Fire Emblem: Three Houses
As a big fan of indie games, I rarely play AAA titles. The Call of Dutys and GTAs haven’t ever really appealed to me that much — they are fun, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve never really been games I could play for hours on end. I certainly wouldn’t play them if they weren’t multiplayer.
The only AAA titles I really bother with are Nintendo’s, and as my favourite series of all time is Fire Emblem, I have to choose Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is definitely the only Fire Emblem game so far that could be considered a AAA title. The sheer amount of money put into it far surpassed any Fire Emblem title before it, and it ended up as the best-selling game in the series by December 2019, despite only being released in July 2019. It has an incredible soundtrack, full voice-acting, rich class-mechanics, and (mostly) great writing.
After choosing which house your player character Byleth will teach, you’re given a class of students that can be molded into whatever classes you wish, with some fitting into certain classes better or worse than others. Dimitri is clearly meant to ride a horse and kill things with a lance, Mercedes is clearly meant to heal and not much else, although they all have other specialities that can be utilized.
It’s this flexibility which allows for you to approach the game however you want, although characters can end up losing their identity as every character’s skillset is built around them killing things, with a select few also being good at supporting your team with healing and warping. Enemies aren’t particularly challenging, either, unless you’re playing on Maddening mode which is generally seen as a poorly-designed difficulty.
Despite this, I’d still say Three Houses is my favourite AAA game of all time. Presentation-wise, it is immaculate, and its higher budget sets it apart from the rest of the series.
The first time I finished Dishonored I immediately replayed it.
It’s a stealth game with a gorgeous and haunting Victorian aesthetic that places you in different explorable maps that are stuffed to the brim with awesome and subtle worldbuilding, giving you secrets to find, a target to deal with, and varying ways to play.
The gameplay and story are so interlinked that choices in one affect the other in really fun ways. It’s much quicker to get through the levels loudly and murder-y, blasting your way through each level with a gun and slashing with knives, killing all you meet, but this easier option also ensures the ‘worst’ ending of the game, whereas taking your time and being methodical — while also feeling more badass, allows you more control over the events within the story. Leaving too many bodies behind feeds and sustains the plague-carrying rats, making later levels harder. It also upsets Samuel, the boatman who ferries you places, and he’s a sweet man.
If you take your time scavenging around levels, you can find secrets and upgrades like whalebone runes, which you take to shrines of the mysterious deity The Outsider, who will improve your magical capabilities, crafting you into the perfect unstoppable assassin.
I wasn’t sure whether I liked stealth games when I first downloaded Dishonored, but by the end I couldn’t get enough. It’s been years since I’ve first played it, and writing this review is definitely inspiring a replay.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally buy the sequel. If I don’t, the awesome DLC will keep me busy enough.
Like a Rogue
Ah, roguelikes: the bane of my contemporary gaming existence — and a great joy. The recent release of The Binding of Isaac’s newest DLC, Repentance, has spurred me to explore what makes roguelikes so compelling. And there’s a few things. Like a rogue, I’m going to get in and out as quickly as possible. Let’s take a look at the history first.
The genre originates from the eponymous Rogue, a dungeon-crawler released in 1980 featuring perma-death to make players’ actions more meaningful. Alongside this staple of the genre, the game featured random generation to make every try/run unique. Rogue was inspired by early text-based games, and was the first of its kind to combine both these aspects with Dungeons-and-Dragons-style RPG weapons, items etc.
Today, these two elements are what define a roguelike. As such, roguelikes are notoriously hard but rewarding. Some of the most popular roguelikes are The Binding of Isaac, Enter the Gungeon, and Spelunky, each focusing on skill rather than internal progression systems. Despite this, these games also feature random item generation which can greatly affect each run, so while skill is the main focus, you might still get unlucky (and you will. Oh, you will).
Some elitist gamers will suggest these aren’t real roguelikes, and point you towards hardcore games like Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, two immensely difficult games. The beautiful thing with these types of games though is that the graphics are often an afterthought, and so complex, interconnected gameplay is omnipresent. Some might be turned off by this, but to me it’s the pinnacle of the interactive experience. My favourite harder roguelike is Tales of Maj’Eyal, an RPG with swamps of content and a particularly beautiful soundtrack.
Games in its sister subgenre, the roguelite, are commonly mistaken for roguelikes, but differ in their inclusion of progression systems to make each run easier. Games like Dead Cells, Rogue Legacy, and Hades are all examples of this. They’re generally less difficult games for this reason, but still just as fun (and less infuriating).
Roguelikes offer so much content for often so little money. With the recent release of The Binding of Isaac: Repentance, now is a great time to dip your feet into the genre and see if it’s for you.