Dragon Age: Origins was one of the best RPGs of the last generation. Bioware looked back to its Baulder’s Gate roots and crafted a new world. Dragon Age 2 is often considered a misstep for the series, an incredibly rushed product that reuses environments too often and fails to consider the breadth and depth of the world. Dragon Age: Inquisition is a direct answer to the complaints of Dragon Age 2 meshed with some of the design sensibilities of Origins. Bioware excels at telling character-focused stories in rich and detailed worlds and Dragon Age: Inquisition is no different. It’s a game of immense scope that still manages to be incredibly engaging and personal.
Arno joins a cult where he witnesses a human sacrifice, he hunts down a giant, he solves murder mysteries because Paris’ local detective is too lazy. If this all sounds interesting, that is because it is pretty interesting — in concept. Instead, Arno simply hunts down Templars in the cult, finds and kills an enemy of the “heavy” type, and runs around eagle vision-ing his way to a culprit with no sense of mystery. Assassin’s Creed Unity is, above all else, boring.
Call of Duty: Ghosts was a boring, by-the-numbers game with a rote story and stifling multiplayer. It showed the fraying edges of a vast empire and a team seemingly fed up with making iteration after iteration of Call of Duty; but each year a new release must come. Sometimes those games are marginally fun or have interesting ideas with a stale framework, like Black Ops II. That story had multiple branching paths and the setting took us to the (near) future for the first time in the series history. But Black Ops II still didn’t manage to capture a better framework to challenge the concepts of the stagnating franchise. It was time for a new idea, something to liven up the series and introduce mechanics that change the basic Call of Duty formula, while keeping the structure intact. Sledgehammer Games, a new development studio for the franchise, has found that idea with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
This is not a review of The Evil Within. I didn’t finish the game and I most likely won’t, so obviously no score will be attached to this post (if I had to give it one, a 1 or 2 out of 5 seems reasonable). I played until I became infuriated and realized I have much better things that I can be doing with my time. That was about 11 hours in. I felt pretty shitty about the game for basically all 11 of those hours. It’s not good.
In Ridley Scott’s Alien, about half of the movie is spent going through the mundane lives of the Nostromo crew. You don’t see the titular alien, but you know it’s coming — the movie is called Alien, after all. The tension builds and builds, giving you glimpses and teases of what is to come, but always holding back for the big reveal later on. In James Cameron’s Aliens, the same rules apply. But this time the xenomorphs are on full alert and barrage the marines every chance they get. Alien: Isolation, from Creative Assembly, captures that same sense of dread and tension building from Alien and the relentless assault of Aliens. It is a terrific horror game that starts off too slowly before becoming one of the most terrifying video games I have ever played.
Ashgam the Ruinous raised his sword above his head as I laid on my knees before him. He wore a large steel helmet with four horns protruding out the sides. We fought for only a few moments before he took me down — I was filled with rage. Ashgam froze for a moment and lowered his sword before looming over my head and saying, “Too easy,” before sauntering away as his minions finished me off. Next time I would have my revenge.
The first thing you see upon starting The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a quote: “This game is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand.” It’s a bold, self-confident statement, and it’s emblematic of the game itself; there’s a refreshing degree of trust given to the player in Ethan Carter, especially compared to many other adventure games of the modern age. The decision also manages to avoid unnecessary frustration due to Ethan Carter‘s relatively limited interactivity. It also serves as a bit of a snobbish remark, one of the few indications The Astronauts give that links them to their past work at People Can Fly (a studio known for it’s gonzo, high-intensity shooters Painkiller and Bulletstorm). The quote is an almost comical juxtaposition of “hardcore-gamer” sensibilities, for a game that shares a lot in common with so-called walking simulators, but Ethan Carter proves itself with its extremely effective use of world-building.