THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- What's the best game you ever received as a holiday gift?
- What's your favorite line of dialogue in a game?
- What game did you quit because it was too grindy?
Part of growing up is learning the things you love aren't universal, and that there are some people out there who will never share your adoration for pineapple on pizza, or Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin, or that one particular late-period Weezer album. It's the same with videogames, where we all have at least one that we love but keep close to our chest because we know plenty of other players would turn their nose up at it.
Our weekend question is this: Which game do you love but find impossible to recommend to people? You'll find some of the team's answers below, and please do tell us yours in the comments section.
Philippa Warr: Deadly Premonition
If this game gets its hooks into you it's such a great experience, and a truly memorable one. But it also manages to have horrible vehicle handling, game-ruining bugs (especially in the final boss fight on PC, if memory serves), irritating QTEs, and it takes its sweet time getting anywhere. It also has an off-putting beginning and some absolutely dreadful survival horror bits. Oh, and the music sometimes goes haywire, intensifying or slackening for no discernible reason.
The fact that all of this is true and I still love it is a testament to just how good the bits Deadly Premonition does do well actually are. There's nothing else like it out there. But it's an absolute gamble as a recommendation. As such I only nudge people towards it when it's on sale and with every caveat in the universe.
Evan Lahti: Arma 3
Fully explored, Arma is the richest and most unique co-op FPS available, a malleable and massive-scale platform where you and 60-plus people can romp around in hundreds of kilometers of variegated terrain, skirmishing over a whole Saturday. And Arma 3's Steam Workshop area is basically a bottomless bin of '90s action movies you've never seen before: search and destroy missions, helicopter raids, and other user-created scenarios that you can download and try by the dozen. What's not to love? Well: cumbersome UI by FPS standards, an intricate and long list of controls, erratic enemy AI, and an experience that often amounts to running hundreds of meters to get a taste of action.
Wes Fenlon: The Witcher
Geralt's first adventure does not make a great first impression. The voice acting and stiff cutscenes feel vaguely amateurish, and the first location, a dreary rural town, doesn't offer too much except the prospect of death. I remember getting wrecked by its rabid hellhounds as I tried to figure out the strange mouse click-based combo system and what I should be doing. The Witcher's collectible cards for the many women Geralt can sleep with are frankly embarrassing.
But The Witcher is, eventually, rewarding. For a good chunk of its story you're playing a fantasy detective in the impressively big city of Vizima. It's cool. The background worldbuilding about the oppressed classes of elves and dwarves eventually bubbles over to consume the main plot, and the game pushes you again and again to decide where Geralt should stand. Combat is unforgiving, but even moreso than in the sequels, going through the proper Witcher preparations of brewing potions and applying oils makes you feel like a badass when you survive.
It's a long, often slow, often needlessly difficult game, but dammit there's a great RPG buried in there, too.
James Davenport: Fortnite
I won't recommend Fortnite to anyone just like I won't recommend Moby Dick to everyone. There are some good jokes in there. Starbuck cooks a whale steak by grabbing a hunk of meat and a coal with his bare hands and shows them to one another. It's extremely badass and very stupid. I love it. But most of the book is an occasionally clever guy going hard on whale anatomy and philosophy in tandem. It takes a bit to get to the steak.
With Fortnite, I have those steak moments every damn day. Flying off a mountain on a driftboard, popping someone in the face mid-backflip. Team Rumble circles that close in on a mountaintop, where dozens of continuously respawning players build and die and build and die. Bailing from a botched dogfight and skydiving into a sniper's nest with a shotgun in hand—there are so many reactive ingredients in Fortnite that it's constantly cooking up new opportunities for clever plays. But Fortnite has that unwieldy, slow middle section too.
Like I doubt most of my friends have the patience for hundreds of pages of whale allegories, I also doubt they'll sit down and listen to me wax on about Fortnite's stupidly complex building system, let alone take the time to learn the basics. Doesn't help that Fortnite's a living meme cartoon either. But that's OK. I'll patiently wait for Fortnite to borrow Apex Legends' ping and squad respawn systems before trying to drag anyone back in with me.
Shaun Prescott: Elex
I'm a sucker for needlessly complex and buggy open-world RPGs. Ropey voice acting? Hell yes. Awkward combat that is better off avoided? I love that. Elex is an ambitious, unwieldy, and charmingly dicey RPG by those reliable purveyors of dicey RPGs, Piranha Bytes. It's hard to recommend to anyone except RPG diehards, because try as the studio might, I just don't think it has budget enough to sand off the rougher edges. While it lacks accessibility and blockbuster graphics, Elex has a surplus of great ideas, and an even greater surplus of endearing quirks that probably aren't deliberate. It also lets you role-play, which is quite the rarity in today's big budget role-playing games. Overall, I'm happy to tolerate jank and weird design decisions if a game has something unusual to offer.
Samuel Roberts: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
I'll take any excuse to write about this Star Wars game from the earliest days of 3D action games, which was apathetically received when it was released. I reckon I've finished Shadows of the Empire about 30 times across the last 20 years—I find it endlessly comforting to revisit this story set between Empire and Jedi, but I couldn't recommend it to anyone and then still expect them to take my opinions on games seriously on any level.
I love it because it represents that strange point in the late '80s-mid '90s when Star Wars was dormant, which would pretty much never happen again after the release of the prequel trilogy. Shadows of the Empire includes loads of things I've always wanted to do in a Star Wars game: the Battle of Hoth, complete with AT-AT tow cable takedowns, a speeder bike chase through Mos Eisley, a duel with Boba Fett.
Good times. Don't play it.
Jody Macgregor: Blood Bowl
If you haven't played Games Workshop's tabletop game of turn-based football with elves and orcs in it, I can't recommend the videogame version to you. Not in any of its incarnations. None of them do a good enough job explaining its appeal, its quirks and oddities or its long-ass list of skills with complicated effects and synchronicities. I hoped Blood Bowl 2 would manage it, but the tutorial campaign takes too long introducing core ideas like turnovers and injuries—I get why you don't want to explain everything on turn one, but don't put off the things that make the game fun for an entire match.
In Blood Bowl turnovers happen whenever you fail a die roll with a consequence. A player might fumble picking up a ball, making a pass, or dodging past someone—and that's it, no matter how many players you've got left to move, your turn's over. It speeds up play and forces tactical decisions. You have to prioritize moves with less probability of failure, but then there's always the chance of the dice screwing you on a seemingly safe action that's not even that important, denying you a chance at a risky roll with a bigger payoff. It's chaotic, tense, and unlike anything else. The only way I'll recommend it to you is if it comes in a box and you can learn to play at a table with someone friendly.