My Top 5 Games of 2017

Game of the Year Edition!

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2017 was the year of the loot box.  Random chance to get something good in exchange for hard cash started cropping up every other game.  It’s not gambling though because the people making money from them say so.  The thing is though, 2017 was actually an incredible year for games.  You could exchange hard cash for pretty much any box in a game store this year and the chance of getting something good was pretty damn high.  That was a very laboured way of saying “Loot boxes suck” and “Amazing games came out”.

Overwatch
2017 in a single image.  Although this image isn’t actually from 2017…

I played surprisingly few of the big name games this year, so the bulk of the favourite games this year were lower tier releases.  Even then, narrowing it down to just five was very difficult.  At any rate, here are the best gaming experiences I had this year.  I’ve included all the games I’ve played down the bottom, just in case you think I missed something…

Get Even

Get Even

A story driven FPS/walking simulator with a bizarre, horror themed story.  You play Cole Black (he’s a manly man!) on a mission for find out where the hell he is and what happened to the girl with a bomb strapped to her that he was trying to rescue.  Within an hour, you find yourself in an abandoned asylum with a machine that allows you to enter your memories and begin to unravel just what the hell is going on.

Get Even
Most of the game isn’t terribly pretty, but it does have its moments.

Yes, the FPS sections are flawed, and the stealth doesn’t work quite as well as I might hope, but there really isn’t another game that plays like this.  There are events that play out differently depending on your choices without make these choices explicit, the game plays with interconnected memories in interesting ways, and the sound and music is fantastic.  It’s not perfect, but it’s well priced and I doubt you’ll have played anything quite like it before.

Stories Untold

Stories Untold

Damn I loved this one.  Four seemingly unconnected stories told in very different ways, culminating in a final revelation.  I won’t say more from a story standpoint as it really should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible on that front.  I will say that it’s a very well put together package.  It starts out as a text adventure that seems to have more power over you than you over it.  A bizarre point and click adventure and puzzle game involving microfilms follow before culminating in a walking simulator of sorts.

Stories Untold Episode 2
Part of the second episode. I will say nothing more about this.

I know, I’m not really selling it at all.  But it’s a great couple of hours for a low price and it’s very unlikely that you’ll have played anything quite like it before.  I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this one certainly does that.  Plus, the intro music will stick in your mind for weeks after.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey logo

Look, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but this is just a fantastic game.  I’ve never really been a big fan of the 3D Mario games, finding the controls a pain and the hunt for whatever the magic item is this time.  But this was a wonderful experience.  The environments are interesting and creative, it’s utterly beautiful, and the capture mechanic!  Taking over the body of you enemies (as horrifying that may be for a Mario game) was a masterstroke in creative platforming and puzzles.  The caterpillar creatures in the Lost Kingdon are adorable and fun the play as.

Mario Odyssey
Kidnapping Goomba towers is my new favourite thing.

At the time of writing, I haven’t finished the main story, but as I understand it, there’s a lot more high quality content after completing it, which is saying something when the content already there is quite so good.  I can see me spending a lot of time playing this.  I bought a Switch especially for this game, and I don’t for a moment regret that.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

XCOM 2 Logo

Yes it’s an expansion rather than a new game BUT I DON’T CARE DAMMIT!  I’ve kept it a closely guarded secret, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I really like XCOM.  I’m sure those War Log posts didn’t make it obvious.  Anyway, War of the Chosen is what an expansion should be.  It changes the game in so many ways, adding new ways to play and increasing your power, but also putting dangerous new enemies in your path.  The titular chosen can be a significant thorn in your side if you don’t deal with them, but dealing with them means you have to put off dealing with the greater alien threat.  Deciding what to do when is even more important than ever.

XCOM 2
The new factions give you some very powerful new abilities to play with.

To keep you in the game, you have access to new factions that grant you very powerful soldiers.  The sniper rifle wielding Reapers can detonate explosives at will, whilst the Skirmishers draw enemies in to finish them at close range.  Templars use psychic powers to control the battlefield by putting up new points of cover and making enemies more vulnerable.  The number of new options in this is fantastic, and when coupled with an already impressive base game you have yourself one hell of a package.

Nier: Automata

Nier Automata

I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than a stunning creative success.  Platinum’s trademark fast paced combat combined with the most bonkers yet simultaneously devastating story in a genuinely interesting world is one of the best things I have played this year.  For a couple of weeks all I wanted was to get home from work and play more.

Nier
This boss appears simply as a machine gone insane, but your second playthrough reveals something much darker about her as well as the game’s world as a whole.

I, like many others, had not played the original Nier.  Whilst the story here does tie into the previous game (and a number of others in fact) it isn’t needed in the slightest to enjoy this.  The cast of characters, the world itself, the brilliant combat that changes styles constantly.  And the music!  The music is incredible!  Being told I had to play through the game three times to see the real ending put me off this one for a while, but each playthrough is so utterly different that it makes each one feel like an almost new experience.  If you haven’t played it, play it.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS MENTION!

Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki

Oooooh if there’s one game this year that I would class as the most memorable, it would be this.  A few paragraphs back I mentioned that I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this manages that and then some.  It’s a free visual novel in which you join the school’s literature club and find it run by a number of attractive girls!  This is a visual novel, so obviously you set about trying to impress them with your poetry.  I will say no more than this: I knew it was going to subvert my expectations (thanks to the Steam reviews), but the way it went about it thoroughly surprised me.

Doki Doki
For a free game, this is incredibly well put together.  Hell, for a full priced game this is incredibly well put together.

If you do play it (and you really should), it takes about 3 hours before things start to really happen, so do play through the early stages, even if you find them tiresome (I did).  And carry on playing even after it ends.  There’s a lot of great stuff here and I can’t talk about it without spoiling it!

Below is the list of games that I played this year.  It was stunningly hard to pick out 5 from a list of such stupendous games.  I didn’t want to overlook The Sexy Brutale thanks to its inventive puzzles and memorable music.  Late Shift was a genuinely enjoyable FMV experience.  Everspace combined rogue-lites with a space sim to create something quite unique.  The Evil Within 2 surprised me by not being nearly as bad as the first one and turning out to be a genuinely fun experience.  And that soundtrack!  2017 should go down as another one of those years that should be brought up when anyone asks what the best year in gaming was.

How about you?  What would you suggest for a list like this?  Have I got it utterly wrong?  Obviously I haven’t, but you’re welcome to argue.  Let me know!

The Sexy Brutale

Yooka-Laylee

Nioh

Resident Evil 7

Halo Wars 2

The Surge

Injustice 2

Everspace

Late Shift

Get Even

Little Nightmares

Slime Rancher

Sonic Mania

Stories Untold

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Nier: Automata

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Conarium

>Observer_

XCOM 2 WOTC

Doki Doki Literature Club

Ruiner

The Evil Within 2

Super Mario Odyssey

I’m Rob, and Here’s What I’ve Been Playing – 26/11/17

Video games mainly.

Everything in gaming has to be the Dark Souls of something right now, but Ruiner really did remind me of the series. It’s closer to Bloodborne really, as it’s very fast paced, has a huge reliance on stamina management (you have limited dodges), and the bosses are brutally tough.  Even the standard enemies can destroy you if you’re careless.  You really have to learn the bosses tells and set up your build carefully to have a chance.  I found it a little frustrating at times but I absolutely loved the experience.  The final battle was intense and thrilling and made those earlier frustrations melt away.  I finished it on normal mode and it was just on the wrong side of difficult for my liking, but I really enjoyed it.

Ruiner
I couldn’t get any screenshots of when it was all going crazy as you cam’t lose concentration for a split second.

XCOM 2 continues to fill up my PC gaming time.  You can catch up on the ever continuing campaign here if you’re so inclined.  The War of the Chosen expansion really does add a lot of content, with new enemies and different factions changing how you might approach a certain situation.  These changes really compound the challenge of the main game in which you have too many options and not enough time.  Still, more XCOM is always a good thing to my mind.

XCOM 2 Logo
Haven’t seen this image in at least 4 days.

I finished >Observer_ not so long ago.  Coming from the team that made Layers of Fear meant that I had pretty high expectations for this one.  It had certain things in common with it (the controls, the changing environments, and the shonky framerate) but it didn’t have nearly the same impact for some reason.  The story surrounds your character searching for his son in a locked down appartment complex.  You can enter the memories of different characters which leads to some genuinely interesting environments to explore, some of which were very unsettling.  I found the “real world” uninteresting to explore though, and often found myself feeling a little bit lost if only for a short while which broke up the pace for me.  It’s good, just not quite what I’d hoped for.

I also had a go at some of the “free” console games that have come out over the past couple of months.  Trackmania Turbo was fine, although the single player mode in it held very little interest.  There were some interesting tracks to download but I doubt it’ll hold my attention for long.  The same could be said of Just Cause 3.  I’m not a huge fan of open world games that have tons of filler content, and that’s exactly what this was.  Do a race, liberate a town, take over an outpost.  There were some great moments in which I would set off explosives to destroy EVERYTHING whilst escaping using a wing suit.  But with floaty controls, repetative content, and characters I couldn’t give a damn about, I was left with a game I doubt I’ll return to.

TM Turbo
It’s bright and colourful with a good sense of speed. I just didn’t care all that much.

I picked up The Evil Within 2 on the XBox Black Friday deals.  Surprisingly cheap for a game that’s been out barely a month.  I made my feelings on the original game fairly clear but I’ve heard that the follow up addresses most of the problems I had with it.  It’s not a huge loss if I don’t enjoy it, but time will tell on that front.  Here’s hoping for a good, solid, horror experience.

Evil Within 2
Well this looks like a nice friendly game.

Was I wrong about any of these?  More importantly, what have you been playing?  Something awesome no doubt.  Tell me about it!

I’m Rob, and here’s what I’ve been playing – 08/10/17

I’ve been playing games mostly.

One of my all time favourite games is Baldur’s Gate II.  I played an unbelievable amount of it over the years after it released.  And whilst I tried a number of other games set in the same world, even made with the same engine, I couldn’t find anything that hit me in the same way.  With recently releases like Tyranny and Pillars of Eternity bringing back those classic CRPGs, I decided to give one of them a try (and a thank you to my wife for buying it for me).

Baldur's Gate 2
I haven’t played the Enhanced Edition, but any enhancement on perfection can only be a good thing.

So Torment: Tides of Numenera turned out to be pretty damn great.  The main plot and side stories were engaging, the characters were varied and interesting, and the gameplay allowed you to deal with situations in a lot of different ways.  Pity about the bugs and the occasional difficulty spikes.  Still, there was a world full of different (and often very creative) things to discover and I enjoyed my time there.

Torment
Torment is pretty great. I haven’t played the original so I don’t know how it ties in.

My wife bought me Nier: Automata for my birthday.  This is a game I’ve been wanting to play since release and now I might finally get around to it.  Pretty much anything made by Platinum grabs my interest by the simple virtue of my having never played a game made by them that I didn’t immediately adore.  Metal Gear Rising anyone?  I’ll get onto this one pretty soon I think.

Nier Automata
I’ve been very keen to give this one a try. Platinum tend to make very good character action games and I’ve yet to play one that’s disappointed me.

Another birthday present I received that I’m very keen to try is Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu.  Our family would play Pandemic a lot, so any opportunity to play more of it is welcome.  I had heard of this one but didn’t know anything about it.  Having read the instructions, I’m quite excited to give it a try as this feels like more than a simple reskin.  The game plays in mostly the same way but with some significant twists, such as Old Ones rising and altering the game’s rules in place of epidemics.  Plus the board looks gorgeous which certainly helps.

 

Cthulhu
Fear great Cthulhu! And my carpet.

I picked up Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite at the weekend ago on a whim.  I enjoy playing Street Fighter V with my daughter and figured something with Marvel characters in might be fun.  We’ve enjoyed playing it together (although I regret playing as Dormamu at one point as he seemed to scare her a bit), but I haven’t touched the story mode yet.  Personally I find the gameplay a little too…floaty?  I don’t think that’s the right word.  But I feel like none of the attacks really have any impact.  I do enjoy fighting games, in spite of being terrible at them, but this one’s moment to moment action hasn’t grabbed me as well as I’d hoped.

Thanos
Still don’t want to get into a fist fight with this chap.

My new PC finally arrived, ready to take on some games that need a GPU more powerful than a cheese sandwich.  I’ve yet to really try anything particularly taxing on it, but I didn pick up the XCOM 2 expansion and I’m keen to give it a play.  Any opportunity to hop back into that game is one I happily take.

XCOM 2 Faceless
Hopefully my new computer will be able to run this at more than 30 FPS

Oh, and I downloaded and played Final Fantasy: All the Bravest.  But more on that another time…

So what about you?  Have you started up anything new and/or fun recently?  Something freshly released?  Or maybe back to the backlog or a classic that you’re returning to?  Let me know!

Do the Video Game Shuffle!

To the left. To the left. Quarter-circle forward and punch!

No, it’s not some crazy new move that all the kids are down with (I’m so cool) these days.  Mind you, anything would be better than “dabbing” at this point.  No, it’s fusing two disparate games together into something new and exciting!  With the seeming success of Mario + Rabbids fusing Mario, Rabbids and XCOM together, it got me thinking about what other games could be combined into something amazing.  Here are a few that crossed my mind.  Expect them to be terrible.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Can you imagine what the meeting to pitch this idea was like?

Left 4 Dead + Warcraft 3 = Left 4 War

Left 4 Dead Warcraft 3
Fear my editing skills!

So I think this sort of thing probably exists already, but if it doesn’t it could be fun I suppose.  This would basically be a hero focused RTS zombie survival game, probably best played on PC using a mouse.  You and your AI or player controlled allies fight your way through the zombie horde, collecting weapons and items as you go.  Each character would have their own special abilities, and the games would culminate in the same way as Left 4 Dead, with a grand set piece to escape the zombie menace.  Throw in some Warcraft characters for good measure and I reckon you’ve got some potential there.

Street Fighter + Magic: The Gathering = Street Magic!

Street Fighter Magic the Gathering
Seamless!

Prepare for a horrible microtransaction filled monstrosity.  Picture Street Fighter, with all its fireballs and ultra combos in tact, but with collectible card game mechanics!  Imagine having your character, but with special moves locked behind cards that can level up.  Ryu doesn’t have his dragon punch until you’ve found the card and Guile can’t throw a sonic boom until you’ve unlocked it.  Of course you’ll be able to spend real money to buy new card packs to unlock these attacks.  Perhaps you could create your own character to take online to challenge players who have spent all that money to get the best character possible.  I’m pretty certain this is something Capcom would actually consider, and that scares me slightly.

Overwatch + Pokémon = Pokéwatch!

Pokemon Overwatch
A talented person may have fused these together in some way…

Ok, I actually kind of like this one.  A first/third person multiplayer game in which you choose which Pokémon to play as and have access to its associated abilities.  Now here’s the thing, in the loot boxes would be passes to go out into the wild and catch new Pokémon to add to your roster.  Think of the potential for team compositions!  It would be nearly impossible to balance but the possibility for objective based games with huge variation in team setups sounds pretty great to me.

Forza + Dance Dance Revolution = Forza Motorsport Revolution

Forza Dance Dance Revolution
I’d actually love to play this

Look, just hear me out on this one.  I’m thinking one for in the arcades, in which you have a dance platform to throw your feet around in time to the music.  The better you do, the faster your car goes.  In front of you though is a steering wheel for controlling the ever accelerating vehicle.  Obviously things like braking would be accounted for in some way but this sounds like it could be insanely silly fun.  Or a recipe for severe injury.

Bayonetta + Metal Gear Solid = Metal Gear Rising

Metal Gear Rising Logo
Metal Gear Rising (2013)

Because sometimes the planets align and something magical happens.  Lunatic story?  Check!  Lunatic action?  Check!  A cyborg ninja fighting giant stompy robots with a sword before taking on a cybernetically enhanced senator?  Where do I sign?!

How about you?  Are there any games that you could slam together into something terribly fantastic or fantastically terrible?  I like to think the gaming community has more imagination that most publishers these days so there must be something out there!  Tell me, I could use a good laugh!

5 Stupid Moments in Video Games – Gaming no be smart.

Sometimes games go just a little bit off piste…

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before (I’m too lazy to look through my posts to find it) that video games are a great medium for creating whatever the hell you want.  Fancy a cooking game in which you’re an elephant chef plotting world domination through amazing cuisine?  You could probably make that.  Somehow.  Having said that, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  Here are 5 games that decided on including something bizarre and out of place.

Mario
Is this as weird as the internet’s reaction to finding out he has nipples?

Oh, and spoilers obviously.

Assassin’s Creed 2 – Fist Fighting the Pope

Assassin's Creed
Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)

This is generally considered to be the best in the series (although I preferred Black Flag) as it refined the previous game and removed the tedious bits but hadn’t quite reached the level of feature creep of the later games.  As Ezio (and sometimes Desmond) we murder our way around renaissance Italy to find the piece of Eden that can control people’s minds.  Or something to that effect anyway.  At any rate, the magical McGuffin ends up in the hands of a bad man who has become Pope!

Assassin's Creed 2
Doesn’t exactly make the most intimidating opponent really.

Cue a final boss battle to prevent the evil Pope’s dreams of world domination by punching a fat old man in the face repeatedly.  After all that had come before, it was something of an anticlimactic final confrontation.  If they’d played it for laughs then they might have gotten away with it, but instead it was done with all the gravitas of any other final boss confrontation.  The cutscene afterwards was confusing (although fairly cool if you were into the overarching plot) and the whole thing felt a bit of a let down.  At least they didn’t have him summon Jesus for a final beatdown.

Final Fantasy X – Tidus Laughing

FFX
Final Fantasy X (2002)

I couldn’t not include this.  Whilst at this point in the game, FFX was fairly light-hearted, this seemed completely out of place.  Tidus is told to laugh at the ocean for reasons. And laugh he does!  With the most painful fake laugh in the history of mankind.

I’m sure I read somewhere that this scene comes across better in the Japanese version of the game.  But that doesn’t matter to me.  This was cringey and painful.

999 – Elevator Sex

999logo

Yep, you read that right.  999 is basically Saw with time travel (sort of…it’s complicated).  9 people are trapped in a sinking boat full of numbered doors and potential for nasty, violent death.  As our hero and his newly found comrades explore their seafaring prison the find themselves occasionally split up from the rest of their group.  Our hero and his childhood friend find themselves alone and contemplating exploring the lower decks via an elevator.

9 doors 9 persons 9 hours
This is how it starts. Seems pretty harmless to begin with.

At least that’s what it’s meant to be (and in fact is).  But due to some extremely painful miscommunication, our character thinks that his friend is propositioning sex in an elevator.  “Down there… I’d get soaking wet…” June says with Junpei assuming she means something other than the elevator traveling down to a flooded deck.  It felt like such a bizarre scene in an otherwise pretty serious game.  It stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

Mass Effect 2 – Mordin Singing

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Out of place or not, this was just brilliant.  Mordin is a seriously successful Salarian Scientist (say that after 3 pints!) who is added to your crew part way through the game.  Pretty handy in a fight and always on hand to do offer insight whilst Garrus is busy calibrating everything, he apparently has a soft spot for singing.  Gilbert and Sullivan songs in particular.

Press him enough and he sings.  And boy is it funny.

I am the very model of a scientist Salarian
I’ve studies species turian, asari, and batarian
I’m quite good at genetics as a subset of biology
Because I am an expert which I know is a tautology.

It was completely out of left field for me, and whilst it stood out as an oddity in an otherwise fairly serious game, it was funny (and well done) enough to stand out in a positive way.

Heavy Rain – Press X to Shaun

Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain (2010)

This is cheating because it’s a glitch but IT’S MY LIST AND I’M CHEATING SO WHAT!  Heavy Rain is a game full of heavy themes.  Self mutilation, childhood trauma, and sexual assault can come into it depending on the routes you take.  All this can be made a whole lot lighter thanks to the Shaun glitch.

Heavy Rain
SHAUN!

I have no idea how this is triggered, but doing it results in the lead character, Ethan, yelling “Shaun!” every time X is pressed, regardless of the scene he is in.  Driving?  “SHAUN!”  Having a conversation?  “SHAUN!”  Having awkward sex with your new lady friend?  “SHAAAAAAUN!”  It’s utter gold.

What do you think?  Are there any stupid or bizarre moments that you’d like to include?  I almost mentioned what’s hidden in Papyrus’ head in Undertale but I feel it fits into the game pretty well.  How about you?

 

 

 

I’m Rob, and Here’s What I’ve Been Playing – 10/09/17

I’m struggling to get motivated to write up individual games that I have finished in the last few weeks, so instead here’s a quick look at what I’ve been playing this week!

Memes
Gotta have memes. Does this count as memes?

Year Walk – iOS 

Year Walk
Year Walk (2013)

This was on sale for £1 a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been intending to try it for a while due to it’s interesting art style and supposedly creepy atmosphere. I’ve racked up a whole 20 minutes so far and would consider it a modernised point and click adventure. It makes good use of touch controls but I feel mechanics are under explained. I had no idea I could spin a dolls head around to make it dance to give me a clue. Standard point and click moon logic.

Year Walk
I don’t know what this is!

I’m going to persevere with this one though. I like the atmosphere, and the sound is excellent. I’m sure there’s a story too but it’s quite unclear right now. I can always pop open a guide to get an idea of what to do next if I’m stuck too. Not bad so far!

Destiny – Xbox One

Destiny
Destiny (2014)

Yep, the first one.  Not that new fangled fancy one with all the graphics and whatnot.  A friend of mine happened to have a spare disc of the base game and gave it to me which I’m very grateful for.  So far I’ve reached level 16 as a Warlock.  It was fairly easy to start with but some of the Strikes can get rather overwhelming with the sheer volume of enemies.

Destiny
A promo shot, yes. But a pretty one nonetheless.

I’m enjoying it all the same.  The combat is pretty satisfying for the most part and the ever increasing power of item drops is as addictive as ever.  The bosses are a bit bullet spongy for my liking, taking far longer to put down than I’d like, but I’m having fun with it for now!

Redout – Xbox One

Redout
Redout: Lightspeed Edition (2017)

Big thanks to B3 for providing me with the review code for this one (keep an eye out there for the review popping up).  I reviewed this last week and found it to be ludicrously fast.  It’s somewhat like Wipeout and other anti-gravity racers, but with the speed turned up to infinity.

Redout
This is the fastest racing game I’ve played bar none. Still a really fun time though!

In addition to the speed, it’s also insanely hard.  I reached Class 3 (of 4) before finding it a little too hard to finish races anywhere above last due to my feeble old man reactions not being up to snuff.  Thankfully the quick restart times meant I could plug away at it for a while without sitting around on a loading screen.  It’s incredibly polished but some might consider it to be (cliché alert!) the Dark Souls of anti-grav racers.

Spaceballs
Yep. There was no way I was missing an opportunity to include this.

Elder Sign – PC

Elder Sign: omens
Elder Sign: Omens (2011)

It may surprise you to learn that I like board games rather a lot.  The difficulty is sometimes getting a group together to play, but also the setup and tear down times (Marvel Legendary is great fun but now takes about 20 minutes to set up thanks to all the expansions).  For this reason, I like that digital versions of great board games are available.  Elder Sign: Omens is based on the board game of the (almost) same name and involves dice rolls being assigned to events to earn the titular elder signs with the goal of preventing ancient gods of Lovecraft’s stories from devouring the world!

Elder Sign: Omens
A lot of the game is spent here, deciding on your current characters move before chucking those dice!

As a digital version, it sticks to the board game rather well, with plenty of different challenges and characters to choose from.  BUT.  Where is the multiplayer?!  Yes, I suppose you could play it locally by hot seating, but there is no online whatsoever.  Considering you could play and finish a game of this in around 20 minutes, an online co-op mode would fit right in.  Throw in a chat box and you have a pretty complete system.  I have no idea why this would be omitted.  Still, it’s fun to play here and there as it is.

So how about you?  What are you playing?  Anything good?  Something terrible?  Let me know below, and happy gaming!

 

Dark Souls: The Board Game – The Dark Souls of board games

Yes, it’s as hard as the video game. Also more complicated.

So Dark Souls then.  Have I mentioned that series before?  The one I really like?  I’m not sure if I have.  Either way, it’s a series I’m a fan of for many reasons, including its precision timing and learning a solid process to get through the challenges presented to you.  So when I saw that Steamforge Games had a Kickstarter campaign for a board game based on it, I had to back it.  I mean, I tried not to, but my hands just took over control of my computer and backed it for me.  They even backed some of the expansions too.  I’d like to say their addiction to Kickstarter has passed, but I think they may need to go into rehab.  Anyway, I wasn’t sure how well Dark Souls would transition into board game form but the team have put together something that captures some of the essence of the video game, and works well as a board game most of the time.

Dark Souls
The minis look great and look a lot like the characters and creatures from the video game.

Opening up the box, you are immediately confronted with a black sheet of paper reading “YOU DIED”, which is lovely.  It’s quite prophetic really as you will die repeatedly in this (much like in the video game) and fail in your quest over and over.  In the box you’ll find a number of board pieces to construct the play area, plenty of tokens and dice.  Oh and the minis.  Mini is not a good name for all of these as some of them are huge by most board game standards.  The component quality is really rather good, with plenty of detail on the minis and boards.  I will say some of the tokens are a little on the small side for my liking though.

Dark Souls
I should have put something here for scale, but the bosses are huge. The ones in the expansions are meant to be bigger still.

Dark Souls is designed to be played with 1 to 4 players cooperatively, with the goal of defeating a mini boss and a final boss.  Players begin at the bonfire with a certain number of “sparks” (the game’s equivalent of lives) and move from room to room confronting groups of enemies and traps.  Each room has a randomly selected card dictating the enemies and items in the environment.  Completing a room will earn a number of “souls” (the game’s currency) that can be spent on leveling up character attributes and purchasing items from the blacksmith.  If a single player should die during an encounter, everyone returns to the bonfire and the number of sparks is reduced by 1.  Run out of sparks and it’s game over.

Dark Souls
The discs with the yellow symbols on them are traps that can further complicate an encounter.

Encounters are hard, which is in keeping with the source material.  Each player can move one space and attack on their turn.  Players can move further by spending stamina, a risky move as your stamina is also tied to your health.  Attacking is based on dice rolls depending on your weapon.  Some weapons allow you to use multiple black dice (fewer successful sides) whilst others use fewer blue or orange dice (higher chance for success and greater damage).  Stamina can be spent here too, allowing for a more powerful attack that may have additional effects.  After a player takes their actions, all enemies take theirs based on their associated card with most of them moving either towards or away from the nearest or most recent player and attacking assuming they are in range.  This means you could be attacked many times before having an opportunity to do anything much it yourself.  You can spend stamina to attempt a dodge roll (depending on your equipment) which will negate all damage or reduce it by blocking, but in most cases you’ll get hit very hard.

Dark Souls
A fairly tough Warrior. That sword and its upgrades proved to be very powerful against the Dancer.

Players have a single use “Estus flask” to restore their health and stamina, as well as a coin to re-roll one die.  These are all restored upon death.  Each character class also as a specific once per life action that can help in a pinch.  There is a fairly large emphasis on having good equipment (weapons, armour, shields, spells, etc.) on your character to survive, as enemies hit hard.  Death can come quickly, even at the hands of basic enemies if you’re under-equipped or if you have an unlucky set of dice rolls.  This is especially the case for bosses who play in a different way to most enemies.  Bosses have a set of cards that dictate their actions and attacks.  These are based on their character from the games, with the Titanite Demon having wide, sweeping attacks whilst the Dancer can attack multiple times.  They only have a few attacks that are not shuffled after they are used, allowing players to learn a pattern.  When they are damaged to a certain level, a new, more powerful card is added to their rotation to mix things up.  I really like this mechanic as it ties into the video game’s idea of learning how to fight a boss in order to take it down.  The bosses are very tough, but learning the path to victory against them feels good and they are definitely the stand out experience.

Dark Souls
Looking to take down a mini boss. The Winged Knight is, in my opinion, one of the easier bosses.

Fighting the bosses is great and works really well but the standard encounters suffer and the game has something of a pacing issue.  Upon death or returning to the bonfire, all enemies respawn (again, just like the game) to allow you to gain more souls for equipment and leveling up.  This means that if you fail at a boss you need to slog through standard enemies again.  Whilst you can set up the boards to have shortcuts (a nice nod to the series again), it still slows down the game considerably.  With lucky rolls you could get through a game in around 90 minutes, but it’s much more likely to take a lot longer.

Dark Souls
Enemies attack based on the most recent person to move or attack.

The luck aspect is the other issue I have with the game.  Whilst the bosses go a long way towards replicating the video game experience, the standard enemies are much more based on luck.  If you have a series of poor dice rolls, you may as well start over.  I get that the feeling of despair and failure is a large part of the video game, but luck really isn’t.  Players learn to skillfully dispatch opponents, not hope for a lucky turn to achieve victory.  This is something I wish they had given more thought to.

Dar Souls
Most weapons have a range of zero, meaning you need to be on the same node as the enemy. Others like bows have a minimum range, meaning you need to keep back.

However, once you get to a boss and manage to take it down through careful positioning (and yes, a touch of luck) is quite satisfying.  If you can put up with the early slog then you can have a lot of fun with this.  There’s a good feeling to be had when you manage to acquire and equip a powerful item and finally get to throw those orange dice for serious damage.  In the coming months there will be additional bosses and sets released (I’m (not) ashamed to say that I’ve ordered a few) to add more to the game.  I’m quite excited to take on Sif when it arrives.  If you’re in the market for a substantial co-op board game then you could do a lot worse than picking this up.  Praise the Sun \o/