Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
Another weekend is upon us and hopefully, you’ll find some time to escape the worries of your everyday life with some good ol’ gaming. If not, there’s always tomorrow, right?
October is the spooky season, so my girlfriend and I watched a Let’s Play of A Plague Tale: Innocence on YouTube. Talk about a depressing, intense game. You play as a young noble girl named Amicia whose younger brother Hugo clearly has some relation to the current plague that’s ripping apart the country. When the opposition violently intrudes on your family’s land in search of Hugo, butchering your parents in the process, you escape with your brother and enter a 15-hour-long stealth mission in search of a cure (and survival).
The story itself is incredibly well written, full of tear-jerking moments and creepy rat-infested horror. The gameplay, though, made me glad we decided to watch a Let’s Play instead of playing it ourselves. I’m not too good with stealth games as it is, but the menu system seemed a bit clunky and the puzzles a little too scripted for my liking. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it either way, but the narrative was clearly the centerpiece.
As for playing games, I recently finished and reviewed the supernatural, slice-of-life visual novel Worldend Syndrome and loved it. Afterward, I started juggling Spike Chunsoft’s newest murder mystery adventure game AI: The Somnium Files (from the writer of the Nonary Games series) and Idea Factory’s most recent JRPG, Dragon Star Varnir. A buddy of mine on Twitter traded me his PS4 copy of Sekrio: Shadows Die Twice for my Switch copy of God Eater 3, and I’ve been itching to play a new FromSoft game for a while now, so I may end up juggling all three!
AI: The Somnium Files
I’ve played about 8 hours of this one over the last few days and I’m super impressed so far. You play as a detective named Date (dah-tay) who investigates a series of gruesome serial murders with the help of his A.I. companion Aiba… who resides inside of his left eyeball. Aiba can pop out of his head and take the form of a weird, gelatinous teddy bear out in the real world, or materialize into a cute anime girl whenever Date enters people’s dreamworlds, called “somnium.”
The game is split between using Date to question folks about the murders by way of dialogue trees and then eventually using Aiba to explore the dreamworld to see what the suspects/victims were hiding. It’s a fun mix of visual novel storytelling and detective sleuthing, and the writing is top-notch. It’s a dark game that never takes itself too seriously, with Date and Aiba providing tons of witty banter alongside conversations with a great cast of supporting characters.
I still have a ways to go, but I look forward to playing more of this soon.
Dragon Star Varnir
In this turn-based JRPG, the world of Varneria is inhabited by humans, witches, and dragons. Humans despise the witches because they birth dangerous dragons, so they typically join the Knights of Requiem, which exists to hunt and kill them. You play as Zephy, a knight, who promptly gets his ass beaten by a dragon and is brought back from the brink of death by two wandering witches who spit dragon’s blood into his mouth. Yum.
As a side-effect, this turns Zephy into the land’s only male witch and his former comrades expectedly turn on him. The story has been progressing nicely so far, with Zephy discovering the witches aren’t evil at all — turns out, they’re terrified of giving into madness and turning into dragons themselves. You see, witches have to drink dragon’s blood for its healing properties, but consuming it has the possibility of driving them insane and turning them into dragons. The Knights of Requiem believed witches and dragons were in cahoots to overtake Varneria from them, but they were obviously wrong.
It’s basically Misunderstanding: The Game.
Aside from Idea Factory’s consistently wonderful character designs and soundtracks, Dragon Star Varnir has a unique take on the age-old turn-based combat system. Your three-person party fights in mid-air across three planes (low, middle, and high) and can shift between them during attacks (both physical and magical). You can set magical traps and knock enemies to the plane below for massive damage, or brute force your way through with powerful melee swings, but the core of the game is its “devour” system.
When an enemy is low on health, you can use a devour attack that destroys them and removes their “core.” This core contains new abilities and passive stat boosts that can then be unlocked for that specific character — think of them as small talent trees. It’s neat! It also encourages you to collect them all for each party member in order to unlock said stat boosts and magical spells.
I’ve been swapping between this and The Somnium Files whenever I want to play something with more action. Since The Somnium Files is mostly a text adventure, sometimes I want to do some mindless grinding in Dragon Star Varnir instead.
But now a third game enters the mix…
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software’s newest challenging action game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, really needs no explanation. It’s dark, tough as nails, and everything I love about the developer’s action RPGs.
I’m incredibly bad at these types of games, though. It’s tough love, really.
What about you, folks? Any big gaming plans this weekend?