Aimlessly Going Forward

blog by Tomas Sedovic

Games Played in 2023

video-game, retrospective

Just like last year, it was really difficult to find solid chunks of time to dedicate to playing games. So, just like last year I’ve focused on smaller games that I could finish quickly or pick up and drop any time.

And just like last year, there was one massive exception albeit an unexpected one this time.

With a couple of exceptions, everything I’ve played was on Steam Deck. That machine is definitely delivering exactly what I was hoping from it.

Neo Cab

Woman is sitting at the back seat of a taxi. There are several futuristic screen-like images floating around her head. At the bottom is a thought bubble where the protagonist says: "If she was doing some sort of deep quantum computation, it didn't look like much."

This is just an excellent Cyberpunk visual novel. Set in a future with actual self-driving cars (that no longer murder people or block emergency services) you move into a new city where you’re one of the last human gig economy taxi drivers.

The friend who invited you to crash on their couch disappeared and so you’re trying to make enough money for your car upkeep and roof over your head competing with machines and the relentless five-stars-or-bust rating system.

So you pick up passengers on the map based on how much fuel you have to get there as well as their star rating. And then try to get through the conversation visual-novel style.

You obviously want to get the five star rating out of each. But does this person even want you to speak? Make small talk or go deep? Will being nice be perceived as just fishing for a good rating?

Or, saying the obviously right things will help the passenger, but net you fewer stars. Or: you’re just fucking livid and will simply not be kind no matter what.

I love when games sometimes take choices from you to reflect your character’s situation. I mean, it’s terrible in action games, RPGs etc. where suddenly you’ve lost your abilities. But not being able to say what you want/should because you’re angry or depressed is awesome.

There’s more to the story (whatever happened to your friend?) amid the city-wide backlash against the monopolisation and machines taking over. And despite a lot of it being bleak in the finest cyberpunk fashion, Neo Cab has a lot of genuinely wonderful human moments.

I got put off by the art a bit at first, but it definitely grew on me as I got deeper into the game.


Get in the Car, Loser! The Fate of Another World

A desolate road with destroyed buildings alongside. The sky is red with dark clouds and ash in the air. A van is riding through with the words 'Book Mobile' painted on the side.

I have a standing rule that any time Christine Love makes a game, I’ll play it.

The Fate of Another World is a DLC for the Get in the Car, Loser! road trip VN/jRPG.

This DLC sends you into an alternative reality where things that went right in your world’s past…​ didn’t.

I really enjoyed the banter in this one (just like in the original game and the first DLC and…​ every single Christine Love game). It’s got basically the same combat so I wasn’t a fan, but yep, great.

Perfect length (maybe…​ four hours?) and just great fun.

(Steam page)


A woman in a lab coat called Esme saying: "He's lucid! Should we let him back in--"

Oooh, this was quite good. I didn’t love the visuals at first, but I got intrigued by what John Walker wrote about it on Buried Treasure.

Vessels is basically a horror story where you play the alien-infected character. The one they end up chucking out of the airlock.

Except, it’s a time-loop game and when you die, you’re back in that airlock trying to convince your shipmates to let you go. You’ve lost all your memory (cliché alert!), but by talking to them you learn information you can use in your next turn.

The game is unsettling, your objectives not necessarily clear from the get-go (but you get a sense that they’re not super noble either). Plays really well with player agency and expectations. Gives you meaningful choices and lets you put the picture together in a way that feels natural and great.

One thing I had a bit of a problem with was that there’s no manual save and the autosave only happens when an act ends.

That means if you happen to start it up when you have 40 minutes while the baby sleeps and before you need to hit the sack too, and you make a good chunk of progress but do not in fact make it through the first act, you will lose that progress.

And like, it’s not a lot of progress or time, but it’s still frustrating.

It takes 3-4 hours to get through the two endings I’ve discovered which is absolutely to its benefit, though.

Otherwise though, great game.


Citizen sleeper

A man called Feng is leaning on a futuristic-looking machines with neon lights and colourful wires coming out of it. A description reads: Feng is coming down the corridor towards you, a wonky grin on his broad face. "Hey. Glad I caught you." You can either reply "Do I know you?" or walk away.

Okay so the reason I wanted to play this game is something that almost never happens: I’ve seen the trailer and was completely floored.

I actually didn’t know much about what the game play is like or whether I’d like it and as the game came out and people started to talk and write about it, that never really got answered to me.

But every time I’ve heard about it, I’ve watched the trailer again no remind myself of why I had been so intrigued and…​ just fell in love with it again.

Some combination of the atmosphere, narrative, music and definitely absolutely the amazing voice over just sold it to me every single time:

It is one of the best game trailers I’ve ever seen in my life.

And it’s a really good game as well, though initially a bit disappointing.

I hadn’t realised that the game itself isn’t voiced and that was the part of the trailer that really got its hooks in me.

But the atmosphere is fantastic.

You’re an android who escaped its masters and somehow made it to a space station and tries survive. Which isn’t easy because your body has a built-in decay mechanism (to prevent exactly what you’ve done) and you’re also being followed by a bounty hunter your owners hired.

So you do small jobs around the place, build up a reputation and try to stay ahead of the the inevitable doom that’s slowly approaching.

Each cycle you roll some dice (the number can vary) and each die lets you do something: a job, investigation, trying to break into something etc.

The activities have different difficulties that can are modified by your own skills. You need to slot in a die and that number will also modify a likelihood of you succeeding at it.

So an easy job that you’re skilled for might only need a low number whereas a difficult one might carry a significant risk even if you’re putting in a die with six on it.

I’ve long been interested in randomness and how it interacts with game systems and I’ve always been on the side of things being more deterministic and predictable.

Citizen Sleeper has a really smart system because there is an inherent randomness (which numbers your dice pool will have each cycle), but then you can use those numbers however you want and that gives you a lot of control.

I’ve heard about this and it sounded great in theory.

And it works amazingly well in practice too. I’m typically not into these sorts of systemic games but I had tremendous fun here. They really strike the perfect balance between maintaining your agency and keeping you on edge.

So that alone would make for a great game, but the characters you meet, their writing and design, the narrative absolutely elevates it. I ended up really invested in everyone’s story and there’s a huge amount you can do.

I’ve heard the narrative design compared to Disco Elysium and while very different, I think that’s a fair comparison.

There’s a sequel in the works and I’m really excited about that.

Still wish it had the voice over though.


Two women are standing next to each other in a reception area and both are looking at the camera. The one on the left is called Rae and she's saying: "I know that not having any choice feels weird, but sometimes life is like that."

Eliza was a huge unknown for me. It’s made by the Zachtronics studio, which is much better know for their programming puzzle games (Space Chem, Opus Magnum, etc.).

Whereas Eliza is a visual novel featuring an AI therapist.

Right now, the set-up is extremely simple to describe but when I played it I didn’t have the vocabulary necessary.

Imagine one of the newfangled AI/LLM chatbots instructed to play a therapist, hooked up to a voice recognition software (so it can take input from the patient in real time) and (and this is the really interesting bit) paired with a person who doesn’t have any special training but they’ll be the body, face and voice of the AI to offer a more genuine-seeming human connection.

Your character is one of the original programmers building Eliza (the therapist AI) who, for reasons initially left unsaid, takes one of these stand-in therapist jobs.

And yeah this is all done in a visual novel style with lovely graphics, good writing and extremely well-observed narrative that keeps you on toes.

It regularly did things that I really didn’t expect. It’s hard to give examples without spoiling them, but Eliza definitely has things to say about the modern AI bots (which is amazing given it came out over three years before ChatGPT), reverse centaurs (how automation interacts with human workers), privacy and a lot of other social issues that are relevant today.

It is also really powerful in what it doesn’t show. There are patients you lose to follow-up and you’ve no idea what happened to them.

The visual style threw me off a little. I mean the game looks good, but when there are two characters on the screen, they talk to each other, but look at you rather than one another (i.e. into the "camera").

This just feels unnatural — they should be looking at each other when they talk, not in a direction where there’s nothing there.

I’ve felt the same thing with A Summer’s End and I don’t understand how this isn’t something that people notice right away as not working. It’s basically breaking the fourth wall and reminding you these are video game characters looking at the player.

But other than that, Eliza is just a really solid game in pretty much every aspect. If you’ve been put off by visual novels, you may want to give this one a try instead.

(Steam page)


A low resolution screenshot of an icy platform with snow-covered trees in the foreground, another icy platform in the background, a muscular man shooting projectiles up at a 45-degree angle and enemies in front and behind him.

I don’t know what prompted this. Contra (the original one) was a game I played at my cousins' console like…​ thirty years ago?

And with the Steam Deck (which is a really rad setup for a regular old platformer action) I just felt like giving it a go.

As it happens, there is the Contra Anniversary Collection available on Steam and it has the original Contra too. I’ve played it for maybe two or three weeks.

And yep, it’s pretty much just like I remembered it. I had fun, but just like with a lot of platformers — especially the older ones but even many of the modern ones — the jumping just doesn’t really feel right.

Plus it’s a game I’d have to spend a lot of time mastering and I just didn’t feel like investing the time and effort in.

Had fun with it, sated my weird pang of nostalgia, moved on.

(Steam page)

Telling Lies

A scantily clad women sitting on a bed looking into the camera. The subtitles at the bottom of the screen read: "No one is listening."

Well. Sigh.

I loved Her Story when it came out and I was really looking forward to the follow-up games.

It’s a really similar setup where you have an arcane system and you search for videos by entering a word that someone on the video said.

This time, they’re taken from video conversations that a spy agency recorded without their knowledge or consent. And the cast of characters is much wider. Some activists, a (former?) special agent of some kind and his family. A companion for hire?

I’ve played it for a good part of a day once when I was sick and confined to bed and got really hooked up on it.

And then never booted it up again.

I like the characters, I’m intrigued by the mystery and would very much like to figure it out. The "guess the words, uncover more videos, build an understanding" mechanic works great.

But. The game goes way too far with trying to present a real world interface in a way that’s (a) actually unrealistic and (b) makes the game nigh fucking unplayable.

The first issue is: when the database shows you videos that match your search words, it starts playing from the point when the word was said. That makes sense and is fine.

But if you want to watch the whole recording (which you do!) you can’t click to the beginning or anywhere in the video! You can only rewind it.

It’s almost as if this was playing an actual video tape (but your in-game character does watch this on a computer!).

And the rewind speed is extremely slow. Slower than you think. Unbearably slow. You spend an inordinate amount of time just sitting there rewinding videos.

Oh and you’d better explicitly bookmark the start of the vid for later viewing because otherwise, it’s the painstakingly slow rewind time again!

And second: the two sides of the conversation are recorded and stored separately. So every time you find a video, you only see and hear what one side is saying, the rest is dead air (and watching the character on the screen listen to something you can’t hear).

Which, again. This is a great idea. You need to pay attention and try to figure out how to get the corresponding part. Try to think of words that the person on the other side might have said.

And it works wonderfully.

Except for this: even when you have both videos, there’s no way to play them side by side. Meaning if you want to hear the full say nine minute conversation, you’ll need to play both 9 minutes one after another and sit through (or fast forward and then slow rewind and ultimately waste more time) and end up listening to nine minutes of broken up conversations and nine minutes of silence.

Which, again. Within the game world, this happens on a computer and even if they hadn’t made a specialised software, you should at the very least be able to just open both videos manually and play them side by side yourself for fuck’s sake.

Absolutely ridiculous.

Rarely have I seen a game so explicitly built around wasting the player’s time.

I’ve simply not had the will/nerve/energy/patience to play it up again despite being really into it.

And I’ve just given up. At some point, I’d like to look up the whole thing on youtube and at least enjoy the story and acting, but the game itself is basically impossible to play.

(Steam page)


A slick-looking metallic beetle set on a winding track with what looks like a barrier on the outer side of the incoming bend in the track and a wave of light emanating from somewhere behind the camera.

I’ve heard so much about this game. Wasn’t sure I was going to ever try it, but then I saw it at a deep discount and figured why not.

It’s a rhythm game from hell. I’ve mainly been familiar with the likes of Rocksmith and Frets on Fire — where you play in rhythm to existing classic songs. And I love that genre, but never invested into the peripherals and felt too uncomfortable playing them on the keyboard.

So the idea of a game that’s explicitly designed around a controller (or keyboard) sounded great.

The fact that you’re playing a metallic beetle in a bespoke hellish ambiance a little less so.

But actually playing it, I got hooked instantly.

The game works fantastic on the Steam Deck and looks and feels amazing when you actually play it.

It is deeply anxiety inducing though. Your heart will pump and it has a very clangy violent feel to it. It’s also quite challenging (but then my reaction time and sense of rhythm is quite poor) but when you get in the zone and actually hit the mark perfectly for a few seconds, it feels fantastic.

And you have this desire to come back to the previous levels at some point and master them just to get the feeling a perfect playthrough. I haven’t actually done that yet, but it is there and keeps me going through the gaffes.

Haven’t played it much because another game came in that completely took over all my gaming time but I very much want to return to it.


Baldur’s Gate III

A scene with three characters in it: a drow (dark elf) woman (my protagonist), a white-haired male wizard and a githianki female fighter. They're being addressed by someone called Volo who's saying: "Do my eyes deceive me? A drow? Here?"

Speak of the devil.

I wasn’t actually paying a lot of attention to BG3. Loved the previous Baldur’s Gates — they were some of the earliest RPGs I’ve played and while they can’t hold the candle to the original Fallouts or Planescape: Torment, they were both great not to mention cornerstones of the gaming history.

But BG 3 is done by Larian and I…​ really didn’t go on well with Divinity: Original Sin. I’ve sunk a good chunk of time into it and really wanted to like it, but the world design, writing and sense of humour were really off-putting to me for some reason.

So basically, I expected more of the same in a different setting and just expecting to not enjoy it at all.

Now, I don’t know what happened — especially since all of the classic Divinity gameplay elements are there.

But this game looks and feels so absolutely great where Divinity just left me nonplussed.

I’m very much enjoying the writing here, the world feels great to explore, the mysteries you encounter, the characters you meet. It’s all just as good as everyone was raving about.

Even the combat isn’t terrible and that’s something coming from yours truly.

Plus massive props for diving straight into the interesting aspects of the Forgotten Realms' setting. Where the first BG1 does the most clichéd fantasy journey you can imagine, BG3 starts with you escaping a crashed mindflayer ship after just having been infected with a parasite that’s supposed to you into a mini-Cthulhu within a few hours.

And it builds thins up from there! Meeting Githianki? Prologue. A priestes of Shar? Ditto. Tieflings? A whole band of 'em stuck in a druid grove. And the druids themselves are far from benign or boring.

In no time you’re deep within a goblin camp (and talking to everyone rather than going on a murdering spree — though you’re very much welcome to do that too — this is an RPG after all), meeting devils and oh yeah exploring the fucking Underdark all in the first act.

What I’m trying to say is: there was a way I expected this to go (the slow somewhat boring classic fantasy RPG quest way) and instead they took all the actually intriguing stuff that the D&D franchise grew over the the decades and just put it all in and somehow managed for things to work together and stay coherent. It is very Planescapey in that sense.

So you’re on this wild ride where you’ve no idea what happens next but it feels awesome.

It’s a huge game but unlike Elden Ring, I have a sense of where I am and what I to do next even if I haven’t touched it for six weeks.

Now, at its core it’s still a traditional RPG with crafting, a trillion tonnes of garbage you’ll be dumping into your inventory and all the other nonsense. But it is an extremely well polished version thereof and I’m finding that these things bother me less here than in most other games.

It’s not (so far?) on the level of Planescape Torment or Disco Elysium, but it definitely far exceeds your typical RPGs by a massive margin.


Done With


Since Baldur’s Gate 3 will likely eat into a lot of my play time this year, I plan — once again — to focus on playing smaller games this year. Preferably ones I can play on the Steam Deck.

I’d love to try Demon’s Souls and Cyberpunk 2077 at some point, but it’s highly unlikely this year. If I go for another big game this year, it would be Mass Effect 5, except that’s looking highly unlikely to come out in 2024.

Baldur’s gate III

Obviously. I’m really intrigued by the game and I’ve heard that a basically all the plot lines lead to the city of Baldur’s Gate itself which is in the third act. So there’s lots of narrative pay-offs there.

Yes please.



Similarly, I consider this very much a game in progress for now. Want to play more.


Scarlet Hollow (new episodes)

There should definitely be at least one more episode coming in 2024 and I’m here for it. Really love the series.

(steam page)

Anything by Christine Love

I don’t know whether she’s got plans to release anything new (if she does, it would likely be a new DLC for Get in the Car, Loser! rather than a brand new game) but any new game she makes I want to play.


I was a Teenage Excolonist

Leftover from the last year. Still sounds intriguing, still want to give it a go.


Slay the Princess

A "side project" by Black Tabby Games — the makers of Scarlet Hollow. The setup sounds fascinating: you get sent down into the cellar to kill a princess that’s imprisoned there before she does something horrible.

And she’s…​ somehow now what she seems?


Stop Burying Me Alive, Beautiful

I’m getting similar vibes as Slay the Princess from this one.

You find yourself being buried alive by your girlfriend. Because she thinks you’re dead so why on earth are you complaining?

I mean, I’ve no idea whether it’s any good, but the setup is quite intriguing.


Colony Ship

This is the second game by Iron Tower Studio who made Age of Decadence (my review). I’ve really enjoyed AoD and I knew this game was in development, but I was really surprised to see it’s actually out now.

I’d need to be in the right mood for this (I’m expecting difficult combat and lack of polish but great writing and world building), but I’m still on a lookout for that elusive Fallout 1&2 vibe (that the actual Fallout sequels completely failed at) and this might be reasonably close.


Screenshot and link to the website for the Dose Response game

Hi! I wrote a game! It's an open-world roguelike where you play an addict called Dose Response. You can get it on the game's website (pay what you want!), it's cross-platform, works in the browser and it's open source! If you give it a go, let me know how you liked it, please!