For this column, I did a true fresh look of one title as well as a refreshed look of the other. The theme that ties these together for me is catharsis. Catharsis is defined by Merriam-Webster as “purification or purgation of the emotions primarily through art.” This is a subjective metric and is primarily based on a player’s feelings. Nevertheless, I would argue that it is important for most titles to involve this. With this in mind, let’s dig in.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
Here is my refresh for the column. I had railed on Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands during my year end column, and I will again on an upcoming GiN Lounge podcast. Since I have more time available than normal while I deal with a severe foot injury, I decided to give Tina Tina’s Wonderlands another look without a ticking clock of a deadline. I decided to start from fresh as well with a new character.
Things got off to a rough start as I was quickly reminded that the gunplay was worse in this than with Borderlands 3. While they tried to stick with the theme, it became plenty obvious that it was just another Borderlands title. The writers tried to keep it within a D&D setting (called Bunkers and Badasses), and I feel that it limited them.
This entire game was based on a DLC for Borderlands 2 called Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep. It was also in the fantasy setting, but you had your normal loadout from the standard title. Its writer Anthony Burch did a great job of writing a story about how people use gaming to escape grief while calling out interesting parts of that culture. Wonderlands lacks that finesse and kind of hits the player with a hammer that has comedy written over it. I’m fighting through Wonderlands and there are some good moments, but it’s definitely a disappointment.
Where catharsis comes in for me in Wonderlands is in the gunplay. In a game like Borderlands, the guns are what can make or break it. I was disappointed though with some of the shotguns. Some of them will fire with a loud bang and then send out a slow-moving wave of energy. It was not enjoyable to see my gun recoil and watch as an azure line went through an enemy and a number appeared. The enemy didn’t even react. I found myself gravitating toward the Blackpowder (Jakobs in mainline games) just to get that punch and feel that I wanted. Many of the guns were crossbows that had a soft thwack when they fired, and it made me miss the rattling of a machine gun. This was the one game in the past few years I still regret pre-ordering.
I got Scarlet Nexus as a PlayStation Network freebie and decided to dig into it. The trailer made me roll my eyes like a roulette table because I thought it was going to be a basic anime game. Instead, Bandai Namco gave me a title with a Tales Of series feeling, but more fluid. Sometimes the story would throw a lot of dialogue at you and grind the story to a halt, but once I got to combat it was worth it.
Your character has psychokinesis as a special ability and uses it to move items in combat. What starts with you picking up a cinder block leads to throwing cars and even construction equipment.
The combat is fluid, and you get that cathartic feeling when you angle the monster just right and drop a giant chandelier on it. The characters help and the dialogue feels authentic, even if slightly corny. While playing this I realized what I was missing from Wonderlands: Sometimes during combat I want to smash enemies with something heavy. The few times I did it in Wonderlands, it was scripted. There was no replacement for being able to smash something with a vending machine mid combat.
While a game is not just about catharsis, it is something that is rewarding to the players. Something impactful that leaves the characters in better spirits. It doesn’t always have to be a giant gesture either. In Borderlands 2 there is a side quest with a character named Face McShooty. Once accepted, he screams things at you until you shoot him in the face and as he dies you just hear him say thank you. My wife Michelle and I just lost it, and it added a good cathartic moment to break up the doldrums.
In short, one title made me happy by smashing monsters with buses while the other made me shoot pretty colors instead of bullets. Also, The GiN Lounge podcast is back with Vincent Mahoney and me, and we’d like to invite listeners to join us. If there is anything you would like us to talk about on the show, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave your comments in the space below.