(Opinion) Inside: All My Fears Realized Minor Spoilers Ahead

(Opinion) Inside: All My Fears Realized Minor Spoilers Ahead

The opening of Inside from Playdead studios had me in a state of wonder from the get go, walking through the eerie quiet of the woods of wherever I was, was serine, yet I was on guard immediately without even noticing it. Like its predecessor Limbo, the game starts without giving any context to where you are or what’s going on, like Limbo the game is a 2D platformer. Soon I was off and running with things picking up rather quickly, and the game I was in for was revealed, taking hold of the most primal fears while welling them up from within me. I can’t remember the last time I was jumping out of my seat, heart racing, making verbal noises while yelling at my screen. The first 15min of Inside told me the game was; tense, unrelenting, and if lucky I might make it out alive.

Inside Woods

Stylistically Playdead has managed keep what Limbo did and only improve on it in every aspect, this game is freaking gorgeous (being underwater has never looked so pretty), sticking to a minimalist style with detail in appropriate areas, the lighting effects are a big part of this. It definitely plays off Valve’s Portal 2 in terms of level design, the whole time I played it felt as if I kept entering Aperture Science laboratories, even taking part in similar experiments. Playdead while tipping its hat in certain directions has created such a unique style that anything from here on even remotely similar would obviously be drawing from either of their games. Keeping the grey scale that Limbo used Inside adds just enough color in certain areas to give things importance (the boys shirt being red), while maintaining a sense of hopelessness.

Inside factory.png

Bleak is most certainly the name of the game, I was rooting for this boy the whole time, even though from the start I knew nothing about him, being chased by the men in the van, and their dogs still haunts me. As I played the game anytime I even saw someone in the distance I would tense, same goes for hearing the dogs barking. Immediately my mind would start racing looking around my environment thinking what the best course of action would be in the next few moments, because usually when encountering these cues things are about to get bad.

Death in games is tricky, especially living in a time when for most games death doesn’t really have any meaning—look at most triple A games. Death in Inside though manages to carry such weight, as aforementioned I cared about this boy from the get go. It was not dying itself that was haunting, but the ways in which it was presented. Like Limbo, death is used to learn what was done wrong and how to move forward, but when the dogs are nipping at my heels or there’s no way to know how long the boy can hold his breath underwater, things get tense. I’m fairly certain I let out a sigh or moan for all of his deaths, some being so tragic (dogs snapping your neck) it hurts.

The mechanics of the game are the most unique I’ve come across in a while. The way the boy moves through the world is unbelievably realistic, I could feel every motion he made, the weight of his movements. The boy maintains a paced jog, if the situation gets tense though he will break into a sprint, even stumbling when changing pace. I absolutely love this design choice, a game where there is no sprint button, but the character will sprint if needed. By taking a certain amount of control away from the player the game breathes life into this boy. Anytime he would start sprinting I knew to be looking ahead for any obstacles or means of getting away from my pursuers, and those times I didn’t get away I felt the full weight of responsibility for my actions, as if I had let him down. When the boy breaks into a sprint it’s almost as if he’s saying “help me…please”.

Inside Upside down

The most prominent thing I took away from this game was seeing my anxiety play out in game form. This is the underlying message of the game, the whole time I played I felt a pressure, I was on edge, my breathing would become heavy, and then it clicked—this is anxiety. All the narrow escapes, being in massive/claustrophobic dark spaces, the feeling that anything I encountered might kill me, and those I encountered who did not kill me, as if zombies who didn’t know I was there. This game made me feel overwhelmed the majority of the time, the take away being anytime I progressed, or had a narrow escape, the feeling of anxiety would mellow, not because I was succeeding but to mirror actual anxiety. Things may look bleak but rising up from this darkness is more than possible, even when feeling like the situation was out of my control (which is a big part of anxiety) by taking the appropriate actions the boy would continue to survive.

If this game has been on your radar I would highly recommend playing it as soon as possible. Inside captures the heart of certain emotions presenting them in a way that is easy to digest while looking gorgeous. There are is so many great things about this game, but I wouldn’t want to ruin some of the more jaw dropping moments where I didn’t know what was going on, yet had to face fact— just keep moving, and it will be O.K.

Pokémon Go Brings Everyone Together

Pokémon Go Brings Everyone Together

Over the last week going outside has been nothing but a joy, and not because its summer and it’s the time to be out, the reason I’m excited is because everywhere I look people are playing Pokémon Go. Now I live in Chicago so it’s a bit more obvious, any which way I turn someone has their phone out in front of them, and is waving it around frantically (ok maybe not frantically), you get the idea. I even watched a young man veer off the sidewalk coming towards me and wander into some (tall) grass, now if that doesn’t scream Pokémon in real life I don’t know what does. It truly is amazing though, Pokémon, a game which most people my age left behind a long time ago is back at it in full force.

If you’ve been on any social media over the last week it is hands down one of the top things that will be in your feed, as I write this Pokémon Go sits comfortably in my twitter feed, even I am guilty of tweeting about Pokémon Go, and yet I haven’t even spent that much time with it. I am just awe struck by what it’s doing, and I’m excited to see where it will Go (pun totally intended), having barley dipped a toe in, I can’t wait to start trading and battling. I know there a slew of features I have yet to understand or see, all in good time though, for now I enjoy just seeing others participating in what for most is probably pure nostalgia.

Pokémon Go shows just how strong this franchise is. I’ll never forget when Pokémon launched in the late 90’s, I can’t remember exactly where I got it (I’m pretty sure I got lucky, being that it was sent in the mail to households they knew had children), but one day I had the DVD introducing Pokémon, this was straight up the beginning, soon every kid I knew was playing Pokémon, and watching the show. Of course sense then there has been an onslaught of games merchandise, and all things Pokémon related, but for such a simple idea to have such an impact. Seeing people playing and participating in the gaming community who are casual gamers if at all.

It’s only been a little over a week sense Pokémon Go launched so we will see how it holds up in the coming months, as it goes with any mobile game it can be a rocky road out there, and it’s easy to be left behind. The one thing it has going for it is it’s freaking Pokémon something so familiar to such a wide audience, a thing that has been adored, and fawned over for years, it’s no wonder so many people are playing this game.

One feature that does stand out more than any other is that the game interacts with your environment. Over the weekend I learned that the best time to play Pokémon is when you’re with others. My girlfriend and I had a whole weekend planned, and then Pokémon decided to get involved, we absolutely had a blast. Not only was my girlfriend showing me where she grew up, but because Poké stops (as they are called) which are real places in your world are literally everywhere, she ended up seeing things she had never noticed before that had always been right there!

All in all, Pokémon Go is hands down a success (aside from the darker stories to come out of it), and I’m sure will continue on its trajectory. It brings a gaming enthusiast such joy to see causal gamers, and maybe those who don’t game at all walk through a door that’s been there all along. Thanks Pokémon Go, see you out there other trainers.

OXENFREE: Thanks for the Good Times and Nightmares

OXENFREE: Thanks for the Good Times and Nightmares

When I first learned of Oxenfree from developer Nightschool games I remember what grabbed my attention was the title of the article, Oxenfree: The Emotional Game You Need to Know About—this is all over my wheelhouse, it was like a sign specifically made for me, I devoured the article, the title summing up exactly what Oxenfree is, except they left out the part where I want to stop playing because I’m pissing my pants. Oxenfree is one of the scariest games I’ve played in recent memory, on par with Silent Hill 2 scary, it lured me in with a quaint story about youths on a high school ritual and quickly turned into nightmare fuel.

Oxenfree managed to grab me from the get go, throwing you right into the middle of a regular day for a group of high schoolers. My first lesson for the game, pay attention or you’ll miss the moment—this subtle design choice is unbelievably important in the long term. I’ve played games before where if you miss the moment the dialog is gone forever, but I ended up starting the game over only a few minutes in because I was distracted when I first sat down to play soon realizing I didn’t know what was going on.

You play Alex the lead of the story, she’s got sort of a rebellious youth look going on akin to Lindsey Weir from Freaks and Geeks (big oversized jacket and all). I quickly learn that I’m on the boat with my best friend Ren a quirky dude with a big mouth and my new Step brother Jonas who might have a shady past (at least by teen standards), Ren explains we are going to Edwards Island for a big party that the high schoolers throw ever year and everyone will be there, he also mentions we are going for other reasons asking if I have the radio he told me to bring.

Having the game start this way did exactly what it intended to, luring me into a false sense of security and forgetting that the game was going to start getting weird. Arriving at the island I learn a little about its history and inhabitants, finding only two other people have arrived Clarissa and Nona, Ren explains we took the last boat, no one else is coming. Kicking it on the beach for a while small talk is made, eventually a small argument breaks out and this is where the game opens the door (no pun intended) to the horrors that await. Needing to cool off Ren takes it as an opportunity to show me why he gave me the radio and then things start to get weird. Proceeding to tune into a station I make a light flicker on and off in a cave (I know spooky right) that’s when Jonas points out a glowing pool that definitely wasn’t glowing before. Of course we go down.

As per usual with any game I play, I always go with what I think the character would do in the given situation if not that what I would do. The thing about Oxenfree is this game pulled at the heart strings in such a way that most games dealing with emotion don’t, it was pure nostalgia, every dialog choice I was reminded of my own thoughts at that age, even with the supernatural stuff going on—all of it was so truthful. I could see Alex reacting any of those ways, because she’s at that age where you are hyper self-aware, Oxenfree managed to capture this perfectly. When Jonas offered me the cigarette it was like being offered my first smoke all over again, and I had Alex take it, she even played it off like she had smoked before, until she starts coughing(classic), it’s no wonder it hits home. Like any good game dealing with emotion it shows a reflection of ourselves.

This is why the dialog is so overly important, and why I absolutely adore the fact that if you miss the moment its gone forever. Having the dialog fade away into nothing (literally and figuratively) is brilliant, because that’s life it does not stop, for anyone, so why should it stop for a group of teens stuck on a supernatural island. Not only does this create a sense of belief, but also forms how the story plays out, there were more than a few times after my first brief restart where I missed the dialog yet I had to keep going. It wasn’t until much further in to the game that I realized how much the dialog shapes how things play out. In my play through I felt I hit every mark for what I was trying to achieve—which was just getting me and my friends off the island alive.

Artistically if you knew nothing going into this game you would probably think you were in for a cute adventure—not the case. I definitely took this for granted, learning the hard way that this was no children’s game. It’s absolutely stunning how much the Disney/Telltale influence shines through hitting a perfect balance. Presenting a flat backdrop with a muted color palate gives it the feel of a print, the characters however retain a  three dimensional element with colors popping just enough (Alex’s hair being blue for instance), having such a stylized look is what tricked me into a false sense of comfort however briefly.

I’ve already mentioned the radio, but I haven’t talked about how it’s used, as well as the sound and ambiance in general. The radio not only is what allows you to communicate with the presence, but allows you to tune in to other things as well, there are a slew of stations just waiting to be heard. Musically the score of this game is phenomenal, matching the 80’s/90’s horror vibe perfectly, while still retaining a mysterious whimsy (definitely Disney influenced).

Finishing Oxenfree left me speechless, sure me and my friends made it off the island alive, but then Alex said something and I about lost it, coming back to the menu screen I lost it even more. I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t played it, but let’s just say it’s some trippy ass shit. Oxenfree lived up to be everything I had expected it to be and so much more. I did not realize the treat I was in for when I sat down, and starting my second play through will be even more exciting, and I’m sure supernaturally weirder.

 

Images to come soon, going to start using my own!

E3 2016: Roundup

The thought that seems to be on everyone’s mind this year at E3 is, holy shit, this is going to be a great next few years for gaming, hell, maybe this is even paving the way for all of the video game industry in general. While some new hardware was introduced, for the most part—it was about the games. It seems over the last few years we have been blessed with some truly exceptional games, but if E3 2016 has anything to say about it… hold on to your butts. This is just going to be a quick rundown on the games I focused on this year at E3, and I wish I could include more, but the list would be too long, so, let’s just dive right in.

God of War

I think it’s safe to say, that the crowd at the Sony press conference about lost their damn minds when it opened with an orchestra laying down an amazing score. What happened next was even more mind blowing, because guess who showed up, Kratos; The God of War. There are so many reasons to be excited for this game, first and foremost, God of War is back and revamped. One thing that’s being said about the footage shown, is that it definitely is drawing from games like The Last of Us, and that’s a good thing. The game play demo opened with a boy playing with his toys, being called into a hut as Kratos steps out of the shadows saying “I am hungry, feed us”. As they begin the hunt we see a much different side of Kratos (besides his sick beard), he still has a certain aggression, but he’s having to temper it because he needs to be a father. That fact that Kratos is not going to be just a blood thirsty killing machine is definitely a fresh new take. Not only is Kratos new, but so is the setting, as well as combat, and this looks equally promising. Now set in a Nordic background, it’s definitely going to switch the lore around, and from the environment, to the enemies GoW is taking itself seriously. The combat also looks promising, sticking to the same GoW style but again drawing from games, in lieu of Naughty Dog. God of War just revealed itself and its no surprise it already looks good.

Dishonored 2

I was excited for the first Dishonored, and needless to say, it did not disappoint, so it makes sense that I’m equally as excited, if not more so, for Dishonored 2. Dishonored was a gamble for sure (I mean what new IP isn’t), but it delivered, and quickly gained a fan base. It was unique new world with; an alternate timeline, alternate universe, whaling, witchcraft, and steampunk setting! What’s not to love? Dishonored 2 takes everything that made Dishonored great, and builds on it, not only is our main man Korvo back, but you will also be able to play as the Empress, Emily Kaldwel, whom was just 10yrs old in the last game. Now she seems to have been trained up by Korvo, and is ready to kill (or not), anything and anyone that stands in her way. The world definitely takes on a more 3Diminsional element, which in turn allows for more versatility and choice in how to approach situations. Of course you can kill everyone in the game, but they have also fine tweaked, and improved on the stealth elements of the game, this was one of the most requested things, so it’s good to see that Arkyan Studios listened. Another big surprise is the news that you can say “No” to The Stranger, having no powers the whole game, why not? All in all, Dishonored 2 seems like it will deliver, presenting a fresh new setting with a badass new protagonist. This is definitely shaping up to be the year of female protagonist—hell yeah.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Hey look, it’s another new IP! What’s that, its Horizon Zero Dawn? Isn’t that the game with a badass looking redheaded tribal woman (who totally looks like Rose Leslie from Game of Thrones…just saying) taking down giant robot animals? Yes, yes it is. Horizon Zero Dawn hasn’t really revealed to much about itself, but with this E3 the picture has become clearer. A young woman sets out on adventure to find out just what happened to the world to make it as is. This game is something to drool over, cause holy shit, it looks gorgeous. From what the developers said we saw only a fraction of the world (haven’t heard that before), but I’m so excited for the diversity of this world, if the small part we’ve seen is anything to go off of, seeing the game in action, and understanding just what you will be encountering was even more reassuring. I really want to know why robots have taken the form of wildlife! Why is there a robot corrupting other robots? Why do human’s still have technology, even if it’s only limited? I’ll just have to wait and see.

Detroit: Become Human

Quantic Dream has always seemed to push the boundaries of cinematic gaming, and while they’re games have always been great, sometimes it felt as if they were just a little ahead of the curve. With their latest game though, it seems they might finally hit the mark for not only a good game, but a great game. Detroit: Become Human has had a few trailers drop here and there, I remember when the released the Kara trailer and the emotions flowed. It was an amazing trailer and they didn’t even say they were working on a game; it was more “hey look at this thing we did”. Through the years the kept showing things here and there, but it still wasn’t clear exactly what Detroit: Become Human was about. Now the wait is over, because who doesn’t want to play an android detective story, “My name is Conner, and this is our story” still reverberates through me. I really do feel like Quantic Dream just went over to Eidous Montreal and asked “Hey is it cool if we do exactly what you did but different?” Isn’t the highest form of flattery imitation? Not saying it’s a bad thing, because if there’s a game on my radar, now more than ever, it’s this one.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I remember the day I picked up Mass Effect, it was the first time I had ever had that level of excitement for a game, I didn’t know anything about it except what my roommate had explained to me earlier that week. I got thrust into one of the most brilliant Sci-Fi worlds I’d been introduced to in gaming, and while it had its flaws, I’d never played anything like it. It seemed huge, fleshed out, like I was actually a just one small thing in an infinite galaxy. Needless to say, Mass Effect: Andromeda has my full attention. The days of Shepard are gone, and we are introduced to a new protagonist, Ryder, and she is no Shepard as Bioware has said. This is a brand new story with new characters, who are by no means hero’s. The crew of The Tempest (their ship) are a long way from home, hundreds of light years has been stated, they are cut off from all they know, as well as, all we know. Being part of journey into the unknown is about as Sci-fi as it gets, and the fact that the characters, and players have no idea what to expect, I’m sure will make the connection that much stronger—especially for those wow moments.

Death Stranding

Remember when everyone got real bummed that Hideo Kojima scrapped Silent Hill, and said he was leaving Konami, then he was like “hey here’s my new studio, that’s mine!” Well it was a freaking treat, and shocker to see the man walk on stage only to present us with what he’s been working on. Death Stranding, what’s it about, no one knows! What is known; Norman freaking Reedus is in it, dead sea creatures, baby attached by tech umbilical cord to Norman Reedus, more dead sea creatures, five floating beings over the sea, ok we get it. Just go watch the trailer, it looks amazing and mysterious and fantastic. I’ve watched this trailer way too many times to count.

The Last Guardian

I must say, I love the drama that comes with the videogame industry, in this case I’m referring to the long anticipated wait, and struggle of The Last Guardian. This game was announced seven years ago, and sense then has go through ups and downs the likes of which have never been seen. No one knew if it was being made, or scrapped, or being made, but it’s finally upon us! It was officially announced, that yes it was still around, showing itself at last E3, and now with the latest trailer form this year’s E3, a release date has been shown. Get ready to let the tears flow because The Last Guardian is looking to be the most heart wrenching game this year. From the team that brought us Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus the third and finally instalment in this long tale is upon us. The Last Guardian is the story of a boy, the creature Trico he meets, and the adventure they are in for together. I have no idea what to expect story wise, but as aforementioned it’s going to be an emotional roller coaster. A unique twist on fantasy is always nice, so this will be a breath of fresh air (Speaking of a breath of fresh air).

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

            So of course, the best for last, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, hands down won E3 this year. It was the most played, and viewed content of E3. Understandably so, for many of us, the Zelda franchise was something we grew up with. It was our first experience with adventure games of that magnitude, as well as, pushing story in such a direction. It has inspired games through the generations, it’s no surprise that it was in the spotlight. It first revealed itself during E3 2015, this year we got to see the game in action, and get our hands on it. The most striking thing is, that now, Zelda seems to be borrowing from games that borrowed from it through all these years—again, imitation is the highest form of flattery. Seeing a game tip its hat to other games who did the same is about as heartwarming as it gets.This will be the first time Zelda will feature an entirely open world to explore, and adventure in. What was shown was only a small fraction of the map, and the map looks to be huge. The art style as well is something to fawn over (Hayao Miyazaki anyone), even the narrative itself seems reminiscent of this, all the more reason to be excited. Looks like I’m finally buying a new Nintendo system, because how could I not play this game?

That’s my E3 in a nutshell! There were so many other games, but I just can’t focus on them all, who knows though, maybe they’ll show up in other writing! I can actually guarantee it. My wallet is definitely going to be crying the next while, but it will be so worth it. It’s a great time to game! Look forward to all of these amazing games and so much more. So keep an eye out for more thoughts on games and gaming! We all play together.

The Witcher 3: I’ll Never Let Go Geralt I’ll Never Let Go

The Witcher 3: I’ll Never Let Go Geralt I’ll Never Let Go

Having finally finished up The Witcher 3 a few months back (it only took me almost a year to complete) all I can sing are praises for this game, The Witcher 3 will forever be one of my all-time favorite games. I don’t care what arguments are thrown against it, this game flips the script, and stands on solid ground. With the release of Blood and Wine, the second, and final expansion (following Hearts of Stone) for The Witcher 3, I find myself diving back in, head first, into one of the greatest adventures in gaming memory. I really didn’t think I would be coming back to this game. I mean if you are anyone who has played it, you know its massive—just insanely massive. Not only that, but the world is filled to the brim with things to do, and see. So maybe that is why I find myself booting up a new game+, because I get to do it all over again, and eventually make my way over to both of the DLC.

Velen
A walk through Velen

At the same time, maybe booting a new game+ is my way of holding on to something I just don’t want to let go. Sure I’ll eventually come to the DLC, but am I just eking out all I can from Geralt (the games protagonist), and if he knew I’m sure he wouldn’t be in favor—I mean all the man wants to do is retire, he’s only been hunting monsters for a hundred odd years or so. I’d want to retire too, and this is just one of the reason’s this game is so enjoyable, I know I have the choice to play it or not, but when I  begin to feel the weight of the actual character I’m playing—it seems the connection only goes deeper. It’s funny to think this specific instance relates to feeling Geralt’s age. By having experienced once what is happening in this world, and being part of its history, makes me understand all the better what I’m in for the second time—allowing me to fully envelope myself in who Geralt is, and the world I am part of.

I really can’t think of a game as lived in as this world. As you move through the world you see; villages burned, bodies hanging from trees, extreme racism, and so much more. This is a world that seems to go on without you, even apparent in just how everyone treats Geralt when they encounter him. Why should they care, or know who you are, when they have their own lives and squabbles to worry about. All you are in their eye’s is a freak or someone who can fix a problem—in this case, monsters. Because that is all Geralt is, someone doing their job. Sure you may get swept up in the politics of the world around you but even then, when you’re not around, the world keeps moving on, without you, or at least creates the illusion of such.

Velen
Velen – The Ladies of the Wood

This might be the lynch pin of what makes this game just so freaking appealing. It blends the boundaries of two genres and makes it in to something brilliant. The Witcher 3 is not an open world game, it’s an adventure game—yet it presents itself in a way that you feel it’s an open world game. Done in a simple way, the game generates what goes on around you as you move through it, and because there is so much happening in the environment it makes the world come to life. This richness is not seen in many games, Skyrim is a great game don’t get me wrong, but at times it felt dead, just a lonely soul wandering. When I enter a village in The Witcher people are going about their lives; working, doing chores, running inside their homes when they see me. Even the richness of the dialog among NPC’s adds a certain spice most games just don’t have.

The fact is, the player is playing Geralt and his story is already laid out, he has lived a full life, coming into his twilight years of Witching (he’s old for sure but don’t worry he’s a Witcher he has many years ahead of him), all he’s trying to do is one last thing, and then it’s time to hang up the ol’ broadswords, and leave the days of hunting monsters behind him (I mean if you’ve seen the dudes body you know that’s probably a good call). As I aforementioned, Geralt is well defined character at this point, and I find myself not only enjoying the game more, but understanding what kind of decisions he might actually make. I played the game a certain way the first time (even got Ciri to become a Witcher), and while I’m remaining true to that play style, I am approaching situations in just slightly different ways, pausing to really think about what Geralt would do. Now that I understand who Geralt is, and the world I am a part of—I find myself enjoying it all the more, and maybe this is why I just can’t let go.

Velen
Just another conversation on the path

 

I don’t know if CD Projekt Red will give us more stories from this fantastic world they have nurtured, and created over the years (yes I know it’s based on a book), but I look forward to anything they bring to the table. Recently I’ve seen articles on saying our farewells to Geralt, yet that’s what I wanted to get across, I am by no means done with his story just yet. I’ve fallen in love all over again and I’m more than happy to pour time, and energy into this game. There is a long list of games I want to play on the horizon, it’s a fantastic time for games—I will always set aside time for Geralt though, and I’m OK with that. Eventually I know I’ll have to say my goodbyes, just not quite yet.

Geralt I look forward to the adventures to come, thank you for all the good times, let’s keep slaying, and eventually you’ll get the rest you’ve so desired. One more time old friend.

Overwatch the Game That Keeps on Giving

Overwatch the Game That Keeps on Giving

After having played Overwatch over the course of a few days now, all I can say is—I’m in love with multiplayer shooters all over again. I haven’t been this invested in an FPS in sense Battlefield 3, and the fact that it comes from Blizzard Entertainment is even more amazing. I definitely fell off the Blizz train back when WoW (World of Warcraft) Cataclysm launched. For Blizzard to make such a fantastic new IP has come as little surprise to me, Blizzard has always made great games, and Overwatch is no exception. Overwatch is a game I came into knowing little about, and now, I find myself hooked (Like Roadhog pulling me in for a big ol’ hug with his chain hook, only to shotgun me in the face).

Everything about this game oozes care and love. Blizzard has always put these two things in all of their games, but Overwatch is something special. From the unique cast of characters, to the level design, the whole thing is immensely detailed, yet remains simple. Every round I play I notice something knew that fits into the narrative presented, whether it’s a character commenting on the arena, or even two characters just talking to one another before the match begins. Now it might be a thin narrative at the moment, but it’s still there. Unfortunately, if you want the full Overwatch story you can find it in comic form. Which isn’t a bad thing, I’m a comic book geek, but come on didn’t we learn this lesson from Destiny!

Overwatch-hanzo-gameplay

I had actually been watching both Battleborn (Another new IP from Gearbox Software) and Overwatch, and I thought I was going to get Battleborn, but no—I made sure to let both games rollout and see which one I was more attracted to. What sold me on Overwatch though, was reading a story about a boy getting his first sniper shot ever, and it was all thanks to the care Blizzard put into their game. I immediately turned my attention to Overwatch and just what it was.

If you can make a game where someone with a debilitating disorder is able to achieve something that was unachivable before—I applaud you.

There is more to it than that though, while Overwatch is considered an FPS and Battleborn a MOBA, they still are comparatively similar. They both feature a wide cast of characters, kooky art design (Battleborn being cell shaded) and have arena based combat. Even after rolling out within a month of one another, and Overwatch coming in late to the game, Overwatch is still overshadowing (No pun intended) Battleborn. Why is this? Simply put, Overwatch is easier to digest and feel good about playing. Even the box art has been considered in this argument.

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The controls are simple, it’s a tight shooter, (Not in the way some would imagine it) and it stays true to itself. The most mind-blowing thing is that at an end of a match, instead of your standard spread sheet of K/D ratio, you are presented with “the play of the game”, which doesn’t even have to be the MVP, it’s just whoever did the most bad-ass thing. Then it presents two to four players to everyone, showing the cool thing they did, and everyone is allowed to up vote who they thought did the best, giving whoever some extra feel goods (It might be just an ego boost but it still feels good). In a nutshell—this is the most freaking positive game I’ve played in a while. It wants its player base to have fun, and support each other. Sure it’s a competitive game, with the simple capture point A/B or protect said payload (Name of the actual game mode is Payload) game modes, but it has shown itself to be so much more.

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Overwatch took the simple idea of TF2 (Team Fortress 2) a wildly popular game from Valve, with a cult following which is still going strong, and made it their own. As a fan of TF2 I can only say, “Give me more”! I look forward to anything and everything this game has to offer. I’m sure in the coming months we will be seeing; tweaks to balance characters, new characters coming into the fray, game modes, and so much more, (although let’s be honest, you my #1 D. Va) really wanted to put a heart in that. So go play Overwatch, and have a blast! The world needs order and you—as a member of Overwatch have what it takes!

Firewatch and Facing Fact

Firewatch and Facing Fact

Sitting down to play Firewatch the first time, I knew I was a fire lookout and not much beyond that. What Campo Santo (The company behind Firewatch) delivered was passionate and moving. After seeing the credits roll, I walked away from Firewatch thinking about my own life and just what responsibilities I was running from. Firewatch is a game built on ideas about; life, relationship, and personal fears. It does have a classic mystery adventure story thrown in which keeps the pacing fun and exciting, even this part of the game though ties in to the overarching theme. Every character I encountered (aside from the scene with the girls at the lake) is dealing with something that is affecting them personally—on a deep level. This is where the game shines, and by the end each of these characters will resolve, for better or worse, just what is haunting them.

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Sunset in the Sashoni

The opening of Firewatch goes back and forth between a choose your own adventure story and actual game play. Introducing the games protagonist Henry, the player decides who Henry is and where he’s at mentally/emotionally when he arrives at the Sashoni. The Sashoni may be a fictional place, but the game is firmly grounded in reality, the Yellowstone fire of ‘88 specifically. When both of these aspects combine, it allows the player to see they should take it slow, stay present, and expect nothing out of the ordinary. Even though strange things start happening, if the player has in the back of their mind “Oh yeah! This is about Henry and what personal issues he is dealing with”, then the player is able to approach each new day rationally.

 

The focus of the game is the relationship formed between Henry and Delilah (his boss), and by the end of their first conversation the player has established the relationship without knowing it. I believe Henry is a certain type of person and this can be seen in the dialog. There are certain dialog options I just don’t find as believable. They seem out of place, or just not rational, and play more like a video game than the game presented. Henry is dealing with something effecting him deeply, and he did become a fire lookout, in the words of Delilah, “to run away from something”. Delilah calls it before she even knows you, sure because she’s been on the job for over a decade but also to remind the player—hey this is what’s important, think about this.

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Darn teen’s leaving a mess

Listening to Delilah and Henry’s relationship unfold is poignant and truthful, almost tangible. It’s one of the most realistic relationships I’ve encountered in video games. The fact that it’s a built solely upon walkie talkie’s is amazing. Firewatch is a short game, taking me a smidge over five hours to complete. So the game has to build this relationship fast over the course of a summer. Even the little things make it feel honest, from the journaling Henry does on his typewriter (which the player can choose to read or not), to the jokes that are formed through conversation the player is never part of but are alluded too. This builds the world and fills in gaps that would be missed otherwise. The player begins to see that Henry and Delilah care for each other and although they might have fleeting thoughts of the romantic kind about one another, it’s never said out right. Because who wouldn’t have these thoughts if only able to talk to one person, especially if it’s the sex you are attracted to.

The game throws an even bigger wrench in the whole thing when things start to play out as a mystery adventure. Introducing a few new characters, and while not talking to either the whole game, you learn their story, and it is heart wrenching. This game made me tear up a few times and this side story tied into Henry and Delilah’s relationship is mind blowing. Again presenting someone who is running from something personal to them, and how they are dealing with it. Without giving anything away, a certain character definitely goes into murky waters of the emotional pool. Henry wants to be in the woods so he can reflect on himself, even if he needs a little help without realizing it. He took the first step, and Delilah is able to keep him moving, playing out vice versa as well.

Walking through the Sashoni felt at times like I was actually there. The game has an almost painted art style, its round, soft, and this makes wandering through the woods quit tranquil. I stopped more than once to just take in the scenery and close my eyes to listen to the forest. The ambient sound of the game is just as serene. The Sashoni is full of life, from birds chirping, to trees swaying, and even twigs and brush crunching under Henry’s feet. All of this again, allows the player to slow down pause and reflect on what is happening around them, and what is important to Henry. How to proceed not only with what is going on in the Sashoni, but also what is going on with himself. All of these aspects of the game work well on their own, and harmonize to create a strong narrative.

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Not my lookout tower

The game really goes full force on the last day. Day 79 is a combination of all parts of the game coming together to hammer home what it’s trying to say. The game shows three different people and the choices they’ve made up to this point in life, how they are going to approach the emotional burden they’ve created for themselves, as well as deciding how Henry will resolve what he has been running from. It’s something familiar because most likely, the player has done one if not all of these things when it comes to personal decisions. The final bit of dialog between Delilah and Henry is so human, I couldn’t help but think about my own life. Henry has to make a choice and although the outcome isn’t revealed, I felt the full force of the decision I was making. Thus again, bringing me back to reflect on myself and what I could possibly be pushing to the back-burner. It is joy to be able to finish a game walk away from it, and begin to think about your own life.

Firewatch is something special, and I hope that it can help others in the way that it helped me.