The Banner Saga 2 still goes at it hard

The world is breaking. This is what you’re told at the outset of The Banner Saga 2. It’s delivered in a sigh, an exhale, and carries with it the weight of responsibility you bear—not all of those entrusted to your care will make it through the ordeal. There’s an inevitable doom to the proceedings but your choices will give those that follow you a chance, at least. Those choices are there in the dialogue, in the small esoteric details of conversation, in the events that unfold, and in the combat that ensues. Decision-making is woven into the tapestry of play…


Europia, a videogame that aims to demystify the refugee experience

As the news coverage of Brexit rolls along the focus has inevitably, and somewhat depressingly, shifted to the fallout of the main parties involved. The Conservative party faced a swift and anti-climactic leadership battle following David Cameron’s resignation, and the Labour party is still in turmoil following an MP vote of no confidence against Jeremy Corbyn. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage was last seen sipping champagne with Rupert Murdoch following his own resignation as leader of the UK Independence Party. While the press and political players scramble around these developments the immediate legacy, aside from political uncertainty and an economic plummet, is an…

Max Payne

Fairytale of New York: Max Payne 15 Years On

Remedy has always come at videogames from a slightly different angle. Quantum Break, coming out this week, appears to encapsulate the developer’s idiosyncrasies. Rote gunplay livened up with time manipulation. And then lashings of bizarre inter-textuality. They did it in the first two Max Payne games, and they did it again in 2010’s Alan Wake. But Max Payne is where it all started, the genesis of ideas the Finnish studio is still working through today. /// “Outside, the mercury was falling fast. It was colder than the Devil’s heart, raining ice pitchforks as if the Heavens were ready to fall.”…

Amnesia Scanner Chingy

New music video looks like a broken videogame

The new music video from Berlin-based duo Amnesia Scanner dropped recently and, boy, does it deliver. For the past few years, Amnesia Scanner has been producing some of the most exquisite sonic ruminations on our descent into digital assimilation. The track in question, “Chingy”, is no different as a digital voice bleeds over trance synths, drowning among the kicks and snare. It’s an abrasive, disorientating, and totally potent attack on our senses. The accompanying video, created by digital artist Sam Rolfes, reinforces and furthers the aesthetic considerations of Amnesia Scanner, pushing it almost to the point of gravitational collapse. Rolfes…

Sunset 2

Firewatch and the great American landscape

Steven Poole put it beautifully in his book Trigger Happy (2000): “the jewel in the crown of what videogames can offer is the aesthetic emotion of wonder… such videogames at their best build awe-inspiring spaces from immaterial light. They are cathedrals of fire.” Cathedrals of fire. Sit on that for a moment. I’m at my computer and the screen is burning, roaring with the light of the sun. Steven Poole’s got a point. Wonder is hardwired into the history of videogames. It’s there in the labyrinthine mazes of 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. And it’s there in the sheened…


Firewatch: Come for the beauty, stay for the eeriness

Firewatch gets it. Beauty alone isn’t enough to carry an experience. There needs to be some grit, a bit of dirt, conflict even, to elevate a videogame (hell, any piece of art) from the whimsical to something more. I have a problem with 2009’s Flower and 2013’s Proteus precisely because there isn’t anything to offset that serene beauty, their new-age hokum. But in Firewatch, no matter how gorgeous that sunset or night sky is, there’s always a thick sense of dread. Something to unsettle you. Something to make you tense up. I’m not talking bump-in-the-night, Blair-Witch, voodoo nonsense either. Forget…


Revisiting the enduring horror of Far Cry 2

The Far Cry series has always dealt in discordance. Those hyper-saturated blues of travel agent brochures and the high-contrast greens of the indigenous flora, deliciously juxtaposed with the hyper-violence you were enacting on screen. It’s the calling card of the series, that contrast; travel fantasies gone wrong. But Far Cry: Primal, out in a few weeks, eschews that trait of the series in favor of a more muted palette. Its world is one untouched by pop culture aesthetics, it gets back to the dirt we supposedly rose out of in the hope that a retreat into our prehistory will rejuvenate…


Ever feel like a break-up is the end of the world? This game’s for you

You know the feeling: your relationship has ended. What hope there was of rekindling it has long since faded. The detachment can feel crushing, and a peculiar transience sets in; you’re caught in a netherworld reeling from the loss. You still go about your daily business. You put the coffee on in the morning, you get dressed, and you might have a cigarette. But things are different now. You frequent the same spaces, the same bars and parks, you go to the cinema you’ve always gone to, except they’re tainted; past memories inhabit these places, recollections of shared experiences that…


The Joy of Nature

Right now, Paris is hosting the United Nations conference on climate change. It’s the 21st session to be held since these events started, and the 11th meeting since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997. These events tend to be underwhelming—a smattering of watery half-promises and spurious statistics—but this year there’s increased scrutiny following the global protests of last September. Three hundred thousand people took to the streets of New York while concurrent marches were being held across cities such as Berlin, Lagos, Johannesburg, Seoul, and London. And this November, the United Nations weather agency warned of the new “permanent…