Competitive Multiplayer – Starcraft 2, Heros of the Storm, World of Tanks
Something that I discussed before is my glittering career in beating the stuffing out of AIs in multiplayer RTSs. I graduated with my friends to human opponents and never looked back. Its something that was quite anxiety-inducing, and at least for Starcraft 2 1v1s and MOBA ranked play, it still is, but every week my friends and I play as a team and try to beat another team, and that’s pretty fun. Its a continuous process of a game, rather one with an ending. You play every week and hopefully get better, play the new maps or the new characters, learn new strategies and adapt to that dastardly meta. The downside is that with team games, you are not responsible for your entire victory or loss. This relieves the pressure, but can also add more when your teammates suck and the enemy appears to be as ruthless and coordinated as the Wehrmacht on Skype. Still, I like having something to work on and something to get better at, and I love to discuss strategy!
Turn-Based Single Players – XCOM, Invisible, Inc, FTL, Valkyrie Chronicles
On the opposite side of a totally different coin, turn-based games. Not particularly RPGs of the epic length, but the more Western versions of slow, tea-powered domination (i.e. how the British empire was born), or quick, stylised repetitions of a randomly-generated campaign. Examples of the latter include FTL and Invisible, Inc. Once you’ve learnt the mechanics, its a series of chess matches, with addictive progression. You fail often but you perfect your technique as you learn the game, and work out new tactics. You ‘umm’ and ‘errr’ as the game is standing still, waiting for your decision, until inspiration hits, and you’ve done your mission and onto the next one! There are also longer, story based ones such as XCOM, Valkyrie Chronicles and Shadowrun. A longer story and campaign you can chew over and develop your characters in. In the end, all these types of games like this go perfect with a side-order of your favourite TV show or YouTube channel, and a great cup of coffee on a rainy day. Perfect.
Story-Driven ‘Experiences’ – The Wolf Among Us, Gone Home, The Witcher
I love a good story in a game, but its the kind of immersion you get when you watch a really, really good movie. But games are even better, because you are there, controlling the character. If a story can work whilst you’re inside it dicking about, then its a truly great work and it needs to be played. And I mean played, not watched on YouTube. I would look forward so much to the next episode of The Wolf Among Us. I would wait until I was alone at home in the evening, make a stiff drink (whiskey sour preferably), put on my headphones, and play. Let the cel-shaded world of the fables in New York surround me and bring me in for 2 hours. Let me be Bigby Wolf. The same can be said for The Witcher, but instead of five episodes of 2 hours, its 60+ hours. As for games like Gone Home and Dear Esther, its like being in a painting. You walk around an area, you don’t jump, you don’t shoot, you don’t talk. Just walk, and experience and interact, and the story will come to you in a beautiful and elegant way.
Atmospheric Games – Bioshock, Dishonoured, Batman: Arkham Asylum
As you can tell I also like any game that has a cool world that I can get sucked into. Normally I like the world to be slightly messed up and dystopian. Games like Bioshock and Dishonoured have great mechanics as games but also have unique settings where exploration and story blend to paint a picture of a truly interesting place. Someone has spent a lot of time thinking about how this world works: how its powered, how society is split, what are the morals of the people, how does the protagonist fit in, when does he fit in. Set pieces and in-game cutscenes make you feel like you’re watching a movie, except you get to fight that enemy, and you’re the one experiencing this place for the first time, not the character on the screen. The same can be said for the newer Batman games. Becoming the Dark Knight and being in a well-established place such as Gotham never felt so good. What Dishonoured did forme with Steampunk can also be said for Deus Ex and Dragonfall for Cyberpunk too.
Honourable Mentions – MMORPGs, Co-Op games
Whilst I don’t play them regularly, I have had fun with some MMOs and Co-Op games. My time spent with World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and Knights of the Old Republic was memorable, and there is a satisfaction of grinding up a character and doing quests, and earning new loot. Its actually comparable to the reward system implemented by mobile games, with flashing text and showy effects to demonstrate level ups, epic loot and shiny new spells. It would get higher on my list if I would play them regularly, but I’m not one for partaking in the community side of MMOs, so I level up my character then leave.
Co-Op games, when they come out, are also very fun for me. Working with buddies to fight through a campaign has given me some of my most treasured gaming memories ever (Conflict: Desert Storm II). Some games have little side co-op campaigns like Splinter Cell and Far Cry, which are even more fun than single-player, and yet half the length. Strange. Not to mention the 30 missions from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which my friend and I all but aced, and then they cut from the series. Thanks to shaky internet connections and a limited time slot to sync up together, major co-op games like Borderlands and Ghost Recon are played single or two-player, instead of the ultimate four-player.