Maybe it’s the hefty weight of 2019 but I can’t say I was expecting pangs of nostalgia for videogames from around ten or so years ago.
Swordlord isn’t, as far as I’m aware, from ten years ago but it really, really, really wouldn’t sit out of place there. You know, before XBLA and Steam slowly opening the doors to more videogames changed the landscape of games to something akin to what we have now.
Swordlord feels like the kind of game I’d have been quite excited to write about then. It’s small, it has the most absurdly silly physics and (this bit is important) is a game about hitting enemies really, really hard with weaponry until they pop, leaving a mound of cash for you to pick up. It’s kind of early Cactus via Hammer fall/Hammerfight but without the intensity of either.
You run around in circles obnoxiously fast, deciding which direction you’re going to swing your weapon in and hit anything that comes close to you. And in the game. It’s not exactly complicated.
At the end of each round, you can do a bit of videogame shopping and providing you’ve managed to hit enough things, grab yourself a bigger weapon and then get back to skidding all over the place, swinging your sword into the face of an enemy until the enemy pops and pretty much keep doing this until you’re either finished or bored, whatever.
The thing is, Swordlord might have missed the boat for getting any attention by around a decade but I’m still excited to write about it because, to no-one’s surprise, I still really enjoy small and scratchy games that make me grin. I don’t forsee that changing anytime soon either.
Honestly, there’s every chance you may not spend more than five or ten minutes mucking round with it (or maybe like me you’ll get a wee bit too much fun out of careering round the arena like Sonic The Hedgehog with a firework up his blue behind).
Thing is, that’s okay. No-one ever said games have to be big or clever and not only that, it’s less than a quid on Steam. You could pay for it by robbing someone else’s shopping trolley at the supermarket and claiming their quid back as your own if need be. Probably don’t do that though because thinking on, that’s not the best idea I’ve ever had.
So yeah. Swordlord. You hit things with a sword and you’re a lord (probably). I liked it. I don’t remember buying it but I’m thankful to past me for acquiring it, however that happened. And, you know, it’s called Swordlord which is a pretty good videogame name too.
I’ve never really been the world’s greatest fan of Breakout/Arkanoid style games. I think maybe Batty and Shatter (though admittedly, that’s also for the soundtrack) and that’s about my lot. But you know, I can’t resist something that glows quite so wonderfully as Hot Pink does. I absolutely had to give it a go because, well, just look at it…
So yeah, it’s Breakout/Arkanoid/whatever variant you’re used to, you get one life to score as much as you can. As with all the best new arcade videogames, you’re as much wrestling with the noise caused by the effects as you are knocking the blocks off the screen. Which, you know, might not be that trying if it wasn’t for the blocks edging slowly down the screen.
The game gives you a bit of grace when you start but it isn’t long before those blocks edge perilously close to the bottom of the screen. Fail to break them in time and it’s game over.
I’ve been lucky to last a couple of minutes so far (although I love this sort of videogame, I confess that I am tremendously bad at them) but that hasn’t stopped me really, really enjoying it.
It’s available to buy from Steam and Itch, for Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s great.
Days Gone might well be the single most boring game I’ve played in years.
I love it.
It is, ostensibly, a third person Far Cry with most of the game missing. A zombie game where you’re more likely to die at the branches of a shrubbery than a zombie. A huge map filled with trees, a bit of water and maybe a building every now and then, there’s not very much to see or do in any of it. It sort of looks like Far Cry 5 does but muddier, messier, the brownest Far Cry 5. It is Fuel but with zombies instead of racing.
It is also broken in so many ways.
Seriously. The amount of glitches I’ve ran into in my time with it so far is hilariously large. From T pose characters spawning out of nowhere, events not triggering, dialogue and cut scenes repeating, buttons not working and look, I could make a big list but as many faults as there are, I don’t care that much. Just consider it a cursory warning if you’re planning on ducking in. It needs a lot of patching right now. A big whole lot.
Like I say, as amusing as the glitches can be to recount, as easy as it would be to give the game a bit of a kicking for them, they’re part the reason I really wanted to play it in the first place. I’ve been playing a lot of really polished games lately and they’re great and all that but sometimes I just want a more than slightly broken videogame with a weird libertarian bent that can be incredibly off putting. And hey, that’s Days Gone.
I like broken games. Always have. I’m one of the few people on this planet to have put nice words out there about Stalin Vs Martians after playing it. I’m ready to defend Limbo Of The Lost, if only because it has the best song in any videogame that’s not Boiling Point. And don’t start me on Ride To Help:Retribution because let me tell you, any game with that much dry humping in between MDickie style characters is solid gold and I won’t entertain any arguments.
Not gonna lie, when I heard Days Gone was more than a bit wonky, that’s when I knew I needed it. If only to see if it had any dry humping in it.
Seems as I’ve been playing it nightly since launch, I guess I really did need it and then some.
I’m not done by a long chalk (though I have looked up the rest of the story on the internet to save me some bother) for one reason, you could politely describe the game’s pace as glacial. It is in absolutely no hurry to push the story on, no hurry to let you buy weapons, bike upgrades or whatever. It is mainly a game that wants you to ride your bike to the other side of the map every twenty minutes or whatever, sometimes to just listen to two or three lines of dialogue before having to go back again.
And that is so wonderfully boring. Boring in the way American/Euro Truck Simulator can be boring, where roads and time disappear with the monotony of the journey. There’s a peace to be found there, you know? Nothing is urgent in Days Gone, not travelling, not clearing out zombies from an area (there are a few moments in the story missions where it requires being fairly pronto but they’re so brief and far apart they don’t really shift the game up a gear for very long at all).
I’m fairly sure it was never the original intent but Days Gone shipped as a slow game. A game where forty hours on, you’ll have likely covered as much ground as an Ubigame manages in two. Is that padding? Yeah! Most likely. Do I care? No, not really. I am all here for a game that wants me to take long motorcycle rides, take a brief stop off for a moment then clamber back on the bike and take another long ride.
Sure, sure, I’d prefer a videogame without the strange and uncomfortable libertarian bent where a camp full of truthers are largely used to make the rest of the game’s politics sound reasonable when they’re invariably quite obnoxious. Not defending that stuff in the slightest just as videogames are as videogames does, it’s not like I’m not largely numbed by this sort of nonsense now. If I want consideration, kindness, questioning of the status quo I’m not going to turn to Days Gone and I would recommend no-one else does also.
Ideally, the hokey politics wouldn’t be there. Obviously we should demand more. Just y’know, there are very few opportunities for me to ride a motorbike across dirt roads in a huge forest with no pressure at all. I’m not convinced the dodgy politics are a fair trade for that but right now, I’ll take it. I want to go brum brum brum and hit some zombies with a stick, okay? I know, I know. Seriously, you can judge me on that. It’s fair.
So yeah, Days Gone. It’s quite broken, has a terrible story and its politics are well dodgy. Pretty much exactly what I expected it to be going in.
And I don’t care because I love the rides, the long drives on your motorbike that make up 99.9% of the game. Darting between trees, finding sneaky shortcuts across dirt roads, weaving around the debris and fences that block the way. I love all that. And I love that there’s so little pressure whilst driving around.
In a recent Eurogamer review, they asked the question “who is this game for?”. It’s for me. Sorry about that but I’m not ashamed. I’m here for the broken oddities that don’t get anywhere close to their potential but most of all, I’m here for driving bikes up hills. Kinda disappointed I can’t find a button to honk a horn though. That seems like a pretty egregious omission to me. Every game should let you honk your horn at a zombie. Even the games that don’t have zombies in them.