2020 being the year it is, there’s still a lot to talk about on the video game scene. I realized when going through my rather insane game library that there are a ton of games that might be overlooked this year. So, why not start a little series where I get to talk about some of these games?
Let’s start with one of the most interesting RPG concepts in a long time!
Something really drew me to this indie game, which released early 2019. It’s a game made by a very small dev team. Being in the games industry myself (I’ve worked at Grimlore Games for about a year), I have the utmost respect to them, as they had the balls to make a lot of big risks and releasing this behemoth into the world. An indie studio launching a AAA esque title (with some pretty serious marketing I might add), especially a game like Outward, which is a little out there itself, takes a lot of courage to do. It does a lot of things well, and a lot of things…not so well.
What can I say about Outward? One, the game doesn’t fuck around. It’s got a required taste, and that will put a lot of players off. It almost feels like a single player MMO in places. There are some pretty brutal survival mechanics: you need to eat, drink and sleep to stay alive. Food rots quickly, and eating spoiled food will make you sick, making a challenging game even more difficult. Oh, and there’s no fast travel or any clue where you’re going on the map. You need to plan things out. There’s a little tutorial to get you started, but apart from that you’re thrown right into it with zero handholding.
When the story begins, you start off with your house at risk of being repossessed, and you have a few days to stump up the cash. From there, the world is your oyster, though the game doesn’t end if you die. Instead, one of many events might happen. Oh, and you can’t save manually either. Everything you do stays on. No save scumming, no reloading bad choices. Furthermore, there’s a permadeath mechanic on higher difficulties, where ‘dying’ gives you a 20% chance of dying permamently, with your save file erased. Even if this isn’t the case, the game gives you plenty of different randomized things that can happen to you. You can lose all your items, get rescued, stuck in a bandit camp, and all sorts. There’s lots of different factions and playstyles, and you can only spec into a couple of each every playthrough, so there is a lot of replayability out there.
While the combat can be clunky, there is a sense of achievement in working things out, and while magic is extremely powerful, you need to unlock it, then invest a lot of your skills into it. There’s quite a lot of depth into the combat, and while it reminds me a little like Piranha Bytes games at times, and not in a good way, it does get the job done. There’s also many different enemies in the game, all with their different attack styles. Fighting in this game can be pretty punishing.
This is where I have to discuss the games shortcomings, of which there are a few.
The game also feels dated in many ways. The open world is fairly barren at times, but the exploration aspects are actually pretty well done. There’s a lot of cool things to discover on the map (and it’s a big map), but it does feel sparse in places. The graphics aren’t great, but they get the job done, and for such a small dev team size, I think they did a pretty good job overall.
There’s a lot of ambition and love in this game, just I think the MMO-esque part of it shows up a bit too much with a general lack of wealth in terms of towns. The lack of voice acting overall doesn’t help it, and I’ve had my share of nasty bugs as well. Nothing too damaging, but with a game that you can’t reload, it can be pretty unrelenting. No fast travel also puts a lot of emphasis into walking, and with its rough survival mechanics playing, I found a lot of my gameplay was a walking simulator. I didn’t dislike it, but it could’ve been done better.
They released a DLC in 2020, with plans for another one next year. Outward is a game I feel was released with a lot of hype…and didn’t quite hit it. Launching with a £34.99 price tag at launch was ambitious to say the least, but if you can get the game on sale, you’ll find an interesting RPG which few people dare make. I overall rather enjoyed it, more than I liked Greedfall and The Outer Worlds anyway. With a little more work, Outward can be turned from a good game into an excellent one.
Two Point Hospital
Now this is how you revive an old game.
I loved Theme Hospital back in the day. A wacky, bonkers but lovable management game with a ton of weird diseases and shit to sort out. In a day and age where health is more important then ever, I was delighted to hear that Two Point Hospital was coming out this year.
A good example of a game of this genre is options and replay-ability (I will go into this more in my most disappointing game of 2018…sigh), and I have a lot of good things to say about Two Point Hospital.
It isn’t a massive game and the hospital size is a bit limited, but it oozes charm from every orifice. It’s not even a remake, but an idolized painting of times long gone. It admirably brings Theme Hospital back into the current era and it does such a good job at it. It’s just familiar enough to bring back nostalgic fans and it’s new and modernised enough to bring in the new fans.
At launch it had a few niggling issues like bugs and no sandbox mode, but now these have been fixed, it’s one hell of a management game and has a lot of fun to it. Reminds me a lot of Planet Coaster when it just feels fun and enjoyable to be part of. That’s a game which sacrificed management for incredible customization, and it still holds up well to this day.
Two Point Hospital is a bit too easy at times and could benefit from a few more features, but that’s okay. Already I’m having a blast with this game and it’s an admirable addition to the management genre. With all the content and bugfixing updates since 2018 including some chunky DLC, it is a strong title, and well worth revisiting.
I’m looking forward to playing more of this game in the future.
Black and White (2001)
No, not the Pokemon version, although the fifth generation of Pokemon is probably my favourite generation of all. I’m talking about that one. The old Black and White, the brainchild of corpse-child Lionhead Studios and their eccentric and, unfortunately disgraced, leader Peter Moneleyx. I’ve been replaying this on my Twitch channel, and it’s a nostalgia jolt to the balls.
That intro is still amazing, though.
It’s certainly under-appreciated in the present day. It is a hidden gem which I think everyone should play at least. Lionhead Studios, the guys behind this game, has long closed down. They eventually collapsed under the weight of their expectations, but games such as Dungeon Keeper, Fable II and this game make me remember it fondly, and even “almost” make up for Fable III and the appalling video game Godus.
Essentially, the game is a god-sim, where you control the lives of your little subjects and do anything you want to them. Me? I’m a prick of a god, and enjoy torturing them. I reviewed its sequel Black and White 2 in my second edition of Flash Game Reviews, but this game just had an edge in overall depth. BW2 was dumbed down a lot, and while many features in the first game weren’t as polished as they should be, it is still an enjoyable experience.
What do you do in this game then? Well, in Black and White, you take the role as a god over a village of people (who demand everything and breed like rabbits, an annoying mix which is frustrating at times to handle, not to mention the bugs which occurred at times), take over other villages while playing quite an extensive campaign which can last dozens of hours, depending on your skill.
I say extensive, which is half a lie. There are only five lands and while all of them were immersive, and rarely got bored, this game is a lot shorter than I remember. (This is in far contrast to its sequel, which despite its bigger range of features, skimped out on in the campaign, I feel. Was kind of a disappointment.) There are several mods and custom-made maps you can download and play as well, which heightens the gameplay. Remember, if you can mod the game, it goes huge lengths towards making the game better!
You feed your villagers, keep them housed, they pray for you and you fund this with Prayer Power at your Temple, which is converted into Miracles. Casting Miracles is always fun and you can do anything from water forests/give food and wood to your people, to torturing and killing them with fire, lightning and storm. You can even pseudo nuke stuff with the Megablast miracle, though its expensive and hard to get, only in Land 5.
There are skirmish maps, but always the same and hard to get into, though there are plenty of mods available for it. You also get a creature who you nurture into your own, though this is often buggy, and you can teach it miracles too. Many different creatures await your control and you can swap them throughout the game if you want, but there isn’t really much difference between them, except a couple of options like speed/intelligence.
Your creature is the biggest part of the game, and theoretically you can teach it anything you can do. It can dance, learn miracles, gather for your villages, and so on. However, in playing I found this to be buggy at times, with many of the miracle learning exercises to be extremely slow and had a habit of “forgetting” at times. Once, I spent 5 hours teaching my creature (An ugly looking, evil Zebra) the Megablast Extreme miracle. It reached 100%, then tried to cast it, Boom, back to 0%. That was a frustrating bug, though it didn’t happen often. It was a huge shame though. it would have done brilliantly in murdering that stupid god Nemesis on Land 5. . .
You can be good or evil in this, whichever you want. You don’t even need to do any missions if you don’t want, and there is no time constraints; the world is your oyster. Of course, you don’t get some of the fancier bits like making buildings (through buggy scaffolds, the game wasn’t fully utilised to use this), or making miracles until Land 2, but the option is there if you want if you want to just hang in the first land.
There is also an expansion pack Creature Isle that has a considerable amount of content, though focuses solely on the creatures itself. Another thing worth looking at, though as both games are now vaporware, you should be able to download it from anywhere.
Black and White was over-hyped and overrated as a video game, plagued by shallow systems and a buggy AI, but I still found this a great game even in the current age. Why? It reminds me of more enjoyable times, it’s still good to kick back and relax in the world (old graphics but looked amazing back in 2001) and it sits fondly inside as one of the games which helped me greatly in my childhood. Try it out sometime, it’s one of the most enjoyable games of the 2000s, if you can get past the quirks.
I’ve been streaming this game on my channel, and while it’s been buggy and a strong reminder that old games sometimes don’t age well, it has been a lot of fun. https://www.twitch.tv/diabound111
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