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What we've been playing

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

Armored Core 6 screenshot, showing an airborne mecha nimbly dodging missile fire.
Image credit: Bandai Namco/Eurogamer.

8th 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: mechs, arcade classics, and a confused trip to Mario Land.

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

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon, PS5

Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon story trailer.Watch on YouTube

Despite this being the first Armored Core game I've played, I can tell that Fires of Rubicon is authentic to the series. It feels like a PS2 game with a lick of paint, making me strangely nostalgic for a series that's brand new for me. But I mean this as a compliment.

It's minimalist by design: menu-driven, short missions with repeated levels and assets, a limited colour palette. And while this makes for poor storytelling - FromSoftware have got 'show don't tell' the wrong way around - it all adds to the cold, clinical atmosphere of this game. This is a world of metal and mechs and competing corporations, devoid of humanity. I suspect this maybe isn't a huge step forwards for the series, but I presume fans wouldn't want it to be anyway.

Yet it also has the magic of a modern FromSoftware game, specifically that very particular trial and error of beating a boss. I love the robotic monstrosities the developer has designed, but I also love how they test both my skills and my mech-building ability. The bosses are certainly hard (especially in comparison to the breezy standard enemies, at least in early missions), but they're each designed to teach you something. How to dodge missiles. How to time your Assault Boost effectively. How different weapon types stagger or inflict damage.

As with any Souls game, once that learning opportunity clicks into place, death is no longer frustrating. That's not to say this is a Soulslike game, but it undoubtedly has that remarkable FromSoftware DNA. I spent hours last weekend strategising over one boss and when I finally tweaked my build and upped my skills to beat it, I let out a satisfied yell that could be heard for miles around.

Ed Nightingale

Tempest, Switch

This week's glorious Digital Eclipse release, The Making of Karateka sent me back to the team's previous work on Atari 50. Once there I went straight for Tempest, a game I have loved by-proxy.

I'm super familiar with the things Jeff Minter's done with this arcade classic over the years, but I'd never really spent a huge amount of time on the original. I'm glad to say the OG Tempest has now eaten an entire afternoon and it's wonderfully menacing stuff. The pit, the enemies advancing up the walls, my own frantic circling and shootings as they get closer.

Inevitably I've spent a lot of time playing and spotting the gaps that Minter was so good at finding and exploiting. What might you do when the monsters get to the top of the well? What could happen when you shoot their incoming shots? I always knew that the stuff Minter does is a sort of creative conversation with a game like Tempest, but now I feel like I can hear both sides of the discussion.

Chris Donlan

Bowser's Fury, Switch

Bowser's Fury trailer.Watch on YouTube

One of the things Mario stands for is immediacy. No matter how many new moves or outfits or gimmicks Nintendo comes up with, you can generally drop into a Mario game, even after a long time away, and know what to do.

Except this week I turned on Bowser's Fury after a few months away and realised I didn't know what was going on. I remembered the basics: islands filled with things to do and cat-doodads to collect. But what about the lighthouses? What about the cat who wants me to find their kitten? Why does Bowser keep turning up and wrecking the weather?

It was a peculiarly disorientating kind of fun. I didn't dislike it at all. And I pinwheeled about for twenty minutes, moving from one distraction to the next. But it did make me think. Bowser's Fury is a glimpse of open-world Mario. In a way, I sort of prefer it to Odyssey, because here's a Mario game that feels truly unusual and new. But in becoming an open-world game, Mario suddenly has these new open-world rituals and they sit on top of all the stuff I usually use to get my bearings.

Chris Donlan

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