Videogaming: Spiritfarer

Every once in a while I come across a game, a book, a movie, or whatever that absolutely hits me emotionally. More often than not, it hits me in such as way that I had no idea that it was coming. Deadhouse Gates did that to me for books and Blade Runner did that to me for film. Off the time of my head I cannot say that I have been hit so emotionally before by a video game, at least in the sort of emotion that conveys sadness, melancholy, and resolution. 

Spiritfarer is that game for me. An incredibly gorgeous 2D side scroller that has you playings as a Spiritfarer, an entity that guides lost sprits to the Everdoor and to whatever lies beyond. I want to make sure that I convey this game to everyone and its impact without spoiling it, because part of the charm and part of the impact that to conveys to you is the story that unfold as you shepherd souls to the Everdoor. 

The Everdoor is a gate, and quite literally the gate to the afterlife, which lends one to ask, where does the game take place? It doesn't take place in the "living world", as it is made clear to you from the outset that not only are the inhabitants, but you too are in fact deceased. I would guess then that the world is a sort of purgatory or waiting room for the next life. Your job is to help the individuals you come across put closure to their lives and help them pass on.

It all sounds rather dark, but it is wrapped up into a beautiful Animal Crossing style package that presents to you whimsical and loving characters who are all represented as various animals. Keeping on the Animal Crossing theme a bit, there is a community building aspect to the game where you have to gather resources and build your residents homes. 

Where the game really gets to me though is in the story moments, the small snippets of dialog that occur between the Spiritfarer and the various inhabitants. You get a touch into all of the character's lives as they reflect upon their successes and failures when they were alive. It is very touching and each time when you finally shepherd your inhabitants to the Evertdoor to say their final farewell, the moment is bittersweet each time. What makes the game so good though, is that they are able to make each characters goodbye mean something. Some of these characters are easily lovable, while others were no necessarily good people during their life. They were mean, perhaps criminals and sometimes dishonest and failures. In the end though, the characters all seem real based upon how they approach their final moments at the Everdoor based upon all of their past life experiences. Some of them are grateful, some are relieved. Others view the experience with resolve or even outright indifference. It seems true either way and in the end the game tells you in no uncertain terms that the time will come for all of us to eventually say goodbye. It is sad, sometimes tragically so, but it is a lesson that we all need to confront eventually in our lives. 

I came out of this game really reflecting upon the experiences and time you get to have with everyone around you and there were times as I played this game, watching the Spiritrarer say goodbye to a companion, and I had to pause in the reflective and quiet moment. It makes you want to hug that loved one you have nearby because sometimes you never quite know when goodbye comes. 

Videogaming: Night Call

I have discovered a really incredible game this past week on Xbox Gamepass called Night Call. It is sort of like a illustrated narrative game, where you play a taxi driver who is driving a night shift through Paris. Each night you pick up passengers in your taxi and listen to their story and ask them questions. Occasionally, you will have to spent time and money investigating clues related to a serial killer who is loose in the city and whom you had run in with at the start of the game. 

The game is mostly black and white with hints of color placed throughout the game. Definitely a "Noir" design, the city appears to be cold, dark and always raining. It is such an interesting game and a huge change of pace to many other games I have played right now. There is no combat in the game, nor is there really even any conflict. It really is just a story playing out with your investigation and which you make choices in those conversations. I wouldn't call it a light game though. The mood and dialog is very dark and intense. The elements in the game deal with very adult themes as well. 

If you can, definitely check this game out. It is not like anything I have played before.

Videogaming: Gears 5

Quarantine time has led to me being able to play some video games and catch up on a bit of my backlog. This past week I finally had a chance to get back into Gears 5 and finish off the single player. I have never been a huge Gears fan. I played both 1 & 2 and finished neither of them. They felt a bit too "dude bro" for my tastes. This past fall I decided to give Gears 4 a shot, as it was on Xbox Gamepass and I had a pretty decent time with it. The gameplay seemed fine enough and it wasn't too long, so I played through the story and was at least engaged with it to give Gears 5 a shot. 

I started playing Gears 5 when it was released this past winter, but only got about three hours into it before I fell off. Oddly enough, I did put quite a bit of time into the multi-player. game, namely the Horde mode. It has a nice, mindless element too it, but I didn't realize right away the the 50 rounds of horde mode can take upwards of almost two hours. That is quite a commitment to one game with teammates. 

I jumped back into Gears last week to see if it would hook me again, and I have to say that I enjoyed it about as much as I did with Gears 4. It was a fun romp, but it didn't really spark any passion for me. There was one really nice emotional moment that came near the end of the game, that was a bit of a surprise. So much so in fact that I actually played through that section, completed another hour or so of the game and then decided to go back and play that section over again to change my decision. 

The ending of the game seemed fine, but it did give a nice sense of "hopelessness to the story that I wasn't expecting. Will I played Gears 6 to finish off this section part of the trilogy? Yeah, probably, but only because I am a Gamepass subscriber.  

Videogaming: #MyDecadeOnXbox - AbleAmerek

TrueAchievements.com has a cool little summary of a users' past decade on Xbox. It is a cool little insight into my past decade playing Xbox. I am a bit surprised that I have been playing for ten years on Xbox to be honest. I actually think I picked up my 360 back around 2009, and that data is just this list. 

So take a look at this cool little infographic. 

Videogaming: Quantum Break

Xbox Game Pass has been a really cool service that I have been taking advantage of lately. It is sort of like a Netflix type service for Xbox, where a library of games is available for you to play for $10 a month. One of my most recent plays was Quantum Break. This game really surprised me. At the time of its release it caught a lot of flak and didn't seem to get very good reviews. 

Microsoft tried to do something interesting with the game, mixing live action "TV Episodes" that aired on a weekly basis to build upon the story. The idea is that decisions in the game would influence the live episode the next week. I'm well past that point, but the overall execution worked out pretty well in my opinion. 

What really blew me away though in Quantum Break was how well they told a time travel story. The logic and science behind their methods to tell the story made complete sense and didn't cause any sort of paradox problems within the story. In fact, if you think about how they executed the ending, the whole foreshadowing throughout the entire game continues to be consistent, even if you did "defeat the bad guy". It has to be one of the better sci-fi uses of time travel that I have ever seen.