“The world ended the day the bombs fell.” Right from the start of their newest offering Shardlight, Wadjet Eye games warn that the story about to be told is a grim one. Following up from the noir cyberpunk masterpiece that was last year’s Technobabylon, the studio is once again exploring a somewhat familiar fictional setting: a post-apocalyptic society destroyed by nuclear war. I praised Technobabylon for being more than its genre, but did Shardlight carve its own niche in the crowded world of apocalyptic fiction? Well, sort of.
The greatest heroes often come from small beginnings. Some of fiction’s most epic tales are told not about the strongest warriors or the grandest knights but about the unsuspecting champions, the ones who don’t choose to embark upon a great journey but are thrown onto that path against their will. Ghost of a Tale, an action-RPG from developer SeithCG sets out to tell one of these stories as it follows the plight of Tilo, a minstrel mouse on a quest to escape from prison and find his lost love, Merra. The game may only be in early access, but it’s easy to tell from the start that this will be a grand and dangerous adventure for this small lionhearted mouse.
Batman. The Bat. The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne. Reinvented by many a filmmaker, comic writer and games company over the years, but somehow his story still manages to hold interest for both creators and fans alike. As a hero with a heavy reliance on technology he fits easily into the role of a game protagonist, his expansive skillset and collection of gadgets making taking on the role of this caped crusader a thrilling and varied experience. The Arkham series allowed players to step into the shoes of Batman the action hero, but it (like many adaptations of Batman) didn’t have a whole lot to say about Bruce Wayne. We know what kind of choices Batman would make in his fight for justice, but what about Bruce Wayne? What would Bruce do? Masters of choice-driven games Telltale have taken on the challenge of answering these questions in their latest title Batman: The Telltale Series. But can they do it? Or have they bitten off more than they can chew?
In a world of greyscale, a child stands alone. Their silent surroundings hint at the terrors that lurk both in the shadows and right in front of their eyes, but despite their fear, they are unshaken. A hint of red in their otherwise unremarkable outfit breaks through the black and white and shows the viewer that their story is one of importance. No, I’m not talking about Schindler’s List. No, I’m not describing Limbo, another game that would easily fit those first two sentences of the description. Instead, this is the beginning of Limbo developer Playdead’s second black and white dystopian platformer–but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a repeat of their last success story. Inside has its own story to tell, and boy is it one heck of a story.
Given Sherlock Holmes is often described as one of the world’s greatest detectives, making a player really feel like they’ve taken on the role of such a genius is no easy feat. While one can’t be transformed into an eagle-eyed observer or a master of logical reasoning by simply donning a deerstalker and overusing the word ‘elementary’, Sherlock’s unique skills do lend themselves to the potential for some interesting game mechanics. Sadly, despite building on seven other attempts to create the perfect Sherlock Holmes adventure game, The Devil’s Daughter still doesn’t quite find that sweet spot. It is, however, filled with the endless frustration that I imagine actually being around Sherlock Holmes in person would bring. So, at least there’s that realistic touch.
Every now and then, a game comes along that divides the gaming community. Questions such as ‘what makes a game fun?’ and ‘is this even a game in the first place?’ are raised, and chances are everyone is going to have a different answer to those questions. These are the kinds of games that make us think, that push the boundaries, and that quite frankly, get me very excited. In recent times there has been an increase in the number of “walk-em-ups” or “walking simulators” or “exploration games” that sideline combat in favour of immersing the player in a narrative or environment and giving them little to do but examine their surroundings and piece together a story. Technically, Firewatch probably falls into that genre – but it has so much more to offer than meets the eye.
Jess Zammit’s Game of the Year 2015