4th of June, 2021
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This week: Overboard!, a large impact remastered, and that bit from Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones where C3PO gets stuck on a conveyor belt.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What we've been playing, here's our archive.
Mass Effect: Remastered, Xbox Series X
Me on social media Me irl pic.twitter.com/zQqPuj1TUg— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsEG) June 2, 2021
I've always told people you can't skip Mass Effect 1 - to the point where I think I've ruined playing the Mass Effect trilogy for a few friends. "Just get through this mechanically-dated game where all the characters and plotlines are still in their infancy," I tell them. "You need to save Wrex! You need to kill Ashley!" And while this is all absolutely true, I also know I'm basically forcing them to sit through that terrible first season of Buffy on some tatty old VHS, instead of dipping in to all the better episodes to come.
I usually start a Mass Effect trilogy run every couple of years - it's complete comfort food, ticking off every sidequest, taking the same Paragon decisions and dialogue options. But Mass Effect 1 had become increasingly hard going, to the point where not even a pandemic could make me play it again last year with the Legendary Edition imminent on the horizon.
Now, thanks to the Legendary Edition, well, Mass Effect 1 is more than bearable. It is enjoyable! And at many times quite beautiful! It's the shortest and most standalone of the trilogy, with characters such as Garrus yet to evolve into the fan-favourites they become. It has repeated environments, dodgy checkpointing and you can still sometimes land the Mako upside down, forcing a reset. But wow, it has so much potential. The slow burn reveal of the wider Mass Effect story, the history of the galaxy told through the introduction of its numerous races, the bonds that start to form between Shepard and squadmates. Even when it is mechanically dated, it is still better than most other games out there. I just need to reconvince my friends of that again.
I gather that Overboard!, which released as a lovely surprise earlier this week, is the sort of game you play many times. It's a narrative adventure in which you're trying to duck the blame for having killed your husband on an ocean liner back in the old days. The more you play, the more you can Evelyn Hardcastle your way through the mystery, picking goals and aiming for them, spotting dangers and getting around them. All of this means that the first attempt can be absolute chaos. I'm about twenty minutes in and it's been hilarious.
Reader, I have killed two people, and also blamed a crime on a seagull. And I've been spotted and accused, by the captain, of "audacious murders". I've raced about and covered my tracks badly, and I've been impulsively violent. It's been a treat.
What I wasn't expecting, though, was the trip to the chapel where I ended up talking to God. It must have been God because the voice came from a crucifix and It spoke in all caps, which seems like quite a Godly thing to do with fonts. Was it God? Which God, if so, and what does it mean that I've met Them this early on in my cruise? I'll keep playing - and probably keep audaciously murdering - to try to get to the bottom of this.
Titanfall 2, Xbox Series S
Fine! Alright! I'll play it! After being badgered about it for several years, this week I finally caved and started playing Titanfall 2 - a game revered by first person shooter fans for the quality of its campaign. I've arrived here from a rather strange direction, travelling backwards in time from Apex Legends, and it's been fascinating to spot the changes made between the two games. It also doesn't hurt that I've already had plenty of practice with a Devotion - it's like I've spent the past two years training for this.
But Titanfall 2 is, of course, a hell of a game in its own right. Effect and Cause is often held up as an example of brilliant level design, but another mission really stuck with me, and it was Into The Abyss. The conveyor belt reminded me of the silliness of the droid factory in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, yet the level also has a real air of menace. Hopping down from your Titan reminds you that you're small and vulnerable, and the mission pushes this idea further: everything is in motion, you're constantly being thrown in different directions, and you can easily be squashed by massive machines. I felt like a doll being tumbled around inside a doll's house - something that gets more literal by the end of the mission. And ever so slowly, the tension builds as you ascend: as you're being raised up to the sky, as the arena is built around you, as the Reapers arrive and you realise you're definitely in trouble. I spent that fight bravely cowering inside buildings and shrieking as exploding ticks forced me outside.
Alongside all that, Titanfall 2's missions are packed with opportunities and potential routes: they just feel busy. The levels are flexible enough to accommodate whatever movement, guns or strategies you have in mind - I could play it a dozen times and it would feel different with each run. And judging by how much I'm enjoying it so far, I may well do just that. Although next time, I'll be ready for those damn ticks.