Content warning for discussions of abuse (non-specific) and cycles of abuse. While this post contains many of the elements of a review, it is also about my own experience with cycles of abuse and what this book means to me as a result. If that’s not something you’re interested in, or if it is something you’re going to struggle with, I suggest avoiding this post. Pretty much every paragraph includes some non-specific discussion of abuse and cycles of abuse, so there isn’t anything below this paragraph to read if you’re thinking of just skimming past those bits.Continue reading
I finished Death’s Door. I have officially completed 100% of the game on the switch, experienced all the game has to offer (unless there’s more secret stuff I have somehow missed), and am thoroughly satisfied. I have a lot of notes about how it could have been better, but honestly it’s like taking notes on how a pizza could be better to the granular level of “there were only 9 pieces of pepperoni on this slice, 1.7 pieces lower than the average per-slice pepperoni count.” A lot of it has to do with the ease of commenting on something already made than making something better from inside it. It wasn’t one of my top 10 games, it wasn’t something that hit me hard like Celeste, and it isn’t something I’ll replay for years like Breath of the Wild. It was a very fun, enjoyable game that I looked forward to playing, even after I completed the main story beats and was working on the fiddly, specific collection and secret-finding phase. Given how many games fail at being this thoroughly and consistently good, I feel like this should be taken as enthusiastic praise.Continue reading
One of the games I picked up as a result of skimming “Top Games of 2021” lists is a small game called “Death’s Door.” It’s a cute, delightful adventure game featuring a Crow playing the part of a reaper of souls who travels through doors to various places to collect said souls. At the start of the game, you get sent to collect a cartain soul, defeat the monster whose soul it is, and then go off on a crazy adventure in order to finally collect this soul so your assigned door can be properly closed and you can return to being immortal. Armed with a dodge roll, a magic bow, and a sword (also an umbrella you can find pretty early and few other weapons you find throughout), you battle the various monstrous creatures that inhabit the worlds you pass through and use their soul energy to make yourself stronger for the challenges ahead.Continue reading
One of the artists I’ve been enjoying a lot over the past year or so is Louie Zong. As both a visual artist and musician, he brings a lot to the table. Between his youtube channel where he posts music he’s made–and sometimes little videos–and the various shows he has and is working on, he’s impacted three major parts of my life. Technically four, since I found out about the podcast “Wonderful” from a piece of art he shared on twitter and while he just did the cover art for the podcast, I wouldn’t have found it without following those threads despite following all the other major podcasts the McElroy family do.Continue reading
So, I finally beat (sorta) Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and started playing Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. P:K was a bit of a letdown because the alignment system actually factored pretty heavily into the decision-making process for running my kingdom and had some incredibly significant impacts on the “post-game wrap-up” storytelling of the playthrough I finished. I didn’t get the long ending, since my character was content to let things shake out the way they did and just be finished with the whole farce, but my freedom-loving chaos mage apparently was a terrible ruler despite promoting mercy above all else and created a police state using magical surveillance technology. Still not sure what that came from, though I do know some of my advisor meetings kinda glitched through the cutscenes because I was doing a lot of saving and loading to get good outcomes because I didn’t want to deal with that shit. Anyway. I finished that and started the next game.
Wrath of the Righteous starts out pretty intensely, with a decent helping of mystery and stakes that are amped up pretty much instantly, but that was a nice follow-up to the expanded character creator whose UI is… Well, parts of it are better, but not all of it. It’s difficult to get a full-picture of your character when creating them or leveling them up, information is hidden in weird places, and some choices aren’t terribly intuitive. The greater number of options is nice, but the fact that information like which attributes matter most for each class and class variation being hidden in different text windows makes trying to figure out where my points need to be spent a pain in the ass. Especially since some of the class variations change what your primary attribute is. But that’s mostly a problem for Pathfinder as a whole than something tied specifically to this game. They just don’t fix the problem in the game.
After all that, though, the improvements show up. Being able to rotate the camera is nice, though it is made necessary by the somewhat cluttered environment you find yourself in at all points of this game so far. Since things are only transparent in a small bubble around your character, you have to get used to rotating the camera on top of moving it around, zooming, and managing your party. It gets very onerous in large battles that involve multiple angles of approach, too. It is a necessary skill to learn, though, because an object being transparent doesn’t actually mean it isn’t there. Clicking in the wrong place (on the roof of a house that was rendered invisible by your party, for instance) can have nasty ramifications in battle because you think you’re attacking an enemy but really you’re sending your character through an entire mob of foes to be ruthlessly cut down as they walk to the nearest reachable point to the invisible roof you clicked on.
Camera gripes aside, I do enjoy the fact that being persuasive and having a high-charisma no longer feels absolutely necessary to the game. I still made a high-charisma character and didn’t change off it when I got the option to retrain them because I like playing that type of character, but I no longer feel like that’s my only good choice if I want to do everything. I could easily see myself playing a different class some time in the future. Maybe a fighter, barbarian, or something more melee-based than my usual style.
I’ll also say I’m a bit frustrated that so many characters seem to be good at rogue skills early on because I built my sorcerer to be good at those things as a fun build idea and it wound up being so incredibly redundant. Half the characters I got initially could do those things as well as, if not better than, my character could. And not one single character was smart until I got through the whole long introduction section and into the exploration section. I actually missed a bunch of stuff early on because none of my people had any of the knowledge skills. I even got a whole pile of magic items I couldn’t properly use because no one had a decent Arcana skill. Seems like a bit of an oversight to me, given the importance of magic items to this game.
Well, I’ve aired all of my grievances now, so I think I’ll wrap up. I’m a bit too early in the plot to really comment on that (I had some install troubles and started the game 72 hours after release, but I’m not sure I can blame the game for this one since one of my hard drives might be corrupting), but it seems interesting so far. Much more so than P:K’s was since that amounted to “become a king and find out who is fucking with your attempts to become a king!” It’s definitely worth playing and hopefully future patches will continue to iron out the problems. If nothing else, P:WotR is in a much better place at launch that P:K was. Solid progress.
Still, as the title suggestions, I’m not sure where “Wrath of the Righteous” enters into the equation. Sure, demons are bad and they shouldn’t be in our world, but that’s more of a “fighting off an invasion” type thing. Righteousness has nothing to do with fending off a murderous invasive species. So far, the only “Righteousness” I’ve seen is the kind that is Good twisted to commit acts of Evil that has me wondering how all these god-empowered assholes could still be granted powers by their gods when they’re torturing and executing people without trials.
In the recent years of my life, I’ve grown to appreciate the run’n’gun style of games. I suppose you could say that it began with Halo back in the day, but I don’t think I really appreciate the genre/style until I started playing DOOM (2016). DOOM’s simple mechanics, fast-paced combat, and loose approach to storytelling made it a very fun game to sit back and play when I was too stressed or tired to invest in a game. Most of the story was told through codex updates and the occasional speech you couldn’t walk away from, which means it was mostly there for you to find if you wanted to look for it while it stayed out of the way the rest of the time. Doom Guy even leans into it, punching screens and breaking things rather than listening to exposition or operating instructions.
The first and only Animal Crossing game I’ve ever played longer than a day (I borrowed one in college but didn’t have the time to do more than make a character) was the original one on the GameCube. That isn’t a result of a lack of willingness on my part so much as a result of my disconnect from buying new games during college (I think the only new game I got while I was in college was Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) and my lack of free time as a post-college adult. I’ve always had something come up that make a time-intensive and daily play game like Animal Crossing prohibitive.
“See, there’s magic in a bard song. They call it inspiration and it tells the listener what they need to hear right when they need to hear it.”
Those were the words I needed to hear right when I needed to hear them. I was sitting on my couch the night following my grandfather’s funeral, a year and twenty-seven days ago. I’d just gotten back from Chicago, unloaded the car, and then sat down on the couch to finish the podcast I’d started on my first of many drives down to Chicago in 2019 to visit my grandpa and help out my mom. I was alone–my roommates could tell I didn’t want to talk–and I put on the last two episodes of the Balance arc of The Adventure Zone.
I’ve rewritten this opening paragraph half a dozen times so far and I’m forced to confront one of the worst things a reviewer can face: There is nothing even remotely close to Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers for me to draw on for comparison or to reference as I describe the strengths and my favorite parts of this book. I’ve cycled through everything from my favorite stories to my favorite bits of metaphor and poetry from various sources to books that fall under the same “disease and rampant evil assholes bring about the end of civilization as we know it” umbrella but none of them works. I get about three sentences in and am forced to admit that, right now, in my experience as a reader, there’s nothing that can compare. Which isn’t to say that it is the best book ever written and this novel transcends literature to be the Perfect Story–that’s far too subjective of a claim for me to make. I’m just saying that any reference I make is going to wind up being such a pale shadow that all I can do is say they had a similar function or action. Like comparing a sunrise to an idea that slowly came to your attention. One is the actual dawn, to which nothing can truly compare, and the other is something that dawned on you simply because describing an idea as something that slowly rose before you is the easiest way to say that you thought something through in a way that gave rise to a new idea. This book was powerful on so many levels that I’m not sure I could really draw good comparisons without breaking it apart so much that there’s hardly anything left.
I don’t know about you, but I frequently find myself in need of a strong dose of positivity in order to get through my day. It’s pretty nice to be able to wake up, struggle through the bleary-minded period right after waking up while my six subsequent alarms go off every other minute (anything less has, at least once, not brought me out of the bleary-minded period enough to actually wake up), and check my phone to find a nice, heartwarming good morning message from my favorite person on the internet, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He doesn’t send them to me specifically, but he tweets them out every morning and I’ve set up my phone to get notifications every time he tweets because he’s such a positive voice in the world. Since I also like to go to bed on a positive note, I always save his “good night” messages for as I’m climbing into bed. They’re just as positive and usually related to the earlier message. It’s often has some kind of flipped message or is a “ending/end-of-day” variation of the morning tweet. It’s a bit of a drag that they’re only sent out on weekdays, but I can understand his desire to stay off his official twitter account on the weekends. I sometimes feel the same way but I don’t yet have the luxury of time away from my craft, seeing as the time spent on my craft is actually my time away from the rest of my life.
The only thing better that getting those good morning and good night messages would be some kind of collection of those ideas. Which, guess what, is a thing that exists. Someone collected and curated a bunch of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets into a book called Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks For me and You. Gmorning, Gnight! is my second favorite book from this year, after only An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. With a wonderful selection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Good Morning and Good Night tweets and illustrations by the amazing Jonny Sun, Gmorning, Gnight! is a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a rather dark few months for me. The positivity, love, and support of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets manages to carry through into the book without losing anything and actually gains a little more warmth thanks to Jonny Sun’s illustrations that capture and magnify the feeling of the tweets.
I honestly wouldn’t recommend reading this book from cover to cover. If you need a sustained burst of positivity, maybe read through a dozen or so pages, but you’ll probably be better off going to his twitter feed for that. While nothing is lost in the message itself, there’s something to be said for the freshness of the messages on Twitter. The message of each tweet isn’t any different from the ones in the books, but they feel much more immediate and relevant to the days we live in than Good Morning or Good Night messages from years ago. Thanks to the chaotic and difficult times we live in, the more recent ones have a certain amount of resolute weariness to them that gives them a little more oomph. If you just want something warm and positive to juggle around in the mind because you’re trying to pull out of a negative thought stream or you need something to give you that quick little boost, just grab the book and crack it open to any old page. You’ll find a warm message that’ll life the corners of your mouth and take the edge off the weariness in your heart. If that particular one isn’t working for you, or you have a habit of opening books to the same place all the time despite your best efforts (I can’t understand, much less explain, how I keep opening to the same set of messages every other time I open the book), just flip a couple pages in either direction and you’ll find something that works.
If you want to get the most out of this book, I recommend learning to meditate and using a message that resonates with you on any given day as the focus of your meditation. There are a lot of really wonderful images in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s message, both on his Twitter account and in his book, so they make excellent focal points for most meditation. Most of my favorite involve pacing oneself, going at one’s own speed, or focusing on marching to the beat of your heart rather than someone else’s. Since I struggle with the feeling that I’m not getting enough done or that I’m not working hard enough to make the kind of progress I want, it’s important for me to keep myself focused on doing as much as I can without over-extending myself. Given how often it shows up in his tweets and how many times it appears in the book, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda probably has a similar feeling. He wrote a whole musical about a guy who lived his entire life with this feeling, so I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that he understands the feeling, even if it’s not something he himself constantly struggles with.
That being said, there’s enough other imagery in here that pretty much anyone can find something that fits whatever is going on in their heart or mind. I rarely have to flip more than half a dozen pages to find something that resonates with me, even when I’m not struggling with feelings of running out of time. Everything from learning to forgive yourself, to stuff like learning to love or accept yourself. If you look hard enough and actually read through Gmorning, Gnight! from front to back, I’m sure you could find a message for any occasion. Someday, I might do just that. Instead of memorizing poetry or being able to summarize great thinkers of big ideas, I’m going to memorize the modern-day wisdom of self-love and self-kindness that Lin-Manuel Miranda espouses. Any time someone needs support, I’ll be able to draw wisdom and support from the annals of the greatest, kindest person on the internet. I bet there are other people out there who do similar things, but how many people have the kind of platform Lin-Manuel Miranda does who then use it to spread positivity and kindness? If you know of any, send them to me!
The kindness, care, and concern Lin-Manuel Miranda expresses at the entirety of the internet still manages to feel directed toward you specifically. Look at the subtitle of his book: “little pep talks for me and you.” He’s said before that his Good Morning and Good Night tweets are the messages he most needs to hear each day, but they seem so heartfelt and open that they couldn’t be for anyone but him and you, like the title implies. This thing, the way he manages to make them feel personal despite being shared with millions of other people, is why I’m still on Twitter and social media in general. I almost gave it all up toward the end of the summer but following his Twitter account (something that was off limits until I’d seen Hamilton, just like listening to the soundtrack was off limits) is what convinced me that the internet could still be a good place. John and Hank Green’s videos this fall, in addition to the talking they did during Hank’s book tours, helped solidify it, but I wouldn’t have made it that long with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets.
Since Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me and You is the hardcover version of those tweets, I honestly can’t recommend it enough. As I struggle to deal with my grandfather’s failing health, my own grief, and the complicated relationship I have with my family that is only made more complicated by the holidays and current circumstances, this book is pretty much the other thing that can pull me out of a negative spiral of emotions and thoughts. I recommend buying it and keeping it near your bed or wherever you do most of your reflect. It’ll be incredibly helpful.