Returnal – better than ever (pic: Sony)
Readers reveal the last video game they happen to have played and what it says about their general gaming habits.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader 84Colbat, and to make sure there was a variety of responses you weren’t allowed to say anything that had been released this year (to ensure everyone didn’t only end up talking about Elden Ring).
Interestingly though, From’s epic did still have a big impact on many people’s choices, with many dipping into previous titles like Bloodborne in order to get in the mood or decide whether they wanted to buy the new game.
Returning to Returnal
I’ve just started playing Returnal again, since the free DLC came out this week. Oh my! I had almost forgotten how amazing this game is! The new tower level is really fun and gets seriously intense the further you go. There are also some nice story additions and co-op is a very nice addition. Playing it again has made me think that it might actually be the greatest action game ever and is definitely in my top 5 of all time.
I can’t think of another game where the combat is just so tight and responsive – it just feels amazing to play. The story is really intriguing too, and the soundtrack is one the best. The instant loading and excellent haptic feedback also really add to the immersion and make it feel next gen. It all adds up to create a tense, atmospheric and utterly unique experience. I absolutely cannot wait for whatever Housemarque do next.
Starting at the beginning
I’ve just finished playing the first Far Cry on my PlayStation 3.
I played a bit of it a while ago but never got around to finishing it. I bought it on PSN when it was cheap, which was good as it’s a lousy remaster with regular crashes and environments not loading. The story and voice acting were bad too, but I still enjoyed my time with it! It was good to see how the series started and the gameplay was good, especially on the harder difficulties where you had to play quite tactically, rather than running and gunning.
It’s one of the last games of my backlog on PlayStation 3, next up is Crysis 1 and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon then I’ll finally tackle my PlayStation 4 backlog!
The last game I have been playing just before I got my Xbox Series X is The Last Stop on PlayStation 5, which I bought in a sale and because of the good reviews from GameCentral and Edge magazine I decided to buy. I like the developer’s (Variable State) last game, which was a budget indie release called Virginia, which I platinumed in 2016 and enjoyed.
What struck me about the two games, without spoilers, is that Virginia was very arthouse and I feel The Last Stop is more mainstream, which for either game is not a bad thing. The Last Stop is very much like a Telltale game or a Life Is Strange style game, but it is a good one unlike some of the poorer Telltale game titles.
What I didn’t expect was to be hooked by the game by the very first scene and the fact that the script and voice acting is very funny in places. The only problem with the voice acting is that it is a little weird but you get used to it after a while. Virginia is a game that pays homage to The X-Files but had no dialogue sound or written, whereas The Last Stop is fully voiced-acted so it is a big difference coming from Virginia to The Last Stop.
I have a big backlog of games on my various consoles but I love having the choice whereas on the Mega Drive originally I only had six games. Because the games were so expensive I ended up playing them repeatedly and I only tried new games by occasionally renting from Blockbuster, which was a long way out of town, and borrowing friends games.
The Last Stop is currently on Game Pass, so if you have that you can try that out. I didn’t want to write in about Tunic to the Hot Topic as I haven’t played it enough to fully comment on it, but what I have played so far is very good.
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Never before seen
The last game I played, and am still going through, is Kingdoms of Amalur. But it’s weird as though I have beaten it before, it’s like most of it is brand new! I know for sure that I finished the House of Ballads questline and started on the Warsworn and Scholia Arcana, but not the conclusions. Or even some of the locales. Not because it’s so unmemorable – this game can be quite pretty at times. A welcome relief from all the brown of the Xbox 360 era. But I constantly find myself thinking: did I do this the last time round? I don’t remember!
I mean, the Travellers quest has a very interesting finale! I’m now in the swamps of the Klurikon, where the enemy lives, and it’s like I’ve never seen it before. Which is unusual, as I am typically quite the completionist.
I decided to wait until I needed to break the siege at Mel Senshir before going off and doing the DLC, of which The Legend of Dead Kell was my favourite. And, is it just me, but didn’t you think that BioWare were probably inspired by the Master of the Keep quests? In it, your character hears the petitions of their staff and either does them or not. It was just a fancy way of dressing up fairly standard missions, but still, they bore more than a passing similarity to the war table stuff in Dragon Age: Inquisition? Ha! Bet you didn’t expect that!
As for what Amalur does best: a truly gratuitous amount of boxes and earthenware for you to smash up. So good…
Just don’t try using a real sword to smash crates and vases in real life. Your sword will either break or get stuck and you will be arrested by the police for carrying a deadly weapon out in public. As well as vandalism, maybe.
Second time lucky
In an attempt to save myself future hardship (and £45) the last game that I played was Bloodborne.
Like many people I have been sucked in by the recent hype for Elden Ring and was seriously considering making it a day one purchase. In a moment of self control I remembered that I have a frustrating and exasperating history with FromSoftware’s games.
In the past I’ve tried Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro and couldn’t finish any of them, admitting defeat at The Capra Demon, Rom the Vacuous Spider, and The Guardian Ape respectively. While I appreciated the amazing atmosphere and phenomenal world design in these games I found the difficulty a bit too much for me and found myself getting infuriated at coming up against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Each play session became increasingly more of a chore and every time I saw the ominous ‘You Died’ message I felt my mental health slightly deteriorate. I was concerned that attempting Elden Ring would have a similarly unpleasant result.
As I still had Bloodborne sat on my shelf (I’d traded in Dark Souls and Sekiro) I put the disc in my PlayStation 4 and started a new save file, fully expecting to play for maybe an hour, die several dozen times before reaching the first boss and switch off the console in frustration. The intention was that this would make me remember that playing these games don’t make me happy and thereby remove any temptation to buy Elden Ring. However, things did not go quite according to plan.
Much to my surprise I found my second visit to Yarnham to be a completely different experience to my first, probably because my approach to the game had changed drastically. Instead of relentlessly pushing onwards towards the next area or boss battle I would now retreat to the nearest lamp if I had collected enough blood echoes to level up.
I also took more time to read item descriptions and as a result learned what I needed to do to upgrade my weapon (I honestly don’t think I did that once during my first playthrough). If I encountered an area that I was struggling with I would go back to a previous area to farm blood echoes in order to boost my stats or buy more items. In short, I think I’ve finally learned how to play the game properly.
I am now having a blast with it and am getting genuine enjoyment from a game that I used to find prohibitively dispiriting. I have now gone further than I had previously – beating Rom after she forced me into submission a few years earlier was probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had playing a video game.
It may be naive overconfidence (as I know I still have a lot of the game ahead of me) but I fully expect to go on and finish Bloodborne – consulting guides and utilising summons where necessary – and may attempt to conquer the Lands Between sometime later this year.
The game I’m currently playing at the moment is Nioh, after reading GC’s suggestion that it was better than Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. I got the Nioh 1 and 2 for very cheap and so far I’m really enjoying it.
It’s obviously similar to Dark Souls and co. but the combat is a bit more involved and I’m really enjoying the Japanese setting. Weird that they couldn’t mirror the success for Final Fantasy Origin, which I guess must be down to Square Enix’s decisions.
Not sus at all
Among Us on the iOS was literally the last game I played and that was because of the team competition that was going on and this was the game of choice.
Loved watching the Twitch streams of high-profile content creators battling each other or suspecting each other. It was a big hit during the 2020 lockdown and was one of the most popular games at that time, along with Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch.
Both proved to be the saviours of boredom and probably the most played games of that year. So a lot of high profile tournaments and streamer website channels were full of these games that came out at the right moment.
So when later on the company I work for were running competitions, including Call Of Duty’s Warzone and Among Us It was definitely a time to get involved and try it out myself. Being a multiplayer game, it was the only chance I’d get to play this and being a natural single-player, it was a nice change.
Among Us is easy to get to grips with, from learning the game maps and tasks and the imposters’ strategies. As you are accused, incorrectly or correctly, it’s pretty exciting and so very absorbing in the end, making this a most thrilling game indeed.
Forming new strategies are one of the things going through my head right now, as I eagerly await the next team competitions.
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