Tales from Borderlands is one of the most charming games I’ve ever played and one of the most fun experiences I’ve had playing a game in quite some time. I’d go as far to say that it’s the strongest standing game Telltale Games has to offer, and perhaps even the best decision Gearbox has made with the Borderlands IP.
There seems to be this common misconception that horror’s sole purpose is to terrify its audience, typically with the idea of making them jump in reaction to something startling. But horrors won’t scare everybody, and if you look back on a lot of classic horrors, they’re snore-fests for today’s audience (excluding Japanese movies, because what the fuck Japan? You’re too good at horror).
Mass Effect, after hundreds of hours of extensive playthroughs, is without a doubt one of my favourite games of all time. Although, it’s not without it’s flaws, and plot-holes, of which there are plenty, it’s one of the most gripping games I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a ton of games. A fully-realized sci-fi game akin to the likes of Knights of the Old Republic. Mass Effect somehow manages to hit the sweet spot of inventing a universe with a rich and complex lore and presenting it in a way that doesn’t require the player to memorize any of the game’s codex entries or sit through hours of exposition and info-dumps.
(From previous blog, unedited)
“Fun” is something I hesitate to label a lot of my leisure activities. So, when I finally find myself referring to something as “fun” I’m taken aback and wonder why. Overwatch is a fun game. And a lot of people seem to agree.
Jumping into the game this late after release had me worried I might be plunging into something with a huge skill gap between experienced and new players. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Each character is tailored to suit a certain style of play, and also counter another character’s style of play. It’s very akin to that of the triangle systems from the Fire Emblem series. This makes the game feel fair and balanced, which is refreshing for a novice.
Not only do the characters feel varied and evened, but the maps themselves, though asymmetrical, serve to complement the flow of combat. By designing the maps to begin with the attackers closer to the first objective for Point Capture, this gives them an advantage early in the game. While the defenders spawn closest to the last objective, handing them the advantage later in the game. For Payload, the maps are oriented in such a way that the closer the attacking team pushes the payload to the objective, the harder it becomes because they start entering enemy territory. This dynamic makes for fair, balanced, fun and occasionally frustrating gameplay (if the enemy team is super co-ordinated).
Aesthetically, the character designs are delightful and compliment their ability sets and personalities in an astonishingly gratifying way. Starting with offense characters, Soldier. 76 is supposed to come off as a generic run-of-the-mill soldier from any other Shooter, but here Blizzard manages to mold him into his own character with a somewhat interesting backstory and a distinguishable enough design. He’s presented as the default character in the tutorial for beginners, and considering how his name, design and easy-to-learn abilities all scream “FPS guy”, I imagine that was deliberately done to help transition new players from other games as well as those who haven’t played any shooters before.
Tracer’s jubilant and energetic personality characterized through her dash and rewind abilities. From head to toe, her body and movements ooze character, complementing her charming (yet, sometimes annoying) accent and upbeat personality.
Reaper and McCree manage to make their “lone wolf” personas distinct from each other through their combat differences – McCree likes to hang back in a medium to long range distance for “High Noon”, whereby he slows to a crawl just to line-up a six-shot insta-kill you’ll almost never get, while Reaper prefers and up close and personal touch, especially for his “Die! Die! Die!” special, which involves spinning near the enemies and leaving everything to your two boomsticks.
Genji’s ninja get-up, Japanese vernacular, shurikens and sword create a striking image of a quick and deadly assassin jumping around the map like a kangaroo that occasionally hits you with a dragon. But if that’s too hard, just keep spamming shurikens from the shadows and dash away anytime someone spots you.
Pharah’s jetpacked armour and respective salutes are enough to generate a clear character, while her facial features (hair, tattoo, earrings) and composure add to her standing in the game as someone who’s ready to take to the skies and “Let it rain from above”.
For the defense characters, Bastion acts as the loveable robot death-machine, ready and waiting to unload hundreds of bullets at a time. The relationship with birds is a nice touch, as it shows despite his mechanic nature, Bastion is capable of some form of empathy (also, it reminds me of Android 16 from DBZ). Plus, his ultimate let’s you turn into a mobile tank capable of rocketing the faces off the entire team.
Hanzo is oriental in both appearance and style, and these both connect in his sharpshooting with the bow. His alt abilities consist of a sonic arrow that reveals any enemies in its radius as red silhouettes for a few seconds, and a triple arrow shot that ricochets arrows all around the room, but unless you hit your target straight on, it’s pretty much useless. Finally, his ultimate let’s you fire a giant dragon from your bow that engulfs half the map, but whenever I use it for whatever reason, it either doesn’t hit anyone, or hits someone for like a second.
Junkrat’s grenade launcher and what equates to a “mine trampoline” concords with his crazed persona. Basically, throw trip mine, jump, detonate and boom, your already half-way across the map. What’s really cheap is his ultimate, which is a spinning wheel of explosive spiked death you guide into unassuming enemies for an insta-kill.
Mei’s warm personality contrasting her cold abilities is a lovely touch, and ironic in the sense of her tendency to be played for trolling purposes. By which I mean players who constantly ice-wall their everyone (including their teammates). Her ultimate is best used for rainy days, like when the enemy team is about to capture a point or deliver a payload. Just toss your frosty ice dispenser and turn the floor into an ice-rink. Then you can pop icicles through the heads of the enemy team and raise another ice wall.
Torbjörn is like a miniature Norse Viking that uses his hammer for constructing turrets instead of bludgeoning people to death (though he does that too), or shooting lightning at them. Just take the engineer from TF2, cut him in half and give him a beard and you will have successfully broken several ethical laws in science. Instead, wait until your ultimate charges and upgrade your turret to level 3 (after successfully swinging five hammer blows to make it level 2) and wreak havoc.
Widowmaker is essentially Black Widow (MARVEL). She’s an espionage assassin who uses a grappling hook, has x-ray vision goggles, snipes people and has a thing for tall buildings and gothic architecture. She’s French, and has skin the same shade as blueberries (which is why I will henceforth refer to her as “Blueberry Pie”… occasionally). Her voluptuous figure in conjunction with her purple tight spandex makes for some truly bootylicious poses (which makes sense for her character, I guess). She can toss a venom mine that dispenses toxic gas, but it almost never does any significant harm, so stick to sniping from rooftops. Her ponytail is pretty neat, though.
Moving along to tank characters, Reinhardt’s shield, charge, build and armour all come together in tribute of his cheerful camaraderie. Reinhardt reminds me of Colossus from the X-Men, the lovable, Russian friendly giant metal man of the group that wouldn’t hesitate to crush anyone who hurts his friends.
D.Va is adorable. From her appearance to her facial expressions and mannerisms to her poses, she is loveable and endearing in every way. Even her robot is charming in its own way and acts as a winsome protective bubble for D.Va during combat. She’s slightly more difficult to play than other more beginner-friendly characters, but once you get the hang of her playstyle and know how and when to use her special self-destruct move effectively, you’ll have a blast playing her (especially on Numbani).
Roadhog instantly reminds me of Mad Max: Fury Road every time I see him. He’s super fun to play as when you’re hooking, boom-shooting and hosing people down with tons of metal. And to add to his tank-nature, he can self-heal with his other ability every eight seconds, which can get annoying, especially when you’ve been chipping away at one for over a minute and are about to finish him, but then he breathes his special mask and hook-deaths you a second later.
Zarya is, um, someone else you can play as if you’re bored, I guess. Sorry, Zarya fans, but any character that makes lasers and forcefields a chore is not the type of character I can play without wishing I was playing someone else. Her pink hair and muscles are fantastic though.
Winston is like a miniature, literate King Kong with Static Shock powers and the bubble shield from Halo. So he’s obviously one of my favourite characters, especially since all you have to do is leap from point A to point B and hold RT in the general direction of your enemies, while the electricity from your weapon drains their health bars like wifi drains my phone.
For support characters, Ana’s the veteran of the group who acts like she spent the last twenty-plus years of her life playing Metal Gear games. There’s something gratifying about knocking down players with the sleep dart and picking them off with a headshot. She’s the badass aged mentor-type who helps when you aren’t looking, particularly when you use her ultimate and super-charge one of your teammates into becoming an unstoppable killing machine (ideally).
Lúcio uses roller-skates and blasts music that physically manifests as energy, which he channels into speed, healing or damage (against enemies), so of course, he’s already one of my favourite characters. And his ultimate sends out a protective wave giving you and your teammates shields that make you ridiculously hard to kill.
Mercy is an angel. No joke, she’s got wings, a halo and descends from the sky enveloped in rays of light. She is basically the “mom-friend” of the squad, by which I mean the healer who has to make sure no one dies 24/7. Symmetra makes turrets and portals. Her turrets are annoying when an opposing player places them, but are utterly useless whenever you place them.
And last, but not least, my favourite floating, orb dispensing robot Buddhist, Zenyatta. He’s so zen that nothing bothers him. And by him I mean me, because his orbs are balls of death just waiting to fly at someone’s face. Zenyatta’s secondary ability are orbs that can act as either a healing for orb for a teammate or a discord orb for an enemy. As much as I love spamming the plain orbs at players, there’s another type of enjoyment in switching between healing different teammates as their health depletes and depriving the enemy team of any and all kills versus nailing enemies with discord to amplify your damage and make normal orbs twice as deadly. Playing as Zenyatta is some of the most fun I’ve had with Overwatch so far, partly because of the satisfaction that comes with pelting players with metal orbs while popping in and out of cover like a gopher, and partly because he’s a levitating ray of sunshine (literally his ultimate).