Monday, September 5, 2022

What Keeps You Playing? : Noah's Heart vs The Rest

It's five days after Blaugust and I'm brimming over with ideas for posts. I took the day off yesterday but only because I wanted to relax after work, not because I didn't have anything to say. 

I'm also more engaged with the idea of playing games than I have been for a couple of months. It's this way every year. For me, high summer is the worst time for a festival of blogging. It's the time of year I'm most likely to want to be outdoors, not inside sitting in front of a screen.

Some years that would run right into September but this time the long stretch of dry, warm weather broke almost as soon as the doors closed on Blaugust. I'm sitting here, looking out the window at the rain falling and the forecast says we're getting more all week with plenty of thunderstorms to spice it up.

Last week I managed to finish the last-but-one of the outdoor jobs I needed to get done before the rains came so I don't have that nagging at the back of my mind while I play games or blog. Not that I let it stop me but it's nicer when it's not there.

From here until next Easter it'll be darker, wetter, colder and more indoorsy than it's been for months. Autumn (Fall, if you prefer.) is my favorite season and I'll still be outside when I can but it won't be all day long like it has been. 

As for winter, it can be glorious but the days are short. Even in the best of the season there's always a lot more inside than out. Of course, given the predictions of doom over energy costs, I might be too wrapped in duvets to reach the keyboard. It's always tricky typing in gloves. 

That umbrella's really not doing it for you, Domino.

Enough of that. I don't want to go all Tobold on you. One grumpy old geezer in this corner of the blogosphere is more than enough.

Let me sort through my Big Bag of Blog Ideas and see what I can find. Hmm. AI generated pictures of dogs on Mars...the September Netflix offer...whether I should start yet another Guild Wars 2 account, on Steam this time... that new-to-me band I found last night... (Listening to them right now...)

Nope. None of those. I'm afraid it's going to be a catch-up on where I am in Noah's Heart because, let's face it, I'm obsessed with the game. Who had "still playing every day six weeks after launch" on their Bhagpuss Bingo Card? Not me but I am.

What's even more surprising is that I'm getting more into it as time goes on, not less. Let me do a little comparison. 

Based on post history, how long did I play Valheim before I stopped going on about it all the time? About two months from buying the game to "finishing" the Plains. My last post in the original run was on April 15 2021 and ended "I guess I'm not done with this thing quite yet." I was, though.

How about Genshin Impact? Twelve days. Wow. That short? Really? Yep - first mention October 1 2020; last mention October 12 2020. It pops up a couple more times when I go back for another look but it seems I only played it for real for a couple of weeks.

Chimeraland, then?  Just under six weeks from mid January to mid February this year. Again, considerably less than I'd have estimated. As with all games I like, I've dipped back into it a few times since but the core first run, when it was the only thing I wanted to play, only lasted a few weeks.

I love how the heart my character's making with her hands is nowhere near perfect. Touches like that make the game.

Finally, let's take a look at New World. Definitely the longest, if only because I also put in stretches in alpha and beta and I got a new lease of life on the game when I moved over to playing it on GeForce Now. It has the mosts posts here of any of the games mentioned.

For the record, as I write, the post count stands like this:

  • New World - 74
  • Valheim - 44
  • Chimeraland - 23
  • Genshin Impact - 14

I am notoriously slack with tagging protocols, though, and very inconsistent about including tags for games I just mention in passing. Still. it paints a reasonably accurate picture.

How does Noah's Heart stack up so far? First mention was on July 15 2022 but the first real post, when I downloaded the game and made a character, came a couple of weeks later on July 28. As for the last post, obviously we're not there yet. Nowhere even close, I'd bet.

Counting that initial pre-release post, so far I've tagged Noah's Heart twenty times. That's with me actively trying to restrain myself from writing about it every day, which is pretty much what I've wanted to do. There's just so much to say.

Games that provide an awful lot of blogging prompts aren't necessarily the same games that end up being tons of fun to play, although I confess for me it's often very hard to tell the difference. If a game makes me think that's usually enough. These all did.

If I was to try to rank the five games in question in terms of "fun in the moment", which might be code for "immersion", I think I'd put them like this:

  1. Valheim
  2. New World
  3. Chimeraland
  4. Noah's Heart
  5. Genshin Impact

That order is reflected in time played. At least, I think it is. I don't have stats for all of them and my Steam time played record is highly questionable due to my habit of doing things like leaving the game idling while I eat lunch or even leave the house for an hour or two. 

All of the pictures in this post are from the game's equivalent of GW2's vistas. The game takes the shot and chooses your pose.

 My estimate is that they're in the exact order of the amount of hours I've put in and that's not a co-incidence. All of the top three strongly encourage and reward exploration, meaning I can spend whole afternoons doing nothing much more than wandering across the map. They all also have housing, which requires a lot of grinding - materials in Valheim, points in New World, both in Chimeraland.

Exploration and grinding are hugely time-consuming activities but also, when tied to making a home you can feel proud of, hugely satisfying ones. In the case of all three games that satisfaction comes heavily front-loaded. 

It took me eight months to cap out in New World but that was more to do with outside factors than any slow-down in the game itself. Most players seemed to take about a quarter to a half as long as I did. In the end, what stopped me was the same as most people; I hit the point where the end-game begins and I just wasn't interested.

In Valheim, in common with pretty much everyone else who was blogging about it other than Tipa, who wrote that she would have liked to carry on for longer, I was about done with the game after a couple of months. I'd done everything I wanted to do including building a house I was really pleased with and there didn't seem to be all that much point in carrying on.

The situation in Chimeraland was similar. I'd built a house I liked and I'd done much of what I wanted to do, although by no means all. Where it differed was in how it began to take more effort than I was willing to give to progress at a comfortable pace. What had been a very loose and relaxing game began to seem like a more serious commitment. Logging in began to feel like going to work rather than out to play. The change of emphasis knocked me off track and I never really recovered.

The auto-generated shots also remove the character's name and title, something I still haven't figured out how to do.

Genshin Impact was a completely different experience. The game does have housing, something that could have given it the same kind of appeal as the others, but I was never able to access it. Of the five games, it's the only one I had to stop playing because it got too hard.

Housing is gated behind progress in the main storyline and I hit an instance at around Level 30 with a boss that I just couldn't beat. That's to say, I wasn't willing to do what would have been necessary to beat it, either practice until I became better at fighting or spend money to get better characters through the Gacha system.

So far, I haven't hit any of these roadblocks in Noah's Heart. It's different from the other four in a number of ways, not least the sheer range of things there are to do. My main problem is keeping up with the content that's being thrown at me, which is a nice problem to have.

All the other games have Noah's Heart outclassed in some significant areas: Valheim and Chimeraland have better housing; Genshin Impact and New World have better graphics; Chimeraland is wackier; New World and Valheim have more gravitas...

If I had to choose just one of the five as my desert island game it would be a very hard choice indeed. They all have major flaws to go with their strengths. The only one I'd considered calling polished would be the one I like the least, Genshin Impact. The others are either buggy as hell (New World), barely finished (Chimeraland) or intentionally limited (Valheim) but polish has never been much of a draw for me.

I really need to start being more creative with my selfies. The game gives you all the tools.

Noah's Heart isn't polished either. The translations, as I've complained, are very poor, the UI isn't great and there are plenty of dangling wires giving off sparks - dialog stopping in the middle, voiceover cutting out. I'm not going to pretend it's a sleek, slick purr of a ride. More like a jolting jalopy at times.

For me, however, Noah's Heart does have one overwhelming advantage over the game on this list that it most ressembles, Genshin Impact and that's playability. Noah's Heart has a control system with which I felt instantly comfortable but more importantly it has a take on difficulty that just works for me. It's a lot easier than Genshin Impact is what I'm saying.

For that matter, it's a lot easier than all the others too, only I didn't have anything like the trouble acclimatizing myself to the combat in New World, Chimeraland or Valheim that I did in Genshin Impact. Indeed, if I'm going to have to have action combat at all, I'd take Valheim or New World's versions over just about anything else I've tried.

Still, I just can't imagine myself enjoying boss fights in either game the way I enjoy them in Noah's Heart. I like easy boss fights. I always have. I like going in knowing I'll win. I like it even more if I know it'l be quick. At level 75 as I am now, Noah's Heart is still giving me me both: fast, easy boss fights. It's ideal.

It doesn't give me the adrenaline rush of combat in Valheim and New World but as I've said many times, I don't just dislike entertainment that gives me adrenaline rushes, I disapprove of it. It's literally bad for your health: "persistent surges of adrenaline can damage your blood vessels, increase your blood pressure, and elevate your risk of heart attacks or stroke. It can also result in anxiety, weight gain, headaches, and insomnia." Google says so, so it must be true.

It's a bit worrying when the game can take better screenshots than the player.

Even more, I can't imagine enjoying one-one-one PvP in any of the other games, let alone being any good at it. I'm not good at PvP in Noah's Heart, either, but I do enjoy it. Not just the "my puppets against your puppets" PvP of the Fantasy Arena but the straight-up player versus player dueling in Honor. I have never enjoyed one-on-one PvP in any game before this one but I'm voluntarily using my five free daily fights most days - and I'm still winning some of them, even though I'm meeting much tougher opponents.

I think the primary reason I'm playing Noah's Heart every day and am likely to continue for a while yet is the pacing. After six or eight weeks in all the other games I've mentioned, I was either done with them for the time being, finding them a lot more effort than they had been or had hit a skill wall. I also generally felt I knew about as much about the way the games worked as I was going to or as I was interested in finding out.

Playing Noah's Heart after six weeks feels there and thereabouts the same as it did at the start. It hasn't really got any harder. There isn't any more grind. I still have plenty to do and I still don't understand a lot about how the game works. I've barely touched some of the content at all. Everything still feels fresh and at this stage that's quite unusual.

I'm aware that any day I could log in and find everything feeling very different. It's happened to me many times before. This wouldn't be the first time I've penned a eulogy to a game and then stopped playing it the next day.

For the moment, though, it all still feels good. I haven't yet reached that plateau, where daily gameplay becomes more about maintenance than discovery. Until I do, chances are there'll be more posts like this.


  1. Something about the look in the character's face reminds me very much of My Time at Portia's character snapshots. Can't quite put my finger on why, but yeah, it scratches that itch.

    1. Yes, I can see it too, although the visual style is quite different. I think it's something to do with the atypically wholesome undertow that runs through both games. Everyone looks oddly fresh-faced and, well, nice.

  2. Does this game have invite codes for goodies for the invite sender? Send me an invite code, so you get goodies? I've downloaded the game but have yet to make an account LOL. :D

    - victorstillwater on Blaugust Discord

    1. Hmm. I have no idea if that's a thing in Noah's Heart. I'll try and find out. My character name is Califa if you want to try friending me. It's like being friends in Candy Crush - you send each other things but you never have to speak! I have four friends and I have no clue who any of them are!

      I'm on the Spring Lake server, which seems to be 90% Brazillian judging by general chat. I have no idea if friending is cross-server though.

    2. Copy on these. I just noticed it was asking for an optional invite code, so wanted to make sure you got something if I made an account. :) No rush!

    3. I can't find anything about codes for inviting people to the game, although information is so scattered it's hard to know what's out there. I did, however, find this list of "CD" codes so maybe it means those? I tried one just now (Had to look up how to do it on another site and the in-game version didn't exist (as it warns you it might not) so I ended up using Archosaur's web page which worked fine. I hope that helps! Don't worry about finding any other invite codes - there's no shortage of free stuff in the game. I am going to try all the codes on that website, though, and see what I get so thanks for giving me the idea!

  3. Seizing on the trivial stuff...

    "high summer is the worst time for a festival of blogging. It's the time of year I'm most likely to want to be outdoors, not inside sitting in front of a screen."

    Man, I miss that. That was life in New England. Now here in the south you do NOT go outdoors in summer if you can possibly avoid it, lest you be carried off by a squadron of mosquitoes while passing out from heat exhaustion. Heat index is still in the mid-35s C these days.


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