Wot I Think: Wheels Of Aurelia

A driving game about conversations. It sounds perfect, like the hitchhiker American Truck Simulator mod that I wish somebody would make. When Graham wrote about Wheels of Aurelia [official site] late last year, I added it to the long list of games that I absolutely had to play. I hoped that I’d be able to see past the elements that he criticised, but now that I’ve seen most (if not all) of what Aurelia has to offer, I feel more like a passenger than a driver.

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Wot I Think: Cossacks 3

Whilst I was playing Cossacks 3 [official site], a console-focused journalist of some reknown (TV’s famous Simon Parkin, since you ask) popped his head into the rotting cupboard above a coffee shop that I attempt to call an office. He didn’t say anything when he glaced at my screen; didn’t have to, for his face said it all. This, these tiny men, those cod-historical serif fonts and that expanse of terrain – this was what PC gamers played all the time. Our interests and stereotypes had not changed since 1997.

I sought, somewhat in vain, to defend myself, because in truth it has been many years since I played a historical RTS. Cossacks 3 is not PC gaming’s norm in 2016 any more than Mario or Sonic are consoles’, but I must admit that I found it to be something of a balm. A return to a more innocent age.

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Wot I Think: The Bunker

Somewhere there exists a line that marks the point where FMV releases switch between clicking on a film to make it keep playing, and being a meaningful game. The Bunker [official site] is way, way over to the left of that line – it can barely be bothered to ask you to click. Here’s wot I think:

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Wot I Think: Virginia

I’m delighted to say that Virginia [official site] was not at all about what I thought it would be, what it seemed to be. Pretty early on, its narrative took a surprising sideways step, a sudden and yet fluid motion that made it feel fresh, exciting and unpredictable. It was the first of a series of such steps the game would take, crabbing its way into increasingly unusual territory until, at the end of its two hour story, I wasn’t quite sure where either of us were left standing. Many of its surprises were pleasant, but others were perplexing.

Ostensibly, Virginia is about two women working for the FBI in the early 1990s, tasked to find a boy who has gone missing in the titular state. However, this missing person case isn’t quite what it seems. Nor is your own objective. Nor even is your character or, it seems, much of what’s going on around you. By its conclusion, I wasn’t entirely sure what Virginia was about and I’m not sure how much of this I could attribute to imperfect storytelling, to elements of very deliberate obfuscation or to my own ignorance. Virginia is strange and fascinating. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but it certainly is remarkable.

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Wot I Think: Sorcery! Part 4

With Part 4, Inkle’s triumphant Sorcery! series [official site] reaches its conclusion. It’s still sourcing its core tale from the Steve Jackson classics, but having taken wonderful leaps away to include its own far more elaborate possibilities. And the trajectory of each game being better than the last is not broken in this fourth release, the best yet, and indeed one I now feel comfortable calling one of the finest RPGs ever made. This is spectacular. Here’s wot I think:

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Wot I Think: Duelyst

Duelyst is Hearthstone’s child. You can see the shared DNA everywhere, from the menu layout and free to play business model to specific minion abilities and hero powers. Almost everything Hearthstone does, however, Duelyst does better. I’ve spent years grinding away at the Hearthstone mill, but now I’ll never go back.

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Wot I Think: Dead Rising

I’ve always had a soft spot for the first two Dead Rising [official site] games. Soft spots are the second cousins of nostalgia, and similarly mean that I’ll happily make concessions for a series’ flaws. The Dead Rising games have rudimentary combat, horrible time limits, and dodgy AI, but I forgive them because the brutal absurdism of the series has always tickled me (except for the grimy, obnoxious third game). I’ll happily jump in just to save a couple of survivors, and while I’d get angry whenever I lost 20 minutes of progress because I died and forgot to save, I’d be all smiles again as soon as I encountered the next eccentric boss.

It’s been a long time now since the original first came out, and I wonder whether the passage of time has atrophied a game whose systems and mechanics already felt unwieldy ten years ago. And with the super-similar but generally superior sequel already out on PC for a quid less, is there even a need to go back to the original?

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