It’s been nearly three months since we’ve been locked in our homes, weathering the storm of Covid-19. In that time, a lot of people have gotten busy, using their time to learn a new skill, to get in shape, to develop a passion of theirs into something more than just a hobby. Some of us have just been playing a lot of video games.
There’s nothing wrong with that though. Gaming has a lot of value, as an artform, and as a form of escapism. Now more than ever, I’ve relished turning on my console to get lost in a game, to get out of my small, cramped apartment without really going outside. With my newfound free time, I’ve had the time to jump back into old classics, try new releases, and finally start chipping away at the backlog that’s been building on my hard drive over the years. These are the games that have personally gotten me through quarantine, and I’d recommend anyone else try them out.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
There are a few specific qualities that you’re likely looking for in a game right now. If you’re anything like me, you probably want a good time sink, something you can throw a hundred hours at and still be finding new things to do. You’ll also most likely want an outdoorsy kind of game, something that gives you new scenery to look at beyond your walls furniture. Skyrim not only fulfills both of these two needs, but does so better than most other games of its type that have been released in the last decade. There’s a reason that this sprawling fantasy adventure is still talked about nearly ten years after its launch, and why it will continue to be talked about for years to come.
While the game hasn’t aged well in certain mechanical areas, the sense of freedom the game gives you to live another life in such a gorgeous and well realized world is one that can’t be taken for granted these days. For those willing to push through a bit of janky combat and buggy gameplay, the content offered by Skyrim and its three expansions will be enough to keep you coming back for weeks, discovering something new and exciting in every play session. If you’re looking to explore a wide open world, this is the best you can get in my opinion. And as a bonus, this game has been ported to so many systems that you can play it pretty much any time, anywhere.
Now, I’ve had a lot to say about Fallout 76 in the past, namely that its an undercooked, lazy, buggy, unforgivably sloppy mess of a game that demonstrated such a fundamental misunderstanding of what its own fanbase wanted that it is baffling to me that it ever got greenlit. I stand by all of that too, but after spending over a year desperately forcing myself to try and like it, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finally found some things of value. Well, one thing. Kind of.
With the release of the Wastelanders expansion, which finally added human NPC’s to the game world, Fallout 76 has begun to capitalize on the one thing it had going for it; the world. The Appalachian wasteland is a gorgeous region, arguably the best setting for a Fallout game to date. As diverse as it is hostile, I spent dozens of hours exploring West Virginia after the release of Wastelanders gave me something to do there. While adding NPC’s doesn’t even come close to fixing the litany of problems in this game, it has given reason to explore the best feature, which was enough to squeeze some enjoyment from it.
The reasons to play Fallout 76 are the same as those for Skyrim (although make no mistake, this is not nearly as good a game as Skyrim was). The world is a fascinating one to lose yourself in, and there’s plenty of content to keep you exploring it. You’ll have to stomach a lot more bugs, and a much higher price tag, but while I can’t give a sweeping recommendation, some people may actually find some value here.
Oh, that Country Roads cover that was used in the trailer was pretty good too.
Fallout X-01 Power Armor Quantum Variant 1/6 Scale Figure (Previews Exclusive)
from: Things From Another World
Mortal Kombat 11
This is about as far on the opposite end of the gaming spectrum as you can get from a Bethesda RPG, but I’ve been sinking at least an hour a day into Mortal Kombat 11 for most of the last year. I had just begun to lapse with my playing habits around February, but after being locked in my apartment for so long, I was desperately craving something faster-paced, something more stimulating than my usual gaming diet of RPG’s and simulator games. I jumped back in to try my hand at the competitive tournament mode, and I’ve made sure to come back almost every day since.
The thing about Mortal Kombat, and all other Netherrealm Studios fighting games, is that they are some of the only games in the genre that I believe can be played at any level. Approachable for beginners, playable for casual fans, and deep enough for tournament level players, there really is something here for everybody (assuming you like ultra-violent games).
While there isn’t necessarily the same amount of content here as you’ll find in some other games on this list, there is a catharsis in playing this game that I’ve been unable to find elsewhere. I have gotten the same animation in which a well-timed uppercut shatters an opponent’s jaw, launching them in the air like a ragdoll in the wind, about a thousand times, and it never stops being satisfying.
Mortal Kombat 11 – Legends in 3D – Sub Zero 1/2 Scale Bust
from: Things From Another World
This is a game that can keep you engaged with its fast-paced and relatively simple fighting game mechanics, while never demanding so much from you that it feels intimidating. At this point in time, that’s a really valuable thing to have in my rotation, and with the Aftermath expansion coming out soon, there’s never been a better time to jump in.
Speaking of more fast-paced games, I’ve also finally started a deep dive into the somewhat recent indie-darling Dead Cells. This is one that was criminally underrated in my opinion, largely because its launch was overshadowed by the IGN plagiarism controversy. This is a shame though, because from the little I played at launch and the many more hours I’ve been playing recently, this is a game that started out great and has aged like a fine wine.
Dead Cells occupies a unique space in my gaming rotation. Generally speaking, I’m over the procedurally generated, rogue-lite indie game craze, but this one has managed to hold my interest for a fairly long time. On a moment to moment level, the gameplay can be best equated to something like Dark Souls in that combat is focused on dodging and blocking enemy attacks, and waiting for the right times to strike. Unlike the many other games that have tried to ape the Souls game formula however, Dead Cells brings its own sense of character and charm to the table, creating something that’s gorgeous to look at, a ton of fun to play, and absorbing enough to keep you coming back for years to come.
The last big thing that I’ve played since quarantine began is Firewatch, a game that’s often described (in a somewhat derogatory, but not completely inaccurate way) as a walking simulator. You play as a man looking to leave the troubles of his life behind by taking a job as a remote fire watch operator in the wildernesses of Wyoming. While out at your post for months, your only source of human contact is chatting with your supervisor by radio. It’s a short experience, only a few hours, but it has a lot to say about isolation, escapism, and responsibility, themes that I think are going to be particularly resonant with people these days.
Don’t come to Firewatch expecting a challenge, an epic story, or a grand adventure. Instead, try to experience it the same way your character does, to get away from the stresses of the real world. Think of it as an escape from society to the wilderness, something that a lot of us have dreamed about, but would likely never do. You might just find this game speaks to you more than you would have imagined.