What ho, chums!
OK, I will admit it. 2019 has totally beaten me. I surrender!
Even if we’re ignoring all of the chaos going on in the wider world, just within my cosy niche of gaming I’ve found myself unable to cope. I struggle to keep up with the near-daily deluge of games at the best of times, but I feel like I’ve finally reached the point of no return.
In terms of work, the last few months have been utterly crazy, and I’ve been regularly staying up until the wee small hours trying to finish off some article or other that’s way behind schedule. But I’m not complaining – as a freelancer I welcome such floods of work, all too aware that a famine may be just around the corner. Usually that famine comes in January and February, once the mad dash to get everything published before Christmas recedes, but this year I’m in the unprecedented situation of being fully booked up well into the New Year. Which is great, but it also leaves me at a loss when it comes to trying to fit in all these wonderful new games that have been released.
My games library is bulging with unplayed free games from PlayStation Plus and the Epic Store, not to mention games I’ve bought myself and have yet to try out. But over the past couple of months, whenever I’ve had a spare couple of hours of Not Work, I’ve usually been too mentally drained and physically tired to sample anything new. All I want to do is retreat to my safe space – which happens to be called Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. There’s a comfort in its repetition. It’s the equivalent of knitting in gaming terms – the soothing feeling of doing the same action over and over again (even if the monsters change very slightly). If I need to give my poor brain a bit of TLC at the end of a long and gruelling work day, MHW is my first port of call.
Shamefully, my Busy Period has also meant I just haven’t got around to properly playing and writing about the various games I’ve been sent to review and preview. We pride ourselves at AMAP on always reviewing a game if we have specifically requested code for it – and I’m afraid I’ve dropped the ball on that front. I’ve got game code going back as far as August that I’ve yet to do a write-up on – and frankly there is no way I’m going to catch up on it all.
So I’m wiping the slate clean. 2019, you have won. You have defeated me. But I will come back with a vengeance next year, I promise.
In the meantime, here are a few words on the games that I really should have written about this year.
I championed this game in a preview for PC Gamer, and I’ve been looking forward to it all year. But now I’m halfway through my second playthrough of the initial campaign, I’m still not sure what I think about it. The writing is absolutely superb, and as a short-story generator it’s brilliant. But the detective parts just aren’t that compelling or even workable – it’s no Return of the Obra Dinn, let’s put it that way. Still, I kind of love it? But also hate it? You see, this is why I haven’t written about it, it’s doing my head in. Have a look at it on Steam.
This is a pretty 2D turn-based tactics game set in the Warsaw Uprising of the Second World War. I knew practically nothing about this subject before I started playing, so it was a real education for me. It’s pretty good fun to play, but even on ‘easy’ it’s very hard to stay alive – which I gather is rather the point. Steam link!
Nanotale – Typing Chronicles
Another game I’ve been looking forward to, Nanotale went into Early Access a little while back. The gameplay is still just as fun as when I sampled it at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, but the Early Access build I played last month on was absolutely riddled with bugs. I mean, it was ridiculous, to be honest. I had to restart numerous times because of crashes and glitches, and there are all sorts of bits that seem half-finished, like enemies popping into existence from nowhere. It’s still fun, and the idea of typing spells to defeat enemies and solve puzzles is a good one, but Nanotale needs a lot longer in the oven before I’d recommend it. Steam link ahoy.
Mable and the Wood
Ack, I feel bad about this. I loved the demo of Mable in the Wood at EGX Rezzed, and the developer kindly sent me review code when the game came out a little while back, and I STILL haven’t got around to playing it. And it’s a Metroidvania, too, probably my favourite genre. Ugh. Ah well, there’s always next year. For what it’s worth, this game looks lovely. Steam link here.
Another one sat in the ‘to play’ pile. The developers PowPit sent me code for this god game AGES ago, and I still haven’t booted it up. Soon, my pretty, soon. Well, relatively soon. God, where am I going to find the time to play all these games? Check out Tidal Tribe here.
Now this game sounds really interesting. It’s a VR title where you play the ghost of a child witnessing the experiences of your family after you’ve died. How’s that for a pitch? Anyway, it intrigued me enough to ask for code, but frankly there hasn’t been an occasion so far when I’ve really been in the mood to be a dead child watching my grieving parents. Maybe a stiff drink will help. Link!
Another Metroidvania! I feel like I have an excuse for this one though. I DID actually play a few hours of this, but then my PC went on the fritz and I lost my save files. That was ages ago though, and the game has changed a lot since then, so I really need to go back and see how it’s improved – and actually write something about it. The animation is top notch for one thing. Steam link this way.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
I played a couple of hours of this on Switch not too long ago, and it was pretty good. It’s basically a fantasy-medieval-style XCOM turn-based strategy thing, but decidedly hardcore. Lots of stats, not much help, but solid mechanics. And the plot was pretty interesting, too. Definitely one I’d like to go back to, even if it’s not the prettiest game in the world. Find out more here.