Replaying Journey

The first time I played through Journey, I cried.  It was – without a doubt – one of the most emotionally moving gaming experiences I had had up to that point, and it’s held a special place in my heart ever since.  However, when I mentioned to my friend Matt that it might find its way onto my “favourite games of all time” list, he made an interesting remark: “Have you replayed it?”

Killzone Shadow Fall – Well, It’s a Launch Title

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.

The 2017 Olives

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!

Terroir: A Lesson in Winemaking

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.

Vaporum’s Little Puzzles Cause Big Accessibility Issues

If you’ve played Legend of Grimrock, sitting down with Vaporum will practically be second nature. It utilises a tile-based movement system with real-time combat, and focuses on exploration, puzzle solving, monster fighting, and loot collecting. Key differences include a streamlining of combat (spells can be cast with hotkeys instead of inputting specific ruin combinations), the removal of parties (you’re all on your own here), and a switch to a steampunk setting. The latter of those is what really makes Vaporum stand out, with its mechanical arachnids, steam-powered suits of armour, and decidedly old-school weaponry.

Why GamerGate Could Use a Rebranding

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.

An Ode to Plague Road (GameSpew)

Come and sit down; I’ve a tale to tell,
Of a game whose mechanics were boring as hell.

It was quite the looker; the work put in showed,
Yet no joy was present while travelling Plague Road.

The menus seemed like those for mobile devices,
As though the game had an identity crisis.
It seemed to be built to be played on the go,
Where perhaps the repetitiveness wouldn’t show.

Instead, it was ported, so haphazardly,
To Vita, PlayStation 4, and also PC.
I found all too quick did monotony creep,
And before long, the game had me falling asleep.

Demon-Slaying Tower Defence ‘Hell Warders’ Proves First Impressions Aren’t Everything (GameSpew)

Hell Warders made an awful first impression.

Upon loading it up, I was quickly greeted with clipping assets, overflowing lists that disappeared off-screen, a non-functioning character creator, and various spelling and grammar errors in pieces of menu and help text. Oh, I also couldn’t play the game; there were no multiplayer games available for me to join, and the “Create Game” function seemed to be broken.

The second attempt didn’t fare much better. After some of the more egregious issues (namely, the character creator problems and the ability to actually start a game) were sorted out, I was greeted with something that felt tiresome and monotonous more than anything. Enemies spawned in from multiple directions, leaving me quickly overwhelmed and resigned to defeat. It appeared it was going to be a bad time all around.

Thankfully, subsequent patches proved this to not be the case.

Block’hood: The Environmentally-Conscious City Builder (GameSpew)

I found Block’hood to be deeply unsettling.

Now, that’s something of an odd emotion to feel when playing a cheery, colourful city-builder, no? With its intricately detailed cities (known as “‘Hoods”) that can consist of dozens of structures carefully stacked on one another, it seems like a lovingly optimistic view of the future. Catwalks criss-cross between constructs, providing elevated walkways to navigate the vertical landscape. Glasses clink in bars, internet cafes emit bleeps and whirs, and clothing stores sell the trendiest fashions to citizens. It’s a veritable utopia.

Suddenly, things collapse. Businesses fall into disrepair. Apartments cave in and lose all sense of life. Protesters line the streets as black clouds swirl in the sky. The veil is lifted, and the weight of everything you’ve done comes crashing down with the city you worked so hard to build. The clothes in those stores were manufactured in sweatshops around the corner, which in turn received their supplies from pollution-producing cotton fields. The internet cafes distributed electronics that were made with plastic, and therefore, oil. The apartments were constructed on the graves of trees, driving out assorted wildlife in the process.