Welcome back readers.
In this week’s around-the-site news, Kris, Second Theytriarch of the Critical Distance Family, is retiring from official duties at the site. Kris has been a crucial mentor through my own time working for Critical Distance, helping me find solid ground on the days I thought this job was going to eat me alive. Though they are no longer an active member of the board, they have been elevated to the esteemed position of friend-who-is-still-here-but-nobody-can-ask-them-for-stuff-anymore, which I think we can agree is the true peak.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Diablo For Answer
We’re off to a hell of a start this week with two crunchy critiques on Diablo games past and present. Sorry.
- Diablo’s Unadorned Dark Fantasy Still Has Claws | Paste
Grace Benfell peers into the minimalist charms and roads-not-taken in Tristram’s first Darkening.
- diablo 4orse discourse | a weapon to surpass blaming yourself or god while knee-deep in the dead
Chuck Sebian-Lander isn’t horsing around in this meditation on the little things Diablo IV gets right about the journey over the destination.
“we’ve all had this conversation before, haven’t we? friction in games is not negative. game design choices are almost always deliberate, and even if they’re cash grabs they’re also thematic. I find it pretty easy to ignore diablo 4’s monetization, built as it is around a small helping of cosmetics. yes, the menu item is always marked with an obnoxious exclamation point that claws at my desire to have all checkboxes ticket, but it’s a quick thing to pass by, which once again feels intentional on the part of the many game designers involved who didn’t care how blizzard-activision wanted to live-service this game to oblivion.”
Hook, Line, and Thinker
The otherworldly terrors continue in a horror-focused section interrogating genre, design, storytelling, and a non-negligible quantity of fish.
- The Amnesiac Remembers | Bullet Points Monthly
Steven Nguyen Scaife contemplates the mechanical complexity and randomization of the latest Amnesia and wonders if there’s a predictability to the genre that can’t be designed away with ever more sophisticated systems.
- Review: Fishing Vacation Dredges Up Unwholesome Summer Fun | Sidequest
Kathryn Hemmann experiences some lofi story beats to feel unsettled to.
- Dredge; or, Capitalism vs. the Queer Mutants of the Sea | Gamers with Glasses
Tof Eklund and Roger Whitson connect the weird horrors of Dredge to the mundane structural monsters–historical, literary and contemporary–of the fishing and whaling industries.
“Dredge, the horror fishing game by Black Salt Games, clearly draws on weird fiction. But while the Lovecraftian elements of the game are immediately apparent, it is also deeply indebted to Herman Melville and to the dark and desperate maritime life he drew on as the devastating heyday of global whaling drew to a close.”
This segment highlights the materiality of hardware platforms and media formats, which have in many ways grown up and proliferated alongside videogames. Information needs a body, even in the era of digital distribution, but we forget the information bodies this fast-moving industry leaves behind at our own peril.
- A Chronology of First CD-ROM Games | CD-ROM Journal
Misty De Méo points out that Myst was not only not the first CD-ROM game, it wasn’t even the first CD-ROM game from Cyan!
- Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective review: new life for a DS cult classic | Polygon
Jay Castello takes the occasion of a celebrated niche DS game’s release to reflect on a much wider back catalogue of celebrated niche DS games still bound to an increasingly precarious and inaccessible platform.
“That Ghost Trick was one of the lucky ones feels like a fluke, like some phantom behind the scenes manipulated things just so. Maybe the persistence of the fandom did contribute to the sense that it would be a financial success to re-release it. But in the current ecosystem, being loved isn’t enough to stop art from being erased.”
Our last section this week is the Layer Section. What? I like shmups.
- Layer Section II: The Saturn’s storm of rays is my kind of fun | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi surveys the sophomore entry in a legendary shmup trilogy.
“The three dimensional space created by Layer Section II’s polygonal environments is so much more than just a modernised way of presenting the genre: it’s an interactive location, somewhere enemy ships can fly under and through scenery at high speed, where moving tanks, made to look tiny by the physical distance between them and you, are placed on top of elevated roads, behind skyscrapers.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!