I didn’t play all that much of Expeditions: Conquistador. Based on my experience with its sequel Expeditions: Viking, I’m starting to think that may have been a mistake.
It took me a while to warm up to Endless Space 2. I regarded the first game as something of a qualified success, but the fantasy followup Endless Legend left me completely cold despite having some ideas and mechanics that were, objectively, very good indeed – it’s the first time ever that I’ve bounced off a game without being able to really explain why, and to start with I was afraid that the same might be true of Endless Space’s sequel. Partially this is because I made the mistake of buying it a week before it came out of Early Access, foolishly assuming (because I’d done the same thing with Battle Brothers and had a whale of a time) that it wouldn’t be too different from the finished article; instead Amplitude released a 3 gigabyte patch on launch day that papered over a lot of the obvious Early Access holes and made it significantly more coherent as an end-to-end experience.
I have done a terrible job of a) posting and b) responding to comments recently, for which I can only apologise. I was having some severe motivational issues and needed to take a break.
Here’s a fun game you can play when reading a review of Prey on a mainstream gaming outlet. Do Ctrl-F, and count how many times the reviewer mentions Bioshock. Then do the same thing for System Shock. Then correlate those mentions with a score, or the overall tone of the review. I guarantee you the better reviews will have name-dropped System Shock at least once; these are the ones that really understand where Prey is coming from, because it’s System Shock 3 in all but name.
I started Mass Effect: Andromeda last Friday with every intention of finishing it, or at least finishing the majority of it, by Sunday night. Based on my experience with other Bioware RPGs this seemed perfectly doable; my completion times for all three previous Mass Effects clock in at under 20 hours and I had nothing else to do that weekend, and they’d all at least been fun enough for me to blitz through them in a similar timeframe. It’s not Bioware, but when Alpha Protocol came out I completed it three times in a single week1. What I’m trying to say here is that I have absolutely no problem smashing my way through an RPG in a very short space of time, and I’ll usually enjoy doing it unless the RPG in question is Dragon Age 2.
On Sunday morning, faced with the choice between playing more Mass Effect: Andromeda and doing literally anything else with my time, I instead elected to clean my fridge. I took all of the shelves out, washed them in the sink, dried them, thoroughly wiped down the inside of the fridge to remove some pretty gnarly hidden stains, replaced everything, and then went on to clean the microwave and the easy parts of the oven for good measure. Doing a proper job of it meant enduring a couple of hours of the sort of mild intellectual tedium that accompanies all housework, but you know what? It was an infinitely, infinitely more thrilling and satisfying experience than playing Mass Effect: Andromeda.
For the last week or so I’ve been making the joke that Horizon Zero Dawn is an open-world game whose major innovation is that the towers that you climb to uncover the surrounding area on your map now walk slowly around the map themselves. This crack is only slightly unfair. In terms of mechanics there is almost nothing surprising about Horizon Zero Dawn as it fuses bits and pieces from the rest of the genre together into something that developers Guerilla Games are clearly hoping will turn out to be more than the sum of its parts, and my initial impressions of the game were somewhat unfavourable. It looks absolutely stunning, to be sure1, but aside from the robot dinosaurs there didn’t appear to be a huge degree of difference between it and Far Cry Primal. Does the world really need another fairly standard open world game, even one as pretty as Horizon Zero Dawn?
I have something of a bone to pick with the Numenera setting. By extension I also have something of a bone to pick with Torment: Tides Of Numenera – as is implicit in the name, this is a spiritual successor to the immortal Planescape: Torment that replaces the oddball worlds of Planescape for the even weirder reality-bending madness of Numenera. Planescape: Torment is considered by many to be the Best RPG Ever; I don’t go quite that far and merely consider it to be the best-written RPG ever, but nevertheless these are extremely large shoes to fill for Wasteland 21 developers InXile. The strategy equivalent would be trying to make a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri or Master Of Orion, and I’ve completely lost track of how many contenders have shattered themselves trying to ascend those heights over the last couple of decades. Doing something like this is all but setting yourself up for a fall, in other words, and so I’m not all that surprised that Torment ultimately fails to attain the lofty goal it has set for itself. What is interesting here is the manner of that failure, however, as it hasn’t fallen down quite the way I expected it to.