There are many different ways to play games. Some people hop from game to game as if they were at a buffet and starving. “I’ll try a little of this and a little of that, and, ooooooh! Give me some of that!” They play the game until they either get sick of it or they finish it, then they put it away and never think of it again. I’m pretty sure games journalist especially have to operate in this manner. Knowing a games journalist, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to game just for fun when he has to do it for his job on a daily basis.
I have a vastly different style when it comes to gaming. I’ve said this about my mindset towards pop culture in general, and it holds especially true when it comes to video games–I don’t cast my net very wide because I’m very certain about what I don’t like. When it comes to video games, I don’t like multis, RTS, FPS (though that’s more because of nausea, not the actual gameplay), bullet hells, platformers, 4X, and anything that calls itself “_____core” without a hint of irony. I hate JRPG, dating sims, survival, and most horror. I really want to like adventure games because they are more story driven, but I just…don’t. I hate all the ridiculous contrivances of the genre, such as combining a stick, a piece of lint, and a teddy bear to make a key*.
What do I like when it comes to gaming? That’s harder to define because I don’t tend to like genres in general, and it’s difficult to know what game is going to click with me. The first game I played for realsies was Pitfall when I was a kid. Then, Ms. Pac-Man as a teen. Then, while dating a guy who liked arcades, I got hooked on Time Crisis II and barked at him to get me more quarters as I finished it in one go. That was in my late twenties, and I didn’t touch a ‘hardcore’ game again for roughly fifteen years.
Once I did, however, I started playing a weird range of games. The first was Torchlight at the suggestion of Ian, and I immediately fell in love with the game. I loved that the protagonist was a woman who looked Asian if you squinted, and I loved all the dungeon crawling. I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, and I’m one of the very few who thinks it’s a better game than the sequel. Diablo III was next, and I played the fuck out of it. I reached Paragon with my Demon Hunter, and I’ve dipped my toe back in that particular river from time to time as they add to it. Borderlands (the original and II) was next, and I glutted myself on it. Playing them back to back with all the DLCs is not recommended, and I was thoroughly sick of it by the time I tried Pre-sequel, which I did not finish. I only played a few hours before I realized I thought it was crap (and not just because I had put hundreds of hours into I and II, and was sick of the formula).
Some of the other games I’ve really enjoyed: Path of Exile (beta. I fell off it once I realized I’d have to start over), Cook, Serve, Delicious (and sequel), The Sexy Brutale, Nuclear Throne, Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Night in the Woods, Dead Cells, and, of course, the Soulsborne games.
What do they all have in common? Hell if I know. I will say that once I played Dark Souls, it’s been nearly impossible to return to hack-and-slash games. I don’t have to have combat in a game, but if it’s there, it has to be meaningful, apparently. There’s a bit in one of the Prepare to Try videos (the secrets video, I think) in which Rory says, “Imagine if Dark Souls was the first game you played. It would blow your tiny mind. You wouldn’t be able to play any other game.” He was joking, but I feel as if it’s true. There are so many games that when I’m playing them, I’m like, “I could be playing Dark Souls right now.” That’s pretty much my metric for a game–would I rather be playing Dark Souls?
I play the hell out of each game I play. I wring every ounce of content out of it, and then I squeeze it some more. I would rather play three games a year that I really like than a couple dozen that I’m meh about. To that end, there are three games this year that fit the bill, and in this third and final post about my games from 2018, here they are in no particular order.
The best game that I wasn’t good enough to finish
This is a repeat category from last year (Hollow Knight won that year), and I have a hunch I will be able to fill this category every year. This year’s winner really makes me sad because it’s a fucking amazing game. It’s been described as BOI crossed with Dark Souls, and that’s not completely off the mark. It’s a rogue-like/lite that changes every run, and there are upgrades you get to keep from run to run, which means you don’t feel as if you’re starting over from scratch every single time.
On the Dark Souls side, the combat is thoughtful and deliberate (though at a much quicker pace), and the exploration of gorgeous levels is almost on par with the original Dark Souls. The game is incredible to look at. Each area has a distinct style to it, and it’s all dripping in moody atmosphere. It’s brightly-colored for the most part, which is in direct contrast to the dire situation. There are moments of humor as well, like when your silent character gives the finger to a cranky NPC. Also on the Dark Souls side–secrets! There are a ton of them, and it’s so cool to uncover them for myself. I did read about some of them, but I did find a fair few myself.
I love everything about this game except one thing, and it’s a big exception. I can’t beat the final boss.** I hate the whole area he’s in, and he goes against everything I’ve learned in the game thus far. Most of the game feels as if you can play it in several different ways, depending on your playstyle. I tend to like freeze items and high damage with my weapon. I buff my health as much as possible with as much damage reduction as possible, and I make sure that the cooldown on my ice items is as minimal as possible. All of this works like a dream for the rest of the game, but the minute I step in the castle, I’m toast. Look. I’m old. My reflexes are not those of a twenty year old. The ice items help mitigate this factor, but once I’m in the castle, it doesn’t matter. I can’t kill the enemies in the amount of freeze time I have, so I end up fleeing from most of them. Then, the final boss himself, well, he doesn’t react to being frozen. At all. Once I reach him, I feel as if I’m playing a completely different game.
Part of the problem is that you have to play the whole game to reach him. That means I can put in an hour, only to die in fifteen seconds (maybe a minute if I’m lucky). On my BEST run, I had 80% damage reduction (I think that’s the highest amount you can get), and I only got him down to a quarter of his health. I gave up on this game, reluctantly, and tried it again when it was actually released. Couldn’t get past the final boss and quit again. there’s been another massive update, so I might try it again, but not being able to get past the final boss just drains all my enthusiasm for the game.
Despite this, I can wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend this game if you like rogue-like/lite and/or Souls games. Plus, Motion Twin, the devs, is a totally egalitarian game studio. Everyone gets the same cut of the profits (including bonuses), and they all discuss every aspect of the game. They say it’s may not be viable for a bigger company, but it works for them. I can heartily support them.
The game that took over my life for four months without me even realizing it
Monster Hunter: World
I had much trepidation when I started Monster Hunter: World because I tried and hated Monster Hunter mumble mumble mumble on the 3DS. My eye is twitching as I think about it. From the way it hurt my hands and eyes to how bewildering it all seemed when I tried it, I consider it one of my worst gaming experiences. I hated chasing a monster from region to region, trying to throw a paintball on it (and missing). I loathed the egg quests because it was so easy to break the egg as you carried it. The weapons tutorials were a joke, and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing when I went out on my first hunt. What made me chuck the game aside, however, was on of the interminable fetch quests. I think it was some kind of crystal, and you had to gather three of them. Now, the game doesn’t tell you where they are (which is in MHW as well. You don’t get a marking for it on your map until you find it the first time. But at least there’s a freaking map in MHW!), and I ran all frantically trying to find them. It’s a fifty-minute quest, and I found the third one with about thirty seconds left. Great, right? No. You had to bring it back to the camp and deposit it in the supply box. I walked as fast as I could (which wasn’t fast), but I missed getting back to camp by about fifteen seconds.
That did it. I was done. I couldn’t imagine playing that game for one minute more, and I put Monster Hunter games in the “I don’t play these games” category. Until Monster Hunter: World was announced for the PC. Hello, CapCom. You have my attention! The console version was released many many months before the PC version, and I kind of forgot about it in the meantime. I was so hyped when it was released, and then that all fizzled out by the time the PC version was released in August.
I resisted for a week or so, but then I gave in. I needed a game, and I decided to give it a whirl. Yes, I knew the combat was supposed to be difficult, but if I could handle Dark Souls‘ combat, then I could handle MHW‘s, right? I was not sure I could kill the monsters because their deaths were too realistic, and that really was the sticking point for me in diving into this game. I hated seeing the monsters die in the videos I watched, especially when they got ganked by a team of four. I will say that it’s different when I’m actually fighting the monsters, but there are still a few I hate killing because of how pathetic they become as they die.
I hopped into the game with more knowledge than I normally would of a new game. I knew the tutorials were crap (better than they have been in the past, but still not great), and I wanted to give myself a good chance at actually liking the game. I tried all the weapons more than once before settling on the Switch Axe, the Charge Blade, and the Insect Glaive. The first was my main with the other two being backups. I am an axe gal through and through ever since Dark Souls (the original) because the Pyromancer starts with the Hand Axe.
I can hear you saying, “Minna. You say you don’t like multiplayer. Monster Hunter: World is multiplayer. What is up with that?” It is true that I don’t like multi in general. I do not play nicely with others in part because I have trust issues. Also, I think I can do it better on my own. Anyhoo. I did all the storyline quests solo. I made it my own personal rule that the first time I fought a monster, it would be solo. Then, I wouldn’t care if I did it multi or not. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the multi aspect of the game. A lot. I am a healer type, so most of my multi loadouts have Wide-Range Level 5 after realizing that only one or two levels doesn’t really help that much. I try to throw in Speed Eating when I can, but it’s not always viable.
This game is by no means perfect. There are things about it that frustrate me, but it’s so much goddamn fun. At least throughout the storyline quests. The story, by the way, is bollocks. It’s serviceable, but nothing more than that. The Seeker is my new vidya game boo, though. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.
I went in with reservations given my horrible experience on the 3DS, and I was pleasantly surprised at how engrossed by MHW I quickly became. There is a steep learning curve, and I felt as if i were thrown into the deep end, but I didn’t ever get too frustrated. It’s funny. I had heard how difficult the combat was, but it’s not nearly as hard as Dark Souls is. By the way, the tail-cutting in Dark Souls is an homage to Monster Hunter, apparently. I would love to see a crossover of MH and DS.
One of the great things about MHW is that CapCom keeps adding events to draw you back in. Another of my vidya game boos, Geralt of Rivia, is going to show up in early 2019–and how perfect is that?!?–and there will be a huge expansion called Iceborne in late 2019. I’ve stopped playing in the past few weeks, only to return for the specific events, but I do not regret my time with it at all. I’m still not as skillful as many hardcore players, but I have a good time with my Switch Axe. That’s really all I can ask for.
This is getting long, and I still have one more game to cover. I will publish a bonus post tomorrow for this one game because I feel it needs it. Until then, cheers!
*No, that’s not an actual example, but it’s not far off, either.
**There is a lot more content after the ‘final’ boss, but I mean the final boss of the game as I know it.