Best Games of 2014

It’s that time of year when everyone writes about the best games of the year, and thought I’d add my 2 cents. This list feels a bit disingenuous since I currently own or want a number of 2014 releases that I just haven’t had time to get to yet, but I can only play so many games in a single year!

I think 2014 has gotten a lot of flack, as many consider it a weak year for gaming. I disagree. The beginning of the year was a bit weak – the PS4 and XBox One had just come out, and there are always growing pains and a lack of games to play on brand new systems. Also, a number of games that came out this year were remasters of games that had come out over the last couple years as well. But as we got closer to the middle and end of the year, a number of real heavy hitters started getting released, and I think the year ended on a good note.

So here are my top 6 games released in 2014.

Tomb Raider

I struggled with giving a best of 2014 award to a game that actually came out in 2013 and only got a remaster in 2014, but Tomb Raider was so much fun that I just can’t resist. Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise with aplomb. We got a Lara Croft origin story that was thrilling and Lara herself got her best makeover ever. I’ve written about all the things I felt Tomb Raider did right from a feminist perspective but, when it comes down to it, Tomb Raider takes one of the top spots because it was just so much fun to play. Set pieces and quick time events sent my heart racing. I flinched each time Lara took a blow. Gameplay was fast and smooth with super slick controls. Taking out enemies with my bow, traversing rock faces, swinging down ziplines, all felt so natural. The controls  were so impeccable they actually ruined a number of other PS4 action-adventure games for me. I just couldn’t get into AC: Black Flag and Infamous: Second Son – where the characters moved oddly in comparison. I had to fight the controls to get Edward or Delsin to do what I wanted, whereas Tomb Raider made Lara feel like an extension of myself.

Valiant Hearts: the Great War

2014 was not a great year for Ubisoft’s big releases. However, in June Ubisoft Mountpellier put out a lovely puzzle adventure about love, survival, and sacrifice during World War One. The game puts you in the shoes of four different characters whose lives have been intertwined in strange and sometimes heartbreaking ways by the war. Though the game contains no dialogue, I always knew what each character was feeling, in part due to the excellent animation and music. Games often put us into the role of soldiers, but not many do it like this. Valiant Hearts is not a power fantasy, but a history lesson and an experience that makes us question war from an emotional and philosophical standpoint. It was really refreshing to see war from from a non-American view, as the whole game takes place in the period before America joined the war effort. It did make me tear up a few times, most notably during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Valiant Hearts - The Great WarMechanically the game is very enjoyable as well. Gameplay is quite varied, yet still manages to fit into the context of the story. It covers everything from operating machinery to turn off chlorine gas pipes, timing-based movement to sneak between enemy patrols, rhythm based medical procedures, and car chases set to amazing orchestral music. A number of the puzzles involve Walt, a casualty dog, who can help to fetch items from tight places and find injured soldiers. And who doesn’t love games with dogs?

Valiant Hearts is one of those rare games that combine both fun gameplay and a meaningful story to give a great gaming experience.

The Last of Us: Left Behind

Left Behind is not really a game on its own, but DLC for The Last of Us. Regardless of this, it’s an amazing experience that deserves a place on game of the year lists. It was great to step into Ellie’s shoes and see her past, as well as expand upon the Winter chapter of The Last of Us. Left Behind is a perfect 2-hour gaming experience that did everything the main game did, but did it better. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue is endearing and on point. It’s not as action-heavy, but it wastes no time – every scene matters. My emotions ran the gamut while playing this, from pure joy to absolute heartache.

PT

I don’t play a lot of horror games, but PT showed me how great they can be. Though it’s really just a playable demo for the new Silent Hills game, it was one of my best gaming experiences of the year. PT created a taut, terrifying experience that delivered not just jump scares, but a truly unsettling environment and disturbing audio and visuals and wormed their way into my psyche. Perhaps it was partly the context of playing the game (I was with great company and a couple bottles of bubbly), but PT managed to keep me so engrossed and curious for more that I played it 3 times in a row. The fact that each playthrough was subtly different was just the icing on the horribly creepy cake.

PT hallwayI think PT was more successful as its own game than it was as a trailer. While PT was exceptional, I don’t have a lot of faith that a horror game can be 12 hours long with more involved gameplay and still be as compelling as this was.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

This was one of the few games whose development I followed closely before it was released, and I’m glad to say it did not disappoint. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a narrative experience that does not hold your hand, and is a refreshing take on the weird horror genre. It’s also one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played, with photorealistic environments that put many AAA games to shame, and a gorgeous and moody soundtrack. Ethan Carter is a murder mystery that hints towards a greater darkness. It lets you explore the beautiful world and solve puzzles at your own pace, while still managing to maintain tension throughout its whole 4-5 hour playtime.

Dragon Age: INQUISITION

Four of the previous games on this list are there at least in part due to their short playtimes, which created a tight and well-paced experience. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the complete opposite of those. To be honest, the pacing of the game’s first 10-20 hours was complete shit. However, the game more than makes up for it with its huge, deep, engaging story, wonderfully written dialogue, and sheer enormity of the world. While the size of the game can be a bit overwhelming, this installment of Dragon Age had a sense of place and a real, living world like no other. Once I hit a certain part in the story (which I could have reached way earlier if I had just left the fracking Hinterlands), I was completely enthralled and immersed in the world. The characters, from those in my party, to my advisers, to the people hanging around Skyhold all felt like real people, who I wanted to talk to and learn about. The addition of the War Table made me feel like I was the actual head of an army, who had to make decisions and delegate, rather than a lone adventurer who needed to personally slay every demon and settle every petty dispute myself. I sunk a good 200 hours into this game, and besides those initial 10 or so, I loved every minute of it.


 

Those are my games of the year, what are yours?

 

The Cat Lady (Review)

When we first meet Susan Ashworth, she has just swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. She’s tired, traumatized, she feels like life has never done her any favours, and she’s had enough. Susan looks forward to oblivion, but it doesn’t come. Instead she finds herself in a surreal world which quickly turns from serene to horrifying. She can’t die. She’s been chosen to overcome five monsters, human parasites, that feed off violence and suffering. Rejoining the living is the last thing Susan wants, but she doesn’t have a choice.

The Cat Lady - Susan in the pest controllers basement

Mechanically, The Cat Lady is a point and click adventure game, except it’s fully controlled by keyboard so there’s not really any pointing or clicking. The keyboard controls were a bit awkward at first, but didn’t take very long to get used to. There is a lot of dialogue and gameplay consists of choosing responses and solving puzzles. The puzzles hit the sweet spot of having some challenge to them, but not being overly difficult. Solutions made sense, which is not always the case in adventure games. Often you just need to pay attention to your surroundings.

Narratively, The Cat Lady will take you on a journey that is disturbing, psychologically horrifying, and thought-provoking. It’s a game which is in turns harrowing and enlightening, infuriating and empowering.

The Cat Lady - Susan exploring an apartment.

Susan doesn’t start off as the most sympathetic character – people suffering from depression often aren’t to those on the outside. We don’t know why she hates life so much. We see people trying to help her and befriend her, but she’s so far down the rabbit hole that she doesn’t even see them. It’s not until Susan begins to suffer horror at the hands of the parasites, and experience some shared suffering that she begins to wake up. We begin to learn more about her past and why she has problems trusting people. She begins to entertain the prospect of letting other people in.

The Cat Lady excels at one of the most important aspects of games for me, atmosphere. While the graphics are a bit rudimentary and not technically amazing, I found this game visually stunning. The use of colour is genius. The majority of the game is in black and white with occasional pops of colour. Often it’s blood red, which is a common visual style, but The Cat Lady really stands out when it adds other colours into the mix. It changes the atmosphere completely. The dull blacks and whites show how the real world is an ugly, hopeless place for Susan, while colour starts to seep in during the more surreal parts of the game. When the game is the most violent, the most disturbing, the environments are suffused with suffocating greens. Golds and rich yellows are warm and comforting at a surface level, but often cloak the characters with the most sinister intentions.

The Cat Lady - Susan and The Queen of Maggots

The sound effects are sharp and often startling, while the music punctuates the game’s important events to great effect. The soundtrack covers all kinds of different styles and moods, from angry NIN-esque industrial, to erratic jazz, to sorrowful classical piano pieces.

This game is very unique. It’s like nothing I’ve played before. It covers some really dark topics with sensitivity, maturity, and style. At one point, Susan talks to a psychiatrist, who asks questions relationships with her parents and what her life was like. As I chose the responses, I felt like I was the one being psychoanalyzed, because there were responses that fit my own life pretty well. The ability to choose Susan’s responses about her past made me feel close to her in a way that was more deep and unexpected than most games are able to pull off. Even for people not currently suffering from depression, there’s something to relate to and empathize with here.

The Cat Lady - flowers

Really my only complaint about the game is that on occasion, it’s too verbose. There are some extremely long conversations that take place, where the only interaction required from the player is choosing a response every couple of minutes or so. And often you end up choosing all the responses anyway. Though the conversations are interesting and well-written, and the voice acting is good, they’re just too long. Some of the dialogue could have easily be edited down, which would have improved the pace of the game.

The Cat Lady is made up of 7 chapters and has about 9 hours of gameplay. While I found the game exceptional, I do have to give very strong content and trigger warnings. While the visual style isn’t overly realistic the game has a lot of violence (including references to sexual violence), and tackles topics like death, depression, suicide, and abuse in a very direct way.

Rating – 9/10 – The Cat Lady is unlike anything I’ve played before and really broadens the scope of what adventure and horror games can do. It has wonderful atmosphere and tells a story that is both harrowing and empowering. It will take you to a very dark place, but there is light at the end.


I made a few videos of my playthrough of The Cat Lady, here’s the entirety of the first chapter if you want to see it for yourself.

Recommended Reading and Listening

It’s almost Christmas, and Dragon Age: Inquisition was my whole gaming life for a few weeks, so I think it’s time for some link love. I haven’t done this in a while. Here are some blogs, sites, and podcasts that I heartily recommend.

The Toast – One of the few non-gaming related sites on this list, The Toast is where I go when I need a laugh. Or a reason to have an evil smirk on my face (though I’m usually pretty good with coming up with my own reasons). The Toast does amazing things with classic works of literature and art, from dark rewrites of childhood favourites, to turning classic characters into dirtbags, to the fantastic Western Art History series. Also, amazingly for a larger site, it’s a place where it’s totally fine to read the comments.

Critical Distance aims to find all the great writing about games on the internet. Their This Week in Video Games feature is a great place to start if you want to find a good read and discover new blogs and writers.

A Game of Me is Carolyn Petit’s tumblr, where she writes a lot about video games and video games culture. Carolyn is a fantastic writer. Whether it’s a best of the year list, a quick piece of what games mean to her, or thoughts on the feminist agenda, I always find these posts worth reading.

Go Make Me a Sandwich focuses on sexist imagery used in geek spaces. Not just video games, but also tabletop, pen & paper, and comics. Some of my favourite posts involve criticism from an artist’s standpoint, and breaking down just how unrealistic and ridiculous the design of women’s bodies in games often are.

Podcasts

I only listen to a handful of podcasts, so I can recommend them all.

Justice Points is the podcast I’ve been listening to the longest. It’s a really great look at feminism and social justice in video games. Over the past year, Tzufit and Applecidermage have had some really amazing guests and have covered some topics that I don’t get to hear much about otherwise. Always worth a listen.

Cat Context features Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial talking about the games they’re playing. They cover a wide variety of games and sometimes movies in a nice, short podcast. One thing I really enjoy is that the hosts don’t always agree, and the arguments are great to listen to. Aro in particular has a way of arguing that makes me feel like everything I once thought is wrong.

Isometric looks at video games from a different perspective, and these different perspectives are the highlight. Bri, Maddy, Georgia, and Steve all have wildly different tastes in games and it’s refreshing to hear about a game from many different sides at once. Occasionally too much time is spent on in-jokes, but it’s a very entertaining podcast and the hosts work really well together.

Less Than or Equal pursues equality in geekdom. Aleen Simms hosts a number of great guests who bring diversity to their chosen fields and hobbies. From the video game industry, to tabletop gaming, to books, Aleen and her guests bring something new to the table and give me things to think about.

Polygamer is a podcast I just recently discovered, that focuses on diversity and equality in video games. I’ve only listened to a couple episodes so far, but I think it’s going to be a mainstay in my podcast list. The conversations so far have been very frank and thought-inspiring.

I’d also recommend Contains Moderate Peril, though sadly they’ve just announced they’ll be ending the podcast soon. Still, if you’re not overly concerned about timely topics, the episodes are worth a listen.


 Do you have any recommendations for me?

More Tips for Dragon Age: Inquisition

I just recently finished Dragon Age: Inquisition, so I thought I could share a few more tips of things I learned along the way. Based on keyword activity there are a few things my last tips post didn’t answer.

These tips are as spoiler free as possible. I name quest names, but don’t give away any actual events.

Taming Dragons

  • You cannot go out and tame a dragon from the Hinterlands or anything. You can’t keep a dragon as a pet. I’m sorry.
  • There is one very specific scenario in which you can make a dragon friend, who will aid you in a fight at a specific part of the game. This is decided during the quest What Pride Had Wrought. If you want to “tame” a dragon, you (the Inquisitor) need to do the thing at the end of that quest. Don’t ask a companion to do it. Don’t refuse to let anyone do it. You need to do it yourself.

Shopping and Castle Decor

  • Val Royeaux is full of interesting shops that are really easy to forget about.
  • In the top level of VR (you need to fast travel to it), there’s someone selling a mystery item for 10,000 gold (or whatever the currency is). This will give you access to a war table quest, which will give you some exotic mounts.
  • You can buy customization items for Skyhold (like beds and windows) in a shop in the southern part of Val Royeaux.
  • You can also get some Skyhold upgrades (the throne upgrades you need for the Regal achievement) through the region resource gathering quests on the war table.
  • You can buy new mounts right outside of the stables (at Haven or Skyhold). New ones become available as you progress through the game.
  • If you’re getting near the end and are still missing a few mounts – they’re probably from the deluxe edition DLC, you’ll have to buy them.
  • You can buy your way to greater influence and more Inquisition points from the book vendor in Skyhold (near the stables)

When to progress the main quest

If you’re anything like me, you’re afraid of missing things in such a big expansive game like this, so here are some tips on when and in what order to do some things.

  • While you’re on The Threat Remains quest, don’t spend too much time in the Hinterlands before visiting Val Royeaux.
  • Recruit all missable companions  (Sera, Blackwall, Iron Bull, Vivienne) before you start In Your Heart Shall Burn.
  • It doesn’t matter if you do Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts or Here Lies the Abyss first.
  • Complete Cullen’s sidequest Before The Dawn before you begin What Pride Had Wrought.
  • The point of no return in the game is Doom Upon all the World. It warns you right in the war table text that this brings on the endgame.
  • Once you’ve completed the game, you are able to continue playing if you still have quests or collections to finish.

Achievements

There are only a couple achievements that I had to go out of my way to work towards.

  • Master Alchemist – Upgrade your potions, tonics, or grenades 30 times. Because this takes a lot of herbs, I suggest you don’t go crazy with the repeatable requisition quests that use up a lot of herbs too (unless you really like gathering). You can also take the Trainee Herbalists perk (under Secrets), which will give you 50 Elfroot, and some other common herbs, which will help with this a lot.
  • Botanist – Harvest 50 herbs from Skyhold’s garden. You can only grow 6 herbs at a time, so make sure you’re visiting your garden often between fieldtrips.
  • Regal – Completely upgrade one throne. Upgrades are obtained through the region resource collection quests on the war table. They get applied to the throne automatically.

Good luck, have fun!

Jurassic Park: The Game (Review)

So much for going through my Steam backlog alphabetically.

Jurassic Park: The Game was developed by Telltale and released in 2011. I’ve been slowly playing my way through it over a number of months. It’s not a long game but it’s well-suited to being played in small doses.

Jurassic Park: The Game intro screen

Dinosaurs.

First, I have to say, I love the movie Jurassic Park. I saw it in theaters 3 times when I was 10, I saw it when it was re-done in 3D (despite avoiding going out to movie theaters otherwise), I re-watch it at home at least once a year. It’s one of the rare things from childhood that isn’t solely enjoyed through a lens of nostalgia-tinted glasses. It’s still an exceptional experience for me now. So I might have a better opinion of the game than others who aren’t so taken with it.

Jurassic Park: The Game takes place within the timeline of the first movie, but with completely new characters. When Nedry doesn’t make it to the boat with the dino embryos, a mercenary is sent to retrieve them. Other major characters include the park veterinarian and his daughter and some more mercenaries, sent in by InGen to rescue the people remaining in the park. You play all of these characters – a total of 6 of them – at some point during the game, and the transitions between characters are seamless. Perhaps a little too seamless, as it was sometimes hard to tell when a switch had happened.

Jurassic Park: The Game Harding, Jessie, and Nima

Though the story isn’t anything exceptional, it’s true to the spirit of the movie. People being awestruck by dinosaurs and surviving attacks is pretty much the point. The writers are able to create a good amount of tension as each of the main characters have their own, often conflicting motivations. The dialogue sounds natural and the voice acting is competent. The environments are also well done, using replicas of the scenes from the movie, along with some new areas.

While this game adheres to Telltale’s general oeuvre, it’s also quite different from the more recent releases. The story isn’t as strong, so I didn’t grow attached to any of the characters as I did in The Walking Dead. As a result, JP isn’t soul-crushing like many of the later Telltale Games. It doesn’t make you love characters over the course of a game only to kill them in front of you and make you think it’s your fault for bad decision making. There are decisions to be made, but they aren’t difficult and rarely have the same weight or consequences as a decision in TWD.

Jurassic Park: The Game - Harding being eaten by a T-Rex

You might see death scenes like this a lot.

In terms of gameplay, I found JP to be a lot more fun than TWD or A Wolf Among Us. Now, I am someone who likes quick time events, so if you don’t you can take this with a grain of salt. JP felt more game-y than the recent Telltale games. There were many more places where you could fail, and more puzzles too. The QTEs could often be quite unforgiving, requiring some very fast twitch reactions, though not every failure resulted in death. There’s a medal system for each scenario. No mistakes gave you gold, while if you made many mistakes you could end up with a bronze or no medal at all. These medals didn’t seem to impact anything other than my pride though.  If you fail a critical event, your character dies, but not permanently, you just have to redo it until you succeed.

Though the story and characters aren’t particularly memorable, I enjoyed my time in Jurassic Park. The 4 chapters in the game took a total of about 7-8 hours to complete. I do recommend using a gamepad if you’re playing this on PC, it made the QTEs (with one notable exception) much easier.

Rating: 7/10 – A fun game that captures the spirit of Jurassic Park with a lot of dinosaurs and fast-paced action sequences. Unless you don’t like quick-time events, then you should skip this one.

Violence Against Video Game Characters

With the news that GTA V has been pulled from Target and Walmart in Australia because of how violence against female sex workers is portrayed, I’ve been hearing a very familiar cry on Twitter and in comment sections. “What about men?!” “Why is it okay to kill hundreds of men but as soon as you add a woman it’s a problem?”

First of all, people have complained about violence in video games in general. Many, many, many, times. Protests have been launched, petitions have been written. While Canada doesn’t tend to ban games, a number of games have been banned or refused classification in Australia because of violence. The majority of those were banned for general graphic violence, not specifically violence against women (50 Cent Bulletproof, Dark Sector, The Getaway, Manhunt, Postal 1/2, Reservoir Dogs, Soldier of Fortune). Australia has also banned games due to sexual content or depictions of drug use.

But let’s ignore the above and pretend that only games with violence against women are subject to criticism and bans. Why would this be?

In the latest Call of Duty, you’re at war and you mow down hundreds of enemy forces. It’s hard to tell for sure with full body armor on, but they’re most likely all men.

Tomb Raider - Lara killing a man who is on fire

In the reboot of the Tomb Raider series, Lara goes around an island killing hundreds of men. Only men. There are no women. If you paid attention to the game you’d know that there are no women on the island because they’ve all already been killed (by the men). But again, ignore that, not relevant to how terribly video games treat dudes.

In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (excuse the somewhat dated reference, but it’s the only GTA I’ve played all the way through), Tommy murders hundreds, maybe thousands of people, mostly men, in his quest to become the crime boss of the city. Running over pedestrians (of either sex) and beating up hookers (always female) is not a requirement to taking over the city, but sometimes he enjoys doing it in his free time.

These poor men have it tough in video games. They’re always getting tortured, shot, run over, killed. Why is this okay, but as soon as you murder a woman in a video game, people start crying foul?

Take your average military shooter. You’re likely playing as a male, and you’re most likely shooting other men. If you’re not also shooting women, it’s because there aren’t any in the game. This makes me question why there aren’t any women. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d have no problem with seeing women on the battlefield (maybe I could even play as one in the campaign sometimes?) and having to mow them down along with the men. Equal opportunity senseless killing, that’s all I ask.

In Tomb Raider, the reason Lara kills hundreds of men is because they’re trying to kill her. They’ve kidnapped her friends and if Lara doesn’t kill them, her and her friends will all die. This is how action games work – the player kills aggressors who are trying to kill them.

In GTA and other open world games, you can generally kill anyone you want. However the aggressors in the game, the ones you have to kill, do tend to be males. Would people be upset if the aggressors were females instead? I certainly wouldn’t. I was pleasantly surprised when I played Saint’s Row: The Third and found that the members of my rival gangs were made of both men and women. Women can be bad guys too. It’s okay. Even better, female antagonists can be created that are actual characters with motivations beyond ‘shoot the player’. Rival gang leaders, mercenaries, corrupt law enforcement officers – put a female in one of these roles and I have no problem with having to kill them to progress in the game. The joy I get from having women in these games outside of strip clubs and street corners greatly outweighs any other issues I’d have.

GTA V - sex workers on the corner

The problem with the portrayal of violence against women, and sex workers in particular, in video games is that these characters, scratch that they aren’t characters and that’s part of the problem. These women are not your enemy. They don’t stand in your way to progress, they are no threat to you. They exist, wear skimpy clothing, and flirt to stimulate the player. That’s their purpose. They don’t impact the story. The player has the option to use them and then kill them. They aren’t necessarily rewarded for this behavior, but they probably aren’t punished either. If in Tomb Raider Lara stumbled upon a man on the beach who was offering pony rides and shot him in the face then I’d have a problem. I’d question why the developers put this scenario in the game. Likewise, I’d have an issue if the next GTA portrayed male sex workers who were completely unrelated to the story that a player could use and then kill.

I’m not a proponent of censorship. While Australia banning video games constitutes actual censorship, retail chains in Australia choosing to pull GTAV off their shelves is not. They can choose to sell or not sell whatever they like. What I am an advocate of is developers and consumers being critical of the media they produce and consume. When female sex workers are added to a game to be ogled, groped, or fucked then thrown away, what is it adding to the game? Is it taking away more than it adds? Is it more trouble than it’s worth just to make your game seem gritty?

Many video games are violent, and that’s not ever going to change. While the gender of the people you shoot or fight in games shouldn’t be an issue, it is because males tend to be the aggressors where it’s a matter of kill or be killed, while females are generally not a threat to the player. They get killed to move the story or a quest forward, give a male character a reason to seek revenge, or just because the player feels like killing them. While a couple of the examples aren’t perfect, if you haven’t watched them yet I’d recommend Anita Sarkeesian’s videos on Women as Background directions (part 1, part 2), as they really show how prevalent this issue is in games, especially in AAA titles.

Analogue: A Hate Story

I used to be a gamer who was proud of having a small library of steam games that I actually played. Over the last year though, I’ve become one of those people, frivolously partaking in every sale and buying way more games than I have time to play them. As I’ve just reached 49% unplayed games in my library, I decided I needed to do something about it. Clearly the answer is to play more games. Inspired by Dahakha’s Steam Challenge, I’m going to try to work my way through the unplayed games in my library.

Steam library

I’ve also got about 30 games in a Finished category, and about a dozen in a Go Away category of games I’m not interested in. Does it drive anyone else crazy that you can’t delete DOTA from your library when you never wanted it in the first place?

Anyway, I thought I’d start at the top so the first game I played, when I could drag myself away from Dragon Age, was Analogue: A Hate Story. Analogue is a visual novel with a lot of choose-your-own-adventure aspects and a touch of dating sim, maybe. In the game, you are investigating a generation ship that disappeared 600 years ago and has just been found. You’re tasked with finding out what happened by reading through the ship’s logs. The ship has two AI which can help you with your mission, though they aren’t particularly reliable narrators.

Gameplay mainly consists of reading through the ship’s logs and asking the AI about them, who may then open up new logs for you. The main interface for accessing the logs is slick, attractive, and very easy to use. There is also a Linux console interface which you use to perform certain actions on the ship, such as enabling or disabling the AI, or downloading the log files. As someone who has never used Linux I found this interface a bit puzzling at first. It’s the first thing you see when the game starts and it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was expecting me to do.

The most exceptional part of the game is the writing. The logs, written as diary entries are enthralling. There are multiple authors and each one has a clear and distinct voice. They paint a picture of a spacefaring society that has somehow regressed into a medieval patriarchy. You don’t get access to all the entries though, and often get things out of order, so you need to piece together the story for yourself. Depending on which AI you have active, you may learn some parts of the story but not others. It’s quite well done.

Analogue: A Hate Story - conversation with Hyun-ae

As for the interaction with the AI though… ehh. One AI is a giggly, cosplay-loving schoolgirl. The other is a casually misogynist and homophobic security program.  If I had known nothing about the creator of this game, Christine Love, I likely would have written the game off as sexist drivel and quit before I got too far in. However, I assumed that there was probably going to be a bigger point or message to the game, so I continued.

Analogue made me feel a number of the same things that To the Moon did, though not as strongly. The overall story and writing is great, but the two characters that are around to comment on everything just bugged the hell out of me. I think that was part of the point, but I don’t really play games to be annoyed. Based on interests and gaming preferences, I don’t think I’m quite the target demographic for this game.

I haven’t played a ton of visual novels before, the most similar experience I’ve had to this was Long Live the Queen. An aspect of the genre I find hard to reconcile is that I want to see multiple endings, but the process of replaying and trying new things to get to those endings is exceedingly tedious. Careful use of saves can reduce the amount of repetition, but it’s hard to know exactly when the important branches take place and I find myself mindlessly clicking through things I’ve already read/seen way more than is enjoyable.

Verdict: Recommended for those who like the genre. The writing is strong and the story is compelling. While I personally don’t enjoy the repetitiveness required to experience all of the endings, I think this game will appeal to fans of visual novels.