Our resident, evil video-games aficionado Saman Izadyar takes newbie’s on a rainbow road to success, with this guide to entry-level gaming!
Unlike other forms of entertainment, video games can be ridiculously difficult to get into. They are kind of like martial arts in a way. You may see a black belt run up a wall, do a backflip and snap someone’s neck with their pinkie fingers (I assume this is what happens in martial arts classes); but when you try to replicate the move you’ve witnessed, you end up running into the wall and tearing a hole in your pants in front of the entire dojo. This is the equivalent of picking up a popular first-person shooter game like Battlefield and jumping headfirst into an online match against other people. You will most likely get your arse handed to you. Unfortunately, this could put you off gaming altogether if you lack the persistence, because frankly, no one likes to lose. However, if you take note of the sacred teachings that ensue, you too can metaphorically perform backflips with your pants intact.
Much like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, pacing is crucial. You need to get accustomed to the physical requirements that video game playing will bring. Thus, 2D games become your best friend. The third dimension can make games very difficult to play, but it isn’t an entirely necessary component of a great game. There are copious 2D games that you may have already played, from classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders to mobile games like Snake or Candy Crush, but these only scratch the surface when it comes to quality. So here are a few alternative 2D games that can give you a glimpse of how great gaming can be, whilst simultaneously giving you the experience to tackle harder, more complex games.
One game to consider is Limbo. The best thing about this artistic puzzle game is that it’s available on every platform you could ever imagine. Essentially meaning that you have no excuse not to play it. If you don’t have a console or are understandably scared of PC gaming, then you can get it on both Android and iOS… rumour has it you can even plug in your microwave and play it on that but be warned as overheating problems are reportedly common. Back to the point, Limbo has a pretty distinctive art style which makes you want to shove it in the face of anyone that claims video games aren’t art and wail an obnoxious “HA!”. Basically, it looks cool. The game consists mostly of running, jumping and grabbing things, making it a suitable first game. That is, if you can handle getting chased by a humongous spider and watching a small boy get killed in a variety of gruesome ways. Limbo’s calm, monochromatic ambience lulls you into a false sense of security and then brutally snatches it away to create a solid, unique experience.
If instead you would like to pass on watching a child drown, get impaled by spikes or repeatedly break his legs, then maybe you would be more suited to a colourful little game called Castle Crashers. Castle Crashers is like Limbo’s dumber but funnier cousin, swapping puzzles and ominous vibes for heaps of enemies and a selection of wacky weaponry. It overflows with personality and will probably be the funniest 2D side-scroller you will play. An example of how ridiculous it gets is when you come face to face with a giant cob of corn who sheds popcorn every time you attack it. Furthermore, you can even enjoy it with up to three friends and bond over saving princesses, but then ultimately fall out as you all rush to be the one who gets the kiss. There’s a very simple level-up system which allows you to improve your character in strength, agility, defence and magic. This, the humour and the fact that you can collect cute pet companions, distinguishes it between all the other 2D beat-em ups.
Another area of gaming that is great for beginners is the strategy genre. The genre has historically been partitioned into two segments: real-time (RTS) and turn-based (TBS), which play exactly as you would expect. In the latter you take turns to make your move, meaning that you can (usually) take as long as you want to act. This makes TBS perfect for any newbie gamer, because it removes the stress of forgetting controls in the middle of an important moment. XCOM: Enemy Within is a good starting place, since it’s on most platforms like Limbo. In XCOM, the human race is in a state of utter peril after aliens start invading Earth. You must subsequently take charge of an international military organisation and thwart the aliens. The combat system is very in-depth, giving players near endless combinations of ways to exterminate the aliens, from conventional firearms and tactics, to massive robots overflowing with firepower and psychic abilities. A word of warning, XCOM is extremely hard and most players will lose the first time they play it (including me!). Don’t let it stop you though, although you won’t last very long the first time, it gets better with experience. They should have called it SEXCOM.
If the thought of a slow-paced chess-like TBS game doesn’t tickle your fancy, then maybe a faster real-time strategy game is your cup of tea. Look no further than Toy Soldiers, a unique blend of RTS and tower defence set during the First World War. I find normal tower defence games tedious, since you mostly sit idle whilst your towers do all the work. However, the difference here is that you can take control of any tower you build. It’s a small alteration but it makes a huge difference. It’s a lot less complicated when compared to XCOM so it serves as the more accessible option. Oh, and if it wasn’t clear enough from the title, all the soldiers are made from plastic and the battlefield is a huge toy box. Quirky.
Once you’ve conquered Earth, won a world war, killed a massive spider and saved all of the princesses, you’ll be ready for the true 3D masterpieces. Learning how to control both the camera and movement can be tricky, so again, it’s good to start with something basic. Journey represents just how enchanting the digital art form can be. Flying over the shimmering sand dunes of Journey is the definition of majestic. And that’s the extent of gameplay you will face. There’s no dialogue, but a vague story can be deduced from murals and monuments. The focus is on awe-inspiring music and an indescribable relaxing atmosphere instead. It’s a pretty short experience but a memorable one nonetheless.
Once you finish Journey, you come close to finishing your video game journey. Now you’re ready to play something from the cream of the crop tier. I’m pleased to introduce you to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It has everything, from a thrilling story to thorough character development, a bombastic soundtrack to gripping combat. No other game will make you feel like you’re there than The Witcher 3. It’s considered by many to be the pinnacle of gaming and thankfully, due to four distinct difficulty levels, it can be enjoyed by everyone. A word of caution though, playing this game may ruin any other game that you play after it. You will find yourself uttering “Witcher 3 had [insert missing feature]” followed by a huge sigh after every new game you play. Thus, if you never want to play a video game ever again, end your hobby on a high note with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
– SAMAN IZADYAR