Somethings are so up my ally that it’s pretty much impossible for me not to get excited for it. For example: this game. It’s a Devolver Digital published, brutally violent, story driven dark cyberpunk action game. Add in a Heavy Metal soundtrack and you might as well call this “That Game That was Made just for William”.
Now, i’ll be the first person to admit that just becuase something looks like it’s my thing doesn’t mean it won’t suck, but i’m holding on to hope here. Devolver tends to have an eye for quality, so anything they publish is worth at least a look. So yeah, this looks really, really good and i want it.
Time manipulation is an interesting power. It can ease tension when it comes to trial and error (ala Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), but it can also be the bases of some truly genius puzzle design (like Braid). But it can also be a lazy “get out of jail free” card like in…well, almost every action game with a slowmo mechanic. I didn’t say “bad”, mind you, i said “lazy. There’s a difference.
Still Time is clearly aiming for that “genius puzzle design” category, and i’d be interested to see how it does. This trailer doesn’t really show off anything too unexpected, but that makes sense as the dev wouldn’t want to give away their best idea’s. But when the games looks this good and as much time and effort clearly went into making the trailer it’s hard to not want to give the game the benefit of the doubt.
With the recent news that Overwatch is getting it’s own Death Match mode, and the current ranked season coming to an end soon, it’s not surprising that we’re coming up on another update in the near future. And with those updates tends to come new characters or maps, and this time is no different. Delving into Junkrat and Roadhog’s back story, Blizzard is bringing us to the irradiated Australian wast land the two call home.
Personally i am super excited about this as A) Junkrat is my main and B) it’s a payload map which tends to be my favorite. Not much to say about this other than “i’m stoked”.
I’m not sure why the 2015 platformer Ink is suddenly coming to consoles, but it is. Whatever the reason, this is pretty great news becuase Ink was freaking phenomenal. The game was surprisingly challenging and a little too short in my opinion, but i still thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a platformer with an interesting set of core mechanics, i can absolutely recommend Ink. And hey, maybe if you buy it i’ll get the sequel I’ve been wanting for ages now.
After two years in early access, Ark has finally gone gold and is scheduled to release on August 29th. While i don’t get the point of survival games (and wasn’t exactly pleased to see Ark releasing paid DLC before being a finished product), it is good to see the dev teams hard work has finally paid off. Now the question is: will it matter?
While the game hasn’t been in a finished state, it has been playable for the past two years. I was going to pose the question of “if the player base has dropped, will the game actually being released be enough to bring them back”. But after doing a bit of digging, i found this:
This more or less says that, at the time of writing, the game’s player base has been more or less consistent over the last two years. That’s all well and good, but now another question comes to mind: what if everyone who wants the game already has it? As far as i’m aware, survive games are a rather niche genre, and with a preexisting installed player base it doesn’t look to be a welcoming place for new comers. I could be totally off base here, granted, But i do have to ask: if there isn’t a large player base interested in the game who doesn’t already have it, how do you make any money off it? More DLC? Sure, that could work, but that requires more development time. I guess what i’m trying to figure out is, now that the game is done, how does it benefit from that fact? I’m not trying to say the game should stay in early access or that this isn’t an accomplishment for the dev team, it’s just a question that’s been on my mind.
At this years D23, Disney showed new footage og Kingdom Hearts 3, including an extended bit set in the Toy Story universe. The game continues to look amazing, but the real interesting news came at the end of the trailer. While no hard date was given, they did announce that the game in scheduled to be released sometime in 2018. After a decade long wait it’s hard not to get excited by this news, but it’s also just as hard for me to believe this information. I’ve yet to see any English language footage, which has me worried the localization with end up delaying the game at some point. Even so, having a release window is preferable over the “sometime in the next 3 years” Square Enix last said for this and the upcoming Final Fantasy 7 remake.
At E3 this year Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé said something I want to talk about. It was something I was glad to hear him say and something I think speaks deeply to Nintendo’s core design philosophy, but none the less it is a statement I hate. He said “if [a game] isn’t fun, why bother?” While I’m not try and argue that video games need to stop being fun, that would be ludicrous, I do have to ask why this line of thought is so prevalent in the gaming community. Every other form of Art has its masterpieces that are not meant to be enjoyed in a way you could call “fun”. From Bosch’s “A Violent Forcing of the Frog” to Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”, a lot of great art can be unenjoyable and even downright hard to sit through. Not only do I think games are capable of this as well, a few have ready proven it can be done.
Spec Ops: The Line is a great example of this, if a little cliche to talk about. In a lot of ways the game is a complete mess. The controls are far from tight, enemies act in predictable ways and spawn in obvious “video game-y” locations. On top of that, it had it’s fair share of bugs as well. I remember spending 10 minutes trying to shoot out a window in order to move the plot along, only to restart the mission and have it break almost instantly. There just isn’t a lot of enjoyment to get out of “Spec Ops: The Line”.
But it is a game I think every one should play. Released in 2012, Spec Ops: The Line came out near the height of the “Modern Warfare” craze and was a damning critique of both the genre and the culture that made it one of the biggest phenomenons in entertainment. While it would be easy to look at the games mechanical flaws and say it was shoddily made, in fact almost every part of it was expertly crafted. The poor controls and obvious enemy spawns help reinforce to the player that they are in fact playing a game. Unlike most other games were the control scheme is made to help the player forget about the hunk of plastic in their hands, Spec Ops never wants you to forget that you’re playing a game. It wants that fact in your mind at all times. Because the game soon starts asking you to do things that are meant to feel wrong. The games enemies are American soldiers, Not just that, they are the player characters countrymen. Through out the game you are constantly killing your own people, and you’re aware of that from the nearly the very start of the game. Then there is the games famous white phosphorus scene, when you kill hundreds of civilians. The question is, why? Why do you do these horrid things? Because the game tells you too. The game asks you to commit war crimes, and you do, because the game told you to and thus it must be the right thing, right? Spec Ops: The Line was designed not to be fun in order to ask why a game about armed warfare should be considered fun in the first place.
Another game well worth you’re time despite not being a whole lot of fun is Loneliness by creator Jordan Magnuson. Loneliness is a masterpiece of minimalism and a game that taught me a lot about myself. You play as a single pixel and you can beat the entire game in about 5 minutes by simply holding the up key. As you play other pixels appear, all of whom scatter as you approach. After constant rejection you may choose to stop interacting with the other pixels, much like I did. Or maybe you hold on to hope, enthusiastically greeting each new cluster as they appear. There is no wrong way to play Loneliness, but how you choose too speaks volumes. I never realized just how poorly I handle rejection and abandonment until I played Loneliness and was forced to confront it. After the second group ran off I started to avoid any other groups I saw. Just like in real life, I had been hurt and I isolated myself in return.
I don’t think it is passable to create an experience like this that manages to be fun. Loneliness, depression and isolation are not fun emotions. As such, really getting a player into that head space requires engaging them in ways that are atypical to gaming and antithetical to being “fun”.
I don’t want to see a world without my big dumb action games in it. I will take all the Uncharted’s, Overwatch’s and Mario’s this industry wants to throw at me. But there is a whole host of human emotions and experiences that games can address, and I also don’t want to live in a world were developers chose not to engage with that material because they don’t know how to make it fun. Fun is great, it’s important. But it isn’t everything.