“To someone in a garden many lifetimes ago.”
Every iteration of Norco, from the game’s initial demo to the release of the first act, has clarified its weird, haunting voice that little bit more. That’s an obvious enough observation, but it was a voice that promised more than most. And as each iteration expanded the art’s dimensions, that voice’s potential was amplified. Still, I was uncertain of its reach. Now Norco has arrived, having deliriously flung open its doors, and my first trip down the rabbit hole is over.
Thinking about it some hours later, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best games ever made – or at least a fresh direction of travel for the medium.
“The world is waiting, Sable.”
I see a mustard yellow sky with stars like snowdrops as I climb. Scaling the peek, I sprint across terracotta sand to the next rise. Ascending towards an angry cloud lashed with gold lightning. Dust or ash or both tumble from the cloud. I don’t know what’s up there, but there’s lots of transparent, crystal-like forms in the area, each one percolating with gold particles. Presumably the cloud and the crystals are bonded. A sense of foreboding builds the closer I get. A similar feeling hit me half an hour earlier, as I stood beneath a set of interlocking stone platforms rotating far above the ground. Ashen ground that spewed endless plumes of smoke, dashed here and there with red.
But there’s nothing to fear. This is Sable. No evil needs vanquishing nor villain confronting in this gorgeous, cel-shaded land. Even the giant beetles don’t bite.
It’s been a wild week in the games industry, can’t we have a calm one once in a while? We’ve had EA publicly state that Battlefield 2042′s sales were “disappointing” while distancing themselves from NFTs. There was a crazy 24-hour period where Worms developer turned indie publisher Team 17 announced a MetaWorms NFT project, then quickly scrapped it.
Perhaps one of the biggest events this week was Sony taking what I think was a defensive move with the purchase of Destiny developer, Bungie. In the announcement from Sony Interactive Entertainment’s boss Jim Ryan it was confirmed that Bungie would be part of the PlayStation family, while remaining independent and able to continue multi-platform development and self-publishing. For me, this is Sony taking a significant ex-Microsoft asset off the board, preventing Microsfot making any further moves to bolster their portfolio.
Will we see any further moves from Sony and Microsoft to buy-up other companies? Maybe not.
Will we see further developers talk up NFT plans, only to quickly abandon them? More than likely.
Now, on with Our Week in Games.
“Wherever there is boredom, there is fun.”
I live in the UK. It would be underselling the political situation here to say the past few weeks have been an exudation of shit. My instincts are to follow such events with bloodshot eyes. To shower in the shit. Throw in January and February, where it’s eternally wet, cold, and grey, and you’ve got an especially exhausted, probably blubbering, Ross.
A pair of like-minded friends retreated to Barbados. Unable to afford such an extravagance, I stepped into Scarf. Admittedly, it’s not quite the same thing, but stay with me.
This week saw the release of Pokemon Legends: Arceus, with reviews generally praising the revamped mechanics in a series which had become somewhat stagnant, but with many criticisms of the technical attributes. I’ve barely started my journey with Arceus, and while I can’t pretend that it’s breaking any new ground visually, it has a painterly style reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. Performance might be where Arceus will struggle, but for now, playing handheld I don’t have much to critique.
Let us know in the comments what you think of Arceus, meanwhile hit the break to check out what Our Week in Games has all about.
One of my favourite aspects of the campaign in Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 was that it allowed you to embrace your inner turtle. Or at least, hunkering down and building a powerful base to fight back the enemy was my favoured playstyle. The problem I’ve found with many RTS titles since those halcyon days is that single-player titles are focused on small-scale squad management, while multiplayer and RTS is an oxymoron in my lexicon.
All in all, when I finally got around to starting up Age of Darkness: Final Stand – having initially installed when released in Early Access last October – I found myself feeling very comfortable.
Microsoft are buying up Activision Blizzard. Just like that, for nearly $70bn Microsoft will own the IP for Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Spyro amongst numerous others. It’s a massive industry shaking move, one that will have unforseen ramifications in over the course of the 12-months or so that we’ll be waiting until the acquisition is complete. It’s an event which has already led to $20bn being wiped off value of Sony, but when you’re talking about such sums which have little to no bearing on profit and loss it can all become a bit of a blur.
Needless to say, there are plenty of questions about what this means for console exclusives, the future of Game Pass and whether this was just a route into the mobile market by way of King. What was most striking about this news though was that Microsoft still expect to be the third largest player in the games industry behind Tencent and Sony. Part of me wonders whether this is truly a play at challenging Sony for the console marketplace, or whether there’s a bigger picture at play to further strengthen the wider corporate interests of Microsoft when pitched against Amazon which is making its own moves into the games industry.
Time will tell, but be sure to let us know your thoughts on all this in the comments.
I’ve done a review of my gaming year, something which has been helpful in focusing my mind on what my Games of the Year are. As I’ve explained in my review of my past year, I’ve probably spent more time working through games from my backlog, or dipping in and out of titles to have played enough of this year’s top tier releases to do this list justice. Saying that, I wouldn’t be much of a games critic if I didn’t give it a go.
I’ve split this year’s edition into three parts. The unplayed looks at three titles which would have been fighting for top honours…if only I had played them! The contenders sees three wonderful games get highlighted, but small, self-imposed “rules” of what my Games of the Year should be prevent these making my Top 3. These are three games which I have been hugely impressed by and are worth anyone spending some time with, regardless of the order in which I’ve written about them.
As I started my draft for this article, I immediately looked through our archives to see how many Our Week in Games features we’d published in 2021. My sums showed that as a collective we shared thoughts on what we’d been playing that past week 34 times, which is decent going for our rag-tag bunch of part-timers.
Those weekly recaps of ours are really helpful in charting our adventures through the video gaming landscape over the course of the year. What is also apparent is that I regularly make promises of writing about one game or another in more depth, or stating my intention of completing something else.
In the ethos of those weekly features, in this piece I won’t be listing my favourite games that were released in 2021, rather I’ll take a flying review of what this past year has been like for me.