26th May, 2023
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: Zelda, Bloodborne, and a bit of RollerCoaster Tycoon.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Switch
Don't laugh but I only started playing Zelda this weekend. Breath of the Wild that is - have you heard of it? And have I got some burning hot takes for you!
You know, I've heard a lot about how Breath of the Wild nails the open-world format and that feeling it gives you of being able to go anywhere and do anything. See that mountain on the horizon? You can go to it and climb it - the game realises that fantasy in one giant playing space that's slightly empty so as to reinforce the size of it, and maybe also to give you space to, um, breathe.
And that's all fine. But what struck me most about it while playing Zelda for a few hours (so I am by no means anywhere in the game yet) was that I've seen all of this before. And I don't mean in another Zelda game but in a game many years before: Dark Age of Camelot, in 2001. And with that realisation came another one, and I know this will sound silly but: MMOs are open-world games! I told you it would sound silly.
But that thought hadn't occurred to me before! MMOs just were open worlds, they didn't brag about it. So it never seemed remarkable to me that I was running around a living copy of a world making my own adventures, going in whichever way the wind seemed to blow me. And it's funny to think that what I often found too big or too empty is now celebrated elsewhere.
Now, I know I've got a lot left to discover and that Zelda, I'm sure, will deepen to something magical. It's intended more as a nod to the many fantastic open worlds in MMOs that have come before.
It was all going so well. Having spent much of last year on Elden Ring, I decided this year I would at last get to the end of Bloodborne, a feat I'd attempted twice before but ultimately stumbled halfway through. This time it was different.
The Soulsborne games may be known for their difficulty but I've found after playing one, my skills have transferred over. Having experimented with different builds in Elden Ring (and dabbled in Sekiro), I went back into Bloodborne with a greater understanding of the importance of parrying. And it made sense! Suddenly I was blasting enemies in the face and stepping in for visceral attacks, breezing through areas that had previously seemed impenetrable. Bosses went down on the first attempt as the rhythm of click, boom, stab ingrained itself into my muscle memory. Lady Maria rivalled Malenia in intensity and eventual gratification. Melee combat has just never felt so satisfying.
But I knew it wouldn't last. Eventually I was going to meet a brick wall. It turned out to be Orphan of Kos.
The final battle of the game's DLC, it is notoriously difficult - arguably the hardest of the game. And after countless attempts I'd whittled it down to half health before that inevitable transformation and instant death. I tried and tried but I knew I had to do it. It was time to summon some help.
A seemingly lovely player arrived at the ring of a bell and with a short bow we pottered off to the boss for what would be a bloodbath. What I expected was a tense battle as we teamed up against this terrifying, foreboding creature, a test of our skill as we volleyed attacks, chipping away at its unending life bar.
Instead, the bastard glitched the game and killed the boss in three shots of a cannon. All that time and effort spent solo and I was ultimately trolled by another player. I may have gone on to finish the game in its entirety, but one day...one day Orphan of Kos I will defeat you alone.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, PC
Picture this: you're browsing through Steam on a Sunday afternoon, the weather outside is miserable, rain is lashing at your window, and you're tucked up in a warm jumper (even though it's May and you really do expect better weather by now). Suddenly, a shadow of your past appears - could it be? Yes, it is! It's the game you remember playing as a child, but it's now been revamped to merge two titles into one.
That is exactly what happened to me this past Sunday when I found RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic on Steam! I have the original disc from 1999 (it was my older sibling's, I didn't get my hands on it until about 2005) but it's been misplaced in the storage labyrinth known as a loft. So, when I spotted the remaster on Steam and learned that they had taken the best bits of the first and second titles to form a single purchase filled with nostalgia, getting it wasn't a hard choice at all.
It did initially look and feel a bit different to how I'd remembered it, but after about an hour mucking around in Forest Frontiers, it was clear that this version had huge quality-of-life upgrades from the original title. Which, to be honest, has made running a park a lot more challenging, which in turn has made it less monotonous.
Now, if you're not aware of the title, RollerCoaster Tycoon is pretty much what it says on the tin - you take over and build your own theme park filled with rides. Not only can you customise the rides to your liking by tweaking the launch speeds and altering the pricing to reflect the season, you also need to think about snack stands, bathroom placement, and the general profitability and popularity of your park.
The weather, like a real theme park, can have an impact on your ratings and how your guests feel about certain rides too, plus you need to think about how to deal with a variety of situations that occur. A park ride breaks down with guests on it? You need to make sure that one of your Engineers is answering the radio call. If guests are complaining about the state of the park then you need to see where your handy crew is. There are so many small details you have to manage and think about, including taking out loans to cover the cost of rides, to the advertising budgets for promoting your park.
This can sound a bit overwhelming if that's not your thing, and believe me it was not what I was playing this game as a kid. However, luckily, you still aren't locked into doing the scenarios if you don't want to (though it's a good way of unlocking new parks). Instead, you can simply mess around and create your dream theme park.
As per Spyro last week, I really do need to stop talking about this title or I fear this will be a very long feature!