What We're Playing - Ashen, Artifact and Return of the Obra Dinn

Rounding out our regular coverage of gaming news, reviews and previews, we’re looking to change things up in 2019. Specifically, we're introducing a more dedicated column that lets us cover some of the games we’re playing between major releases.

For obvious reasons, we've opted to title this recurring feature ‘What We’re Playing’. Without any further ado, here’s a quick round up what we've been playing over the holiday break.

Ashen

Dropping right smack in the middle of December, Ashen was a game that we loved but came out too late to recognise in our Editor’s Choice Awards.

A cross between Dark Souls and Absolver, Ashen takes the best of both worlds. As we said in our review, "Ashen distills the Dark Souls experience into a game that you could recommend to just about anyone."

What's more, Ashen is a game I genuinely hope to have an excuse to return to in 2019. Though far from short, I’m itching for more Ashen. Make it happen, A44.

You can read our review of Ashen here.

BattleTech

After blazing through it for our initial review, BattleTech was a game that I really wanted to revisit over the holiday season. The addition of a new career more alongside the first downloadable expansion for the game - ‘Flashpoints’ - provided a great excuse to do exactly that.

Like many of my favorite games, BattleTech takes a solid tabletop gaming experience and makes it digital. The game strips out all the messy practicalities that come with physical components like dice and miniatures. It trades in sleek simplicity and lets the software do most of the heavy lifting.

And even in a year with plenty of great tactics games, BattleTech is one of the best. If you failed to snap it up while it was on sale, you goofed.

You can read our full review of BattleTech here.

Artifact

From the moment of its announcement to its launch only a few months ago,  Artifact has been divisive. Still, as someone who loves themselves a good card game, I was keen to give Valve’s entry into the digital card game space a chance.

And, to my surprise, I came away thrilled by Artifact. As a card game, it builds on a lot of the same mechanics and gameplay found in things like Hearthstone. But Artifact provides plenty of unique permutations. Specifically, it adapts a lot of concepts from MOBA's like lanes, heroes, creeps and gold.

The end result is a card battler that's going through some growing pains but a compelling alternative to the other options. Artifact feels like a great option those who want something with a little more strategic meat on its bones.

Yes, with Valve tee’d up to take a cut from every monetized trade in the game’s ecosystem, Artifact is clearly-geared towards making them money.  Yes, in some ways, that's the definition of pay to win. But, when it comes to card games like Magic: The Gathering, that's kinda the norm. If you have a great idea for a deck and the money to spend, you can nab the singles you want online and go. The same is true here.

However, in other ways, Artifact might be the cheapest of the major digital card games to get into. Rather than churn through packs of cards you don't want or spend hours grinding, you can just buy the cards you actually want on the Steam marketplace.

In some senses, Artifact is less of a traditional video game and closer to something like a starter pack for Magic: Online. It's a great place to start but once you've got the basics down, going further will cost you money.

Still, at the moment, Artifact is the digital card game that cuts the bullshit, and I’m there for it.

Return of The Obra Dinn

Of all the games I missed out on and then played over the holiday break, I am most guilty about putting off Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn.

From the man behind Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person adventure game where your only tools are logic and a magic compass

Set in the 1800s, you play an insurance investigator send aboard the titular naval vessel. Your mission is simple: identify each of the bodies found on the Obra Dinn and work out how they died.

The aforementioned compass is your biggest asset. It allows you to see through time and explore a static tablaeu of what was happening around each of the Obra Dinn's crew during their final moments. Your first two (or so) hours involve exploring the ship, finding each body and experiencing each snippets of the past the compass unlocks.

The next 8-10 hours are all you. There are no more sudden clues or twists. You’ve simply got to take what the game gives you and figure it out. Who was this person? How did they die?

Return of the Obra Dinn is one giant, three-dimensional logic puzzle and it's unbelievably satisfying to solve. I'd give it a hard upvote.

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire

Like BattleTech, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire was another great 2018 game I wanted to check back in with over the break. While the launch experience was already one of the year's best, Obsidian have since supplemented that with several DLC packs.

The "Beast of Winter" DLC feels like the most substantial of these. Set on an icy isle towards the southern part of the game's map, it sees you recruited by and pulled into the realm of Rygmrand - Eora's resident god of death.

"Seeker, Slayer Survivor" is more combat-heavy but it does add some extra replayability to Deadfire. There are three paths through the main quest here and plenty of option side-content for those looking for it.

Finally, "Forgotten Sanctum" adds another sizeable late-game dungeon to the Deadfire. Thus far, the secretive order of mages in Eora has taken a back seat to the drama that's unfolded across both Pillars games. Forgotten Sanctum remedies this and puts their drama front and center. It also adds some fun and interesting new ending permutations to the main game that are totally worth seeking out.

You can read our full review of Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire here.

What have you been playing this month? Let us know in the comments?

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Tags gaminggamesAshenReturn of the Obra DinnArtifact

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Fergus Halliday
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