I recently realized that I spend so much time playing games with plots, whether good or bad, that I rarely ever play something that’s literally just a game. Typically, when I finish an RPG, I play a few action or adventure games as palate cleansers, but I generally shoot for the narrative when it comes to selecting games to play. What’s funny about this is that I often like to play games where I have tons of things to do without furthering the main narrative.
Last month, I played Outlast for review, marking the first game I’d play on the PS4 I bought near the end of December. It wasn’t the first game I owned for the system, though, since I redeemed all my freebies from Playstation Plus. (Seriously, get on that if you haven’t.) Since Outlast is kind of stressful because of it’s horror genre, I could only play it for an hour or so before I’d need a breather. But when I quit the game for a spell, I didn’t necessarily feel like doing something other than playing. I didn’t want to get invested in a plot game like Contrast since I was already in the middle of Final Fantasy VI on my Vita. So I loaded up Resogun.
Holy hell, what a good game that is. I love Resogun. I haven’t really played a “shmup” since…does PixelJunk Shooter count? (Seriously, buy that soundtrack by High Frequency Bandwidth if you haven’t.) Resogun‘s “story,” if you’d even consider it such, is about aliens or some such. Actually, it’s very easy to play the game a million times and never figure out what a Resogun is. But the game is awesome. The soundtrack is fantastic (and not for purchase, boo) electronica by Ari Pulkkinen, who also did Housemarque’s stunning Outland. The graphics are gorgeous. Whether they’d be considered next gen or not, I barely spend a second thinking about it. This game is filled with so much visual reward for blowing stuff up that it’s ridiculous.
The best part for me, though, is that I have nothing to think about when I play it other than doing just that. It has become my go-to as of late when I just want to play a video game but don’t feel like loading up something heavy. At the risk of sounding like a Sony advertisement, I’ll also note how convenient it is to load the game through my Vita when my husband is watching something else on TV. I get tons of pretty for a little over an hour and then can go back to things like scaring the crap out of myself.
Then last week, I also played the Early Access game, Nether, for preview. The story is also barely there; all I know is that something happened that turned the city into a wasteland full of aliens. I wanted to test my experience with another person, so I invited my friend, Tyler, to redeem one of the 72-hour codes I got so that he could join me. I wouldn’t call this game awesome by any regard, at least not in its current state, but I enjoyed how devoid of activity it was because it allowed me to just talk with a friend for over an hour.
We rummaged through some buildings, pretended to find places to live, and just chatted about all sorts of things. Without any recordings to pick up, cutscenes to watch, or even mission descriptions to read, we literally just played and caught up with each other for a bit. Frankly, I don’t know if the developer would be that thrilled to know I consider Nether mindless, but it was nice to focus on other pursuits while I played.
Nether: a post-apocalyptic play date sim
When I tried Diablo III‘s demo many moons ago, I wrote it off as also mindless. The story didn’t seem that present or urgent by any means, and I was just smashing enemies endlessly and grabbing their loot. Watching my friends play onwards, I realized it never becomes much more than that. You just get better at killing enemies and grabbing loot as you progress.
But today, I noticed that Tyler and I each have Torchlight II in our Steam libraries, and it’s basically the same experience. For once, instead of disregarding a game I bought on a random sale or part of a Humble Bundle, I’m looking forward to just randomly destroying enemies while I spend time with a physically-distant friend. Maybe it’s time I take my gaming a little less seriously and start opening my session up to lighter experiences, ones where I just game for gaming’s sake. This late in life, I’m certainly excited at the prospect.