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Editorial

Red Dead Redemption 2 and the Price of Immersion

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Red Dead Redemption 2 fishing

Since the inception of gaming as a medium, fun has always been at its very core, whether drawing more coins into arcade machines or simply giving players a reason to keep playing. However, as photorealistic graphics and movie-like stories have seemingly become equally important as gameplay, players have a growing demand for ever-better looking games and more engaging narratives, and the place of fun is more unclear than ever.

Recently, this demand has been highlighted by the highly anticipated release of Red Dead Redemption 2 whose glossy trailers teasing a vibrant open world and dark storyline have left players desperate to play it for months. One important aspect missing from the hype, however, was any mention of gameplay, which even those trailers only briefly displayed before an impressive attention to detail became the focus of initial reactions. As a consequence, players were divided when the game eventually released and it played much differently to what they expected, featuring mechanics that aim at realism and an almost obsessive attention to detail that practically require players to eat, sleep, and bathe at every turn — a far cry from the fairly simple controls of Rockstar Games’s previous titles.

For instance, what once was a simple exercise in finding an animal, shooting it, and taking its pelt in the previous game is now a lengthy quest with little reward. Protagonist Arthur Morgan must take time away from robbing banks and stealing trains to travel to a specific location, track a particular animal, determine its value, find its weak spots, use the right weapon, skin it, pick it up, and race to a trader in time before it decays. Even then, if anything is virtually not perfect about the kill, it is almost worthless. While realistic, many have complained that this simply is not fun.

Of course, realism is not inherently negative. One can certainly appreciate and even enjoy the experience for what it is if they are dedicated enough, and it is an undeniably fresh addition that suits Rockstar’s formula. However, not everyone agrees that such realism (such as tapping ‘X’ to bathe the protagonist) is good, as claims that such design is intrusive and distracting have been both critics and players’ main criticism of Red Dead Redemption 2 so far. The sentiment is that gameplay matters most, and that it should always take precedence over immersion; the concern is that developers are forgetting this and sacrificing fun for detail.

This is not to say that fun in games is out of fashion, either. In fact, games such as Rocket League and Fortnite have seen massive success because they are simply enjoyable without impressive graphics or deep storylines. Likewise, in spite of average graphics and a mediocre plot, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has been praised for its gameplay, allowing itself to be historically inaccurate and unrealistic if the player is still having fun. Evidently, unadulterated enjoyment still very much has a place in games, with no sign of it being replaced entirely.

Similarly, a shift away from pure enjoyment has proved to be a positive thing before: as technology has advanced and games have become bigger, player choice has expanded to include a diversity in genres and styles so that one is not limited to simple fun if they prefer more story-heavy adventures, strategy games, or realistic experiences. Therefore, games like Red Dead Redemption 2 are not necessarily signs of the times that indicate a growing movement away from fun as some fear, but rather evidence of innovation and variety, the result of which can only be good for increasingly diverse consumers.

Though graphics and story have become aspects of a game almost equally important as its gameplay, ultimately gameplay is the defining factor for gaming as a medium. Signs that this is being replaced would thus surely be cause for concern, but that is seemingly yet to happen as “fun” continues to drive game sales and gives players diverse choice in what they want to play.

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Editorial

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

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May

May offers no respite from the big, bold games that have released so far in 2019, bringing with it a host of games almost certain to appeal to gamers of every stripe.

Close to the Sun

Release Date: May 2, 2019
Platforms: PC, consoles later in the year

May’s first major release may also be its most intriguing. Close to the Sun has regularly attracted comparisons to BioShock for its art style and premise, though the relationship between the two titles is, at best, spiritual.

Players take the role of journalist Rose Archer as she steps aboard Nikola Tesla’s ship, the Helios in 1897. Like Andrew Ryan before him (or after him, depending on perspective), Tesla has created a microcosm in which scientific freedom is unrestricted, with disastrous outcomes. Rose’s first impression is of a quarantine sign at the entrance to a still, dead ship, but she presses on regardless in search of her lost sister.

With Close to the Sun, developer Storm in a Teacup aims to provide an intense horror experience. The Helios holds none of BioShock’s shotguns or Plasmids. Instead, players have no means to defend themselves, with gameplay focusing on hiding from and escaping the threats on board.

Check out OnlySP’s final review of the game here.

RAGE 2

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

For anyone to whom the slow, meditative approach does not appeal, Bethesda is busting out the big guns with the long-awaited, little-expected sequel, RAGE 2.

This time around, id Software has tapped Just Cause and Mad Max developer Avalanche Studios for assistance in developing an open-world game. The result, if the trailers are any indication, is a breakneck, neon-fuelled experience that focuses on insanity and ramps up all the unique aspects of the earlier game.

One focal point of development has been ensuring the interconnectedness of the game’s structure, and the teams have promised a greater focus on narrative this time around. Perhaps in keeping with that, RAGE 2 is being distanced from its predecessor, taking place 30 years later with a new protagonist and a whole new story, though some callbacks will be present.

Although id’s legendary first-person gunplay is a driving force throughout the game, it will be supplemented by some light RPG elements, robust vehicular combat, and post launch challenges and support (though the developers deny that RAGE 2 is designed with a games-as-a-service model in mind).

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Release Date: May 14, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Out on the same day as RAGE 2 is the vastly different A Plague Tale: Innocence. A historical adventure, the game challenges players with overcoming obstacles with brains rather than brawn.

Players become Amicia, an orphan girl struggling to survive in a plague-infested medieval France while also keeping her younger brother safe. With the landscape rife with rats and members of The Inquisition, one of the core tenets of gameplay is reportedly the need to use these threats against each other. As such, though Amicia has a sling to use, the gameplay is designed more as survival puzzles than combat ones.

Developer Asobo Studio is not a household name, though it has a lengthy history of adaptations and support on major titles, including Quantum Break and The Crew 2. Furthermore, even though A Plague Tale is yet to release, publisher Focus Home Interactive has displayed remarkable confidence in the project by extending its partnership with Asobo.

Honourable Mentions

Although RAGE 2 is the incontestable action-blockbuster of the month, gamers in search of another kind of frenetic may want to wait until May 21, when Curve Digital drops American Fugitive, which has a more than passing resemblance to the earliest Grand Theft Auto games. Alternatively, PlayStation VR owners may want to look into Blood and Truth come May 28.

Sega also shines this month, dropping Team Sonic Racing on May 21 and Total War: Three Kingdoms two days later.

Anyone looking for an RPG has indie’s answer to The Outer Worlds, Within the Cosmos, to look out for on May 30, while those looking for slower stories get the latest episode of Life is Strange 2 on May 9, Observation on May 21, and the fjord-noir Draugen at a yet unspecified date.

Have we forgotten anything that you’re excited for? Let us know down below or on our Discord server.

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