The mid 90s were largely the point where I’d ducked out from keeping up with videogames, unwisely choosing an almost self destructive fuck it all hedonistic lifestyle instead.
Not entirely, mind – I rushed to grab a PlayStation as soon as I could but it was quickly relegated to night time to early morning background noise and to my eternal pride, recovering from hangovers playing largely stress free games aimed more at kids.
Admittedly, I did grab a PC a few years later but, erm, yeah. Didn’t really do much with that beyond running up huge phone bills via the medium of the internet.
Anyway! So not only do I not remember huge chunks of the nineties, my videogame and related things knowledge has a huge gap that I’ve slowly been enjoying filling in. Cos you know, missing out on chunks of videogames just means more games to try! The best kind of silver lining, if you ask me.
Of course, it also means I’m often on the lookout not just for guidance around what to play but to read about the games and ephemera around them that I missed. (As a side note, much love to folks like Anatoly for not only being lovely but also a treasure trove of knowledge around stuff that passed me by.)
Once again though, Rebind are poking at stuff that tends to remain unpoked at (that’s the technical term) by a lot of folks, in this case it’s a Games For Windows 95 sampler.
Molyneux only knows how long I relied on cover tapes, cover disks, demo discs and what have you to discover new games.
When I did find my way back to videogames at the start of the century, I threw what little money I had down on magazines with ridiculous amounts of stuff thrown onto coverdisks to tide me over between big box videogames. I have a certain level of thankfulness for this sort of thing because without demo and cover disks, I doubt I’d have quite the eclectic tastes I do have. I certainly didn’t have the money to buy my way to one, you know?
Have a read of Rebind then and don’t forget they also have a Patreon where you can support them with money if you’ve got some spare.
I know it’s almost like the Ubi-game fan club round these parts this month but I promise, that’s mainly because I’m clearing out a backlog of things I meant to post but didn’t.
I enjoyed my time with Far Cry 5 a lot though it certainly had its Very Ubisoft issues with magic villains and a side order of out of place Very Ubisoft nastiness, amongst other things.
It’s par for the course with the main entries into the Far Cry series, that’s 3 out of 3 now since folks settled on the icon clearing formula where the joyous systemic chaos of crashing a car into a tree, accidentally setting fire to some wildlife then getting into a boat just to crash that into a tree and now everything is on fire and is that a bear, oh no is offset by the edgy and ill fitting nonsense of a story.
Maybe I’d appreciate it more were I fourteen or something, I dunno! That was quite a long time ago now.
The inbetweeny games are where I look to for the more interesting stuff. Blood Dragon misfired as much as it worked but painful tutorial aside, made a great showcase for how well the base raiding silliness works with a lot of the peripheral stuff sidelined even further or removed entirely. Primal’s riff on survival clearly filtered through to Days Gone and stretched the formula a bit. New Dawn, on the other hand, felt a lot like the game I wanted Far Cry 5 to be.
With only a short interlude into absurd magic mans stuff and its embrace of allowing the player even more freedom with few interruptions, it fixed a lot of the issues of 5. Also! What an amazingly beautiful game!
Its colourful view of a post nuclear future incredibly at odds with the usual videogame grey and green dullness gave the folks working on the map rework the leeway to go to town. Still very much the photorealism of Ubi games that we’re used to but now with a slightly more fantastical bent and honestly, I loved it.
I’m not sure I could, in good conscience, recommend anyone play through the Lost On Mars DLC for Far Cry 5 as it’s honestly quite a chore.
For reasons I can’t entirely fathom, just moving around is quite atrocious (something I’m not used to seeing in recent videogames). It’s not Driv3r levels of bad but it certainly does take a lot of patience to tolerate.
Rather unfortunately, it’s a pain compounded by also having to tolerate erstwhile Far Cry companion and all-round obnoxiously loud recurring character Hurk throughout. One of those characters that’s probably more enjoyable to write and perform than to have to endure, even when they’ve been dismembered, as is the case for this DLC.
However! It is an obscenely good looking thing. Pitched somewhere between Starship Troopers and prog rock album, it’s astoundingly beautiful.
There’s a real sense of fun to the art as the game takes place in what may as well be a quarry masquerading as Mars and recycles scenes from Far Cry 5 but now in traditional videogame floating-rock-dream areas to break up the monotony. Much like New Dawn later would put old work to a new, revitalised, purpose, the same can be said for Lost On Mars. But in space.
I’m not going to fib, I sat through the DLC from start to finish precisely because it’s so very up my street visually. I had great fun finding new corners of the map to take photos in, even when the game seemed determined to make that painful.
Whilst the best Far Cry In Space game remains The Signal From Tölva (I can’t believe I haven’t put proper words down about this yet!), I’m an absolute sucker for how Lost On Mars looks and would relish a full on proper Space! entry into the Far Cry universe.
But then again, there’s very few games I wouldn’t want a full on proper Space! variation of. I am me, after all.
I’m near forty hours in on this thing at the mo and so far I’ve visited precisely three parts of the enormous map because it’s such a delicious looking videogame that I keep getting distracted. Why do a quest when you can climb a hill?
I can well imagine someone looking for a story with some stabbing would find Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey outstaying its welcome but I’m not that person. I am absolutely enraptured by the world folks have built and so, more than happy to get lost in it. And I absolutely do get lost in it, it’s gorgeous.
In all honesty, there’s a strong likelihood that Technician Ted might well be the game I played the most of during the eighties, even allowing for the existence of Jet Set Willy. I really like that strand of platformer, okay?
Going back to it in recent years and I’m not entirely sure how I managed it given the difficulty curve could politely be described as “vertical”. Not only is it brutally hard but at a certain point, it ups the difficulty even further by draining your lives without you having to put in any effort.
I’ve talked about this on here before and with the additional wrinkle that Ted is a scab.
However, I still have a fondness for it despite everything. I’m still disappointed that the follow up, Costa Capers, just wasn’t good at all and a further game managed to be so awfully racist that even C&VG couldn’t ignore it, offering a “if you can ignore the background…” as scant consolation.
Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah, Technician Ted then. Rob (another Rob, not me or the other Rob) takes an amble through the game for a short while and it’s fascinating to see how someone else takes to this wickedly unfair work, experiencing it for the first time.
I spend a lot, like *a lot*, of time in games not so much idling in the videogame sense but being idle within the videogame world. I’m present, not away from the keyboard or controller, I’m doing something but in videogame terms it’s not a productive something.
In the first Destiny I would hop around the tower, leaping into plant pots, sitting down and spinning the camera around. I’d nip onto planets ostensibly to do patrols but often, just finding a nice spot to watch the action unfold. My favourite spot used to be on top of a cliff on Mars, just above a battleground where Vex and Cabal would fight each other. Or, if I felt a bit fruity, climbing atop a platform on the Dreadnought bouncing about, looking at the chaos unfolding below.
In Destiny 2, I’ll spend ages and ages meandering around the new tower (the farm seems like a long time ago now). Bungie have crafted an incredible space, full of nooks and crannies. It’d be rude not to have a look around.
Due to the way other characters are dotted around the map, a lot of areas are bustling, but also plenty aren’t. There’s no videogame reason for me to be meandering around the scaffolding that surrounds the tower but, bluntly, I just like looking around the place so why not?
In No Man’s Sky, I’ll zip around the nexus watching the pretty colours of my jetpack trail fade away. I’ll talk to characters who’ll just shrug me off because their utility in game has long passed. It’s almost like I’m checking in on them to make sure they’re okay. I’m sometimes sad that I can’t visit Artemis, I wonder how they’re getting on in their own simulation. It would be nice to be able to say hello sometime.
No Man’s Sky, like Proteus before it, is a wonderful game to just be in. There’s the odd planet where I’ll get no peace, either storms will tear at my life support or super angry robots will harass me for the crime of possibly disturbing a tiny rock on their oh so perfect planet. Mainly though? Mainly it’s easy for me to find my own peace on a virtual alien world inside No Man’s Sky.
Maybe it’s sitting watching the wildlife bustle around me, maybe it’s visiting a space coach station and watching traders come and go in their spaceships, idly scanning their spaceships in the hope that perhaps one might be the S class design I desire and so, be able to make an offer to buy it. Livens things up a bit sometimes, you know?
Sometimes, it’s flying low in my spaceship. Point it in the direction I fancy heading off in and, well, nothing else. The whole point is nothing else. I’m sitting at home, listening to music! Why not do that and soak up the sights of an alien world?
If I ever fancy something vaguely productive, I’ve got ten storage crates on an enormous capital ship. They could always do with a bit of a tidy. A little bit of a sorting out, as a treat.
Any game that leaves me alone to just walk around, jump around, fly around, tidy an inventory up or something without bothering me, I’m probably going to spend more time doing that than whatever the game tasks me with.
This console generation has saw people build these most amazing worlds and yeah, I totally think about how much effort goes into giving me these places to be in. It’s partly why I love a good photo mode, I can marvel at the work that goes in to making somewhere exist, somewhere I can never see for real. I can peek into every corner, zoom in on details I’d miss were I rushing past. A virtual mindfulness session, or something.
Just being, within a game, is nothing new for me. I’ve always, always found myself doing little in the way of videogame when the mood takes me. There’s a reason Jet Set Willy changed how I viewed games, sure it was plenty of videogame but also a strange, unbelievable mansion, full of the most curious things. Load it up, task myself with visiting a specific place. Do just that. On more tired days, WRITETYPER and go, unbothered.
Aside from being somewhere, it’s a reminder that these are worlds built from imagination, curious and unreal. Places that simply cannot, nor will ever be able to exist. Something I love in books, in films, why Dr Who remains my TV love for conjuring new worlds year over year.
And why, for everything else videogames have worked into their worlds, the most valuable thing they’ve ever added is a button that lets me sit my character down in the game world, to be able to spend time somewhere impossible, to find my peace in someone else’s dreams.
Don’t know what it is about Jedi Academy inspiring some neat pieces of writing but I’m certainly grateful for it, whatever it is.
It helps that Rebind is a personal fave of a site right now. It’s absolutely chock full of great and thoughtful pieces covering the length and breadth of games with a lovely emphasis on games that really deserve your eyeballs.
Anyhoo. Catching up a bit tonight and this piece on Jedi Academy makes a strong point about giving the player breathing room and how it relates to toxicity. I’ve been playing a lot of games which blur the line between entertainment and being put to work in recent months and yeah, basically. Yeah.