Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I got my arse kicked by the readership when I reviewed Banished and made it clear I didn’t enjoy myself at all. I don’t mind. I’m glad.
More and more, I subscribe to the idea that if someone professes to love something, what kind of critic is it to tell them that they’re wrong? Sure, I’ll quibble and what-about and point out problems they might have missed or dismissed, but I’m old and boring enough to no longer feel the fires of rage that someone dares to enjoy something I consider to be poor. (Only thing is, I do ask for the opposite to be true – if I don’t like something, I don’t want to be viciously told that I shouldn’t be expressing such an opinion. It’s OK not to enjoy something; it’s not OK to tell someone else what they should or shouldn’t enjoy, within reason, of course).
Banished is emblematic of that. I didn’t enjoy myself, because for it was a punishing grind in order to achieve only a basic level of subsistence. I suppose I want to be a bit more indulged in my city-builders, and it’s fair to say that I don’t necessarily believe that embracing difficulty in videogames is noble in and of itself. Sometimes, yes – Far Cry 2, STALKER, Souls/Bloodborne – but Banished put me in mind of doing household chores, with the full, bleak knowledge that I would only have to repeat them all again days later.
Many people disagreed with me. They adored the challenge, the sense of victory they gained from surviving the overwhelming. I was pleased. It’s lovely to see people enjoying something, especially when that something is unusual and distinctive. Unless something is openly hateful, it deserves an audience of kindred spirits. Banished is not for me.
It came close to being something I wanted, which is why I personally felt disappointed, but it was for a lot of people – people who want a simulation of making do in a harsh wilderness, not the faker fantasy of vast cash-piles and rapid technological ascendance.
Funny thing, though – I suspect I’d like it more now. My life has become such that I regularly crave an escape to a simple life in an lonely place.