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The Early Access Edition
Welcome to The Casual Gamer’s View, a regular newsletter that aims to bring you news and opinions from the week in games, brought to you through the scope of a casual gamer that has the desire to play more titles than I have the time or energy for. As well as trying to provide some kind of service, this is also a great avenue for me to relive my teenage years, by spending more time than I should be writing about games.
Occasionally I might be discussing what I’m playing, opinions on the industry or anything that is interesting, but generally this will be a resource to cut through the noise and bring you the latest gaming news in easy to read chunks. I’ve often felt frustrated with some websites that are generating content purely for clicks, and I feel a newsletter is a great medium to get straight to the point. As time goes on I hope The CGV can be your go-to lunch break read, a short and sweet summary of the latest gaming news so you don’t have to sift through click-bait hell to get it. I’ll read the crap so you don’t have to!
State of Play
This Thursday saw the return of Sony’s State of Play preview event, for those who aren’t immersed in these types of occasions, State of Play is aimed at showcasing some of the titles heading to Playstation in the next year or so. This week we were treated to a selection of new announcements that included Exoprimal (a game that looks like it might be a spiritual successor to Dino Crisis), TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection and new footage of previously revealed games like Forspoken and Ghostwire: Tokyo. Overall there wasn’t really a lot on offer, but we can never complain about getting significant free updates like the Returnal: Ascension announcement, which will include a new co-op mode and a survival tower mode. This kind of free update should be applauded as its very welcome when most publishers are still pushing microtransactions, a moral and financial win for fans of the series. On a side note I’ve yet to pick up Returnal, and this has reminded me to update my huge list of must plays.
Unfortunately, not all of the reaction to this week’s State of Play was positive, with many claiming it was a sub-par showing for Sony. These pre-recorded videos are perfect Twitter fodder, with everyone fervently speculating what will be coming and ultimately being disappointed when their unrealistic expectations aren’t met. The hype that is generated by online showcases often backfires, with a bad event having real potential to damage a company’s reputation. Sometimes the problem is more about what isn’t shown, rather than what actually is on offer, with many fans annoyed when their most anticipated game doesn’t show up.
A prime example being the blowback SquareEnix will undoubtedly receive for displaying a range of footage for newly announced titles like Valkyrie Elysium yet deciding to not include any new details about Final Fantasy XVI. I guess that is just part of the industry and social media in general, but a little bit of patience from fans would go a long way to providing developers the time and breathing room they need to release quality products.
On the topic of reliving my youth, I recently fulfilled a 14 year old’s dream and took part in a 24 hour gaming marathon for GameBlast22 for the first time. For those who aren’t familiar with GameBlast, it is an annual event organised by SpecialEffect that takes place over the last weekend of February, where gamers commit to raise money through charity streams. SpecialEffect are a truly amazing charity, and the work they do to raise the profile of accessibility in the industry is incredible. The event as a whole was a resounding success, with gamers, with the current total raised reaching over £200,000 by 28th February, a real impressive effort by all involved. Please check out their website to see what they do and donate if you can.
In terms of my stream, if I’d have had any sense I would have used the time to clear some of my backlog, instead I spent the first half of it taking a trip down memory lane. I started with some Dreamcast classics, including my two favourite fighting games Street Fighter III: Third Strike and Marvel vs Capcom 2. I then spent around nine hours of the time completing Sonic Adventure in a single sitting. There’s a lot to be said for revisiting some classics, and it really helped me get to a good point without noticing the time.
I didn’t start feeling the pinch until I realised there was a full shift in work left before it was all over.There was a particular moment when trying (and failing miserably) to play a bit of FIFA 22, the game that was supposed to be my auto-pilot game to finish, where I had to just nope out and switch to something easier going. I opted for swinging around aimlessly on Marvel’s Spider-Man, one eye firmly on the clock while I did it. Still, it was more than worth it and I look forward to taking part again next year.
The Elden Ring conundrum
For most hardcore gamers, Elden Ring is a dream come true. An open world Soulsborne game that is partly written by George RR Martin, and a sort of FromSoftware “gameplay greatest hits” all rolled into one huge package. Just to top it off, it has also been a resounding critical success that looks set to be most journalists’ game of the year even though 2022 has barely kicked off. I have been a long time, distant admirer of FromSoftware, a developer that isn’t afraid to take risks yet knows it’s audience and can create games to please them, but I must admit I find their games a bit too much.
It’s not that the difficulty is a huge issue per se, I’m by no means a pro gamer but I’ll give anything a crack if I enjoy it enough. There’s just not enough hours in the day to combat the length of the game and the difficulty. For example, it’s easy to throw 30 minutes into a couple of levels on Super Meat Boy, get blasted and sliced all over the place, but be content with the minimal amount of progress made towards the end goal. The idea of doing that for close to 100 hours straight fills me with utter dread, and I can’t be the only one. While Elden Ring has been praised for the way it has improved accessibility, it is still a bloody tough game, and I feel a bit tentative about spending over £40 on a game that may result in me needing to replace a smashed controller.
Yet still, it’s hard to ignore a game that has been labelled a masterpiece by many. The graphics look quality, the gameplay intriguing and I’ve still not found a game to match Skyrim in the Fantasy genre. So what's the solution? I don’t often get swallowed up by hype, but this time I’m really close to taking the plunge. I’ve watched plenty of YouTube videos and I’m still not too sure what to do. Perhaps I should go download that copy of Bloodborne in my PS+ library and see if the punishment and rage headaches are worth it?
It can be difficult being a casual gamer. At any given moment you could be playing three games in one period (yet making no meaningful progress in any of them) or have a list as long as your arm of titles that need to be tackled this year, a gaming vortex if you will. Currently I fall into both camps, with a save on Metroid: Dread sitting at around two hours on my Switch, a FIFA 22 career mode with my team Wrexham AFC (where I might actually win the Champions League in 2026) and at least a dozen games downloaded to PC Game Pass that I’ve played roughly half an hour of each.
Crippling FIFA addictions aside, I’ve been struggling to get into any game after completing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Whilst not a masterpiece, the rich storytelling, fun dialogue and 80’s soundtrack made for a really engaging game that felt more like an interactive comic than actual game. However, it was a fun change of pace and hopefully we get to see a successor in the future. Finishing a story driven game like this often leaves a hole, and it can be difficult to find the motivation to start something new. I’ve actually found Metroid to be a good stop gap, like a lot of first party games on Switch it is designed to perfectly suit pick up and play, yet seems deep enough to suit longer sessions. I’d highly recommend it, but like many of my recommendations it’s hardly breaking news that Metroid: Dread is quality given how well it was received months ago. Late to the party as always.