Am Playing: Elder Scrolls Online, The Swapper
Played some Elder Scrolls Online this weekend as part of the stress test. Ephor joined me, one of my favorite fellow MMO players. We’ve always worked together well when leveling, and even if he’s no longer an achievement hunter he understands that urge in me and is patient.
Me: Should we go straight to the quest marker? There’s a farm over there we haven’t explored
E4: Let’s go check it out!
Plus he’s almost as good as me at exasperating Jordan — like when Ephor admitted he was doing arenas with a trackpad, not a mouse. That was a great day. (My arena claim to fame was realizing, after ten games, that I was using some Noble Garden props instead of my staff) (I just remember Eric giving me the old “…” reaction to that) (We won a bunch of those games, too). I asked Jordan how he felt about most of his gaming friends having a common goal to exasperate him:
Anyway, I recorded our beta testing for Jordan’s sake since he was off being wined and dined in Toronto, so here’s the first few videos.
Meanwhile, in non-MMO world, I’ve been playing Swapper. You begin by being unhappily launched into space in what appears to be a tin can, sans label. As you bang desperately on the porthole of the ship, you find you are on your way to see what exactly has happened on Space Station Thesus, a mining ship out in the depths of nowhere. Thesus is (mostly) deserted, poorly lit, and even before I wandered into one of the talking rocks (!) I knew something fairly terrible had happened here. The story advances through memory terminals, where you read messages and diaries left by the previous inhabitants of the space station, ranging from funny to absolutely horrifying. And then there’s the other human (?) on the ship, who you hear arguing with someone silent long before you meet her.
Who the hell did I just launch into space?
It’s a very moody, beautiful game. The interior of the ship is detailed, slightly grungy, oddly lit and full of dark corners. The odd cartoonish elements (that moon!) (and the tin-can spaceship) somehow WORK in this environment. It also really makes my brain ache — especially when the later puzzles introduce the element of gravity. Thinking in multiple directions! Luckily, through the magic of screen sharing, I am sort of playing this as a co-op game with Choo. I do tend to get stuck on my first idea for solving the puzzle, and it’s hard to break myself out of that path. Ch00 and I played Braid together (in that we’d both play a level and commiserate on how to solve it) and were partners in science in Portal 2, so we’re good at working out puzzles together. You need to pair up with someone who understands your thought process for this type of game, so when you vaguely say: “Jump up and…left, it’ll … then backwards!” they can piece that together into an actual answer. It works. Sometimes, though, you just have to say: “Trust me and try this, I know it’ll work but I can’t explain.”
It’s a bit of a sinister game, although obviously not SCARY. You don’t have a weapon, after all, unless you consider sending clones to their deaths a weapon. But you are on the scene of what surely was a terrible tragedy, and that sense pervades every new room and every memory terminal you access. The rocks, as well. The freaking talking rocks. You walk in front of one and the screen blurs and a message appears, a thought appears:
Plus there’s the other human on the ship who, without giving the details away, is batshit crazy. And then: The Swapper. The swapper is a gun that lets you send clones of yourself out and then switch to them. The clones mimic your actions exactly, jumping when you jump and running when you run, so you have to be creative about placing them so they can do what they need to do. I started out gleefully enjoying this power, but about halfway through the game swapping actually began to make me uneasy. There’s something really upsetting about watching a clone of yourself fall from a great height or be disintegrated in a beam of light or… And when they die they sort of smoke. Plus there’s that whole absorption thing, and anyway when you swap to another clone? I mean, what is even HAPPENING you are sending your consciousness with a GUN to another BODY and it just feels so wrong. This is part of why I think this is a brilliant game: they subtly wrap the story around you until you realize just how wrong everything feels.
If I can’t have more Portal, I want to have more games like this.
Having given in on my no new games ban for long enough to pick up The Stanley Parable I then did it again to pick up Broken Age because DoubleFine and also because I hear only good things and ALSO because I get a DoubleFine loyalty coupon on Steam! So that’s coming up this week. We also finished Magicka and started Castle Crashers.