I’ve been on a big mobile kick: I’m still playing Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, mostly because it’s Star Wars, but also because it’s a fun RPG, and I haven’t hit the paywall yet. I also downloaded Pocket Mortys this weekend on iOS, where Rick and Morty battle their Morty’s with others from across the multiverse. It’s a play on Pokemon (“Moustached Morty, I choose you!”) and has a lot of the show’s humour. I’m still early on, but again, free – get what you want out of it, then leave.

How’s your mobile gaming going so far in 2016? Anything got your attention while you wait for the The Witness and Rise of the Tomb Raider next week?

Wednesday, 5:31 pm – Gavin

I just played Cibele last night and I am of two very distinct minds about it.  For those who don’t know what it is, it’s a short game about love and sex developed by Nina Freeman, level designer for Fullbright Games (of Gone Home fame)

It tells Nina’s story of meeting and falling in love with a man through an MMO.  The game is divided into two sections – where you explore Nina’s desktop and read her e-mails, and then where you play as Nina in the MMO.

Mechanically, I wasn’t crazy about it.  I know that the MMO sections of the game were meant to play out as they would in real life, but I spent too much time* just waiting for someone else to say something.  Also, no keyboard shortcuts for closing the windows/pictures you opened up on her desktop (at least, none that would work on my computer) made it a bit longer than I wanted it to be, especially with the small closing buttons.  The mechanics felt like an obstacle to get to the actual interesting parts.

That said, artistically, it was fascinating because it was so raw and honest.  Playing as a real-life person, with their real-life pictures and experiences and presumably their real-life schoolwork really grounded the game well.  Games almost never handle romantic love and sex beyond the superficial, but this one felt mature and properly realized.  In a very short period of time, you got a good sense for who Nina is and how she has grown up.  I have to commend her significantly for laying it all out there for the world to see.

During the MMO sequences, Nina’s voice acting and delivery was tremendous and natural, but Blake’s (the man’s) felt very rigid and forced, and his dialogue was uncomfortable and stilted.  Without giving too much away, I really struggled to identify with Blake, but actually had very little trouble identifying with Nina (perhaps because the game is well-crafted from her point of view).  The final sequence was emotional and was equally predictable and unpredictable (you will understand when you play it).

All in all, I was glad that I played it, but I acknowledge that this may not resonate well with people who don’t have experience with internet-only relationships, as it requires understanding a specific interpretation of the mid-2000s zeitgeist regarding online communications and MMOs.  It’s not likely to stick with me too much – if we’re talking about games with intimate personal stories to tell and that deal with love and women’s sexuality, then there’s no world where my mind isn’t going to jump to Gone Home first and foremost.

*yes I know it was a short game, so “too much time” probably doesn’t carry a lot of weight as a criticism, but I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything when I was waiting for someone to talk.

Monday, 10:54 am – Gavin

Mobile gaming is a bit of a wasteland for me in 2016, so far.  I’ve toned down my 3DS playing a bit – there simply isn’t a ton I feel like jumping into right now.  The bulk of the content in the 3DS library is that of the JRPG genre – very heavy turn-based combat, with a lot of Japanese-style story tropes thrown in.  Despite my recent love of Child of Light, turn-based combat is still something I’m not crazy about, so the litany of well-received JRPGs might soar over my head.

There’s Metroid Prime: Federation Force, but I have to admit I’m not certain how that will work.  With the Prime Trilogy on Wii, it required the Wii Remote for aiming, and that worked well.  Dual-analogue stick shooters employ mechanics we’re all familiar with, but I only have the regular 3DS, not the New 3DS with the right nub.  I’m skeptical about it, but hoping that it will work out for the best.  I also don’t know about the multiplayer aspect of that game.  I generally play mobile games during my commute to/from work, so multiplayer is almost always out of the question.  It’s also what’s holding me back from The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, which looks like a fun take on the Zelda series, but I don’t know about the single-player aspect of that game.

Also, I’m not 100% caught up on Rick and Morty yet, so I don’t want to start Pocket Mortys, just in case there’s humour I miss.  Also, turn-based, so I’m hoping that the humour of the series makes up for the mechanical deficiencies.

Now, to the first two months of 2016: holy crap.

2016 is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to AAA and highly-anticipated indie titles.  So, here’s my hot take on the list below:

I can skip The Witness because I have it in the back of my mind that the puzzles will be as annoying to me as they were in Braid – Braid is a title that I respect and I’m glad it exists, but I did not enjoy it.

Rise of the Tomb Raider* has been very well reviewed and leads the DICE awards with 9 nominations.  I haven’t played Tomb Raider yet, but I do have it sitting in my account, so I’ll get to it once I get through the mountain of shorter single-player games in my account.

X-COM 2?  Never played XC1.  I heard it was great – everyone who played it seemed to love it.  But it just didn’t appeal to me, so I can probably skip this one.

Firewatch – if not day one, then early days for me, for sure.  It’s being developed by a group of names that are pretty familiar to me – Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman, the writers from The Walking Dead, season 1, Nels Anderson, the lead designer from Mark of the Ninja, Chris Remo, the composer for Gone Home/Thirty Flights of Loving/Spacebase DF-9, and super-artists Olly Moss and Jane Ng, and the rest of the Campo Santo team.  I’m a huge fan of the Idle Thumbs podcast network, of which Rodkin, Vanaman, and Remo are the founders, and as I’ve mentioned many times before, The Walking Dead season 1 was among my top games of 2012, falling only behind Spec Ops: The Line.

I have no doubt that I will be enraptured with this game when it comes out.  The non-horror mystery setting is incredibly appealing to me; I’m getting a very “Twin Peaks” vibe from this game already, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Far Cry is a series I’ve never really delved into with much fervour, but Primal appeals to me insofar as they’re introducing a major shift into the formula.  The setting is very interesting to me – I’m curious to see how they’ll handle the disparity between the massive enemies and the lack of technology.  Games like Turok, Ark: Survival Evolved, and even Evolve have always tempered the danger of a massive enemy with god-tier firepower.  I admit I’m curious about this one!

I’m not a huge fan of loot-based games simply because of how intimidating they are – there’s so much happening and so much content that I won’t be able to access simply because I don’t have the time to explore them that I tend to be naturally biased against them – Diablo, Destiny, Borderlands, etc.  That said, the Ubisoft modern action formula is one that does appeal to me with games like Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six, so this game has a leg up.  From first glances, it has a certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from other shooters.  Perhaps it’s the dichotomy between the takes-itself-seriously plot and art style, and the arcade-type user interface and reward mechanics with experience and damage being displayed on screen.

Hitman isn’t my bag, with the exception of Hitman GO.  The episodic nature of this upcoming game is intriguing, and Square Enix does have a pretty good track record for me as of late, but I have no expectations for this game.

The rest of 2016 is bursting at the seams with titles – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (my most anticipated game of 2016), Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Tacoma, and Mass Effect: Andromeda are all titles I’m almost certain to pick up, and then there’s a ton of stuff I’m excited to see released that I’m not certain I’ll jump on just yet – ADR1FT, No Man’s Sky, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles (I’m not a huge AC series fan, but the Mark of the Ninja-esque gameplay for these does seem intriguing), Unravel (also a February release), Quantum Break, Cuphead, Uncharted 4, Dishonored 2, Gears of War 4, and last but certainly not least, The Legend of Zelda for Wii U**.

*My meager laptop cannot handle many games anymore, so I have to make a decision about whether or not I’m going to get a new gaming PC or get a console.  I am leaning very heavily towards console simply from a price point of view.  I’ve long said that if I were to get a new console, I would get it when there were five confirmed games that I knew I was going to buy, 100%.  Also, based on previous experiences, I’m comfortable with the Microsoft ecosystem, and the ergonomics of the Xbox controllers are preferable to me than those of the Playstation (this is actually a very important point for me – if you’re playing a game on console, you’re using a controller 100% of the time, so don’t underestimate its relevance to the discussion).  So, if I were to grab a new console, it would be an Xbox One.  So far, we’re effectively at 3, with Deus Ex, Mirror’s Edge, and Mass Effect.  Based on everything I’ve read, I expect to love Tomb Raider, which makes Rise of the Tomb Raider #4.  Jury is still out on #5 – I don’t know for certain if The Division is that title.  Games like Unravel, Quantum Break, Cuphead, Gears of War 4, they appeal to me insofar as I enjoy the concepts, but I’m cautious about them and will wait for reviews before I commit.

**I don’t want to downplay my excitement for Zelda Wii U – it’s just been difficult to keep it at the forefront of my mind as there’s been almost nothing released for the game, save that one big trailer last year.  I have the highest of hopes that it renews my love for the series.

Monday, 8:35 am – Ricky

Oh, yeah, by the way: The Witness and Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC) come out next week. You know what? Let’s break it down even further:

  • January 26:
    • The Witness – No price yet on Steam, but lets assume $30 (all prices in CAD because Oh Canada!)
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider – $70 for the base version
  • February 5:
    • XCOM 2 – $80
  • February 9:
    • Firewatch – No price on Steam, but again, let’s assume it gets up to $40
  • February 23:
    • Far Cry Primal – March 1 on PC, $80
  • March 8:
    • The Division – $80
  • March 11:
    • Hitman – $70

So, that’s most of the big name releases for the next 2 months – 7 massive titles, including 5 full price AAA major publisher releases. Total estimated cost to own all of these games on day one: $450. So, which of these are catching your eye? Friend-of-the-site Ash has already nabbed XCOM 2, and I’m 99% sure Gavin will grab Firewatch. I’m hoping to hold out and keep playing 2015 titles, including Fallout 4 and the AC: Syndicate. We’ll see if my resolve holds – Tomb Raider was one of my favourite games of 2013, and has already received lots of praise for the Xbox One version.