My Time At Portia: A Review

[Yes, I’m alive. Too busy playing games to write, but now I’m back. For a bit anyhow.]

Did you ever want to play Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons/Rune Factory, but were put off by the mobile nature of many of those games? Well, there’s Stardew Valley for you. But if you want a game like the console versions of those games (specifically Rune Factory), there’s this game. My Time At Portia definitely fits in the niche with those games: live a daily life of solving problems for the local townsfolk while wooing one of them to start a family with.

I don’t know how I came upon this game. It certainly doesn’t look like a game I’d like. By look I mean look, in particular the character designs. They just look weird, no cute anime girls here. They are like the stylized western cartoons of the 90’s and 00’s on cable. There’s one particular cartoon I’m thinking of, I’m sure, but I just can’t grab it off the top of my head. Anyhow, not really my speed.

I mean, look at these weirdos.

But that game description? Exactly the sort of thing I like. I’ve played all of the Rune Factory games, and loved them. Well, most of them, for a while. I mostly like the concept, at any rate – they eventually become a grind and slog, after the marriage part at least. Romancing a bachelor/ette is a core part of the game: gathering materials, doing housework, completing quests, fighting monsters, all of that is in large part in service to getting the girl (or boy) of your dreams.

Or maybe I’m just very, very lonely. Nah, can’t be that.

My Time At Portia (MTAP) is no different, that I’ve found. Sure, there’s a main story. Sure, there is nothing pushing you to get a romance. But it’s there, in the background, driving everything. At least for me. In the Rune Factory games, you would finish the main quest long before you’d finish a romance, at least if you weren’t laser-focused on getting your beau. Here, I was able to marry one of the hardest candidates (Ginger) well before the story finished. Which kinda killed my motivation for driving as hard forward as I was going (I’ve got 70-ish hours in the game, which I started on 20 Dec) – and why I’m writing this review now instead of the nebulous “later” (see: my not-extant-but-still-planned AssCreed: Odyssey review).

Anyhow, I keep comparing this to Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, but what exactly does that mean? And what makes this game different?

Basically, the PC is a new kid in town, coming for some reason (often because a family member used to live there, and you’re taking their mantle: generally, their farm). You get started at your basic house with a basic plot of land, and over time work to improve it. In the Harvest Moon games, you start with a farm, and thus are a farmer (in the Rune Factory games, add in “badass monster slayer”). In this game, you start as a Builder: you build things that the townsfolk need; in other words, a crafter. Essentially, those are basically the same thing, just with a different flavor. (Indeed, in later games in the Rune Factory and Harvest Moon series, you spend a lot of time getting crafting materials to do a lot more than farm.) In MTAP, you can still farm a bit: “building” includes “building food” apparently, and it’s a lot cheaper to grow your own and have it on-hand.

Along the way you can talk to the various NPC townfolk, building up relationships with them from stranger on through soulmate, if that’s your thing. And it should be, because becoming friendlier to these folks gets you material benefits, like shop discounts or increased stamina. You do this in the usual, realistic way of talking to them once every day, and giving them trinkets that they kinda like (also every day, if you can hack it), as well as doing the occasional chore for them. Get them to like you enough, and you can ask them out, in a romantic kind of way. In this game, it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or girl: everyone is very open-minded about their dating partner, as long as they aren’t (or haven’t been) already married. You can even be lovers with multiple people at once, though for some reason they don’t like it if they see you with some other lover on a date (or kissing, I suppose). The various characters often have quests associated with their friendship level and relationship status, which can help you increase said status faster than just doing the daily chores.

(Incidentally, I think this is where I messed up my fun: I went all-in on Ginger, ie., one girl, instead of going for the lot of them. Once you get married, your romance options are all gone, down to just doing the daily interactions with your spouse. At least there are a few post-marriage quests, depending on who you marry, but otherwise that’s it. I don’t know why I rushed it (“rushed,” he says, after taking over 65 hours to do it), but now I’m stuck.)

I didn’t just pick her because she’s the most normal-looking freak.

As crafting is the main gameplay loop, you need to get your crafting materials. You can buy them, if you’re a chump. You can grow some of them. You can smash rocks and cut down trees out in the field. You can also go into abandoned ruins to mine stuff (as well as get artifacts). And, sometimes, there are devious critters that are holding things you need. Thus, you need to kill them. With combat, which consists of mashing the attack button and dodge-rolling. (Incidentally, one of the daily interactions with most NPC’s is to spar with them; I guess beating each other senseless is one way to get closer.) As you do these various things, you get XP, which lets you level up and pick perks, most of which have something to do with increasing the efficiency of material gain (though increasing combat ability, gathering efficiency, or social interactions).

Since you saw XP, you know this is a RPG, so that means there’s a story. And there is! At the start, you come to replace your father (who’s been gone quite a while on an adventure) as a builder in this sleepy little town. But the mayor has big plans, and you’re just the person to put them into motion. He wants to turn this boring berg into a major hub city for all the free cities in the region. Oh, yah, this is a post-post-apocalyptic setting; the abandoned ruins are what remains of the old highly advanced civilization that apparently completely destroyed itself. There’s even a church, which is mostly about how advanced tech is bad because that’s what caused the temptations for evil and destruction and whatnot. Of course, not everyone belongs to this church – there are some very helpful researchers that study the old tech to teach you how to make all these things the mayor wants you to make. It starts out small: make some signs for a haunted house, make a few street lights. But eventually it’s: create supports for a tunnel to the next city, completely renovate the harbor so it can support large ships, and so on. There’s also some stuff about finding an ancient AI that may or may not have had a hand in destroying the world back then.

As far as graphics and the like go…it’s serviceable. Small indie devs, pls understand. This isn’t a feast for the eyes, but that’s not what the game’s about, so I can forgive it. The sound, on the other hand, that’s just plain bad. Music is fine, nothing fancy, but it works. Voice acting is, again, fine. There are some parts that aren’t voiced for some reason, as is usual in these sort of games. Some (named) NPC’s aren’t even voiced at all, which is odd. Accents are all over the place, but that’s not bad in itself. The sfx, on the other hand, are straight out of the N64. Very jarring to have such low-quality things in a game that’s otherwise much better than that. And since you’re going to do a lot of things with those sfx, it grates.

One thing that’s odd, though not wholly out-of-place: the save system. The only time to save is when you go to bed. So, if you screw up, or the game crashes, or whatever, you have to do the whole last day over again. And if you want to stop for the day, you have to go to bed. I think there is more than one save slot, but until you load from another one, you are stuck using the one you’re on. It’s very old-fashioned, taking directly from the older Harvest Moon games.

Besides the above, I only have one major complaint: the marriage. No, not the fact that marriage ends a big part of the game; I’m not too fond of that, but it’s the same as every other game in the genre, so I can’t really complain about that here. No, it’s the marriage itself. After you propose, and fulfill all the other marriage requirements (some characters have quests associated with getting married), the start of the next day is the ceremony. As in, as soon as you wake up, you are transported to the church. You walk down the aisle with your promised, the priest says some words…and that’s it. A short cutscene. None of the NPC’s at the ceremony (which isn’t even the whole town, not even close) even acknowledge what just happened, nor does the spouse! Except that they head back to your house at the end of the day, after going back to their old house. For all intents and purposes, you basically just start the day at the church instead of your house. Very disappointing, very anti-climactic.

This review might sound a little negative, but I don’t mean it to be so. It’s a fun game. Remember, 70+ hours, and I’m not even done with it. (Nor am I finished, obviously.) It really scratches that Rune Factory itch, one I haven’t been able to scratch for a long time – and one I won’t be able to until much later this year, if not the next, when Rune Factory 5 comes to these forsaken shores. In fact, aside from a few niggles, I’d say I like this game better than most of the Rune Factory games. The building focus over the farming really suits me, and I love how the things you build for the town are permanent, major additions to the landscape. In short, I really recommend this game, especially if you are a fan of Rune Factory, Harvest Moon, or Stardew Valley.

October to November

Well, I wanted to do more gaming…and that’s what I got. And other stuff too!

Last month I talked about maybe starting exercising. Well, maybe I did! Start, at least. Ring Fit finally got restocked, so I got that. I kinda went into it blind, but hearing how people thought it was actually useful. And…it wasn’t what I was hoping for, to be honest. I was hoping the rpg mode would be a little more robust than it is. But the regular exercise portion is pretty good, at least as far as it can go. Really felt those planks.

I also decided to start jogging again. When I was a kid I really enjoyed running; I wasn’t the fastest, nor had the most endurance, but it still gave me time to think (or rather, daydream), and it was something I could do on my own. I fell out of that during high school, and when I got fat it went right out. (When I tried to lose weight wayyy back when Katawa Shoujo came out, I tried running again, and got shin splints so bad I felt them for years.) But now that I’ve lost weight, it shouldn’t be so bad on my joints and bones (and heart and lungs), so I gave it a go a couple weekends ago. Trouble is, I still have all those habits about pacing and suchlike from when I was younger and fitter, and went a bit too hard, and hurt myself. But I got all better after about a week, and decided to try again this past weekend. It went well, no injuries at least. And it didn’t feel like torture, as it has for over a decade. So now that’s a thing I can look forward to, at least until the ice comes back (my timing is always impeccable).

Crazy talk.

And for gaming? I finished Assassins Creed Odyssey, as you might have guessed by now. I think it was only a couple days after the post where I said I wanted to finish it. Expect a review…soon, now that Steam is letting me access my cloud screenshots again. Just finished the main story, didn’t really get into any of the dlc, except for one of the bonus side missions.

More Genshin Impact, as you might remember. At this point I think I’m at AR 37, and have finished the main story and most of the available side quests. At this point it’s just another mobile game, but more fun.

No, I haven’t uploaded any more pictures from this game, yet.

October is the time of Halloween for all those persistent games, even in Japan. ESO had it’s usual stuff, which was boring tbh. STO had its one day F13th mission as normal. The Japanese games were a bit more interesting. The ones I play each had their own, new events, with story and everything. But, they were all in the middle of the month. Very odd. Only Granblue Fantasy had its event extended to the actual day of Halloween, and that was just a Halloween-themed Premium Friday quest. Some day Japan might understand this holiday, but it wasn’t this year.

I also started a couple of games. Craftopia I already talked about. Just last night, wanting to play a not-anime not-fantasy game for once, I started No Man’s Sky. Pretty fun so far. Though I lost the abandoned ship I claimed. Whoops, should have put a base there. (I know what planet it’s on, but not the precise coordinates.)

As for next month…it’s my birthday! Maybe someone will remember. I won’t even get to do something at work, because it’s a Saturday. (I always like mentioning my birthday to my workers when it’s too late for them to do anything about it; makes me fell mysterious and not embarrassed when they try to sing or bring me cake or whatever. Not that I’d have workers this year anyways…) So more games for me, I suppose. I’ll continue in No Man’s Sky and Crusader Kings III, and the rest of the stuff I’m doing right now, since Cyberpunk got delayed again.

“Liberties” In Translation

Translation is hard. I know this, having done it myself. There are so many different nuances and such that can be hard, if not impossible, to directly translate. So, you just sometimes have to go with your best effort.

I’m going to talk a little bit about that effort here. Or rather, lack of it. Since this is video games, I’m mostly going to be talking about Japanese-to-English translation, since that’s the most relevant area of video game translation to me (and in general, I’d think), but it can be applied to any translation.

I said that some things can be hard to directly translate, if not impossible. Specific cultural or media references, puns, jokes, and sayings are often the biggest culprits, especially in a work of fiction. What is to be done, then?

Well, what is the point of translation? It’s to enable communication between two different languages. And what is communication, than the transfer of ideas (and feelings) between people? So, a translation should transfer those ideas. When there is a stark difference (even a small difference) between peoples, that translation becomes a localization. For example, a work might reference a specific politician that did something or another. That reference would be completely lost if just straight translated; but if a reference to a similar incident of a politician doing a thing were put in, the idea that the original author was trying to get across would be preserved (probably; if the original was specifically referencing that politician for a specific reference, the localization wouldn’t actually work). Things might get a little hairy if the original has something cultural that has no true equivalent in the new language; but dealing with that is what a translator is supposed to do. For example, there are many ways to address someone in Japanese, based on honorifics, politeness levels, and so on, that aren’t really present in English (especially in American culture, which is quite generally casual). There are ways to do this, but figuring those out, and applying them, is the challenge of the localization.

What isn’t the job of the translators is to change the ideas and feelings behind the work. Unfortunately, we see a lot of that in translation, and not always due to the incompetence, or lack of imagination, of the translator. No, some translators feel it’s their job to improve the work. Or, should I write, “improve” the work. This is true at all levels, from the lowly online freelance manga translator, to the AAA-budget translation teams for prestigious games. Sometimes it works, but usually it doesn’t, and almost always it is disrespectful.

The biggest offenders I see today are two-fold: those that try to “fix” the “problematic” aspects of a work, and those that “punch up” “boring” dialog and prose. I’m not going to get into the first one: it’s just bad, and that’s all that needs to be said. The second, that’s more egregious.

It might seem innocent to add a bit of character to text. A lot of translators, and especially editors, are/were aspiring writers. They might think it’s better to add some more flavor to whatever bland, normal stuff was there before. This is particularly true for video games, where the original authors’ hand and voice is usually felt a lot less in the writing, for precisely the reason that these are generally done by a team of writers. The biggest example I can think of is adding accents to characters in jrpg’s. Most of these characters tend to have the Standard Accent (ie, modern Tokyo accent) in the original Japanese text. But localization teams will add various “fantasy” (bad European, often British Isles) accents to characters. This has been happening since the early Final Fantasy games, and continues to this day.

Another way it’s done, seemingly more often these days, is simply punching the dialog up with more emotion. Lines can be mostly rewritten just to add a bit of spice to a particular dialog, or even character. Even exciting scenes get changed to dial it up to 11. To my immediate recollection both Genshin Impact and Dragalia Lost are particularly guilty of this, but they are merely examples.

What he actually says: “Thi-…This is…”

I shouldn’t have to point this out, but both of those things change the very tone of the game. This is basic writing stuff: tone is extremely important, and really sets the feelings the author wants to communicate. Thus, changing the tone is changing in translation a key component of the original writing, and really shouldn’t be done. But it keeps happening.

Another big, disrespectful liberty that translators can make is to change names. A name can be a key component in a character’s identity, and changing that can change the story. Or it could be completely immaterial. But either way, the original author meant for that character to have that name. Now, there are some factors that might justify a changed name; one that immediately comes to mind is if the name is a word, where the meaning of the word is the key part of the name. This is mostly true for nicknames, but context is key. For example, you wouldn’t keep a character’s nickname as Inu, since the meaning of “inu” is what’s important; no, changing it to Dog would be better in that case. However, you would really have to think about changing a Spanish character’s name from Esperanza to Hope – “Esperanza” (and “Hope”) are real names, so you’d really have to think of the context, and the author’s intent. But changing a character’s name from Johan to Dave – or even John – that’s a bad thing.

Yet, translators do it all the time. I’m going to use Dragalia Lost as an example. I made a spreadsheet with all the characters and dragons that I could easily get both the Japanese and English name (basically, playable characters and dragons, and the ones from the current event), comparing the two. Now, to be fair, most of the names haven’t changed. Some are only slight changes, but fine (still unnecessary, though). But others are big changes, for no good reason. Since many of those are main characters, either in events or in the main story, they make more of an impression that some low-rarity character that might not ever have their name said aloud. And it just doesn’t make sense, most of the time: why make these changes, almost always completely unjustified, when over 60% of the time the names are completely correct and unchanged? (Some of it, I can tell, is incompetence, and some of it is someone thinking they’re more clever than the original creator.)

All in all, I want my translations to say what’s actually being said. Or at least something quite close to it. Certainly with the same meaning. I don’t want some other writer’s idea of what actually should have been said. I’m at a babby-level of Japanese, yet I still catch things very wrong with translations, and that shouldn’t be.

Genshin Impact: A Deeper Look

I’m going to be reusing my pictures from the last post, since that’s what I have available.

The first thing to note, is something that I’ve seen from a lot of other people all across the internets. Some people that wouldn’t know better if you hit them over the head with the idea, and others that should have gotten it by now:

“Gacha” isn’t a genre.

Let me repeat that:

Gacha isn’t a genre.

And just so you remember:

Gacha isn’t a genre!

Gacha, as I’ve pointed out multiple times, isn’t a genre (do you get it yet?), it’s a monetization scheme. Gacha is essentially the same as lootboxes, but you don’t call games with lootboxes “lootbox games,” do you? Of course not, that’d be silly. But all the time I’ll see posts or reviews saying something along the lines of “Genshin Impact is a gacha game, but it doesn’t play like a gacha game.” What does a gacha game play like? I know what these folks are talking about, and I’ll get to that later. But it’s not a gacha problem.

To the more important point, everything I said in my first look still holds true. I’ve played a lot more by now, and I stand by my previous statements. Well, except for that last part. I can definitely recommend this game now. This is a good game overall. However, it’s good to know what it’s about going in, what to expect.

All of the good stuff is still good, even after tens of hours. I’ve heard it staid that the combat is more comparable to Nier: Automata, rather than Breath of the Wild; I don’t know if that’s true or not, having never played Nier, but still, it’s good stuff. (And it gives me hope for Nier: I’ve heard it said that the combat is kinda lacking in that game; but if it’s like Genshin, I’ll love it.) Once you actually get a good party going, the combat and flow starts getting quite natural. It’s fun, even taking out the same enemies over and over (another area the game is similar to Breath of the Wild…).

The story is actually pretty decent. I wasn’t expecting much going in – the beginning is yet another “oh noes a dragon?!!”, but it picks up from there. There’s a bit of nuance to the various situations the Traveler finds themselves in, especially in the second area. Not a lot of nuance, mind, but it’s not an obvious case of black-and-white, like it might seem from the prologue (even in the first area, after you beat the prologue, you see some of that nuance come in). The story isn’t great literature, but it’s nice for a rpg like this.

It seems the various characters that you’ll see in the gacha will get their own character stories that you can play through at various points. To be honest, I’d rather these be tied to actually having the character (like using the friendship system, instead of the few paragraphs they get per friendship level), as an added incentive/bonus for pulling said character. But I suppose this is another way to advertise the character – I didn’t care about Klee after they nerfed her animations (her alpha/beta animations were far more…animated), and certain folks said she sucked; but after playing her missions, she’s actually pretty good. Maybe I’ll get her eventually.

The writing is pretty snappy, at least in the English translation. I’ve noticed some liberties taken here and there, at least compared to the Japanese translation; I’ll believe that they’re the invention of the English localizers, since this is the kind of stuff that English localizers are notorious for (I have another post on that issue brewing). But it isn’t too bad, as far as I can tell. It’s not too distracting, at least, except for some of the memes used for achievements.

One thing of note is that the daily random quests actually advance the world and story, sometimes. Most of them are just “go here, wipe out the enemies”, but occasionally there will be one that involves npc’s and areas you’ve already visited, and either advance a little story in themselves, or somewhat change the world. For example, there is an inn in the second area that has broken stairs; one of the random mission sequences has you help repair those stairs, and they are repaired. Those little details and care are really what make this game special.

Which is good, because there are a couple of big problems. The gacha problem that I talked about in my last post on this game still applies. It’s the worst rates I’ve ever seen, outside of maybe STO’s lock boxes. But that’s not the main complaint people have, which have folks up in arms. No, they don’t like the fact that this game is indeed a mobile game.

This is what most people are talking about when they have complaints about the energy system (called “resin” in this game). They put the blame on the “gacha game” nature of this game, but that has nothing to do with the gacha. No, this is just your standard mobile game tactic. It’s a perfectly valid complaint, but we need to understand what it is: the fault is that this is a mobile game. For some reason folks got the impression that this was a mmo, or something along those lines. But it’s your standard mobile game, just with a nice coat of paint that’s worthy of a pc. But you need energy to do all the grindy stuff – get resources for leveling and advancing characters and gear. You only get so much, which regenerates over time. Pretty standard stuff, but I guess people weren’t really expecting it, so they are mad (well, more mad than they would have been with the correct mindset – it’s not a particularly good implementation of an energy system).

And I think, as a bit of meta commentary, is a big problem. People aren’t coming in with that right mindset. They expect a “main game” – something they can play for hours and hours, and stay entertained throughout. Frankly, I’m surprised it had as much ready going in as it did – most games of this sort would be envious of just that first area’s worth of content. As it is, the game gives 30-40 hours of good content, before getting terribly grindy – very good, actually. But still, mobile games like this have this trouble at launch, and early on – good start, but then an incomplete, unsatisfying “mid”-game, with no real end-game yet. I’m sure these problems will be addressed in the future – they tend to be, in successful games. But we’re going to have to wait.

One thing that does really concern me, with that mobile-game mindset, is the frequency of updates and events. Six weeks is a good amount of time for major updates. But there should be events and the like between those updates, to keep players going. New characters should come at a good pace, and I’m not really seeing it here. Significant events should come at a decent clip (at least once a month, if not slightly more often at first), but again, not seeing it here. Personally, I’d like to see story events, but even events without stories would be something. We have had one event so far in the game, and it wasn’t much (and again, takes energy to get rewards – though the rewards definitely weren’t worth the energy here). This can be a problem with immature games (and make no mistake: despite the high level of polish, this is a very immature game right now), but it doesn’t make it not a problem.

To sum it up, this is a good game. Just keep in mind that it’s a mobile game, with all the normal mobile game issues, and you can be happy with it.

Craftopia: A First Look

I was really excited for this game when it first was announced. A survival/crafting game, but anime? Sign me up!

And I’m still excited for it, when it comes out. Because it isn’t here yet. Sure, you can play it, but…let’s just say the game puts the “early” in “early access”. I’ve played some early access games, and they usually weren’t this incomplete. Buggy, sure, but there was more to them than this. Still, it’s a good introduction to the game, and it was still several hours of fun – and I’ve not yet completed what’s there to be seen.

The game begins with the above: Earth blows up, and apparently you are responsible. But the gods decide to give humanity – and more importantly, you – a second chance. This time, you have the responsibility to make things work.

Just in case you didn’t get it the first time. You will be reminded again, just to make you extra guilty.

And that’s it. That’s the story. As I said, early access – they don’t even have any quests put in. The game is very up-front with this though – as soon as you open the game, the devs are quick to point out that things are missing – including some translations (it’s a Japanese game) that are either just not there, or have machine-translated placeholders.

As far as the gameplay goes, if you’ve played a survival game, you know how it works. Get materials to make things to get more materials to make more things. It has a fantasy RPG aspect to it, unlike many of the more realistic settings. I’d say it’s most similar to Conan Exiles, of the games I’ve played. The only real survival aspect at this time, though, is hunger. You don’t need to sleep or any of that. Most of the crafting right now, at least for early game, seems focused towards food production, and combat (RPG, remember).

More healthy than raw meat.

Essentially, what’s in the game right now is the tutorial, or perhaps a demo. You get the first few stages of crafting, which basically lets you do what’s in the trailers. You get machinery in the third tier of crating, which seems a bit soon – it goes along with the loom and swords. I’m guessing those were made available just as proof of concept, to see if the players could get them to work. I’m not quite there yet, in terms of materials, but I have access to hoverboards and motorcycles.

All in all, this is a game to look forward to. I can see what they’re doing here, and expect good things. It’s just the wait that’s disappointing, but it isn’t like I have a lack of good games to play right now, and in the near future.

I look forward to the dragon balls.

September to October

Too lazy to turn this; I thought google drive had an editing option, but I guess not.

As far as this month goes, it’s been pretty boring, at least to talk about. I’ve been playing basically the same games the entire time. Not much has happened in my life. Though there are a couple things to discuss, at least in brief, so I’m making this post.

First, an update on a post from wayy back in April. Thus, the picture of the scale above. As of yesterday, I hit my weight goal! I haven’t been this light since I was 20, if not earlier. Feels good, man. Sure, it took the better part of six months to make the half of progress, but I’ve lost 40-45 lbs with basically no exercise. Now, to be fair, I look it – my arms and legs might as well be those of a child, if it weren’t for the excessive hair on them. And I’ve still got too much of a gut. But my face looks good (well…not fat, at least), and I’m just chubbster now. Of course I celebrated by going out to eat (with a milkshake!).

So, what next? Well, the diet shall mostly continue. I see no reason to change much now; it works for me. I will change the “no snacking” rule to “no buying snacks from the store.” Meaning, I can snack, if I make them myself (or if I go to an actual baker and something really stands out). Which I don’t see myself doing much. I don’t even have the cooking implements to do so. I looked at a stand mixer a couple of weeks ago (kinda want to get into baking), and yah, that’s not happening right now.

Also, I need to exercise more. I know that’s not a goal, it’s an idea. But I’m too lazy to set up something concrete. I have weights in my office now, presumably to use while I’m watching videos on my lunch break, but I barely use them. (Doesn’t help that I hurt my right arm, and am in pain doing much of anything – it almost certainly wan’t caused by me using my mouse at an 80-90-degree angle to the right instead of in front of me; no sir, couldn’t be that.) Could also, like walk or whatever before work instead of grazing Twitter. But yah, that’s something to be doing.

I’m pretty sure the voiceover said “you look cuter without your glasses,” which is absolutely correct.

In game news, I’ve been keeping up with the usual daily stuff. Granblue had its X-million accounts celebration, which meant more things to do. That’s over now, so I mostly just do some daily things. Dragalia Lost is having its second anniversary, just after a major gameplay update. It’s pretty good stuff. The even added sparking, right before a big limited rush. Very nice. Getting better at Bandori, to the point where I can clear almost any Hard song on first try without heals. ESO and STO are back on the backburner, though I’m still doing their events too.

The big one is Assassins Creed Odyssey. I’ve been playing that basically every day, yet still am not close to done. I’ve played well over 100 hours at this point. At this point I want it to be done, just so I can play other games! But this one is too fun to just drop, and the story is surprisingly compelling too (at least the Greek parts – the Assassin’s Creed stuff is lame, though barely there at this point so whatever). I haven’t discussed it much, because I want to make one big review post. But who knows when I’ll actually finish, so that might be in a while.

HOWEVER, there is a new contender: Genshin Impact. This is another really fun one. I finally got out of reroll hell, on account 8. Got two SSR at once, though they were both Jean. Also got Fish, so that’s a really good account. As I was breezing through for rerolling, last night I just went to play for a few minutes before getting on other games, going over those areas I ran through. Ended up playing for over an hour. Fun, fun game.

As for next month…I basically want to do what I was going to do last month before ACO took way longer than I expected: finish ACO, get into Craftopia and Genshin Impact. Play more vidya!

Genshin Impact: Initial Impressions

Another week, another new gacha game. But this time, people are actually anticipating it. I’ve never seen initial hype for a new mobile game so high, or a new Chinese game. But there’s good reason for it: it looks good. And not just graphically, but actual gameplay. This game looks like it has soul.

Now granted, a lot of that soul comes from the very obvious Breath of the Wild inspiration in graphics and gameplay. But that’s what people want apparently. BotW is hugely popular, so why not go with a more anime version of that game?

I’ve been able to play this game for a bit, about the first hour or so. Of course, I’ve played that first hour several times now. I’ll give my first impressions in terms of the good and the bad.

The Good:

  • Gameplay: It’s basically Breath of the Wild. You run around an open world, climbing on things, jumping off things, gliding to places, beating up enemies, and so on. The big difference here is that, instead of Link, you use one of several characters. Each character has an elemental affinity, which you use as you’d expect, and which also give different elemental status effects. The main gimmick here is switching out characters on the fly to synergize those status and elemental effects. It’s pretty cool making a fire tornado, or freezing a wet enemy.
  • Art: The art is pretty good. Even on mobile this game just looks good, and from what I’ve seen from actual systems, it looks fantastic with some power behind it. This is the first game that I’ve played that has felt like an anime come to life. Which is weird, because it’s Chinese, not Japanese. But whatever, it’s cool. The character designs are also pretty cool. This might not be the game for you if you’re into big buff manly men, because I haven’t seen any, but if you like any other character archetype, there’s something for you.
  • Translation: There are no translation issues that I can see. I’m honestly shocked. I don’t know Chinese, but I do know a little bit of Japanese, and the English translations match that at least. The English dub is pretty bad, but the Japanese dub is fine. You can also listen in Korean or Chinese, depending on your preference. (And you don’t need to download additional data to do so, which is nice.)

The Bad

  • Gacha System: The gacha system was going to rub people the wrong way regardless, since they’re all kinda predatory. But this is the worst gacha system I’ve ever seen. First, the rates are terrible: 0.6% for 5*, the highest rarity. That’s not for rate-ups; no, that’s for ANY 5*. Next, the 5* are the best characters and weapons. This is mostly normal, but from what the Chinese testers have reported, it’s rather insane in this game: whales won’t even play higher-difficulty content with f2p’ers, it’s that bad. And to make matters worse, you need multiple copies of characters to make them stronger. Oh, and as you see above, you get equipment from the same pool, which dilutes things insanely. No one wants to draw weapons, they want characters, and this just adds insult to injury. At 0.6%, you need to roll about 120 times to get better than even odds of getting at least one 5*. But you’d better pull out your wallet for that, because the game is very stingy with free currency. For this reason, and this reason alone, no matter how good the rest of the game is, I can’t recommend it to normal people. And if you’re into gachas, I still can only recommend it with reservations.
  • Rerolling: Given the above, you’ll want to re-roll so you can at least get a decent start. Most of these gacha games give you a big up-front currency bonus to get you excited, and this game is no exception. At first glance, rerolling is easy: you just make a new account at game load, which is super easy. No registry edits, diving into files, or even having to salt emails for new accounts. However, that’s the only easy part. You have to sit through the entire opening sequence, which is full of unskippable cutscenes and dialog. It takes quite a bit of time to get to the first point you can roll – about a half-hour on mobile, but a lot less on PC (load times and control issues). That gets you your first ten rolls. But, play for another half-hour or so (again, significantly shorter on PC, if you know what you’re doing), and you can get 20 more rolls when you hit account level 7. So, either ten or thirty rolls, for either a half-hour or hour, depending on load times and how much you know what you’re doing. And, considering what I said above about how much you’re going to be rolling for a 5* (ANY 5*, not even a specific one you want), you’re going to be doing this a bunch. I’ve done four so far, and want to throw my tablet all the way to China.
  • Controls: This is mostly a mobile thing, but the controls suck. The menus and stuff are fine, obviously crafted for mobile, but, as is the case with all 3D games, it doesn’t do well with mobile. It’s obviously made for console first (it would be almost perfect on Switch, using the touch screen for menus and such, while having the sticks for movement), and even the PC controls are a bit wonky. But controlling this game with the virtual stick is most un-fun.
  • China: This is a Chinese game. That goes on your PC, potentially. That should be enough, which tells you why I’m playing on my tablet. Every piece of Chinese software is suspect: if not from the devs, or the publisher, then from the government. It doesn’t help that this comes on PC with anti-cheat at the kernel level that doesn’t turn off when the game does, nor goes away when you uninstall the game (sounds like some other (non-Chinese) game that had a lot of controversy recently). The publisher says this is “unintended behavior” and says they will fix it, but don’t worry for now it’s perfectly fine. Yah, I sure believe that.

So yah, fun game with some really bad, glaring flaws that don’t have much to do with gameplay itself. I can’t really recommend it, but I want to play it more myself. I just hope I can actually get to playing before I claw out my eyes rerolling. Time for account #5…


You might have heard recently that there are a couple of new consoles coming out. I know that’s a shocker, but it’s true! Moreover, you can even pre-order them!

Well, you could, for a few minutes a week or so ago. If you missed out on that, there’s always the scalpers who actually got them.

I didn’t get one. Not that I tried. Not that I’m trying to sound cool or above it all or anything, but I just have no hype for these machines. Like, none. I don’t see myself ever getting one, from either company.

It’s not that I’m not a console guy. I don’t have anything against consoles. In fact, I have several in my room. Sure, I’m primarily a PC gamer, but consoles have their place too.

Their place is to play games only they can play. Trouble is, these newer consoles don’t do that. Microsoft has all but flat-out said they’re not even going to try for any exclusives for the new XBox. Playstation might get some, but it’s doubtful it’ll be more than a handful, no matter how Sony tries to spin the reveals from their own stream.

So, if there are no exclusives (that I want to play), why even bother getting a new machine? All of the supposed advantages of console gaming apply to PC gaming as well. None of these guys are Nintendo, bringing gimmicks to their systems (for good and ill). Thus, no hype. Again, not trying to be cool or hard or whatever, just something I thought I should talk about.

Diving Into the Cracks: Trill Symbiont

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but it came up, I thought about it, and I want to make a post about it. By ‘it,’ I mean the Trill, and the Symbionts, as suggested by the title. This will be shorter than some of my past posts, as there’s only really one main point I want to make.

As usual, I make these posts because I think the general impression about them is wrong; or, at least, I have an alternate interpretation, that I think fits the fiction better than the general consensus. In this case, that consensus is that the Trill symbiont (the worm) merges its personality with the host (the humanoid Trill), which then makes a new person, so to speak. I don’t think that’s right.

I think that it’s more the symbiont is a repository of memory of the previous hosts. I question that the worm even has a personality, as we would recognise one. They are assumed to be sentient – the worms can communicate with each other in their natural habit, and it seems with hosts, and even caretakers of that natural habitat, to a limited extent. But, as I said, I don’t know if that means they actually have a “mind” as we would understand. And it seems that, even if it does, that doesn’t matter.

While the host’s personality – or at least, their external expression of that personality – does seem to change a bit, I wouldn’t put that down to a “merging” of sorts. Part of your personality, if not a large part, is shaped by your experiences – your memories – after all. If you suddenly, as a young person, gained the experiences of at least one entire lifetime, that’d change you. Just that would be incredibly valuable – and we (the viewers) can see that, with how the access to symbionts is controlled.

It also seems that the choice of hosts is not just based on intelligence and lack of metal illness, but on personality. As in, not much of one, at least by the time Jadzia was made a host. As we can see (and as we’d expect), Jadzia without the worm is far different from Jadzia Dax. But also, as we see from those times where we get to “meet” the past Daxes, each one is very different from each other. Jadzia just seems like a quiet, nervous nerd, but Jadzia Dax is pretty much the exact opposite. Presumably the future hosts are psychologically prepared on some way

And then there’s Ezri. She wasn’t chosen to be a host, she just happened to be there when a new one was urgently needed. We get to see, real time, what suddenly getting hundreds of years of memories does to someone who isn’t prepared at all. And it isn’t a sudden re-write of personality. It’s just an addition to what they already are.

(As an aside, I wonder if the conjoined Trill has eidetic memory. I don’t think the worm would work very well without it, but does the pair experience their memory like that? Especially if the Trill in general don’t, that’d be really weird to experience.)

Ezri a cute.

WordPress Weirdness

I haven’t been able to blog for the past few days, up to maybe two weeks. Why not? Because WordPress wouldn’t let me log in. In the past, my login would be kinda funky, where I wouldn’t be able to make comments sometimes, and could only get into the blog dashboard from the “create new blog” button on the top floaty banner that WordPress puts up to get new people to make blogs (hopefully paying money for the privilege).

If you’re constantly logged in to your WordPress account, you don’t see this, you see the links to your own dashboard, login, etc. But they changed it. Now, pressing that new blog button takes you straight to the new blog setup process, without having you create a new account first. (In the past, that would first prompt one to make a new WordPress account, as you’d expect, since pretty much every other website in existence does this – I’d use this opportunity to get into my site.)

To get around this, I tried to log in, as one does. You can log in via the menu next to the Follow button, which seems to default to the lower-right part of the page. (You can also do other things, like Report a site.) But, as soon as I logged in, I was logged back out again. So that was frustrating.

In a profound amount of stupidity, I didn’t try the next obvious thing, until just now: don’t just click that Log In button, but say “that’s not me,” which then takes you to a normal login screen, to manually input username and password. Once I did that (well, reset my password, as I forgot), I was finally able to get in. And my last post wasn’t approved apparently. But it got a like, so I guess it posted anyways? And I had a trackback that also wasn’t approved, but apparently existed still? What would have happened if I had denied my approval in either situation? I don’t know. Very weird, WordPress.