The Banished Vault is, if anything, a master class in the economy and cruelty of space survival where every movement matters. It is wholeheartedly uncompromising in bending the player to its will and vision, and it is right to do so. I realize that the intangible, interstitial faith holding my exiles together has become fused with my own confidence in what I’m doing; I don’t care about parsing the minutiae of their civilization as much I care about having the chutzpah and half-assed math to pull us through.
Perhaps my focus on the story mitigated the excitement of seeing how the computer was going to screw me over; perhaps the alignment agenda, while useful for a moralistic fantasy setting, undercut the chaotic spontaneity that usually makes 4X games so delicious. Maybe it would simply be more unpredictable in a multiplayer setting, because no one will sabotage you in 4X like a friend. The reality of 4X games that nobody likes to admit is that they aren’t as fun if you’re not winning, so half the battle is trying to keep new players engaged while they learn how to improve. Tending to the drama of an immortal pantheon is enough to keep me around, though I’m not sure for how much longer. If the repetition doesn’t kill you once you start struggling through higher tier realms, maybe the marauders will.
The Pale Beyond, for all its flaws and frustrations, still manages to retain a desolate sort of charm, rough edges and all. It isn’t afraid to put Shaw in horrendously painful situations where there’s no good outcome — there’s one exceptionally bleak scenario where you can practically feel the game gleefully milking what’s left of your serotonin. Coming off the ice and making land after nearly 40 weeks of hell really feels like moving between two worlds; the background art and environments are positively unearthly when shrouded in ominous fog and hazy light. The ocean scenes with icebergs awash in pinks and oranges are truly gorgeous, as are the dark, roiling storms. If only the internal logic of the overall plot was a little more cohesive, and a little less patched together, I feel like I would actually return to the Temperance and give it another whirl. As it stands, I’m still choosing the ending where I get to head home and eat a civilized meal.
In exploiting this fan-like thirst for knowledge as authority and authenticity — even if it occasionally undercuts the storytelling — the game also creates an easy choice for the curious outsider: Either play, or don’t. Immortality embodies the most enticing hallmarks of the “if you know, you know” meme — there’s no quick recap for a politely interested stranger that can adequately sum up the question What happened to Marissa Marcel? The only way to fully appreciate the scope of this project, flaws and all, is to throw all expectations of story and structure out the window, and realize that the simplistic divide between film and games is holding us back from doing so much more with either medium.
As with most horror endings, Alan comes away from his literal journey to hell and back a changed man. There’s no particularly profound message lurking here, which is actually kind of nice after all the chaos. Sometimes shit just happens, most of all in Hollywood. I leave this incarnation of Los Angeles with no regrets, but a fierce, bittersweet ache for the city I once called home, and surprisingly (and perhaps this is the benefit of distance), a twinge of affection for its insufferable movie bastards, many of whom probably, honestly, need an Edward Keller moment in their lives.
My relationship to Swansong has become almost like my ritual appointment with Passions — until I fully exhaust the entire story, I need my dose of ridiculous people making ridiculous decisions, and the nuclear fallout of their mistakes.
When I finally decide to end the game, I leave my Sleeper in the Greenway, where I imagine they can keep on going about their quiet, private routines. I’m not sure I’ll come back to the Eye again, because even if I make different decisions on another run, Citizen Sleeper’s most potent power lies in that first playthrough, when you arrive with nothing, and know even less. This isn’t so much about “replay value” as it is about the singular experience of a journey that — in keeping with the fiction of being a ragged Sleeper trying to survive — is very much a one-way street. Did I do right by my Sleeper? I don’t know. But all things must come to an end, and I feel like they would understand.
A dark-fantasy western RPG with a compelling world and an ambitious narrative, Weird West is undermined by awkward combat and micromanagement. Weird West's rotating multi-character perspective will be an acquired taste, but makes sense as a method of world-building. It's got room to grow, but right now, it's challenging to build momentum in the early game and to persevere through the mid-game.