GamerGate has developed something of an image problem. When the movement first came into the public eye in mid-2014, it was used to frame all manner of disparate narratives. If you go on any number of popular games journalism sites, it’s likely to be labelled as some sort of hate-fuelled rampage by a bunch of sadistic internet misogynists, primarily targeting women in the games industry. Other sources refute this, claiming that the whole thing is solely about promoting ethics in games journalism. Then, of course, there are all the people who fall somewhere other than these two bounds, muddying the waters even further.
“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
Releasing in early access on January 30, 2017, Conan Exiles is yet another entry in the seemingly endless “early access survival” genre. Of course, the core draw with this one is the Conan universe: savages, slaves, monsters, etc. Plus, it’s actually seeing regular updates, including the massive Frozen North expansion which was recently released for free.
I suck at RTSs. Over the years, I’ve tried repeatedly to get into the genre, yet never managed to make any headway. From mainstream successes like Halo Wars and Total War: Shogun 2 to smaller, more “accessible” titles like Boid, I’ve always hit brick walls almost immediately. Going up against the AI sees me getting stomped as soon as the tutorial ends (or sometimes even earlier than that), and multiplayer is completely out of the question.
With my stellar track record, I was more than a bit apprehensive when approaching Mushroom Wars 2. However, its adorable art style won me over, aided by promises that it was approachable for players of all skill levels. I must say, I’m extremely glad that it did.
Rogue-lite mechanics have been one of the most popular features in indie games for years now, second only to pixel graphics, it seems. I get the appeal: given the comparatively small budget that many independent games have compared to their AAA counterparts, being able to artificially extend an experience with a near-endless supply of randomly-generated content is an appealing proposition. However, its prevalence has started to wear on me over the years, to the point where “rogue-lite” or “rogue-like” as buzzwords often tarnish my interest in a game. Thankfully, while this did somewhat colour my experience with Everspace, there were enough good ideas under the surface that it was worth a more thorough look.
Sine Mora EX is a veritable melting pot of ideas. It’s a bullet-hell shmup that replaces lives and health bars with a timer. It weaves a grim narrative of war, rebellion, and genocide, all seen through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals. To top it all off, its creators include the Hungarian studio Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture (known to many as Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s development house), and Akira Yamaoka (known for his Silent Hill soundtracks). Somehow, though, all these disparate elements combine to create a shooter that is challenging, beautiful, and consistently entertaining.
Things weren’t looking so great for Jesse and company at the end of the last episode. Forced to look on in horror as The Admin enslaved one of their friends, the rest of the crew was cast down into a horrid prison. That’s exactly where episode three of Minecraft: Story Mode picks up, with Jesse crash-landing in a bleak, fiery realm. Stripped of their items, Jesse desperately struggles to track down their friends and escape. The question is: is escape even possible?
In closed beta since late 2016, Brawlout released in Early Access on April 20, 2017. It wears its influences on its sleeve, sporting visuals and mechanics clearly inspired by Super Smash Bros. However, Brawlout is no copycat, with unique fighters, more “competitive” maps, and a greater emphasis on combos and control.
The Guardians are back once again with a new chapter of their adventures. After their painfully average first outing, things were starting to look up in episode two. The story began to branch out, the choices were more thought-provoking, and the characters, well, had more character. Sadly, this uphill trend doesn’t seem to have carried over into episode three, which ends up suffering from several of the same issues that plagued the first episode.
Life is a series of choices. What to do, where to go, how to act, and so on. Some choose to live in the moment, focusing on their pursuits with reckless abandon. Others live for those around them, eager to help in whatever way they can. Regardless, everyone is their own person. It’s easy to look back on a series of events and think, “What if?” For instance, what if you had turned down that job offer? Then again, suppose you were dead broke and days away from ending up on the street. Suddenly, that job offer doesn’t seem like a choice. You may know of some potential repercussions; you may not. The decision remains the same, because, regardless of what hindsight may later tell you, it seems like the only option at the time. Such is the case with Last Day of June, a story-driven title that feels like a puzzle game version of Groundhog Day meets The Butterfly Effect.
Season two of Minecraft: Story Mode got off to a surprisingly strong start, with some fun new characters, welcome gameplay tweaks, and an intriguing new story. It did an excellent job at feeling like an interactive cartoon, with an overall sense of light-heartedness, punctuated by just enough seriousness to keep things interesting. With the pace set, though, can episode two keep up the momentum?
I arrived in town bright and early, and was quickly greeted by a company representative. Almost immediately, they began rattling through their “best practices” list that every new hire has to hear. To be honest, I didn’t really mind; this wasn’t my first run as mayor, but, seeing as I’d been out of the game for a while, it was good to get a refresher course. Something seemed off, though. The rep’s ear-to-ear grin and exuberant shaking of my hand seemed to mask the fact that they were more than a little scatter-brained. Within minutes, they jumped from the acquisition of Lings (citizens of the town) to resource gathering and management, and then into combat and trading.
“But wait, how do I—”
“Aaaaand that’s it! Good luck!” cried the rep as they dived past a Mushface (a race of lumbering mushroom-folk) into the town’s dimensional portal. I looked at the Mushface, confusion and worry plastered all over my face, but he just shrugged and walked through the portal. An auspicious start.