Whether it’s a game, a meal, a movie, an album, a TV show or any other experience one can think of, everybody has had that “what the hell took me so long to try this?” moment at some point. Life has its myriad ways of stopping us from experiencing everything we “should” experience (because we want to, because it’s recommended to us, or otherwise); that’s especially true with video games, where each new experience can take numerous hours to get through. With that in mind, the Doublejump Staff sat down this month to talk about the best games that they took their time getting around to, and it makes for one hell of a read. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Abir: Halo 3: ODST
Bungie’s noir-esque spinoff was a revelation to me when I played it three years late in 2012. The famed developer traded the mainline Halo games’ superhuman abilities and vibrant locales for more grounded combat and New Mombasa’s moody urban atmosphere.
Playing as a silent protagonist known only as the Rookie was a very different experience because he didn’t boast Master Chief and The Arbiter’s seemingly unlimited stamina and strength nor did he deliver macho one-liners or earnest comments. Being a titular Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) meant that he was limited by his human frame, so even taking on a single Brute was quite a challenge. In fact, the game encouraged me to use stealth to slim down enemy numbers before entering encounters.
There were moments of sheer white-knuckled thrills as I fought against multiple Hunters and had to rely on using alternative routes and evasion instead of heavy weapons and determination like I did as Master Chief. It was a very refreshing take on the Halo formula; this extended to ODST’s story, which followed The Rookie as he magically retraced the steps of his missing Alpha-Nine squadmates during the first days of The Covenant’s invasion of Earth.
Hell, even the music was different. Composer Marty O’Donnell played off the game’s rainy night setting with a haunting soundtrack that well-complemented the noir-esque story. For the first time since the original game, I really felt fearful for my character’s wellbeing and the music seemed to underline his vulnerability against his Covenant foes.
Halo 3: ODST is my favourite game in the series. Bungie created a work of art that made humanity’s struggle against a ruthless alien threat feel palpable. God damn it… I’m going to go home and play it again right now!
FromSoftware’s Souls series is so incredibly difficult — and such a runaway success as a franchise — that it’s found its way into popular culture as an adjective to describe anything oppressively difficult. Back in 2015, though, the developer decided to throw out a curveball with a brand new title, separate from the expansive, impenetrable Souls lore: that game was Bloodborne.
I happened across Bloodborne in the middle of 2017, when I bought a PlayStation 4; it was the first game I bought for the console, and I didn’t need to buy another for months. Although Bloodborne does share a lot of similarities with the Souls titles that came before it, where it differs is where it shines. The game is set in a fictional Gothic England town called Yharnham, where a hunter is sent out into the night to slay beasts and find the source of the plague that has decimated the city. As the web of intrigue deepens and the story opens up, the game starts to take on its own form.
The game’s predominantly black-and-red colour palette brings out its haunting, macabre setting. It’s not set in a mystical, medieval world like its predecessors, it’s dark and dangerous; towering chapels house people cursed by the Old Blood, monsters burn each other on the streets, and it all comes together to make the hunter feel hopeless and confused in his reality-bending quest. With allusions to the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Bloodborne’s setting and lore go beyond the planes of reality to create a truly harrowing, incredible experience.
FromSoftware does a great job of addressing the Souls titles’ grinding aspects with Labyrinths, dungeons that the player can randomly spawn and fight their way through. These dungeons not only pad the game out for tens of hours, but they serve to show just how deep the tortured beings roam in Yharnham, and just how far into the Nightmare the player must venture.
Bloodborne has no shields; instead, there are muskets and blunderbusses and flintlock pistols. Instead of shining armour and bulbous onion-skinned plating, there are trenchcoats and vests. Bloodborne takes everything fans loved from the Souls series and places it in the realm of Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, rising above the level of its predecessors and standing fantastically well on its own.
Cai: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
It seems you can’t find a list of great games without The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time popping up on it somewhere, more often than not at number one. It is a ludicrously popular game, and with good reason. I did actually play it as a child, but I had a short attention span and never read the controls, so I could never get past the Deku Tree. Needless to say, I thought it was highly overrated and I never gave it another thought.
It took me until last year before I finally got around to giving Ocarina another go, and I began to understand why it’s so widely loved. As soon as I finally got past that damn tree, I was hooked. The soundtrack is catchy, the world is captivating, and the puzzles are challenging but never frustrating (with the notable exception of the water temple). The graphics haven’t aged well, but it’s now old enough that it just adds to the charm. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a beautifully designed game, by both 1998 and 2017 standards, and its influence can be clearly felt in game design since then.
I played through Ocarina of Time in four days, and if I hadn’t fallen asleep while playing it once, I probably could have finished it in three. I spent hours hitting chickens, fighting monsters and solving puzzles, fully absorbed in the moment. It’s an incredible experience, and by the time I finished it, my only regret was not doing it sooner.
So I played it again.
Cav: Divinity: Original Sin 2
The most annoying part about picking your games of the year is that there’s always one that got away. A game you mean to play, then keep meaning to, then inevitably miss the boat on until the next year clocks over, you finally get your hands on the thing and realize that it should’ve been one of the highlights of your list.
2017’s No-Prize winner: Larian Studios’ astounding Divinity: Original Sin 2. Building on Larian’s impressive revival of its Divinity franchise, Original Sin 2 takes the classic isometric CRPG template and throws off its shackles. Openness is the name of the game here, with any given situation solvable in a multitude of ways. Moments that make you say “Holy shit, that worked!” are a common occurrence, and the game actively pushes exploration and experimentation as a way to discover your progress, rather than relying on age-old RPG gameplay tropes.
Even the character you play is an ongoing exercise in freedom. You start off with the choice of taking on one of the game’s central cast or creating an entirely new character, and the extensive, freeform skills system allows you to play whatever way you want within the boundaries of your level. Larian throws away the class rulebook here, giving you and your party the ability to adjust your builds on the fly. This not only makes for a wonderfully fluid experience, it also means that skills and spells are never wasted: in fact, they’re all potential game-changers depending on what’s around the corner.
Throw in the similarly open (and often genuinely funny) dialogue system and the Dungeon Master-style use of narration, and you get something that feels as close to a traditional pen-and-paper RPG as I’ve seen in a video game. You even have the ability to play in co-op if you want a bit of that social aspect in there as well. All these elements make for a package that not only evolves the CRPG, but feels like a loving tribute to role-playing of all vintages and a masterclass in adaptive mechanics.
Also, you can talk to animals. Fully-voiced, utterly adorable animals. Yeah, this game’s something else.
Damon: Rainbow Six: Siege
My initial excitement for a fresh new title to breathe life into the rather-stale Rainbow Six series turned into utter disappointment when Rainbow Six: Siege was released as one of the buggiest, most disastrous titles in recent memory. I tried for days on end to load into a game only to struggle to find a lobby to join; I also tried to party up with a group of friends only for someone to be unable to load in, but nothing was more cruel than finally loading into a game and thinking it was all working well, only for the servers to crash or simply kick me from the game. After suffering constant disappointment in the space of a week, I wiped the game from my hard drive and sold it, heading back to Battlefield.
Almost two years later, my friends implored me to give it a second chance. Despite my skepticism, I did so and was excited to find that all the bugs and glitches were gone and I was playing the incredible title I had expected in the first place. Though I had a smaller group of friends to play with as many others also quit, I didn’t need too much else; with even the smallest squad of friends coordinating your movement and strategy with you, the game becomes one of the most rewarding games you’ll play. There’s no feeling quite like making a successful callout, or getting a kill or assist for yourself.
Gameplay aside, the game boasts a multitude of different characters whose varied weapons and skillsets offer players the opportunity to mix up their experience and play in different styles at any given time. There are enough unique elements within Rainbow Six: Siege to successfully breathe life into the FPS genre, and it’s now exactly the title I’d hoped to play on release; it’s a title that I’m sure I’ll be able to continue playing for years to come, so I’m glad I went back.
Emily: The Last of Us
Given how much I love a good survival horror title, and how much good I’d heard about The Last of Us on release, I’m still shocked to admit that I didn’t get the chance to play the game until I bought my PlayStation 4 in 2016. Looking back, it’s difficult to remember exactly why I didn’t grab it immediately on release three years earlier…
Naughty Dog has an incredible track record when it comes to delivering amazing action-adventure titles; I was probably too busy with Uncharted — my all-time favourite game series — at the time to try The Last of Us, and I was happy to see the studio’s reputation for top-quality titles spread into the survival horror genre. Although the storyline was fantastic and the “Cordyceps zombies” were very well executed, the game was highlighted by its fantastic depiction of the relationship between Ellie and Joel as they looked to cure the infection that had brought about an early apocalypse.
Although I did play The Last of Us a few years late, that meant that I was lucky enough to experience the enhanced version that Naughty Dog released in 2014, whose improved graphics and new features served only to enhance the phenomenal post-apocalyptic experience.
Jake: L.A. Noire
In films, video games and any other media, I’m an absolute sucker for the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the crime genre as a whole. As such, it’s probably a travesty to note that I only got around to completing Rockstar Games’ Australian-made, ‘40s-set detective thriller a couple of months ago. That’s despite the amount of fantastic feedback the game received in the community and the press for how well it captured the zeitgeist of the era and how incredibly well it was made at the technical level; I could just never get myself past the relative lack of “pure action” that also kept me from playing The Wolf Among Us until I entered a relationship with someone who loved both games and wanted to experience them alongside me.
With that being said, I could have waited another twenty years to play L.A. Noire for the first time, and it would still have been worth every second of the wait. The game’s biggest draws — its motion capture and voice acting — are every bit as good as advertised (I played the remaster on PS4, but even the Xbox 360 version was incredible), and they work perfectly alongside a phenomenally-crafted storyline and engaging gameplay to absolutely suck me into its recreation of post-World War II Los Angeles and the lives of Cole Phelps and his various partners and colleagues. L.A. Noire was a game that I genuinely couldn’t stop playing; an outstanding achievement in acting, storytelling and overall game design.
Rhys: Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
As a massive fan of Atlus’ Persona titles, I’m surprised that it took me so long to get my hands on Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Having been interested in experiencing the series that eventually inspired Revelations: Persona for quite some time, I took the plunge with Shin Megami Tensei IV; as much as I enjoyed the grim story and interesting world that Atlus had put onto my Nintendo 3DS, I was sad to find that it was ultimately flawed as a video game, with some major character development issues to boot.
Because of that, it took me some time to pick Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse up after its 2016 release, but I’ve absolutely fallen in love. It accomplishes absolutely everything its predecessor failed to accomplish in both story and gameplay, and its post-apocalyptic story (revolving around warring factions of angels and demons) forces players to make choices difficult enough to make Telltale Games’ conundrums look like child’s play; the fate of the world is literally in your hands, and you can choose to side with the angels and force humanity to live peacefully, allow the demons to release humanity from its ethereal shackles… Or forego both options and take down God himself (identified in the game as YHVH).
It’s quite rare to find a game that is so respectfully written — especially considering the subject matter — while also giving the player such a sense of strategic and narrative freedom as Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. With a soundtrack that is exhilarating and fun to listen to without the added sound effects that normal show up in games, players are sure to find themselves bopping along while battling demonic hordes and deciding which set of deities to battle alongside and against. If you’re an RPG fan and you haven’t tried Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse yet, don’t wait any longer — you won’t regret it!
If you’ve made it this far — and it’s quite a feat — we hope that you enjoyed looking back on some of our favourite titles that we played late! It’s your turn now; jump in the comments section, or on our social media linked below, and let us know what your favourite was!
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