Diecast #138: Pony Island, Dragon’s Dogma

By Shamus
on Jan 25, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Campster, Mumbles. Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes:

00:03:12: Pony Island

Some (mild?) Spoilers in the discussion for this one. Also, here’s what Bunnyhop had to say about it:


Link (YouTube)

00:16:20: Dragon’s Dogma
00:31:10: Fallout 4
00:43:40: Good Robot
00:50:51: Mailbag

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From the Archives:

  1. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Wasn’t sure we’d get one of these this week with the Blizzard. Hope Shamus is doing well.

    • Chris says:

      Shamus said they just got a light dusting. He’s here for the spoiler warns, he just had to go to bed.

      In our group I was the only one inconvenienced by the silly thing – had to work from home on Friday and was iced in pretty much all Friday night/Saturday.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Thank you for the update. Hope the weather eases up soon. I always cringe when I see the footage. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that. Only seen snow a few times ever and only once where I live (Snow actually accumulated on the ground in North Florida in 1989.)

        • Zak McKracken says:

          I always cringe when I see the pictures of half a meter of snow and people calling it a catastrophe or something, while I’m here missing the snow I used to get where I grew up.

          …until I remember that snow is actually and seriously a problem if you’re not prepared. If heating units in houses aren’t made for it, roads aren’t built to withstand frost, no cars have winter tires and everyone is just genuinely unprepared.

          So here’s hoping everyone’s fine and maybe you still find opportunity to enjoy the snow you’re getting.

  2. SyrusRayne says:

    Yeah, Campster, have some sympathy for the devil.

  3. silver Harloe says:

    Well, you guys sold a copy of Dragon’s Dogma. Hurray?

    • Chris says:

      I mean, the game’s not without flaws – it’s kinda ugly, bits of it are super janky, and like Josh said there’s a bunch of bugs and other issues. But yeah, it’s definitely this weird thing that doesn’t exist anywhere else, kind of like what Dark Souls was. It’s not for everyone (I can’t commit to JRPG length games, so I peace out’d pretty quickly after the first few hours), but it will resonate super strongly with those on its wavelength.

    • Wide and Nerdy says:

      Yeah Josh sold me when he described the magic system. I’ve always wanted magic that wasn’t just reskinned archery. I hate that about the mmo informed magic of recent games.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think I may finally pick this game up as well. I’ve been interested in it since I saw Angry Joe’s review where he described how monster fights actually felt dynamic and fun, especially compered to Skyrim’s hit dragon in face gameplay.

    • Galad says:

      Yeah, what you said sounded really positive and interesting about the game, but then I remembered it has shit for a story, and its opening cutscene is so damn goofy, and so I’m not gonna get it ;(

  4. Vermander says:

    I loved the character creation in Dragon’s Dogma but hated almost everything else. I found the huge number of respawning monsters especially frustrating. The game world was visually interesting, but it was virtually impossible to explore it without constantly being attacked by mobs of wolves, bandits or goblins. Every inch of the countryside seemed to be swarming with monsters. This problem was made even worse by the fact that there was extremely limited fast travel, a very small number of towns, and a high number of escort missions.

    I also really wish they had made more of an effort to explain the “pawns” and address some of the unsettling issues surrounding them. The game presents them as essentially being a “slave race” who look and sound human, but have no souls and no free will. You create your own custom slave and then order them to do whatever you command, and even occasionally loan them out to other players. They even call you master. Fortunately the game never goes into truly creepy territory with this, but the implications are still pretty disturbing.

    I think it would have been less unsettling if the pawns were rock golems, or robots, or non-sapient animals, but the fact that they look and sound exactly like normal humans makes it pretty clear that these are slaves.

    • Orillion says:

      They actually do go into some pretty creepy-ass territory in-game, though. Spoilers to follow:

      Selene, the witch of Witchwood is a pawn. Her “Gran” that she talks about was an Arisen in ages past. That Arisen gave Selene a part of her soul after she died (presumably fighting the Dragon) which enabled Selene to gain some semblance of humanity. Namely, she got emotions and some free will. This small scrap of free will allowed her to realize just how much she wanted to be fully human.

      So, they’re not just a slave-race of people with no free will and no ability to make decisions; once they are able to formulate opinions, they’re also able to express a strong dissatisfaction for their life as a pawn.

      Naturally, this doesn’t mean that every pawn necessarily would object to their own existence, but we don’t really get the chance to experience other pawns gaining the same level of humanity. The Arisen gives a part of their soul to their main pawn in one of the endings, but the only character to really notice is Selene, and only if she’s your “beloved”

      Personally I would love to see the whole idea explored in more depth in Dragon’s Dogma 2, but sadly the series is made by Capcom, so any attempts at serious storytelling WILL ruin the whole thing completely.

      • Vermander says:

        I found it very frustrating that the PC was a mute, blank slate, without even the ability to choose from two or three dialog options, so there is no way to debate with anyone about the nature of pawns or the ethical implications of using them. It was also weird that there were so many of them randomly wandering the roads and milling around in towns, virtually indistinguishable from the ordinary human citizens.

        The game looked great and had some cool mechanics, but they put so little effort into characterization and world building that it ruined the experience.

    • Hermocrates says:

      They sound more like the androids from Alien, outwardly identical to humans but not actually sentient. That said, “robot” comes from the Czech word for “servitude,” so drawing that conclusion seems legitimate.

  5. Phantos says:

    Hey guys, I found one thing more annoying than constant indie, retro puzzle/platformers:

    People who used to say that game devs need to talk more about development, who now just go all “STOP NAVEL-GAZING, GAWD!!”.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Because its the exact same people who said both those things.

      • Wide and Nerdy says:

        Chris has said both of these things. Not in those words.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          But I believe he was talking about getting accounts of the behind the scenes stuff that affects the final product. Layoffs, drama, budget issues, decisions to cut content or change direction.

          The navel gazey stuff is games talking about themselves, not so much their makers (and not in the relevant levels of detail.)

          I should have been more clear in my original comment. I see no contradiction in Chris’s desires here. Even if my tastes in these areas are kind of the reverse of his.

          I wonder if, as a reviewer, he doesn’t like a game to analyze itself like that because thats his job ;)

    • Wide and Nerdy says:

      In reaction to all of that, What about Shovel Knight? I think the whole indie obsession was worth it for that and I want more.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Agree.Every time theres a craze,and then a “will this stupid craze ever stop?” Im happy for the few gems and simply ignore the rest.Id rather endure the zombie craze than not have zombieland.Im fine with the retro wave as long as shovel knight exists.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          Hopefully what will happen is most indies will back off now that there’s a glut of them unless someone has a really unique idea, but Yacht Club will do more with Shovel Knight since its been such a success. Maybe get another installment of Dustforce too. Super Mario Maker may be having an impact on the market too.

          Also, totally with you on Zombieland. Thanks to that movie, I got to name my Fallout 4 character “Mr. Tallahassee” and have Codsworth use that name. Its also the only zombie movie I’ve ever enjoyed without Rifftrax or MST3K.

  6. Wide and Nerdy says:

    Congratulations Josh on being promoted out of the butt monkey role

  7. Phantos says:

    I’m not sure why people keep comparing Dark Souls and Dragon’s Dogma. I’m still confused about that. Every time someone mentions Dragon’s Dogma on Twitter, it’s always paired up with a comparison to Dark Souls, but not any other fantasy game with magic and swords and dragons that it likely shares more in common with. I’d say it’s a lot closer to an action game or an MMO than anything.

    But every pitch for it uses the template of: “It’s like that, BUT…”, and then a statement that makes no sense and has nothing to do with anything.

    “It’s like Dark Souls, if everyone was drunk/high/etc.” is one I hear a lot. I’m really struggling to understand the metaphor here. So, DD wakes up in a stranger’s apartment? Wha??

    I’ve played/enjoyed both, I’m not knocking either of them. I just don’t understand what people are trying to say when they claim that apples are like oranges but on meth, or…. something.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      This comment is kind of like Dark Souls, if it was text based. It has the same feel of being lost in a complex and intimidating world filled with strange NPCs that don’t always make sense.

    • Decus says:

      On release the big thing was “It’s like Skyrim, but…” since while Dark Souls was out it wasn’t really popular yet. People are weird.

      The true “it’s like _____, but…” is devil may cry if anything. It’s devil may cry quality action in an open-ish world fantasy setting–that was probably even the internal pitch. Most of its pop-in and other problems originate from them even using the same engine that they use for RE and DMC.

      • Phantos says:

        Sometimes I forget what company made DD.

        Then I remember it’s cutscenes all feature the main character just standing there with a stupid look on their face, while letting the bad guy get away for no reason.

        “…Oh, right. Capcom“.

    • Christopher says:

      I don’t think it is a stretch to compare two dark fantasy WRPG-like games made by japanese developers, with good action combat systems, odd multiplayer systems and Berserk references seeping from every pore.

      • Ringwraith says:

        It’s only superficially in this case. Also in that you can wander into the wrong place and get smeared over the hillside.
        And dark is dark. Not sure this was mentioned, but you can see pretty much nothing at night, and only about six feet in front of you with a lantern.
        Then the nasty things come out to play…

  8. Duoae says:

    Love, love, love Dragon’s Dogma. I love it so much I’ve bought it four times and wrote a long-ass review for it, here.

    Too much to go into in these comments.

  9. Ilseroth says:

    I got my hands on DragDog when it came out originally, but never got too far into it (sadly) will prolly pick it up soon.

    Speaking of picking things up soon, pretty excited for good robot, while pimping it on the diecast is cool, I’d really like to see a straight gameplay video (sans editing and whatnot) at some point, maybe a livestream hangout sometime before launch?

  10. The Rocketeer says:

    My enthusiasm for Dragon’s Dogma is without peer and I will answer any question anyone has about it, unless I am busy playing Dragon’s Dogma.

    • James Porter says:

      Ive played the demo, and I liked what I played!
      What I want is some tips on making a pawn thats interesting. I find ive already made a super cool character that I want to explore, and dont really have any ideas on what to make this other dude, hopefully to comment on or go along with the creepy weirdness of pawns.

      • Ringwraith says:

        I put more effort into my pawn, and mostly just went for ‘permanent quizzical eyebrow’ for my main character as it makes many cutscenes slightly more amusing.

        • Christopher says:

          You make someone to juxtapose who you’re playing in some way! So while I was a 135 cm tall shorthaired girl who could run very fast and climb well, my pawn was a 210 cm tall, muscular, long haired lady who could carry all my items around until I needed them.

  11. Christopher says:

    Dragon’s Dogma playing the way it does isn’t that weird if you look at where Capcom is coming from. They made Dungeons & Dragons beat ’em up games back in the day. Dragon’s Dogma is open world, oddly, but if it wasn’t it would feel like a 3d version of those. It’s coming at the action-rpg concept from the action side rather than the RPG side, which makes it a joy to actually play but also gives it a story that’s completely forgettable besides a few cool twists and one very well-voiced dragon(the dragon is the best character).

    I love it too! I have some annoyances with it(mostly how the characters in the story are bland and pawns should have allowed for online multiplayer a la Souls games rather than just exchanging bots), but it’s absolutely my favorite RPG of the last generation. The only viable competitor I have played is the Souls series, and while that is a deeper and more tactical experience, I adore the movement options(double-jumping, climbing etc) and approachability of Dragon’s Dogma, while Dark Souls is something I enjoy watching streams of more than playing. Part of it is that DD is much easier! Besides it not telling you which quests are level appropriate for you(which is why half the new forum threads about DD is all about people being frustrated with the super strong bandits standing between them and the Lost and Found quest), you can pause and save wherever and stock up on healing items to your heart’s content.

    People should be aware of what it is, though. If you go in expecting a JRPG with a linear story, good party banter and typical anime archetypes, a western open world-RPG, a Bioware dialogue-em-up/false choice corridor RPG, a colored loot-game or a western fantasy Devil May Cry, you will be disappointed on all accounts. It’s a roleplaying game that’s perfect if what you want to roleplay is a rogue climbing up a chimera’s back to stab it in all three heads, and luckily, that’s exactly what I always wanted.

  12. Andy_Panthro says:

    Anyone who is getting bored with Fallout 4 should first visit the USS Constitution (in the game, of course). Once you’ve finished that questline, you can delete the game because you’ve seen the best part.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      It’s also just about the only quest that isn’t for a faction or companion…

    • Neil D says:

      I meant to go there early on, because I just visited Boston a couple years ago and was looking for recognizable landmarks, but I kept getting distracted by other things. By the time I finally got around to it I was about 80% finished the whole game (not just the main quest), and had already read a Wiki page on it. I had long since given up the idea that I was going to have anything interesting spoiled for me, based on everything else I had seen. But boy, did I wish I didn’t already know how that one was going to end – pretty sure I’d have laughed my ass off.

  13. Ringwraith says:

    About the only thing I can think of for having one save file for Dragon’s Dogma is simplifying the online pawn recruitment, as then only one instance of your pawns exists and it won’t get overridden with an older one or such when it updates. (Although you sort-of get two saves, the ‘checkpoint’ save only updates when you rest at an inn or camp, or rare major quests, which you have the option to load from).
    Also you can new game+, where the difficulty is the same as before, but any portcrystals you placed remain there, (as well as getting to pick up the freebies again, and gain the ability to buy them) so you can pop around the map easier.
    There’s a “speedrun mode” as one of the extras for this sort of reason. You can blitz through it very quickly being overlevelled and well-networked.

  14. Nidokoenig says:

    The stuff about Dragons Dogma makes me wonder if the team just doesn’t have a lot of experience with Japanese games. Monster Hunter and Xenoblade X have the mute customised protagonist appearing in cut scenes, and the single save(well, MonHun has 3 but no copying, you have three saves that don’t interact), they have Western styling, your character in MonHun4U and Xenoblade can turn up in other people’s games and you have pawns in MonHun, Xenoblade X has the two choices that mean the same thing except when it’s really important. Hell, Zelda is an RPG in a Western setting made in Japan. So were Final Fantasy and Ys. How much is it down to Japanese action RPG tropes being iterated on and how much is genuinely new?

    I need to build a PC so I can actually have some decent input on this shit.

  15. AileTheAlien says:

    It’s going to be pretty hard to displace the keyboard/mouse control scheme for computers. Keyboards are the fastest, cheapest, most robust, most accurate input device available for the written-word. Mice are a very good input device for analog movements, that gives you both accuracy and speed.* A resistance-based input device combined with the full muscle range of your fingers and your full arm, is difficult to improve upon. Similar features make our standard controllers difficult to displace; They’re cheap, accurate (for digital inputs), fast, and they’ve got enough buttons, sticks and triggers to cover pretty much every action you would want to control.

    The steam controller has made a very good effort to shake things up, but there’s not really much room left to innovate. Its dual-trackpads are actually pretty damn good, especially for somebody like me who can’t seem to get used to a spring-based input like a joystick, and prefers friction instead, but the rest of the controller feels a bit gross. Honestly, if they had better quality buttons on the shoulder pads**, I would have bought myself one already.

    I think the way to continue would be to push even farther the jack-of-all-trades aspect of the Steamtroller. Like, instead of just having the two trackpads that (thanks to their dual-direction vibration/force-feedback) that can do many types of input, have other stuff too! You could replace the XABY buttons with two force-feedback mousewheels! Replace the digital-only triggers with the other kind that do both digital and analog! Gyroscopic omnidirectional rotational-force-feedback! Furthermore, I’ve seen some controllers that have swappable input devices on them. Make that the standard! Replace any single widget with another one – XABY, triggers, buttons. Everything swaps!

    Of course…that’s all rather expensive. :C

    * Ditto mousewheels, if they have both click- and freewheel-modes, like Logitech’s mice do.

    ** Or whatever you call them. The digital ones. They just feel…off, even compared to the $20 controller I have sitting on my desk. Like, mushy, or the click distance is wrong or something. Also, the under-flappers similarly feel mushy. :S

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      I love mouse wheels, and wouldn’t give them up for anything, but I do have some misgivings on them. Namely the fact that they keep wearing out on my mice, so first the clicking goes wonky, then the scrolling starts getting iffy.

      Steam’s new controller is some weird thing that I’ll only be able to judge if it ends up in my hands. It’s also the only real new revision people are trying to make on controllers lately. Or at least, I thought that, until I saw this crazy thing. Basically the Grifta is taking the other notable thing about the wii’s controller and running with it, the fact that with the joystick, it’s not one solid piece, so your hands can move more freely, as well as letting you decide to use one hand on the controller and the other on a mouse or keyboard.

      • Duoae says:

        Just a tangential question: Which mice have you been using?

        Since I switched to an Anker and Razer (though it’s one of those that don’t have online profiles and stuff) I haven’t had a problem. Looking back at my logitech days (MX310) I went through about two or three of those in the same time period.

  16. Cinebeast says:

    Glad to hear Dragon’s Dogma is getting some love. I bought it for PC as soon as it came out, not because I have any intention of playing it — I still own my PS3 copy — but because I wanted to support the developers. There’s still no sign they’re going to make a sequel, but I can hope.

    Also, I hope Josh will talk about the ending (?) if and when he reaches it, I’d love to hear some intelligent discussion on it.

  17. Tizzy says:

    I fully expect that the GOTY edition of Good Robot will include Ruts’ discarded script for the old version of the game. I will be disappointed otherwise.

  18. SlothfulCobra says:

    I had hoped that Josh would’ve had more to say about joysticks, seeing as he plays flight sims, instead of just nitpicking about the dualshock. Sony basically doubled the inputs of the original PS1 controller, which itself added handgrips as well. They basically bolted 50% more mass onto the template set by the SNES. Either way, that layout is basically what all the game companies have used (with Nintendo as the only holdout with the N64) ever since, same button layout and even general shape.

    This is what happens when I accidentally leave in a Mumbles keyword I guess.

    • Josh says:

      So full disclosure, both Rutskarn and Mumbles dropped out partway into that question (Rutskarn suddenly had food ready and “didn’t want to be rude,” the bastard; Mumbles lagged out) and we had to cut our discussion of that short because we were mostly busy going “Uh… is anyone coming back? What the hell?” So I didn’t really get the chance to say everything that I might have wanted in response.

      So I guess what I’m saying is: clearly this is all Chris’ fault.

  19. Kalil says:

    I’m really liking Dragon’s Dogma, too.

    A few extra notes:

    This is probably the best PC port I’ve seen. The game is totally stable – I haven’t had a single crash, even with alt-tabbing – and it handles Mouse And Keyboard very well, including seamlessly switching to mouse aiming when you’re aiming a bow or spell.

    This is a AAA game. It was released at $30. With all the DLC included. I approve of this.

    I was kinda ‘meh’ on the magic system. Then my sorcerer hit rank 6. Best. Magic. System. Ever.

    The romance system is janky as hell. It needs work.

    My Pawn is named ‘Rayle’, if anyone wants to hire him. He’s specced ranger most of the time.

  20. Mark says:

    The thing that bothered me about Pony Island was, well…

    This is gonna sound harsh, but it felt like a “retro” game made by someone who was nineteen years old and didn’t really understand anything about the sort of technology used by old arcade games other than “the artwork uses big pixels.” For example, the arcade game’s display is capable of showing at least four colors and has an extraordinarily high pixel resolution, yet it uses ultra-low-res, single-color sprites and graphics? If arcade game manufacturers had been able to afford four-color, high-DPI displays back in 1977 you’d better believe they would have used them to their fullest. Similarly, a Windows-style graphical user interface is not gonna exist in the operating system of a game of that era. Most if not all of them did not have anything you could call an OS at all.

    Yes, I know, it’s kind of dumb to gripe about this when the topic is a haunted arcade game made by the Devil who just wants to be loved, but this sort of thing affects how well the experience works as a whole, how coherent it feels, even if the player isn’t familiar with the technology either. By way of contrast, TIS-100 is much more successful storytelling-wise, despite being just a shallow creepypasta story, because the computer never does anything you’d expect such a computer to be unable to do. So when something unexpected does happen, it’s shocking and it works.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      As another lover of detail, this kind of thing bothers me immensely. Every time I get on a space ship or station, I take one look at the environment and ask “Why is this so spacious? It seems like an inefficient use of mass which makes it way more expensive to put this thing into orbit not to mention…” and the line of thought always ultimately ends in “Because this was not built by an engineer using metals, but by a level-designer using pixels”.

      Messing up the little details is a good way to break people’s immersion by reminding them the world they’re in is fictional.

  21. Ivellius says:

    I know this is a couple of days late, but I think Chris is the real Butt Monkey. Mumbles never shared her name for him. :(

  22. Retsam says:

    Wait, it’s pronounced “Ludum Dah-re”?

  23. @Rutskarn: Regarding the interesting-looking ruins with nothing in them.

    I think I’ve hit on the reason for the “discoveries” you’re making like this, and it’s something I’m coming to call the Borderlands effect. Someone at Bethesda apparently thought Borderlands has the right idea in that areas can be recycled and given “new life” (so to speak) by triggering spawns of monsters and loot when a quest is accepted.

    For instance, you might find a subway tunnel that seems to have a rather elaborate setup of raiders stationed in key places with gun turrets and other challenging or interesting areas to fight in, but… there’s no boss. There’s no really special loot. Until you get a mission that a raider leader is basing his attacks out of that subway tunnel. You go back, and while just about every place you went through before is cleared of raiders, the main area in the back now has a dozen more mooks and a named raider in power armor for you to kill. I’m not 100% certain, but I think this also plays into whether or not an area is marked “CLEARED” on your map. It’s not just if you’ve wandered in and mowed down everyone inside, it’s that you’ve also done every mission that causes a special spawning to take place in that dungeon.

    Some of these are tied to faction quests. I went into Fort Strong, killed everything, but I could see an elevator through some rubble. I searched for half an hour for the way around this rubble pile, finally gave up and hit the wiki. Apparently, you can only get to the elevator if you’re going there to get a weapons cache for the Brotherhood of Steel. Either they give you some magic rubble-blasting explosives or it just disappears or something, but whatever the case, it’s off limits unless you take that quest.

    Fallout 4 has a nice “tourism” side to it, in that I enjoy the new environments, but I find that they really dropped the story ball on this one. Two places stand out for me on that: The RobCo shopping mall thing up on the northern side of the map has no story other than tricking the overseer robot into thinking you work for RobCo or killing every robot there. I mean, the place is really neat-looking with a giant Mr. Handy in the center of this ring of stores, complete with a bowling alley, but there’s nothing to do, solve, or discover there apart from caches of loot. Then there’s the Boston Bugle building. This is a newspaper building from pre-war America. One of Piper’s first dialog dumps to you is how her press is always on the verge of breaking down. I’d thought for sure there’d be a mission to go there and get some new-fangled press or a part that would keep hers running for years or something, but… nope. You don’t even get any new dialog or quest options when you find out the Mayor of Diamond City is a Synth, something she’s harped on from the second you meet her. You can’t confirm her suspicions to her, you can’t confront the Mayor, you can’t do anything with this information, so I almost wonder why it was in the game at all.

    So it seems to me they took the Smiling Jack route to make the world seem bigger by re-using areas and then either didn’t make the narrative parts as robust or complete as before, or maybe they just dropped them.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Locations in Fallout 4 don’t get specifically populated for quests, it’s even shallower than that, they just repopulate after a ridiculously short period of in-game time.

      If you go to a raider location, you can shoot your way through it, there’ll be a named one to kill somewhere, and then a month later the raiders will all repopulate sans the named one and be marked as a valid location for radiant bullshit again.

      Shooting stuff is really the only way left to engage with Fallout 4 though, and it’s so easy that the only way to get that to work is to put the difficulty on Survival. There’s hardly any quests and basically no character to the NPCs.

      • I don’t think you’re entirely correct. I think locations are populated to begin with, and they will repopulate (unless marked “cleared,” though mobs will still spawn outside of interior locations, like hospitals, subways, etc.). However, mobs/NPCs specific to certain missions often won’t be in these locations for various radiant quests until those quests are taken. There are a few you can do ahead of time and get some dialog that says you already did them, but a lot are “go to X and kill Y,” but Y won’t be there until you accept the quest.

        I know I’ve gone into places that I’d previously wiped out and everyone is still dead apart from the new target I’ve been sent to kill.

  24. Sova says:

    “Kinetic and frenetic!”
    – Rutskarn

    Whack that on the back of the Good Robot box

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