Site-Wide Activity

  • A while back I reviewed the story Salvation. The author has since rewritten the story, and asked me to review the new version.

    Part of the chapter review exchange.

    I should warn you that I’m not familiar with […]

    • You seem a bit confused; this post is just the review. If you want to give your opinion on the story itself, it would be best to do so by writing your own review on the site (as you have already done), as I’m not aware if the author follows this blog.

      I don’t think there should be an paragraph break, in my opinion.


      Actually, I will have to respectfully disagree. It’s true that there is this advantage, by giving more details about the power, but sometimes it is just better to let readers figure this out by themselves, which will lead to element of surprise.

      But there’s not really anything to figure out in that passage. We’re just told that Lance experienced nightmares, and then the story moves on. It’s not that the details are left vague, it’s that there are no details. This should logically be emotionally harrowing for Lance, but he doesn’t seem affected by it at all — the very next sentence is that he shrugged it off. This makes it hard to get emotionally connected to Lance, as he just looks like an invincible superhero with no feelings. We see what his nightmares look like when Agatha attacks him later, so it would have been consistent to show more details here as well.

      The repetition part is a little ambigitous, since it depends on if the author wants to replace the word.

      Not really? It depends on if the author agrees it sounds awkward. Is that what you meant?

      It is true there’s not much emotional investment, but it’s just one chapter, so there’s not much to be expected.

      Emotional investment absolutely should be expected in the first chapter, especially one as long as this; the entire point of a first chapter is to get readers invested. You can have the best second chapter in the world, but readers aren’t going to see it if the first chapter doesn’t grab them. This goes double in serial media where readers do not have access to the second chapter from the beginning, and it goes triple in environments flooded with competition, such as fanfiction. Telling authors otherwise is going to hurt them.

      it’s there for a reason

      And you know this… how? The author seems competent so I trust that you are right, but that is the crux of it: Details should exist for a reason, and it’s possible to disagree if that reason is valid. I’m not yet clear on why they included this element or what it will add to the story, so it is reasonable for me to question it. And, yes, there is personal preference there too — I personally don’t like stories about human trainers with superpowers, because that’s a trope I can get anywhere. I’m here for the pokemon.

      Now, the next time you have a bee in your bonnet about us, I’d appreciate it if you keep it here or on the forums instead of using someone’s story as a soapbox to talk about me, because that’s incredibly rude to the author and, as you said you well know, exactly what they did not want in their review section. If you’re reviewing an author, do it for them, not for me.

    • If you think it is rude, like this, then I think it is your problem.

      No, I know it’s rude, because authors have literally told me it is. Multiple authors, multiple times, sometimes even saying they had to take down their story because they don’t want the drama. Choosing to ignore someone’s express wishes is rude. Say whatever you want about me, but say it to me. Do not drag other people into this.

      I am just trying to educate the author of the story about the correct way to fix things

      …So you are saying your opinion is “the correct way” and mine is not? Your review was entirely your own opinion.

    • I was trying to help them

      Starting a fight in the reviews helps no one.

      You are correct, reviews should be to help authors. So make it about them. Tell them what they did right, not just what I did wrong. If they actively request your comment on a specific thing I said, then by all means, do so. But picking over a specific review after a long spiel about what a terrible person I am just makes it abundantly clear to the author that you reviewed because of me, not because the story actually interested you, and you are just using them to get at me. You think that’s not demoralizing?

      Here is an example of an author actually reviewing to show us how it’s done, if you need to see what that looks like.

    • “People said, explicitly and repeatedly, they do not appreciate “counter-reviews” and it’s transparently an ego thing for the people giving them.”


      I mean, we literally cannot stop you from being a dick to other people. If your only goal here was to announce your intention to be a dick in defiance of what anyone else wants, well, you sure did that. It’s not going to be great for anyone, but quite possibly it’s better than whatever garbage your actual reviews would be.

      • Their behavior isn’t your fault or responsibility, both in general and in that if they’re spamming Hybrid’s copypasta in people’s review sections, they were already firmly on this bandwagon and it’s just chance they threw this tantrum using your fic and not another one.

      • To add to what Farla said, don’t let shitstirrers get in the way of your goal of self-improvement.

        Sorry I can’t comment on the fic itself, I’m not really a “Pokémon” fan, but keep at your writing.! :-)

  • On the other hand I start radiation next week so here are some pans. You may notice there are twice as many of these; I did not have a good run of Steam sales last year, apparently.
    Inside: Pan-Pan, Copoka, […]

    • Dang, htol#NiQ looked pretty cute. Salt reminds me of that level in the Super Mario 64 DS remake, where it was just a couple of islands, knee-deep water, and a Koopa shell to cruise on. I find that level absurdly comforting and memorable.

      I am so fucking sick of ~true endings~ why have games just stopped telling stories like normal goddamn people I have completely lost my patience for this YOUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER PLAYTHROUGH nonsense in modern games just commit to a fucking narrative!

      *coughs, looks awkwardly at Hollow Knight and Sekiro, two of my favorite games ever* Incidentally, Radiant Historia (WHICH I HAVE NOT FINISHED NO SPOILERS) is the best JRPG I have ever played, bar none.

      • I loved Hollow Knight SO MUCH but my one issue was that I thought some of the major plot stuff was too hidden. 

        Also yes Radiant Historia is easily the best jrpg I’ve ever played, it’s just perfect from top to bottom

        • I will say this to defend Hollow Knight: it at least doesn’t force you to NG+ for the alternate endings and extra plot. You can do it at your leisure. It also adds a boss rush mode, which is missing from 99% of games with good bosses (looking at you, Dark Souls/Bloodbourne/Sekiro).

          Radiant Historia is… I don’t even know how to put it in words. Even outside of JRPGs, it’s one of the most beautifully constructed games I’ve ever played. RH took a lot of things I hate about RPGs, like backtracking, and made me love them. It’s bizarre.

    • The remake is built upon the original, gameplay and story-wise. You can even choose to have the extra content put at the end and play the original story as intended. There are tons of bells and whistles like voice-acting and updated art (YMMV on the new art). User interface is also improved quite a bit, plus some other quality-of-life stuff. Everything I’ve seen so far looks like it was very carefully made to preserve as much of the original experience as possible, which I appreciate.

      I can’t speak to the quality of the 3rd timeline, since I only recently bought it, but I’m happy with the purchase.

  • Act wrote a new post, Tangledeep 3 weeks, 2 days ago

    “It’s… a traditional roguelike,” was Roarke’s summation of this game. “It’s pretty fun. I’m not sure I’d rec it, though.”

    ‘Mildly fun grindfest with no requirement for emotional investment’ was actually what […]

    • I haven’t played Tangledeep in a bit, but if I remember right, you do essentially free everyone else at the end of the game. You kill the mindslaving computer she fuses with, after all. So it’s less you sabotaging Shara (whom I love) and more standing on her corpse and claiming credit.

      I didn’t realize there was a dearth of male characters. Sure, women were very prominent, but like, there’s Turtle Priest, Bull Trainer, Bird Boss, Frog Farmer, and various other guys serving important RPG/roguelike functions, like quest-giving and shop-keeping.

      score one for human communication

      I found this entire post hilariously surreal.


    • I think this is the first time I’ve seen a critic say straight up that a game was ok at best while also admitting that they liked it. (Maybe you’ve done this before, I don’t know, I’ve only read like 1.5% of the articles here.) It sounds like your experience with Tangledeep is pretty similar to mine with Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga. It’s a grindfest with a super simplistic and cliche story, complete with dialogue choices that literally don’t matter, and a weird sound setup that make your footsteps the loudest noise in the game, but fuck if I haven’t sunk 50 hours into it.

      Maybe I’m just a sucker for brainless roguelikes, because I was actually pretty intrigued by the game – until you explained the situation with Shara. Having an antagonist who’s actions are largely heroic can be a really interesting setup, and seeing that go to waste sounds excruciating.

      Here’s hoping for your fast and smooth recovery!

      • Shara was, I believe, being set up for the quintessential ‘ends justify the means’ villain arc. It’s just that, in a story that’s so bare bones, the reasons that the ‘means’ were bad were never properly established. We’re left with a powerful character with a tragic past and heroic goal butchered, in her moment of triumph, by a nobody self-insert.

  • I’d really recommend this. I found it really enjoyable, though not without its flaws.

    The choreography and animation in general is amazing. It manages a reasonably nuanced take on religion, which is rare in […]

    • I agree with everything stated here. Also, the brief “It endures in the name of your mother” exchange between Alucard and Dracula was so awesome. Dracula’s voice actor was one of the best parts of the series.


      I think it’s funny that the fridging worked because, indeed, it was an actual character death that serves as the bedrock of other characters’ motivations. The bar has fallen so pathetically low that it’s easy to forget how it feels to see it pulled off.

      I really loved the trio’s dynamic, and Sypha was goddamn carrying that crew. She’s like Katara and Azula put together, and not just in terms of her powers.

      I also liked the emerging villains of the next season, though nobody’s going to replace Dracula in my heart.

      • though nobody’s going to replace Dracula in my heart.

        I’m betting Issac agrees with you and will be doing something to fix it.

        (We know Dracula’s gotta keep showing up somehow.)

        • I’m betting Issac agrees with you and will be doing something to fix it.

          Hehehehe. You may be right about that, and Dracula possibly returning. I mean, Castlevania the series is sort of built on the premise that you can’t keep that jerk down. Still, I do think that his death scene was fulfilling enough that his return would feel somewhat unsatisfying.

          I thought Dracula’s dynamic with Isaac was really interesting since, on the one hand, Dracula wanted to kill everyone and then himself, but on the other, clearly valued Isaac’s life and wanted him to live on. I do find it sad and sweet that one of Dracula’s last expressions of fatalism is to decide that he’s not going to let a friend die for him. Then he puts the angry mask back on for the showdown.

          • Still, I do think that his death scene was fulfilling enough that his return would feel somewhat unsatisfying.

            Yeah, I was pondering that. It’s Castlevania canon that sometimes Dracula shows up again to be like “ugh, you think this way my idea? I’m just as upset as you.” and the story’s been….nontraditional….enough that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that after a lot of hype about oh no his loyal servants or some other random idiots arae bringing back the ultimate vampire!!! Dracula shows up just to remind everyone he was trying to die last time and this is just depressing him even further, he’s going to just sulk on his chair for the next few hundred years.

            For Dracula to actually do anything ever again, maybe some sort of botched resurrection where they get back Younger Dracula who doesn’t remember the last couple decades.

            I do find it sad and sweet that one of Dracula’s last expressions of fatalism is to decide that he’s not going to let a friend die for him.

            I know! And right after his friend is all, “Boy I sure appreciate using my free will to die for your sake, have I mentioned recently how my life revolves around you and you are the only good thing in the entire world and also minor but I really love being here and not in the desert because that’s just the worst place ever.” It was so kind and so horribly cruel.

            (…well, the desert thing in particular seemed rather wtf, like trying to return a caught spider to where you originally found it in the hopes that’s its preferred habitat. But maybe he figured that if his final act was dumping him in a bunch of sand, Issac would be mad at him instead of continuing the suicide cycle.)

            • The ultimate… nontraditional… Dracula resurrection would be him coming back, learning Alucard (somehow) has a child, and becoming a doting grandfather. I’m 237% certain this has already happened in fanfic.

              Dracula dumping Isaac’s loyal ass back in the desert was a fantastic dick move. That’s the absolute intersection between cruelty and laziness. Isaac’s not even like, at the edge of a desert town. He’s in Bumfuck McNowhere. Maybe, like you said, his intention was to make Isaac mad at him so he wouldn’t want to come back. I think, judging by Isaac’s last scene, he also wanted to spare Isaac from human interaction.


              • That’s what I don’t get. If he just wanted to send him to some human-free place, he could’ve dumped him off at Hector’s farm since that’s somehow far enough from people nobody managed a lynching. The only chance Isaac had to survive the desert was to find people – even lucking into an oasis, there’s no food, he had to rely on idiots walking up to him. (Mildly peeved he ate one of the horses, incidentally. He already had perfectly good meat without needing to kill any of the animals. That’s just wasteful, Isaac!)

                Maybe Dracula didn’t grasp just how much Isaac didn’t want to interact with his own kind given he hoped Isaac would be friends with Hector? And also didn’t get Isaac’s outfit is not desert appropriate and he was probably just going to broil on the sand.

              • Yeah, it makes less sense when you put it like that.

                That’s just wasteful, Isaac!

                Indeed, especially since the horses proved themselves just as capable of ferrying undead idiots as living ones. Strictly superior to humans as living collaborators go!

    • Just commenting to add that I LOVE SYPHA’S FIGHT SCENES SO MUCH. Not only is she a hands-only wizard (the best kind), her casting is so kinetic and visceral, making her just as exciting to watch as the fighters even aside from the magic lightshows. It’s so rare to see a caster get so brutal and up in peoples’ business like that.

      • That’s what made Avatar TLA so great, to be honest. I still haven’t seen that kind of combat mage replicated in any kind of animated series save Castlevania.

      • Yeah, those were great. At the same time, though, they didn’t feel very fitting for the character as presented. I mean, show!Sypha is a Speaker, not a battlemage or something similar.

        • As someone who doesn’t know the lore, the impression I got was that she was a ethnically a Speaker and vocationally a battle mage, with the only connection that Speakers have wider access to stuff like that due to the rest of society being kept ignorant.

          • Dracula calls her a ‘Speaker magician’, which he wouldn’t need to do if they were one and the same, so I’m with you on that one. It seems in-character for Sypha to go for the most powerful knowledge available to her, given the opportunity. Given that she was already really accomplished at reading multilingual/ancient tomes, she may not have learned it from her people.

          • Oh, the Speakers were created for the series, so there’s no lore issue here. Ironically enough, game!Sypha was a sorceress working for the Church.

            It’s possible she was a battlemage or similar by vocation, but I never got the impression the Speakers even had such roles, and the implication seems to be that she’s lived with her people her whole life.

            It’s honestly a minor thing, really, because her moves were really cool – in fact, the fight scenes in general were very good -, but it did strike me as odd when first watching.

    • Eh. Personally, I felt it had too many flaws. It was enjoyable, yes, but I mostly lament all the wasted potential. The writing was very shoddy at times,* there were both too many and not enough changes from the source material, Trevor felt very lacklustre as a protagonist – or heck, even as a character – in season 2,  and overall, it felt very trope-ish (I might even say clichéd).

      * “Humans! You have one year to leave Wallachia, or I’m going to kill you all.” Three seconds later: “Damn it, I can’t believe it will take me a year to raise an army to kill all humans! …Maybe I shouldn’t have given them a warning in advance.”

      I also have to disagree with the series being nuanced – I mean, even leaving aside everything in season 1, we have the undead bishop performing a bonafide sacrament, it’s not easy to be less respectful of religious belief than that.

      Basically, I think this could have been a great show if someone other than Warren Ellis had written it.

      One change from the games I did like is that the heroes are less “people who are born special” and more “people armed with proper knowledge”. Trevor, for instance, is quite the fighter, but he’s not superhuman, and the reason he’s so good at fighting monsters is because he has his family’s cumulative knowledge and consecrated weapons, not because the Belmont bloodline is just special.

      • There’s definitely…many, many issues with S2, though I’m inclined to be forgiving given it apparently was only supposed to be half as long.

        “Humans! You have one year to leave Wallachia, or I’m going to kill you all.” Three seconds later: “Damn it, I can’t believe it will take me a year to raise an army to kill all humans! …Maybe I shouldn’t have given them a warning in advance.”

        That, though, was hilarious! Which, yeah, I see the issue, but, Dracula doing his whole dramatic screaming head about how I GIVE YOU WARNING and then going home and saying, “Yeah I actually had no choice but to wait a year but like hell I’m going to admit that, if anyone asks it’s totally just because I wanted to dramatically attack on the anniversary.”

        we have the undead bishop performing a bonafide sacrament, it’s not easy to be less respectful of religious belief than that.

        Christianity has a long history of saying dead bodies have magic powers!

        That was definitely wonky given S1 not only established you have to be decent enough for God to empower you but that the specific dude was on God’s shitlist so hard it undid the consecration of the entire church he was in. On the other hand, if there was anything left of him in that corpse – and we know you can bring back puppies as puppies – it could be that he repented and burning himself up blessing a river was something of an atonement. (It could also be that Hector is not on God’s shitlist and that’s why it went through. I could see that in order to do a blessing you need someone who’s been physically ordained to be able to do it and someone who’s not a total asshole directing it for God to answer and zombies allow for an edge case where those aren’t the same person. If so, we know that God has some pretty low standards if Hector passes.)

        • Christianity has a long history of saying dead bodies have magic powers!

          Sure, but there’s a huge conceptual difference between “this person was so holy in life that their corpse continues to perform miracles” to “this complete waste of a human being was reanimated by dark forces and successfully invokes the power of God”.

          I’ve seen the theory floating around that since the holy water only harmed the forces of darkness – both Dracula’s army and Carmilla’s -, that ultimately it was God’s will all along, but that doesn’t really explain why Carmilla was so sure that would even work.

          […] If so, we know that God has some pretty low standards if Hector passes.)

          Poor Hector. I’m not a fan of either Curse of Darkness generally or Hector specifically – both feel too derivative, both in terms of story and gameplay -, but he definitely got the shaft in this adaptation. Isaac was great, though.

          • Sure, but there’s a huge conceptual difference between “this person was so holy in life that their corpse continues to perform miracles” to “this complete waste of a human being was reanimated by dark forces and successfully invokes the power of God”.

            But it applies to more than just saints.

            Ordaining someone, across multiple branches of Christianity, has a very physical component where the idea is that the person must have hands laid upon them from a person who had hands laid upon them from a person who…all the way back to the apostles who got it from Jesus.

            And we also know there’s also the early Christian belief that the profane could be made holy but the holy could not be made profane, which means an ordained priest’s corpse should stay ordained, it just can’t do anything with those powers because it’s dead and all. And I believe the whole thing where the Catholic church auto-excommunicates women for getting ordained while simultaneously arguing they never were ordained in the first place can be argued as solid evidence that people aren’t un-ordain-able, you can kick them out but you can’t take it back. And this would certainly be in keeping with the fact that you can ninja baptize people and it totally counts because all that matters is physically getting the magically powered water on their head.

            Therefore! God might refuse to send through the blessing if he’s mad at someone who was ordained, BUT the connection itself formed by the laying-on-hands chain is a no-takebacks one, just as no matter how virtuous and loved by God a person might be, they can’t do ordained-stuff without someone else laying on hands and passing on the connection. Either the bodies are always capable of counting as holy objects and successfully performing the required rituals in absence of a mind to hold sin that would make God refuse, or Hector counts as the body’s mind because he’s giving the orders – and he is less of a dick than the original guy, so that’s consistent enough. This also allows for other shenanigans  – run out of bishops? Dig up some old ones and bap people with their fingerbones to keep the line unbroken.

            I’ve seen the theory floating around that since the holy water only harmed the forces of darkness – both Dracula’s army and Carmilla’s -, that ultimately it was God’s will all along, but that doesn’t really explain why Carmilla was so sure that would even work.

            I’d also say there’s no way Carmilla knew they had a dud priest and may not even be religious enough to know dud priests are possible. She may class it just as magic the church happens to know.

            But yeah, the fact the corpse was being used for ‘good’ and also self-immolating in the process may have counted in favor of the blessing going through. My personal guess would be zombie atonement given they’ve got it collared and we’ve seen the undead have some will of their own but it’s very muted, I’m just willing to argue for the elaborate rules lawyer interpretation too.

            • But it applies to more than just saints.

              Yeah, medieval thinking is that body and soul were so closely linked that one reflected the other. I’ll be honest, though, your line of thought is very compelling, but also feels very rules-lawyer-y, like you admit yourself. :-P

      • Hearing that it’s stupid-clever and written by Warren Ellis actually makes me want to watch it, that tone is something he’s really good at. Then again, I have no attachment to the IP so the idea of a tongue in cheek take doesn’t bother me.

    • I honestly think that it really just comes down to the fact that tropes are value-neutral. This particular trope is so overwhelmingly handled in a terrible way, though, that it’s become an Inherently Bad Trope (TM) to a lot of people. I think what Castlevania shows is that no, when you actually treat the woman like a human, it actually can be quite effective, it’s just most people don’t do that.



      I actually really loved the framing of Lisa’s death, narratively, because ‘witchcraft’ and similar women’s culture really were early forms of medicine, and ‘burning witches’ was a way of punishing women for knowing too much and being too independent. I thought having it explicitly be ‘the church is killing this woman for being a scientist’ was a really good commentary on what actually happened as well as a more subtle allusion to how women are still chased out of the sciences and their knowledge is still constructed as inferior. It made her death have value in and of itself, and that it (apparently) goes on to actually matter when usually it actually doesn’t just seems to further demonstrate that the trope can be used for, if not good, at least not-evil. I also can’t emphasize how much I appreciated that the camera did not linger lovingly on her agony while she made sex noises like video games so enjoy.

      Also, this is a TOTAL digression, but I live near Salem, MA, and can never decide if women in Salem selling ‘witchcraft’ is a really creepy monetizing of a tragedy or kind of a fuck-you to the patriarchy inasmuch as women benefit from the tourists almost exclusively. Or both.

    • Sypha’s a generic wise and down-to-earth woman saddled with a generic depressed asocial slob and a generic sarcastic teenager with an Oedipus complex.

      It’s a great show. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    • <3333

      I too have not been here in a while. My hands are basically nonfunctional because of chemo side effects and typing is painful so I can’t really go on the computer :( But! My last chemo appt is Tuesday, so hopefully soon things will be normalish.

      I hope you’re well! Or at least better than me, lol

    • That’s the spirit. <3

  • “This story isn’t good and that’s why I posted it here. Where it belongs.”

    re: Your review to The Carmine Lasky Saga
    14 AprilGoodGuyFanFiction
    A response to your review at […]

  • Another nice pokemon story from NebulaDreams, a painfully cliché crime drama where everyone is incompetent, and a lot of nothing.

    Blocked. I… might have reviewed them? Can’t remember and they have a zillion st […]

  • Exceedingly few responses this time. I presume Sevenways is just making people too burned out to want to talk at all.

    St Elmo’s Fire,

    A new guest review has been posted to your story. Please login to […]

  • And now for the less good stuff. RPG Maker sadly put up a very poor showing this year.

    Inside: Crown Champion, Sojourner, TAURONOS, Forever Home.

    Crown Champion: Legends of the Arena

    A […]

  • Our sacred holiday tradition continues! I got so many this year that we get to divide this into recs and pans. Most of these are puzzle games; I suppose those are the ones that go for cheap.

    Inside: Hollow […]

    • Hollow Knight <3 <3 <3

      I love that game, and I think you’ve given it a very accurate and concise review. Getting a console version of it may solve the ‘greased lightning’ processor issue, though I realize it’s a little late to say that. 

      It may be the most atmospheric game I’ve ever played – in true Soulslike fashion, it does an incredible job juxtaposing bleakness with beauty, ruin with wonder. And yeah, those two horrific areas I won’t name are just chilling. The game is also very well-paced, juggling the deliberate platform/puzzle sections with frenetic combat and relaxed NPC interaction/worldbuilding.

      It’s a game that just does so much, so well, that it’s really just an incredibly complete experience as a game.

      I imagine you want to keep spoiling at a minimum on the review page, but how do you feel about the ending(s) in general, and the machinations by the King/Queen that led to them? Also, your thoughts on the bonus areas/bosses?

      • I imagine you want to keep spoiling at a minimum on the review page, but how do you feel about the ending(s) in general, and the machinations by the King/Queen that led to them?

        Unfortunately, I feel the information we get on them is a bit too vague for me to have a clear picture of it. I guess I’m in the camp that the Pale King was no better than the Radiance, but beyond that, dunno. I did read a very cool meta post on it, though.

        Also, your thoughts on the bonus areas/bosses?


        I can’t even beat the Trial of the Fool, I don’t know how I’d beat the pantheons. I generally find long gauntlets you have to start over from the beginning if you fail to be really tedious and frustrating, so I doubt I’ll get far in Godhome.

        Grimm was pretty cool, though again I’m not entirely clear on what he’s doing, precisely. He seems to be a scavenger cleaning up the last remnants of Hallownest?

        • Hot damn that’s some fucking wild theorizing. I’d even say it’s probably right. Definitely new headcanon. The Pale King was at least as bad as the Radiance, I’d say. He knew it, too. No reason to seal the Abyss away if he didn’t know how gut-wrenchingly horrible his scheme was. The fact that his plan involved creating countless vessels in the hopes that the ultimate one wouldn’t have “a voice to cry suffering” is pretty damning. Especially since it turns out, that vessel did in fact have such. I don’t think the Radiance gave it to them.

          As for creating and ruling the kingdom of Hallownest itself, it’s hard for me to say if he’s strictly worse than his predecessor. Certainly he was worse for the moths, but even the Seer seems to view the Radiance’s rule with regret, even if she regrets betraying the Radiance by forgetting her more. It’s hard to qualify how good a ruler he or the Radiance might have been, especially after reading about the parasitism theory.

          Also, tangent, I love the Hunter’s journal and one of my favorite entries is the Radiance’s. “The light, forgotten” is one of the coolest little blurbs. That phrase sticks in my head way harder than it seems it should.


          I feel you. I am, for better or worse, the kind of player who is willing and able to make up for insufficient skill with an extreme excess of stubbornness and time investment. Hence being able to beat the Path of Pain after many hours, then fail a relatively easy combat scenario, then come back and do it all again. The Pantheon of Hallownest was a similar experience – the game just drops Absolute Radiance on you for the first time at the very end, which at least unlocks her to practice against, because damn if I didn’t need it.

          edit: Re:Grimm, he’s also a moth and is associated with nightmares in the way the Radiance is associated with dreams, so I think you’re basically right in that he’s ultimately a scavenger of sorts. He also seems to be trapped in a cycle of procreation, like Hallownest’s rulers, if the Grimmchild is any indication. His followers imply that this cycle isn’t 100% to his benefit, either,

      • Oh, if you want any additional random thoughts: I love the battle with The Radiance. Love love love. It was absolutely spectacular, and especially after the dimness of the overall setting, the focus on light and brightness was really striking. It truly felt like fighting a god.

        And that moment where you challenge the Sun and then the Sun unfurls its wings was just all sorts of AAAAAAAA. Truly breathtaking.

        • That was one of the best boss intros I’ve ever seen (also, insert ‘that’s no Sun’ Star Wars joke). She’s even better than Nightmare King Grimm, who was just wildly Extra. I mean, a vampire wreathed in flames bursting out of a beating heart to wild drums and organ?

          I loved that, instead of the traditional boss name/title that appears briefly, those two get a full-screen title card before the asskicking.

      • And yeah, those two horrific areas I won’t name are just chilling.

        Farla described them in a way I think is very apt: One is, “I should not be here,” the other is, “This place should not be.”

        • Farla’s smart. So are the devs, for placing the areas when/where they did. The first one forces you to dig up your courage, and the second one laughs at it.

      • This is leaving out the crucial carpeting of every surface with spikes and thorns, and I won’t stand for it. God, I love the Path of Pain.

        • LOL. Yeah, I got about halfway through the Path of Pain before I just gave up. Precision platforming is not my forte.

          • Know what’s funny? At the very end of the Path of Pain, there’s a surprise fight with two of those elite White Palace mobs.

            They killed me, forcing me to do it all over again. It’s rare for a game’s trolling to be that vicious.  

    • Also,

    • Act replied 1 month ago

      I am, I think, about 2/3 through Hollow Knight, and holy shit this game is art. Just needed to express that to someone.

      • <3 <3 <3

        I had noticed you playing that… rather assiduously, these past few days. I even woke up early this morning to see “Act is now playing Hollow Knight” pop up on my Steam window.

        Of course, I’m not one to talk. I ended up playing that game 40 hours in the first five days after picking it up.

        • Act replied 1 month ago

          I’ve been basically bedridden by chemo side effects, so I’ve been blowing through my game backlog. I’m basically down to visual novels and like 2 ps4 games.

          • In re: bedridden, mi dispiace, and take care. In re: backlog, though, holy shit.

  • I finished chemo on Tuesday, so in celebration here are some recs!

    Inside: Hook, Staxel,Tiny Echo


    Hook is a nice entry into the ‘relaxing simple puzzle game’ subgenre. Its central conceit is […]

  • Experienced some writer’s block, so I figured it was time for some reviewing. There were a few decent fics, but nothing terribly notable aside from a pokemon rebellion fic that was actually just an edgelord […]

  • The first 200 pages of King’s Dragon by Kate Elliot is about how boys get super-special inborn destinies and girls get raped, and I am just so phenomenally over this fucking plotline.

    This book was […]

    • Misery received, I suppose. The whole ‘holding the male and female tropes side-by-side’ thing reminds me of that Atelier game you reviewed, where the two characters’ backstories and interactions in ostensibly the same story just ended up wildly different because he man, she woman. Except, you know, even worse thanks to the outright rape and abuse.

      The whole treatment of religion is strange to me. You often get even actual religious authors who write fantasy still criticizing the church and actual human institutions for their very real failings. For an author to go all-in supporting it and echoing all of their abuse is scary as shit. That’s the real indoctrination right there.

    • Elliott’s work was the first time I got hella burned by Tumblr Recs(TM); I was promised an extremely cool alt-history fantasy novel with characters of color in the form of Cold Magic/Cold Fire/Cold Steel, and a) nothing happened in the first one and b) the second one sucked ass with a dumb forced romance and rape outta nowhere and also similarly very little actually happened. IDK how it ended.

      Anyway, I assume all Tumblr Recs are full of weird fetishy dubcon pseudo-rape at the very least now and have not since been surprised.

  • I’ve been meaning to make one of these for a while, but I have SO MANY THOUGHTS after finishing DQ11 that this seemed like a good time.

    • First of all SPOILERS SPOILERS seriously you NEED to go play DQ11, including clearing the postgame/Act 3, before reading this, because unlike past DQ games this one is super story-driven at the end.


      ANYWAY. So a lot of people seemed confused by the specifics of the True Ending, but I think it makes perfect sense in conjunction with Word of God saying that the timelines devour each other.

      When you go back the first time and create a ‘better’ timeline, the old doomed timeline is absorbed into it — hence all the people experiencing a weird de ja vu as you play through the good timeline. However, sending Serenica back doesn’t create a new timeline — it fixes time paradoxes in the good one. We know that a) the Luminary is a descendant of Erdwin and Serenica and b) Veronica and Serena are reincarnations of Serenica, but in a timeline where Erdwin dies and Serenica becomes immortal, neither of those things are possible. We also already know that Erdwin &amp; Co. cannot defeat Calasmos. When Serenica goes back, she saves Erdwin, but they still seal Calasmos instead of defeating him, meaning Mordecant is still corrupted. But this also means she and Erdwin can live out their lives, fixing the problem of how the Luminary is their descendant as well as the problem of Serenica not dying. That timeline is then absorbed into the past of the good timeline, completing it.

      Meeting the Yggdragon and becoming the first Erdrick is thus only possible when the three timelines converge.

      The Erdrick of DQ3 is the descendant of the Luminary, who has become legend by the time of DQ3 — as evidenced by his mother reading the two books (which, I think, are the tales of Erdwin and the Luminary respectively) (They’re also red and green, implying one was written by Veronica and one by Serena.) The protag of DQ1 picking up the sword of light during the Yggdragon’s story where she talks about herself maybe falling into darkness implies the Dragonlord’s dragon from the first game is a corrupted Yggdragon… which makes sense, considering you have to cross a rainbow bridge after collecting relics to reach him.

      So 11 is actually a prequel to the Erdrick trilogy, setting the events and creating that world.


        The one thing that I thought WAS up in the air, that I kind of liked being up in the air, was whether the Luminary remembered the doomed timeline or not. I think you could argue either way. Personally, I like to believe that he did — seeing all that destruction and, more importantly, making the decision not to tell anyone in the good timeline, makes him a lot more complex. A conscious choice to keep it to himself is just really interesting to me. It makes me like him more.

      • MORE SPOILERS YE BE WARNED also for DQ8 here

        I think DQ11 did a lot of things really really well. For one, and this was also true of DQ8, I think the writing team did a spectacular job of wrapping up the main plot while leaving some niggling questions for the postgame that left the main game still very complete. In DQ8 it was the question of where the Hero came from, why he was immune to curses, and what was up with Munchie — in DQ11, it’s Erdwin’s Lantern, the little spirit dudes, and where Mordegon came from. In both cases, the game was able to lean hard on the ‘who cares, we have to save the world’ nature of things as a way to make you forget there were some underlying things that hadn’t been explained. In both cases, the game was still complete without totally wrapping up — we’ve talked a bit here about the difference between sequel hooks and shipping something incomplete, and DQ8 and 11 are both stellar examples of that difference.

        The other writing thing I really liked about 11 was how subtle it was about the real horror of the doomed timeline. I think it relied on the meta to push you through the time reset — you want to see the postgame after all — because I personally really really was anti-time-reset when it happened, and looking around the fandom I wasn’t the only one was seriously considered just not doing the postgame. But as you play through Act 3 you kind of start to get a sense of how total the destruction in Act 2 was that you didn’t get playing through Act 2.

        For me, it hit home when you get back to the Havens and see this huge, sprawling society of Watchers that was completely obliterated in Act 2. In Act 2, when you get to the Havens, you have no point of comparison, so that there was only one Watcher left, and it was a relatively young one, doesn’t mean much. Then you get there in Act 3 and realize this whole people were just gone in the bad timeline… it was really effective.

        I thought Act 2 did a spectacular job of keeping you really tied into the first person and invested in the individual relationships and what was going on around you. It essentially created a horrible dystopia and then focused you so hard on your individual task that you don’t notice, and beating Mordegon feels like a victory. But what it shows you in Act 3 was that while it may have been a victory for you personally, it wasn’t for basically everyone else; an untold number of people were dead, and whole societies had collapsed. Trying to make that right was necessary, because while you felt victorious and accomplished for finally taking down the Big Bad, you’d actually lost terribly, and everyone was still suffering. What was framed as being for Veronica — true to Act 2’s focus on the personal — turns out to be for everyone. Breaking the time sphere in Act 2 was something I really didn’t want to do, but by halfway through Act 3 I was thinking ‘holy shit, thank god the Luminary broke the time sphere’ and it was so subtle done and mad props to the game.

  • Farla wrote a new post, Dororo 1 month, 3 weeks ago

    So, let’s continue to talk cartoons.

    I’ve been really enjoying the anime Dororo. It is very gory, and the lion’s share of that gore is the suffering of innocent people. I found it tasteful in that its focus is […]

    • What draws me into the show is how Hyakkimaru reacts to further restoring each of his lost body parts. It’s interesting to see his reactions and how he further matures and adapts as he gets exposed to new stimuli.

    • It’s kinda amusing that the one work I remember avoiding what you describe is, of all things, Berserk, wherein a couple of prostitutes were basically the sole survivors of a major demonic intrusion among the side characters. (It compensated by having like thirty fakeout deaths for them.)

    • Oh, there’s a new anime? Cool, maybe now I’ll finally get to know the story. Always wanted to read the manga, but never could find it.

  • So, Steven Universe.

    Steven Universe is an experience.

    The opening episodes are generally regarded as poor, to the point of people making “How to Watch SU” Guides designed around reordering the episodes to […]

    • Just curious, how you would have ended season five?

      We have a highly comprehensive answer to that! …Or we will, in 8+ weeks.

    • I lost all expectations when Steven got resurrection powers.

    • being White the worst offender of this

      White is such a waste. She and her pearl looked so interesting I was ready to forgive Blue and Yellow’s change of heart, and then oh wait nevermind they got over themselves instantly.

    • Indeed Steven got everything he wanted, but that was something that he had to pull through for all these seasons

      The thing is, a lot of what Steven wants is about him pushing things on people, which is why he normally gets mixed results and we get a bunch of lessons about listening to people or about how you can’t do everything for them. The really obvious one is where Steven just hops into people’s heads and shouts away their mental illness after so many episodes about how other people can’t just fix a problem – it having to come from within apparently has a loophole for someone else crawling inside you, even if we had an entire episode about Steven’s attempt at punching away pizza stress wasn’t a viable long-term solution or another entire episode about living Lars’ life for him isn’t a viable long-term solution. And things like Lapis coming back in the nick of time are things both Steven and Lapis presumably wanted, but goes against the Lapis’ arc being about how PTSD  and depression aren’t convenient, doesn’t go away after a bit of soul-searching, and can make it so things people want and the person themselves want aren’t always possible.

      but they couldn’t escape the cycle of abuse and when a third party came to remind them that they could change how things were

      That’s actually what I was originally looking forward to!

      In practice, as soon as we start caring about the diamonds, everything else wrong falls offscreen and Steven keeps interacting with them not as a third party but with the hurt of an actual family member. For example, the scene where they’re threatening Connie if he doesn’t fall in line. Losing it because your parents keep mistreating you and you have to finally put your foot down and assert your own identity is not something an outsider does. The response to complete strangers threatening your friend is to say whatever they want to hear and get out of there, not talk about how hurt you are these complete strangers don’t respect and value you as a member of their family. The ending eats its cake but has it too – Steven isn’t Pink Diamond and she’s (somehow) gone forever, but he’s still slotting precisely into her role in the family and feeling the same things, and so we have him living out every hurt kid’s dream of getting to yell at Mom that I’M DEAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T APPRECIATE ME AREN’T YOU SORRY NOW?! …and that’s without even bringing up the broader issue that after four and a half seasons on the subject of “gems don’t have kids or understand the concept of childhood”, both the diamonds and the Crystal Gems as well suddenly get it and accept they’re adults and Steven is a kid and should act accordingly.

      There’s also the fact that White is so well characterized…but as someone who you should run the hell away from. It isn’t that you need to explain she’s hurting you. Hurting you is the point and your explanation just lets her adjust her aim. I understand why it’s such an appealing fantasy that someone you care about does care back but, especially in our culture that already tells people family is forever and your parents own you and you need to keep trying…nobody needed another round of “if you were good enough you could fix this and then everything would be better, even though she did so many horrible things I’m sure she cares about you”. And it’s so particularly tone-deaf when you’ve got a quirky fourth-wall break about telling an adult if you’re bullied followed by trying to deal with a parent bullying you all by yourself and it being a smash success.

    • I wasn’t super upset with the ending, but I did think it was super rushed. That’s sort of to be expected with shows that are expecting their expiration date coming up sooner than later, but I do agree that the relationships weren’t done justice for the sake of tying things up neatly. My favorite two parts of this complex layered social friction are with the Pearl/Garnet arc, when Pearl tricked Garnet into fusing with her, which Garnet (rightfully so) took as an extraordinarily intimate betrayal. That wasn’t tied up in a climactic “let’s hug it out” or even as a two-episode arc. It affected dynamics for multiple episodes and created tension that lasted a good part of the season. That didn’t go away quickly, and I really respected that.

      My other favorite part — and I actually like this more, weirdly enough — is the conflict between Amethyst and Greg. That’s a conflict that’s been going on for a long time, as evident by what was said, how Greg said he wanted to be friends with her, “but she always does this” or something to that accord. That episode was dark, but really satisfyingly so. We got to see two characters that you’ve become very attached with and sympathize with be hateful and toxic with each other. In some ways, Amethyst is as close to a “kid-gem” as Steven is, having been raised away from the dogmatic society of Homeworld, but also not having the respect and experience that bonds the other Crystal Gems from having endured and escaped it.

      Greg’s arrival shortly followed the disappearance of someone Amethyst looked up to and respected, someone who could be compared to a mother figure. And Greg, of course, doesn’t want to shoulder the blame for Rose’s actions, and there’s this whole cycle of people who want to get along, but can’t due to deep-seated resentment, guilt, and/or regrets. I don’t remember if that tied itself up neatly or not, but I really appreciated how it was portrayed that Greg wanted to be friends with her, but the two were just way too toxic for each other. It reminds me of the relationship I have with two (ex?) friends from college, which I suppose is why I like this dysfunctional dynamic’s portrayal the most.

      And you’re right, that the outwardly zany episodes that hide a truly meaningful level of interaction between its protagonists is what made me really enjoy Steven Universe. The ending was a cop-out. It didn’t handle everything the way it should have, but to my understanding, they were staring at the possibility of having no more SU episodes, and no ability to tie loose ends up, ever. I would probably freak out too, if I were in the writers’ position. Personally, the way I would have handled it would have been to address those issues as being present, while still moving forward. Lapis would show up, but be too afraid to fight on the frontlines. She might even relapse into adopting a terrified subservience to Blue Diamond.

      At the end of the series, there could have been a message that addressed Lapis’ unwillingness to help out as much as she could have, but still grateful that she put the effort into attempting to move past things, while acknowledging that they’re still very much there. The end of the series could have had Bismuth talk about how she would never accept the diamonds, and how that was okay. Bismuth lost a lot to the Diamonds. All the Crystal Gems did. I wanted to see Bismuth’s reaction to Steven’s being buddy-buddy with them, and a rejection of the expected “let’s make peace and make up” trope that typically happens with shows like these, which we sort of got. I’m not really sure. That whole bathing and un-corrupting sequence leaves a lot to interpretation. Clearly Jasper was rearing for another battle, but seeing her diamonds soaking with a bunch of other gems must have been surreal to her.

      As for Steven’s being Pink simultaneously, I’ll disagree with you outright, because I really liked how that was handled. Steven has been dealing with an identity crisis for a while, leading up to the last episode. I really liked the message that, at the end of the day, he is who he is. He isn’t Pink Diamond or Rose, and he doesn’t have to be. He has a strong connection with the other diamonds, because part of Pink lives– her emotions and some of her memories– but the consciousness is no longer there. He can relate to them on a familial level because he can understand how Pink felt, because that much is left of her, but that’s all that’s left. That was my interpretation of it.

      Given all the emphasis fusion has on the show, I enjoyed the implications of Steven being a human/gem fusion. It opens a lot of speculation, but that’s something I enjoy. Being able to discuss theories with other fans even years after the show’s ending allows me to engage on the serious, thought-provoking level that might otherwise just have belonged to the time when we didn’t have the answers, and without the virtue of hindsight.

      Also– Saint mentioned a meta post being made soon. Is that up yet? I’m still not 100% sure if that’s been made yet or where on A03 it is, if so.

    • Hmmm. I don’t know if you were trying to avoid spoilers or if you just focused entirely on the target audience of people who already watch the show, but this felt a bit too minimalistic. I would have appreciated some more development on why exactly you felt the series wrapped things up too neatly.

      • Yeah, more could be written on Steven’s character alone. He was never supposed to change, just get new powers.

        One the other hand, the show seems like it hasn’t been given enough care by it’s own creators to warrant a long and careful analysis. Even on deviantart, creators know the heights of their character. With that level carelessness, it’s not surprising that you get something like the zoo causally thrown in.

      • Sorry if I was being too vague there. I think that certain plot points were way too cool and way too complex to have been handled effectively in the short span of four episodes. For one, I have no idea why they wasted an entire episode on revisiting those stupid watermelons. If my show was being cancelled, there’s a lot more meaningful character interaction I would do than throwing back to an old gimmick with an “oh hey look how special and awesome my main character is he created them isn’t that a little bit like god, that means he can totally save the day, right?” added to it. That episode really irritated me.

        Get ready for a whole lot of guesswork and theorizing here, because that does tie into my complaint that it was too neatly done– none of this kind of stuff showed up.

        The biggest issue with its being too neatly tied up is White. White was such a phenomenal antagonist. A perfect counter to Steven, the way I interpreted it. Cold, callous, unempathetic to the core. Prone to fits of anger when things don’t go her way. She doesn’t care what you think, because other things– even other diamonds— are unimportant when they don’t line up exactly how she wants them to. It makes the dogma laid down by Homeworld rule that each gem has its own predesigned purpose and should not stray from that enforced destiny, because their leader is so absolutely controlling. Even other diamonds can’t escape it, she’s that influential and presumably strong. If a diamond is a god to a ruby, White is a god to an ordinary diamond, like Blue or Yellow.

        Everything from her design to her voice screamed “This is someone you cannot sway. This is someone who does not want to understand. This person is a threat to everything you hold to be valuable and true.” So for Steven, someone who has always tried to talk things out, this kind of antagonist is the perfect foil. I really wanted to know how they’d explore that dynamic, and that’s the sort of thing that needs its own season, maybe on homeworld for a large part of it, with Lars returning to lead another rebellion.

        What we got was Deus ex Machina. Steven’s diamond powers saved the day. The thing is, I can actually understand how that could have affected the story and made perfect sense, they’d just need more time for it. My take on the purpose of the diamonds is that they’re not just symbols of authority, their very presence affects gems. Blue was very explicit in her ability to broadcast sadness. It might explain why gems under Yellow’s control are so obsessed with war-like properties like authority of command and aggression, while Blue-aligned gems are much more sensitive. Without even one of the diamonds present, it could be explained that a core part of their being could be missing or no longer there.

        Pink’s diamond could represent empathy or inspiration, self-expression. Steven’s very presence on homeworld could inspire gems to feel and rebel against their order. By the sound of things, when Pink was around, White did actually care. The show could have displayed a gradual instability in White as Steven’s presence near her causes her unfeeling, uncaring perfect demeanor to crack, which puts even more pressure on her to find Steven and assimilate him. Because just as Pink Diamond’s thing is self-expression, creativity, etc., White’s thing is conformity. They’re natural enemies in that sense, but the way the diamonds could work is of balancing each other out. It’s kind of like the various aspects of humanity were emphasized in each diamond, and the absence of even one of them can throw the system out of whack.

        Pink’s birth could have been in response to an imbalance within the gems’ society. And her departure only threw things even more out of whack, because they know what they’re missing– Pink was a celebrated and beloved figure on Homeworld. That void turned to regret and guilt for Blue; it hardened Yellow. It could have had a similar effect on White, and Steven could have even managed his typical brand of talking it out, rather than fighting it out, but only after talking failed, and they had to resort to war. I would have really liked to see Steven’s further breaking down in the wake of failure, and what he could learn from that, with everything else going down.

        Or something like that. Most of what I said is either bullshit or speculation that has just a little bit of promise to it. The point of it all was that we didn’t get anything like that. There was no justifiable reason for Steven’s suddenly saving the day, and the victory felt less valuable for it. I don’t fault the show for this because they deal with factors like deadlines and the looming threat of cancellation. I appreciate the ending for trying to tie up loose ends, but it comes off as rushed at times. How could it not? And we still didn’t get to see why Pink/White Pearl has a massive crack through her– evidence of one of White’s tantrums, or if the crack in their planet was caused by White.

        There’s so much that needed to be handled delicately, and so much that’s still left unanswered that it would have been impossible to make an absolutely satisfying conclusion within four episodes. Deus ex Machina saved the day, and we’ll never know if White Pearl has to live with an abuser who may have shattered her freakin’ face for the rest of eternity. They were all happily splashing it up in a pool, and there wasn’t enough (or any) emotional validation from people I would have really liked to hear from! Jasper and Bismuth, particularly.

        Ultimately, I don’t fault the show for any of that, but most of that is from meta knowledge, from knowing or thinking that SU doesn’t get a chance to really flesh things out, so I’m judging it by that standard, rather than if they had unlimited time, money, and a television station willing to broadcast it. Kind of like a teacher grading a timed essay rather than one they’d had a month to do.

        TLDR; My complaints are that everything looked like it was going to be okay in the end, but it didn’t properly earn that right to a happy ending just yet, which could have been out of SU’s creators’ control.

        Let me know if I’m being vague again. I could have gone on one too many tangents to properly satisfy your response.

        • Sorry Reeds, but I’m gonna have to disagree with you on giving the awful resolution a pass because of cancellation panic. There were other ways they could have rushed an ending that weren’t a complete betrayal of everything that came before.

          I mean, they had Lars’ ship en route to Earth already. They didn’t need the diamonds to transport them and they therefore didn’t need the RQ=PD bailout. They could have just had Lars show up with the diamonds in hot pursuit or something if they needed to rush the plot to Homeworld. I would even have accepted hugging it out with the diamonds just as long as they were hugging it out with a commoner gem and thus actually rejecting the harmful caste system.

          None of the awful un-twists were necessary, even if they had to rush it. The writers chose to take a story about caste rebellion and turn it into a story about how the runaway princess’ feelings are the only ones that matter. That’s something I can’t forgive.

          • I could actually get suspicious vibes from Rose Quartz before she was PD, but even that was with Rose as the leaser of a rebellion, a lowly quartz who shook the foundation of gem society. Inspiration to any common gem who dreams of being more.

            The PD thing was a spit in the face of that theme, totally. That was and is galling. I don’t think it contradicted the show’s setup though, necessarily, it’s just that they baited people into thinking one thing about Rose in the beginning and the rest of the show is about realizing the flaws of the idolized Rose Quartz. I think it was focused more on the characters left behind as a result of Rose’s actions rather than one of caste rejection. People predicted the PD reveal, and there was some foreshadowing, but you’re right, it wasn’t necessary. Rose Quartz as a complicated character who made some questionable choices is a lot more interesting than spoiled princess leader playing undercover rebel!princess leader.

            Ultimately, the show shaped itself as a character-driven drama that followed the wake of Rose’s actions. Y’know, the more I type this out, the more I appreciate your ire. That aspect of the show only really works in a non-problematic way if the person whose legacy impacts the plot of the show was from someone other than from one of the 4 gems whose opinions were allowed to at least sort of matter to begin with. It’s totally a slap in the face for everything Rose stood for.

            And even that could have worked, dammit, if they just showed enough hurt and betrayal from the gems. Garnet, a fusion of a super common gem and a fusion, period, leading a proper resistance would have validated themes of caste rejection. The ending could have been a compromise made to the leader of the Crystal Gems– Garnet. Not Steven, who would in that case be of lower authority to Garnet. That would have been a satisfying scene, the diamonds being forced to accept Garnet as their leader and a lowly pearl as her second-in-command, probably. The entity they think of as a diamond would be tertiary at best  in the hierarchy of command there– he’s just a fourteen-year-old kid!


            So yeeeaaah, I can get where you’re coming from. I still enjoy it and will likely continue to enjoy it, but it was handled much more poorly than it should have been.

        • For one, I have no idea why they wasted an entire episode on revisiting those stupid watermelons.

          After all the slice of life detour episodes that happened when there were far more important things they probably should’ve been focusing on that felt like the writers getting bored of conflict and just wanting to write fluff fic for a bit, are you really surprised?

    • I wonder if CN had been on the fence with renewing SU for a while and it spooked the writers. Or just the general… poor scheduling CN has gone with made them feel like cancellation was imminent. And then CN was like “Actually there’s going to be a lot more SU to come! :D” after they finished everything.

    • Reverse/Bechdel test pass/fail. Farla doesn’t like writing them out because she says it looks too much like advertising.

    • “RQ = PD wasn’t planned” is giving the show the benefit of a doubt and assuming the writers just burned out and didn’t notice or care about narrative problems it created.

      If it were planned alongside the caste revolution, then, well, it’s a pretty tone-deaf and thematically incoherent story beat.

      If it were planned while the caste revolution was later development and not a part of the original plan, that would be more understandable: it would be hard to scrap your old ideas and rework the very direction of the show. But, well, that still produced thematically incoherent story, which is worthy of criticism. (It would also mean that a large part of what I liked about the show was incidental to it, which does not exactly endear me to it.)

    • Except it didn’t start out as a story about caste rebellion. It started out as a story about a human-magical being hybrid trying to fill the shoes of his illustrious mother with a group of other magical beings who protected humans from magical monsters.

      There is no contradiction there. Those are the exact same themes: struggling with the expectations other people and external forces place on you, and fighting for your right to be seen as your own person and make your own decisions.

      You talk about RQ=PD wasn’t planned, but why?

      Already talked about this.

    • I really feel and respect the disappointment here because “A common soldier becoming a general who struck down an untouchable queen is the perfect apotheosis of that.” GAHHHHHHHHH

      That said I did end up liking the finale because, well. But more seriously, I valued Steven’s transformation and realization of his identity more than I valued gem society and White Diamond being untouchable and frightening antagonists. The song “Change Your Mind” was basically everything.

      I am sad about losing Actually the System Is Bullshit and You Can Be Anything, but I do still appreciate “Princess Repudiates Her Privilege” even if the allegory kinda breaks down because you’re dealing with people who really do have more elaborate magical powers than those “lower” in the hierarchy. The parallels to being a gifted child and/or a cis heterosexual who doesn’t meet their “potential”/”gives up” their cis-hetero-ness in favor of doing/being something that matches their identity better are way too real. That terrible desire to please your parents/”parents” and do what they say even as it breaks you is uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh pretty personal.

      I do think your AO3 meta is right about the show [so far] failing to confront the reality of the shattered/killed gems in the war and the diamonds’/leadership’s responsibility for that, and I’m curious if that will be a theme going forward. I think the writers are really good at the personal interaction storylines, but how that expands to war/genocide/societal level problems hasn’t been tackled in quite the same way.

      I guess I would say, how do we know that the diamonds’ story is over, given “Instead things will persist. Sometimes they’re offscreen, ready to pop back in a dozen episodes later, sometimes they’re in the background of the episodes the whole time progressing very, very slowly, and generally not in the way people are used to in shows.”? SU is often frighteningly on-point when it comes to abusive families, toxic relationships, etc. and the big tearful hug-it-out moment where everyone makes promises and goes away knowing that everything is fixed… only for nothing to actually change, is suuuuuuper on-brand for that type of conflict.

      Anyway tl;dr I disagree about the finale being bad but understand the disappointment in the House of Farla

      • That terrible desire to please your parents/”parents” and do what they say even as it breaks you is uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh pretty personal.

        I get this, but the thing is, there are a lot of different ways that situation can manifest. The story told by the finale isn’t the story told by the rest of the show. Even just looking at Steven’s arc, the issues he faces are totally different. Steven Universe really isn’t a story about abuse; we touch on it briefly with Lapis and Jasper, but that’s a very different scenario from familial abuse. Steven’s real family is good, loving, and supportive, even if they are flawed and sometimes hurt him with their expectations. I see his narrative as one about imposter syndrome, not about growing up gay or trans in a family that rejects that. Those experiences have similarities, but they are fundamentally different.

        If this was the narrative they always wanted to tell, RQ=PD should not have been a last-minute surprise twist, Pink Diamond should have been the protagonist from the start. Nothing else makes sense. Steven is not Rose and this is not his family; we are required to completely throw out the character dynamics established through the entire rest of the show to accept a completely new one that comes out of left field.

        (And ennh I’m really sorry but I do not like the song “Change Your Mind”. Not in and of itself, the sentiment is great, but the show/tell disjunct is appalling. “I don’t need you to respect me,” says the boy who moved Heaven and Earth and risked the lives of everyone who already loved him just to make his evil mom respect him? If he really believed what he was singing, he would have cut ties and moved on like you should do with anyone like White in real life.)

      • I am sad about losing Actually the System Is Bullshit and You Can Be Anything, but I do still appreciate “Princess Repudiates Her Privilege” even if the allegory kinda breaks down because you’re dealing with people who really do have more elaborate magical powers than those “lower” in the hierarchy.

        Steven Universe, in general, seemed to have a huge problem with allegories breaking down, getting muddled, corrupted by interactions with other allegories, or just plain not showing what they’re telling.

        • Yes; it seems like it was a story that just tried to do too many things at once. It wanted to be a story about nonviolent conflict resolution but also systemic oppression; it wanted to be about humanity but also about aliens; it was a coming-of-age story but also seemed to be deconstruction of that but also it wanted to celebrate childhood and childishness; it was about grief, and queerness, and mental illness, and disability… I actually thought it did manage to juggle everything well for a long time (the short episodes actually work well for that, they could touch on one theme quickly and then move on to another), but I guess once it came time to collapse the wavefunction they had to choose some over others.

          …What still grates me, though, is that still would have been fine if only the theme they chose to preserve was one that was actually present the whole way through. Steven was never a trans narrative. A trans narrative only works if you literally are the person, while the imposter syndrome narrative the whole story was building up to that point only works if you’re not. They’re mutually exclusive. They didn’t just let one of their allegories cannibalize the others, they created a completely new allegory to do so.

          • Yeah, and not being able to do a lot of those things well at all didn’t help its ability to them at once. Look how many things fusion was supposed to represent at once… and look at how many of them even manage to succeed on their own, let alone when interacting with each other.

            Sorry, Rebecca Sugar, Ruby and Sapphire aren’t cute. They’re codependent. They can’t stand being apart to the point where they can’t stand not being literally fused into a single being, and the first time that was disrupted (by an outside force), Ruby cried out in physical pain. That’s terrifying. It’s no wonder Peridot thought it was disgusting they were constantly fused.

            Steven Universe actually had a lot of interesting, if horrifying, ideas, but not only did they not interact with them, and not even did they refuse to acknowledge them, they tried saying that they were doing the exact opposite of what they actually presented.

            • I wouldn’t say that’s a fair example of codependence, though. They’re lovers. They like being together. That’s natural and, I’d argue, a good thing. They don’t have to be together, but being forcibly unfused is bound to be painful, emotionally and physically. Ruby even set out to be her own person in one arc, but they discovered that they just like being together. I don’t like being apart from my S.O. for very long, that doesn’t make me codependent. Same for them. People in a relationship happen to like being together. I don’t get how that’s a bad thing. For those two, who are gems, their fusion is like a metaphor for the quality of their relationship. When it’s not troubled, they’re Garnet. They have proven capable of not being Garnet before as well, by choice, like when they let Steven in on the secret. And I think Peridot was horrified at their being fused because she was conditioned to believe fusion was purely for practical purposes, and to be disbanded the second a mission is over, and only with same-gem pairs. The very idea of self-expression, anything beyond what you’re allowed and supposed to be, was horrifying to her. That was her whole arc, unlearning that negative conditioning.


              • Except she also has very valid reasons for thinking it should only be for practical purposes and disbanded once that purpose was over, such as how prolonged time in a fused state was stated to blur the line between the consciousness of the participants, and how that effect was magnified by cross-gem fusions.

              • prolonged time in a fused state was stated to blur the line between the consciousness of the participants, and how that effect was magnified by cross-gem fusions

                Where is this stated? I don’t recall this.

              • Their identities weren’t fused together in some horrifying amalgation kind of way. They were still themselves, as annoying to each other in their own ways and compassionate and with their own, individual good qualities as well. Ruby evaporated an entire pool because she thought Sapphire was being too cold and calculating, while Ruby was being super, super passionate. We even get to see an inside Garnet-scape in the show, if I’m not mistaken, where it’s like Ruby and Sapphire each have their own selves shown within the fused identity they create as Garnet. They like being fused together because they’re gems, and fusion is intimate for them. Not inherently romantic, but there are parallels. It makes sense that they’d want to be fused together most of the time. But again, they never show themselves as having to be. They don’t trick each other into fusing with the other. The only Crystal Gem to ever do that had an arc about how very wrong and unacceptable that was. On mobile, there might be spelling errors, sorry in advance.

              • I wanna say it was the flashback episode that showed Garnet fusing for the first time.

              • I don’t see anything like that in the transcript. The closest is Ruby saying it feels different than homo-fusing.

                Even if we are told that somewhere, it’s patently obvious it’s Homeworld propaganda with no basis in fact. Ruby and Sapphire clearly maintain their own identities enough to have arguments with each other while fused. There doesn’t appear to be any actual downside to fusion.

            • I think fusion works if you take it to represent relationships in general. People can in a sense change who they are when they’re with other people, especially in a long-term relationship.

              Ruby and Sapphire in particular are a good example of this, I thought. They don’t function well on their own because no gem functions well on their own. Garnet is an extension of the greater theme that no man is an island and that people are made better by their connections with others.

              I never really understood the argument that they were codependent, honestly. They’re not any moreso than any other gem, and Garnet as a whole seems to have it much more together than the other gems. That’s a bad thing… why, exactly?

  • I’ve been getting into Dragon Age after Act and other friends recced it. I played Origins a little while ago, and recently finished Dragon Age 2. But for all the talk of the excellent writing and the meaningful c […]

    • Act replied 2 months ago

      I think it’s pretty unfair to compare DA:O and Torment in this way, considering there was a decade in between their releases and 15 years in between their development. ‘The newer game has more nuance and more complex mechanics’ is not so much a commentary on either game as a baseline expectation after 15 years of progress in the medium.

      I think this review is missing a lot of context in general. DA:O was a hugely ambitious game for the time, and one of, if not the, first big AD&D-style wRPGs to implement this level of choice. In both 2002, when development started, and then 2009, when the final release happened, DA:O offered a kind of personalization and depth that was really innovative. It’s certainly true that its lack of deviation from prior AD&D-style games like is parent Baldur’s Gate left storytelling (and gameplay) gaps in the form of forced combat and lots of dead redshirts, but it represented a huge step forward in the genre and paved the way for future games. Saying ‘why wasn’t DA:O more like T:ToN’ is absurd not least because without DA:O, there is no T:ToN. DA:O pushed the boundaries of the genre at the time and was an important stepping stone in the maturing of the wRPG. For the people who played it when it first came out, it was genuinely mind-blowing, and so that’s how it’s remembered.

      I personally think DA:O, unlike, Baldur’s, holds up for the casual gamer: it has an engaging story, fleshed-out side characters, and gameplay that approaches something mainstream. It’s fun, even today. But it’s not a modern game.

      I also think it’s disingenuous to not mention the difference in reception DA2 and DA:O got; the implication here is kind of that they’re looked on as equally good, which is very untrue. DA2 got much more mixed reviews upon its release, and while people agree it had it moments I’ve generally seen it considered a disappointment as a sequel to DA:O. I personally liked it, I think, significantly more than average, and largely because I first played it shortly before DA:I’s release and playing it as a bridging game between O and I made it work in a Lite sense. The criticisms it got were largely in line with what you’re saying here, too — a sign of how much things had changed in just the 7ish years between the development of the two games. DAII was also the victim of a very short, rushed production cycle, and I think that needs to be at least broached when talking about how small its scope is, because not only do I think DAII had less choice than most players wanted, I suspect it had less than the dev wanted as well.

      In the end I’m just not sure how useful it is to apply modern questions about wRPGs to one game whose script was drafted in 2002 and another game that was both rushed through production and with a legacy of mediocre writing. I guess it’s a testament to how far the genre has come, but that doesn’t seem to be among your points, so…

      • I mean, I could say a lot of the same about your reviews of the Final Fantasy series. Works that are held up as classics still relevant to the conversation are fair game for modern analysis. The sad thing is, for all my complaining, Dragon Age genuinely does still feel at the cutting edge of video game writing to me. It’s trying, and is one of the few that’s succeeding, if only in parts. I think there is still a lot to be learned by looking at where it goes wrong, especially when it goes wrong in the particular way I see similar games keep going wrong.

        without DA:O, there is no T:ToN

        I find that a strange statement when Planescape: Torment predates it by a decade and still manages to avoid several of the issues I bring up here. (I probably should have cited it instead, but my memory of it is hazier.) Comparing P:T to T:ToN definitely does showcase how much has changed in the intervening time, but the Torment games aren’t very representative of the genre as a whole; they are very purposefully doing things that most RPGs don’t. T:ToN is an unusual alternative, not just a modern example of the genre.

        I’m aware I’m not as enmeshed in wRPG history as I am in jRPGs and that there is certainly historical context here, but these problems go deeper than what can be explained by different eras and rushed development. They’re born of entrenched and unexamined assumptions about how game narratives need to be structured, and that’s worthwhile to point out.

        If this has changed, it has changed only recently — I will admit I don’t know, because I can’t play any PC games more recent than the past few years because my PC is crap. Could you point me to some examples of the games you have in mind? I have heard good things about Fallout: New Vegas.

        • Fallout: New Vegas is pretty good, yes. It follows in the spirit of the first two Fallout games a little more, being made by one of the (just how many are there?) Interplay offshoots, Obsidian, under contract with Bethesda. I recommend it, and its DLCs.


          I personally enjoyed DA:O a lot when I first played it, but I do see how even back then it was very much a Bioware RPG with a focus on combat. And for what it’s worth, I very much loved the DA:O characters, setting, and lore. I wasn’t really looking for the same things you were from it, thematically, so to me it was just a tightly-crafted wRPG. DA:II absolutely killed the series for me and I haven’t played Inquisition because of it.

          Like Act said, comparing it to T:ToN is a little unfair, but wRPG developers have been making games where non-violent solutions are encouraged since at least Fallout in 1997, which is one of the first wRPGs that let you “talk down” even the final boss. Another game in the early aughts that I’d point out would be Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. RPGs with stealth/dialogue/nonlethal elements are less about the player character making moral choices in dialogue and more about the player themselves doing it through mechanics, I guess, but Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and Deus Ex would both be examples of that.

          Incidentally, I do find it funny that this is basically another ‘false advertising’ kind of review, like the Monster one, and indeed, ‘meaningful choice’ is one of, I’d say, the most commonly advertised mechanics that the advertised games don’t have.

          • Arcanum has made a bizarre choice to give you xp per hit at the enemy, which, once totaled, tend to exceed actual quest rewards. So, like, yeah, you can resolve things without violence, but why would you? There are also plenty of locations where enemies attack you on sight and where stealth is not really feasible.

            VtMB is a better example as it rewards you for completing the objective rather than for specifically killing anyone (and often give you additional xp for using stealth), and your ability to gather loot is limited (only one weapon of each type, and enemies generally don’t drop anything else). It falls apart in the final third of the game, however, which is essentially all the fighting, all the time.

            • Arcanum did have a bunch of mechanical quirks, but I wouldn’t equate that with a conscious design choice to promote violence over dialogue or other means of quest resolution. I, for one, didn’t even notice that violence was mechanically superior for leveling purposes. Also, Arcanum is actually full of non-lethal combat options like sleeping poison and stun grenades. That, I think, is a stronger indicator of the dev’s attitude/willingness to let the player do other things than Apply X Weapon to Target Face.

              VtMB’s final romp devolving into violence is honestly just the standard for RPGs. Like 99% of RPGs end up like that, sometimes with the excuse that the situation has escalated beyond talk. I see that as less of a choice regarding the promotion of violence in the game overall, and more a desire to end the game with a bang, and violence is just the simplest way to accomplish it. I almost want that assumption to be challenged, that the third act must involve some climactic battles, more than the attitudes towards violence in general.

              • Oh, I don’t think it was intentional on devs’ part. Pretty sure they followed the principle laid down by the original Fallout games, which states that, as much as possible, there should be three solutions to any given quest/challenge: fight, stealth, diplomacy (Fallout, incidentally, also fails at stealth hard). It just didn’t work out as well as they wanted to.

                But then, I don’t think that DAO consciously promotes violent solutions either. Part of the issue probably does come down to devs failing to consider the implications of their design choices, but another part is most likely technical constrains (consider that DAO goes for fully voiced dialogues, which increases the cost of branching conversations).

                It is, however, interesting to consider what effect design choices – whether conscious or born out of technical limitations – have on the final product and what incentives they produce in players.

                Somewhat unrelated, but it’s interesting to consider Persona 3-4 in that light (Act, you may want to skip it, though I would mostly avoid spoilers, certainly won’t talk about any important ones).

                A big theme in those game is the importance of social connections, expanding your mind through considering different perspective and gaining inner strength from it.

                In game, it is represented via Social Links mechanic: you can hang out with various characters in a VN-style gameplay, which increases the level of an Arcana corresponding to the given character (so, hanging out with a Student Council President allows you to level up the Emperor). That, in turn, gives Personas you create extra xp. The higher your SLink, the more xp they get, often jumping a couple levels and gaining powerful abilities without the need for tedious grinding.

                By itself, it’s an OK metaphor: by hanging out with drastically different people, you understand their perspective on life more and become more attuned to Personas similar to them, which allows you to wield them with greater efficiency. There are, however, some… curious issues with it:

                – The VN-style segments allow you to pick between several different responses. Some of those responses are strictly better than others, allowing you to progress faster, those gaining more power faster. Often, the actual in-universe difference between them is minimal. We aren’t talking about a choice between an insult and a compliment, but about, say, picking which kind of flowers you like the best.

                – Once you finish a storyline of a given character, you receive a message that “your bond is now unbreakable”. While you can hang out with some of them afterwards, there is literally zero need to do so. You won’t be rewarded with new content and you won’t get anything gameplay-wise.

                – Some of the available characters are… not people I would want to hang out with. Like, one of the first SLinks is a guy with a storyline revolving around his grand desire to bang a teacher. He befriends you because he thinks you’ve banged a classmate of yours. Why the fuck would I give him a time of day? Right, he’s a Magician Arcana, and I like fire.

                All of those factors combined give rise to a narrative contrary to the game’s intended themes: what the game teaches you is to learn to read people, to say to them what they want to hear regardless of your own feelings because it gives you power, and to discard them once they’ve outlived their usefulness. It is not a message the game wants to send, but the understandable limitations of mechanics coupled with some shoddy writing in places certainly allow for it to be a valid one.

                (OK, that’s a huge tangent, but it was kinda on my mind lately.)

              • I would like to point out, while we’re talking about failure to design stealth in RPGs, that no game in the world failed harder than DA:O. Not only can you not use stealth to avoid combat, you can’t even use stealth to set ambushes. You are always ambushed, no matter what. In Fallout and Fallout 2 stealth was unwieldy but could still be done if you had the knowledge and patience. There’s a decent LP of Fallout 2 in the archive which shows various possible playthroughs, one of which is a Metal Gear Solid-themed stealth run which, I believe, kills all of 3-4 humans.  

                I’ve never played the Persona series, but I’m not surprised to hear that it’s steeped in some gross anime bullshit. It was kind of possible to tell at a glance. Though, interestingly, I have seen the VN-style concept of raising affection scores in another RPG series, the Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. It’s also a very high school romcom-inspired RPG, though it’s in a military academy in a belligerent, expanding empire. So that’s different.


              • I would like to point out, while we’re talking about failure to design stealth in RPGs, that no game in the world failed harder than DA:O.

                Yeah, that’s fair.

                Though I’m somewhat surprised that someone went to trouble of using stealth in Fallout. I mean, it’s physically possible, but why would you even?

              • Shit, forgot to add:

                In Arcanum, at least, there are stealth-based quests, so even though investing in stealth and other thief skills is not optimal, the game does go out of its way to create situations where they’re useful. If you want to feel like a clever rogue pulling off ingenious heists, you can, which is appreciated.

              • Well, yeah. The smart thing about Arcanum, ignoring the technical limitations of RPGs at the time, is that the devs made concerted efforts to cater to certain playstyles in specific parts of the game, rather than diluting the bulk of it, Fallout-style, in your aforementioned “3 solutions to every problem” method.

                There’s no way, for instance, to convince the exiled king of dwarves to return to his throne through violence or subterfuge. You must not only convince him with the Persuasion skill but also delve into multiple characters’ dialogue trees to learn what he needs to hear before you can even unlock the right options. That was one of the more well-realized quests in any game.

                Re: Fallout stealth, it’s definitely more icing than cake, and doing a 100% stealth playthrough is an exercise in stubbornness. wRPGs unfortunately inherited their stealth design from D&D, where stealth is a series of skillchecks. It’s almost destined to be unfeasible and/or unfun.

              • Fallout Tactics actually made stealth great. You would have a job to pacify a fortress and you could sneak in through a side entrance, take out everyone, and then open the front gates and shoot the clueless guards out front in the back.

            • Speaking of VtMB, it seems VtMB2 was announced today. How about that.

              • Let’s hope this one isn’t released riddled with bugs. Still, I’m moderately excited about it! (Although I do wish they’d also release a Werewolf game.)

              • I wanted to say that games being virtually unplayable at release is a relic of the past but, haha, I guess not. I can think of a few relatively recent examples.

                There are some good names attached to this new project, which gives me quite a bit of hope for it. They’re bringing back the original’s director and the ever-present Chris Avellone, whose life’s work seems to be catering to people with nostalgia for 90s-era wRPGs.

                I think the biggest danger with this kind of revival is that the new company will often have a shallow understanding of what made the original great, and I hope literally having the director on board will mitigate that.

              • Well, it’s something to look out for.

                Lore-wise, I have some concerns. What the devs revealed so far (you’re playing a thin blood but get a couple of powerful abilities like flight, mist manipulation, etc. nearly at the start) seems to indicate the game is going to play fast and loose with VtM lore.

                I mean, granted, VtM is not actually all that friendly to the usual wRPG formula unless you use Diablery as a core advancement mechanic*, and the original VtMB also deviated from the original in how concepts like Generation and especially Humanity are handled, but, well, we’ll see.

                *Which, to be fair, would rock. For those who don’t know, Diablery is when you drink the blood of an older vampire so hard, you eat their soul and gain some of their power. It’s actually a very thematically important mechanic since it allows the younger vampire generations to rise up and devour their elders (at the cost of their humanity, so they become just as much of callous monsters as their predecessors).

                Giving you power ups for nomming on bosses would be fun and entirely doable on technical level.

                @SpoonyViking But Werewolf kinda sucks. Like, all oWoD is steeped in 90s attitudes, but Werewolf antagonists is literally what happens when you take Captain Planet villains and make them grimdark.

              • VtM’s Generation system for power is pretty dumb for a wRPG, but like you said, Diablery as a mechanic would go a long way towards fixing it. I could see myself appreciating a game that does away with the incremental Experience -> Level system and instead gives you generous payouts when you Diablerize a boss.

                VtMB had canonically accurate thin-bloods but otherwise ignored the Generation mechanics. The player character should not have been able to resist LaCroix’s domination without Diablery.

                Humanity always seemed a little dumb to me as essentially a Morality-That-Matters bar. As if humans can’t be shitheads without supernatural baggage. They could replace or remove that and I wouldn’t be bothered, or solely make it a measure of how much faith-based abilities hurt you.

              • Humanity is… not a well implemented or explained mechanic. It was one of the first attempts to provide mechanical backing for Themes in a TPRG, and it was a pretty awkward one, often turning into a GM stick.

                It can sorta work OK once you realize that PCs are supposed to drop to 3-4 Humanity over the course of the game and stabilize there, but in the end even the devs lost faith in it and created Paths of Enlightment (which was a terrible stopgap measure in its own right, but that’s another story).

              • “Diablerie”.

                @iillhousen: but what’s wrong with that? The idea that a culture which normalises violence, prejudice, and all forms of exploitation feeds quasi-demonic beings from a different reality, beings which, in turn, take advantage of society’s power structures to encourage said culture is prime material for some good horror stories.

                Granted, that concept can be – and often was – explored in a heavy-handed and simplistic manner, but let’s be honest, most White Wolf sourcebooks were guilty of that.

                Plus, my favourite part of the game was the exploration of anthropological archetypes in the spirit realms anyway. :-P

        • Act replied 2 months ago

          I’m pretty beat, so apologies if I suddenly vanish or stop making sense.


          I mean, I could say a lot of the same about your reviews of the Final Fantasyseries. 

          True! I don’t care for the FF games, but I’m happy to admit how hugely influential there were and how at the time they were taking risks even if I don’t think they hold up. The old FFs are more like Baldur’s Gate for me, where I’d only rec them to people really interested in the history of the genre. I think the biggest difference between DA:O and FFIV, for instance, is that I really couldn’t even enjoy the old FFs, while I do think DA:O is still a fun game. FF also lives in a kind of weird place because they get rereleased every new console gen so Square-E is kind of resubmitting them for consideration in a way that doesn’t happen them with a lot of old games. But yeah, definitely tablespoons of salt to be taken with my FFVI post.

          I find that a strange statement when Planescape: Torment predates it by a decade and still manages to avoid several of the issues I bring up here.

          I was thinking about this, and I think that the big difference between games like DAO and PST is that despite a lot of very long branching conversations and some alternate endings, PST and its ilk were still very linear. Which isn’t a bad thing, but the idea that you could have a deeper story and lore like PST and also the intense customization of BG and accessible gameplay was really the new thing.  To get more customization and choice, you generally sacrificed the breadth of the lore and story. DAO was a major release that had its cake and ate it too, and I think that is what really impressed people, was the marriage of kind of all the disparate things wrpgs had tried to be. Or basically just what Roarke said below. I also think it’s in this marriage of big-stakes plot and tons of choice that lets you draw a line between DAO and TToN, not the thematic elements, if that makes sense, cuz yeah thematically it’s much more similar to Planescape.

          If this has changed, it has changed only recently — I will admit I don’t know, because I can’t play any PC games more recent than the past few years because my PC is crap. Could you point me to some examples of the games you have in mind?

          I’m a little confused here, sorry — not 100% sure what you’re referring to by ‘this’. But to take a stab: I do think the past few years have seen a huge cross-genre conversation in gaming about violence and choice and power fantasies and how they relate and what they say about us, and TToN is part of the reaction to the vices of past games, a reaction that includes everything from Undertale to Spec Ops to Dishonored. I think a lot of the assumptions of DAO about battle and redshirts and such were a mix of 1) assumptions by and about gamers in the early 2000s and 2) an artifact of Bioware’s earlier games that included these mechanics but weren’t trying to tell meaningful stories. There’s definitely a dissonance that develops, and it’s a dissoanance we’re still working through, but I’m not sure it’s directly connected to what made DAO such a classic, if that makes sense.

          edit: ugh, sorry, I feel like none of this makes any sense, I need to just not talk to people for like another six months until I’m normal again

          • Your comment is very coherent. In fact, I’d say your and Elmo’s discussion of how we can fairly judge older video games is the most important part of this page. University English/Literature departments all over the world could learn from you two.

          • I did still like Origins and I do think it’s good for what it is, it’s just, geez, high body count, Batman. It was only less noticeable there because it was high rather than low fantasy and therefore pit you against more monsters than people; I think it was the move to low fantasy, more than the rushed development or anything else, that created the problems I had with DA2. It’s just so, so silly to have Big Choices revolve around “This person killed someone! Judge them!” when you’ve waded through corpses to get to them.

            It really is a shame, I really did want to seriously engage with the Anders choice — it’s an incredibly good setup in theory. If it truly was possible to get to that point without killing anyone and still believing compromise was possible, it would have been a genuine betrayal for him to force you into a violent choice, and his speech about the impossibility of compromise would hit home with the player, not just the characters. It had the potential to be as effective as the Legato vs. Vash confrontation from Trigun. But when the game doesn’t allow you to make your methods meaningfully different from his… I just can’t.

            I don’t know why so few wRPGs are willing to just declare battles nonlethal like so many jRPGs do — that would solve so many of the story problems while still letting you have a combat focus. I’d feel a lot less weird about Dragon Age if my enemies didn’t all gush blood and turn into bones afterwards. But then I’ve also complained about how jRPG battles have no consequences, so both genres could stand to learn from each other.

            • I don’t know why so few wRPGs are willing to just declare battles nonlethal like so many jRPGs do

              I mean, they do, just not consistently. Even in Dragon Age there are battles where victory activates a cut scene showing enemies beaten up but mostly fine.

        • I probably should have cited it instead, but my memory of it is hazier.

          PST is kinda uneven in this regard. Considering battles specifically, the devs proudly claim that there are only three obligatory battles in the game (a zombie at the very start, Ravel and the fallen angel). This is technically true, but in practice you’re going to kill far more people.

          Like, random bandits deciding that your party of world-weary murderhobos is a perfect mark are here. You can technically run away from them, but it’s honestly just easier and more profitable to kill them off (I also don’t remember if they disappear if you leave the location or just stick around forever, and I’m pretty sure fighting blocks dialogue, so killing is just more convenient). There are other instances where going along with fighting is just massively easier than the alternative, like the Fortress of Regrets and its shadows, the rats in the catacombs, etc.

          There is also the mausoleum quest at the first location after the Mortuary wherein you go into a mausoleum, kill various undead, encounter a necromancer disturbing the spirits here and kill him as well as the only possible quest resolution. It’s honestly such a cliche quest, it belongs inside the Mordon Cube rather than PST proper.

          Overall, PST is a far less violent game than most, but it still exists within the paradigm of BG and its ilk, and some of it bleeds into its design.

      • I think, peering through the mists of time, that what DA:O really had that hadn’t already been done was the scope of it, and the depth of its lore, rather than, say, how reactive the game was to your choices. It was also much more tightly crafted, mechanically, than others of its time.  Like you pointed out, DA:O is more favorably compared to Baldur’s Gate; I’d say DA:O is BG perfected, in fact. It’s the quintessential Bioware RPG. Tactical combat, snarky characters, edgy setting… Bioware. Rather than breaking new ground, it raised an old bar.

        • Act replied 2 months ago

          how did you say in two sentences what took me an essay

          • Being lazy helps. It means I spend most of my effort on pithy quips like “Rather than breaking new ground, it raised an old bar,” which I’m still patting myself on the back for.

        • If we’re talking about evolution of wRPGs, Dragon^ Mage Origin should probably be compared to the Pillars of Eternity, if anything, since it’s actually trying to be modern BG in the same way Tides tries to be modern PST.

          I actually have few recollections about Pillars. I found it aggressively OK, so I guess I would hand the victory here to DMO.

          • Pillars was actually trying to be modern Torment as well, though it did include some BG staples. Maybe “Modern Infinity Engine Game” would be most accurate. Pillars, like DA:O, tried to be a game with rich story and lore while also having an extreme level of character customization. It succeeded at those things, and I honestly liked its setting far more than DA:O. DA:O kind of jumped too hard on the grimdark wagon for my taste. Elves are in ghettos! Mages are in concentration camps! Dwarves are crazy oligarchic isolationists on the front lines of Sauron’s encroachment! Humans are bastards as per usual! Meh. If you could lighten the game up by about 20-33%, I’d be happier.  

    • And, I think you have to walk a balance between giving players choices that affect the ending… but also wanting to continue writing stories in that setting.

      I feel like Dragon Age actually does a good job of sidestepping this problem by switching protagonists each entry. The things the Warden did don’t have a big impact on DA2 because DA2 isn’t about the Warden, etc. That should allow for more freedom in the individual narratives, especially in a small-scope story like DA2 where you aren’t making huge world-defining choices like you were in DA:O.

  • Part of the chapter review exchange.

    I appreciate that you’re not capitalizing pokemon.

    [A little ‘serendipity’ in his childhood resulted in an fate he could not escape from, whether he wanted to or not. […]

    • Eh, it can be a little awkward to include anime hair colors in a non-visual medium, as they’re almost never meant to represent what’s actually there. It might be less distracting to flatten them to the closest real-world color – blue hair in anime generally represents a stylized black, for instance.

      Oh, this reminds me: How do you feel about this with something like Exalted, where people might just naturally have green hair because genetics? I was actually wondering about that earlier. Really convenient this came about, actually.

      • If it’s there for an in-story reason, that’s fine. Gods and Demons does that, for instance.

        • DO NOT talk about hair color unless your headcanons are THIS elaborate

          I’ve spent some time on the roleplay side where a lot gets started but never continued, let alone finished, so as time goes on I get more and more I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE, DO SOMETHING

          balance is needed, of course

  • So I recently took a look at the anime Monster (commonly referred to as “Naoki Urasawa’s Monster” to help you distinguish it from the pages of porn you’ll get by searching “monster anime”). When I saw the pitch, […]

    • I read Monster some years ago and I remember essentially none of it, so yeah I’m going to go with ‘unmemorable’. It is interesting that a work failing to follow through on its own premise can be seen as false advertising in a sense, though really I think that kind of extends to mediocrity itself. I mean, isn’t everything promising to be good? Or at least decent?

      I was re-reading Farla’s Let’s Read of uhh Battle Royale, and I really did appreciate that, despite its flaws, the book had a strong narrative and thematic vision that it held to throughout. Funnily enough, the biggest flaw in that vision seemed to be Kazuo Kiriyama, the psycho student who upended the ‘normal people stuck in extreme situation’ thing by becoming a supervillain. Not too different from what happened here!

    • The bait-and-switch thing is one of my least favorite “plot twists.” I had what would have been my favorite anime go from a nice, dystopian story to Aliens, and it made no sense, did nothing to serve the plot, and was just freakin’ weird. I didn’t even watch the rest of it, it pissed me off so much. I agree; it’s really annoying when a story betrays the basic premise it sets itself up as for some odd gimmick.

    • Well I like convoluted mysteries, evil genius and conspiracies, but I was still disappointed by Monster . Very draggy and melodramatic. Also, as you said, it thinks it’s doing deep ethical dilemma, but it’s ultimately super conventional morality: killing is never okay! Never heard that one before.

      Another thing it did which drives me nut wherever I see it (for example in Sherlock) is the tropes of the super smart and/or super strong antagonist who could destroy the protagonist at any time, but doesn’t because they finds the hero “fascinating” or whatever. This is bad story-telling because it’s purely arbitrary. It gives the writer a blank check to do whatever they want without having it makes sense. And it makes the hero extra-special with no effort.

      • I disagree where Sherlock is concerned. Giving the protagonist/antagonist conflict one of a more personal conflict can be a very feasible reason for sparing someone, from past ties to being family, etc. In the case of Sherlock, I think that it’s unfair to say that the hero is special with no effort; the effort, in this case, would be in convincing the reader that Sherlock is indeed a genius beyond a nigh-magical ability to pick up clues that aren’t there to solve the whodunnit. The plot has to be as clever as the main character is proclaimed to be, or the reader/viewer-base will pick up on this and punish the author for it. 




        • So, what you’re trying to say is… it’d have been okay for Moriarty to keep sparing Sherlock because he found him fascinating… if Sherlock was actually a fascinating character, and not an aggressively bland when he’s not aggressively unlikeable one?


          (Of course, what they should’ve done was make the show as episodic as Sherlock Holmes stories were written, but modern television absolutely hates the episodic story format for anything but for comedy cartoons for kids, and Steven Moffat makes the average showrunner look like an episodic series fetishist in comparision, despite his sole strength being episodic stories for standalone episodes.)

          • [So, what you’re trying to say is… it’d have been okay for Moriarty to keep sparing Sherlock because he found him fascinating… if Sherlock was actually a fascinating character, and not an aggressively bland when he’s not aggressively unlikeable one?]

            Pretty much. I think 98 percent of Tumblr disagrees with you on Sherlock being bland, seeing as he practically has a cult following, but I can’t vouch for the series myself, having never watched it. But yes, it’s okay to have intense personal conflicts fueled by something strange, so long as the plot and everything of the show, book, etc. backs up the character’s being worthy of being spared. 

            • Sherlock is bad. Really, really bad. I’d be willing to bet good money most of its tumblr fanbase is due to all the shipping between Sherlock and the non-entity that Watson becomes.

              Honestly, Elementary is a much better show to watch, even if its not without its flaws.

              • Since I managed to derail the post about Monster being bad into a conversation about Sherlock being bad, I might as well post this link, lol.

              • I’ve only started seeing hbomberguy’s videos recently, after I heard of what he did for the Mermaids charity, but that video and the one on Doctor Who’s 2017 Christmas special perfectly sum up my feelings about Moffat’s writing in general and the problems with Sherlock specifically.

    • I had this exact experience with Tokyo Ghoul, which was pitched as being about what it means to be human and the morality of death but was actually about heaping superpowers and specialness onto the protagonist. I had the exact reaction as you: why even bother creating a setup that asks these questions if you don’t actually give a shit about them?

    • Unfortunately I can’t speak to the anime; I read the manga and quit like 20 chapters in in favor of a plot summary when it became clear it was glossing over the stuff I was interested in.

    • I always meant to watch Monster but would always procrastinate because ass-long anime intimidate me.

      Now I feel validated.

    • Johan fits into probably one of my most disliked character tropes ever: The idea that ‘being a genius’ means ‘you’re hyper smart at literally all things innately and are also are physically superhuman at the same time’. All the genius characters from, say, Ender’s game fits into this as well as a LOT of anime and it drives me nuts.

      I’ve been reading The Promised Neverland lately and it’s fairly enjoyable and manages to avoid that pitfall, and really you should just read/watch it instead of Monster, which I could never stand.

    • St. Elmo’s Fire, since you did Monster I might as well nominate you to review the other Naoki Urasawa big work, 20th Century Boy.

  • Some anime I like! Two old classics, and one newer one I saw recently.


    I’m surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this yet! This is one of my favorite animes of all time, so let’s fix […]

    • Oh, hey, I’ve read/watched Mob. It is indeed pretty good. It should be noted, however, that the manga is drawn in the signature style of the author, which is to say, it looks like doodles in the margins of a notebook. It’s charming, but not conventionally pretty.

      The anime does a good job of going completely mad with visuals, but it currently covers a rather limited amount of the material.

      • Mob’s been something on my to-watch list for some time. I’ve seen OPM, and I liked that one. I really liked Act’s (I think it was Act) deconstruction of the plot and how it would probably end. As someone writing a female main character, The Vision of Escaflowne might be especially useful for me to watch, especially as my main character isn’t a powerhouse either, and even has pseudo prophetic visions, to boot!

        • I also suggest reading the Escaflowne mangas (yes, plural). They made a shounen one and a shojo one, and at the very least, its interesting to see how they differ. The shounen one is much longer (about ten volumes as opposed to getting axed at about ten chapters) and features a much more violent and action focused storyline (but closer in level to the anime than the shoujo one) and a very different heroine than either the anime or the shoujo version. The shoujo version is much more heavily focused on character interaction than the shounen version or even the anime, to the point that Escaflowne itself barely appears at all, though the heroine is far more like the heroine from the anime.

          • I am a fan of manga! It’s a lot easier to read those than to sit down for the full 30ish minutes required for an anime episode. I’ll put them on my reading list, thanks.

            • That said, though, as I recall (and I highly doubt my memory is wrong in this instance), the anime is superior to either manga adaptation. It’s best to think of them as three separate stories entirely.

    • I think, as the trappings are pretty unrelated to the real content. Here’s the back-of-the-box pitch: it’s a far-future post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure on a desert planet, starring a superhuman pacifist gunslinger. Here’s what the story is actually about: a deconstruction of absolute pacifism and selflessness, and the worth of ideals compared to human lives. 

      You know, I feel like that just suddenly clicked when you brought it up.

      As time goes on it the series shows that the stuff isn’t there just because aesthetic, but the actual elements are so buried under cliche and overuse it’s hard to really look at them directly.

      It starts off just being a bunch of roving assholes Vash is mysteriously invested in not shooting, but soon we see it’s the social group nature of humanity that underlies the predatory behavior. People can’t survive alone  and the only reason civilization is even managing to limp along is group effort. But the best way to survive is to take the work of a large group for your own personal benefit, and that kills the people you take it from, which reduces both the overall resources and the people available to do the work needed to survive, which makes survival harder and violence more necessary…

      So – post-apocalyptic scifi = this system of fighting over and blowing up vital, lifegiving resources had consequences and the longer it continues the worse it gets for everybody. Desert = but it’s not just that the nature of man is to suck, there really is a resource problem going on here and people really do have to weigh their wellbeing against a stranger’s all the time. Gunslinger = we are so so tapped out that a random dude with a gun vs another random dude with a gun is how we resolve things. There’s no higher authority Vash can appeal to, no broader system that’s wrestled with these problems and found a non-bullet solution. He, the moral system he cobbled together as a baby, and the genocide gun his brother made him are on their own.

      • The Mad Max series also deals quite well with those themes.

        I loved the Trigun anime! Never read the manga, though. I found it particularly poignant with how it didn’t shy away from the heavy price exacted by Vash’s philosophy – he’s a literal super-human, and his body is a mass of scars and bruises.

    • So I just saw the Mob Psycho season 2 finale and it was SO GOOD. Definitely immediately rocketed this from “a pretty cool anime” to “this goes on my Top 5 list, STAT”. I’ll try to be vague to avoid spoilers but you should totally watch/read it first!

      I really loved everything about it, the way they so effectively characterized Suzuki as a foil to Mob in so few episodes, and Mob’s whole emotional journey during the battle. Everything he said was so poignant and meaningful and such a great epitome of all the good themes of shonen while rejecting the toxic trappings.

      I was also really struck by how it did right basically everything I felt the Steven Universe finale did wrong. In an odd way it even felt like a more mature/optimistic version of the Trigun climax, with the protagonist figuring out the correct answer on his own instead of needing to be forced into it. I cry-squeed when he said “I don’t want to hurt you, but you’re hurting other people and I can’t make you see reason, so I have to.” And he’s so earnestly sad that he has to do it but he still does it even though it hurts! Just… Yes! That’s it!! That’s exactly how you should feel!!! My utilitarian soul is so proud of him.

      Also also, I really appreciated that Suzuki’s wife ended up mattering. It was obvious that he had to have one, but I was fully resigned to her never actually existing, because shonen. But no! She exists and she’s actually important! I particularly loved the reveal that Sho has actually been seeing her all the time — just because she dropped off the face of the Earth from Suzuki’s perspective doesn’t mean she actually did!

      Also also also, this is something Farla might make a post about later, but I liked Reigen getting another fakeout death. It’s a really good example of how you don’t need to actually kill off characters to make people invested in them — in the first season finale I was so worried he was actually dead and relieved he got a bailout, and this time I felt the exact same way even though that was already established precedent! I was still all “Oh no what if it’s real this time??? D:” and just really happy it wasn’t afterwards. Reigen is just so great! As with so many characters, I don’t think any drama from his death could possibly make up for the loss of what he contributes.

      Anyway I’m really looking forward to season 3 now. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 3 years to drop.

  • And now, the finish!

    This is delightful in a horrifying sort of way. What I like best is how the trainer isn’t really trying to trick the ralts into doing this, because that’d require actually looking at the […]

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