One reason we may play Games is simply to switch off from the world. More so than when reading a book or watching TV, the concentration required for playing games makes them ideal for shutting out unwanted distractions. Plus there’s the reassuring comfort of being in a world with clearly defined goals and rules, where our decisions feel transparent and consequential.
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Once a work enters the public domain, it is no longer subject to copyright laws. A publisher can print their own edition of the Beatrix Potter books, a filmmaker can make a film of any of Shakespeare's plays, and a game developer can adapt any of the characters, scenes or even whole stories from public domain works.
I've been slowly making my way through Return of the Obra Dinn, a moody concept piece (or if you prefer, flashy walking simulator) from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope. It's a gorgeous game, a triumph of aesthetics over technical grunt, and built around a simple but endlessly pliable concept: investigating a flash-frame of each crew member's final moments, and working out how they died.
I'm roughly halfway through the investigation, by my reckoning, because I've seen the end for around 30 of the characters. After the first few you start to understand where the fun of Obra Dinn lies: this is a grand mystery, filled with unknown alliances and enmities and tragedy and base murder. Piecing it together will be a huge task.
A decade ago, from November 17-21 2008, Left 4 Dead was released worldwide on PC and Xbox 360 — and was greeted with the sort of critical reverence to which its publisher, Valve, was accustomed. Principal developer Turtle Rock was entitled to some more genuine surprise. What had started out as a conceptual Counter-Strike mod had impressed the owners of that franchise enough to co-operate on a new, left-field kind of zombie game.
A decade ago, Left 4 Dead’s chaotic, cooperative take on zombies was released into the wild. One of the best multiplayer games ever created, part of its genius was an 'AI Director' system that ensured every game felt fresh and unpredictable for players.
I've never met Clyde Mandelin, whose online handle is Mato (as in "tomato"), but if I ever did I'd shake him by the hand and try to buy him a beer. I don't feel that way about every internet stranger, but I love this guy because he's the main reason I was ever able to play Mother 3, a Japan-only RPG that happens to be one of the best games Nintendo's ever made.
Though Halloween never had the prolonged media battering of the present day, the audience of the 8-bit era was as fond of a good scare as we are. Stephen King and James Herbert were selling millions with each new novel in the early 80s, while cinematic teen slashers saw their heyday with iconic maniacs, like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, alongside countless John Carpenter wannabes contributing with their own take on the genre.
When most games today focus on streamlined experiences that promote steady progress, there’s something almost anachronistic about the roguelike, with its constant restarts and uneven level design. And yet it’s in this environment that the formula has blossomed and spread into countless different genres, precisely because of those factors. With this summer’s Dead Cells the latest of its kind to find success, it’s clear that there are still countless ways to tweak that formula into subtly different, compelling results.
Gwyn, Lord of Cinder and former Lord of Sunlight, sits at the centre of the tangled labyrinth that is Dark Souls. The harmful consequences of his presence spread through every capillary of this world and propel the Chosen Undead’s actions. Gwyn isn’t evil, but his ailing stature and increasingly desperate deeds have become a corrupting influence on the realm he was trying to protect.
Whether you want to rekindle the flame and begin a new Age of Fire, or let it die and plunge the world into the Age of Dark, Gwyn must die first.
Marvel's Spider-Man is a hugely enjoyable if slightly mixed bag: a gorgeous and colourful open world starring the perfect open world character. Part of what makes the whole thing work is the way Spider-Man moves, and much attention has been rightly focused on the great web-swinging and city traversal.
The most pleasant surprise for me, however, is that Insomniac has delivered an extremely well-engineered take on what combat as Spider-Man should feel like, and in the process made this probably the first 3D Spider-Man game where fighting muggers is the highlight.
When I saw Cyberpunk 2077 at Gamescom, shortly before a 48 minute video went up online for the public, it blew me away. One of the things that stuck with me after the presentation, however, wasn't the game itself but a statement from level designer Miles Tost, who told us "being a Cyberpunk is all about being your authentic self, no matter who that is."
My eyes hurt. This is due to several circumstances: firstly, Frozen Synapse 2 has a beautiful neon crispness that I can still see when I shut my eyes. Secondly, I appear to activate the part of my brain that makes excellent tactical decisions via squinting. And finally, my eyes are sore because I've stayed up far too late playing brilliant matches of tactical shooter chess against people across the globe.
Back in January, Kotaku UK published a huge list of British developed games which were due to release in 2018 that we thought were worth keeping an eye on. While Supermarket Shriek (geddit?) got pushed out of its 2018 release window to Q1 2019, it's still one of the games that we were most excited to check out when the year began.