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Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

Surviving 2020: D. Bethel

2020 was a year that upended all expectations. Though the threats that 2020 brought affected people in a variety of ways, for most it became a year of simple survival. For nerds, of course, we turn to the things that occupy our attention, inspire our imagination, or generate conversation. This year, we are looking at the things that helped us survive 2020. Today, co-host D. Bethel shares what kept him inspired throughout the year.


2020 became a year of self-reflection for most people; for creatives, it became a challenge to find inspiration in new places and ways. Working from home proved to be incredibly difficult when, all of a sudden, my creative, personal space became my classroom. Teaching, planning, and grading at my computer all day made it difficult to walk the two feet to my drawing table and work for another handful of hours on a Long John page. To that end, of all the things to provide inspiration, the sweet and sentimental video game, Spiritfarer, hit hard and unexpectedly.

Spiritfarer

On its own, Thunder Lotus’ newest game, Spiritfarer isn’t particularly notable. Yes, it looks very nice and the systems and loops are fun to juggle and the writing is top-notch. But it’s not revolutionary, at least not on its own. It’s just a good game. Honestly, that’s enough.

Spiritfarer is a management sim; playing as Stella, you takes over the role of spiritfarer––shepherding souls from death to the afterlife––from a retiring Charon. The majority of the game takes place on your boat that houses the spirits found along the way. During their tenancy, you talk to them, learn their stories, and help them get past whatever psychology holds them back from accepting their deaths. Once they have a moment of clarity, you take them to the “Everdoor” which sends them to their eternal home. For each spirit you recruit––taking the form of a different anthropomorphized animal––you do small quests to help brighten their moods. To do that, you grow crops, cook food, take them to specific locations, or harvest materials they want. With so many different spirits on your boat, your job is to keep all of these plates spinning while also maintaining your boat.

Also, it has a hug button, which is great.

The thing about this game is not what it is, specifically, although––as I said––it’s very good. Instead, it’s about what it represents and what came before. Spiritfarer‘s Canadian developer, Thunder Lotus, is renowned for their amazing art and animation; what they can’t be accused of, however, is being stuck in a rut. Their previous game, Sundered, is a procedurally-generated Metroidvania. Before that, their first game, Jøtun, is an isometric 2D-Zelda-like that had you battling giant bosses to get into Valhalla (I played both games on the Dan & Rusty Video Game Power Hour years ago).

Every game differs wildly from the last, with the quality of art and music being the only link between them. This also makes them unpredictable, but not in a worrying, nervous way. There is no doubt that their next game will be beautiful and good, even if I have no idea what kind of game it will be, and that’s what I found so comforting about this game in a year like 2020.

This is not a cinematic sequence; this is just something you can do in the game. Screencap taken by the author (click for a larger version).

While Spiritfarer is wonderful, I find its success validating for the mercurial ethos of Thunder Lotus Games, and for me. Though I’m slow with the output for my western webcomic, Long John, I also know it’s not the only story I want to tell. Seeing Thunder Lotus not only bounce between genres and styles without a care but to also be successful (in terms of execution) with every game they make shows me that a similar desire to bounce around with my own creative endeavors is not only possible but can absolutely work when done with integrity, thoughtful intent, and earnest excitement. Those qualities seep through Spiritfarer on every level (pardon the pun), and they were more than welcome in a year like 2020.

Good Gamefeel

Good Gamefeel

A RITUAL CIRCLE OF ARIAS OF THE NIGHT MOON: Mentioned last week, both Andrew and D. Bethel have put some time into the newest Igavania game––meaning a Metroidvania game specifically made by Koji Igarashi––Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and they are enjoying the presence of both nostalgic throwback and interesting choices that move the genre forward.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Source: Sony
  • Part 1 of D. Bethel’s playthrough of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

  • Clip from “Harvester of Sorrow” by Metallica (written by Hetfield/Ulrich) from ..And Justice For All (Elektra Records, 1988).
08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

08 February 2019 – It’s Always a Game

Image Sources: Unknown Worlds Entertainment (top)/Team Cherry (bottom)

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew and D. finally return to video games for their Weeks in Geek. Andrew gets lost (in a good way) playing Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment while D. Bethel explores the mysterious labyrinthine world found in Team Cherry‘s Hollow Knight.

Andrew’s accidental screenshot while trying to escape the maw of a Reaper Leviathan in Subnautica.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Part 1 of D. Bethel’s playthrough of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Shortcast 67 – Baguettevania

Shortcast 67 – Baguettevania

WEEK IN GEEK: It’s an indie game kind of week as Andrew reports on the Zelda-like shop sim, Moonlighter, by Digital Sun while D. Bethel starts a conversation about everybody’s current favorite rogue-like platformer (kind of a Metroidvania, kind of not; definitely not a “roguevania”), Dead Cells, by Motion Twin.

RELATED EPISODES:

RELEVANT LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Worth a Look: The Steam Winter Sale 2017, Part 4

Worth a Look: The Steam Winter Sale 2017, Part 4

The Steam Winter Sale 2017 began on December 21. One of the things that I noticed looking through the items on sale were the surprising number of games that I have played this year (or even earlier!). It seemed like a good time to go and highlight a few of the games that are on sale now that I have talked about on the show. This fourth part of a multi-part series looks at Chroma SquadRogue Legacy, and Steamworld Dig. Take a look at the third part here: http://forallintents.net/worth-a-look-the-steam-winter-sale-2017-part-3/.

Chroma Squad

Chroma Squad by Behold Studios is one of those games that I never would have guessed I would have wanted: a tactical RPG themed around the production of a Super Sentai style show. Or, as one reviewer described it, “Power Rangers crossed with XCOM with a dash of Game Dev Story.” Yet, somehow, the theme works really well, resulting in a fun game that scratches that tactical RPG itch with a lighthearted sense of humor.

You have to defeat those Putties, Power Rangers! Source: Behold Studios

Perhaps one of the stranger aspects of the game is the meta narrative: the player controls a group of stunt actors who decide to create their own Super Sentai show. The game is divided between turn based battles, in which the cast acts out an episode of the show, and the time between episodes, where you create new costumes and upgrade the production equipment. This creates a unique spin on the RPG aspect of the game, with character improvement being tied to things like upgraded costumes. The battles are important insomuch that success and achieving bonus goals reflects on the show’s popularity with fans. It’s not enough that you win battles; there are goals that you have to meat in order to keep viewers happy and engaged. Do poorly and you may even find your show getting cancelled.

Buying new props for your team makes them more effective in battle. Source: Behold Studios

You can hear me discuss Chroma Squad back in Episode 131 – A Magical Failure. Since then, the game has expanded to include a new “Director’s Cut” free update which adds some new game modes and tweaks some of the play experience. The game is also available on other platforms, including iOS and Android, so you can take the excitement of Super Sentai with you wherever you go.

Check out Chroma Squad for Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/251130/Chroma_Squad/.

Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy was the breakthrough hit Rogue-lite platform action-adventure game by Cellar Door Games, developer of a number of free Flash games like Don’t Shit Your Pants. Basically, it combines the difficulty and random generation of Roguelike games with the platform action-adventure of Metroidvania style games in a unique combination.

Action platformer craziness! Source: Cellar Door Games

The story of Rogue Legacy is relatively straight-forward: you play as a line of royal descendants entering a castle to find a great treasure. Every time your character dies (which is inevitable, given the nature of the game), you choose a new descendant to take his or her place. You have three options, each with their own combination of abilities and disabilities that will make that next play-through unique. You keep the gold and other items that you find through each expedition into the castle. These can be used to make further generations more powerful, either through purchasing new equipment or upgrading your castle (which, in turn, makes your heroes more powerful). Although the game can be frustratingly difficult at times, it still makes for a really fun game that captures the feel of a Roguelike without being too punishing.

After many collecting many treasures, you too can be this powerful. Source: Cellar Door Games

Rogue Legacy has actually come up in the show multiple times, back in 2014-2015. Andrew first mentioned the game back in Episode 27 – Super Sleep Mode. Dan started playing in Episode 53 – With Space Hands and continues discussing his experience in Episode 54 – Noun the Adjective. The game is available on Steam but also available for consoles (PS4, XBox One).

Check out Rogue Legacy for Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/241600/Rogue_Legacy/.

Steamworld Dig

Steamworld Dig, by Image & Form Games, is the second entry in the “Steamworld” series of games that includes Steamworld Heist. Part platform mining game, part Metroidvania, the game follows the adventure of a steam powered robot named Rusty who inherits his uncle’s ore mine. Most of the game focuses on carefully digging through the mine, collecting valuable ore while making sure you don’t dig too much and get stuck.

A combination of steampunk, westerns, and … digging. Source: Image and Form Games

I will admit (again) that I am always a sucker for games that have that Metroidvania feel and Steamworld Dig did a very good job of capturing the essence of what I liked from a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. In a way, what it brings together is the best of platform action-adventure games with a reasonable dose of RPG gameplay. The game doesn’t do as much for exploring as some of the classic Metroidvania games, as most of the exploring is going further down the mine, but it manages to be a lot of fun. Perhaps, the only real complaint I had was that I was done with it so quickly; I sat down to play the game on a day off and found myself at the end before I even realized it.

Between descents into the mine, you get to go shopping. Source: Image and Form Games

For whatever reason, I never actually talked about playing through Steamworld Dig on the show. It probably has something to do with the fact that I finished it quickly enough that it didn’t make its way into my Week in Geek. However, it’s worth mentioning that since I played it, they’ve actually released a sequel to the game, Steamworld Dig 2.

Check out Steamworld Dig for Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/252410/SteamWorld_Dig/

 

Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew played Punch Club by Lazy Bear Games while D. talks about his time with Thunder Lotus Games‘ newest release, Sundered.

Crafting a loadout for fights in Punch Club.

An automated fight against a ninja NOT-turtle in Punch Club.

Feature-quality idle animation for the main character, Eshe, from Sundered.

Some of the amazingly animated enemies from Sundered.

RELATED LINKS:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio