There’s no sugar coating it, folks — despite 2020 being a hellhole on the outside, for me personally, life’s been pretty great nowadays! I’m starting a new job, I got accepted into Grad School, and I feel a level of consistency and positivity that I haven’t since, uh, well around this time last year! I’m not saying this might have anything to do with certain recent events but they line up pretty well…

So! While we wait for my life to collapse again some time in the next three months, let’s talk about some videogames shall we?

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

The first game I wanna talk about is one that I wasn’t sure would be good. I’m still not sure if 13 Sentinels will end on a good note, but I’m more than impressed with what I’ve gotten so far, especially after being wary during its shaky development and Vanillaware’s focus away from its incredible action. 13S is the developer’s most ambitious game to date, and it’s immediately apparent that the basic geometrical combat exists to allow them more room to compromise and bring their vision to life. That vision involves time travel, clones, robots, robot clones, a magical talking cat, kaiju, and more. And I’m only about 50% through the game! While I always appreciated Vanillaware for their action, 13 Sentinels shows that they’re capable of writing a strong narrative. Despite having 13 protagonists and multiple timelines that weave amongst each other, I’ve had no trouble following along with the plot and getting wrapped up in the mystery of it all. The game is a lot like 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, or that third game that we’ve all decided doesn’t exist — but without the puzzles that make me feel like an idiot.

My main issue with Aegis Rim is how split combat is from the narrative. Basically, you can choose to engage in the combat sections whenever you want, and they’re essentially completely separate from the story sections. I’m starting to understand why that’s the case as I approach the end of the game, but I’m not super happy with this decision. It’s mostly personal, but I hate feeling like I might do something out of order, even if that’s a big part of this game as a whole. Totally personal con though, and if you’re interested in picking it up, I not only recommend that you do, I implore you to — as a certain game dev has said, we really need Vanillaware to stick around in the games industry.

Genshin Impact

Getting this out of the way: yeah it’s basically a Breath of the Wild clone. Yes it’s a gacha game. But as we know, I’m a sucker for those anyways, so am I enjoying it? Yes! Frankly though, Genshin Impact is probably the most fully developed and involved gacha game to ever release. It’d probably be better to describe it as a full-on free game with some optional gacha pulls attached to the side.

What makes the game most fun is the combat. After you muck around for a bit you’ll get a full party of four characters, each comprised of a different element. You can use their attacks to combine elements that set off status effects on enemies and deal more damage. For example, freezing an enemy with ice and then swapping over to a character with fire will cause them to Melt, and lighting paired with wind will set off an Overloaded explosion. It’s been a lot of fun finding good pairings that work together, and exploring the game’s beautiful world has been a lot of fun as well, even if the plot so far has been extremely bland.

We can’t know for sure how important the gacha for Genshin will bet ust yet. As of now I’ve found most content can be cleared with the free characters, but end-game will be the final determinate for how free-to-play it actually is. For example, I’ve spent a bit of time in the Abyss, the game’s floor-based dungeon crawl, and I don’t know if I’d have been able to beat Stage 3 without the 5-star I pulled with the free currency I was given, Fischl, who’s extremely powerful. It might be possible to just over-grind the characters you do get, but that’s yet to be determined. We’ll see how things go in the long-term, but so far Genshin Impact has been a good distraction while I wait for other games to come out.

Going Under

This game hurts a little too much to play. Not mechanically: it’s actually quite a blast as far as roguelikes go. No, it’s because the game doubles as a parody mocking tech start-up culture, and it goes for the throat every time. The writing in this game is witty as hell, with constant shots taken at everything from morning stand-ups to cryptocurrency, and it makes me laugh while also hurting my soul. As someone who’s had to immerse themselves in start-up culture before, it’s clear that Aggro Crab is intimately familiar with it, and it enhances the experience as a whole. It can be a little slippery to play at times, especially after experiencing something like Hades, but I’m excited to keep streaming it when I get the chance.

Star Wars: Squadrons

I’m not actually that far in this game but I already love it. I love flight sims — when I was younger, I always wanted to be a pilot, and I’d live out my fantasies playing games like Ace Combat and Microsoft Flight Simulator. But they release so infrequently nowadays. I wasn’t sure if Squadrons would be any good, especially considering EA’s track record, but the reviews were positive, and I was instantly grabbed by the game as soon as I started it. I’m still only in the story mode right now, but weaving my way through asteroid fields to dogfight TIE fighters while soaring Star Wars music plays in the background has made me feel like a kid again. I don’t want to say much more because I want to do a Thoughts On about the game after I get to try out the multiplayer, but yeah. So far: really damn good.

That’s all for now! What have you been playing lately? Let me know in the comments or @ me on Twitter @mintplaysthings! And if you like my writing, please consider donating to my Patreon or Ko-Fi. Thank you!