It’s a double feature for Game Pass this week (triples is best, we know) – Microsoft’s flagship video game subscription service that offers stonkingly good value for money. We checked out two multi-award nominees to see what all the fuss is about. Here’s what we’re playing this week:
Joe – Editor
Slay the Spire
- Playing on PC via PC Game Pass
I’m not usually a big fan of the deck-building genre. That was until I played the wonderful Inscryption last year and now it seems I’ve got the bug.
Slay the Spire is not dissimilar to Inscryption. In fact, the gameplay loop is remarkably similar to that of Inscryption’s first Act (even down to the map design). The similarities end there, though as Slay the Spire is a straight-up rogue-like deckbuilder without any of the magical meta madness. But that’s not to say it isn’t any good. It’s great. So great I’ve become addicted to sneaking in a run or two between breaks at work (if my boss is reading this, it’s good for my well-being).
Your challenge is simple – make your way up each floor of the Spire and reach the top. Of course, there are numerous baddies along your path, ready to make your life a misery. Rather than vanquishing them with a thwack of a sword, you instead battle each enemy by playing a card game. At the start of combat, you’re dealt a random selection of cards into your hand. Some cards deal damage, some boost your defences and others provide stackable buffs or de-buffs to you or your foe. You’ll need to choose carefully though; each card costs a certain amount of energy to play.
Aside from combat, your map marks other points of interest, from merchants and treasure chests to campsites and mysteries. The mystery tiles may provide you with a rare, powerful relic that boosts you throughout the run. Or instead you may be cursed by an angry statue and die whimpering in a corner. Every run layout is procedurally generated which is what makes Slay the Spire so moreish. It won’t win any awards for art design but it’ll keep you muttering ‘just one more go’ until the early hours.
Tom – Lead Writer
- Playing on Xbox Series S via Xbox Game Pass
I swore off big open world games for a while after playing through Horizon Forbidden West, probably at least until Zelda comes out. In the meantime, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up with some smaller indie games I’ve had my eye on.
Top of my list was Norco, not least because of our own Joe McKie’s glowing recommendation of it last year. It’s a point and click adventure game set in an alternate New Orleans, one ravaged by rampant industrialism and war. The mysteries and puzzles that Norco presents you with aren’t exactly brainteasers but the game’s oppressive atmosphere and lively characters more than make up for the lack of challenge. For such a grim hellhole, the world of Norco is actually quite fun to spend time in.
More to the point, Norco‘s story folds in all the big sci-fi themes that never fail to excite me. Capitalism, urban decay, religion, artificial life; Norco deftly weaves these topics into a much more personal tale about the search for answers about your dead mother’s mysterious life. It’s a story about a search for meaning in a cruel, unforgiving world. And crucially, it’s a game that you can start and finish within seven or so enjoyable hours.
Norco should still on Game Pass for another couple weeks but at around £10, I’d say it’s well worth a purchase too.