Celebrating National Video Games Day
The Manitoban staff shares some games they went gaga over this summer

After the past year and a half, there is a collective need for decompressing, raising morale and releasing frustrations. Thankfully, these are all things video games provide the perfect outlet for. Nowadays, it’s easy for anyone to find a video game to enjoy and there are seemingly endless choices, no matter what you fancy — console games, online games, phone apps, virtual reality and beyond. So, in honour of National Video Games Day on Sept. 12, the Manitoban staff has put together a list of games that we logged many hours in this summer to celebrate our love for digital gaming.

 

XCOM 2

Liam Forrester, news editor

First released on PC in 2016 by Firaxis Games and 2K Games, XCOM 2 provides a simple yet addictive gameplay loop centred around tactical turn-based combat and strategic base management.

XCOM 2 follows the events of 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, in which the player commands the titular international military force tasked with repelling an invasion by space aliens. The sequel assumes the first XCOM project failed, allowing the extraterrestrial threat to install a puppet regime called ADVENT.

Picking up 20 years after the invasion, with XCOM reduced to a scrappy guerilla army on the run from ADVENT forces. After being rescued in the game’s tutorial mission, the player is put back in charge of XCOM and its struggle to stop the nefarious Avatar Project.

From XCOM’s new base of operations, a massive Marvel helicarrier-esque aircraft called the Avenger, the player chooses four to six custom soldiers to deploy on various operations, which include stealing supplies, demolishing facilities and defending resistance outposts. Between deployments, the player chooses what to build, what to upgrade and what research to pursue.

The game’s basic structure incentivizes players to keep going with small, hard-fought victories at every step. Every engagement pits your soldiers against a vastly superior force. Every new gadget is the product of weeks of research. Once the player starts to gain momentum, XCOM 2 is almost impossible to put down.

While optimized for PC, Nintendo Switch and last-gen system owners can still enjoy the full game, albeit with some minor graphical issues and longer load times.

 

Stardew Valley

Zoë LeBrun, volunteer staff

If you’re looking for your next cozy game for fall and winter and you’re a fan of games like Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Terraria, look no further than Stardew Valley.

Solely developed by American indie game designer Eric Barone and published by British studio Chucklefish, Stardew Valley is a farming simulation and role-playing game that can be played in both single and multiplayer modes.

Stardew Valley’s story begins with the player trading their busy corporate job for a simpler life on a farmstead inherited from their grandfather in lush Stardew Valley.

Upon arriving in Stardew Valley, the game becomes open-ended, leaving the player to decide what they would like to do with their land. The main activities consist of cultivating the land to grow and harvest crops, raising livestock, mining ore and socializing with the townspeople in the nearby town.

However, Stardew Valley also presents a vast, complex and nuanced world beyond just a simple farming game, with a variety of major and minor quests, minigames and options for exploration.

Additionally, as you move through quests and build relationships with townspeople, real-world topics are brought up — poverty, capitalism, alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few — with a sincerity and sensitivity that isn’t often seen in games.

 

Detroit: Become Human

Shaylyn Maharaj-Poliah, arts and culture editor

Quantic Dream’s latest offering, Detroit: Become Human, is a cinematic masterpiece. Set in a futuristic Detroit, human-like machines called androids have become something of a marginalized commodity. Though they are mass-produced and commonplace, their existence remains controversial and attitudes toward them are contentious. These sentiments are compounded by the growing number of “deviant” androids who have broken their programming, experience emotions and exercise free will.

The game follows a trio of characters with their own interactive journeys that split from, impact and overlap with each other. There is Connor, an android with the Detroit City Police Department tasked with handling cases involving “deviant” androids, Markus, a household android turned activist who hopes to start a revolution and free the android race and, finally, Kara, another domestic android, who rescues a young girl from an abusive home. The pair goes on the run and they must hide their identities, avoid the authorities and fight to survive.

The player takes control of each character at various points in the story and dictates their words and actions through selecting dialogue options and completing quick time events. Some of these choices could be the difference between life and death for certain characters. Their moral decisions — and, by extension, the player’s — affect gameplay and shape the complex narrative in a way that keeps you on your toes until the credits roll. The resulting experience is truly more like a film than a video game.

Detroit: Become Human is not all perfect in its execution, but its flaws are easy to overlook when presented with high replay value, a stellar soundtrack and an emotional story.