For anyone who has been following the progress of Purple DadShep–my final playthrough of the entire Mass Effect trilogy accompanied by my friend and neighbor–we have responded to the events of Tuchanka and the Citadel by becoming staunchly Paragon (unless mercs and jerks are really getting on our nerves); those are two quests that really test your commitment to the middle road, and we came so close to losing two important characters that it felt like a natural turning point. Of course, we may have softened up after the Cerberus attack because we finally locked it down with Kaiden, and it was absolutely worth the slow burn across two and a half games. (“It does. It does feel right. After all this time.”) We’re so close to finishing ME3 and I’ll be a little sad when it’s all over. We even started playing another game to avoid that final stretch on Earth, although that wasn’t entirely ME3’s fault.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It’s mildly tempting to try to unlock all the achievements for this one. Aside from collecting all the collectibles, most of the achievements relate to having specific characters fight one another–for example, I scored one when my default Qui Gon character accidentally started a brawl in the Cantina where all your minifigs hang out between episodes, and Qui Gon killed Darth Maul instead of the other way around. But I’m extremely uncomfortable typing about minifigs murdering each other, which kind of encapsulate my issues with the game.
Tomb Raider (2013). I started this years ago, but didn’t get very far for the same reason that appears in most reviews of this game: one grows weary of watching Lara die in graphic cutscenes. In the early stages, when I was still getting used to the controls, I watched her be crushed by rocks, have her throat torn out by a wolf, and get axed and throttled by the mysterious scary men who presence on the deserted island had not yet been explained.
But I’ve gotten better at playing games generally–multiple runs through ME and DA on increasingly difficulty levels had a payoff!–and as I got better at not dying, I had time to enjoy the beautifully crafted landscapes, tomb puzzles, and cinematic elements (including good voice acting). I think I spent about three evenings after work completing this game–it was like reading a suspenseful book, I didn’t want to put it down.
Incidentally, I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, which has not gotten very positive attention so far. But I was astonished at how much of the trailer was drawn directly from the game: Lara’s opening scene leap from a sinking ship and her precarious walk across a wrecked plane are adapted visually verbatim. I’m fascinated by this media loop–gameplay is inspired by action movies, becomes an action movie based on the game–and I liked the game enough that I will go see this movie even if it’s terrible.
Borderlands (the first one). I didn’t really latch onto this game when I first played it–I seemed to be stuck in the Arid Badlands forever, I kept getting killed, and it wasn’t fun. But after I played and completed Borderlands 2, I wanted to spend some more time in that world. Which is weird, because it’s a lot more bloody and creepy and noisy than I usually prefer for my evening entertainment. But there’s something about the graphic style and gameplay that is very satisfying. I love discovering new areas and collecting cool weapons, I don’t know what to tell you. So I went back to Borderlands, and while I missed a few utilities and upgrades that were present in Borderlands 2, I really enjoyed uncovering (and occasionally being surprised by) the backstory of the characters and locations I first met in the sequel.
Sims 3. If you’re a long-time Sims aficionado like myself, the console version is probably not for you. There are many aspects of the PC game you can’t enjoy, like placing more than one family in your neighborhood, switching between families, editing town lots, and cheating. There’s very little the console version offers that’s new or different than the PC, except for the slightly annoying Karma points. And yet! I bought the game deeply on sale–violating my rule to not buy any new games this year–in a bout of retail therapy, and it was so soothing and nostalgic to go through the painstaking process of creating a person and laboriously leveling up their life. The game’s limitations slow it down, which is actually a way I always meant to play The Sims–up close, watching all the little surprising interactions between town NPCs and their tiny world–which is easily overlooked when you’re playing in God mode.
It still sucks that you can’t switch between houses; I made a family full of characters from The Good Place and gave them the worst traits (Neurotic, Inappropriate, Snob, etc.) and intended to watch them at a distance, but when you move a Sim out of a house on the console, what remains of their household just disappears.
Life is Strange. I enjoyed this so much that I almost immediately cajoled my neighbor into checking out the game so I could start a new playthrough with new choices. This is a stunning game: it’s visually very beautiful and unique, with its soft Square Enix style highlighting the gentle, otherwordly beauty of its sleepy coastal town and art college. The soundtrack is phenomenal; slightly older than its young students, the music adds layers of warmth, nostalgia, and melancholy. The protagonist, Max Caulfield, is a delight; she has all the sweetness and positivity of Dreamfall‘s Zoe Castillo, but also an appealing shyness and reflective self-awareness. I became very skeptical about halfway through, when it seemed that the plot was dipping into some very conventional and boring “pretty dead girl” stuff, but I was genuinely surprised by the twist and the game’s iron backbone in addressing those darker elements. And as I said, I wanted to return to this delicate world and try to treat it a little better, knowing what I know now.
Beyond Good and Evil HD
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
In which your narrator is attempting to play all the free games she’s downloaded on Xbox 360 before she treats herself to the next gen.
Tales from the Borderlands, episode 1
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 1 and 2
Dance Central 3
Elder Scrolls: Oblivion