In doing so, Salt & Sanctuary builds one of the most rewarding final acts I’ve experienced in a video game, that translates an atmosphere of mounting dread into a sequence of sudden, heightened horror, and then, in its final moments, a rush of catharsis.
The ragged white knights in Heide’s Tower of Flame don’t even rise when you first enter the area; they wait for you to slay the area’s first boss before even bothering to stand. The soldiers in Drangleic Castle begin as statues, shaking themselves to life as if awaking from a thousand-year slumber. They still fight, but everything seems tired. Exhausted, even. Like they don’t even know what they’re fighting for.
This is fitting, because it elucidates Dark Souls II’s core thesis. At its heart, this is a game about loss.Read more "On Dark Souls II: Ephemera, Entropy, and the Inevitability of Loss"
But the bond between Dark Souls and Ocarina of Time runs far deeper than their initial obtuseness—to a point where the first Soulborne game feels like a crystallization of the first 3D Zelda’s design ethos. Both present the player with complex, interlocking worlds; spaces that revel in a secret, paradoxical linearity that curves and bends and doubles back on itself, that focuses on shortcuts and secret paths to optimize the player’s path forward. In Ocarina, those are its dungeons; in Dark Souls, that’s the design philosophy behind the entire world.Read more "Six Years before Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls Reinvented The Legend of Zelda"
Perhaps that title is a bit paradoxical, since this is, by definition, no longer a list of the best games of 2018. But I’m of the opinion that recency bias has a bit too much leverage in our blink-and-you’ll-miss-it world, so let’s start 2019 right by rolling that back juuuust a bit.Read more "The ’18 Best Games of 2018: Part II"
If that title sounds like a lot, don’t worry—this is a two-part list, and if you’re pressed for time, either half should be an enjoyable respite from the apocalyptic rain of acid and flames that, if anything, should bring 2018 to a close. In the grand tradition of Mario Kart’s Nitro and Retro halves (well, since Mario Kart DS at least), I’ll be listing the best games I’ve played this year in two halves—first, games released in 2018; second, games released elsewhere (well, mainly in the past) that I first played this year. And maybe the sum of the two will be a bit long, but hey, there’s a really awful pun near the end of this one (can you spot it?), and you can go grab some popcorn at the intermission.Read more "The ’18 Best Games of 2018: Part I"
Right now, it’s rough around the edges, clearly a bit unfinished, but still crystallized in a way that feels wholly rougher, odder, and more unique than its more polished predecessor. In that very literal sense, I hope it does end up as a Majora’s Mask to an Ocarina of Time—a piece of art that leverages the iconography of a (brilliant) original to tell a weirder, rougher kind of story. One wholly appropriate to the brand of children’s literature it draws from, and the control-based medium in which it makes its home.Read more "How Deltarune Tells a Story About Loss and Loneliness… with Some Help from Children’s Lit"
See, that’s the weird thing about probability and chaos—and, by extension, baseball. There’s always a chance, however small, to see something rare and special; to watch an electron tunnel through a barrier, or a particle burst into existence, or a player bat a home run off a position player nearly six hours after their game had begun. On any given night, by the nature of the beast, those .32 percent odds might just return a 1.Read more "Statistics, Probabilities, and a Reading of Sixteen-Inning Baseball"