it when it was a full game. Felt a lot longer than it was in a good way.

    Love Fermi Paradox - hits sweet spots of casual flash games and Spore-like space civilization sandbox but without the unforgivable betrayal of Spore.

    Re: Tarot games, think Enziramire made good adaptable framework here: https://majesticflywhisk.blogspot.com/2024/01/new-wisdoms-for-new-worlds-oracular.html if'n one was so inclined as to pursue such in a tabletop game.

    Have you played Shadows of Doubt?

    1. I haven't but it is very much on my radar and on my list for the future.

  3. It's a shame Alexis Kennedy seems like such a pain to work with. Otherwise maybe he could team up with someone who values game design and other people's time. His tremendous writing skill is wasted on the baffling game structures he fetishizes.

    Also wow! The downside of empowering *exclusively* one's female characters (and nodding at trans women players) with weird spiritual gender essentialism must not have occurred to the Sisterhood devs. Casually but firmly implying that trans men and nonbinary people have to conversely forsake phenomenal cosmic power and self-knowledge to be who they are in your setting... seems unnecessarily depressing. Or maybe this did occur to them, which would be worse. I wonder if that sort of thing could be avoided with more trans men and NB voices in queer gamedev.

    On a brighter note, thanks for your Roadwarden recommendation last time! It's been a genuinely wonderful experience for me. A rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a world full of both melancholy and humanity, where you're rewarded for planning, curiosity and cleverness? I'd kill for more of these.

    P.S. Is Void Stranger on your radar?

    1. According to that Steam thread, they did in fact know.

      Roadwarden is just plain great, glad you're enjoying it!

      Void Stranger I know of only from a single mention from a youtuber I cannot recall off the dome, but the way it was spoken about does have me putting it on the list.

  4. This endorsement is all I needed to pull the trigger on Chants of Sennar (well, that and a sale). I loved Heaven's Vault in spite of the myriad annoyances and perverse design decisions—it's one of just a handful of video games I've actually finished in the past few years.

    As for Alexis Kennedy, man. You have more patience than I do. I liked Fallen London a lot and was super excited about Sunless Sea. Ah, I thought, they're actually going to take all that great writing and lovely worldbuilding and make a real GAME out of it! Whoops. Fool me once…

    1. I only played Sunless Sea, though I did it for entirely too long for the amount of game that was there. Great soundtrack, immaculate vibes, waste of so many hours.

  5. I'd be interested to hear you elaborate about Moonring. I grabbed it, and it's installed, but I've been yanked around to other games and haven't gotten around to it yet because it's not jumping out at me yet.

    Been playing some Elden Ring, Terraria, and Tiny Rogues.

    1. It's just got a really good vibe, you know? Everything fits together and it just works. Sorry for the vagaries, it's the best I can explain on short notice.