Content of the article: "This summer I played Outer Wilds and Ori and the Blind Forest – My microreviews and take on the extreme hype around games generally"
As I've gotten older, I've had to start playing games more deliberately. Rather than thinking, "I'm bored, let me see what I have in my library," I know what I'm going to play ahead of time. I buy a game when I have time to play it (usually) or look in my backlog to find the next title that I'll play through and know that any game time means I'll be playing my pre-selected game. So it was with Outer Wilds in about June, and with Ori and the Blind Forest a couple months later.
— OUTER WILDS —
It's good. In fact it's great. The unique mixture of exploration and storytelling is something that this game pulled off fantastically. Its focus was narrow, its story was rich, its worlds colorful and engaging, and its puzzles taught you about the world you were exploring in a way that made every planet feel more rich and alive with every visit. I'd go so far as to say it's a great game, and one of the games I've enjoyed most in the past few years.
If you haven't played it yet but are planning on it soon, let me tell you the way to approach it so that you enjoy it most. In order to explore the world, you have to solve puzzles. You get clues through the rest of the world, so you HAVE to pay attention while you're playing. Your character is totally static – doesn't level up or offer you clues, it's 100% up to you the player to progress in the game. So don't turn your brain off and just idly explore after a few beers, be engaged.
— ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST —
It's good. It's not great. The art is beautiful and the world is generally engaging. Enemies are unique enough to keep you engaged and the different 'biomes' all feel different enough that you do feel some progression. And at 10 hours of playtime, it doesn't wear out its welcome.
But there are things that keep this from being a great game. The designers seemed to create the controls for the first third of the game, where floaty and imprecise controls fit in with the environment. Later, those floaty and imprecise controls are very frustrating to deal with as they scale up the 'difficulty' by just throwing more crap at you and reducing your reaction time. This is especially apparent in the escape sequences, where you will die about 50 times trying to make it through and trying to form your hand into a misshappen claw around the controller trying to get your character to do what you want him to do, rather than what the floaty controls are telling him to do. By the end of the game, I felt relief to be done with it – not satisfaction.
— THOUGHTS ON HYPE —
Both of these games are incredibly hyped. Reviews that I read for Outer Wilds ranged from "I cry every time I hear that song from the end" to "It changed gaming for me. Everything I pick up now just feels… hollow" with similar reviews for Ori&BF – "Absolutely incredible, one of the best games I've ever played and I cried several times while playing through".
It had been a while since I played a game that really instilled a deep emotion in me. The last time was probably playing Life is Strange during a big transitional stage in my life. After playing both games based on that obviously dramatic hype, it just feels bizarre and uncomfortable to read that kind of praise for any game.
People talk about puzzle platformers as if they are relgious experiences, and at this point I wouldn't be surprised if I start seeing reviews for other indie games with comments like, "After the first boss, I left my body and met God. He looked at my soul and found me complete, and I felt the warmth of true unbreakable love for the first time in my life. This game will redeem your soul" unironically.
All this to say, I would have appreciated going into these games with more realistic expectations – which of course is my own fault for not realizing that a video game was just a video game. Based on the unanimous and fanatical hype around both of them, neither one met my expectations. At the end of the day they were both just video games. It's my fault for not recognizing that reality before jumping in, but I'm also a little disappointed at 'hype inflation' in the community.
It's no longer good enough to call a game a 10/10 – this is a score that is reserved for very good games, not exceptional games. Now the only way to describe a game that is better than 'very good' is absurd descriptions of emotional transcendence that nothing can live up to.
I'd ask that we all take a pause and re-evaluate how we describe and recommend games. Ultimately, I would have enjoyed both games more for what they are if others could recommend them realistically.
- Lateviews: Outer Wilds (One of the best games ever created)
- Are there any games out there like Outer Wilds?
- Is there any games out there like Outer Wilds?
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