While we abide by unprecedented safety measures, our lives are beginning to feel a lot like groundhog day. Video games offer a deal of escapism during these uncertain times.
Of course, it is important to have a healthy balance — to juggle hobbies and look after ourselves with regular exercise during lockdown. But the diverse nature of modern games offers believable worlds beyond your bedroom. And with the outside off-limits, isn’t that the next best thing?
Here are some brilliant games to consider sinking your teeth into during lockdown.
Open world – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher is a fantastical universe, experienced through its grey-haired, monster-slaying protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. Geralt’s upbringing in Kaer Moren and unique powers leave him equal parts revered and isolated from the world around him. CD Projekt Red’s game series is a continuation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels. But the games have been many people’s point of entry to The Witcher series, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt stands tall amidst a strong lineup.
From European architecture in the free city of Novigrad to snow-topped mountain ranges on the Skellige Isles, Wild Hunt’s stunningly diverse scenery pops with colour and diversity. But it’s not merely surface-level beauty which makes the game special; on closer inspection, the world becomes even more detailed.
Weaving between warring factions and monster dungeons, you won’t find any generic fetch objectives. Instead, every main quest, side mission and random interaction feels part of an intricate web, constructing a narrative far bigger than yourself. Seemingly inconsequential actions — like finding an old lady’s cookpot — will have an impact further down the road.
You can play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on almost any platform. But to really immerse yourself away from reality, I recommend buying a copy on PC, or the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro respectively. More than deserving of its 10/10 reputation, Wild Hunt will take you away from our post-COVID-19 world and into a realm that is ripe for exploration.
Virtual reality – Half-Life: Alyx
For some players, virtual reality is a divisive topic where fierce debate is sparked by the question: ‘is VR a good future for gaming?’.
Previously, I’d argue no. However, in recent years VR has come on leaps and bounds, developing games beyond vapid tech demos and into fully immersive experiences. And Half-Life: Alyx is the latest, greatest advancement yet.
The game serves as an indirect prequel to Half-life 2, taking place five years prior to the events of the cult classic. You play as Alyx Vance as you solve puzzles and shoot your way through a beautifully rendered incarnation of City 17.
After years of wondering if another Half-life game would ever come to be, not only have Valve delivered the best VR experience to date, but they have also created a game deserving of the Half-Life moniker.
But as ever, VR finds its stride in the small details: Alyx is full of addictive mechanics that’ll keep you immersed for hours on end. No more so than reloading — although there are fewer guns compared to previous instalments, the way you operate a pistol or shotgun is more realistic than ever before. Each weapon reloads in a different way, and there is nothing more intense than scrambling to grab a clip while enemy A.I are closing in on your position.
Half-Life: Alyx is optimised for Valve’s Index, however, it’s compatible with pretty much any VR headset you can think of — HTC? Windows? Oculus? Check to all. Now, the VR experience isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to lose yourself in another world and bunker down during the pandemic, you couldn’t make a more literal choice in the matter. Put the headset on and transport yourself to another world.
Multiplayer – Borderlands 3
Roll up vault hunters for your next adventure: the Borderlands series at its core is a cooperative shoot em’ up, exploding with action, comedy and loot. Where it is possible to play solo, the experience is certainly at its peak when enjoyed with friends. And let’s be honest — don’t we all need a little social interaction right now?
Borderlands is a classic looter shooter RPG, simply choose your vault hunter and let the fun begin. The series’ latest instalment does have its issues: namely a lacking main storyline and irritating new characters. But Borderlands 3 makes up for its downfalls, with infectious gameplay, rewarding loot and an expanded game world — making it the most fun Borderlands title yet.
Who wants a rocket launching laser gun? As with any Borderlands title, the third game’s biggest selling point is Gear Box’s loot system. Known as a franchise staple, there are now over one billion weapon combinations to find throughout Pandora and its surrounding solar system. As you explore the galaxy, collecting the best and most unique guns will keep you from putting the controller down. And the vastly improved trade mechanic means you can share rewards with friends.
Borderlands 3 is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. And with an active player base supporting each version of the game, there really is no best option. However, if you’re irritated by load times, then PC is the way to go. Regardless, playing any of the Borderlands games requires an investment of time, making lockdown the perfect opportunity to get lost in the franchise.
While you should never consider these games a substitute for reality, they do offer a degree of escapism, making lockdown a little easier. From multiplayer extravaganzas to expansive story worlds, be sure to give each game a try.