Let me tell you about my Animal Crossing routine. I have played this game every single day, without fail, ever since it released on March 20. But I've surprisingly never binged New Horizons. I've actually stuck to relatively short bursts of playtime every morning before work to start my day, and it's within these short bursts of playtime that I've found a kind of dogged routine.
It goes something like this: I start off at my house, taking a call from Tommy and Timmy like I'm a mob boss being informed of a development. The tanuki twins will have deposited at least 20,000 Bells in my account, a testament to my previous day's work of fishing and catching butterflies. Then I obviously need to check the mailbox, where a K.K. Slider tune, purchased the previous day from Resident Services, will be waiting for me.
Then it's time to run the Hirun Cryer Route around Kamurocho island. This route wasn't by design; it's something I naturally settled into, only realizing I was actually retracing the same steps after about a week. The route is amazing because it allows me to check up on every villager as I pass their houses: I'll see if Hornsby's crafting anything, if Poncho's pumping iron, if Bangle's doing her morning yoga, and so on.
Taking this route around Kamurocho lets me clean up as I go. I'll always pick up any fallen tree branches without fail, and I'll unearth any hidden fossils for delivery to Blathers in the museum right near the end of the route. There's obviously the weeds to be dug up and dealt with, and the route also covers extended patches of flowers for some brief rejuvenation with a watering can.
This special route around Kamurocho wasn't painstakingly designed to maximize time or efficiency. I never actively set aside time to plan this route around the island, stopping in on all the hotspots and houses, nor did I ever actually place resident's houses or shops in any particular pattern. The Kamurocho route just, well, happened.
This is my new normal. Over the past month or so you've no doubt seen or read many pieces or comments on how Animal Crossing: New Horizons has provided a mental safety net of sorts for millions of people across the world. I count myself among that number: taking this tour on the specified route around my island every morning is the only certain activity I have outside of work hours now. There's no more commute; no more popping out to the shops, no more seeing work friends on a daily basis (physically, at least).
But I also feel ungrateful for begrudging my current situation, or feeling like I need help. I know an NHS doctor who works 17-hour shifts around a COVID-19 maximum risk ward. I know furloughed people that genuinely have no idea if they'll still be employed when the dust settles. I know maximum risk people that haven't left their houses for almost two months now. I, by comparison, am doing pretty damn well: I'm still employed, my job hasn't been drastically affected, and I'm still eating and living a relatively healthy life.
To say that Animal Crossing has saved me requires acknowledging that I needed help in this time of uncertainty when many others have it worse than I do, which just cannot do. I haven't completely lost myself in Animal Crossing; losing track of time and forgetting about everything going on around me. Instead, I've used New Horizons as a certainty in an entirely uncertain time. Knowing the route around Kamurocho is the one thing I can wake up to each morning without fail.
I've been able to use it as a drip feed of normalcy instead, to the point where I'm still finding new and exciting things to do after more than 75 hours of playtime. I'm not lording it over people that I have done this, because at this time you need to do whatever's necessary to help you cope. I'm just glad to have found a slightly different approach to Animal Crossing that has worked for me.
I am slightly worried about what happens to the established schedule once I reach the end of perfecting my New Horizons island. I hope I can find another certainty to wake up to each morning before work begins. Hell, maybe I'll just delete my island and start all over again. As someone that constantly feels the need to be productive and building on themselves in some way, the lockdown has ground me to a shattering halt. But I've learned that that doesn't really matter right now, and I've learned instead that it's the little things that keep you sane every day. Like, for example, one very specific route around your island in Animal Crossing.
Major Game Releases: May 4 to May 8
Here are the major releases for the week of May 4 to May 8. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- John Wick Hex [May 5 for PS4]: Bithell Games' strategic take on the John Wick universe comes to PS4 this week. It's a time-based strategic shooter taking place before events of the John Wick films, in which you take command of the hitman to gun down mobsters on the streets of New York. Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey wasn't too keen on John Wick Hex in her review, saying that perhaps the best thing about it was that it finally got her to watch the films. Perhaps it's better on PS4?
- Lonely Mountains: Downhill [May 7 for Switch]: The second port of the week, the fantastic Lonely Mountains makes it way to the Switch. This should be an absolute treat on Nintendo's handheld: the minimalist design and easygoing nature of Lonely Mountains made it an amazing experience on consoles last year, and it should feel right at home on the Switch.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week in Gaming
- The first next-gen games showcase was announced, with Microsoft showing off several Xbox Series X games on May 7. There's a lot to get excited about with this, as it'll be the first time we've seen any proper extended gameplay demos for next-gen games, one of which was revealed to be Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
- We're going back to Viking times in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The next ambitious entry in Ubisoft towering historical franchise was revealed last week, and stars vikings fighting English people (we deserve it). It'll be out for current and next-gen consoles later this year, and Mike's pulled together evidence pointing to Assassin's Creed Valhalla being the unifying entry in the franchise.
- Another wrinkle appeared in the ongoing conflict between Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon and Bethesda. Gordon has been feuding with Bethesda for some weeks now, leading to some nasty backlash on social media. Now Bethesda has responded with a lengthy statement of its own, and it's definitely worth reading to get a full picture of what seems to be a very complicated conflict.
- Events. Events are being canceled every week at the moment, with Evo 2020 and the Fortnite World Cup falling victim to the cancellation last week. At the end of the week however, Geoff Keighley announced the Summer Game Fest, an ambitious four-month long online event filled with new game reveals and demos.
- We're beginning to see plenty of relatively minor delays for ongoing games. Apex Legends Season 5 is still slated to launch next week, but updates for Guild Wars 2 and Monster Hunter: World were both recently delayed. I think we're going to see a lot more of this going forward for live service games, as teams around the world grapple to get to grips with working from home.
Axe of the Blood God for April 20, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
This week on Axe of the Blood God, we're taking a look at the Nintendo GameCube. Our RPG specialists Kat and Nadia have examined the Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64's RPG offerings in recent weeks, and now it's time to put the GameCube under the microscope.