Tom has been moonlighting as a barista this week in order to relieve the stresses of the real world. I’ve been slaying the undead in Diablo instead. Here’s what we’re playing this week:
Joe – Editor
Diablo IV (beta)
- Playing on PC via Battle.Net
As I boldly declared last June, I’d never played Diablo before until Immortal came on the scene and devoured approximately a week of my life. Since then, I’ve had an itch that only a Diablo game could scratch. I tried playing the Diablo III Starter Edition (which is free to play up to the end of Act 1), and while I had a lot of fun, the 2012 instalment is beginning to show its age.
Luckily, Blizzard threw open the doors this weekend to the early access beta of the next game in the series: Diablo IV. And boy, what a weekend I had.
Diablo IV returns to a decidedly darker Sanctuary, several decades after the event of its predecessor. Kyovashad – the capital of Fractured Peaks, the beta’s starting area – is a tangle of grimly lit, frigid streets where inhabitants pass time on their miserable existence in slum-type encampments. And in the midst of it all, as I’m roaming around like a gormless tourist, I can’t help but think how beautiful it all looks. Sure, that family seem to be living under a piece of frayed cloth but look how gorgeous the lighting is! And the texture detail? Chef’s kiss.
Of course, no Diablo game would be complete without some addictive hack-n-slash combat, which IV gladly obliges. Taking down a hoard of undead skeleton warriors with a deadly earthquake and whirlwind combo is enough to get the dopamine pumping. But unlike my previous experience of the franchise, I found myself giving a lot more thought to which skills I chose in my load out, how their effects compliment each other and how to balance longer cooldowns. I’ve never really been one to obsess over build details but it really started to click for me this weekend.
And so, like most weekends, the beta was over before it even began and now I face the week with nothing to do. Although I guess I could jump back in for the second open beta this coming weekend. The devil makes work for idle hands and all that.
Tom – Lead Writer
- Playing on Xbox Series S via Xbox Game Pass
It’s been a stressful few weeks at work (again). More than ever, I’ve found myself in need of an extremely chill game. Not mindless, per se, but something that doesn’t ask too much of me. Something where I can just sit back, rather than fully leaning in. I found that game in Coffee Talk, a visual novel and barista sim from developer Toge Productions.
Set in an alternate Seattle populated by elves and orcs and other fantasy creatures, Coffee Talk takes place entirely within your café named, uh, Coffee Talk. Open only after midnight, Coffee Talk is a haven for sleepless writers, artists and musicians, some of have a tendency to drink blood or turn into a wolf when the moon is full. You listen to their stories, ask them about their day, and occasionally serve them hot drinks.
And that’s pretty much it! There’s not an awful lot of game here. Coffee Talk is mainly made up of non-interactive dialogue; your character does speak, but you have no control over what they say. Your only choices are in what you put in your customer’s drinks. Initially they’ll tell you straight up that they want a latte or a chai tea, but soon their tastes will become far less knowable. I found myself obsessively mixing and remixing ingredients, trying to find a concoction that perfectly met the brief of ‘extra warm, less sweet, and not bitter’.
Why did I care so much about getting drinks just right? Because I came to really care about the characters of Coffee Talk. I wanted to make them happy! The game isn’t especially plot driven; it’s a more of a slice of life where you learn about these people and offer advice on their problems. There’s your most loyal customer Freya, a sparky human journalist and aspiring novelist. Lua and Baileys are star-crossed lovers navigating the prejudices of their succubus and elf families. Neil is a cheerful alien, here on Earth to study humanity and find out more about this ‘coffee’ thing that they’re so obsessed with. All of these characters feel rounded and warm, and they’re a pleasure to spend time with.
Coffee Talk doesn’t boast the most riveting narrative or deep gameplay, but it offers a relaxing few hours with charming characters, set to an excellent chillhop soundtrack. It’s a steaming mug of hot chocolate; its flavours may not be rich or intricate, but it’s warm and comforting. It turns out that a mug of hot chocolate is exactly what I needed this week. After all, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.