Stray through Parks on the way to Jaipur to Chronicle a Parable

It’s been an interesting week this week. Board game wise I got to play a game I remembered making a splash, but it made me wish I was playing something else. It’s not often that’s something I experience playing board games that often.

Stray is going well, and I am looking forward to cleaning up the Platinum trophy soon. I also got to start playing Xenoblade Chronicles 3, which has me questioning if I actually finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2! Could a new game be added to the ‘must play’ video game challenge?

Jaipur

So catching up with some of the old gaming crew led to Harls and me at the end of the night. Not uncommon, we would stay until stumps most nights. While we had a mini-gaming night with the ‘old crew’, I talked Harley into a quick game of Jaipur.

As Jaipur is a best of three games score, and we didn’t want it to drag out, a quick refresher melded naturally into play. I took the first round a little easy (not too much – Harls is a great player) to reacquaint Harls with the rules, then took off.

20220801 - Jaipur - All of the camels
All of the camels came into play

Being a two-player game, and a lighter one at that, it’s hard for me to say that everyone would enjoy Jaipur as much as I do. Or that it is a must-have on people’s shelves. But I had a lot of fun playing it again, and it was quicker to get to the table again than I thought it would be.

That said, I might pull out the physical copy and maybe try a game or two with Rabbit on the table. If I do it as the first game, and with something to hold onto, maybe Jaipur would click more with her?

Parks

An early gaming night last week led to me playing Parks for the first time. I had heard about the game when it first came out, mainly from the art and donations side. Parks is a celebration of US National Parks, and the art is done by Fifty-Nine Parks. Fifty-Nine Parks has a large series of prints from various artists, each with a unique style. A portion of the print sales goes to the US National Parks Service, and the game Parks is no different.

Players control a pair of hikers each and visit different spots along a trail. As the year goes on and seasons change, the trails get longer and new areas become available. Visiting different locations lets you collect different resources, such as water and sunshine. At the end of the trail, you can exchange these resources for Park cards, the primary scoring mechanic.

20220801 - Parks - Travelling the trail is pretty
Travelling the trail is pretty but boils down to ‘pick a spot to collect resources’

There are other actions you can take rather than straight resource collection. You can take photos for points or buy equipment to help your future hikes. Reserving Parks is a strong move, as you can deny an opponent points or save up for it yourself next season.

This turns Parks into an area management puzzle. Each season, you only get one chance to share a location with another hiker, denoted by a campfire. You also can’t hike backwards – you travel even onwards. This is where the two hikers come into play – do you dash one hiker ahead, and let the other continue? Parks has a lot of elements to balance, but it doesn’t overwhelm you either.

20220801 - Parks - Building your scoring engine
About to cash in a park. You can see my equipment and secret end-game scoring.

I have glossed over a few rules, and if offered a chance to play again I would play. At some point, I will even show Rabbit and Alpal how to play to get their thoughts on Parks. For me, and after only one game, if given the choice I would pick Century Golem to play instead.

Parks isn’t a bad game in any way. It was a fun game, and catching up with Harls and Kaitlin was a great time. Century Spice Road/Golem isn’t exactly the same game as Parks, so it’s an unfair comparison in some ways. Century feels faster, as you don’t have as many elements to consider each game.

In many ways, I prefer Parks four season game length rather than the race ‘first to finish x ends game’ though. It’s not quite enough to elevate Parks for me, unfortunately. But as I mentioned, I will play Parks again if offered and would like to teach some others. All on Board Game Arena though – I won’t be rushing to buy a copy.

The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe

It’s done. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Platinum trophy is now mine. And the amount of time left to complete the last trophy? About 18 minutes. I was so close to doing it a couple of weeks ago!

Sure, I cheesed one trophy. To anyone that fires up the Stanley Parable in 10 years and earns the trophy legitimately, my hat is off to you. As I don’t know if I will be able to fire up the Stanley Parable on a PlayStation console in 10 years, I took the shortcut. But I played for the entirety of Tuesday, so for me, the Platinum stands.

I was ensuring I went through all the ‘non-bucket’ endings, as these were the ones I tended to rush through. I couldn’t remember what I had or hadn’t done, so I was going through a few of those. Guess what I was up to when the Platinum popped?

20220801 - Stanley Parable - Platinum Trophy
What a question to earn the Platinum with!

Karmically appropriate – are you over playing on a Tuesday for a trophy? I found this more amusing than maybe I should have. The bottom line – intentional or not, the Stanley Parable provided one more unexpected joke. That was the perfect way to end my run.

I’m not saying I will never play Stanley Parable again. It is still an amazing experience that managed to surprise players new and old alike. The journey I have taken with the Narrator as Stanley will always bring a smile to my face. because of that, it’s a journey I would encourage anyone interested to take themselves.

Stray

Stray got fired up near the end of last week. I am going to play it through at least twice more. Once with Rabbit watching the story, and once more trying to finish the story in under 2 hours. Stray is going to be my next Platinum, I only need to sit down and work out the best path.

For the moment though I am picking apart specific trophies with Chapter Select. I am loving the pun names in Stray. My favourite Stray trophy to unlock so far is called Productive Day. It’s one of those annoying time-based ‘just leave the console on’ trophies. I don’t mind this one in Stray though.

For Productive Day, you need to sleep for an hour. That’s it. No dexterity, no path or puzzles to solve, just find a spot and nap. While this is happening, you can hear the cat purring through the DualSense controller. I had some YouTube up on the screen while the controller was next to me on the couch. The slight rumbling and purring was soothing, if not great for battery life!

20220801 - Stray - Productive Day
Nap in a nice spot with chill music and a purring controller – my kind of trophy!

So I have two trophies left before earning the Platinum for Stray. One I am going to get with the playthrough with Rabbit, which I am surprised I didn’t already earn. You have to perform the ‘Scratch’ action in every chapter. I don’t remember ever passing up an opportunity to scratch, but I am guessing I did!

The other one as mentioned is to finish Stray in under 2 hours. It took me almost 7 hours to explore and have a wonderful time, but I never looked for an ‘optimal’ path. I didn’t pay any attention to codes or make a list of required or optional puzzles. This is going to be taken care of with the run with Rabbit. The little explorations and pauses for notes will be good to go through with another set of eyes.

20220801 - Stray - Welcome Back B12
B12 is going to be saved a few more times in my house

Two more runs with unskippable cutscenes and forced conversations don’t phase me. That’s how much I am enjoying Stray. I can’t recommend it enough. If you get the chance, definitely check out Stray. There is so much to enjoy, even if you aren’t a cat person.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

I have been looking forward to Xenoblade Chronicles 3 for a while. Not super excited like Stray or games like the upcoming Callisto Protocol, but happy it’s coming out. Kicking back Saturday morning, I realised Xenoblade Chronicles 3 had been out for a day. So I jumped on the Switch eShop and nabbed it!

I played Xenoblade Chronicles years ago on the 3DS. I will say upfront that it’s not a series for everyone, like another franchise I enjoy called Ys. I keep meaning to go back and play the Definitive Edition rerelease on Switch. I still haven’t gotten around to it. What a surprise. So if you are wondering if you should jump straight into Xenoblade Chronicles 3, read on.

Don’t be fooled by the title – Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is actually the fifth game in the series.. This doesn’t count the larger Xeno series that Chronicles is a branch of. Each story is a continuation, but not a direct continuation. You don’t play the exact same characters or even the same time period. Important historical story beats and references are shown in flashbacks. This means players can jump in at any point in the series and not be too lost.

That said, starting up Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I felt completely out of place. I started being concerned that things weren’t what I remembered.

20220801 - Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - There are left over elements of the world to explore
Elements of the world have meaning from previous games, but you get to explore it all

I shouldn’t have. This is pretty much the formula for the series. Bit of video story, start in a battle revealing it’s a flashback, walk back to town to start the tutorial. But it took me about 5 minutes to remember this. That said, that’s because I realised I had a blank on Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I don’t remember the story of 2 at all!

This had me a little concerned. Did I put 2 down thinking I would come back to it later and missed it? I looked at the plot on Wikipedia and that started prompting memories. So I am in a weird situation. I know I played the first on 3DS, I think I played 2, and now I am jumping into Xenoblade Chronicles 3.

So in the future, I may sounds like a series veteran or I may sound like a newbie. It will be interesting to see where Xenoblade Chronicles 3 takes me.

20220801 - Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - Combat takes some getting used to
Combat is a mix of real-time and turn-based with a rhythm element

I can see a lot of people complaining about the ‘poor’ graphics in Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Would it look sharper and clearer on PlayStation or Xbox? Probably. Remember the series started on the 3DS. On the Switch in handheld mode, everything looks amazing. The world is open with lots to explore, but Xenoblade isn’t like Final Fantasy XV.

As I am writing this, I am 90 minutes in. I have unlocked about a quarter of the games systems, looking at the menu system. Game mechanics, a lot goes on in these games. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will keep feeding you mechanics over the first few hours, then drop you into the deep end.

So I am thinking a dedicated couple of hours each week to keep going with the game. This will let me make progress and stay on top of mechanics and what is happening. I once dropped into a Xenoblade Chronicles save after a year, and I had no idea how to play. Can’t let that happen again!

20220801 - Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - While split into areas the world is large and ready to explore
While split into areas, the world is large and ready to explore

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know! 

Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter and now Hive! And don't forget you can get random gaming and pet pics on Instagram. 🙂

Until next time,

JohnHQLD