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Well, it’s uh, been a bit barren around here of late, huh? Apologies for that – I’ve been a bit busy and just haven’t been in the mood to write.

Today is different though. Today, I just feel like writing for the sake of writing, so I thought I’d throw together some words about what I’m currently playing. If you’ve read the title, you’ve probably guessed that I’m playing a few too many games at the moment; I tend to play one title until I’m done and then move on, but every now and then I get a sudden urge to play something specific. Like the first game in this list, which I’ve been meaning to play for quite some time, and felt the sudden need to do so after a certain E3 reveal.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I’m currently using my Wii U to get through a bit of my Wii backlog. I really appreciate that the Wii U is backward compatible, and wish that my XBO and PS4 were, too. Having to switch between these three consoles as well as PS3 and 360 is a bit of a pain, so it’s great that I can tackle my Wii catalogue without having to hook up another console.

I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t played Twilight Princess before – I’d stupidly walked away from the series for years after the Wind Waker reveal – and I’ve always seen the game palmed off as basically being an Ocarina re-imagining. This, I think does Twilight Princess a bit of a disservice. Every Zelda game since Ocarina has of course followed that basic template, but Twilight Princess feels to me like the ultimate evolution of that blueprint. So far, it’s everything I wanted from a follow-up to Ocarina of Time – grand, epic and mysterious, with a bit more of a focus on storytelling, and infused with a melancholy atmosphere that few games manage to achieve.

It also feels like the largest, most expansive Zelda adventure to date (in terms of landmass, certainly). More than ever, Hyrule feels like a real place; from the bustling Castle Town, full of citizens going about their daily lives, to the Gorons of Death Mountain, enjoying a relaxing hot spring while Link adventures through their territory. It’s a world filled with memorable characters, none more so than Link’s constant companion Midna, who goes from mischievous imp to sincere friend and ally to Link.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I love Midna. Go home, Navi and Fi.

Oh, and then there’s the music, which I’ll be writing about a bit more in a few days. While it’s a bit of a shame that Nintendo decided not to go for a fully orchestrated score (something they did achieve, with fantastic results, in 2011’s Skyward Sword), this doesn’t detract from the quality of the compositions. And while the game can occasionally look a bit muddy and muted (especially in the starting area of Ordon Village), it frequently looks absolutely beautiful – just witness Faron spirit spring as the sun’s going down – and more often than not, the music and visuals come together in such beautiful ways, like a journey through the strangely familiar Sacred Grove set to a melancholy reimagining of Saria’s Song.

Having just arrived at the Arbiter’s Grounds, I feel as though I’m approaching the halfway mark in the game, and if it continues at its current pace, Twilight Princess might well end up as my favourite Zelda game of all time.

Tales of Xillia
I love Tales of Xillia. Not only do I have the expensive Milla Maxwell edition, but it’s also signed by Hideo Baba. So this isn’t my first time through the world of Rieze Maxia. But with the sequel out next month, it felt like a good time to revisit Xillia and its great cast of characters, and I decided to use the occasion to play through the game as Milla.

For the uninitiated, from the off Tales of Xillia gives you the option to play as either conscientious med student Jude Mathis or all-powerful Lord of Spirits Milla Maxwell. The two split up – briefly – a few times throughout the story, so to see what the other lead is up to during those short periods of absence, you’ll need to play through it twice.

I’ve taken the opportunity to completely ruin the challenge of a game that was already easy by spending my accumulated grade (points earned through battle) to carry 5 x EXP, double damage, the ultimate weapons and a few other perks through into my new game plus. Five hours in, I’m closing in on level 30 and absolutely flying through the game.

But that’s all I wanted – to play through the other side of the story quickly, reacquainting myself with the world and its characters before Tales of Xillia 2 launches in a little over a month. And yes, I have the expensive Ludger Kresnik edition pre-ordered. I can’t help myself.

Dragon Age: Origins
Now here’s one I started a few months back and sort-of abandoned. I started the PC Ultimate Edition a while ago, intending to play both it and its sequel before the promising-looking Dragon Age: Inquisition launches at the end of the year. I got stuck and decided to park it for a while, and I’ve just recently gone back to playing it on my laptop when I can’t get access to the TV.

It’s not the first time I’ve abandoned the game; I bought it just after release on 360, rolled a mage, and then realised how redundant I was once I had both Morrigan and Wynne in my party. This time, I’ve gone for a rogue, and so far I’m enjoying stealthing around enemies to get an idea of the lay of the land before bringing the rest of my party steaming in. You can see my Dalish Rogue, Meadghbh, below.

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I’m only at the Tower of Ishal in Ostagar right now, but hopefully this time I’ll be able to see the game through. Then it’ll be on to Dragon Age 2, which I recently managed to grab for under £4 in the Xbox 360 Ultimate Games Sale. With that sitting on my hard drive and a pre-order down on Inquisition, that should give me ample motivation to finish.

Others
Those three are my ‘main missions’, if you will, but I’ve also got a number of other things on the go at the moment. On Vita, I’ve got both Borderlands 2 and Final Fantasy X on the go. I had actually set FFX aside to get stuck into Borderlands 2, where I’ve been playing as the Mechromancer Gaige and her killer buddy Deathtrap (“love ya, bot!”), but recently I’ve been trying to get a bit of each done here and there, according to my mood. On Borderlands, I’m just about to head to the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, whereas in Spira I’m currently halfway through the Thunder Plains. Then there’s always Project Diva f when I need five or ten minutes of rhythm action goodness.

On Xbox One, I’m currently playing through July’s free Games with Gold release, Guacamelee (or Super Mextroid, as I’ve taken to calling it). I didn’t really pay it any mind when it hit PS Plus last year, and I’m glad I got another chance to try it out, because it’s really good – a Metroidvania with a luchador aesthetic, absolutely filled to the brim with references and call-outs to classic games.

Speaking of Games with Gold, I’m nearly finished with June’s game, puzzle-platformer Max and the Curse of Brotherhood. I’ve enjoyed playing through it in very short bursts, and while it’s a good looking, inventive game, I’m glad I managed to get it for free. Lastly, on PS4 I’m still playing Ubisoft RGP Child of Light. Well, sort of. I chose to play the game on hard and some battles can be frustratingly unbalanced, leading to me setting the game aside a few times. I think I’ll need to make a conscious effort to push through the rest of it soon, if only to get to the end.

I’ve mentioned abandoning games above, and this is usually how it happens – I start too many things ‘just because’ and then some just never get finished. It’s something I try to avoid these days, as it’s just a waste of money to have so many unfinished games. I’m determined to finish off the ones I’ve talked about here though – hopefully before I have to add the likes of Bayonetta 2, Destiny, Alien Isolation and more to add to my ridiculous backlog!

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It’s November 1st. Later this month, Microsoft and Sony’s next generation consoles will be hitting the shelves and we’ll all be neglecting our previous gen workhorses as we get pulled in by the new shiny ones. I have been planning a Games of the Generation article for a while, and the original idea was for it to have a similar structure to my Games of the Year piece from last year, listing a number of games and writing a couple of paragraphs about each. The more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that that concept wouldn’t work; there’s just so many more games to choose from that I’d probably end up writing tens of thousands of words, and that’s just too much for a single article. No one would read it, and I wouldn’t blame them.

So I’m going to pick a game every couple of days (or so) and write about that. I’ll then link to previous entries in all of the following articles so that you can keep track of them all. Some ground rules: I’m counting games on 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS and Vita as well as any PC games that have been released since the 360 launched (I know the PC doesn’t have ‘generations’, but I want to include a couple of games from that platform). I’m not counting Wii U for two reasons: firstly, it’s Nintendo’s challenger to PS4 and Xbox One, and secondly, I don’t even own one yet. If the mood takes me, I might even throw in a PSP or DS game (provided it saw release after the Xbox 360 – that’s my cut off point).

One last point: I’m not putting these in any kind of numerical order. I’m listing the games I’ve loved throughout this generation of gaming, not ranking them. It’s often hard enough to rank the best games in a given year, let alone an entire generation.

So, without further ado, here’s my first entry. And considering what day it was yesterday, it’s a very apt pick.

Dead Space 2
ds2banI loved Dead Space when it launched in late 2008. Loved it. A stunning-looking new IP that melded the best bits of Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon and Resident Evil 4? Count me the hell in! It ended up being my second favourite game of 2008 and I immediately began pining for a sequel.

Dead Space 2 launched at the start of 2011, and unfortunately I couldn’t afford it at the time. Releasing it right after Christmas possibly wasn’t the best idea, and I had to resign myself to waiting a few weeks until I could get my hands on it (on the plus side, waiting three weeks meant I only paid £24!). In the weeks that followed release, I got to read a lot of other people’s impressions and it seemed that EA and Visceral had stuffed up. Apparently they’d taken out the horror and turned Dead Space into an action shooter! Dead Space 2 was Resi 5 in space!

Except it wasn’t. When I eventually got my hands on the game, I found these claims to be massively overblown; Dead Space 2 is largely more of the same, and that’s ok by me. The game begins with Isaac regaining consciousness and finding himself straitjacketed in the midst of another Necromorph outbreak, a horrifically gruesome scene playing out before him. Unable to defend himself, Isaac is forced to run, and we’re immediately back into familiar Dead Space territory; dark futuristic corridors, ambient lighting and sheer bloody horror. The first game’s excellent, immersive in-game HUD is back, as are the static-y, hurried radio communications we remember, and it’s not too long before we’ve recovered the now-iconic plasma cutter.

Sure, there may be a few more necromorphs here and there trying to tear your face off, and sure, there are some impressively huge Uncharted-style set-pieces such as that train ride or Isaac’s frankly insane space jump through a debris field, but they fit in with the tone of the game. Dead Space 2 is all about escalation; we’re not on a derelict ship in orbit around a distant world this time, we’re on The Sprawl, an enormous space station built on the remains of Saturn’s moon Titan, meaning that the threat in this sequel is right on Earth’s doorstep (relatively speaking). The Sprawl is a civilian structure, so it presents a number of different environments from the moody mining installations of the previous game, taking in shopping malls, hospitals, an elaborate gothic, almost Giger-esque church and even an elementary school. God, that school… For anyone thinking that Dead Space had given up it’s twisted horror roots for the second game, that school will quickly set them straight. And then promptly live in the space at the back of their minds where nightmares come from.

The atmosphere is there, too. That thick, cloying, suffocating mood backed up with excellent audio design and that maddening quiet-loud mechanic that spends as long as it needs to to get every hair on your body standing on end, your skin prickling in anticipation. Just like Dead Space, this is a game that you will play constantly on edge (especially if, like me, you play it in the dark with surround sound…). Like anything in the horror genre, familiarity can lessen the fear, and that does hold true for Dead Space 2 to a certain degree; you’ll never relive the first time you saw a Necromorph tear an NPC limb from limb, or disappear from sight only to emerge, slavering from an air duct behind you. But this is where the atmosphere and audio design come into their own, backed up this time by a greater focus on psychological horror; Isaac spent much of the first game searching for his missing girlfriend Nicole, only to learn she had died before he had even arrived. In Dead Space 2 he is haunted by crazed visions of her, and it is apparent that he is mentally suffering, visions seemingly seeping into the real world and making both player and protagonist sometimes question what’s real.

So Dead Space 2 isn’t the full-on horror-free action game I had been led to believe, and now, post-Dead Space 3, these claims do look rather overblown. I’ve since seen a parallel drawn between the Dead Space and Alien franchises; people claim that as Aliens was to Alien, Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space. I don’t entirely agree with that either; while both Alien and the first DS were claustrophobic sci-fi horror experiences, Aliens took that template and made a suspenseful, dark action movie out of it. Sure, there are more monsters and bigger set pieces in Dead Space 2, but it’s still a claustrophobic sci-fi horror experience.

There are a couple more things worth pointing out. Firstly, the original game’s zero-gravity sections return, but here they’re much more playable. Zero-gravity in Dead Space meant jumping from point to point and was handled almost entirely by the game; you aim where you want to go, press a button and zoom straight there. In Dead Space 2, you are completely free to roam around in 3D space thanks to the small boosters on Isaac’s suit, and it makes moving around the game’s zero-g spaces not only much more enjoyable, but more creative too. Secondly, though Dead Space was already a very good looking game, the sequel is an utterly spectacular visual feast for console players – it’s easily one of the best looking titles of the current generation, and I’m very interested to see what Visceral can manage in the coming generation.

Oh, and one final thing: Ellie Langford is a friggin’ badass.