We’re all crazy, busy, bored and stuck inside. There are lots of big new AAA titles which have media coverage all over and I’ve covered a few myself recently but sometimes you don’t want a Final Fantasy or Doom Eternal, you just want something different. Well do I have a list of games for you! All of these are available on PC (a few are on sale right now) with some titles on Xbox Game Pass as well. Here are a couple of gems you might have seen before and a few that you might not. Who doesn’t love a nice little list?
There are games you have in your digital library that you know you’ll get around to at some point. You keep looking back but the lack of a tutorial or a steep learning curve means you know it’ll require an investment of time and that simpler game is within reach. Now you’ve got plenty of time to dive in and feel all the dark creepy slimy goodness that is Sunless Sea. You’ll sink right into this rogue-like roleplaying game and adjust to its slow pace and bleak beauty easily quickly enough. Sunless Sea is to Call of Cthulhu what Divinity: Original Sin is to Dungeons and Dragons. With various stats and systems that become second nature once you get a basic understanding and a gameplay loop that binds you to the world your playing. You’ll find yourself spinning a tale or two and at least one roll of your heart, just don’t expect to survive too long.
A fairly recent title but still overlooked by a lot of people, Journey to the Savage Planet caught me completely by surprise. It’s a fantastically squishy lumpy glowing cocktail of different ideas that starts with a dash No Mans Sky. The feeling of sci-fi style exploration in a curated alien wilderness. It then throws in a dollop of a Bioshock-esque fps gameplay where you catalogue everything and shoot anything else. Finally everything is thrown into a blender of humour that is fantastic and feels like the best bits of Red Dwarf. Genius dialogue that carries the plot and an AI assistant that doesn’t become overbearing. The platforming takes some getting used to but once you have a few upgrades it becomes a lot more enjoyable. Especially if your character woke up thinking that they’re a dog…
I can’t think of any simple, exploring ‘experience’ games I’d wholeheartedly recommend but Fugl. Fly around a procedurally generated area at your leisure, following air currents and drop down into water and swim through doing much of the same. No complicated mechanics that the player needs to worry about. Just explore and occasionally evolve by passing by other animals. Fugl is less a video game and more an interactive relaxing experience. There are no achievements or goals other than those you create for yourself. It’s incredibly relaxing and big enough that you can easily get lost in simply flowing from island to island and seeing everything around you. If you have a podcast you want to focus on while still ‘doing something’ this is perfect for you.
When I want a quick distraction a rogue-like action bmx game is not exactly what I’d expect to find as a go-to in my library but Descenders makes the systems work to its advantage and is an absolute gem. The gameplay is reminiscent of Steep except instead of snowboarding down a mountain, you’re cycling down a dangerous hill. Each run is completely different, collecting companions that act as buffs or perks and permanently unlocking cosmetics with each playthrough. The high difficulty makes the game a challenge to keep attacking and although it takes a little getting used to the sheer speed and adrenaline burst Descenders causes is astonishing. The fantastic gameplay loop is one thing but it also has one of the best stand out, absolutely absorbing, powerfully pulsing, fast paced Dance/Electronic soundtracks ever made.
If you’ve played Pony Island before then you already have a heads up about what to expect from The Hex. It’s a similarly brilliant yet horrifically macabre title that has many questions to ask the player and what it is to create and sell video games. The fighting gameplay takes a little getting used to but thankfully it’s only one of many gameplay styles the game employs and nothing stays around too long to get annoying. You’ll thoroughly enjoy getting to the end of this one. It’s another short and sweet experience that you can clear in an afternoon and reaches the same heights Portal does with perfectly paced story telling. I highly recommend if you have already finished The Hex previously looking up the extra content that was hidden elsewhere…
Despite sounding like a mobile title with very little gameplay, Game Dev Tycoon is an absolute classic. Ironically it has now been ported to mobiles and the experience is the same there. Simple choices to make with a management gameplay system that encourages creativity and experimentation. The design and work on show with Game Dev Tycoon is fantastic. Each time any task is completed towards a project the little bubbles rise to the top and fill the completion rate in an incredibly satisfying way. There’s a large amount to enjoy here and a huge Steam Workshop if you fancy modding in some extra consoles and systems. Once you’ve gotten to grips with what works and what will be a flop, you’ll find yourself dissolving for hours into the experience.
If you feel the urge to play a city building strategy game but don’t have the time for a monolithic title like Cities and you want something simpler than Civilization then ISLANDERS is for you. A fantastic puzzle game that has you cramming in as many buildings as possible into a small island. The strategy and planning aspect kicks in early when certain buildings such as a farms and fields give points when close to each other. Collect enough points and you move onto a bigger procedurally generated island ready to create more advanced structures and hopefully hit the points margin to carry on. If it all goes wrong it’s time to start again with a new lesson learnt. The Tetris like addiction ISLANDERS has going for it really does hook you in quickly and the aesthetics and pleasing soundtrack carry you along. A perfect distraction.
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