We’re finally through the hellscape that is January and the sun is starting to shine through the winter sky. The perfect time then to stay inside and play some video games! Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Tom – Lead Writer
Horizon Forbidden West
Playing on PlayStation 5
I have conquered the Forbidden West. All quests finished, all weapons and outfits unlocked, all trophies popped. I emailed a screenshot of my 100% completion screen to all the teachers who ever called me an underachiever. I called my parents and laughed through tears as I told them that they can be proud of me now. Finally, I am enough.
Clearly I liked the game, but I’m not sure if I ‘play it for 76 hours’ liked it. And yet, that’s exactly the length of time I played it for. Why? I have come to the conclusion that I have a certain sickness. An all-or-nothing attitude that caused Horizon to dominate my limited gaming time for six weeks. See, if I were going to abandon the game, it would have been within the first 10 hours. But once I got past that point, I was committed. I was going to 100% this thing, and I couldn’t have stopped myself if I’d tried.
By the final 20 hours, I listened to podcasts as I endlessly hunted machine enemies for upgrade parts. I constantly fast travelled from point to point, rather than enjoying the beautiful stretches of scenery between each location. Cutscenes were filled with characters that I was clearly supposed to be familiar with, but whom I’ couldn’t remember meeting. Was I enjoying myself? Yeah! Kind of.
I suppose my complaint is that the game is too big, too long. But that’s only half the story; a huge part of the blame lies with me. Open world games such as Horizon are like a buffet. Theoretically, you can just ignore the stuff you don’t enjoy and focus on the stuff that you do. I didn’t do that. I gorged on heaping mounds of content that I had no interest in, for no other reason than to say that I cleaned my plate. That’s my own fault.
I don’t regret my time with Horizon Forbidden West. I greatly enjoyed its story. The combat is a lot of fun. It’s visually stunning, a feast for the eyes. But the truth is that the older I get, the less time I have for gaming. Maybe I need to start thinking a bit more carefully about how I use it.
Joe – Editor
Kingdom Two Crowns
Playing on PC via Steam
Kingdom Two Crowns takes place in a medieval fantasy world, rendered in beautiful pixel-art, where the player is responsible for building and managing their own kingdom. You’ll need to manage resources, build structures, and make sure your people are happy and fed. Simple enough, right? But, as your kingdom grows, you’ll eventually face the Greed, a group of ravenous creatures that escape from their underground prison.
Each night, as darkness falls, you’ll need to defend your kingdom from the Greed, forcing you to strategically decide where best to place your defence. If you’re lucky, you might be able to defeat them before sunrise, giving you some rations as a reward. However, if they break through your defences, they’ll consume your villagers and fill up the Greed’s food bar, causing it to grow. To combat this, you’ll have to use various tactics, from placing archers on high spots to build up an area of effect attack, to sending your melee units in to take out enemies before they have a chance to attack your people.
It’s a surprisingly simple, addictive gameplay loop that’s great for a short gaming session, while also offering a lot of depth and replayability each time you return.
Shadows of Doubt (demo)
Playing on PC via Steam
In between the day job and writing up our next review, I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours perusing the fine wares on offer at the Steam Next Fest. Shadows of Doubt immediately caught my eye due to the ever-raining cyberpunk city setting and gorgeous voxel art, reminiscent of ION LANDS’ engaging, if flawed, Cloudpunk.
Unlike Cloudpunk, Shadows of Doubt is an immersive sandbox detective game set in a procedurally generated noir city. It’s certainly rough around the edges in its current state, with frequent framerate drops and bizarre AI behaviour (including an NPC chasing me around their living room with a hammer whilst hitting himself with said hammer), but there’s something really exciting about this game that has me rooting for it.
First off, you have the freedom to explore basically anywhere in the city and interact with a staggering number of items and objects. In an abandoned apartment, I pick the lock on a filing cabinet then rifle through the documents while pinning potential clues to the Clue Board menu (complete with push pins and red string to link your suspicions together). After, I scan the room for fingerprints, dig through the trash, find a set of faded initials on the back of the napkin and use the address book to locate the owner. In the 90 minutes the demo gave me, I felt well and truly immersed.
Of course, as each playthrough is procedurally generated, so too is the plot, which reduces some of the dialogue to vague one-liners that are repeated by multiple NPCs. It remains to be seen then, whether Shadows of Doubt will succeed in being a compelling immersive sim or not, but I for one am looking forward to digging through bins in the rain. Time to die.