Escape From Tarkov | How to Hide the Grind

The “grind” is a term that’s used pretty much everywhere these days to describe hard work over a long period of time. The word is thrown around by meat heads who just finished their three-sets-of-ten and 20-something college girls who just got their 500 dollar paycheck and need Instagram to know about the hustle.

In gaming, the term is used mostly in the same way, but with an emphasis on a sometimes (I’d personally say all the times) arbitrary design by the developers of a game to keep players engaged. For example, an MMO might have a ton of content in the end game, but requires a player to grind out roughly 50 hours of quests to level up enough to get there. This grind to the end game is arbitrarily designed, long, and therefor qualifies as a ‘grind’ in the gaming community. Simple.

If all of the same quests in this theoretical MMO existed without blocking the player from accessing end game content, it wouldn’t be a grind to play the game, now would it? It would just be more content in a game, no grind required, see?

This is probably a bit confusing to a non-gaming person, as it seems like the better design would be to get rid of the grind altogether. The problem here is that “the grind” is something of a boon for a lot of players. A sense of accomplishment is created from having a journey be arduous instead of easy, and this is the soul gameplay model for many MMOs, not least of which being WoW, OSRS, RS, and pretty much any other game in the genre that’s ever existed ever. The grind makes doing X an actual accomplishment instead of just something everyone else has done.

That said, there is still a great deal of problems that come with this design. Namely, the fact that the grind can’t be too long without losing player interest, and it can’t be too short so that the accomplishments gained from a grind become meaningless. Walking this line properly has generated certain companies hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars, while failing to hit the mark has made other games, and their respective companies, dead on arrival. It isn’t easy to understand how one developer concocts their formula for success compared to another, but it is easy to understand what the developer ultimately ends up creating. Enter Escape from Tarkov.

Escape from Tarkov and the Illusion of a Grindless System

Escape from Tarkov, or just “Tarkov”, is a first person shooter that mainly revolves around resource management, and it revolves around this kind of gameplay exceptionally well. Players are pitted against each other in a variety of maps with gear they choose to enter the match with: Armor, weapons, tactical gear, grenades, the list goes on. There’s a lot of items that are mediocre and common while others are exceptional and rare. And when a player dies in one of these matches, they lose all of the items they brought or found during the match.

Image via Battlestate Games

As one might imagine, this makes the nature of failure in the game extremely punishing. As a counter to this, succeeding in a match, or a “raid”, is just as rewarding as losing is punitive. Players can accept daily tasks from the AI traders in-game that act as objective creators and help to speed the player’s advancement along. This advancement is used as advantages in the form of acquired levels and resources to gain a better hideout, which provides passive bonuses, as well as better items which, of course, can be used to go and earn more items. Rinse and repeat.

And it’s at this point that a veteran of the MMO genre would have no problem identifying the fact that Tarkov is actually an MMO dressed up as an FPS Battle Royal. I mean, it is a BR, but its managed to sneak in the various aspects of MMO gameplay that keep players coming back for their hits of dopamine: Daily tasks / quests, a ‘get gear to get more gear’ gameplay loop, heavy PvE environments with PvP sprinkled in (this part can be the other way around, depending on the type of player you are,) and an ungodly grind that requires daily attention and resets every six months or so when the game completely wipes its player progress for a full restart from level 1 (for everyone.)

And that’s the great formula for long term success that Tarkov has created. This grind that eventually hooks players doesn’t present itself until weeks of gameplay, at the earliest, for many players. For most players, the gameplay loop isn’t even a second thought yet. The complex mechanics, confusing map layouts, and punishing resource management systems are all they care about. And make no mistake, this isn’t an article knocking against Tarkov, those systems are very, very well done in the game. Brilliant design, no doubt about it. But it’s a fact that those same systems are the bait which reel players in for years and years at a time. The hook, as it were, is the grind. The “Tarkov Grind”.

This grind is just like any other in any game you’d like. As we’ve established, it takes a lot of its design from established MMO titles, and demands constant attention from the player. However, this hook, despite bringing the player back like an addict, is hiding behind the interesting gameplay to mask itself as genuine fun instead of addiction. The player would have already decided to ditch the game under any other pretenses, but since Tarkov’s grind is dressed up in such a way that’s pretty much in a league of its own, that decision doesn’t come until much later when said player is probably already hooked on the game, despite potentially being the kind of person who doesn’t enjoy a grindy game.

Its the incredible design shown by the developers over at Battlestate Games that created such an interesting title, and its their ruthless ingenuity that coupled said title with a gameplay loop that can drain literal infinite hours away from its playerbase. At the time of writing this article, its been about two weeks since I picked up Tarkov, and I’ve thrown roughly 50 hours into the game as though it were nothing. Its taken me a while to pickup on the fact that I was just getting hooked on the loop without actually enjoying the gameplay, but this article topic serves to acknowledge the fact that I’ve managed to escape it, no pun intended.

How to Avoid these Grind Systems as a Player

When trying out a new title, your first question should always be: “What am I playing this for?” You can ask this question on multiple levels, but for the sake of this topic, you should be asking the game itself. The Dark Souls Trilogy has a myriad of boss fights that are well designed, an intricate and deep story, and hidden philosophy on the nature of life itself. A player might ask him or herself why they play Dark Souls, and one or all of those things may be the answer. The key aspect of the game being that it does, indeed, have an end, and isn’t designed as an endless loop (despite being about life as an endless loop).

Image via FromSoftware

Now, you can grind in Dark Souls, and you can play endlessly, but that’s a decision that’s left up to the player. People have beaten the first game in less than an hour, and the other games don’t have completion times much different than that. That is to say, the grind in Dark Souls is one you choose, not one that’s required, and it isn’t endless or pointless, at least from a gameplay perspective. Some might call it genius, but the game is meant to satisfy you on completion, not leave you feeling like you have to play everyday for the next six months just to maintain progress on your character.

Try that same thought experiment out with any other game. “Why am I playing this game?” Story? Well designed mechanics? Incredible writing, acting, or art direction? Maybe its just fun? Really test yourself on that question, because in the modern age, its not unlikely that you find yourself playing a game as a means to progress to the next part in the game as apposed to enjoying the part you’re currently at.

Progress should happen naturally as long as you enjoy where you’re at. If you don’t enjoy where you’re at, get out. Don’t lie in wait, for those hopes of things changing for the better without your influence shall let the rust of a dull gear creep into your mind. By that point, you’ll be accustomed to your setting, and leaving will be far too difficult a task. You’re an addict, you’re unable to move, and no one is able to help you rekindle the first flame.

What were we talking about? Right, Tarkov. Fun game, innovative game, too much of a grind. 6/10.

My Favorite Games of 2021

Before moving onto the next year, we gotta look back at the stuff that defined the high points of gaming in 2021. You know the drill with these “best games of 2021” articles, so I’ll keep this one short.


Image via Daniel Mullens Games

I dunno if I’m harping on this game too much, but I gotta say: Inscryption remapped my brain’s understanding of how to define an “original” piece of art. I mean, the nature of something original is that it’s something I wouldn’t have seen before or expected to see, and yet I still feel like my previous encounters with original art just weren’t as awe-inspiring as my play through of this game.

Am I lame for being so in love with this game? Maybe. Am I wrong in saying it was one of the, if not the, best game of 2021? No, my subjective opinion on the matter is objectively right, fact, and unquestionable. If you haven’t played this game because you don’t think you’ll enjoy its card-game mechanics, just play it. Please play it. Play it.

Play. Inscryption. Please.

RE: Village

I know you’re probably going to be upset with my over this, but Village was my first ever Resident Evil game. Yes, I can see your face, it spells U P S E T, and I completely understand.

RE: Village
Gorgeous Image via Capcom

Despite what the memes might suggest, Village is not a game about a sexy vampire lady. In fact, if you pay close attention, you’ll find that she’s actually one of many characters in the game. (I didn’t find this out until my third playthrough.)

The story, as I was told to expect from Resident Evil games, is cunning in its originality and clean structure. I wasn’t ever at a point in the game where I was like “Okay, let’s hurry it up.” The game has a solid beginning, middle, and end, and does a good job at making me want to learn more about the universe and its past, and future, story lines.

The gameplay was super smooth, and was complimented wonderfully by the excellent horror themes exhibited by the narrative and visual structure of the game. The subtlety with which these horror elements were employed were so masterful that I actually had to use them as a subject in an entire article about the topic. There have been many points in history where prolific game direction and masterful programming / design have met hand in hand, and RE: Village marks one of those points with a ton of ink (and a little obscurity.)

Village was a masterpiece, and I look forward to absorbing more Resident Evil content because of it.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Image via ZA/UM

Disco Elysium was released back in 2019, and even then it wasn’t anything short of incredible. The intensely complicated RPG elements and top-tier writing are complimented by a collection of gritty, charming, and realistic voice acting performances that pull everything together in what is, unarguably, one of the best narrative-driven RPGs of all time.

Its release of “The Final Cut” in 2021 version gave me an excuse to add the game to this very barren best games of 2021 list and to tip my hat to it, if only for a moment. I know this game already has enough love as it is by those who understand solid game design, but it still feels odd that, in a world that’s having a love affair with RPG gaming, Disco Elysium doesn’t see more commercial success.

In any case, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut is a prime example of how passionate world building and professional, talented writing can carry an otherwise decent game into instant classic territory.

That’s it.

No, really. That’s it. I didn’t really care for too many games in any meaningful way this year. This could be due to the fact that I’m currently limited to PC gaming: I’d figure The Last of Us 2 or some Nintendo game would have made it onto this “best games of 2021” list, otherwise. Or it could just be that the gaming industry is giving up and can’t, or doesn’t want to, produce quality content as much as it used to anymore. Its probably the former, eh?


Inscryption is Hearthstone, But Infinitely Better

Inscryption is a great game that I haven’t finished. This article is a short review of my first impressions of it and nothing more. No spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played the game yet, take my advice and set this article aside until you have. Despite the lack of spoilers, I’m still going to touch on some of the magic that makes this game what it is, or what it has been so far. Perhaps not reading any of it is best if you want to keep the hints out of mind.

Inscryption’s Gameplay

Inscryption's gameboard
Image via Daniel Mullins Games

Never did I ever expect the gameplay of this rogue-like deck builder to have its narrative so closely tied to its gameplay. Sure, deck building games often build their worlds around the cards they produce, but none that I’ve played have ever had their cards specifically exist in the world that’s in the world or, more to the point, cards that change gameplay that’s within the gameplay.

Confused? Yeah, well, that’s Inscryption. According to the reviews, playing the game blind was the move, so I put my knife up and downloaded it not knowing what I was going to get myself into. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of the classic Magic the Gathering format tied in with Hearthstone-like mechanics: the game board reacts to you and your pieces and the horror atmosphere is knit like a sleeve against the gruesome nature of what you’re doing: playing a card game with trapped souls.

The gameplay feels like Hearthstone more than it does like Magic, despite the format being closer to the latter. Perhaps it’s because of the personality each card has, or maybe it’s the just a matter of habituation for me. In any case, this game plays like a Hearthstone that costs a flat 20 dollars instead of 100 dollars per expansion. And the content within it is far more satisfying to delve into (and far more fun, too, if that matters.) I say this as someone who reached rank 75 Legend in Hearthstone’s competitive ladder, not a casual who played the game for a month or two and left it alone: Inscryption is the better game in almost every objective sense.

Incryption’s Best Magic Trick | Perspective and Scope

Two attributes every game has, and often overlooks. Perspective is the “picture in the picture” to paraphrase. Its the view the player will have while playing, and what a developer crafts from day one. Its a literal perspective on the part of the player’s eyes, but also an idea of what lies ahead, crafted by the player’s brain using the ingredients a developer lays in front of him or her. The perspective a game offers up is encased within a genre, artwork, writing, and audio design. In Dark Souls, this perspective is thrown right in the face of the player as a form of helplessness brought on by a murky aesthetic and overwhelming difficulty. In Inscryption’s case, the perspective of helplessness and curiosity is brought to the player via a horror-like atmosphere and a collection of incomplete tales. Tales that the player is practically begged to follow up on: a suspicious character, a new line of dialogue or book entries, as well as hidden secrets that alter gameplay. They all work together to build what is essentially one big question: What does this game mean to tell me?

Inscryption's Horror
Image via Daniel Mullins Games

It would be so embarrassing, almost crude, to write the following sentence, but by default I am going to do it, and you can’t stop me: Inscyption is a page turner. Oof!

Ignoring the fact that the gameplay itself has an addictive quality to it that I’m going to chalk up to sheer craftsmanship on the part of the developers, this game forces you to continue playing match after match just to try and figure out what the hell is happening and how you can overcome it. I haven’t played a game like this in the last two to three years. In fact, almost every game I have played in recent times feels like a chore just to go back to. And I ain’t talking about League of Addiction, I’m talking about big hitters like Fallout: New Vegas and Skyrim. These are great games that just don’t draw a player into it in the same way Inscryption, somehow, manages to do.

What is Inscryption’s Scope?

Scope is a developer’s ultimate vision and, in this game’s case, is hidden from the player just behind the game’s perspective. And I mean really hidden. I cannot tell you how confused I was to have the main menu be a function of the game’s story telling and plot progression, but once I figured it out after getting through that part of the game, I was completely blown away. To have a cheap game deliver on its promise ten times over only to expand into something completely different… I just have no words, except for all of these ones. It’s been two days since I managed to get through that part of the game and I’m still in awe of how an indie studio can craft something together such as Inscryption, and I’m not even finished with the thing yet. Without ruining anything, I’ll say that the game’s scope hits a point where you think its done enough, and then it takes another step, and then another, and so on. It seems to never end.

Inscryption has wit, incredible writing, a vision, grand scope, and it doesn’t play by contemporary rules. Its the kind of game that is going to be borrowed and stolen from for the next decade, and it will likely only receive a light nudge by a small portion of the gaming community as credit despite being a contender for game of the year.


Arcane | First Season, First Impressions

Spoilers Ahead

Arcane’s first season has come and gone, and those of you who’ve been following me for a while will know that I’ve been both eager and terrified to see its release. On the one hand, having a League show to flesh out a huge world the characters’ lore has set into cannon has been an idea I’ve always been on board with. On the other hand, Riot Games has some cringe-worthy writing habits in their skill set, and I’ve been afraid those skills would come to flourish non-stop in Arcane. There is a little bit of that here n’ there, but ultimately the show was very strong.

I’ll be breaking up this review into three sections, with each section corresponding to one of the three chapters of Arcane. Each chapter, for those who don’t know, is comprised of 3 episodes each, for a grand total of nine, aight? Let’s begin.

Arcane Chapter 1 | Character Development, Quality Writing

The first three episodes of Arcane feature plenty of natural introductions and strong character development which helps to set the scene for the rest of the show. I’ve been playing League since Lucian’s release and am familiar with the set of characters in the game, but if one wasn’t so well educated on who these characters might be, they wouldn’t be lost watching this show. I felt that was a strength worth mentioning, so there you go.

Image via Riot Games

Having Arcane get off on the right foot was a must for me, since I was already prepared to have some poor writing in it, and it absolutely delivered. Right away I felt invested in seeing Vi and Powder’s relationship stay strong and for the two of them to live happily ever after, despite my better knowledge of their character bios. Their cast of friends, Claggor and Mylo, are characters serviceable enough to help create a realistic coming of age story for teens and young children, but still stay out of the forefront and keep the focus on our two sisters.

Vander, Vi and Powder’s adoptive father, is also a highlight in Chapter 1. His writing is just as good as his voice acting, and he doesn’t fail to deliver on that “wise and loving” character that we look for in leaders for these kinds of shows. In terms of character, he’s a mix between Tywin Lannister and Uncle Iroh. Structurally, he serves as the stories bookmark for us to remember where to world is at that point in time. Under Vander’s guidance, the Undercity, which is steampunk neon-light infested neo-LA ridden with poverty and organized crime, lives in a temperamental peace-treaty with Piltover, which is what people who have never been to LA think LA is actually like: The city of progress with a vast amount of wealth and a head start on the world’s technological forefront.

This is Arcane’s starting position for the show, and I couldn’t have thought of a better place to begin myself. Seeing the plight of the Undercity in contrast to the almost suburban-like peace of Piltover says more than you need to hear from any character about the economic differences between the two. And from here, we start the journey.

Powder, Vi, and the other two soon-to-be dead expendables are performing a heist in Piltover. After a few hiccups, the gang nearly makes it back to their home before being routed by another group of expendable schmucks. In a panic, Powder (who is a 10-year-old Jinx, or something) chucks the loot from the heist into a large body of water, and after getting out of the scuff with the expendable schmucks, the minor characters comment repeatedly on how Powder is a jinx (see what they did there?) and how she isn’t ready to come help with heists, yet.

I promise, I’ll stop explaining what happens in the show, now. I just needed to get that first bit out of the way so we have our starting position for the review.

All of that transpires, slowly, into a reveal of multiple characters. Some of the best fun I had was guessing who might be what champion in the game, and then slowly realizing that not all main characters need to be anyone in the game at all. Vander is unveiled as the father figure for the two girls (and basically everyone in the undercity), and our antagonist, Silco, is revealed as a wise, smooth talking crime-boss who may or may not be well written, depending on the episode.

The character introductions, as I’ve said repeatedly, felt natural and well deserved. Nothing felt contrived or off putting in so far as to make me go “aw, that kinda sucked.” I liked seeing Vander lead the Undercity as best he could, and Silco was an engaging enough antagonist that I didn’t mind the stereotypical ‘evil’ vibe they gave him. In fact, he was a character I could empathize with from time to time, despite his whole get up. More on that a bit later, though.

The first chapter concludes with a showing of the beginning of Powder’s transition to Jinx. Powder tries to save Vi and the gang from a trap Silco set for them, and unwittingly kills just about everyone involved, including Mylo and Claggor. In a fit of rage, Vi smacks Powder a bit and walks off. Silco finds Powder all abandoned n’ such and takes her in as his own daughter. Vi is arrested by a bloke named Marcus who was just hanging out, badabing, badaboom, contrivance, maybe, but I mean whatever, you know?

The first chapter has great character development, excellent writing, and voice acting that’s to die for (Silco’s voice, man). Solid stuff, 7/10.

Arcane Chapter 2 | What happened?

There were tons of problems I had with chapter 2. This is a strange fact, since the first three episodes were so consistently strong. My theory is that they produced the episodes in groups, since they knew they were going to release the episodes as chapters, and so if one episode in a chapter is weak, the other two were always likely to follow suit. In any case, Arcane’s chapter 2 is the worst out of the three.

The strong voice acting is still there, but the writing is weak and the choices the characters make are questionable at best.

To start, I need to talk about Silco. The first three episodes led me to believe this guy was going to be a very well designed antagonist. He was smart, brutal, clever, and had conviction that I could almost see eye to eye with, in some instances. These next three episodes do some things that make me question whether or not Riot cared to keep that promise for the character alive at all times. I vividly remember those scenes where Silco is attempting to murder Vi and he’s just giving a monologue while playfully keeping the shimmer just out of his addicted henchmens’ grasp.

It felt so… out of place. I get that Silco likes having power over people, but the second chapter does so many little things like this where our antagonist stops being a man of conviction and starts being evil just for the sake of it. He starts making dumb mistakes, acting out in fits of rage like he’s a comic book villain, and plays with the addictions of Undercity dwellers despite devoting his whole life to achieve supremacy for the Undercity. He just stops making sense for a while so that the plot can move forward, and it hurts the second chapter by a huge, huge margin.

Something else that needs to be mentioned is Jinx. I’ve got huge issues with Jinx as a character, and we’ll start with the first one: She’s way too immaturely designed for someone with such huge mental health struggles.

Image via Riot Games

The first scene we get of Jinx with Silco is her hopping on Silco’s lap and helping him inject his eye medication (or whatever). This is great, in my opinion. This scene demonstrates the level of trust Silco has in Jinx as well as the suggested inappropriate nature of their relationship. Jinx is like a daughter to Silco, yet she is wearing her trademark skimpy clothing while sitting on her father’s lap, and its all terribly uncomfortable and close. Like I said, great. Silco’s a fucked up dude, Jinx has a ton of mental problems, it would make perfect sense for this suggested sexual nature of their relationship to be the only thing Jinx has that’s close to family at this point. Its a very mature take on a very real problem, and I commend Riot for having the nerve to stick it in a show knowing full well their target audience is an extremely large group of twitter wielding teenagers who will complain about anything being out of line.

That said, I have to turn around and smack Riot Games over the head for then taking that mature story telling device and combining it with Jinx, who they wrote as having what a middle school student thinks mental illness is.

I’ll write that one more time just so we’re on the same page.

Jinx’s mental illness is displayed as what an edgy middle school student thinks mental illness is.

Its absolutely cringe-worthy to see Jinx talking to herself and the voices in her head out loud just to spout exposition for the audience. Its even worse for these conversations with the voices to pop up during Jinx’s temporary reuniting with Vi just so that Vi knows there’s something wrong with her dear old Powder. Jinx’s voice is all squeaky, high pitched, and met with painful laughter that’s more or less souped with maniacal pacing that’s so cliche its painful to watch.

I get that Riot wants Jinx to be their Harley Quinn, but combining a very real problem with their amateurish design of a mentally ill people wasn’t the way to do that. You can have one or the other, Riot. Not both.

(They chose both, though, and it sucks)

Jinx is arguably the weakest part of the show, at least at times, and I think if they had just held off on making her backstory so dark, I’d have less of a problem with how embarrassing she is to see on screen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take any moral objection to how the show is portraying anything. Its fiction, and Riot can do whatever they want. But if you want to argue consistent writing, Jinx is not the aspect of Arcane to do it with. She has a slight Harley Quinn accent (but only sometimes), is super fucked in the head, and I’m sure every teenage girl watching Arcane was absolutely enamored with relating to her. But she sucks, and I’m sad she sucks. Tough!

Chapter 2 features some extra development into Piltover, and the characters involved are hit and miss. Jayce is fairly annoying, but that’s by design, as far as I can tell. He’s written with a fair bit of confidence and can easily be forgiven for being so quickly led astray due to the amount of responsibility on his plate, which is a lot for someone so young to have to deal with. In my opinion, Jayce’s character is one of the most accurate depictions of a character as shown on the rift as you’re likely to find in Arcane. He felt true to his nature all the way through.

Viktor is also given a lot of development at this point, and he is easily my favorite character in the series so far. Well voice acted, consistently written, and absolutely heartbreaking. Kudos, Riot, I want to main the guy, that’s how well done he is.

As for Vi, she’s a bit lesbian and has a round chin now, and Cait is given a more prominent role in the show. She, too, is a bit lesbian. And also rich. That’s about all chapter 2 lets you in on. Both characters are strong drivers of the plot line, and its a relief to see Vi, like Jayce, being written in a way that reflects her nature in the show, as well as the rift. All of Vi’s decision making and dialogue feels like natural extensions of her character, and she’s easily one of the more entertaining on-screen characters to behold (though that might be because of her kick-ass fight scenes. Seriously, they’re the shit.)

5/10. Sweet fight scenes, Riot. You could have done a better job with Jinx.

Arcane Chapter 3 | A Strong Finale

I don’t know who’s running the show-biz things over at Riot, but whoever they are, they pulled through with chapter 3. Almost all of the problems I had with chapter 2 were reigned in for the final act, and it proves to be the best chapter out of the three because of it.

Image via Riot Games

Silco is back to being a driven crime-boss with wit and intellect that isn’t just evil for its own sake, Jayce starts wildly making decisions to solve the problem of the Undercity’s crime, Viktor is still just incredible, Vi and Cait are doing something I’m sure, and Jinx is… well, Jinx is actually worse in the final chapter than the other two (one?). More on that later.

The final chapter pulls Silco into his own as a crime boss. His love for Jinx as a father begins to conflict with his work in a way that’s testing the patience of his underlings, and he’s forced to make quick moves to accomplish his goals. Vi is determined to get Powder back as her sister, but is ultimately too many steps behind the curve to accomplish her goal. Cait is doing something, I’m quite positive.

Oh, also, Ekko is back, and he’s the shit. Act 1 showed him to be a curious tinkerer with a heart of gold, and act 3 shows that, despite being hardened to the world around him, Ekko still retains his heart in the way he tries to better the lives of everyone surrounding him. Sick skateboard, too.

I could go on for days about every little scene and all the pro’s and con’s of every other thing in the show, but I think its absolutely fair for me to say that the entire show’s quality would be remembered by Act 3’s performance, and it performed extraordinarily beyond expectation. I felt after Act 2 that the third would be just as bad or worse than its predecessor, but it managed to beat out Act 1, even. Incredible stuff.

There is one thing I have to talk about before wrapping this up, though. One thing that was so egregious that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw it at the wall a couple of times. That thing is the Powder vs. Jinx dinner at the very end of episode 9.

Holy hell, have you ever seen a writer spell it out for an audience more than that before? I understand that the result of that ‘dinner’ would dictate how Jinx decided to try and live the rest of her life. I understood that the moment I saw Vi and Silco tied up in their chairs. So why in the hell did the writers decide that having “Jinx” and “Powder” written on two respective chairs to signify the point of whole scene was necessary? Why did Jinx have to spout more expository dialogue for this scene to happen? Why couldn’t this scene just be made simpler? Jinx isn’t one to make things metaphorical, she’s a very straightforward character that doesn’t want her time wasted, not even by herself. And yet she planned out a dinner for two people complete with poetic writings and spray-paint designs to boot?

Did anyone see that scene and think to themselves, “Oh, yeah. Totally. Makes sense.” or “OH, thank god they wrote that! I didn’t know what was going on here!” Am I in the minority here? Am I crazy? Should I start talking to myself as narration for the people around me, then?

The whole scene wasn’t a flop by any means. The ending, ultimately, felt right. Silco was acting in selfish love for Jinx, and wanted to kill off Vi to keep her to himself. Jinx couldn’t let him do that, but couldn’t let go of her love for Silco. It was a very timely and realistic ending to the problem the trio faced. And despite all the horrid problems with Jinx, Silco, and their relationship, seeing Silco tell his daughter that he was never going to sell her out, even in the face of losing his life’s work, was actually pretty heartwarming, in a very weird way.

Also, Jinx used R on the city council while they were at full health, so I’m sure they’ll all be fine for season 2.

7/10, Arcane is a strong show with some glaring weaknesses. Can’t wait for the next season.


New World | First Impressions

The brand new, conveniently timed MMO is finally here, and while I don’t have a shortage of things to say about the game, there are a few things I’m leaving off the table for sake of simplicity. I’m not going to say that New World is a bad game. I’m not going to say that New World doesn’t have something to offer new players. I’m definitely not going to say that New World doesn’t have anything to offer veteran players, either, since I will likely never find out for myself if that’s the case. I’m not going to give definitive opinions such as those because I ultimately feel as though New World can appeal to anyone who can craft their own stories and enjoy a little grinding into the game’s higher tiers of wealth and power. That is to say, I think the game fails at what it’s trying to do, but I also think other people are going to disagree very harshly, and that’s fine.

Image via Double Helix Games

What I will say is that, despite the game’s best intentions and moderate charm, New World tries very, very hard to be a decent game, and most of the time struggles to grasp at the edges of the cliff of mediocrity. Make no mistake, the difference between New World being a decent game and New World being absolute trash is a thin, thin line. And the fall below is quite steep.

The Gameplay Mechanics and Story Progression

I wrote an article about Ark: Survival Evolved last year. In this article, I discussed the sloppy nature of Ark’s combat and how the poorly designed nature of it was carried into tolerable-hood thanks to the charm and strengths the rest of the game had. Well, New World is like that, but in reverse.

New World offers players a combat system that is actually fairly well polished. In fact, for an MMO with thousands of players running around at one time, the combat is as fluid as I’ve ever seen. It’s a marvel to see other players shooting, dueling, and dodging against others in PvE and PvP combat alike, all while being able to participate yourself and not have the experience be buggy and gross.

Like I said, the combat is smooth. Projectiles find their home and have weight upon hitting an opponent, strikes with melee weapons tag enemies as though you were actually smacking them instead of just registering hits via pillow fight. Dodging is effective and an integral part of PvP and PvE combat, of which there is a ton. Its good. Great, in some ways. The exact opposite of Ark, which has mostly bad combat which is barely passable.

And in keeping with being the opposite of Ark, New World has no other redeeming qualities. In Ark, players deal with the buggy combat because the rest of the game has a myriad of highly attractive qualities that make engaging in combat worthwhile. But New World offers nothing of comparable value even in its core design.

The story is bland and feels like an excuse to have factions just exist for the sake of their role in PvP, the weapon and armor upgrades might as well be imported straight from WoW, and the same can be said about the crafting system. The writing is downright cringe worthy at times, the voice acting is about on par with Sea of Thieves, and the quests… OhhhhhHHH fuck me, the quests!

Image via Double Helix Games

How many iterations of MMO’s do we need to go through before developers realize that fetch quests marked with way points and needless exposition for story development is not what players want to spend their time on?

The formula is simple; make a very small number of very well developed, written, and voice acted (optional if you’re clientele is above the age of 8) quests to move the story along when needed, and scale the rest of the open world to be the source of EXP players use to progress forward in their characters. Let playing your game be its own reward. Take a look at Runescape’s method of questing. Everyone who doesn’t play Runescape thinks Runescape is a joke of an MMO, and yet none of them would even argue that it doesn’t have the best quest system in the history of MMO’s.

Almost every quest in RS3 / OSRS is well written, witty, and charming. Even in Oldschool Runescape, where people just use a quest guide and blaze through the story, can attest to the quality of the writing that they choose to skip over. The Runescape quests, once finished, can never be completed again (unless you feel like speedrunning it, in some cases), and unlock not just some EXP, but new area’s of the map, items, training methods, and more story.

Players use the new items and new map areas to level their character, and in Runescape, their character is THE story of the game. Everything else is a minor event happening at random chance, and everyone else is a minor character in their story. That’s the strategy Runescape has used to create narratives surrounding their players’ characters, and its the best in the business. WoW took the “faction” narratives that New World is trying to “borrow” from and dressed it up with community. Guilds were an integral extension to the “Horde vs Alliance” narrative that dictated everything from classes and races to starting areas for players. Talking to other people and grouping up was integral to the leveling experience, which meant that even though you were following one fetch quest after another, you still felt like you were part of something bigger which helped to push the gameplay forward in a fun way, in terms of narrative. Not to mention the fact that each class was unique to another class and could only function in certain ways. Warriors were objectively better at tanking than mages, for example.

All of these design choices from other games have their issues, but the bottom line is that they are miles better than what New World has to offer. New World has the same terrible fetch quests that WoW has, but with none of the unique gameplay WoW offered with its class system and 3rd person mechanics and single-enemy targeting system which makes combat clear and accurate. Not to mention the faction / guild system in WoW, even from day 1, was just miles better than New World’s.

New World has decent mechanics surrounding its combat system, as I’ve mentioned, but has nothing in the entire world its created worth going out for. All of the money and EXP, which can be earned naturally in the aforementioned Runescape, is going to be earned via questing in New World. You can find ore deposits and valuable gathering supplies that spawn in niche areas of the map, but ultimately nothing is going to be more valuable than busting out as many copy / paste quests as you can while simultaneously farming supplies that you happen to find along the laid out path for your character as you move from one way point to another.

Grab every quest you can in the city your in, follow all way points to satisfy your quest objective while occasionally mining for ore that’s along your path or gathering some plants, return to quest giver to get EXP / gold reward and get another set of quests. Repeat. That’s the whole game for 90% of players.

For the other 10% of players, that is the whole game, but with some extras thrown in. This top 10% gets rewarded for playing all day everyday by being able to own cities within the game using their company, which is the “guild” mechanic from WoW, but New World-ish. These companies can set tax rates in their respective cities and reap the rewards for it. These same players are often high leveled and have a large group of players to play with, which means they can enable PvP and run with groups of 10 or more and delete anyone unfortunate enough to try completing a PvP faction quest alone. They can also lead wars towards other cities for their faction / company and try to grab more land, of which there is not much, with only 14 territories between 2000+ players.

To be completely fair, the novel idea of players owning territories like this is cool, but its been implemented in a way that only makes it a point of interest for the hardcore players with large companies. And that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with such massive content being aimed at high-tiered players, but when everything else that New World has to offer is so bland in comparison, can I really justify the hundreds of hours of dedicated grinding it will take to experience that kind gameplay?

No, I absolutely cannot. New World, I believe, is hanging on by a thin lifeline at the moment. That lifeline, as so many other would-be MMO’s have learned, is the rush of a temporarily large player base. You feel encouraged to play it because other people are playing it, but if you took that player base away tomorrow, would anyone in their right mind would want to play the game solo?

Despite all of WoW’s problems (I’m not even getting into Blizzard’s problems today), you can play the game solo if not but for the experience of learning all of the different races, classes, and professions the game has to offer. If OSRS or RS shut their servers down, but released the game files to be played through single player, you could absolutely enjoy it for years to come with no one else their to play with. Hell, that’s a whole game mode, btw.

But if someone tells you they could play New World by themselves without the community behind it to pull the game’s ‘new’ energy up, they either have zero clue what other MMO’s have to offer or they are lying to you.

I Digress in This Next Part

But I digress, because I need to wrap this article up. The combat is very fluid and a case study for how to do target-less combat right in an MMO. It’s also lacks depth, isn’t unique from player to player, and somehow feels like a worse Sea of Thieves combat system despite its fluidity. Maybe that’s because of the nature of an MMO and how combat should feel, but make of that what you will.

The questing is poor. It’s just poor. Poor writing, poor creativity, poor. It’s poor. And I am $40 poorer because of it.

The crafting is fine, but its also ripped straight off from WoW so that’s to be expected. There’s nothing innovative about the crafting system. The items used in crafting are entering the game at too fast a rate, and I imagine this is going to cause some horrific issues in the game’s economies across all servers, if players decide to stick around for that long, which I don’t think they will. The crafting system is poor, alright?

The story is boring. I don’t know what the story is, I don’t care. The developers don’t care. There is a team of writers who probably have a lot of talent who are being shafted by the game designers because nobody wants to sit and pay attention to the story to figure out just what’s happening because the payoff will never be worth it, because the game isn’t worth it. The story is an excuse for Factions to exist (did I mention the faction’s “identities” are trash, yet?)

The faction’s “identities” are trash. Poorly written and unimaginative . You’ve got the science nerds, the magic religious zealots, and the warrior jock dumbasses who look like vikings on T.V., ya dig? There might have been one other faction in there, but I can’t remember, for obvious reasons. The factions are poor and have next to no effect on how you play the game or how your character progresses.

New Word’s Map, via

The Map design is actually not bad. I like the long distances between cities and towns that make your journey on quests feel like an actual journey. The issues is that you can’t actually just enjoy the world for what it is because you’re constantly back tracking to go return your dumbass quest so that you can level up to get more quests and it goes on, and on, and on. Awful gameplay loop. And because of that, the map design suffers and goes from “not bad” to “actually kind of trash.” Poor.

Now, look. I said I wouldn’t call this game bad, and I haven’t. There are aspects of it that are good which I have yet to mention which help to redeem it, and aspects that are at least “neat” which really don’t change the core issues the game suffers from to be worth talking about. For instance, there are random in-game events that spawn powerful NPC’s for your and your friends to take down. Ain’t that something? Ain’t that just something in the face of every other problem the game suffers from?

Here’s another radical bite to enjoy from the New World soggy pizza: me and my friend tried playing together and were met with the surprise that we couldn’t choose our starting areas, which meant we had to spend over two hours of gameplay, gameplay we didn’t know we were committing to for coop, before the game took some of its strict leash off and let us play together. That’s pretty cool, right? Hey, I don’t value my own time, why should New World? Just tell me where to go and I’ll do it, I’m a dog! Really, I spent $40 on this game, I AM a dog.

And lest I forget, I should mention how cool it was when I hit level 20 and finally quit the game. That’s a pretty cool part of the experience, I feel. It was a bit like being sick, only to wake up and find a new appreciation for not feeling like death. If you disagree with me on any of this, try pulling the plug on your computer and taking a 15 minute walk outside in the Old World to think about how you define what a “good” game is and then you’ll thank me for yanking you out of the Matrix hell that is New World.

I want MMO’s to be revived in a grand way that only a new IP can do, but New World is not the title that’s going to do it. Time to move on, comrades and friends.


The New Phasmophobia Will Steal Your Girl

Phasmophobia from High School was honestly a pretty cool dude, despite all of his flaws. Chilling with him was easy. You could come home from a rough day at work an invite him to hang out on occasion, maybe with a couple of friends, and it would be a pretty nice time.

The issue with Phas back then was that he would invariably put a sour taste in your mouth. Sometimes you’d see the cracks in his personality and realize that he was sort of just putting on a show for his first impressions. Like, really, he’d way overdo it sometimes. People meeting him for the first time might take me aside as say things like “Wow! He’s a really exciting guy.” Yeah, a bunch a bullshit, I’d think to myself. But of course I wouldn’t say anything, ruining the newbie’s view of Phas would be rude, anyway.

Eventually everyone saw it, though. Phasmophobia would pull the same old tricks over and over again, and we wouldn’t say anything, but every time he set a ghost upon a hunt or threw some ‘challenges’ at us, we kind of just sighed in boredom and second-hand embarrassment. He just wasn’t trying to be anything but that first impressions guy you met 3 months ago when you and your friends got hammered and decided to try some dumbass horror game “because fuck it.”

There was no real depth to the guy. Again, super chill. I don’t want to say anything negative about someone who was genuinely an alright guy, but damn, dude. He was fucking boring.

But that was the old Phasmophobia

Image via Kinetic Games
Image via Kinetic Games

This new guy, hold on leme’ tell you something. This new guy, Phasmophobia, is not the same guy he used to be. I invited him to a kickback to celebrate this big update his devs put through to live. Apparently they had been working on it for some number of months, so it was a pretty big deal. Whatever, right? Most games have updates that take a while to make, it should make too huge of a difference, right?

Well forget that. Phas walked in after, I don’t know how many months, since the last time I saw him. He was jacked. Incredible body. The dude looked like he did bicep curls while hitting his squats, you know what I mean? At first I was afraid, you know? Like, what if he’s a total roided up douche bag now? But he was actually super friendly and chill, just like he had always been. Except he seemed a lot more lively and interesting. He even brought two six packs with him. So thoughtful!

I congratulated him on his new state and we had a drink while reminiscing over the old days. He started talking about how he appreciated who he used to be as a person, but understood he had some changes that needed to be made. Apparently he really dug in over the last few months and worked his ass of to change his habits. I mean, clearly, his workout regiment has improved, but could even see it in the way he was able to sprint. Like, he was fast as hell for a solid three seconds at a time now. But everything from his demeanor to his speech pattern was improved. It was honestly surreal to see it in person. I remember, even now, how he applied the teachings of Sun Tzu to my work life and gave me the confidence to ask for a raise. “When weak, appear strong”, or something like that. Amazing stuff.

And it wasn’t just me, everyone seemed to take a liking to him. It was almost the kind of situation where you wanted to hate Phas because of how popular he was with everyone there, but he was just too interesting to dislike, you know? I mean, one could say he was almost too popular. He actually stepped outside for some air once everyone had started drinking and things were getting rowdy. After a few minutes, I noticed Ghost Hunters Corps’ girl had slipped outside with him and were talking it up. Look, you didn’t hear it from me, but she was just comparing Phas to her boyo. “Oh, he doesn’t buy me unique textures like you have!” “He’s so aggressive sometimes, he doesn’t know how to just chill out and let me hunt for evidence like you do!”

Phas was so classy about it, too. He just told her that GHC is probably trying his best and that there are bumpy roads in all relationships. What a guy, Right!?

So yeah, I don’t know what the devs did to him, but Phasmophobia is all the better for it. We actually have a hangout planned for later this week. Just gunna relax and hunt some ghosts with his new items and evidence type. It’s gunna be great. I just hope I don’t seem to clingy, you know? It would be really embarrassing to be ‘that guy’, to someone who used to be ‘that guy’ to me. No chance though, right? No chance.

FromSoftware | At the Crossroads of Destiny

It would take a very sorry soul indeed, to call into question the quality of FromSoftware, the development studio behind the Souls-borne games. Ever since the release of Demon Souls, FromSoftware has been poking and prodding at their game design, all the while honing their craft, title after title.

Save for some pretty blatant issues with Dark Souls 2, FromSoftware been about as consistent in putting out some of the best gaming experiences on the market with every shot they take. This is certainly true for the Dark Souls Trilogy, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. But now the Development team faces a whole new task: redefining themselves.

FromSoftware has been known has the “Dark Souls team” for the past decade. Their other titles, Sekiro and Bloodborne, are generally referred to as their ‘side-projects’. Even with the inaccuracy of those descriptions, they hold true for how many players feel about what FromSoftware is all about: Dark Souls. Even the side projects are considered to be Dark Souls with experimentation in faster combat and fewer RPG elements.

With the fast approaching official release of Elden Ring, it’s becoming more and more clear that a failure to meet the standard as the “Dark Souls Team”, which is synonymous with “talented” at this point, will result in a stronger backlash from FromSoftware’s fan base (and their critics) than would otherwise meet them.

The Studio is evolving, and with that evolution they are moving away from the titles they are known for. This is how, and why, Elden Ring is being brought before us. With that comes a set of risks and rewards that are multiplied heavily over “just another Dark Souls” release.

As mentioned, the criticisms will slam harder. But the praises, potentially, could be amplified to a degree that even a well known Dark Souls 3 would be jealous of. It’s a game that’s been watched, closely, by the players associated with the studio. There’s whole YouTube channels run for the sole purpose of updating people on what news has or hasn’t come out about the game, it’s actually pretty funny.

So What?

Well, what this means for FromSoftware is that a failure to impress, or worse yet, a failure to properly transition into a new phase of the studio’s life, could spell a long, dreary 10 years for the team. They don’t have their previous titles to fall back on, they have no announced side projects for fans to get their hopes up for, this is it. Elden Ring is the main course, and it’s nearly here.

Elden Ring Artwork via FromSoftware
Image via FromSoftware

They want to move away from Dark Souls and begin refining themselves, and that’s exactly what invigorated artists at the top of their game do. But with that comes the harsh reality that they may never find their footing ever again. They may instead topple under the weight their past successes have placed on them.

If Elden Ring’s release comes to pass without blowing players away, we may very well find ourselves in a world where a genre defining studio struggles to find their identity. That kind of struggle either kills an honorable artist, or turns them into a machine that churns out mediocre title after mediocre title just to keep the wolves at bay.

The last thing we need is a FromSoftware that hastily throws out new title after title, desperately trying to fix the mistakes of their last game while simultaneously creating horrendous issues in their new one. But a shaking of the player’s confidence in them could very well lead us to that kind of future.

Here’s to ten more years.

Praise the Sun,

What Role Does an APU Play During a Silicon Chip Shortage?

Covid gave the world a good smacking, the world responded by shutting themselves indoors and purchasing a ton of computing power. Thus began the silicon shortage, or so the internet would have you believe.

I’m not here to argue over the cause for the world’s current chip shortage. Scalpers, Covid, automobiles with computer chips becoming more popular, an increase in online education, et cetera, and et cetera scalpers, I’m sure, all had a hand in pushing the current prices of graphics processing units to where they are today. But that’s all completely irrelevant for the point of this article.

Today, let’s talk about the APU, and how it can be the saving grace for people who want or need to build working computers for reasonable prices.

What’s an APU?

An APU, or accelerated processing unit, is the term assigned to CPU’s (central processing units) with integrated graphics. In short, an APU is a CPU with the GPU built right into it. Simple, right? Good.

APU’s retain the same quality of their CPU counterparts, but never stray into the realm of ‘high-performance’ because the GPU power of integrated graphics is somewhat limited. That is to say, an APU isn’t going to go full-out in CPU performance because it would be bottle necked by the integrated graphics available to it.

Right now, the best integrated graphics on the market is Vega-11, which comes with AMD’s best Ryzen APU’s. If that sounds complicated or you have no clue what these words mean, worry not. Vega-11 is just the name for an integrated graphics solution. Ryzen is a just a name for a series of CPU’s and APU’s. You don’t need to know what they mean, you just need to know that Vega-11 is the latest and greatest in integrated graphics, and compared to a standalone GPU’s performance, Vega-11 isn’t anything to write home about.

This leads back full circle. If Vega-11, the best integrated graphics available, isn’t too amazing (not bad, but not great,) then AMD can’t make high-end APU’s because an amazing CPU wouldn’t pair well with a mediocre GPU. It’s like taking a nice salmon fillet and covering it in ketchup, the fuck you doin’?

This means that when you look for an APU, you’re looking for, at best, a mid-tiered piece of computer hardware. You’re not trying to stream at 4k resolutions, you’re not trying to use video editing software or 3D model a new house for a client, and you’re not trying to build a PC that’s high end. You’re mediocre, and your hardware is mediocre. And that’s usually fine.

Why “Usually”?

I say usually because in a usual market, things are usual. But things are not usual, as I pointed out above. The market is wicked and wily, and standalone GPU’s are priced at premium, usually being marked up 300%-400% of their normal value. Now, most PC parts are marked up in some fashion because of this, but the CPU / APU really has gotten the softest hit in that regard. So, then, where does that leave an our fellow APU’s? Not Mediocre, but grandiose, hotman.

Let’s take a look at the going price for the Ryzen 5 3400G (a Ryzen APU of decent quality), and compare its price to its equal standalone components that you’d pay for if you were either APU-phobic or looking to buy a pre-built PC.

Image via AMD

Vega-11 graphics, which the 3400G comes with, is roughly equivalent in performance to the GT 1030, which is a standalone graphics card released in 2017 that runs for about $130. The closest equivalent standalone CPU you can get in relation to the 3400G is the Ryzen 5 2600, which runs for about $180 at the time of writing this article. Collectively, we have a price of $310 for two components that give equal (give or take some minute differences here and there) performance to a product that costs $220. That’s just under $100 off a product that’s easier to install, order on its own, and provides nearly identical performance to its given counterparts.

There’s no one explanation for why this price difference exists, but I’d guess with no research whatsoever that the discrepancy between the APU and the CPU / GPU combo comes down to simple demand. Gamers often say that APU’s aren’t great for performance, and so that trickles down to a decreased population willing to buy APU’s for their PC, even in the face of a $100 tax.

The Role of the APU in Today’s Market?

It’s a cheap product that can give entry-level to mid-tiered performance. It’s priced at a discount simply because gamers have a negative stigma towards the term “APU”. It’s an APU, and it’s really that simple.

The role the APU plays today is the same one it played years ago: a cheap and effective CPU / GPU for the all purpose PC. The only difference today is that it comes with a 30% discount to its peers.


Ghost Hunters Corp: Apostrophe “s”

As someone who loves the ‘ghost hunting’ genre that games like Phasmophobia have to offer, Ghost Hunters Corp was on my radar as soon as its alpha release was announced. Since then, I’ve gotten my hands on it and managed to rummage around its strengths (and weaknesses.) Let’s review them.

Ghost Hunters Corp

Right down to the title of the game, there’s a lot of jank to go over. Its not especially clear to me if the developers are going for a Ghost Hunter’s Corps, corporation, or a Ghost Hunters corpy corp corpse. This title can basically reflect the entirety of the game in that sense: You’re never sure if something is intended or not.

Straight from the get go, I was surprised to see just how difficult the game was. As was my hope, GHC functions as a hardcore Phasmophobia game with more steps and a far more aggressive ghost to hunt down. The evidence collection phase of the game (which is the only phase Phasmo currently has) is just half the fun, but is also more demanding of the player that one would expect.

This demanding and difficult nature of GHC is harmed in a great way by the fact that, currently, the ghost behavior around your defences and evidence collection isn’t always consistent. In fact, almost nothing is consistent. Its all pretty buggy and plays sloppily, if it plays at all.

Now, the game is in alpha, so this is certainly passable, but also clearly an issue. Sometimes a ‘voice in the house’ piece of evidence, for example, is really just a feature (or bug) in the game that needs to be played around, and doesn’t actually indicate anything useful. Sometimes ghosts are afraid of your defences (crucifixes, Mary statues,) other times they run right through them and kill you before you knew what hit you.

I’ll repeat this caveat, the game is in alpha. Its current state isn’t passable for a completed game, but obviously this game isn’t completed, so take these issues with a grain of salt. Whether they’re fixed or not remains to be seen. Despite these issues, the corps gameplay itself is pretty fun. There’s a lot to go over, but we can start with the evidence gathering.

Not only is finding specific evidences like temperature, ghost writing, voice communications, and EMF readings mandatory, there is no guarantee that each ghost will have all of them, so you must be thorough when investigating. Additionally, knowing the ghost type (poltergeist, daemon, shade, child) has a great effect not just on how the ghost behaves, but also on the next phase of the game: Exorcism.

You’ve got to use multiple tools, such as cameras, books, cameras, a radio, crucifixes, cameras, and cameras. Cameras are pretty important when trying to find evidence from the comfort and safety of your truck, so be sure to use them often. And by the way, cameras tank your FPS to the floor, so be sure not to use them under any circumstances.

In short, the game is a lot like Phas in that you’ll be using various tools to watch the ghosts behavior and then putting that data into a journal to figure out what to do in that next phase. This activity is also met with the optional objective of looking for cursed objects to sell after the game is over, giving you extra cash and experience. This creates the fun mini-game of deciding just how much time you take from the ghost before getting punished for staying in the location for too long.

In short, look for cursed objects, and don’t use the cameras, which are so good. Then start the endgame.

The Endgame

The exorcism phase of GHC is the second and final stage of each match before you can take off with your pay. After finding all of the (correct) evidence, you can consult your chart and take the necessary steps to rid the location of its haunting. Sometimes this is as simple as lighting an incense stick and throwing into the ghost room, other times you have to literally read a page-long exorcism book into your mic like a muppet before continuing on with the game.

The English translations are about as jank as the actual gameplay

If there was any inkling of horror in your bones playing this game, there won’t be when you hear yourself reading an exorcism book in front of your friends like you do this for a living. Bonus points for doing so with a southern drawl (probably.) In any case, you’ll be doing multiple of these steps, and there difficulty ranges from passive n’ easy to hardcore ‘sweat’ mode.

This part of the game is very well done, and I’m pretty surprised at how well the game relays in-game progress to the player. Given its aesthetic as a ‘stock engine’ game, with default assets being reused from the game’s engine (the exact same ones you see in Phasmo,) I wasn’t expecting this game to be anything near ‘well polished’ in any aspect of its creation. But that part in particular, relaying information openly, is fairly well done. Not perfect, but for an alpha game, well done. And that’s pretty important, given how necessary having that info relayed to the player is for the endgame, in particular.

After following the necessary steps of collecting evidence, fighting the ghost in the proper ways, and giving a sermon, you can check your objectives and find out whether what you’ve done has exorcised the ghost properly. If it has, you can leave the game and collect your winnings, which are used to buy better gear to help you play in your next match, and repeat.

Its core design isn’t anything new, but the nuances in its gameplay and endgame, in particular, are what separate this game from the other would be’s.

Verdict: 4.5/10

The game isn’t fully fleshed out yet, and neither is my understanding of it. That said, an early taste of its bare framework has left me looking forward to how it evolves over the course of the next year. Playing without game breaking bugs, for a start, would be incredible. As it stands, I’d give the game a 4.5/10 in its current state. Accounting for ‘early access’ jank, which should be ironed out sooner rather than later, this game could easily hit a 6/10 rating for me. Anything beyond that would require a lot of innovation and optimization on the part of the devs, and I honestly don’t see that happening in any meaningful way.

For the $18 price tag, I’d say this game is just about worth it, and will probably be a gift that keeps on giving, so long as the devs make good on their promise to continue updating the game.


Rainbow Six: Siege | A Review in 2021

Hello. It’s been a while!

Many of the video games I find myself playing these days are arena-based PVP games. Something like OSRS or any other MMORPG-ish game that I find in my library always reeks of commitment. Commitment of emotions and time (In OSRS’s case, a lot of regret, too.)

Given my current situation with work, time is commodity I am valuing more and more. Said commodity, when amply available, is best spent on something I can get in and out of within 30 minutes to an hour, and this has led me to playing as much Siege as I possibly can.

I’ve managed to put over 200 hours into it over the last year or so, and I feel I’m now in a good spot to give my two-cents on the game from a casual and competitive standpoint. Ill break this up into a not-so structured way and hope for the best. Let’s start with the game in a casual setting.


When you’re first learning to play Siege, you’re going to get pure enjoyment from simply looking at the different characters (operators) in the game and trying to figure out just how to use them all to their advantages. There’s enumerable ways to play the game, and since everyone has a different play style, the different operators offer another layer of depth to complicate the game in the best way possible.

Image via Ubisoft
Image via Ubisoft

This experience is not unlike the kind offered by MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2. Different playstyles in those games represent themselves in the kinds of roles offered in-game, and the characters available to play are all different enough to add extra spice on top of those already-different playstyles.

But with Siege, these differences, while noticeable, make up a 50% change in how you play at most. This means, simply, that if you manage to win a round of Siege by playing to your operators strengths, you don’t feel like you won in any specific way because you had to. You feel like you won because you made one of the many correct decisions you could have in the game, whether that’s being aggressive and relying on your accuracy in a gun fight, spawn peaking unsuspecting enemies, or laying back and denying a plant.

All of this to say that the different operators in Siege are designed well enough to be fun in their own rights, but also don’t completely dictate the flow of a match. If the defending team chooses horrible operators to defend a site with but are also the better team in a gunfight, well, they’re still likely going to win the match, because this game is still a shooter with a very low time to kill (often a fraction of a second.)

When you’re in a casual mindset, the game is also at its most fun, in my opinion. Siege benefits greatly from having an “Ah, fuck it.” attitude from its players since there’s so much shit happening that you often can’t account for; teammates not making call-outs, enemies cooking a grenade just right, fuse dropping bombs on your face from above, enemies DCing right before you manage to make an interrogation against them, the list really does goes on infinitely. And this isn’t to say that I’m a perfect player. I’ve been guilty, on more than one occasion, of being startled by my own team and shotgunning them in the face.

This can be solved by being better, of course, but can also ruin a competitive player’s game and, potentially, their entire day. Say what you want about League or DOTA2, at least your teammates can’t directly kill your health bar by shooting you in the face.

So, Siege is fun when you’re not attached to the game’s outcome. What is it like when playing to win?

Competitive Siege

Siege does not magically become a bad game when you start playing competitively. The different operators are still just as fun to experiment with, destroying the map layout to gain an advantage is still just as tactical and enthralling as before, and pulling off great plays or sweet flicks is still rewarding in its own way. What changes when playing competitively is one’s emotional investment.

The higher your rank, the more complicated teamwork becomes

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of things you’re not in control of when playing Siege. Sometimes, you need to check one corner before advancing, and an enemy 50 yards away lands a lucky headshot against you through a wall. Sometimes, you teammates accidentally shotgun you in the face. Sometimes, your team just doesn’t want to communicate, and you don’t stand a chance against any 5-man teams (5 stacks) you go up against.

All of this is to say nothing about the INCREDIBLE amount of cheaters and griefers who go into matches with wall hacks or intentions of ruining someone else’s game. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being paired with four other teammates who were all friends with one another. They spent the whole match throwing themselves in front of my line of sight, shooting me, and at one point killed me as I cooked a grenade with intention of having said grenade kill them all, marking me as a teamkiller.

These two things happen fairly often, and since you are banking on having a good match by not having griefers or cheaters on either team, those matches that feel like true representations of what Siege is supposed to be make up only about 60%-70% of your games, which is absolutely abysmal for a title of Siege’s quality and standing in the FPS community.

Now, this problem exists regardless of what kind of mindset you have going into a match, but what changes is how much it effects you. Obnoxious (or straight up bad) teammates matter very little when you’re only half paying attention, or if you’re just in a match to test out a strange strategy for the fun it. But that same issue becomes horribly annoying when you’re trying to win in an intense match and two out of four teammates can’t use communications to save their lives. Or, if you have the unfortunate experience of playing with or against a hacker, the entire game you’re in becomes a huge waste of time, as that game’s LP gains or losses become negated after the hacker is eventually banned.

I suppose its fair to say that this review is focusing a bit too much on the experience of playing siege and not going in depth about its mechanics, but aside from mentioning that operators are different and that the map can be destroyed, I don’t see much point in talking about, say, the barbed wire secondary gadget vs. the mobile cover. These are things that are in the game, but the game definitely isn’t built around them.

R6: Siege allows for heavy map destruction

The gun play is good, if a little inconsistent with its hit detection. The various ways to traverse a map thanks to the destruction mechanics in the game make for a new experience every match. The weapons are all neat, if that counts as a ‘review’ of them, and the maps themselves are… hit and miss. Most players just try to play on Oregon when they get the chance, as it is decidedly the Dust II of Siege.

6/10 | Decent

That verdict might seem harsh given Siege’s unique position in the FPS genre, but until Ubisoft manage to get a stronger hold on cheaters and griefers, I can’t see myself rating this game any higher.

If you’re looking for something new to play and want to chill out to a one of a kind FPS game with populated community, I can totally recommend this game. If you’re looking for something to dig deep and get competitive with, I’d advise steering well clear of Rainbow Six: Siege.