Games You Played Today V: The Phantom Play’n

I got through the end of the Palace of the Dead in Reborn and coming back to the abstract 2D world map was like the beginning of Fallout 3 when you get out of the vault and see the blinding sunlight for the first time except 10000x more effective

I quite liked the natural progression of the palace:

  • « I can’t deal with 100 floors of this »
  • Find extreme equipment that turns everybody into a teleporting flying summoning god, turns AI on forever
  • Begrudgingly turn AI back off for the 30 last floors because enemies have ramped up too much, can’t leave because of the sunk cost
  • Find that most of the last floors are skippable

Brothers and sisters- a couple of nights ago, I began my campaign in Suzerain. I platformed on education, health reform, and rewriting the broken constitution. Hear me now, my comrades, I was able to meet two of those promises- rural education increased and healthcare expanded under state control! And, thanks to my wife’s efforts, women started to have some semblance of equality. But the people were not ready for such change! They called me a traitor and my party threw me under the bus, all while the right wing nationalists burned our country. After being ousted by my party, I formed my own- one that could truly speak for the people…

Unsurprisingly, the military threw a coup and sent me to the gulag for life.

I may have gone down this time, but the people’s party will live on!!!

Fun game, the writing isn’t too corny, and the countries/politicians are analogous to real people so you can fill in the blanks and not have it be a big ol’ text dump of information. Excited to play it again on my phone because it’s pretty terrible on the steam deck. Maybe this time I will rule with an iron fist!!


In version 3.0.0Alpha63 on July 10, 2022, long-running Japanese roguelike Angband variant Hengband added over 90 MB of optional dark fantasy music and sound effects. The music plays appropriate tracks at appropriate times (character creation, dungeons, death, etc), looping smoothly while you’re exploring a dungeon floor or whatever.

The tracks are open source mp3s from, according to the readme. I initially started recording them just to upload to YouTube so I could check to make sure they don’t trigger any copyright notices. They didn’t! = D This recording of them was a bit thrown together so it’s somewhat rough, but hopefully it may be useful to someone else too.

I’m thinking that I might use them as looping background music when playing Angband. : )

(I like the added sound effects too, they fit better and are less distracting than Angband’s optional SFX. Could use a sound for digging though. : D)


I love this game, played it a whole bunch of times when it came out and got… most of the possible endings, I want to say.


Oh heck yeah. Was wondering about the other endings because my partner and I ended up on the same path. I think I’m afraid to go full authoritarian because I don’t want Serge to be disappointed in me!!


Dragon Quest Monsters is delightful even 24 years (!) later. I’m playing with this retranslation patch, mostly because I wanted something different:

It’s actually a really good patch though, and makes the game’s dialogue infinitely more charming.

The game itself is still rock solid, of course. It’s hard to communicate how much of a revelation this was for me when I got it as a kid. I was fresh off of Pokemon Red (or was it Blue?) and my mom got this for me because she said it “looked like one of those pokemon games you like”. This was my first Dragon Warrior game of any description, so every reference went straight over my head.

At first I was slightly disappointed in this game - it’s much more basic in structure than Pokemon (go to dungeon, defeat boss, talk to king, do next tournament, repeat) and doesn’t really have exploration in the same way. All the dungeons are randomly generated as well, so it has a kind of generic flavor in some ways.

It’s also Way Fucking Harder! As an adult I’m breezing through the early dungeons and tournament fights, but as a kid I didn’t really understand RPGs so I was struggling hardcore. The game can really screw you over with dungeons too - the random encounter rate is average for the genre, but the convoluted layouts will sometimes mean you spend a good long time looking for the exit. Or sometimes you spawn right next to the exit! There are also a ton of special rooms that can either be benefits or serious challenges, and every drain on resources makes it harder when you finally face the boss. I ended up relying a lot on luck to get through dungeons.

I also screwed myself over on accident as well. I was used to Pokemon where you must tell your little dingus what to do on every turn. But DQM has 3 settings where you can tell them to be aggressive, mixed, or cautious, which lets them choose their own actions. Letting the monsters decide their own actions will make them better at deciding what to do, and sometimes even providing significant benefits (more crits, free spells, defending other monsters).

OR you can specifically tell them what to do every turn. The problem is that if you always micromanage, your monsters become unable to manage themselves at all, and get really dumb. And in the tournaments, you can’t specifically tell them what to do, only provide general coaching, so your dumbass monsters will just sit there and get killed.

So of course I turned all my monsters into cowardly idiots by micromanaging them! The manual even specifies this (of course I read the manual) but I’m a control freak, so…

Still, I managed to get pretty far in the game once I understood it. The breeding in this game is fairly complex and robust, and since you lose monsters upon breeding them, you have to end up with a rotating cast of monsters if you want to succeed. Once I got over the worry that I was losing great monsters, then I was able to take advantage of the breeding system and make some really cool monsters.

Also, once I figured this out I was much more skeptical of the single player in Pokemon. It’s kind of brainless and relies on novelty of finding new 'mons, towns, and NPCs to drive interest. There’s nothing wrong with novelty of course, but I ended up preferring the mechanical complexity of breeding monsters in DQM.

This was also my first roguelite of sorts, since the random generation of dungeons, items, and special rooms most closely mirrors mystery dungeon games. I was able to recognize these elements for what they were only much later, when I saw them in Dokapon: Monster Hunter on the GBA, which is much closer to a mystery dungeon game, and also extremely fucking stupid.

I only finished this game about…maybe 6 years ago or so? I tapped out as a kid at basically the final tournament, essentially because I was intimidated by it. I did this a lot - even when I could see the goal line and how to reach it, I would lose confidence and quit. I was very proud to finish this game (and the sequel) as an adult!

I’ve also finished all the DQM Joker games (they’re really good!) and attempted to play Caravan Hearts but something about that one rubbed me the wrong way.

This also started my long-running habit of liking the spinoff games from DQ much more than the main series. Between these games, the Rocket Slime game on the DS, and Dragon Quest Builders 1 & 2 I’ve basically had great DQ spinoffs for my entire life.

Anyway I’m not sure if I’ll finish this a second time but I’m enjoying my time with it for now.


OH and the DQM remake on the 3DS sucks!! Unfortunately, turning randomized dungeons into random 3D environments makes them much, much worse looking. Also, the monsters are visible in the field, which removes the challenge of these randomly generated dungeons anyway, meaning you can just avoid everything and navigate these irritating rooms totally unharassed until you find the exit through the annoying maze. And the music is worse across the board!! Listen to this song from the original:

(incidentally this is the ringtone I use for when Alicia calls me)

Now listen to this remake from the 3DS game:

holy shit this sucks, oh my god it’s awful, those horns are so bad, pls make it stop

Anyway the original is the way to go, it’s actually a much breezier game just because the navigation and battles are way faster. I haven’t played the remake of the second one, but I suspect it’s better by default since the structure of that game would lend itself to 3D much more naturally.

Okay that’s all!!


tried the Forspoken demo yesterday

i’ve really wanted to like this one but i’ve grown so tired of the sandbox formula i can’t do it.

starting to feel like the next couple generations of games are going to be a hard time for me lol


Note to self: if you’re having a good Shiren 5 run but you’re also 3/4ths asleep, stop playing. Do not do the “one more floor” thing.


yoooo i just played through this like last month! it was also a very early videogame for me. i had a grandmother who would buy me game boy games, i guess at random-- she certainly didn’t know anything about them, and i barely did-- but somehow she managed to hit, like, link’s awakening and final fantasy legend 3 and legend of the river king and dragon quest monsters. and that’s my new games journalism paragraph for the year

but yeah it’s the only impression i had of dragon quest at all until i was older and started giving a shit, which is funny. i also found it very difficult as a kid and never finished it. it has a pretty generous postgame situation! it’s funny how many fairly nuanced things it exposed me to-- the randomized dungeons, that disparity you mentioned between giving orders/switching between AI options, the relentless obfuscation of exactly how breeding works-- that wouldn’t really come into focus for me until much later

it also might be the first game i played that largely takes place in one location that changes over time. the way it’s all in a gigantic tree, and the npcs give you access to different levels of it as you clear the first tournaments, and then at a few different points there are earthquakes that open up new nooks, some of which you could see before but couldn’t reach (a dragon quest staple, as present here as anywhere else)… that’s like my favorite kind of shit!!

what a beauty too. that very first shot in your post goes so hard!!


it’s so funny/insane that in virtual on oratorio tangram you can only control the camera while moving by jump canceling


Holy shit is the new God of War game unfunny. I can’t tell if it’s badly written or poorly delivered or some combination of both but it’s been excruciating. Especially rough for a game in which every other line is a “joke” and nobody ever shuts up.


wow…and they even hired the lead writer of Borderlands 2 for this one … surely they did every thing they could to avoid this


Wow! I didn’t know that but it makes so much more sense now. Incredible unforced error by the devs and very disappointing as I found the earnestness of the first game very endearing (and sometimes very funny) and was sincerely looking forward to more.


I need to figure out why I still like it since no one else seems to. I think the relationship between this idiotically stubborn father and his son is too fundamentally funny for me to be critical of


Oh I do like the game otherwise well enough when everyone isn’t making some self-referential joke (yeah game I get it haha Kratos likes loot but you don’t gotta say something about it every time I take 5 steps off the story path to open a chest), though I really need it to start sticking to a lane between battling and puzzles and hope once the game opens up a bit more (I’m only like 10 hours in) I can stretch my legs in the battle system a bit more without having to stop and pixel hunt for a few minutes.


Three versions/variants of Angband:

Angband, 2022, Windows, SDL2 front-end, Gervais tileset

Zangband, 2004, Cygwin

Running to my doom in the gorgeous procedural wilderness of the first Angband mega-variant. Zangband’s earliest incarnation dates back to 1994, only a year after Angband was given wide release. The procedural wilderness replaced Zangband’s earlier quest system and breakthrough but relatively small fixed wilderness with random towns separated by random stretches of deadly autumnal jungle. This was the final version; the promised revamped quest system never arrived, and Zangband, which had greatly expanded Angband’s Tolkien-themed single town and dungeon with material from Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, was replaced among players by larger variants using the earlier, fixed-wilderness Zangband as their base. Zangband lead at the time was Robert Ruehlmann.


Angband 3.0.6, 2005, DOS

I used the built-in color and character editors to make it monochrome and replace the ASCII mode’s usual “@” player character with the Rogue DOS smiley face. ^ _^

Angband maintainer at the time was also Robert Ruehlmann; the DOS version by this time defaulted to a bitmap graphics and sound mode, created by Ruehlmann. It was his last version and the last Angband DOS release.


I randomly booted up Going Under because it’s been on my Deck for ages

oh no, is this good game comedy writing? that can’t be right, that doesn’t exist

maybe it’s not good per se but I bet they have to be high fiving each other as FTX implodes violently

I guess the game part is fun too


Been playing Divinity OS 2 with the Gloomhaven boys, and wow, this game does fuckin rule. Everyone was right. The tactical combat system puts all the others I’ve see in crpgs to shame, and the challenge (on the hardest difficulty below the top hardcore/permadeath one) is delicious. I can’t stop thinking about BUILDS. And I guess the very non-Tolkien setting is pretty cool too, though the game has the good grace to recognize the writing is not what you are here for and not to make you read Planescape reams to get things done.

I really wasn’t sure how a crpg was gonna make multiplayer work but it’s quite elegant. It’s gonna take us a while to get thru this one I think, but I’m real excited for Baldur’s Gate 3 after this.