Tag Archives: thoughts

Thoughts: Planet Crafter


My existence on this earth has been a hard one so far. I have been put here with the sole purpose of playing every single game about terraforming ever made, and while some of them haven’t been too bad none of them have tackled the core concept of transforming a planet from barren wasteland to lush paradise well at all. Surviving Mars was way more interested in being a mediocre city builder than it was any terraforming elements. Terraforming Mars is a literal board game adaptation, and necessarily limited by that fact – your terraforming activity is limited to placing a very limited number of ocean and forest tiles onto a map. Per Aspera is… not good, would be the very short version, and the longer one is a 6,000 word angry rant. Last year’s Terraformers is probably the best attempt I’ve played so far, fusing a terraforming game with a simple 4X that still allowed it some satisfying mechanical depth, but the games tended to finish early before you completed the terraformation process and so it still felt like there was something missing. Which sums up my experience with these games in general, really; I play them all in the hope that they’ll scratch the itch, but they all end up disappointing me in one way or another.

I mention this all so that I can put the next sentence in its proper context: Planet Crafter is not disappointing. Planet Crafter is the first game about terraforming that I’ve played that’s actually sold me on the fantasy that I’m terraforming.a planet. And, weirdly, it’s done it by being much more mechanically light on the terraforming than even Terraforming Mars – instead, the bulk of its effort is spent on showing the player how the environment changes around them as their Terraforming rating improves. And this is an approach that pays off in spades.

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2023 Games Roundup: The Rest


Now that we’ve covered the highlights of 2023, here’s the “Everything Else” category. Again, I should state that there’s selection bias at play here: none of these games are lowlights. All of them were good enough that I put in the time required to finish them, and in several cases that was quite a considerable amount of time. These aren’t bad games. Some of them would even get a grudging recommendation from me, if you like what they’re doing. But I don’t think I’ll particularly remember them a year from now, which is the whole reason I’m taking the time to write them up in this post in the first place.

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2023 Games Roundup: The Best


I mostly took a break from writing about games in 2023. This was only supposed to be for a few months but rapidly snowballed due to a combination of personal reasons and me feeling a bit burned out on the whole “video games” thing. It’s not that I wasn’t playing them, just that I was struggling to find the motivation to write about them – and this made me a bit suspicious that 11 years of doing this blog had made me lose sight of what I enjoyed about them in the first place. I’ve gotten into the habit of mentally composing a review in the back of my head whenever I play something new, and it’s a bit hard to have fun with a game when my brain is constantly in critique mode. So I thought I’d try not doing that for a bit.

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Thoughts: Wartales


Yes, I suppose it’s fitting that it is, once again, the prospect of reviewing a mercenary management game that rouses me from my months-long torpor. I like mercenary management games. I think they have a lot of really interesting gameplay decisions baked into the core concept in ways that other tactical strategy games struggle to justify, or which they omit entirely. Jagged Alliance 2, Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries1, Battle Brothers, BattleTech – no matter what the setting is, if you show me a mercenary management game the chances are that it’ll be a hit with me. And sure enough, I liked Wartales, too.

For the first 10 hours or so, anyway.

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  1. We don’t talk about Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries.
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2022 Games Roundup


Another year ends, which means it’s time for another end-of-year roundup of the games I didn’t do full reviews for, as well as some approximate rankings because rankings are fun. Last year’s disclaimers still apply: this is all of the games I played in 2022 for long enough to have a serious opinion on, not all of the games that I played that were released in 2022; and also the rankings are highly subjective since they’re Literally Just My Opinion.

(Which is, of course, always correct.)

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Thoughts: Midnight Suns


Oh, excuse me, Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Not that the game will ever let you forget it.

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Thoughts: Pentiment


Josh Sawyer is the Creative Director at Obsidian, and for about ten years now I’ve been calling him “the most cursed man in the videogames industry”. This is because Josh Sawyer came to Obsidian through Black Isle, and so has his name attached to things like the cancelled Van Buren prototype of Fallout 3 — no, not the soulless Bethesda one from 2008, the one where all we ever saw of it was a main menu mockup — and Icewind Dale 2, which was mostly notable for sinking without a trace thanks to coming out two months after Neverwinter Nights. His bad luck streak continued at Obsidian: designer on Alpha Protocol, one of the most criminally overlooked games of the last twenty years; director and lead designer on Fallout New Vegas, which was most definitely not overlooked but which infamously led to Obsidian getting screwed out of a bonus payment it would have received had it achieved an overall Metacritic score of 85 (it ended up with 84); and then director on Pillars of Eternity and Pillars of Eternity 2, the latter of which is a genuinely great CRPG but if you want to know how it did commercially you just have to look for Pillars of Eternity 3. Or the lack of it, anyway.

This is why Josh Sawyer is cursed: nearly every single game he has been involved with has been an absolute banger of an RPG, and nearly every single one of them has been considered a commercial failure (or got cancelled). After Pillars 2 flopped I think I would have forgiven him for just stepping back into his general Creative Director role for all of Obsidian1 in between posting reviews of shower UX design on Twitter. But Josh Sawyer is made of sterner stuff than I am, and has instead taken the other road: if every game he makes is doomed to be a commercial failure, then he might as well just make the games he wants to make, commercial viability be damned2. And this is how we’ve ended up with Pentiment, a game with extremely limited commercial appeal for something published by Microsoft, but which is one of the most interesting and engaging games I’ve played this year precisely because of that fact.

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  1. Although he was quick to disavow having much involvement with The Outer Worlds in that role, which you can charitably view as him not wanting to take the credit for another team’s success, but which I see as his attempt to flee the crime scene.
  2. He still had to get it greenlit, but Game Pass has apparently changed the calculus there for the time being.
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