Sometimes You Just Need A Good Game For When You're Zombified

Illustration for article titled Sometimes You Just Need A Good Game For When Youre Zombified
Kotaku Game DiaryKotaku Game DiaryThe latest thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we're playing.

After a bunch of travel my brain is pretty much leaking out of my ears. Last night, I needed to play a game that would make me remember how to do critical thinking, but also wasn’t so involved that I would bounce off of it. Enter SteamWorld Quest.

I’d played a ton of SteamWorld Dig 2 when it came out, but SteamWorld Quest came out at exactly the wrong time for me to get into it. I was happy to see Kotaku’s Ethan Gach reviewing and enjoying it, as my time with SteamWorld Dig 2 had been tremendous fun. I downloaded SteamWorld Quest intending to play it on my flights to and from California, but I ended up sleeping the entire way both times.

Now that I’m finally home, I have a little more time in my own space to play games instead of sightseeing or lounging in the pool. I tried a few games before I realized SteamWorld Quest was gonna be my thing for a bit. Dwarf Fortress was way too involved; my attention span is shot right now. The Sims requires a lot of creative thought, it turns out, as the game is basically unguided except for keeping your Sims alive. Apex Legends would require me to talk to other people, and the idea of trying to finish Kingdom Hearts 3 in my current state sent me into a fit of giggles.

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SteamWorld Quest is exactly the speed of game I needed. It’s not that it isn’t complicated. Although it’s a pretty straightforward role-playing game, there’s also a deck building element that forces me to remember how to use my brain. Gaining new cards and rearranging my characters’s decks has been fun enough that I’ve been replaying some of the dungeons just to try out new decks. Being able to make a deck where you can give enemies elemental weaknesses and then hit them over and over with that elemental magic feels freaking awesome, especially as the enemies get stronger and start to have less obvious weaknesses.

Illustration for article titled Sometimes You Just Need A Good Game For When Youre Zombified

All this depth lies behind an extremely approachable exterior. SteamWorld Quest is about a ragtag group of would-be heroes saving their village. In the early stages of the game, the plot is about as generic as you can get. When Amilly and Coepernica—a knight and a mage—return from the forest to gather supplies, they find their village on fire, attacked by the evil empire. They join up with Galleo, a tank, to find this army and rescue the villagers. The game even lampshades this standard plot by framing it as a storybook.

I can be engaged in SteamWorld Quest without tying my brain into knots trying to understand character motivation or a complex plot. Amilly wants to be an honorable knight, Coepernica wants to learn, and Galleo wants to eat. The jokes they make are all variations on those themes, but they’re charming and pleasant rather than beating a dead horse. I like their simplicity, because it gives me a break in between the more complicated combat portions.

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Spending time in SteamWorld Quest is like jump-starting my brain. Once I’m fully revived, I’ve got a lot of plans for Dwarf Fortress.

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DISCUSSION

tillmandesign
Randy Randerson

I’m right there with you, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My wife and I spent the last few months househunting, buying, and finally moving into our first house, which it turns out is incredibly stressful and time-consuming. On top of that work’s been stressful and had some long hours and tight deadlines. I just haven’t had the energy or focus to play anything intensive during this time. I bounced off Sekiro within the first couple hours even though I’d love to really get into it, but it was just too much at that point. I’ve put off buying DMC5 for the same reason, even though it looks fantastic. AC Odyssey is fun, but also exhausting every time I open the map and see all those icons and notifications.

So I’m taking this time to get into some more therapeutic, low-friction games, which has been really relaxing. The Dragon Quest games have always been a little too slow for me, but I’m 20+ hours into XI and loving it. I’m replaying Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door for the first time since it came out and really appreciating it all over again. Forza’s been great for just zoning and playing a few quick races, or just appreciating the scenery. And for the first time in a long time I’m just ignoring the pressure of my backlog and just playing whatever looks good at the moment, which has resulted in more time with my retro consoles, including an evening of Crazy Taxi and other arcade games on Dreamcast.

It’s making me think that I should try to include more of this “self-care” / low-friction gaming into my normal routine, mixed in with the higher intensity stuff.