The Evil Within 2 begins by wearing its heart on its sleeve; here’s a burning house, and oh no, the protagonist’s daughter is inside it. From the outset, it yells in your face that this is going to be a Tragic Dad story, the most beloved of videogame narrative tropes. And it never really rises above this familiar narrative conceit as Sebastian Castellanos explores a horror world filled with bad science and twisted terrors in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter. It’s predictable. In other hands, it could’ve been trite. But The Evil Within 2 revels in its horror b-movieness. It embraces it, telling a surprisingly heartfelt and sincere tale of a man who just wants the best for his loved ones. Even if he has to descend into actual hell and face off against some of the most hideous monsters ever conceived in order to achieve this. Read the rest of this entry »
That's so Skaven
In three more turns, the ritual will be complete, and I’ll be one step closer to controlling the Vortex that holds the forces of Chaos at bay. In two more turns, Skaven and Chaos armies will be at the gates. I’m surrounded. By land and sea they arrive, this howling mass of warped warriors and chittering rat-men. Army, after army, after army, all attempting to stop the ritual. Total War: Warhammer 2 [official site] is a race, and it’s an utterly savage one.
From the safety of the other side of that campaign I can tell you that I survived. Just. Reinforcements made it in time, slaughtering the rats and warriors by their hundreds. It was touch and go for a bit, though, which is fairly typical of Creative Assembly’s bloodthirsty sequel.
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KILL ALL LORE
Me: someone who believes that gothbro apparent trickster god The Outsider is the worst thing that ever happened to the Dishonored games, and thus positively relishes the chance to kill the blighter.
Also me: someone who is absolutely determined to play Dishonored games without causing even a single fatality.
Hmm. Standalone expansion Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider [official site] makes life pretty tricky for me, then. Read the rest of this entry »
Give it both fingers
I am completely and totally in love with platformer Necrosphere [official site]. I have also shouted at it so much that I now genuinely have a sore throat. I cannot remember a time when I’ve improved so, so much at a game in a relatively short space of time, to the point where completing certain sections has had me begin to imagine statues built in my honour. And then I come crashing down to Earth as I struggle with the very next moment. It’s a complete joy, a full 2D Metroidvania, and yet the whole game is controlled with only two buttons. Read the rest of this entry »
Music to your ears
I find Songbringer [official site] absolutely fascinating. It’s like the fragmented remains of a game, carefully discovered and pieced together as you play. A stunningly beautiful conflation of pixel graphics and intricately complex lighting effects, creating a fractured and intense look, presenting a combination of action RPG and rogue-ish exploration of a wonderfully detailed yet procedurally generated world. What you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how best to do it – that’s what I’m putting together the more I play. Here’s wot I think: Read the rest of this entry »
I can’t help but think of a sausage. A huge, fat, glistening sausage, bulging with meat (or the nearest vegetarian equivalent) to the point that the innards have burst through the skin, forming deliciously fatty globules on the surface. There is surely no room for more, but nonetheless even more has been stuffed inside it. It clearly shouldn’t work. It’s almost obscene. It looks like it will fall apart or even explode if even the slightest pressure is applied. It is sausage-based madness. The sausage is XCOM 2: War of the Chosen [official site], and it is as delectable and satisfying as it absolutely bloody insane. Read the rest of this entry »
What a nice time I've had
When I play games, my face (oh, it is tired) spends 90% of the time entirely inert, and the remaining 10% wincing or eye-rolling when something kills me and/or I fall off some ledge to my doom. Neither is from a lack of enjoyment, but just from being lost in an internal world of pursuing goals. You almost certainly look equally unsettling when you’re gaming.
In West of Loathing [official site], I would estimate I spent 95% of the time smiling. If you knew me (and you don’t – only my cat truly knows me) you’d know that’s highly unusual. West Of Loathing, a lovely, warm comedy RPG set in an only slightly supernatural wild west, makes me feel so happy.
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Hand drawn and quartered
Sundered [official site] is the ridiculously beautiful Metroidvania from the people who brought us the ridiculously beautiful Jotun. In a busy genre, does it do enough to stand out? Here are my thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »
Early access done right
You have to respect clever, and clever is oozing out of Tower Of Time [official site]. Not just an RPG with the guts to try its very own combat system far more intricate than us dungeon crawlers are used to, but also the use of Early Access in a way that makes it seem like an advantage to the player rather than the developer. Read the rest of this entry »
Space station snooping
Tacoma is… a beautifully designed lift-the-flap book for grownups? An interactive theatrical novella set somewhere between now and a far-future cyberpunk dystopia? A mysterious soap opera? A snoop-sim? A basket of Easter eggs being used to make a sci-fi omelette? I found it to be a rewarding, tightly edited mix of all of the above, but you probably want to know a bit more so here’s Wot I Think… Read the rest of this entry »
Blooping and glooping!
When I go to my exercise class in the evening sometimes the matter of what I do for a living comes up in pre-class chat. Usually I can be like, “This is a credible grown-up profession. I absolutely pinky swear this to be true!” The last few days I have spent 30 hours corralling adorable bouncing blobs and selling their poop on the stock market or funnelling it into science. Maybe I’ll pretend I’ve lost my voice at class this evening. But Slime Rancher [official site] is so cute I also want to tell everyone about it! Here’s Wot I Think… Read the rest of this entry »
Breath Of The Tamed
Ignore the silly name, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles [official site] is pretty special. A combat-free, risk-free game of exploration and meandering, farming and cat-gathering, questing and lazily fishing. Here’s wot I think: Read the rest of this entry »
"An enormous pleasure"
I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really see a space in Diablo III for a Necromancer. Another class that’s based on raising gross minions and smashing up mobs from afar? The Witch Doctor seemed to have that amply covered, commanding zombie dogs, harvesting souls and erupting towers of zombies from the ground.
Oh but it’s great to be completely wrong. I’ve been having a wonderful time, raising the dead and casting dark curses. Here’s wot I think. Read the rest of this entry »
I can’t think of a better collaboration than the one that’s brought Nex Machina [official site] to life. The blindingly-fast twin-stick shooter is the spawn of Resogun developer Housemarque and the creator of the entire genre, Eugene Jarvis. It has a great deal to live up to, then, and the legacy of Robotron, Smash TV and Resogun hovering over it. Clearly the pair were up to the challenge.
All of the above games are inside Nex Machina. They are in both the foundations and the bricks — the teeming swarms of robots, the linked rooms, even the voxels. Combined, however, the construct something new; something that’s full of its own tricks and quirks, challenges and surprises. Read the rest of this entry »
Many reasons to Rime
A third-person exploration game that eschews combat to finally prove Tomb Raider never needed the guns. RiME [official site] is a beautiful, magical game – here’s wot I think: Read the rest of this entry »
Doing the maths
Reviewing games of the sort Matthew Brown creates – Hexcells, SquareCells, and now CrossCells [official site] – can be a strange task. His niche is numerical logic. There are elements of things like Sudoku but basic maths creeps in, making it closer to a subgenre of Sudoku: Killer Sudoku. Their pleasures come from whether you can sink into the deductive mindset you need to find a foothold and then to progress and the difficulty curves vary from person to person. When I reviewed SquareCells, once I’d described how the basic elements worked it became more a task of communicating how a solution made me feel and whether the UI was any good lest I spoil any of the actual game by talking about specific niggles or posting screenshots.
Given the puzzles are so much about individual feel it felt like a good idea to make this review more of a chat between John and me. We were both supposed to be doing other things when the code for CrossCells turned up and it’s a testament to our mutual fondness for Brown’s work that we pretty much instantly booted it up and sidelined our actual work. Here’s Wot We Think: Read the rest of this entry »
Close but no war
I can imagine the intervention now, family and friends sitting around me in a circle. “Fraser, we all care about you. You’re in a safe space. But you’ve got to stop falling in love with 4X games. It’s bad for your health.” I’d walk straight out of the room, of course. My new beau is Endless Space 2 [official site], and its got its hooks in me deep. Like its predecessor – definitely Endless Legend and not the first Endless Space – it’s a bold attack on the more staid elements of the 4X multiverse, full of character, weirdness and ambition.
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Fly my pretties
Originally a student project, a sort of half-finished playground, Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion [official site] is now a fully formed and utterly stunning exploration-puzzle-me-do. Here’s wot I think: Read the rest of this entry »