This Month In Gaming (May 2016)

Wolfenstein-The-New-Order-Robot-Do

Backwards compatibility has always been a bit of an ironic concept to me. Everyone always bemoans consoles that don’t offer it, yet no one ever fucking uses it. That’s certainly been the case for me anyway. Without it, moving to a new console seems like a difficult first step, until later on, when it dawns on me that I’ve never looked back or missed my old games.

This now brings me round to the irony of ironies. After getting to a point where I’d finally realised I don’t use backwards compatibility, Microsoft adds the functionality to Xbox One and, of course, I’ve started using it; well, for one game anyway:

Dark Souls

Although Demon Souls was the first, and there’s been several sequels, Dark Souls seems to be the game people focus on. For many, Finishing Dark Souls is like a gamer rite of passage; a bench mark that separates the men from the boys. It’s also a bloody good game; so with it coming to Xbox One recently, I decided to load up my save and get closer to my goal of completing it.

What always strikes me about Dark Souls is how beautiful it is –  because it really has no place in being so. Dark Souls is a world of the undead, filled with skeletons, demons and ghouls. Its dilapidated fortresses and murky dungeons should really instil a sense of foreboding and horror, but instead come across more as sombre, peaceful and reflective. As you navigate battlements you’ll catch the occasional glimpse of a golden sunset in the background. The stark contrast serves to highlight and enhance these moments, often making me stop to take it in. The resulting affect is much more powerful than it would be in another, happier setting.

Having not played the game for many months, I was surprised by how easy it was to get back into. The nature of the gameplay means that you’re constantly taking baby steps, as you learn by your mistakes. There’s not layers of mechanics or complicated controls to remaster; the main skills are patience and concentration.

The game is as punishing as it is inconsequential. The only real penalty for death is frustration, so you’re free to take on (what seem like) impossible bosses over and over again. This doesn’t make the game feel cheap or easy though, far from it. If anything, there is something slightly sadistic about it. As lives are so abundant, the odds of survival are much less. At times, it feels like every foot of progress has been hard earned and finally defeating one of the many bosses can fill you with pure jubilation. The level of challenge is so high that googling walkthroughs and boss advice doesn’t feel like cheating.

It’s a great game, well deserving of the praise it gets. It can however, get a little heavy going, and I think this is where my other game of the this month came in:

Wolfenstein

I tend to play games at random, playing whatever I’m in the mood for that day. I say at random, but I think in the case of Wolfenstein it was to be a symbiotic relationship with my Dark Souls gaming. Where as Dark Souls seemed to demand a lot of me, Wolfenstein is much more mindless; shoot stuff in the face, then shoot some more stuff in the face.

I have no vested interest in Wolfenstein as a series, so I’ve no idea how well this one fits in. As a fresh faced Wolfenstein player, I can however say that The New Order is a darn (yes, darn) fine shooter. The “shooty bang bang mechanics” are great; really fast, fluid stuff. Even the story isn’t too bad – it basically boils down to “fuck Nazi’s”, but that’s ok becasuse….fuck Nazi’s.

If I do have a gripe, it’s the between mission stuff. You’ve got your little hideout/base area where you’re routinely forced to do sub-mission crap before you can move onto the next round of mindless killing. I guess it’s to add context and build both the story and the charaters, but the relality appears to be a bunch of dull fetch quests. If your idea of fun is searching around the base for lost toys, then great! For everyone else though, these are irksome at best and I personally just “googled” to get them out the way as fast as possible. It’s a minor annoyance really, and I like the idea of the base area, but I just feel they could of implemented in a more interesting way.

At the time of writing this i’ve still not completed the game, and yet I’ve stuck a fair few hours in. For a shooter (these days) this certainly hints at a legthy campaign – which is good news as they didn’t include a multiplayer.

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