Play Nice: A Games Journal

11/08/2020

What is the onamonapia for cracking your knuckles? Imagine that sound goes here, because it has been a long while since I wrote one of these. I mostly stopped playing games from January until September of 2019. I moved three different times in that period and it wasn’t until I settled in my third place that I was able to hook up my Playstation and Switch again. I started playing at the end of last year but didn’t get too deep into anything and didn’t pick the column back up. Once the pandemic hit I suddenly had more time to dig into some games when I wasn’t working and started making gaming a more regular part of routine. I started by making my way through the end game of God of War. It took my about six months or so to finish playing this game (Oct – March), and the impact of any game is naturally diminished when you have to remind yourself what you are doing every time you start playing. I’m not as hot on that game as many people were when that game came out two years ago. Many people loved it, there where others who resisted it and the “dadification” of games they thought it represented. I think the more interesting response though is why it was so important to tell Kratos’ story, why he needed to be redeemed. As someone who has no familiarity with this series he seems like his many attributes are gruff and reserved, and I don’t know if he progressed past that characterization.

God of War/Sony Interactive Entertainment

The second game I dug into was Outer Worlds. I was in a similar position with this game that I was in with God of War. I haven’t played a Fallout game, I don’t play many role-playing games (RPGs), and I don’t have any familiarity for the developer Obsidian. I definitely played and finished this game, but after I finish writing this I will probably never think about this game again. And there is totally a place for that game. That is an okay space for a game to occupy, but at this point I was looking for something more substantial. It’s tough to say anything definitive because I can’t situate what I’m saying in the context of other RPGs. From everything I have read and listened to about this game this is an RPG-ass RPG. It doesn’t challenge the formula, meaning that it is not too difficult to get a tidy ending where things end well for most characters. The game isn’t here to challenge the actions of the player character and push back on them in any meaningful which, from what I understand, is pretty standard for most RPGs. There are some interesting characters and you get to make a few complex yet inconsequential choices, but there is a lot of not great feeling shooting between the talking bits. And it’s fine that the combat doesn’t feel great that’s not the focus of this game, but they put so much of it in here that this part of the game needs to feel better to play.

Outer Worlds/Obsidian Entertainment

The next game I dug into was Assassins Creed: Odyssey. I bought this game at the same time as God of War and played the first ten hours last October and didn’t touch it again until June. I’ve played Assassin’s games before (Unity) which gives me some context for these games but I hadn’t played the newest ones (Origins or Odyssey). The story around these games focuses on their sprawling and beautiful open worlds that manage to somehow be even more dense than those earlier games. And into those open worlds they have inserted light RPG mechanics. Playing this game directly after Outer Worlds was a codifying experience. As someone unfamiliar with actually playing RPGs, I couldn’t tell you exactly what parts of that game are core to the RPG experience. In making an identifiable “RPG light” the creators needed to distill the role playing experience into its essential parts and insert them into their game. Playing Odyssey in this context brought into sharp relief the presence and prevalence of those core RPG mechanics in Outer Worlds and specifically how that game doesn’t push back on those fundamentals much, if at all. It is an RPG, and you will never forget that you are playing an RPG. Your enjoyment of either game will mostly likely be derived from your desire to play “one of those.” Do you want to play an RPG in 2020? Outer Worlds is a good “one of those,” and the same goes for Odyssey and open world games. I enjoyed playing Odyssey more because I wasn’t being funneled from one mostly inconsequential decision to the next, and I tend to enjoy open world games. Seeing the pieces fall into place, as the consequences of decision made 30 or 40+ hours earlier were revealed during the run up to its ending, was more satisfying than I expected and a welcome wrinkle in an established game type.

Void Bastards/Blue Manchu

I also managed to put a fair bit more time into my Switch than I have done in a while. I finally got around to finishing Legend of Zelda: BOTW. If you go back to the start of this games journal, the first ten or so entries were about my time playing that game. I beat all the divine beasts, found just under a hundred shrines, found all the lost memory spots and completed the DLC. But when it came time to face the large man (in this case a spider/pig) himself it was all very anticlimactic. There was undoubtedly that thing at play where you save the last episodes of a TV show or the last two chocolate cookies, so you can have a taste of the thing you love at a later date when absence will have made the thing that much sweeter. There was also no way the final hour of that game could in any way match the joy I experienced in 100+ hours with that game and it was okay to remember the good times and let them be. That final fight is fine but it will never replace the joy of seeing Hyrule for the first time.

I also got around to playing the DLC of Mario + Rabbids (M+R). They released XCOM 2 on switch in the spring and I though it would be smart finish M+R as a test before buying and playing XCOM. This was the right move as ten more hours of that game was satisfying enough to put more turn based game totally out of my head. Maybe some other time. The last two games I spent significant time with were Baba is You and Void Bastards. Baba is you is great. It makes you feel stupid and smart all in about the space of 45 seconds and pushes you to combine logical and spatial thinking in away that reminds me of trigonometry or higher levels maths. It pushed me to recall what little i know about coding and game design from messing around in Unity and reminded that I need to get back doing that (another thing i didn’t get to during quarantine). I need to finish it. The difficulty really spikes in some worlds, but it benefits from being the type of game that you play to take a break from whatever open world you are running around. Finally Void Bastards is good. Switch is probably not the best place to play it but if you like hard run based games, this is an interesting one of those whose goofiness and anti-capitalist undertones kept me playing well past my frustration point.

Baba Is You/Arvi Teikari

I think that is everything. I am going to try to make this a regular bi-weekly thing. I’ve got three game to catch up with next time. Games that I’ve still been thinking about and am excited to organize my thoughts about.

See you then and remember,
Play Nice.

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