Oh Arcanum, I really wanted this to be a proper review, not just a mere impression after a (good) couple of hours. I put in the work to make you run. I installed patches and mods. I ran you in the proper compatibility mode and as administrator. I did some weird command line shit to make playing you as smooth and painless as possible – from a technical stand point. Come to think of it – that probably should have been GOG’s job, where I bought you for real money. What I want to say is: I really tried.
I promise I will be back to games I am surprised by and/or ashamed of owning, soon, but first let me tell you about ‘Prey’ (the new one). ‘Prey’ is another very recent game I threw upon the top of the mountain just to take it off again and I did so with great pleasure.
I bought the game on the following info: first person perspective, space station. People seemed to like it. As with ‘What Remains of Edith Finch‘ I read that the game is best experienced without knowing too much about it beforehand and I now agree with that advice. If you thinking about playing ‘Prey’ and you get triggered by the same words as I do, you should probably stop reading and buy the game.
After deciding to not really talk about a game, I am now talking about a new (yes, new as in ‘just released a few weeks ago’) game, and it doesn’t start with an ‘A’. ‘What’s going on?’ you moan. ‘I don’t like change!’ you lament, and I understand. Bear with me, because change, as scary as it might seem to us, can also bring new light into our lives – or at least give us great games like ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’.
What do you say if you really like a game? I don’t know because my collection is made entirely of horror and puzzle games I never asked for. I am a bit at loss for words, because ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’ is more of a visual and emotional experience and can’t be described by the usual “very good multi-death killing mechanics, but the subpar severed limb physics left me disappointed”. Surprisingly enough, this pure walking simulator contains more death, than your average shooter tutorial.
Maybe it’s not even a good idea to describe the game in detail. It’s one of those games you will probably enjoy most if you know least about it. I certainly was grateful for that hint. If you like walking simulators, stop reading and buy the game, now! Yes, full price. If you like well written stories about tragic deaths with a streak of the darkest of humor, buy the game! At first it reminded me a lot of ‘Gone Home’ my much appreciated introduction to the genre. A girl returns to the empty family house and explores, but apart from the basic premise the similarities end. ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’ shows how far walking simulators have developed in the last few years. The game tells multiple neatly strung together stories in a unique and creative way and everything looks and sounds fantastic. You will get more atmosphere than from your average early 90ies Black Metal record.
I finished the game in about two hours, which might not sound like much for a 20€ game, but it’s worth it. Like I said about the pig game, I prefer a short and tight game over whatever Ubisoft does these days. It’s great to not be bored for a second, start to finish. The game left me in a state of melancholic pondering and I’m grateful for such rare video game moments. I also laughed more than I probably should have.
Info: ‘What Remains of Edith Finch’ was developed by Giant Sparrow and was released in April 2017. You should head over to Steam or a less evil alternative and buy it full price, so that the developers may provide me with more quality games.
No five minutes into the game I am told to kill someone. What’s this? Another Alpha Protocol? Sadly no, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror game, where you do the dying (if you decide to walk up to and hug the monster). It’s 1839, you’re Daniel and you awake in the East Prussian Castle of Brennenburg and, surprise, you memory is gone. You try to scrape it back together as you explore the badly lit castle, always making sure to pack enough oil and tinder so that you may not succumb to the darkness, which slowly drives you insane. Apart from East Prussia not being New England, it all feels very Lovecraftian, which is a good thing. It’s another of those games where, if it wasn’t me playing them, the person playing it might actually have great fun doing so. It still looks good (enough), it’s got a creepy, classic horror atmosphere and good sound design and it doesn’t annoy you with over-complex puzzles. It still does annoy you with puzzles though, that seem to be a notch above insulting Alan Wake-‘There are three buttons, please use the ones that got a green light above them’-level. For me, while not being nearly as exhausting as being hunted by a fantastic looking Alien, it’s just not fun hiding behind my oil lamp and running away from dark shadows. Over the years I’ve brought so much death and destruction to my virtual enemies, that now, being old and tired, I am too set in my ways to enjoy experiencing the other end of the stick. I wonder wether its sequel (the next game in line) might change my mind, and why the first steps of the mountain seem to be predominantly made from horror games.
Info: Amnesia: The Dark Descent, was developed by Frictional Games and released in 2010. You can get your uplifting horror adventure on Steam.
‘American Truck Simulator’ aka ‘the thing I do when I want to listen to a podcast, but I have already done the dishes’ is, depending on your needs, a deep Truck Driving Simulation with superficial economics, or a serious alternative to Zen meditation. I mainly care for the latter and I really appreciate that the game let’s me decide how much of a simulation I get. I don’t care for complex parking maneuvers and accurate fuel calculation. I just want to WASD myself on the highway, drive frozen vegetables from Show Low (AZ) to Sacramento (CA), stare into the golden sunset and listen to some questionable gaming podcast while my brain slowly drains itself. That is until I crash my truck into a police car at 75mph, because I didn’t realize that I already left the highway a few moments ago. It’s spectacular proof of why video games are so important for our society. I can live my truck driving fantasies, which I didn’t know I had until I played Euro Truck Simulator 2, right here in the comfort of my own home, and nobody has to die.
I already spent some time with ‘American Truck Simulator’ before, but as many others, I didn’t like that they changed the scale of the map from 1:20 in ‘Euro Truck Simulator 2’ to 1:35 in the new game. America felt too small. So, as many others, I was more than excited to hear that SCS Software decided to rescale the map back to 1:20. This is my first time revisiting ‘American Truck Simulator’ after the rescale, and I am happy to say that SCS did a fantastic job. It’s still just three states, but the scale feels right now. I can finally try to repay that generous bank loan I thought was a sensible investment when I first started the game. I don’t play often enough to ever build up that truck empire I dream of while running a red light in Reno at 80mph, but it’s always fun to come back and do another tour. It certainly beats washing the dishes.
Alien Isolation is like owning a big, black cat, that hates you
It’s beautiful and you love it, but as much as you want to, you can’t keep it because it always tries to trip you at the top of the stairs.
Alien Isolation is probably the best looking game I have played so far. I am a fan of the original Alien movies (yes even the fourth one – shut up!) and no game in the Alien universe came even remotely close to capturing the look and feel of the movies (in this case, especially the first movie) so perfectly. That is why it’s utterly frustrating for me that Alien isolation is a survival horror stealth game – even though it’s a fitting choice. Again it’s not a genre I am particularly fond of (but I like to keep an open mind), especially if it’s so well done as in Alien Isolation. The intentionally cheap looking droids for example are a horrifying trip through the uncanny valley for me. Being spotted by one of them and starting to run straight into the arms of another one is impressively unpleasant. The sound design is great and knowing by the rumbling of the air ducts that a big, terrifying creature will probably turn up around the next corner, or from the ceiling or from a vent behind me, is exciting up to downright exhausting.
If it wasn’t so good, I could enjoy it more
The game is so well done it had me at the edge of my seat most of the time I played it. It’s just that I really don’t enjoy feeling helpless and hunted all the time. I like games to provide me with the means to live out my basic power fantasies – stealth and horror games usually can’t provide this. Yes, there are ways to fight back, but most of the time firing a gun got me into more trouble than running away screaming or just sitting in a locker, being grateful that the black monster does not seem to have a functioning nose.
It’s not just playing monster bait that bothers me, but I find that waiting in a locker, or a dark corner, or a vent, is rather boring. Especially in a game where you die often and that doesn’t allow you to save anywhere. I understand that it’s a design choice to only be able to save at certain points, because it adds a lot to the tension, but for a player like me it becomes frustrating fast. I don’t enjoy finding the perfect route to get unseen through that corridor. I want to know what happens next. Stop killing me all the time and let me enjoy my space adventure!
Alien Isolation is a great game if you are into survival horror, and it’s a masterpiece when it comes to set-design and atmosphere. Some time in the future, when I’m all grown up, I’ll give it another try.
ABZÛ is an underwater walking simulator by Giant Squid, released in summer of 2016. I knew what I was getting into, because I had heard and read a lot about this game beforehand. I pretty much got what I expected. You steer your diver from one location to the next and that’s basically it. For me ABZÛ worked best, when it tried least to be a game and focused on being a beautiful trip through a lovingly crafted underwater world. There are passages that nearly take all control from you and just let you bathe in the glory of it’s art design and huge masses of fish (put your fish settings on ‘Ultra’!). The orchestral soundtrack is fantastic. At some points the game even managed to trigger some childhood-Disney-movie-emotions in me. Well done! As soon as the game made me do it’s over simplified ‘puzzles’, especially in its second half, I got bored. I can accept that it’s more about style and atmosphere, than story or gameplay – so why shove those tedious elements down my throat? Still, if you happen to own a large TV, a decent controller and manage to buy the game on a sale, I think it’s worth to dive in for it’s roughly two hours of play time.