Coming back to your PC one afternoon to find it dead, and still dead after hours of fiddling, and deader still after days of troubleshooting, and confirmed dead after weeks of swapping parts, and finally condemned after even a multimeter on the motherboard couldn’t help, is not recommended. It certainly puts a stop to any MMO play, and also puts a stop to blogging.
Due to a combination of option paralysis and over analysis, it’s taken 6 months to get a new one built and installed. Which put me so far behind in Warcraft that all I could do before Battle for Azeroth was finish of Legion flying, and unlock the Highmountain Tauren and Nightborne allied races (I pity the Alliance who could only unlock their extra races after finishing late-game Argus factions). I’ll mainly regret never getting the Field Medic title, but after grinding hundreds of poor murlocs (some revenge for the many times they swarmed a levelling lowbie) time just ran out.
However the enforced break did have some positive consequences, mainly in the form of playing some long queued-up PS4 and Xbox One games1.
First up was Uncharted 1 & 2, featuring the charming, handsome, and literally bulletproof Nathan Drake.
These are old games now, but they still play as smooth as butter and look good too in their remastered states. It’s on-rails (literally in the case one of the best sequences on a moving train), Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft high adventure, all told with great vim and vigour, and the British humour is welcome.
There’s a tad too much gunplay sometimes, but the sheer inventiveness of the set pieces and beautiful locales make it all worthwhile. I’m pleased to think there’s 3 more games to go – just have to wait for the PC to break again I guess.
Next I plunged in to Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a beautiful game to play and watch. The scenery is often breathtakingly lush, and it’s set in a unique and totally compelling world of mechanical animals and primitive human civilisation.
The lead character, Aloy, is a great protagonist, vastly different from the smirking Drake and a perfect example of how to create new and interesting heroes without having to fall back on standard tropes.
The control and animation is a treat too, all feeling natural enough to pick up and play relatively easily even after a break. I spent a lot of time just wandering around foraging and exploring, slightly resenting having to deal with the mechanical wildlife when I strayed too close.
I didn’t finish HZD though, mainly due to the sheer size of the game. I thought I was traveling quite well and progressing the story, only to unlock a new section of the map that totally took the wind out of my sails. It was overwhelming to see how much more there was to do, to the extent that I downed controller and moved on.
As a palate cleanser I dipped back in to the online stalwart that is GTA V.
The single player game is too brutal for me, but the online version is so full of ridiculous things to do (play golf or tennis, try and steal an army jet, race through Hot Wheels tracks in the sky) that it’s hard to resist. It’s an MMO without any question, albeit one without any structure other than the city you live in.
Due to various Rockstar bonus events, I managed to save enough to buy a posh apartment this time around, which was fun – just like real life without the responsibility. I find GTA has only short term novelty value (though many would disagree – there’s plenty of role playing and career gaming happening there), so before long it was time for the highlight of this console escapade.
Red Dead Redemption.
Easily one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I’m a sucker for Westerns and RDR revels in the stories and traditions of the genre, then lets you live in it2. It’s quite incredible.
I’d started and stopped it many times before (‘I should be paying Warcraft not this’), but this time it got the hooks in deep. RDR is a sprawling Western told through the eyes of John Marsden, a perfectly realised and written Western hero, fitting every stereotype yet rising above them all. The land he inhabits is full of wonderful characters, ranging from mad grave diggers to Mexican Cartel Generals, and everything in between.
The range of personalities is great, and they’re all fully voiced, but it’s the landscape that is the real star. It’s beautiful and barren, dangerous and serene, begging you to stay on horseback and just ride as far as you can to see where you end up.
For an 8 year old game it still looks stunning, and the fact there is a remastered 4K version for the Xbox One X almost made me buy a whole new console just to see it in full glory.
Of course being a Rockstar game there are few women, and unfortunately RDR2 looks to continue that tradition, but there is one very well written NPC that makes up for some of that. Some of the storylines are throw away, but many pack gut punches and emotional heft well beyond what you would expect from such a well trodden genre.
And, no spoilers, but it has the most powerful endings to a game I’ve ever experienced.