RWP 2024 – Hades, Unpacking, and TFT (Ember Fu)

Hades, Unpacking, and TFT have all been games that I’ve touched a bit upon in the past and/or long had on my radar. As such, I’m taking a stab at a revolutionary master-post format to perhaps compare some reasons I’ve enjoyed or struggled to pick up again these games over time (and to reassemble the relatively smaller thoughts I’ve had playing them over the last month in one place).

Perhaps the game I’m most invested into of the three for its highs, Hades is a fantastic and beautiful game, bonus for people like me always happy for a new twist on Greek mythology. There’s lots to love about the game in terms of art, gameplay, and the excellent interplay of narrative and the roguelike experience. Never a huge fan of twitch-based roguelikes, it brings a charm to the genre that is accessible to such newcomers or non-veterans. I won’t spend too much time regurgitating praise for the game in these ways, but standout elements to me include the plethora of new interactions gained that reward you for grinding runs, the fun God(ddess)-based boons system that uses the classic roguelike formula in a well-executed and flavorful way, and the boss battles are honestly strike a good balance of challenge and enjoyment. Oh, and I’ll never not obsess at least a little over any form of affinity system.

Hades Every Duo Boon & How to Get Them

Me persistently gifting Aphrodite even though her affinity quest ends up being a bit of a wild goose chase. 🙁

When I first picked up Hades, I played for a pretty decently lengthy session and thoroughly enjoyed it. Picking it up again after a long while, I again found myself digging eagerly down that rabbit hole for a while. But at a point, the fervor does drop a bit for me and I find it a little harder to pick up Hades again on my own than I’d like. Besides general preferences, I think the main reasons for this are a few rougher edges in the game that can hinder my personal experience. Namely, a limited amount of resonance I have with the combat and certain aspects of the grind.

Combat overall feels really clean and well-done, so this isn’t a major complaint. Ultimately, I’m not too enthralled by twitch-based games however. Hades overcomes a lot of this in that it never feels like a negative combat experience–but I still don’t gain that much pleasure from it either. Part of this can also be attributed to the types of weapon/combat available–of the main weapons, the spear always felt the most fun to play while other options felt clunky or limiting in some way, though perhaps with more practice the other weapons might grow on me. The cast, though improving with boons, always felt rather cumbersome and mostly a waste of time to use. Overall, the combat definitely focuses on a fighter-type fantasy, and as someone who enjoys a spellcasting/mage archetype, I didn’t find my desired niche served with particular attention.

As for the grind, I was glad to enjoy doing lots of runs and having death not feel like a failure or consequence at all–rather, it did feel like a natural progression! Alas, around early-to-midway through Asphodel, an entire run did start to drag for me. I attribute this less to a major fault of the game and more to the notion that, well-calibrated as any roguelike may be, everyone hits their difficulty/boredom points at a certain X run in the grind differently. My skill had increased to where getting through Tartarus was breezy enough but not a completely speedy smash-through. It felt a bit tedious to have to go through those levels again only to make minimal progress in Asphodel (where my skill had not yet caught up). This might have combined with the previous little gripe where I think these bits would stay fresher for longer for me if the combat archetypes suited me more.


Unpacking Review (PC) - Hey Poor Player

Pretty, clean, complete decorated level. Also I love to relate to the plushies lineup

In similar fashion, I really like the way Unpacking tells its story. I think it does so in a unique and compelling way, while being somewhat hindered by its particular puzzling mechanics. Before that though, it really is worth resting on the standout way Unpacking unravels a life through the detailed assembling of a room.

Learning about the quirks and shifts of the main character through objects is interesting, and Unpacking puts the impetus on the player to engage in the narrative without spoon-feeding nor hiding the story away. It leaves room for interpretation without being overly opaque. The puzzling is satisfying when you find the right places as well, and there is a sense of completion for each level. In these ways, I think Unpacking does a great job of embodying the coziness of its genre. It’s soft, safe, abundant.

As mentioned though, there are definitely mechanical aspects that can become frustrating and potentially significant hindrances. Puzzle games can sometimes be quite a miss for me for these same reasons–I unfortunately really did not like A Little to the Left despite wanting to–in that what’s “right” can be a little limiting, subjective, and at odds with personal expression. Unpacking and similar games could benefit from smoothing out the actual placement/puzzle-fitting mechanics and offering more flexibility. Particularly in games that revolve around interior design/decor, the process of unpacking and decorating can be pretty different. Overall though, rather than a game that unilaterally washes a sense of coziness over you just by playing, it falls more on the side of a cozy enough experience that asks you to be in the headspace for it. Giving it a chance in that proper mood, I think Unpacking has a really meaningful way of storytelling (and a story) that is worth experiencing without taking up too much of one’s time.

Teamfight Tactics

TFT Set 8.5 - League of Legends Guide - IGN

This isn’t really the main gameplay, and this part of the game is kind of annoying, but I do like the way the carousel looks/vibes

TFT, like Unpacking, can be a bit annoying from a new player’s perspective due to the lack of guidance. And in this game, there is a lot going on, and it’s in a competitive PvP format! I felt like I could see how one might get sucked into this game, and I’ve been sucked into similar games, but it didn’t quite hit the spot for me yet due to a combination of aesthetics and learning curve. Like Hades, part of this may also be attributed to my personal limited resonance for the auto-chess genre. Even games like Super Auto Pets, which I was for a period quite into thanks to the simplified/accessible mechanics and pleasant aesthetics, eventually lose out on most of my interest.

So, TFT definitely had an uphill battle for me. But I did find myself surprisingly enjoying certain aspects of the game. I liked the highs of getting good rolls and strategy of deploying what, where, with which items, how to use my gold, and so on. I imagine diving deeper into the game would also illuminate a variety of fun strategies to employ. The art/aesthetic is also not unpleasant; it’s nicely done, clean, and can even be fairly pretty, even if it’s not my favorite stylistically. (To me, it felt like the aesthetics borrowed from League lend themselves better to the main game than auto-chess, where I personally am not doing too much, so I want to see flashier and/or more stylistic animations/art direction).

After the very initial hump, I even felt pretty good at doing well against fellow chumps once I got the hang of the very base fundamentals. However, the lack of guidance persisted and after my brief moments of satisfaction, I fell back down the hole of doing poorly with no deep understanding of what I should really be focusing on or learning. Nor did I, at this point, have enough drive to put in the effort to do so. In this way, I think TFT needs a stronger hook for those not initially captured by its gameplay to retain my attention.

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  1. Loving this innovative new comparative blog post format…

    I appreciate your comment in the Unpacking section about the processes of decorating and unpacking being different– I think this is a good way to express the frustration I felt at being expected to design and unpack at the same time when unpacking everything first and then organizing second felt much more intuitive to me. I also agree with your point about the puzzle mechanics at some points being at odds with personal expression. Your analysis of Unpacking as a “cozy enough experience that asks you to be in the headspace for it” honestly sounds pretty accurate– it’s a puzzle-story with a cozy aesthetic, but both the puzzle aspect (potentially frustrating) and the story aspect (potentially bittersweet) sort of hold it back from being a fully cozy experience.

    Also, I see what you mean about the aesthetics of TFT lending themselves better to the format of League than of this game, and that a more simplified style may have suited TFT better. I wonder if it has to do with the hands-off gameplay style– in a game like League, you’re actively controlling what’s happening on the field, so it’s much easier to keep track of what’s happening at any given time… but in an autochess game, you’re not in direct control of anything and also probably looking away from the screen and back again frequently during matches. I’d imagine that sort of disconnect can make it more difficult to parse what’s happening on the field at a glance when all of the artwork is highly rendered in a somewhat muted palette and the character models are fairly lifelike in proportions (that is, not chibified), whereas a brighter, cartoonier artstyle could serve to prevent detail overload.

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