‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’

Courtesy of CD Projekt Red

By: Colin Carney, SSW

As many are now confined to their rooms for the duration of this pandemic, finding the right game to fill your newly found free time is essential. Countless games are available that can entertain players for a few hours or day, but “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” has everything. Originally released in 2015, the third installment in the Witcher franchise provides gamers with hours of gameplay and a vast array of content to keep them busy while under lockdown.

The game has players take control of the witcher (mutant monster slayer) Geralt of Rivia as he searches for his adopted daughter Ciri as the merciless Wild Hunt pursues her throughout a vast open world setting. Along the way, Geralt is joined by an enormous cast of characters, both friend and foe, as he endures countless hurdles to locate Ciri and prevent an apocalyptic prophecy.

The rich and vibrant world of “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” is enough to impress any fantasy fan. Set in a fully fleshed out medieval-fantasy world, known as the Continent, players find themselves tracking Ciri in the midst of a massive and bloody conflict between the Nilfgaardian Empire and the Kingdom of Redania. As players maneuver themselves throughout the massive open world, they will be drawn into the countless battles, political maneuverings and religious rituals that populate this complex world that is a beautiful blend between “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.”

Gameplay-wise, “The Witcher 3” is near perfect. The combat is fluid and the exploration is rich and rewarding. Whether you are fighting the massive monsters that roam the wilderness or battling soldiers that occupy the land, the combat mechanics never fail to disappoint. Players have the freedom to make use of a wide array of weaponry, though most commonly a steel or silver sword along with an arsenal of magic signs, such as a personal shield or wave of fire, that Geralt can cast on his enemies. Lastly, the rich detail placed into designing the world is a sight to behold that still holds up five years after its initial release. Players can easily get lost in the perfectly detailed and beautifully massive environments that comprise the world.

This game has it all: a compelling story, epic combat and impressive scenery. Players can easily get lost in the vast worldbuilding and engaging gameplay that it has to offer. Furthermore, players do not need to be familiar with the previous two games to understand the third installment. With roughly 50 hours of main story material, 200 hours of side quests and two impressive dlc expansions, “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” is sure to keep players occupied while stuck at home during this pandemic.


Courtesy of Mojang

By: Adam Alvernaz, SSW

One title that has stood the test of time since the late 2000s is Mojang’s very own “Minecraft.” The eponymous sandbox title states exactly what it’s about in the title. The esteemed voxel-based game has always had its place, but it now seems more prominent than ever. With the revival of interest in the title almost a year ago and with the quarantine, there has never been a better time to be pulled into the serene blocky landscapes. The simplistic design philosophy of mining and crafting has always been one of the best ways to break boredom. Video games have a tendency to blend in and feel incredibly similar, but never have I been more surprised and excited in a game I’ve put thousands of hours into than this indie game. 

Whether it is building your own house or mining for diamonds, the simple gameplay loop never really gets old; I always find myself so enamored with mining that I build gigantic shafts for all my needs. Aside from that, one of the best things in the game hands-down is how free and open it is to anybody who is willing to experiment and build. For the most part, I have spent many hours playing the main survival aspect of just making shelters and exploring the worlds I generate. The way “Minecraft” creates these unique worlds is elegant, especially now because of the updated engine. Beyond that, however, the block game does have a purpose by both providing bosses and even end credits. The journey getting there, however, is up to players at their own pace which adds to the atmospheric bliss of the game’s scope. Exploration will always be encouraged and rewarded but never required. At the end of the blocky day, building has always been the main draw and that has never been more rewarding than now in quarantine. 

“Minecraft” has always been a bastion of creativity. Whatever you want or can envision, there is always a way to achieve it. Whether it be through the interesting and complex dynamics of redstone or the intricacies of color with terra-cotta, the possibilities are truly endless because the world expands infinitely, offering so many resources and tools for players to build whatever they want at whatever scale. It is truly mind-boggling to think about how expansive the world is at players’ hands; I mean, traveling to the end of it would take over 800 hours on foot, the entire time. In these times of isolation, one of my favorite things to do is just load up a creative world where I can experiment and make whatever comes to mind. It is a very cathartic escape from everything. “Minecraft” is timeless and there is so much potential it is impossible to ignore, it absolutely deserves a replay for some or a new experience for others.

‘Star Wars Battlefront II’

Courtesy of Electronic Arts

By: Kevin Sanchez-Neri, CW

Video games have never been a more convenient indulgence as many are restricted to their bedroom walls amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. For fans of the pop culture phenomena that is Star Wars, “Star Wars Battlefront II” offers plenty for you to enjoy while in isolation.

After a cascade of criticism upon its release over loot boxes and other predatory money-grabbing tactics, “Star Wars Battlefront II” is now one of the best bang-for-your-buck video games on the market. 

Whether you are a fan of the latest Star Wars trilogy or not, “Battlefront II” will unequivocally satisfy your inner geek. The second installment of the 2015 reboot of the series, “Battlefront II” is an action shooter game that immerses gamers into the Star Wars universe.

EA managed to offset the backlash they received by dumping a slew of free content, ranging from new maps and modes to an extended cast of heroes and villains.

Fans of massive, objective-based maps will get their fix with “Galactic Assault.” Players begin gameplay on a planet — whether it is on the snowy vastness of Hoth or forests of Endor — to duke it out against the opposing team across a multitude of stunning locations and planets in this game mode.

If you are looking to run out the clock after a busy day of schoolwork and interested in more strategic, phasal objectives, “Supremacy” may suit those needs. Starting out in the “Ground Phase,” teams of 20 face off in a battle to capture a majority of the five Command Posts available. Both teams are aided by an additional 12 AI troopers. The first team to hold on to the objectives successfully will receive a greater number of reinforcements that are key in the invasion phase, where the ground phase victors attack the fledgling team’s capital ship. If the attacking team captures and destroys all objectives within the ship, the game is over. However, if the defending team is able to fend off the enemy, it is back to square one as both squads return to the battlegrounds. Game sessions can last anywhere between 20 minutes to over an hour, so be prepared to sweat one out.

Players also have something of a mix and match option, where iconic protagonists and antagonists of different eras are pinned against each other in Heroes versus Villains. That’s right, you can pick up Kylo Ren and his cross guard lightsaber to take on the adorable BB-8.

One of the few downsides of the game is the weak single-player campaign that features a subpar storyline despite the gorgeous graphics and map layouts that are the only thing to write home about. Regardless, “Star Wars Battlefront II” has largely made its name from its action-packed multiplayer modes and has done a tremendous job listening to their fans’ outpouring of grievances — a lesson that should resonate throughout the gaming industry.

‘The Long Dark’

Courtesy of Hinterland Studio

By: Mark Bertumen, SSW

Released almost six years ago, “The Long Dark” is a chilling experience that continues to be updated to this day.

The game itself hosts a story mode and survival mode, both under the same premise: you’re stranded in hell truly frozen over. An erroneous shift of the planet’s poles altered the atmosphere spawning geomagnetic storms that have rendered all things mechanical and electrical inert and inoperable.

And if that off switch does not kill humanity off, the natural storms of piercing cold of Canada will — you now face a shivering, finger-numbing, heat-entropic end. It is not yet known if the change was nature’s doing or the result of humanity’s failed hubris.

This is because the story is divided into episodes, with three of the five currently released. In the first episode, “Do Not Go Gentle,” we play as Will Mackenzie, a bush pilot shut away in his dad’s hangar, suddenly visited by the long-divorced Dr. Astrid Greenwood, who asks for his services. Carrying a suitcase of unknown contents to an unknown location deep in the Canadian wilderness, Astrid convinces Will to fly her there, only for geomagnetic fate to stall the plane and send it crashing down.

The two are separated and Will sets out to find Astrid, her suitcase in hand; instead, he finds the ghost town of Milton. There, we see Mother Nature’s mercilessness to a land already in the throes of death — but all we see is the aftermath, a land almost devoid of soul. Will stands to be in danger of the same.

Travel the frigid landscape for scarce supplies and fading warmth as the cold closes in on your body, deep into your bones. A snowy wasteland lies before you, as if Nature herself is reclaiming what humanity has defiled, purging the world of sin with glacial judgement and reverting it into the blankest slate.

In this cold world, wildlife has manifested into nature’s fierce will. Timberwolves, often indifferent to humans, now want for nothing but your blood in the snow. You can try scaring them off with flares and bullets, but much like your campfire, neither will last forever.

The ice moves in at every turn. One wrong move, and your frozen body will be your tomb. It’s as if you were not meant to walk the earth, as if no one was. In “The Long Dark,” Mother Nature will do everything to correct the mistake.

Let’s hope that whatever is in Astrid’s case can end humanity’s erasure.

‘Pokemon Platinum’

Courtesy of The Pokemon Company

By: Jordan Hom, SSW

On Sept. 13, 2008, “Pokemon Platinum” was released to the Japanese market for the Nintendo DS. By March of 2009, the game could be found on the shelves of retail stores in North America. Although “Platinum” was not nearly as successful commercially in terms of sales, selling only around 7.72 million copies worldwide compared to 17.67 million from “Diamond” and “Pearl,” the game was still considered a massive success to fans and critics alike.

For gamers looking for a sense of nostalgia, “Pokemon Platinum” strikes a good balance of modern and retro features. Like the Pokemon games that came before it, such as “Pokemon Emerald” or “Pokemon FireRed,” the game features a young Pokemon trainer who journeys off into the world as they train and battle to become a Pokemon master. As the game was part of the Pokemon generation (Gen IV) released for the Nintendo DS, it was among the first to feature WiFi capabilities. This allowed for players to battle or trade with friends that also had the game as long as they were within range of the player. Gen IV also added the Nintendo Plaza for players to battle and connect with other players around the world.

As an enhanced version of the “Pokemon Diamond” and “Pokemon Pearl” series, Platinum improved upon the flaws in “Diamond” and “Pearl” such as the graphics or the increased battle times between Pokemon. Many critics considered the game mechanics such as surfing or battling from “Diamond” and “Pearl” to be slow compared to previous generations but “Platinum” significantly increased the game speed for the user. However, the biggest draw for fans was the added storyline that the “Diamond” and “Pearl” games did not have.

The cover Pokemon, Giratina, is introduced in a more immersive story in which the main character must enter the distortion world to capture the legendary ghost dragon Pokemon; as opposed to the Spear Pillar in the “Diamond” and “Pearl” games. The distortion world added twists and turns for the player to navigate in order to catch Giratina. But before that sequence, the player must battle Cyrus, the team Galactic villain that serves as the main antagonist throughout the game.

Although “Pokemon Platinum” was released nearly 12 years ago, the game serves as a representation of the technological advances that differed between the Gen III games or even the Gen IV “Diamond” and “Pearl” games that came before it. “Platinum” improved upon many of the problems that “Diamond” and “Pearl” had and added an expansive storyline that immersed the player into another dimension, the Distortion world.

‘ARK: Survival Evolved’

Courtesy of Studio Wildcard

By: Cody Davis, SSW

We are more than a month into quarantine, and by now many people have already exhausted their entertainment options. For gamers, this means revisiting older titles and playing games we never really had time for. One title that I have revisited and recommend is “Ark: Survival Evolved.”

“ARK: Survival Evolved” is a survival game that blends prehistoric and sci-fi elements. In the early stages of the game, your goal is to build weapons, tools, establish a base and tame different creatures that will help in the survival process. As you progress, you will earn skill points that you can use to upgrade your player’s attributes. Furthermore, you gain what is referred to as “engram points” that can be used to unlock different tiers for crafting weapons, tools, structures and items.

ARK’s appeal stems from the non-linear design. There are no missions to complete other than the goals and objectives you set for yourself. Players are free to explore and build a base anywhere they see fit. For casuals, the PvE (Player versus Environment) game mode offers a relaxed atmosphere where players can interact without fear of being killed and looted. For the hardcore crowd, the PvP (Player versus Player) game mode offers a rewarding, but at times unforgiving experience where players are able to raid and attack each other.

Though ARK can be played offline, the game is more interesting whenever you join an online server whether it be PvE or PvP. This is because the game has a feature where you can form a group or “tribe” with other players and then work together to survive. Being part of a tribe is beneficial since it can help reduce the workload of gathering resources, taming or even building a base. If you do decide to join a PvP server, tribes become even more essential since you will inevitably come into conflict with other players that want nothing more than to destroy you.

I highly recommend “Ark: Survival Evolved” to anyone interested in open-world survival games. This game can become addicting especially if you play with friends. Once you start playing, you will find yourself investing more time into improving your base and taming different creatures. For those who want to join a PvP server, I advise you to be aware of the merciless nature of the game. You can easily sink hours into it only to get raided and have nothing to show for it.