Welcome to this week’s installment of We’re Just Playing… where the staff here at 25YL talk about what they’ve been playing this past week. Some familiar names pop up this week as Johnny, Sean, and Collin share what’s been trending in their personal zeitgeist.
I just completed Doom (2016) and I’m right back in it, ready to track down all the secrets I missed. My insatiable need to upgrade all my weapons and equipment also nags at me. I forgot how much I loved Doom as a kid. More specifically, I forgot how much Doom turned me into a lover of game secrets.
Secrets in games have existed since the beginning, but Doom really laid out the format for future games. The way they tallied up everything you found in the levels. The way not getting 100% made you feel inside. Incomplete almost. Now, the 2016 version of Doom has secrets around every corner. I suppose I could’ve blasted through the main game in maybe a dozen hours, but I spent most of the game exploring the architecture for any signs of irregularity.
You see, game designers (good ones) usually aren’t playing unfairly. They give you some indication as to where things potentially might be, and give the player the agency as to whether they want to explore the suspect area or not. In Doom, sometimes it’s a trail of blood, other times it’s a vent that just sort of blended in.
There are time trials, collectible Doom dolls, upgrades and tokens for your equipment and arsenal, all hiding in each of the game’s 13 levels. While I’m not a completionist, I do plan to find all secrets in the main campaign before calling it a day. I have around 46% of the total trophies, which for me, is a decent amount. There’s no way I’m going for the Platinum trophy on a shooter game. I don’t have the reflexes for that anymore.
And lastly—what about that end credits sequence? How brilliant was it to showcase the credits alongside images of what they specifically did in the game? Environment artist’s names appear as the camera glides through one of the games levels, showcasing the work those people actually did. I thought that was really clever, and I even took a few credit-less screen captures during the ending, simply because they were so beautifully animated.
I suppose now there’s only one thing left to do. Doom Eternal.
I’ve been a bit quiet of late and that’s mainly because I’ve just been plodding on with the various games I’ve already talked about. I’ve been popping in and out of Dragon Quest XI and it continues to be one of the most lovable, welcoming video games I’ve ever played and I’m still completely smitten with it. I recently finished Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, having obsessively collected all of the bees and Trowzer coins. I stopped short of taking on the titular Impossible Lair, instead opting for the Not So Impossible Lair for the final stage—After 22 hours, I’d had my fun with it and wanted to part on good terms and with my sanity intact. I think I achieved at least one of those things. I’m getting close to my first ever Platinum trophy in motorbike racing-sim Ride 3—though due to the excessively customisable difficulty and blatantly cheaty rewind feature, it’ll feel like something of a hollow victory when it comes. Digital boardgame Armello has become my go to game to jump into for an hour in the evening. The anthropomorphic Game of Thrones theme belies what is actually quite a relaxing gaming experience. I’ve played a few games with a friend online and it’s been a great way to catch up in lieu of being able to sit around a table together.
The one game that I’ve been struggling with is, ironically, the one that I was most excited to play: Final Fantasy VII Remake. It’s been well over a month since I started my playthrough and since then I’ve managed to clock up a rather pitiful 12 hours of playtime. My enjoyment of the game has been dwindling with each successive play session and the gaps between them have been growing larger. For whatever reason, the game just isn’t clicking with me. It’s a hard thing for me to admit because I want to love it. As I mentioned in my Day 1 Review, Final Fantasy VII was a hugely important game for me. It was my first introduction to JRPG’s, and the epic tale of Cloud, AVALANCHE, Aeris and Sephiroth had me completely entranced from start to finish. It seems like plenty of people have felt equally captivated by the remake but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I could reel off the things I’m not enjoying which include, controls, pacing, padding, but ultimately the bottom line is much simpler—I’ve already had everything I wanted out of it.
The initial reactor bombing mission is one of the most exciting openings to any JRPG ever made—both in the original and the remake. It thrusts you into the deep end of an intriguing plot in an unfamiliar world with larger than life characters and with an immediate sense of tension and peril. I’ll never forget the way I felt, sat on the floor in front of a CRT with my brand new Playstation, as I played the opening hours of the original—heart pumping as I worked my way through the reactor. It remains my fondest and most enduring memory of that game and playing the opening act of the remake was like having that experience all over again. Hearing the full orchestral themes, seeing the characters brought to life, watching Cloud deftly wield the Buster Sword—the grin on my face was from ear to ear. All too quickly, the novelty wore off though. At its core the remake is not the game I fell in love with, nor is it a game I can grow to love. I think it’s important to know when to quit and my recent reluctance to reach for my dualshock is telling me that time is now.
Johnny, I can fully understand being hooked on 2016’s Doom. I like to describe it as a shot of heavy metal straight to the brain. While Eternal is obviously very good as well, I think that 2016’s installment is my favorite of the two simply because it offers the more straight forward shooter experience. There’s a simplicity to it that Eternal lacks. Still, both are great games.
Sean, it’s always a tough call, particularly if it’s a game you’re excited for, but I feel like as an adult, it’s important to know when to call it quits on a game. There have been a few in recent memory that have simply not grabbed me (Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War) that I’ve dropped for now. I do plan on returning to them to give them another shot, but there’s only so much time in the day for gaming, and it’s important that you really enjoy what you’re playing. That being said, I’m glad you’re enjoying Dragon Quest XI. I plan on picking that back up once I’m done with Persona 5 Royal in 982,458,972,308,475 years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Dragon Quest because each game is like coming home. They aren’t groundbreaking games, or even particularly complex RPGs, but they’re fantastic when you want a straightforward, whimsical adventure. It’s nice knowing that there’s something like that out there if you need a pallet cleanser. I’m eager to hear your final thoughts on the game when all is said and done.
For me, in addition to the aforementioned Persona 5 Royal (I’m about 40 hours in now and on the fourth Palace), I picked up a few games I’ve been wanting to play for a while for cheap while they were on sale on PSN. One such game was John Wick Hex. I’m one of the many huge John Wick fans out there (3 was just as good as the first two, fight me), so getting the chance to play as John is like a dream come true. The really cool thing about John Wick Hex, though, is that rather than being a third person action game, it’s actually a top town tactical shooter where time pauses after each action. It’s such an interesting take on being put in John’s shoes, because when you watch Keanu’s performance in the movies, he really sells the “controlled chaos” feel of the fights. That is to say, the gorgeous choreography feels more like a series of focused, split second decisions on John’s part, so John Wick Hex pausing after each action so you can take in your surroundings, situation, and make the best possible decision is a really awesome way to make the player feel like a badass assassin by using their brain. I’m not terribly far in, but I really enjoy how it feels like both an extremely deliberate strategy game and a chaotic action game rolled into one. It does a great job of balancing the information you have available to you (the only parts of the map that are filled in is John’s peripheral vision) with the chaos of the movie’s fights (bad guys walking out of a building and into your field of view).
At the end of each level you’re treated to a “scene” of the actions you took. In theory, it would come across like a movie scene that you directed. In practice, it makes the game’s fairly small budget feel all the more apparent, as animations tend to be stiff and limited. Still, even though Keanu doesn’t offer any voice work (he barely speaks in the movies, after all), both Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their roles as Winston and Charon, respectively, and of course they’re both great in it. John Wick Hex is a unique way to approach a game where you play as an assassin, and while I’d still love a fully realized action game set in the universe one day, it’s still a really nice fix of assassins and strategy.