Summer of Gaming, part 1

This will not come as a surprise to anyone who follows my monthly reading roundups: I consume novels in what could be described as a voracious manner. I do re-read a favorite book from time to time, but mostly I pick up and devour new-to-me books–on the ARC table, in a used bookstore, on sale for my Kindle–as though I were paid to do so. I suppose I consume television and movies in this way, too, although at a less greedy pace.

But for other media, specifically music and video games, I am very slow to acquire and acclimate to new releases. Once a song gets into my head, I’ll listen to it repeatedly for years. Once I’ve played a video game I love, I’ll go back and play it again and again, particularly if is the sort of video game that encourages different plot and character permutations. One of my cherished relaxing activities this spring has been replaying the Mass Effect trilogy with my neighbor, who has only seen it in Tumblr gifsets. (We are playing a vanguard Shepherd who is neither paragon nor renegade but simply sick of your shit, and he is in a slow-burn romance with Kaiden, and it is a great story.)

But I subscribe to a service that releases some of its games for free every month, so I have an enormous backlog of games I’ve not finished and some I haven’t even started. This is the summer I play them. Well, as many of them as is feasible. And then I will come back and review them as I do for my books.


Borderlands 2. Loved this. It’s visually arresting, the music and voice acting is great, the gameplay is challenging for me but somewhat forgiving of my lack of finesse. (My strategy: run up and throw an elemental grenade, run far away and snipe from cover.) The story escalates beautifully, and I appreciated the throwbacks to the first Borderlands (which I started but did not finish). This game is also fairly violent, graphic, and noisy, so I really should not have played any of it before bed–gave me tense, busy dreams–but once I got into a groove of not getting myself killed, I didn’t want to stop looting and discovering new locations. I enjoyed being in this crazy world so much that immediately after defeating the final boss I played:

Tales from the Borderlands, episode 1. Everyone I know loves Tell Tale Games, but while I do get nostalgia for the old point-and-click adventure, I’m not wild about the fighting system. Yet before I knew it, Rhys and Fiona and I were wrapping up the first part of our story. I definitely want to see what happens next, but only the first episode was free, and the rest may have to wait until I’ve fulfilled my no-new-games-until-goals-are met bargain.

In progress:

Dance Central 3. I actually picked this one up at a used bookstore and it will no doubt be the best $8 I spend all summer. I love this stupid game. It could just be a platform that encourages you to dance in your own living room to all the songs that make you shout “THAT’S MY JAM” in a club. But they don’t stop there! There’s an evil anti-dance villain, an underground organization dedicated to saving dance, and time travel. It’s hilariously dumb.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I thought I was going to love this, but it’s a little off-putting to be the bad guy in a story you love. Still, I’ll likely go back so that I have the background before I play the sequel.

Borderlands. This game was released for free before the other two, but I found it much slower and less engaging. I felt like I was playing for years and I was still wandering around the badlands, bored of shooting skags. Should I go back and finish? Or move onto other enterprises? I’m not sure.

Beyond Good and Evil HD. A throwback from old Xbox that was upgraded for the 360. It’s a great game–nice looking, fun and imaginative gameplay (you take photos instead of shooting everything you see)–but I’ve never finished it in either format, and I’d like to.

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I adore this ridiculous game, but I hate the Oblivion gates. My most recent playthrough stops just before defending Martin Septim from an open gate; my Kajiit mage is powerful enough to speed-run through the plane worlds, but doesn’t have the right skillset to keep Martin alive. I keep thinking I’ll go back and build whatever tools I need to save him, but I’m already head of three guilds, so I’d basically be level grinding at this point.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. A gorgeous, non-violent puzzle game that requires me to be a little smarter than I am when I get home at the end of a long day.

Dishonored. A great game, but I dropped it just before the masked ball because that’s when I bought Inquisition and played it an embarrassing number of times. By the time I went back to it, I’d forgotten the controls. I’ve heard wonderful things about Dishonored 2 and would like to spend a little more time in that world before I eventually level up to the next gen console; I’m thinking I may need to start over from the beginning to get back in the groove. I’d like to kill fewer people this time anyway.

Under consideration:

LEGO Star Wars: TCS

Star Wars: The Force Unleased II.

This is just one storage device and a couple of discs worth. I have a whole other memory stick with long-abandoned games including Assassin’s Creed II, The Witcher II, Mirror’s Edge, and more. I don’t feel bad about this, exactly–as I said, they were free downloads that came with a service that I bought for other reasons. But I do feel a little echo of what I feel about reading new books: there are so many great stories out there, and I know I’m never going to get to them all, but shouldn’t I at least sample as many as I can?

Anyway, comments welcome. Loved any of these games? Found them a waste of time?


6 thoughts on “Summer of Gaming, part 1”

  1. One of my favorite gaming memories ever was playing through the first two Borderlands games with my brother-in-law and a couple of friends. This being pre-Audrey, we had a whole routine where we’d sign in at a certain hour and play through the late hours of the morning. 20XX male bonding experiences.

    I recently replayed Zelda: Breath of the Wild (it’s only been out four months, but yes, two full playthroughs) and thought about it while I was reading this column. Look, you have to get your hands on it if you haven’t already. It’s the rare game where YOU define your adventures and what they mean. Everything bad happened thousands of years ago, and there’s no hurry on defeating Ganon. Maybe you want to go into the forest with an axe and chop down trees to collect apples; maybe you want to have a fish fry and spend a couple of hours just cooking up dishes for Link to eat. You can go mountain climbing; once, I was exploring an empty mountain in the middle of nowhere and found a man who wanted to give a girl some flowers. I had some, and I passed them on with his compliments, and then I sledded down the mountain. Once, I was fighting a lizard and he shot a lightning arrow at me and it missed and hit the water and zapped his buddies. Once, I went to help a guy out and he turned into a powerful wizard and took a shot at me and I ran away. NONE of that happened the first time I played through. It feels like anything is possible and there are a million stories that are yours and yours alone. Anyway. I liked it.

    1. Hello! I appreciated this comment when it appeared but I am terrible at blogging these days and forgot to follow up. I love the idea of a game like Borderlands as a co-op adventure. I know that’s a big part of the game, but I don’t know too many people who have the same console I have and enjoy the same games I enjoy. I played a smidge of Fable 2 with my brother and a few rounds of online Settlers of Catan with a middle school friend who trounced me. I’ve enjoyed the multiplayer functions of DA:I and ME3 when my wifi permits. Otherwise I trudge through gameworlds as a solitary warrior and that’s certainly one way to do it, especially for Borderlands, but I miss out on social gameplay.

      What you describe about Breath of the Wild sounds like what I love about the Elder Scrolls games–they are vast and open and populated with NPCs with their own agendas. Skyrim more than most tries to nudge the player to do a little of everything–lead all the guilds! serve all the religions!–but if only because of the size, you can experience the joy of discovery and completely different character development with each playthrough. I don’t think any Zelda properties will be coming to Xbox anytime soon, but I’ve had a few glimpses of the new game from the Tumblr blogs I follow, and I actually do enjoy seeing/hearing about it secondhand!

  2. […] Last summer, I committed to playing–and completing, if possible–as many last-generation console games as I could. I’m slow to adopt new tech, so even though the new console had already been available for three years, I made my usual excuses: my old one still works, there were still so many games I’d never played on it, I didn’t need the timesuck in my limited leisure time, I didn’t need the wallet pressure until I’d paid off my grad school debt. And you know what? Last summer I had a lot of fun playing and writing up games no one else was playing anymore. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s