We finished For All Mankind and it was genuinely brilliant. It was well worth the delayed gratification of going back and rewatching the first one-and-three-quarters seasons before advancing to the end because it reminded me of details I’d forgotten and made some of the characters’ motivations more convincing. Plus it’s just very well written and acted so it can easily sustain a second viewing.
The long finale got a little close to being overstuffed but it was thrilling and emotional and nicely paid off lots of the earlier setup. As with the previous season, the last few seconds made me excited for what’s coming next.
Schitt’s Creek isn’t going very well. We’re only a few episodes in, and everyone says it doesn’t properly get going until season two, but my enthusiasm for continuing is probably too low to get through all thirteen episodes in the first season. I bet it wouldn’t have done so well if they’d called it Everyone’s Annoying.
I eventually finished watching season four of Arrested Development as background entertainment while exercising. It never really came together and I don’t think anything funny happened. Season five isn’t looking much better so I’m pretty keen for this show to be over now. Which modern-day classic sitcom should I try next?
I’ve spent about 20 hours with Returnal so far and feel really conflicted. Obviously I like it enough to keep putting time in, and it’s still a very impressive game, but I also wouldn’t say it’s good.
It’s certainly compelling and can be fun to play moment-to-moment, but it’s hampered by various design mistakes that stop me from properly enjoying it. Fundamentally I’m put off by how extremely unforgiving it is: it places an unhealthy focus on the player doing everything perfectly, even right at the start of the game, then piles on unnecessary high-stakes platforming in gloomy environments and intrusive UI that can pop up and obscure the action in the middle of combat. It also wants me to care about such minor adjustments to so many different character stats that I might as well be playing a spreadsheet.
I streamed it a bit this week. My first session on Thursday was borderline incoherent because I hadn’t realised how tired and discombobulated I was after a day of work, but the Saturday one was more relaxed and I had a better time.
During Saturday’s stream I was surprised that I couldn’t rest in the ship a second time to replenish my health, which turned out to be because that ability had been removed in a patch. This change has caused some consternation online and seems like bad judgement to me: each run is already so long and repetitive that it’s borderline cruel to remove the one feature which makes it a tiny bit more likely that a beginner will actually progress beyond the point where they died last time.
I’m not hate-playing or it anything — I did eventually beat the first boss today, which has livened things up by unlocking a new environment to explore — but at this point I’m primarily motivated by a stubborn desire to get my money’s worth. I do think it’s fine for a game to be difficult but it feels like a failure of design for so much of that difficulty to be front-loaded, and it’s frustrating in combination with Sony’s no-refunds policy which means I didn’t get a chance to see if the game worked for me I before I got stuck with it.
It goes without saying that I’m mainly annoyed with myself for not being better at video games, but another reason I’m finding Returnal frustrating is that I’m also annoyed by the silly macho culture around difficulty. A certain vocal demographic gets a kick out of being better than everyone else at really hard games, and I worry that the existence of that uncritical audience drives demand for stuff like this.
I’m not opposed to difficult games, I just want them to be accessible and well-designed, and to provide fair opportunities for learning and improvement without being painful. Celeste is a great example: it’s extremely challenging but its feedback loops are tight and rewarding, so as long as you keep playing it you’ll eventually learn how to beat each level without much backtracking or repetition.
Games like Returnal are less thoughtful and seem to pride themselves on just being difficult for its own sake, with no real care put into how to train, direct or encourage a new player. Here are shitloads of stats, here is some very unforgiving combat, hope you have fun! I will probably not.
This morning I spent a pleasant half-hour wrangling flour. My third 16kg bag was delivered earlier in the week, so I had to first get the bag open (not easy) and then decant it into various jars.
In my kitchen I keep three one-litre jars of white flour, wholemeal flour and 50/50 white/wholemeal mix (for feeding my starter). It’s a bit of a procedure to get these jars filled and mixed, requiring some back-and-forth to the big bag with the white flour jar and then involving some scales, a flour scoop and a dessert spoon for the final fiddly bits. It makes a mess but it’s methodical and calming and I don’t mind cleaning up afterwards once I have the jars all full and tidy.
That sort of thing is more my speed.
4.3kg down. Slow and steady.