I wanted to make a video in response to all the terrible things I’ve read over the past few weeks on the subject of women in gaming. I don’t want to re-hash everything that’s already been said, however, so here are a dozen influential, important, or interesting women characters that I’ve run across in my 30 years of playing video games:
Who are some of your favourite women in games? Who are the women developers you respect or admire? Video games and the gaming community are at their best when they’re inclusive, diverse, and welcoming to everyone. After all, we’re in it to play and make the best games we can.
I’m not usually a big fan of mobile gaming, as most of these games follow a free to play model or are shallow versions of console favourites. Every so often, however, a mobile game does something different or brings something new to the platform. In this new series I’ll be taking a look at those Android games I find most interesting or innovative.
I should say at the start I don’t own any iOS devices and my preference is for Android anyway, hence the specific focus. That isn’t to say I’ve got anything against Apple or the iOS platform, I just have no hand’s-on experience with them. That said, Apple’s is the bigger platform and a lot of the most successful Android games started off on iOS. Such is the case with my first review, Hitman Go from Square Enix.
I was never a huge fan of the Hitman franchise, as I’d only played a bit of Silent Assassin and sat through the underwhelming film adaptation from 2007. This all changed when I picked up Hitman: Blood Money; I bought it from Steam on sale and loved it immediately. Blood Money was a puzzle game masquerading as a stealth actioner; I especially liked finding all the different disguises and completing all the difficult assignments.
For whatever reason I was less taken with Hitman Absolution and only managed about 10 hours of playtime. When I heard there was a new Hitman game planned for iOS, Hitman Go, I expected a quick Absolution cash grab, maybe an endless runner with new weapons as in-app purchases. Much to my surprise, Hitman Go is a 3D isometric puzzle boardgame, a clever mash of genres that delivers a unique and enjoyable mobile gaming experience.
Hitman protagonist Agent 47 takes the form of a game piece, moving on a track around a static gameboard; you face a variety of enemies with different movement patterns and abilities. Your goal is to avoid the enemies and reach your objectives.
Everything about Go is minimalist, from the art style to the combat. When you kill enemies, for instance, you knock them over like pawns on a chessboard.
Like most mobile games, Hitman Go is easy to pick up and play for a quick session; each level is pretty short and even if you screw up you can restart really quickly. There are a load of levels in the game when you start and you can unlock additional maps based on Blood Money by collecting stars or through an in-app purchase.
I love that Hitman Go is so strange; what could’ve been a generic 3D shoot-em-up has become a clever and remarkable puzzle game. Check it out on Android or iOS, even if you aren’t a fan of the series; if you are, expect a fresh new take on Agent 47 and the Hitman world.
There’s something eerie, almost supernatural about winter in the far North. Night that seems to last forever, feeling your breath start to freeze in your lungs, the crunch of hard-packed snow under your boots. Sometimes I miss the long winter nights of Canada and the stillness they bring. The Long Dark is a survival experience that brings me back to my youth in Canada’s frozen north.
Hinterland Studio’s first person survival sim is currently in early access. At the moment the alpha only offers a sandbox mode but there’s a story mode in development for later releases. How does The Long Dark compare to similar games and what are my initial impressions?
In a lot of ways The Long Dark reminds me of other survival-related games like Minecraft and Day Z. You start in a random location and explore a static map (unlike Minecraft’s procedurally generated worlds), scavenging for food, water, and safety from the hostile environment.
In The Long Dark this appears to be the most dangerous aspect. Sure, there are dangerous animals like wolves running around, but you’re more likely to be killed by the cold or hunger than eaten by a wolf. You need to juggle basic needs by eating, drinking, sleeping, and seeking shelter from the cold. You can forage for firewood, repair your clothing, and hunt the local wildlife (if you manage to find a rifle and ammo).
Unlike Day Z, however, I didn’t feel a great sense of momentum when playing The Long Dark. Maybe it’s the lack of external threat in the form of other players or the fact you start with a full set of winter clothing. I spent most of my time exploring the wilderness, looking for interesting landmarks, and trying not to starve to death. At the moment I don’t see a lot of replayability in the sandbox mode, but that could change with later releases.
Unlike Minecraft, a game that combines building with exploration, I don’t feel any need to keep playing The Long Dark for more than one or two sessions at a time. I see how long I can survive and then laugh when I get mauled to death or fall off a cliff. I’m looking forward to seeing the story mode, and finding out if the narrative will keep me playing.
The Long Dark looks amazing. The visuals are striking and the game itself feels really polished. If this is an alpha I can’t wait to see future releases. The minimal HUD, sound design, and art style all serve to create an atmosphere of cold and isolation. The only human contact I’ve had so far is stumbling across frozen bodies half-buried in the snow.
There’s a lot of promise here: good survival systems, amazing visuals, and memorable setting. However, at the moment there’s not much in The Long Dark to keep my interest in the long term. I’ve enjoyed my time playing but I see the alpha as an extended demo. I can’t wait to see what the full game develops into as at the moment it feels a little sparse.
The Long Dark brings me back to my childhood; memories of trudging through the cold, the silence, and the darkness. Like the real Canadian winter, however, The Long Dark is best experienced in short increments.
The modern game release cycle is a strange one. Sometimes I’m aware of games months or even years before their retail release. Other times a game will come out of nowhere and grab me instantly. Hack ‘n’ Slash from Double Fine is one of those games.
The first I heard of it was on Steam’s front page. I watched the trailer and was instantly hooked. On the surface Hack ‘n’ Slash appears to be a straight-forward Zelda clone, isometric adventure in a fantasy setting. I quickly realised it was a puzzle game in disguise, thanks to an ingenious central game mechanic: hacking.
Your character has the ability to hack into enemies and world objects, enabling you to modify gameplay behaviour and unit characteristics. You can alter how much damage enemies cause, change their idle routine, and even turn them from enemies into allies. This hacking changes the actual object variables in realtime and I was blown away by the concept.
I picked up the game on sale and sat down to play. My first playthrough I bounced off pretty hard. First of all the controls aren’t great. The joystick tends to travel a lot and I’ve died countless times because my character stayed in motion even after I took my thumb off the stick. As well, the starting area isn’t very intuitive and I found myself backtracking quite a bit. The hacking ability seemed largely restricted and I wasn’t having any fun.
This pattern repeated a few times as I tried to come back to the game. I knew there was something special with Hack ‘n’ Slash but I just wasn’t seeing it. Finally I gave it one last try and suddenly everything clicked. I saw the whole game open up in front of me and I realised how clever and innovative it really is.
Even beyond the USB sword your character uses to hack, the game has a number of cool mechanics that allow you to play with the rules of the world. You can slow down or speed up time, change the day/night cycling, and view the hidden paths around the world. The main thrust of gameplay involves using a variety of items to manipulate and maneuver the world.
I’m only a few hours into Hack ‘n’ Slash but the majority of that time’s been spent in exploration. Exploring the world, the game’s systems, and the methods you’re given to modify them.
I’ve still got some minor gripes, like the controller issues I mentioned before, and other occasional platforming problems, but there’s a lot to like in Hack ‘n’ Slash. Double Fine have developed a clever, playful, and self-referential title that pays homage to classic RPGs while bringing something new to the genre. Give Hack ‘n’ Slash a try and, if required, a second, third, and fourth try.
In some of my previous videos I’ve spoken about my growing list of games that I either want to play, am in the process of playing, and have played previously. I wanted to dive deeper into one of the main reasons I leave so many games unfinished: choice. Essentially, I’m spoiled for choice.
At the point of recording this I’ve got over 250 games in my Steam library. Add to that a handful of consoles and some Origin titles and I’m swimming in games. Far too many to play through completely. Sure, a lot of those I’ve finished already or played once and will never play again. But the vast majority of these I still plan on playing sometime. With so many games to choose from, how do I choose one to play?
Making a decision has never been my strong suit. I’m always the last to order in a restaurant and I can spend hours deliberating on what film to watch. If given too many options I often struggle to decide. This quirk manifests itself clearly when I’m trying to choose a game to play. Give me a choice between two games and I’ll usually decide quickly. Give me a dozen games to choose from and I’ll sit there like a chimp staring at a monolith.
When I was a kid the situation was a lot different, mainly because I had no choice. I was usually stuck with one or two games for Gameboy or NES. Oh, you wanted to play something else? Too bad, games are expensive. You’ve only had that one for a year. Maybe it’s because of this game austerity in my past that I’ve dived headlong into growing my collection.
Nowadays, with the explosion of indie bundles and Steam sales I’ve slowly amassed a huge collection of games. But for me, paradoxically, more choice means less choice. Right now I’ve got half a dozen games on the go, and dozens more that I still plan on playing at some point in the near future. I don’t think it’s so much that my attention span has gotten worse but the selection and accessibility of games has gotten that much better.
I jump from one game to another depending on my mood or how frustrated I become or for a dozen other reasons. Because I can move so easily to a new game I don’t necessarily feel the need to properly invest the time into a game I’d otherwise love playing. Sometimes I think there’s definitely something to be said for a less is more approach to a game collection.
Now I’m definitely not complaining: “poor me, I can’t decide which one of my games to play.” This is decidedly a first world problem, but I see it less as “I’m bored because I’ve got nothing to play” and something closer to “I can’t decide because I’ve got everything to play.” Even though there’s a shelf (virtual or otherwise) full of games, I can’t choose just one.
I don’t want to waste time playing something I don’t really want to play but this means I waste time deciding what to play. More choice has turned into less time to focus on each game. I’ve been trying to play one game at a time but then I feel I’m neglecting my other games. Sure, I could play another few hours of Dark Souls, but Wolfenstein: New Order is sitting there waiting to be played. There’s also Fez waiting to batter my head some more. And don’t get me started on the fact I still haven’t finished Bioshock.
I don’t know what the solution is; should I just pick a game at random from a predefined list? Or just play whatever I feel like at the time and ignore the feelings of neglect? How long should I give a game before moving on to the next one? There’s a tension between feeling like I’ve gotten my money’s worth and respecting the time and effort the developers have put into the game. Oh, and also how much fun I’m having playing the game.
Ultimately, the fact we’ve got so many great and innovative games to play these days is only a positive. Being spoiled for choice is an indicator of how strong the games industry is at the moment but doesn’t help me work through my growing list of Unfinished. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a stack of games staring at me with plaintive eyes.