So, 2019 was a year that came and went as they often tend to do. And that also means that a lot of video games also came out this year. But me being me, that means I didn’t get to most of the big ones because I tend to wait a few months to play a game I really wanted to on Game Pass; however I did play some games this year that stuck out as the ones that held my attention the most because I gotta talk about video games and it’s the start of the new year, and I need to get consistent again. So pull up a chair and get a beverage of your choice, because we are going in.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a huge fan of Supergiant‘s previous works or recency bias or whatever, but I cannot stop playing and thinking about Hades. On Paper, it almost reads like something that shouldn’t work: A procedurally generated, combat-heavy roguelike from a studio known for finely crafted narratives, great art direction, and even greater music; as well as the use of the latter two elements to help the story and gameplay. And not only do they have it work, but they also knock it out of the gosh dang park.
The main narrative thread is that you are Zagreus, the prince of the underworld from Greek myths trying to escape to the surface so that he can find his long-lost mother, Persephone. That is all I am going to say about the story because it’s still in early access and the story isn’t finished yet as a result of that. But even taking that into account, the narrative justifications for a lot of the mechanics in the game are cool to see because I am a sucker for that kind of thing; the best example being that the shade (spirit) of Daedalus is responsible for the randomization of the Underworld each time because he was commissioned by Hades himself to renovate to place and the various build changing powers you get are the results of various boons you get from the Gods of Olympus and later the Primordial Being known as Chaos.
But back to the main mechanical thrust. Each run is framed as another one of Zag’s many escape attempts. But every time he dies, he wakes back up in the House of Hades’ Blood Pool, met by his father mocking his attempt to leave the underworld each time (Seriously, Hades is kind of a petty bitch and I love it.).
But the real reason I’m adding this to my list is that I’ve been playing the game since I got it on Christmas and has since straight set up shop in my brain and refuses to leave. It scratches that itch in my brain that Dead Cells does in that it feels less about the drops that you get and more about how you apply the drops you get. This is helped greatly because weapons are off the table; you choose one from a set of 5 before each run and are incentivized to swap between runs because it offers increased upgrade currency. With the way that this is set up, I can do upwards of at least two or three runs depending on how quickly I can get through things. And that is remarkable to me because no other Roguelike games are capable of keeping me hooked like this, the sole exceptions of this rule are both versions of Spelunky and Dead Cells because they are just that good.
Hell (Pun not intended), the other night, I finally got past my glass ceiling in the game run-wise and proceeded to lose my gosh dang mind (Apologies to the friends in the Discord call I was in when that happened). At the end of the day, Hades is a game that I am SUPER looking forward to both during its Early Access period and beyond. Oh, and the music (as per usual, by Darren Korb) SLAPS.
DEVIL MAY CRY 5
Devil May Cry 5 is a game that I’ve been waiting for for the better part of 11 years. Mainly because I was in the 11th grade when Devil May Cry 4 came out and that is the right time in your life to be unironically into these games (the mid to late ’20s as well). While I liked Ninja Theory’s Devil May Cry well enough, there was one thing that held it back significantly for me: (this is totally my thing here) wanting to play as Nero again. So when I heard the rumblings that Capcom was going to be making a new one of these games I remember explicitly saying to my friends at the time: “I will get into this super hard when and if Nero is playable”. And Lo and Behold, my boy was back when they showed the first reveal trailer and he had a robot arm for some reason? But I was willing to roll with it because hey, I get to play as Nero again. But then we got another new Playable Character in the form of V, a mysterious-looking Goth dude who somehow had the power to control several of the demons from Devil May Cry 1 and as well as everyone’s honorary “Goofy Uncle” Dante.
I thought it would be a DMC 4 situation again and groaned internally; the main reason for this is because Devil May Cry 4 was a real small game in the grand scheme of things. Missions 12–18 were basically going through the entire game in reverse as Dante and while that’s fine because Dante was more of a fleshed-out character mechanically, it really set in when I got control of the game back from Nero and realized that I had basically fought most of the bosses in 4 a minimum of three times apiece. But as it turns out this is not an issue with DMC5 because there is more than enough game to go around for all three of our playable characters.
This is fantastic for two reasons: This means that it can lead to a well-told story and all of the characters get equal time to shine, with some (Nero) getting more time than others, as well as it being the best-told story in the series. Everything that happens in the game feels like it is pulling from the series history, yes even Devil May Cry 2, for as much as I want that game to get Thanos Snapped out of existence. It also feels like the perfect send-off for Dante and set up for having future games in the series to have Nero as the protagonist. But back to explaining why this is a favorite of mine.
Everything in DMC5 is facilitated around making sure that there’s as little downtime between the next group of soon-to-be-dead demons as possible. To help with this you are going to need some new toys. Nero’s got some new toys, namely that new robot arm of his. It’s actually 8 different attachments that all do radically different things. These all go a long way to give Nero a level of mechanical depth that he sort of lacked in the previous game because all he had were his sword, gun, grapples, and Devil Trigger. These arms can also be mixed and matched for even more silliness. Do you want six taser arms? Do it. Focus on just rocket punches? Sure. Use the grapple arm and play it like DMC4? Go ahead, I won’t judge. Much.
You also have Dante, the action game character equivalent to the kitchen sink. But they gave him a new ability: SIN Devil Trigger from DMC2. But in a game that’s actually good. By filling a second meter, Dante can assume a stronger DT form that makes him invulnerable to damage and also be the game’s equivalent of several hydrogen bombs exploding at once. And then there’s V, whose gameplay can only be explained as basically being what I imagined a real-time Pokémon combat system would look like. The thing that pushed me over the edge for this being a favorite, aside from bringing back Nero, is that the last four missions are ridiculously good and I’m not saying anything else. But I’m rambling. Devil May Cry 5 is rad. I highly recommend it.
I like Katana Zero a lot. I wrote an entire piece about it in my impressions series in the summer as to why (Seriously, go read it, it’s real good). So I won't beat a dead horse. Except I am, so here we go. This is one of the most committed games that I have played in goddamn years. Gameplay, story, aesthetic, even the goddamn music (which slaps) are played for 100% “let’s go for broke as if we aren’t getting another chance to make anything else like it ever again” and I love it because of it. To quote my friend Lauren, “you play as a weeb in a bathrobe”. And you’re an assassin who can alter their perception of time to plan out their assigned hits. And may or may not be a war criminal.
This is a game that needs to be played because of the premise alone; because said premise alone spins off into a bunch of different threads that are either some wildness that needs to be seen or an interesting sequel hook depending on whether or not a new one gets made, and that is all I am saying on the matter. Because this game is wild. Just play Katana Zero. It’s so good, y’all. So dang good. SO GOOD.
There were other games that caught my attention, but I need to get back to them because I sort of trailed off, like Bloodstained Ritual of the Night, The Outer Worlds, Untitled Goose Game, and probably a few others I’m blanking on. But now we’re at the end of the post. So thank you for taking the time. And have a wonderful day and a happy 2020.
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