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What’s on Game Pass – June 2024

GAME PASS
GAME PASS

I will begin with a declaration, one not dissimilar from last month. I haven’t played the game most people have been or are playing on Game Pass: you guessed it, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II.

Whilst not as commercial as the Star Wars franchise, it’s one of those games that, for me at least, bears a bigger reputation than it deserves and this stems from the fact that it’s now an Xbox exclusive.

This is unusual because the first game, in what will surely become a franchise, was ironically a PlayStation timed exclusive. However, Microsoft bought Ninja Theory less that a year later, hence the exclusivity, which I feel is slightly unfair considering the historical availability of the first title. Correct me if I’m wrong, this isn’t even a timed exclusive. I find it funny that the name flipped as well, as if to highlight said exclusivity.

I am a human being and have throughout my life experienced self-doubt and excessive overthinking, so I can appreciate what Ninja Theory have achieved with their game; they constructed a character in Senua who is so human and relatable.

The game explores complex psychological themes and uses novel methods to convey what J. G. Ballard liked to call the inner world. Most notably the sound, which is emphasised at the beginning of the game when asked to wear headphones.

But ultimately, the game doesn’t tick enough boxes for me and although I haven’t played the latest instalment, I’m sure it still won’t. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a jack of all trades and master of none. It’s combat is devoid of agency, especially if you’re a Souls veteran. The puzzles are simplistic and the world feels excessively linear, more so than most linear titles.

I expect part of the fanfare is down to the resurgence of interest in Nordic mythology (God of War, Highland Park, Neil Gaiman, long hair, shaved hair, braids and beards – I wish I had hair like some of the Viking-esque folks I see around town), the mysterious setting and the most laudable aspect of the game, a relatable, powerful female lead.

So there we have it. My tuppence. On to the games I have been playing that are new to Game Pass. This month’s theme, not that there’s usually a theme, is language.

Brothers

I expect the addition of Brothers is down to the recent release of the remake, which, after completing the game, I find peculiar.

Why do I find it so strange? Because the original is still a beautiful game and isn’t one I would have earmarked for a remake. Usually games are remade when they no longer pass the fidelity test. Take Bloodborne as an example. It’s still stunning, when you’re not moving your character. All it needs is a framerate boost – Bloodborne does something strange with the framerate, which is why it hasn’t been unlocked (well, apparently there’s a PS5 mod for it), so to contradict what I’ve said, expect a Bloodborne remake/remaster. LOL.

Anyway, Brothers is a narrative game bar none. The story is straightforward: father has fallen ill and his sons (the brothers), according to what I like to presume is the crazy village shaman, have to go in search of a tree that will grant the restorative powers to cure their father.

Of course, their adventure is not without peril and a plot twist I didn’t see coming. The world-building is outstanding and the narrative is told without dialogue through hand gestures and actions. It’s surprising how easy it is to understand the story and highlights humanity’s special faculty for communicating story. It made me think of our ancestors before they were using language, hundreds of thousands of years ago, they must have conveyed their exploits in similar fashion.

Brothers really didn’t need a remake and considering it’s available on Game Pass, I urge you to give it a try there if you haven’t already. I am late to the party though. Brothers, it seems, is one of those games that the world has already played.

Chants of Sennaar

As a student of linguistics (first year of university), I have always been interested in language occurrence, development and evolution.

What about a game that forces you to deconstruct a symbol-based language to infer what you need to do? Actions and more specifically, the way words are spoken (their tone and delivery), is how you will do the unravelling.

It’s an intriguing world, one based on its own mythology, like most cultures. The ease of movement, the isometric angles and line-wrought artwork that build the backdrop, make Chants of Sennaar a pleasure to view and calming to play.

I don’t want to spoil any of the story, precisely because you as the player will be deciphering it yourself, quite literally. What I can say is this is a game centred on communication. The inhabitants of the world no longer communicate properly and you become that link. The resulting story is delivered through the revelation of the resulting communication. Less than a gigabyte, so why not give it a whirl.

What else is new?

Galacticare

Hauntii

Humanity

Immortals of Aveum

Little Kitty, Big City

Lords of the Fallen

Moving Out 2

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

What am I playing?

Other than the aforementioned, I’ve been continuing my journey in Mad Max. I have cleared one area and upgraded my car nicely. It’s a satisfying game that doesn’t overwhelm the senses, like most open-world titles, and the world lore is inspired. It’s usually films that draw from books, but Mad Max was an OG movie creation, which makes it even more superlative.

I even decided to rewatch the originals and Fury Road. I’m yet to get around to Furiosa… Some reviews say it’s a continuation of Fury Road, with great acting, but some say avoid, based on some of the CGI work, and weak story. Let us know what you think.

I have just reinstalled A Plague Tale: Requiem and am continuing with my journey there. I have reached the point where we’re about to depart on a ship for the island that Amicia’s bother Hugo has been seeing in his dreams. I’ve also switched the language to French, which I wish I’d have done for the first game as well. The voice acting is tremendous, which makes sense considering the game was made by French developers. Go figure.

That’s me for June, have a great month and give us a shout on socials. What are you playing at the moment?

Au revoir.