“Now I am become Viking, the destroyer of board games.” I made this remark while discussing Wartile in a bored, semi-inebriated stupor with a friend of mine. In hindsight, I find it to be utterly nonsensical – I certainly meant it to be at the time. Yet I still find it to be less bewildering than some of the design decisions that went into Wartile.
Exploration. Discovery. These are terms which frequently find themselves thrown around when a game stimulates any sense of curiosity. And yet, they tend to be ancillary features in whichever game they appear in. Exploring the open worlds of Assassin’s Creed or Breath of the Wild is certainly a way to pass the time in each game, but they’re not the focus; there are quests to complete, baddies to hunt down, and so forth.
To say that Black Mirror is the video game equivalent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room feels like it may be a slightly overexaggerated claim. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of another recent title that created such utter hilarity out of situations that were meant to be dramatic and horrifying. Scenes that tried to focus on familial interactions and supernatural occurrences had me snickering at technical missteps. An intense scene of someone getting stabbed in the neck did little more than make me laugh hysterically. Thankfully, this meant that it wasn’t an experience devoid of enjoyment, and yet it’s still far and away from being a good game in any capacity.
Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 celebrated its 4th birthday last year, which meant Killzone Shadow Fall – a launch title for the console – did as well. The hype has come and gone. Guerrilla Games went on to create Horizon: Zero Dawn: a game that is not only widely considered better than Shadow Fall, but was hailed as one of the best titles of 2017. Yet here I am, writing about this practically ancient game as though anyone still cares what some pundit thinks about Shadow Fall at this point. Then again, there are still people playing its multiplayer, so obviously there’s some interest in the title. Plus, I just got a PS4, and this was one of the titles I traded my pack-in copy of Star Wars Battlefront II for. Sue me for having an urge to talk about it.
I’ll be up front about this: Tower 57 is one of those games that I just didn’t quite get. Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy twin-stick shooters. I also quite liked the dieselpunk aesthetic of the whole thing; it’s a style that you don’t see too often, and it was a nice change of pace. Plus, the pixel art was so intricately detailed that it made me want to kiss my fingers like a chef. And yet, the game was just…there. The story seemed like it wanted to be darkly humorous, but was largely bland and generic, with characters coming and going too fast to break out of a single personality dimension. The gameplay was straightforward and made perfect sense…until it didn’t. It’s a game which I continually felt like I should enjoy, but I was never able to truly cross the threshold into legitimately finding enjoyment in it. As a result, this is going to be one of those reviews that I write as much for myself as anyone else; I just need to get my thoughts in order to see what went wrong in Tower 57.
Half Life 3? Not happening. Portal 3? You wish. Valve’s longstanding reputation for teasing and never releasing sequels meant that the announcement of Bridge Constructor Portal was met with a…mixed response, to say the least. Really, though, I’d say that it’s a net positive, as I’d rather see Valve handing its licenses to other devs for spin-off purposes than hoarding them like a dragon with so much gold. If it results in more games like Bridge Constructor Portal, well, so much the better!
Every gaming site worth its salt needs an annual awards show, and since I actually played games that came out last year (for once), I would like to cordially welcome you to the first-ever Olive Awards!
Now, you may notice that there are some oddities. First off, some of the traditional categories like “Best Exclusive” or “Best Action/Adventure Game” are missing. The short reason? My show, my rules. The longer reason? Some of the categories simply aren’t what I consider to be particularly interesting. Plus, in a lot of cases, I only got a chance to play one or two games in a given genre this year; not much of a contest if there’s literally only one competitor, right?
Another difference is that many categories have multiple winners. This is simply because I suck at making decisions, and I’d rather acknowledge a selection of outstanding examples in a particular category than try to choose an ultimate winner. Besides, that sort of thing just tends to piss people off, so why bother?
Lastly, if the selection of games being discussed seems limited, it’s because I’m only talking about games that I played this year. Many of them I covered, though there are some exceptions. Regardless, let me just say that yes, Cuphead is bloody beautiful; yes, Super Mario Odyssey looks really freaking fun; and yes, Divinity Original Sin 2 seems like the kind of game that I could lose myself in for days. Happy? Let’s hope so, because the show starts now!
Games can be great at teaching. Titles like Influent attempt to game-ify the process of learning a new language, while games like Papers, Please opt for a more “immersive” approach, teaching the player not about real-world events specifically, but about the circumstances that no doubt surrounded the events it parallels. What I find particularly interesting, though, is the games that don’t so much “teach” as they “encourage to learn”. I’d argue that games like the Civilization series are a perfect example of this; while they don’t specifically mirror history (unless Gandhi was secretly a psychotic warmonger), I know of several friends who have started researching historical civilizations and figures simply because they got a taste of the available knowledge in a game of Civ. It’s in this category of games that Terroir finds itself, both to its benefit and detriment.
While it’s cliché to say that a game is “challenging to review”, I think that it’s fair to apply such a statement to SeaBed, due to one simple fact: it isn’t a game. It’s a visual novel (VN) in the truest sense of the word; there’s text that can be advanced with a click or set to auto-read, and pictures complement said text. Some VNs attempt to shake up the formula by adding dialogue choices or additional gameplay elements, giving the player a break from the ever-advancing walls of text; this isn’t the case with SeaBed.
The final episodes of Telltale games are always interesting, because they’re simultaneously a culmination of everything that’s led to that point, and go against the whole premise of the game. How can choices really matter when it’s all going to be over in an hour or two? Sure, it’s possible to make some decisions in the interim, but they tend to feel more cosmetic than anything. As a result, the big question for episode five of Minecraft: Story Mode Season Two is simple: was it worth it?
To call Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series a rollercoaster ride is an understatement. Unfortunately, rather than playing with emotions and tugging at heartstrings like many of their other titles, Guardians has regularly flipped between being pretty good and painfully average. Of course, that places even more pressure on the final episode to not fall into the traps of mediocrity that have plagued the series. The question is: is that even possible at this point?
The dreaded Sunshine Institute was no match for the Order of the Stone in the last episode, and they managed to escape with a new cohort in tow. As it happens, Xara – the new addition – is one of three legendary admins; the other two are Fred, who’s gone missing, and Romeo, who’s been the one terrorizing the group all along. Xara is willing to lead the group to a portal to the surface, but (as they are wont to do) things quickly become more complicated. When faced with giant Endermen, magma golems, and – horror of horrors – trivia contests, will Jesse and her friends make it out, or will they be trapped Below the Bedrock?