I played a lot of good games in 2016, and while I tried to write about as many of them as possible, some always slip through the cracks. I could wait to write about them next year, but damn it, more games just keep coming out! So here’s a short list of the games I’ve shortchanged in 2016:
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If you choose to play Dishonored 2 as Emily Kaldwin (and you should), you’ll find an amazing interplay between her role as a stealth assassin and her role as the leader of an imperial power. The empress’s near-fatal flaw at the beginning of Dishonored 2 is her ignorance. To gain information and to make the world legible is to exercise power as both a player and as an empire.
Within the larger world of Dishonored, the city of Karnaca sits at the southernmost point of the Empire. The setting for Dishonored 2 looks and feels markedly different than its predecessors. Where the first game in the series feels like a steampunk version of Victorian England, Karnaca is more tropical and recalls the architecture and feel of colonial Cuba or other parts of the West Indies. This callback to imperialism is important within the context of the game’s story. Emily is on the outskirts of the empire, ignorant of the people, the power players, and even the wildlife. Her return to power reflects her growing familiarity with (and, therefore, power over) this landscape.
I have found myself obsessed for the past several weeks by Kingdom Death: Monster. I’ve been reading reviews, Googling images of its miniatures and artwork, and watching playthrough videos.
I really shouldn’t be, though. It’s a tactical-battle miniatures game, and while I am an avid board gamer with faiy eclectic tastes, that’s simply not a genre that appeals to me generally speaking.
Virginia is a surrealist crime procedural set in a state adjoining the seat of American power, Washington D.C.
This week we discuss how Virginia explores themes of power, corruption and identity through its cinematic gameplay.
Virginia is a neat game. It uses the visual language of cinema, specifically the “cut”, to tell an ambitious story about corruption, identity, and the politics of power. Yet it’s these very cinematic tricks that also handicap the game, limiting the ways in which it can express itself. Rather than work within those limitations to tell its story, Virginia shows us as much as it can within its allotted time, and then cops out with an exposition dump that tries to connect what we’ve already seen to its grander ideas of corruption, identity, and power politics. It’s a flawed game, but fascinatingly flawed.