That’ll Teach Me
There I was, minding my own business, writing end-of-year recap posts. SynCaine points me towards a game called Monster Train, which is sorta like Slay the Spire. It’s on sale for $18… and why not? Let’s splurge by buying a game on Steam, like the good old days.
This is why not:
Yep, I paid $18 on Steam for a game that arrived on the Xbox Game Pass like three days later. Hell, it could have actually already been there before I bought it. Forgot I had to do homework before making game purchases. I mean, I don’t have to, but it gets a bit silly the lengths I go to save $5, let alone $18.
In any case, I played Monster Train for three hours before finding it on the Game Pass. Submitted a refund request through Steam and it was rejected. Did some research on whether you can appeal your initial rejection. The consensus is that, despite appearances, each request that falls outside the automatic approval conditions (< 2 hours played within 14 days) is looked at by a human. New request, new human. Obviously that only goes so far, of course.
My second refund request was approved. I think the winning argument was changing the Reason from “Game wasn’t fun” to “Game was not what I expected.” As in, I was not expecting the game to be free elsewhere. I didn’t write that part in the box though. Monster Train is billed as similar to Slay the Spire, but it’s not really. I’ll have more to say on it later on, assuming I play more of it via Game Pass.
I’m just glad to have my $18 back in a Steam wallet that hasn’t been used in a year or two.
Epic Store Sales
As in, the Epic Store, not epic store sales.
Back in the day, which was either last year or fifteen years ago, I had this to say about the Epic Store:
As a reminder, none of this exclusivity bullshit is necessary. Epic could simply undercut the Steam price by 5% forever AND grant developers a larger percentage of the cut, and I would buy all my games in the Epic store. I do some ridiculous shit to save $1-$2 after all. Maybe that’s Plan B for when they run out of exclusivity money?
At the time, Epic was in the midst of buying out gaming devs and forcing unnecessary exclusivity deals. Which was, and still is, extremely anti-consumer. In the intervening months, it has been interesting seeing them right the ship. Epic has brought back the “endless $10 coupon” for this winter’s sale, which means you get $10 off any game that costs $14.99 or more. Some devs are getting cheeky and having $14.98 sales, but otherwise it seems above-board. And in comparing my Steam wishlist, there are some great deals:
- Disco Elysium – $13.99 vs $23.99
- Hellpoint – $17.99 vs $20.99
- Death Stranding – $19.99 vs $29.99
- Horizon: Zero Dawn Complete – $29.99 vs $39.99
- Borderlands 3 – $9.79 vs $19.79
Thing is, I’m just not buying games anymore. Part of that is WoW sucking the oxygen out of the gaming room – although that may or may not be coming to an end – but the larger issue is the Game Pass. Will all of those arrive in the near future? Probably not. Possibly none of them, ever. But both Metro: Exodus and Outer Worlds did a tour and they were “Epic exclusives” I played for $1.
But here’s the other thing: would I drop everything and play those games right now? If the answer is not an enthusiastic Yes… what are we even doing? Donating to game developers? It used to be that I would get hung up on the nightmare scenario of getting an insane itch to play a game that I passed on during a sale. But it has been months since I had any such itch, and these days I am just as likely as not to go to bed early. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe it’s due to the 1.5 year-old that does not have a Snooze button. Everyone’s getting up at 7am even on the weekends, whether we like it or not.
In any case, the deals are there if you want them. I’m pleased that Epic is heading down this direction for competing with Steam rather than exclusives. Oh, and all the free games every week (and every day recently). By my last count, I have 109 games on the platform and only bought one of them.
Do Nothing, Save Money
It’s amazing the value of doing nothing.
Recent Steam sale? Bought nothing. There are like 30 items on my wishlist, but none of them are particularly… buyable? For example, I have Sekiro on there but A) it’s a newer game that won’t see a deep discount, and more importantly B) I have no means of playing. I’m actually coming up on the end of my 4-week baby probationary period (i.e. paternity leave), but that just means a new reality of daily babysitting and the same lack of any ability to do much of anything after work still.
Recent Amazon Prime Day? Well, I did buy some house stuff because I’m a bleeding heart liberal that nevertheless enjoys next-day delivery of… let me check… 100 ft extension cords, razors, fish food, and USB chargers. More importantly though, I did not buy that PS4 Pro $300 bundle despite the fact that I was actually browsing Amazon right when it went up.
If I’m honest, it was less willpower and more dithering. “Surely I would play it! Totally different scenario from the PS3 I have hooked up next to the monitor I’m currently typing on.” “If I’m buying a console for no reason, why not a Switch instead? There are fewer Playstation exclusives I’m interested in, plus it’s portable when watching the baby!” “Yeah… but Final Fantasy 7: Remake.”
“…aaaaaaand it’s gone.jpeg.” “Success baby.jpeg.”
I have talked in the past about my digital hoarding predilections, insofar as it is more centered around avoiding paying MSRP. A good deal on a game that I want to play eventually is very enticing, because when the mood strikes, it strikes hard and turns any other game into ash in my mouth. This used to be a big problem.
Now? I have accepted my fate. I play phone games and browse Reddit for nine hours, then maybe play something equally mindless, like Fallout 76 or now Graveyard Keeper when off baby duty. Could I jump back into Divinity: Original Sin 2? Not really. I mean, I could play it, but I’d probably be interrupted every 30 minutes or so, and only have about two total hours in any case. When that becomes your gaming time horizon, your tastes shift.
I am hoping that things will eventually settle down. My child doesn’t sleep through the night, or even in a crib for longer than 15 minutes yet. I think babies are supposed to though? I have no idea. All I do know is that sometimes doing nothing is the correct answer, which just so happens to correspond to my existence at the moment.
Christ, I just want to sleep. And play videogames.
Waxing my Wane
I’m generally a pretty frugal guy. Parsimonious, even. And yet I just bought half a dozen games in as many days, after having avoided doing so for these specific titles for as many years. “They were on sale though.” They were on sale last year too. What changed?
Specifically, I finally exhausted my desire to play modded Starbound (Frackin’ Universe)… after 100 hours. One. Hundred. Hours. When you get up to triple digits like that, with any game, the entire experience becomes more than just “having fun” and instead morphs into a whole routine. I would play in the evenings, lie in bed planning my actions the next day, and browse wikis and such during the day. It all really hearkened back to my heydays of WoW. Minus a few thousand hours, of course.
Then, one day, it’s all just gone. Whether it’s the game ending or just getting tired of it, the experience is over.
I am not sure how other people handle post-game depression. My go-to move appears to be ennui of unknown duration. I know of games that could probably suck me right back into mainlining. But I don’t feel like it. In this lucid state, smaller experiences seem like the better course of action. If I don’t play them now, I definitely won’t be playing them later when absorbed in something else.
So out comes a little retail therapy.
We’ll see how it goes. Right now the routine is playing a few missions in Far Cry 5, followed by an area or two of Knife of Dunwall (Dishonored DLC). The segmentation is not on purpose – I can only seem to stand playing either one in short bursts. Not exactly a glowing review, but I blame the ennui more than the gameplay itself. After these two, hopefully the pallet will be cleansed, and I can get into the more cerebral titles like Hellblade, Prey, and/or Final Fantasy XV.
And then… we’ll see.
Gaming Outlook for 2019
Based on my blog roll, this seems like a Thing To Do, so let’s discuss what’s on the docket this year.
To Be Played
I am currently playing Far Cry 5. While the overall experience is similar to Far Cry 4 (which was similar to Far Cry 3), the exact formula has been broken up a bit. Instead of running around trying to skin Honey Badgers for a larger wallet, for example, most character progression is based around achievements and finding prepper caches. It’s subtle, but it does change my focus a bit. A more detailed impression will need to wait for later.
Other games recently purchased on sale:
- Final Fantasy XV
- Dishonored DLC (Knife of Dunwall; Witches of Brigmore)
- Dishonored 2
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
My Dishonored kick might seem a bit out of nowhere… and it kinda is. My criticism from way back 2012 still hold thus far in the first DLC: the game is almost painfully easy even at the highest difficulty. Well, at least so far on the first level. That’s more a stealth game thing than a Dishonored game thing specifically. Nevertheless, I kept reading praise for the DLC specifically, so I snagged it on sale and here we are.
The rest of that list is basically a rehash of what I had been keeping an eye on since Black Friday.
Might Be Played
I have not booted up Fallout 76 in several weeks now. While it has been trashed up and down the internet – for some legit, and some not so legit reasons – the primary reason for my disconnect might be silly: Rifle schematics. Specifically, my character is focused on Rifles, and the two best kinds of Rifles in the game (Homemade Rifle, Lever-Action Rifle) can only be crafted after snagging their schematics from a vendor’s random inventory. The “correct” way to get them is to check the vendor, and then log off and back on again to be shunted to a new server, and then checking the vendor again. Some people report doing this for hours. No thanks. If that nonsense gets fixed or some new content appears, then I might be back.
Battlefield V is another trashed title, but I have been resisting purchasing it even at a $30 price-point simply because I know what’s going to happen. Specifically, it will probably consume my free-time for a few weeks, and I will eventually awaken from a fugue state, realizing that I had not “accomplished” anything meaningful. I mean, games are games, but there’s a difference (IMO) between seeing the ending credits of three games vs spending that same amount of time seeing the End of Match report of a shooter. I’m not here to just kill time with my gaming anymore.
On Their Way Out
My time with Hearthstone is approaching its end, if it has not already snuck up on me. It’s not so much the mechanics or the meta or the card grinding so much as it is… exhaustion. I have never had a particular desire to compete on the ladder; my goal had been to complete the Dailies and other low-hanging fruit. But that still requires you to put a deck together, research the meta, and otherwise go through the motions. Or I could just turn on Twitch and watch other people play Hearthstone, and experience roughly 85% of the joy that I derive from the game.
On a similar note, WoW is definitely on ice for the foreseeable future.
Just to contradict Bhagpuss, let’s talk about the Steam Summer sale.
Actually, Steam sales are kind of irrelevant these days, as most digital retailers either match or beat even the best discounts most of the time. For example, Steam currently has a bundle up for Prey + Dishonored 2 for $28.33. If you pick up Prey for $15 on Steam individually, then you can buy Dishonored 2 for $13 on DLGamer and save yourself… thirty-three cents.
An actual example would be something like Conan: Exiles. It’s $24 on Steam and several other retailers, like Amazon. Well, I have one of those Amazon credit cards which gives you 5% cash back on purchases. So, we’re back to the big bucks in saving… $1.20.
Hmm. Perhaps we are indeed way past the commodification stage of gaming.
On a somewhat related topic, you might have seen people talking about the new Steam tool which allows you to check your total money spent on the platform from the beginning. Some people have posted their numbers rather guiltily, or celebrating their “low” scores. My own personal spending was around $2100, but I was curious as to how long a time-span that covered.
So, I scrolled and scrolled till I reached bedrock:
Across eleven years, that comes out to about $16/month in entertainment. Humble Bundles and the like are not counted, of course, but I still feel more thrifty than guilty. During my Magic: Online days, I would routinely drop $10 to enter a Draft tournament that could be over within 30 minutes, to say nothing about what I spent on paper cards over the years. And, of course, most of us have years-long histories of MMO subscriptions behind us instead of, or in addition to, these numbers.
Still, I get the guilt. I have a wishlist of games I’m tracking across various storefronts, despite the fact that my library is filled with unplayed titles. Part of it is “collect them all,” but a larger part is avoiding “I feel like playing X right now, but the game isn’t on sale anymore.” For example, I’m currently on a survival kick and have an insane urge to play State of Decay 2. It’s not on sale though, so I’m looking at all the other games I have and playing those in the (vain) hope that it will scratch the itch. But it doesn’t. Close, but not quite. But I feel rather lucky I already have The Forest, and Subnautica, and a handful of other titles to tide me over until either the target game goes on sale, or the craving subsides.
Anyway, this is the current list of games on my radar:
- Conan: Exiles ($24)
- Final Fantasy 15 ($25)
- State of Decay 2 (no sale, $30)
- Divinity: Original Sin 2 ($36)
- Far Cry 5 ($45)
- ARK DLC ($12)
- Kingdom Come: Deliverance ($42)
- Prey ($15)
- Dishonored 2 ($13)
- Metal Gear Survive ($25)
Of those, I’m heavily leaning towards picking up Prey & Dishonored 2. And Final Fantasy 15. And Conan: Exiles. Because reasons. Well, mainly because Subnautica and The Forest aren’t cutting it anymore and I don’t have the hard drive space for ARK and I need to purchase all the things all the time and hoard digital games like pieces of wood to craft a shack in a post-apocalyptic world.
/breathes in a paper bag
Or maybe I do nothing. Play the games I have, let the seasonal sales pass, and reevaluate my options during the next major holiday. Considering Alpha 17 for 7DTD will be coming out in a month or so, and the Fallout 76 Beta will (presumably) happen before November, I could wait it all out.
Or maybe I just buy the fucking game I want and play; get it out of my system and on with my life.
Black Friday and the frenzied consumerism of the holidays is close upon us. It’s probably a bit silly to be thinking about buying more things considering I have more Steam games to last two lifetimes, but… Capitalism, ho! Here’s what I will be keeping my eye out for:
- Playstation 4 ($199 + $60 Kohls Cash)
- Final Fantasy XV
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- The Last Guardian
- Huawei Honor 6X Phone (< $150)
- Steam Games
- Far Cry 4
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Divinity: Original Sin 2
- Oxygen Not Included
- NeiR: Automata
- Dead Cells
- Salt & Sanctuary
- No Man’s Sky
- GW2: Heart of Thorns & Path of Flame
The PS4 purchase is probably the most excessive of the bunch, considering how infrequently I have used the PS3 since purchasing it five years ago. Of course, I didn’t really have a good setup at the time – projectors are cool, but sitting down and pressing a button is easier – and things have changed since then. There is a certain symmetry in how I basically bought the PS3 for The Last of Us, and The Last of Us 2 is one of the driving factors for a PS4 purchase (albeit a few years from now). If/When I end up getting Destiny 2, it will be on PC though.
Phone-wise, I’m in the stereotypical “my phone works, but there’s a better one out there” pinch. My SO’s phone died a couple months ago, so I of course created a Google doc comparing all the different phones available to map out the best bang for the buck. That’s when I realized the upgrade potential between my 5X and the 6X: +600MHz processor, +1GB RAM, +16GB storage, and +340mAh battery. Is that worth $180? Ehh. Is it worth $150 or less? That’s much closer, especially considering how much gaming I do on my phone.
The Steam list is a bit eclectic, but they are all games that weren’t on sale, not on sale far enough, and/or not out of Early Access yet. No Man’s Sky is a bit odd on there considering how much negative press it has received over the last year, but the last sale had it at $24. If it hits $15, I feel like it’d be an easy decision for a kinda-sorta temporary Minecraft experience. I have certainly made worse purchasing decisions.
Finally, the MMO section is just GW2. There have been a few Heart of Thorns sales for $15 that I have missed, but I feel like we might see a combo deal better than the original $50 set. I’m sure there will be yet another sale for the FFXIV expansion too, although every day I become less and less interested in the supposed great plot in the game. If your call to fame is a great story, but the only way to get to said story is to spam dungeons… yeah. No thanks.
Looked at my email earlier today, and saw these three right in a row:
While I neglected to unsubscribe from the Humble Monthly before and got burned a month or two back, the current offering is something I am interested in:
The wishlist item on sale in Steam today? Hmm:
Technically, the above Steam offering includes the Season Pass for the game, which includes DLC that adds ~3 hours to the story, some new game modes, more outfits/weapons, and so on. You can buy the Season Pass for $12 by itself, making the Steam bundle technically cost the same as the Humble Monthly… aside from the free mystery games, of course.
Looking back years from now, Steam is still going to be known as one of those transformative phenomenons that changed the way we bought and played games. But more and more, sites like Humble Bundle are going to deserve something more of a footnote on that same page of history.
Impressions: Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
It’s kinda funny, looking back and seeing my original review of The Binding of Isaac being posted in November 2011. 11/11/11, in fact. Nearly six years ago is a pretty long-ass time. And yet here I am buying the re-release of a game and its expansion for another go-around. Maybe.
The truth is: I don’t know.
Ostensibly, I bought Rebirth (and Afterbirth DLC) because it was on sale and I had read all the people praising it on Reddit as being far better than the original. One person mentioned that it was simply relaxing to play. Certainly, I felt slightly similar back when I first played the game insofar as I compared it to Solitaire. Just something to play for a little bit without a sense gravity.
At the same time, I constantly found myself pausing the game and going to the Wiki. What does this Tarot card do? What the hell is this buff? Why is this room empty aside from a spike pit in the middle? These mysterious things are traditional trappings of roguelikes in general, but I feel like Isaac spends an inordinate amount of time in being obtuse. Random effects or items? Fine. Obfuscated abilities? Not fine.
It took me three runs to make it down to and defeat Mom, which resulted in about 15 achievements. Among other things, this unlocks the other half of the game (post-Mom), new items that get added to the random pool, new characters to play as, and Challenges. The latter is new to me, but is basically normal Isaac runs with some kind of penalty added on. In fact, pretty much everything I’ve seen so far is just piling on difficulty.
I’m not sure this is me anymore though. It was certainly relaxing to play in the moment… until I started pausing every other room to double-check the Wiki. I’m not going to stop doing that either, as I find blind choices fairly abhorrent. I don’t need to win every time I play a roguelike, but I’m also not going to let myself ruin an otherwise good run with some bullshit “Gotcha!” moment either.
So, yeah. Perhaps this will be my 2nd Steam refund.
Posted by Azuriel
I bought myself the following games on Epic:
Basically three deckbuilding roguelikes and Disco Elysium. One item I had in the cart and then removed was Horizon Zero Dawn Complete for $14.99. My current thought was that I should probably wait until/if I do that PC upgrade I talked about – worst case scenario being I purchase it during the Summer sale for a similar (or less) amount. But… it’s also just $15. So maybe? Any thoughts in the comments?
For Steam, it was just:
I had an eye on Dream Quest for a long time, ever since I learned that it was one of the OG deckbuilding roguelikes that ended up inspiring Slay the Spire and the creator went on to Hearthstone. It also seemed like abandonware at this point and unlikely to receive a discount. Until it finally did. Krumit’s Tale was just another notch on the Deckbuilding Roguelike belt.
With tax everything ended being about $41 or so. Not a bad haul, assuming that at least one or two of the roguelikes entertain me for X amount of time. Granted, it seems a bit “counterproductive” to acquire more games that don’t strictly “matter.” I am endeavoring to play titles with more meaningful and/or unique experiences after all. On the other hand, I am so far down the deckbuilding roguelike rabbit hole that I may as well keep digging. As Mitch Hedberg (RIP) said:
By the end of this, I’ll be able suggest deckbuilding games to people with surgical precision. “Oh, you played Slay the Spire but didn’t like energy usage? Might I recommend Fate Hunter?”
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Tags: Christmas, Deck Building, Epic Sale, Haul, Roguelike, Steam Sales