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  • A screenshot of Outriders, which shows me firing shots at an enemy that's charging me down.

    Supporters only: We need more games like Outriders

    An average time is in fact a good time

    I respect Outriders, a looter shooter that pushes precisely zero boundaries. In fact, it pushes them backwards. It says, "See all these boundaries?", then points to scuffed copies of Gears Of War for the Xbox 360 and the original Destiny, exclaims "Well get a load of this!", and slaps the two together.

    Having played the demo last night with a couple of friends, I can confirm that I like this reverse direction the devs have taken. I had an okay time. And I was totally okay with that. Not everything needs to be brilliant nowadays, sheesh.

  • A close up of a Viking in Valheim. She is still wearing rags, and is holding an axe.

    Supporters only: I think Valheim looks great, actually

    Hear me out: next time, a game with one polygon, total

    New smash-hit Viking sensation Valheim is definitely not my kind of game, reader. It is a survival game, a genre I don't generally enjoy because tending to the needs of the pork sack my thoughts are locked in is tedious enough in real life, so I definitely don't want to do it in my virtual down time. I mean, I already have to do it in my down time anyway, and worrying that my viking is cold while also worrying that my actual toes are cold seems a dangerous thing to do.

    It's also a game you are encouraged to play with other people, and I am deeply suspicious of other people. So on the face of it, Valheim does not have much to offer me. But I'll tell you this much: I think it looks amazing.

  • Sam and BB doing a thumbs up and peace sign in Death Stranding

    As you may have seen earlier this week, I spent much of my downtime this month reading the official novelisation of Hideo Kojima's courier hiking sim Death Stranding. It was quite a strange experience, if only because so much of what I loved about the game wasn't present in the novels at all. The landscape you spend so much time analysing and assessing in Death Stranding is barely mentioned over the course of the books, and even the deadly BTs get surprisingly little air time for how often they seem to get in your way. But the strangest thing of all was how it depicted Sam's relationship with his jar baby BB, and it made me realise that all the weird, extraneous mess in its overall design is actually pretty darn important when it comes to establishing some of its later story reveals. I love a good game story as much as the next person, but when it's not supported by gameplay, something definitely comes a cropper.

  • WoWclassicstormwind.jpg

    Every year when a new update for World Of Warcraft gets announced, or Final Fantasy XIV reveals some mad collaboration with NieR: Automata, I can't help but be sucked in again. Almost. I hover my mouse over purchase, but I can never bring myself to click.

    Deep down, I know I don't like MMORPGs anymore. But for some reason I still believe that maybe, just maybe, I actually do. That this particular expansion where orcs fight in a shadow realm, or I can strut about in a new cross-promotional costume, will be like coming home after many years lost in the wilderness.

  • voyage screenshot c.jpg

    It is Monday. It is damp and grey. This morning I thought the men were finally taking down the scaffolding outside our flat, and we would finally see the light of day again for the first time in about 6 months. But no, it is not to be. Thus, I have engaged in what is called 'self care', by spending my lunch break eating a giant cookie stuffed with Nutella and playing Voyage.

    Graham posted about Voyage the other day, and told me I would probably like it. Guess what? He was right! I don't admit that to him often, so this is a real banner moment. The pitch from me to you is: a Studio Ghibli version of Journey, made in Europe.

  • A group of hooded villagers rush through a snowy wilderness carrying a chest of sleeping husky pups in Carto

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that ice levels in games are the absolute worst. The only good one there's ever been was in The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and that's because most of the time you got to chill out in a cosy mountain chalet with cute yetis who fed you big hot bowls of soup. The rest need to be fired into the sun, if only so they can un-chill the heck out. Because let's face it, we all know the drill. Oooooooh, look, it's all slippy-slidey over here, and ooohh watch out, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of bottomless cliffs in this area, so you better not fall to your doom, oooooooooh. Give me a break.

  • Image for A trip in Final Fantasy XV reminded me of Albania

    It had to happen at some point, didn't it? I, the JRPG-liker, installed Final Fantasy XV. My main reasoning behind the purchase was simple: it promised a roadtrip with the lads, all of whom have great hair. Both these things are currently out of reach for most of us in lockdown.

    So yes, I was aware that a large portion of my time in FFXV would be spent reclined in a car. What I didn't expect was to be reminded of a trip I took to Albania within the first hour of playing.

  • Mono from Little Nightmares II, a small boy with a brown paper bag on his head, runs down a corridor holding a torch. Tens of wooden dummy hands are reaching for him from behind locked metal doors

    So, the last couple of things I reviewed were both horror games: Little Nightmares 2 and The Medium. They're also both a slightly different kind of horror game. Most games that style themselves as psychological horror, I have found, are actually mostly jump scares, with the psychological aspect provided by either some tentacles or cornices that look a bit genital, or the scattered pages of a diary detailed a woman's descent into madness because of something her husband and/or children did.

    Little Nightmares 2 and The Medium are both actually genuinely trying to mine psychological themes for their horror - indeed, in the latter you actually go and have a root around in a person's subconscious at some points - but as I observed in my review of The Medium, it didn't really scare me at all. Little Nightmares 2 did.

  • Artwork of Squall Leonhart holding his gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII

    Final Fantasy VIII (aka: the best Final Fantasy game) turned 22 years old yesterday, and just before a small part of my soul crumbled to dust at the thought of it being two whole decades since I first played it, I said to myself, "Cor, Final Fantasy VIII still has the best soundtrack, doesn't it?" From the chill vibes of Fisherman's Horizon to the heartfelt sorrow of The Oath, Final Fantasy VIII's music remains one of Nobuo Uematsu's finest scores in my humble opinion, so what better way to celebrate this momentous anniversary than with a countdown of its very best tracks?

  • Image for This Kindle e-reader feature is like Dark Souls. No, really

    I recently picked up an Amazon Kindle e-reader, in the hope that it would help me read more and, I don't know, save me from lugging a tome around when travelling? (Not like we're doing much of that anyway! Ha ha ha kill me).

    Having now done some reading on this dark slate of mystery, I am a firm believer that it's home to a feature that is more Dark Souls than any other feature described in article proclaiming that something is like From Software's sublime action-RPG.

  • World Of Warcraft Elwynn Forest.jpg

    There's this reality TV show in the UK called "I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!". The premise is simple: a bunch of 'celebrities' are flown to a camp in the Australian outback (last year it took place in a castle in Wales because covid, innit), they're subjected to trials which involve necking mealworms, and the public votes for their favourites.

    Honestly, it's a banger. And on one of my daily walks, I came to the realisation that one particular moment from last year's show lined up nicely with my thoughts on Elwynn Forest in World Of Warcraft. Let me explain…

  • Image for Games like The Medium are the reason Game Pass exists

    I think The Medium has finally made me understand what Game Pass is for. Right now, Bloober Team's latest spooky story is sitting at at 76 on Metacritic (71 on console), and sure it got a bunch of 7s. But it also got a 10. And a 3. This is the most interesting reason to get a 7/10.

    The Medium is a game that I would definitely recommend people play - not in the same way I recommend stuff like Outer Wilds or Return Of The Obra Dinn, which are excellent GOATest of all time games. No, I would recommend it because it is a weird oddity that has good stuff and also bad stuff and weird choices. It's the sort of thing that inspires people to give it 10/10 and 3/10. But it also costs £40 at full price, and the only people who spunk that much on a curiosity are weird old men in Victorian novels who have display cases full of curare darts.

  • Artwork of Eivor, Evie Frye and Kassandra from the Assassin's Creed series

    Every game and their dog seems to be getting a TV show these days. Just this week Crystal Dynamics announced a new Tomb Raider anime that will continue the reboot trilogy, but last year brought us news that Fallout's getting one too, as is Disco Elysium - and The Witcher, of course, already has one (which we've dissected in great detail). Assassin's Creed is in Netflix's sights as well, but having spent a good 100-odd hours in Assassin's Creed Valhalla recently, there is only one possible form an Assassin's Creed TV show should take: a time-travelling adventure show that stars Eivor, Kassandra and Evie Frye, because let's face it, they're the best protagonists the series has and together I know they'd sort the Templars right out. Let me explain.

  • Image for Go home, Assassin's Creed Valhalla progress emails, you're drunk

    I finally finished Assassin's Creed Valhalla last night. 100 hours I've poured into that game. It was good! I enjoyed it a lot. Naturally, there are still a couple of things to mop up here and there. There are two more targets on my Order of Ancients assassination list to send packing and one more big county to conquer, plus a myriad of other side bits to wipe from the map, but in terms of Eivor and Sigurd's mad old storyline, I'm pretty much done. I kid you not, though. When I opened my inbox this morning, I had an email from Ubisoft telling me how I could 'spread my influence' now that I've 'forged alliance with two key allies in England. Two!? How about 12? Go home, Valhalla progress emails. You're drunk.

  • Image for These Nioh 2 character creations are something else

    I think it's no secret at this point that Nioh 2 is a difficult video game. This is an action RPG that preemptively dusts off your gravestone as you boot it up, then pops to the corner shop to buy more microfibre cloths, as all your other gravestones need sprucing up too.

    To take the sting out of Nioh 2, I think it's important to create a character that exudes strength. Today I found out that other players feel the same way, and I've collected some of the most 'interesting' warriors out there.

  • Image for Books vs. games: where did I learn empathy from?

    Ignore that the ideal and probable answer to the title question is "lots of places, including my parents and stuff, idk." 2021 is shaping up to be the year in which I read loads of books again, because what the hell else am I going to do? I've been indoors for 12 months and it already feels like I have watched every film or TV show that man ever committed to celluloid. Sometimes more than once. I got some vouchers over Christmas and forgot I spent them on an actual dozen books, which arrived today. I do not have room for them anywhere in the flat. I have been revaluating my relationship with stories, including games.

    I joined a Facebook group about books and it is a confusing tangle, punctuated by people posting about things that are not books and adults reading almost exclusively YA fiction (I have nothing against YA fiction in general, but I am 30 and as a Full A demand more from books than what I perceive as mostly descriptions of boys who have long eyelashes from the point of view of a girl who is always called Scarlett, spiritually if not literally). The other day, a parent raised that their child had discovered games, and to counter this was making the child "earn" time on digital devices via "number of pages read."

  • Image for My favourite Assassin's Creed game is one I haven't even played yet

    I am almost 80 hours into Assassin's Creed Valhalla at the moment, and I've been having a good time. I'm enjoying it a lot more than Odyssey (sorry, Kassandra), and the time I've spent conquering England has been full of strange and wonderful delights. And yet, as much as I'm entranced by Eivor's come hither looks and her enormous buff muscles (again, sorry Kassandra), it is a different Assassin's Creed game I often find myself thinking about on a day-to-day basis. One that gets my heart pumping, my blood racing and my mind excited every time I hear its soundtrack - and it's a game I haven't even played.

  • Image for I wish Ian Hitman could skip

    Supporters only: I wish Ian Hitman could skip

    Maybe one to note down for the next update

    I've been all over the world this year, despite everything that's going on. And by "all over the world this year", I mean I've virtually creased the tips of my Oxfords as Ian "Agent 47" Hitman. I committed a murder in a Hokkaido hospital and another murder in Mumbai - the one in Mumbai being a particularly good murder, I feel.

    One thing I've been hankering for on my travels is the ability to skip. Not like, skip cutscenes, but swing my arms to and fro as I clippety clop towards my next target.

  • Image for Help, I can't stop murdering creeps in Grindstone

    I had great plans to play LOADS of games over Christmas. It was going to be a time of button-mashing, backlog clearing and more. But then Capybara Games' brilliant puzzle-battler Grindstone came out on Switch and everything went to pot.

  • Image for The best bits I cleared from my gaming backlog this Christmas

    In between eating liquor-filled chocolates shaped like wine bottles and watching Shrek The Halls, I spent time clearing my game backlog over Christmas. Over 2020 I’d struggled to play anything other than Warzone and Yakuza (Nate’s piece covers this feeling of being stuck really nicely), so I thought I’d tick off other games to break out of my comfort zone and feel something other than “nice shot” and “get him dad”.

  • Image for Call Of The Sea subverts your Lovecraftian expectations

    Supporters only: Call Of The Sea subverts your Lovecraftian expectations

    Please, call me Fishperson, MR. Fishperson was my father

    I positioned my holiday at the end of the year such that I got two full weeks off, and I intended to spend loads of that time playing video games, and then I accidentally didn't. For most of the break I spent my time eating a lot of food (as is traditional) and reading books. Several of these books were terrible because I received my loot-box-but-of-books subscription. It contained a book about an out of work Broadway musical actor going undercover in a prison which, despite being described as a thriller, seemed to mostly be about the acquisition of packs of sardines to use as currency in a poker game.

    In the end I played exactly two games over the break. One was Jackbox (or, technically, the free seasonal Jackbox DLC - "Streaming Jackbox With 6 Other People Who Need To Sign Up To Discord") and the other was Call Of The Sea.

  • Image for I want to live in Necrobarista's bookshop café

    If there's one thing I'm thankful for this year, it's cosy games (and books and TV shows) about sweet-looking cafés. I started 2020 by playing Coffee Talk, a wonderfully chill visual novel with an incredible soundtrack about being a late-night barista, and I've steadily been working my way through Midnight Diner on Netflix over the last few months as well (the Japanese TV show that Coffee Talk draws a lot of inspiration from). Two of my favourite books this year have been about a time-travelling café, too, where you can revisit a point in your past and future by drinking a special cup of coffee.

    They've all been great settings to hunker down in with a nice hot cuppa in an otherwise turd of a year, but the fictional café I've loved best in 2020 is hands down the enormous Terminal in Route 59's ultra-stylish Necrobarista. It might function as a kind of temporary purgatory for lost souls in the game, but for me, it's my idea of absolute heaven.

  • Image for It's nearly 2021 and Tales From The Borderlands still has the best opening credits of any game

    It's wild how Tales From The Borderlands is still both the best Telltale game and the best Borderlands game, isn't it? And that's despite a brand new mainline Borderlands game coming out in the interval, too. In recent years, it's become fashionable for some of my pals here in the UK to do some version of Thanksgiving. You know, the ultra cool London Brits who pretend they're really into American football. So let me say this very belatedly: if you were at all involved in Tales From The Borderlands, I am sincerely thankful for you.

  • Image for An ode to Doom Eternal's meat hook

    Supporters only: An ode to Doom Eternal's meat hook

    Shall I compare thee to a serrated blade?

    I remember being vaguely horrified when I first heard about Doom Eternal's meat hook. It's one of the new features id Software added to the series' classic Super Shotgun (aka, the best video game weapon of all time), and as its name might imply, you can use it to grapple toward enemies in order to get up close and personal with their soon to be squelched demon flesh. At the time, I thought, "But how can you improve on the already perfect Super Shotgun?" A lot, it turns out. Let me count the ways.

  • Image for After all these years, I may finally finish The Witcher 3

    I remember I bounced off The Witcher 3 when I first played it in 2015. There I was, Geralt T. Witcher, rocking up to the quaint town of White Orchard like, “I am here to save the day! No need to be strong, for I am here now friends”, before glancing at my map and promptly logging off. Nah, not for me this. All these map markers? Yeah, just a bit much mate.

    But ha, now look at me! Curled in my chair like a shrimp and about to finish The Witcher 3 after five long years. It has taken a monumental effort, but I can finally tick off the game everyone bangs on about and move onto the next game that everyone has already started banging on about, Cyberpunk 2077.

  • Image for Allow me to gatekeep you with my video game tattoo

    Supporters only: Allow me to gatekeep you with my video game tattoo

    Oh you DON'T have any game tattoos? That's cool I guess

    Not to jerk the curtain too much, but every so often a Twitter account with an avatar doing an ahegao face will respond to the official RPS account opining that games journalists all hate video games anyway. This always makes me laugh because, like, what else am in this for? The money? The chicks? The positive comments? But it does actually make a kind of sense, if you consider that when I worked in pensions it wasn't because I loved pensions. I didn't do pensions calculations in my spare time, and have a t-shirt of my favourite fund. But I swear, your honour, I really love games. Just ask my back.

  • Image for Please help me to understand these Christmas jumpers

    This isn't an advertorial post but I know up front it's going to sound like one. See, the season of Christmas jumpers is upon us. When I worked in admin, there was a guy in our office whose entire personality was basically that he wore a Die Hard Christmas jumper on the office Christmas jumper day (I worked in an office that had a designated day for Christmas jumpers).

  • Image for Say hello to my favourite lads in Yakuza: LAD

    Yeah, sorry, I’m back again writing about Yakuza: Like A Dragon, or Yakuza: LAD as it’s otherwise known. An alter-ego that probably likes sinking a few tinnies on the front porch, wahey. Loves the football. Actually no, more like loves the baseball, because it’s the biggest sport out in Japan.

    Anyway, early into Yakuza: LAD you bump into a professor who gives you a Sujidex that logs all the weird human beings you encounter on the streets of Yokohama. I think of it as this cursed Pokedex containing a mishmash of flesh and bone. And let me tell you, there are some real maniacs roaming out there in the wild.

  • Image for Please don't Ready Player Two, you deserve more

    Supporters only: Please don't Ready Player Two, you deserve more

    You're smart and funny and you don't need him

    If there's one thing you should know about me, reader, it's that I'm very petty and I hate Ready Player One. Two things you should know about me. In fairness, we have talked about this fairly recently. We're going to talk about it again, though, because Reader Player Two is out today, and I need you to read other books instead.

    (At this stage in my relationship to Ready Player One/Two, my friends are holding me back outside a pub at 2am yelling "Leave it Alice, it's not worth it!")