What's ROG playing this month?

Articles: Gaming
Dec 12, 2020 Written by:Eric Born

The virtual ROG office has been bustling this holiday season with recent hardware launches, big trade shows on the horizon, and exciting events for the PC DIY community. We're still finding time to check out new games and revisit old favorites, though. Here’s how a few members of the team have been filling their free time. Keep checking back in every month as we discuss games that grab our attention, new and old alike.

Chris Barr - Social Team

When I think of an assassin, I don’t normally think of Vikings and Norse mythology. After more than 30 hours of taking out targets across England and Norway in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I can attest that Vikings make surprisingly excellent stealthy killers.

The game follows the story of Eivor, a Viking who seeks revenge for their father’s betrayal. (You can choose your player character’s gender at the beginning of the game). As you seek out your sworn enemy, you meet members of a secret order of Hidden Ones who reveal that your target is part of a larger, ancient evil order that seeks to gain power across England and Norway.

chrisAfter some reluctance, they give you the gift of a Hidden Blade and the knowledge of how to employ it in exchange for your assistance in taking down your mutual foe. Eventually, you sail with your clan to England, looking to start a new life and carve out your own part of the world. Here your journey truly begins as you build a settlement, forge alliances, and as the title implies, stealthily take out targets as you root out the hidden members of the Order of Ancients.

Valhalla’s open world is full of excitement and breathtaking landscapes that I’ve found easy to lose myself in for hours at a time. Certain territories are only suited for higher-level characters, but he game lets me go just about anywhere with a little bit of effort. Perhaps one of my favorite things about the game is that I can scale virtually any cliff or wall that stands between me and my prey.

While stealth is the name of the assassination game, Vikings aren’t known for their silent battles. The game strikes a fantastic balance between stealth assassination and brutal Viking raids. In true Viking fashion, you can choose between a wide array of melee weapons and bows that will be your primary source of mayhem. As you progress through the game, you gain access to a range of abilities that turn your Viking hero into an unstoppable force.

If you’re a completionist like me, Valhalla offers a variety of tasks and targets that will keep you entertained for many hours without overwhelming you with busywork. Many of the world events that you stumble across have a unique bit of flavor and story that makes the world feel alive. 

Brian May - Social Team

Recently, I glanced at my library and wondered out loud, “When the hell did I buy Portal 2?” The game has been in my library for over five years, uninstalled. It almost makes me question whether I can call myself a gamer.

brianI’m not a complete stranger to the Portal universe. I played the original when I was younger. That game was significantly shorter, yet it was still challenging and rewarding. I felt a tingle of nostalgia as I booted up Portal 2 and was welcomed by the iconic Valve logo and haunting title screen music. Right from the introduction, the game shows you that the environment of simple test chambers has changed. The deterioration of the initial test facility runs rampant throughout all the stages: some familiar, and some destroyed. It’s fascinating how your forward progress is sometimes dependent on taking advantage of your ruined surroundings.

I made myself a promise to never open a Portal 2 YouTube guide. I wanted to experience these puzzles as they were intended. But then I spent an hour in the third act of the game trapped in a single deteriorating test chamber. I thought I had tried everything. I reluctantly opened the guide only to be amazed at my own stupidity. The puzzle solving in this game is tough, but the process of decoding the maze you are trapped in is plenty fulfilling. Toward the end of the game, something just clicked. I began flying through puzzles as I finally understood all the possibilities afforded by the portal gun. 

I think Portal 2’s reputation as the “best puzzle game ever” is well deserved. Powered by the Source engine, this game has aged incredibly well. Its graphics may no longer be cutting-edge, but the gameplay with the portal gun is as fresh as it ever was. The hilarious dialogue rewards the player the further they progress through the game ascending. I am embarrassed that I missed this title upon its launch, as I can only imagine how this game could have molded my early gaming enthusiasm. Almost 10 years later, Portal 2 is still a groundbreaking entry and a must buy. 

Jeff Kampman - Content Marketing

It's not the flashiest game out there, but Undertale certainly has the most soul of anything I've played in the past decade, and it'll always be near and dear to my heart. Somewhere along the line, it got lodged in my head that Undertale creator Toby Fox cited another indie legend, Cave Story, as an inspiration for his breakout hit. I'd never gotten around to playing Cave Story to see what all the fuss was about, so when I had the chance to grab that title off the Epic Games Store for free of late, I finally jumped.

jeff-rog-squareUnlike the bullet-hell-inspired gameplay of Undertale, Cave Story is first and foremost a platformer with some run-and-gun elements. Problem is, I hate platformers. I've never been very good at them, I don't usually have fun in them, and I feared that I would quickly run up against my personal skill limits with the genre. Once I actually started jumping around and firing off sprays of fireballs and missiles, I quickly found that I had nothing to fear from Cave Story. The game absolutely hooked me with how tight its movement feels and how well its gameplay elements work together. The feel and timing of the jumping mechanic especially is lovingly tuned and feels better than any other platformer I've played.

The selection and style of the protagonist's weapons in particular warped me right back to my formative days playing Jazz Jackrabbit on our family PC circa 1995 or so. The weapon upgrade mechanic, which relies on pickups for level progression but can fall right back down again if you take damage, gave me an immediate reason to stop sucking so much in combat. Keeping every weapon at its maximum level throughout each area is a rewarding challenge and an important practice for clearing bosses.

Of course, fans of Undertale will know how emotionally gutting that game can be. Cave Story isn't nearly as insistent on going straight for the feels, but from what I've played so far, it's not shy about putting you in uncomfortable positions where the only outcome is a tragic one. Those moments don't feel cheap or unearned in the least, and I'll remember them well after I finish the game. The catchy soundtrack, composed by developer Daisuke Amaya himself, foreshadowed the kind of indie-auteur opus that sprang forth in Undertale. If you've been wondering about Cave Story's considerable influence on indie gaming in the nearly two decades since its release, it's well worth picking up and experiencing for the consummate indie gem that it is.