What we've been playing

A few of the games that have us hooked at the moment.

19th of November, 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 time: more coat hangers, a classic RPG with a twist, and a grim future war.

Also! Please meet Paolo Balmes, who joins the moderation team. We asked him to tell us a bit about himself.

"Hi everyone, my name is Paolo Balmes but you can call me Paolo or Pao. I love sports, from basketball, football, AMERICAN Football as well as the UFC and pro-wrestling.

"I am an avid fan of both heavy metal and rap especially acts like Tech N9ne, Epica, Nightwish, Body Count and Slipknot.

"As for my favorite videogame genres I love games like the Total War series, Street Fighter, Crusader Kings, Rainbow Six Siege, both the Persona and SMT series and of course the Resident Evil series."

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Unpacking, Xbox Series S

Unpacking trailer

I see a lot of my life in Unpacking. It's not the same as the person's whose life you follow in the game, but it has similar moments. I expect you'll all feel this in Unpacking, which is what makes it such a powerful little game. It made me relive house-sharing. It made me relive having someone move in with me, and the negotiation of space that followed. It made me relive arranging all of my son's toys in his room, while he was at school, so it would look like a huge battle had taken place when he got home. I know - dad of the year material. And it made me relive starting again, when life took a turn.

It's remarkable how Unpacking does it, because it doesn't really seem to be doing anything. It's so unbelievably simple. But it's almost as if by removing the players from the story, it invites you to fill it in with you. And then all it takes is a cup too many, or a pair of shoes without a home, for the game to suggest a story.

And it's fascinating looking at them from the outside, situations like these, with perspective you once didn't have. Isn't it funny, for instance, the objects we carry around with us? We've probably had them for years, maybe ever since we moved out. Are they simply mementos or are they something more? Are these the objects we think define us, in some way, as adults - our things?

These are the kinds of things I think about because of Unpacking. It's a fascinating, if sometimes laborious - I hear you Ed! - game.

Bertie

Final Fantasy 7 Remake, PS5

What we liked about the Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Over 18th months after I first started playing, I have finally finished the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I could easily blame the pandemic for ruining my attention span, but I've always preferred slowly chipping away at longer games wherever possible (my current record is playing Dark Souls 2 over the entirety of the previous seven and a half year-long console generation) and the truth is, I often found the FF7 Remake a difficult game to get through.

For me, it's the epitome of when it's good, it's incredible - I loved exploring new takes on Aerith's church, Wall Market and the Shina Building, which walk the tricky line of reimagining iconic locations while keeping the spirit of the original intact. As much as I will always prefer the original era's use of fixed, pre-rendered backgrounds, even just the small touch of being able to look up - and marvel at Midgar's impossibly big plates hanging over you - is worth the price of entry alone.

But it's in-between those sections I didn't get on with. Modern Final Fantasy is still trying to work out how to craft effective dungeons, I think, and the Remake really struggles here, especially when it transforms short areas from the original into much longer, linear routes with very little challenge or creativity - which despite enjoyable combat, can be a slog to get through. The main offender? The sewers: Once just a couple of screens in the original, it balloons into a tedious dungeon that you visit not once, but twice.

I completely understand why this had to happen - turning six to eight hours of the original into a more standalone, 30 hour experience requires some additions here and there - but I wasn't expecting this much bloat. I also much prefer the slow burn of the Sephiroth storyline in the original over forcing his appearance in Remake so frequently - and the less I say about the ending, the better.

Don't get me wrong - it's a remarkable, gorgeous project, and I'm still amazed it came out as well as it has - I just hope the daunting prospect of capturing the world beyond Midgar tightens their focus a little. Either way, I can't wait to see where the next chapter goes next. Until then, I'll be digging into the end game and eventually, Yuffie's Integrade DLC - and you can probably expect an update from me on that in another 18 months time.

Matt Reynolds

Total War: Warhammer 2, PC

Total War: Warhammer 2 cinematic trailer

I've been a fan of the Total War series since Rome, and when they announced that they would be doing a Warhammer fantasy version I jumped at the chance to play it, and since then it has consumed my life for the better part of four years and counting.

With its latest DLC The Silence and The Fury, I can confidently say that I won't be playing any new games anytime soon, as the new legendary Lord Taurox the Brass Bull is a very fun lord to play with alongside his bull-themed armies. There is just satisfaction in steamrolling the Empires of Man with an unstoppable tide of demonic cows that can't be replicated in any other 4X game I've played.

With Warhammer 2 I'm well over 3000 hours of playtime across a number of factions, ranging from the Empire (FOR SIGMAR!), The Skaven (smelly rats with nukes) and the Vampire Coast (vampire pirates).

On any given campaign playthrough, regardless of what faction you play, it just has little nuances to make it a fresh experience every time.

(P.S I NEED HELP)

Paolo Balmes

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