Sundays are for going for a walk to your nearest big Tesco. Before you set out, let's read this week's best writing about games (and game related things).
Over on Bullet Points, Reid McCarter wrote about how the messianic role of Sam in Death Stranding. An examination into how Sam's flesh and blood feeds into the the game's depiction of America. Reads a bit like an text from JSTOR, but bear with it!
Death Stranding is a game about humanity at large, but it centres America specifically as the locus of the world's fate. Sam's journey and biblical associations take on greater weight within this framework. If America continues to officially invoke a Christian worldview as essential to its national fabric, it's only fair for the world that lives under the country's influence to ask it to reexamine what that worldview ought to entail. In Death Stranding's allegorical terms, the question is posed in simple terms. Does American ideology ask its citizens to be like the nihilistic terrorist Higgs, a servant to destruction, or like Sam, who combats alienation and despair to work with others and try to repair a damaged world?
For Paste, Grace Benfell wrote about how modern games owe everything to Ico but refuse to learn from it. She looks at the inconvenience between Ico and the companion character Yorda, as well as its simplistic usage of gender roles.
Care goes hand in hand with struggle, with the distance that comes between two people. Ico asks the player to protect or care for Yorda in ways that are frequently inconvenient. She’ll wander off on her own. If the player’s in another room, shadows will appear and will take her away. Defeating these mystical monsters is not fun in any traditional sense. It’s easy to lose track of Yorda in the chaos of fighting, and enemies will constantly knock you down. Combat is also simple, a little kid waving around a stick by mashing the X button over and over again. Yorda is no help, to the point where one wonders if she even could meaningfully hurt any of the shadows. All this, as one says, smacks of gender, but it also makes Yorda into something other than a tool. She has needs that the player must risk themselves to fulfill. Fighting enemies doesn’t serve the player’s power, rather it is an awkward means of protecting Yorda.
On Eurogamer, Edwin-Evans-Thirlwell reviewed Live A Live. I've had my eye on this reboot of a 1994 Square Enix RPG and it seems to deliver. Note: It's only on Switch at the moment, but here's hoping it comes to PC at some point.
First released in 1994 and remastered using the same, sprites-meets-polygons visual style as Octopath Traveller, Live A Live is essentially Sidequest: The Game - as I probably should have realised before I compared it to a level-select cheat in Sonic. It's a collection of loosely interwoven, 1-3 hour tales set in different historical and/or fantasy periods, each its own colourful interpretation of what an old-school Squaresoft role-playing game can be. Much as with sidequests in traditional single-narrative RPGs, some chapters are more successful than others, but all are engrossing experiments, and while it's slightly thwarted by the stop-start anthology structure, the overarching, grid-based battle system is worth the 20 hours or so it'll take you to reach the closing credits.
Danielle Riendeau wrote about how Fortnite almost had a dark, gritty look for Fanbyte. A snappy and super intriguing read on how Fortnite was first designed with survival horror in mind.
The team began developing a style — there were lots of freaky horror creatures, zombies that had a sort of evil “mist” component, and other nasty, grimy, creepy-looking things, which you can see here. But the team felt the need to walk away from the gritty environments and characters when they started to consider the longevity of their project, especially looking at free-to-play games and the games as a service model.
I've just bought The Housekeeper And The Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Will keep you updated on my thoughts...
That's it for now, catch you next week folks!