Thoughts: Lost Ark


If you asked somebody to look at five minutes of Lost Ark footage and then pigeonhole it into a genre, the one they’d probably pick is the ARPG. This would be an entirely reasonable choice, as Lost Ark certainly heavily resembles an ARPG, with a fixed isometric camera and punchy hotkeyed combat abilities that tear apart vast swarms of dozens of monsters all in one go. I don’t think it’s the correct one, though, since the core loop of kill monsters -> get loot -> kill bigger monsters that underpins the entire ARPG genre just isn’t here.

If you asked somebody to look at five hours of Lost Ark footage and then pigeonhole it into genre, the one they’d probably pick the MMORPG. This, again, would be an entirely reasonable choice. Once you’re out of the tutorial zone, no matter where you go in Lost Ark, you’ll be constantly surrounded by other players. A lot of them will be bots. Even more of them will be morons. But there’s very little overlap between you and them; pretty much the entire game can be played solo if you want, with interactions with other players mostly being entirely optional. And the group content that Lost Ark does have hasn’t exactly impressed me. No, I don’t think Lost Ark is a particularly good MMORPG either.

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Thoughts: Expeditions Rome


If I had to pick one word to sum up Expeditions: Rome, in comparison to other RPGs but especially its own predecessors, it would be “streamlined”. It’s remarkable how much of the standard RPG cruft it sands away, and how many of the Expeditions-specific survival mechanics have been bodily thrown out of the window. This streamlining gives it room to do a few things, particularly in the realm of its turn-based tactical combat, that are borderline inspired. At the same time, though, the streamlining is somehow both very aggressive and not aggressive enough; there’s more than a few systems and mechanics here that have been streamlined so much that what remains is basically vestigial, and should have been cut from the game entirely.

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Thoughts: God of War


It’s been a long time since I played a game quite so obviously and unashamedly console as God of War. It’s like a laundry list of all of the hottest console trends and design patterns both past and present: third-person, over-the-shoulder camera, open world, brawler combat, squeezing through narrow passageways that conceal loading screens, quicktime events that try and preserve the illusion that this is supposed to be an interactive medium while you’re watching a lengthy cutscene, the comedy ledges that somebody (who?) has gone around marking with white paint to indicate that they’re climbable — I could go on for quite some time here before I got to the end of it. I’d like to say that God of War surprised me in some way by defying its own nature and providing some unexpectedly outside-the-box gameplay features to liven up mechanics that have already been done to death by all of the other trend-chasers, but it really doesn’t. It’s as safe and conventional as they come, doing almost nothing that I haven’t already seen a hundred times in other games.

Almost nothing.

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Thoughts: Ace Combat 7


Man who has only played Project Wingman, playing Ace Combat 7 for the first time: “Hmm, getting a lot of Project Wingman vibes from this.”

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Thoughts: Warhammer 40,000 – Battlesector


Okay, guess I’m getting my annual irrational urge to play a 40K game out of the way early this year.

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2021 Games Roundup


I write less on this blog these days than I’d really like. It’s not for lack of trying, either; I’d say I start writing twice as many reviews as I actually finish and publish. There’s two reasons I write, though, and one of them has been very important for my keeping this thing going for the last ten years: I write because I enjoy it, and over the years I’ve become less keen on “forcing” the words to come out of my brain because that’s not fun and is what leads to me periodically burning out and stopping for months at a time. This is why my output has been rather more sporadic recently (at least compared to the first few years I was doing this), but that then runs directly into the second reason I write, which is that I like having a historical record of how I felt about a game at the time that I played it that I can refer to later when arguing with people on the internet. Since I review about a third as many games as I actually play, the blog is now decidedly not that — or at least not a comprehensive version of it, anyway.

So this is the compromise: reluctant as I might be to jump on the end-of-year bandwagon of putting everything I played in a big list in the rough order of how much I enjoyed them, it does afford me the opportunity to say a little bit about each game that I didn’t do a proper review for. Two things to bear in mind before we get started, though. First, this is a list of games that I played in 2021, not games that I played that were released in 2021, which is why there’s stuff like Monster Train and Hypnospace Outlaw in there. And second is that, as ever with these things, the categories are extremely broad and not remotely objective, so do take them with a big pinch of salt.

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Thoughts: Halo Infinite


I was originally going to start this review with a short, punchy opener like “Halo Infinite is the best Halo since Halo 3!” After a little thought, though, I’ve chosen to take a rather more measured approach, not least because saying that would make me sound like I write for IGN or something. Saying “Halo Infinite is the best Halo since Halo 3” is not inaccurate, but it’s also a somewhat nonsensical statement for two reasons. One is that it makes the same mistake as 343 and Bungie did of assuming that everyone’s actually played the other Halo games — and their spin-offs, and read their tie-in novels, and their comics, and probably watched the upcoming live-action TV show to boot. If you don’t have the context, then that could mean almost anything. And the other reason is that even if you do have the context — if you have played every single Halo game, as I rather unfortunately have — you’ll know that this is potentially an extremely powerful curse as every Halo game after 3 has been varying shades of crap1.

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  1. With the exception of Reach, which is merely heavily flawed rather than crap.
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