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  • An alien whale calf emerges in South Scrimshaw.

    Supporters only: Oh, hey, a touching free game about an alien whale

    South Scrimshaw part one is lovely

    Speculative biology is something that, on reflection, I’ve been really into for ages in a disparate sort of way, but didn’t have the name to tie it together until the past few years. This has mainly been through reading interviews with - and interviewing - Gareth Damian Martin, who turned me on to Wayne Barlowe’s Expedition, an influence on his own speculative biology game In Other Waters. Also, like pretty much everyone, I find the teeming oddness and spectral beauty of underwater ecosystems both life affirming and a little bit terrifying - awesome, in the traditional sense.

  • A yellow and black logo for Kerrang!

    The final minutes of Kerrang! TV - shut down this week alongside four other music channels in a cost-cutting effort by Channel 4 - saw a reel of clips that showed a channel frozen in time. I don’t think any of the songs were more recent than fifteen years old, and many were much older.

    Kerrang! as a magazine, and a brand, has continued to champion emerging artists throughout its lifecycle, but the channel’s final moments felt like a guttural declaration that it had tattooed its name in a heart alongside its favorites a long time ago, and everything that came after was just iron-ons and pin badges. That the beating heart of the channel was always placed at a specific moment in time (always more about nostalgia than revolution) albeit one continually referenced and playlisted and occasionally revived in retro callback trends since. Deftones were always too interesting to be lumped under nu-metal, to be fair.

  • Staring at a huge pink triangle in Destiny 2: The Final Shape.

    Supporters only: Destiny 2: The Final Shape is a bizarre DLC, and all the better for it

    If you read this, that means you've been Final Shaped

    Me again, the Destiny 2 person (someone needs to fly the flag now that Alice0, RPS in peace, has sadly left us). Over the last few weeks Liam (also RPS in peace) and I have dunked lots of orbs, made numbers go up, and have almost come to terms with the fact The Final Shape is actually a verb. That means we've started ironically using it in situations like, "Wouldn't surprise me if we get Final Shaped", as, I don't know, our country's election happens tomorrow. So uh, anyway! What have we made of the game's latest expansion over the last few weeks?

    Yeah it's leagues ahead of Bungie's previous effort Lightfall, owing to things being a fair bit zanier.

  • A grainy green image of an old PC and some monster tracking in Aberration Analyst.

    Schmidt Workshops caught my notice recently with the excellent Islands of the Caliph, a fairly simple game that I half expected to wear out in an hour. It was instead charming and engrossing, with a novel setting and encouraging atmosphere that carried it well beyond that finish line.

    Aberration Analyst is about as far removed from it as possible. Instead of bashing monsters while becoming a better Muslim, you sit at a desk putting together clues to track unseen monsters. But they share a creative spirit, and a well-judged balance between revealing information and letting you figure out the rest.

  • Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree screenshot of Redmane Freyja standing next to one of Miquella's Crosses.

    It’s Shadow Of The Erdtree week (month?), so naturally we’ve been covering it a bit. I wrote about some discourse. I had some opinions. I tried to write some more, and in the process of doing that, I ended up having to confront my own thoughts on the base game, and why I’ve always felt at odds with a lot of the critical reception to it. I keep seeing very big words written about it, so thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to write a very small review.

  • A mission in RTS War Wind

    In 1996, I played an RTS game named War Wind. I haven’t played it since, though I’ve thought about if often. Except, I didn’t actually know what the game was called until last week. I found out by googling the word 'Boncas'.

  • A ninja and his master duke it out in Sekiro.

    Supporters only: Elden Ring: Shadow Of The Erdtree has me hankering... hankering for a Tenchu

    They can do stealth, I know they can

    There's this one stealth section in Shadow Of The Erdtree that I won't/can't spoil for now. But know that it has you hiding in bushes to escape nasties whose version of "You're it!" is around 1000 times more aggressive than most adolescents who might prod you with Skips flavouring-coated fingers. Besides other Torrent-related things I'm writing up, I've found it's got me thinking about something...

    ...Tenchu. I'd like FromSoftware to do a Tenchu again.

  • Executing a sneak attack in Our Adventurer Guild.

    What little rejuvenation reaches my ancient, haggard soul comes most often from pleasant little surprises like a game creeping up on me.

    Our Adventurer Guild is cheerfully simple in appearance, and its turn-based fights and griddy missions establish its parts at once as familiar, potentially even by-the-numbers. But those parts are arranged into an original and deceptively detailed mercenary management game that got harder to put down the longer I played.

  • An artificial houseplant with fairy light flowers

    The RPS inbox is a wondrous treasure-trove of distraction doubloons, some delightful, some shite-ful, and not even Outlook’s lichen-like interface can dull the luster of its offerings. In amongst the press releases, indie nuggets, and the occasional pitch for sponsored AI content (no, never), something truly exquisite occasionally peeks through the chest lid. This week, it was a completely context-free message containing several photos of what appear to be artificial houseplants from a man named ‘Harold’. We take criticism seriously here, so I can only assume the sender intended the contents of these imposter pots to be judged as such. Well, I’m nothing if not obliging. Apologies for the quality of the images. I screen-grabbed then resized them up because I was too scared to download them in case they contained explosives or something.

  • A submarine guard points aims their pistol at you in Sonar Shock.

    Sonar Shock is a reminder that some of the best game concepts or settings seem so obvious as soon as you play them.

    System Shock on an unreasonably huge submarine on an equally ludicrous trip around the Northeast Passage via Cape Agulhas? With a satirical Soviet setting that isn't just "lol russia" or "I think Stalker was about machismo and gun attachments"? And a third thing that I'll get to in a minute because this intro is getting out of control? God yes.

  • A hole in the surface of mars in Doom Eternal

    Whether or not they actually amount to anything, rumours of a new Doom have had me diving back into Doom Eternal recently. There’s at least one level in it that feels like essay-bait, so I’m obliging. The centerpiece of Mars Core - the FPS’ best level - is a comically massive superweapon called the BFG-10000. Oh, Chekov. If only you could see what we’ve done with your wisdom. The literary subtlety to gun-big-enough-to-scar-planets pipeline will eventually subsume all of pop culture, and those of us who chose to specialise writing about headshots will alternate between grins and tears from the wreckage.

  • The cast of Severance, looking unsettled at something off-camera.

    In Mike Judge’s 1999 cult comedy Office Space, there’s a scene where Ron Livingston’s Peter - a programmer working a tedious corporate job - visits a hypnotist. “Is there any way that you could, sorta, just zonk me out so I don’t know that I’m at work, in here,” Peter asks of the hypnotist, pointing to his head. “Could I come home and think that I’ve been fishing all day, or something?”. That’s basically the high-level concept for brilliant sci-fi comedy show Severance, right there. Not wanting to spoil any more than I absolutely have to, I’ll present you with two facts up top. 1. It features a touching queer relationship between John Turturro and Christopher Walken and 2. It’s some of the best television I’ve seen in the last few years. Throw in some Stanley Parable, Control, Gilliam’s Brazil, and some more meta undertones of general musing on gamified reward loops, and you’ve got Severance.

  • Crossing an eerie bridge holding an axe in Harvest Hunt.

    We have been cursed with a terrible devouring monster. Each harvest, one villager must don the ceremonial, mildly magical mask, and enter the fields alone, to gather the precious life-giving ambrosia before the beast can befoul it. For five nights you must do battle, or evade its ravenous clutches.

    Those of you who have known your own Devourer are surely thinking: Only five nights per year? Luxury. Harvest Hunt is good, though.

  • Jack shoves his favourite manga in a robot's mouth in Mullet Mad Jack

    In one of the better gaming trends of the last few years, we appear to have entered a golden age for booting the crud out of doors. There’s Deathbulge of course, but also the upcoming Anger Foot, Abiotic Factor, and a load more I’m sure. There was also literally Door Kickers, but that was ages ago. Anyway, the latest game to put a hinge-disrespecting protagonist front and center is also my current obsession: the excellent Post Void/Hotline Miami-type beat, Mullet Mad Jack. It’s a very fast, very silly FPS about shooting robot billionaires that takes its aesthetic from 80’s anime and PC-98 games. I’m not sure what else you need, honestly.

  • Grown fat from strength in Destiny 2's Duality dungeon.

    In a twist of fate I've mentioned in some recent Destiny 2 news posts, I am fully back into Destiny. Former vidbud Liam and I used it, initially, as something we could do while catching up on life. But now? Now we're all in. Liam has created a spreadsheet of things we're ticking off to prepare for the upcoming expansion, and I think it's the perfect summation of what the game is to us: something that makes no sense at all and yet something that makes our brains hum with happiness.

    And what we've found with Destiny, in all of its bloat, is that we haven't explored for a single second since our return. Everything is accomplished through menus, making it quite Starfield-esque, which is terrible… but also good. We can't make sense of it and we don't think we ever will.

  • An idyllic village scene in Of Life And Land

    I love building games, but it's not that often that put one down and feel particularly tempted to get straight back into it again. Of Life And Land is one of those, but thankfully not so much so that it threatens to consume my every waking moment.

    It quietly does several things in a modest little way, that are all the more impressive for its lack of fanfare. The core one though, is that it takes the kind of simulationist foundation normally reserved for the punishing Dwarf Fortress derivatives or gnarly logistics games, and builds on them an approachable, gentle, even philosophical game instead. In a word: it's lovely.

  • A close-up of a battle-damaged capital ship in Homeworld 3 against a backdrop of floating wreckage

    Supporters only: Nando's does difficulty better than videogames

    How do we solve the easy/normal/hard problem?

    Have you played Homeworld 3 yet? I have. I thought it was *gestures at review*. I bring it up because, as is often your way, the readership commented me into thinking about something I’ve been wanting to cover: the outdated relic that is the easy/normal/hard difficulty trifecta. "Ohoho," I warbled chuckilishly. "I shall craft a blistering manifesto, sharper than the apex of a Toblerone on the roof of your mouth when you try to eat it as god intended. I will solve this problem." And then I thought, "Actually, no. That sounds hard." So, instead, here are some wazzock-tier ramblings.

  • The protagonist of Biomorph, a strange almost insectoid creature, who has taken on a red aspect from an enemy they've killed

    Supporters only: Biomorph is one the best of its genre, of 2024, and maybe all time

    If only you could morph to the monsters

    There are exactly one million metroidy rogueishy action platform games and that is okay. There's no such thing as too many of an entertaining thing in a world with, god I dunno, at least thousand humans in? Maybe more? Who knows.

    They are rarely my thing, though. I try more than I really want to, for you, and games like Biomorph give me the energy to keep going through the many that leave me indifferent. This isn't one of my grudging admissions that a subgenre isn't all bad; it's a game that I can't even think of a way to complain about.

  • A badminton net, with a green curtain in the background.

    Supporters only: For two years, Kento Momota had the best game in the world

    Ten years in development

    Last week, I watched one of my favourite badminton players Kento Momota play his final match. As he stepped off court for the last time, I found myself welling up. He doesn't know me - of course he doesn't - and I don't know him. But for ten years I'd watch him at every opportunity and see him grow into one of the all-time greats. For me, his retirement wasn't only devastating in the sense he was a great ambassador for the sport: a positive soul, a good speaker, a hard worker. No, it also spelled the end of us being able to witness something impossible to replicate, a 'game' of badminton uniquely his. And for a magical two years, he had the best game in the world.

  • A shelf of books from the rearranging game A Little To The Left. They are all out of height order and this needs to be addressed.

    Like with getting fancy polyhedral dice sets full of all glitter and wool, buying and owning are two different hobbies when it comes to books. I think this has gotten worse (if that's the word?) with the increasingly popularity of BookTok, the book-centric community on TikTok. It's really mobilised young people towards reading (which is good) but in some cases drives a consumption for consumption's sake approach, where one must have read new books to talk about, one must take no breaths between reading, and one must read an astonishing number of books in the smallest amount of time possible (which I think is bad).

  • A teaser image of a Helldivers 2 mech firing a gatling gun in a sandy desert.

    Regular Nic Reuben enjoyers, should such people exist, will remember I wrote a supporter post a few weeks back about wanting to spread my personal gaming fun time out among new and exciting games. And by ‘spread it out’ I mean maybe play 15% less Total Warhammer. As is often the way of things, I followed what I thought was prudent advice, and now there are bugs everywhere. Big bugs. Also, robots. Helldivers 2, it turns out, is really quite excellent. Who woulda thunk! Everyone else. Everyone else woulda thunk.

  • Hades 2 screenshot of Apollo.

    My older brother (as opposed to "big"; my younger brother is my big brother, because he's built like the kind of hearty giant in a JRPG who laughs a lot and carries an anchor as a weapon, while my older brother is a loathsome scribbling wizard like myself) is a gamer in a very normal sense. He was way more online when he was younger, and is the one who got me into the games of Lucasfilm, Troika and Blizzard, but these days he plays the games he likes a lot and does not read specialist websites that tell him why he shouldn't like them. He used to play loads of League Of Legends, but the game he was most into more recently was Hades. This is because he studied Classics.

    I won't tell you how many years its been since he was at university, but for many years - and still sort of now, to be honest - "liking Apollo" was a key part of his personality. It's interesting, therefore, to text him about Hades 2. Partly because he wasn't even aware it was happening.

  • A pitched sci fi battle taking place in From Glory To Goo

    It's not, strictly speaking, a goo. From Glory To Goo's enemy isn't a sinister gunge, but that minor disappointment didn't last long.

    Its monsters are individual, blobby little (mostly) purple nasties, but they act as a flood anyway, taking great exception to your base and the resources it pipes back and forth (much like in Creeper World), but coming mostly in waves like They Are Billions. But the thing with FGTG is that there's always a little bit more to deal with than you think.

  • The character running along a cliff in Distant Bloom

    Despite my desire for a real life herb garden, I don't really like farming or gardening games. Distant Bloom could be an exception, except I'm not sure it even qualifies as either, really. It is a little bit about exploration, a little about very light puzzles, and mostly in its heart, about cleaning up and making everything pretty.

  • A promotional image for Russian adventure game Indika, showing a young nun looking at the viewer while surrounded by yelling older nuns.

    Indika is a good game about a good nun, and I’ll talk about why in a sec, but first - a complaint. ‘Low’, ‘Medium’, or ‘Ultra’ graphics settings? Really, Indika? Where is 'High'? Where’s it gone, eh? This isn’t cute when Papa John's do it, and it’s not cute now. You’re lucky you’re an extremely interesting game, Indika. Let’s talk about that instead.

  • A liminal space with a green slide and white tiles in Pools.

    I gave that Pools game a go recently - you know, the first-person traipse through some liminal spaces that happen to be pool themed. At one point it was trending on Steam and since then it's garnered loads of positive reviews, with people saying it's unsettling and drips with atmosphere. Reader, I do think it's quite atmospheric, but I do not think it's all that unsettling. If anything, I find it a bit dull, in a way that's semi-frustrating. Am I missing the liminal space-liker bit of the brain a lot of people have? Am I an anomaly here?

  • A cleaned and stocked freshwater tank in Aquarist

    A couple of weeks ago I told you about an aquarium-having simulator that is as detailed as it is janky. I was charmed by Aquarist and it's basic-asset using weirdness, and I intended to write a lot more about it. But our adventures in fish keeping are stalled because, well, when something is adorably janky it might turn out that the jank gets in the way of you progressing or playing the game. In the real world, a bug stops me progressing past a very early point of the story. In the world of the game, my father has locked me in his fish basment and will not let me leave.

  • Apex Legends' caustic in a clown skin

    Supporters only: Unpacking the cursed digital object that is Steam’s clown reaction emoji

    But doctor, I am mostly positive!

    I don’t want to strike sweaty terror into anyone’s gentle hearts here, but I’m beginning to suspect lately that the friendly clown emojis I keep seeing as reactions to Steam user reviews aren’t actually a colorful kudos to the writer for being a chucklesome and whimsical individual. I’m starting to fear, actually, that this one icon of a behatted japester may have been widely adopted as an oddly hostile way to single out dissenting opinions, rapidly accelerating the Steam reviews’ grisly metamorphosis into something that more resembles a clout-farming social app than anything with pretensions towards facilitating helpfulness or self expression.

  • Screenshot of teammates in Lethal Company.

    Supporters only: Lethal Company is as much about protecting the mundane, as it is a horror game

    They should put my new coffee grinder in there

    I think the stronger your interest in white goods becomes, that's how you know you're transitioning from a youngster to a slightly oldster. The first thing I did recently when I stepped into my friend's house was compliment him on his new washing machine. "A Samsung! Nice dials on this, eh?", I said as I twisted the dial and it pleasantly bumped from mixed to delicate wash. What can I say? I appreciate the mundane and the useful.

    And from the times I've played Lethal Company, I've come to think it's also a game about appreciating the mundane, too.

  • The Grey Warden in Dragon Age: Origins fights a giant darkspawn ogre

    Supporters only: Watching Civil War made me want more games with black and white stances on morality

    I can't think of any good modern examples!

    I went to see Civil War this weekend. I liked a bunch of it, didn't like a bunch of it. One thing I thought was very obvious is that it sanitises its titular conflict of any political context. On the one hand, I understand this as part of the theming, said almost directly into the camera by Kirsten Dunst's photojournalist character: as journalists they're there to observe, so other people ask questions. On the other hand, the civil war being between the government and the Western Forces, an alliance between California and Texas feels extremely "Republicans buy sneakers too", if you ask me.

    It made me think about the Fallout TV show. One of the things I like about it is that it doesn't pretend The Brotherhood Of Steel aren't absolute mad lads (pejorative). Like, they're clearly not good news, and there isn't any attempt to make them seem like they are - just that they might seem that way from the point of view of a traumatised child being rescued from a fridge like a tiny Indiana Jones. Many of the video games I like pride themselves on offering choice to the player, but in reality they smooth over any bumps in the road to make the choices appear equal - rather than telling the player they are choosing between bad and good.