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Reflecting on my Quarantine Gaming Highs and Lows

Content of the article: "Reflecting on my Quarantine Gaming Highs and Lows"

Hi everyone, greetings from Ireland. I hope you're all well. I wanted to do a rapid style summary and review of everything I have played since lockdown. It's been a great excuse to dive back into playing story driven games and weirder stuff instead of just a quick game of Overwatch three times a week.

Before I get started I just want to follow up on my Bastion review from ages back. I remain unimpressed by Bastion, but I want to say that both Transistor and Pyre rank among some of my favourite games EVER. Supergiant is one of the most exciting games companies of the past decade in my opinion and I am loving Hades in EA as well.

Now – to the games! I'll try and do these in chronological order but may be confusing some:

Slay the Spire (Steam): I am the perfect person for this game, loving both roguelites and card games and I fell in love hard. I honestly think it looks ugly as sin, reminding me of a flash game from 2007, but damn if the gameplay isn't the best of its kind I've ever experienced. This is the game that finally weaned me off Hearthstone and if you are into this kind of game even slightly, do yourself a favour and get slaying. 9/10

Planescape Torment (GOG enhanced edition): This was my first Infinity Engine game (I'm 23 for reference here) and a part of me kind of wishes I had started with something more conventional so that I could fully appreciate how off the wall crazy this game must have felt at the time for people coming from Baldur's Gate. Nonetheless I loved this game. I played along in book club style with a series of old episodes from the podcast DevGameClub and their analysis really added to the experience and kept me motivated to push through some of the more questionable areas of the game. Some of the quests are convoluted and not obvious, and the combat is okay at best, but the writing and characters in this game are simply phenomenal. Another thing this game nails is the worldbuilding. It's very rare to feel like you're genuinely in an alien fantasy world. The Planescape feels alien and lived in and real. It has the worldbuilding of Morrowind, drips as much atmosphere as Fallout 1 and has better writing than either in my opinion. I'd give it an 8 as a game but a 10 as an experience. If you can shoulder its flaws to get into the writing, you'll have an amazing time.

Disco Elysium (Steam): I don't think a game has had as big an effect on me since Mass Effect 2, or maybe Portal. Disco Elysium is my Game of the Decade so far and I doubt anything will dethrone it for years to come. A true Roleplaying game that dispenses with unecessary and zero value combat sections (cough cough, Planescape), DE focuses on allowing you to truly explore the psyche of your character and think, act and live however you want. Its setting, the characters you meet, your eternally suffering companion cop and its simply genius skill system all mesh together so perfectly. The story is wild and takes many turns and twists with flawless writing. Once again, this game isn't for everyone, because it really does feel like reading an interactive novel at times, but my god the quality. Ultimately this game is a character study of a broken man. The decisions you make can work to absolve him of his past, or lean into the darker side of him and us all. It is also a deliciously political game that explores many ideologies with a dispassionate, scathing eye. 10/10


Total War Warhammer 2 (Steam): A few weeks before the Summer Season there was a 75% discount on TWW2 and its many DLCs and I finally relented and bought everything. I was a Warhammer child (Empire in Fantasy and Orks in 40k) and I'm also a Total War fan. The reason it took me so long to get into this game was my aversion to strategy games' tendency to release their games piecemeal, charging premium prices along the way. Despite my annoyance at this, once I bought the game and starting mashing Skaven with giant dinosaurs and thunderbolts from the sky, I forgot about the entire world for about 100 hours of gameplay. This game is, for me, like listening to a song mashup of two of your favourite tracks and discovering it sounds even better than either alone. This game is incredible and after completing three Eye of the Vortex campaigns I have only scratched the surface with it. I'm not going to score this one because I think my affinity with the setting and the nostalgia blast I get every time a battle begins clouds my judgement and makes an impartial review impossible, but yeah it's a tonne of fun.

Paratopic (Steam): After two incredibly dense RPGs and a massive strategy game, I decided to buy a few walking sims and experimental games that I'd had my eye on for ages to break up the pattern. All of these were purchased during the summer. I started with Paratopic. Now this is a game you could watch someone else play if you wanted. It's less than an hour long (although I reckon two playthoughs are worthwhile, making it closer to 90 minutes). However, as a lover of horror and scary fare, I thought this game was worth the discounted price. The graphics are like PS1-chic and really enhance the unsettling nature of the story. It also is remarkably good at establishing a complex world with a lot of moving factions all vying against each other. It's great, I really liked it for what it was, although I was left wanting a lot more content. 7/10

What Remains of Edith Finch (Steam): This one has kind of been covered to death already. Approaching it with no real knowledge of it and without any of the hype, I think my review will be cooler than many at the time. I thought it was good but not exceptional. It had some absolutely brilliant segments, but some real duds too for me, including the longest and earliest one you undertake. I genuinely nearly quit the game within an hour because of that and I would have missed out on the much stronger back end had I done that which would have been a shame. Overall I genuinely struggle to recommend this unless you have an academic interest in games like I do and want to explore the Walking Sim genre. 5/10

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The Stanley Parable (Steam): This is a brilliant game made for gamers. If this hasn't been spoiled for you I recommend you go play it soon as. Fantastic voice work, hilariously introspective and surprisingly emotional at times, this is the best satirical game I've ever played. 8/10

Rimworld (Steam): I'm not the right person for this type of game and yet I still sunk a fair few hours into this organ harvesting simulator. I had fun, but I honestly thought I'd be managing a lot more colonists instead of a band of lunatics. That's on me, but it's still slightly soured my experience. Still I do like this game and I can see people giving years of their life to it. 6/10

Firewatch (Steam): This is the best Walking Sim in my opinion. I think the voicework, the adult writing and the themes it teases out and explores are top tier. I love the setting. I love exploring its world with a compass and shitty map while Delilah cheerfully mocks me over the walkie-talkie and I love that I went from feeling sad to adventurous to deeply paranoid to sad once again throughout its 3 hours. While I don't think the writing is on DE's tier, I think it is head and shoulders above most games. It also has great sound design. A lot of people bitch about the ending and I get why but looking back on my time with this game it didn't diminish anything for me in the slightest. 9/10

The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game & Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard (Steam): I love these games. They're an hour long each and they take the piss out of being an actual game but the writing is unbelievably good and I haven't laughed out loud this much while gaming possibly ever. I love the characters too and I cannot wait for part 3. 8/10 for whichever one you play first, 7/10 for the second, because they don't really do anything different from each other, but damn I can't get enough of that magnifying glass action.

Throughout the last few months, I've also been playing a few co-op/ party games with friends and my girlfriend online. I'll briefly cover them. I played all of them on Steam except for Overcooked.

Spy Party: If you like playing games with friends, do yourself a favour and buy this one. It's a 1v1 game in which you take turns being the spy, who has to complete a certain amount of tasks in a set time limit, and the sniper who has one bullet and must deduce who their friend is in a room full of NPCs and put that bullet in their head. It is a phenomenally fun game that ramps up the complexity as you go along and has a tonne of varied maps for you both to play in. This is a fantastic 1v1 game, maybe the best I've ever played.

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Overcooked: This is a great game, very frenetic, very simple in theory but so is juggling and I can't do that. Absolute blast to play and the story is so over the top and perfect. We're in no rush to play the sequel yet, we're still enjoying the OG.

Moving Out: I think I prefer this game to Overcooked. They're very similar though and I think more people will prefer Overcooked because it's slightly easier mechanically.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime: This is a really fun "bullet hell" co-op game. I recommend it if you're looking for a cute, robust game to play with someone special to you. The ability to twirl each other is the most important mechanic and its inclusion by the devs gives me endless happiness. I would definitely recommend it.

And that's me! I'm currently playing Eastshade, Kenshi and mulling over the original Deus Ex or FFX to play for my next big story game. I've never played any games from either of those franchises and I'm excited to dive in.

I hope you enjoyed my TedTalk.


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