On the first three Wednesday evenings of the academic calendar, in a quiet room in the beautiful Downtown Salt Lake City Public Library, Joel Long and a handful of passionate volunteers host the CITYART Reading Series. Poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, even music and experimental forms—CITYART brings talented authors of local and international renown to the Utah public. The events are always free of charge.
There are many remarkable literary figures living among us right here in Utah—many of whom teach at local universities. But often, says Long, “[Their] university doesn’t provide the venue for them to read: They bring in other writers—visiting writers—instead.” The CITYART Reading Series strives to provide that same opportunity to our worthy local authors. “I think that’s invaluable to the community in general,” says Long, “[that] the series allows for those voices to be heard.” Among past readers are Melanie Rae Thon, Poets Laureate of Utah Paisley Rekdal and Katherine Coles, and many other venerable Utah voices. Each year, along with showcasing local talent, CITYART also offers readings from nationally and world-renowned literary figures such as Tony Hoagland, Donald Revell and Poet Laureate of the United States Mark Strand (twice!).
Long, an English teacher at Rowland Hall, has volunteered his time as President of CITYART since 2002. “I came here for an MFA in creative writing,” says Long, “and in the very first months that I lived here, I found the CITYART Readings listed in the newspaper, and I went Downtown.” Back then, before it found a home at the City Library, the reading series was run by Sandy Anderson, who founded it in 1989. At the time, it was held above the Great Wall of China restaurant in an empty backroom past the bathrooms and some unfinished apartments—an inauspicious location, perhaps, but Long didn’t see it that way. “I read there for an open mic one night, a long time ago, and in lots of ways, it changed my life,” he says. More than a venue for experiencing literature firsthand, “the series was a way to enter into the literary-arts community to meet some of the writers that are here, to hear their voices and then ultimately add my voice, too.”
But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the literati to have a positive and enriching experience at a CITYART reading—far from it. Literature is storytelling, and storytelling is necessarily a communal exercise. “The storytellers that we have in our community,” says Long, “they’re coming in here and helping us understand who we are as a culture. They’re going to put an image in your mind; they’re going to make you think something that you didn’t think before—make you feel something that you probably should’ve felt recently—and then you’re there. And I love that.” The reading series’ longtime fans love it, too.
In 2019, CITYART will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. By far the longest-running reading series in the state, it is organized and operated entirely by volunteers like Long and Michael McLane. “The funding has gone down over the last several years,” Long says. “The fact is there’s just not that much funding out there for the arts.” But CITYART manages to keep its head above water with grants from The Salt Lake City Arts Council and Salt Lake County’s Zoo Arts and Parks Program. Private donations are also accepted. Go to slcityart.org if you want to help! Donating your time is also an option. “The last several years, a lot of the work has been done by me and Michael McLane and various treasures,” says Long. “Lord knows we could use more volunteers.”
The next time you have a Wednesday evening to yourself, consider stopping by the City Library for an evening of literary enrichment. “I’ve never had a dull night in CITYART,” says Long, “and I’ve been doing it for 17 years! Every time, it’s different. As soon as that mic turns on and those people get up, there’s always something amazing that happens. You’ll hear wonderful poets—sometimes they’re funny; sometimes they’re poignant; sometimes they’re dark … and you’ll always find something to like. And if you don’t like the first one, the second one’s going to wow you just about every time.”
Kicking off the December readings, Allison Hawthorne Deming recently joined, Rekdal and Coles, on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Klancy de Nevers and Scott Abbott are set to read on Wednesday, Dec. 12. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t recognize these names—you don’t have to know the cook to enjoy the taste of the cake! “For me,” says Long, “when I went to my first poetry reading, it made me a poet. Because I could hear what poetry does. It’s that musical sound that can contain intellectual energy and spiritual energy. And to hear that in a human voice—to hear that live, in that presence is different than reading it on the page. There’s something about that living voice that really matters.”
Mezcal is a spirit made from varieties of the agave plant. It’s basically tequila’s cooler older brother. “Tequila was mezcal before it got the name tequila,” says Eduardo Belaunzarán, co-owner of Wahaka Mezcal, based in San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. “Tequila got the name of the terroir where it was made. That happened around 1900.” While tequila is only made with one species of the agave plant—blue agave—mezcals are made with many. “We know how to make alcohol with 40 different kinds of agave,” says Belaunzarán. “When you compare mezcals, you compare [them] like wine. Each agave will give you a different flavor.”
In the past, you could only get mezcal in Utah from a bar or by special-ordering a ton of it. But those dark days are behind us, friends. Introducing Francis Fecteau: bringer of new booze. “I am what’s called a wine broker,” says Fecteau. “I work on behalf of whatever winery or producer of alcoholic beverages wants to come to Utah.” His most recent success is bringing premium, handmade Wahaka Mezcal to the Utah market—the first consistently stocked and sold spirit of its kind in our state.
Belaunzarán first brought Wahaka to our market by contacting Scott Evans at Finca, and eventually had them and other joints like Bar-X and Copper Common special-ordering the product. But putting mezcal on liquor-store shelves for everyday consumers was another matter altogether. Fecteau worked with the DABC to get Wahaka’s joven mezcal into Utah for 18 months before making headway. “Getting stuff listed can be challanging,” says Fecteau, “but getting Wahaka listed was an important addition to include.” The process for deciding which alcoholic beverages will be sold in Utah has changed in recent years. In the past, experts like Brett Clifford would provide tasting notes and assess the quality of a product from the perspective of a consumer. A wine or spirit wasn’t judged only by its commercial potential but by its character, too. Last year, Clifford and a few other highly knowledgeable professionals retired from the DABC.
Without previous personnel like Clifford, communications from the DABC no longer rely on a taste assessment based in written-out notes, but rather by communicating enumerated beverage characteristics to ultimately accept or reject new alcohols. “Now it’s just a checklist: ‘not needed for this category or that category,’” Fecteau says, “just generic commercial-rejection reasons.” When the DABC said Wahaka Mezcal was “not needed in this category,” Fecteau assessed the situation. “Considering the existential ramifications of being ‘not needed’ in a category that didn’t exist,” Fecteau says, “I found it important to start a conversation about creating a category called mezcal.”
Fecteau contacted the DABC looking to address defining the category. Fecteau mentions that mezcal can incur reactions that underscore its exotic nature and its surprising contour for those new to this transcendent elixir. The only thing to do was submit another bottle and wait three months more. But Wahaka Mezcal was rejected again. So Fecteau called the DABC, but found that the spirit still wasn’t yet computing categorically. Recounting the back-and-forth, Fecteau concedes that the nature of mezcal may sometimes seem daunting, as it is a niche spirit that has only recently begun to gain popularity and momentum in the United States. “I persisted, and I said, ‘For years now, I’ve tasted this stuff: It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s beautiful, it’s really well-made,” says Fecteau. “It’s a competently made and locally desired product.” He gave them another bottle and waited about five months, but faced rejection again.
After a year and a half of followup, Fecteau got through by emphasizing the obvious consumer demand for the product. Bar patrons consistently purchased the spirit, and thus bars needed a consistent supply. “I said, ‘Let’s look at this given that it’s a new kind of product: Maybe mezcal is misunderstood.’” says Fecteau. “I referenced two years of [Wahaka’s] special-order history. I used this information to emphasize the consumer demand and the commercial need to put the product on the shelf.”
Wahaka’s mezcal is just plain good. Some dusty plastic bottles on the bottom shelf at state liquor stores probably do taste strange, but the Wahaka joven (unaged) mezcal that I tasted was ambrosial. Beyond the normal smoky character of mezcal, an agave sweetness hits the nose. Earthy pepper bursts on the palate, and citrus follows in the finish. “We are keeping the traditional way of making mezcal,” says Belaunzarán. “We make mezcal like it was made 400 years ago.” He isn’t exaggerating. Check out the distillery tour on their website at wahakamezcal.com. There’s no modern technology in the process—just a group of Mexican mescaleros with machetes, outdoor firepits and burro-driven stone mills. It’s a seriously labor-intensive, time-consuming passion project that produces a complex, flavorful spirit.
Wahaka bottles five varieties of mezcal, some of which come from maguey plants (another term used for agave plants) that are aged up to 20 years before harvest. “It’s a lesser-known alcohol,” says Belaunzarán, “but it’s growing all [across] America—and the bartenders of Utah, they want it.” Based on my tasting, the people of Utah want it, too! Thanks to the labors of Belaunzarán and Fecteau, we now have it. Up next, Fecteau is working to introduce Wahaka’s reposado into our market. Meanwhile, give Wahaka’s joven a try. It’s something delicious—something different, something that hearkens to an age-old tradition of distilling.
Computer programming is a ubiquitous part of modern life; childhood education on the topic is sadly less so. When Kristy Sevy’s eldest daughter took an interest in all things STEM, Sevy tried to find learning products that would enable her to engage her daughter in the subjects she loves. “I didn’t find stuff out there that I wasn’t intimidated by,” she says. Sevy and her brother, Kyle Muir, decided that they would do something about this lack of approachable electronics education platforms for children.
The end result is a prototype dubbed FUZE: a circuit board with magnetic read switches and LEDs that young people can program to display different patterns and sequences. The prototype included glasses that alter the lights, revealing images like smiley faces and stars. “The toy doubles as an education platform,” says Muir, showing how the circuit board slots into a clear, plastic frisbee. “By the end of it, kids and teachers [are] learning real code, and they can either code or put it up in their frisbee and go play.”
Sevy and Muir hope that FUZE will help parents and educators more easily engage their children in the often daunting fields of electronics and programming. The important thing, says Sevy, is that “somebody such as myself, who has little to no knowledge in stuff like programing or electronics, can take this with her child and do it.” Their booth in the STEM building at DIY Festival will display and demonstrate the FUZE learning platform. Attendees can also take part in a hands-on project with their children. “It’s an LED light and two-coin cell batteries, and they’re making a little mini-flashlight,” says Sevy. “Then they can put the special glasses on and have that fun, interactive experience and then take it home with them.”
After its debut at the DIY Festival, FUZE will be available to parents, homeschoolers and educators this fall. “It takes the community to help fix the problem of education,” says Sevy. “Parents are looking for [STEM-education opportunities], and I think Craft Lake City is a great catalyst for parents to find it.”
For more information about CLC DIY Festival programming, click here.
“Spirited Practice is about routines, rituals and practices that change your life,” says health and science teacher Jacqueline Morasco, “including meditation, yoga, and doing, making and using things that are good for you and the planet.” The doing, making and using are what bring Spirited Practice to the STEM Building at this year’s Craft Lake City DIY Festival. There, Morasco will concoct products for the home out of ingredients you’ll recognize. Everyday items such as vinegar, fruits, flowers, herbs, beeswax and baking soda become bathroom cleaner, goo be gone, salt scrub, lip balm and more.
For Morasco, the knowledge needed to make these DIY products has more value than the products themselves. “I want to do good things for people and the planet,” she says. “I don’t really sell most of my products. I teach people how to make them and charge them for the containers and ingredients.” Visitors to her booth in the STEM Building will have the chance to take part in that process. “Products will be made onsite … I plan to have participants help mix, observe, knot, etcetera,” says Morasco, “and make stuff they can take home.”
The idea of cleaning with all natural products is an attractive one; why use industrial cleaners with dozens of ingredients when the combination of a couple household items will get that gum off the bottom of your chair just as effectively? But as Morasco points out, “most [commercial] natural products are too expensive for the majority to buy.” The things that go into a Spirited Practice recipe, however, generally come cheap. “The products I make are affordable and easy to make,” she says, “and they work.”
Stop by Morasco’s Spirited Practice table this year for “healthy [products] we create on our own as part of taking care of ourselves and the planet!”
For more information about CLC DIY Festival programming, click here.
SLC citizens are an environmentally responsible lot, by and large. We have a lot of environment to be responsible for! Recycling is a major part of that responsibility, and we’re all happy to do it at home, but our big blue bins are only part of the story. Momentum Recycling opened its doors eight years ago with the goal of providing local businesses with the same recycling services that are available at home. “If you were a business in 2008,” says John Lair, President of Momentum, “and you wanted to be as green as you could be, you either had to collect the stuff yourself in your office and take it home and put it in your home recycle bin, or nothing. You had no service provider, and we were the first to start that.”
Lair, previously an I.T. entrepreneur, was the first to step in and do something about this significant gap in our city’s otherwise environmentally responsible ethos. He petitioned husband-and-wife team Jeff and Kate Whitbeck to help make his idea come to life. Ardent community organizers, Jeff and Kate dove into the project; Jeff became VP of Operations, and Kate VP of Sales. At the outset, despite a passion for their cause, the Whitbecks knew very little about running a recycling business. “When we first started the company, I got a commercial driver’s license, and we literally went through YouTube videos to learn how to operate the truck,” Jeff says. Kate struggled with the sales aspect as well. “You meet all types, and not everyone cares,” she says. “In the beginning, I just assumed everybody needed and wanted recycling, and that everyone thought the way I did! I’ve since learned that’s not the case … but it’s also incredibly rewarding when you connect with someone.”
Since then, Momentum has grown to a modest but effective operation of seven trucks and 25 employees. “We do see ourselves as a small business,” says Lair. “As managers and owners, we wear a lot of different hats—you know, we’ll literally vacuum the office the same day that we’re negotiating a contract with the … City.” Lair and the Whitbecks don’t run a recycling business to turn a huge profit. They do it for the good of their community—and doing good is always hard work. “We’re frequently out back assembling bins or trying to figure out how to fix a truck,” says Jeff. “Tomorrow, we have a waste audit—it’s the nastiest of jobs, [and] everyone’s getting their hands dirty.” But being a small business has its benefits. “We also have this family-like atmosphere in our staff,” says Lair. “Most of our staff have been here a long time, and we’ve seen each other’s kids grow up—there’s a lot of strength that comes from that … in a company as small as we are.”
In 2012, Momentum underwent a major expansion. They installed a giant, fancy, new processing plant on-site and began providing the residential sector with curbside service for the one thing we can’t put in our big blue bins: glass. As Lair says, “[Utahns] didn’t even have an option to recycle glass before building this facility.” Locals have responded well to the service, but there‘s still a great deal of work to be done. “Four thousand three hundred households are signed up for the program,” says Jeff, “and the plant is only a third to a half of its full capacity, and it’s not yet profitable, frankly, so we absolutely have to get a lot more glass … so it can pay for itself.” Residents can sign up for this curbside glass pickup through SLC public utilities or at momentumrecycling.com. It’s $7 per month, they send you a bin for the glass, and the charge comes on your utility bill.
To get more glass in their facility, Momentum emphasizes educating the public. Knowing what and how to recycle is useful, but knowing what exactly happens once the bin leaves your curb can be a major motivator. “We have a regular public schedule of plant tours,” says Lair. “Come on out and see it! Let us show you what we do everyday with this material.” But Momentum doesn‘t just want more of our business—they want real change.“The focus from the start for us was behavioral change,” says Jeff. Kate adds that “the big-picture goal should be reducing consumption, you know? So [we work to] educate the population so we’re not creating … so much disposable waste.”
The existence of residential curbside glass recycling is an important step for our city, but in terms of the volume of unrecycled waste, businesses are the biggest offenders. “Residents have been doing the bulk of the diversion, and yet businesses aren’t doing their share,” says Kate, “so in some ways residents have been subsidizing businesses’ waste habits!” A new public ordinance that will take effect in 2018 aims to change that. “Any business that [meets minimum size requirements] will be required to divert at least 50 percent of their waste stream,” says Kate. “Businesses will take part, and share in waste diversion, and in extending the life of our landfill … so it’s definitely a positive thing.”
If you’d like to get involved in helping Momentum improve our city, volunteering opportunities are available. “We have a program called the AmGlassAdors,” says Lair. “We have a range of opportunities … and we’re always looking for people who are motivated.”
Truly, ours is a golden age of craft beer. Every time I go on a beer run, I see something new. There are more quality craft brew selections in the valley than I can count. And that may be the most awesome true sentence that I’ve ever written. What a time to be alive!
Tooele’s Bonneville Brewery and Midvale’s Hoppers Grill & Brewing Co. may have flown under some of our radars in the past, but both brewpubs are about to take a big step toward wider exposure for their award-winning suds. Brewmasters Dave Watson of Bonneville and Donovan Steele of Hoppers are excited to soon get shiny, new toys to play with—and if we’re patient, we’ll get to play with them, too. As you read this, both breweries are hard at work installing brand-new bottling lines, and both hope to begin providing their bottled beers to the public by mid- to late summer.
Bonneville will be offering their brews in the standard 12-oz. bottle, with six-packs and cases. “We’re probably going to roll out four brands initially,” says Watson. The first two will be the Free Roller Session IPA and the Redline Irish Red—both 4-percent ABV. “[Free Roller] is a classic Utah session IPA,” says Watson. “It uses a lot of Zeus hops, so it has a real classic-American, piney-and-citrus character to it. Our Redline Irish Red was our first seasonal beer. It was well-received enough that when it went offline, they wouldn’t leave me alone until I made it full-time.”
Bonneville’s new bottling line is fairly modest, reflecting the quality-first approach that you’d expect from a small craft brewery. “We’re buying a Meheen, which is a really popular, small-scale bottling line if you’re like us, primarily a draft house making your way into bottling,” says Watson. Epic Brewing Co. and Proper Brewing Co. also bottle their suds with a Meheen.
“It’s a six-head filler—takes like two people to run it,” says Watson. “Up to 40 bottles per minute is the production rate.” Bonneville’s bottles will be available in the big grocery stores by late summer. They’re also erecting a refrigerated building onsite, and Watson hopes to offer cold bottles in-store in the near future. “One of the major appeals of having the bottles in-store … is you can pick up a six-pack of whatever the new high-point beer is, and it’s been in a refrigerated state its whole life—that’s as fresh as you can get it!”
Hoppers Brewery, too, plans to offer cold bottled beers in-store. They have a big fridge and their DABC packaging agency privileges—all they need are the bottles. Brewmaster Steele has settled on 750-ml. “champagne bottles” for his high-point brews. “We’re just going to bottle one batch or two [in late June],” says Steele, “Then, later on in the summer, bottle up maybe one or two more batches. That might be all we do , so it’s pretty limited.” Hoppers bottled their beers for a time, back in 2012, but new ownership and popular demand have them reviving the line. “On the beer side, the production has gone way up, so it’s great,” says Steele. Hoppers’ big bottles may be available at state liquor stores eventually, but early adopters will want to come into the pub and buy their cold ones from the man himself.
Steele, who has been Hoppers’ Brewmaster for a decade, is the only full-time employee of the brewery. “I take it very personally,” says Steele. “It’s my art and my craft. We’re very, very small—our footprint for our brewery is about 500 square feet. The [bottling] line itself is like two by two feet—I bet it’s the smallest one in the state right now.”
For the first batch of big bottles, Steele has decided on their Summerset Saison. This pale ale will come in at around 7.5-percent ABV. “It’s got a nice malted backbone, but it also finishes kind of dry,” says Steele. “It’s juicy and rustic, [with] a little bit of bread flavors. We’re going to use some dry hops in it, too.” Steele plans to bottle another batch for the winter months. “It’s looking like it’s going to be our SnoAle,” he says, “Which is a really great French Bière de Garde–style amber beer. I think it sits right around 8-percent alcohol.”
Being able to bottle your creations for customers is an exciting step for a small local brewery, but the real treat for these two brewmasters is the opportunity to experiment with new brewing possibilities. “Obviously, I can’t make any high-point beers on draft,” says Watson. “So having the [bottling line and] packaging option really opens up that door, so we can start exploring styles that have been literally off limits for us.”
Beer in new bottles is good news, but new beers in new bottles is even better. “That’s the whole reason this craft beer thing exists: variety,” says Watson. “The more variety there is, the more [craft beer] fulfills itself.” In other words, the more bottles of beer on the wall, the better!
To stay up-to-date with Bonneville and Hoppers’ new offerings, visit bonnevillebrewery.com and hoppersbrewpub.com. Their beers hit shelves in the coming months—take one down and pass it around!
Once upon a time, there were seven burbling creeks winding their way across the Salt Lake Valley, each one depositing its clear waters into the Jordan River. These seven creeks were named after the seven canyons from which they came—Red Butte, Mill, City, Emigration, Parley’s, Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood … and Doc. Sadly, due to growth and urbanization, Salt Lake’s seven creeks have been culverted—tucked away, running unseen and unused in pipes beneath the city. Enter the Prince Charming of our tale, an organization called Seven Canyons Trust. SCT aims to restore and reintegrate Salt Lake’s seven creeks by raising awareness with true love’s magical kiss—er, wait. Actually, it’s a relay race taking place May 14 called Range 2 River Relay … twice as practical and just as fun!
The Range 2 River Relay is a bike/boat/run race designed to trace some of our valley’s hydrology and spark conversation about the buried potential of our culverted creeks. The cyclists will follow City Creek from its healthy source in the foothills and down along its culverted section under North Temple to the Utah State Fairpark, where the creek empties into the Jordan River. The canoes will set off from there, down the Jordan River, and the runners will race back along the Jordan River Parkway. The race will end at the Get Into the River at Night festival in the fairpark. “What I’m hoping,” says Brian Tonetti, co-director and founder of the Seven Canyons Trust, “is that the race immerses into this festival and people stay around, get food and wine, et cetera.” There will also be a free concert that evening, featuring Holy Water Buffalo.
The event aims to be a casual, family-friendly race. Each leg is less than four miles. “I don’t want it to be some spandex-type of event, you know?” says Tonetti. Entry costs $15 per team of three, and you can sign up now at SCT’s website, sevencanyonstrust.org. Tonetti hopes to provide canoes for racers, and his organization has secured a sponsorship from SLC’s nonprofit bike share program, GREENbike. “We’re providing 15 GREENbikes for participants,” says Will Becker, GREENbike’s Director of Planning and Operations. Becker commends SCT for its dedication to “rehabilitating the amazing water resources in our communities that we all benefit from and that are often taken for granted or go unnoticed.” The two nonprofits have a basic goal in common: “We’re both working to make a positive impact on our natural surroundings and [to] enhance the quality of life for people in our city,” says Becker.
For SCT, one positive impact comes from a process called daylighting. Daylighting means bringing our city’s seven creeks back to the surface and integrating them into the urban environment in a variety of beneficial ways. Salt Lake is already home to one major daylighting project, City Creek Park. After the floods of ’83, “there was a movement,” says Tonetti, “to diminish these stormwater conveyance choke points and to mitigate flooding through [daylighting].” And it worked.
Daylighting our seven creeks is good for a lot more than that. City Creek Park isn’t just flood prevention, after all—it’s also a beautiful recreation area. It’s an amenity that improves the lives of citizens and increases the surrounding property value. SCT’s next daylighting project, the Three Creeks Park, will do much the same for the 1300 S. 900 W. area, too. Its funding will soon be up for city council approval. “It received a favorable recommendation from the mayor, [Jackie] Biskupski, and the Citizen Advisory Board,” says Tonetti. “It’s looking really, really good that it could be funded.”
Daylighting our creeks has a host of positive environmental benefits as well. Natural, porous creek beds actually purify and filter water. “Whereas in a culverted system, the pollutants in the water are closed in a pipe, so they’re not infiltrating into the ground. You send them directly into downstream communities by the Jordan—so it becomes an environmental-justice issue as well. These West Side communities who are lower income are forced to deal with all these pollutants and degraded water quality from the East Side communities,” says Tonetti.
When City Creek was culverted, “a lot of these communities on the West Side basically lost their resource, their amenity,” says Tonetti, “and that’s where the idea for the Range 2 River Relay comes from. We’re hoping to raise awareness for this area and the potential to restore a natural stream channel of City Creek through the fairpark—this really historic property—which could potentially spur the reimagining of [the rest of] the fairgrounds, which has been in contention for 10, 20 years.” The race, like the seven creeks themselves,” says Tonetti, “connects both communities and ecosystems from the Wasatch mountains and the East Side to the river and the West Side and beyond, to the Great Salt Lake.”
There are over 21 miles of buried creek below our feet—this happily-ever-after is a lofty goal indeed. But thanks to Seven Canyons Trust and the first annual Range 2 River Relay, one day, our valley might regain its title as the fairest one of all.
From Software / SCE
Reviewed on: PS4 (exclusive)
The spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls games, Bloodborne will spit in your face and dare you to do something about it. At this point, you’ve probably either enjoyed the From Software games or you think they’re too goddamn hard to bother with, but Bloodborne is the game that can bridge that gap. It’s just as difficult as its predecessors, but not as punishing, and it’s significantly more interesting in terms of lore, environments, weapons and enemy types. I loved Dark Souls 1 and 2, but I always gave up around the halfway mark. I’m not a fucking masochist, and that shit gets ridiculous. Bloodborne, however, does not steal health from you when you die, and its Regain System allows the deep third person melee combat to reach what was—for me—a perfect balance of challenge and reward. Bloodborne is a beautifully macabre trip, a world of fascinating detail—a world you must dominate in order to experience. The sense of accomplishment in doing so is, for my money, among the most profound in any game. If it weren’t for a few aggravating bugs I encountered along the way, it would be a modern gaming masterpiece. –Jesse Hawlish
Reviewed on: PC (exclusive)
At first blush, the quaint little Flash JRPG-like Last Word appeared to be a love letter to witty banter, an homage to the type of conversations Jane Austen characters engage in, and that got me pretty excited. The game touts a “unique battle system” that allows you to “fight with the subtle nuances of conversation,” but the reality is much less interesting. No conversation is had during these battles, there are no topics and there is no dialogue. You merely select player actions that are labeled as parts of discourse, and your choices affect various meters and resources until one party emerges the victor. Stat management is nothing like nuanced conversation—these player actions could be relabeled with, say, fantasy tropes, and we’d have a simple little fantasy RPG. Instead, we have something that sounds unique but plays like a billion games before it. It is successful at being a mini JRPG, however: There’s anime character portraits, turn-based combat, an absurd plot, some self-aware humor and even a little grinding. Although the in-game characters are dull, color-coded outlines, the rest is charmingly illustrated, evoking an early 20th century aristocratic party. But, it’s a party we’ve been to before, and it was more fun when there were orcs and fairies there. –Jesse Hawlish