Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
As someone who really only plays games on consoles, I’ve been watching the meteoric rise of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds with a truly unhealthy level of jealousy. I know the Xbox One version is supposed to come later this year, but I want it now. Thankfully, other developers are starting to catch on to PUBG’s popularity and are trying to emulate it, which is presumably where we get the new Grand Theft Auto V multiplayer mode Motor Wars. Like PUBG, the mode starts with you jumping out of a flying vehicle (it’s a plane in PUBG, but it’s a helicopter here), and then you have to fend for yourself by finding better weapons and vehicles that you can use to kill other players.
Unlike PUBG, Motor Wars is primarily about finding heavily armed military vehicles and going after your enemies Mad Max-style, making it significantly more chaotic than the usual tense and quiet PUBG round. GTA Online has never really had any good modes beyond aimlessly roaming around and trolling other players, but Motor Wars plays to the game’s strengths in a way that regular death match or racing modes don’t. It’s wild and it’s violent and you can accidentally die in the first minute if you don’t pull your parachute in time, all of which are exactly what I want to see from Grand Theft Auto. It still doesn’t quite scratch this PUBG itch, but I actually enjoyed a multiplayer mode in Grand Theft Auto V for maybe the first time ever. [Sam Barsanti]
If you spend enough time doing improv—and, thus, in the company of a bunch of feckless youths who love nothing more than drinking, partying, and being the funniest person in the room, in roughly that order—you eventually start to accrue a collection of truly stupid party games to keep in your back pocket. But although I’ve played my fair share of Whiskey Scenes and Bucket Of Death over the years, no improv party game I’ve encountered has ever been as dumb, time-consuming, or—in the absolutely right setting—hilarious as Silent Football. You can probably gauge your own reaction to the game by the following fact: When I went looking for an online set of rules to write this, doubting my own orally received memory of the game’s “official” instructions, every online copy I found came courtesy of a bunch of college theater kids or Christian youth groups. It’s that kind of game, perfect for the sorts of nerds who are comfortable requesting everyone at the party turn the music down so they can play a mostly silent bullshit game in the middle of a crowded living room.
For the interested, here are the rules, in brief: Everybody sits in a circle, with one player as the headmaster. The (invisible) football is passed by tapping knees, or other more complicated moves, all of which include some kind of gesture and nonsense word. Penalties are handed out for rule infractions, real or imaginary, at the headmaster’s whim. And there’s often a requirement that everyone use the worst English accent they can muster in order to speak. That’s it. Like I said, it’s gloriously dumb, a more space-consuming version of old “make the rules up as you go along” card games like the infamous Mao.
And yet, some of the best nights of my life were spent playing it, passing the “football” around the circle in my friends’ Tim and Mary’s crowded living room, coming up with increasingly implausible excuses to get out of penalties, and cracking up laughing at every new idiocy from my friends. Played wrong, Silent Football is the absolute death of any party forced to play host to it; played correctly, and it’s the perfect throwback to a time in our lives when “playing games” just meant coming up with the silliest, most foolish kind of collective make-believe and getting everybody else to play along. [William Hughes]
Nintendo dropped a surprisingly newsworthy Direct broadcast this week, announcing the upcoming release of Doom and Wolfenstein II on the Switch, providing a name for that new Kirby Switch game (Kirby Star Allies), and giving Xenoblade Chronicles 2 a release date (December 1). But tucked in there was also the news that the next game from the creators Square Enix’s Bravely series is getting a demo ahead of its release in 2018, and that demo is available right now.
The game, a Switch exclusive, is currently known by its codename, Project Octopath Traveler, which is a far more literal title than it initially appears to be. In the full version, you’ll have eight protagonists to choose from, each of which travel on their own path with a unique goal and identity. The demo gives you two of those characters to pick from: a dancer who’s secretly a princess waiting for the men who killed her father to turn up at her show and a former knight who’s toiling away in a small mountain village after losing everything. I’ve only played through the dancer’s story so far, and it was shockingly dark, bringing in language and themes that hit far harder than most of the game’s JRPG ancestors.
The combat, meanwhile, is turn-based and borrows some ideas from the Persona series. Enemies all have weaknesses—whether to certain weapons or elemental magic—and if you exploit those weaknesses you’ll put them in a “break” state that lowers their defense and forces them to miss a turn. Battles seem like they can get tough unless you fall into a rhythm of building up your boost meter (you get one boost point per turn and can consume as many as you want at once to add more damage or new attributes to attacks) and breaking enemies, keeping them stuck in a loop where they can’t damage you, but you’re dishing out plenty of pain.
The look of Octopath is even more distinct. Characters are rendered in a style similar to Final Fantasy’s 16-bit games, with your party looking like squat little dolls while enemies are given much larger, more elaborate designs. But the world of Octopath is where it shakes things up. It’s a strange hybrid of 2-D and 3-D that you view from a tilted angle that allows you to see the depth of your pixel-art surroundings and for the game to play with light, shadows, and depth of field in some beautiful ways. The demo got me very intrigued. I’ll probably hop back in to play the other half over the weekend, and I’m looking forward to the full release. [Matt Gerardi]