Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. This won’t do at all.
Not really played anything worth writing about in the last two weeks. I’d like to keep up some sort of momentum, though, and so went back and finished off this review of Wolfenstein 2, which was mostly written at the end of October last year but which I never got around to putting up on the blog.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus strikes me as an exceedingly confused game.
Vampire legends have been around for centuries. At first the product of superstition and folklore, they’ve transitioned into the modern age almost seamlessly, and this is thanks to a reinvention of the vampire from monstrous, decomposing bloodsucker to a charismatic, ageless villain. This modern vampire is almost ubiquitous in fiction and has achieved its tremendous success for two reasons. One is the sexy allure of vampirism, which has driven the creation of so many novels that there’s now a dedicated subcategory for them in many bookshops called Paranormal Romance. The other, though, is that being a vampire is increasingly portrayed as A Generally Awesome Experience. Vampires are superhumanly strong and fast, have mind control powers, do not age, and regenerate from almost any wound — and that’s before you start mixing in author-specific traits such as the ability to transform into animals and sparkling in sunlight. It’s no coincidence that a lot of modern vampire fiction tends to gloss over the less salubrious aspects of vampirism, like the blood drinking or the inability to go sunbathing; nobody really wants to spend much time dwelling on the drawbacks when it’s far more fun to treat it as the ultimate power fantasy.
It is something of a shame, then, that nobody told Dontnod any of this when they were developing Vampyr.
The very first thing you see upon loading Cultist Simulator for the first time is a black screen with some white text. The top half of this text is a suitably otherworldly quote from one of Cultist Simulator’s fictional occult authors, but the bottom half consists of the following, far more foreboding statement:
Explore. Take risks.
You won’t always know what to do next. Keep experimenting, and you’ll master it.
In a way I suppose this is at least thematically appropriate. With these four short sentences Cultist Simulator managed to instill a feeling of nameless dread before I’d even gotten into the game proper. Unfortunately it wasn’t the dread of eldritch abominations or unspeakable nightmares, the sort of thing which a game called Cultist Simulator might choose to make its stock in trade. Instead I was assailed with a dire premonition that I was, once again, about to embark upon an unpleasant journey into the waking nightmare that is the Trash Game Dimension.
I must admit to approaching Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire with an unaccustomed mix of resentment and resignation. It’s a feeling that reflects Obsidian’s fall from grace; after Pillars 1 and Tyranny, both extremely flawed games with only the Obsidian-brand reputation and faction systems to really make them stand out, in my eyes they’re no longer the accomplished masters of quest and mission narrative who came up with Mask of the Betrayer, Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol. Partially this is to do with other RPG developers raising their game, but there’s very little separating Tyranny from something like Torment: Tides of Numenera and Obsidian games have to do rather more to sell themselves to me these days. I had all but ignored the Deadfire crowdfunding campaign, was not really up for another game set in the rather tedious Pillars world, and only really bought it because I was done with BattleTech and Thrones of Britannia really wasn’t grabbing me.
Personal difficulties have been resolved, and so I’m catching up on writing about some of the vast backlog of games I’ve accrued over the past few months. I’ll never have time to write full reviews of all of these, so I’ll instead settle for a few paragraphs about each one.
An interesting one. Tacoma is the next game from Gone Home developers Fullbright, and while I liked Gone Home very much I didn’t get on with Tacoma quite so well despite the setting being very much My Jam: instead of wandering around a spooky abandoned house trying to piece together what happened prior to your arrival, you’re instead wandering around an abandoned space station trying to piece together what happened prior to your arrival, with some AI stuff thrown into the mix. It’s a more sedate game than Gone Home was because at no point does Tacoma really try and trick you or really throw you any curveballs; the focus is instead purely on unravelling the station’s immediate past, with very few twists concealed within that past. It’s also more overtly linear than Gone Home was; Gone Home’s mansion allowed it a little more artifice in how it camouflaged its plot rails, while Tacoma doesn’t even try to hide it — there are four areas of the station, you tackle them one after another, and you cannot move on to the next one until you’ve finished all the plot in the current one.