Welcome back readers.
I am fully in my Armored Core VI era this weekend. Kind of relieved that it’s broken the Diablo IV spell I’ve been under, honestly! I’ll be keeping an eye out in the weeks to come for the kind of crit that doesn’t really play ball with triple-A review embargo deadlines.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we’re starting things off with new perspectives in and around Baldur’s Gate III which open up the critical landscape a bit on how we play and what we experience.
- It’s time to accept save scumming as the best way to play RPGs | Polygon
Nicole Clark argues for the value of the tactical reload even in RPGs famous for pursuing narrative consequences–yes even that one.
- DON’T YOU WANT TO? | DEEP HELL
The most challenging part of reading Skeleton’s work is deciding where to end the pullquote so here’s a whole damn paragraph on the banality of hotness in BG3.
“who am I baldur’s gate 3? with this endless parade of hunks, twinks, rude-girls and doe eyed cultists who begin and end every night with a rigorous facial programme. there is no space for me to be ugly or weird or misshapen, I need to be handsome I need to be hot and most of all I need to be ready to fuck or kill at a moments notice. that’s really what we’re getting at when we talk about what it means to be an adventurer in one of these broadly colonialist fantasies where everything is solved at the tip of a sword except for statecraft, politics, the shape of the world or anything we want to change. there’s scarce room for changing the world, but lots of room for saving it. exactly as it is, forever. save-scumming is built right into the fabric of faerun. if I fuck up or die I roll back to the last save. whenever I am done with faerun it is still faerun for all of the R.A. Salvatore’s of the world to fuck around in. their tools, my playset, just as cardboard backedd and clam-shelled as it needs to be for the price tag.”
Next let’s explore interactions between systems, stories, and critical experiences.
- One Space Station’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure | Bullet Points Monthly
Khee Hoon Chan meditates on an accidentally engrossing loot grind abstracted out of System Shock 2023’s scrapping and recycling systems.
- Venba and Papers, Please Flex the Same Emotional Muscle | Paste
Yousif Kassab brings together two games which use labour systems to abstract their storytelling about people in transit.
“Both ask you to stare at someone different from you and search for the thing that actually makes you the same. Be it your own flesh and blood, or a passing stranger you’ll never see again. How different could you really be?”
Now let’s look at irreplaceable originals, be they franchise-launching first entries or obsolesced media forms altogether.
- Ys Ancient Ys Vanished: Ys is eternal | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi takes it back, all the way back, to the original, original Ys, a supremely confident endeavour even on its most humble of release platforms.
- Journey to the Source: An Expedition along the Yangtze River | CD-ROM Journal
Misty De Méo explores early innovations in interactive reference material via a travelogue along China’s longest river.
“What makes Journey to the Source interesting by contrast is that it’s not an easily obsoletable work. It’s not a general guide to the Yangtze; it’s a record of a specific voyage. That voyage hasn’t been un-done in the future, and later voyages and exploration in the region have done nothing to reduce the value of this specific record. As a personal account of a journey through lands that have dramatically changed in the following decades, in some ways it’s only increased in impact.”
We try to keep an eye out for interesting perspectives on lesser-known games and lower-profile releases. Here are two highlights.
- Review: Soul Void Dives Deep into Retro Body Horror | Sidequest
Kathryn Hemmann plays a subdued Game Boy horror joint that can hang with the likes of Undertale and Yume Nikki.
- En Garde Review – Flamboyant shenanigans and expert swordplay | Gayming Magazine
Rachel Watts buckles up for some swauve swashing in En Garde.
“As someone whose in-game answer to everything is to punch now, and talk later, En Garde!’s combat system truly inspired me to fight with finesse. Although fights are challenging, there’s also an effortlessness to them. Even when I was clumsily fumbling with the controller, Adalia would transform my awkward inputs into a dazzling one-woman show full of badassery. I’d hit the dodge button, and Adalia would launch herself into a graceful roll. If I jumped down from a high ledge in panic, she’d add a cheeky flip to the mix – just for pure showmanship. Her acrobatics add a wonderful flair to all your actions, so not only do you kick ass, but you look incredible doing it.”
Both of these next two selections still focus on one game as their principal object, but in service to a larger argument.
- Apple’s Arbitrary Policy Strikes a Blow to Mobile Game Preservation, Stylish Hoverboarding Game ‘Repulsive’ is the Latest Victim | TouchArcade
Jared Nelson peers into the byzantine laws that dictate what stays and what goes on Apple’s ever-ephemeral App Store.
- Frog’s Adventure | Buried Treasure
John Walker offers a completely normal and fine glance at a cute lil’ frog game.
“You could, perhaps, argue that there are already rather a lot of cute games about frogs, with comic fonts and non-sequitur-delivering wildlife. I would too, but only in the context of what a good thing this is.”
- Common Proverbs as Video Game Tutorials | McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
Matthew S. Burns sees us out with a little Gamer Wisdom for the ages.
“Distant grass will always have a greener hue. You can fine-tune the appearance of distant grass in Settings > Graphics.”
Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?
Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!