Gaming

NationStates

I can’t believe this game has been around for a decade or more and I’m only just discovering it! NationStates is a browser game that gives players the task of managing their own nation, complete with political and legislative challenges. Every day you’ll be given Issues to decide upon, and the nation’s laws change according to how you deal with them. For example, you may be asked about gun laws following a tragedy in your nation. Your options may be to ban guns entirely, enforce stronger licence constraints or simply ignore the issue and hope it goes away. Depending on what you decide to do, your nation’s laws will change and it will affect the everyday running of the country. It’s a bad example, but you’re better off just playing and seeing what it’s all about for yourself! Go to nationstates.net and play for free now!

My nation – Bundyland – looks like this:

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The People’s Republic of Bundyland is a tiny, genial nation, notable for its daily referendums, punitive income tax rates, and devotion to social welfare. The compassionate population of 9 million Bundians enjoy extensive civil rights and enjoy a level of social equality free from the usual accompanying government corruption.

The enormous, socially-minded government juggles the competing demands of Education, Welfare, and Law & Order. The average income tax rate is 61.6%, and even higher for the wealthy.

The basket case Bundylandian economy, worth 74.2 billion Keirs a year, is driven entirely by a combination of government and state-owned industry, with private enterprise illegal. The industrial sector, which is quite specialized, is led by the Beef-Based Agriculture industry, with major contributions from Basket Weaving, Door-to-door Insurance Sales, and Book Publishing. Average income is 8,244 Keirs, and distributed extremely evenly, with practically no difference between the richest and poorest citizens.

Science centres and state of the art laboratories are ubiquitous, young children are learning advanced physics to scientifically disprove the existence of Santa Claus, the government officially wants you to slow down and speak more clearly, and the army lures cannon fodder with promises of a college education. Crime is totally unknown, thanks to a very well-funded police force and progressive social policies in education and welfare. Bundyland’s national animal is the Elephant, which frolics freely in the nation’s many lush forests.

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Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (PS4)

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Wow. It isn’t often I shed tears at a videogame, but there were a couple of moments over the amazing Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’s seven hours of gameplay that genuinely moved me. This is a videogame like nothing I have ever played. I’m not even sure how to begin describing it.

You start on a path on the outskirts of a small Shropshire town, alone and with nothing. There are no guns, there is no HUD, you don’t have to do anything at all if you don’t want to. The aim here is to explore, to solve the mystery placed before you. The people of Yaughton are disappearing without a trace. The town has been placed under quarantine following a flu epidemic. But there’s more going on than most people know.

After a short wander about the town – snooping in houses, the post office, the local pub – you discover a strange glowing light. You’re soon told that this light is Jeremy. And from there, with no further handholding, you’re thrown into one of the most immersive, spectacular and haunting science fiction mysteries I’ve ever witnessed.

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It is possible to finish this game in a few hours. You can walk from the start to the finish without exploring at all if you like. But by doing so you will miss out on the most beautifully detailed mosaic narrative. This game is perfect; a work of art. The photorealistic town and its surroundings are glorious and the mystery itself sublime. I don’t want to share too much of the storyline, but the title – Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – is simply a start.

The game scared me, amused me, made me cry. More than any game I’ve played it made me want to explore every single corner, try every door, walk every path. I was completely immersed. And for a game where there is no “sprint” button, no inventory of cool items or armoury of weapons, it held my attention for hours. I began playing at 11am and have just finished it.

Sure, it’s not a long game, but it doesn’t need to be. Although it can be as long as you like, depending on how deeply you want to delve into the world. The characters – mesmerisingly voiced by a sensational cast – are wonderful. From the funny, to the cheeky, to the achingly sad, each character’s tale is subtle and revealing and well-written. I cannot fault the game on any level.

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Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a game about relationships, about loss, about love and about humanity at its best and worst. Yaughton’s inhabitants are characters that will stay with me for a long, long time. Listen out in particular for Rachel, my favourite character, heartbreakingly voiced by the brilliant Aimee Ffion Edwards.

It isn’t possible for me to praise this game enough. This is what videogames are capable of. Haunting and beautiful world-building, complex storytelling and big, big ideas. No guns, no scoreboards, no objectives even! Just pure storytelling in the most immersive of worlds. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a masterpiece.

Score: 10/10

Surviving Until Dawn

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As I’ve probably mentioned before I quite like those “cinematic video games” that are being made these days. I really enjoyed Beyond: Two Souls and, while I didn’t quite finish it, was really enjoying Heavy Rain while I played it too. The latest offering from Supermassive Games, Until Dawnis better than anything that has come before. If Beyond: Two Souls was a paranormal sci fi mystery and Heavy Rain a cracking murder mystery then Until Dawn is absolutely a teen slasher movie, like Scream or Jeepers Creepers, etc.

The story begins like this: Ten friends gather at a family “winter lodge” in British Columbia. A cruel prank results in twins Hannah and Beth running in embarrassment into the frozen woodland, never to be seen again. One year later, the same group gather in the same place to help the twins’ brother Josh “get closure” by returning to the scene of the horrific event that has alienated them all from each other for the last twelve months. Or, in other words, eight teenagers gather in a creepy cabin in the icy Canadian wilderness, where something awful and unexplained has happened previously. Perfect and predictably simple horror stock plot.

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And that’s no bad thing! This is a game packed full of horror cliches and slasher tropes. And what makes the thing all the more enjoyable and interesting is that, even after one whole play-through, you’re only going to get part of the story. To “complete” the game you need to play through the story numerous times. You need to make different choices each time. You need to explore places you didn’t go before, to find clues you never knew were there.

Essentially there are three stories here: The Twins’ disappearance, a tale about miners trapped underground and the threat of a creepy stranger who seems too interested in the mountain’s legends. All three intersect, but you’ll only know X fact if you manage to keep Y and Z alive long enough to have a conversation about it. If one of them dies then the information will be lost. It’s great!

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Part of what makes this game so good is the voice acting; the game can boast some really great names! Hayden Panettierre (Heroes), Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), Rami Malek (Mr Robot) and Peter Stormare (Prison Break) all give exceptional performances, as do the rest of the less-known but no less-talented cast. Supermassive are brilliant at casting their games, always getting the best names they possibly can.

I’ll be having another play-through soon, if only to see what could have been. Plus, there’s one really annoying character (a great character, but annoying) who we saved this time but who definitely deserves a grisly death next time… And we lost our favourite at the very last minute first time around through a very silly, careless mistake, so we’ll save her next time too. Or maybe we won’t. Who knows until we play again! So, let’s play again.