Dingo's Reviews (In progress - Freshman Magic: Spellbooks and Tangled Sheets)

This is my opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt:

Naming the release a DLC when it comes to @JimD 's works or others that follow this format is a bit of a misnomer.

DLC is a term of art in the gaming industry that has lost its meaning and can be used as an umbrella term for any number of true meanings.

I would consider these full expansions.

ymmv

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Thanks for the insight, and I didn’t necessarily mean it in a negative way but I can easily see what you mean. And, definitely would not disparage @JimD in their delivery format.

I followed this rule for the VtM Clan expansions previously, so wanted to make sure I was recognizing that choice when deciding this one.

Part of this was to make the decision today, because I might be able to swing putting up a review for Belle de Nuit on Thursday, to make sure I’m getting Point du Jour done within the release week window.

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I did not take it that you were; it is just muddy and messy trying to define what dlc actually means at times.

I hope my future works are able to follow this method of delivery, because I do think there are many advantages to this way of doing it.

:revolving_hearts:

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Yeah, it’s a good rule for something like those clan expansions or the Legacy update to Lost Heir a while back. Adding a few thousand more words to an existing story does not a sequel make. But if it is billing itself as a true followup, I’d roll with it.

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If it works with your review schedule, I’d suggest treating Point du Jour as a sequel rather than an expansion as it seems to be a full story. For example, when I added content to Blood Money, I added scenes throughout but didn’t add a whole new story so I’d call that an expansion (and if it had been done during this set of reviews I wouldn’t consider it something that would bump Blood Money up the queue). Something like Point du Jour, Safe Haven or The Grandparenting Simulator when it’s out feel more like whole new stories with the same characters AKA sequels, regardless of how they’re packaged in stores.

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I think it’s for you to decide since you are the reviewer. Go with what your gut tells ya! :sunglasses: :+1:

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I will be moving Belle-de-Nuit forward for new release priority for the sequel, Point du Jour. I should have the review completed by the day of release.

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Belle-de-Nuit
By Rebecca Zahabi

You raise your glass. Around you, Jacynthe and her guests do the same. You glance around the table at the familiar faces, at your friends, at the people you love. Amaryllis raises the empty bottle.

“To love without ceremony,” you say.

Google Translate says this title is ‘Beauty of the Night’ in French. Multiple classes in Spanish did little to prepare me for that. Honestly, I learned more Spanish working at a Jason’s Deli for a year.

My closest true experience with French culture was having to cancel a day trip from London to Paris because of kidney stones. This was a much more pleasant experience.

General Story:

You are a female duelist protecting the honor and assets of a luxurious brothel in Paris. The matron, Madame. tasks you with courting a new financier for the Belle-de-Nuit. Can you balance a quick wit with a quick blade? Does the new duelist draw your eye, or are your affections closer to home?

This story is well-written and paced almost like a slice-of-life title with moments of action interspersed. There are some underlying threads that follow the secrets of certain character’s pasts, and you can decide whether it’s worth pursuing or if you’d rather pursue your own goals. The romances seem to run the gamut of almost chaste, to absolutely earning the spiciness rating the game provides. About what you might expect in a title surrounding a brothel, but it does a very good job of remembering the humanity of those inside of it.

Format and Typos:

Almost perfect readability. No typos, dialogue is super easy to follow and attribute.

Game Mechanics and Stats:

Fairly standard opposed pairs for personality, and four accumulating skills encompassing your skill with a blade, your tongue, and just how sly you can be. One character balances your respect vs rivalry, while there are some hidden stats determining progress along unraveling a secret coincidence and your success at cajoling patronage.

Replayability:

Replayability will often match the amount of romance options for most people who are interested in the title. There is one male, one female, and one gender variable option throughout the first title. Did you focus on preparing for a rematch, sussing out the secret, or just helping your matron cozy up to your potential patron? Each of these will affect your epilogue.

Dislikes:

  • A character that is introduced and used as a bit of a sneaky exposition and lore dump felt like they’d be a bigger part of the story. This may just be something that is waiting for the sequel.
  • The secret isn’t much of one, because if you’ve even taken one choice towards figuring it out, the end of the game seems to spell it out for you but just assumes you are too unsure to even suggest it be the case.
  • Very easy to lean into being good at swordsmanship and almost nothing else. Making you feel like a sore thumb in comparison to all of the others who would be much better choices in most cases.

Likes:

  • Every single character is awesome, and full of personality. The cast may not be huge, but they are absolutely worth the time spent on them.
  • The romance scenes, both spicy and chaste, were extremely well-written and fit within the style of the story.
  • Dialogue for almost everyone felt natural, and never forced. Funny banter, and meaningful toasts!

Game Rankings and Completed Reviews

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I’m really enjoying your reviews! I have read a few of these titles based on your critiques (all of which I have found to be very honest and fair), and am having a blast with it… I really appreciate the time and thought you put into these - thanks so much for sharing!

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This is the single best thread on the entirety of this forum, no I will not elaborate further :relieved: :sparkles:

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I can’t wait until you get to Tin Star. Soon you’ll get to FH and Wayhaven (due to the new releases), and that is something else I want to see.

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Belle-de-Nuit: Point du Jour
By Rebecca Zahabi

You watch the square of light coming through the door, the sharp, cold Parisian winter sun making the pale stone step shine. You feel like the motes of dust you see dancing: on the threshold, ready to be carried by the wind, outside, to the rest of your life.

Shoddy education time! Quick personal view primer on how Choicescript saves work, from a layperson’s perspective. This is not likely to be 100% accurate or detailed, but this is my understanding.

So, an author who wrote ‘The Series: Chapter 1” is writing “The Series: Chapter 2”. Choicescript has a file (at least in Steam) that handles your current play of the first game, and updates based on the changes you make. This file resets if you ever restart because it has to inform the new playthrough. Why can’t this initial file be used to just make a save?

Well, sometimes authors use your feedback when making sequels. Did you really like the snarky one-eyed bakery salesperson that you chose to save, and want to see more of them? Maybe the author just dashed that character off quickly, and didn’t think it would make the impression it did. Cornflake, the Cyclop Croissant Clerk, now a consecutive current canon character, features in “The Series: Chapter 2”. So, edits in the first game change that original file to now track whether he survived.

So, that original file you played through wouldn’t track that choice, and can’t just update to show you made it. This is why saves aren’t often ‘turned on’ until close to the new release. The new save system makes a snapshot of your variables at the end of the title, to track your choices to inform the next title.

Sometimes the author just doesn’t know what variables are important or necessary to track.

General Story:

You defended the honor of the people of the Belle-de-Nuit before, but can you now defend the honor of the Belle-de-Nuit itself? After a dear friend passes away, a nephew with ill intentions brings the full might of the Parisian legal system against both Amaryllis and the Belle-de-Nuit. You might be able to beat them in a duel, but in the courtroom?

This title is, as you play the same character, genderlocked to a woman main character. I find the story funny by coincidence, because technically… At its simplest, the story in the first book starts with this exact same situation, but this time it’s not on purpose. The story and world is still as vibrant as before, and you get to visit more Parisian locations. You’ll follow some previous threads from the earlier title to their conclusion, and get introduced to your own past. This is a good conclusion to this story, but the mystery seems like it fell a little flat.

Format and Typos:

Great readability, and any typos I’ve reported were already fixed by my second time through.

Game Mechanics and Stats:

There is not much change from the earlier title, if you play through both entries in one sitting. I’ll explain more on that in the next section.

Opposed pairs, accumulating skills. You’ll build influence to try and keep the Belle-de-Nuit above legal waters, and manage your reputation with the antagonist.

Replayability:

I’d like to say replayability is as high as the previous entry especially with adding an additional romance option… but I provided the primer above to talk about this.

I’ve got a bit of a quibble with the lack of a save system in place for the sequel, but I just want to reinforce that this is coming from my ‘stats are important’ side, not my 'story is important’ side. You can’t bring forward your previous stat distribution without replaying the entire first title at that exact moment. Choosing to jump ahead gives you a premade character with stats that may not be exactly what you were going for. Not a huge thing as the first portion can be replayed fairly quickly, but weirdly, having to select a save with my old character in other titles makes it feel more concrete and distinct. This feels like a nitpick because of course, other releases would have a save system in place shortly before release. This means you’d have to replay the title anyway, but often, my time playing other series titles would be resetting up the characters I had made previously. This sounds tedious, but not having access to the new title, each playthrough would just up my hype for the new release. This time? I have the new story, right… there… But, if I want ‘my’ full and true character… I have to replay the full original title, each time.

This affects immediate replayability especially for those like me who tend to play the same character, but with different romance options. So, if you only play once and don’t want to see other outcomes other than your canon play, it may not have much of an impact. If you are like me? This may make this a title you don’t replay immediately. For me, I come back to games a lot, so this isn’t an issue really… But some people may never pick the title up again in favor of new releases.

Dislikes:

  • No save system to load a previous character up. If you want to make different choices with a canon character from the first title, you’ll have to either settle on a pregenerated stat set, or replay the first title again.
  • It seems suggested that there is more than meets the eye than just a ‘stolen inheritance’ earning ire with the antagonist, but it never really seems fully explored.
  • Spoiler-ish dislike: Honestly, I am not sure how having the antagonist be related to the patron was necessary. It made Denjeux feel especially hands off, despite the level of injury to Sebastian, learning about Lou and becoming more involved with both the Belle de Nuit and Madame (hinting at romantic involvement).

Likes:

  • Paris is a character as much as any other, and it’s wonderful to read about it.
  • Descriptions are so vivid, and the author is great at moments of poignancy and that feeling that everything slows down and you notice everything at those life defining moments.
  • Romances are still meeting that high bar that the first title set.

Game Rankings and Completed Reviews

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Demon: Recollect

By B’athala

“Do you value your wakefulness more than your pants?”

There is a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto about a delayed game eventually being good. Sometimes rushing to complete something can turn out a bad product, but for those of us who know about Duke Nukem, sometimes going slow can still turn out poorly.

General Story:

You are an enigmatic immortal who has lost their memory and immortality. As you attempt to settle into a world you know nothing about, your closest allies are ripped from you and you become a villain to right the wrongs and fight the ‘good?’ fight.

This is a very familiar premise that feels like it could have been something great, borrowing from My Hero Academia and One Punch. The story feels barren in most cases, but follows along in an almost sitcom format to start with. After the defining moment, the story wants to turn dark, but too often the character who feels like a Spawn stand-in has too much levity and flirtatiousness when it feels like this is a story of revenge and hatred. Theme seems to vary wildly.

Format and Typos:

Readability suffers from many typos and grammatical errors. I reported a few from early on, but got overwhelmed with them (including repeats of grammatical dialogue errors).

Game Mechanics and Stats:

A few opposed pairs determine your persona and fighting style, but most choices only affect the ratings and there are a few choices in the later part of the title that actually test against your personality and fighting tendencies.

Replayability:

There are quite a few romantic options (all gender-variable, as far as I can tell) and this would be the main draw for most readers’ replayability. There are three different apparent paths to your vengeance you can take, and this can alter your endings.

Dislikes:

  • Dialogue from your MC always seems to be at odds with the theme.
  • Timeline and the passage of time is super hard to follow at points. No sentences separate parkouring through trees in the wilderness after an escape to crashing into pavement amid skyscrapers.
  • I never could quite grasp whether the author wanted me to be aware that my character was previously immortal and super powerful, or if I was supposed to be Jason Bourne’ing it at points. I was simultaneously given too much information, and too little.

Likes:

  • Plenty of romance options for replay, and they are of good quality.
  • Even though I didn’t enjoy the wildly varying styles of dialogue from the same character, it was often quippy and well-written.
  • A shining point in the story was often how well the combat was written. It really captured a cinematic feel.

Game Rankings and Completed Reviews

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Light Years Apart
By Anaea Lay

Like all of the back-worlds, Calvary was founded by the ICA as part of its extensive experiments in social engineering. This is, of course, why the back-worlds are such ripe places for anthropological research. Most of the back-worlds were established well before the Aydan-machine made its demands and there has been extensive debate, particularly among the Kempari, whether the ICA even could found a place like Calvary without violating their agreement with their computer.

Sometimes you get the impression that you are missing something, that a world existed well before you interacted with it. I play a board game named Call to Adventure, and love it. The creators released an expansion based on Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, and I picked it up not knowing that it would make no sense to me. I’ve never tried to play the expansion again, nor read the books it is based on because I feel like the amount of work involved might outweigh the enjoyment gained due to the massive amount of books and information already introduced about the world.

General Story:

You are a deactivated spy trying to live a normal trading life who gets roped back into your old world (both location and metaphor) when the planet you trained on is blockaded. The organization you were part of makes promises to let you be completely free of your past, if you help them.

The world felt a little like it borrowed from Firefly, but with more developed technology. Almost a cyberpunk space-western, complete with glowing tattoos, AI, and nanites.

The writing is wonderful, but this seems to be an extreme example of the opposite of being an audience surrogate. Your character is a master of information regarding the planets and cultures you encounter. Descriptions are great, but every paragraph feels like it’s adding onto a book you should have already read to understand the plot in depth. In most cases, it just made me feel like I was barely keeping up with the plot and the various organizations and actors within the plot.

Format and Typos:

Readability was good and I did not see any typos.

Game Mechanics and Stats:

You’ll manage opposed pairs for personality, a mix of skills that determine your specialties and physical and mental health. Code reveals some hidden stats that you’ll unknowingly manage to help determine your success towards the ending, examples including sympathy with the ICA and Kempari.

Replayability:

There is actually a decent amount of replayability built into the game, just based on branching choices and various endings. There are only two ‘romance options’, but these did not actually feel like the draw of this title. They feel like they satisfy a requirement, and only one of them actually feels like it was intended from the start. They are completely gender variable. Two major portions of the game (coincidentally involving doing the same thing, in different places) have very different paths to complete the same quest. These were some of the most interesting portions of the title.

Dislikes:

  • This feels like the sequel to a wonderful book I could not find, with no attempt to catch us back up.
  • For as much as the title wants you to pick a side, you spend almost no major time with anyone except your computer AI. This makes it difficult to forge attachments that lend weight to the final choices.
  • This feels like it might have actually been antithetical to the character and theme, but if any title could have used a glossary of terms and information in the stats screen, this was it.

Likes:

  • Writing is great, and the potential in the world screams to be revisited in a slower paced installment.
  • The twins make an impression, and keep that impression going. I’ve never wanted to rage so hard over a haircut.
  • The anthropological approach works wonderfully at a planet that your character doesn’t know everything about. We get to learn some of the approach, all the while marveling over the world alongside the character.

Game Rankings and Completed Reviews

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Hey, all. Apologies on the release delay. The holiday weekend ended up being a little more than I could normally handle, and ended up with close to no free time to dedicate towards the review. I am playing catch up this morning with work, but the review release should be no later than tomorrow morning.

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Of course, these are wonderful but please don’t push yourself too hard!

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Personally, I’m appalled by this sort of delay, and the flimsy excuse presented of spending a ‘holiday with those you care about’. Going to suggest at least a 20% dock in pay for this infraction.

You don’t owe anything to anyone. Burnout’s as real for a reviewer as it is for an author, especially at the rate you’ve been going, so don’t overdo it. Just go at the pace that feels right and sustainable.

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Dude, you’ve been churning out reviews at a ridiculous pace. We appreciate them a lot and you can take as much time as you want to decompress.

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Teahouse of the Gods
By Naca Rat

“I will make you my friend,” she says. With her monotone, the statement can be a question, a promise, or a threat.

So, I’m a fan of Steven Universe… basic premise without any overt spoilers is that Steven is special, but is also very human outside of the gem on his belly. He finds out that he is far more powerful and integral to a whole society that he knows nothing about and must come to terms with how to appease everyone as best he can and help solve the corruption surrounding his world. Bit of spoiler in that his past self was responsible for a lot of it.

Makes me wonder if there is a Chinese analogue of Cookie Puss.

General Story:

You are a new apprentice to a teahouse owner in China. You may also be a god. Scratch that… you definitely are one. Hope you brushed up on dynastic Heavenly politics, and know the number to a good Qi cleaner.

This is a slow starter, but once you make it into the title, you begin finding yourself embroiled in a world that existed before you did and have to find your place within it. It presents itself slowly to begin with, but sprints forward in each chapter as the new wondrous thing happens to you.

And I am going to have also add in that the whole place just feels… real? For a story surrounded by mysticism, the locations feel grounded (not an earth spirit pun) well before the supernatural seeps in.

Format and Typos:

No typos in the English as far as I can tell, and I’ll let someone who has more experience with the Mandarin characters tell you about those. I did notice a few coding issues, mostly revolving around checking the wrong stat.

Game Mechanics and Stats:

You’ll balance the paths of your Qi, and real world skills through accumulating skills and alliances. Personality is handled with opposed pairs. This all seems to work, except for one personal glaring issue.

About halfway through the title, something happens that boosts all of your Qi skills up by 50%, and then reduces them by 50%. The problem here is that it doesn’t just set them back to what they were. After checking the code, I was no longer able to pass most checks regarding Qi because of the reduction. For example, and I’m running from memory, so forgive the approximations as I recorded this after noticing it for the first time.

Mind, 80%, after increase 90%, after decrease 45%
Body 33%, after increase 66%, after decrease 33%
Environment 60%, after increase 80%, after decrease 40%

As you can see, this basically dropped every Qi stat I had below the threshold of 50% at a time in the story where checks against Qi were testing around 55 or 60 on average. This left non-Qi stats, which seemed to be especially difficult to meet difficulty thresholds later in the title. (The issue with the percentages is known by the author, and is in progress to be fixed.)

Replayability:

Replayability seems a little low, honestly. This is not because of a lack of content, but the opposite actually. There is a lot of content in between the beginning and many of the big story choices… and romantic content is not your usual fare, according to the author’s announcement thread.

Dislikes:

  • A specific percentage-based stat change punishes characters who focus. According to the author, this was not intended and a fix is in progress.
  • Pacing sometimes feels off, as if I’m reading a treatment for a series of episodes in a TV show.
  • The character you portray can sometimes feel like they weren’t necessary for this to be a complete and competent story.

Likes:

  • This is an extremely well-written story and narrative on top of a place that might really exist. Absolutely worth the time spent with the story side.
  • Some of the fourth-wall breaking in this title was well done, and thematically appropriate.
  • The amount of work that went into making sure the world reacted to the character you made in the title is super appreciated.

Game Rankings and Completed Reviews

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I’m fixing the stat-drop issue now. Had to talk with the team to figure out the coding solution, but this should be implemented in the next patch.

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