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Editorial

Three Visions of America in Gaming For July 4

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Independence Day

Independence Day is a celebration of all things American, and so OnlySP is shining a spotlight on three different interpretations of the nation to be found within gaming.

The Neutral – Assassin’s Creed III
By DJ Arruda

With Assassin’s Creed III, Ubisoft sought to tell the story of American Independence through the lens of Ratonhnhaké:ton (better known by his adopted name Connor Kenway), a member of the Mohawk tribe who would rock the colonies on his journey to becoming Master Assassin of the Colonial Brotherhood. While the historical fiction of the series has always been grounded in facts supplemented by the shadow war between Assassins and Templars, taking on the story of the American Revolution allows for a visceral retelling of a well-known story, the details of which have been lost in the names of battles and the Founding Fathers.

With Connor as a protagonist, the studio examines colonial actions against Native Americans alongside the path to independence for the colonies, allowing for a story that offers a uniquely engaging look at the historical events that are the reason for the celebration of July 4. From the beginnings of unrest with the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party and the start of the war proper, Connor’s presence throughout these events provides a critical and earnest reaction to the gaining of independence. Even the minutiae of the Continental Congress does not escape this thorough chronicle of America’s origins, which ultimately gives as complete a story as any in fiction about how the country came to be.

Now, being of a series with “assassin” in the title, violence aplenty becomes the true means of progressing. While no-one should be surprised that much blood was shed in achieving independence, having an Assassin’s presence at these key points highlights the cost of freedom. While many debates can be had today on violence in America, keep in mind that violence has always been a part of the country since the very founding. Overall, Assassin’s Creed III is a history lesson that captures the bloody details kept out of the legendary American holiday.

Assassins Creed III

The Negative – Bioshock Infinite
By Damien Lawardorn

With a name drawn from the annals of U.S. history, Bioshock Infinite’s floating city of Columbia makes a powerful claim to be viewed as a microcosm of American society, and the reflection is an unflattering one. Like Jack Ryan before him, Booker DeWitt steps into a fantastical city where the embrace of idealism has led to collapse. While Rapture descended into a nigh-apocalyptic haven of madness, however, Columbia’s fall is less immediately obvious because the symptoms hide beneath a glossy surface. Bioshock Infinite offers a scathing indictment of the ideal of American exceptionalism by exposing the moral decay that accompanies a collective belief in unquestionable superiority.

Despite its idyllic appearance as a paradise among the clouds, Columbia is a city-state rife with racism, xenophobia, violence, overseen by zealous dictator in the form of Father Comstock. Although Bioshock Infinite is primarily a critique of the contemporary setting of 1912, many of the themes raised across the course of the game remain relevant today—not just in America, but across the entire world. A fear of the Other continues to power opposition to ethnic minorities and those of alternative genders and sexualities, while terrorist violence continues to flare. Furthermore, Bioshock Infinite is profoundly pessimistic, suggesting self-immolation as the clearest path to ending dictatorship and freeing the downtrodden masses from the yoke of a tyrannical master. Even the great American spirit of industry is lampooned, with the technology that keeps Columbia afloat stolen rather than developed internally. The city festers within its affluence and righteousness.

As a reflection of 1912, the game is an interesting thinkpiece on the state of America at the time. As a reflection of 2017, however, the title takes on a more sinister bent, suggesting that while some strides have been made in overcoming inequality and discrimination, the world has not moved far. Yet despite Bioshock Infinite’s negative portrayal of some elements of American society, the game remains a powerful testament to the ideal of entrepreneurship that began with the Founding Fathers and continues to push the nation forward and keep it at the forefront of the world’s superpowers.  Independence lies at the heart of the game, evident in both Father Comstock’s miraculous city and in Booker’s steadfast refusal to accept determinism, and this theme is a powerful reflection of everything celebrated on July 4.

Bioshock Infinite

The Positive – Red Dead Redemption
By Marley Hannan

Writing as an Australian, I feel the game that sums up Independence Day and what it means to be American best is, for some reason, Red Dead Redemption.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Red Dead Redemption is the quintessential cowboy game and, for many people, a cowboy is the most iconic American thing there is. The game focuses on John Marston, one of the coolest cowboys out, as he tries to redeem himself for a life of criminality and wrongdoing, that, while morally unjustifiable, is guaranteed to be badass given that the story is likely the basis of Red Dead Redemption 2. Marston aims to achieve said redemption working for the Sheriff’s department and is tasked with hunting down and killing the members of his former gang to earn himself a pardon. While far from a job Marston enjoys, bounty hunting is  the coolest job people could possibly have in that day and age, given that horse urine collector was a job in Canada until the 1930s.

Americans should remind themselves of that. If you are stuck in some dead-end job, working in an office or a Cinnabon somewhere, just remind yourself that you are a goddamn American. Every other country knows you are a part of the most awesome nation in the world. The dorkiest person you know is way cooler than ten New Zealanders, so be proud and happy for them. Maybe also be thankful that you do not have to collect horse urine for Canadians.

Returning to the topic at hand, Red Dead Redemption is also about helping other people, even if the things they ask you to do is deeply odd. The experience of being an American is helping your fellow human being, even if they want to make love to their horse or, worse, are Nigel West Dickens. To some extent, you do these jobs to help yourself. You help others for the cash, the XP, and the cool outfits, but you also do it to solve problems, making the place you live somewhat better for you having been there.

Ultimately, Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic game that can and should be played all year round, but especially on Independence Day. After all, July 4 is a great day for sitting inside, avoiding fireworks, crowds of people, and the rest of the hubbub.

Why?

Because freedom.

Red Dead Redemption

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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