So recently I’ve been playing Sunset Overdrive, a game I have been itching to play since the early days of the Xbox One. Well, it finally made its way to PC and I finally had a bit of money to spend on it. The core concept of the game is that the launch of a new energy drink has caused people who drink it to turn into mutants who run amok through the city. FizzCo, the company who sells the energy drink, puts the city on lockdown and hides the drink’s failure from the rest of the world. FizzCo also sends robots into the city to clean up the evidence, i.e. any survivors. That’s a lot of power for a corporation to hold over an entire city. So I started thinking about evil corporations in games, especially when these games are made under publishers who do some dirty things in the name of making more money.
Bandits are a staple of fantasy. Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, Fable, Dungeons and Dragons. All these games feature bandits in some capacity. If we look beyond the fantasy genre, Red Dead Redemption and Sunset Overdrive also feature bandits. Bandits tend to low-level enemies. They wear cobbled together armour and usually carry basic weapons. Every now and then, you might encounter one who has a magic item. Usually, more powerful bandits are chiefs or captains. Most bandits are aggressive on sight. However, do we ever really stop to consider the bandit? Why are they there? What are they doing?
Depending on how you came to this piece, you may or may not be familiar with Critical Role. So, I’ll explain all this briefly. Dungeons and Dragons, let’s start there. Tabletop roleplaying game. Started in the 70s, big in the 80s, satanic panic, and so on. In 2013, Wizards of the Coast who own D&D released the 5th Edition of the game. Generally, editions are like sequels in games. They iterate in their own way with specific goals in mind. People still enjoy the previous entries and may prefer them. Based on comments by the design team of this edition it seems the purpose of this version of the game was to be welcoming enough for new players and robust enough for veterans. So, how does this relate to Critical Role?
Critical Role is a weekly live stream on Twitch where, as Matt Mercer explains, “a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons”. The show started in 2015 and has been running ever since. Critical is perhaps the most popular live play of Dungeons and Dragons. Between the accessibility of 5th edition and the eminently watchable nature of Critical Role, many new people have been exposed to Dungeons and Dragons through this show and other shows like it, including me. Now, as part of this, some online discourse has held Matt Mercer up as the DM standard that people are compared to. So, let’s look at this comparison.
This year when it comes to picking the best game of the year, I have one major thought running through my head. Why did I trade my PS4 in for a Wii U all those years ago? Another thought ran through my head? Can I include something that isn’t a video game? Why not, right? It’s my list. Writing these lists it has occurred to me how little media I consume compared with critics in these respective areas. However, I’m not a critic. I consume media just the same as anyone else and that perspective is still valid.
I’ve been playing a lot of Civilization VI recently. Civ VI just recently announced its second large expansion for the game. Since Civ IV, each entry in the series has had two major expansions. So, what did Civ VI’s two expansions bring to this entry in the series? The first expansion is known as Rise and Fall and added two major game systems to play with. City Loyalty, which means that cities who become unhappy will rebel and become free cities. After that, they can be reconquered or succumb to foreign influence. The second mechanic is ages. Depending on your achievements within a historical era will determine positive or negative effects on your nation’s growth. So Rise and Fall is all about the internal struggles of a civilisation, obliquely about those who live under the rule of an empire. The second big update, known as Gathering Storm Gathering Storm makes the world more alive with natural disasters affecting your civilization. So, first I want to look at what that could mean for the series and then look at who has been invited for the latest entry in the series.
With Red Dead Redemption 2 coming out recently and with me not having any of the consoles it released on, I decided to revisit its predecessor. Red Dead Redemption is a notable game for me. It’s the first Rockstar game I played to completion. My strongest memory in the game was travelling across the border and riding into Mexico for the first time. I distinctly remember riding my horse to reunite John with his family and as the mournful song played, I got mauled by a cougar and my horse died. So how does it feel returning to this game eight years later?
I realise I’m behind the times on this particular story. Surely all the hot takes have been said. So, if you’re not aware, I’ll update you quickly. Earlier this month, Blizzard who is known for games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch had their annual event known as BlizzCon. BlizzCon usually begins with an opening ceremony where new developments at the company are announced. At this year’s BlizzCon they had a couple things of note such as a new Overwatch hero and a remaster of Warcraft 3. However, they decided to end this press conference with an announcement of mobile game Diablo Immortal. There was a prompt backlash and I want to talk about it.
So recently I’ve been revisiting films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Looking back at them I discovered some interesting details about how the world has changed, how I’ve changed, and how the work reflects the world that was to come. Now, I’m looking back at entries in the Assassin’s Creed series. This might seem like an odd choice. My previous versions of this format were revisiting the red-headed step-children of the largest media franchise in the world at the moment. Assassin’s Creed is probably notable for being a consistent AAA franchise in the gaming landscape. It might not the biggest in the market but it takes up a certain amount of real estate in the gaming space. So, without further ado, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
Depending on your familiarity with the Mario series cast of characters, you may be familiar with the character of Waluigi. Waluigi is essentially a dark mirror version of Luigi, like Wario is to Mario. It would be incorrect to call either of these characters villains as aside from Wario’s first appearance, they’re not antagonists to the Mario brothers. In fact, while Wario has appeared in the main series, Waluigi has never featured in any mainline games. So, why am I talking about Waluigi today? So there’s a new Super Smash Bros. game that boasts that everyone is here. Now there has been a group of fans who think that someone has been missed in this roster of ‘everyone’. There has been vocal support for Waluigi to appear in Smash including a group of cosplayers at last weekend’s PAX AUS. So, considering the love for Waluigi, I wanted to consider why this character is the cult classic of the Nintendo world.
So recently I’ve been playing Just Cause 3. Just Cause 3 concerns Rico Rodriguez who can best be described as a dictator destroyer employed by the CIA-esque Agency. The third entry in the series has Rico returning to his archipelago home, Medici. Playing this game reminded me of another series that takes place across an archipelago, Far Cry. Thinking about it, I was interested to look at each series as the core conceit of both games is that you are dropped into an area controlled by a central villain and you must overthrow them. Through this, you find yourself shooting down hordes of enemies. During Far Cry 3, I found myself worried that the main antagonism centred on a white guy being dumped into a foreign nation and shooting all the brown people. The premise sounded like a bad film like No Escape or American Sniper. So, how true is that fear about the two game franchises?