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What We Played Over The Holidays
The festive season isn’t just a great chance for catching up with friends and family – it’s also a great chance to sink some real time into the insurmountable challenge that lies in every player’s ‘Pile of Shame’.
Leviathyn’s team of writers is located across the world and (while there’s certainly going to be some shared titles) many of us sunk our time and money into entirely different kinds of games.
Fergus Halliday – Endless Legend
There are games you start knowing that you’ll sink hours upon hours into them (*cough* Dragon Age: Inquisition *cough*) and then there are games you expect to dip your toes into but end up so enthralled with their mechanics that you can’t help but lose days and days to them.
Endless Legend falls into the latter category. Developed by Amplitude Studios and playing like a fresh blend of Civilization V and Heroes of Might & Magic, Endless Legend sees you take on the role of one of eight factions in the fantasy setting of Auriga and then guide your chosen faction to victory – be it through military, economic, scientific or even diplomatic means. Though the UI is initially a bit harder to decipher than Firaxis’ effort, there’s a great amount of depth here and the game does a great job of encouraging and rewarding you for experimenting and understanding the nuances of its systems.
Amongst the legion of 4X strategy games that inspire the phrase “just-one-more-turn”, Endless Legend sits somewhere around the top. Unlike its rivals, the different factions in Endless Legend all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table – some of which radically alter your approach to things. Throw in a gorgeous art style that brings the game’s fusion of fantasy and science fiction to life and you’ve got a game that I have to practically be pulled away from.
Stephen Pollard – MARIO KART 8 AND HYRULE WARRIORS
Though they weren’t holiday releases, I was gifted both Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors for Christmas. As a perennial believer in Nintendo and all that they do, I was excited to receive two more stellar games for what has become the console worth having.
Not much can be said for Mario Kart 8 that any fan of the racing series doesn’t already know. Playing with friends is as fun as ever, and with the first DLC pack providing two new cups, there is plenty of fun to be had. Honestly, I was most impressed with the overhauled retro tracks.
As someone who never played Dynasty Warriors, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hyrule Warriors. I submit now I was thrilled with the outcome. The action-oriented gameplay grows repetitive, but the lore and plethora of nods to the Zelda universe keep me hooked to this solid entry. Plus, there’s about a billion playable characters to choose from.
Christian Belland – LONE SURVIVOR
I spent my holidays drinking eggnog, unwrapping presents, eating too much ham, and, of course– getting scared silly by Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor. I’d never heard of the game, but decided to pick it up when the game was only 3 bucks on the Playstation Store.
First thing, the game tells me to “perform the ritual,” which means I had to don my surround-sound headphones and turn off the lights. I politely declined and left the lights on and my TV speakers low. To my disappointment, these measures did nothing to dilute the experience. The dense, layered, and unnerving sound design is the real culprit here, working wonders far beyond the visual possibilities of the 8-bit aesthetic. When the monsters find you– and they will—their shrieking will haunt you in your sleep.
Lone Survivor establishes a lonely, isolated, hopeless atmosphere within the first few minutes, and the oppressive tone never lets up. Never once did I feel relief or joy. Every minor victory is extinguished by that all-encompassing dread that Jasper Byrne so skillfully wove into every element of the game design. Thanks to a mid-game difficulty spike, what little comfort I gleaned from mastering the core mechanics was snatched away from me. Don’t go down in the basement. Seriously. Don’t.
I picked a real feel-good game for the holidays, didn’t I? If you’re ever feeling a bit too merry, pick up Lone Survivor. It’ll knock you down a few pegs.”
Sarah Blackburn – ASSASSIN’S CREED: ROGUE & FAR CRY 4
This year for my holidays I ended up playing Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Rogue while teaching them both to my dad, which isn’t as easy as that sounds. This is a man who consistently finds new ways to kill his character (including blowing up his own ship in Rogue and being repeatedly mauled by a vicious Honey Badger in Far Cry 4) and who has a habit of forgetting the controls when he changes games, so it’s been an interesting holiday!
First off, Far Cry 4 is fantastic, in both of our opinions. We’ve not actually got that far into the main story for the simple reason that we’ve been exploring, riding Elephants into battle and hunting the many indigenous animals of Kyrat instead, but that’s one of the best parts about the Far Cry games: a reasonable amount of freedom. We’ve crossed mountain ranges with a grapple like Spiderman, flown head-first into a tree while testing the wingsuit and found out that Rhinos are both vindictive and need more than a bow to kill (you’d think that would be obvious, yet my dad still tried anyway, bless him). As well as your rather political main story, you had a variety of side missions and activities including races and hunting, and you don’t even want to know about our 2 hour Yak hunt across the land of Kyrat. If I had to recommend one title for you to pick up in the January sales, Far Cry 4 would definitely be it. It’s got entertainment, action and copious amounts of vicious Honey Badgers, and it’s even Dad-approved.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, while similar to Black Flag, is the first AC title where you’re a Templar instead of an Assassin. Granted my dad didn’t buy it for this reason, he bought it because of the improved Naval combat, which is pretty good. In North America you have to contend with icebergs as well as multiple armies who all really hate you, and if you’re lucky you’ll run into a POW ship (way more fun than taking a Naval colony). I think my best moment with this game was my dad blowing up his own ship. I still have no idea how he did it, but it was definitely impressive. The story is intriguing and packs enough in to keep you playing for a while, and the game world itself is gorgeous, from the snow-covered peaks of North America to the lush green River Valley. I can’t wait to get more into being a Templar, just to see everything from the other perspective of the AC universe.
What did you play over the holidays? Tell us in the comments section below!