There’s too many epic video games and not enough mellow ones – Reader’s Feature

A reader finds himself incapable of choosing what game to play next and settles for Flower and Journey over Elden Ring.

I’m in a bit of an odd spot with gaming at the moment. For a while now I’ve had real trouble getting into anything new. It’s certainly not been for want of available choice. I’m lucky enough to have a sizeable and reasonably varied game backlog, across multiple formats, which I often contemplate trying to clear. Plus, though I’m still very much in the previous generation, both Elden Ring and Horizon Forbidden West are things I like the idea of getting to grips with one day, even if I have to do so in their last gen forms.

However, since I platinumed Bloodborne last summer, I’ve genuinely found it difficult to get into anything else, long term.

I have tried. Paper Beast (once I stopped being freaked out by a persistent, flailing creature in a cave early on) held me for a bit, but it didn’t last. I’ve had a couple of stabs at getting into Cyberpunk 2077 since launch, but the first try barely got past the character creation screen before I canned it, preferring to wait until a verified patch had made the game stable.

The subsequent attempt saw me completely overawed by the sheer size and scope of the game world once I’d made it out into Night City proper and the missions started pouring in.

I had a similar feeling during my brief flirtation with Mass Effect Legendary Edition, chosen for a spin as I loved the games on PlayStation 3 and had a sudden rose-tinted craving for some shiny, shiny nostalgia. Yet after choosing my first away team and making my way down to Eden Prime to investigate, I just froze at the prospect of the enormity of all that was to come. I thought of all those conversations, moral dilemmas, and epic shootouts ahead and just couldn’t face committing to the task.

Amongst others, Disco Elysium, Dark Souls 2 and 3, and The Last Of Us Part 2 are all standing by and are very much things I’d like to experience one day. But somehow, the drive to fire them up and get stuck in hasn’t kicked in yet either. I’m sure many would understand my lack of desire to plunge myself straight into another From game in the immediate aftermath of Bloodborne, but something about seeing the sun rise over Yharnam for the final ending of the three seems to have completely stifled my appetite for any other kind of long form video game related shenanigans.

Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of their games, but that recent Ubisoft announcement about them wanting to use ‘the power of the cloud’ to create even bigger in-game worlds really made me shudder. A future where games as huge and sprawling as current AAA releases are completely eclipsed is a very intimidating prospect for someone who’s currently feeling inexplicably daunted by the prospect of embarking on a relatively modest 20 to 30 hour title.

Technically, the last game I played was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It was only a couple of quick(-ish) blasts though, as the first batch of retro DLC courses released on the 18th and by morning of the 20th I had triple gold star rankings on both new cups at all CCs. I always enjoy my time with Mario Kart 8 and even though I will concede the new visuals are broadly a step back from those in the main game, I’m more than happy to be getting so much extra content for the definitive entry in one of my all-time favourite series – all for the equivalent of less than 50p a track.

Phase One was a short, sharp blast of fun, but now I’ve bested it I’m hardly (chain) chomping at the bit to plough a huge amount more time into an eight (!) year old game I’ve already spent the best part of 100 hours on. In all probability I’ll be waiting for the second wave of retro cups to drop before I go back again.

I’ve also got Back 4 Blood on the go semi-regularly, with a small group of friends.

Throughout the various Covid lockdowns we’d have sessions of Star Wars: Squadrons, but the lack of game modes and the fact that at least half our sessions were taken up trying to get everyone up to speed on the controls somewhat soured a couple of them on the game.

Back 4 Blood’s more immediately familiar format, and the more traditional sense of progression through levels and objectives, has proven a much more compelling and enjoyable draw for us. Despite our time being limited by the realities of work, and in some cases parenthood, we’re slowly grinding our way through the relentless hordes once every couple of weeks. It’s hardly a reinvention of the gaming wheel, or a state-of-the-art graphical showcase, but with friends it’s an enjoyable enough way to pass the time.

As for solo gaming, something which has been a major hobby of mine for most of my life, I’m going through a pretty long, barren patch. For various reasons, last month I was pretty stressed out and, after restlessly looking for something to play to take my mind off things, I happened upon both Flower and Journey in my library. I owned and played both on the PlayStation 3, way back when they were first released, but since their then next gen updates were free for me to download some time ago, I took advantage and, last month, I was really glad that I had.

Neither are hard games. Nor are they particularly long or terribly involved. Flower is almost entirely motion controlled, and Journey’s simple, but elegant platforming could hardly be described as a challenge. But in their own ways they both have a relaxing and soothing ambience; unlike almost any other games I can think of. I played them both through from start to finish, back-to-back, over the course of a few evenings, and if anything, found them to be better than I remembered.

Journey in particular has a fantastic visual style throughout and despite its short run time really does manage to earn its name by taking you on a rich and rewarding voyage of discovery. And it does so without overburdening you with plot, dialogue, exposition, or even confronting you with any kind of moral choice, much less one upon which the fate of the entire galaxy could hinge.

There was even a touching moment during the final stretch of the game where I was joined by another anonymous traveller and we both spent the penultimate icy trek up the mountain’s peak trying to keep each other’s stamina scarves (I don’t know what else to call them) charged against the relentless chill of the freezing winds. I’ll never know who they were, but the brief and simple interaction was genuinely uplifting at the time.

And Flower is just beautiful. Again, it tells a simple but, in its own way, powerful story. In a gaming landscape dominated by ammo counters, revving engines, massive explosions, and reams of stats relating to how much damage your double-handed demon sword can deal in a single cleave, it was lovely to spend a few hours bringing light, life, and colour to the digital world in such a gentle, peaceful way.

I’m certainly not going to claim I’ve become some kind of gaming pacifist. Yes, I’ve struggled through two Dishonored games and Deus Ex: Human Revolution without killing anyone for Trophies, but by and large, I’m quite happy to engage in acts of digital destruction all day, everyday. Nor do I think my days of wanting to pretend to save the universe, the world or even just the city by wreaking as much carnage as possible are over. It was just nice to break the usual conventions of gaming with two such artfully constructed experiences.

I know they’re old, and I’ve no idea if they’re available for PlayStation 5, but I’d recommend either title to anyone who hasn’t already played them. I just wish I knew what to try next that would help me recapture my affinity for more conventional, longer-form, more involved solo games.

I loved my time in the gothic, nightmare world of the PlayStation 4’s most critically acclaimed exclusive. Perfecting a winning strategy against the Watchdog of the Old Lords, overcoming the hideous Brain of Mensis, slaying Martyr Logarius, Ludwig, the various Amygdalas, and putting an end to the suffering of the Orphan of Kos and Lady Yharnam herself were all immensely satisfying experiences.

Even the frustrating confrontations with Micolash and the personally uncomfortable fights against Rom weren’t enough to sour me on any part of the game. But ever since it ended, the prospect of immersing myself in another, epic digital world and working my way through its systems and story just hasn’t been enough to tempt me to put in the effort required.

I don’t know what From have done to me, but I really hope it doesn’t last much longer, or I’ll still be looking at the same unfinished/un-started clutch of PlayStation 4/Switch games when the PlayStation 6/Switch 2 are out.

By reader yourhomeisatrisk

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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