For some reason I still remember my high-school English teacher being quite dismissive of Romeo: “to me it seems he’s in love with the concept of being in love.” That’s often how I feel about games. I might tell you I love a game more than all others, but the truth is I very badly want to fall head-over-heel for every game I play. Sometimes a title comes along that should—on paper—seduce me into hours of blissful play. But it just doesn’t happen. As Frank Black once said, “that’s just how some things don’t materialize.” So be it. The following is a list of games that I played in 2015 because I loved them (or desperately tried to).
“Twaaaaaaang” said Wasteland 2, and let me write a short story about each character I was creating. It was radiation-poisoned love at first sight. Thus I led my janky gang of misfits through (most of) a thoroughly satisfying game. Ah, the little sound effects that accompany skill checks, the turn-based combat, the dark setting. It’s a complex and ambitious RPG with a real knack for outfitting retro mechanisms with great new user experiences. Then around 40ish hours in, I just lost interest.
By the time I considered returning to the game, inXile had announced the Director’s Cut version that was to accompany the game’s console releases. So I waited for that. Starting fresh, I wrote even better characters and picked all the right stats and skills for my new gang. I mostly enjoyed this second run, egged on by the promise that I’d start having real fun by the time I hit the content I’d bailed on the last time around. But unfortunately that didn’t really happen. The combat had grown repetitive. I stopped feeling like I was exploring, and started going through the motions: fight, loot, scroll conversations, level up, repeat. I soon grew bored and, having clocked another 40ish hours and reached the 2nd big geographic hub, I quit again.
Sometimes I miss Wasteland 2, cause it was really good between us while it lasted. I’m excited that a company like inXile exists and that their next title will be Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment. I know, I know, there’s also The Bard’s Tale IV, but that one just seems… too musical? Too first-person-ish and cutscene driven? I’m open to being corrected.
Score: Eight and a half rads out of ten.
Kentucky Route Zero
My bones felt hollow. I had drank too much coffee again, and the world was crashing down around me. Anxiety. Boredom. Fidgeting. So when I reluctantly booted up Kentucky Route Zero, a game that seemed all too esoteric for me, I did so with the hope that it might bypass the technical gamer in me and touch the artist instead. Very quickly the game started making me feel strange things. Lonely things. Beautiful things. The music. The sound design. The writing. Kentucky Route Zero is truly an interactive experience. For those who dig that kind of thing, I really do recommend it. But I want things from games that Kentucky Route Zero just isn’t built to provide me. I felt guilty about quitting this one. Really Julian? 200 hours in The Witcher 3 but you don’t have 10 for Kentucky Route Zero? Why can’t you enjoy “artsy” games more? I nonetheless spent a couple of haunting, beautiful, hollowed-out hours in the Lynchian world of Kentucky Route Zero.
Score: One infinity sign out of one infinity sign.
Cars. Playing football. The only thing more surprising than this game’s massive popularity is the fact that I’m loving it. This game is McNuggets and I’m DJ Khaled. As soon as I get my jetski back to the coast, I’m gonna eat like 24 Rocket Leagues, cause they’re just that fucking crispy. The only thing I don’t enjoy about Rocket League is that Spidercars drive up the fucking wall and then flip sideways to score at an impossible angle. Depressing. Then again I can play this split-screen with my girlfriend at home. Love is real.
Score: Four out of five I’m-getting-too-old-for-this-shits.