Backloggin’ the Year – Paws’ Pilgrimage, January 2021
Welcome to Backloggin’ the Year, a feature that discusses the challenges and excitement that comes with working through your backlog. Site owner Anna Marie Privitere looks at where she’s at in terms of her backlogging goals.
January is arguably the easiest month to focus on backlog: there’s always a pile of games I get for Christmas, and I usually snap up some great sales between Black Friday and Boxing Day. With three rambunctious kittens in the house, I’ve also been doing less crafting, so the majority of my free time was all plowed into gaming.
Because I stream most weekday mornings and those focus on TRPGs, I’ve been playing other styles of games during the rest of my gaming time, and those have been mostly shorter games. Here’s a rundown of everything conquered or discarded in January, with all titles being played on Nintendo Switch.
The TRPGs: Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark / Children of Zodiarcs
Technically I started Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark on December 31, 2020, as part of our New Year’s Eve streaming showcase, but it was a blast playing it on stream each morning. Including offline grinding, the game took me nearly 50 hours to finish, and I enjoyed almost every minute. I think the one thing that I loved the most is how well all the classes synergized together. There are very few “wrong” combinations and often putting together two opposite-feeling classes ended up with some of my most interesting characters. I particularly loved comboing together ranged primary classes with magic or healing subclasses as it made for an extremely powerful character that could either pick off weakened targets or buff up my hardier units out front taking all the hits. Also admirable was how well the monster classes worked; I ended up picking up a wolf unit fairly early in the game and making him the primary tank of the group, who not only increased the movement range of fellow units but was able to also jump into the fray with high-crit attacks, lay down ample debuffs, and offer protection for squishier units.
Wrapped up Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark from @6EyesStudioLLC today! Was a delight to play and had a ton of fun streaming it.
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) January 18, 2021
Children of Zodiarcs, while also being a TRPG, has a very different flavour to it. While Fell Seal is all about larger parties, customizable units, and constantly changing classes, Zodiarcs focuses on very small battles, with the player’s side typically only two or three units frequently pitted against seemingly overwhelming odds. Furthermore, each named party member has a small number of archetypes to choose from, though players can mix and match as needed. Cards represent the style of actions that each playable character can take, and dice are rolled to determine modifiers, which include additional damage as well as special effects. Nahmi is the rogue of the group, who largely dishes out high damage and single-target attacks, as well as limited area-of-effect healing. Brice, on the other hand, is a mage whose attacks are predicated on where she is relative to enemies, and while she brings no healing to the table, she can debuff enemies, forcing them to discard cards or roll crappy dice.
Interestingly, both have similar plotline underpinnings, revolving around what happens when the rich and powerful abuse their resources. Each approaches this theme from different angles, so playing both back-to-back isn’t tiring. A full playthrough of Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is available now on the RPGamer YouTube.
The Non-RPGs: Gorogoa / Florence / Night Call / The Red Strings Club / Princess maker ~faery tales come true~
With two big juicy TRPGs eating up most of my time, I didn’t want any other big story-driven RPGs on my plate to bog down the month, so I started ripping through the big supply of puzzlers and narrative titles I’d accrued recently. Gorogoa and Florence were fun little environmental manipulation puzzlers, though the former stumped me in a couple spots I had to eventually look up. Night Call and The Red Strings Club are both darker narrative titles, with the former focusing on a cab driver trying to find a serial murderer in Paris and the latter being a bartending game set in a dystopian future on the brink of becoming especially weird. Of the five, I recommend The Red Strings Club, because the ending will absolutely blow your mind.
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) January 29, 2021
Conversely, I don’t recommend Princess maker at all. If a single run of the game wasn’t incredibly short (about two hours) I would have shelved it under the five-hour rule. The localization problems bogged down my enjoyment, and I also didn’t dig the gameplay loop as much as I thought I would, which makes me sad because I’ve always wanted to try out the series. At least now I know to avoid it in the future.
The Rest: Vampyr / Dandy Dungeon – Legend of Brave Yamada –
Vampyr is a game I’d been waiting to play for ages, but wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy; my tolerance for violence and creepy imagery is pretty low. It’s no surprise that a game coming from a narrative-centric developer is filled with diverse characters, rich stories, and juicy intrigue. Combat, however, is a little sludgy, mostly because of the title’s terrible framerate on Switch. Spoilers: don’t play it in handheld mode! That being said, I’ll put up with a lot to grab a game on my console of choice, and I’m looking forward to completing this one in February.
However, after falling ill near the end of the month, I needed a game I could play in handheld mode, so I decided to fire up Dandy Dungeon to see if I liked it. I definitely did, conquering the various dungeons, crafting a fistful of legendary gear, and falling in love in just a handful of days. It’s a weird mix of puzzle and RPG that makes more sense when shown as opposed to explained, so if you’re interested in a quirky title by the same developers that did Chulip and the Moon RPG, keep an eye out for our video review.
The Five Hour Rule: Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds
I was having a lot of fun at first with Legrand Legacy, but I ran into problems pretty quickly. The game actively punishes players by drastically reducing experience for enemies defeated with the combat system’s timing mechanics turned off. With timing mechanics off, early enemies were awarding around 50 exp, more than double that amount when the timing mechanics were on but locked to an equal timing, and over triple that amount when each attack’s timing is randomized. Furthermore, Legrand Legacy’s progression is built around the expectation players will either work for the highest level of experience or be prepared to grind a lot. I ended up getting about four hours into the title and looked up the next boss encounter, only to discover I’d need to grind out numerous levels to progress; I wasn’t loving the combat system that much — especially one that punishes me for just not being coordinated.
Combined with a shoddy script with both missing and excessive punctuation, abundant typos, and several head-scratching out-of-context conversations, it just wasn’t worth my time to continue. Which is too bad, because the story was kind of interesting. I picked it up for only a couple bucks, so if these points don’t bother you, it goes on sale frequently.
THE FINAL TALLY
5-Hour Ruled: 1