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So, what are you playing?

by: Randy -
More On: What we're playing
The future of Xbox isn't hinged on the Xbox Series X, it's on Xbox Game Pass. The 2002-2014 G4 TV network is coming back in 2021, and you can play Pong on its website while you wait. And Epic continues to roll in the dough as Fox Sports uses the Unreal Engine to fill empty stadiums with NPCs.
So, what are you playing?
Sean Colleli
After taking it easy in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town for the past couple weeks, I headed to the diametric end of the spectrum with Carrion from Phobia Game Studio. This so-called "reverse horror game" is basically the David Cronenberg-John Carpenter team-up sequel to The Thing that we never got. It's a Metroidvania where you play as an abomination of flesh, tentacles and teeth, terrorizing and devouring everyone in a top-secret research facility. Considering Metroidvanias usually play the other way around, this is a fascinating concept and I'm having a lot of fun with this one. Stay tuned for my full review.
Other than nomming scientist faces I'm still grinding away at No Man's Sky, trying to coerce my brother into joining me for multiplayer. I admit to a bit of grind exploitation, by using the portal coordinate system to jump to a space station that happens to be an endless spawn of very high-tier ships. With enough starting capital (and patience for grind) you can essentially scrap and/or flip these things endlessly, racking up huge amounts of space bucks, nanite clusters and high-level upgrades. I've promised my brother $100,000,000 in Space Bucks and the No Man's Sky equivalent of a fully tricked out Maserati if he joins my game, so hopefully that sweetens the pot.
Eric Hauter
I'm afraid that I have to now ask myself, is the Power Rangers fighting game my gateway drug into the genre? I used to enjoy fighting games in a button-mashy sort of way, but never fully engaged with them enough to get good. I bounced off of Injustice a few years ago, and haven't looked back since. But now, out of left field, I can't stop playing Power Ranger on Stadia. My son and I powered through the entire campaign the other day, and now I'm starting to jump online, looking for matches. I suck, of course, but I can't stop playing. Now I'm tempted to give other fighting games in my library a second look. I have Mortal Kombat X, and I've never even touched it. Why not? This could be my new favorite thing.
Speaking of new favorite things, I've also foolishly dipped my toe into Warframe, and I find that I'm enjoying that game in a rather unnatural fashion as well. Inspired by Nathon Grayson's recent Kotaku article "Oh No, I'm Hooked on Warframe Now", I figured that maybe the weird, sprawling shooter might stick with me a little better than Destiny or Anthem. And you know what? I was right! Warframe is crazy, and awesome. I have a space ninja who runs around one-shotting dudes with a crossbow, and melee-ing baddies in the face with an electric sword. It's so cool, I can't get over it. If you haven't tried Warframe, you totally should. It's free, and it's available on every modern console. What do you have to lose?
Randy Kalista
I sound grumpy about this but I'm not. I'm just "engaging the text," as we used to say in freshman literature classes. But here I am trying to engage the text in Pillars of Eternity, yet another in an endless parade of award-winning role-playing games from Obsidian Entertainment. Hurdle #1, isometric camera angles, by their very nature, leave me too far removed from being in my character's shoes—the antithesis of role-playing for me. Hurdle #2, regarding that same angle, the entire game world is reduced to maybe a 25-yard radius, the antithesis of open-world gaming, which I'm quite fond of. Hurdle #3, it's tedious pecking away at numbered dialogue trees that amount to nothing more than NPCs spouting out snippets of glossary pages. (1. Tell me more about that. 2. Tell me more about that. 3. Can we circle back around so you can tell me more about that?) For someone raised on "Show, Don't Tell," this is all Tell.
Is this Pillars of Eternity's entire M.O.? I doubt it. Yet those hurdles still exist for me, more than two decades later. I'm a little more bound and determined to hurdle them right now, however, considering Obsidian announced its next RPG, Avowed, is first-person (Hurdle #1 down!), is an open world bigger and denser than Skyrim (Hurdle #2 down!), and, at least so far, there's nary a wall of glossary-entries-dressed-as-dialogue to be seen (Hurdle #3 unconfirmed). So, good luck, Obsidian. If Bethesda ain't gonna Bethesda, then maybe Obsidian will. 
John Yan
Someone posted instructions on how to get X-Wing Alliance working in VR so I'm going to spend my weekend flying around in an X-Wing or Tie Fighter virtually. While Squadrons has me hyped for some Star Wars ship combat, I can look to see if this will keep me satisfied until then. Not like X-Wing Alliance was a bad game, it was quite good. If VR is half as good as the videos I've seen of it in action, it's going to be damn fun.
I'll probably also hit up an in game night or two of 7 Days to Die. The stable release for the latest alpha should be hitting soon and I'm checking things out to see how different it is from the previous version. There are some biomes that will absolutely murder you now that didn't before. (I'm looking at you snow biome!) But so far I'm digging what I'm seeing in the latest alpha.