Things are weird

It’s been about a week now since Ohio went into quarantine. Last week felt like that part in a made for TV disaster movie where you’re getting to know all the characters. This week feels like when the storms on the horizon and all the main characters are waiting for it to hit.

Fortunately, I haven’t been impacted by this too much. I consider myself lucky that I work for a company that can function with a fully remote workforce. I’m thankful that I’m still working when a lot of people I know are not since everything is slowly shutting down. I started a new job about 4 months ago and was just getting a handle on how everything was working.  everything is completely different but with new challenges come new opportunities to grow.

The biggest change for me has been learning to work from home. I always thought it’d be hard to do. I thought there would be too many distractions. It turns out, it’s not that much different from working in the office once I get going. The only difference is my cat would like to help me work now…Even when my wife is home it’s easier than I thought it’d be.

No, it turns out the biggest challenge for me is when work is over. Most days, I’m playing games on my PC after work. Now that I spend all day in my home office, it’s the last place I want to be at the end of the day. As a result, the Switch has been getting a lot more playtime in my house. Also, a lot more reading and Netflix has followed.

It’s a weird time we live in right now. We’re living through a historic event, one we will hopefully never have to live through again. I still can’t wrap my brain around it. How the whole world has shut down and how the most mundane things like going out to eat just don’t exist right now.

I hope all of you stay safe and healthy out there.

 

Nearing the End of Amalur

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I’ve finished up the desert zone Detyre and I can confidently say it is my least favorite zone. The Gnomish city of Adessa wasn’t only confusing to run around, there were a bunch of Gnomes there who thought they were better than me and kept saying so over and over again! Detyre itself was, ok. Each zone had it’s own story again and most of that story was helping a Gnomish mining corporation kick people out of their homes and businesses….the Gnomes are wonderful people in Amalur. I enjoyed the Red Marches the most. The whole zone takes place in a big canyon which leads to some great screenshots. There’s also a tunnel system you have to go through to get to places you can see but can’t reach any other way. I thought that was nifty.

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The main story leads me to find Fomorus Hughes, who raised me from the dead, in some cave trying to recreate the Well of Souls. It turns out the gnome templar who was funding his operation also wants me dead…I hate these gnomes. After finishing up with that quest like and the zones of Detyre it was off to Mel Senshir to break a siege.

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Mel Senshir feels like where the game should have ended. It’s this massive battle where you’re completing objectives and hunting down the big bad Niskaru Balor who you must stop or Mel Senshir will be burned to ashes. The fight with the Balor is the first time I’ve actually lost a boss fight. I mean, this one has mechanics that need to be avoided, I couldn’t just meteor strike my way through it. The battle culminates in a thrilling conclusion where I rip the beast apart with my magic Fate powers and am celebrated as a hero!

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And then I’m told I have to go to a swamp. I can’t even enjoy my time as the “Hero of Mel Senshir”, which the locals now address me by,  because Gadflow still has to be stopped. I had mentioned that I was excited to see the zones of a Klurikon and Alabastra. The zones have cool names like Cursewood and The Twighlight pass. I though Klurikon was going to be more of a spooky foggy place but it’s actually a rotting swamp. The winter Fae live over here and while their counterparts, the Summer Fae, represent life and growth, they represent death and decay. So this swamp is their holy ground. The Midden is my favorite zone in Klurikon. It’s supposed to be a fae graveyard celebrating decay. But the Tuatha are using it as a graveyard for the mortals they kill. The most interesting set piece here is the Gallows Tree which takes up most of the zone and has hundreds of bodies hanging from it. Again, it’s supposed to be a celebration symbol as the Fae do not actually decay when they die. But the Tuatha stuck a bunch of mortals up there who do. Everyone in the zone keeps complaining about the smell.

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Klurikon and Alabastra have fewer locations and fewer side quests than the previous zones. This was a blessing as I’m starting to get a little burnt out on the game. There is a new faction questline for the House of Sorrows in Klurikon. To be honest, I’m not really sure what the point of it was but I did a lot of running around to collect “Sorrows” before someone else did which was supposed to aide in my fight against the Tuatha. It runs you through some dungeons throughout Klurikon but nothing really interesting comes out of it.

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Alabastra was even shorter than Klurikon. It’s actually very streamlined and I believe I only did one or two side quests here. There are some tunnels that will bypass some of the zones and get you closer to the final boss. I didn’t take many screenshots of the place as it’s just various shades of gray rock and blue crystals. At this point, I also stopped delving into dungeons. They were marked on the map and I kept expecting quests to lead to them but they never did so I never went in. Also at this point I’ve stopped looking in chests and even looting enemies because I haven’t seen single gear upgrade since Mel Senshir.

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I’m always surprised how long these zones take to get through. They don’t look that big on the map but by the time I finished Klurikon I had added another 5 hours to my playtime. Alabastra took another 3. I’m not complaining, I enjoyed my time but I also felt like both zones should have been over sooner.

 

 

 

October Gaming Goals

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Yes I’m still here after all!

Towards the end of every year, I have periods where I totally lose all interest in gaming. I’m never sure when it’s going to be but it’s usually around November/December. I never know how long it’s going to last and it’s usually because my interest shifts to reading more. I think sometimes I just need a break from the hobby. I always come back though, and with a renewed vigor. This year it happened to come in September and it turns out it’s hard to post to a gaming blog when you don’t actually play any games. It’s safe to assume I didn’t hit any of my gaming goals last month. Well except for Trove. Getting dragons isn’t too hard when there are a ton of podcasts I wanted to catch up on.

But alas, it’s October. I love October. In the beginning, Fall is starting to get underway and all the colors change., in the middle we have horror movies galore, and we cap it all off with Halloween,

As much as I love the horror genre, I’ve never played through a horror game. I picked up 2 in the summer sale this year, Outlast and Observer, for just this occasion. I’m hoping to get through at least one of them. They aren’t too long, 5 and 7 hours respectively, so even an hour a night I can finish them by the end of the month. I’m leaning towards playing Observer first due to its sci-fi setting.

Progression in Trove has been slow going. I’m still working towards getting more dragons that I already have the eggs for. Upon the docket this month is Aurym, Keeper of Histories andDraccolatl, The Mellower. Aurym because he looks cool and Draccolatl because the fragments have been sitting in my inventory for a good 6 months.

Finally, I plan on puttering around Star Wars the Old Republic a bit this month. One of the books I’ve been reading in September is Champions of the Force by Kevin J Anderson. It’s the third book in the Jedi Academy Trilogy and it’s reminded me how much I like the Star Wars expanded universe. Plus with an expansion on the way at the end of the month it seems like a good time to dip my toes in.

Audio Drama Sunday: The Black Tapes Season 1

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The Black Tapes is a weekly podcast from the creators of Pacific Northwest Stories, and is hosted by Alex Reagan. The Black Tapes Podcast is a serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both. Do you believe?

The Black Tapes is all I’ve listened to this week. It’s consumed my commutes, it’s taken over my gaming time, I can’t stop listening to it. I finished up season 1 on Friday and I’m on the first episode of season 2 now.

What’s keeping me hooked is the style and the consistency with how the story is told. It sounds exactly like a documentary podcast and sometimes I find myself forgetting that it’s fiction. The cast does a great job selling the authenticity of the story.

So let’s talk about that story. It starts with Alex Reagan, the host, going on a ghost hunt. While she’s talking to ghost hunters and paranormal researchers, the name Richard Strand keeps coming up. Strand turns out to be a skeptic in the field and has an institute that’s sole purpose is to disprove proof of the paranormal. There is a million-dollar prize offered for those who can provide unrefutable proof of the paranormal. Alex set’s out to interview him and in his office, he has a set of black VHS tapes. These are videos of paranormal occurrences that can’t be proven false yet because the technology isn’t there to do so. Sounds like a bit of a cop-out to me…

The show focuses on Alex and Strand revisiting the Black Tapes and talking to people who were involved in them. The first few episodes lead you to believe that this is going to be the format of the show. But as Alex reveals more Black Tapes content the more connected they all seem.

What makes this show work for me is the opposites that are Alex Reagan and Dr. Strand. Alex is the journalist with an open mind and although she says she doesn’t believe in the paranormal it seems very clear that she wants to believe. Strand on the other hand, is a full-blown skeptic. Everything can be disproven with science and logic. Every time Alex brings up a piece of evidence that seems like it’s irrefutable, Strand is there to knock it down.  The show wouldn’t be as interesting without that dynamic. It would be like countless other horror shows and movies. It leaves me waiting for evidence so compelling that not even Strand can disprove it.

I’m glad I’m listening to the show after it’s finished so I don’t have to wait between episodes. Especially between season 1 and 2. Season 1 doesn’t end with wrapping any of the plot points up. In fact, there’s even more questions raised. It’s not a satisfying finale but luckily I can just press play on the next episode.

I’m a bit worried though. I’ve heard from friends that the podcast ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. The Black Tapes released it’s final episode on November 7th, 2017, it’s not coming back. But that worry is offset with just how well this story is told so I’ll take a disappointing ending to be able to listen to 2 more seasons of this.

 

WoW Classic is Not for Me

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Rogue Stuff

I’m gonna be that guy. That guy that comes out and says, I’m not into WoW Classic. I tried,  I really did. I put in some hours over the long weekend and most of the time I asked the question: “Am I having fun?”.  That answer was no far more often than not and I’m trying to figure out why.

I managed to get an undead rouge to level 10 by the time I packed it in. At first, I liked the novelty of no quest markers on the mini-map. That ended fairly quickly when I had more than a couple active quests and couldn’t figure out where the NPC was for the turn in. Those quest markers have become such an integral part of games now it’s hard to imagine a game without them.

I tried a few characters. Before the undead rogue there was a dwarf priest who I got to level 9. I wasn’t enjoying having to wait for my health and mana to come back up after one or two rounds of combat. I rolled an Orc Rouge to check out their starting area. I stuck with that for a level or 2 until I had the idea that I really wanted to play an undead rogue.

I can see where everyone else is coming from. The sense of community in the game is great. General chat is full of people talking and sometimes even being helpful. There are roving groups, random invites, and even some conversations to be had while leveling. I joined a guild and had a good time chatting with the people there but that isn’t enough to hold my interest.

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I spent a good chunk of time on my priest like this.

I know a lot of that is because I don’t have that nostalgia to get me into the game. I don’t have friends who want to play it with me either. I came in curious to see how it all began, what it was like 15 years ago. Turns out, games have come a long way in 15 years, I’m sure to no one’s surprise.

I would have loved this game in 2006. I was a freshman in high school, this was exactly the kind of game me and my friends would have loved playing. Many of us were playing Runescape the year before and I think most of them would have been playing World of Warcraft if they could have gotten a subscription. Classic is grindy in a way my highschool self would have loved. Grinding weapon proficiencies, joining groups to level, finding quests in a giant world, and working on professions. There’s a ton of time to be sunk here and that’s just something I don’t have as much of anymore.

And I think that’s what it’s really all about. I spent a good 10 or so hours playing to get to level 10. Unshared tags make it hard to get quests done. Grouping up is a way around that for sure but the quests still take a while because others are also doing the same quest that isn’t in your group. Everything feels slow and I just don’t like the pacing.

Right now, I can’t see myself putting a ton more hours into Classic. I may dabble a bit more in the coming weeks, I still have a full month subscription after all. Or maybe I’ll go try out retail again and see how that goes. In the meantime, I look forward to reading everyone else’s stories from their time in Classic. I’ve said this before, and it may just be true, I enjoy reading about WoW more than I like playing it.

Taking Down Ultra Hydra

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This week Jay and I took down Ultra Shadow Hydrakken with just the two of us. We’ve been stick on Ultra Vengful Pinata God for a month or 2. We try to clear the shadow towers on Mondays when the bonus is in effect for the Titan’s Treasure. It helps keep the flux fund up for the rest of the week. These are supposed to be for up to 8 players but Jay has enough power rank on his gunslinger to carry us both through the lower level ultra towers.

It was a whim dicision to try the next Ultra tower. I have gotten my Dracolyte’s Power Rank up by a few thousand over the weeks and I thought why not? Getting to Hydra was a bit rough, the mobs in the towers were a bit more difficult, taking flasks with almost every hit. Once we got into the boss room we switched up classes. Jay had his revnant with a tank build that netted him just over 10 million health. My 27k PR Shadow Hunter provided the DPS. It took us about 10 minutes to down Hydra. When you’re used to taking out these shadow tower bosses in under 30 seconds it felt like an eternity.

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One of the advantages of not burning the boss  is that you get to see the mechanics. Yes, there are some mechanics to the bosses in Trove. Hydra spits out green slime that coats a wide area and spawns adds. Luckily for me, Jay took most of the adds. The few that escaped his range hit my squishy shadow hunter for a lot. When Hydra gets down to around 40% health he starts sucking every player underneath him. After the first time I had to hang back the rest of the fight after one hit took 15 flasks.

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We tried Ultra Darknik Dreadnaught. We were feeling underpowered on our run to the boss room.  To my suprise we almost had him but just didn’t have enough power to finish the last eigth of health. Out of the two fights, this one was my favorite. Draknik has 2 different sheilds, a bunch of rockets that leave fire you shouldn’t stand on, and one move that forces players to run to the corners or be one shotted.

So now I have another goal for Trove: to two man all of the shadow tower difficulties. I definatley need to put some more PR into my shadow hunter and my dracolyte. We’ll see what we can get our time down too on Ultra Hydra over the next few weeks. I’ve been lacking some drive to play Trove lately but a new goal is just what I need to get me back into the game. Plus, I still have plenty episodes of the No Sleep Podcast to listen to while I play.

 

VAST Horizon: Adrift- Ghost

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Dr. Nolira Eck is finally able to open a communications channel and hear a distress hail to the Bifrost.

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Released: July 22nd, 2019
Length: 31 minutes

If you’re keeping track you might be wondering where episodes 2-4 are. Truth be told, I ran out of time to get my thoughts together for those 3 episodes before this new one came out last week. Even this write up is a bit later than I would have liked it to be. They’re good you should listen to them. Norlira does some crazy stuff, we learn there’s another life form on the ship, and she names the AI Ali.

I still like how the world-building happens in bits and pieces throughout the episodes. This week we learned that humanity has spread far a wide throughout the galaxy via a lecture. Expansion to the point where the lecturer questions if we should be expanding even more

.Where episode 1-4 were fast-moving and action-packed, episode 5 gives us a bit of a breather with a more reflective tone. Even though it’s not as exciting, it’s an important mommnet. So far the dynamic between Norlira and the AI has been built around survival. Ali is calculating the best routes to take, the amount of time Norlira has to get things done, constantly reminding her that there is no one available to help her. In this episode and even a little bit in episode 4, Ali seems to be trying to understand Norlira more and questions why she does some of the things she does. Tanja Milojevic does a fantastic job with Ali. There are times when she seems almost human. Other times I’m reminded it’s only an advanced computer when it repeats words and phrases the exact same way.

—-Spoilers Ahead—-

At the end of the last episode, Norlira had reached the communications bay and was receiving a distress signal. We learn that this distress signal is coming from an escape pod of a seemingly different ship that also ran into something. The child, Po Yano, is the sole survivor.

Norlira desperately tries to contact Po but it seems the escape pod can only broadcast out. What resonated the most with me is this scene where Norlira is determined to let Po know that she’s not alone which is something that Ali can’t understand. There’s this great exchange between the two where Norlira keeps arguing she needs to try to help this girl and the AI keeps calculating the chances of saving Po at zero. And even when it’s revealed that this broadcast was just a recording, Ali doesn’t understand why Norlira is still upset.

Norlira has overcome incredible things given the circumstances. She’s gone outside the ship, she’s traversed areas of the ship with no life support, she’s crawled through maintenance shafts in the dark, and yet she can’t save this scared girl trapped and alone in space. To me, it seems Norlira is trying to come to terms with just how helpless she is in her situation. You can hear the defeat in her voice when she says “…She tried so hard and there was no one here for her, she was alone, she died out here alone. Just like I will.”

Steam Sale 2019: And Actually Playing Them

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I’m trying something new with the games I own. Play them as soon as I buy them. I know, what a novel idea. I haven’t bought many games this year because I know I don’t play them. Then like clockwork, the steam sale comes around and suddenly I have 8-10 new games that then sit there collecting virtual dust while I play something else.

I remember when I first discovered Steam and the magic of that first steam sale. Texts and calls would be flying among friends about which games we have to get right now because of the amazing flash sales. I ended up with a lot of games that year because they were cheap, not necessarily because I wanted to play them.

After a few years of being a PC gamer, the steam sale loses it’s excitement and just becomes a fact of life. Don’t buy any games in June/July because that big sale’s coming. I for one am glad they did away with the flash sales. Sure the discounts aren’t as big but there’s no fear of missing our and constantly checking steam for the game you want.

These days I don’t buy much on steam unless there’s a sale. I browse games, I wishlist them, and then when the big sales come around I see what still interests me and I buy it. God forbid I ever buy a game at full price. I rarely go off my wishlist now unless a friend gets something they want to play with me. I even cleaned some games out of my wishlist this year. If I haven’t bought it in the 5 years it’s been sitting in there, I don’t think I ever will.

My biggest change this year is how I organize Steam. Before I had a bunch of genre categories and placed games accordingly. When I beat a game I  put it in the completed category and hid it from my library. This year I decided to make a new category called Current, place all the games I just bought in it and collapse everything else. I’m only going to play these games until there aren’t anymore on the list and then add more based on what I feel like playing. I like it better this way. There’s artificially less choice in what I want to play. We will see how it turns out

Steam Sale Games 2019

Agarest: Generations of War – A strategy JRPG series that I’ve been eying for a few years now. The bundle with the 2 other games wasn’t that much more than the first game so I picked it up.

Dragon Cliff – I’ve been into idles games this year for some reason. This game bills itself as a semi idle game where you manage a guild of adventurers. From the few hours I’ve played, it has a story and some interesting mechanics.

Elminage Gothic – I’ve been craving an old school dungeon crawler ala Wizardry for a while now. I had read that this one was pretty good. The interface is a little weird, I believe it’s a port from the PSP.

Stranger of Sword City – Another Wizardry style dungeon crawler. This one is supposed to be more beginner-friendly and I like the art style.

Fictorum – I don’t remember where I first read about Fictorum but it’s been on my wishlist for at least a year. From what I understand it’s a wizard simulator with a great destructible environment.

Has-Been Heroes – So far this is my favorite purchase this year. It’s a rogue-like and the combat system is amazing. You have 3 heroes and each one occupies a lane. They all have spells and basic attacks with various cooldowns so you have to swap them between the lanes to deal with the encroaching enemies. It feels a little like a tower defense game.

It’s A Wipe – A parody simulation of MMO raiding. I love the tagline: “All the fun of leading a guild without the people.”

The Last Door Seasons 1 and 2 – a pixel art point and click horror game. I’ve been playing a lot of story-heavy games recently and I’ve heard this one is good.

Observer – a story-heavy game with a sci-fi setting.

Outlast – I’ve never played a proper horror game. SOMA is the closest thing I’ve played. It was $3 and on my wishlist so why not.

Sanctum 2 – I’ve looked into getting this game for years now. A friend and I put a ton of hours into Orcs Must Die! 2 and this looked just like that but with guns. Plus it’s up to 4 players which is perfect for my gaming group. I bought a 4 pack so everyone could play. After playing it together we also got the DLC.

Strange Brigade – 2 of my friends got this and it looked fun so I picked it up too. Played it once so far and this is my second favorite purchase this year.

Valkyria Chronicles – I wanted to play this when it came out for PS3 and never did. Then I wanted to play it when it came out for PS4 and never did. Then it was on PC for a while and I still never bought it until this year. There are apparently 4 games in this series now. It’s just such a different concept, JRPG anime World War 2.

Returning to Summoner’s Rift

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Wow, I underestimated how busy this month would be. Where the heck did it all go? Me and my fiance were doing some last minute wedding things before the big day next month and suddenly it’s the 23rd of September?!

I haven’t played anything most of the month partly because of a busy schedule and partly because I just wasn’t feeling it. Every now and then I’ll end up in a gaming rut and just don’t want to play anything for a week or two. Sometimes I just need something new whether it’s reading a book or watching TV. But I’m back to my regular gaming schedule now.

Actually, last week took an unexpected turn. One of my friends asked if I wanted to come over a play League of Legends. Feeling a little nostalgic I said sure. I used to be really into League of Legends in college right when the game was at its peak. My whole dorm floor played and we always played with and against each other. It was awesome. But after college, it just wasn’t the same playing alone so I drifted away from the game for the past few years. The last time I played, Braum had just come out. Now there are almost 2 dozen new champions I’ve never heard of.

We ended up playing 10 matches. We both hadn’t played in a while and made new accounts so we wouldn’t be placed out of our skill level starting out.  We won some, we lost some but it was a great time.  I don’t usually like PVP, I get in my own head too much about playing against other humans but playing with friends seems to take the pressure off. I still don’t think I’ll be playing much by myself. The community seems to be just as friendly as when I left it, which is to say not friendly at all. I found it amusing that Riot added voice chat. I guess when you get tired of being harassed in text chat you can take a break by getting yelled at over voice chat.

With a renewed interest in League of Legends, my friend also reminded me that LCS was a thing. I’ve always liked watching the League of Legends Championship series more than playing it. But every year I forget that it exists until the season is basically over. The same has happened this year, except I caught it right around the summer finals and right before the World tournament. I’m still surprised how good the production value is and I understand just enough about the game for pro play to be interesting. I kind of took a deep dive into the whole thing recently, listening to as many podcasts as I could find and watching the Gauntlet series to determine the 3rd team in North America to go to Worlds.

I do this a lot though. I find something super interesting and want to learn all about it and then after a point I lose all interest. This kind of feels like one of those things but I’m having fun learning about it all the same.

 

 

Where in the world…

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I was introduced to Geogusser by a friend over the weekend. I was getting Christian set up with OBS now that he has decent internet so he can stream on our channel. I ended up hanging out with him during his stream and trying to play along too.

The game puts you in a random place in the world in Google Maps street view and then you have to figure out where you are and mark it on the map. Each game is separated into 5 rounds and you’re awarded points based on how close your guess is to the location you start each round. There isn’t a time limit or a limit, unless you do challenge mode, on how much you can move around so some rounds take longer than others. Especially when you’re dropped in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road with no signs or landmarks. Also, good luck if you end up somewhere in Russia.

You can choose which maps you want to play in. They can be as broad as the entire world and as specific as, I kid you not, Call of Duty map locations. The world map is really challenging. I watched Christian stream a couple games. He’s played for a while and has come up with some great strategies for more accurate guesses. Like if you can find a sign with a web address you can usually figure out what country you’re in based on what it ends with. Or if you see the same word over and over again on signs it’s a safe assumption that the town name.

I’ve played a few games and I quite like the United States map. First of all everything in English and second I like the challenge of trying to figure out the state and town. For the most part, the town is easy to figure out and the state becomes the real challenge. I’ve only played a few games in the United States and it’s hard to find the state name unless you come across a state park or a highway. Also, it’s a challenge to find those small towns within the state.

Much like Euro Truck simulator, this is something that shouldn’t be as fun as it is. Geogusser even more so because at least in ETS you’re driving a truck. If you told me it would be fun to click on 360-degree photos for 20 minutes I wouldn’t have believed you. Adding that extra layer of scoring you on how close you can get to your exact location brings it all together in a rather pleasing way. It’s also relaxing and a fun way to see things you probably wouldn’t have seen any other way. I’m sure it will probably lose its charm after a while but I would highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it yet.