Death Stranding (PC, PS4)

Hooray for PS Store sales. This week we will be delving into the weird and wonderful mind of Hideo Kojima (emphasis on weird) the mastermind behind Metal Gear Solid as we bring you one of his first works following his divorce with Konami. So here is what I thought of Death Stranding.

Death Stranding takes place in a world not to dissimilar from our own where the worlds of the living and the world of the dead have melded in an event known as the Death Stranding. This has caused creatures called “Beached Things” (“BT’s”) to swarm America that explode when consuming corpses (voidouts), this along with the Timefall, which is rain that causes anything it touches to rapidly age. This causes society to collapse into a few isolated pockets, downgrading from the USA to the UCA (United Cities of America). You play as Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus) a courier who travels between these cities making deliveries. He is tasked by the late president to travel from the East coast to the West connecting cities he meets to the UCA.

If you managed to get to the end of that paragraph and not think to yourself “Nope, I’m out” then you might just enjoy the game. As expected from anything with Hideo Kojima’s name, the game is polished to a high finish. Graphically the game is very impressive, both the characters and background rendering are visually stunning. The level of detail the game goes to would extraordinary if it were anyone other than Hideo Kojima. For example, it’s not just the weight of the load Sam is carrying that can put him off balance but the way the load is balance can do it, for example if heavy parcels are stacked higher than less heavy ones it’ll cause a greater moment so require Sam to control his balance more. It’s more than likely purely coincidental but I enjoy the similarities that the Death Stranding has to the COVID-19 pandemic that escalated just months after the games release. Themes of isolation, fear and disconnection.

Game feels like it needs to do a better job of defining what the point of it all is. All the gameplay details are great and all but sadly the game is let down by being really boring. For the most part you are traversing a blank wilderness ladened with parcels from point A to point B with the occasional ghost attack to break up the monotony. The added mechanics do nothing to improve the enjoyment and seem more a practice in showing off.

I can’t get past how shameless the game is. The games tactless brand dropping for Monster Energy drinks. Going back to the idea of showing off, I can’t help but think Hideo Kojima is name dropping and showing off who his famous friends are, with big names such as Guillermo del Toro, Mads Mikkelsen & Léa Seydoux to name a few.

Although I do have to admit that there is something cathartic about successfully delivering a small mountain of parcels across challenging terrain to their destination and thanked by a hologram of someone who may or may not actually exist. It’s moments like this that make me believe that I would enjoy a postman simulator game.

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BONUS CONTENT: Immersion in Gaming: Believing the Fantasy

This is something that I’ve discussed in many of my reviews and discussions in the past but have never really explained. I thought this week I would delve into what immersion is, how it can be achieved as well as examples both good and bad.

Immersion is just that, how immersed into a game the player can be. Believing in the fantasy and feeling as though the player is really in the game. Be it racing at Le Mans or storming the beaches of Normandy or exploring the furthest reaches of space. The are also the type of games that leave an impact on the play both while they are playing and after they have walked away from it.

So what makes a game immersive? I think the most important characteristic for creating immersion is believability. You can have the best graphics, the best gameplay but it means nothing if the player doesn’t believe they are there. For example if a game’s frame rate drops to a level where the games movements suffer from lag or if bugs cause the game to act strangely such as objects clipping into each other or animations not working as they should, they break the fantasy being built up by the player causing players to disconnect with the game. The game also has to entice the player into the game, be that an expansive gaming world/universe dripping in lore, a gripping & engaging story, fluid & smooth gameplay or something completely different.

Now, how about some examples? An example of a game lacking in immersion is Fallout 3. The story drew you in and the gameplay was smooth but with the bugs and the creepy stare everyone gives the play when talking to them breaks any believability the game has. On the other hand, both Red Dead Redemption games oozed with immersion. Everything about the game was made to lure the player in and keep them there.

Immersion is what separates a good game from a great game but on the other hand it also won’t make a bad game into a good game. For example, icing a cake will make it taste better but icing a turd will still make it a turd.

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Solasta: Crown of the Magister (PC)

Time to relieve some of 2020’s backlog. This was one that I didn’t have rated as game of the year material so put it on the backburner whilst I played The Last of Us Part II. With resemblance of normality restored after the Christmas period it’s back to it and with it one that may have slipped under most people’s radars. The game comes to us from Tactical Adventures; an Indie Developer from France. After a successful Kickstarter campaign they bring to us Solasta: Crown of the Magister which is currently on Early Access on Steam.

Solasta is an table top adventure based in the mythical land of Solasta. You create a party of 4 adventures and send them out on various adventures encountering different creatures, beasts and monsters. The game has been licence to use the Dungeon & Dragons 5th Edition rule set which gives it an ere of familiarity to those who have played D&D before.

My experience of the game was very polar, there was lots I enjoyed about it but then a lot that I didn’t like too. Starting with the positive, the combat. The combat is tight and well constructed. It’s turn based in the style of XCOM but with Wizards and fireballs instead of aliens and grenades. It works very well and feels true to the rule-set. Another positive I took away from the game was how well presented the environments were, especially some of the lighting effects and rendering. The light being cast by campfires or torches especially in some of the darker environments feel very realistic. I was running the game on my slightly dated gaming PC (4th Gen i7, duel GTX1080) and it was looking brilliant.

Sadly though we come to the less brilliant parts. The character creation is very limited. I went into the game with a rough idea of the party I wanted. An Half-Orc Barbarian, A Half-Elf Warlock, A Halfling Bard & A Human Rogue. Although I managed to get the Rogue the game does not allow for the Barbarian, Warlock, Bard & Druid classes. The Sorcerer is not currently available but will be available as free DLC when the game is released. As far as races goes, only the common races and half-elves are available (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings), so no Half-Orcs, Teeflings or Dragonborns. Even the races that you can choose have limited choice. For example, there is only 2 choices for Dwarf beards. I’m going to put this down to the game still being on Early Access but I’m hoping for some more customisation options before it’s release.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy was the dialogue and animation. The dialogue felt cheesy and cliché. With it being a French studio maybe the writers weren’t native English speakers but in any case it ruins the immersion, as does some of the animations. When a characters mouths are moving and they don’t match to what they’re saying you get a sense that things are off and stops you getting absorbed into the game. Again this could be a localisation issue.

Overall there are some nuggets of brilliance in the game but overall the game still lacks in a couple of areas, but given that it’s still in early access there is still time to fix these issues, so watch this space.

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BONUS CONTENT: My PlayStation Wrap-Up 2020

With 2020 well as truly behind us. I’m going to look back at my PlayStation round up of 2020. A year where unlike most people who got to sit around at home and play video games. As a “key worker” I didn’t get this privilege, I instead went into work as usually helping make sure hospitals, care homes and the like were getting the equipment they needed to do the real work in saving lives. Anyway enough about that, lets look at my downtime.

That’s a new game about every week and a half
I have good taste. Some pretty excellent games if I do say so myself
That is a constant month of gaming (depending on the month)
I don’t play well with others.
Lets face it, who doesn’t love a lazy Saturday afternoon?
This would explain the mid week blues
I thought it would have been lower to be honest.
What!? No Platinum Trophies!? I’m ashamed of myself

And with that, that’s the end of the tour. If you would like to get your own you can sign up here. Just sign in to your PlayStation account before March 2nd, you can also redeem a few theme for your PS4 in doing so too.

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The D and D Resurgence: Why is Dungeons and Dragons more popular than ever?

A step out of the video game lane this week to talk about another sort of game. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that I have only gotten into more recently. Looking at the sales figures of the source material it seems I’m not the only one. In 2020 Wizards of the Coast (The game’s Publishers) announced that 2019 was the companies 6th year of growth in a row. One of the source books (Volo’s Guide To Monsters) managed to get into the New York Times best sellers list in November 2016. This week I’ll be looking into what factors have helped this rise in popularity.

For those who are unaware, Dungeons & Dragons is a table top game created by Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax back in 1970. The game was created as a medieval battle table top game under the name Chainmail. Later revisions added that players controlled individual characters instead of armies as well as the story telling aspect, races, classes etc. It was Gygax’s 2-year-old that decided on the name “Dungeons & Dragons”. When her father pitched her a selection of potential names she replied “Oh Daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!”. Through the years the game has gone through several rule revision with the current 5th Edition rules being the most current, being released in 2014. The game consists of 1 player who is the Dungeon or Game Master (DM or GM) who is the narrator and referee of the game. The rest of the players are Playable Characters (PC’s) who play characters within the game. The DM builds the scene for the PC’s, the PC’s will then choose the course of the game and the DM will build the story in response to the other players actions.

The 5th Edition Rules

Speaking of the 5th Edition of the rules, they are probably one of the reasons for the soring popularity of the game. The previous 4th Edition was not well received with current players. The 4th Edition was essentially a rebuild of D&D from the ground up to cut a lot of the chaff that had accumulated in the previous editions, to Wizards of the Coast (who had bought publishing rights to the game in 1997) nothing in the game was sacred and all aspects were up fro review. In doing this they lost a lot of what long time players loved about the game which fractured the D&D community. A lot of players didn’t move across to the 4th Edition, instead remaining with edition 3.5 having invested in the game already being only released 5 years earlier. Others moved to other fantasy table top games such as Pathfinder or moved back to previous edition of the game.

The 5th Edition was developed in order to bring back to the fold a lot of the players they lost by returning some of the elements from previous editions that were cut but keep the simplicity of the 4th edition for new players to not feel too lost. This was done by modulating each section of the game. Where 4e focused a lot on the rules of combat and glanced over a lot of the other aspects, 5e had specific ruling and guidelines for all aspects of the game allowing the game to be better tailored to each game session or campaign. This means a lot more work for DM’s but PC’s still get a streamlined experience that is new player friendly.

The Internet

We live in an age where information is but a click or a finger press away. This has done wonders for the D&D community. People can gather, discuss the game and share their own homebrewed campaigns or characters. Also because of the ever increasing popularity of YouTube & Twitch it’s easier than ever to sample the game by watching other play. In fact in 2017 over 9million users watched a D&D stream. This allows people easy access to the game if they are interested in checking out before they jump in. Sites such as Roll20 or Owlbear Rodeo allow players to play with others all over the world meaning people are no longer limited to playing with people in their local area or with friends/family.

geek culture

Geek is in. Video games, Manga/Anime, Comic books, all the shit that kids were beaten up for when we were kids is now what all the cool kids like. This includes Dungeons & Dragons. This can be seen in the number of celebrities that openly discussed playing D&D. This list includes Drew Barrymore, Dame Judi Dench, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Chester Bennington, Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, Marilyn Manson, George R.R. Martin, Elon Musk are but to name a few. This increases the exposure of the game to further demographics. In inclusion in modern culture too helps the reach of the game such as it’s inclusion in the Nexflix show Stranger Things as well as other TV shows like Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons & even My Little Pony. Wizards of the Coast has actually capitalised on this and has beginner sets based off of the characters used by the characters in Stranger Things as well as a Rick & Morty themed set.

These are but a few of the main reasons in my opinions. If you have any others feel free to leave a comment and discuss them.

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BONUS CONTENT: The Scalper Blight: How not to buy a PS5.

So long as there’s demand for something there will be someone somewhere who will try and make a profit off of it. This can be seen with the sheer number of PS5’s & XBox X/S series being sold on sites such as eBay & Facebook Marketplace by people in bulk. These scalpers are taking advantage of the high demand by shorting the supply even more by buying as many as possible in order to increase the “street price” by up to 3 times the sale price. It’s not a new concept, ask any festival goer and they will tell you all about scalpers, but what damage is this doing on the industry and how can we stop it? This is what I will look at answering today.

Scalping is when products are bought (usually but not exclusive to shares or tickets) in order to be quickly sold for a profit. This is usually done as in buying up products, especially in bulk, it will increase demand and as such increase the price people will be willing to pay. This is evident in the current situation surrounding the next-gen consoles. Scalping is not illegal but it is very much frowned upon by the general community as it seen as a way for those who have the capital to purchase several consoles to profit from those who don’t .

Now why is this such a bad thing? First and foremost, it means that there are less consoles available for people like you and me that want one to use and play on. This creates a greater demand and as such elevates prices as less PS5’s become available. Next is the effect on the manufacturer, now I can imagine at some point people will be thinking “If consoles are being sold, be them to ordinary users or scalpers Sony is still profiting from them aren’t they?”. Normally this would be true but in the case with games consoles it’s not. This is because consoles, especially at launch are sold at a loss to the manufacturer. The loss is offset by the sale of games, which is why you usually find consoles after release being bundled with several games and added products such as extra hardware or films. Given that each console in the hands of a scalper means that there is 1 less person buying games for that console, the more consoles being held in storage, the less games are being sold. In fact stats show that in Japan by the end of December PS5 games were being sold at a rate for 1 game for every 3 consoles sold. It’s true that these figures only included physical disks and not digital games but that still wouldn’t account for the dramatic short fall.

So what can be done to stop scalpers? The UK government is looking into measures to put measures in place to stop the inflation of prices of used hardware given the rise of not just private scalpers but even UK based second hand goods chain CEX started advertising PS5’s for up to £900 a console. In order to have the best chance of buying as many consoles as quickly as possible scalpers will tend to use buying bots that are programmed to wait in online queues and buy the consoles once the queues open or to. Each group of scalpers can have hundreds of these bots waiting in queues across many online retailers. Some retailers (although very little) are taking steps to counter scalpers. UK based video game retailer Game, have committed to fighting against scalpers after a twitter user bragged about managing to purchase over 2000 PS5’s from the retailer. Since then all pre-orders from game are subject to 1 unit per customer and all pre-orders are checked after order confirmation has been sent with the retailer having the right to cancel any suspicious orders.

What can we do as consumers against the scalper blight. Sadly, we can do very little. As mentioned before there isn’t any laws against scalping itself, although some online platforms won’t allow scalpers to use their services, as such the best thing to do is report these sellers removing their selling platforms. Apart from this the only other thing we can do is to not buy from scalpers. If the scalpers have no one to sell to they will stop what they are doing. I can imagine it’ll be hard for some people, especially if pressured by a child or loved one, but in the end these leeches prey on those pressures to make money. These people do not deserve your hard earned money. Do not let them win.

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Crusader Kings III (PC)

It seems like it’s been forever since I reviewed anything fairly recent (The last one being my Tony Hawk remake almost 2 months ago), but now I’ve managed to get some use out of those Christmas Steam vouchers and decided on a toss up between this and Baldur’s Gate 3 I decided on this, mainly due to the price & the fact that Baldur’s Gate 3 isn’t ready yet. So we set off towards the known medieval world in that of Crusader Kings III.

I’ve had an interest in the game since it’s release. First off I am a huge fans of strategy games such as the Total War series, Age of Empires & Civilisation so given the game at a glance seems quite similar to the former I was intrigued. Second, the game was scoring excellent reviews from all over the place which made me interested & finally third I money burning a whole in my pocket. So with the trifecta in place I made the purchase and I have to say I was not disappointed.

First off, I did find the game to be rather complicated. I completed the tutorial but found it to be more of an overview of the games systems and mechanics rather than an actual teaching tool to play the game. I personally thought it could have done with at least a voice over explaining everything, but these are just tiny nit-picks. It took a bit of trial and error and a few restarts when making some game ruining mistakes, but 2-3 campaigns in I was getting the hang of things, however this is hindered by the sheer number of choices the game gives you. For example, The game gives some recommended campaigns and their relative difficulty but even in the vanilla version of the game you have the option to choose from almost any ruling house in Europe & North Africa all the way to Indi & Mongolia.

The game puts you in control of one of the middle ages many ruling families at one of three levels of rule, Earl, Lord or King. You control the head of your chosen house and rule the land as you see fit, to help in this endeavour you have a choice of 5 different lifestyles. Diplomacy, which is about making friends and gaining respect; Marshall, which is about having the pointiest stick; Stewardship, which is about making money; Intrigue, which is about spies and espionage & Learning, which is about knowing stuff and piety. The different styles of gameplay mean that each game is never the same as the one before it.

Overall, if you need something to scratch the strategy itch, something with a massive scope and masses of replay-ability and attention to detail then you can’t go much wrong with Crusader Kings III.

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BONUS CONTENT: Are game disks a dying breed?

In recent years we have seen an insurgence in digital media in most entertainment industries. Both the film & music industries are seeing more people making digital purchases compared to their physical counterpart. Video games are also following suit with the introduction of Steam back in 2003 and with consoles joining later with the introduction of the Xbox Games Store, Playstation Store & Nintendo Store. This growth came to a head in 2013 when digital game purchases overtook that of physical copies for the first time in history (54% Digital, 46% Physical). The most recent figure I can find comes from 2018 where it was believed that 83% of all games purchased were done digitally. Now the question is does this mean that there will be one day where the game disk will become a thing of the past? It’s the direction that the market seems to be going in but I still think we will still see video games on our shelves at least until the next generations of consoles.

The main advantage I see to physical games is in purchasing and cost. There are so many more places you can buy physical copies of games compared to it’s digital counterpart, the huge number of online and high street stores would take me an article of it’s own to dictate. This means people can shop around to get the best deal and save money, with digital games the player is very much at the mercy of the market. This is less true with PC games than consoles given the rising number of distribution platforms on PC such as Steam, Origin, Gog, Epic Games Store etc. Physical copies have another advantage in that they can be loaned to others and bought & sold on the used market. However, mainly with online multiplayer games a game bought used may require an online pass to be bought as well as the game disk in order to play. There is also the convenience that comes with buying digital games, you can buy a game and install it there and then. No having to go out to the store or waiting on deliveries, this is especially advantageous when it comes to new releases as some platforms allow for digital pre-orders to be installed and ready to play by the time of release.

Some digital providers sometimes offer games for free for a limited time. The Epic Game Store offers some games for free and EA’s Origin also did for a while. PSPlus subscribers as well allows players to purchase selected games for free and allow free play of them so long as they remain PSPlus subsribers. There is also an argument to be made that digital games have a longer shelf life due to damage and wear-and-tear to disks as games are swapped and age. However, there is a lifespan of digital games too depending on the digital vendor. Since your purchase will be registered to you via the provider, if that provider were to go out of business and their servers are shut down you would loose access to all the games you purchased and because you only purchased the right to play the games on the server as opposed to the game itself you wouldn’t be eligible for any kind of compensation.

I’m made a lot of mention as to how the different mediums effect the player but what about the developer? The rise of digital providers offers opportunities to indie developers to distribute their games to a greater audience than they could if they were restricted to having to sell their games using disks or cartridges which can be an expensive process to create. This however has caused it’s own problems, as the number of indie games available on the likes of Steam means that it’s becoming harder and harder to have your game stick out from the crowd. Doing some research, I have found that Steam has over 10,000 games as of Dec 2020 and with 40% of them in the Indie Genre it’s hard for a new developer to get their name out without a current fan base.

Personally I buy both physical copies and digital copies. I tend to shop around and try and get the best deal I can. This usually means buying physically copies of new releases and then waiting for sales for games that have been released for a while. Sadly given my current situation I don’t have the luxury to be able to buy every game I wish as soon as it’s release nor would I have the luxury of time to play them all if I did. This means I have to pick and choose my game purchases, as such I prefer buying physical copies of games as being able to shop around and the used game market helps me get as many games for the lowest price. Although if this wasn’t the case I would probably prefer digital copies due to the convenience of not having to go out or wait for delivery.

Videogame Violence: From the Screen to Real Life

An argument as old as video games themselves and one that will continue until we are naught but dust. It’s my firm belief that so long as their are at least 2 people on the planet there will be arguments about 2 things. The portrayal of violence in video games and the real life implications this brings about and who gets to eat the last Rolo. For a blog first I have actually done some research into this and haven’t just assumed I was right and proceeded to spew words to that effect.

DISCLAIMER: Before I start in earnest I would like to make it known that I am not an expert in this field (or in any field for that matter), therefore anything of my beliefs or opinions on this matter are not to be taken as fact.

The subject on whether violent video games make people violent or not is no way near a new topic. It’s one that has been going on continuously, popping in and out of public interest with each school shooting, act of terrorism as well as other types of horrible tragedy. In fact if you expand the subject matter out to entertainment and literature the argument stretches back even further. In fact the US government passed The Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) all the way back in 1873 to ban literature that contained “obscene,” “filthy,” or “inappropriate” material, so by the time video games came along the idea of banning things you didn’t like was well established.

Having looked into the subject I can’t help but be staggered by the number of acts of violence and horrific tragedies that have been blamed by violent video games in one way or another. I also can’t help but think that for every one of these incidents there are hundreds if not thousands more incidents that will never see print. Most of them going along the lines of person X liked doing activity Y before committing tragedy Z so Y must be the cause. There is a simplistic crooked logic behind this way of thinking and it scares me that people gravitate to it without question. I mean we could probably find a specific breakfast cereal that is preferred by murderers but that doesn’t mean Coco Pops make a person want to kill another person.

So why point the finger at video games? Personally I think it’s because they are an easy target. People enjoying a medium where you control a violent person committing violent acts then going out and committing violent acts themselves, simple right? However, like the rest of the world we live in the answer is never this simple. To say that stopping violent video games with stop these incidents is both short sighted and naive. There are too many variable to be able to point at one thing and go “There’s your problem” like a plumber fixing your pipes.

One incident that came up a lot in my research was that of the Columbine High School massacre. I’m sure you are all aware but to those that are not, the Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting in Colorado in April 1999 in which 2 student killed 13 students and staff as well as themselves and injured 24 others. It was well documented that the 2 students were fans of the video games Doom & Duke Nukem 3D, both of these games fall into the class of violent video games. So as you’d expect calls for banning these games and their ilk we made. In fact there was a lawsuit against the developers for causing the massacre as were the makers and distributors of the films Natural Born Killers & The Basketball Diaries, Marilyn Manson and 2 pornographic websites. All the suits were unsuccessful and the calls for banning violent video games were denied mainly because video games are protected under The First Amendment (right to freedom of speech).

On looking into the matter, there is certainly an argument to be made that video games in some way had a role in these events (It was believed by journals that the 2 Columbine shooters gained inspiration from Duke Nukem 3D to use pipe bombs during the massacre) but I do not believe that they were in any way, shape or form the cause of these incidents. I personally find video games to be a refuge, a port in the storm for when life gets hectic or when I’m not feeling all that great about things. They act as an escapism for me and I can imagine a lot of people too. A lot of the perpetrators I’ve looking into when researching this topic felt betrayed and let down by life and society so it only makes sense for them to find an escape from these feelings. Elements from these games will get woven into their acts and from that the blame is cast against them.*

These are some very extreme cases but what about everyday acts of aggression, can video games be blamed for lesser everyday violence? I personally think sometimes they can, however I also believe that the violence portrayed in violent video games is not the main culprit either. Looking back to when I was younger there were more than a few moments that I would become violent during playing video games (these acts never escalated beyond me punching pillows for throwing controllers at inanimate objects). This was because I would be frustrated at not being able to get past a certain point of a game. I’d be upset over my own inability to do something and being too immature to accept my own short comings I’d lash out.

To clarify, there is no one video game out there that can flick a so-called “Hulk switch” in any person that plays it and suddenly makes them more aggressive. Then again, I can’t say that it will never happen to someone. Yes, there will be people that will be influenced by violent games and think that copying them is cool. This tends to be seen in children and people who have lower levels of mental maturity. To prevent these influences and protect them is the reason why games have age classifications, it’s a flawed system (as it assumes people of the same age are all as mentally mature as each other) but they do act as guidelines at the very least.

Banning violent video games will never stop acts of violence, we are not suddenly going to ascend to a utopian society by banning violent video games. The only true cures are education, reform, understanding, tolerance and acceptance. Then again as flawed beings I don’t think we will ever reach such a high moral plain as a species so I guess we are doomed to suffer until the end of our days. I do hope that I am wrong about this but I suppose only time will tell.

*I would like to make it clear that I certainly DO NOT sympathise with the perpetrators of these acts. It is my view that the reasons I mentioned are never justification for acts of violence, cruelty, injury or death. I also do not condone any actions undertaken or any actions similar in relation to this.

BONUS CONTENT: Ludo-Narrative Dissonance: Saying One Thing, Doing Another

Lets start with a definition for those who aren’t aware. Ludo-Narrative Dissonance was coined by the game designer Clint Hocking in a blog post in 2007. The term is used to describe the difference between the narrative told by a games story and the narrative of it’s gameplay. In his post Hocking singled out Bioshock where he explained that the narrated story demands the player be selfless but all the while the gameplay mechanics enforce a selfishness and the pursuit of power.

This was something I was thinking about as I wrote up my review for The Last of Us Part II. How Ellie would stab, shoot and blow up several people just so she could kill one person for killing another. Any kind of self-reflection would tell her that if it wasn’t for the camera crew following her around she would be the bad guy in this story. Abby by contrast is on a mission to kill someone who slaughtered her father as well as many others and succeeds in doing so without anyone else dying. This in contrast to the Ludo-Narrative consistency of the first game was one of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way about the game.

Another example that comes to me is that of the Tomb Raider remake. Again this was a game that I thoroughly enjoyed and had it not been for The Last of Us would have been my Game of the Year. There was a moment in the game where Lara kills her first person. You can see the terror in her and see the very moment that a piece of her soul breaks. This as a scene in isolation really brought depth to Lara’s character, However from that point on she starts gunning, stabbing, exploding people like it’s going out of fashion rendering her early breakdown almost meaningless.

The use of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance isn’t always something to avoid and if used properly can be a powerful story telling tool. To illustrate this lets look at Spec Ops: The Line where the use of ludo-narrative dissonance was a conscious choice. The actions of Walker are seen as a horrible warning to enforce the games message of “War is bad and you should feel ashamed for enjoying this game”. The game uses the hypocrisy of the playable character to reinforce the message of the story. This is how the Ludo-Narrative Dissonance differs from that in Spec Ops then it does in both The Last of Us Part II & Tomb Raider. Ellie & Lara never get that revelation that what they are doing is a bad thing, Walker on the other hand gets to the end of the game and it’s brought to light everything he’s done in the game and he realises his actions cannot be justified.

So to sum everything up, if your game is show signs of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance you can do one of 2 things. 1) Fix the inconsistencies by either adjusting the narrative or gameplay elements so that both elements go hand in hand; or 2) Highlight these difference in such a way that the contract makes the player question their in game choices and actions. The latter is more difficult to pull of but if managed successfully can make for a deeper gaming experience and give the player something to ponder once the gaming is done.