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The Good Place - Finding Your Videogame Comfort Zone in a Time of Crisis
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 05:06pm 24/03/20 | Comments
We've taken a stab at our 10 best games to play when in crisis (read: stuck at home) mode, split between AusGamers' co-managing editors. Each with a different view on what gets us through those rainy days...

“Uncertain times” is a phrase we’re all going to have to get used to. And there’s no fear mongering here. This shit is real. Netflix, Stan., Foxtel, Amazon Prime and dusting off old Blu-Rays or downloading movies on your platform of choice is going to quickly tighten some pockets while we wait this out, mostly in isolation. But there’s a good reason for the steps we’re having to take at the moment, so while self-isolating or just being respectful of the advice we’re getting, maybe switch from your streaming service of choice or choices, and look at a number of games you might have missed.There’s a calming nature to the games we all go back to, an almost zen state you can reach that feels unlike anything else. So, on that front -- and in lieu of these uncertain times, we’ve decided to go through our own Videogame Good Place.


Kosta “Toadovsky” Andreadis

Diablo III





How Blizzard turned around Diablo III with the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion in 2014 and the introduction of Loot 2.0 is well documented. The fine tuning of that redesign has only gotten better over time, with each new Season and update bringing more reasons to jump back in and build a new superhero monster-slaying Nephalem. And it’s that last bit where Diablo III lets you enter a Zen state of flashing numbers, item stats, and pyrotechnic displays of mobs falling apart. All working together to bring order to Rifts and various locations overrun with monsters seemingly waiting to end your reign. For me, Diablo III is pure comfort gaming, the intricacies are vast but also easy to keep track of - creating new builds is a breeze and the repetitive nature of the mechanics add a level of simplicity. Letting you become one with Sanctuary.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim






"It’s all about immersion bolstered by excellent art direction and one of the best soundtracks of all time - regardless of medium..."



The epic single-player role-playing game, or RPG, from Bethesda Game Studios is one where discovery and freedom is king. Outside of questlines, factions, and enchanting weapons, simply walking around each location to uncover mysteries is a treat. The map itself is not only huge, but it feels ‘real’ in the sense that it’s not simply a string of encounters or location-types. And for that reason alone, it’s something that can be fired-up time and again. The same sentiment applies to Fallout 3 and other games in that series, but instead of forests and caves and Elven ruins housing Daedric Artefacts you’ve got burned-out office buildings and Vaults where strange experiments were carried out. Gary! Ahem. Back to Skyrim though, it’s all about immersion bolstered by excellent art direction and one of the best soundtracks of all time - regardless of medium. Exploring the icy mountains surrounding Winterhold is both awe inspiring and serene -- save for those run-ins with Ice Trolls.


Assassin's Creed Odyssey






With the Ancient Egypt set Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft expanded the scope of the long-running stealth-action series to become more of an open-world action-RPG. With the setting moved to Ancient Greece, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is the full realisation of that ideal with an experience that is as vast as it is full of wonderful moments, sights to see, and challenges to face. The series' well-worn mix of history, sci-fi, and fantasy elements feels better than ever too thanks to Odyssey expertly weaving creatures like the Cyclops and Minotaur into the narrative alongside trips to Elysium, Hades, and the Lost City of Atlantis. That and what feels like the entirety of Ancient Greece to explore. Odyssey is a game we keep going back too, and one of the key reasons -- outside the stunning visuals and there being hundreds of hours of new stuff to see and do -- comes from its pace. Running is fast, riding a horse even faster, climbing too. It gets the videogame-to-realism balance right, making it above all; fun to step into history, myth, and promiscuous Greeks.


The Secret of Monkey Island







"It’s been something I’ve gone back to many times, as I have other LucasArts classics from the 1990s. There’s just something about the VGA-graphics, 2D animation, MIDI music, and great writing..."



The games of our youth and formative years are ones that etch a special place in our hearts and minds, and that’s something that applies to film, comics, and music. That said, there’s always a chance that if you had no memory of playing, say, LucasArtsThe Secret of Monkey Island, it might not hold up in the same way it does to others. For me though the answer to that is “Yes it does, and you fight like a Dairy Farmer!” because I didn’t play Monkey Island back in the day. As a huge LucasArts and point-and-click fan it was something that came after Sam n. Max Hit the Road, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Grim Fandango. Since that first trip to Melee Island though it’s been something I’ve gone back to many times, as I have other LucasArts classics from the 1990s. There’s just something about the VGA-graphics, 2D animation, MIDI music, and great writing of Monkey Island that oddly enough feels timeless.


Banjo Kazooie






If we were ranking 3D platformers from the Nintendo 64 era Banjo Kazooie probably won’t come in at number one. But it’s a game that is pure charm. From the character designs to the timeless music to the levels being variations on a theme -- this is that Rare you hear people talking about. A platformer where the first time you pick up a health-restoring honeycomb it talks to you via the game’s gibberish voice sound effects letting you know it’s both sentient and a thing to collect if you’re ever in need. Then there’s the dry British humour that sits perfectly on top of the fairytale aesthetic, offering up comedy alongside a vibrant adventure starring a super chill bear and a manic bird. With the excellent remaster, playable on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, I’ve been talking to the irrepressible Wozza the Walrus and collecting Puzzle Pieces and Jinjos since 1998.



Stephen “steve farrelly” Farrelly

Super Mario Maker 2






"Great for the fully-at-home family but also social from an online perspective and sharing your challenging builds among friends and the greater online community..."



While I don’t specifically create in Mario Maker (though I should), I enjoy watching my son, who is a budding young game designer, try to challenge the household with impossible level designs. He also does this in the later-mentioned Minecraft, but for now, this is a great game to be looking at where time-management is concerned. Limitless possibilities between base design and making a Nightmare level course with your favourite artistic design in front of you from the series is, purely, fun. Great for the fully-at-home family but also social from an online perspective and sharing your challenging builds among friends and the greater online community, Mario Maker might seem an odd go-to, but the creativity and personal challenge behind your myriad design and play options make it a great distraction that, most importantly, challenges and charges the brain, too.


MK11






You might not know this as a baseline, but fighting games are almost their own esports league. A League of Legends player isn’t in the same league as a Mortal Kombat player in the same way Daniel Riccardio is no footy player of the Patrick Cripps ilk, and vice-versa. BUT, what makes this game (and all fighting games, really), attributable to this list is that they’re ever-challenging and have both single-player and multiplayer on their sides. In the case of Mortal Kombat, said story is nothing but pure 80s/90s-esque narrative cheese and if you can’t laugh while pushing through an unprecedented pandemic, then what else can you do but count the rolls of TP next to the dunny, or the cans of perishables in the kitchen cupboard or pantry. It’s also a game you can follow from an esports perspective with gusto, but with no real need to know its frame-data intricacies. And who doesn’t love mastering a good Fatality?


Minecraft







"I gawk in awe at the speed at which my son navigates the game’s aged UI and menu system, while building… well, anything..."



This is another good one for the whole family. As with Mario Maker, I gawk in awe at the speed at which my son navigates the game’s aged UI and menu system, while building… well, anything. He’s created a fish zoo, built a castle with his mum in co-op and even made his own parkour courses using his parents as QA, just to get jump distances and skill challenge perfectly aligned. With Creative Mode and Survival Mode alongside myriad multiplayer offerings and the aforementioned co-op, as well as being a digital creative tool for old and young alike, now that most kids are being urged to stay at home, Minecraft -- available on all platforms -- is almost a no-brainer. I just wish the boy would turn his FOV down, it’s like watching a skate video from the 90s when everyone was filming almost entirely with fish-eye lenses.


Ori and the Will of the Wisps






This is actually my current go-to because as a true Metroidvania-designed game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is full of secrets and collectables for the OCD of us out there where completionism in games is concerned. Add to that the grand scale of its art-direction, level-design, soundtrack, animations and epicly cute story, alongside challenging traversal, escalating enemy challenge and those massive boss-battles, and, well, you’ve got yourself a gaming stew for the ages. It’s also an easy game to play in spurts with all inputs perfectly placed on the controller for basic muscle memory gaming. Oh, and did I mention just how freaking gorgeous it is? Even if you’re not a completionist type, it might now be time to change those (lacking) habits and get out and find every skill, upgrade, spirit orb et al.


Red Redemption 2






"Between both character arcs, Red Dead Redemption 2 challenges you to go off the beaten path, and in the most luscious game-world ever created this is an easy carrot to follow..."



Rockstar is notorious for embedding secret after secret in its open-world games, and with Red Dead Redemption 2 being its biggest ever, there’s a good chance you haven’t found anything, Jon Snow. Between both character arcs, Red Dead Redemption 2 challenges you to go off the beaten path, and in the most luscious game-world ever created this is an easy carrot to follow. Vampires, UFOs, meteorites, robots and more await you in this digital realisation of the Wild West. Couple the more odd stuff with tracking every animal, hunting, making outfits, adding loosely to an ever-growing diary or just “taking in a show”, and you have a game that consistently delivers. And all of that is without mentioning Red Dead Online, which is quickly becoming its own beast. For mine though, it’s just about riding horseback through the most detailed game-world of this generation, and perhaps even the next.


/End




There’s no point panicking at this stage of where we’re at in 2020, but there is value in listening, staying properly informed (not Facebook or Twitter informed) and making the most of those things that give us an escape, help us wind down, or just generally engage the mind. “Social distancing” is becoming an ugly term among many groups of people, but we live in an ever-connected world -- something gamers have been on top of longer than anyone. Jump online, chat with friends, get a Discord channel, create a Slack Group, a WhatsApp group, use Skype, Teams or HangOuts. Or, just talk with your friends directly across games of Rocket League or something. Now is not the time to wholly isolate your mind and, truly, gaming is the best place to remain socially active and mentally fit in “uncertain times”.




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