The third of our July Sci-Fi recommendations see the crew outline some of their favourite Sci-Fi games – especially while waiting for the dry summer trickle of new game releases. So, press B to continue (don’t press anything).
Sci-Fi games there’s been so many, that have captivated me over the years. Yet one series instantly springs to mind, one that had me and countless others sat in front of our TV screens for hours on end. One where many a night was spent with friends, playing through the campaign in split screen. Halo erupted onto the Xbox in 2001 and my world was never the same again. It follows the war between humanity and the Covenant. We were introduced to the Master Chief and Cortana, with his shiny amour and cool weapons including my favorite plasma sword. Then we had the glorious online multiplayer added to the second game, which managed to captivate me longer than the first. Team Slayer never felt so good! Add to this the incredible vision of the alien worlds you were able to traverse during the campaign, the Warthogs and Banshee’s to drive/fly. This was a beautifully crafted game, with an epic orchestral score. One that I still listen to today, on my phone or laptop whilst writing away. It’s a Sci-Fi epic, which everyone should play just at least once in their lifetime.
“Space”, as the great Douglas Adams once told us, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space…”
The kind of games that always feel biggest, to me, are a very specific handful of Real-Time Strategies. Not games like StarCraft and Command & Conquer , which fudge their scale so giant battle-cruisers are only slightly bigger than a person, and “armies” are only about thirty guys – no, I’m talking about the battles in Total War or Supreme Commander , where you can have thousands of units, and maps are so big it takes ten minutes just to reach the enemy.
Sins of a Solar Empire is those games… in space! Hundreds of destroyers, led by enormous capital-ships, battling for control of the stars. The individual battlefields – the areas around planets – aren’t huge, but the map is a massive network of these battlegrounds, making travel-times and jump-distances just as important as the size of your army. The friend who introduced me to it advised putting a whole weekend aside to play my first match – and, even then, only on a “small” map!
It’s got issues, of course. None of the factions are particularly different, the ship types are boring and obvious (scouts, fighters, bombers, etc.), and it’s a shame you can’t move in three-dimensions. But none of that matters because, when your third fleet warps in to attack from behind the enemy’s moon, space-combat has never felt so big .
Why Bioshock 2 and not Bioshock ? I suppose it’s because everyone goes on about the first. The story of Bioshock 2 ‘s singleplayer mode is more a tale of redemption than the original, with Tenenbaum and yourself out on a quest to undo massive wrongs made in the past that are now continuing into the present. Of course the game is this weird kind of steam-diesel-bio-punk hybrid that’s got science fiction at its heart.
Not holding the surprises of the first game, the second does still make for an interesting look at the world Andrew Ryan tried to create and its subsequent decay. Your surroundings are about as healthy and stable as the people you encounter throughout the underwater wonder that is Rapture. And that’s not very healthy. Things were pretty rotten in the first game, but I enjoy the dystopian feel of the sequel more.
Another thing I think the game explored better was the use of Plasmids and the more addictive qualities of Splicing. The metaphors around drug abuse and the similarities between Lamb and the likes of Charles Manson make for a game that, while not putting forward the strong idealistic messages of the first game, does leave you asking questions about many aspects of the mid-20th Century.
And it does all this while still looking absolutely stunning with its Art Deco to 1950s stylings and steampunk sensibilities.
I was plunged into the world of Bioware’s Mass Effect when David completed the series and wondered why on earth people were making such a fuss about the ending, which looked perfectly okay to me. I hadn’t even played it but I thought that it was a perfectly adequate finale.
I started to play the series and even though I haven’t quite finished Mass Effect 3 yet I love it enough to thoroughly recommend it. The story telling is precise and evokes a lot of emotions, especially as there is brilliant connectivity between player and characters. Players can create their own unique team and be involved in every aspect of their story, and have Shepards to be proud of. It looks good as well and the multiplayer in the 3 rd game is good fun.
This is a clever and addictive game. Don’t be put off by the wails of those who hate the ending. It’s worth playing. The Mass Effect trilogy is a fantastic sci-fi game that I’m looking forward to exploring more.
Back in 1998, Blizzard released StarCraft , often hailed as the greatest and the most important RTS of all time. Twelve excruciating years later, and the sequel, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty , was finally released in 2010, and it improved on everything that the groundbreaking original did. Despite only being a third of the finished game (the second part, Heart of the Swarm , was released in 2013, and the third part, Legacy of the Void , is said to be coming in 2015), Wings of Liberty felt like a full game in its own right, with an engaging and satisfying story, full of memorable characters, both old and new, and Heart of the Swarm added to that brilliantly.
One of the things about StarCraft II that makes it such a successful sequel is that fact that it bucks the trend of so many computer game sequels, and actually keeps the gameplay from the original StarCraft . Too many game sequels these days don’t seem to realise that completely overhauling the gameplay elements that so many fans loved is not actually a good idea (I’m looking at you Dragon Age II) , but StarCraft II mercifully keeps everything that people loved intact and adds a little more than a few bells and whistles, and even those are mainly to aid the storytelling, rather than the RTS action itself.
With Wings of Liberty focusing on Jim Raynor and Heart of the Swarm focusing on Sarah Kerrigan and the upcoming Legacy of the Void focusing on Zeratul, StarCraft II is an incredibly personal and moving game, despite the fact that most of the characters you grow to love are regularly more than a couple of inches tall, and that goes to show just how good the storytelling and characterisation is in the game. It’s got a little bit of everything – war, betrayal, love, redemption, revenge, hope – and this intimate little tale of three characters’ intertwined fates is told on the backdrop of one of the most sprawling and ambitious science fiction universes ever created.
In my opinion, StarCraft II isn’t just one of the best sci-fi games ever made, it’s one of the best games ever made, and here’s hoping Legacy of the Swarm is a fitting swansong.
Metroid Prime is a unique experience. Instead of relying on the space marine archetype, Nintendo went for a far more left field and interesting experience when they created the first Metroid game. Metroid Prime is a really well done evolution of this.
The interesting thing about Metroid Prime is that it’s a very well blended mixing of genres. It’s a first person shooter, it’s a platformer, it’s an adventure game and at times it’s a puzzle game. The sheer satisfaction you get when you finally get another weapon or other item that allows you to access previously blocked areas and explore more are excellent. At no time does the pace seem overkill – and at no time does the next room seem unchallenging, but instead begging to be conquered – especially when there was something you couldn’t get through or do before.
While the original gamecube controls were a bit cumbersome, the Wii Metroid Prime Trilogy version seemed a brilliant fit. With the ease of aiming that the Wii created, it was actually one of the few games where waggle was a bonus (that and Resident Evil 4 – ironically neither of them originally designed for the Wii controls in mind…).
I’m especially excited about the idea of a Metroid game on the Wii U – which will invariably have awesome uses of the gamepad.