OF 2022: The Xbox Stuff

‘Of 20XX’ is my attempt to look back and catalog the previous year of gaming in my life. I haven’t done the “Best Of” category stuff in a long time so what you’ll find over this week is a recounting of what I played in 2022 with a mini review or personal anecdote for each continuing today with Xbox / PC Game Pass.

What does it take for me to jump back into Microsoft’s streaming service? The gross, Giger-inspired goo world of Scorn… and a relatively decent PC. I landed another $1 trial month of PC Game Pass in October so it worked out even better. After Scorn I still had plenty of time to check out the current Game Pass roster so I dipped into a few others, inevitably getting hooked on the mundanity of another job simulator, this one being Hardspace: Shipbreaker. On with the rundown!

Scorn – 8 Hours

I’ve been waiting so very long to see Scorn. It’s been a tumultuous ride over the near-decade since it was announced, seeing new footage and then silence, fearing multiple times since 2014 that it had been abandoned. But there I was, finally at the helm of the “dripping dick wall” game in October of 2022. After all that time spent waiting and daydreaming, the result could only be a letdown, right? Yeah, you’re right.

Aesthetically, Scorn is a gorgeously grim experience. The look is fantastic if you’re into body horror or H.R. Giger. It starts out very Alien in style but by the end it cribs from a wider array of his work that I’d forgotten about after all these years. Unfortunately it just comes off as very horny and confusing here with zero context about this alien race and why they are so into dicks, butts and vaginas, and their apparent discovery of a means to leave their bodies and form a hivemind by way of physical torture.

The game would’ve been intriguing enough to explore for a couple of hours but at some point combat was added, seemingly only to make it longer and more marketable as a “game”. This stuff adds nothing besides frustration as health and ammo are extremely sparse, enemy aim is incredibly accurate, and checkpoints aren’t the most consistent. Throw that into some of the later labyrinthian areas and it results in too much Angry Backtracking looking for the obscure door or console in order to move forward. And then there’s a boss fight… that’s actually 3 boss fights… in a row.

After looking forward to it for so long it’s disappointing that Scorn falls short of a recommendation largely because of its frustrating and needless combat. If you’re a fan of the style or technical design, give it a look sometime. Sadly, that’s the best I can say about it.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker – 41 Hours

I’d been increasingly interested in this one over the years and didn’t realize it was on Game Pass until I signed up this time. I thought it would be one of those endless games that would eat up months, let alone a free trial period, but it has a short and simple campaign that shows you all of its gameplay potential before getting too repetitive.

If you like job sims and physics sims, Shipbreaker is well worth jumping into. I would have liked it if the various systems you had to manage on the ships got a bit more complex but it remained fun to race the shift clock and tear these increasingly larger ships apart. The story and characters didn’t hit for me but the work was fun and it felt good, if sometimes dizzying, to zip around in zero-g slinging steel into incinerators and components into depositories. The errant explosion was also a physics-y sight to behold and didn’t sting too much as you simply get a new clone of yourself when you die.

Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth – 3 Hours

Over the decades I’ve only ever had brushing glances with Lodoss War. It’s one of those series that you just got exposed to reading gaming mags in the 90s whether you wanted to or not. So when I saw Lodoss War attached to the subtitle ‘Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth’ I first laughed at the nonsensical title and then gawked at the gorgeous 2D spritework and the very metroidvania setup.

In the end, it was a bit slight for my liking and the backtracking was too frequent for the game’s slow pace. It does have a fairly unique elemental system where your currently selected power allows you to pass through some attacks, a la 2011’s Outland, but it wasn’t enough to keep me going.

Exo One – 1 Hour

It sure is weird and pretty to look at but the part of my brain that reacts to this kind of stimulation apparently burnt out in the last year or two. I was on the verge of falling asleep rather than being engaged and intrigued and after seeing the loop of chasing down beams of light I snapped back awake and quit out.

Vampire Survivors – 3 Hours

Similar to Exo One, I think the endorphin center of my brain has shriveled up like Stimpy’s hairball gland. I get it, there’s a lot of stuff filling the screen and when you get power-ups you kill them very quickly. What was once life-threatening is now barely noticeable amid the chaos as things escalate. You die. You buy some upgrades or unlocks. You repeat. I’m happy people are enjoying it but it’s a trip my brain cannot join you on. I do appreciate the game’s nods to Castlevania and its soundtrack so there’s that.

That was the extent of my Xbox experience in 2022, and on PC no less, not even on an Xbox console. How things have changed since the Xbox 360 era for me. Being a subscription detractor, and with the majority of Game Pass games being available elsewhere, I’m probably not going to jump on The Pass again for a while.

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