[Here be spoilers, but mostly for Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls. Dark Souls II gets a lighter discussion.]

The warriors who entered Boletaria’s fog couldn’t find their way back out, and you’re just one of many to end up trapped there. It’s fitting to bump up against the edges of your cage. Demon’s Souls is self-contained and claustrophobic, with no true escape regardless of the choices you make or how far you progress. You can defeat the world’s demons. You can try to help people, or take on assassination contracts and start picking them off one by one. You might eventually gain an amazing amount of power but you’ll still be bound to the Nexus, constantly returning to this hub in an unbreakable cycle. It’s a sanctuary for many, creating rest and safety at the eye of the storm, but also a prison.


Writers Block and Family Block

Posted by Cha

[Includes spoilers for The Novelist]

The Novelist is about a family. It’s also about a ghost, which is our role in the story. The ghost is a device for exploring people’s thoughts, memories and desires, and deciding who gets what they want. The ghost whispers in the father’s ear and tells him what to do.

Why does the ghost exist? Since the father’s choices are the only ones given any importance why don’t we just play as him? Possibly to add challenge, or fit a restrictive definition of “game”. There’s already plenty of emotional challenge in compromising between family members, but the ghost adds a dash of more traditional stealth-based gamey-ness. On the higher difficulty setting it’s possible for family members to spot the ghost, and spooking them reduces your options slightly. So, a tiny element of risk without going as far as a hard fail state.


The Cowardly Journey

Posted by Cha

I moved lightly over the sand, leaving trails behind me. I had to admit, it felt pretty good skimming along. But there was so much ground to cover, and limited energy to explore it with. The pace soon slowed, energy depleted, and I imagined myself grumpily kicking sand around with my foot. Stupid sand.

I loved flower, but something made me far more dubious about thatgamecompany's Journey. I went in feeling flippant and impatient. I dared it to try and move me, not expecting to find anything particularly meaningful. I fought against whatever emotion the game was trying to achieve (not always effectively, I'll admit).


How Many Reflections?

Posted by Cha

MirrorMoon EP made me sad. Maybe that’s okay since it’s a lonely game and sadness isn’t too far away from loneliness, but it also made me a little bit angry.

Now, I love this game. It’s slow-paced exploration with light puzzle solving and stunning low-poly planets in matte shades that shift with the light. I appreciate traveling via tape deck, like there’s a universe in everything. Also that even though music seems important sounds are subtle and faintly eerie. The stars feel vast and empty, and at first it’s difficult to imagine how to navigate with purpose.


Changing Games

Posted by Cha

I keep a spreadsheet of my unplayed games, so I know I have about 900 titles waiting in my backlog, not counting all the interesting free stuff I have bookmarked. Even if I cut out all the crap I don’t really intend to play (most of it, honestly) that’s still an awful lot of games, and even short things will usually take a while to get to. Games are not static, and can keep moving in the meantime.