If your politics align with ours, you don’t need us to tell you that it hasn’t been a great week. We’ve got a new Conservative Prime Minister, one whom most of us had no say in electing and who seems comically unequipped to deal with the UK’s ever-worsening cost of living crisis. While one should never disengage from the real world for too long, sometimes you just need to escape for a bit. Here what we’re playing this week.
Joe – Editor & Lead Writer
The Elder Scrolls Online
Playing on PC
I’ve had something of an MMO itch recently. In the last few weeks, I’ve bounced off quite a few; from Eve Online to Black Desert with a bit of FFIV in between. But the one that I’m sticking with isThe Elder Scrolls Online. There’s something about Tamriel that keeps calling me back, despite the world and game mechanics being very familiar to this Skyrim veteran.
It’s a different experience to that 2011 classic, though. For starters, despite the graphics looking a little dated, my mid-range gaming laptop ran it happily on Ultra settings at around 100fps, adding gorgeously moody lighting and particle effects to crackling campfires and dimly lit caves. The UI and dialogue screens have had a facelift too, which makes for a cleaner experience.
But what’s most impressive is the sheer size of the thing. With over 40 regions to explore across Tamriel (depending on which version/DLC you own), there’s a wealth of quest, dungeons and activities to dive into. For those who are sceptical of open-world games, Elder Scrolls Online offers region-specific story lines that introduce you to the lore of the area without feeling like bloat. Quests are also longer and more detailed than in Skyrim, which gives the game time to flesh out a unique and engrossing story arc for each one.
As with any MMO worth its salt, there’s a great crafting system and purchasable player housing which you can kit out with all the spoils of Tamriel. Although, it surprises me just how solo quest-driven Elder Scrolls Online is. Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous group dungeons, PVP and PVE events but the strength of the game rides on its solo storytelling.
If you just can’t wait another century for your Elder Scrolls VI fix, I’d heartily recommend giving Elder Scrolls Online a try.
Tom – Lead Writer
As Dusk Falls
Playing via Xbox Cloud Gaming
I’ve had a hectic week or two in my day job, and I was searching for a relaxing game that I could enjoy somewhat passively. Enter As Dusk Falls, a new narrative adventure game from developer Interior Night. Focusing on a botched robbery in the town of Two Rock, Arizona, you play from multiple characters’ perspectives as you make decisions that dramatically alter the direction the story takes.
Interactivity is fairly limited; you don’t have any direct control of struggling father Vince, or well-meaning teen criminal Jay. In fact, characters aren’t even fully animated; the game’s art style is that of a series of hand-drawn illustrations, like a comic book come to life. All you really get to do is select dialogue options, and occasionally swipe an analog stick or tap a button to make your character throw a punch or dodge an enemy. The consequences for making a poor choice or failing a quick time event range from the insignificant to the dire; characters can die in this game, ending their stories tragically and abruptly.
As Dusk Falls is Tarantinonian in structure and subject matter, even if the tone is somewhat more straight-faced; the narrative flashes back and forth years at a time to shed more light on its characters and the events that led them to Two Rock. Decisions you make as characters in the past directly influence their present; when we first meet Vince in the ‘present day’ of 1998, it’s clear that his relationship with his wife is strained. During a flashback, though, you get to choose quite how trusting he was about texts she’s been receiving from a male colleague.
Although the pacing of the narrative becomes rushed towards the end of the game, I really enjoyed As Dusk Falls. The game doesn’t shy away from complex subject matter like poverty, infidelity, or police corruption. These themes may not be presented with breathtaking originality, but the characters feel real and human, aided by mostly excellent voice performances.
As with Boyfriend Dungeon, I played As Dusk Falls entirely via Xbox Cloud Gaming on my laptop. Being able to open up a new browser tab and instantly start playing on my lunch break was so much quicker than going upstairs and powering up my actual Xbox. Does that sound lazy? Sure, but that flexibility is one of the advantages of the Xbox ecosystem.