Welcome back readers.
Thanks for bearing with me during my first ever “Zelda Mulligan” during my tenure here–first only, perhaps, because I joined Critical Distance the year after the last Zelda came out. While I can hardly say I’ve got a probably-two-hundred-hour game that came out less than two hundred hours ago out of my system just yet, I’m recharged and ready to share nine cool new picks for the week.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Well-seasoned crit sees a fairly-reliable delay of a few weeks from the release of a game, so while Tears of the Kingdom may be the talk of the town at the moment, the last big discourse magnet is now starting to pay rich critical dividends. Here are two pieces I enjoyed about Redfall and, even more so, its contexts.
- With Redfall, Arkane mishandles Stephen King’s legacy — and its own | Polygon
Reid McCarter identifies Redfall‘s thematic near-misses, as well as the literary debts it owes but doesn’t quite pay off.
- Redfall | The Cool Zone
Zoë Kaye offers some thoughts on how thankless discourse magnets like Redfall are all part of doing business when you’re a giant company trying not to look too powerful while attempting to devour another giant company.
“Five years into the Game Pass experiment, Microsoft’s first-party studios (outside of those that exist solely to perpetuate the existence of a marketable brand, like Turn 10, 343i, or The Coalition) operate on the ‘one for the money men, one for me’ model of Hollywood auteurs in the Christopher Nolan mode. They make one trend-chasing game that will hopefully generate enough income through micro-transactions to fund their more experimental work.”
I have a real soft spot for the decidedly mid Star Wars games of a few hardware generations ago, so I was quite tickled to see that the folks at Eurogamer feel the same way and have been sharing their thoughts on the subject. Here are two highlights.
- Jedi Power Battles and the legacy of the Phantom Menace | Eurogamer.net
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell sees an inspired spark in bumbling beat-em-up Jedi Power Battles that doesn’t come through nearly so strongly in contemporary Star Wars games; the communication of character traits through fighting style.
- Why N64 launch title Shadows of the Empire will always be my favourite Star Wars game | Eurogamer.net
Wesley Yin-Poole fondly remembers that there was, in fact, a whole videogame, for better and for worse, after the Cool Hoth level.
“It’s awful, really, looking back at it now, but at the time I was wowed. For me, someone whose gaming life had gone from the NES to the SNES and now the N64 via a brief love affair with the Amiga 1200, Shadows of the Empire represented one of my first experiences in a fully 3D environment. I wasn’t about to let bad gameplay put me off! I’m not even sure I knew what bad gameplay was, back then. It’s funny: the more I have come to understand how video games work, the harder they have become to love.”
Back to Present
Now that I’ve gotten Nostalgia Time in, let’s turn our focus back to a pair of very recent releases.
- Review: Mail Time Delivers Cute, Cosy, and Queer Gaming | Sidequest
Zainabb Hull contemplates the meaning of a Cosy Game with a slightly-buggy but charming new entry.
- MyHouse.wad is not another gimmicky Doom map with ingenious level design | Boris Bezdar
Boris Bezdar peels back the layers of a topical id Tech-powered art piece.
“The realm of personal is where most of MyHouse’s symbolism lies-from the metatextual presentation of the mod to the community to the map itself.”
Playing with Protagonism
Both of these design-focused selections are engaged with questions of player and protagonist, and how different systems influence and impact each and both.
- videogame dungeon diegesis is weird | cohost
Irenes contemplates the ways in which puzzles perturb the player-protagonist gap.
- Master Mode Made Me Fall In Love With Breath Of The Wild Again | Paste Magazine
Grace Benfell observes how it takes Breath of the Wild‘s hardest difficulty to make Link feel small and the player feel engaged with the game’s more complex systems.
“I’m content, for now, for a fantasy of control that pushes it out of reach, that forces me to improvise, and never gives me exactly what I want.”
Longtime readers may by now have deduced that “Final Fantasy V” is one of my activation phrases. “Job”, on the other hand, is not.
- Job Anxiety | Into The Spine
Kenzie Du finds recuperative solace in Final Fantasy V‘s Job System.
“I thought my diploma sealed my fate. To this day, I can say I’ve looked at every opportunity with an open mind and a heart for adventure – and I’m all the happier for that.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!