Category Archives: gaming

Thoughts: GreedFall

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There’s a term used to describe a certain flavour of RPG: Eurojank. These are RPGs developed by European developers — usually German or Polish — which have some decidedly unconventional ideas about how RPGs should be put together. No two eurojank RPGs are the same: some go in heavy on the stats crunch that gets streamlined out of other western RPGs, some demonstrate completely new and experimental combat systems, and some have you collecting sex cards for every woman your lecherous mutant protagonist manages to bang. What unites them all, though, is that while their off-kilter nature is often the very thing that appeals to an audience that’s increasingly bored by the bland, repetitive fare churned out by most AAA developers, they almost never have the resources to actually realise their ambition. Making games to AAA quality is incredibly expensive, after all, and the developers that make eurojank RPGs are inevitably smaller organisations with a fraction of the manpower required to do so. This is what results in the “jank” part of the game; they have interesting ideas, but they’re also incredibly unpolished, full of rough edges and bugs and design dead-ends because there simply hasn’t been enough time or money to iterate that stuff out of the final experience.

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Thoughts: A Short Hike

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A Short Hike spread through my online community of friends like some sort of viral plague. The first person to buy it posted their initial impression to our Slack: “Wow, this is lovely!” Shortly afterwards a second “X now owns A Short Hike” popped up in my Steam activity feed, and the person responsible posted their initial impression: “Wow, this is lovely!”1. Things snowballed, and pretty soon the activity feed was nothing but people on my Friends list buying A Short Hike, and then gushing about it in Slack: “Wow, this is lovely!” I’m a cynical curmudgeon at the best of times and am naturally disinclined to loveliness in all of its myriad forms, and treated these descriptions with the appropriate degree of scepticism; calling something “lovely” always seemed like it was one step away from calling it “nice”, which is the word you use when you really want to damn something with faint praise. When those same people started seriously talking it up as the best game they’d played this year, though, I decided I might as well spend a few hours seeing what all the fuss was about.

So I went and bought A Short Hike. Booted it up. Started playing it.

And immediately thought: Wow. This is lovely.

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  1. I’m paraphrasing somewhat here, but the sentiment is accurate and one person used those exact words.
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Thoughts: Control

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Take one part X-Files, one part Twin Peaks and one part Stranger Things. Mix them all together with some Mass Effect, some Dark Souls, even a little Metroid, and what do you get?

Well, you don’t get Control, that’s for sure. Control is just a big disappointment.

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Thoughts: Amid Evil

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Despite the marketing blurb, Amid Evil doesn’t feel much like Hexen. It doesn’t feel much like Heretic either — I played both of those games back when they came out1 (or the shareware/demo versions, anyway), and they were considerably slower than Amid Evil’s breakneck combat pace. No, the game that Amid Evil most reminds me of is Quake, despite — in fact, precisely because of — its dark fantasy trappings.  Much of Quake’s art and enemy design famously came about from an aborted attempt to adapt id Software’s long-running D&D campaign into a video game, and so it had gothic castles and undead knights rubbing shoulders with grimy firebases filled with shotgun-wielding grunts. Similarly, Amid Evil has plenty of evil mages, stone golems, and vine monsters, but it also has a few levels which are inhabited by robots and lit by lasers. The mix of technology and fantasy is a little different, but it’s there, and when you combine it with nearly all of the player movement and a little bit of the weapon design being lifted directly from Quake, you end up with a game that feels like a direct successor to it.

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  1. A mere 23 years ago.
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Thoughts: Wolfenstein – Youngblood

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Wolfenstein: Youngblood is a collaboration between Wolfenstein developers Machine Games and Dishonored and Prey developers Arkane. The idea is that Machine Games supply the excellent (most of the time) Wolfenstein shooting gameplay, and Arkane supply the excellent (most of the time) Dishonored level design. What’s not to like?

Well, quite a lot, as it turns out.

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Thoughts: Final Fantasy 14 – A Realm Reborn

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Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn might just have the slowest start in video game history.

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Thoughts: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night

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Bloodstained is one of those games that would only exist with Kickstarter funding. It is a very specific game, created to satisfy a very specific market: people who enjoyed playing the Castlevania series from 1997 through to 2009, after which point Konami abruptly stopped making them Metroid-style free-roaming platformers and started making them terrible 3D adventures instead. If you didn’t play any of the Castlevania games released during that period, I suspect Bloodstained is going to come across as a rather flabby, messy and generally rough-around-the-edges experience, because you won’t understand where the game is coming from.

On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to have played one of the good Castlevanias, then Bloodstained is still going to come across as a rather flabby, messy and generally rough-around-the-edges experience. It’s just that in this case, you won’t care, because Bloodstained gets the important stuff right and does enough to scratch an itch that has gone un-scratched for just over a decade now.

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