Blog

  • Storytelling with Systems: Breath of the Wild’s Open World
    The open world game mechanic is a system I’ve talked about before on this blog, though in that instance it was about how Skyrim uses its world to weave a mythic tale. I’ve also talked about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – specifically about its weapons and how they reflect the broken state […]
  • Corruption, Corporatism, and Failed Critiques: An Analysis of Cyberpunk 2077
    **SPOILER WARNING** Cyberpunk 2077 has arrived and, as has already been covered by a wide variety of outlets, it’s not nearly as impressive as we’d all hoped. While the game does have some redeeming qualities, it’s largely not as impressive as one would hope from the game studio known for the incredible Witcher series. This […]
  • Killing the Past, Looking to the Future: Hitman 3 Review
    Io Interactive’s most recent three Hitman games have all been outstanding in their own ways. The first, released way back in 2016, introduced us to the games’ more episodic format and elusive targets. Hitman 2 fleshed out the mechanics and design of its predecessor while boasting more intricate, dynamic levels. Finally, Hitman 3 stands as […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Celeste’s Difficulty
    **SPOILER WARNING** Death is inevitable – a statement that’s just as true in life as it is in video games. It’s especially relevant when discussing tough-as-nails titles like Dark Souls and Hollow Knight, each with their dark atmospheres where repeated deaths create feelings of hopelessness and loss. It’s a similar yet distinct feeling found in […]
  • City of Locked Doors and Lost Opportunity: A Cyberpunk 2077 Review
    Cyberpunk 2077 is out and it’s certainly something. Following a years-long saga of marketing that courted controversy just as often as it promised groundbreaking innovations, the result is a thoroughly mediocre game from CD Projekt Red, the studio behind the Witcher series. The game itself is bursting with potential, from its three pronged tutorial system […]
  • Life, Death, and Life Again: An Analysis of Ori and the Will of the Wisps
    Some games weave their stories into their main mechanics, creating an inventive or clever narrative and wow us with innovative storytelling. Others simply have stories, ones disconnected from the gameplay and could be told in another genre just as easily. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latter, though that doesn’t mean the […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Hades’s Persistent Story
    It’s difficult to pick a mechanic from Supergiant’s Hades that isn’t already part of the game’s story. Pretty much everything that could be considered overly gamey is explained through dialogue and lore. The permanent upgrades from the Mirror of Night are a result of Zagreus becoming more attuned to the Underworld and himself. The achievements […]
  • Hopeful Legacies: An Analysis of Breath of the Wild
    Despite its colorful style and vivacious characters, the latest game in the Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild, is a surprisingly morose and somber title. It takes place in a ruined Hyrule where Link and Zelda lost their last fight against Ganon and monsters roam the world freely. Everywhere you look shows ruined […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Crusader Kings 3’s Stress
    Modern life may be stressful, but at least it isn’t as stressful as ruling a medieval kingdom where your scheming courtiers are as likely to stab you in the back as they are to sleep with your spouse. Crusader Kings 3 is a grand strategy game with RPG elements that puts in in charge of […]
  • Uncertain Futures: An Analysis of The Last Campfire
    **SPOILER WARNING** Indie games about dealing with difficult mental problems are hardly anything new (see Rime, Journey, Gris, and Celeste, just to name a few), and joining their ranks is relaxing puzzler The Last Campfire. This adorable little game sees players exploring a beautiful world filled with people to help and challenges to overcome. It’s […]
  • One Hell of a Game: Hades Review
    Death is inevitable – a fact that is especially true in Supergiant Games’s newest title, Hades. This roguelike (or roguelite if you prefer) puts you in the role of Zagreus, son of Hades as he tries repeatedly to escape from the Underworld of Ancient Greek myth. As with all games of the genre, death is […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Breath of the Wild’s Weapons
    There’s a lot to love about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, from its expansive open world to its unique characters, full of personality. It’s one of the best games released in recent memory and stands as quite possibly the best Zelda game of all time (Ocarina of Time notwithstanding). One element of […]
  • Ascension and Legacy: An Analysis of Dishonored 2
    **SPOILER WARNING** The Dishonored games are about sneaking your way past enemies using supernatural abilities – or, alternatively, aggressively fighting enemies with supernatural abilities. Both approaches are equally valid, especially in the second installment of the series. While certain achievements and endings can only be obtained through one method or the other, the gameplay itself […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Hitman 2’s Disguises
    The core mechanic of the Hitman games is the disguise system, which forms the player’s primary means of infiltrating areas and interacting with the world around them. It’s a relatively straightforward mechanic – Agent 47 starts each mission in his suit and in the role of an ordinary civilian. He must then make his way […]
  • Understanding Art: An Analysis of The Witness
    The Witness is a difficult game to parse meaning from. It doesn’t offer any conventional storytelling, nor does it provide direct assistance in figuring out the basic mechanics of the world. On top of that, there is no discernable narrative to follow and a playthrough tends to be driven more by curiosity and determination than […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Prey’s Gloo Gun
    If anyone expected 2017’s Prey reboot to be a conventional first-person-shooter, that expectation goes out the window in the first few minutes of the game. After a disorienting and disturbing intro, you find yourself trapped on a on the Talos I space station full of terrifying alien monsters. As you tentatively step into the first […]
  • A Calming Journey: The Last Campfire Review
    The Last Campfire is the latest title from indie studio Hello Games, and it puts players into the shoes of Ember, a lost little sprite of some kind navigating a strange and mysterious world. They seek the titular Last Campfire, where they will move on to something else – exactly what, it’s not clear. Each […]
  • Knowledge and Understanding: An Analysis of Prey (2017)
    **SPOILER WARNING** Prey (the 2017 reboot) begins with the player character, Morgan Yu, waking up in your apartment, receiving a message from your brother, and proceeding to the TranStar building where you undergo some tests. At the end of the examination, an alien disguised as a coffee mug kills the examiner and you black out […]
  • A Medieval Storytelling Machine: Crusader Kings 3 Review
    I’ll preface this review by saying that I have not played any of the previous games in the Crusader Kings series. The full extent of my experience with the grand strategy genre begins and ends with Civilization V and VI. That being said, the past few weeks of playing Crusader Kings 3 have been a […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Doom’s Silent Protagonist
    Is there any trope more specific to video games than that of the silent protagonist? The device has become so ubiquitous in the medium that it’s something of a running gag as games will often poke fun at their steadfastly mute heroes and heroines. The trope exists for a reason, though, as famous examples such […]
  • The Struggle for Freedom: An Analysis of Hollow Knight
    **SPOILER WARNING** The topic of free will is always an interesting issue for a video game to tackle. The most famous example of games exploring the subject is the Bioshock franchise – notably Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. Each of these titles discussed the nature of freedom in a space where players were constrained, their actions […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: XCOM 2’s Time Limits
    To say that the turn timers in XCOM 2 were received poorly would be an understatement. A quick glance at the forums makes it plain that a significant number of players didn’t want to be rushed through missions. This led to the rise of mods designed to remove those timers rather than play through the […]
  • Cosmic Indifference: An Analysis of Outer Wilds
    **SPOILER WARNING** Outer Wilds is a very different game, with a very different play experience. Its handcrafted solar system and beautiful landscapes are not quite like anything else as they shift and move around the player without any sort of input. This is a world that doesn’t revolve around the main character, something that separates […]
  • Mechanics as Storytelling: Skyrim’s Open World
    The challenge of telling a story in an open world game comes down to time. The main quests of these titles often revolve around urgent problems needing immediate attention – think Calamity Ganon in Breath of the Wild or finding your lost son in Fallout 4. This narrative line is very often at odds with […]