Microsoft’s peerless Xbox/PC game subscription service has gone from strength to strength throughout 2020, with some absolutely incredible content being added – not least, we’ve seen the influx of EA Play titles, which has massively bolstered the already generous offering that was available. What’s been keeping me occupied on Game Pass recently though? Read on and find out!
Sea of Thieves
As you may have guessed if you read my recent story about one particular session of Sea of Thieves, I’ve become a big fan of Rare’s sandboxy pirate adventure. It was a game I originally didn’t enjoy at all, having set sail on my very first go and been killed by another player within minutes – I found that wrestling with the ship’s sails, wheel and anchor wasn’t any fun, nor was being mown down before even getting a chance to find my bearings. Yet, knowing someone else who played it – and recommended it to me – I gave it another chance, and I’m extremely glad I did. One of the things that strikes me about Sea of Thieves is that it feels dangerous – other players and the environment can turn on you at any time – yet also forgiving. Death is temporary, extremely brief and results in pretty much no punishment except for a time out, during which you can still control your character (albeit on a ghostly galleon as you’re transported back to the land of the living). Another aspect that feels fairly unique for a game of this type is that no other player has an advantage over another from equipment or stats – everyone is on a level playing field aside from their own experience with the game. It’s a refreshing approach; my biggest complaint, however, is that other players can quite often be far too trigger happy with no provocation, which can scupper hours of hard work and can be incredibly frustrating. Yet during successful voyages with companions, there’s little out there to touch how satisfying the whole thing feels, as well as how the loose framework of mechanics is there simply to allow you to create your own little stories and adventures. Impressive stuff.
A cute indie about a couple on the run from an evil corporation – at least, I think that’s the case at this stage of the story – Haven is a game with some beautiful visuals, clever worldbuilding and unusual mechanics, fusing visual novel style interludes and turn-based combat with third person action that revolves around flying through a well realised and very alien environment. The stunning soundtrack – coupled with the animé-esque visual design – gives the impression of playing through a Discovery-era Daft Punk video at times; it’s an unusual and very compelling game.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Playtonic’s Banjo-Kazooie-esque platform mascots move from homaging PlayStation/N64-era 3D platformers to aping (pun unintended) games such as Donkey Kong Country, with impressive results. Much more satisfying and interesting than the duo’s original outing (which I found quite dated and uninspired), it manages to feel like an excellent tribute to the 2.5D games of yesteryear while also feeling somewhat fresh. It helps that the visuals are beautiful too. On the strength of this outing for the animal pair, I’d certainly welcome seeing further games in the series – though I can’t say I’m too fussed about them making a return to 3D adventures any time soon.
Tetris Effect Connected
What happens when you cross the synaesthesia-laden gameplay of Rez with the timeless puzzle mechanics of Alexey Pajitnov’s classic Tetris? This. And it’s beautiful. The soundtrack is sublime, the gameplay – with the rhythm of blocks dropping dictated by the music – unbelievably addictive and the number of online features (as well as a wonderful Theater mode, in which you can simply enjoy the lights and sounds of each stage once you’ve completed the campaign) all add up to a brilliantly rounded package. It also has the distinction of being the first game I played on my Series X hardware – and the game I played the most during launch week. Absolutely wonderful.
So there you have it; all of the games I’ve been checking out recently; though not as many as usual, I must admit that Sea of Thieves has been taking up most of my gaming time recently. Perhaps next time I’ll have more to share – unless of course I’m still sailing the seven seas with my pirate brethren…
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