Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna DLC for PS4, PC, OS X, Linux and Android

As soon as I finished The Talos Principle I jumped into Road to Gehenna, the DLC. Although I was only able to complete about three of this expansion’s couple dozen puzzles without a guide, the story and some interesting interactions made this experience worthwhile for me.

Road to Gehenna sees you playing as Uriel, a much more defined character than in the main game. With the artificial construct in which they reside falling apart, Elohim, filled with regret over his actions, sends Uriel to rescue a group of intelligences he had banished due to their questioning nature and willingness to challenge his word. Uriel arrives in this section of the construct and finds that the minds there have, through their terminals, created Gehenna, a platform to allow them to share their works of art and form a community. This creation has staved off the madness of boredom for the AIs residing there, but Gehenna isn’t quite as utopian as it seems.

Gehenna is a pretty fascinating concept and the game does a pretty great job of imagining the kind of art that would be created by minds with all the empathy and intelligence of humans but none of the real world experience. As with the main game, most of the story is told through terminals as you gradually find yourself rising through the community of Gehenna. The whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as a much nicer, more meaningful reddit. The different minds have clearly defined personalities and watching them react to your arrival is pretty interesting. Probably my favourite part of the DLC were a couple of short text adventures which appear on the Gehenna terminal, all of which generally stand in as a metaphor for what is going on around you in the meta story. Road to Gehenna doesn’t quite have the same broad scope of philosophical thought that is seen in the main game but is instead more focused, primarily upon the idea of art and creation and, perhaps, their role in the age of reddit and content aggregation. I liked the story of Road to Gehenna just as much as I liked the story in the main game.

The puzzles are presumably not impossible, but to one with my mental capabilities they really were. I found almost all of them insanely difficult and unfortunately had to spend almost the entire thing following guides. It’s hard to blame the game for this to be fair and it didn’t actually impact my enjoyment as much as you’d expect. I’m still not going to talk too much about his element of the game because I don’t have a huge amount to say. They seem like they’re well designed but to be honest I can’t really tell. The environments still look nice, although they’re mostly recycled from the main game.

It’s pretty crazy that, despite not really engaging with the entire core mechanics of this DLC, I still liked it as much as I did. It shows that, for me at least, good world building conquers all in my enjoyment of a game. Road to Gehenna is a worthy addition to an already great game.

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The Talos Principle for PS4, PC, OS X, Linux and Android

I picked The Talos Principle because I had nothing to play and just looked at the Metacritic top rated PS4 games and went with the first one I hadn’t played. I was initially worried that the puzzles would hit a difficulty wall which would just infuriate me and well…it did, but despite me being an idiot and relying on guides for the final quarter the interesting story and unique way it is told carried me through.

At the start of The Talos Principle you awaken with no memories in a beautiful garden filled with decaying Grecian architecture and art, when a booming God-like voice identifying itself as Elohim tasks you with completing a series of puzzles to ascend and join him. When you first reach a computer terminal and see your robotic hands, it becomes very clear that this is not a story to take at face value. Elohim isn’t the only person communicating with you, dotted terminals scattered around the world drop hints about the nature of the world you inhabit, whilst an AI masquerading as a library assistant program hides out from Elohim and fills your head with thoughts of rebellion. At the centre of the world there is a tower which Elohim forbids you to climb but…that’s not going to stop you is it?

The Talos Principle is a game with extremely lofty narrative ambitions and genuinely hits almost all of them. It’s very concerned with philosophy, specifically the point where philosophy and technology intersect. If The Talos Principle can be said to have a central argument, it is that the musings of the great philosophers about the nature of humanity are in fact more relevant in our technologically advanced world rather than less. Artificial consciousness raises the question of the soul and the right for humans to assume dominance over other intelligences. Compared to something like the recent Deus Ex games, which explore similar themes with all the subtlety of a claymore, The Talos Principle takes a musing and thoughtful approach and doesn’t offer any answers. The most interesting parts of the game are your discussions with the library AI Milton, who questions you about your assumptions about the world and relentlessly challenges you on every point you make. It’s not a conversation, obviously, but it does sort of feel like one. If you’ve ever got into an argument with someone and realised half way through that there’s no way you can win because your opponent just knows more than you, you’ll know what talking with Milton feels like. If any criticism can be given it is that the gameplay and narrative don’t necessarily feel particularly well entwined, but the two separate elements are so strong individually it’s hard to be too upset by this.

So, the puzzles. There are dozens of them and all see you collecting little Tetris pieces called sigils which are put together into keys to unlock new areas or give access to new tools. The satisfaction of completing a puzzle and unlocking a new area is really lovely. The puzzles themselves are largely based around energy gates which must be kept open a variety of ways, from simple pressure pads to jammers to guiding lasers onto panels. By the end you have around six items available for use in the puzzles and it gets properly, ridiculously, difficult. The satisfaction of success is massive though, from creating a complex laser grids to using items in a less obvious, more ‘outside the box’ way. The game forces you to consider every use for your items; to give a simple example, just because your item is for channelling a laser beam doesn’t mean it can’t weigh down a pressure plate and maybe channel a laser at the same time. The Talos Principle forces you to consider your environment in a way I hadn’t really done since Portal 2; in fact, this game has a fair bit in common with Portal, perhaps with a dash of Myst thrown in. The mechanic which caused me the most grief was one which lets you create time loops to duplicate items for a short amount of time. It’s almost as difficult to explain as it was to use and I felt my heart sink every time I walked into a puzzle and saw the time loop machine there.

Alongside the main sigils are bonus stars which can unlock a new ending. If you thought the main puzzles were obscure these are ridiculous. As intricate and clever as the main puzzles are, they do at least simply require you to work within the individual puzzle room. Some of the stars actually force you to cleverly use elements from other rooms. I only picked up three on my first playthrough and the thought of how long it would take me to get the rest makes me feel a little sick. Still, I massively appreciated the way the game offers extra challenge without the blunt tool of different difficulty modes. I got a very reasonable amount of time out of this game but some people will get dozens and dozens of hours trying to get all those stars.

As much as I liked it, by the end I hit an intelligence wall and found myself grinding to a frustrating stop with every puzzle. This isn’t really the game’s fault though and I still found myself persevering with guides to follow to the end of the story which, by this point, I was pretty in to. I liked The Talos Principle a lot and it still probably isn’t my sort of thing; if you’re majorly into puzzle games I’d imagine that this one would be unmissable.

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The Churn by James S A Corey

I’m about to catch up with The Expanse novels so warmed myself up with another one of the novellas.  This one is easily the most grounded and least ‘sci-fi’ so far. I didn’t like it quite as much as the Martian set Gods of Risk, but The Churn is nonetheless a pretty interesting insight into one of the most interesting but dangerous characters in the series; Amos Burton.

The Churn is a prequel, taking place in Baltimore prior to Burton’s first trip into space and, eventually, to the Canterbury. At this point, Burton is a gang leader with a ruthless reputation. The story primarily follows Timmy, an enforcer for Burton who at the beginning of the story is pulled up for misinterpreting an order and killing someone he was meant to be extorting. Baltimore frequently goes through what the locals call the churn, a police crackdown on crime in the city, so the private contractors Star Helix are bought in to overturn the tables on the gang, throwing Timmy into danger.

Although this is a story set in the future, The Churn’s Baltimore doesn’t feel a million miles away from where we are now. It captures rather nicely a divide between the rich and poor; the science fiction excitement available for some doesn’t amount to much for the penniless down in Baltimore. There’s a greater sense of authorial intrusion in The Churn, with a tone which feels markedly different to anything else I’ve read so far in The Expanse. It’s a neat little experiment. Obviously the main draw of this is to get a feel for the origin of Amos, always my favourite of the Rocinante crew. It’s interesting and well-handled and is easily our closest examination yet of a character who’s often been something of a cipher.

The Churn doesn’t necessarily feel ‘essential’ in any way, but it’s a good read and one which fans of Amos should definitely give a go.

 

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

This is a book I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. I heard loads of good things and I’ve always really liked Anders’ writing on i09, but ultimately this was a book I found more irritating than anything else.

Patricia is a strange young woman with a sadistic older sister and workaholic parents who stumbles across a strange destiny as a witch, able to talk to animals and commune with ancient spirits. Meanwhile, Laurence is a technological genius who is ruthlessly bullied at school, desperate to escape the humdrum world within which he is trapped. Although both in very different ways, Patricia and Laurence are outsiders and find themselves drawn to each other. This story jumps from childhood to adulthood as the two explore through their relationship the contradictions, and perhaps symbiosis, of science and magic.

I’m a huge huge fan of stories which merge science fiction and magic but despite that it is very rarely done well. China Miéville’s Bas-Lag books would be an example of this done right. All the Birds in the Sky ends up making many of the same mistakes as other authors and in the end winds up mostly being an inferior take on Neil Gaiman. The premise is good, but the whole thing can just get insufferably twee. I know Anders used to run a leading science fiction and pop culture website, but some of the references are so annoying. There’s a Doctor Who ‘timey-wimey’ joke that made me want to tear out my own eyes with rage. I don’t mind pop culture references, but we end up with the classic problem of characters who are constantly busy and talented and always working but are somehow also pop culture literate enough to drop Firefly references at the drop of a hat.

By far the best chapters of the book are the earlier ones, where we first meet Patricia and Laurence as kids. There’s something hugely sweet and endearing about a future witch and future mad scientist awkwardly building a friendship, but the switch to an adult perspective shatters this. I wonder if keeping the protagonists as children would have made a better story because adult Patricia and Laurence are never anywhere near as engaging as angry teenager Patricia and Laurence. The pacing veers widely off track towards the end; the early chapters are a bit slower but give us time to appreciate the characters and little, charming moments which allow us to form a connection to the characters. Events move so ridiculously quickly in the final quarter of the book that it’s difficult to form a real connection to any of it. People complain, myself included, about bloated genre fiction, but there’s a reason that genre fiction tends to be longer than other novels and that is the time needed to give to good worldbuilding. All the Birds in the Sky essentially abandons world building in the pursuit of character and theme; that’s fine, lots of great genre writing does that, think of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, but the characters are not particularly interesting and the themes muddled.

The frustrating thing is that there are moments of greatness. Theodolphus Rose, a precognitive assassin sent to kill Patricia and Laurence as children, is incredibly funny and interesting too, but this promising storyline just sort of fizzles out as the novel progresses. There’s something almost Roald Dahl-esque about the awful childhoods of Patricia and Laurence, with a balance between genuine horror at what they’re going through and a dark comedy at just how nasty it gets.

All the Birds in the Sky is an ambitious novel with lots of great ideas which simply fails to coalesce into anything particularly special. As I said at the top I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t force myself to. I’m still going to keep an eye on Anders though, there’s clearly potential here.

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Journey for PS4 and PS3

I played Journey expecting to be unmoved. Journey is so discussed and loved that I expected my reaction to be too tempered by the weight of expectation. After hearing so much about this game, how could I be expected to have a genuine emotional response? I severely underestimated my capacity to be a sentimental idiot; I cried three times. Rather than a normal review, I’m going to talk about the three moments where Journey made me cry.

Many people reading this will know that Journey is a game where you play a robed figure moving through a desert towards a mountain. The environments are beyond gorgeous, with the rolling sands reminding me of the Great Sea from Wind Waker. You’ll mostly be running and jumping, but occasionally you’ll be sliding through the sands and it was during one of these moments that I cried for the first time. As you slide down the sands through a strange ruin, the sun sets and casts the sand beneath your feet into a million tiny pieces of iridescent gold. The game lingers on this moment and it was so utterly beautiful that I found myself moved to tears.

Another of the famous features of Journey is the interesting multiplayer. As you travel, another player will join you, one at a time. They’re not identified in any way and you cannot communicate by traditional means. In a mechanic so clever I’ll be raving about it for years, you cannot simply jump whenever you want. You can awaken things in the environment which allow you to jump but you can also use this same power to allow your companion to jump and fly; they in turn can do the same for you. If two players are in synch they can support each other as they fly perpetually through the environments. There is no gameplay advantage to this; the game can be played offline with only one player, but that’s exactly the point. The feeling of two unknowable strangers coordinating simply for the sheer joy of flight was so delightful that it reduced me to tears for the second time.

The final time I cried was probably the most personal. I’m sure there are myriad ways to interpret Journey, but I couldn’t help but see it as being a trek through a sort of purgatory, a final trial before a great reward. At the end, when your character ascends the mountain and vanishes into the light I found myself crying for the people in my life who have passed on. It’s a beautiful and melancholy ending to an intensely emotional game.

Journey is a game which I imagine will mean a lot of different things for different people and I think there’ll be a lot of discussion for a long time. But that’s what art is for right? Because make no mistake, this is art. Journey was this month’s PS+ game, so if you own a Playstation you almost certainly have access to this now. Play it.

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The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

After finishing the final DLC for The Witcher 3 I’ve been a little bereft. I love this world and these characters and wanted to see them again. Thankfully, the games are sequels to a well-regarded Polish book series so there were plenty more adventures for me to read about so I can continue hanging out with Geralt, who I’ve decided is one of my favourite game characters of all time.

The Last Wish is a collection of early short stories wrapped up in a frame narrative where a wounded Geralt recuperates at a temple, offending the locals and sleeping with the priestesses in classic Geralt fashion. The first story is simply titled The Witcher and follows Geralt’s dealing with a striga, who is the miscarried daughter of the Temerian King Foltest. Reading this I was immediately struck by how well CD Projekt captured the writing in their Witcher games; the structure of the story is remarkably similar to a quest in the games and even contains moments reflected in the mechanics of the games, such as brewing potions, oiling swords and meditating. It’s a good story and a solid introduction to the world and character of Geralt, but it wasn’t my favourite of the collection. The following story, A Grain of Truth, is a darkly funny twist on Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed the slightly sardonic tone of this one, which sees Geralt finding a man cursed to appear as a hideous beast alone in a ramshackle mansion.

The third story, The Lesser Evil, bore many similarities to the recent Blood and Wine expansion, dealing with a young woman who has been born under the ‘Curse of the Black Sun’ aka born during an eclipse. Women born during these times are shunned and brutally treated, with their following behaviour being taken as evidence of their inherent wickedness. This story is an interesting meditation on nature vs nurture and the right of a person to determine ‘the lesser of two evils.’ It also takes place in a village called Blaviken, which will immediately draw the attention of fans of the games. A Matter of Price takes place in the court of Cintra under Queen Calanthe, who has summoned Geralt incognito for mysterious reasons. This story is concerned with the Law of Surprise, whereby a firstborn child can be taken as a reward for saving a man’s life. It’s an interesting concept which is very important to the series. This is an enjoyable story, but it’s static setting makes it not feel quite as entertaining as some of the others.

The Edge of the World introduces Dandelion, who fans of the game will remember as a lascivious troubadour and musician and one of Geralt’s best friend. In search of work, Geralt and Dandelion have travelled to very edge of the civilised world and find themselves in the midst of an odd conflict between a farming community and a ‘devil’ that lives in their fields. This story has a clear message about the narrative of civilisation conquering the wild and works as one of the most successful allegorical pieces of the story. People often talk about science fiction being held up as a mirror to the world, but fantasy can do it just as well. With these stories, this seems to be Sapkowski’s main ambition. The final story is the titular The Last Wish and introduces us to Yennefer of Vengerberg, and tells us how she and Geralt came to be bound together. The tempestuous relationship between these two is joyful to read and seeing how it all came together is really enjoyable. The collection is held together, as with the games, by Geralt, who I love just as much here as I did in the games. The generally stoic man who occasionally lapses into sarcasm or launches into flights of passion is seen clearly here.

I really enjoyed The Last Wish and found that it definitely scratched the itch I have for this setting. I’m really looking forward to reading more!lastwish

 

Inside for PS4, Xbox One and PC

I never really liked Limbo as much as a lot of other people. It was quite atmospheric, but I found the core mechanics irritating and the overall sense of place a bit repetitive. Playdead’s follow-up, Inside, is visibly a successor to Limbo; this is evident within seconds, but it follows through on the promise of their earlier game and delivers a much better experience which stands as one of the most unsettling and thought provoking games I’ve played in a while.

As with Limbo, Inside begins with a young boy running to the right through a forest, evading capture but unknown pursuers. I’m not going to say a single word more as this is a story you want to go into as unspoiled as possible. I will say that there is a story which is much clearer than Limbo; by the end I think I’d worked out what had actually happened, but I was left trying to work out what it all meant. I preferred the slightly heavier story approach in Inside, although it is naturally all told with no dialogue and entirely through the environments. With a very limited tool set, Playdead have created a fascinating setting and a truly haunting narrative.

Inside has similar core mechanics to Limbo, but everything is a fair bit smoother. There’s a far greater variety in gameplay mechanics, with some clever little puzzles. None of them are particularly hard, but they’re well designed enough to be quite satisfying and I rarely felt frustrated. Inside shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours, but the interesting ideas present in those hours are numerous. I found Limbo’s gameplay irritating and repetitive by the end, but Inside never lets you get to that point; just when one idea seems to have run its course something else comes in. Again, I would normally talk some specifics here, but the sense of mystery about what’s going to come next is such a big part of Inside’s appeal.

Inside definitely has a moody aesthetic, but it is more varied and interesting than the monochrome Limbo. Inside dwells much more in greys and muted blues and the world is much more detailed; I actually found the detail creepier than the more minimalist style of Limbo. There is a huge amount of attention to detail in the presentation; the ways some figures in the game move is so unsettling I just can’t quite get it out of my head. The sound design is just as excellent as the visuals. Inside is a short experience, but a meticulous one, where it is clear that every second has been given rigorous attention to make sure that the experience is as effective as possible.

Just when I thought I was done with the moody indie platformer along comes possibly the best one ever made. Inside is an effecting, melancholy and unsettling experience and I highly recommend you go forth and play it immediately.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for PS4, Xbox One and PC

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a strong release surrounded by little irritations. On a mechanical and level design basis this is possibly the best that Deus Ex has ever been, but in many other ways it’s hard not to feel that Mankind Divided is a bit lacking, holding far too much back for a sequel or, worse, DLC.

Mankind Divided takes place a couple of years after Human Revolution, with our reluctant augmented hero Adam Jensen now working for Interpol in Prague. However, he is a double agent, also working for the hacker group known as The Juggernaut Collective who seek to expose the Illuminati Jensen discovered in Human Revolution. The Incident of two years before, where every augmented person in the world was thrown into a murderous rage by a force beyond their control, has left a world deeply distrustful of augs, with Prague being among the most repressive places, descending into a police state. A run in with a mysterious group of mercenaries in Dubai and a terrorist attack on a train station sees Jensen thrown back into the fray, with the future of all augmented people at stake.

I’ll say this for Mankind Divided’s story; it is ambitious. Much has been made of this games politics and the controversial adoption of the language of Black Lives Matter and apartheid, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in using science fiction to hold a mirror up to the world; arguably that’s what sci-fi is for. That said, Deus Ex pretty much completely bungles its lofty aims. There is a clear attempt to make the player understand what it means to be an oppressed person; as you wander the streets you’ll suffer many slights such as abuse in the street, police harassment and ‘aug only’ train carriages. The latter is really interestingly handled because your HUD always leads you onto these carriages, although you can just choose to get onto the ‘normal’ carriages anyway. Having the actual HUD conspire in the oppression is really interesting, but the clever handling of this situation pretty much begins and ends there. The big problem is Jensen himself. I’m a straight white male living in the West, I don’t know what oppression feels like. I can hazard a guess however that it doesn’t feel like being a heavily armed cyborg killing machine. Deus Ex plays into being a power fantasy; getting stronger and stronger as Jensen is very satisfying, but this runs directly counter to the feeling of oppression we’re clearly meant to experience. This makes the whole thing seem shallow and very surface level. However, before I lay into this game too much I do want to say that I like that they tried to do more with the AAA narrative, a space which seems determined to be as apolitical as possible even whilst pumping out extremely political games like Call of Duty.

Unfortunately, the narrative problems with Mankind Divided don’t end there. Put simply, this game doesn’t really have an ending. A conspiracy is hinted at but very little is revealed. There are several plot threads which just drop off, either for a sequel or for DLC. There is nothing wrong with teasing a sequel, but the story presented must in itself be satisfying. Serialised storytelling works for TV shows where you have a new episode every week, but for games which may have a 2-4 year gap between them it just doesn’t work. The consequences of your choices are handled in an almost hilariously poor fashion, with a TV presenter literally talking to the camera for five minutes explaining all of your choices and then a cut to credits. I could not believe it. There is good stuff here, particularly in some interesting side quests, but Mankind Divided is left feeling like a transitioning story between the globetrotting grandeur of Human Revolution and a larger scale sequel in the future, but not memorable in its own right.

Thankfully, the actual minute to minute gameplay of Mankind Divided is superb. Although I’m sure it’s possible to play this game as a guns blazing killing machine, I played as a stealthy hacker type and this remains hugely satisfying. Jensen feels comfortable to control in a way he didn’t in Human Revolution. The augmentations from the previous game return; you have the classic Mega Man/Metroid problem of losing all your upgrades at the beginning, but for whatever reason it didn’t feel too irritating to me. You also have a whole load of new augmentations, a lot of which are aggressive and murder-y and so didn’t really suit my playstyle. I really only used remote hacking, which is really useful and a paralysing laser beam thing which suited my non-lethal ways. The dreaded outsourced boss fights from the last game are thankfully gone. In fact, Mankind Divided only contains one boss fight which is hilariously easy. I don’t think this is a series which needs boss fights at all; if given the option I always talked myself out of any situation anyway.

Mankind Divided is a much more focused game than its predecessors, which generally featured a couple of hubs. Prague is the sole hub setting in Mankind Divided, although you will make three jaunts off to more linear areas outside. The first of these areas, an augmented city/concentration camp, is fascinating and compelling; I could have played a whole game set there, but the following two aren’t quite as interesting. Prague itself is a great hub, with three phases throughout the story; day, night and curfew lockdown, the latter of which is deeply irritating as you have to sneak around to get anywhere, even travelling between side quests. Oh, and those side quests! While they’ve always been present in previous games, it was always the main story which stuck in my head, but the side quests in Mankind Divided are excellent, arguably the best part of the game. Don’t miss a single one. Overall, this is actually quite a short game, definitely the shortest in the series. I don’t really think this is a problem, if not for the fact that it’s hard to shake the feeling that things are being held back for DLC. I got an extra mission as a Day 1 purchase reward thing, which in the end felt quite substantial from both a gameplay and a story perspective. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PART OF THE MAIN GAME. The missions that are there are superbly designed, with a genuinely open structure. If you only ever follow the HUD markers, you’ll miss stuff and often get lesser outcomes in the missions. Ignoring the HUD and experimenting often pays off in a way which is quite rare in open world games. Even in games I adore like The Witcher 3, each mission plays out in a linear fashion with little real choice from the player, but in Mankind Divided you can really get quite clever with the immaculately designed environments.

The environments in Mankind Divided are beautiful. Prague is the best hub in the series, with a wonderful combination of classic architecture and over the top sci-fi silliness. Exploring the city streets is hugely atmospheric and the general visual design is very strong. The same cannot be said for the character animations, which are stiff and awkward. The voice acting is a mixed bag too; there’s some good work here, but also some irritatingly bad accents, particularly some awful grating English ones. The original Deus Ex had some shocking voice acting too, but at least there it was hilariously bad (I’ll never forget that Australian bartender) but here it’s just annoying. The music is a bit of a let-down too; Deus Ex has one of the best themes in gaming so bloody use it! The moody electronica is gone and replaced with nothing memorable. I hope that in the inevitable follow up the same attention to detail is given to the other elements that was given to the environments.

Mankind Divided reminds me a bit of Metal Gear Solid V; a really good game with rock solid mechanics which just ends up feeling…lacking. I appreciate what’s there, but it’s difficult not to feel like it needs a bit more. Hopefully next time Square Enix divert resources away from microtransactions and pointless free to play game modes and put everything into making the best Deus Ex game they possibly can. I wouldn’t count on it though.

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Gone Home for PS4, Xbox One, PC, OS X and Linux

Gone Home has become an odd vector for controversy since it was first released back in 2013, being a favourite punching bag for Gamergate knuckle-draggers bemoaning the success of something that isn’t a ‘real game.’ In the years since, this attitude has only become more ridiculous, as more and more games in the vein of Gone Home have come about, although this may have had the effect of slightly robbing the original of its impact.

In 1995 Kaitlin is returning to her childhood home after a lengthy period travelling. Arriving to an empty house, the player moves around using visual and audio clues to piece together what happened in her absence. The plot is fairly slight, but deals strongly with a theme little seen in gaming back in 2013 (and still very little today); LGBT love. Kaitlin’s sister had fallen for a young female army cadet, with the strong implication of serious disapproval from her parents. The actual story isn’t actually that interesting but it is one of the first time that this kind of stories has been the focus of a game. There have been strides towards LGBT representation in games; from the transgender mercenary deputy in Dragon Age: Inquisition, to your gay boss Miller in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and not forgetting the varied player controlled protagonists given gay romance options. Still, what none of these games do is put LGBT experience at the core of the narrative/ They may contain gay characters, but the stories aren’t about them and in some case gloss over them, filling a diversity quota but not much more. It is still inconceivable to imagine a AAA action game with an LGBT protagonist. Gone Home proudly stands as a noble exception.

That said…I still didn’t really like it much. I actually have little problems with walking simulators if the environments are beautiful or interesting enough, but Gone Home’s house simply isn’t that enjoyable to explore. It’s small, boxy and annoying to navigate. The story isn’t actually interesting beyond the overdue pleasure in seeing an LGBT narrative at the core, but if you’d taken the exact same gameplay and story and made it about a straight couple I don’t think I could have cared less.

Overall though, it undeniably was a pleasure to see an LGBT relationship at the core of a videogame and I hope to see more of it soon, but preferably in a more interesting game than this.

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