Tag Archives: thoughts

Thoughts: Citizen Sleeper

sleeper_feng

Citizen Sleeper is an interactive fiction game where you’re essentially playing one of the replicants from Blade Runner. You start the game having fled from your corporate masters to Erlin’s Eye, a space station cobbled together from the wreckage of an economic collapse a decade prior, and you need to stave off the encroaching breakdown of your cybernetic body while eking out a living on the fringes of this ultra-capitalist hellscape by…

…growing mushrooms?

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Thoughts: Teardown

teardown_tower

What I expected when I bought Teardown: a demolition game with the building destruction physics from Red Faction Guerilla.

What I got when I bought Teardown: a demolition game with the building destruction physics from Minecraft. Also it’s not really about demolition.

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Thoughts: Chinatown Detective Agency

chinatown_crime

If Chinatown Detective Agency were a film, it would start with a title card that said “SINGAPORE… in the not-too-distant future” because it suffers from a chronic lack of imagination and has to fall back on cliché to make up for it. It’s an adventure game that thrusts you into the shoes of Amira Dharma, formerly of the Singapore Police Force and now striking out on her own as a private detective, and I suppose you could say that Chinatown Detective Agency’s addiction to cliché is at least a little fitting since this game is supposed to be mixing cyberpunk with noir. Cyberpunk has obviously been done to death already, and mostly by people with far less imagination than even the developers of Chinatown Detective Agency, but noir wouldn’t be recognisable unless you throw in a few well-worn story tropes. Anyway, it’s a sound enough premise for a game, backed up by some pretty good pixel art and animation that, while a little hit and miss in places, do succeed in bringing this future version of Singapore to life in an appropriately cyberpunk-y way. A few years back I played through Technobabylon (which  is another cyberpunk-set adventure game where you play a detective) and had a reasonably decent time with it, and at first glance there’s no real reason why the same shouldn’t be true of Chinatown Detective Agency.

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Thoughts: Elden Ring

eldenring_liurnia

I am the worst person to write a review of Elden Ring. My objections to From Software’s Dark Souls series have been pretty well-documented over the years, along with my visceral negative reactions whenever I see design elements from Dark Souls turn up in other games. Asking me for my opinion about a game that is just Dark Souls again, but this time also open world, seems like it’s going to a forgone conclusion — especially because I’m starting to get increasingly irritated by open world games too.

But that means I am also the best person to write a review of Elden Ring. I do not have the massive rose-tinted glasses for Dark Souls and From Software that the entire rest of the gaming world does. I am not so invested in my cred as a Hardcore Gamer that I regard smashing my face against the same boss for four hours as a rational and sane thing to be doing with my time. I have had zero exposure to the pre-release hype. And the reviews from the mainstream gaming media made my eyeballs roll so hard they practically did a complete 360 degree rotation in their sockets.  10/10! Game of the year! One of the finest games ever made! A predictably vomitous stream of superlatives that I almost felt compelled to prove wrong, hence my breaking the From Software moratorium I’ve had in place ever since Dark Souls 2 and picking up Elden Ring on release.

Only to find myself thinking, after a few hours of play: shit. They might actually be right.

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Thoughts: Lost Ark

lostark_coop

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

erome_night

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

gow_lake

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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