Skep's Place

 

Gaming Report 2023


"How long could this post possibly be, I only played like ten games this year." – A very naive Skep.

Despite the amount of time I spend playing games, I don't talk about them on this site very much. I don't intend to change that, but for those curious about what I've been getting into, here are my thoughts on the games I played in 2023, in (rough) order of when I played them.

Persona 4 Golden

I played Person 5 a few years ago and absolutely loved it, and I only heard good (if not better) things about Persona 4. However, I ended up dropping P4G in the second palace. The biggest problem here is that I played Persona 5 first, which does one thing far better than Persona 4: palace exploration.

The palaces in Persona 5 are hand-designed and provide ample opportunities for solving puzzles and sneaking around to ambush and tactically eliminate shadows in your path; it's incredible engaging. Palaces in Persona 4, on the other hand, have seemingly randomly-generated hallways that are exhausting to navigate. Fighting enemies felt like a chore, and the game provides plenty of means for skipping them, so that's what I did. Then I got crushed when the palace boss rolled around since I was incredibly underleveled.

I ended up watching the rest of the story on YouTube, though, and I enjoyed the experience much better that way. I have to say, though, I do not care for Teddy. I've heard Morgana gets a little bit of hate sometimes, but nothing about Teddy makes any goddamn sense.


Stray

Adorable, loved it, no notes.


Total War: Three Kingdoms

For regular visitors of this site, the inclusion of this game should not surprise you; I jump back into it every once in a while. In January, I tried the Eight Princes DLC for the first time; I think it got a lot of disapproval when it was released because it wasn't really "Three Kingdoms", but actually, it might have been the most fun I had with the game.

I played it again back in November, opting for Tao Qian in the Mandate of Heaven DLC. I don't think I was supposed to completely destroy the economy, but that's what I accidentally ended up doing.


Back 4 Blood

I started playing this with my friends back in February. It's not quite Left 4 Dead, but we had some fun and frantic times with it, so I'd recommend it.


Hi-Fi Rush

Probably my GOTY. God I love everything about this game.


JETT: The Far Shore & Given Time

I picked this up because it was done by the same folks that did Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. I can't claim that I followed the story very well (I tend to lose focus if it's a little too vague and mysterious), but the gameplay was fun enough for a while. I burnt out toward the end of the Given Time expansion, though, when it became a puzzle-oriented collect-a-thon. So I'm kind of mixed on this one, but I don't intend to pick it up again.


Sayonara Wild Hearts

I own this on PS4, but I bought it again on Steam this year, and then I bought a poster to hang above my monitor, that's how much I adore this game. If you asked me to rank my favorite games of all time, this would be a big contender for the top spot.


No Man's Sky

I played this a few years ago (after a few solid updates), but revisited again in March. It's a game I want to like, but despite how much it offers, there's nothing about it that I find myself particularly invested in for long.


LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Man, I played the heck out of the first LEGO Star Wars game in 2005. Everything about it was perfection. I've also played Star Wars 2, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, and the Force Awakens, and I think the games keep getting weaker and weaker as the series goes on (especially since they started adding dialogue to the games; I miss the days when all the scenes—and gags—were purely visual).

I heard that the Skywalker Saga was getting some praise though, so I gave the series a shot again. It's clear that there is a lot of love put into this game (for example, I enjoyed the nod to Willrow Hood on Bespin), but I still find that the level design and humor are overall far weaker than the OG. Add in a focus on open-world hub areas filled with collectibles, and there's not a lot to hold me in. If it was released in 2005, though, I could see myself going for 100% completion on this one.


Dave the Diver

It's cute. Probably a solid B+ game. I can't claim to have gotten very far, but this is the kind of game that makes a great fallback when I don't have anything else I want to play.


Tomb Raider & Shadow of the Tomb Raider

These are revisits for me. I still think the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot is the most cinematic game I've ever played (yes, I've completed the Uncharted series), and I like to go back to it from time to time. Shadow of the Tomb Raider I've only played once before, and I think it's a really solid (and gorgeous) entry. You'll note that Rise of the Tomb Raider is not on this list; I think it's the weakest of the three entries, and I didn't want to bother with it again. I regret nothing.


Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

I do a Mass Effect series run-through every few years. This is the first time I did a modded playthrough, mostly for enhancement than overhauling. For those wondering, I pick Control; I don't know if it's the best ending ethically (none really are), but it is hands-down the best ending to a paragon Shepard's personal journey. Maybe I'll do a write-up on that sometime.


Tunic

A contender for "biggest disappointment". I really liked the classic Legend of Zelda styling and the premise of finding pages from the game's instruction manual as you went. But man… everything about this game is obtuse, and even just trying to figure out where you're supposed to go next can be a huge challenge. Throw in unforgiving combat encounters with mechanics that are ill-suited for them… needless to say, I dropped out hard.


Wargroove

Never played Advance Wars, kinda wanted to. Thought this game might be fun. It was, up until the point where I realized I could spend an entire evening on a single battle just to ultimately lose and have to start it over again. Ain't nobody got time for that.


Planet Zoo

I wanted to build a panda-breeding zoo just to show all the loser conservationists how easy it is, but I never got around to it.


Coffee Talk 2

Loved Coffee Talk. Loved Coffee Talk 2. I miss Freya though.


Doki Doki Literature Club

I'd always wondered what the hell this was and why people seemed to love it. Played for half an hour, then very quickly noped out after certain events. Not for me.


CrossCode

This was my third most-played game this year, and for the life of me I can't tell you why I spent so much time with it. The story premise is solid enough, along with the characters, and I think the gameplay and quests were way more varied than I ever expected them to be. I did have my frustrations, though; I had to turn the combat difficulty down for boss encounters before they became fun, and there are some puzzles that require you memorize a series of actions and then execute them in a very short timeframe, which can become very frustrating. Still, I'd like to give the DLC a go sometime, if only to complete Lea's story.


Va-11 Hall-A

Like Coffee Talk, but a cyberpunk bar. I think I like Coffee Talk a bit better, but I do quite like this genre as a whole, so I enjoyed my time with it.


En Garde!

A lighthearted game focused on swashbuckling combat? Sign me up, please. I think the combat mechanics themselves can be hit-or-miss at times, and I would have liked the game to be a little longer, but the overall premise and style are so much fun that I don't even care. Great little gem.


Murder By Numbers

This game revolves around solving those grid-picture puzzles with numbers on the side telling you how many blocks to fill in (I've heard it referred to as picross and Japanese crosswords). I always avoided these puzzles because I thought it would be a lot of guesswork, but it turns out they are way more methodical than anything. Anyway, this was a game I expected to put 10 hours into and ended up putting in closer to 40. My biggest complaint is that the pictures themselves were basically pixel art objects that were converted to two colors, so they often didn't really resemble anything until they were converted back.


Everspace 2

Always on the hunt for a game that does space fighter combat well, I played the first Everspace briefly; but I don't really care for roguelikes, so I dropped it quickly. Despite the praise it was getting, I was dubious about Everspace 2, until I learned that they dropped the roguelike element. Even then, it wasn't clicking for me at first, but I stuck with it until I was able to access different ship types, which greatly affect how you approach combat. You start with an all-rounder ship, but there are also zippy little dogfighters and huge bombers with a multitude of weapons. I settled on a tiny, fragile little fighter that came with a twist: its shields would overcharge when you used an engine boost. From then on, every combat encounter was an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride, and I was HERE for it. Lots of fun; I took a break to play some other games, but I want to get back into this one.


Viewfinder

One of the most highly-praised puzzle games of the year. Yeah, it was pretty decent. But honestly, I don't feel like the main gimmick of this game stayed interesting for very long past its initial "wow" moment, and it always felt a little janky to use.


Cassette Beasts

I was an OG Pokemon Red kid, but fell off after Silver since I never had a GBA. The only one I've played since was Pokemon X on the 3DS, which was fun enough. I thought it would be nice to have a Pokemon-like experience on PC since that's my main platform, but Cassette Beasts didn't hit with me, and I dropped it pretty early on. I think I ultimately didn't like how the "monsters" I caught weren't actual creatures I could be invested in.


Katamari Damacy Reroll

First time playing anything from the Katamari Damacy series. Very cute game that makes me giggle, but it seems better-suited to shorter sessions.


100% Orange Juice

I haven't played this game in nearly ten years, and they keep adding stuff to it, good lord. I picked it up just to see where it was at. Still absolutely infuriating, but it's far worse when you're playing alone. Good party game though.


Rimworld

A game I've been meaning to play for years, but never got around to. Finally bit the bullet and put it on my Steam Deck. I think my colony only made it to a year old before I moved on, but I'd like to come back to it eventually. Here is my best story so far:

A cougar comes into my base and kills our dog. Obviously this cannot stand. I pick Nadine; Nadine is our best hunter. She has done literally nothing else but hunt this whole time, because she was formerly a runway model who felt she was too good to do any other work. So the only things I could ever ask her to do were hunt or make shitty wood sculptures.

Nadine shoots the cougar. It only gets mad. She shoots it a few more times, but it doesn't go down. Instead, it kills Nadine.

I send out Nate. Nate is the bush ranger who WOULD be the hunter if Nadine would literally have done anything else. Except by the time he gets there, the cougar is also attacking our unfortunate cook Humberto who just happened to be on his way out to storage. So Humberto dies too.

Nate finally takes out the cougar that eliminated half of my colonists. Then he and his fiancee Jet pick the next morning to get married. Because of course they do.

"Message: Colonists are attending the wedding of Nate and Jet." Newsflash, game, no they ain't. Everybody else is dead.


Baldur's Gate 3

I understand this is going to be an incredibly controversial opinion, but… I have come to the conclusion that I can't like this game. I want to like this game. I've put 80 hours into it and cleared Act 2. But I found myself so constantly frustrated with this game that I just couldn't continue on with it.

Here are fundamental issues I encountered on a regular basis:

It felt like I was constantly at odds with a smug DM who was only having fun when I wasn't, and I just got so sick of it.


House Flipper 2

The original House Flipper was such a great game to relax to, and so far I am very impressed with how much House Flipper 2 improves the formula. Unfortunately, the game makes me a little motion sick when I play on PC, and it looks ugly as heck when I play it on Steam Deck, so I'll have to decide how I want to handle it.


Persona 5 Royal

Heck yeah, a high note to end the year on. I said at the top of this list that I played Persona 5 a few years ago; being new to the series and also a dummy, I bought P5 instead of Royal because I assumed Royal was add-on content I could pick up later. So that was a mistake. I'm happy to have an excuse to play through again though because damn do I vibe with this game, even if Take Over will be stuck in my head for the rest of time.


Coming up in 2024: I'll be starting Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart soon, and I want to dive back into Everspace 2, House Flipper 2, and Hi-Fi Rush. I might finally bite the bullet on Cyberpunk 2077 and/or Powerwash Simulator… unless something else happens to catch my eye, of course.