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My Summer Gaming Vacation


Summer gaming can go one of two ways: you can pick up a big late spring or early summer release and pour hours into it over a few months. Or you can find a few little games or short experiences. They might fulfill smaller interests and won’t consume all of your time. Last year, I opted to play The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight. Looking back, the time and effort I put into those two games felt like work. I enjoyed them, particularly The Witcher 3, but I had to commit long hours in order to enjoy the full experience. This summer I’m coming off of long hours in Tom Clancy’s The Division, Dark Souls III, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Doom (which had a meaty but breakneck-paced campaign).

Summer Gaming Made Accessible

Being that it’s summer, I’m known to go outside once in a while. With all the different activities and opportunities at my disposal, gaming develops some competitors for my attention. That’s why I decided to keep things airy for a few months. From May on, 2016’s summer of games catalog has been flush with great drop-in-drop-out bite-size experiences with a variety of genres and flavors to suit so many different tastes. They all deserve the time and attention of larger titles, but it’s hard not to spread the blanket wide. The downside to this scenario is missing out on a few games. I guess having too much to play is a good problem to have, and suggests that the vast gaming community is quite fortunate in our current state.

I’ve treated this summer’s gaming like a vacation. I’ve kept things light, fun and constantly changing. Here’s my smorgasbord of games:

Overwatch

Pharah Overwatch

Pharah in Overwatch, via usgamer.net.

This one’s obvious, right? I don’t know anyone that hasn’t at least checked out Blizzard’s hero shoot for a moment. It took over the internet for months even before release and is still going strong a couple months later. Overwatch is the perfect game to pick up and drop whenever the mood strikes. Whether it be spending hours upon hours unlocking lootboxes, customizing your characters and perfecting their gameplay. I play as Pharah the most. I enjoy the vertical mobility and her rockets are always fun. Getting comfortable with her movement and firepower was simple enough, but not quite as stripped down as Soldier: 76. I tailored my own playing experience to the commitment I felt comfortable making. I haven’t put astronomical hours into Overwatch, but it’s always been there when I feel inclined to play with friends. I cannot recommend it enough.

Inside

Inside

Inside, via playdead.com.

I said I was keeping my summer gaming light, and in theme and appearance, Inside is anything but. Nevertheless, Playdead’s follow-up to Limbo came at a perfect time in late June to deliver an excellent three to four-hour puzzle platformer experience. This game fits the bite-size category perfectly, increasing the replay value with collectibles and a secret ending. Inside wasn’t more difficult than Limbo, but it flows in a way that tells the story so well. I’m partial to story-forward games, and Inside delivers that on top of the most polished mechanics I’ve felt in a while. It is a satisfying, thought-provoking experience that everyone should give a go at least once this summer.

Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront, via starwars.ea.com.

OK, I’m cheating a little here. Star Wars: Battlefront is far from a summer release, hitting shelves in November 2015, but hear me out. EA and DICE have spread out their DLC releases for Battlefront in a way that draws me back in every few months. I play the new pack for a week and a bit, get what I need from it and then allow it to fade into the background before reemerging with new content at a later date. The Bespin DLC released in June and convinced me to return to the galaxy far, far away because it was simply more Star Wars to enjoy. The game modes may seem sparse, but there’s always something new, something improved that you can dig into. I know I’ll be onboard in the fall for the Death Star DLC, and again in early 2017 for the Rogue One – Scarif pack. You can count on that.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, via theverge.com.

Keeping with the Star Wars theme, I decided to get my sequel trilogy fix from TT Games’ newest release. Initially, I wasn’t sold on the game. I never caught the Lego game bug, which is not to say I didn’t think they looked fun. But in maintaining a light, breezy summer gaming agenda, I opted to give this installment a try, and I’m glad I did. The game steers you along the main narrative of the hit film, filling gaps along the way with hilarious and fun offshoots with obscure characters and deep-cut references to satisfy even big Star Wars fans like myself. The missions are divided into neat chapters that fit my needs superbly this summer. I know how The Force Awakens ends, so I’m not hard pressed to burn through the chapters searching for the narrative trail. It’s fun to bash bricks, blast minifigures and build contraptions to progress and unlock fun collectibles. The aerial combat actually feels excellent, in an arcade-like way. It doesn’t delve deep into simulation, but it feels great to pilot an X-Wing as Poe Dameron. I’ve had a great time with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it comes high recommended for a light gaming experience.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go, via The Official Pokémon Channel.

It’s the summer, so being outside is acceptable. Giving that some purpose, Pokémon Go uses augmented reality to turn your world into the awesome Nintendo series. You can explore your neighborhood, catch some little rodent monsters with friends, and get some exercise in without feeling taxed or burdened. But I don’t need to tell you this. You’ve probably been playing it too. Pokémon Go came along at a great time, getting people outside and socializing over a familiar, nostalgic memory. Sure, the game could use some more features and mechanics to make it feel a little more like Pokémon, but that will come in time. For now, it’s been fun to check out what Pokémon are hanging out around me and sharing my Pokédex with friends. Pokémon Go happily mixes summer and gaming, making it a great choice.

I’m interested to learn your summer gaming habits and if they follow the trends of my own. It’s a great time of year to try new things. The Steam Summer Sale and the free game son PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Games with Gold provide the perfect opportunity to test the waters. I dipped my toes into the console version of Hawken, which was timely as I got an itch for mech fighting after the Titanfall 2 reveal. I also felt like doing some driving, so I threw on Forza Motorsport 6 for a few races. Right now, I’m excited to jump into No Man’s Sky in August so time will tell if that will be my next drop-in experience. Maybe it will consume me whole, but I’ll wait and see what it has to offer. It feels so freeing to bounce between games without having to log tens of hours to feel satisfied with my time and purchase. What are you playing this summer?


Billy Arundell is OmniGamer's Reviews Editor. He has an unapologetic love for Gears of War and would rather spend his evenings with BoShek at the cantina. You can follow him on Twitter @billyarundell.

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