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What we've been playing

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

Sea of Stars key art showing a male and female character standing back to back on a mount above a world of forests, rivers and mountains, lit in the blue light of a giant moon in the sky.
Image credit: Sabotage.

1st September, 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: demons, hugs and skin-tight battle suits.

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

Diablo 4, PS5

Zoe demystifies some of Diablo 4's lingo. I - Bertie - am a shapeshifting druid, for what it's worth.Watch on YouTube

I've finally done it - I've saved Sanctuary. I even got an email from Blizzard to say well done. "Your unwavering determination has triumphed over the malevolent presence of Lilith and restored hope to the mortal realm," it said. "This victory is a true testament to your mastery of demon-slaying, crowning you the Savior of Sanctuary."

You're totes welcome.

Finishing the game brought up a couple of things for me. One: mainlining the campaign massively improved my experience of the game. Acts 1 and 2 were a bit flat for me, but Act 3 and onwards were great, and there's a surprising amount there - much more than I was expecting. I wonder why I didn't focus my efforts on the campaign sooner.

Two: I'm finally at the endgame. I've upped the World Tier to Nightmare, I've killed World Boss Ashava, I've done some Nightmare Dungeons, I've done a Helltide event, I've done a fair few Whispering Tree events, and I've even ventured into the PvP area, although I've not actually fought anyone yet - I'm working up the courage. And I like it - I'm really surprised, actually, at how much there is to do.

It's all helping me appreciate Diablo 4 a bit more. I thought the map was unnecessarily large during the campaign phase, for instance, but now I really welcome that there are places I still haven't seen as I'm sent around the world doing Whispering Tree missions.

I'm still settling into it all, so time will tell whether the novelty wears off, but so far - barring a slight loss of direction with no campaign to focus on - I'm impressed.


Sea of Stars, Switch

You know when you've got a hankering to return to a childhood favourite game, or when you're feeling sick, or it's Christmas and you want to reminisce, so you crack out your dusty console from under the bed and soak in the nostalgia.

That's Sea of Stars. It's a warm hug. It's comfort food. But best of all, it's brand new and on current platforms, so you can experience its impeccable retro vibes with modern convenience.

Between its visuals, music, and combat, it's giving Chrono Trigger. It's giving Mario RPG. It's giving Golden Sun. It's giving classic Final Fantasy. All the good stuff, basically. But instead of being trite, its stereotypical plot and endearing characters feel reassuringly familiar and developer Sabotage Studio isn't afraid to play with our expectations either. At one point a character joked about how bizarre it is that areas explored later in the game will miraculously have shops with more powerful (and expensive) equipment, despite living in a wooden shack. Sea of Stars pokes fun at itself, even when I know I'll be needing that high level sword at some point.

There are modernisms too: its button prompt combat feels responsive, the lighting creates gorgeous sunsets and stark shadows, and I love how the music is mixed so it seamlessly transitions between scenes. And what music! That level up track is such a bop!

I'm only a few hours in, but I'm already utterly in love. The likes of Baldur's Gate 3, Final Fantasy 16 and (I presume) Starfield may be offering big, bold, and flashy RPG experiences, but Sea of Stars is just brimming with heart.

Ed Nightingale

Warframe, PC

Warframe.Watch on YouTube

Have you slipped into one of Warframe's strange skin-tight battle suits yet? It's a good time. I spent the weekend flinging myself through corridors packed full of bulbous Grineer soldiers and bionic Corpus guards, blasting them with an organic shotgun to scoop up resources like 'Plastids' and gooey 'Neurodes'. I couldn't tell you what these things are, exactly, only that I need them to sustain Warframe's carefully layered, fragmented grind.

I have been dipping into the game occasionally for about seven years, and now I realise that I'm not going back to service the game's baffling progression systems anymore. There's a frenzied edge to the hyperactive missions and the universe itself that I can't find anywhere else. As well as levelling up everything you own, from warframes to drone pals, you can pause to hatch a dog from an egg, or visit a living moon where the day night cycle is set by two massive worms that turn up every hour or so to blast each other.

More than anything I had forgotten how fast your character moves - it's almost absurd. No, it is absurd. I lost an hour to the game on Sunday, and it would have been more if not for the polite automatic reminder that pops into chat. All I have is a blurry recollection of futuristic factories, spaceship engine reactors and broken moons strobing past my character amid a spray of damage numbers and dissolving enemies.

As always, acquiring new Warframes is a bit too time consuming to keep me playing for long, but I can see myself returning and buying a new frame when the next big update lands. The latest TennoCon teased such an update, due later this year, which adds grimoires as a new weapon type! Don't ever stop being bonkers, Warframe.

Tom Senior

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