Like many others before me, I made a goal that I wanted to complete by the end of the year; the decade, even! By the end of 2019, I wanted to start writing reviews and articles about video games and video game culture. Challenge #1? Death Stranding, the first title released by the newly independent Kojima Productions.
As a fan and appreciator of Hideo Kojima’s earlier works in the Metal Gear Solid series, I was excited to give an honest and fleshed out opinion of this game. While his games are not built to appeal to everyone, his unique brand of weirdness felt like the right place to start. Of course, to write about it, I would have to actually play the game.
Turns out that was harder for me than I originally thought.
You see, Death Stranding is not an especially fun game to play. Not in the traditional sense for me, anyway. I respect the game’s direction, his team’s commitment to their message of unity in a broken and segmented world, the visuals, and the carefully crafted soundtrack. I had the occasional moment of fun during some of my brief time while playing, but it leans more towards feeling like work than pleasure. The issue is that I do not have nearly enough time to dedicate to this type of game, and with the time I do have, it is hard to stick with a game that isn’t consistently “fun” right off the bat. This game asks a lot of the player, with the whole experience essentially being a series of fetch quests. The most complicated fetch quest ever designed, perhaps, but a fetch quest all the same.
I knew that if I wanted to write anything at all, I would have to play something. Maybe even several somethings! With that being said, here are the games I am playing instead of Death Stranding.
Resident Evil 2 (PC) - Capcom
Okay, I’ll admit this game isn’t exactly “fun” for me either - Survival Horror games have a tendency to make me nauseous. But like the worst drug, I still find it strangely addicting.
Capcom did an amazing job recreating Resident Evil 2 for both returning players of the original, and completely new players like myself. The survival mechanics and tight corridors translate well to the over-the-shoulder gameplay within the Police Station. Carefully managing your limited supplies against a swarm of zombies, and the nigh unstoppable and always nearby Mr. X, is a riveting and uncomfortable experience.
I can barely play this game for 40 minutes at a time without needing to take a break to remind myself that Mr. X is not, in fact, stalking me personally. But, even though I’m not great at horror games, I still find myself drawn to them when they’re as great as this one. It’s a tense, carefully designed experience that knows what it wants to be. It’s scary, it’s funny, and it’s visceral. While I am moving through my first playthrough as Leon at a snail’s pace, I am excited to see the differences when playing again as Claire.
It is an A+ horror game, and that is coming from someone who is a self- described wimp.
Slay The Spire (Nintendo Switch) - Mega Crit Games
Oh, the countless hours I have lost to Slay the Spire just since I bought it at the beginning of December. Do you like deck-building card games, where you gradually acquire the most efficient and diabolical deck possible to destroy your opponents? Do you like the randomized thrills and challenges of Roguelites? Then do I have the game for you!
In Slay the Spire, your goal is to build a bomb-ass deck and, well, SLAY THE SPIRE! While you climb several increasingly challenging towers of enemies and randomized rooms, you’ll acquire more and more cards and relics to increase your strength. If you want to build a powerhouse deck to become a fast, heavy hitter who annihilates opponents before they see it coming, you can do that. If you prefer to play the long game, building a defensive wall and slowly killing your enemies off with poison, you can do that too!
With three different characters who have their own unique deck of cards, and future content releases planned to keep the game fresh, this is a game that I think any deck-building fan needs to try out.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC) - Rockstar Games
When Red Dead Redemption 2 was released on PS4, I played it a lot - my cowboy phase lasted about 5 months. It was one of the best gaming experiences I have had in several years, with stellar storytelling, a top notch soundtrack, and a detailed and lived in world design. In all, Red Dead Redemption 2’s fun and immersive (though admittedly clunky) cowboy simulation kept me hooked.
Then, Rockstar released Red Dead Redemption 2 on Steam.
“You got some more money for me, boy?” Rockstar asked me, gun in my face.
“...Yes,” I inevitably replied.
So now, I am playing it again on my PC, where Arthur is finally the sharpshooter he is supposed to be - with mouse controls. He’s a fairly mediocre horse rider on PC, unfortunately, due to the keyboard controls being inefficient compared to a controller in this regard. But, with a little editing of the keys and settings, you can get through it and enjoy the benefits of playing this title on PC.
Fair warning though, this game is designed to be future proof - meaning, you will almost assuredly not be able to max this game out visually at 4K on PC unless you have a computer from the future.
Uncharted: Lost Legacy (PS4) - Naughty Dog
The Uncharted Series has a very special place in my heart. It played a big part in changing my mindset on video games from “They’re fun!” to “BY GOLLY, THE CINEMATIC AND STORYTELLING POTENTIAL OF THIS MEDIUM RIVALS THAT OF THE FILM INDUSTRY!”
Though Nathan Drake is not involved in this side adventure aside from a few mentions, series veteran Chloe Frazer takes center stage and holds her own very well in this Uncharted 4 spin off. The game takes many of the elements that were new to Uncharted 4, such as the open level layout and the grappling hook, and it condenses them into this brief title.So far, I am enjoying seeing Nadine from Uncharted 4 partner up with Chloe, as it gives more context to Nadine’s values and reasoning during her time in Uncharted 4. It is absolutely worth a playthrough if you are an Uncharted fan, as it just gives you more of what you know and love!
It also stands as evidence that this series can work without Nathan Drake. If Naughty Dog decides to continue with this series after The Last of Us Part 2, I am positive it could grow with other established characters, or even a new group. I will be writing a bit of a love letter to the Uncharted series in a future post, so keep an eye out for that!
Halo: Reach (PC) - 343 Industries
I’ve heard that Halo: Reach has the best story in the Halo Series.Unfortunately, I don’t remember any details about the plot myself, because I drunkenly played through the campaign with a group of excitable and noisy friends, but what I can confirm is that 1) it was a lot of fun, and 2) I love that this game has a fully co-op campaign, because that is something that is sorely missing from a lot of games these days. While I intend to go back and play through the campaign alone to focus on the storytelling before the rest of the Halo series comes to PC, it being a fully co-op experience that you can play with friends gives this game a serious boon.
In terms of the game itself, I enjoyed the classic Halo gunplay that Bungie created, the soundtrack, the varied level design of the campaign, and generally just had a great time. I am looking forward to playing Halo 1-4 with my friends as they release on PC throughout 2020.
What About Death Stranding? What’s Next?
As for what’s next, I am hoping to get back to Death Stranding once I have cleared up some of my backlog and am feeling motivated enough to try Hideo Kojima’s fetch quest experiment. Once I finish Death Stranding, I will write a review about it, but in the meantime you can expect reviews to be coming for some of the games above!
As for games I plan on playing next, I find it likely that I will dive into Disco Elysium by ZA/UM. It seems to do interesting things with RPG skills, and the core of its gameplay is focused on a complex dialogue system as opposed to combat, which greatly interests me!
If you have any suggestions for games for me to play and write about or review, please let me know! Otherwise, Happy New Year!