Now Playing: Bloodborne, Kentucky Route Zero, Street Fighter Alpha 3, And More
Though the GameSpot team is usually busy keeping up with the biggest releases, other times we’re catching up on games we missed, replaying old favorites, experiencing classics for the first time, or just dabbling in odds and ends for a spell.
Below you can see a sampling of the games that folks on the GameSpot team are playing right now, the reasons we’re playing them, and what we love about them so far. But don’t just stop at reading our responses; we’d love to hear from you too! Please tell us what you’re playing in the comments section below.
We’re hoping to make this a more frequent thing, not only for our sanity, but yours too! After all, we know how it is: you’re playing something that resonates with you, but most times, you don’t have anyone to talk to about it, so then you end up retreating into a hole and keeping it to yourself. It can be a real bummer, so we want to help end those moments. Join us in the cathartic release of screaming at the top of our lungs the overwhelming joys we’re experiencing playing video games.
Bloodborne — Tamoor Hussain, Senior Editor & Global Head of News
It’s been five years since I first stepped foot into Yharnam, and my mind has been stuck there ever since. Whether we’re in the thick of a busy release season or amidst the doldrums of a new year, I find comfort in returning to Bloodborne. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I can’t stop playing it.
I’ve braved mobs of maniacal citizens, fended off twisted beasts, and gone toe-to-toe with wayward Hunters more times than I care to admit, and yet I always find myself drawn back in, week after week, month after month. Yharnam satisfies my wanderlust, it evokes nostalgia, and it instills a sense of tranquility. What once was hostile and unwelcoming is now familiar and safe. The baroque architecture envelops me, and although it once felt like pointed knives, it is now a warm blanket. The distant moans of insane citizens and the screeches of their sharpened weapons dragging across the floor have become soothing instead of threatening.
Occasionally, I’ll find myself rejoining the hunt, pulled into a hair-raising, tense battle with a boss or even just a simple enemy patrolling the streets, but more often than not I play Bloodborne just to be in the world, to soak in the ambiance and enjoy the eerie, slightly unsettling atmosphere. There’s nothing quite like walking the cobbled pave stones of Yharnam as it’s draped in a cloak of red and purple light emanating from the Blood Moon hanging ominously in the sky. I’m not trying to wake from the nightmare anymore; I relish it. | Twitter: @tamoorh
Kentucky Route Zero: PC Edition — Edmond Tran, Senior Editor & Producer
Like a lot of people, I’ve been waiting for the fifth and final episode of Kentucky Route Zero for a long time–it’s been four years since Act IV came out, and would you believe Act I was released back in 2013?! Anyway, with the release of the complete package, I’m taking the opportunity to go back and replay it from the very beginning, both so I can remember what happens and so I can reappreciate just how amazing this whole series has been.
And boy, it still manages to pack a punch. It’s a point-and-click narrative adventure at its core, but the execution is downright masterful. Kentucky Route Zero’s themes and writing are beautifully nuanced, its concepts are strikingly surreal, and its locations and setpieces are downright breathtaking. It twists you in such weird and deeply complex ways that I have to hold myself back from yelling “DAMN, THIS BE ART” every 10 minutes to anyone within earshot.
I’d need a lot more words to describe it adequately (though plenty of people have written amazing things about it), but it is absolutely one of the most beautiful (I already said beautiful, but screw it, it is beautiful) and well put-together games I have ever played.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age — Chris Pereira, Engagement Editor
I started Dragon Quest XI‘s Switch demo last August when it was released, but soon after, I tabled it because of all of the games that began to come out. On a lark, I recently picked it back up to see if I could get into the meat of the game and find out why people liked it; yet, the opening hours were as uninspiring as I was led to believe. After spending about eight hours with it–kudos to Square Enix for putting out such a substantial demo–I saw enough of the game’s potential and immediately picked up the full version, which let me transfer my progress.
I’m now more than a dozen hours in, and with the world opened up to me, I’m having a great time juggling its many systems (like crafting and team-up “Pep Powers” that add consideration to party composition). But more than anything, I’m enjoying Sylvando, the flamboyant but mysterious character with a disturbing technique for winking. It does have some weird quirks–the quest log is miserable, the map isn’t great, and the feature to let NPCs lie to you is undercut by immediately telling you when things are lies. But there’s more than enough here to sink my teeth into, and this feels like the rare lengthy RPG that I’ll be sticking with for the long haul. | Twitter: @TheSmokingManX
Borderlands 3 — Alessandro Fillari, Editor
I have a particular fondness for the Borderlands series. While the vibe it gives off certainly isn’t for everyone, to me, it always succeeds at offering a fast and fun loot-grind with a wealth of ridiculous weapons and skills for the cast of vault hunters. I played a lot of Borderlands 1 and 2 back in the day, and I was looking forward to giving Borderlands 3 the same level of attention. I indeed got what I wanted from the game when it came out last September, yet it still left me wanting after finishing my playthrough with Moze. It didn’t help that, despite its many innovations and worlds to visit, Borderlands 3 feels like it’s about three years late to the party. Soon after I finished the story, I stepped away from the game.
After letting it sit for a couple of months, and seeing what new content and tweaks Gearbox was adding to the game–such as increased vault space, rebalanced skills, and the Halloween event–I gave the game another shot, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Even though it’s undeniably a familiar Borderlands game, there’s just something about getting a new legendary weapon that’s able to tear through waves of enemies with ease that I will never not find satisfying. The recent Moxxi DLC, focusing on a heist at Handsome Jack’s casino, was also a lot of fun, and even has some of the better writing and performances that Borderlands 3 has to offer–which, admittedly, isn’t a high bar. I’ve been playing B3 pretty regularly, and I’m currently working on a playthrough with my third character.
In a lot of ways, Borderlands can be something of an acquired taste. The overall style and tone focuses a lot on abrasive meme humor and iconography borrowed from other sources. Yet I still can’t deny that it scratches a particular itch I’ve been trying to get at for a while. I’m already looking forward to seeing what comes next for the game, which hopefully will include some better locations to explore. | Twitter: @afillari
A Plague Tale: Innocence — Steve Watts, Associate Editor
January is an excellent time to catch up on games I missed or just left unfinished–and with the spate of recent delays, February and March might be too. So I was pleasantly surprised when A Plague Tale: Innocence, one of our picks for the Best Games of 2019, appeared on Game Pass. It’s an insidious little worm of a game, creeping into my thoughts when I’m not playing and keeping me occupied long past my intended playtime when I am. The story keeps pulling me through, always introducing one more layer to the mystery. The dreadful atmosphere peppers in just enough moments of warmth and levity to fully invest in the characters.
It helps that it’s an impressive technical achievement too. I was trying to explain to a friend the merits of what I can only describe as A Plague Tale’s rat swarming tech, and it occurred to me halfway through that I wasn’t sure if I was pitching him on why he should play it or convincing him to never, ever play it. The phrase “tidal waves of rats” might not have been quite the selling point I intended. | Twitter: @sporkyreeve
Stardew Valley — Jenae Sitzes, Commerce Editor
Instead of diving into my enormous backlog, I’ve recently found myself sucked back into a game I first played in 2016: Stardew Valley. The farming sim was an immediate success when it launched on PC nearly four years ago, and since then, it’s been ported to almost every gaming platform.
If you’ve never played or haven’t checked out Stardew Valley in years, there’s truly no better time to dive in. A massive 1.4 update just released in December, adding a slew of improvements to multiplayer mode as well as brand-new content, quality-of-life improvements, better controller support, and much more. There’s a new Four Corners map designed for co-op, and there’s even a new multiplayer mode that has players acquire wealth separately, adding a competitive element to Stardew for the first time.
I never got far in Stardew Valley back in the day–the time limit stressed me out, and I was tired of watering my dang crops–but my relationship with the game was rekindled this past Christmas when, in a moment of boredom, I started up a multiplayer farm with my brother and boyfriend. Tackling Stardew’s challenges together helped me get past some of the game’s early struggles (the mines, daily watering, etc.), and I finally began to see why this game is still so popular, four years later. Once you start to automate your farm and earn real money, you begin to have more choices in how you design your farm and spend your time, and that fuels an increasingly addictive gameplay loop.
I now have a solo farm as well where I’m in Year 3, married with kids, and rolling in money. And despite over 140 hours logged on my Nintendo Switch, I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. RIP, my backlog. | Twitter: @jenaesitzes
Street Fighter Alpha 3 On CPS2 Hardware — Peter Brown, Managing Editor
One of my favorite avenues of my video game hobby is modifying and upgrading old game hardware. In the last year, that involved me dipping into arcade games–the proper hardware that would typically live in the guts of your favorite arcade cabinet. Capcom’s CPS2 platform is a good entry point for anyone interested in trying out arcade gaming at home. Not only is it designed in a somewhat console-like fashion, with a baseboard that interfaces with a separate game board (both encased in plastic for easy handling), but it was the home for several of Capcom’s most beloved games from the ’90s, including one of my favorite games of all time: Street Fighter Alpha 3.
Installing an HDMI mod into my CPS2 setup was the perfect excuse to spend some time with Alpha 3, which I gladly play on occasion on other platforms anyway. Still, there’s something about playing it on the hardware it was designed for, which makes the experience feel that much more special. And no matter how many times I play it, Alpha 3’s roster, graphics, music, and selection of fighting systems make me just as happy today as they did back in 1999. I love a lot of fighting games, but Alpha 3 feels like home to me, insomuch as a game can. It means a lot to give the original version of the game a place in my own home over 20 years after I first fell in love with it. | Twitter: @PCBrown
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation — Kevin Knezevic, Associate Editor
Despite my fondness for JRPGs, I’ve only played a small handful of Dragon Quest games in my life, and most for only a couple of hours. That said, I’ve always been intrigued by the series thanks to its monolithic status, so seeing Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation on sale on the Switch Eshop last month was the perfect excuse to give the classic a try.
At the moment, I’m about 10 hours into the game, but I think it holds up remarkably well considering its age. Of course, it has all the archaisms inherent in an RPG from the NES era; random battles occur far too frequently, and your progression through the story relies almost entirely on speaking to random NPCs to learn clues about where to go next, which means it’s easy to forget what you need to do to advance if you don’t take frequent notes. Despite these complaints, however, I’ve been greatly enjoying my time with the title so far.
It’s particularly interesting to me to see just how indebted the entire genre is to this game. Dragon Quest has always been regarded as the grandfather of JRPGs, but now that I’ve played Dragon Quest III, its influence can clearly be felt not only in other RPGs, but in subsequent Dragon Quest games as well. I was particularly struck by how similar Dragon Quest IX for the DS (the only other entry I’ve put a considerable amount of time in) is to it, not only in terms of structure, but in how both give you the ability to roll your own party members.
What I especially enjoy about Dragon Quest III is the sense of adventure the game can instill thanks to its vast overworld, which you can more or less explore freely (if you can stomach the high random encounter rate). It feels thrilling to wander around and discover a new town or dungeon. I have a terrible habit of not finishing JRPGs, so it remains to be seen if I’ll see Dragon Quest III through to the end, but right now, I’m eager to play more.
Assassin’s Creed III — Matt Espineli, Editor
As a burgeoning fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise during 2012, I hated Assassin’s Creed III when I first played it. The game’s slow start, fragmented world design, and broken stealth mechanics left me feeling deeply frustrated. I held a bummer view about the game throughout the years, often voicing how low it sits in my ranking of the series with every passing entry. But that seems to have changed because I’ve been playing it these past few weeks for 30+ hours, and dare I say, I’m actually enjoying it.
I’m honestly shocked that I’ve been turning around on Assassin’s Creed III after all these years. So far, what’s been appealing to me are the questions it asks about the moral conflict between the Assassins and the Templars–something I was unwilling to unpack at the time for some reason or another. Connor’s struggle to maintain loyalty to his people and the Assassin Brotherhood while dealing with the brewing revolution is worlds more compelling to me in my older age. On the other hand, my enjoyment playing Assassin’s Creed III finally clicked after allowing myself to accept what it’s trying to be. What I’ve found is a world that rewards you when you engage with everything it has to offer. While not all of its activities are substantial or meaningful, the rewards you receive feed into the flow of playing the game in a way that’s continuously satisfying.
Assassin’s Creed III remains a bit of a mess in parts, but I’m happy to report that my enjoyment of its accomplishments is finally outweighing the disdain I once had. There’s really something special about being able to reconcile poor feelings about an old game; I feel like a great weight has been lifted. Anyway, please excuse me while I spend the next seven hours collecting treasure chests, sending out convoys, sinking naval warships, and talking to George Washington. | Twitter: @MGespin