Warhammer Vermintide Gives New Life to the Ye Olde Gaming Tradition of Rat Killing

Warhammer Vermintide is the newest 4-player co-op game to consume my free hours of the eve as of late and it may be my favorite yet. I did not think it could happen, but I find myself enjoying this game more than I did many 4 player titles over the past several years. My friends and brother tend to team up to kick ass in 4 player games like we did in Left 4 Dead, Evolve, Payday 2, and Monaco. I had no idea what Vermintide was all about when it came out, but I took a swing at it after it was gifted to me by my benevolent friend and I have been slaying rats since.

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Red Moon Inn

Before you jump into the action, everyone gathers in the Red Moon Inn. It’s important to mention this part because it’s really a minor detail that makes a lot of difference in 4 player co op games. To have a virtual space to “relax” and recoop in feels like the missing element I always wanted. When you’re in a game like Payday 2 or Left 4 Dead, you’re just sitting looking at a menu with UI elements when you aren’t actively fighting your way through a level. It’s so much nicer to have a place to stand around in, swap out your gear, and show off your loot to other players before getting into things. Or, if you just need to take a break and breathe, you can hang out and take a few minutes while still allowing your teammates to forge equipment, upgrade, and use a shrine to “pray for loot”.

I love this touch. It also allows you a chance to get to know the characters a bit better because each of them have their own room made up to decor that suits their personality. You can learn a lot about a person by looking at their stuff.

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There are 13 different missions in the game that are filled with a variety of objectives to accomplish. The variety of events throughout missions really feel like tests to challenge the strength of a team. The number one challenge of the game is teamwork and sticking together to survive the random chaos! I feel like more and more games like this are coming out; games like this seem more fun and appealing if you have a group of people to play it with. If you can find some kind of steam group or online group to team up with if you don’t have enough friends who like to do this kind of thing, I highly recommend doing so.

Another in-game feature I really enjoy is the presence of collectibles in most levels called Tomes and Grimoires. When my friend was first explaining this aspect to me, it was one of the most appealing things. Tomes and Grimoires, when picked up, will replace the players’ inventory space where healing items and potions go. They are hidden in tough to get to places in levels that require solving short jumping puzzles. That is awesome for two reasons. One, it calls for level exploration that isn’t in the pursuit of getting to the end as soon as possible. Two, the players have to be confident enough in the team’s abilities to go out of their way  for them and sacrifice the inventory space!

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Loot phase. 

 

Possibly the best and worst part of the game is the loot phase. You get to press a button to roll dice. Now, I must say, I really really wish this worked like dice in the Witcher 2 in which you released the left mouse button as you moved your mouse to “throw” the dice and roll them. In Vermintide, you just click a button and they roll themselves. This feels a lot less satisfying because then you wind up feeling like it was out of your control. In the Witcher 2, if you accidentally rolled dice off of the table, tough luck! At least it felt like your fault. When you make it through a level in Vermintide with 3 tomes and 2 Grimoires just to roll a 2 or 3, it pretty much calls for an immediate ragequit.

I could just go on and on about this game. It’s pretty cheap at only 29.99 retail. I would gladly have paid a full 60 for this. If you love co-op games or just want to decapitate some rats, get this! Now! GO!

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Davey Wreden Delivers an Intimate Story Game: The Beginner’s Guide

This is the kind of gaming experience that compels me to get my thoughts out about it because I have been thinking about it nonstop since I finished playing about 24 hours ago. The Beginner’s Guide is a first person narrative experience with minimal player interaction. Instead of keeping you busy with mechanics and enemies, a narrator (Davey Wreden) guides you through a compilation of games to tell you what he thinks of them and of his relationship with a person named “Coda”.

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There’s always a man. There’s always a CS map. 

Please excuse my bad Bioshock Infinite joke.

Anyway, the player moves from level to level seeing what appears to be the slow progression of a game designer becoming more skilled and honing their creativity through games. What starts of as some kind of strange analysis of his friend’s games turns into this concerning dilemma of what Davey wants and how the friend reacts through his creative medium.

Spoilers ahead in the next paragraph.

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One of the biggest feelings I took away from playing this was creative inspiration. I was blown away by some of the imagery that the levels presented. Starting in pure whiteness or darkness blew my mind. The manipulation of space that made everything seem so magical and temporary reminded me the power that games really have. At one point, you enter a room with floating text of many, many game ideas. It fascinated me. I felt like I was being shown drafts and wanted to take any one of his ideas and run with it.

I am in love with this concept of minimal control, walking-simulator style game that hits hard on delivering a certain feeling or idea. There will always be a place for AAA titles, yes, but now that games are so accessible on Steam it only seems right that personal games like this are emerging more and more.

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Davey Wreden took this compilation of games (or made them) to show us just how hard the creative process can be. He shows us how the desire for creative freedom can often juxtapose the “rules” that we take for granted in games. He makes us question tropes, puzzles, and solutions. I think the most powerful thing he did in The Beginner’s Guide was use 3D space to metaphorically explore the inner mind space of the developer. I felt privileged to be led by Davey through such personal experiences like growth, frustration, and isolation.

The Beginner’s Guide artfully explored new territory with this one. I hope to see more projects from him, and other creators, that deliver a similar “auteur” experience. If games like The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and Jazzpunk were up your alley, don’t miss this one.

 

Among the Sleep: Psychological Thriller Meets Crawling Simulator

This weekend, I took a break from playing The Witcher 3 and finally installed and played Among the Sleep. As usual, I bought it during a Steam sale some time ago and never got around to it. My partner was perusing Steam games on Saturday and I brought it up as a suggestion because we both tend to like first person games that are focused on a narrative. I installed it and we both sat down to play this together with only the knowledge that it was about being a two-year-old who crawls around in fantastic looking environments. Boy, was there more.

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The voice acting makes this bear sound creepy and untrustworthy.

I am going to give a vague synopsis to avoid spoilers and discuss the core mechanics of the game. It begins with a cutscene as you become acclimated to the life of a two-year-old and what your living situation is like. You receive a teddy bear that speaks slowly and with the voice of a middle aged man. But, you are willing to follow the bear (because you have to) as it plays games with you.

After you become familiar with the basic mechanics and what life is like for baby-you, something jarring happens that makes everything shift. The house becomes dark and scary and you are helpless as you crawl through it to open doors and peek around corners. You are a vulnerable observer who wants nothing more than to find their mommy.

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Go ahead. Crawl around. Nothing to be scared of.

Reality then breaks away into fantasy, or perhaps nightmare, as you fall into a sort of dreamworld representation of your psyche. You then proceed to navigate through several levels that may be places you have experienced as a two-year-old with creepy filters changing them that may represent some kind of fear or trauma. The environments seem to be alive in that there are sounds and visual shifts happening as you navigate through them to solve puzzles. If you have played a game like Amnesia, it is similar to that in how you progress.

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I thought this was just a nice park…

You can alternate between walking and crawling and hold shift to run, albeit not very fast. You are a toddler after all. And who wants to run? It’s so noisy. Crawling felt like the most immersive, and scariest, means of traveling. Feeling small and low to the ground enhanced the feeling of vulnerability in the world around me. The feeling of vulnerability is key to making you feel like a victim to trauma as you discover childlike drawing scattered throughout each level which depict your perception of important figures in your life.

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Vision distorts as baby-you cannot handle certain sights.

The game is about uncovering the child’s life and the secrets it holds. What happened to you and why are you here piecing things together? Each level is rich with scattered pieces of the narrative, scares, and memories. When you are scared, the best you can do is hide under or inside of something such as a bed or cupboard. It’s exactly how you think as a child; if I hide, maybe it will all just go away. And it does, but not for long.

FEZ: A brilliant game that sat in my Steam backlog for way too long.

I felt that it was necessary to include in the title of this post that I just got around to playing FEZ. I’m pretty sure that I bought it during the summer Steam sale of 2013 months after it came out. Two years later, I booted it up because I wanted to play something that my laptop could handle when I wanted to be near my partner who was stuck on the sofa playing Bloodborne.

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I would be more disappointed in myself for waiting so long but, on the other hand, this is just the kind of game I was in the mood to play this summer when not screaming at Rocket League or spending hours on my Desktop in The Witcher 3. I can play Fez for 15 minutes to an hour and get plenty of satisfaction from my play time. It is a pretty casually paced 2D/3D platformer that allows the user to change the perspective on the fly.

Change perspective on the fly?! That sounds crazy, you might be saying! Well, it is. I was pretty awed by the puzzles that could be created from such a mechanic in Monument Valley but since FEZ came first I’m giving credit where credit is due. Of course there may have been other titles to do this first. If you know of any, please let me know in the comments!

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You play as the little white dude named Gomez. He looks like he’s made of clay. You also get a hat, so rest assured you Team Fortress players. You traverse across many different types of environments trying to collect cubes by climbing vertically and horizontally. It works similarly to Super Meat Boy or I guess even Super Mario that you will encounter more advanced types of puzzles and geography to navigate as you progress. I think I am about 20% of the way in right now so it’s been fairly easy so far.

One of my favorite parts of the game are all of the cute little animals strewn about the levels. There are rabbits, turtles, bunnies, pigeons, and worms. They all have adorable animations and sound effects, too. Sometimes I just have to walk up to them and watch them live their little lives. There is no way I know of yet to harm them. They just meander around looking cute while you play the game.

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This game is only about $10 full retail on steam right now. I’m sure most readers probably already on it on Steam from the 20 sales that have happened since the game first came out. If you haven’t taken the time to boot it up yet, go do it! This game will instantly charm you.