Monday 28 September 2020

Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were

The start of October has some heavy nostalgic vibes with a couple of sequels to formative PC gaming experiences on the way. First of all Star Wars: Squadrons, calling to mind the classic X-Wing series that I loved, along with other space sims like Wing Commander and Freespace from that golden era. The genre faded away for a while; I’ve tried to recapture the magic now and again, but nothing more recent has really done it for me. Star Citizen turned into a bit of a soap opera, neither No Man’s Sky nor Elite: Dangerous fired me up to try them. There’ve been a couple of specifically Star Wars offerings tied to MMOs: Jump to Lightspeed in Star Wars: Galaxies, which I dabbled in lightly during a couple of brief dalliances with the game, and slightly more recently (though still almost seven years back) the Galactic Starfighter expansion of Star Wars: The Old Republic, which I dabbled in even more lightly and rapidly concluded wasn’t for me.

The problem, particularly for Galactic Starfighter, was War Thunder. With it’s delightfully smooth mouse-controlled flying (as opposed to the more clunky mouse-as-sort-of-joystick flying of many other games) it’s rather spoiled me, and is always there and conveniently free-to-play if I fancy a quick spin. Squadrons does look good, though, and might really shine in VR; I’ve played War Thunder a bit using the Quest, but while technically impressive the more advanced simulation modes aren’t my cup of tea gameplay wise, spending ages squinting around for tiny black dots in the distance and worrying about wings ripping off at excessive speeds. If I can find my old joystick (and it still works), and the Oculus Quest link holds up for extended sessions, I’m rather tempted to give Squadrons a try to see how it works out, with the safety net of a Steam refund if it really doesn’t click. Longevity is bit of a concern, whether the single player campaign is a fully fleshed out experience or a bit of a tutorial, 5 player PvP/E modes will need pretty solid balance and matchmaking or risk being offputtingly frustrating, but it looks like it might be the best effort at space-dogfights in a while.

A few days later Baldur’s Gate 3 will go into early access. The first two games were absolute classics; at least, I’m pretty sure they were. I mean it’s 20 years now, I can’t actually remember very much about the story or characters or anything, apart from “Go for the eyes, Boo, go for the eyes!” “SQUEAK!” RPGs never went into quite the decline that space-sims did, but even so it’s been a fair while since I played a story-heavy RPG with a party of characters; probably Mass Effect: Andromeda, or Dragon Age: Inquisition for something in the fantasy genre. I did back Pillars of Eternity, the “spiritual successor” to Baldur’s Gate, but never really got anywhere with it; I think by that point I’d just become used to a different style of game. I know the developer’s Divinity: Original Sin games were well received, so I might well give BG3 a shot as well, it should be substantially different enough from Squadrons to offer a choice of gaming of an evening.

Perhaps they’ll be a doomed attempt to recapture gaming youth, consigned to the “maybe try again at some point” pile with so many others, but you’ve got to keep hoping, right?