So we find ourselves coming to the end of January; ubiquitously known by all as ‘December’s hangover’. After the chaos of Christmas, the brandy mist has cleared, and the pine-needle dust has settled, inducing a sense of clarity and reflection that usually takes the form of a ‘New Year’s Resolution’, a ‘Spring Clean’, or jumping on the bandwagon of some curveball culinary fad like charcoal-activated bread or lattes served in avocado skins (yes, I did just watch the Gordon Ramsay episode of Hot Ones). Now whilst this introspection would typically be garnered with respect to the entirety of the previous year, I am instead focusing that lens upon something far more important: the small bundle of games I acquired during the 2018 Steam Winter Sales.
We Happy Few
Normal Price: £44.99
Steam Sale price: £26.99
I’ve been following this game for a while now – ever since Compulsion Games’ announcement trailer all the way back in February 2015. The game has, of course, come on leaps and boundless leaps since then and emerged in its fully completed form in the August of last year.
The most compelling aspect of this game is and has always been the aesthetic. I’m a sucker for stories about dystopian societies, as well as having a soft spot for the psychedelic culture of the 60s. It isn’t a shock then that a Bioshock-inspired game with the feel and look of A Clockwork Orange and Brave New World would tempt me as much as the idea of running GOATS comp in Overwatch when your team doesn’t know what the hell to do i.e. 90% of the time.
We Happy Few is set in an alternate timeline where the US refuses to help during WW2, resulting in the Nazis taking control of the UK. However, for some reason, the residents of the UK do something that sends the Nazis running for the cliffs of Dover. Something “very bad”. This ambiguously sinister act being so catastrophically horrific and evil that the citizens of the UK, wracked with guilt, have opted to shut the memory out by a government enforced hallucinogenic drug known as Joy (similar to Soma in Brave New World) that causes people to walk around in some delusional dream world of fingers-in-your-ears-la-la-laing optimism. Propaganda is everywhere, constantly reassuring everyone that everything is lovely; a North Korean-style self-congratulatory cycle of promoting the country’s superiority, which, like with most incessant cries of one’s own greatness, indicates intense insecurity about their own evident faults and failures. Everyone is skipping around and laughing – that is until you refuse to take the drugs and wish to find out the truth about the society of course, at which point you become a ‘Downer’, and a smiling mob will hunt you down and bludgeon you to death. In the world of We Happy Few, everyone is like Umbridge in Harry Potter: sugary sweet, crocodile smiles and a forced, creepy friendliness all undercut by a constant, looming sense of manic, murderous rage.
Mixed reviews and reports of the game being buggy have dimmed my initial fire for playing the game, however, with the Winter Sale taking 40% off the normal price, that flame is stoked and roaring now.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Normal Price: £24.99
Steam Sale Price: £12.49
I know very little about this game.
If a game piques my interest (and it’s released on a platform that I own), I then avoid any/all content about that game with the hopes of playing it, once I get it, completely blind. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is treated no differently.
After the huge critical and financial success of 2018’s PS4 exclusive God of War, my fervent interest in Norse mythology was rekindled but quickly became stymied by the minor detail of me not actually owning a PS4. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice being set in the late 8th century with Celtic and Norse mythology elements however meant that these desires could become somewhat sated.
When the game was first released in the summer of 2017, there was much oohing and ahhing from respectable gaming magazines and periodicals at the time, specifically with regards to the sound design and its intelligent, inventive, and respectful depiction of mental illness that the main character, Senua, suffers from. Footage of the game, or at least the small amount I’ve seen of it, has looked incredible. Having also heard other tantalising rumours about an unreliable narrator as well as some sort of permadeath game mechanic, the prospect of a triple-A game title, with the penchant for experimentation and risk-taking of an indie project was too intriguing a concept to ignore.
Welcome To The Game
Normal Price: £3.99
Summer Sale Price: £1.99
Having purchased, played, and thoroughly enjoyed 2015’s Hacknet, it excites me when I come across a game that hinges itself around hacking as a primary game mechanic. Perhaps the origin of this excitement is due to watching too much Mr. Robot as of late, or maybe it stems all the way back to my teen years and my obsession with The Matrix trilogy that I had at the time. At any rate, there’s something alluring about hacking games and I think I know why. Whether you’re playing as a vault-sweller in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC or as a Tesla-gun-wielding gorilla scientist, you – the player – are somewhat ignored with regards to the context of the game. You are but an unknown entity controlling these avatars in the world and the characters think they are interacting with the avatar and not you. Hacking games, however, are different. You are the main character. The game takes advantage of the fact that you’re playing on an actual computer or laptop to make your character using a computer or laptop more immersive – akin to using pedals, steering wheel, racing chair, and VR when playing a racing game. When playing Hacknet for example, the UI mimics that of an actual PC desktop, making it so that being hacked or getting a virus in-game feels like it’s actually happening IRL.
With Welcome To The Game, it takes this immersion and utilises it further. In the game, you delve into the world of the dark web and take part in a meta-game that hacking circles are caught up in whereby, amongst the many disturbing websites centred around torture, the black market, snuff streams, sex trafficking, etc are hidden codes. You must look for and collect these codes to unlock a website URL. However, whilst perusing the dark web, you’re constantly under threat of being hacked by other players, kidnapped by people tracking you down in your in-game apartment, and hunted by serial killers. This means you have to juggle hacking on your desktop with making sure a knife-wielding maniac isn’t breathing behind your neck.
Having watched several Twitch streamers play the game, and seen the superb interplay of intense concentration and horror, I instantly knew I would want to play it too.
Steam Winter Sale Cart Total: £41.47
Normal Steam Cart Total: £73.97
Money saved: £32.50 (44% off)