Ok, so here we are. The year is almost over, the holidays are near or currently active, or if you’re like me, it’s just another week in your sweats at home...
Anyways, I thought I’d take a crack at reviewing a game, but then I realized I haven’t exactly beat a game recently, nor have I had the time to fully invest in one particular game (unless you count Sable, which is what I’ve been playing. I did take a break from that one since my PC is out of commission at the moment.) So rather than review one particular game, I will talk about a few different games and share my thoughts on them. These will be games that I have either played this year, 2021, or have played in the past 5 or so years.
I don’t know about most of you, but the way I play video games is that I like to dive into a good single-player narrative-focused game, beat it, and then never play it again. Ok, that's a lie. I’ll occasionally jump back into a game I’ve beaten, especially if there’s more replay value once the story is over (dark souls comes to mind.) For the most part, though, I don’t generally jump back into a game I've already beaten. Maybe the luster is gone, but I find it hard to get back into it since I already know what's going to happen. I seek new things, I’ll admit it.
Ill touch on:
A perfect example of this is The Last of Us series. I genuinely love these games for their narrative beats and the immersive world they build. All the little details of NPC's responding to things that you, the character/player, do are just so great. My first play-through of both the first and the second game where great. When I wasn’t playing the games, I’d be thinking about them, anticipating when I would be home to continue the story. I don’t attribute this feeling entirely to the narrative, though. While yes, the narrative in these games is great, and they tell interesting stories, personally, I came back to these games because they just felt fun to play.
No video game is perfect in this area, not even these games. There’s still some jank in some animations, your character acting really strange when trying to take cover behind a wall, and other general glitches. It comes with the territory, right? Due to their interactive nature, and players doing things that the dev team hadn’t anticipated, the likelihood of something funky happening is bound to happen. That's a whole other post, though. What I'm getting at is that The Last of Us has a level of detail that many other games miss that makes the characters you play feel more grounded and alive.
But that's what they’re going for, right? The level of detail they devote time to, the animations, the physics, all of that is in service to the actual narrative of the game. You’re supposed to relate to Ellie and Joel. You’re supposed to care for them and feel their pain when someone tragically dies. That's the Last of Us, but what about other games and how they feel? Most games don’t devote as many resources to nailing the animation down as naughty dog does in their games. And they don’t really have to, honestly.
Control kinda hits this for me. Although the game looks amazing, especially if you have a beefy PC that can do ray tracing, the jump animation is missing something. There's something about that jump animation that's kind of off when she lands. In this case, though the character as a whole, Jesse Faden, is quick and agile. You can jump into the air, dash to avoid oncoming projectiles, pick things up with your telekinesis and hurl them at your enemies. All of this combined just feels good. So the gameplay feel isn't necessarily how good the animation is...animated? It's about how these different mechanisms coexist and complement each other.
Control is actually the most recent game I’ve actually beaten. I picked it up on Xbox game pass in the latter half of 2020, or was it 2021? I don't even know anymore. By this point, the DLC’s were already out too. What I enjoyed about Control was the lore of the world. The idea is that all of those crazy-sounding conspiracies of events that are out of this world are actually tracked and investigated by a government agency that operates in the shadows, literally. If you pick up the intel that's scattered throughout The Oldest House, you’ll find correspondence of the Federal Bureau of Controls (FBC) financials, which are kept secret from other federal agencies, like the FBI or CIA and such. They operate in such secrecy that, unless you know about the agency, you’ll never even see the building that all the agents come in and out of.
"We live in a room, and there's a poster on the wall. We stare at it and we think that's the whole world. The room... and the poster. The picture's something nice - a landscape, a famous person. Like in that movie... what is it called? The prison movie. The room's a cell, and the picture, it's different for each of us. It can be beautiful or terrible, but we're all transfixed. But it's all a lie. Something to distract us from the truth. They're lying to us. We're lying to ourselves. The room's not the world, the world... is much bigger, and much stranger. There's a hole hidden behind that poster that leads to the real world. We all feel safe in that room. But sometimes... sometimes something crawls out from behind the poster, and the ones that see it happen freak out, and try to forget what they saw." - Jesse Faden
I’ll just leave this video here that explains a bit of the lore of Control better than I can. Within the world of control, there lies a mysterious dimension called the Astral Plane, which is, in some way, connected to the human mind. Jesse ends up forming an allegiance with The Board, a para natural entity that seems to have some form of power within the Astral plane.
Everything about Control hits the boxes for me. Mysterious and interesting world and lore, mixed with really fun gameplay. In comparison to The Last of Us, The Last of Us knocks it out of the park in the animation department, but again that doesn't really matter when all of the pieces of the puzzle line up for whatever game you're playing.
The Souls series is another series that is very near and dear to my heart. I even have a tattoo of Gwynn, Lord of Cinder, on my forearm. If you don’t know, he is the first game's final boss. The funny thing is I have beat Dark Souls 2 and 3, but not the first one. I got the tattoo when I was separating the Air Force. We were deployed, and in our break room was an Xbox that someone had donated to our crew. It had Dark Souls 1 installed, and I had always wanted to try them. Soon one of my buddies joined in, and we would trade places playing when we’d die. It happened a lot. We built this routine of playing a little bit of the game when we’d be at work, and we got relatively far.
Long story short, that's where the story of this tattoo comes from and also sets the scene for how much I enjoy the dark souls series. I've played Bloodborne, but it hasn’t clicked with me yet. I love the medieval/dark ages setting of the Souls series, and the victorian-esque Bloodborne just doesn't hit the right spots for me. One of these days, I’ll give it more time, but honestly, at the moment, I'm enjoying the Demons Souls remake.
I never played the original, but playing through the remake is great from a graphical standpoint and from a sort of nostalgia that I get playing Demons Souls. There are segments where I can see the formula they would use for the rest of the Dark Souls series. The interconnected world of Dark Souls began with the sectioned worlds of Demons Souls. I still remember the first time rounding back to Firelink Shrine, after running through an entire section full of enemies, multiple Bon Fires scattered throughout, and some bosses, and thinking how open and connected the world felt.
There’s this sense of appreciation, having played the Dark Souls series first and then jumping into what started them in the first place.
Well, If you stuck around this long, I salute you and appreciate your time. If you didn’t read the whole thing and you’re a wandering scroller, hello, welcome to the bottom of the post. Goodbye. beeeeeeeeeep.