The weather might be getting nicer and summer is almost upon us but that doesn’t mean our love of videogames needs to stop. Gmw3 has been playing all sorts during May, in between writing lots of awesome articles for you folks, of course.
This month I’ve had very little time to really dig into my gaming pile of shame. Real-life keeps getting in the way, so whenever I do snatch some time, I’m putting it into familiar titles, often with friends so I can socialise at the same time.
Regardless of what many say, Fortnite is still one of the best shooters in the market right now, and with the release of the ‘no builds’ mode, the game is completely refreshed. A large part of my career before joining GMW3 revolved around Fortnite, it has been a mainstay in my gaming rotation; a game I play with friends, but most importantly, a game I play with my daughters.
And it’s more fun than ever. It’s no surprise that streamers have flocked back to a game that was, despite its market dominance, becoming a little stale. Over recent seasons, Fortnite had lost the sense of enjoyment it established early on, it had become an unwieldy beast in desperate need of balance.
In the past few seasons I rarely played without friends or family, this season, however, I grab a few rounds each day; I’ve reinstalled the game onto my Nintendo Switch to play in bed. For a game I believed could constantly reinvent itself, I never believed it could do so to the point where it felt like a brand new release. In the words of Al Pacino in The Godfather part 3, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
While I’ve played the game for years, I was never a very competent builder. I could barely use ramps to gain high ground, let alone ‘crank 90s’ or ‘box fight’. With the building removed, my win rate has significantly improved. I’m now popping heavy sniper distance shots, ‘one-pumping’ unsuspecting players and reaching double-digit frags every game.
For Apex Legends, however, I’m still trash. My win rate here feels ridiculously low. Much like Fortnite, I’ve played every season; I have my favourite legends and weapons I love. I used to be decent at the game, but it seems 99.9% of the player base is either cracked out of their minds or a sweaty Chad. Occasionally I pop off, knock out over 2,000 damage and several kills, but I’ve relaxed into my role of sub-par player.
It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the game. In some ways, I prefer it to Fortnite, because of the different legends who establish roles within the game and its meta. My ‘go-to’ legends tend to be more defensive or offer ability to my team, so I use Gibraltar for his bubble shield and bombardment, or Loba for her access to all items and weapons in a nearby radius.
While this season seems to have brought with it some interesting changes, it does feel like a backwards step for the game. Newcastle is a great legend who utilises defensive strategy, but outside of small map changes and a few tweaks here and there to weapon stats, the biggest change came to ranked mode and has the community (and myself) up in arms. The change to earning ranking points, by spreading them across the team, makes rising in the ranks ridiculously difficult compared to previous seasons.
Hopefully, the mid-season update reverts the ranking changes or rebalances them, but regardless I’ll keep playing and my teammates will continue to carry me every match until I finally discover a pool of untapped skill.
Rogue Legacy 2
I’ve been whiling away the hours this month with Rogue Legacy 2, which recently came out of early access.
It’s a sequel to Rogue Legacy, a formative game for the so-called “rogue-lite” genre which includes many of the features of roguelikes (such as procedural level generation and permanent death for the player character) while being generally more forgiving, with the ability to carry over upgrades between lives.
As one of the earlier examples of the genre, it lacked many of the welcome innovations made by the likes of The Binding of Isaac or Hades. Fortunately, Rogue Legacy 2 smartly updates the formula for the modern palate with conveniences like unlockable quick travel across the sprawling, randomised map.
As fans of the genre will expect, it’s suitably difficult while not veering into frustration thanks to snappy controls and quick restarts upon death. Once you get into the rhythm of dying, buying upgrades to improve yourself and getting a little further before the next time you die, it’s hard to resist the call of just playing one more turn.
Continuing the theme of sequels perfecting the original, I recently picked up 2016’s Inside. Having long ago played and enjoyed developer Playdead’s first game Limbo, I wasn’t disappointed to find that spiritual successor Inside cleaves pretty close to the same formula, being a puzzle platformer that relies heavily on a realistic physics system and a dark and mysterious story.
What is remarkable is the added level of polish. Inside very much embraces being “2.5D” – meaning while it remains two-dimensional in terms of where the player can traverse, Inside makes much better use of the third dimension to add depth to scenes and help to tell its minimalist story. Devoid of dialogue, it forces you to infer everything from the dystopian world around you as you pass by – from masked pursuers to mind-controlled pigs to a truly unexpected ending.
It’s a game that’s absolutely chock-full of ideas, and that extends to the gameplay too. Despite its relatively short length, new mechanics are constantly being introduced and smartly subverted, before being ditched for a new idea. Case in point being mind control helmets that let you control other characters. Initially, these render you stationary while you’re using them. As soon as you’ve gotten to grips with that, however, you’re moving around in tandem with the characters you’re mind-controlling.
Considering the six-year interval between Limbo in 2010 and Inside in 2016, I’m very much hoping we hear something about the developer’s next game this year, now we’re once again six years ahead.
Such is my seemingly newfound love for roguelites that I’ve added several more to the list. I’m still playing Hades but this month I also began delving into Loot River, a new dungeon crawler from Straka.Studio.
It can be quite rare to say a game has unique features nowadays yet Loot River manages it by mixing its combat with something unexpected, spatial block-shifting – think fighting on tetrominoes. Yup, to explore these procedurally generated dungeon domains you not only have to pick your weapon, upgrade and try not to die for as long as possible but you also have to move the floor beneath your feet to get where you’re going.
At first, I honestly wasn’t sure I’d like it, seemingly a mashup for the sake of it. Lo and behold, having something else to think about other than fighting and trying to stay alive can be entertaining. Especially when trying to manoeuvre the blocks through levels or using them to strategically attack enemies when my life was low.
I will be honest, it hasn’t grabbed me as much as others in this genre. Even so, playing Tetris whilst simultaneously swinging an axe at opponents is keeping me amused.
World of Mechs
Having previewed World of Mechs earlier this month I’ve been spending time with this game in preparation for its review – which you’ll see later this week. A Meta Quest 2 exclusive, World of Mechs is part single-player campaign and part online team multiplayer, so without spoiling too much I will say this is easily digestible all-out mech warfare.
Given just one mech to start with, the mid-range “Mario” of mechs, there’s a rather substantial 32 of the war machines to unlock, each with laser cannons, miniguns and rocket launchers to play with. They’ve all got upgrades to unlock and secondary abilities depending on the actual model.
Unusually for a VR game, what I like is the standard control interface rather than finicky VR motion controls, where you’re trying to grab a lever whilst trying to look where the enemy is about to pop up. It’s all on the controllers and there’s gaze-based aiming, all of which means I can just go hell for leather in battles and try different combinations out.
I’m all for more VR multiplayer content as long as it scratches a particular itch, giant mechs shooting each other to pieces has been scratched off that list.