Dénouement 2018: The No-Show List

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 3, 2019

Filed under: Industry Events 166 comments

This blog is not a tentpole site with a suite of writers working in different genres. I can only cover games I play. I’m just one guyAlthough it really was nice having Bob Case around this year to do his long-form analysis of Witcher 3. and I tend to seek out games that can keep me going for weeks rather than promiscuously hopping from one game to the next like big-name reviewers do. Which means that I tend to miss a lot of games.

I didn’t play a lot of bad games this year, so my “worst of 2018” list wound up being pretty short. I suppose that’s yet another thing that makes this the year of good news.

But before I begin hurling rotten tomatoes at the games that had the audacity to disappoint me, let me talk about a few games I missed…

Hitman 2

Do WHAT with the world now? Are you talking like, a melee weapon, or what? How is that supposed to work?
Do WHAT with the world now? Are you talking like, a melee weapon, or what? How is that supposed to work?

I loved the new Hitman. It got the #2 spot on my best-of-2016 list. I thought the episodic release was goofy and annoying, but the environments and gameplay were better than ever. I really wanted to play the sequel this year, but I just didn’t have time. It came out in November, and at that point I was already juggling Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Prey: Mooncrash.

If this game had arrived in any of the preceding months, I would have been able to purchase and review it close to launch. I guess this is what happens when everyone fights over the end-of-year spot. It creates a winner-take-all situation. Since the entire point of having these monolithic publishing houses is to distribute risk, this pile-up in the Christmas shopping season seems… counterproductive.

Ah well. I did manage to grab it at the end of the year during a sale, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to give it a proper review.

I don’t know why publishers do this to themselves, but I guess it hurts them a lot more than it hurts me. So… whatever.

Red Dead Redemption 2

The feel-good game of the year that has families laughing and cheering together!
The feel-good game of the year that has families laughing and cheering together!

Wow. This game was a sensation. It was all anyone talked about for most of November. On one hand, I could see it was like Grand Theft Auto V: It’s a marvel of technology and decadent production values. RDR2 is a culture-wide event and offers a tremendous amount of incredibly polished content. On the other hand, it was also like Grand Theft Auto V in the sense that it’s a dark, mean-spirited tale of murder, violence, and cruelty. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when the game came out I’d just finished with my retrospective on the Grand Theft Auto series. I’d had my fill of misanthropy and nihilism.

I’m sure I’ll play it one of these days, but I didn’t have room for it in 2018.

Detroit: Become Human

I feel like David Cage is really missing an opportunity here. He only needs to make his stories a LITTLE dumber and they could ascend into the realm of Axe Cop level absurdity.
I feel like David Cage is really missing an opportunity here. He only needs to make his stories a LITTLE dumber and they could ascend into the realm of Axe Cop level absurdity.

If you’ve spent any time on this site then you’ve probably figured out a few things about me. I’m irritated by quicktime events, I’m hard on cutscene-heavy games trying to imitate cinema, and I loathe pretentious writing. So you can imagine just how much I dislike the work of David Cage.

On top of all that, I’m very picky about stories of AI gone wrong. That’s half the reason I wrote my recent novel. I mean, just the technology teaser for Become Human rubbed me the wrong way:

Link (YouTube)

Apparently we’ve mass-produced a bunch of these humanoid robots, but due to a computer bug this one accidentally has survival instinct, a need for validation, self-esteem, body shame, fear of the future, a desire for self-determination, and a dozen other incredibly specific emotional desires and behavioral patterns.

“I thought… I thought I was alive,” Kara says, disappointed.

And then I nearly have a stroke due to intense eye-roll.

Going by reputation, I gather that Indigo Prophecy is probably the smartest game David Cage ever made. That’s terrifying, since it was a ridiculous pile of squicky nonsense that alternates between uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Even the trailers for Detroit: Become Human strike me as cringy sophomoric trash. I can barely endure the advertising, so I have no idea what the game itself might do to me. I realize it’s incredibly lazy to point to another reviewer saying “I agree with this other person”, but Yahtzee’s review really does capture everything I hate about David Cage games:

Link (YouTube)

Having said that, I seriously considered getting it. I thought it might be amusing for everyone to watch me go off the deep end. Then again, I’m always fighting against the notion that I’m a cantankerous grump that only complains about things, and playing a game I know I’ll hate wouldn’t help with that.

And The Rest…


God of War Reboot: I didn’t play the rest of the series and it’s never really been something I was interested in. Although Joseph Anderson did make it sound pretty good.

Monster Hunter World: Not my thing? I think?

Return of the Obra Din: I really wanted to check this out. It’s a game by Lucas Pope, author of my 2013 Game of the Year. Sadly, it released in October and got lost in the end-of-year shuffle. I’ll check this out when I get the chance.

Donut County: This looked cute and amusing, although I didn’t see it get a lot of attention after release. I think it got a lot of praise for the novel concept of having you play as a hole in the ground more than for its actual execution. Still, I’ve got this on my wishlist.

Far: Lone Sails: This one came out early in the year. I intended to play it, but it ultimately got lost in the shuffle. It’s got really good reviews and the art looks amazing.

Those are the titles I missed this year. Next time we’ll talk about the games I disliked.



[1] Although it really was nice having Bob Case around this year to do his long-form analysis of Witcher 3.

From The Archives:

166 thoughts on “Dénouement 2018: The No-Show List

  1. Dreadjaws says:

    I feel I’m obligated to mention that the whole article shows on the main page.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      We’re in 2019. How is that crap not automated yet?

    2. Asdasd says:

      As is tradition (on both counts).

  2. John says:

    The post-Absolution Hitman games look so good. One day, I will get them. Before my brain will let me do that, however, I’m going to need to finish Contracts, the Hitman game I already own. So, uh, it may be a while.

  3. Geebs says:

    I’m kind of surprised that I seem to be the only person who didn’t feel able to play Monster Hunter World because all of the simulated animal cruelty was a bit too strong for me. I’m a carnivore, I grew up in the countryside, and in a gaming context I had no problem with, say, the fight with Sif in Dark Souls. There’s just something about carving bits off a limping monster while it’s still alive that makes me go “nope”.

    Not that my feelings really matter in the bigger scheme of things, more that I’d imagine most journalists would have been eg. against fox hunting and I’m surprised nobody else seems to have found the series getting uncomfortable as the graphic fidelity increased.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      carving bits off a limping monster while it’s still alive


      1. galacticplumber says:

        I mean yeah, that’s a thing that happens. Mostly removing natural weapons to make the thing less dangerous or opening up the armor.

        1. Raion says:

          You shatter their teeth, claws, horns, cut their tails, shred their wings… all sorts of stuff. I’ve been at it for so long, I suppose I’m desensitized to it, even with the increased fidelity.
          But get this; when you capture them alive (and battered) instead of killing them, you get even more materials than if you were to carve the carcass on the field.
          And since MHW makes it a point to tell you that captured monsters are studied for a bit and then let go back to the wild… means that they are carving your rewards off the still alive creature, comatose and chained.

          … just don’t think about it.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            I have to presume the monsters have some sort of regenerative capacity, because releasing something like a barroth back into its native environment shorn of its tail and with its scalp broken is ridiculous beyond comprehension.

            You’re probably right, though, and I should avoid thinking too deeply about it.

          2. Andy says:

            Studied for a bit unless you choose to have an arena battle with them, wherein you mutilate them all over again?

            1. Distec says:

              In the name of science, of course.

          3. Decius says:

            In MHW they don’t get released. There’s an arena.

            1. Modran says:

              Nonononono, it is specifically stated several time that they study them and then release them with scoutflies attached to be able to better track them.

              I… guess the parts they give you are parts specifically grown from cells they shear off when they’re dead – the cells, I mean, not the monsters cuddled on that rack and sleeping soooo soundly?

    2. John says:

      The journalists over at Waypoint seem to have really liked the game despite being vocally uncomfortable with the “go to a distant land to kill big animals for no particular reason” aspect of it.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        For what it’s worth, in-universe, your character is less a classical ‘big game hunter’ than part of the security detail for a team of zoological researchers. I heartily concede, however, that the defense can wear thin. I actually prefer the setup in previous games, where the monsters are generally threatening existing settlements, to going to an unpeopled continent for sumthin-sumthin-SCIENCE!

        On the other hand, how exactly would zoologists study creatures of that size and threat level? I think back to watching Steve Irwin and half a dozen other people wrestle down a crocodile, and that guy was a passionate conservationist.

        1. Geebs says:

          That “zoological research” fig-leaf that Capcom eventually adopted actually makes the whole thing much worse for me, because it’s so reminiscent of Japan’s long and storied history of “researching” whales.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            That’s totally fair (I only have superficial knowledge of Japanese whaling), but I’d argue humanity on the whole has an awkward history with biological research.

            I find it fascinating how different people draw the line on this. Personally, I get more squeamish as my video-game enemies look more like humans.

            1. evileeyore says:

              Animals are innocent. That’s where I* draw the line. Same as would were the game about abusing and carving up children

              But adult humans? I can get behind abusing and carving up adult humans…

              * No indictment about those who enjoy the game, I just could never get into it.

              1. Decius says:

                Animals are innocent. But are monstrous abominations innocent?

                1. Taellosse says:

                  Depends. Are they endowed with sufficient intelligence and empathy to be capable of having morality? Or are they simply acting according to their nature, however they came to exist?

                  A rabid bear is incredibly dangerous to basically anything else within range – killing it is necessary for the safety of anyone and anything nearby. But there’s no need to do so with cruelty, and trying to capture it and force it to fight, say, a man-eating lion for entertainment would be extremely wrong.

          2. Baron Tanks says:

            Right, reading this for the first time in the Monster Hunter context, especially the ‘scientific’ context makes me itchy.

        2. Guest says:

          I dunno about you, but in the episodes I saw as a religious Irwin fan, his weapon of choice was a roll of tape to stop it biting, not a trick weapon axe so he could cut off croc tails

          1. Decius says:

            Maybe he should have cut the tail off of that stingray?

    3. Redrock says:

      I’m with you on this. Moreover, I’m generally a bit annoyed by the spread pf hunting mechanics in many open-world games. Sometimes it’s appropriate – I can tolerate it in Red Dead Redemption 2, because it suits the setting and is portrayed as something necessary – you mostly hunt for food for you fellow gang members, or to make money. But in most other games, like Ubisoft titles, it’s more like recreational safari hunting with some rewards for trophies. It doesn’t make sense for your character, it’s just a “fun” gameplay mechanic. “Hey, meet all those exotic animals we lovingly rendered for you. And murder them! Also, have an achievement if you needlessly disembowel 5 or more bears”. The excessive bloodlust of videogame animals is also troubling. I’m especially bothered by the fact that wolves are now a default woodland enemy in most games. Wolves don’t generally attack heavily armed people, not nearly to the extent that’s shown in games. I’m a bit biased here, since I have a soft spot for most canines, but slaughtering wolves by the dozen across many games never sits right with me.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Are you saying it’s time for Yager Development to make a hunting sim?

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        In Ubisoft games, it’s explicitly that you’re crafting resources out of the items. Example, skins to make more hearty defensive clothing. The method is very much like poaching though, which is screwed up.

        Credit where it’s due, the whaling in ACIV: Black Flag and Rogue is intentionally harsh and disgusting to make the player wince and think about what was acceptable at that time. However… it’s also fun to do and satisfying to win a bout with a whale so… maybe they failed on that one.

        Also, the bit where you have an optional objective to “air assassinate an ocelot” is objectively very funny to me. It seems like a deliberate element of ACIV’s attempt to take the piss out of various sacred cows from the series and your hero doing an INTENSELY dramatic leaping murder on a tiny animal as big as his wrist does it for me.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yeah, in Far Cry 3 onwards it’s ostensibly a way to get resources for crafting, but it doesn’t make sense. Hunt five tigers for an ammo pouch? Really? There isn’t really a logical in-universe reason for all that hunting, is what I mean.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Far Cry 3 is meant to be a mix of “you’re actually making the thing” and “you are trading with the mercs or villagers with this bundle of things that they found to be valuable.” It kind of makes sense in context.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            There isn’t really a logical in-universe reason for all that hunting [in Far Cry 3], is what I mean.

            Not sure about this. The story of FC3 featured quite a lot of the main character becoming generally more bloodthirsty as well. It wouldn’t be too out-of character for him to he’d kill and skin wildlife just for the thrill/for the hell of it.

            Of course in game that’s not about a character learning to love slaughtering people with a machete, your point stands.

            1. Geebs says:

              The Far Cry 3 thing is somewhat different, I think. The animals in Far Cry 3 were all explicitly endangered species because that awful nitwit Jeffrey Yohalem was trying to make some incredibly tortured “subversive” point about how Californian surf-bros are responsible for mass extinctions because they buy so many handbags or…..something?

              The crafting requirements in that game are intentionally stupid and, according to Yohalem, the audience were all too ignorant to get it (this is the same guy who thought that using Alice in Wonderland quotes, calling the island the game takes place on “Rook”, and chucking in a throwaway “would you kindly” qualified him as being “deep”).

              Also failing to get it: the entire rest of UbiSoft, who continued to include exactly the same sort of make-work crafting nonsense into every subsequent iteration of The UbiSoft Game without a single further thought as to why they were doing it, because UbiSoft.

    4. Nimrandir says:

      I didn’t get into Monster Hunter until this year (I picked up MH3 Ultimate for the Wii U on a whim when GameStop had one of its ‘buy two, get one free’ deals going), and I’d call World my favorite game of the year. That being said, I prefer to capture monsters rather than kill them in that game, and I’d call the graphical fidelity a big reason why.

      I’d really like for some of the convenience features and systems from World to make their way into games like Generations (which we got for the 3DS and Switch this Christmas).

    5. CrushU says:

      >There’s just something about carving bits off a limping monster while it’s still alive that makes me go “nope”.
      That’s… not a normal part of the game…?
      The only thing you can remove from a living monster is its tail, and only sometimes.
      If a monster is limping, it’s likely to die soon, and if you *can* capture the monster, you *should*. Limping monsters are capturable, and also close to death, so you want to capture, instead of risking it dying by trying to cut the tail off.

      And, uh… ‘Simulated animal cruelty’? That’s… that’s not animal cruelty. At its worst, you can complain about the colonialism inherent in going to a new continent ‘just to beat up the wildlife’, though in-game the justification is “Hey, all these monsters all go to this continent at a regular interval… We should really probably find out why?”

      From a gameplay perspective, the worst part of the game is the grind to get new gear, but ultimately the only grind that bothered me was the endgame grinding for the gems. Grind bothers me in games, to where I couldn’t finish Borderlands because that core loop of checking if something’s numbers was better than what I had just aggravates me. There’s a pretty delineated progression in MHW, and you can always chuck a bunch of unused stuff to make into one thing you actually need. Except gems, those are always at the mercy of the drop gods…

  4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Unfortunately Red Dead Redemption was a mean spirited tale of cruelty IRL as well, with one of their execs bragging that devs would pull 100 hours weeks working on horse testicles shrinking animations or whatever, only to be all fired at the end of the dev cycle…

  5. Baron Tanks says:

    Wow. This game was a sensation. It was all anyone talked about for most of November. On one hand, I could see it was like Grand Theft Auto V: It’s a marvel of technology and decadent production values. RDR2 is a culture-wide event and offers a tremendous amount of incredibly polished content. On the other hand, it was also like Grand Theft Auto V in the sense that it’s a dark, mean-spirited tale of murder, violence, and cruelty.

    I have been following RDR2 from the sidelines (such as the GiantBomb game of the year discussions) as someone who splits his time between PC gaming and is a happy owner of a Switch ever since I got it as a gift from former colleagues after my PhD defense in September. One of the interesting things I hear about RDR2 is that apparently the tone is a lot more sincere and far less cynical (YMMV) than the typical Rockstar outing, where on occasion apparently the narrative even comes to the defense of those who are victimized by the lawlessness of the setting and the base desires of some of the people that inhabit the world. I even heard make reference of occasions where Rockstar deviated from the expectations associated with their productions and subverted them and vulnerable people make it out unscathed. Pain and consequences seem to have a place and some breathing room and I am curious if you ever get around to playing it what kind of impression it leaves on you. That being said, there’s still plenty of room for violent mayhem and there is even a torture scene again from what I’ve heard, although apparently this time the protagonist is BEING tortured instead of the torturer. Again, all of this is hearsay as I haven’t had it in my hands.

    Rather than the tone of the game, most of the discussion around the game has been circling the gameplay systems. Whether they are outdated or not and if whether this is a game or a narrative driven cowboy simulator. Is there even a line between those two and where would you draw it? Frequent critiques mention an apparent slow (and possibly not engaging) start to the game and a game that is stubborn about the way it is meant to be played. I’ve even heard the term Stockholm syndrome been thrown around when ardent defenders of the game systems are mentioned. I’m very curious how you’ll experience it when and if you get around to it Shamus. Just make sure you apparently have dozens of hours to play it…

    1. Redrock says:

      I must say that of all the criticism aimed at RDR 2 by professional reviewers, the complaint that it’s too long is the one that baffles me most. How Long To Beat clocks RDR 2 at around 44 hours for main story and 75 for Main + Extras. That’s long, sure, and longer than GTA V, but it’s easily comparable to or lower than most Final Fantasies or classic cRPGs, for that matter. Yet I’ve seen several hot takes with headlines like “Is RDR 2 too long?” and “Can you actually beat RDR 2?”. Puzzling.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        75 hours is too long/impossible to beat? What? Guess they never played a Disgaea game or anything like them.

      2. baud says:

        [a length] comparable to or lower than most Final Fantasies or classic cRPGs

        Except that’s totally not the same type of games, with a radically different gaming landscape (with most player having backlogs and opportunities to buy loads of games on sales). And I think there’s a point where the gameplay in any game will start feeling stale and there’s nothing more interesting to discover.

        1. Guest says:

          Yeah, I can’t imagine wanting a longer unstructured pileup of Rockstar story-especially since most of the comments I’ve seen take biggest issue with the story missions, for anachronistic design

      3. shoeboxjeddy says:

        The criticism would be “is the main storyline too long?”, not “is there too much optional gameplay?” And the former is completely valid. Think of your favorite movie. It’s pretty great, right? The only thing that would be better is if there was five hours of additional subplots, right? Hopefully you can see that pacing is a valid criticism, even for a long-form open world game. For example, I like the plots of the Uncharted games, but despise parts like the one in 3 where you go to the airplane graveyard for a thing which turns out not to be there, so then you have to leave and go to a different place where maybe the thing will be. As a game level, it’s fine and even very good in places. As a part of the plot, it’s a sink hole of a waste of time and engagement.

        1. Redrock says:

          Pacing and length are too different things, though. A 90-minute movie can drag, and a 40-hour game can be a blast. Now, RDR 2 does have a pacing “problem” inasmuch as it’s a slow game, but at the same time fittingly so considering the movie genre it’s trying to emulate. But that’s a separate discussion. My main original point is that, while the game is long, its length is nothing new or special, not in the way a lot of critics are making it out to be.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Right, of course pacing and length are different. My feeling has always been that Rockstar provides a lot of value in their games through sheer “amount of stuff”. That same thing also ruins a great deal of their stories, which have decent setups and occasionally strong segments, but also MOUNTAINS of wasted potential or badly done sequences.

          2. Guest says:

            Yeah, and Rockstar learned to write by watching classic genre films which usually top out at 3 hours, and have never done anything to make that narrative stretch properly over games of the length they already were making.

            If the fun of the game is the open, reactive world, and messing with the systems, why would I want MORE of the poorly written, linear, DIAS parts?

            1. Redrock says:

              I didn’t feel that RDR 2 was particularly badly written or acted, but, well, different strokes and all that.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                Despite all the obvious craft put into RDR2, it didn’t take long for me to question their playtesting methods. Example, on the first train robbery, you’re supposed to rob the train car at the end. Obviously to me, that meant open every cabinet I could see for goodies. However, in the time it took to loot those, I was yelled at to hurry up by the gang no less than FIFTEEN TIMES. Were there no notes from test that this was fucking annoying? And yet, it seems to happen every main story mission.

      4. galacticplumber says:

        Two possibilities. Probably a bit of both.

        One time to beat expectations vary by genre. A fighting game that took 100 hours to beat would be ridiculous/stupid, whereas a standard RPG ending in 10 or less is drastically short by most standards.

        Two all that focus on horse plops, realistically unwieldy movement, and survival demands make the game FEEL longer.

      5. TLN says:

        For me it’s not so much that the game takes a long time, but rather how much of that time is spent doing things that just aren’t fun. After the initial tutorial’ish part in the mountains I enjoyed every second of the first few hours (some missions are especially brilliant) but 10 hours in or so there is a LOT of stuff that’s just kind of a chore to go through, and then you realize there is so much of the game left and even if sometimes you get a really great mission at some point I just don’t really feel like spending another 15 minutes riding my horse to get to where I actually need to go or whatever. The game wastes so much of my time it’s almost insulting, I get that it’s intentionally slow-paced, and I don’t specifically mind that, but I resent that they felt the need to extend the game by a lot just having the player do a bunch of busywork. The game could easily be cut down by dozens of hours by removing a lot of that stuff and the result would be a much tighter experience while still sticking to the slower pace and great storytelling.

        1. Redrock says:

          Perhaps. Honestly, my only problem with time-wasting was the traveling, but I learned to enjoy it after a while, mostly because on a lot of trips you can get some random encounter or discover something more often than not. And then there’s the view to enjoy. I ask myself, is RDR 2’s design more disrespectful to the player’s time than random encounters in JRPGs? For me, the answer is no. But I can totally see how it won’t be the same for everyone. RDR 2’s main problem is, I think, that it’s essentially a niche game in concept that was made to be a huge blockbuster because it’s an extremely expensive to make Rockstar blockbuster. But it’s the definition of “not for everyone”.

          1. TLN says:

            I’m definitely pretty tired of the ‘regular’ kind of random encounter jrpg as well, and I’d much rather have something like Dragon Quest 11 (also Persona 5, to a lesser extent). The old-school jrpg way of random encounters on a world map is mostly gone at this point, and while I wasn’t glad initially to see it go, I am now.

            The number 2 thing I would like from RDR2 is for it to be more optional to engage with a lot of content in it, I don’t mind that there IS all this stuff in the game, I just don’t personally want to DO a lot of it. I’d much rather go rob a bank on my own than spend like an hour of mostly unengaging gameplay stealing a wagon.

            (For reference, the number 1 thing I would like is, naturally, more missions about getting drunk with Lenny.)

    2. Michael Miller says:

      Congrats on the PhD, Doctor. :)

      1. Baron Tanks says:

        Thank YOU, kind internet stranger :)

    3. Guildenstern says:

      I want to offer up a kind of defense for RDR2 here as well, as someone that has played it. However, I have a habit of not really noticing major flaws in something I’m enjoying, so take everything here with a grain of salt. But as somebody who shares Shamus’ repulsion at Rockstar’s awful, awful attempts at “satire” I don’t really get the same vibe from RDR2. The first one was worse about it (lots of “lol America actually sucks we’re so smart for telling you that” kind of stuff) and while there’s still some of that in this one because I don’t think Rockstar has it in them to completely purge the snobbish condescension from their system, it’s not as aggressive about it.

      Instead, the whole thing feels like more of a character drama instead of some kind of screwball “societal commentary” nonsense. It makes genuine attempts at pathos and actually hits the mark surprisingly frequently. The gang camp structure I think goes a long, long way towards achieving this. In most Rockstar games and in RDR1 you were pretty much solo: you had quest givers who were assholes and you worked with each of them in turn to do asshole things. In RDR2 you’re still very much a bad person, but you’re actually given opportunity to explore other dimensions of the characters because you have a “home base” with a lot of opportunity for interaction with persistent characters. You’re still functionally an errand boy (missions are classic Rockstar “go here, do this thing for me) but by making Arthur a part of an interconnected group, there’s more of a sense that the errands are meaningful and serving a collective purpose.

      The overwhelming atmosphere of cheap cynicism isn’t really there in this one. There are a surprising number of quest givers (particularly in the side quests) that are actually just good, decent people and whom you can help out for no other reason than it’s nice to be good to people sometimes. You have actual *friends* in the game. Not like Lamar and Franklin, but like people you’re close with and with whom you can have genuine, caring interaction. It’s incredibly refreshing.

      Yeah, at the core of it you’re a bad guy who runs with other bad guys. But the tone is not at all like GTA, which proclaims “you are bad and the world is bad and there is no hope or joy or anything genuine ever and we’re oh so very intelligent for showing that to you rubes who are playing our game”. Instead, the tone is more like “you can be bad and the world is often bad… and that’s too bad. It doesn’t have to be like that and the fact that in this particular instance it is is a tragedy.” Instead of something sneering and cynical that proclaims the world to be stupid, it feels more like something regretful and solemn: picture Reservoir Dogs vs The Godfather, as a supremely imperfect example of what I’m getting at here.

      I dunno. It could be if I go back and play it again the whole thing will actually come off much uglier than my initial impressions (I spaced the game out over a looooooong time: I’d go real-world days without ever touching a main story mission so it was, perhaps, a bit diluted). And ultimately the story is not an “upper”, as the principal theme of the franchise (as the name implies) is that real “redemption” is next to impossible to attain. But the difference is that it’s not so damn *smug* about it. It doesn’t gloatingly rub your face in it the way GTA does, and that difference in tone does one heck of a lot towards making the whole thing more palatable.

      1. KelnaGryphon says:

        I can’t believe how far I had to scroll to read this, this was exactly my impression of RDR too, it’s staggering that this is not just from the same company as GTA but the same WRITERS as well.

        Some of Red Dead 2 is incredibly nuanced, the characters in Dutch’s gang are all flawed, broken people with more or less redeeming features (Micah in particular being almost entirely rotten) but they’re just so convincingly…human. The gang all grow (again not always in good ways) and have arcs as the game progresses and it’s so organic, Reverend Swanson in particular just broke my heart.

        plus if you play the game the ‘right’ way Arthur’s ‘redemption’ arc is just beautiful, the final ride to camp, that song, the flashbacks.

        No sorry, I’ve absolutely no interest in GTA for exactly the reasons Shamus stated, but Red Dead 2 is a beautiful, human tale with some genuinely powerful emotional moments.

      2. Crimson Dragoon says:

        I know I’m a little late to the conversation, but I think you hit the nail on the head here. I was so worried going into this game that it would have GTA V’s cynicism and awful attempts at satire, and fortunately I was wrong. The game cares about its characters and wants the player to care about them too. Bad things happen, and sometimes bad people get away with doing bad things, but appropriately “Redemption” is a very big theme here, and I think Rockstar did a great job exploring that.

        And I’m glad you mentioned the side characters. My example it looking at the differences in writing between this game and GTA V is the nature photographer you help out in some early side missions. If this were GTA V, he’d be some crazed eco-terrorist who just ends up getting a bunch of people and animals (and probably himself) killed, as some lame joke against “tree-huggers.” But here, even though he does sometimes get over his head, particularly with the wolves, his beliefs about nature and conservation are treated with respect rather than derision. He’s just a good guy.

        So Shamus, if you read this, I do hope you get the chance to play this game. For one, I think you’d have a field day discussing the game’s mechanics and UI. But mostly I think you’d be surprised with the games tone after playing so much GTA.

        1. Guildenstern says:

          The nature photographer was one that stood out in my mind as well; there’s no snide joke at his expense, apart from a fairly typical “city boy doesn’t grasp that nature is legit dangerous” shtick, but even that isn’t played for snark and condescension so much as a glib chuckle; he’s over his head, but that’s fine, you can help him out just because it’s a decent thing to do. It never makes fun of him in a mean way, but more like the way that veteran outdoorsmen will have a good-natured laugh at the new guy with too much stuff in his pack before teaching him how to better prepare.

          For an even better example of that kind of notion, there’s the woman up in the northern section of the map who’s struggling to keep her homestead going. Again, in GTA this would be an opportunity for scorn and would mock her for ever even trying such a thing. Here, you help her learn to hunt, how to shoot, how to survive outside of populated areas. It gives you the chance to be duplicitous with her (but why would you, you monster?) but again, it’s mostly focused on your helping someone just because it’s a good and decent thing to do.

          And then there’s Hamish. An entire side questline about making new friends. No, seriously, that’s it. That’s the point of the side quest. You just find a new buddy to hang out with. It’s remarkably wholesome.

          But even in the main story, there’s less cynicism than even in the previous game. Spoilers to follow.

          “Redemption” as a subtitle was chosen with a bit of cruel irony, I think. John sums up the game’s theme at one point by saying “nothing gets forgiven”. His entire story is about how he can’t escape the things he did in his past. He tries to get out, go straight, and live a normal life, but ultimately he can’t. He still did a lot of terrible, terrible things and he doesn’t get to walk away from it that easy. He never gets his redemption. RDR2 shows that much of this is likely of his own doing: he can’t leave well enough alone, and always falls back on his old gunslinger ways, no matter how much Abigail begs him. Knowing what we do of John, I’d wager that even if Ross didn’t come for him, he’d likely have engineered his own downfall in some other way.

          Arthur’s story is a bit different. Instead of “nothing gets forgiven” his story might actually be best summed up by Gandalf: “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”. He knows exactly how his story is going to end, and so he’s more or less forced into seeking his “redemption” externally. With the other, more “innocent” members of the gang in general, but with John and his family specifically. He tries to give him a chance that he won’t have anymore. Ultimately we know how John’s story ends as well, so you could make the argument that it’s all for naught… but as far as Arthur is concerned, he accomplished what he set out to do. The tone is melancholy, sure, but it’s not dreary or hopeless.

          Maybe I’m starting out with a low bar, since I’m largely comparing Rockstar with Rockstar. But I just don’t see the same mean spirit in this game as I’ve seen in their others. I’m not sure what was different, or if they’ll emulate this style elsewhere (I’m not optimistic about that), but I like this Rockstar much better.

          1. KelnaGryphon says:

            No I agree entirely, I think it’s surprisingly optimistic and humane in general for a video game. I found myself drawn entirely into Ori and the Blind Forest earlier last year because I just wanted something, anything that was just pure and beautiful after playing numerous games (inc Witcher 3) where everything is shitty, everyone is shitty and nothing you do ever works out because life is shitty.

            I guess you should argue that RDR2 fits the above description but it just didn’t feel that way to me, these are fully formed characters with (dark!!) shades of grey but they’re not simply doing everything bad because “everything and everyone is terrible” which seems to be the prevailing “mature” theme of the last few years.

            It’s definitely the most emotion-inducing game I’ve played since Mass Effect trilogy.

          2. Crimson Dragoon says:

            I do love the fact that most side missions come down to Arthur doing something not for any reward, but simply because he’s a nice guy at heart who just wants to help people. It really ties in with the theme you mentioned above. And I never minded going out of my way for these missions, even though there was little to no reward, simply because I liked most of the people I was helping out. How often can you say that in a Rockstar game?

            1. Guildenstern says:

              I’d contest the idea that Arthur is “a nice guy at heart who just wants to help people”. He isn’t. He never would have gotten so deeply involved in a gang of thieves and killers if he was some boy scout personality. He’s more like Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction: he’s a bad guy, but he’s trying real hard to be the shepherd. He’s a bad man, struggling to finally pay attention to his gut instinct that tells him that he *should* be a good man. That’s his whole character arc, pushed along by some… extenuating circumstances. It’s rewarding for the player to engage in that arc, but I think we do it a disservice by taking it to mean “well, he’s a nice guy who misbehaves sometimes”.

              1. KelnaGryphon says:

                All true, and Arthur says “I’m not a good man” a LOT when people tell him he’s done a good deed, but he was picked up and moulded by Dutch at FIFTEEN years old, you’d have to say that a lot of his bad deeds stem from that one moment.

  6. Dezhnyov says:

    I’m still holding hope that Shamus will stream Detroit: Become Human.

    1. GM says:

      i stopped watching video 3:20 in because i felt he lied about being immersed unless it was a bad detective robot,heh.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Me too. Well, review, but its similar enough.
      Watching him tear into a game like Detroit would be a good source of schadenfreude. Maybe he can dust of the Golden Riter Award as well! Haven’t seen one of them awarded in a while.

  7. SPCTRE says:

    I’m sorry Shamus, I’m probably a bad person to really, really want you to do an in-depth analysis of David Cage’s entire catalogue of games, but I can’t help it.

    1. Lars says:

      That would point to the conclusion, that “Omikron: The Nomad Soul” would be the best David Cage game – if you are happy enough to beat the end boss. (What never happend to me, so I go with Beyond: Two Souls.)

      1. Duoae says:

        I only ever played indigo prophecy and heavy rain. I actually really enjoyed heavy rain despite the terrible twist.

        I also really enjoyed until dawn (I know it’s not the same studio) so I get the feeling that I’d like more of these “digital choose your own adventures” if they had good plotlines and characters.

        1. Lars says:

          Heavy Rain was good in story and character terms. The player had some time with the protagonists kids, before they were taken away from him, so the player did care to rescue them.
          But I really didn’t like the style of the QTEs and the controls in the non cinematic sections. ‘Beyond’ was more intuitive in that matter and felt more like a game.
          Omikron was a real game with lots of gameplay, but I couldn’t finish it. Beaten the boss down to 1 of a million healthpoints several times but couldn’t get the last needed hit. Meh.

          Never played Until Dawn.

      2. Redrock says:

        Man, I remember Omikron being so cool at the time. Looking back, you could see the seeds of all the stupid craziness that would then come out in full force in Fahrenheit, but Omikron had a cool mysterious world to explore, some actual gameplay, quite a bit of freedom, the soul-hopping mechanic, all that. Dunno if it holds up at all. And I still think that Heavy Rain was ok right up until the end. Yeah, the ending creates huge plot holes, but other than that it’s mostly fine.

  8. Lino says:

    Ohhhh, now that you mention it, it would be awesome to see a series on Detroit: Become Human! Is there still a chance we could get that? Pretty please?

    1. Liessa says:

      Having read ‘The Other Kind of Life’, I would also be very interested in seeing Shamus’ take on Detroit: Become Human.

  9. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    I can accept the idea that this is a “I’m wrong and the world is right” situation, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a single game I’ve played that was made by Rockstar Games. I’ve not enjoyed any of the GTA games. And I’ve only ever played them at the insistence of my buddy who thinks that they’re the best games out there. I sunk a bunch of time into RDR1 back in the day when I got it as a Christmas gift, but there was a point well before the end of the game when I wondered “Why am I doing this to myself?” and I quit playing it. When I heard that the sequel was officially happening and that everybody was excited for it, my only thought was “Why?” The games have always just felt like a condescending, nihilistic sprint toward chaos and I guess I get why some people would get a kick out of that, but I’m not one of them. To be fair, I haven’t played all of Rockstar’s games: I heard interesting things about LA Noire for instance, but I’ve never had the energy to give it a try.

    This list reminds me just how awful Microsoft has been with having console exclusives in this hardware generation. Games like Spiderman or God of War are the sorts of games where someone says “I’m going to buy a PS4 so that I can have that game.” I don’t know that the Xbone had a single game that could be called a comparable “system seller.” And I say that as an Xbone owner who’s often been in the position of being on the outside looking in.

    I think it takes a very specific type of gamer to enjoy Monster Hunter: World, but that type of gamer enjoys it enthusiastically. I played it and it turns out that I’m not one of those gamers. The never ending loot grind just wears me out. While there is a nominal story to it, everything about the game’s design says “Forget that stupid story and, instead, fight this giant monster over and over again until you have enough parts to make equipment to fight the next monster over and over again.” I played it for a couple of weeks until I couldn’t take the grind loop anymore.

    1. eldomtom2 says:

      LA Noire wasn’t primarily developed by Rockstar, and thus feels totally different from everything else they published aside from being a third-person open-world game with driving and cover-based shooting.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      I can accept the idea that this is a “I’m wrong and the world is right” situation, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a single game I’ve played that was made by Rockstar Games.

      I don’t like Rockstar’s games either. Sure, they do a great job of building a giant open world with lavish graphics, but all of their gameplay systems suck and their storytelling is rotten.

      I played a bit of the first Red Dead Redemption. I was always turned off by GTA’s core fantasy of being a gangster, so I figured, hey, maybe being an outlaw in the wild west would be more my style. But then I was forced into way too many cutscenes and story missions, none of which were even slightly interesting, and even when I tried to break free to ride around and find something to do, there really wasn’t anything there. Rockstar’s games seems to be split between “Story missions” and “random chaos”. They don’t have any strong meta-systems to encourage general activity, and the combat/movement mechanics aren’t fun enough to make the linear story missions or the otherwise pointless rampages worth engaging in.

      I know that the Ubisoft open world style gets badmouthed around here, but I prefer it uncategorically to Rockstar’s style.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        I know this will sound weird because it’s hard to describe, but my experience with Rockstar open world games leaves me with the impression that the games are highly-polished pieces of software created by somebody who absolutely hates video games, but cynically feels like they’ve cracked the metaphorical and literal code for what the market wants. And the market has proven them right. I’m sure this is true to various degrees with all large publishers, but I’ve never felt it more acutely on my end than when my friend had me playing GTA V, or when I was playing RDR1. It just felt kind of gross.

        I never thought I’d be saying this, but in defense of Ubisoft, the open world of Odyssey actually felt pretty darn good to me. It’s like the farther away they get away from the “Assassin’s Creed” aspects of the Assassin’s Creed games, the better the games get. At certain points, Odyssey even felt like a right proper RPG. I poured a lot of time into Odyssey and I enjoyed the experience without ever feeling like the game was pointing a finger at me and saying “Look at all of this time I’m tricking you into wasting, sucker.” As crazy as it sounds, Ubisoft might be on a trajectory that leads to them making good open world games.

      2. John says:

        I know that the Ubisoft open world style gets badmouthed around here, but I prefer it uncategorically to Rockstar’s style.

        I played my first Ubisoft-style open-world, climb-towers, clear-the-map-of-icons game this year. I wasn’t expecting to like Shadow of Mordor as much as I do. I haven’t finished it yet (and there’s a slowly-increasing probability that I won’t) but as far as I’m concerned the game’s problems are all in the narrative rather than the open world. If Ubisoft-style games get badmouthed, I think it must be due to the fact that there are so very, very many of them.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          As far as I can tell, Ubisoft-style games get a bad rap because they’re always the same, to the point there’s a mock review of a Ubisoft game that could apply to all (or most) of them.

      3. Lun says:

        I think a lot of people don’t like Rockstar’s games – myself included – but you know how mob thinking works, right? The internet’s just another context to show times and times again that the human species is not different from a sheeps herd. All the people who don’t like Rockstar’s games don’t feel like letting it known for fear of being shunned, and all the people who like those games but not too much convince themselves to like them more than they actually do to be part of the group. I guess that leaves the real big fans of those games happy, however. And the Rockstar devs VERY happy about it.

        1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          I’m inclined to accept this general premise, but I try to maintain a charitable view of “the mob,” perhaps naively. As calculated as they seem to be to me, Rockstar video games are still an attempt at artistry, which injects subjectivity into any criticism. I have a hard time accepting that I can be a clear arbiter of “good” and “bad” in regard to a work that a lot of other people seem to really like.

          But I just don’t like a single Rockstar game that I’ve ever played, and all of them for the same reasons. I do admit that it sometimes baffles me that a lot of other people can like those same games in spite of those reasons.

    3. evileeyore says:

      “I can accept the idea that this is a “I’m wrong and the world is right” situation, but I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a single game I’ve played that was made by Rockstar Games.”

      Ditto. But only ever played one of the GTAs and non* of their other games ever even looked appealing to me.

      * Okay, The Warriors might be right up my alley, but 90% of that would nostalgic love for the movie.

    4. Asdasd says:

      Bully is the game I would recommend to anyone who wants to see if they really can’t bring themselves to like a Rockstar game.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        I feel like there’s something ironic about this, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

    5. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Some notes:
      -You aren’t the only one who doesn’t like Rockstar games. The only one of theirs that I really got into was LA Noire… which they did not make, only polished up for release.
      -There are some Microsoft games that would drive a purchase. Halo 5 and Gears 4 for example. A hardcore Halo fan would not be cool with just skipping the next game in the series. See also: Forza, Forza Horizon, and Ori and the Blind Forest. You can get some of these on PC, but the expectation that every single gamer has a gaming PC on hand is a bizarre overstep. I didn’t have one for most of my life, and I’ve been a gamer since I was about 5.

    6. Guest says:

      I think people enjoy the systems approach in Rockstar games-I play them for the open world, the ways you can cause trouble, and the fun of bouncing systems off each other.

      The story is always really linear, punishing, and badly written-frankly it detracts from the game.

      I hated MHW too, I can’t stand how it reuses levels, and it can take forever to bring some monsters down if you can’t find help, which made me so sick of the thing. The constamt looting, inventory managing nonsense you have to do is one of my cardinal video-game sins-the inventory is the worst I’ve seen.

      Still wish I’d gotten to high level group play, looks fun

  10. Thomas says:

    Obra Dinn is amazing and lives up to the hype. The puzzle idea is perfect and has a memento style vibe. I’m not sure if it should become a subgenre, but I want another game like this so I can find out.

    I don’t know if you would like the original God of War games Shamus, but theres a good chance you’d like the new one. It’s sort of a soft reboot so the other games don’t matter

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’d love to see Shamus play Obra-Dinn!

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        Seconded, I’d love to see a playthrough, just finished one myself a couple of days back.. left me wanting more, but there aren’t any similar games of that kind of feel that I can find, sadly

    2. Dev Null says:

      Obra Dinn really is fantastic. Been playing it tag-team with my wife and we both love it.

    3. Jabrwock says:

      Yahtzee was right though, take it in manageable chunks, otherwise it’s over too quick. Definitely grab a paper notebook though. There will be a lot of clues you’ll need to take notes on and the game only lets you note a few things like “this person is probably a passenger”.

      Other than that, I loved the game. The graphics reminded me of old Macintosh Hypercard games that were done in vignettes in monochrome.

    4. Ninety-Three says:

      Man am I confused by the reaction this game is getting, Obra Dinn was the worst game I paid for in the last… several years. The game lasts a whole two hours if you take the non-completionist path, and whether you 100% it or not, half your time will be spent muddling through the awful interface that I suspect was deliberately made to waste your time just to make it last longer. The narrative could be described in under a minute with no loss of detail, and the only thing the game has other than narrative is a tedious exercise in literal bookkeeping where you match names to faces of all the dead crewmen. The puzzle vibe fell totally flat for me because it’s obvious what happened to the ship, knowing that the crewman who took the spear to the face was Seaman O’Flannery doesn’t really add anything to it.

      1. Jabrwock says:

        If detective games aren’t your thing, that’s fine. If you’re not on board with the premise that you’re an insurance investigator, then you really don’t care who killed who or why. That’s literally all there is to the hook. I found the game enjoyable for the mystery. Yeah it got frustrating at times, but later it would be satisfying when I finally got through the clues and figured it out (every single identity does have something linking them, you can guess, but you can also solve the clue).

  11. Daimbert says:

    Some of these games seem to be primarily console games.

    Shamus, do you have a PS4?

    And if you do, why haven’t you played Persona 5?

    1. tmtvl says:

      These are the games that he didn’t play, if he did play P5 we’ll hear of it in another article.

      Or maybe he hasn’t because he isn’t a massive weeb and can recognize the Persona games aren’t very good.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I’m a regular enough reader to guess that if he had played it, I would have heard something about that already.

        As for your last sentence: Christmas is over, so it’s a bit late for “Deck the Halls” … [grin]

        1. tmtvl says:

          It’s weird how little I’ve heard about P5. I know JA streamed a lot of it, but I haven’t heard anything about it aside from that. Considering ShinMegaTen is one of the longest lasting RPG series’ I really expected more buzz around it.

          1. Syal says:

            …well I’ll do it.

            Persona 5 follows the basic formulas of the Persona games, and pretty heavily follows the beats of 4; new kid arrives at school, makes a few eccentric friends, finds himself in the Velvet Room where he’s told he has the power to change fate, and ends up in a supernatural shadow world that’s influencing the real world, where a mysterious cartoon circle animal provides guidance as to what’s happening. The gimmick in 5 is that the new kid is a convicted felon and nobody wants him here. I say it’s a gimmick because it has almost no influence beyond the first chapter.

            Plotwise, the major difference between 4’s plot and 5’s is that 4 had you fight through the shadow worlds of the victims, while 5 has you fight through the worlds of the villains. The villains have a really solid escalation curve; from a tyrannical teacher, through organized crime, to an international CEO, and up from there. The levels are all about discovering how the villain sees the world, and then punching them in the face for it. Simple stuff, but really satisfying.

            Gameplaywise there are a lot of quality-of-life improvements that make it better than the previous games. When fusing personas you can just pick which abilities get carried over. Non-player social links now give you additional benefits and abilities, instead of just improving fusion xp. The enemies are all persona instead of separate monsters like 3 and 4, and capturing them just requires figuring out their personality (or beating them within an inch of their life). There are day-based status conditions that weaken enemies, which can be used to cheese the first superboss.

            Best Persona in the series. (Apart from the loli attendants who constantly talk about penal labor. That part’s kinda creepy.)

            1. Daimbert says:

              The gimmick in 5 is that the new kid is a convicted felon and nobody wants him here. I say it’s a gimmick because it has almost no influence beyond the first chapter.

              Well, the story of that conviction runs through the entire story, and plays a big role in the ending (one of the better moments with S-links in the series). It’s also tied into the theme of the game which is about people getting crushed unjustly by society and rebelling against that.

              Plotwise, the major difference between 4’s plot and 5’s is that 4 had you fight through the shadow worlds of the victims, while 5 has you fight through the worlds of the villains.

              Which is a reflection of the plot being much, much darker than the previous two Persona games, which is a bit of a return to the plots of the original games.

              Best Persona in the series. (Apart from the loli attendants who constantly talk about penal labor. That part’s kinda creepy.)

              Probably intentionally. The Velvet Room this time is deliberately crafted to seem a bit off.

          2. shoeboxjeddy says:

            Atlus cracked down on streams to an obnoxious degree. Which basically lopped off the game from marketing except to the already engaged. Because they’re stupid, you see?

            1. Daimbert says:

              Well, I heard that they were trying to limit the plot being spoiled and, yeah, this is one case where they wanted to hide more, but they did indeed overdo it. I suspect that the next game won’t be as strict on that.

          3. Daimbert says:

            Oddly, as a follower of the series I found more buzz about it both before and after it released than Persona 3 or Persona 4.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              Right. “As a follower”. If you weren’t a follower, you wouldn’t have found out about the game through word of mouth because Atlus deliberately strangled that source to death to “fight spoilers” which is really, really stupid.

              1. Daimbert says:

                Except that while I follow the game I DON’T follow gaming media very much, and there were much more articles and such that were more prominent both before and after it was released than there were for the other two games. In essence, I, a casual gaming media browser, FOUND those articles, whereas for the previous two games I found a review of Persona 3 once (which is why I bought it).

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      Isn’t Spiderman a PS4 exclusive?

  12. Christopher says:

    Listening to the Giant Bomb GOTY podcasts, I got the impression Red Dead Redemption 2 has actually got some heart in it, so you might enjoy that more then GTA’s plot when you get around to it. Let’s hope, y’know.

    I tried getting into Monster Hunter World this year and could not. It’s very much my taste, and if I squint just right I can see Dragon’s Dogma in it, but actually learning the terminology and UI and stuff was still a bother. Capcom hasn’t mastered the art of easing you into a deep system the way Nintendo has, they just throw hundreds of tiny tutorial prompts at you and hope for the best.

    I played Donut County and liked it, but it’s a two-hour game with simple gameplay, over in a flash. And unlike something like Journey, Gone Home or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, there’s no self-serious feel, death, gay themes or religious pilgrimage kinda styling to it. It’s just this lighthearted and relaxing puzzle game with a unique mechanic, and the closest the plot is about something else it’s about gentrification.

    I’d recommend it, but I get why people don’t talk much about it after they’re done with it.

    I think Detroit: Become Human is hilarious but I think you gotta be the kinda person who reacts to audacious bombast with glee to enjoy it like that. You’d be sooooo mad

  13. TehShrike says:

    I loved Donut County. It was a dose of charmingness delivered with charming puzzle gameplay, and I was in the perfect mood for it.

    In the same vein, I’m excitedly awaiting Untitled Goose Game: https://youtu.be/wQknBJo4aBQ

    I haven’t played any of the other games on this list of yours either – I’d have purchased Hitman 2 by now, but I just can’t justify paying for an always-online single-player game.

    1. Philadlephus says:

      Donut County looks fun with an interesting mechanic, and the art style’s nice. If it comes to Linux I’d definitely pick it up.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        So for some reason this game flew completely under my radar but after several people commented on it in the comments here I’m going to add it to the wishlist, I sometimes need a short, cutesy game that you can play just in order to chuckle and relax.

  14. Lars says:

    wheeh. New backgrounds. Haven’t seen that Bubble Bobble screen yet.

  15. PPX14 says:

    cringy sophomoric trash

    I can’t help but hold the same opinion about abbreviating “cringeworthy” into “cringy” ;-)

    I suppose it’s better than using “cringe”.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      “cringy” would be something full of cringe, rather than something worthy of cringing at.

  16. Misamoto says:

    I would be interested in hearing what you could say about God of War. I believe everything about the game was quite satisfying – writing, gameplay, graphics and overall polish

  17. Nimrandir says:

    Monster Hunter World: Not my thing? I think?

    I’m inclined to say you’re right, given this line from your Arkham City retrospective:

    I’ve said before that I don’t like Dark Souls. But what’s interesting is that I love Arkham City, and the things I love about Arkham City are the things it has in common with Dark Souls.

    The combat mechanics of Monster Hunter lean way more toward the Souls games than they do the Arkham series. There’s nearly no reason to engage in combat with packs of smaller creatures, and the heavy-hitting nature of larger monsters may turn you off. However, Monster Hunter handles single-opponent encounters better than either Arkham game I’ve experienced, and it isn’t as punitive as a From Software title (you typically get three ‘tries’ at a given quest, and getting back into the fight is much less of a hassle).

    On the other hand, the core gameplay loop has a ‘Diablo meets Minecraft’ vibe, and I think you like both of those concepts. If you could play a demo to see how you like the combat, maybe it would appeal to you?

  18. Syal says:

    So I only got two hunts into Monster Hunter World, because instead of using square and triangle to attack, it uses triangle, circle, and R2, and if you hit square or R1 you put your weapon away in the middle of combat and have to draw it again. It’s a pretty inconvenient button layout and I didn’t see a way to change them.

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Seems like Capcom has something against allowing the players to remap buttons. I remember Dragon’s Dogma having atrocious button choices that made it very difficult to play with a controller until I got used to them (and then they screwed me up with every other game on a controller).

      1. John says:

        You can re-map buttons in every Street Fighter game I’ve ever played–not counting arcade cabinets–from 1996 to the present. (There might well be a player mutiny if you couldn’t.) So it may just be some particular team or teams at Capcom who struggle with this issue.

      2. tmtvl says:

        Because DDDA is my second favourite game I feel obliged to point out that all controller buttons are rebindable in the PC version.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I believe you can remap on a system level, so you could do that if you actually wanted to play the game.

    3. CrushU says:

      I know you can remap now, on the PC. I don’t know about on the controller.

      But I’d never played a MH title before, and I just learned how to play it.
      Helps that I can map ‘R2’ to a button on my mouse…

  19. Joshua says:

    And for a change in the type of games he reviews (since NWN 2, anyway), I’d like to see him cover Divinity: Original Sin 2, even though it’s a 2017 game and hear his take on it.

  20. Lun says:

    Man, reading you bash one of my favorite gaming/cinematic experiences of all time was unpleasant….. There’s so much to be said about Detroit: Become Human. So much.

    I love it, I love it so much that I also cosplayed as Hank Anderson while my friend cosplayed Connor. And that’s saying a lot because I’m picky with my cosplay choices.

    And what a story. That was absolutely my GOTY 2018 and it’s not even exactly a videogame, more like a new hybrid experience between movie and game (forget Telltale’s your-choices-probably-don’t-matter products; Detroit is finally the real interactive film).

    I agree that sometimes Cage’s narration is hamfisted, although it can’t bother me when the final result is so good and emotional. Eh, hamfisted or not, it’s still much better than the equally hamfisted narration we get in…. almost every other videogame out there, maybe? And the reason you notice the silly moments or discrepancies in Detroit but you don’t in all other videogames, is because Detroit also has serious, believable moments.
    And in a way, isn’t it like the Metal Gear Solid series? That saga was muuuch more filled with cheesy stuff and long-winded dialogues, but there’s a reason it became so popular.

    Quantic Dreams created a memorable masterpiece with Detroit: Become Human, and I wasn’t expecting that since I had found Beyond: Two Souls to be an average, amusing but forgettable experience.

    I can’t praise that game enough for finally offering something emotional, immersive and thought-provoking, just when I thought all videogames and movies nowadays were only about making big bucks and rehashing overused ideas, zero risks taken.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      isn’t it like the Metal Gear Solid series? That saga was muuuch more filled with cheesy stuff and long-winded dialogues, but there’s a reason it became so popular.

      Well, there’s a distinct reason why some people like the Metal Gear Solid games so much.
      But seriously, there’s also apparently fun gameplay in the Metal Gear games as well. Personally, I hate their story for most of the reasons I think I’d not enjoy a David Cage game.

      And the reason you notice the silly moments or discrepancies in Detroit but you don’t in all other videogames, is because Detroit also has serious, believable moments.

      Oh, but Shamus does notice it in other games. Have you not read his novel-sized retrospective on Mass Effect?
      (it’s good, you should.)

      But ultimately, while my first reaction is to say “If you think a David Cage game* offers a good, memorable story experience and other games can’t do better then you’re playing the wrong games“…

      …who am I to tell you what you like or what you should play. If you liked Detroit then you did.

      *or a Metal Gear Solid game…

      1. Lun says:

        Eh, I get defensive when it comes to Detroit: Become Human because usually the people who don’t like Cage’s games REALLY don’t like them. I mean, they get very…. outspoken… on how much they hate them. And maybe I’m very outspoken on how much I love those games too, so there’s a clash.

        Maybe that’s sort of a good thing too. Loved or hated, they can’t be ignored?

        I loved the Metal Gear Solid saga’s crazy plot, so perhaps the kind of person who likes that is also the person who likes Cage’s games and vice versa.

        Then again, even among Cage’s games I personally find Detroit: Become Human to be much better than most of them.

        Still, I wish I could figure out why people who hate Cage’s games hate them so much. I’d assumed that Shamus of all people would enjoy a game with plot and atmosphere all over the place.

        When Shamus dissed Mass Effect, I also got the impression he enjoyed it. His piece on Detroit: Become Human here doesn’t contain the same dissed-but-loved feeling…. it seems just dissing. Aww. :(

        1. John says:

          Is Beyond Human the kind of game where the premise and plot are vulnerable to nit-picking? Do the sci-fi bits make some kind of sense? Do people (and robots) behave in a mostly sensible fashion, consistent with their aptitudes and their own interests as they understand them? How heavy-handed is the metaphor? How apt is it? Is there a sense that things happen mostly because they are dramatic rather than because they are the logical or probable consequences of what has happened before? These are the kinds of things that I’d care about in a game like Beyond Human. I can’t answer these questions definitively because I haven’t played the game. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, however, I don’t think I’d like the answers. Also, though I’m sure you didn’t mean it as such, the phrase “plot and atmosphere all over the place” sounds to me like a description of erratic, inconsistent, and unfocused storytelling.

          1. Syal says:

            I watched the Super Best Friends playthrough, which seems to me like the perfect experience; the Zaibatsu’s childlike, scatterbrained approach to gaming is a wonderful complement to David Cage’s childlike stories. And they liked it enough to play it twice, so it’s got some stuff going for it.

            How heavy-handed is the metaphor?

            There is no object in this universe heavier than the hand of metaphor in Detroit: Become Human.

            …surprisingly, unless I’m misremembering, I think the rest of those questions actually come out positively.

            1. Lun says:

              I honestly wonder how you can call Cage’s stories”childlike”.
              What is “childlike” about Heavy Rain? Perhaps the fact it’s about a serial killer who murders kids and a father who feels guilt for the accidental death of his child?
              What is “childlike” about Detroit: Become Human? The fact it’s about comparing humans to machines and making us wonder if there’s a difference between us and a computer?
              What is “childlike” about Beyond: Two Souls? The fact it’s…. ok, you know what, Beyond IS an exception as it’s not a very deep or mature story in my opinion.

              1. Syal says:

                I don’t remember much about Heavy Rain apart from Heavy Juice and the Shaun Glitch, but setting aside Detroit’s incredible heavyhandedness, there’s the part where a newly freed android, with newly rescued little girl in tow, can proceed to rob everyone she encounters, and use the little girl to distract them. And then Connor’s ending is such a well-known cliche in such a fitting context that it’s awesome.

                1. Lun says:

                  Wait, define “Connor’s ending”….. he has like five or ten of those!

        2. Drathnoxis says:

          I don’t like David Cage because his games are a plot to steal unsuspecting gamer souls and give them to his demon lord masters. He’s not a good person.

    2. Guest says:

      Lot of people rag on Metal Gear’s sillyness and expectation that deapite that, you’ll be in for hours of cutscenes.

      DBH is the game by the guy who thought “Wouldn’t it be suprising subtext for Bladerunner if Replicants were basically people, indistinguishable from us and deserving of rights” and instead of pulling his head out his ass and going “That’s literally the core theme of the story”, he made his own version, a glorious monument to his misunderstanding of subtext.

  21. Rack says:

    I don’t want to recommend it because I’m sure you’d hate it but I feel compelled to point out Indigo Prophecy is by far the dumbest David Cage game, a long way dumber than the second dumbest Beyond: Two Souls which itself is much dumber than Heavy Rain and Detroit. That’s not to say either of those are smart or not achingly pretentious, just Indigo Prophecy was REAL dumb.

    Also major spoilers for Detroit if you care but

    In one of the endings it’s revealed that the robots gaining sentience isn’t a bug but a method by which their manufacturer can gain military or political (it’s unclear which) dominance by creating an army that enjoys legal protection and voting rights once the androids are freed.

    It’s still dumb but not the specific kind of dumb that particularly offends you. In a similar vein though there’s a Netrunner novel where a robot is taken from its fast food job as part of a global conspiracy and the robot feels existential angst because it really misses making fast food.

    1. Lun says:

      Uhm, why would that thing you put in spoiler tags be considered “dumb”? Isn’t it actually the opposite of dumb? Making you question sentience and free will?

      1. John says:

        I don’t think so. The point of the game, as I understand it, is to make you sympathize with the robots who, so far as you know, really do have free will. I mean, this is a game where you control various robots, yes? And you have free will, so the robots must too, yes? The spoilered bit doesn’t seem at all consistent with any of that. Few players are going to enjoy being told that the choices they’ve been making weren’t real and don’t count. Unless the twist was foreshadowed incredibly well, unless it makes you say “of course, it all makes sense now!” then I can’t see why it’s there except for the sake of having a big plot twist.

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          “Few players are going to enjoy being told that the choices they’ve been making weren’t real and don’t count. Unless the twist was foreshadowed incredibly well, unless it makes you say ‘of course, it all makes sense now!’ then I can’t see why it’s there except for the sake of having a big plot twist.”

          Plus Bioshock already did that over a decade ago.

        2. Lun says:

          ” The point of the game, as I understand it, is to make you sympathize with the robots”

          “I mean, this is a game where you control various robots, yes? And you have free will, so the robots must too, yes?”

          Mmmh, don’t take it the wrong way, but if you ask these questions above^, I think you missed the point of the game.

          The game’s an analysis of society, in particular of 1) technology taking us over, as it’s currently happening; 2) human behaviour as seen from an outside point of view, and comparing it to a machine’s.

          So, to answer your questions, you’re not supposed to emphatize with the robots, you’re actually supposed to see humans as robots themselves. You’re not supposed to give free will to robots, you’re supposed to wonder if free will even exists or if we all just follow our natural “program” of instincts and brain chemicals.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      So this twist could go both ways to me. Needs more detail.

      So if the manufacturer wants political influence, in a democracy, then they could do a lot worse than causing androids to gain free will and start demanding rights. That would be literally making voters that are sympathetic to your platform – actually kind of smart.

      If they want a literal army…then giving them free will is a terrible idea. Most armies spend a lot of time trying to make it so that recruits have LESS free will, because they will need to obey orders quickly and effectively under a lot of pressure.
      And seriously, just install a KILL MODE switch into your robots if that’s what you want, like every other villain.

      Either way, John’s point below about foreshadowing applies. If this is a twist that feels like it was pulled out of someone’s ass and/or undermines something established before, then…

  22. Carlos García says:

    The game I’ve loved this year, not that I keep up with new releases, was Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Sadly it’s buggy and while I’ve been lucky and only recently found a game breaking bug that was short lived as the patch came shortly after I got it, seems many aren’t as lucky. There’s a lot of whining about its difficulty, as every time a game is challenging (even when I keep people moaning that games are hand holdy and too easy) but I completely disagree when playing at normal and challenging(*). There’s only a need to prepare, use tactics and IC reasoning. There’s in all cases (as a note, I’m still far from the end, I don’t play long sessions or specially fast) enough hints before hand so you can figure out what preparations you need, though at least in one case I remember, which is a well, you’re told if you speak with certain NPC first and you may well find the well without having seen that NPC.

    Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an isometric RPG of the style that is popping out so often lately. The one thing I don’t quite like is you get to be a baron; while I know it’s fair and reasonable an adventurer would eventually be able to be in a position of power, NPCs in charge are often retired adventurers, after all, I prefer to leave that for the epilogue on what happens to the characters once you’ve finished the adventure. But that’s just a matter of personal preference, not a real con.

    Now that I write this line I’ve got the feeling a week or two ago I mentioned this game here and not somewhere else as I thought when I started writing this.

    (*) By challenging I mean set at normal but every individual difficulty option set to challenging level minus allowing the first character death to be “fake”.

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      here’s a lot of whining about its difficulty, as every time a game is challenging (even when I keep people moaning that games are hand holdy and too easy) but I completely disagree when playing at normal and challenging(*). There’s only a need to prepare, use tactics and IC reasoning.

      Pathfinder: Kingmaker is definitely unfairly challenging early on, before your characters have access to enough powers and options to prepare or use much in the way of tactics. The enemies you encounter early game are just too strong, and the only thing you can really do is reload until you get lucky. It gets better as you level up, but the game has some serious balance issues. It’s a same too, because the combat system is otherwise pretty good. It’s better than any of Obsidian’s.

      There’s also the wee issue that the game can become unwinnable because you run out of time to complete a story quest that the game doesn’t really tell you is a ticking clock. This is doubly bad because the kingdom management stuff encourages you to spend a lot of time sitting in your keep skipping days.

      The game’s worst problem, though, is that it’s just too damned slow. You spend at least three times as much time in loading screens as could be considered acceptable, and even more time waiting while your character moves across a map. I did some more in-depth ranting on the forum thread.

      1. Carlos García says:

        I haven’t had issues with the early game. In the prologue/tutorial I’ve read “is impassable” there’s only one encounter, the first against three in a library than can go wrong, but that’s not into unfair difficulty. The Stag Lord final fight is in the edge. I’ve only played once through that so I’m open that if you don’t get Krestel’s help then may get well into the unfair side.
        The only one I would qualify as too much is the first curse fight in the mossy ground or whatever it’s called (I’m in the three years to next deadline part, so I’ve not gone there in a long time), where the initial mobs are easy to deal with, but then you get some nymph caster and her superspider that are definitely too strong at that point, as their saves and AC are quite hard to get through and their AB and spell DCs are so high it’s very hard to resist. At first I wasn’t sure if that was scripted to happen so soon and thought I might have been unlucky, but since that’s a questline that marks the main deadlines and chapters of the game I see it’s meant to happen right after the Stag Lord, so that’s way too tough indeed. My remaining doubt is whether I went for the Stag Lord too soon (I did shortly after the first of the three months time limit) and I was simply underleveled for what both Stag Lord and that mound fight are meant to be at. But yeah, that mound fight is definitely way too hard for challenging mode (at pure normal level it turns into an easy fight). I’m going to start a secondary save and try to do a lot more of area exploration to try be at least level five for the Stag Lord fight. Other than that first curse fight, I’ve seen a number of tough fights, but none save that mound thing strike me as unfairly tough. There was one map with a troll I couldn’t beat, but that was because I visited it when I still had a party of four at second level and didn’t have the means to fight a troll: only the acid cantrip for 1d3 acid damage and melee people with not even half the AC needed. That’s not unfair, that’s finding an enemy that’s meant to be too hard for a level 2 non full party. One of the things I like is there’s no level scaling. If the enemies of an area are meant for level 10 characters then you better flee if you see them with a level 3 party.

        Ah, I wasn’t aware of the time limit not being displayed for quests limited in time. Now that sucks and is indeed a big issue. What I head seen on that is people complaining about having time limits, which is a complain I disagree with. In fact I feel it refreshing to finally (at least I don’t remember seeing it in any of the ones I’ve played) have an RPG that sets a time limit. Now, it should be displayed for all quest that do have a time limit. Apart from making a second save to have a review of some fights and see how the Stag Lord battle is if you don’t get Krestel’s help and see how high level I can get if I delay it with exploration, is to check on whether something I saw in a LP comes from patches or that some things change depending on how long you take to get them. The one I’m talking is that I was contacted by some guy telling me of my rival going somewhere, I decided to go do some step of the main quest and go to that tomb after, I met mercenaries left behind by the rival and got to the old sycamore with four party members where I finally got in contact with the two potential members that sided with the rival; but in the LP the guy went straight to the tomb and he met the two potential party members there, so I wonder if I didn’t find them because I took longer and they had moved on already or simply in a patch that came later they decided to add them to the encounter for a chance to go to the Old Sycamore with at least five party members. That maze with four level 3 party members is quite hard if you decide to antagonize both mites and kobolds as I did, but fairly so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose to give an extra party member to make it less hard.

        The loading times is totally true, I agree. I forgot to mention them. Lately they improved it, at least it’s improved for me, and it’s still slow. During a patch that lasted around November it went beyond slow, it was frustrating, I almost stopped playing because of such long waits.

  23. evileeyore says:

    Far: Lone Sails. Never heard of it, but… having now looked it up at the very least the dieselpunk desert ships look intriguing.

    But I’ve got a soft spot dieselpunk in the same way some people have for steampunk.

    1. Mattias42 says:

      It’s a hauntingly pretty game Lone Sails, but it’s a bit of a one-trick pony.

      You just… move to the right, while doing the odd, rather easy puzzle to break things up. It’s almost a 2D walking-sim at times.

      I think that’s why it faded so quickly from the public mind, alas. There’s just not much to say about it besides how pretty and atmospheric it is, and ‘It’s a real Experience’ is one of those sentences so watered down I made a grimace even writing it despite feeling it sums up the game pretty well.

      That one trick, though? Masterfully executed. I paid release price for it without any regrets.

  24. Paul Spooner says:

    While I agree that “Detroit: Become Human” isn’t thinking very hard about what it would mean to design intelligent machines, I feel like Cage’s deeper problem is he doesn’t understand even what it means to be human. Like, he heard the English translation of “Cogito, ergo sum” in high-school and decided that was all he needed to know about humanity, and never looked back. To be fair, “what it means to be human” is a complicated problem, and I’m not going to pretend I’ve got a handle on the whole of it myself, but that’s part of the problem I have with the treatment here. It’s very obviously approaching from a “shaming the evil patriarchy which objectifies women” perspective. I’d love to go into how that is problematic, but it feels too close to politics already.

    Anyway, yeah, Yahtze seems to have his number.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      What parts of Detroit Become Human do you think show, that Cage doesn’t understand humanity? I watched a let’s-play of Detroit, and it seemed pretty reasonable in that regard. The desires for companionship, safety, protecting others (among other common human wants), were all on display. The game might have been a bit blunt with its messages, but it seemed otherwise ok to me.

    2. Gwydden says:

      My apologies, but every time I read the expression “what it means to be human” in the context of literary criticism, creative writing, or storytelling in general, I cringe so, so very hard. It’s such a vague, pretentious, and melodramatic phrase. Ultimately, good writing has less to do with the writer’s particular insight (artists don’t know anything about the human condition that other people don’t) but about their craftsmanship. And from the let’s plays I’ve seen of Detroit, Cage is a rubbish craftsman, I’ll grant you that much.

      1. Lun says:

        Honestly, if there’s ONE game which makes you philosophically think “what it’s like to be human”, it really is Detroit: Become Human.

        Just a small example – at one point of the game, one of the androids you control does cool parkour around the city to reach a certain place. You marvel at that machine’s agility….. then you do a double take as you realize humans can do the same exact thing, and you switch from marveling at that android body to marveling at the human body.

        Then, you see this android calculating how the crime scene might have played out by analysing the criminal evidence in the area. Again, you marvel at the android’s ability to reconstruct a scene based on the hints left in the place…. then you realize you, human being, do the same thing regularly. Again, you switch from marveling at the android brain to marveling at the human brain.

    3. John says:

      It’s very obviously approaching from a “shaming the evil patriarchy which objectifies women” perspective.

      Huh. Have you played the game? I’m asking because I haven’t, so it’s possible that there’s stuff in there that I just don’t know about. (Something with the domestic servant robot subplot, maybe?) Based on the pre-release promotional materials I would have said that the game was going for a clumsy Civil Rights Movement thing. (See for example the treatment of robots on the bus.) “Shaming the evil patriarchy” seems like an odd take.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Well, all of Cage’s game have a creepy rapist/woman murderer type character and Detroit is no exception.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          In Detroit, I think all of the pseudo-rape is against / to robots, so I think it’s less likely to offend in this case?

          1. Boobah says:

            I’m not sure that helps when the game seems to be saying that the robots are basically people with some additional programming on top.

            To wit, the sex bots are mind-controlled children in adult-shaped bodies. This does not seem less offensive than what I recall of Beyond or Fahrenheit.

        2. Lun says:

          I’m a woman and a feminist.
          I feel like some people accuse Cage of “putting creepy rapists/women murderers” in his games because when he does that, he really makes them realistic and unpleasant instead of using them as a cheesy horror movie scream queen material.

          Compare with the sexily wounded Lara Croft, sweaty and with a heaving breath, moaning suggestively when she’s supposed to feel pain. Nobody had a problem with it.

          Now we have Cage’s games, where rape and assault is NOT attractive. It doesn’t make you hot and bothered, it makes you feel disturbed. Somehow, people have a problem with it.

          Curious, isn’t it?

          1. Shamus says:

            “Compare with the sexily wounded Lara Croft, sweaty and with a heaving breath, moaning suggestively when she’s supposed to feel pain. Nobody had a problem with it.”

            I NEVER thought she sounded sexy, or that she was supposed to sound sexy, or that anyone THOUGHT she sounded sexy. She was hurt, and making the sounds meatbags make when they’re hurt. I thought it was really cool that we were getting a female hero that could do the Die Hard thing and get beat up, hurt, winded, worn down, and raw. She doesn’t emerge from every fight with her hair in place and her makeup fresh.

            I haven’t seen the other Cage games, but from what I understand the problem isn’t that the rape isn’t “sexy” (your passive aggressive accusations are pretty weird) but because it’s a sledgehammer for creating MELODRAMA. Going by the extremely surreal and squicky way Cage handled sex in Indigo Prophesy, I would not count on him giving the topic of rape the proper consideration and respect.

            But like I said, I haven’t played the later games so I’m obviously missing the context.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              When I was playing the first Tomb Raider (not the first first, the first new one… dammit I hate these reboot naming schemes) there was that one rapey scene (that proceeded to strangling or neckbreaking if you didn’t do the QTE) that I think someone tried to (badly) use to establish a villain and as I was playing I was under the impression that “someone was enjoying these way too much” with most of the death scenes but I too was at no point thinking that this was meant to be generally sexy unless someone is specifically into this stuff.

              1. Narkis says:

                Anecdotal evidence, I know, but every single person I’ve talked to that played the new Tomb Raider was disturbed by the death scenes. I don’t doubt that someone, somewhere actually enjoyed them, but that can be said about absolutely everything. I find it mystifying that videogames and only videogames keep attracting this kind of pearl-clutching.

            2. Lun says:

              Honestly, Lara Croft’s sexy moaning in the Tomb Raider reboot has pretty much become an internet meme. There’s no point denying it has sexual value, it’s meant to be somehow titillating. It doesn’t matter if you personally find it sexy or not; what matters is that it was objectively designed to have a certain sexual appeal.

              It’s a bit of a reach maybe, but I could say that perhaps Nathan Drake does the same thing much more subtly. I think that when he gets in those impossible situations and has that “help me” puppy face, he becomes so adorable. Makes you want to protect him, which coincidentally is how the devs of the Tomb Raider game wanted you to feel for Lara. But the situation he (or she) is into doesn’t creep you out, because it’s still action movie stuff.

              What I’m trying to say here is that Detroit, instead, presents rape or abuse as something unattractive. It’s not scream queen fiction that’s just for fun; it’s something realistic and therefore it’s not titillating but just plain horrible.
              It’s not an action scene where the heroine or hero escapes.

          2. shoeboxjeddy says:

            In Heavy Rain, the first scene with the female protagonist involves taking a shower and then being attacked by threatening male figures in your underwear. This turns out to be a nightmare with no relevance to the plot at all. It was LITERALLY just a scene where the sexy female lead is put into sexy peril in her underwear for cheap audience thrills and chills. Next up, the female protagonist is literally put in the scream queen seat when she’s tied to a table while a guy prepares to hack her up, serial killer style. The control prompts are to scream and struggle to no avail until a chance encounter lets you save yourself. Later in the game, you have to do a sexy strip tease to get information. I’m… not sure what you think you’re defending here. If you were TRYING to make “sexy damsel in distress, the game”, you’d pretty do everything Heavy Rain did, exactly.

            1. Lun says:

              In Heavy Rain, there’s also a completely unnecessary scene where the attractive male hero takes a shower.

              I’m sure if that scene involved the heroine instead, you’d list that as a proof of sexism as well.

              In fact, I’m gonna be blunt and aggressive and claim that you noticed the heroine put in sexual peril (which was only a symbol of her anxiety issue, so she wasn’t in any danger), but you somehow didn’t notice the hero being forced to cut his own finger for real and risking his life.

              But in part I agree with you: I felt the playable female character in Heavy Rain was largely unnecessary and poorly introduced.
              On the other hand, we have that prostitute who gets with Scott Shelby who is a very well-written character. She feels like she should’ve been the playable heroine.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                It’s not like it’s inappropriate for characters in that game to be put in peril. It’s just that when the dad gets in peril, he has to kill a man or drive dangerously or get electrocuted. When the female protagonist is in peril, she has to take off her clothes or get tied up helplessly. It’s not equal treatment AT ALL. Probably her best scene is when she is trapped in a burning building as a result of her investigation. That’s a logical, non-sexy peril that is a consequence of her actions and not just “the guy she was going to ask questions is a crazed serial killer!!!”

                1. Lun says:

                  Keep in mind in the whole “sexy peril” scene she wasn’t in peril at all. It was just her mind. So at least there’s that.

                  I still agree with you that the heroine of Heavy Rain was a pointless, badly written character. Kinda like that prostitute robot in Detroit, the one who falls for Markus – really a bland and forced character. But Cage’s proven he can do good female characters, he just can’t help himself from adding one token badly written female character.

                  Plus, we’ve had Beyond: Two Souls. I didn’t like that game so much, but it does have a female heroine that is not defined by her gender while at the same time not being just written as a “man with boobs”.

                  1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                    Beyond slips in that part where she suddenly blows a guy on the street. Because there’s no way to show desperate circumstances without being coerced into sexual favors against your will? When the characters in Detroit are in dire straits, they at least try break ins or robberies rather than going straight to prostitution…

    4. Mr. Wolf says:

      Why would David Cage hear an English translation in school? He’s French.

      Okay, I’m done missing the point now.

  25. Prismatic says:

    You should give Red Dead a chance, Shamus. I think you’d really enjoy it.

    It has some superficial similarities to GTA V (a dark game about a group of criminals in a vast open world) but it’s so different in tone, scope, and maturity that I can hardly believe they come from the same studio.

    RDR 2 is a shockingly intimate story that starts as the tale of a gang and slowly becomes a story about the protagonist Arthur. The characters are likable not because they make you smile and laugh but because they care about and respect and support one another- and the story consistently juxtaposes their better qualities to the brutality and havoc that they trade in as outlaws.

    Not to spoil anything, but the game’s latter section is deeply concerned with “Redemption”- namely, Arthur trying to redeem himself for the lives he’s ruined in the name of his own personal freedom and the health of the gang. The story is bleak, but it brims with heart and moments of decent human goodness to beat back the darkness of the setting. It has a level of nuance and emotional intelligence that exposes GTA V for the juvenile mess that it is.

    The story is certainly not without flaws, but I consider it one of the finest stories of any 2018 game, on par with something like The Witcher 3.

  26. Philadelphus says:

    Wow. This game was a sensation. It was all anyone talked about for most of November[…]RDR2 is a culture-wide event

    Huh. As a dedicated gamer myself, I only know about RDR2 from a few ads on the sides of buses and from watching my housemate play it for maybe half an hour. It’s not something I’d be interested in playing, so I haven’t seen or read anything about it online. I guess it just goes to show how big gaming’s gotten, that two dedicated gamers can inhabit almost completely disjoint worlds within it.

  27. ElementalAlchemist says:

    I’d be interested to see your take on Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Shamus. Maybe put that on the watch list and grab it in a sale. I think it would be pretty good fodder for a long form analysis.

  28. Lino says:

    By the way, will we be getting a new series by Mr. Bob Case this year? I’ve got my reservations about his Witcher series, but I’d still like to hear more from him in the future.

    1. Asdasd says:

      I’m also a fan of Bob’s work (videos and text) and I’d love to see him return with another series. Preferably something I’ve already played so I angst less about spoilers, but given I beat about 2 games a year that doesn’t leave a big pool so I’m graciously willing to compromise on this.

  29. Simplex says:

    Detroit is worth playing if only for the fact that it is a game that Telltale promised, but never delivered. It really has meaningful choices which impact the story many hours after making them, the number of permutation is really staggering, some characters may die at the early stages of the game and then the whole game adapts to it. Or a character may or may not change his allegiance based on your choices and the game also adapts. It’s really marvelous. It’s like the Iorveth/Roche choice in the Witcher 2, only Detroit has dozens of such choices. It’s not like it gives you a pretend choice and then funnels the story in the same direction, so that no matter what choice you made, the outcome is still the same. It actually has real branching paths that change the whole outcome. It’s especially apparent when people who finished the game discuss it between themselves – it turns out each of them had an almost completely different story because of different choices.

    You may hate the writing, the hamfisted “androids=slaves” analogies, etc. But it’s worth to play a game that really gives you a choice, not an illusion of one. If that game had a linear story, it has enough content in there to make it into 3-4 separate games, each with a different story.

  30. PPX14 says:

    I’m interested to know what the overlap is between people who had very high opinions of The Last of Us and of God Of War 2018.

    The Last of Us had that storytelling and characters that people absolutely doted on.

    In fact let’s throw in Uncharted in there too.

    And without having looked too closely, GoW 2018 just smacks of that same type of LoU storytelling that I just won’t find all that interesting and will often grate on my nerves a little. By comparison to the reviews anyway.

    (For me, the Thief trilogy is the height of storytelling in the games that I’ve played)

  31. WWWebb says:

    Unfortunately we are moving out of the “dad-Shamus” period. Otherwise we might have heard about Sea of Thieves, any of the Lego games, or Starlink. All are good fun to romp around in with your younger gamers. of course, none of them let plot get in the way of fun which is the other reason we probably won’t see them around here.

  32. slipshod says:

    Sorry (not sorry), but I loved the ever-loving shite out of DBH. Like, to a first-game-I’ve-ever-gotten-a-platinum-trophie-on degree. Granted, the nanny and the revolution story lines I treated like window-dressing, but the buddy cop comedy portion was gold. And I definitely did have an attachment to all the characters, as well as the choices I made. Unabashedly cried at quite a few junctures, even. Sad to hear you won’t be playing it.

  33. Xander77 says:

    Way late to the part, but an in-depth retrospective of RDR2 and a compare\contrast with GTA would be amazing.

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