Games I Played in May 2024

The Outer Worlds. (Source: Media Kit.)

A friend described The Outer Worlds (Obsidian Entertainment) as a summer-beach-read kind of experience, and I think that’s a fairly accurate description. The game is a fun, fast-paced action RPG set in a future in which humanity has colonized distant planets and moons. The combat and RPG character building is fairly streamlined and straightforward. For example, the guns utilize one of three bullets (heavy, light, or energy), making it easy to build up ammo and jump into using any cool weapon that comes along. The maps are also rather small, which means there’s less exploration but it’s easy to work through the quests quickly (perfect for my present mood).

Owned and operated by corporations, the people who live in these communities are beholden to the corporations, forced to spout ads as greetings and entirely dependent on their good will. While there are some counter factions, they have less access to resources and struggle to stay alive on these alien worlds populated with hostile flora and fauna. That said, no one is really doing all that well, as resources are slim and the buildings and operations are all running down.

The player is awakened from cryogenic sleep into this distance colony and its multitude of problems, and with the help of a man named Phineas Wells, a known rebel, is attempting to defeat the corporations and “save” the colony. The situation is complicated, however, and the solutions are not simple.

One of the aspects of the gameplay is getting to know the various characters and their factions — and having to choose sides between them. I believe the intention is for the player to be morally convicted (and sometimes I was), but I was pretty much anti-corporation from the get-go considering the way they treat their employees as disposable tools to use and leave to die, if needed.

My favorite part of the narrative experience, however, was getting to know the six companions you can bring on the ship. Each has their own quest(s) that provide more insight into their background and beliefs. Whenever I left the ship, I made sure to bring two companions, so that I could hear them chat or debate with each other while I was wandering around the worlds.

At the moment, I’m working to finish the two DLC, followed by the final mission of the main story. My general feelings are that The Outer Worlds feels a bit light all around. But that did not stop me from having an absolute blast with this game, though I do hope that Obsidian is able to build on what works in this game and add more depth to the sequel.

(Source: Media Kit.)

I finished off the two DLC for Control (Remedy Entertainment). Throughout the main game, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of the gameplay. But for the DLC and the side quests, I found the combat — particularly with the bosses — to jump up significantly, so I switched over to the assisted mode. This allowed me to bump up Jessie’s damage resistance, making the combat less frustrating — and I feel no guilt about this, because at this stage, I just wanted to experience the rest of the story.

AWE (which stands for “altered world event”) provides a more direct connection to Alan Wake, expanding upon the hints already present within Control. Jessie receives a message from Alan Wake through the hotline (a sort of psychic link with the Board and those who are dead) and we see him writing Jessie into the story, opening a passage into a sealed area, known as the Investigation Department. There, the player discovers why the department was sealed off, delves into records and recordings of the events at Cauldron Lake (including interviews with characters from the Alan Wake game), and faces off against against a monstrous entity.

AWE maintains the gameplay style of Control, while bringing in a few elements from Alan Wake, such as the heavy contrast between dark and light and the need to use flashlights and other light sources to dispel and fight the darkness. The level lighting is much darker and reminiscent of Wake, making it a more unsetting experience. Thought the hotline, we learn a bit about Wake’s current state, trapped within the Darkness, providing hints and insights into what may come in Alan Wake II. I really enjoyed this DLC and it makes me quite excited to jump into the next game.

The Foundation expands and builds on the main storyline of Control. It begins with the Board reaching out for help, drawing Jessie down into the foundation of the Oldest House to repair the stone spike that holds the entire structure of the building together. As Jessie explores the caverns, she discovers that the Astral Plane is leaking into this world, and she must stop the bleeding before the Oldest House and the world is destroyed.

While journeying through the caverns, Jessie is able to learn about the original expeditions when the Oldest House was first discovered by the Federal Bureau of Control, brings up suspicions about the true nature of the Board, and hints at a group that is using Altered Objects and AWEs to enact terrorist attacks in the world. This sets the storylines up for some interesting possibilities for the sequel. Too bad I’ll have to wait several years for that to happen.

Last Stop. (Source: Media Kit.)

Last Stop (developed by Variable State) is a small narrative game, in which the player experiences three interconnected stories with a supernatural bent. In “Paper Dolls,” John Smith, the middle-aged father of Molly Smith, mysteriously swaps bodies with the much younger Jack Smith, a superficial game developer. “Domestic Affairs” is about Meena Hughes, a high-level agent trying to gain her place in a top-secret project at an intelligence firm, who is having an affair and neglecting her family. And finally, in “Stranger Danger,” Donna Adeleke and her fellow teenage friends follow a creepy man, who turns out to have supernatural abilities. When they try to run away, the end up attacking and kidnapping him, which forces them to keep the secret.

My favorite storyline is “Paper Dolls,” because John and his daughter Molly are just delightful, and Jack (though somewhat selfish at first) is a good dude at heart. I love seeing the way in which they see each other shifts once they have to walk in each other’s shoes. I would have been happy if this was essentially the whole story, because it was the most interesting to me.

The other two stories didn’t work nearly as well for me. Donna in “Stranger Danger” just makes unfortunate decisions over and over again that lead to her becoming even more in danger, while Meena in “Domestic Affairs” is particular frustrating because I don’t agree with her choices at all, but I’m locked into them as a player since that’s what the story needs. As a result, I found myself not as interested in those stories, but because I had to play them to finish, the game sometimes felt like it was moving rather slow.

Much of the gameplay involves selecting dialog choices, which affect the tone in which the character responds but don’t feel particularly meaningful. Not until the end, when the final decisions are made that affect the ending. Whether or not earlier dialog choices change how these final decisions play out is not clear. Maybe they have more impact than I realize.

Another frustration is the introduction of occasional “quick time” events, in which the player has to push and hold specific buttons. These moments are interesting in that they seem designed for the player to fail, even if you manage to contort your hands to hold the order of buttons correctly. A pet peeve of mine is when a game implements gameplay at which the player cannot succeed, because the narrative requires the player to fail for the story to move forward. In these cases, I would much prefer that the game find some other way to demonstrate the failure, even if it’s just a cut scene.

If you’d like to know about the rest of recent culture I consumed, including books, movies, and TV, you can check out my Culture Consumption for May.