Features & News

What are we playing? (Mar 2016)

March 29, 2016, Author: Andy Buick

Another month, and another eclectic set of games from the TIMJ team, with nary a shooter in sight! If there’s not been a lot of shooting, what have the TIMJ team been up to?

A combination of walking, running (away from scary things), getting killed (by more scary things), and puzzling. Intriguing? Read on to find out!

James Swinbanks (Staff Writer) – Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin

This month I’ve been busy playing a bunch of Far Cry: Primal for my review, which you all have to look forward to. Outside of that, it’s been a little bit of The Witness here and there, as well as my usual sim racing efforts. What I’ve really been enjoying my time with, though, is a HD re-release from 2015 called Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin.

I played Dark Souls II quite a bit when it first came out, but ended up falling off the back of it because I couldn’t figure it out; I just flat out sucked. This time through has been remarkably different. I feel like I get ‘it’ now. I made it as far as the Lost Bastille in my first attempt, and I’m now in a place called Shaded Woods. Everything about this world is full of mystery, and discovering something new is about as thrilling as it gets next to taking down a boss.

Now I can’t wait for Dark Souls III.

The Scholar of the First Sin is teaching James a lesson in getting his backside handed to him

The Scholar of the First Sin is teaching James a lesson in getting his backside handed to him

 James Sheppard (Deputy Editor) – The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D

At the moment I’m desperately trying to make some tangible progress through my backlog, particularly those which I’ve bought but never played. Majora’s Mask 3D is one such victim of neglect. Unlike Ocarina of Time, which I played through multiple times on N64, emulators, the Gamecube port and then the 3DS remake, I hadn’t touched Majora’s Mask since trying the original as a child. Back then, I didn’t really ‘get’ it and never got anywhere close to the end of the game – so despite picking up the new 3DS version out of curiosity, I was unsure how much I was actually going to enjoy it.

It’s early days, but so far I’m delighted I gave it a second chance. All of the reasons which I never gelled with it as a kid – the weird, darker tone; its more obscure structure and systems; and the player agency demanded by its pressing three-day time limit – are characteristics which I feel I can appreciate now, with many more years and marginally more wisdom behind me. Whereas it probably won’t earn the coveted award of one of my favourite games of all time like its forebear did, I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far.

James has been re-discovering a Zelda classic

James has been re-discovering a Zelda classic

Matt Parker (News Editor) – Hitman/Zen Pinball 2

I’ve mostly been playing Hitman. You may wonder how on Earth I’ve been playing something that only has one level and two tutorials, but you can see how this is possible with my review. Other than that, I’ve somehow fallen into a pinball rabbit hole. Zen Pinball 2, on the Vita, has its claws in me and I’ve bought two packs already. There’s some real attention to detail on the tables; it’s hard not to recommend to anyone that has even a passing interest in pinball.

Matt's achieved a zenlike state playing this pinball title

Matt’s achieved a zenlike state playing this pinball title

Dan Moore (Staff Writer) – Various

Recently I have been replaying MGSV: The Phantom Pain in the hope of completing it. This is not going well as missions take so long to complete and ya know… kids. I have also been playing a bit of XCOM 2 but haven’t got very far, and I am mainly using it to test out my shiny new Steam Controller, which is going okay after a few teething problems.

Mostly though, I have been dumping hours into the free-to-play iPad game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. It nailed the look and feel of the franchise, has some quite good combat mechanics and you are always gaining new stuff. The micro-transactions in there are stupid expensive, but I haven’t felt the need to buy anything yet so its not really bothering me. The only problem is the fact that the difficulty can spike really badly, forcing you to grind, but you can only do that for about an hour before you run out of energy and have to wait until the next day… or pay for some, which I ain’t doing.

Dan's been saving the galaxy this month in this F2P offering

Dan’s been saving the galaxy this month in this F2P offering

Jonn Blanchard (Staff Writer) – Firewatch

Currently I’m playing Firewatch. Yes, I know I’m a little behind on that, but I’ve just replaced my Macbook with a better model with a nice Radeon Discrete graphics card in it, so I can now play without constant stutters.

My opinion is still wavering a bit. I’m intrigued by where the story is going and the visuals and voice acting have been superb, but I’m finding it hard to concentrate in the bits between story elements. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Fallout’s fast-travelling, but it’s not too expensive and if you do want to try a walkabout game with a (currently) decent storyline, then I recommend it. Just be prepared for periods of doing very little except walking though the graphically lovely environment.

There are no shortage of spectacular screenshots for this game…

Andy Buick (Features Editor) – Until Dawn/The Witness

Aside from a handful of review titles, most of my time in the past month has been spent playing through Until Dawn and The Witness. I’m happy to report that both titles are eminently worth the time. Until Dawn is the best David Cage game, ironically made by Supermassive games instead of Quantic Dream. The formula works wonderfully well in the horror genre, making for some incredibly tense sequences, whether trying to quickly traverse the environment, or trying to remain completely still, which is much harder than it sounds! If I have any criticism, it’s that the horror checklist seems to have been thrown at this game, with different horror tropes being marched out every few minutes. It would have been better had the story been more concentrated, although it’s a long way from bad.

As for The Witness, I’m an absolute sucker for a puzzle, so the idea of this appealed to me from the off. I’m happy to say that if you too enjoy puzzling, this is a wonderful experience. The world is absolutely beautiful, the different means to solve each puzzle make for some real eureka moments, and for a title that in the playing is much more exciting and satisfying than it seems on paper, makes extremely clever use of sound, environment, colour and many other things.

Is it massively pretentious in places? I personally would say so, and felt the audio and video files added nothing to the experience, but they are optional so don’t let that put you off. I’ve seen a number of comments around its price as well. There’s more imagination and content than in many so-called AAA titles worth considerably more, so my advice if you’re interested, is to go for it.

It's a battle of screenshots this month, with The Witness rivalling Firewatch for eye candy

It’s a battle of screenshots this month, with The Witness rivalling Firewatch for eye candy