In their haste to make “soulslikes”, devs have forgotten what makes Dark Souls unique – its level design

I finally completed Dark Souls III [official site] last week, a world that I have been dipping in and out of between bouts of listlessness since its release in April last year. It didn’t grip me like the first revered Dark Souls, but it still made me sad to know it was all over. Where could I go now for my Souls fix? The answer, it turns out, is loads of places. The games industry is quietly reverberating with the series’ influence. From small games boasting “souls-like” combat, to bigger games doing weird things with death and player messages. Meanwhile, our PlayStation brethren got Nioh, which took the “pocket full o’ souls” idea and simply renamed them “Amrita”. There is a popular complaint that everything in the industry is now being compared to Dark Souls, and it’s easy to forget that games embraced difficulty and strangeness long before the Bed of Chaos made you weep with frustration. Nevertheless, the mechanics and the tone of Miyazaki’s magnum opus is leaking into games everywhere.

That there’s an influx of Soulsian disciples out there isn’t a problem to me. My problem is that they are learning all the wrong lessons. At least, they are neglecting the most important one. But first let’s look at what sly tricks are being lifted from the series, and who is lifting them. Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Outlast 2

If you’ve ever wanted to experience crucifixion from a first-person perspective, Outlast 2 [official site] will let you scratch that one off your bucket list. Moving away from the first game’s psychiatric hospital, developers Red Barrels unearth another necropolis’ worth of horror tropes in a splatterfest about apocalypse, antichrists and clashing cults.

The most frustrating thing about Outlast 2 is that it’s few redeeming features deserve a far better game around them. Read the rest of this entry »

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness spins off onto PC

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness [official site], a visual novel spin-off from the dystopian anime Psycho-Pass, is now out on PC. Psycho-Pass, I’ll briefly explain, is set in a near-future Japan watched over by a surveillance system constantly assessing everyone’s likelihood they’ll commit crimes. On the rare occasion someone gets all crime-y, in come special futurecops — some of whom are themselves judged dangerous by the system — armed with futureguns whose use is also ruled by the system. And this is a visual novel telling a new story in that world. Read the rest of this entry »

Baobab’s Mausoleum is a JRPG inspired by Twin Peaks

All right, please remain seated because there’s a lot going on with this one. Baobab’s Mausoleum [official site] is an upcoming episodic, sometimes point-and-click, sometimes JRPG about a vampire eggplant FBI agent called Watrucio investigating a town known as Flamingo’s Creek which only appears every 25 years within the confines of a nightmare. Look, I know. You think you have it bad? I’m the one trying to explain it on a Monday morning. Luckily, there’s a trailer that does some of that for me. Use your eyes to see it.
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Teensy Bayonetta update hints at Vanquish on PC

Because video games can’t ever state good news plainly, Sega are pulling a prank which seems like it’s meant to resemble a teaser campaign for a PC release of Platinum’s underappreciated 2010 shooter Vanquish. The recent (and overdue) PC release of Bayonetta today received a wee update adding only a picture of Vanquish’s protagonist to an ‘extras’ folder. That’s it. A PC release has seemed likely — and been hinted at — for a while but Sega just keep on yanking our pigtails and rocketkicking the back of our chair. Give over. Read the rest of this entry »

Vijver gives you a tiny pond to sit beside

Vijver

Because Alice and I send each other links to nature things prefaced simply with the recipient’s name in all caps, Vijver arrived with just “PIP” as the accompanying information. It is an entry from Ludum Dare 38, whose theme is “A Small World”, and it just gives you a little pond to watch. I am giving it to you to watch too: Read the rest of this entry »

Call of Duty: WW2 is real, obvs

Cor blimey, love a duck, and stone the crows: Activision have announced that the next Call of Duty game will be Call of Duty: WWII [official site]. Their official announcement says about as much as the leak which gave this away four weeks ago. Another supposed leak has sprung with unconfirmed babbling about unsurprising things like D-Day and a co-op mode. But what’s most important is that ↑ teaser artwork up there. What’s going on with the man we shall assume is named Robert Gunnington? Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Stunt Car Racer?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Sometimes I think FlatOut 2 is my favourite racing game and sometimes I think it’s Carmageddon 2. Maybe even Fatal Car Racing or one of the early Colin McRae games. Ohhh, maybe Hard Drivin’ or Rollcage? There are lots of good racing games. Stunt Car Racer is the best though, isn’t it? Yeah.

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Introversion’s Scanner Sombre surfacing on Wednesday

First-person spelunker Scanner Sombre [official site] will launch this very Wednesday, April 26th, developers Introversion Software announced today. They’re sending us to explore a deep and dark cave network with the aid of a LIDAR scanner that visualises the world with squillions of coloured dots. It’s a curious game to see from Introversion, who are known far more for exploring systems than places in games like Prison Architect, Uplink, and Defcon. I like the concept and look but I have premonitions of lurking horrors and do not want to know. Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: What Remains Of Edith Finch

Whatever the screenshot above might have made you think, What Remains of Edith Finch [official site] doesn’t have very much in common with Dear Esther at all. It has a great deal in common with a lot of games I’ve played, but in the end doesn’t feel very much like any of them. It’s a walking simulator for about ten minutes, and then it becomes all manner of other things, including one of my favourite games in years. Here’s wot I think about this extraordinary family saga.

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Friday the 13th’s 1v7 teen horror slashing into May

1v7 horrorshow Friday the 13th: The Game [official site] will launch on May 26th, developers IllFonic announced over the weekend. I’m not saying it’s illegal for them to not wait until Friday the 13th of October but it is immoral and we should have laws against this. IllFonic have turned the slasher movies into an objective-oriented slashfest where a team of teens at summer camp need to avoid and fend off Jason Voorhees while they try to secure an escape route or get help. The initial release will be multiplayer-only, with singleplayer due to follow this summer. Here, having a look at these stabbings (and burnings, headcrushings, carpunches…): Read the rest of this entry »

Watch wizards: Dota 2’s Kiev Major is now go

Monday can be a slow, quiet day but I’m certainly invigorated by the yelling and explosions of competitive Dota 2 [official site]. Valve’s second big tournament of the season, the Kiev Major, kicked off its Group Stage this morning. This is two days of Swiss group battling to determine brackets for the Main Event, which will start on Thursday. How’s it going so far? Well! I can tell you that there were wizards, then the wizards fought other wizards, then there were fewer wizards. As ever, the competition is streaming on Twitch and Dota 2’s ace in-game spectator system. Read the rest of this entry »