We know quite a lot about what the Ancient Egyptians made of death. Their opinions regarding life, however, often seem more elusive. This could have posed something of a problem for Assassin's Creed: although my first thought of this series is always of death dropping down from on high as darkness suddenly swirls and engulfs, my second, more considered memory, is generally one of life - mad, rickety, often hilarious life. The teeming, thronging cities of civilisation, messy history wobbling forth in the form of crowds, of bystanders, of onlookers, of thieves and killers and victims. This life is sometimes buggy and precarious - in Assassin's Creed, you can sometimes have no face, just a grin and some floating eyeballs and yet you can still be alive - but there's always something of a cheerful miracle to it. These games bustle. They bustle with life.
I can still remember the way to Noki Bay. So much other stuff about Mario Sunshine has faded, but this remains clear, as if I last made the journey yesterday. You're in town and you head to the mosaic by the dolphin fountain. The air feels weird here, shimmering and expectant. You step onto the mosaic, and then what? Something is almost ready to happen. You spin the camera around until you catch it, the sun itself blazing in the sky. The screen goes white and then you're off.
I'm not sure how you feel about eye contact, but even if you really, really love it, Echo is going to test you. Its menu screen, for starters, is a huge eyeball, lashes thick and curling and as weird and alien as real, human lashes, its pupil darting around as you hover between the usual options. Phew! Once you've gotten past that, you're up for a lengthy opening ramble through an orbiting spaceship where you have emerged from a century of cryo-sleep, down to a planet where ice fields turn out to be endlessly replicated white cubes, and beneath that to a vast procedural palace.
For a second, holding a golden necklace above the open mouth of the cremulator, I paused. But only for a second. The cremulator is essentially an extremely hardcore blender: it is used in the funeral business to grind any bone fragments that remain after the fires of cremation have flared and then dimmed. It is not meant to grind jewelry, but I imagine it could if pushed. Games are about messing with systems, aren't they? Narrative games in particular are about messing with systems that the designer has entrusted you with for the purpose of telling a story. I was not meant to grind the golden necklace. I was meant to place it inside the urn with the remains of its owner. And so of course for a second, I paused.
Jeffrey Manchester typically robbed McDonald's. He typically robbed McDonald's because in America, McDonald's restaurants, wherever you go, are typically the same kind of building. Manchester's genius - and it was genius, albeit of a scrappy, low-key nature - was to realise that in these near-identical McDonald's buildings, near-identical rituals were often unfolding. If you found the right moment in the day to rob one McDonald's - and the right access point to utilise - you had stumbled on a crime you could export across the country. McDonald's has developed a easily replicable system for selling burgers. Because of this, Manchester had developed an easily replicable system for robbing McDonald's.
The great thing about Tolkien's Middle-Earth, I reckon, is that it's bigger than a book, bigger than a movie screen, bigger than any collection of words or images you could ever arrange. Middle-Earth has rules that cannot be broken and it has borders that cannot easily be expanded, but those are paltry restrictions when countered by the imagination of a besotted fan. You can think about Middle-Earth forever, because you can just add details and questions and guesswork and hopes and dreams. Fandom this rich is a tunnel leading deep into the misty, cavernous spaces underground - and Tolkien, as we all know, had things to say about those kinds of spaces.
Clash Royale has just rolled out its Epic Quests update. It's a bit of a beast, including everything from a quickfire new Touchdown mode that ditches towers altogether in favour of something that feels like American Football (I think it's great, but I'm in the minority by the looks of things; most agree it relies too heavily on the cards you get in the draft), to mirror battles, a revamped shop and a bunch of balance changes. But the first thing I noticed when logging in is that the free chests are gone, and replaced with a new Quests system.
It is so rare in games to go to war for something you believe in. And yet going to war is such a big part of the deal with games. You go to war against demonic entities in Doom. You go to war against space fundamentalists in Halo. Games are filled with rogue states and splinter groups, with orcs and Chaos creatures: all kinds of things that need a generalised shoeing. But these things are so numbingly removed from real life, so good-versus-evil that it's hard to feel like you have much skin in the game.
You fight a toilet in A Hat in Time. It's a boss fight, too; it's actually quite tough to put that toilet down for good. It's a spooky toilet you're fighting, of course, so you have to factor in ghosts and green-glowing wraiths that swoop and lunge. It's an acrobatic toilet too, so you need to watch out when it's starting to feel spry and stompy.
How well do you know Mario? It turns out that this is quite a weird question to try and answer. Most of the time when you're playing a Mario game, you are Mario. When you're right in the middle of it you feel that familiar weight through the fingers, that same elastic pull of gravity during a jump, and you probably don't think, "That's Mario jumping," you probably think, "I'm jumping" - if you think anything at all. Mario becomes weirdly invisible when you're racing him through his candied worlds. Knowing Mario is knowing yourself in-game: now I can triple-jump, now I can wall-spring, now I'm wearing a hat that can animate everything I throw it at. It's great being Mario!
Hello! Remember Thirty Flights of Loving? Remember Borges and that trolley dash? Remember Bernoulli and his principle? Brendon Chung's examination of the power of cinematic editing is one of my games of forever, I reckon, and Oli approved too.
I've finally had some brilliant moments in Fortnite. I've had some brilliant moments, unexpected and thrilling and hilarious. For weeks, I dipped in and out of a game that I dearly wanted to love, a game made with obvious craft and care and wit, but a game whose once-voguish elements - resource gathering, crafting, loot boxes! - failed to come together in any meaningful way. The art, a sort of goofy atomic-age panorama, as if Mad Magazine had been conscripted into a militia, was hard not to warm to and the PvE campaign zipped along, but I was left unsure as to why I should put any time into building complex structures to defend against zombie hordes when the match would be over in the blink of an eye and all that hard work would vanish forever, and I was suspicious of the numbers that you pumped out of enemies, one bullet at a time. Those numbers looked so great, chunky and bright as they cluttered the air, but they also looked like set-dressing rather than anything with genuine meaning to the player. Fortnite simply wasn't as much fun as it looked like it was. It often seemed like it was pretending to be a game.
The Mirage Dragon would have wowed me in 1996. It would have blown my mind. It would have fairly erupted from the screen, this twisting, sinuous metal spacecraft, mouth gaping and malevolent and firing laser beams in every direction. After it had blasted me to pieces, it would have made me call up a friend and say: man, I've seen it. I've seen the future of games. Graphics will never get any better than this.
Hob's world is a mechanism: a beautiful, delicate thing of dials and pulleys and clamps and switches. It is intricate, and it is precise, and as you play through Hob the world you move through is never far from your thoughts. You descend beneath its copper and slate crust at times to slot ancient machinery together. When a gate will not rise, you pace backwards through the grass, following the trail of unlit diodes that will lead you back to a dormant battery that needs charging. You pull things, you twist things, you ram things home. The world is a lock that you are slowly picking, each tiny piece of hard-won progress sending new pins bouncing, or new tumblers turning. No wonder the sword you wield looks like a key.
I met a mysterious old man this last Saturday. He told me he was 87, and I did not believe it. Then, to prove it, he lifted his huge round sunglasses and made me stare at his eyes, which were light blue and rather milky with cataracts. "Still don't believe it?" he asked. I told him that I still did not believe it, and he laughed, delighted.
Lovely looking musical action-adventure game Figment has just been released on PC. It's the latest title by Bedtime Digital Games, who you might know from Back to Bed which was also surreal and filled with charm.
Hello! You're probably aware that Gamer Network, Eurogamer's parent company, also runs EGX, which is currently underway in Birmingham. Throughout the course of the show, various developers will be giving talks about the games they're working on.
My absolute favourite thing about the first SteamWorld Dig - a game that, in the memory, seems pretty much bursting with favourite things - was a simple collectable. It was an in-game currency of some kind, although inevitably I can't remember what you could spend it on. What I can remember is what it felt like to collect it. You would free it from the rock it had been trapped within, where it took the form of a metallic blue sphere. The act of freeing it, though, would cause it to erupt, and so a series of tiny ball bearings would burst out at you and fly around the immediate landscape. Brilliantly, these ball bearings had a bit of physics to them: they would knock and bounce and generally rattle through the air all about you. You wanted to grab them, but you also had to dash to collect them, and in dashing, brilliantly awful things might happen to you.
I played a bit of Destiny 2 last night, and wow, there's the Tower up in smoke. First thing, seconds into the game, and the whole place has been trashed, while gods - or humans who have ascended to some place near gods - are flung in every direction as space invaders move in. The Tower's not a social area anymore, a downtime spot safe from the carnage. It's a battleground now, crumpled and set aflame, filled with what look like bulky 40K Space Marine baddies who vent noxious fumes out of their necks when you pop their heads off.
When you are very small the world is a fast and dangerous place. Open spaces are frightening, so you rush through channels underground and find your perch in hidey-holes and gaps snugged between temple walls. When you are very big, the world moves more slowly: you are stately yet terrifying in your bulk - and you are also exposed. Everyone who wants a piece of you only has to look up to see exactly where you are, and that landscape of hidden channels and hidey-holes, that world of gaps and knots and secret causeways, has essentially disappeared. Open spaces are still frightening, and even as you slap your enemies away or seer them with ancient light while they race through your feet, you realise that the entire landscape is an open space now, and you the only real monument left.
Have you heard of the North Pond Hermit? It's a wonderful story: strange and wistful. For 27 years a man named Chrisopher Knight lived in the wilderness of Maine, sleeping in a camp beautifully hidden amongst boulders and sneaking out, every few weeks, to steal supplies from the surrounding homes. People suspected he was there. It must have been a little bit like being haunted by a lonely ghost. Houses were broken into, candy, books, the odd Game Boy was lifted. Some people would leave supplies out for him, in a bag hooked over the handle of the back door.
I read a wonderful thing once about ants, and it made me love them more than I did already - and I already really loved ants. This thing I read - I cannot remember the source or the specifics - talked about how ants construct their nests, how they achieve a level of intelligence together that no single ant actually possesses. The thrust of this, as I remember it, is that ants are very good at counting. As they wander off in the morning to do something useful, they count the number of ants they see doing the various things they are doing, and through this counting, the ant who is looking for something useful to be a part of builds up a sense of where they are most needed.
Ubisoft has just announced a new gamed called Atomega. It's a first-person shooter set at the end of time, and it involves growing from a very small sphere to a towering, teetering robot. It will hit Steam on 19th September. That's soon.
Destiny 2 is here! Have you noticed? Oh, I have so many memories of the first one: those huge Romantic skyboxes, that tangle of rusted cars, piled high against a patchwork wall, the roar of the shotgun, the endless hunt for Xur and his bargains.
Spoiler warning! This article discusses events in episode one of Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Please don't read it until you've finished your own playthough.
When Garibaldi helped unify Italy, the story goes that he had only one request. In return for his hard work, he wanted a year's supply of macaroni. I have never looked into this business too deeply, because I don't want to find out that it isn't true, but still - isn't that kind of a weird thing to ask for? Just macaroni? And just enough for a year?
Yes, I am late to the new Zelda, but I am playing now and catching up on the sense of wonder and discovery that everybody else experienced back at the start of the year. I've just finished the fourth shrine in the Great Plateau region - for me it was the Owa Daim Shrine, where you undergo the Stasis Trial - and I realised that everything that is so new and startling, and yet so harmonious and deeply right about this new Zelda is present in microcosm in this single puzzle chamber. Oh, and I discovered the screenshot button too. So let's take a look, eh?
I'm not sure I fully understood the Mad Max game until I read one particular loading screen tip. Not that on the surface there's a lot to misunderstand, of course. The plot of Avalanche's Mad Max game can be summed up as follows: man beats up other men in order to rebuild his car. Mechanically, it's pretty straightforward too: you drive about, you beat up men, you upgrade things so that you're better at driving and beating up men. You explore, you solve simple physics-based puzzles you encounter as you explore. You unlock the map so that you can explore more, and solve more puzzles. And drive further. And find more men to beat up.
Titanfall 2 is brilliant. Well, Titanfall 1 wasn't bad at all, but Titanfall 2 is actually brilliant: multiplayer that's both fleet-footed and stompy, accompanied by a wonderful, brisk, inventive and explosive single-player campaign that manages to mix things up every 15 minutes and offer a story that serves as a masterclass in bringing a little humanity to the business of shooting indentikit strangers until their hats pop off. Titanfall 2 was one of the surprises of last year, and one of the year's best games too.
In the days before it was decided that open world games should be called open world games, they were called all kinds of things. Things like sandbox games, or toybox games.