March 2017 was absolutely ridiculous for game releases. It’s like every publisher suddenly simultaneously realised that if they release in March, those sales can give them a last-minute boost before the end of the financial year. The end result was an onslaught of games – many of them excellent – that I don’t think anyone could keep up with. A lot of great games are going to miss out on potential buyers, and customers are going to miss out on great games, because of this nonsense. Hopefully there’s a less learned somewhere in here.
Even though I barely scratched the surface of the full range of March releases, there’s been enough to keep me very busy throughout the month. Here are a of my favourite articles.
NieR: Automata review: 2B or Not 2B
“Basically, what I’m saying is that NieR: Automata is one of the best games you’ll ever play – and I say that without the slightest hint of hyperbole. Like Frankenstein did 200 years ago, it manages to take some of the biggest philosophical questions and parse them through a thoroughly entertaining experience. It’s a game that invites you to have fun, then delivers that in spades, all while challenging what the medium can do and the types of stories it can tell.”
Review: Momodora: Reverie Under the Moon
“In that way, [Kaho’s] a stark departure from Castlevania’s Belmonts, and far more reminiscent of I Am Setsuna’s eponymous hero. She has so much care for and commitment to her people that she can stare death in the face with her head held high. It’s a departure from the bravado that plagues Castlevania; by and large, those games are about victory over evil and being a big damn hero. Momodora’s plot is near-identical on the surface, but the characterisation of Kaho shifts the focus from victory to perseverance; from being a hero to doing heroic things. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.”
Ghost Recon Wildlands: ‘A repugnant, morally indefensible game’
“And yet, there’s no attempt to explore the real harm that results from drug trafficking either. The game is overflowing with graphic depictions of torture and violence, but no effort to actually look at how the presence of cartels affects people. Wildlands manages to reduce the thousands of victims, both in-game and in real-life, to catalysts used to justify violent retribution from US agents. It turns this epidemic that ruins people’s lives into a game of cops and robbers. To call it insensitive is an understatement; it’s a dehumanising “fuck you” to everyone who’s affected.”
Toukiden 2 review: The new gold standard in hunting RPGs
“I propose that from here on out, ‘Monster Hunter clones’ be referred to as ‘Toukiden clones’. True enough, the original Toukiden drew heavily on Monster Hunter, but it built in that with a far more interesting setting, more captivating story, and a more refined and accessible combat system. Where Toukiden (and it’s expanded port / sequel, Toukiden Kiwami) embellished on the MonHun formula, Toukiden 2 completely eclipses it.”
Australi #1 review: A Land of Stories
“The whole context of the story is decidedly Australian. Australi is a land with thousands of years of history, but that’s all being washed away by invading forces. Maloo is an Indigenous boy born into this time of change, with no connection to his land, his culture, and his people. It may be a fantasy story, but it’s situated firmly in Australian history.”
Horizon: Zero Dawn is not a feminist masterpiece
“My issue with all the kudos being showered upon Horizon’s “wokeness” is that for all its superficial progressivism, it undermines those aims at every turn. Aloy is a “strong female character” in the most reductive sense of the term. She’s the female equivalent of a space marine trope; a superpowered hero who lacks any sort of actual personality or emotional depth. A “strong female character” is one who’s strong in the writing – someone who feels human and multifaceted, as Gonzalez put it – and Aloy couldn’t be further from that.”
Torment: Tides of Numenera puts the “role-playing” back in “role-playing game”
“Of course, it’s still a structured game, with a broadly linear progression through a main storyline. It’s not a completely open-ended game, nor is it a purely on-rails one; rather,I liken it to a massive, multi-lane freeway. You start in the same place, and keep going in the same general direction, but there are a lot of different parallel routes to that end, which you can hop between more or less at will, and a lot of different off-ramps you can take depending on which lane you’re in and when you’re in it. It’s worth noting that there’s nothing wrong with the on-rails approach – I love Telltale’s work precisely because of its linear structure and the scope that offers for telling a coherent, authored story – but Torment: Tides of Numenera strikes a delicate balance between freedom and structure that works incredibly well.”
Nioh review: Bringing Dark Souls back to Japan
“More importantly, the fantastical element ties in closely to the historical. The whole oni invasion thing is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the turbulence of [the Sengoku] period, where war between the daimyō of the various provinces was almost constant. The narrative underneath Nioh’s plot is an unflinching look at the horrors of war, as you force your way through ravaged villages and castles where blood flows like water. Even the places like temples and shrines, that should be a reprieve from that, can’t escape the oni plague. What it lacks in subtlety, this metaphor makes up for in sheer impact.”
“This all makes Everything an experience unlike any other, and a game that’s difficult to even describe. You could say that it’s a “walking simulator” that lets you be any number of things, from an atom to a universe – an accurate description, but too reductive to capture the experience of actually playing it. You could say it’s an experimental arthouse game that explores Taoism and Zen Buddhism through a lens of Western science and philosophy – again, an accurate description, but one that’s too vague to be of much use, yet still doesn’t capture everything that Everything encapsulates.”
What did you play, read, and watch in March? Leave a comment!