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What to play during the summer release drought

Wednesday, 9th July 2014 08:07 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The long, dark silence between stars is as nothing to July, the month the games industry starts its summer nap. Welcome to The Drought, Here are our survival tips.

Heat haze hangs over the streets, or possibly frost rimes your windows, but in either case, it’s that time of year when, for whatever reason, the mainstream games industry goes quiet. Developers are still hard at work, of course, preparing the holiday and early new year glut, but right now we’re in what’s commonly referred to as a “release drought”.

Just because there’s no reason to skip merrily down to your local bricks-and-mortar doesn’t mean you have to stop gaming, though: here are our own personal tactics for finding games to play during the quiet months.

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Go through your Steam and Humble Bundle back catalogues

Be honest – how many of those über-cheap games have you actually played for longer than a few minutes? Yes, that’s what I thought.

You have the time now, but we understand that doesn’t always work out. You stare at your library and you feel listless, uninspired. Probably all these games are great but it’s just not what you want to play now.

This fatigue can be combated. Make up a rule and stick to it. Go in alphabetical order, or order of least played, or any other system, and set a time – you must give the game at least an hour of your time. If at the end of that period you’re still not in the mood, uninstall it and move onto the next. But there’s a pretty solid chance you’ll be absorbed and enjoying yourself by then. You’re welcome.

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Chase after achievements

Achievement hounds do what they do for a lot of reasons – bragging rights, unquestioned compulsion, a desire to see everything a game has to offer or to get their money’s worth. Your reason is simpler: you’re bored and need a reason to revisit games you’ve already tried.

Hunting for achievements can reinvigorate your interest in gaming because it forces you to approach a game in a new way – instead of just tackling your objectives and advancing the plot, you’re trying to nail a particular goal. Say you need to use a specific ability a certain number of times; doing so will likely teach you how best that ability works, and what tactical advantages it lends, and may end up altering your whole approach.

There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in grabbing a complete or near-complete set of achievements, not the least of which is comparing your performance to your friends. Challenge a buddy to match your accomplishments. Speaking of buddies…

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Organise a regular multiplayer session

Gaming with a regular group of friends is one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby. While clans and guilds can be a bit of a chore – not everyone has time for three raids a week – a more casual arrangement with a few buds can be brilliant.

Maybe you and your best mate could play through a few campaigns in co-op mode, which is often an entirely different experience to playing alone or with drop-in randoms. Maybe you could get a few friends together one night a week to work as a team in your favourite shooter. Maybe you want to work your way through an MMO together, going apart in your own time to grind, gather, craft and do faction quests then returning to explore and raid in tandem.

It’s a little bit more effort, but if you can convince your friends to occupy the same physical space – ie, your living room – then dig out your old split-screen games and multi-taps, crack a few brews, don’t stint on the snacks, and enjoy a cheap night of entertainment.

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Try something different

In the words of the Monty Python crew, “and now for something completely different”. So there are no shooters releasing this month, and shooters are your bag. Maybe it’s time to lash out on something else? What if you’re some kind of Civilization savant, and you’ve never given yourself the time and space to find out?

Too often we let ourselves be hemmed in by specific genres or aesthetics, and it means we miss out on challenging, absorbing games. I’m not saying you have to go from FIFA and Call of Duty to Barbie’s Dream Home or whatever, but what about trying cartoony puzzle adventure Valiant Hearts: The Great War, or colourful but satisfyingly violent action RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, or the over-the-top outrageous versus fighter JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle, or the grimly difficult simulation Papers, Please?

One of the best things about branching out from the latest triple-A releases is that you can often get something cool and different for not very much money. Ask for recommendations on social networking and forums – heck, ask in the comments thread here – and take a chance on something you would never otherwise try. Those people banging on about how good a game is aren’t doing it for their health; they found something to love, and you might, too.

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Check in with 2014 so far

I know it’s hard to feel satisfied with what you’ve got now when October seems to be chock-full of things you’re dying to pick up, but if you absolutely must have a new triple-A experience this month, try expanding your definition of “new” to include “2014 to date”. After the gorgeing that is the holiday season, we get a second bout of strong new releases in the new year, and a lot of these can fly under the radar because we’re not in the consumer mood.

Putting aside re-releases and ports, this year’s triple-A releases include The Lego Movie Videogame, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13, Thief, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dark Souls 2, Titanfall, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, InFamous: Second Son, The Elder Scrolls Online, Trials Fusion, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, Drakengard 3, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Murdered: Soul Suspect and Tomodachi Life.

I refuse to believe you have played and finished everything on that list.

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Give up and lie in a bathtub full of ice/boiling water

If nothing on this list appeals to you, it’s very likely your suffering from Chronic Gaming Fatigue. After two console launches in late 2013, the incredible blowout that was E3 2014, and the exhausting process of filling in your end-of-year shopping list, we can’t really blame you. You are hereby granted permission to hide from extremes of weather and play Candy Crush Saga on your phone. We won’t tell.

Give us your recommendations for games to play while we wait out the drought, and share your top tips for making the most of your existing collections!

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14 Comments

  1. TheWulf

    I like baths!

    I’ve also been playing a lot of multiplayer games though with a couple of friends, and that’s been a fun way to pass the time. Divinity: Original Sin has had its amusing moments, especially in combat when you realise just exactly how something is going to affect everyone in the combat scenario, including your co-op partner. That’s lead to a few entertaining ‘oops’ moments.

    Perhaps one of the best being one battle where I was almost continually on fire due to how I chose really bad positioning to hold, so I was smack dab in the bunch of a friendly and enemy fire AoEs. I’m almost suurprised that my cleric didn’t lose his cotton candy afro amidst all that.

    I’ve also been playing older games.

    The thing is is that there’s shit all I can do about the current state of games, this is something I’ve had to accept, that the extroverted masses are the ones most games are being made for, these days. So something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an oasis amidst a long, unending drought. Whereas there used to be lots of non-violent games about a variety of topics, that’s not so much the case, these days.

    So I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the past.

    My old console library, my PC disks and discs, and GoG.com have been perfect for that. Not only that, but a lady friend has been streaming the Tex Murphy games, as she’s decided that she wants to do that before she plays Tesla Effect, which I can completely understand. And that’s been a marvellous trip down memory lane.

    And then there’s been Starbound.

    Thanks to mods, Starbound has been a laugh. The lady friend and I are more into the building and decorating aspect of things, so we’ve lots of mods that do and add lots of interesting things, from decorations to new technologies that allow us to have everything from VVVVVV-ish gravity lifts to indoor plumbing. I’m not sure how many of you have been exposed to it, but the Starbound modding scene is a genuinely joyous thing, and prolific.

    It also feels oldschool. Considering that we’ve been modding like crazy, I’ve been building my own mods, and we’ve spent more time just having fun than we have at running around and killing things. In fact, the killing has been relatively minimal, and generally kept to bosses that we actually need to take down to unlock new levels of technology.

    Though I’d love to see someone actually create an alternative to that, perhaps a few dungeons generated on your starting planet that have the unlocks presented as item pick ups. And to get them, you have to venture through a veritable obstacle course of traps and environmental hazards. That would be rad.

    Might have to poke the community about that.

    The Starbound modding community, do check it out if you haven’t.

    And speaking of mods… I’ve been playing a number of player made scenarios for Shadowrun Returns. Suffice it to say, Shadowrun Returns is today’s Neverwinter Nights. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. See, the main campaigns are incredibly bad, but the player-made stuff has been nothing short of incredible. There are some genuinely memorable stories out there which are worth playing. If you’ve bought Shadowrun Returns and you’ve only played the official campaigns, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

    And then I’ve been randomly playing Spore because I felt like it. It’s a game where I can raise a pacifistic race of critters, and it entertains me so.

    So that sums up how I’ve been handling it, since the drought has lasted longer for me than it has for most.

    #1 1 month ago
  2. AmiralPatate

    I’m playing Rayman Legends. Good game. The only bad thing is Uplay.

    #2 1 month ago
  3. Game Hunter

    I hope he has underwear on,cuz the private parts aren’t comfortable with that much cold.

    #3 1 month ago
  4. Game Hunter

    Speaking of drought, I’m fully equipped. That means I have both Dark Souls and Dark Souls II to play and a basket full of controllers,just in case I go nuts.

    #4 1 month ago
  5. YoungZer0

    Just did a quick search on the word “extrovert” to see if he was ranting again. Lo-and-behold, he did. Just can’t help himself.

    #5 1 month ago
  6. dazedonthemoon

    I’m catching up on all my back catalog of games from Plus and whatnot, finally got around to Bioshock Infinite and hoping to complete Tales of Symphonia or Final Fantasy X before Tales of Xillia 2 comes out. I played both when they originally came out but still need to get around to beating their remasters. That’s a lot of game hours!

    #6 1 month ago
  7. Captain_Iglo

    You can also play Sniper Elite III. Despite some flaws, the game is quite good. it would be a shame to not buy this one.

    #7 1 month ago
  8. Darkfield

    All I ever needed was Divinity Original Sin. And I’m enjoying my life right now in Rivellon.

    #8 1 month ago
  9. polygem

    destiny beta
    diablo III
    shovel knight ng+

    #9 1 month ago
  10. p_nut_uk

    Check out this weeks humble bundle, and make sure you pick up Spec Ops: The Line, it’s NOT an FPS… ok it’s a 3rd person shooter but it has a fantastically thoughtful story line that when you finish you keep thinking back on it, only 6 hours long but it’s a perfect amount, you don’t feel like it’s dragged on.

    You WILL hate yourself after, and maybe curl up in the fetal position and rock backwards and forwards.

    #10 1 month ago
  11. Dog4life

    @Captain_Iglo
    I’m trying to beat sniper elite on authentic difficulty and doing most achievements.
    and yhea i guess need the whole summer for the Platinum of Lego Hobbit :)
    Oh yhea , Dragons Teeth out soon

    and i’m pretty damn busy with skateboarding : http://decomposedsk8.com/image/85400118.jpg

    #11 1 month ago
  12. Dog4life

    @Dog4life damn wrong spam link, sorry.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/Dog4life

    #12 1 month ago
  13. Legendaryboss

    Backlog/completion for me.

    #13 1 month ago
  14. fearmonkey

    Finally finished Farcry 3 on PC, finished Gone Home on PC (Loved that game!), now I need to finish Infamous:SS, and maybe Killzone:SF, Battlefield 4, and the multitude of Indie PS plus freebies and Steam back catalog.

    #14 1 month ago

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