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OnlySP 50 Favorite Games

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #38—Wolfenstein: The New Order

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Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. This week we look at a different perspective of war than last week’s title—one set in an alternate outcome to the Second World War…

Wolfenstein The New Order gameplay art

#39. WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER, by Rhain Radford-Burns

“In my dream I smell the barbecue. I hear children. A dog. And I see someone. I think I see someone. These things… None of it for me. I move by roaring engines. Among warriors. We come from the night.”

After over thirty years of mindlessly running down corridors and shooting Nazis, war hero William “B.J.” Blazkowicz was due for a change. Even in his 3D and HD iterations, Blazkowicz lacked personality: his blocky head and simple persona maintained an anti-hero attitude and, as Bethesda’s Pete Hines described, “He’s just the guy that you play.” MachineGames set out to rectify this with Wolfenstein: The New Order.

From the game’s first cutscene, the depth of Blazkowicz’s character becomes evident. This is not a man who kills for sport, as is so common in World War II-themed video games; this is a man fighting against the injustice of the Nazi regime so that he can live in a world without the terrors of war or the fear of conflict. The game’s prologue forces this fear onto Blazkowicz in the most brutal manner, one that the player themselves will struggle to come to terms with: choose which of your two allies should die.

“Inhale. Count to four. Exhale. Count to four.”

Before long, the player’s expectations are flipped on their head as they discover that Wolfenstein: The New Order is not a World War II game. Blazkowicz barely escapes death and falls into a deep coma for fourteen years. He awakens properly in a psychiatric asylum in 1960 to discover that the Resistance has been disbanded, the Allied forces surrendered their arms, and the Nazi regime has won the war.

Wolfenstein The New Order gameplay screenshot 4

With the help of the asylum’s head nurse Anya Oliwa, Blazkowicz tracks down the remaining members of the Resistance movement in Berlin, living in their base alongside Anya for some time. The Resistance members are characters from all walks of life, demonstrating the widespread impact that the Nazi victory had.

Among the Resistance is: Fergus Reid, a skilled pilot and Blazkowicz’s right-hand man who eases the situation through his use of comedy; Probst Wyatt III, a young private haunted by the death of his senior but risen as a true leader among the group; Caroline Becker, an older woman left paralysed by a previous encounter with the Nazis, who rallies the team to victory; Set Roth, a former member of the Da’at Yichud, a secret society who performed advanced scientific research; Klaus Kreutz, a former Nazi whose family was killed by the Gestapo; and Max Hass, a mentally handicapped pacifist and Klaus’s surrogate son.

“It’s agony, to dream like this. Wake up to reality. But sometimes… truly… it’s good to remember what you’re fighting for.”

Throughout the narrative, the player discovers more of Blazkowicz’s personality by listening to his inner monologue. Reflecting on the past and hoping for the future, Blazkowicz’s speeches—expertly voiced by the talented Brian Bloom—provide a deep insight into the mind of a man at war with his actions. Each conversation is well-written, adding depth to the characters in the game—both in the Resistance and out.

Wolfenstein The New Order gameplay screenshot 2

Even the game’s main antagonist—General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse—has some depth. Despite having the most generic nickname imaginable, he is far from generic in personality and demonstrates the brutality of the Nazi regime in his very first scene. Deathshead makes the player’s blood boil every time he speaks, and MachineGames could not have selected a better villain for the game.

The enemies that the player faces the most throughout the game—the hordes of Nazi soldiers—present a perfect challenge for the player, providing enough conflict and interest to keep the player engaged throughout each level. The gameplay itself also continues to keep the player entertained, with several traversal and puzzle segments interspersed between the heavy combat scenes.

Wolfenstein The New Order gameplay screenshot 3

 “Strange sensation, trapped in my body. I black out, I’m losing time. Sometimes seasons change in the blink of an eye. I’m having trouble with my thoughts. They dissipate like a scent on the wind.”

Each cutscene in the game plays like a movie. Not only does each actor perform brilliantly in each scene, but the scenes themselves are expertly crafted, with cuts and transitions reminiscent of a high-budget film. The developers appear to have researched effective filmic techniques when constructing this game, and that is evident from each scene. Check out one of the best, from early in the game:

Similarly, the game’s soundtrack is something to marvel. Composed by the talented Australian musician Mick Gordon—also known for his work on Doom and Prey—the game’s original score is a perfect mix of slow, reflective tunes and heavy, distorted themes. Most impressive, however, are the songs created for the game’s marketing campaign: ten fictional German pop artists creating Nazi-focused music in the 1960s. Among these ten tracks were three covers rewritten in German—“Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker, “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, and “Nowhere to Run” by Martha and the Vandellas—which remains one of the smartest and most impressive marketing techniques for a game to date.

Wolfenstein The New Order gameplay screenshot 1

Wolfenstein: The New Order is not a perfect game, but it does not set out to be one. MachineGames effectively achieved its goal of humanising B.J. Blazkowicz and creating an interesting and thoughtful narrative with deep thematic undertones. The New Order demonstrated that first-person shooters do not have to be mindless, and can possess the ability to keep players heavily engaged and entertained until the very end.

“A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name: Mother of Exiles. With silent lips: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.’”

Wolfenstein_ The New Order gameplay screenshot

Thanks for joining us again with this innovative and interesting entry in our 50 favourite games list. Next week’s game is a step in a very different direction: a title known for its sunshine… For the latest from the world of single-player gaming, be sure to bookmark OnlySP.com, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, and join our community Discord server.

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OnlySP 50 Favorite Games

OnlySP’s Favorite Games #17—Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

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Thanks to the staff of OnlySP, I am inviting you to come on a journey through our 50 favourite games. This week’s game is a classic—a founding title in a genre loved by many to this day.

Castlevania Symphony of the Night gameplay screenshot 4

#17. CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT, by Daniel Pereira

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is truly a special game. Few titles within the industry can be labeled as a work of art, and Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is, without a doubt, one of them. Being born of an ideology that a new direction could be what was best for the series after three iterations  of the same style, Symphony of the Night took a leap of faith for the franchise, and looking back on its success, players will have no question that the leap paid off.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night takes place five years after the events of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, where Richter Belmont traversed Castle Dracula to take down the main man himself and once again reset the Castle’s reappearance cycle .

What is interesting about Symphony of the Night was that  the game begins as Rondo of Blood ends: with the climactic battle of Richter and Dracula in the throne room. Once the battle is complete the game transitions and players are now reintroduced to Alucard, Dracula’s half-vampire son with a human woman. This game is the first time players had seen Alucard since Castlevania III (1989), and this time he is the primary playable character.

Castlevania Symphony of the Night gameplay screenshot 2

Alucard’s introduction within Symphony of the Night as the playable character created a whole new dynamic for the player to wrap their head around. Since Alucard is not a vampire hunter nor a member of the Belmont family, he does not use a whip to slay monsters. Instead he uses a variety of weaponry that players can discover throughout their journey into the castle. Interestingly, the game starts the player off at what is essentially Alucard’s peak performance, as he is able to slice and dice his way through any enemy before him—that is, until Alucard is reunited with Death, who strips him of his abilities and gear forcing the player to start their adventure empty-handed.

The developer ’s choice to start the player completely fresh and weak contributes nicely to the game’s new direction. Unlike previous playable characters, Alucard can equip different armor, weapons, and abilities to further aid him while traversing the castle. Ultimately, Alucard’s goals are to figure out why the castle has reappeared only five years after being destroyed, and locate the missing Richter Belmont. Despite a narrative that captures player attention  immediately, Symphony of the Night proves that its new gameplay direction is what will ultimately steal the show.

As a revolutionary new direction for the Castlevania series at the time, Symphony of the Night was the first entry that did not end after a stage completion or boss fight . Instead, Symphony of the Night surprised players by simply continuing forward. In previous games, after completing a stage, the player would be taken to a map screen to select the next area of play; however, in Symphony of the Night, the map can be toggled with the press of a button and only indicated areas that were visited by the player, with everything else nonexistent until discovered. This promoted exploration and returning ventures to familiar areas, allowing the game to really showcase its roots  and establish a formula that would usher it into the history books.

In addition to the new approach to level design for Symphony of the Night, what is most surprising about the game, and perhaps what solidified it in most gamer’s memory, is the fact that after what would seem to be the final boss fight, the castle would then invert and could be played entirely upside down. For this event to conspire, the player would have to complete specific tasks before and during the boss encounter, and whether or not those tasks were done would determine if the game ended there or continued with the Inverted Castle. As a truly remarkable feature, Symphony of the Night‘s Castle Dracula was designed to look just as beautiful upside down as it was during the normal playthrough. Not only was the aesthetic of the castle perfectly preserved in its inverted state, but it also played just as seamless as it did right-side up.

As a testament to the wonderful art and craftsmanship by the developer for this title, the gothic horror atmosphere combined with the excellent sound design of the game only attributed to how incredible Symphony of the Night‘s Castle Dracula was. That the artistic integrity of Symphony of the Night has withstood the test of time is truly astonishing. At a time when the industry was shifting to 3D models, the team behind Symphony of the Night chose to go against the grain and create what feels like a swan song for the 2D gaming genre.

Recently, director Koji Igarashi released the long-anticipated Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. OnlySP had the privilege of reviewing the new game, and although it exceeded our expectations and presents itself as a worthy successor, it cannot replace or recreate the zeitgeist that was Symphony of the Night. The 2.5D graphics of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night are outclassed by the 2D pixel art  of its predecessor. A style decision, yes, however one cannot help but wonder what the final product would have looked like with a 2D template.

Of course, Symphony of the Night cannot be truly praised without mention of its greatest contribution to the industry. Without this game, players would have never known that man is a miserable pile of secrets. Thanks to Symphony of the Night’s original intro battle, the industry will always remember the significance surrounding Dracula’s rhetorical question of “What is a man?”

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a stylish love letter to fans of the series. More importantly, however, is the game’s contribution to the industry and the Metroidvania genre as a whole. To this day, Symphony of the Night is recognized and referenced as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Metroidvania game of its generation.

From the outset, players might question how this game could come with such accolades, but the easiest answer is more often than not the simplest one. For one to understand what makes Castlevania: Symphony of the Night so great and worthy of a spot on OnlySP’s 50 Favorite Games, all they need to do is play it.

Thanks for joining us as we take a look at one of the founders of the Metroidvania genre. Join us next week as we look at a very different game from a different genre—but one that has remained inspirational for years nonetheless.

To stay tuned, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube, and join in to our community Discord channel.

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