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.
Video games have become increasingly dour over the last few years.
With a push towards more realistic environments, faces that are slowly crawling out of the uncanny valley, and the ever-popular greys and browns of most shooters, it’s easy to forget that video games were once primarily cartoony and colourful.
Thankfully, amidst the (admittedly gorgeous) vistas on display in games like Anthem and Forza Motorsport 7, several games slipped into E3 2017 that demonstrated the power of modern technology when it comes to creating imaginative, vibrant worlds. However, environment design can only get me so interested in a game; it’s what populates these locales that tends to truly make them shine. These are the games that had me clutching the sides of my face, ranting in all-caps to my friends, and trying not to squeal loud enough for my neighbours to hear, because OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT IT’S SO ADORABLE AND I NEED IT NOW!!!!!
Pulling off good horror with pixel art is difficult. Titles like Lone Survivor come to mind as somewhat recent examples of pixelated horror done right, but such games are far from the household names that Outlast, Amnesia, and even Slender have become. Part of the reason for that may be that it’s difficult to properly set up jump scares when playing from what is generally a pulled-out, third-person view; giving the player so much vision can undercut the effectiveness of such surprises. To combat this, many “bit horror” games choose the same tactic chosen by The Count Lucanor: the horror comes from the imagery and circumstances rather than their sudden presentation.
Video games have explored countless horror film tropes over the years: abandoned hospitals, possessed toys, and ghoulish monsters, just to name a few. Such games have, for the most part, taken themselves completely seriously, sometimes to their detriment. There’s been a drought of games that capture the spirit of schlocky, B-movie slasher films like The Evil Dead and Grindhouse. Slayaway Camp aims to fill this void with an interesting combination: the typically fast-paced thrills of the genre mixed with the methodical pacing of a puzzle game.
Move over, Indiana Jones. You too, Lara Croft. There’s a new tomb raider in town, and they’ve got one hell of a mouth on them.
That mouth certainly gets put to good use in Immortal Redneck, an Egyptian themed, rogue-lite first-person shooter. The titular redneck spouts countless quips as he traverses one of three pyramids, spewing everything from random expletives to Back to the Future references. Ordinarily, this would seem out of place, considering the myriad of mystical monsters in his way that would have most folks running in terror. Then again, most folks probably aren’t equipped with enough firepower to make Michael Bay shed a tear.
I mean, the title really says it all, right? But seriously, I know that it’s been a while since I last posted. If you follow me on Twitter (@Olivigarden, for those of you that don’t know…hooray, self-promotion!), you may have seen my tweets about how everything basically went to hell and back. Well, at this point in my prolific (HA) games journalism career, I feel that it’s probably in my best interests to keep my personal and professional (HAHAHA) lives separate for the most part. Unfortunately, certain events have a way of making it so that focusing on anything (including being a functional human being) is extremely difficult. I’ll avoid going into the gory details, but since February 11, I’ve been dealing with some…ahem…distressing personal circumstances. Don’t worry, nobody died. But, well, something did.
Alice: Madness Returns is a game that attempts to convey the realities of a descent into madness to the player, and in that regard, it is an unequivocal success. Unfortunately, that’s because it is one of the most maddening games that I’ve played recently. It’s a game that feels like it had so much effort poured into certain aspects, while others were left to waste away in irrelevance. And unfortunately, most of the latter were the elements that would make it a compelling and enjoyable game.
Simplicity in design is something that can be truly magical for games. Sure, it’s possible to keep things fresh with complex, deep mechanics and ever-changing rulesets. However, experiences that are equally enjoyable (or sometimes moreso) can often come from games that focus on a single idea and do it extremely well. Reigns is a perfect example of this philosophy; the gameplay amounts to little more than “rule a kingdom via Tinder”, yet it still manages to be engaging and intriguing through much of its duration.
Well, it’s officially 2017 around the world. The start of a new year. Which means that everyone’s looking back on the last year and going, “Well that was a bit toss, wasn’t it?” That is, except for the people who are taking the opportunity to look back at their fond memories from the year past, namely when it comes to video games. There were countless fantastic games that got released last year, so many of which I desperately wanted to try out. Unfortunately, as a university student, there are two things that I severely lack in: money and time. As a result, it is incredibly common that I have to watch as new releases are hyped, released, and enjoyed by the masses, while waiting patiently for the day that they inevitably go on sale and I actually have the time to sit down with them. Some of these games have been sitting in my library for months, awaiting their eventual installation. Others are on my wishlist, hoping to one day be added to my ever-growing backlog. Whatever the case, these are (in no particular order) the games that I wish I had gotten to in 2016. You can also consider this to be a “To play in 2017” list, if that’s your thing. Either way, you’ve probably all already played all of these and think I’m a pleb for not looking at them yet.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a sound could be heard, ‘cept the click of a mouse.
I tapped softly at keys, poking them one by one,
In hopes that my Christmas post soon would be done.
The video gaming industry can be a fascinating place full of continuously changing focuses. Case in point: Volume, a dystopian-themed sneak-‘em-up, comes courtesy of a studio whose last game was a platformer whose emotional story was told through an assortment of colourful rectangles. I think it’s safe to say that there’s a bit of a shift present; iterative follow-up project, this is not. However, that’s by no means a bad thing, and Volume serves as an excellent example of how trying new things can yield thoroughly impressive results.
“Don’t step on a crack, or you’ll fall and break your back.”
Who knew that such a simple, silly, and utterly nonsensical children’s rhyme could turn into such a fun, addictive mobile game? Certainly not I, who only installed Steppy Pants because it showed up on the Google Play Store one day for me and I vaguely recalled hearing about it somewhere from someone who had good things to say about it. The next thing I knew, it was 15 minutes later, and I was trying (and failing miserably) to keep from screaming at my phone in a giddy rage (that’s a thing now) so as to not distract my girlfriend from her studying.