Andy Kelly: Bees?!
I’ve been playing Far Cry Primal. You can read my review next week, but for now, let me tell you about bees. Everything in Primal is a Stone Age analogue of the other games in the series. Instead of towers, there are bonfires. Instead of binoculars, you scope the area out with an owl. Obviously. And instead of grenades, you have bees.
The Sting Bomb is, basically, a sack of angry bees that you throw at people. Then they sting anyone nearby—yourself included—to death. Yes, it’s ludicrous, but it’s also hilarious. Taking over an outpost entirely with bags of bees is hugely entertaining. Stand on a ridge above, toss your bees, and watch the cannibals below shriek in agony as your buzzing minions attack.
It’s the most monstrous use of stinging insects since that plasmid in BioShock, and now I want bee-bombs in every game. I just want to throw bees everywhere, at everyone. God, I love bees. Primal is a very silly game, but I’m amazed at how neatly Far Cry’s systems slot into a prehistoric setting. But you’ll have to wait until next week for my final verdict.
James Davenport: Riding high (on the back of a mammoth)
Far Cry Primal isn’t out on PC until March 1st, so I’ve been playing the console version (it’s the price we pay for Hot Takes) in order to get a feel for how it fits into the Far Cry lineage. And to review the animals. It’s serious work. Anyway, disclosure: I didn’t like Far Cry 3 or 4. I like wiping an open world map clean as much as anyone, but the worlds felt a bit too sparse for me. Between outposts, I’d chase animals around to make a wallet, or a bigger wallet, and not much else.
That said, I loved Far Cry: Blood Dragon. It was small but still contained plenty of wildlife (including those dastardly Blood Dragons), and went completely over the top with the presentation and tools available to the player. Far Cry games are at their best when they either lean into absurdity and player empowerment or, in Primal’s case, strip the tone and weaponry down a bit to make the world and it’s dangerous occupants more daunting. Primal doesn’t quite get to Far Cry 2 levels of oppressiveness—by the end you’re a Stone Age man that might very well be made of stone. But the amount of dangerous animals per square foot makes traversal between outposts a joy. A quick jaunt to and fro guarantees a few violent vignettes. My favorite: my cave bear takes off into the forest, a wooly rhino bursts out of the trees and he gives chase. An troupe of fire-wielding enemies roam by and join the chase, tossing a fire jar onto the rhino first. The rhino tears through the field, lighting up the grass and trees it passes by, my bear, also on fire, charges the rhino and tackles it, finishing it off. Meanwhile, I’m sneaking up behind the enemy cave folks, dodging the spreading fire, clubbing them over the head on the way to my burning bear. The story missions may be lame, the overall structure may be repetitive, but Primal has some of the best sandbox ingredients in the series so far.
Chris Livingston: Factori-yes
Factorio appeared on Steam Early Access this week. It's been in playable alpha for a few years now—I wrote about it in 2014 for RPS—and I'm hoping its arrival on Steam will introduce it to a wider audience because it's a really neat game. The starting point sounds standard: you're stranded on an alien planet and need to harvest resources and craft things to survive. It quickly turns into something amazing though, because the things you build are automated and can do your work for you.
So, yes, you begin by manually scraping some minerals out of the ground, but you can then build a harvester to do it for you. Tired of collecting the resources the harvester dumps into your crate? Build a mechanical arm to do it for you. Tired of carrying the minerals around? Another arm can drop them onto a conveyer belt to carry them where they need to go, and arms at the other end can retrieve them. Tired of building arms and conveyor belts? A factory can build them for you and the arms it produces can load and unload the new arms and belts onto more belts! Beware, though, once you've got your first handful of factories diligently working for you, it becomes immensely addicting. Here's the new trailer that shows the possibilities.
Angus Morrison: It’s R'lyeh happening
I know it’s going to become uncool to like Lovecraft any day now—the old boy’s getting too popular for his own good—but right up until that moment I will profess my enthusiasm for all things Cthulhian, and then I’ll keep going a bit longer. After an ominous silence, Call of Cthulhu has emerged from slumber with a new developer.
It was announced in early 2014 by Frogwares, but now seems to be in the possession of Blood Bowl and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments dev Cyanide. Cyanide has a shaky track record, true, but with such a wealth of material to plunder, how would you make a bad Lovecraft game?
I mean, people do—often. But so long as Call of Cthulhu draws on the existential despair that forms the focus of Darkest Dungeon as opposed to hunting a great slimy squid-monster, Cyanide should do alright.
Tom Marks: Requiem for a Stardew Valley Dream
I broke the first rock on my farm in Stardew Valley and I could literally feel the endorphins begin to rush through my body. That may sound incredibly lame—and probably because it is—but at that very moment, I actually thought to myself “oh no.” I was hooked, and I might not play another game for a very long time.
I am a huge fan of Terraria, Harvest Moon, and Animal Crossing (let’s be real, Nintendo games are never coming to PC, so I feel no shame playing them) so when I first heard about Stardew Valley, seemingly a combination of all three, I was very interested. But it wasn’t until breaking that rock when I knew for sure that lone developer Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone had most likely snuck into my house, stolen some of my DNA, and then genetically engineered a game specifically designed to be pure heroin for Tom Marks.
In that sense I suppose I could still be riding the high, as it’s not easy to tell how long a game will hold up or hold my interest only a few hours in. But I can tell there’s a very real chance that this could be it. I could be done for. I might have reached the end-game of “videogames” and can now WASD toward Valhalla a happy man.
If you don’t hear from me on Monday, send help. Or just wait until the multiplayer is added in and come visit me on my farm.
Samuel Roberts: FM Attack
Every year, Classic FM, a radio station in the UK that I largely considered boring as a kid (mostly because my dad liked it) runs the Classic FM Hall of Fame, counting down the 500 best pieces of music according to an internet audience poll. For a while now, games have been invading the list, including The Elder Scrolls soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, the various soundtracks of the Final Fantasy series and even more esoteric choices like Kingdoms of Amalur. Here’s last year’s list. Games are all over the place.
It’s not like games need legitimising by such a list—but it’s just nice to hear games music on a popular radio station, and to see such a broad spread of it captured at once. For the artists involved it’s a nice way to garner popular, well-deserved attention. This year’s voting page can be found here, and features soundtracks like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3, among many others, alongside the more familiar likes of Philip Glass’s Pruitt Igoe. That was in GTA IV so I guess that counts.