A Little Update on What I’ve Been Playing

So, I haven’t posted any reviews or anything for a while. There are plenty of reasons for this, not least of which involves moving jobs, moving house and immersing myself wholeheartedly into Elden Ring. I’m not trying to make excuses here, but much like those friends you swore you’d call but never did, the first message is always the hardest, the same is true of writing for me.

Enough rambling about me, I’m here to try and blow the cobwebs away and let the literary arachnids run amuck all up in this site. What better way to do that than highlight a few of the games I actually have been playing and give them a little recommendation (or not). These aren’t going to be full reviews, just my top-level thoughts, but you can hopefully get a feel as to whether any of these are your bag and worth checking out.

Slay the Spire

At any given point, I think you should assume that I am playing Slay the Spire, it is a game that was seemingly made just for me. A rogue-like deck builder in which you must grow stronger and ascend the many, many floors of “The Spire” to face off against a frankly unfair final boss. That is of course, unless you have an unfair combination of cards of your own populating your deck.

At the start of each run you can choose from one of four classes, each with a unique starting relic (which grants a permanent effect), some signature cards and a handful of basic attack and defend cards. From here you scale the tower, reaching randomised events, shops alongside standard and boss battles.

Each turn in Slay The Spire offers completely new opportunities than what came before thanks to a clever mechanic which means that you must discard your hand at the end of each turn. When it is your turn to play you can see everything you need to make informed decisions – the trick is to strike a balance between building block and dealing damage, each turn your block is reset to zero, so there is a lot of clever decision making you’ll have to tackle if you want to make it to the top.

This is the most basic level of STS, throughout each run you’ll gain new relics, cards and potions to experiment with, and this is where the fun really lies in this unassuming card-battler.

Cooking up new recipes as cards, relics and potions interact is an absolute joy making you truly feel like a mad chef. Every run there is the possibility to discover a mix like bacon and pancakes, equally, you could end up feeling like the chef who just decided to try blue cheese for the first time – and that’s part of the fun. Whether these synergies lead to dishing out ludicrous amounts of damage or turning you into an immovable object with an insurmountable block stat, it is never anything less than a good time. Something about big numbers really gets me going, y’know.

The only gripe I can really have with STS is the presentation, graphically, it looks like something built in Flash, but for something so mechanically driven, I don’t really mind that. What winds me up more though is the music, it is so humdrum and dreary. I get that everything doesn’t need to be upbeat, but perhaps a bit more variety amongst the track would go a long way to remedying the monotony.

Overall, if you like card games, Slay the Spire is the best on the market, it is dirt-cheap and if you’re anything like me, you’ll sink 70+ hours in, easy. If you aren’t a fan of deck-builders however, I doubt this can do anything to change your mind.

Shadow Warrior 3

Do you like Doom? Yes? Then you’ll probably like Shadow Warrior 3. I could just leave it there, but I won’t.

Overall, comparing any title to Doom isn’t going to set you up for success, how can you really compete with the pioneers of the genre and one of the most mechanically tight shooters in years? The answer, unfortunately is that you can’t. That doesn’t make SW3 a bad game, far from it – nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others so long as you do it right.

In the gameplay department, it does it very right. Each firefight has a nice dose of katana swinging and hot lead shooting action. There’s also the “Doom thing” of having to manage your ammo and special meter, it’s a tried and true formula, and it is implemented well here. The kinetic action is certainly a highlight, with inspiration clearly pulled from Id’s masterclasses, alongside Serious Sam, which again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The many, many arena battles are broken up by brief platforming sections, which surprisingly are a lot of fun. With a grappling hook and air-dash at your disposal, there’s plenty of room for creativity within the level design, even if it doesn’t quite reach the highs of something like Respawn’s Titanfall 2.  

It is outside the combat that the game struggles however, heavily suffering from “the-protagonist-can’t-shut-his-mouthitis” with endless quips being peppered throughout combat and story moments – it loses its charm fairly fast. The story also isn’t anything to write home about, other than the raccoon character – I love raccoons. The music is serviceable yet forgettable, the menus, again serviceable, look drab and uninspired, doing little more than getting the job done.

Overall, the gameplay is fast, fun and never outstays it’s welcome, helped by a break-neck pace which clocks it in at around 4-5 hours in total. If you are here for a quick action game and an action game only, you can have a fun weekend with Shadow Warrior 3 for sure, if you’re looking for something more than that though, you’ll be left feeling short-changed.   

Guilty Gear Strive

I haven’t got into a fighting game for a long time now, Super Smash Bros excluded of course. The last time I was truly invested would have to be Street Fighter 4, which came out in 2008. Wait, 2008? Really?

Anyway, when I saw Guilty Gear Strive, I was instantly intrigued – it looked absolutely gorgeous. Come on, just look at some of these characters; you have my girl Giovanna, a detective who is haunted(?) by the ghost of a bright green wolf. You’ve got May the pirate girl who is able to summon sea creatures to help here in battle, she’s also wielding an anchor nearly twice her size. You have my guy Sol Badguy, he turns into the devil sometimes which is pretty sweet. The vampire samurai, the witch with an electric guitar, I could go on, It is one heck of a roster. You don’t need to know who these guys are in the story or lore, this is kept totally separate which is welcome, it’s perhaps more fun to make up your own lore around why these misfits are fighting.

I was also happy to hear that this is an ideal entry point for the series, as Arc System Works’ previous titles have all had a seemingly insurmountable learning curve. On top of all this, it just looks cool as hell in motion, and let me tell you – it is.

You boot up this 1v1 fighter and you are hit by a wall of butt-rock, big swords and even bigger hair, par for the course when it comes to anime. It could come off as obnoxious, if it wasn’t so charming. I mean this soundtrack is really something else, give it a listen, and if that doesn’t make you want to at least dip your toes in here, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, when you get to actually playing the thing, it feels as good as it looks. Guilty Gear differentiates itself from other fighters on the market by placing the main emphasis on aggression. You are rewarded for every aggressive action anything from dashing in, landing combos and even just walking forwards builds meter which allows for more special actions, in turn allowing you to build more meter. You are also heavily penalised for sitting back, with the threat of losing your entire meter if you retreat for too long. This keeps Guilty Gear matches from turning into something like Guile mirror matches from Street Fighter where both players just crouch in opposite corners of the screen. I haven’t even begun to talk about some of the insane stuff you can do with wall breaks, Roman Cancels and so much more, it is truly as deep as an ocean.

You can tell that I am into this as my YouTube feed is now full of GG content, learning phrases like “oki” and “plus on block” isn’t something I thought I’d ever be able to get into, but here we are. I’ve even been jumping into the exceptional online multiplayer, flawless matchmaking means that I never get too annoyed, and the connection is up to the task of keeping up with the lightning fast action on screen. I’m told that’s something to do with “rollback net code”, but I’m too dumb to understand that. This newly discovered competitive side of me means that I’m stoked to watch Guilty Gear at Evo 2022 and see some professional players go head to head.

The fact I am so high on this should say a lot about the game, if a layman like me can have this much fun, then I can only imagine how long the FGC will be uncovering its secrets. If you are even a little curious about what the fighting game genre is all about, it doesn’t get much better than this, surely.

So there you have it, a few of the titles I’ve been on with during my time away from writing. I have a few more that I intend to include in a follow-up piece, but for now, I feel content with breaking the ice and trying to get into more a habit with this. I’ve been trying out quite a mix of games, so I might try and do more of these mini reviews and bundle them together like this one, rather than clog your feed with multiple posts, nobody wants that.

Let me know what you thought of these games, or if you’re intending to check them out. Maybe you’re still on with Elden Ring, if so, I’m genuinely jealous. Anyway, peace out.

Jeez, I’m not ending this post on that – See ya. That’s better, probably.

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