June was a very productive month for me in terms of playing video games: The Witcher 3, Trine & Kingdom Hearts. Here are three reasons why I think it’s worth playing each of these games.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Until recently, I wasn’t a huge fan of western RPGs, but playing Dragon Age: Inquisition proved me that with the appropriate scenario and universe, games of this genre could be absolutely epic, wonderful and addictive. Likewise, The Witcher 3 is a game which anyone can appreciate, regardless of his/her liking of the RPG genre.
- Reason #1 – One of the greatest open-worlds out there: The Witcher 3‘s greatest quality is its wonderful open-world, frought with amazing details, places to explore and quests to complete. As soon as you start playing the game, its universe grabs you unavoidably. The diverse landscapes, the dynamic lighting, the sparkling colors that evolve with the day/night cycle, the characters that are just going on with their daily routine – all of this contributes to creating a believable universe, which you can’t help exploring, without any true purpose, just for the sake of exploring. Those who like adventure (just as I do) will necessarily fall in love with this game.
- Reason #2 – A wonderfully written story: The Witcher actually is an adaptation of the eponymous book series. The author, Andrzej Sapkowski, participated in the writing of the game’s scenario, even though he does not consider it as part of the series’ canon. The plot is rich, the characters are complex and the universe is far from manichean. The hero, Geralt of Rivia, is one of the most charismatic characters I’ve ever seen in a videogame. The story also revolves a lot around interactivity and player’s choice – the player is confronted with a lot of choices which seem insignificant at first sight, but which actually shape Geralt’s own identity. What kind of character will he become? What are his motivations? What morals will he follow? That’s really up to the player, and its solid storytelling is definitely one of the game’s greatest strengths.
- Reason #3 – The developing team’s player-centered philosophy: You should never judge a book by its cover. Nor by its author. Yet I think we can make an exception for The Witcher 3. CD Projekt is a wonderful team, that seems to work its heart out to provide the player with the best possible experience. CD Projekt knows that the player is a player first, not a consumer. If you’re not convinced, then read the message that comes with the game’s physical edition:
Dear Gamer, First of all, we would like to thank you for your support. We really appreciate that you have decided to spend your hard-earned money on our game and hope that you will have a fun time playing it. Over 200 of us have spent the last three years working on The Witcher 3: Wild hunt and it is with great pleasure and humility that we present our game to you. At CD Projekt Red, we believe that when you buy our games, you’re entitled to continuous, free support – updates, patches and bits of new and amazing content. We owe you that for believe in us and purchasing our game. To thank you, we have prepared something really special – 16 DLCs for you to download, totally free of charge, regardless of the platform or edition of the game you own. We salute you for your support and wish you a fantastic next-generation of RPG gaming! CD Projekt Red
Trine (episodes 1 & 2)
I got Trine: Enchanted Edition and Trine 2: Complete Story on sale on the PlayStation Store, and I really did not know what to expect. The first two episodes of the franchise were released in 2009 and 2011, respectively, but I had never played them until now. It’s kind of a shame, to say the least, as Trine revealed itself to be an absolute fairytale.
- Reason #1 – You can use your head!: Trine is no brain-teaser, but it is a bit of a head-scratcher. Don’t get me wrong, it is a platformer, not a puzzle-game, yet it still has pretty great riddles to offer. You can play it solo or in 3-player co-op mode – Trine has three playable characters: a wizard, a thief and a knight. Each of them has particular abilities, which you must use wisely in order to make your way through the levels. As a consequence, each level can be quite tricky, especially in co-op mode, as you need to figure out which character has the ability to let the others progress. Quite often, there is more than one solution. Trine 2 also features more complex puzzles, involving mirrors or liquids to carry from one place to another.
- Reason #2 – Fun: Puzzles in this game are tricky, but never frustrating. It’s even the opposite of frustrating, as solving the puzzles is actually quite rewarding. Trine is above all a game that you can play for fun – especially in co-op mode. “Co-op mode” necessarily means “playing dirty tricks to your friends” – it is always funny (and relieving) to kill your companions. 😉
- Reason #3 – A fairytale turned into a videogame: But Trine isn’t just fun. It’s also a true work of art. Every level in Trine is filled with poetry, magic and beauty. I think the screenshots speak for themselves, here.
Kingdom Hearts HD ReMix
With E3 providing us more news about Kingdom Hearts III, I could not help re-playing this series which I have loved for nearly a decade (the original Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002). This franchise is an audacious cross-over between Disney movies and Square Enix games. To prepare the release of the long-awaited third episode, Square Enix has published two HD compilations on PS3 (Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix & Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMix), featuring all episodes of the franchise to date.
- Reason #1 – A poetic scenario: A game based on the Disney universe will obviously feature themes such as love and friendship. Kingdom Hearts deals with those themes with a lot of maturity. The scenario is complex, non-linear, with love being the central subject of the series. All characters in the games come in groups of three (Sora, Riku, Kairi/Sora, Goofy, Donald/Roxas, Xion, Axel, etc.) that echo one another. As the story unfolds, heroes and characters become aware of the links that bind them all, valuing friendship over the desire for more power. The game never tries to make it too emotional, however, as there’s always the right amount of emotion, with a really poetic atmosphere surrounding the series.
- Reason #2 – A wonderful soundtrack: Yoko Shimomura’s original soundtrack really contributes to the poetic aspect of the game. In the HD compilation, Square Enix had the brilliant idea to remaster both soundtracks of Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 – which makes it even more of a masterpiece. The main theme for the series is probably one of the greatest tracks out there. Its original tempo was meant to be reminiscent of a heartbeat’s. How poetic is that?
- Reason #3 – Disney+Square Enix, what’s not to like?: Hello? You get to meet Mickey, Simba, Maleficent, Hades, Jack Sparrow and Ariel, but also Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie, Leon and Sephiroth. How could you possibly resist that?
- The Witcher Perspective – On Origins and Scale by Kevin Kutlesa for The Mental Attic, June 2015.