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 »

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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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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Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a Sunday afternoon

Everything I’ve read about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has focused on the game’s potential for experimentation in combat. It offers you a toybox of items which work more or less as expected, and in doing so allows you to combine those items in what feels like creative ways in order to tackle the pockets of enemies that cover its vast world. I can attest to this – I once shot an arrow at a beehive, knocking it from a tree and towards a Bokoblin, prompting the disturbed bees to slowly kill the Bokoblin while it stood there, not moving or reacting in any way.

But that’s it. The rest of the time, when I’m playing Zelda, I’m not having emergent japes. I’m not doing much at all. Read the rest of this entry »