Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: The New Year Edition

First, a very happy New Year to everyone out there! And if you don’t celebrate New Year, then I hope you have a very happy whatever day this is. It’s honestly boggling my mind that we’re moving into a whole new decade. Hell, I still think 2000 was like ten years ago. It’s an exciting, crazy time. I’ve been reflecting a little on what the last decade has brought in gaming, from the good to the bad. We’ve seen the rise of loot boxes, season passes and various other forms of monetization, the domination of games like Fortnite and wonderful pieces of art like God of War, The Last of Us and The Witcher 3. And of course in 2020 we’re going see the new generation of consoles hitting the market.

In 2018 and especially 2019 I think we’ve finally seen proper backlash against loot boxes and other predatory practices. Companies seem to be getting the message and are backing off a little, trying out new things like battle passes instead that still monetize the games but aren’t quite as horrible. Hopefully this continues through 2020.

Anyway, as you probably already realized I’ve not posted any reviews or anything over the last week. That cold I’ve mentioned before is finally packing up its crap and moving out, though, so as the New Year trundles past I should be getting back into the swing of things. I’ll be kicking off with the mandatory list of the best games of 2019, and I’m also thinking about doing a quick list of games I’d like to see get remastered.

Cold or not, I have been playing a few random games. One of those was Shadow of War from 2017, the open-world Lord of the Rings hack and slash. You know, the one where the giant spider Shelob got a major character revamp so that she could transform into a beautiful woman with vague motivations? Yeah, the story was kind of dumb, but thankfully it’s a lot of fun to play, largely thanks to the Nemesis system, Basically, the idea is that if an enemy kills you it gets a name and a personality, and you can seek revenge. Plus there’s a whole heirarchy thing going on. It’s just a lot of fun to play around with everything and to encounter new Uruk’s with weird names and abilities.

The Nemesis system made itself known in my first hour or two of play as I made an enemy of an Uruk with the title of Blood Axe. This smarmy bastard genuinely believed that his axe, the titular Blood Axe, talked to him and that it wanted by blood in particular. Blood Axe was many levels above myself, but I’d probably manage to handle him if it wasn’t for the fact that he always seemed to get incredibly lucky, always being in right place at the right time or winding up with help in the form of other captains.

Long story short, Blood Axe managed to kill me twice, growing in power both times and rising through the ranks of the Uruk army. Needless to say, by this point I had something of a grudge against Blood Axe, a personal hatred of the Uruk bastard. As they say, the third time is the charm so I hunted Blood Axe down for a third and hopefully final battle. This time I was smart: I systematically annihilated nearby Uruks before beginning my fight against Blood Axe with a devastating stealth attack to put him on the back foot. Things were going alright, but again Blood Axe had luck on his side. A bunch of Uruks turned up, many of them with ranged attacks. They wore me down, and then from the shadows another captain emerged. I was outgunned, hurting bad and…he got me. The bastard got me again. The camera zoomed in, waiting for Blood Axe to deliver the killing blow, ready to show me in horrible detail how he had beaten me yet again. I felt the anger bubbling up, the sense of humiliation at being bested again. This was what the Nemesis system could be, a powerful storytelling device.

And then from out of nowhere a Gondorian soldier ran in and stabbed Blood Axe. Giving me a smile and mumbling something about not letting me die, he ran off. Blood Axe was dead. My mortal foe was lying in a puddle of blood. And I…well, I was pissed the fuck off! This nameless twat had just run in and murdered by nemesis. He had taken my revenge from me! THAT GONDORIAN WHORE OF A BASTARD! I don’t think I’ve ever been so flummoxed, so confused and so unsure of my own feelings as I was right then. Blood Axe was dead. What was my purpose in life? Who even was I? I’m still thinking about the whole fight and the strange ending, even days after it actually happened. It was such a fun example of storytelling that burst out of the game’s systems.

It also makes me wonder why other developers haven’t adopted the Nemesis system. The video game industry as a whole is built upon copying successful mechanics and iterating upon them, so it’s baffling that the Nemesis system hasn’t been poached, tweaked and improved. There’s so much cool potential, especially for the open world genre where you typically have to fight or shoot a whole lot of faceless goons.

Taking a break from all the Uruk slaying I played some more Tropico 6. And then after building the ultimate tourist destination I started throwing all the tourists in jail, build a special building so that I could make money from them and then started arresting all my citizens too. Before long I was raking in the money and the only downside was the occasional rebellion. But what’s a rebellion to a tyrannical ruler, eh?

I’m still considering firing up The Witcher 3, which apparently just recently had more concurrent players than it did at launch thanks to the success of the Netflix show and the fact that you can pick up the game dirt cheap in the Steam sale right now. I want to join in on this resurgence, but at the same time playing something like The Witcher 3 is a real commitment; like, I know that if I start I’ll need to devote dozens of hours to it. I’m not sure if I’m ready for that sort of relationship right now, y’know?

Plus, I think I’d feel a little guilty putting that time into The Witcher 3 when there are 2019 titles I never even played, like Metro: Exodus, The Outer Worlds and Sekiro. I feel bad enough writing up my list of the best games of the year despite missing out on some big releases.

Still, I’d like to jump back into The Witcher 3 for another reason: it might be my game of the decade. That’s a big claim, but no other game has connected with me as much as The Witcher did. It’d be fun to jump back into it and see if I still feel that way.

For Christmas I got this truly badass shirt that I had to share with you guys:

I also got gifted two games for Christmas, both for the Nintendo Switch. The one I’m most excited to play is Super Mario Odyssey. I’ve seen loads of reviews for it and heard nothing but praise for it, so I’m super-psyched to fire it up on my Lite and just sink into the couch for a while.

Right, that will do for this week, I reckon. As always if you want to support the site by helping pay for hosting costs, games for review and all that jazz then hit the button below to toss me a few coins via Paypal.

Have an awesome New Year, take care of yourselves and let me know what you’re playing.

[wpedon id=35653]

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