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I’m back again! You’ll be waiting a bit longer for my setpiece about Satisfactory, but I need some more time with the game before I feel confident enough to talk about it.
So, today I’ll be talking about some more games from previous years which you might have missed!
Lost Ember (2019)
Man, I have a lot of good feelings about this game. It made the Top 10 of my GOTY list in 2019, which is strong praise for someone who isn’t usually drawn to these cutesy style games. I’ve found my interests broaden in the past couple of years, and few things approached me in the way Lost Ember did. It’s not perfect, and it certainly has some problems that need to be addressed, but I think it does the job very well for what it sets out to do.
The story is quite compelling, and I found myself both drawn in and affected by the game as it played out. It starts off fairly happy, but it really ramps up in terms of emotions, and I really felt for both main characters. Both have dark sides which break out in a violent and desperate place, and some events through the story are a real punch to the gut. The story takes a really dark and sad turn, but it ends on a beautiful note.
Lost Ember gives you a bunch of chapters in big open spaces to explore, and while it’s fairly linear, you get some opportunities to run about. You can transform into several different animals to get around the map easier, and it’s these cute moments where the game really shines. It’s part walking simulator, part platformer in many ways, but I had so much fun in these segments. You can fly as a parrot or duck, swim as a fish, climb as a mountain goat, dig tunnels as a mole…there’s some depth into these mechanics, and you need them for some sections of the game.
Like I said, I’m not usually drawn to games like this, but Lost Ember made it a first time for everything. I really liked all the little mechanics, and the swimming segments of the game are perhaps the best part. It feels quite a lot like ABZU, and jumping about in the water as a fish and exploring the lakes feels very zen. In such stressful times, trying to stay calm is tough with everything going on.
Zen is a good way to describe this game. I felt very peaceful when playing it and even when the story is over (It’s not a very long game), there’s lots of collectibles to pick up. And I feel compelled to go back into the game and try to collect anything. No other game does that for me. I hardly ever want to try and 100% a video game. I want to with this, even if it means replaying the game from scratch.
It’s a big buggy, and is pretty short (around 7-8 hours if you take your time, 4 hours if you just blast through the story). However, I can still recommend it for what it achieves. It’s a fascinating little game, and I’m going to restart it soon, if just for the fun little animal roaming. Also, the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in a video game. Go listen to it. You won’t regret it.
Pathologic 2 (2019)
This photo sums up Pathologic 2 in a nutshell. It really asks the question. Do games have to be enjoyable to be good?
Most of the time, yes. Pathologic 2 is brutal and punishing, and half the time I didn’t enjoy playing it. It takes your comfort zone and sticks a rusted knife up it’s arse, making you scream in frustration. I have died so many times in this game, to the point I had to restart the game from the beginning. It’s cruel, and it relentlessly punishes you if you screw up. And you will screw up.
Oh, it’s not perfect. It’s deeply frustrating, and the graphics, while good at times, are dated. It’s badly optimized up the arse, and every time I’ve opened a door, there’s a long loading screen when the FPS plummets to single digits. It’s not even complete, with two other playable characters yet to be released (and possibly never will. Boo.)
But christ, did this game speak out to me. The writing is stunning and speaks volumes for humanity. It’s an immersive sim, with some absolutely brutal survival mechanics. Your hunger meter, sleep, health and exhaustion are all vital to be managed, and stopping yourself from starving is a nightmare. Prioritize food at all costs, because food prices skyrocket from Day 2 onwards. The in-game economy is split between barter and coin, and every item has use to some people.
Oh, the game ends after 12 days. There’s an unstoppable plague preparing to fuck up this town, and you can’t save everyone. You can’t follow every thread. Pick your fights carefully. Time does not wait for you. It advances no matter what you do. It’s another reason why I love this game so much.
Oh, and combat is a mess. You don’t play this game to fight. Good luck taking them. This game is out for you from beginning to end, but I was so drawn into this game. It’s one of the few games that I felt compelled to keep playing, no matter how badly I was doing. Steal, beg, trade and kill to survive. And yes, nobody is safe in this game. Starving, my character was forced into killing a house full of innocent people just to live for another few hours.
Man…This game is amazing. It’s weird, you know. Pathologic 2 has so many mechanics in it that should make it a horrible experience:
You move slow as a snail
Timed missions, and you can’t complete everything.
Permanent penalty for death/failure
Survival partially dependant on RNG while looting or trading
The UI is a bit of a mess
Absolutely brutal survival mechanics
But none of this matters. The game’s atmosphere and story is brilliant, and the way the world slowly degrades into hell drew me in from the start. I mean, just look at this!
Pathologic 2 spoke out to me beyond few others, to the point it nearly won my 2019 GOTY award…until I played Outer Wilds. To those who want a challenging yet cathartic RPG, Pathologic 2 is as brutal and compelling as they come. During a worldwide pandemic, it may be a bit more difficult to process, which is why I haven’t come back to this game yet, but I will do.
Mount and Blade: Warband (2010)
Welcome to one of my favourite games of all time. It’s truly that good. What could I say about this? Made by Taleworlds Entertainment in 2010, it was a direct sequel standalone to the original Mount and Blade. The best way to describe this game is an action RPG in a sandbox world.
And yes, I’m perfectly aware of the sequel Bannerlord. That review will…Let’s just say it will come at a later time. I have many things to say about it, not all of them good.
It’s not a pretty game by any means; it’s graphics are borderline ugly. I’d say it’s a cross between Morrowind and Oblivion graphics, and even then that is generous. The outdoors (where you’ll do most of the fighting) are occasionally pretty, but overall, it doesn’t look amazing. But graphics isn’t what this game has for it, it’s the gameplay.
There are six factions in the game which you can join and fight with, or forge your own kingdom. There is some level of diplomacy, marriage to princesses, hire your own armies and look after them in battle, besiege castles and towns. While it’s not hugely polished, it’s still an awful lot of fun. There is even some trade profit options if you want to go down that route.
The biggest strength to this game is its adaptability. There are hundreds of fan-made content mods for this, including full conversions which transform the game in every shape and form. The vanilla game surely isn’t perfect, but the modding base really makes it shine. There are giant adaptations of popular genres like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Warhammer universe too.
If you can get this game for around £10-15, buy it without doubt. This is one of the best games ever made (In my opinion anyway), and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of hours of content. In terms of money for your time, it’s one of the most profitable. It does have a steep learning curve and its presentation is ugly for a 2010-gen game, but the depth more then makes up for it. It has so much bang for its buck that I can’t recommend it enough.
There are many more out there, but this is just an inkling of what’s hidden under the giants. Check them out, there will be more coming. Steam Sales are very soon too, so a big chance to pick up some true gems! I’ll be back soon, hopefully with my hands-on thoughts on Satisfactory!