Gaming

Laro: Quarantine Games of Early 2021

Oh my god. Can you believe it’s already April?? Time really seems to pass by differently during a pandemic. Because of the stellar government response to this virus, we are back to a work-from-home setup. Coupled with the lack of outdoor activities and the time saved by not commuting, I’ve finished a lot of video games since the year started.

None of them have really wow-ed me to the extent that they need a standalone article, but there’s still a lot to be said about each of them. So let’s go down the hole of “games I’ve played since the year started.”

Quick Disclaimer: I had deleted my game screenshots and I didn’t take screenshots for all the games here so all the images are from their official press kits found at igdb.com. No copyright infringement intended.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is one of my favorite video games ever. I think I’ve finished it no less than five times on the old Playstation 2. It was the first game that really opened my eyes to the “video games are an art form” stand. It was so well-made and turned me into a Kojima fan ever since.

Which is why I’m sad to say that MGSV:TPP didn’t really tickle my nipple. I’m not well-informed on all the politics between Kojima and Konami while in development for this game, but it doesn’t really matter since I never even got to the part where the story was supposedly cut off.

I never even got to meet Quiet 😭

It is still a VERY well-made game with all the Kojima signatures, but I think I barely got through a quarter of the story before I lost motivation to play the game. Having each piece of gameplay be a separate “mission” just isn’t for me, as well as the base maintenance gameplay. I did have fun playing some parts, but I guess every time I controlled Venom Snake, I kept wishing it was MGS3 all over again. I’m guessing the shift to an “open world” just made it unappealing to me instead of the streamlined story that Naked Snake had.

Kojima always shined with the plot and the characters so I felt that having to do “missions” in between was killing the momentum. I tried playing it with the mindset of “just finish two missions per playtime” but eventually, my interest just dropped off and I moved on to other games. It is still in my library though, so I might eventually come back and finish it. I’m still curious about what happens to Venom Snake, but for now, my playthrough for this is unfinished.

Gunfire Reborn

I got this game for the sole reason that I thought it would make me better in fps games like Valorant. Unfortunately, this game’s mechanics are so far from Valorant that I don’t think any skill carried over. It’s not the game’s fault, though.

I don’t know what I expected with this art style.

It’s a fun, rogue-like, fps game that should be played with friends. But playing solo is fine as long as you don’t care about the monotone grind. Imma be real and say that I stopped playing this game as I could not, for the life of me, progress my character anymore.

See, the way this game treats levelling up is that in every “run” you get some points that you can allocate to your player skills which are permanent and carry over to all your future runs. The problem with this is that the points don’t accumulate. They go back to zero once you start your next run, while the player skills require more points each time you level up. So, it got to a point where I finish a run and not have enough points to level up any skill anymore. No more levelling up my character, and you can’t unlock more of the game’s content due to this. In short, I was perpetually stuck in the early levels of the game because I lacked the skills to git gud.

And since this isn’t like other games with a narrative, I eventually got tired of grinding for nothing and seeing my ass keep getting beaten by the first boss and just dropped the game. It was fun while it lasted, but it didn’t last long. Gunfire Reborn is a cute game with lots of replayability if you play it with friends, but the solo grind just isn’t for me.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Complete Edition

Until now, The Witcher 3 held the record for the longest game I’ve played with 141 hours. But grinding to get my favorite Digimon broke that record and at the end of this game (technically two games okay I get why it’s so long now) I had 161 hours logged into it.

This game is definitely for Digimon fans and JRPG fans. I’m quite new to this genre as the only other turn-based RPG game I’ve played are the Hoenn Pokemon games. But with some research, I can see that this game has a lot in common with the Persona games. Outside of the Digimon battles, there’s a lot of running around and a shitload of dialogue. But I’m betting that most will be playing this game to get your favorite Digimon. That was the biggest motivator for me. Grinding just to get my Omnimon and Mastemon was all worth it when I finally got to their DNA Digivolution screen.

The game is a nostalgia bomb just waiting to explode

Like I said before, this game is actually two games in one. There is the main story, and one where you play as another character in a story adjacent to the main one. You can actually choose the order in which you play them, but it’s obvious that the game was designed for the main one to be played first. Unfortunately, you can’t import your Digimon from one playthrough to the other, but at least once you start the second story, you already know the basics and some tips and tricks. Both stories take place in the same locations but with some minor differences. It’s actually possible to just play the main game and never do the side story. There’s no big reveal or tie-ins in the side story, I guess it’s more for those that simply want more content and to try a run with different Digimon.

This game was made for the grind because you have to Digivolve and de-Digivolve your monsters to make them stronger. The game knows this and that’s why it has an auto-battle feature where the AI does the battles for you with one push of a button. Looking back, I think I could’ve shaved off some playtime by just sticking to the main missions, but again, the point here is to get your favorite Digimon. This game is definitely one powered by nostalgia.

Hades

I’ve been playing this game since it garnered all the awards in 2020, and until now, when I have some time or I’m just itching for a quick time-passer, I start up Hades. This game really is worthy of all the awards it won. Let me just start by saying that the hype is real.

I’m a sucker for games based on mythology. God of War has been the most prominent of the Greek myth-based games, but now we have another addition. Hades gameplay is fast-paced and I’m surprised my gamepad hasn’t broken down yet with all the abuse I do to it when I’m playing. The fact that the length of each run of the game depends on your choices makes it able to fit whatever length of playtime you need. I’ve played this game from just a single run (when I’m taking a break in between work) to an entire night’s worth of play. It’s that flexible, and no run feels wasted.

The characters are all so lovable and their interactions are realistic

There’s already been so much praise with how the devs used the rogue-like concept and blended it beautifully with the game’s plot. Dying in Hades isn’t a hindrance and sometimes, it is even welcome. I’ve been playing this game since last year and I’ve never heard a dialogue line being repeated. That’s how detail-oriented they are. You are also motivated to vary your playstyle because they might even unlock special dialogue or rewards from the characters. This situational use of dialogue has made me so happy and I’m even a bit disappointed that not all games have this.

Hades really is one of a kind. A work of passion and love from the devs that even I can feel. I binged on a lot of videos about this game and seeing how the devs worked on it made me appreciate it even more. I haven’t finished Hades yet because I don’t think it will ever be finished. I go back to it every now and then to progress the story one run at a time.

Bioshock Infinite

This game reminded me a lot of Dishonored. There should be a genre of video games called “Renaissancepunk” because that’s the vibe that I got, despite Bioshock taking place in the US of A. I had a good time playing this game, though I was a little surprised by how short it was. Thankfully I got it on sale, so I never felt the value for money be unfair (though I’ve played games that have given me more for less).

The world-building here is well-made. I’m not an American, but I can still see the symbolism the devs put into the game. It even had me googling stuff like the boxer rebellion just to know more about some lines said by the characters. The rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ stuff was okay, although there were times that some of the guns felt the same. The main character’s special abilities were varied and fun to use, although you do get biased to some and just spam them to defeat the enemies sometimes.

Not gonna lie, some executions in this game are brutal

The divisive plot is the selling point for this game. It’s controversial, but as someone who hasn’t played the previous Bioshock games, I really liked this one, including the plot twist. I went into this game without any expectations and I had a good time. What else is there to say.

Valorant

I don’t think there’s anyone who has a gaming PC and hasn’t tried playing Valorant even once. It’s free to play, easy on the hardware, and actually pretty fun. That is until you drown from the toxicity from your fellow countrymen.

I never related to the word “peenoise” more until I started playing Valorant. If you’re a beginner (or just having a bad game), it’s going to be tough playing through the game without muting people. Solo queueing is a hit or miss, and when you get unfortunate matchmaking and end up with a toxic lobby, it stops the momentum right then and there. The best way to play this game is with a team that you know and trust to be non-toxic.

It’s Counter Strike with magical powers!

This was my go-to game for a couple of months this year. It’s so good, I even made a few videos about it. The world itself has good lore and incredible art direction. Riot really put a lot into this game and it’s great to see. However, it’s the community itself that I had a problem with. As with all free to play games, it attracts all kinds of insects. So for now, I’ve transitioned to simply watching Valorant instead of playing it.

Far Cry Primal

My first foray into the Far Cry franchise and I’m a caveman. I really suggest going into a game without any expectations because you’ll get the most reward out of it. I never knew being a caveman was so fun. I started out being killed by one swing of a mammoth’s trunk to being able to take down entire strongholds with just me and my pet owl. Don’t you just love games where you end up inevitably as a stealth archer?

This game made me miss Assassin’s Creed a little bit because of the stealth required to do some missions, but it does have its own charm in it. One thing I have to say is that it really captures the high stakes life of caveman. Sometimes I’m just out looking for herbs and suddenly I get mauled by a bear from out of nowhere. Forced first person perspective really fucks you up and I screamed multiple times in this game. I also felt myself move my head irl to “dodge” arrows and move my body forward when my character is jumping ledges. I have my qualms with first person perspective, but I can’t doubt that it’s really immersive here.

Although the bow is hella effective, I prefer the spear

The world in this game is amazing and the devs really put a lot of attention to detail. I love the interactive systems they put into this game along with the wide variety of fauna. I enjoyed hiding in the bushes and just watching a pack of wolves chase down a yak. I think I spent more time setting fire to the grass in this game than actually doing the missions. The game is well made with interesting little mechanics.

Where the game is lacking is in the narrative. The story is simple and the characters are basic, aside from the lovable Urki. It’s not really a concern as the gameplay is superb, but it can definitely be improved upon. And that’s about all I can say about this game. It’s a fun, fps, clear-out-the-map kind of game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. If the other Far Cry games are as good as this and even better, I’ll definitely have to take a look at them in the future.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The whole time I was playing this game, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Witcher 3. Of course, objectively, the newer game will be better than the older one. There are so many things that CDPR improved from this game. I can’t believe how tedious this game is with regards to gameplay and controls. The feature I miss the most would probably be the fast travel because despite not being as big as the TW3, there is still a lot of backtracking to be had here.

It’s always a good time playing as the Gwynbleidd

But there are also some things that I think this game does better than its successor. For one thing, I prefer this more linear style of story telling where the side quests are more or less related to the main quests as well. I’m not saying that the open-world style is bad, but there’s just a sense of cohesiveness here that makes you feel like everything is leading up to a certain point. It is then quite paradoxical that in this non-open world game, you miss out on the most content by just playing this game once.

In TW3, your choices matter, yes. But they don’t really lead up to big changes until the ending. Sometimes you get the occasional missed quest or two, but nothing truly consequential. In TW2, though, you miss out on an entirely different storyline based on your choices. I won’t expound on this much to avoid spoilers, but there’s a reason why I’m on my 2nd playthrough of the game right now. Fortunately, the game isn’t as long as TW3 and I think I can finish this before reaching 50 hours of playtime.

You can already see the seeds of greatness planted here. When you play TW2, you will understand how CDPR improved upon it and made TW3 one of the best video games ever made. It’s a shame I played it in the wrong order, but at the end of the day, more Geralt adventures isn’t really a losing situation.


And that’s about it for now. I still have a lot of games on my list because the Steam Store is currently one of the few sources of my happiness. Times are hard, and we must hold on to the little joys that we can find, right? Anyway, I hope y’all are doing well and keeping safe. Let’s survive this period in our lives and hopefully get back on our feet to do other stuff.

Stay inside and be healthy!

-jgzn

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