My 100+ Hour Tale: Rimworld

I want to tell you a story.

It is a true story. True as science fiction can get, anyway, one that happened for me in real-time. It is an organic story, described through the utter RNG (or random number generation) of a singular game called Rimworld. As a player, I am responsible for most of the specific details I will use to tell this story. But the system itself is the one that assembled the parts together, and I got to experience them in gameplay the same way I’m describing them in writing. Rimworld itself is described by its developer as a “story generator,” and to be sure, it is a magnificent one.

(By the way, I play a massively modded version of Rimworld. So if any of the details here seem far-fetched, it’s because some wonderful modder made a mod. Check out the Steam Workshop for Rimworld if you don’t believe me!)

There once was an old woman named Kat.

Of course, I call her old because out in the Rimworlds, those far-flung frontiers of civilized space, you’re just as likely to die in the cradle than survive for the fifty year time span that Kat did. The raiders of her village had described the ruins of the old manor house as abandoned but rich with loot. Unfortunately for Kat, it only looked abandoned. The moment she took a step into the manor’s ruined garden, in an instant, she felt a searing pain behind her eyes, and all faded to black.

Then she woke up, several hours later. She was chained to a bed in a dimly-lit stone chamber. No doubt inside the manor ruins. She then gazed upon the terrifying form of an eight-foot tall woman clad in the largest suit of power armor she had ever laid eyes on.

The woman spoke:

“Ah… you’re awake. Praise the Lord for His mercy; you shouldn’t have come looking for trouble here.”

Captured by Christians. Of all the people to encounter on the Rim, it had to be Christians.

Still, at least these Christians were heavily armed and armored, not at all like the flimsy weaklings that ranted and raved on glitterworld street corners. And they must have known how to assemble a heater, as Kat had never experienced the comfort of an HVAC system since her previous employer’s ship crash-landed on this miserable planet many years before.

The massive woman in power armor introduced herself as Jade. She was married to a man named Jacob, and though the husband was the de facto “leader” of the family, it was the mighty preaching wife that was most obviously in charge. They had three children at the time: two sons Virgil and John (young boys of the same age, but one biological and one adopted, in that order), as well as an adopted teenage daughter named Estelle.

Kat might have introduced herself. But she did not speak. She was a mute, and had been since childhood. It did not stop her from writing her responses on paper, but she didn’t appreciate the attitude when Jade tried to force her to speak. It was bad enough that Jade was at fault for knocking Kat unconscious and imprisoning her. But now she had to insult her with a high-and-mighty attitude as well?

Okay, let’s be fair: Kat wasn’t much of a catch herself. She was an alcoholic, an addict, and a bad one. There were reasons for her inebriation, though.

She had a fantastic, nearly eidetic memory. Some would consider this a blessing. She did not. While her talents never faded away, neither did the terrifying memories of the past that haunted her present. She was tortured, abused, and humiliated to serve a raider gang that didn’t honestly care if she lived or died. Worse, her parents had been the leaders of said gang. Her only source of comfort as a child were the chickens and cattle that the gang kept for milk and eggs, as well as the hounds they bred for combat.

She escaped that old life by hitching a ride on a starship, becoming a janitor to make ends meet. While most passengers aboard starships sleep the years away under cryogenic suspension, Kat never got to experience this; she had to travel the long way. Her duties demanded that she remain awake for the entire voyage across the Rim. While her passengers aboard the vessel peacefully slept and ceased aging, they did not sense the passage of time. But Kat did. By the time the vessel’s journey ended, the timid young lady had grown old, too old to ever have a biological family of her own.

Her troubles did not end with lost time. Her employment as a janitor came to a crashing halt quite literally when her ship exploded in orbit above a particularly dreadful Rimworld, one undergoing a severe ice age. In order to survive, she returned to the skills that she thought she had left far behind her: making tools of war for mindless, bloodthirsty raiders.

And once again, she turned to her true passion, spending time with the only beings who truly understood her: the beasts and critters that called the Rimworld home.

Jade made one thing absolutely clear: if Kat wanted to live, sobriety was non-negotiable. As punishment for raiding their home, she would never sip another drop of alcohol again, so long as she was under their custody. She would be locked in her cell without booze until she “overcame her demons,” after which they might release her.

Though Jade towered over Kat like a mountain, and could probably have torn the 50-year-old woman in half with her bare hands, there was no separating Kat from her only source of comfort. Without speaking a word and without giving a reason, Kat started tearing her cell apart.

Under normal circumstances, under more brutal supervision, this little tamtrum would have been ignored, or (more likely) a death sentence. Not so for this little Christian family in the wilderness. They couldn’t afford it. Outside the walls was a violent polar tempest, with a temperature that did not rise above -45 degrees farenheit (-42.7778 C) during the summer months. The family, horrified at this woman’s resolve to drink, relented. They allowing her a single alcoholic beverage per day, which they promised to brew. But in exchange, Jade required service, one they were having difficulties providing themselves. As it turns out, the family had “inherited” the manor after the previous royal inhabitant had been murdered by deserters of his own faction. They left many treasures behind, including rare and exotic lifeforms, ones they could train and use to defend themselves against the many dangers of the Rim.

In exchange for food and shelter from the bitter cold, Kat would promise to tend to their rather… unique menagerie of animals. At last, Jade was speaking reason. At this offer, Kat eagerly agreed and joined the familial colony. Better life with religious nutjobs than freezing to death in the cold.

The colorful assortment of wildlife Kat was now responsible for included:

  1. Zora and Emu, the family’s two megalochelys. These ancient tortoises had been resurrected by some uber-rich magnate and left to multiply on the Rim wherever they might.
  2. Nakri and Odah, the family’s pair of great wyrms. Not quite mythological “dragons,” but powerful in their own right. The wyrms were flightless lizards of massive size and strength that could tear through steel like butter with their razor-sharp claws and teeth. Odah, the male, was the decidedly easier of the pair to deal with, and the better trained. The female Nakri was pregnant (or “gestating”) for eighteen months after Kat joined the family, and every month until she gave birth, she would get more and more difficult to handle.
  3. Frankie, the family’s pet Yorkshire Terrier. A terrific yappy dog and a great cuddler. Kat never had a complaint about him.
  4. The family’s pet Siamese cat named Bernard. The family did not have him long for reasons that shall become apparent, unfortunately.

From day one, Kat realized that living with the family was going to be difficult. She did not accept the god they believed in, or their ceaseless evangelizing. Even with all of their happy singing and dancing, their optimistic outlook in the face of annihilation… Kat didn’t share it. She couldn’t, and didn’t want to believe in some invisible thing that allowed her life to proceed the way it did.

Jade and Jacob were insistent, naturally. Pushy. They convinced her to read the stories and learn the doctrine, and with nothing but free time now available to her, she did so. But the pain in her heart was too much to bear to strangers. She remained mute and stoic, even as her alcohol withdrawls became painful and relentless. More than once, when the headaches hit their peak, she would wander the halls, hounded by Jade who would try to comfort her with scriptures and preaching. Kat only resented her more for the trying.

“We both hunger and thirst,” Jade would say. “We are naked, buffeted by suffering, without a home. Working with our own hands, we bless those that hate us, and suffer those who despise us. Our reward is not here, in the Rim. It comes after. This is why we live the way we do.”

This was not the answer Kat ever wanted to hear. That was not a guarantee that offered hope. Jade tried three separate times to calm Kat down, and every one of them failed. Jacob, in the end, eventually stepped in, putting aside the religion and offering words of actual comfort and direction.

(True story, even though Jade’s “social” score was near 14, she failed each and every time to comfort Kat because their “ideoligions” did not match. You can be the most professional and eloquent speaker and just not have the right ideas to convince or comfort people. This game be brilliant like that.)

One day in the middle of winter, Jade departed alone, promising to return after helping a nearby tribal village solve a “research issue.” Research, with a bunch of cannibals? Really? What good would that do the family, honestly?

Jade was always looking to help people, even her enemies. Every time a merchant approached the manor, if they owned slaves, she would purchase a single slave just to set them free. When raiders attacked the manor, psychopathic monsters that Kat knew personally, Jade would knock them unconscious with a single strike from her massive plasteel fist… just to resusitate them and send them back home with nothing more than a headache and a stern word. She would offer her skills to the most meager of purposes, even when provided with little evidence that she would receive anything in return.

This bothered Kat. But she remained as silent as ever. It was Jade’s life, her family’s decision to make, not Kat’s. It was their supidity, not hers. And they made many such illogical decisions.

Speaking of one such decision, it was around this time that Jade’s family grew larger. Jacob had been researching archotech that would allow them to create new life in a laboratory setting. Human life. Though their new son had been only a few cells in size, Allen would be “born” from the growth chamber in the ten days it would take for Jade to return; they would have a brand-new infant in less time than it took to sneeze, and all without the pains of pregnancy. Turns out the family really took the whole “multiply and replenish the earth” line from their fancy book very seriously.

Though the thought of a vat-born child made her a bit nauseous, she decided that if the technology had to exist at all, at least it existed in the hands of this relatively-reasonable family instead of raiders and cannibals. Or worse.

Despite Jade’s absence, those ten days were not enjoyable for Kat. Her withdrawal symptoms had reached their peak. And in the midst of an alcohol-deprived panic attack, Kat suddenly saw falling stars out her window. But they weren’t shooting stars. They were drop pods. A machine army, come to demolish what remained of the old manor, and no doubt murder everyone inside, including her.

She could have run. But she didn’t. Though she may have disliked Jade, disliked the family in general… this was not a fate she thought anyone deserved. She took up her double-barrel shotgun and went to defend Jacob and the children.

Explosions then rocked the manor. Estelle died first; she thought her training against target dummies would translate to military-grade combat intelligences. She severely underestimated her defensive position and was down in a single explosive shot. Virgil tried to be a hero, to get his unconscious sister to safety. A second explosion killed them both. John died next; though more reserved and cautious, the burning ruins of the manor collapsed upon him, crushing him to death.

Jacob and Kat, unaware that all three children had died within seconds of each other, and they themselves completely taken by surprise, huddled together in the center of the manor in hopes that their meager automated defences would hold. They did not. A giant centipedal robot barreled through the wall (flanked by four others), firing an explosive round at Jacob. His protective shield belt took the majority of the impact, but they did little to protect his legs. His legs shattered, he could not move, flee, of fight against the massive killing machine advancing towards him.

The real tragedy was the one happening in the center of the room. Allen had just been born, moments before his siblings perished. Jacob screamed at Kat to save the baby. But one thing was clear: she could not save them both. If she tried to save Allen, it would take too much time to run back through the burning manor. Even then, she could not cross the flaming ruins with a guarantee that they would both survive. And to be fair… Jacob had experience. So, instead of saving the child, she saved the one she knew she could. She grabbed Jacob, leaving the baby to howl in his nursery alone as the machines continued to disassemble the manor around them. And Jacob, legless and semi-conscious, could do nothing as Kat dragged him away into the blizzard, having chosen to save the father and not the son.

Kat did not apologize for her decision, and she never did. Though in her panic, she had brought no medicine with her. She was no doctor, but she knew enough. When they had escaped far enough from the threat, Kat bound Jacob’s wounds, applying tourniquets with the very clothing she wore.

And in that moment, Jade returned to the burning manor with all the fire and fury of a mother in mourning. She had heard the explosions from a mile away, and had come running. Mounted atop the great wyrm Odah, wielding a charge rifle and her signature siegebreaker power armor, Jade and her monsters tore the mechanical abominations to ribbons.

In seconds, the fight was over. If Jade had been there, perhaps her children would still be alive.

Though half the the manor house had been disassembled by the machines and the other half set on fire, when the smoke cleared… Jade uncovered a miracle: the roof of the nursery above Allen’s crib had held firm. Right in the center of the carnage, surrounded by machine corpses, was a crying newborn baby, untouched by the machines. They had not identified him as either a threat or a target. Perhaps it was because he was vat-born.

Jade found Jacob and Kat huddled together in a cave some distance away for warmth. She did not have to ask what had happened. And Kat did not feel the need to blame Jade for absence. She did not have to; life on the Rimworlds was difficult, unfair. Brutal and sinful, filled with a thousand horrors built upon the corpses of a thousand more. To point it out would be cruelty.

Jade and Jacob managed to find the bodies of Virgil and Estelle, and constructed caskets for them. John’s body, on the other hand, did not survive the inferno or the collapse of the manor. Funerals were held for the children. All of them… save for Allen, their single surviving miracle. Still they spoke of a loving god, and still they clung to their scriptures and doctrine.

But Kat could not fault them, for Kat had found her own resolve. Though she still faced months of alcohol withdrawls and never-ending nightmares, she had faced down certain death and emerged victorious. She even managed to save another person’s life, and perhaps two, in the midst of it all. If she could stare those killing machines in the eyes and survive, what was a simple lack of alcohol to her? Where was the power and pain, in all those memories she hated so?

They were nothing. Nothing the right application of food, sleep, passion, recreation, and time couldn’t cure.

She never did speak again. Not after the many tragedies that had befallen her throughout her life. She never did fully embrace the faith that Jade and Jacob had chosen for themselves. But she sat and listened whenever they sung their songs and danced their dances. And she learned to love little Allen, that singular miracle, even if she couldn’t tell him so. Instead, she shared her love with the animals and beasts as she tended to them, training them to defend the loving family that had adopted her.

In fact, she was so inspired by the family’s resolve, she personally tamed one of the mightiest beasts of the tundra in an act of pure inspiration: a great big black bear she decided to name Da Vinci. Though Kat would remain mute, she had no need for words when Da Vinci and Nakri and Odah could roar them for her.

My Rimworld Review Score: 10/10.

This game is an unequivocal masterpiece. If you like simulation games, don’t miss this one. There’s no end to the stories you can experience.


My 100+ Hour Tale – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn


On Tuesday, I finished the main story quests of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (I got the end credits and everything), and now I feel that the game can truly begin with the expansions of Heavensward and Stormblood. But before I continue, I wanted to condense my thoughts about the base game as much as I can and share what I think works in this MMORPG and as well as what things I’ve seen that have been done better in comparable titles.

Here is my Warrior of Light, Jerik Noa:


Sing, O sing, ye Candidus Fellows, unto the pure Light of Dawnbreak!

And yes, with the conclusion of the final story quest, I just received another bottle of Fantasia, so I might be changing into a female character soon. They just seem to have so many cooler fashions and styles available, besides the fact that I usually prefer to play female characters (I’ll have to write an article about my thoughts of gender in video games, especially in games where you customize your character down to the freckles on their cheeks; although, come to think of it, that approaches the unassailable gates of feminism and political discourse, and we all know how prepared I am for those topics). I’m thinking a Mi’qote, as that was the first race I played as when I first picked the game up, although the thought of playing a hardass Dark Knight Lalafell is hilariously intriguing. I would be playing a nightmare-fueled spikey-armor clad toddler with a three foot soul-sucking blade that just wants a hug.

Is that racist? That seems racist. Can you be racist against fictional fantasy races? I mean, it’s no better than my character now: whenever I change job classes to weaver or goldsmith, I suddenly become Eorzea’s most frightening butler, complete with cummerbund and necktie. Mi’qote just seems like the right middle road between plushy-adorable and mildly-threatening.



On the left: Warrior of Light. On the right: adorable Papalymo. Would you believe the one on the right is arguably more dangerous?

So, how was the ending? Without spoilers, of course, I can say that it was… unexpected. Having gone into this MMO aware of some of the story elements, I knew a few different things had to happen, and a few things still need to happen. I just wasn’t sure how it would all pan out. Unaware of what parts of the story fall into place between A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, and Stormblood, I realize that I still have a ton of content to get through, not to mention taking to time to master all of the other classes and trades.

Here’s my list of good versus bad (with some neutral sprinkled in) from what I’ve played so far in Final Fantasy XIV:

Positive: Changing Classes Made Easy

I started this particular playthough as a gladiator, although I quickly realized that starting the game off as a tank is just asking for trouble in multiplayer dungeons and raids. If you aren’t familiar with a run and you tank for the first time, you’ll probably tick off your teammates. Fortunately, FF XIV makes it super easy to change classes and level them up, even going so far as to make the process of leveling faster for those who already have a high level in another combat class. I hadn’t been an archer before, so I chose to continue my game as an arrow-slinger and eventually as a Bard.

I’m really looking forward to playing as a machinist, as machinists have royally screwed me over in PvP with their pushing and pulling abilities, and I would like to experience being on the other side of the coin. But, then again, tanks are in short supply nowadays, and dark knight looks awesome. Either way, I’ll get to it all eventually.


Astrologian, too. Heart of the Cards, baby.

Negative: Vesper Bay

Why. The heck. Does Vesper Bay. Not. Have. A FAST-TRAVEL OPTION.

I would say this is a simple complaint, but bear with me, it’s more complicated than just missing an important waypoint. This has more to do with a lack of balance and a clear insistence on wasting my time and resources than it does with ease of travel. Considering you come back to this place repeatedly in A Realm Reborn makes this a travesty in more ways than one.

First, there are two ways to get to Vesper Bay. The first is by fast-traveling to Horizon and hoofing it all the way across the map of Western Thanalan to get there. Even on chocobo-back, this is an annoying journey to have to repeat again and again. I consider this the ‘unintended’ slow way, but the alternate route is no better. The other way to Vesper Bay is by boarding a boat from Limsa Lominsa (by talking to an attendant next to the Arcanist’s Guild). This necessitates teleporting to Limsa Lominsa, teleporting to the Arcanist’s Guild, then taking the boat. Unless you want to spend a lot of money teleporting to Limsa Lominsa again and again during the story missions, then expect to set your home marker to Lominsa.

But with your home marker on Limsa Lominsa, what’s the use of being in any other Grand Company than the Maelstrom? You’re going to spend a lot of money teleporting to Gridania and Ul’dah if you join the Twin Adders or the Flames, since acquiring and spending guild seals with your Company is a good way to keep your character’s gear up-to-date, not to mention keeping your Barracks active once you reach that point.


I’d rather not, Minfilia, thanks.

Once you’re done with the story missions, I imagine (or desperately hope) you won’t have to travel to the Waking Sands as often, and you can set your home point elsewhere. But it really bothers me when games make important oft-visited locations difficult to get to. Even search “vesper bay ffxiv” in Google, and the third entry is: “How do you get to Vesper Bay”. When you’ve made it that inconvenient and confusing to repeatedly return to a story-critical location, you’ve either accidentally screwed up as a developer or you’ve done it intentionally. As the game has been out for almost five years now, I’m thinking the latter.

Related Negative: Fast Travel Costs

Just a short point: fast travel is insultingly expensive. I’ve never played an MMO with such high costs of travel. And since your home point is Limsa Lominsa, a landmass away from Gridania and Ul’dah? You’ll be paying out the nose every time your journey takes you hither and yon.

Positive-ish: Oh, the Joys of Resource Gathering

Remember when I talked about fishing in Ocarina of Time and Dark Cloud 2? Well, strap on your gathering pants and get ready to make some money, honey! Whether it’s steel, alumen, mythril, electrum, red coral, fleece, or boar leather, there’s goods to procure from your local environment. I’m not overly fond of the resource node system, especially with how difficult it can be to obtain necessary materials like elemental shards. I understand how high-quality materials work, and I like that part of the system; it’s a thrill to hit those HQ nods and hear the sharp bang of the sledgehammer or the golden glint of the catch on your line. But in The Elder Scrolls Online, for instance, you’ll obtain about three to five resources per node in a single instance and only have your crafting skills to worry about. In FF XIV, the craft and the gathering are separate, and the gathering is more literal, piece by piece.


Until you rage-quit from worse-than-XCOM accuracy percentages. What do you mean, I missed three times in a row with 92%?!

Oh, and if you don’t upkeep your gear with your current level, you’re going to find gathering a waste of time. Instead, worry about leveling up with fieldcraft leves as soon as you can, then go back and get the materials you need.

Related Negative: Inventory Space

I don’t have housing yet. All my money has been spent fast-traveling and getting stupid lightning and wind shards for crafting. So my inventory is full, my chocobo’s pack is full, and I’ll soon be turning to my retainers to hold mats. You can’t sell anything in this game. Almost everything has a crafting purpose, no matter how obscure. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chucked something to free up space just to have to go grovelling back to the Market Board to buy more later on.

Everything about the inventory is so dang inconvenient. Except the ‘Sort’ key, that I like. Let me have a material’s sack like The Elder Scrolls Online, realism be damned!


I have to have all these coeurl skins and pinches of mythril sand and fishing bait and walnut logs and…

Negative: The Overabundance of Story-Critical Dungeons and Trials

I’m imagining this is how it went.

One thing the developers of Star Wars: The Old Republic realized as the game was getting longer in the tooth was that its emphasis on story was more important than multiplayer gameplay. That isn’t to say The Old Republic had lackluster gameplay; far from it. They realized that they had so much content gated behind dungeons and trials that most players passed it by on their way through the main story missions for each class. Not everyone who plays MMORPGs wants to do so with friends. So they chose the RPG over the MMO and rebuilt their dungeons so players could single-handedly go through 4-man dungeons by themselves (with help from a tanky battledroid and their NPC companions).

And it doesn’t matter what class you choose to be, either. A tank can DPS, and healer can tank, and DPS can… well, DPS more.


Violence solves ALL the problems!

Final Fantasy XIV went the completely opposite direction. Not only are their 4-man dungeons not optional, there is no way for players to accomplish them by themselves. Dungeons are strictly one-tank, one-healer, two-DPS affairs that break down if any player doesn’t do their part with relative skill. I’m making this sound more dramatically bad than it is, of course, but you all know how I feel about multiplayer; last night I was the only one in the group who hadn’t run the 8-man final dungeon, I fell behind pretty dramatically at one point, and all the other players talked about while the unskippable cutscenes were playing was Japanese porn and masterbation. I won’t question their ability to kick Ultima Weapon in the junk, but I’d rather not hear about what they plan to do with theirs.

“You’ll be doing this dungeon a lot,” they said when I fell behind.

Uh-huh. Like hell I will.


I probably will.


Despite their vulgarity, my fellow players in that 8-man dungeon were very nice about me getting behind since it didn’t impede their progress. If it had… I would have had a worse experience.

Positive: Gameplay. Like, All the Gameplay

Everything I wrote above this would probably make you think I dislike Final Fantasy XIV. But that isn’t true; I’m 250 hours in, and I’ve probably got that much to give and more with the fun I’ve had so far. I’m in a good Free Company that answers questions (and at least doesn’t kick me out). I’ve nailed down being a level 55 Bard, and I’m excited to see where the storyline goes as I proceed into Heavensward.

It’s a joy to fight, especially when you line up all of your attacks appropriately (and with my mechanical keyboard, it sounds good too). Maximizing my DEEPS (or DPS, damage-per-second) is awesome, and I feel like I’m in a good spot.

Just as long as I can keep multiplayer at arm’s length. Or find a good group of friends to connect with, which is unlikely considering I’m one of the few people I know that cares for a subscription MMO and Final Fantasy and has an appropriate system that can play it. In other words, yes, I anticipate my journey in Eorzea will end due to repetition, multiplayer negativity, and poor time-wasting design decisions. But it won’t be for a while.

At least until Fallout 76 appears. Or I buckle down and actually write more for Alyssum. Type-type-type-type.

A Realm Reborn Review: 8.5/10


UPDATED A Realm Reborn Review: 10/10

That is all. 😀

My 100-Hour Tale – Dark Cloud 2


Release Date: November 2002

System: Playstation 2, Playstation 4 (PSN)

First off, let me apologize: this review may be all over the place, there’s a lot to cover. I considered making this a Backstage Tale instead of a review, but I figured just because Dark Cloud 2 is one of my favorite titles on the PS2 doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of some of its features and give it a good ribbing. I’ll admit right now that, although I attempt to create the illusion of impartiality, I’m a pretty biased guy. I have no journalistic aspirations. After all, if you want a 100% objective review, here’s a good example (ha, and you thought there was no such thing).

When it comes to games that represent my childhood and teenage years, games that I’ve given hundreds of hours of my life to leveling and grinding, games with soundtracks I’ll play in my car to make my sisters embarrassed to know me, I might gush a little more than usual.

That being said, Dark Cloud 2 is one of the most entertaining and fulfilling games I’ve ever bought for two systems and never finished. Blasphemy, I know. But I never did say my 100-Hour Tales had to have a satisfying ending.

Dark Cloud邃「 2_20180514184424

Yes, that is a pig monster I flipped on its head with a sword with gold exploding from its butt. Isn’t that how you make money?

Timey-Wimey Ball

Dark Cloud 2 is a third-person action-adventure RPG known as Dark Chronicle everywhere but the good ol’ United States (because we love our sequels so much that we don’t buy a game unless we see a number next to the title, no matter how disconnected the stories are between the two games). Go figure, huh?

Level-5 is responsible for the development of this wonderful game. And they are known for delivering wonderfully-Japanese games (of course they would, they’re Japanese). This is the same company that has given us such gems such as Dragon Quest VIII and XI, the Professor Layton series, the White Knight Chronicles, the Inazuma Eleven series, and the Studio Ghibli-designed Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Revenant Kingdom. Level-5’s design and story development are lovingly anime every step of the way, and Dark Cloud 2’s is no different.

For this review, I’ll start with the bad. Okay, not bad, just rough.

For anyone that doesn’t know, Dark Cloud 2 is a time travel story. This means that, just like other stories about time travel, there are plot holes the size of Mack trucks. In fact, one of the weakest aspects of Dark Cloud 2 as a whole is its story. You follow the story of a present-day boy named Maximillian (voiced by Scott Menville, who also voices Robin in Teen Titans) and a girl named Monica (voiced by Anndi McAfee, who also voices Emily Wong, an investigative journalist from Mass Effect) who comes from 100 years in the future. She was able to travel to the present (her past) because of a mysterious blue stone she holds called an Atlamillia. Max was given a similar red stone with instructions to never lose it; it, too, is an Atlamillia, and coincidentally allows the wielder (and those around him) to travel 100 years into the future. There’s a third Atlamillia in the world, but its location is unknown (the story never says where it is in the present if it even exists at that time at all).

Dark Cloud邃「 2_20180514183931

Monica, Max, and Cedric going back to the past. I refuse to make a ‘Back to the Future’ joke.

So far so good, right? Well, not so much. This big bad Emperor Griffon (voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, actually) somehow wields a lot of power over time *cough* ATLAMILLIA *cough* and has eradicated several important people and organizations in Monica’s time by erasing their origins points in the present. Pretty tricky. How Monica is able to remember these important people and organizations when they have been completely erased from time, the game doesn’t explain. The Atlamillia, maybe? *cough* WHY NOT *cough* Anyway, Max and Monica travel to these origin points and fight all sorts of monsters and recruit villagers to restore these future people and organizations so they can help you get to Emperor Griffon and stop him from messing with time.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of twelve ways to ruin our heroes’ origin-point-restoring plan with time travel before they even get started. But that doesn’t make for a fun video game. So, oh well, I’ll allow it.

The absolute worst part of Dark Cloud 2?

The dialogue.


(The fish isn’t around long and is never seen again, it’s a shame.)

Great voice actors, obviously terrible voice direction. Play the game and just try to endure the awkward pauses. Upon his defeat, one villain in particular is given a sob story about his mother out of absolutely nowhere, and I couldn’t take it seriously when I watched it as a teenager. It still makes me cringe. But it’s okay: you can merrily skip every last cutscene by pressing start and then triangle. I won’t say anything more because I’ll probably get in trouble with people who actually like the campy characters.

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Yes, that is a giant tree with a tailor’s shop in his nose and a sandwich shop hat. His name is Jurak, and you’ll be reviving his origin point, nose-tailor and all.

The Part Where He Gushes

This is the part where I gush.

The gameplay is superb. Absolutely bonkers good. Max wields a wrench (or hammer) and a gun, while Monica brandishes a sword and a magical bracelet that fires elemental spells. As the story progresses, Max gains the ability to drive Steve, a fully-upgradable mech robot, and Monica gains the ability to transform into the very monsters you fight. You start with pretty rudimentary weapons without many stats, but as you kill monsters, they’ll drop experience orbs with which your weapon will slowly level up. The last hit on the monster determines which weapon gets the experience, even if another weapon did most of the work (if you want to distribute experience evenly between main and side weapons, kill a monster with Steve then quickly switch to Max or Monica before picking up the experience orbs).

Once your weapon has a level, they’ll be granted synthesis points. On your travels you’ll pick up a lot of different resources, most notably crystals of ten different stats: attack, durable, flame, chill, cyclone, lightning, exorcism, smash, beast, and scale. Spectrumize (or break down) a crystal or resource to turn it into a synth sphere which can then be applied to the leveled-up weapon to increase the appropriate stat. (For example, let’s say I want to upgrade the ‘beast’ stat. I have a ‘Hunter’s Crystal’ in my inventory and a synthesis point available on my weapon. I would spectrumize the ‘Hunter’s Crystal’ and then apply it to my weapon for a three-point increase to ‘beast’.) You can spectrumize almost anything, including other weapons, but they may not be as effective as crystals or rare gemstones.

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+6 means Monica’s sword has leveled up six times, and the blue glowy lines around it mean it can evolve.

With high enough stats, your weapon can then ‘evolve’ and take on a different form, and oh boy, there’s a weapon tree for all four types of weapons (Max’s wrench/hammer, Max’s gun, Monica’s sword, and Monica’s bracelet/armband). Weapons can break and become unusable, but they’ll never disappear on you like they did in the first Dark Cloud. You can always repair them with repair powders, which are plentiful in dungeons or can be bought.

You’ll be fighting monsters in many different dungeons, which are randomly generated in a way that reminds me of a very simplified Diablo dungeon pattern filled with monsters, locked doors, an entrance, an exit, and a gate key. Even the same level will never generate the same way twice. On every level, you can gain medals based on beating certain challenges, which include beating a time limit, catching a certain size of fish (YES, THERE’S FISHING, more on that later), playing a game called Spheda (YES, THERE’S GOLF, more on that later), or meeting other special conditions. Later in the game, you’ll also find objects called Geostones which are vital to your origin-point-restoring efforts.

And at last, we reach the big draw of Dark Cloud 2: the actual world restoration project called Georama. With Geostones, you’ll receive blueprints to building the structures, natural formations, and tools your present dwellers will need to build a proper future. You’ll recruit people from the starting town of Palm Brinks to live in these communities as if they were destined to live there as well as build their homes, fulfilling the conditions laid forth in the Geostones that will end in the correct future a century from now.

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You’ll find lots of these. One per stage, in fact, after a certain point in the story.

No two environments are alike; Sindain is a forest with rivers and hills. Building successfully in Balance Valley depends on evenly spacing your buildings on four different plateaus. Veniccio requires platforms (since most of the building area is ocean) and metal homes of different colors. And hot embers are currently falling on Heim Rada, so wood buildings are right out. I spent so much time getting my village to look right, I was doing it more for fun than actually accomplishing it only for the objectives. The only thing that limited my creativity is the high expense of the materials.

All The Extra Bits

YES, THERE’S FISHING. And fishing competitions! And fish RACING! You can even level up your fish! When I fish in Dark Cloud 2, I remember all my fond memories of fishing in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s all super relaxing and rewarding.

And yes, there’s GOLF. Or spheda, as the game calls it. It is super difficult; your golf ball (‘time spheres’) and the hole (‘time distortions’) are both colored red or blue, and you can only score if your ball and the hole are opposingly colored. Every time the ball bounces, it will change color. You have to think strategically and get the ball to the hole at the same time as it changes the right color and in a certain amount of hits. I’ve had an equal amount of success and failure at spheda, but I still love it.

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Ahh… Night fishing at the docks. All so Max can catch a huge fish to show the guy next to him and recruit him for wacky time-traveling adventures.

Oh, and Max has a camera which he uses to take pictures of absolutely everything and can ‘invent’ items based on the photos he takes. He can even take special pictures called ‘scoops’ that he can give to a friend for a reward. This is actually a huge part of the exploration…

Oh, and all the people you recruit from Palm Brinks can join you on your adventures, providing special bonuses or selling certain items to you, even while you’re in dungeons. Cedric has saved my life by repairing Steve and his weapons so many times…

Oh, and apparently there’s a special dungeon for anyone who actually beats the game (unlike me) that ends in one of the most difficult bosses in the series, someone who may be familiar if you’ve beaten the first Dark Cloud

Oh, and you’ll be humming the earworm soundtrack for days…

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My favorite screen, especially if I’ve broken most of my weapons to get here.

There’s so much to love in Dark Cloud 2. I really adore this game. Like I said, I’ve bought it twice, once for PS2 and once for PS4. For anyone with a PS4, I would highly suggest picking up this game and giving it a try. I haven’t beaten it, but I keep coming back to it, even after all this time. Dark Cloud 2’s weapon upgrading system has such an addictive depth. The game’s monsters and bosses are all unique and varied, and dungeons are just fun to delve. It’s just such a shame that such an epic time travel story had to be so darn campy.

But that’s just my opinion. I know a lot of people love it because of the camp. Regardless, play this game. If you missed it in 2002, you missed a diamond in the rough.

Review: 9.5/10

My 100-Hour Tale – Realm Grinder


Release Date: June 2017

System: Windows, Mac OS X (Steam), Online (

Clicker games are a relatively new concept. Well, ‘last six years’ new.

Wikipedia calls them ‘incremental games’, a game whose gameplay “consists of the player performing simple actions such as clicking on the screen repeatedly…to earn currency”. After enough clicking, there’s usually some mechanic (a ‘minion’, a ‘service’, a ‘structure’, or a ‘business’) that enables the game to ‘click’ for you, enabling you to earn immense amounts of the game’s currency over a certain amount of time. Multipliers are added into the mix, stacking higher and higher to the point where even a 28000% increase isn’t a drop in the bucket.


Where it all starts. Again. And again. And AGAIN.

It’s inexplicable. I can’t describe it. There’s something about Realm Grinder that appeals to me, despite the very nature of the game. I shouldn’t like it. I shouldn’t like to waste time watching numbers tick ever upwards while watching Youtube videos. I shouldn’t like clicking on upgrades whose effects are soon lost in the flood of even more upgrades. Numbers increase exponentially to the point where I have to consult a chart to make sure they’re the numbers I want. Unless you’re a college physics major that deals with incredibly large numbers on a regular basis, I doubt you know how many zeroes are contained in ten-quattuordecillion… Or what that is in scientific notation. I sure don’t. I might as well be playing with my graphing calculator. At least that way, I could type the number I want immediately instead of waiting for some silly game to get there.

But then I wouldn’t get the serotonin rush from having reached that point over an achingly long period of time, would I?

The Gainful Grind

Realm Grinder is an incremental game (or an idle RPG, according to the Steam page) developed by Divine Games and originally published on Kongregate. In fact, that’s where I first played this time sink before discovering it was also free and linkable to Kongregate through Steam.

Do you like a game with goals? Trophies? Upgrades to go with those trophies? A ton of factions to choose from with different upgrade trees to suit your preferred playstyle? Then Realm Grinder is the clicky game for you!


Happyville, tax rate: 49.13 undecillion gold coins per second. Talk about hyperinflation.

You start the game with very little money at first, building neutral buildings like farms, inns, and blacksmiths. These don’t produce much. In fact, without the right upgrade path, these units (businesses? Buildings?) will count for almost nothing. Then, for a small fee, you’ll choose a path: good or evil. The good side emphasizes a more active playstyle, while evil emphasizes idling and offline growth. The good path has honorable buildings such as castles and cathedrals while the evil side has slave pens and hell portals; either side you choose, you’ve got eleven building types to build, seven morally aligned and four neutral.

But we’re not done yet. Once you’ve picked good or evil, it’s time to choose the race you’ll align yourself with in that playthrough. On the good side, you’ve got the fairies, the elves, and the angels: fairies focus on boosting the output of the lowest tier buildings, elves focus on clicking, and angels focus on spell casting and mana regeneration (more on that in a second). For evil, you have the goblins, the undead, and the demons: goblins get cheaper buildings, the undead get increased production the longer the playthrough lasts, and demons increase the output of the highest tier evil buildings.

The more currency you collect, you’ll start to gather gems, which give you a base multiplier to all production. In order to collect your gems, you have to start your playthrough from the beginning, but you’ll have that base multiplier to help you out on your next playthrough. Play long enough, and you’ll gain the ability to reincarnate, giving up all of your gems to really start over with yet another type of base multiplier. And as you collect currency, you’ll increase your chances of finding faction coins, which allow you to gain additional multipliers in your current playthrough! Did I mention that each faction has their own spells which give you additional short-lived multipliers through the use of a slowly refilling mana bar (or quickly refilling, depending on your faction)?

But wait, there’s more! You can even spend real-world money on rubies, which can allow you to receive gems without restarting your playthrough, boost your multipliers even further, and purchase unique upgrades.

Oh, the multipliers. I told you this game is all about multipliers.


Notice the red ‘Buy All Upgrades’ button. You’ll be clicking this a lot.

Play long enough and unlock their many treaties and pacts, and you’ll get to play as neutral factions like the Faceless, which become stronger over multiple playthroughs, the druids, which focus on magic and balance, and the Titans, which have multipliers for your multipliers. Advance even further, and there’s the good dwarves (which enhance the base good factions), the drow (which enhance the base evil factions), and the dragons (which enhance the neutral factions). And then there are the mercenaries, which allow you to take any perks and upgrades from any factions to mix and match them to your heart’s content.

“Oh, Don’t Worry, It’s Free…”

Can I tell you how much time I have in this game? Hint: not nearly as much as some of the reviewers in the Steam reviews have.

155 hours.

I won’t lie, a lot of that time was from me having left the program on in the background while doing other things. But I think an equal amount of time was me having my mouse hovering over the next upgrade, waiting for the currency to tell me when I could click. I don’t remember if I actually gave money to this game. I think I did. A dollar or two. Considering the amount of screen time I spent with this “free” game, I thought the developers deserved something from me.

I say “free”. Steam says “free”. But no. This game and the many ‘incremental games’ I have on my phone have cost me a lot of time. Was it time wasted? Perhaps. Was it time I would have wasted anyway? Maybe.

But man, can these games be addicting, especially in your downtime. It feels as though clicker titles like Realm Grinder take the most enticing thing about video games – slow and steady progression – and drip feed it to you just enough that the itch never goes away. I had stepped away from this game for about three months before writing this, and the game was just where I had left it, ever chugging its dozens of multipliers away like I’d never left. I’m not quite sure if it’s my computer or Kongregate’s server that logs my progress. Maybe it’s both.


Oh, did I mention the excavations? More upgrades! More multipliers!

Either way, I’ll keep it installed. I never know when I’ll need something to fiddle with while watching my favorite streamers on Twitch. If you feel like it, give some love to GrandPOObear and MrLlamaSC, won’t you? I’ve just got to unlock the dragon faction. I just have to. Then I’ll uninstall this wretched game.


Review: 8/10