4th November 2022
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: bullet-vampire hell, classic horror, and a brand new SRPG.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Vampire Survivors, PC
It never fails to amaze me how Vampire Survivors can give so liberally with one hand and then, with other hand, take so rapidly and brutally away. Case in point: my last attempt. I was flying. I had the garlic and the wand and the bird and everything was clicking. I was well ahead of whatever the game was throwing at me, and I had that feeling you sometimes get in the game: that I was in control. I was the hunter not the one being hunted. I was actively seeking mini-bosses and charging into swarms of enemies, and character-levels were flying by. And in that moment I was thinking, 'Oh, what a different experience this game can sometimes be, what a reckless joy, what a romp.' Because sometimes it doesn't all come together - a lot of the times it doesn't come together. But in my merriment, I'm going, 'Oh but I suppose you need the rough to appreciate the smooth.' I was full of it. I was primed for my fall.
It was like the game heard me. Suddenly, a kind of enemy I couldn't defeat quickly enough flooded my screen, and I couldn't get out from the pack surrounding and suffocating me. So I dove through a part of them to escape, still confident enough to think I could do that, and half my health disappeared. Then, I panicked. I was scrabbling, on the run, desperately looking for breakable objects I could get a roast chicken health-drop from. But all the time, my health was being nibbled away at and the inevitability of death was rapidly catching up with me. Then another large wave boxed me in a corner and, overcome, I died. This all happened in the space of about 30 seconds. I was humbled in the blink of an eye, and left staring blanky at the screen.
Sometimes I really hate you Vampire Survivors.
Silent Hill 2, Xbox 360
I've been on a bit of a Silent Hill binge following the recent showcase reveal and Vikki's expert response. I even watched the so-bad-it's-quite-good Sean Bean film, which at the very least succeeded in inspiring me to finally, all these years later, play a Silent Hill game.
So I did, even though Silent Hill 2 is surprisingly difficult to get hold of these days. I found a very pricey special edition PS2 version in a nearby game store, but instead opted to play the HD remaster released on Xbox 360 (and PS3) that's available via Xbox back compatibility.
It's a bit of a frustrating play these days. The design is archaic with its lack of direction, the puzzles are abstruse, and the interiors are so dark it's almost impossible to see anything. I'm sure purists will love this and I can appreciate it's a game of its time. But a few modern tweaks wouldn't go amiss, so I'm definitely looking forward to Bloober's remake to see how far it goes in switching things up.
Even in this old form, though, I love Silent Hill 2 for being a horror game that doesn't rely on jumps and cheap scares. It thrives on its eerie, oppressive atmosphere: the washed out visuals devoid of life, the creepy sound design, the iconic enemy designs of Pyramid Head and those nurses. It's no wonder it remains such a cult classic all these years later.
And one more thing: I love that you can separately set the difficulty of combat and puzzles, so I can test my brain more than my reactions. More games should do this!
Live by the Sword: Tactics
As a fan of classic SRPGs I should be tucking into the Tactics Ogre remake right about now, but - and I'll whisper this quietly so I'm not found out - I've never really got on with the game that made Yasumi Matsuno's name. It's an overwhelmingly complex, vast thing, and with so much to manage over the course of any one battle I've always been scared away after a couple of hours.
I'm not going to suggest that Live by the Sword: Tactics, which just recently came to consoles, is better than Tactics Ogre, but it's certainly more in tune with some of my tastes. A stripped-back take on the genre built predominantly around 5v5 battles rather than the vast armies at your disposal in Tactics Ogre, it's an enjoyably direct take on the kind of tactical RPG action Matsuno was once known for (and that he'd perfect, I'd suggest, in the incredible Final Fantasy Tactics).
After a couple of hours, though, I'm starting to find this particular spin on the genre perhaps a little too shallow - but it's been a fun couple of hours nevertheless, and if you've any love for a genre that's sadly often overlooked there's plenty worthwhile to be found here.
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