My 2020 Game of the Year

Much of the media I’ve consumed has been in a subgenre of “going outside is bad, actually.” This partially extends to video games, except for when you consider I’ve played Death Stranding, Animal Crossing, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. But there has been one game which really helped me wrangle any sense of control in what I didn’t yet know was already a chaotic year of upheaval, changes, fear, and uncertainty.

That’s right, I’m talking about Frostpunk (available on PS4, XBox One, and Steam).

Logo by 11bit studios

What It’s About

The year is 1886 in an alternative history where the world turns to ice as a result of global volcanic cooling. In the years before, the U.S. and British governments built generators in the coal-rich North to serve as city centers in the events of such an apocalypse. You play as “the Captain” who is to shepherd a group and lead a city to survival, despite plunging temperatures, lack of resources, and incoming blizzards.

11bit Studios based in Poland created the game and it was released on PC in 2018, came out on consoles in 2019, but I didn’t really start plying until 2020. Since then, I have sunk well over 150 hours into this strategic survival game with varying levels of success per play time.

What is the Game Play Loop?

The gameplay loop centers on you providing for your people, acquiring resources, and passing laws. Generally, you start off with a group of new citizens with maybe some coal, wood, or steel. All but one scenario have a generator to maintain heat (temperatures start at -20C and don’t get much higher). Then, to win each scenario, it’s a matter of achieving its goals (or simply surviving for as long as possible in Endless Mode) while also ensuring the survival of as many people as possible.

This game is really freaking hard. The balance between Discontent and Hope is precarious. Too much Discontent or too low Hope (or both) for too long will guarantee a game over when you’re ousted. Almost every decision you make as Captain has consequences, intended or otherwise. Wanting to put children in shelters might affect your workforce. Electing to sustain life or introduce radical treatment for frost bite can affect recovery times. Resources also don’t just affect whether you can erect certain buildings. You have to do research to do things like activate coal mining because there are only so many coal piles available.

On top of that, each scenario presents its own challenges. There’s a moment in “A New Home” where Hope plummets and you get access to one of two sets of laws to maintain morale. In “The Refugees,” maintaining food infrastructure and keeping illness levels low means having impeccable food infrastructure and health care, while keeping in mind that more people arrive every day. The current bane of my existence is “The Last Autumn,” in which you need to build the generator while preventing strikes and fatal accidents (I keep running out of steel, help).

What is the Appeal Here?

There’s a certain cozy certainty to the nihilism which permeates the game from start to finish. But at the same time, you as the player have so much control. Project managing the apocalypse, especially with where I was at with my day job at the time and continuing into the pandemic, made me feel like things weren’t so bleak. What I also didn’t expect to be so charmed by was the fact that each person in your city has a name. It’s your responsibility to make sure they survive, and yes, it is heartbreaking when you forget to turn on your Generator and half of them die, but you know what you can do?

Learn from the mistake and try again.

Redoing the levels is part of the experience. The mechanics don’t change and the game doesn’t throw any unfair curve balls. Time after time, you can iterate your strategy, prioritize different research projects, decide when you want to start exploring, and so much more. I also enjoy the bit where you can do some urban planning to ensure heat distribution, but that might just be a me thing.

In short, if you love strategy games, hard choices, a moving soundtrack, and being responsible for the lives of others, definitely give this game a try.

Let It Snow: Five Winter Reads

Solstice_ReadsHappy solstice, friends. While the weather is less than wintry in New York, where 60 degrees is tee shirt weather, there are some books out there which make you want to cozy up with a mug of tea in front of a fire (or Fireplace for Your Home). Here are five of my favorites.

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Review: FROM THE EARTH TO THE SHADOWS (Blog Tour)

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From the Earth to the Shadows (2018) is the second part to this urban fantasy starring Malin, a Valkyrie assigned to send immortals to Kurnugia when their time is up. Things haven’t been as they appear for quite some time. Picking up right where Between the Blade and the Heart (2018), left off, Malin and her friends are trying to find the answers to questions left unanswered in the wake of the murder of Malin’s mother, Marlowe, a fellow Valkyrie. A stacked sequel, there are battle scenes, tender moments, and questioned loyalties galore as the world itself hangs in a balance (4 stars out of 5). Thank you Wednesday Books for the eARC. Continue reading

My Westworld Review

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At some peer pressure and falling into personal interest territory, I decided to watch Westworld. Based on the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton, it’s another romp through a scary, ill-thought-out amusement park. It does for the Wild West what Game of Thrones did for medieval times: It’s not at all fun and there are no clear-cut heroes and villains.

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International Women’s Day: Five Badass Ladies in SF/F

IWD2016It’s International Women’s Day and I wanted to draw some attention to five women and girls that I met in recent reads. They’re pretty different from each other and I wanted to compile them into a helpful list for fellow female-lead story writers such as myself to draw inspiration from. From women who can rule the world to kids looking for companionship, this list has some of it all.

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Reading Schedule: January and February

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Goal setting is a thing I’m working on, especially since I have so many other projects going on (graduate school, what?). So here are some books I’m reading and the order of priority for Kindle.

Currently reading:

Radiance by Grace Draven (Kindle)
The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus (Hard-Copy)
The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski (Hard-Copy)
The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman (Hard-Copy)

I’m a mess when it comes to my hard copies, so by mid-January, after grad applications, I want to be done with all those. So I can move onto the books with deadlines.

To Be Read:

Inked by Eric Smith (Next on Kindle)
Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (Next on Kindle)

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer (Read before 1/25)
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Read before 2/23)
Wiesza Jaskolki by Andrzej Sapkowski (Note: My project before going to Poland is to read this, so let’s see how that goes. The last most-difficult book I read in my native tongue was Harry Potter. Or was it Faerie Wars? Either way, NOT an adult dark fantasy)

What are y’all planning to read? Friend me on Goodreads because yay, recommendations.

Happy reading,

Jo

 

One Punch Man: A Triumph in Simplicity

You need to watch this.

You need to watch this.

I spent my New Year’s Eve with the boyfriend and my best friend from high school watching One Punch Man (2015), an anime about a bored of his super hero career because he can kill any enemy with one punch. So, what’s the plot? Well, let me tell you.

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