Here’s wave 4 of game reviews. There’s a lot here because I threw in some extras just to try out. Specifically, after Fortnite, I tried out some other multiplayer shooters, a genre I’ve never played before. The result was: a lot of fun, high-quality games, but not as many that stuck in my memory. Still, I’d recommend Dark Souls and Vampire Survivor to anybody. Dragon’s Dogma and Tunic require a lot of familiarity with their genres, but I loved them.
I started with CS: Go because of the recent gyro work by @email@example.com. After the tutorial and a couple of rounds with bots, I tried the Battle Royale mode, which seems very unpopular. At least for new or free players; I never found a match. So this was a bust.
Next I tried Apex Legends. Seems like a good game but there’s no solo mode. I feel constantly rushed, and incompetent at the beginning, in any game with teams. So I just didn’t click with Apex Legends. Might have worked with friends.
Next I tried Hunt: Showdown. You can play it without teammates – no chance of winning, of course, which is fine by me. Somebody has to fill out the bottom half of any match. Heavy emphasis on stealth, but having never played a multiplayer stealth game, I was just lost. I blundered around and it was interesting but not amazing fun.
Dragon’s Dogma is an action RPG, clearly imitating Dark Souls’ western-inspired design. But what it is, is a cluttered, janky prototype for Breath of the Wild. There’s so much stuffed in there, much of it half-finished, but with guaranteed unpredictable adventure every time you leave the city walls. If you like Breath of the Wild and jank, you must play Dragon’s Dogma.
The Talos Principle is a spare puzzle game with lush graphics. I didn’t like it, maybe because I played mostly in VR. The good VR adaptations I’ve played focus on movement, even if it’s not the most impressive aspect of VR. Talos Principle’s gestures, even well-implemented, slow down the game too much. Worse, my initial headset only ran it on low settings+resolution, so the graphics weren’t even that impressive.
Dark Souls 2 gave me the unsettled, tense feeling of playing Dark Souls again for the first time. It destroys the familiarity of the game through mechanics. Problem is, you can’t improve on perfection and Dark Souls isn’t perfect but it’s really really good. Dark Souls 2 improves one or two things, but the other changes are neutral or worse.
So I ended up playing the good part of Dark Souls again. Well, the whole game is good, but the first half is sublime. After Bloodborne, I was able to play a whole different way, with no shield and a really big sword. Just wonderful to play and replay. Soulslikes are reliably the most fun I have in videogames. (Though now I’ve forgotten how to use a shield.)
Tunic gave me the feeling of playing Zelda for the first time. Here, though, nearly all the changes are improvements. The combat is a decent soulslike mix and the metroidvania is tighter than the original Zelda, but less handholdy than the later ones. It’s the manual that’s genius, though. Looking at it and guessing things took half my playtime.
This game made me tired and also sad that I didn’t like it more. There is Too Much Crafting in it. I kind of wish I could have played the original version where you do nothing but fly from weird planet to identical weird planet. Maybe you get there eventually but I got stuck being tutorialised halfway through a giant tech tree.
Vampire Survivor is so misleadingly well-crafted–those stretchy pixels and ridiculous combos are finely tuned. I also found the Italian references to Japanese references to American monster movies pretty funny. And it’s not evil–super addictive at the beginning, when you unlock most everything, suddenly you are done. No manipulation.
Din’s Curse is a clunky, primitive Diablo clone with a big idea: named characters have agency, which generates the quests in the game. A named monster might successfully steal an item from town if left alone, causing a vendor to give up and leave. Bosses will attack town and kill townies if you don’t thin the ranks of goblins. All the quests matter, they’re not just checklists.
At first I thought Hitman was a cousin of Metal Gear or Splinter Cell, but it’s actually an adventure game. Even better, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure game–each level has many little adventures. The only restriction is that the end is a murder, sometimes a hilarious one. This is the anti-adventure game to play if you hate adventure games.
FIST is a super-slick, extremely traditional metroidvania. Not a whole lot to say about it besides that. Like Tunic, a few bosses were too much for me, but unlike Tunic, it has difficulty settings which I could turn down. (I have zero compunctions about finishing the last boss of a game via video; even Demon’s Souls.)
My kid played this first and it looked merely O.K. Afterwards I played it, and I was right. It’s a pretty good Mario game but I’ve seen enough Mario. I think this makes me old and grumpy. Haven’t reached my limit on soulslikes though, or even metroidvanias.