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  • Tunic artwork showing a cute fox raising its sword in a forest scene

    Supporters only: The curse of the early game demo

    Tunic's journey from zero to hero in the space of a weekend

    Ever since the very first trailer for Tunic appeared all the way back in 2017, my Zelda senses have been a-tingling. I'm always up for a good Zelda-like, and everything I saw of Tunic back then seemed to confirm that this was 100% a game I would like and enjoy.

    You can probably imagine my excitement, then, when Microsoft announced there would finally be a playable demo to people download during last year's E3. However, as I briefly mentioned in my post about Tunic's brilliant in-game instruction manual yesterday, I actually came away from that demo a bit disheartened. With just a single (and quite unforgiving) dungeon to explore, I was left thinking it hewed a bit too close to the Soulsian school of combat difficulty than I'd like. Upon playing the final game, however... Delight! Magic! Joy! I actually can't get enough of it. To think I almost dismissed what's now one of my early game of the year contenders on the basis of that one 20 minute demo now seems incredibly hasty on my part, but with so many games now being shoved down our throats on a daily basis, those first impressions can somtimes be devastatingly powerful.

  • Image for Buggos celebrates the hive, devours idiot humans

    Super light strategy games aren't exactly uncommon, but it's still a treat to come across one that gets the levels of effort and complexity right. Buggos is about driving your endless swarm of alien insects to spread across a newfound planet and wipe out the gross humans standing in the way.

    There's very little stress and no need for detailed schemes, reflexes, or micromanaged tactics. As long as there is food, more buggos will come, and as long as there are buggos, they will loosely move in the direction you command, dying in droves but succeeding in aggregate. It's a good time that asks for little but a point to attack and a desire to consume everything in your path. I'm actually surprised at how much I want to keep playing it.

  • The Ainsel River in Elden Ring

    Lots of open world games – or at least, those that I've played – steer you through their maps methodically. Jim, Dave, and Sally all have their map markers in Vice City for a portion of the game, then they'll shift over to Tilted Towers after a few hours. Perhaps the bridge to Shrek's Swamp won't open unless you rescue the princess from Bowser's Castle later down the line.

    And there's nothing wrong with an open world that gently steers you in the right direction. Elden Ring does this with its checkpoints that blow the equivalent of directional arrows in the breeze, helping you feel in control of your progress. But I'd argue it's even better at the opposite: wresting that control away in a split-second.

  • Lady Love Dies, the protagonist of Paradise Killer

    In the comments under my interview with the Paradise Killer devs last week, someone suggested posting more of the answers as like a B-side. I thought this was an excellent suggestion, for three reasons: 1) it's a much easier post to write on my part compared to doing the full interview; b) Oli Clarke Smith and Phil Crabtree said a bunch of interesting things that I wasn't able to cram into the article; iii) it might give you a sense of how weird interviews actually are.

    This transcript is just two questions and a follow-up, but runs to over 1500 words. The whole conversation I had with these two dudes was over 40 minutes long. So much of interviews gets discarded (like tears in rain etc) and the process of distilling it all down to a few quotes can be, to put it succinctly, a pain in the hole. Especially if your interview subject talks quickly. Top tip to people who don't like interviews: talk slowly. It'll be over faster.

  • Image for Reaching the end of FAR: Changing Tides was like shaking hands with my pre-pandemic past

    Last week I took a bit of holiday to, you know, catch up on some housework, have a bit of a rest and, to change the habit of a lifetime, play some video games. I knew straight away what would be first up on my video game playlist: FAR: Changing Tides, the sequel to Okomotive's beautifully melancholy roadtrip adventure, FAR: Lone Sails. While Changing Tides tells a separate story to its predecessor, putting you in the shoes of a new protagonist and swapping its desolate wastelands for a watery seascape, the hot, beating core powering the game remains very much the same. With nothing left for you at home in the wake of an unknown disaster, it's time to pack up and head on out for a new beginning, with only your hulking great boat/steamtrain contraption for company.

    If you still haven't played FAR: Changing Tides, I'd urge you to stop reading now and come back later. There are big spoilers about the game's ending coming up in this article, and I really don't want to ruin that for you. So, fair warning, okay? If you're still here I'm assuming you've played and finished Changing Tides, because holy moly, isn't it just the most perfect thing?

  • Image for Thy Creature brings together Frankenstein and bullet hell at last

    Thy Creature is an odd one. I want to make several comparisons to other games that probably aren't very accurate or fair. I think that's because it's one of those that's made up of the gaps in between other genres. Right from the start of its anime goth girl intro I knew this wasn't really my kind of thing, and yet its striking art and sense of sincerity felt compelling.

    And it was a bit weird, which is sometimes enough. It depicts a frankenstein cast out by villagers, left to wander the wilderness, across forests and mountains, still peppered with arrows, turning up at a sinister tower that seems to welcome them. And just a few minutes in, it reveals itself as a mystery puzzle game with bullet hell parts. Almost none of this is my thing at all, but here I am playing it. Hmm.

  • Aloy prepares to fire an arrow at the Thunderjaw bearing down on her in Horizon Zero Dawn.

    Behind the scenes I have been chipping away at Horizon Forbidden West on the PS5, a game I would characterise as good, lots of fun, very pretty. (Sidebar: having recently conducted an inventory of all my posessions for international shipping purposes, it appears the PS5 is literally the most valuable thing I own. I am 32 years old). I'm not very good at it, to be honest, so recently knocked it down to easy difficulty in order to stomp on robot heads with greater efficiency. Good ol' Aloy.

    Anyway, now that I have awakened a sort of mother-surrogate AI and started the actual business of saving the world, I cannot help but ask the key question: why can I still not ride into battle atop a massive great robot T-Rex?

  • Image for Completing digital jigsaws of increasing size to avert a disaster

    I can't remember if I've mentioned this to you, dear readers, but I am currently mid-emigration. In about two weeks I'm moving to Ireland, which means for the past four months my live has been hellish. The paperwork the move involves, especially now we have from our European womb been untimely ripped, is a Kafkaesque nightmare. To ship my stuff without incurring importation tax I need to prove I'm going to live in Ireland and not just sell a bunch of second hand cutlery and old bras (one of those two things would probably be pretty lucrative, in fairness). This is all complicated even furtherer by the fact that I only found a flat to move to yesterday, and still don't have the tenancy agreement for it, which means no proof of address. Life, oh life.

    I don't really have the option to have a piece of toast and watch the evening news, because when I'm not scanning my passport or estimating what worth to attach to my towels for the purposes of the shipping company's insurance, I am packing said towels into boxes, along with everything else I own. Basically the only free time I have is my lunch break. And what I am doing in my lunch break is making huge, virtual jigsaw puzzles in Jigsaw Puzzle Dreams. It's either that or go and sit in the toilets and have a little stress-cry. And as the move date approaches, the size of the puzzles has increased. On Thursday I started one that is 6k pieces. This may have been a miscalculation.

  • Image for Aztech Forgotten Gods fights jank with a massive rocket-powered god arm

    Aztech is a superb name for a game, and almost makes describing its premise redundant. Throwing in that it's from the same developers who made Mulaka meant I had to give it a go.

    I'm glad I did. Aztech No Colon Forgotten Gods starts with its weaker foot, showing rough edges right away, but that’s overshadowed by its entertaining movement system. During its opening, a quest prompt tells you to go home to sleep, as though they didn't just give you a magical power arm that's also a goddamn rocket.

    My home was a short walk away. I didn't get there for 40 minutes.

  • Three players stand on the edge of a cliff and look out over Limgrave in Elden Ring.

    Social media sucks doesn't it? You sign up for a feed of dross that never stops, like you've paid for a rotten Fruit Winder that simply won't stop unwinding. Others who've bought into the same Fruit Winder exchange thoughts on its sour taste, until yet more, who quite like the flavour, come to its defense in droves. A war of words ensues over whether the Fruit Winder tastes nice. And it's not even a Fruit Winder, it's an app called Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, for goodness sakes.

    Admittedly, there is something gratifying about popping off on social media. Even just getting a few likes for a dumb joke can make you feel alive. So, I say you swap Twitter for Elden Ring, a superior social media platform: You leave players helpful messages or total dross, it gets appraised, you feel great. Invading other worlds is a more interactive way of making friends and/or enemies too – it's perfect.

  • A complex set of instruments in Blimps, including a desalinator, electrometer and carbon atom rearranger

    "Blimp" is a great word and the Hindenburg robbed us of a world where we got to say it often.

    Blimps is an odd game. At a glance, it looks like an Elite-esque trading game, but it's more like... well. It's more like a game from the time before genres. A confusing, poorly explained time that mostly produced rubbish but occasionally produced a strange little gem like this.

    You run a little airship business, on paper. In practice, your job is to figure out how to make enough money to get out. Ideally within an hour.

  • A hooded warrior rests at a glowing site of grace in Elden Ring

    When Elden Ring was first thrust out into the world back in 2019, I have to admit I was pretty nonplussed about it. I've said before I've never been much of a Soulsite, and it's not for lack of trying. I tried my darnedest to get into Dark Souls III when it first came out, but holy deathrattles, it was such a long, gruelling slog. Vordt of the Boreal Valley, the second (yes, second) boss of Dark Souls III, remains my lifelong nemesis. I just couldn't get past it. I'm someone who always likes to be making forward, tangible progress when I play games, and banging my head against the same boss for hours on end is my idea of actual hell.

    I'm no better at playing Elden Ring, to be honest. I spent a good couple of hours last night just trying to get past one of those big tentacle-beard monkey lads with the hollowed out stomachs on the way up to Stormveil Castle. Not even a named, actual sub-boss! And yet, I'm actually enjoying this version of Souls-style head-bashing a lot more than I've ever done before. And I think it's to do with Elden Ring's plentiful supply of save points.

  • A close-up of Melina, an NPC character in Elden Ring.

    Some things are synonymous with Soulsborne games. Approachability, which Alice Bee thinks is a very relative term. Nail-biting combat, intricate worlds, a story that's drip-fed through it all. But it's the littlest bits that round off their identity. The dong of their menu sounds (I love a good menu noise) and their elevators operated by pressure plates.

    There's also one other big thing that Soulsborne games deliver on. As any seasoned player knows, it's not a FromSoft game without the laughs. While there's plenty of humour in the cliff falls and silly invasions, I'm talking in a more literal sense. The NPCs often round off their sentences with a chuckle. But so far, Elden Ring lacks the despairing "hahaha" of old. And it makes me sad.

  • A sea of repeating RPS logos.

    Hello folks. I'm sorry this month's Letter From The Editor is a bit late. February sure has been one of those months, what with two of the biggest games of the year so far, not to mention a whole new piece of hardware launching in the space of two measly weeks. If I'd had my act together, I could have used this letter to give you a glimpse of all the exciting things we've just done - things like our freshly-concluded Souls Week, or all the neat Steam Next Fest bits we had planned, and (maybe) even a sneaky peek at all the excellent Steam Deck stuff we've written about as well. Alas, my time management skills have been a bit of a dumpster fire this month - although if you haven't checked out everything I've just mentioned, please do go and have a read. The RPS team have been very busy bees this month, and it would be a shame to miss out on all the great stuff going on.

    Of course, the question now becomes, how do we carry on this kind of momentum when literally nothing has a confirmed release date past the end of March? The answer is... complicated.

  • Elden Ring player riding Torrent towards a ruin near the Great Erdtree

    I have seen chat about Elden Ring being the most accessible (as in, welcoming to newcomers and easy to pick up) game yet of the collected FromSoft oeuvre. I haven't played nearly as much Elden Ring as Ed or our guides team, but I do feel this statement, while not an exact a lie, definitely needs a lot more qualification than people are giving it.

    In relative terms, one would say that a bowl of hot sick was more enjoyable than eating a bowl of cold sick, for example. Elden Ring is, of course, much better than sick at any temperature, obviously - I'm just saying that so far, I have not found it to be much easier or less opaque than any other FromSoft game, except it has clearer tooltips and sometimes an NPC will say, "You should do this thing." In fact, the open world - the thing that people say is the most good bit - is having the opposite effect on me.

  • A screenshot of Disgaea 6 Complete showing an angry 3D penguin, making an attack.

    Gather ye close, gentle listener, for this month's supporter funded podcast, The Nate Files. In episode 8 we learn all about the giants on whose shoulders Darwin stands. This includes Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, a man who has apparently had everything on the planet named after him. Apart from this podcast, and my shoes, and myself, and the cereal and had this morning, and look, I exaggerated for comic effect listener, what do you want from me? A thank you, is it? Oh alright, thank you very much to our supporters for making The Nate Files happen each month. If I could I'd name a penguin species after all of you.

    Apologies for this episode of The Nate Files being a few days late. I admit it: Elden Ring week got ahead of me a bit. But now it's behind me, so things should even out. Hopefully, anyway.

  • Image for I can't believe how good Blood West is

    Last week I hinted that I've been recaptured by Hunt Colon Showdown. I did not elaborate on how I wish there was a version that couldn't be undermined by boring, annoying Other People.

    Blood West isn't the same as Hunt, but they're definitely related. It also wears its love of Blood on its sleeve. It also also carries Thief DNA, and even takes some notes from Dark Souls, a game I dislike because it's bad and everyone is just wrong. Most remarkably though, Blood West feels almost entirely itself, rather than just an assembly of other things. It's really damn good.

  • On horseback, the player fights a dragon in Elden Ring.

    First things first, this is SPOILER TERRITORY. Please do not read any more of this article if you're sensitive to Elden Ring SPOILERS. What are you doing?! Get OUT! Out I said. Oh – you're still here? Presumably that means you don't care for a spoiler or two. Okay, that works for me.

    I'd like to wax lyrical about a good boss in Elden Ring, if you don't mind. He's a beastman, of sorts, who awaits you at the end of a castle. But more than that, he's an optional challenge that both leaves a lasting impression and doesn't at the same time.

  • Aloy and her pal are riding big robot cows in Horizon Forbidden West

    Over the weekend, I played Horizon Forbidden West on my big Sony box, a game I spent several hours in before reaching said titular region. I still appear to be untold miles away from the cool kind of jungley beachy bits from the promo screenshots. So far, though, I'm having a lot of fun, riding around on my big metal robot cow in its stunning world - a very beautiful game, is this, with lots of lens flare and dripping water and waving grass. A big and interesting world, and I am very much looking forward to playing more and reading insightful criticism and analysis of it. I would also like someone to explain the Pullcaster to me, because it's one thing in Horizon Forbidden West that, as far as I can tell, does not need to exist whatsoever.

  • A row of arcade cabinets in Deathloop

    Supporters only: I can't get enough of Deathloop's alternate reality arcade cabinets

    Forget the Eternalists, I just want to sit down and play some video games

    Much to my great shame, I never got round to playing Deathloop at the end of last year. Ironically for a game about a never-ending timeloop, I just never had enough minutes to fit it into my schedule. But! I have been rectifying that this week, and cor, it's a bit good, isn't it? I'm particularly enjoying just letting rip with its big chunky guns when I mess up trying to be all sneaky-like. In my painstaking attempt to do a completely clean, blood-free ghost run in Dishonored 2 all those years ago, I'd sort of forgotten just how powerfully satisfying Arkane Lyon's eye for action really is, and I've been having a lot of fun rediscovering this as I beast my way around Blackreef's four main locations.

    As you'd expect from an Arkane game, each one of these maps is absolutely huge, full of nooks and crannies and secret passageways just itching to be exploited as you try and take down all of its slightly mad Eternalist cult leaders in a single cycle. But the thing I've been most intrigued by in Deathloop so far isn't its weird cubby holes or how maps change over time. It's all those huffing great arcade cabinets littered about the place. And some of them look very familiar indeed...

  • Image for Kingdom Of The Dead is an unpretentious ghoul shooter with excellent music

    Dirigo Games impressed former RPS neck honcho Adam Smith with Depths Of Fear, and later added two excellent games to to The Bundle. Syscrusher was a very brief but smooth and exciting shooter, and Stowaway an atmospheric monster horror. Their new game, Kingdom Of The Dead, combines the two; a striking fast paced FPS about a... paranormal vigilante cowboy, I think? It does not sit you down and explain itself, and I actually kind of like that about it.

    You're part of, or possibly all of, a kind of 19th century X Files, except instead of talking and analysing the situation, you already know that the way to deal with undead weirdness is to roll up with your revolver and kick its face in. Interesting as the premise is, it's really about blasting around some fun environments for a few hours, and I've enjoyed it more with every level.

  • Image for Jigsaw Puzzle Dreams is a do-a-jigsaw-sim that may consume me whole

    Last year, I made an impassioned plea for more puzzley-jigsaw games, but I did not expect my call to be answered in such a comprehensive fashion so quickly. Jigsaw Puzzle Dreams, by That's Nice Games, is a jigsaw game that came to Steam last December. No, more than that. It is a doing-a-jigsaw game. A jigsaw sim.

    See, most jigsaw games - and I idly toy with the idea of playing a bit of any new one I find on Steam, before realising that is a fool's errand - are just kind of 2D, put together this flat JPEG of a flower that I have cut into triangles. There's no tactile pleasure to be had. But Jigsaw Puzzle Dreams is a little one bed mezzanine flat in which you do puzzles - on the floor, on the kitchen table, on the rug - and each puzzle piece is a little 3D thing you can pick up and drop and turn around.

  • Image for Puzzley strategy zaptimes in Power To The People

    Supporters only: Puzzley strategy zaptimes in Power To The People

    Why does nothing rhyme with “tariff”, argh

    It's tempting to think that a city builder should focus on covering more ground, simulating a wider range of those elements in a bid for authenticity, or comprehensiveness.

    Power To The People takes the other approach. You're the decision maker of an energy company, tasked solely with providing electricity to towns you have no control over. Do a good job and you'll make enough money to scale up alongside the village/town/city. For such a simple premise it's surprisingly good at engaging the part of your brain that covers strategy and puzzles. Considering that power lines are normally an annoying hassle in games that simulate them at even a basic level, I'm also impressed by how entertaining it is.

  • A large wooden house from Eastward

    One minute I want to finish Eastward and be done with it. The next, I don't want it to end. It's a charming RPG that has me lurch between anger and glee at an alarming rate. Right now, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think I'm nearing its end, which I'm relieved about! But also quite sad? My weird relationship with this game has taught me the value of an ending, though. It doesn't know how to end things, but it's also remarkably good at it when it does.

  • A close up of a demonic forest spirit in Death's Door

    Death's Door is a great little game. I've been meaning to play it properly for a while, ever since I was told that you can slice signposts in half and then when you try and read it there's only half of the text left. And so what better game, I thought, to test out the new cloud gaming beta on the Xbox this weekend? (In fact, I ended up downloading the game because it streamed fine at like 10am but at peak times it went all pixely, like someone had huffed on my glasses.)

    Reader, I bloody love Death's Door. Like Katharine said, it's kind of a more gentle Soulslike, with a Studio Ghibli-esque flair to the character design and world. Also, there are fun jokes like a gravedigger being called Steadhone and stuff. But I also hate Death's Door, because it's still not an easy game, and I think I ended up playing it improperly this weekend.

  • Image for Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a pure ray of sunshine for the soul

    Supporters only: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a pure ray of sunshine for the soul

    I, too, would very much like more skipping in video games

    Last year, Ed wrote about how he wished Ian Hitman could skip in IO Interactive's big shiny assassin sim. Well, Agent 47 clearly needs to make the next stop on his international mission list a nice, relaxing retreat on the Mediterranean island of Pinar del Mar. Not to murder anyone, of course. But to hang out with Alba for some all important frolicking lessons. She's a pro at this skipping marlarkey. If she's not throwing her arms out like an aeroplane when she's running up and down the yellowing hills of this sleepy little island village, she's doing a jolly little skip that is probably the most delightful thing I've ever seen in a video game. In fairness, the whole game is just pure joy distilled into a chill wildlife photography adventure, but man alive, the skipping is something else. More of this please, developers.

  • Image for The Last Bastion's strange combat mixes up FTL-ish plate spinning

    It's not that easy, you know, hating everything. Deckbuilders are bad, I repeat, while enjoying one against my will. D&D can go to hell, I screech, in between weekly sessions. Corporate saturation crushes better games, I insist, alt-tabbing out of Vermintide.

    This week it's the FTL-inspired The Last Bastion that's making things difficult. You're the leader of a defeated army regiment, retreating across a series of regions to a stronghold where your king plans to make a last stand. It's sort of roguelike, with a hint of something like Reigns in balancing your forces and reputation, with light interactive fiction parts. I'm a little bit annoyed that I like it.

  • A screenshot of Vampire Survivors showing the player standing in a field surrounded by hundreds of bats.

    I have played Vampire Survivors twice - that’s two (2) times - in total. In only that short space of time, the arcade-style game has sunk its teeth into me. You swat away hordes of monsters with weapons and magic that fire automatically. All it needs from you is one hand on the wheel. You are, in essence, the pale captain of a battleship that must weave its way through demons and bats. The garlic and holy water cannons will take care of the rest.

    Not only do I crave more vampiric survival, but I also wish it had been released years ago. This is the perfect pre-lesson huddle. The perfect after-school treat. A nerdy talk generator for those locker chats.

  • Image for Startup Panic is a fun management game about a social media company, but will it be as bold as I'd like?

    I often find myself intrigued by games where you have to manage a business - not the slow, thoughtful ones like Strange Horticulture (which I like for a different reason), but the surprisingly deep management ones that are like strategy games except for coffee production instead of war.

    I am usually catastrophically bad at these games, as I lack the sheer nerve to commit all my assets to something at once, or take out loans to cover a product run, even in a fictional digital setting. Still, I was drawn to Startup Panic like a moth to a flame, and giggled to myself at the prospect of cosplaying as a Silicon Valley nerd trying to reinvent having a chicken coop. I called my founder Beth, and the company was therefore Betherium. But it turned out that the product I was tasked with making and selling was, basically, Facebook.