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Polish 11-Bit Sutdio's This War of Mine came out last month to see almost immediate commercial success in spite of having little to go for it in terms of what is defined as key for major game studios. Inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo as opposed to this year's debacle in the Ukraine (probably Russia at the time of reading), This War of Mine shows a face of war rarely revealed by videogames. Looking at our most popular games such as CoD and Battlefield, the evils of war are hidden behind how fun and awesome blowing stuff up is fun. The critically acclaimed and gorgeous Spec Ops: The Line is one of few examples in video games of effective portayal of the amorality of war. The rocking soundtrack and fun gameplay do remove us and result in an issue which has plagues other titles such as Tomb Raider of Bioshock Ininite: Ludonarrative Dissonance.
This War of Mine does not try to be fun. It does not try to impress you. It simply shows you the reality of trying to survive in a wartorn city. This War of Mine is a bit like a depressing version of The Sims. You need to feed your characters, and ensure that they remain emotionally stable. How these work is great. One has to scavenge resources in order to survive. Sometimes this means having to steal supplies from NPCs, and if things get to it, someone may die. You play as humans, after all, and these curious creatures feel emotions. Theft can induce guilt, murder depression, and eventually the characters, without the right forms of emotional support or whatever rudimentary distractions he has been able to fashion, become some psychologically burdened by the reality around them that they can no longer go on.
In my view This War of Mine is a very important video game. This is due to the fact that it can show that a game can deal with serious topics in a sensitive manner. It further demonstrates the evils of war to us. Finally, it will hopefully lead to other studios taking greater risks.
"In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers." - Neville Chamberlain
Crypt of the NecroDancer is an upcoming game which stood out for me almost instantly. It was not simply because it is smattered with gems of originality, but evoked many familiar feelings and emotions. This combination, along with Danny Bananowsky's electrifying compositions lead me to believe that this game is something truly unique. It's also bloody fun!
Let's start with the familiar. It certainly is not a coincidence that Cadence, our protagonist, looks very much our old friend Link, both with the tunic and blond locks. The ever-so-popular 32-bit retro visual style is gorgeous. The game itself is standard dungeon crawling romp involving killing beasts until you find the boss to go to the next level. New items and upgrades are unlocked by collecting gems, and buying them in the lobby. This is not where the magic is hidden at all, of course.
Then there's the original, and boy is it original. Let's start with the genre. It's a dungeon crawling roguelike rhythm game. I cannot think of another such game. The joyful simplicity in the controls to navigate the map and kill enemies, is a true testament to how one does not need complexe controls to make a good game. Danny Baranowsky's soundtrack is fantastic. Small touches such as the merchant who sings along and the fact that skelletons shake it before moving will bring a smile to many people's faces. Although I died frequently, I kept going back simply to know find out what new surprises were around the corner.
I personally cannot wait for the full release of this game. Rare it is that a game leaves me with such an impact. There's an Alpha build somewhere. Go look for it!
This may have been decried many a time in the past, but there seems to be a hole in the gaming industry at present. Feel free to comment, but perhaps this is due to a simple absence in demand, but titles which still remain popular such as Warcraft III or AoE II appear to have no modern equivalent. Granted, the Total War games and Europa series still hold certain RTS elements, but lack the elements present in the aforementioned games.
Where do we go from here? Is the genre dead, or has it manifested itself in other forms?