Arc's 2024 Q1 Retrospective

BY Arcinia ON March 31, 2024

Hi everyone, I decided to go the quarterly route and write up about every game I've finished or made satisfactory progress on during the first 3 months of 2024. Special to this one, I'll cover a little bit of the games I played towards the end of 2023 as well just to give them some fair representation. Enjoy!

I go home to visit family every year. I have a PC there. It's not very powerful anymore (it's a decade old) so I usually pick something lightweight and/or older feeling if I'm in the mood. Remembering my fondness for the first game, I played the 2nd. Man, it's strange how this game is different compared to the first but still really, really good overall. I like the open-worldness of it. Sidequests out of every orifice. The minigames were pretty fun and controlled well. The arsenal of boomerangs you got was wicked, and I like that you could pick even unupgraded versions if you want. I think my only two real complaints are the tedium towards 100% completion and the fact that every time you save and quit, you start back at the main village and have to travel across the world all over again. It was definitely an old, cozy platformer that I'm glad I got to revisit.

After playing the demo last summer, I picked up the game and finally started playing it as I was in the mood for a turn-based RPG. After all, FF3 and FF5 are some of my favorite games to this day. Such a solid package. Traveling a seamless world with no real story and limitations, finding crystals and fighting bosses to get stronger and master everything. Only problem is a couple hours into the game, I was getting my ass handed to me. This game is NOT easy, and the dev has gone on record encouraging people to use the accessibility settings. I did because I foolishly believed it would be on the same level of difficulty as 3/5. I used other options like adding more fast travel points, faster grinding, and higher level cap. The platforming aspects weren't bad, I like using animals for travel. I think using the accessibility options I picked made the game a bit too easy for myself, but I was genuinely having fun exploring and finding hidden treasures, finding synergies across my team and listening to the music. Easily one of the best games I picked up in recent times.

I played Portia back in late 2020 and loved it. It was like Stardew, but more industrial and RPG-esque. I just felt it was arbitrarily slow to progress. A friend of mine backed Sandrock and gave me a key (thank you by the way, if you're reading this somehow!). I played a few hours but had to be careful to not get too into it in case my save got erased. Come November 2023, my save was in-tact and the game was ready to play! Immediately I was skeptical because the western setting sounded too limiting and early-game was frustrating with water management. But I was also playing kind of sweaty from my experience with Portia and Stardew. Then the game slowly developed more. It felt like every day there were activities to catch up on. New side-quests with the characters. The RPG/combat mechanics are improved and more fun. It's still kind of buggy with conflicting quests and events, but the game itself is just so good I don't mind. I put like 50 hours into it within 2 months. I think overall progression is slower (I can't make late-game tools yet and by the 50-60h mark in Portia I was able to), but the progression itself is so dense that I don't find myself too bored. A serious step up from the already great Portia, and a solid recommendation.

I bought this along with Thymesia and Afterimage in a Fanatical sale for $7.50 per. Ehhh... kind of middle of the road. The music is great and the artstyle is gorgeous. At first I thought we were going to restore the colors to the castle throughout the game, but... no. As a combat game/metroidvania though? It's painfully linear on par with Touhou Luna Nights. Fast travel isn't very good. The elemental armors and mechanics are cool, but the combat is so lackluster that I started skipping enemies after midgame (and thus missed a bestiary entry and an achievement, too lazy to go get it right now). The boss fights were getting tedious and too bullet-spongey. I liked the health mechanic enough, but I was bored at the 2/3 mark. I did beat the final boss, but then it froze on one of the ending screens and I really didn't want to fight the boss again so I missed another achievement. I don't know, I was disappointed but I didn't find it offensively bad (except the final boss freeze which brought it down a whole star).

I love mini-golf in real life. I still can't quite get under par (I've come close, twice) but I am always down for some mini-golf. As a kid I played numerous golf games (Polar Golf and Vertigolf come to mind). Steam has a few that range from awful to pretty bad to alright. Skeptical, I saw some really good reviews on this game and dropped $10 on it. It's genuinely one of THE best VR games and probably THE best mini-golf game I've played on Steam. The environments and music are really cool and thematic. You can find various golf balls at each hole to collect and play with later. The holes are well designed and the VR mechanics just feel solid. I'm adding this to my VR "must-have" lists along with Synth Riders and modded Beat Saber.

I played the first one and got quite a few hours on it before getting bored. I remember finding it a solid experience and a lot of fun. PA2 is basically PA1 but with different/more games AND the ability to play all the first games within the 2nd game if you own it. Very cool. Some of the new games are really complicated and you have to have room to move around and crank machines etc. Some are kind of boring or have nonsense physics. There are lots of claw machines and newly added coin pushers with prizes that you can customize your hands etc. It's good fun, though I recommend buying the 1+2 bundle when it goes on sale so you can enjoy all the games from PA1 within PA2. I also think the first game is just a bit better.

I actually played this on mobile before, even had a high score of 30m. I recently won a Steam copy and I was in the mood for something quick and easy to play, so this was right up my alley. I will say this is a game much better played on phones, so grab it on mobile if you're interested. The game itself though is simple and pretty fun. You slide tiles around to match resources, keys, and attacks to last as long as you can while accumulating the most points. Is it repetitive? Kinda. The missions you get keep things interesting enough. It doesn't overstay its welcome though; you can finish in a few hours. I also played its sequel "You Must Build a Boat", which I'll write about if I win a Steam copy. :P

This isn't really a game so much as it is a relaxing desktop simulator. I love ducks, it was only $1.59 when I got it and I saw it had rave reviews. It's... fine. You just wait a few minutes and more ducks populate in your pool. They have fun interactions with each other, the music and radio sounds are relaxing, and the scenery is nice. You don't have to do anything but load the game, which means you can't really do much with making the ducks interact. It also churns out DLC every few months - I think I'd prefer to have spent $5 to get more/all the content or if at least the base game was free. I also wish there was a "live wallpaper" version you could integrate, but I'm being snobby so I'll be quiet now, haha.

This game just gave me vibes along the lines of "The Bard's Tale", so I got it from a trade and played like an hour and a half of it before I gave up. That's right, this is the first game I dropped this year. It gave me "The Bard's Tale" vibes, but it's just clunky. The combat is pretty lackluster. Opening the inventory to consume food doesn't pause the game. Consumables and most things in the game just feel needlessly expensive. The two boss fights I've partaken in were just annoying. Save points don't heal you. It's just a frustrating game and I have too many games to waste time on ones I just don't enjoy for very long.

I know, I know. I already talked about this game last year. I'm going to talk about it again since I played this game a lot more grinding out for achievements in my mornings before work. Since I last played, they added a couple new classes, new potions and the Agony mechanic. The Agony mechanic is an incredible addition to the game. It's super challenging, but the rewards you get make it worth going for and you can get some good upgraded gear from it. I do find it a bit grindy to get 100% in my opinion, especially since the game is STILL adding achievements (which is the only reason I haven't removed this game from the backlog yet), but I find the way unlockables are handled fun, I like how the gear system is integrated, and the way each character plays differently adds a lot of strategy, so I don't mind it too much. As of this entry I've put more hours into this than Rogue: Genesia (my favorite in the genre as of last mention), so it's going to be interesting to see how both games compare when 1.0 comes out for both. Which means yes. I will be talking about this game again soon.

In between HoT runs, when I was craving something smaller I'd play this. I unfortunately spent the money on this AFTER the game came out of Early Access without realizing it's basically unfinished. Don't get me wrong; Crimson Dawn is not bad per se. The weapons/upgrade systems are interesting enough, you get a few unique classes to play each honing certain weapon expertise. Killing lots of mobs is satisfying enough. The product as a whole though? Unbalanced, unmotivated, unfinished, tedious. The silver lining is that the game only costs $4, which is the rating I'm giving this game after reading some of the reviews on how the game was basically unfinished and abandoned. Either save an extra buck or wait for a sale, and get HoT instead.

The first two Pikmin games were some of my favorite games period. Pikmin 3 was alright. Wish I waited til I got the Switch to grab the Deluxe ed. But this game? Honestly I was skeptical at first with the dog and the 20-pikmin limit to start with. I played the demo, cleared it in 2-ish hours in one night, and then got the whole game for Christmas. Man is it fun! Glad to see the entire arsenal usable and a couple new ones. Progression is pretty fun and rewarding. It takes a lot of cues from Pikmin 2 with the caves, treasures and even some of the music. But Pikmin 4 does its own thing, has its own mechanics, and doesn't lean on Pikmin 2 too hard. I appreciate a lot of the QoL added to this game, the amount of activities to do, and just the general level of charm Nintendo has with this game. The dog doesn't ruin the experience AT ALL, and while the game is undoubtedly on the easier side, the game is just so dang fun that I don't care. Strong contender for 2024 GOTY, even if it's only been the first quarter. :P

With the VS-like genre taking the world by storm and every other indie game trying to capture that essence, God of Weapons (GoW) throws in inventory management. This appeals to a somewhat niche group of folks, and I'm happy to say I'm part of it. Weapons, items, and classes all have unique synergies and builds that go together, and from my experience playing there seems to be a LOT of balance which is impressive. It is a bit more involved than other VS-likes since after every floor you basically have to rearrange your inventory for new items, so while I couldn't use this to replace HoT in my mornings, I did play a run or two every evening. That said some achievements are kinda buggy or don't proc unexplained, the PoV can throw people off (didn't for me since I played numerous ARPGs), and it is a bit slow-paced compared to other games in the genre. Again, it appeals to a rather niche audience, but I thought it was cool and it's honestly not bad for 6 bucks. I marked it as finished once beating max difficulty and getting a lot of achievements, but I'm sure I'll get that 100% one day. :)

Another game I missed out on from the mid-2000s and earlier. Its base Steam version is... a bit awkward, like you can't alt-tab properly a lot. The game is functionally fine though, and it holds up well being a Source engine game and all. Kinda reminded me of Half Life weirdly. Basically you have to defeat evil and you get swords, shields, bows, magic, and more to do it. There's a good amount of puzzle solving, very fun combat mechanics (one of the few games kicking is ACTUALLY good), nice secrets, and just overall respectful of the M&M series. The combat is really good for its time! Even playing it in 2023 kicking enemies and doing all kinds of power strikes with varying effects feels satisfying. My only real complaints are I wish there were more content and I wish it wasn't so linear. I'm killing stuff, I want to level up and get skill points. People have commented on Arx Fatalis similarly-ish, so I may end up picking up that one soon. ;)

After 100%ing Pikmin 4 I couldn't help but crave more of it (I know, platinuming challenges and all but bleh). Grabbed Tinykin from a game trade after hearing so much about it. Holy cow is this game awesome. It's not Pikmin per se but you get these little creatures called Tinykin that each serve a purpose, like blowing things up, conducting electricity, making you reach higher spots, building bridges, and carrying objects. I got to the end-game with like 90% completion in about 5 1/2 hours, a bit shorter than I was expecting but there's just so much charm oozing out of every orifice that I didn't mind and I found my time absolutely worth it to get 100%. There's not as many charming family/kids games like there used to be; this is one of them. Such a charming game. I just wish there was more.

Just a small entry, but this is the 2nd game I dropped this year. The early-game difficulty being annoying was just a turn-off to me, and it felt weirdly unoptimized. Magic and the one ranged weapon I got felt extremely weak. The staff and dagger do good damage, but if you get hit by the enemy once you'll lose at least 25% of your health. Insane. A shame because it looked like it could be interesting, but I have too many games to stick with something I'm frustrated with, even after attempting the beginning twice. Good thing I bought this in a bundle.

It's basically the first game, but more. $10 more, but it does enough that I think it's justified especially on a sale. More modes, more customization, more things to do within the game. There's actually an auto-difficulty mode but it will destroy you in world 4. The RPG-ish mode is pretty interesting too. Overall not really much to say aside from it's the first game, but more, and I'd recommend it.

So funny history about this one. I've tried to start it 3 times since I got it back in 2022. First time I dropped it I kept dying to a surprisingly high difficulty. Second time I think I got lost and bored, and I ran out of ammo. This 3rd time? Well they patched the game a lot since I got it. Did some tweaking, added some new maps/hub systems. By the time I finished the first world I was kinda hopeful but still. The game's difficulty was still there but I was having more fun with exploration and having more ammo. Then I got to the second world and just got fed up. Running low on ammo. Dealing with annoying difficulty and several sudden instant-death drops. My patience ran out and I figured at this point after 3 times, I'm just not going to like it. So yeah, 3rd game I dropped this year, and 3 times I dropped it! lol. A shame since I liked the theme of it.

So I discovered FF3 a looooong time ago on NES. I LOVED it for some bizarre reason. It was just a fun game, the job system was really brought in full with this one and while it shows, it was still fun to experiment with different classes. I liked all the exploration the game had. The music. The different airships. It really was ahead of its time. I learned the 3D version existed on DS and immediately bought it.(I lived under a rock at times). It was a lot like I remember, but I just didn't like it as much as the NES version. I bought this on mobile because it was on sale and I wanted to experience something I know I'd like, but in a new light. FF3PR does this very well. Pretty much any jank from the NES was gone. Class variation was more encouraged and balanced. Everything was just good like I remember it being, but also better. It's comfort food to me, and while I love FF3, I would still recommend FF5 over this if you're looking for a more established and refined title. But if you want something old-school or different from 5, please get this.

The DLC for this game came out of the blue recently, and I threw down the (for me, $8) for it on day 1, something I RARELY do but ASTLIBRA Revision was so incredible that I didn't mind. This is basically a roguelike-ish take, with randomly generated floors, rooms with a few random events, meta-progression. I don't care much for roguelikes these days, I think the genre is oversaturated and gets repetitive fast, but this game handles it fine. The story isn't really impactful, but the grinding is as 10/10 as it ever was, although I found the linear growth tree kinda boring. The style class system was a neat take on different "classes" the genre is known for. The sidequests are few but still fun to uncover and very rewarding. A lot of new magic, some new different skills and growth opportunities. The game feels very difficult compared to the base game though. All those comments in mind, I absolutely recommend the DLC if you're a fan of the ASTLIBRA gameplay and grinding, with the caveat that it can get a bit repetitive like other roguelikes.

Holy cow, it's FINALLY done! I got this game as a gift back in late 2015 and like half the story content was in it. I actually 100%'d that version back in the day. Over 8 years later and 1.0 is finally here! It's arguably dated by 2024 standards since a major influx of indie titles have taken over, for better and worse. This type of game is perfect for someone like me who likes to beat up enemies, collect items and resources, "grind", and explore. I think in that regard, it holds up well. I wish they focused more on the story instead of minor incremental adds to arcade/roguelike mode (though they did make it a lot better from when I first played it). It's a light-hearted title that has the potential to be addicting. It's just unfortunate it finished long after hundreds, if not thousands of other games took Steam by storm. But it's done. We got closure. And it's still very good.

Another game that left Early Access this year, but much better than Graven with regards to me actually able to finish it. I haven't finished it, but I'm far enough along that I can write about it. W: AoR is one of those games that is good, but could do with a LOT of fat trimming. There are 15 levels, each one averaging around 45 min for me to finish. These levels look cool, though world 2 was a bit more repetitive. I like that you have freedom of choice with each world on what level you want to play. The weapons are fine, the artifact system is cool and a welcome addition. No minimap though? Every level almost felt like they play the same... starts off easy, gives you an abundance of ammo, and then around mid-level you start getting your ass handed to you and ammo is much harder to find. There's not too much enemy/weapon variety after the first two levels you play. The starter weapon you get is really fun to use, decently powerful and you can use it for platforming elements. The save system is a neat idea, but you won't ever run out of those quicksave items unless you use it after every encounter. Overall, a good game that needed a bit more fat trimming and a little more variety.

If you've made it this far, thank you so much for reading my retrospective, and feel free to share any opinions you may have, any games I should work on next quarter etc. I had a lot of fun writing this up and playing a variety.

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