Welcome to What We’re Playing, this hot thing we do about… what we’re playing. It’s not just a clever name, obviously. Every month, we publish one of these What We’re Playing features about (omg, you guessed it!) what we’re playing, and maybe you’ll tell us about what you’re playing too. It’s collaborative like that.

You may have noticed that last month there was no What We’re Playing. With all of April’s public holidays, we took some time off from playing tons of video games to enjoy Actual Sunshine. It was… weird.

But! WE’RE BACK, BABY! And we’re playing ALL THE GAMES.

Dane

BattleTech

Did you ever play MechCommander? I remember getting it from a cousin when I was a kid, in what I now realise in hindsight must’ve been a painfully obvious, really awkward re-gifting situation for… someone. I’m glad my cousin didn’t appreciate it enough to keep it though, because Tiny Dane became enamoured with it for months, maybe even years to follow.

My memory of MechCommander is fuzzy, but BattleTech is like a turn-based, far more intricate version of MechCommander. It makes sense, seeing as they’re both set in the BattleTech universe, which has served as the source for a ton of games, of both the tabletop and video variety.

BattleTech is lovely. There’s a wealth of tactical depth and player choice lurking within its intricate web of mechanics, the story (which sees you running your very own mercenary company, travelling through space in search of robo-fights to pick) is compelling, and if you’re even remotely interested in strategy games and/or giant death-robots, it’s guaranteed to keep you occupied for dozens of hours, at the very least.

Also, you can tell your robots to bop other robots in the face with their big robot fists, and that’s pretty cool.

Rocksmith 2014 Edition Remastered

I bought my first guitar a few years ago. For about a year and a half I was hopelessly fixated on the whole process of using guitars to make sounds that some people would deem “probably not complete shit, no”. It got a bit out of hand, if I’m honest. I started with an electric and a small (but beefy) amp, then got an acoustic, and at some point I dropped a ludicrous amount of cash on a baby guitar. Officially, that baby guitar is called a guitalele. It’s kind of like a ukelele, but it’s slightly bigger, has six strings, and is great for aimless practicing.

As is always the case with such things, at some point I just kind of stopped doing it.

A few months ago I picked up a guitar again, and at some point during my process of rediscovery, I decided to try Rocksmith. I figured melding my love of games with my love of music would help keep me motivated to play every day. So far, it’s working. Getting my hands on the elusive Rocksmith cable very nearly destroyed my will to live, my brain is still struggling to adjust to the idea of playing guitar while interpreting what’s happening on-screen, and it’s still too early to tell if it’s ACTUALLY making me less shit at guitar – but I’m playing almost every day, and every once in a while I even manage to hit a few notes. That’s gotta count for something, right?

Titanfall 2

Somehow, I’m still playing this. I’ve made no secret of my endless affection for Titanfall 2, even in the face of Michael’s endless mockery. At this point I think it’s safe to say my Titanfall boner is never, ever going away, Michael.

Titanfall 2 is the game I play when I just wanna go fast and break stuff. Clearly I’m not alone, ’cause I’m still finding packed multiplayer servers within seconds of searching for a game. It’s kind of like a first-person BattleTech – except instead of being slow, thoughtful and methodical, it’s like you and a stack of other humans are dropped in a well full of energy drinks, jelly beans and cocaine, and told to fight your way out. Also, robots. Big, stompy robots, and please excuse me while I exit this super-smooth wallrun to kick you square in the dick.

Also, you can tell your robots to bop other robots in the face with their big robot fists, and that’s pretty cool.

Gareth

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

I picked up this gem last month while it was on pre-order for Xbox (and very cheap, at R250), because my lizard brain was frothing at the mouth for something a little more cerebral in my digital diet. A development team of less than 20 people hammered this one out, so I wasn’t expecting it to take too long to get through (I was right – it took around 6 to 8 hours), but I also wasn’t expecting it to deliver a flurry of right hooks straight to my feel-box.

If you haven’t played this, you absolutely must, and do it before someone ruins parts of the story for you. Oh, and play it with headphones. The game makes good use of binaural audio to really get inside your head. It’s fantastic… and creepy.

Sky Force Anniversary

A little something I picked up for the low, low price of nothing. Well, sort of for the low, low price of nothing. I got it thanks to the Xbox Game Pass. Anyway, I wanted an old school shoot ’em up wherein I’d just have to dodge a bunch of slow bullets and feel like a 10-year old Gareth again, and this is what I found.

Sky Force Anniversary isn’t quite a remastered 1942, but it’s rather similar in nature (top down, vertical scrolling), and contrasts in almost every other aspect. Replayability is high on the to-do list here, with medal hunting being the mechanic that keeps the levels flowing over and over again. It requires very little actual attention to have fun, and it’s more entertaining than it has any right to be. Tarryn and I put quite a bit of time into it, and once we were done we were rather happy to find there’s a Sky Force Reloaded on Xbox too… so I spent actual money and bought that, because reasons.

Cities: Skylines

Another free(ish) title, thanks to Xbox Game Pass. I wasn’t interested in this game in the slightest, truth be told. Tarryn was the one who grabbed it and decided to start playing while I mopped up achievements in Far Cry 5. After a while, I found myself pausing my Far Cry game for longer and longer periods just to watch her play Cities: Skylines. Eventually, watching her awesome city take shape while I fended off murderous turkeys became a bit too much to bear, so I grabbed it and dove in.

I now have a sprawling metropolis that’s easy on the eye, and the object of a tiny bit of Tarryn’s envy.

Tarryn

Now is the winter of my discontent

I have had no proper internet connection since last Friday. Everything as I know it has ended, collapsed into primordial chaos. A much more drab, suburban sort of primordial chaos than I’d perhaps expected, though. I mean, I’ve got electricity – for now, anyway. And beans. Actually, no beans. I should probably go shopping, if shops still even exist. The cats are almost out of food too. I miss the cats on Instagram and Imgur. Real cats aren’t the same. The internet post-apocalypse is kind of boring, you guys.

Henry

Madden NFL 18

Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am yet to win a single game of American football in Madden NFL 18. I also won precisely bugger-all games of American football in Madden NFL 17. But I keep trying, hopeful, faithful, stubborn, stupid. I think it’s the presentation and atmosphere. Everything is just so loud, shiny, American, and it makes me feel like Tom Cruise should SHOW ME THE MONEY! It’s a ’90s movie thing, kids. Look it up.

Overcooked

Couch co-op? More like furious bouts of friendship-ending drama. “You put the (sweary words) onion in the tomato soup,” I shout. “And if I don’t see a clean plate on the counter in three seconds, you’re sleeping in the (more sweary sailor words) garden tonight.”

It’s just lovely. I hate it. It’s brilliant.

Farming Simulator 2017

At 6am I was on my dirty, red tractor, preparing the soil for planting. I was doing it myself, not because I didn’t have people who could’ve done it for me, but because I didn’t want to have to pay them. I was there because I’m a farmer, and I need to farm, because the harvest pays for my children to go to school, to put winter stew on the table, to cover the DSTV subscription. And in that moment, I felt more connected to my father – a real farmer – and the way he’s lived his life, than I ever have before.

Michael

Age of Empires III: Complete Collection

I know. It’s old, and, like, why even? Well, I loved this game when I was a younger person, and now that Age of Empires IV is coming out I wanted to see what it was that I enjoyed so much about it back in the day.

I’ve played a solid four hours or so thus far, and I can still kind of see the appeal. It’s very clunky, and once you start dominating, nobody can stop you. It’s still fun and quirky, but I doubt I’ll be playing it for nostalgia’s sake for too much longer. Still, it’s good, and if Relic Entertainment and Microsoft don’t screw it up, number IV is going to be something really special.

House Flipper

You know that feeling you get when you’ve spent a long day outside in the baking sun, getting physical with things like lifting stuff and moving things about? And then you come inside and just soak in the shower (sorry, Cape Town) for far longer than is responsible? House Flipper is like that, but for your mind.

The game itself is pretty simple: buy a busted-up house, renovate and decorate it, then flog it for more money. You start your empire off doing odd jobs until you can buy your first house. Just make sure you have some cash left over for the actual painting and fixing. It’s fun and relaxing. You really have to mop each dirty patch, click on trash to dispose of it, and then paint each section of the walls by dipping the roller into the paint and painting until the roller is dry. Some might call it tedious, but for others it’ll be exactly the right kind of mindless distraction to make the pain go away.

Titan Quest Anniversary Edition

Remember this game? It was something to do while we waited for Diablo III, which at the time felt like it’d never come. There’ve been many good Diablo pretenders over the years, like Dungeon Siege, Torchlight, and so on, but I always felt Titan Quest was the best one of the lot.

The developers released an expansion last year (11 years after the original release), and this is why we’re talking about it right now. Well technically we’re not because I decided to start it all over again and I haven’t gotten to the new Ragnarök bits yet. It’s still a damn fine action RPG. That all said and dusted, it definitely feels a bit dated when compared to the glory of Diablo III, but it has a compelling charm all its own, and plenty of outdoors bits if you’re tired of tombs, keeps and dungeons.

Lauren

Destiny 2

Humble Bundle’s Humble Monthly package has Destiny 2 as its showcase game this month, and so I got coerced into buying it. Okay, it wasn’t exactly a hard sell, with promises of “we can all play together and it’ll be cool” and stuff.

And now I’m hooked.

If I had to sum it up, I would say it’s sort of a combination of Guild Wars and Halo, with all the best bits from both those games thrown into one. The environments and visual design are spectacular, and I honestly haven’t had this much fun with a game in a long time. My sole gripe so far is that you’re restricted to playing co-op with only two other players in your fireteam, which to me is a bit odd seeing as we are four in our party. Sometimes one of us has to sit out and go do their own mini-missions to level up and get more cool stuff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as there’s a ton of things to do at any given point. I haven’t been on any raids yet, so Destiny 2 still has a lot in store for me that I can’t wait to experience.

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