THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What's a cheap game that's way better than its price led you to expect?
- What was the last game story you really cared about?
- What game do you want a 'Classic' version of?
Occasionally we come across a game so enjoyable, so surprising, so damn special that it remains with us, burned into our hearts and minds. We may revisit it again and again, but those subsequent playthroughs, great as they may be, simply can't match that very first time.
Maybe the game had a shocking twist in the story and some surprising encounters, or you felt an emotional connection when first meeting its characters or exploring its world. Maybe the game's systems and mechanics were so great that learning them for the first time was even more satisfying than eventually mastering them.
Let's say you could wipe your memory of that game completely blank. Just erase it from your mind so your next playthrough would be a clean slate. What game do you wish you could play again for the very first time? Below you'll find our answers, but we'd love to hear yours in the comments.
Jody Macgregor - Knights of the Old Republic
I played it at the insistence of a housemate who, bless him, even let me play on his PC because all I had at the time was a beat-up laptop. But at some point I got curious about some quirk of the mechanics or detail of a sidequest I was afraid I'd missed—don't even remember exactly what it was now—something that drove me to GameFAQs. While skimming through one of those FAQs I read a spoiler that ruined the twist for me.
I'd like to play KOTOR for the first time again. It's a fun RPG and a nice love letter to classic Star Wars that even makes the Sand People interesting, and I'd like to slap myself until I forgot the twist so I could actually experience it fresh.
Morgan Park - Papers, Please
There should be more games like Papers, Please. But since there aren't, I often drift back to my 2013 delight as I slowly discovered how brilliant of a game it was. Just as I would start to get comfortable with the latest Arstotzka immigration policy, Papers, Please would throw in a clever new wrinkle. Every mechanic in the game is so satisfyingly diegetic and well-made that I welcomed the increased difficulty.
But nowadays, I know the game's story so well that I'd hardly have to finger through my handbook or read back the transcript. I want to be bad at it. But more than that, I want to blast my memories of Papers, Please from my head so I can hear the satisfying punch of my stamps for the first time again.
Robin Valentine - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
I love the Nemesis system, but it's one of those mechanics that's so much more exciting early on, when it still feels full of endless potential and mystery, and when you're weak and inexperienced enough for individual captains to threaten you. It'd be lovely to be able to relive those initial moments of discovery again—the first time a lowly grunt kills me and gets promoted, the first time a captain returns from the dead, the first time I turn an orc to my side. It'd be especially good if I could leave myself some clues and hints to getting the best out of it.
Am I allowed to wipe my memory again for the sequel, too?
Harry Shepherd - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
During a recent trip home, I found myself wracked with jealousy. Entering my brother's bedroom, I was overwhelmed by the wistful strings of White Orchard. Each albeit pleasant note for him instead evoked innumerable emotions, memories, and adventures for me. Charging through the dusk of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's opening area, Geralt's white locks swaying with the trees, my lucky sibling was embarking on a special story that, for all its fantasy and magic, is rooted firmly in the foibles of humanity.
But why did it take my brother so long to get to one of 2015's finest games? Well, I sort of 'borrowed' it for two years. That said, with the Bloody Baron, Master Mirror, and countless more escapades awaiting him, he's the real winner now.
Lauren Morton - Journey
I came home from my first college internship in 2012 at an unheard-of indie studio with three games my mentors mandated I play: Journey, Shadow of the Colossus, and Dark Souls. (A funny trio that.) Journey was a PSN exclusive at the time, so I nabbed my brother's PS3 and followed the directions I was given: play it with the lights off at night on the biggest TV you can find.
Journey is a short game, about two hours from title to credits, but those two hours were, and still are, a beautiful jaunt through a lovely story that promises you (without words) that hardships and perseverance are rewarded. Plus, I'm a real sucker for a good cello solo and Journey's orchestral soundtrack is second to none. Now that it's been released on PC seven years later, I wish I could visit the desert for the first time again. Over the years, I've settled for buying a copy for various friends at pivotal points in their lives as a way to see it with fresh eyes, at least secondhand.
Chris Livingston - Bioshock
And not just for the plot twist! From start to finish, exploring Rapture was surprising, terrifying, and engrossing, from the shadow of that first splicer leaning over a baby carriage to the first encounter with a little sister and her Big Daddy to Sander Cohen's horrifying living statues. Collecting tape recordings to discover the history of a place is pretty worn out in most games by now, but in Bioshock I devoured them, desperate for every scrap of information about the ruined city of Rapture. And the confrontation with Andrew Ryan was both disturbing and unforgettable, coming sooner in the game than you'd think and playing out in a way that no one could have expected.
I've played Bioshock all the way through again a couple of times since 2007, but nothing can really compare to the first time. I really wish I could completely wipe my memory clean and play it again knowing nothing about it.
Joanna Nelius - Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines
Having gone through a hardcore goth phase in high school, it's kind of no surprise this game captured my interest as much as it did. While I wasn't entirely thrilled with the combat, everything else about the game mesmerized me. For a bunch of fictional vampires, all the characters felt so real, and the dialogue and voice acting only enhanced their realness for my teenage self.
It was the first game that made me lose time when I played. It was the first game where I felt a strong empathy or hatred for different characters, and when I made a choice to kill someone that didn't deserve it, I felt bad. (Sorry, Chunk.) It was the first game that taught me how to be stealthy. It was the first RPG of its complexity that I ever played, too, and got me interested in RPGs as a whole. With Bloodlines 2 on the way, I recently started replaying it, and I have to say that parts of it still feel like I'm playing it for the first time. There's a lot more nuance that I understand about certain situations now that I'm older.
Andy Chalk - Baldur's Gate
I'm asking for trouble reaching so far back for a game that probably hasn't aged as well as I like to imagine, but that first descent into real, party-based D&D that was the Baldur's Gate saga, with such a massive array of characters and quests in the most beautiful game world I'd ever seen (and heard), has never been surpassed. It felt like such a big world, and as alive as anything I've ever played. I love that I didn't even enter the city of Baldurs' Gate until I'd put at least a few dozen hours into adventuring along the Sword Coast, and then the city turned out to be a huge region unto itself, with all sorts of things to do—and then it was back out to the Sword Coast for more.
Obviously I'm seeing it now through the lens of nostalgia and if I was to play it again now it wouldn't be the same. (For one thing, who's got time for that kind of epic nonsense now?) But if we're talking about going back in time to do it all again—and I am—then that's the one I want.
Phil Savage - Portal
My temptation is to pick some massive RPG from my formative years. Baldur's Gate II, perhaps, something that I still remember fondly for its constant surprises and delights. In that case, though, I think just as important as forgetting the specific game is forgetting all of my accumulated knowledge about games from the last few decades. What made the Baldur's Gate series so special when I first played was that anything felt possible in a way that now—knowing how games are actually made—rarely seems the case.
Instead I'm picking something much smaller and more focused. Portal is a perfect choice, because—even if I've half-forgotten most of its puzzles—I can never recapture the thrill of discovering how its central mechanic works. Those frequent, inspirational ideas about how to use the Portal Gun in new ways are now all muscle memory. Even if I'm relearning a specific puzzle, I inherently understand the device. Forgetting that, and getting to rediscover something I'd never seen before, would be pretty cool.