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Arsene Wenger RTL interview transcript.
Arsene Wenger, if you were President of France, what law would you pass?
I would introduce football as an obligation, everywhere, absolutely all over France. Every single school.
If there was one moment you could remove from your life?
All the defeats.
There haven't been many...
More than you think, each is a scar for life. Each will forever be a great disappointment.
What would be your ultimate fantasy object to have?
I don't really have one, maybe the team playing with the harmonious excellence all teams sometimes reach but for a full game. Everyone playing on the exact same wavelength for a whole match, it's so rare. These moments make the job worth suffering.
And what if you told us your biggest mistake?
Perhaps staying at the same club for 22 years. I'm someone who likes to move around a lot, but I also like a challenge. I've been a prisoner of my own challenge at times.
And what if you told us your greatest fear?
My biggest fear is to lose the ability to be physically independent. I enjoy my mobility, I like exercising. A real fear of mine.
And if you had to ask for someone's forgiveness?
All the people who I've made suffer. In my line of work, we are constantly making decisions that punish people, while making others happy. When you work with a 25-man squad, it's basically making 14 people unemployed every Saturday or Tuesday.Also, the players for whom I never managed to find the key to helping them reach their potential.
And what if you had to change career with someone else?
Anyone who has the potential to have a positive effect on people's lives. A politician or someone who discovers a revolutionary cure.
And what if you could spend one evening with someone, without anyone ever finding out who?
An evening of conversation? Or…. philosophizing? I'd like to spend an evening with Moses. What did he think of the Ten Commandments? Effectively our first constitution – I find it well constructed, what did he think?
And what if you told us your darkest sin, the one you keep all to yourself?
My taste for patisseries. I'm from Strasbourg. I eat them every day.
And then the jogging?
And what if you weren't in football?
I'd be somewhere in a competitive field. I love competing. There's two types of competitiveness. Those who hate to lose, and those who love to win. We're all in some way a mix of the two and I think I hate losing more.In general, those who love to win more are attackers. Those who hate to lose more are defenders.
And what if you weren't Alsacien [from Alsace]?
If I'm not Alsacien, above all I'm a citizen of the world. I have no real taste for borders…
Arsene Wenger, you love Bob Marley – not many people know that…
I love Bob Marley. He's pure class, in a chill kind of way. And his music was surprising for back then. Also, there's something so sad about the fact he died at 35. He loved sport, music… for me Jamaica reminds me of that. Sport and music go together very well I find.
How did it all begin?
It all started in a little restaurant. The local football team used the restaurant as headquarters in a small town outside Strasbourg. I heard only football, and religion. In the morning, religion from everyone and then football was the distraction.I took part in all the conversations that the team's organisers would take part in. From a very young age. Five or six. I understood quickly that the team wasn't great. I started going to the games with my emissary.I believed only God could help them at the time. I would read and recite prayers during the game, at half-time while watching them play. I can tell you it's better to have a good centre-forward than a hymn sheet.
Was it the team that your dad coached?
He created a team because he saw I was fascinated with the game, I was about 13 when I started playing. The team didn't have a coach. It's remarkable that until the age of 19 I didn't have a coach.What's remarkable is that I've had such a long career in football despite this. It's incredibly fortunate.
You played at Strasbourg and then were a coach at 33. Did the desire to coach come from this lack of coaching?
Well firstly I wasn't convinced that I had the qualities to be a coach given I hadn't had an illustrious playing career. And I wasn't convinced I had the natural authority either.I found myself propelled into this job by the people around me and what they saw in me. Something I didn't see. I started out with players older than me.One weird paradox is that I've never struggled for authority, even with the older player, without screaming.
The shock in your career was in 1996 – you become the foreigner in the Premier League. You went from unknown to ubiquitous almost instantly. Was that surprising?
Well yes because there was this image in England that foreign managers couldn't be successful. There had only been two or three before me.They didn't want any foreigners and there were tons of theories about how a foreign manager could never win anything: 'It's too hard'.I came in incognito, from Japan. Which I loved. I did enjoy coming back to Europe, but I fully anticipated going back if it didn't work out.
You had some difficult moments with the English press-the tabloids- how did you cope? They literally tried everything to put you off, to destabilise you.
They literally tried everything to put you off, to destabilise you.They ran a lot of stories. A lot of lies. Listen, it's a public-facing job and as such you are subject to attention, to rumours. You deal with it by staying focused on the task at hand and letting rumours and lies be exactly what they are. If there's nothing concrete behind it, then it won't stick.
And that's where we see the famous stress resistance. You revolutionised English football, how?
Nutrition, training, attention to detail.I always try to make it, so people love football. As 13 and 14-year olds, kids are drawn to the playground, to play the game, to love the game.When it becomes a job, it becomes about 'having to' rather than wanting to. You 'have' to train, you 'have' to win, you 'have' to score. At that point it becomes less fun.I always tried to develop a philosophy around the desire to play the game. To cultivate that desire.
You won the title unbeaten in 2003-04. What was the secret recipe?
Effectively we were unbeaten for a year and a half. 49 games. It's an interesting detail because when we won the title in 2002 I told the press my dream was to win the title unbeaten.I got lambasted as pretentious, arrogant etcetera. We lost the title the next season to Manchester United. In 2003/04, I asked the players why we didn't win the title. They said, 'it's your fault'. I asked why.They said: 'you put too much pressure on us.' And it's interesting because I told them the only reason I said it was because I truly believed it. And then they did it. Which proves two things.One, sometimes we don't put the level of ambition high enough. We don't dare, we're scared. But you must set the bar as high as possible. Two, sometimes you must plant the seed and wait for it to grow.
And how do you keep the concentration after 10, 20, 30 matches?
That's the difficult bit. Very difficult. Man is easily satisfied with what he has. The team needs to constantly be fed new ambitions, new targets. 'What is your next level?'We all tend to wallow in comfort. We don't want the pain. Unfortunately, without the pain you don't reach a higher level. Without making the conscious decision to ask yourself: 'What am I aspiring to? Where do I want to go? What is my goal?' You stay where you are.It has nothing to do with elite sporting ability. Elite sport is not made for everyone. There's a personality expert I work with and the key factor isn't the intensity of the motivation, it's the endurance of the motivation. You could call it tenacity.It's who can go Monday to Sunday, not just Tuesday to Thursday.
Let's talk about your footballing philosophy. How do you see football nowadays and generally?
My vision is that normally you need to win and win with style. Winning should be the result of the quality of your playing style and how you express yourself on the pitch.All my life, people have told me that we need to win on Saturday. As a coach, I know that – but how?I like to think that the paying fan wakes up the morning of the game and thinks 'ah yes, my team is playing today' and he will be transported to a more beautiful world than his daily routine.I like to set myself the ambition to give him this hope, this excitement about coming to see the team play – even if I know I will let him down sometimes.You can't be a coach if you don't have this ambition. Otherwise you stay in something mediocre. You must want to please people with football.
What, for you, is the definition of a good coach or manager?
Someone who manages to get the most out of his squad. From a collective expression point of view and in terms of results.The best coach in the league isn't necessarily the one who wins the title. No. But nobody can measure this. You can't. You can't measure a coach because you can't measure if he's managed to reach the full potential of the squad.That's why my ultimate ambition was to win a league title unbeaten. Because even if someone beats me at that, they can't do it that much better.You have to manage the players, the press, the board, the fans…There are three main elements to management. The first is the style of play and the results. The second is the individual development of the players. Some people work incredibly hard on the players without seeing the results.Thirdly, the structure and values you want to integrate into the club. This is more of a moral responsibility and boils down to your values. It can give your club a new dimension on a global scale.
You have to manage the players, the press, the board, the fans…
There are three main elements to management. The first is the style of play and the results. The second is the individual development of the players. Some people work incredibly hard on the players without seeing the results.
Thirdly, the structure and values you want to integrate into the club. This is more of a moral responsibility and boils down to your values. It can give your club a new dimension on a global scale.
You often talk about values. What do you mean? What are values in football? Values in a coach?
Values in football are about finding all that is beautiful about team sport. It's self-expression in a collective setting. Shared pleasure over individualism. Expression of beauty together is more beautiful than expression of beauty alone. And respect of your teammate, your opponent, the fan, the ref.And most importantly, never accepting mediocrity. It's the ultimate value in my eyes. In the sense that you must demand it of yourself. You must not accept where you are. You must be generous. You must always give more.
And what if you told us what you regret sacrificing to have this career?
I regret having sacrificed everything I did because I realise I've hurt a lot of people around me. I've neglected a lot of people. I've neglected my family, I've neglected many close ones. Deep down though, the obsessed man is selfish in his pursuit of what he loves. He ignores a lot of other things. But it's a bone to chase at the same time.Often, I'm asked if Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira will be good managers and I always answer yes. They have all the qualities; they're intelligent, they know football, they have excellent skillset, but do they want to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed. It's an obsession which bounces around your head day and night.You wake up at 3am thinking about team selection, tactics, formation…
After 22 years at Arsenal, what's next for Arsene Wenger?
I'm asking myself the same question! Do I keep doing what I've been doing, what I know. Or do I share all the knowledge I've accumulated over the years in a slightly different way? That's the question I need to answer in the next few months.
Let's go back to the arrival at Arsenal. Lots of animosity between England and France at the time but one meeting changed your life.
Yes. David Dein, who brought me to Arsenal. Second of January 1989, I was in Turkey and had to fly via England. At the time, men and women weren't allowed in the same stand at Arsenal, which is unbelievable to say now, the women sat with the visiting fans. I was still smoking back then and got a light at half-time from David Dein's wife.
We started to talk, and that night I was invited to dinner and since he had a boat on the Cote D'Azur and I was at Monaco – we stayed in touch. He often came to matches in Monaco and told me: 'This is interesting what you're doing here, I'd like to hire you one day.'
I met Peter Hill-Wood when I went to Japan who expressed reservations about hiring a foreigner in England. During my time in Japan they called me and said they wanted me for sure, and that's how it happened.
[David Dein joins the conversation on the phone]
Christine Kelly: David Dein, you hired Arsene Wenger at Arsenal yes?
David Dein: Yes, I can confirm this!
Arsene Wenger: David! What are you doing here?!
Dein: Hey Arsene!
Wenger: You really are a magician!
Dein: You say that but you're the one with the magic wand, as always Arsene.
Kelly: David is actually in between two flights here so quite difficult to speak.
Wenger: Yes of course. I must say, he's an incredible logistician. You cannot imagine this, he's a one-man travel agency.
Kelly: David, what are Arsene's qualities as a coach
Dein: Quite simply, he's an incredibly intelligent person who knows football like the back of his hand. He has incredible integrity, he's organised, motivated and has a great sense of humour.
What people don't know is that Arsene can be incredibly funny, an evening with him is never, ever boring. I hope he'll continue to use his magic wand in whatever he goes on to do.
Kelly: Thank you to David Dein, in between connecting flights.
[David Dein leaves the conversation]
He's a great friend, an exceptional man. We've always stayed close, very close. He's had difficult patches and I have as well, but we've always been close.
He's a visionary. Absolutely. I must tell you this because not many people know but he has visited 85 prisons out of 102 in the UK to help the prisoners – he goes to hundreds of schools as benevolent work during the weekend.
He also does a huge amount of charity work with FIFA. He's also one of the key instigators of video replays
Ah yes, video. Your great passion. Five or six games a day is it?
Yes. No furniture at home just videos. I did my genotype exam and they told me I had the addictive gene. I just used it entirely in my professional life, it could have been used on something less beneficial for me.
Some more quick-fire questions. Which player left the biggest impression on you?
The most talent of those I've coached… Thierry Henry probably.
And which player would you like to have slapped?
Oh there's quite a few. All the big mistakes, in big games, I won't name names; they're stronger than me.
Which journalist would you most have liked to strangle?
No… maybe Christine Kelly.
OK OK, and which match made you the happiest?
Probably beating Barcelona when they were at their highest highest peak. They were unbeatable. The football from both sides was exceptional.
Which player are you most proud of signing?
Erm... The ones I'm most proud of are the ones that cost little but turned out to be top class. Toure, Henry, Campbell, Anelka.
What about your worst recruit?
Oh there's quite a lot! It's a job which is complicated, measuring the worth of someone who joins your club. The key is to not be too stubborn and force the issue; realise the mistake and move on. Don't be scared to make mistakes.”
What is the perfect player for you, tactically, physically, ability-wise?
There's no perfect player. They all have flaws. For example, Messi is the most perfect of them all because he can make others play and he can score himself, but he has weaknesses, contrary to what some people think.
If you analyse his game, he's not very good in the air, he's not great defensively. But you don't make a living out of your weaknesses, you make a living out of your strengths, therefore the coach must emphasise the strengths as much as possible and put players around this person who hide his weaknesses.
And what if you hadn't been Arsenal coach, say in 2010, would you have become the French national team manager instead of Domenech?
Yes, I've had the opportunity numerous times to be France manager. I'm not sure if it was before or after Domenech. Maybe both… I've always been more interested in the day-to-day aspect of management. I find it much more stimulating.
It is a question I've been asking myself, if I should become a national team manager. A national team manager takes charge of ten games per year. In a club, you take charge of 60. My drug is the next match, so…
And what if you weren't coach of Arsenal, you would have taken charge of Paris Saint-Germain when the Qatari owners came in?
And what if you weren't coach of Arsenal, PSG might have won their first Champions League title already?
No I don't think so necessarily. PSG is in the middle of an enormous collective enterprise, where the goal mustn't be the Champions League trophy. The Champions League trophy should be the consequence of a long road of growth and hard work within the club.
A trophy of this stature is not really a realistic program to chase – there's six or seven clubs at the same level so it's a matter of luck, it's not chaseable.
What books do you like?
I've bought you two, you choose
That's very nice, I'll pick 'Confiance en soi'. It's something we need more and more in modern society I believe. It's easier than ever to doubt one-self.
Secrets from the dressing room. Any skeletons in the closet? What do you tell them before a game?
You need to have a talk which is adapted to the circumstances. It's not always the same opponent. Your team doesn't always have the same energy levels – you need to have a good understanding of the energy levels in the team.
So let's say we have a team low on energy, what's the team talk before the game?
I don't accept this level of energy. This level of energy in the dressing room will result in disaster. We will not meet our objectives. It's time to wake up. You, over there, I saw you in the warm-up, you're not ready. Do you realise what you're about to do? Are you ready?
You need a speech adapted to the circumstances. And when you're at Arsenal you're always the favourite so you need to remind them that they need to win, and they need to get in a zone which always them to express themselves.
This zone, you go into it little by little. The big, big trap for the elite sportsman is that he remembers a time when he was flying. When everything was easy. We dream of returning to that level as and when we wish but, you get there little by little.
By starting with the basics, playing simple and realising everything gets easier from there.
2019 Report - 89 games down!
Despite the solid number, this was a bit of a mixed year. Free/nominal fees for subscription services meant I spent a fair bit of time on games which were not on my backlog (albeit most were on my wishlist, so I can treat them as a preemptive elimination!). I also had a few timesinks which I regularly went back to as I found many new games to be unsatisfying.
|The Lion's Song||4|
|AER Memories of Old||3|
|Hitman - The Complete First Season||12|
|Grim Fandango Remastered||6|
|The Deadly Tower of Monsters||5|
|Rock of Ages 2||5|
|Orwell: Ignorance is Strength||3|
|Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure||10|
|Mutant Year Zero||13|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GoTY||85|
|SteamWorld Dig 2||6|
|Batman: Arkham Knight||30|
|West of Loathing||~15|
|The Flame in the Flood||7|
|South Park: The Fractured But Whole + DLC||??|
|Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice||8|
|Yoku's Island Express||6|
|The Darkside Detective||4|
|Tales of Berseria||47|
|The Outer Worlds||21|
|Agents of Mayhem: Day One Edition||26|
|PixelJunk Nom Nom Galaxy||4|
|Shantae and the Pirate's Curse||4|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition||5|
|Sid Meier's Civilization VI||31|
|Porno Studio Tycoon||3|
|Tom Clancy's The Division||21|
|Kingdom: New Lands Royal Edition||4|
|Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition||9|
|Seven: The Days Long Gone||7|
|Age of Wonders 3||12|
|Out of the Park Baseball 19||30|
|Niche: A Genetics Survival Game||3|
|Endless Space 2 - Digital Deluxe Edition||41|
|State of Decay 2||~5|
|The Banner Saga 3||~2|
|Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf||8|
|Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2||9|
|The Painscreek Killings||2|
|12 Labours of Hercules V: Kids of Hellas||3|
|Space Hulk Ascension||3|
|Super Daryl Deluxe||8|
|Think of the Children||2|
|Legend of Grimrock 2||4|
|Out of the Park Baseball 20||1|
|Iratus: Lord of the Dead||9|
|Into The Breach||5|
|There Came an Echo||1.3|
|World of Mixed Martial Arts 5||~120|
|Star Trek Timelines||~180|
|Football Manager Touch 2019||~80|
Favourite games of the year1) Rakuen
2) Finding Paradise
3) Monster Prom
4) Witcher 3 GotY
5) Yakuza 0
Most disappointing games of the year1) The Outer Worlds
2) State of Decay 2
3) Warhammer 40,000 – Space Wolf
4) Purrfect Date
5) Tom Clancy’s The Division
Thoughts on each gameThe Lion’s Song
Quite an interesting little game. It manages to link stories about music, painting, mathematics and war in a clever and engrossing way. The choices are genuinely impactful and make for tough decisions at times.
AER: Memories of Old
A short game, but quite relaxing and pretty – especially in the flight sections. I had no interest in the story, but the relatively gentle puzzles and enjoyable flights made it worthwhile.
Much like Mafia III, this is a 10-hour game elongated into a 30+ hour game by copy-pasting tasks. While in theory most tasks are optional, the slow progress and gating of upgrades essentially requires completion of much of them. This becomes a grind, and the gameplay isn’t quite enough to keep it interesting.
A mediocre story and a mediocre shooter, yet somehow more than the sum of its parts. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the days of FMV integration in games, but this wound up being quite entertaining.
Hitman – season 1
My first and only other Hitman game is Absolution, which apparently was a departure for the series. That leaves me in the position of finding this return to normality for the series as rather jarring. I prefer the linear and tighter nature of Absolution – since I don’t care enough to go back and complete them in different ways, it felt like a bit of a thin and shallow experience with a threadbare story.
Grim Fandango Remastered
I’m dreadful at P&C puzzle games, and quickly realised I wasn’t going to get far without a guide. As such, I cheated my way through most of it and just played it for the writing. Thankfully, the writing is so good that it was still fun. I wasn’t keen on Full Throttle, which I played last year, but this was amusing throughout.
The Deadly Tower of Monsters
A fun concept – a B-movie spoof – combined with surprisingly forgiving platforming mechanics. I’m not a fan of platformers generally, but the frustration-alleviating features and general sense of humour in the game made for a good experience.
Solid roguelike tactical combat, marred by some sloppy writing [I don’t think English is the first language of the writers, but at least a spell-check would have helped], a wonky interface [pertinent information like resistances is obscured] and a strangely harsh unlock system. Not a bad game by any means, but could have been better with a bit more care.
Rock of Ages 2
Bizarre concept, even more bizarre writing, but entertainingly so. It’s surprisingly good-looking and quite fun, but five hours was quite enough for me.
I haven’t played a Battlefield game since Vietnam, so this took a bit of adjusting. The campaign is very well presented and offers a nice bit of variety, but it’s over so fast. I had no interest in multiplayer, so this made for a brief, if fun, experience.
A very brief visual novel, but at least it had distinct story paths. The writing was decent, if a bit awkward. My main gripe was that you had to individually click through each line on subsequent playthroughs, which is something many visual novels these days manage to avoid.
A rather strange dodgeball game. I didn’t find the strangeness nearly as amusing as Rock of Ages 2, but it was a moderately entertaining experience with a bit of variety through the different settings and objectives.
I’m a bit mixed on this. On one hand, it had a surprising amount of content and complexity to it. On the other, it drastically inflated the complexity by veiling basic gameplay aspects. That could mean a lot of wasted time – or worse, inadvertently wrecking a multi-hour playthrough - because it wasn’t clear what you should be doing next. Walkthroughs and guides were essential. While there’s merit to a game which rewards experimentation and discovery of mechanics, there is a point at which it’s just too obtuse, and at times the game did go a bit too far in that respect.
A quite clever blend of roguelike and FPS. I’m not much of a fan of the latter, but the gameplay was fun and the roguelike elements softened the blow of failure.
I disliked Pillars of Eternity and went into this with some trepidation. Fortunately, it was a more enjoyable and accessible experience. Where Pillars just threw a mindnumbing amount of lore at me, this offered a relatively comprehensible story doled out in appropriate chunks. While it did have some of Pillars’ mechanical issues, like poor pathfinding in combat, they did not seem nearly as bad (perhaps due to the smaller scale of battles). The base management stuff seemed tacked on, confusing and wholly unnecessary. It was far from my favourite RPG, but solid enough – and didn’t overstay its welcome.
Orwell: Ignorance is Strength
I enjoyed the first Orwell game and initially found this a similarly good experience. The few changes were worthwhile ones, and the story seemed to be building up well. Then it suddenly ended. Surely I done something wrong and met an early endgame? Nope, that was it – a mere few hours of gameplay, with an ending so abrupt that I had no idea it was one until the credits rolled. There are different endings, requiring additional playthroughs, but after that disappointment I wasn’t interested in going back to it.
Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure
This was my first game in the series, and I found it enjoyable. I only had to cheat a few times (which is remarkably good by my standards!) and the cheesiness of it was all rather endearing. The sequel is now on my wishlist (though it seems to be a fair way off).
A decent puzzle/strategy game, which quickly escalates from rather placid to chaotic. The simple concept still requires a fair bit of thought to succeed, and while I bumbled through somewhat, it was fun.
Beautiful. One of my favourite games, evoking the spirit of To the Moon by dealing with weighty topics in a whimsical manner. Wonderful soundtrack and great design.
I enjoyed this more than I’d expected. It’s all a bit messy, as one would expect from a heavily physics-based game, and almost throws in too many variations, but it is fairly satisfying. In some levels it’s all too easy to get a platinum medal through sheer luck, but in other levels it takes a fair bit of skill and thought to get a good score, which is rather more satisfying.
Mutant Year Zero
This was frustrating. It has the ingredients for a solid game – great presentation, imaginative world, decent writing and voice acting and the core of a solid tactics game. The problem is that it is structured essentially like a puzzle game. The odds are so intensely stacked against you in a group battle that you must pick off enemies one by one. This makes for a slow and tedious process, especially when combined with the impact of RNG and the unsatisfying ending.
I felt a little let down by this. Presentation was good, story was fine, but the powers were mostly unengaging and the combat was frustrating. The combat issues were partly my fault in that I tried a non-lethal run, but while there were a few more non-lethal options, I would have loved an option to just punch someone in the face rather than having to stand around waiting to parry in order to launch a non-lethal attack.
This had a lot to live up to – To the Moon and A Bird Story are among my favourite games – but once again Kan Gao delivered. Touching, funny, surprising and engrossing.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – GotY Edition
I went into this with a bit of trepidation, having strongly disliked the first two games in the series. While I am a big fan of the books, the gameplay never clicked with me. This was an improvement to some degree, but I still found the combat in particular frustrating and relatively shallow. I wound up just playing it as a story, and it delivered in that respect – even many of the side quests were more memorable than the main storylines of a lot of other RPGs I’ve played. While I certainly won’t be joining the “Praise Geraldo” crew, I at least had a better experience than I did with the other games in the series.
SteamWorld Dig 2
I loved the first game. This was certainly enjoyable but did not reach quite the same heights; perhaps through lack of ambition if nothing else. Solid enough, but lacking the impact of its predecessor.
Batman: Arkham Knight
This felt like the weakest of the three main Arkham games (I didn’t like Origins much at all, but that is somewhat separate). The combat, setting and presentation were all as interesting as ever, and the story got genuinely interesting towards the end, but the damned car seemed to drag down everything it was involved in. From puzzles to battles, it always felt a bit wonky to me – a particularly sharp contrast to the famously smooth and refined movement and combat the series is known for. Unlike Asylum and City, I didn’t complete the Riddler challenges. This was primarily due to the car, which I was thoroughly sick of by the end. Perhaps I was rendered a bit grumpier than usual by that, but I also found the Rocksteady tendency to lead the player by the nose at some points, and then leave things utterly oblique at other times, to be particularly grating.
West of Loathing
Genuinely funny at times, and I loved the art style, but it did drag on a little.
The Flame in the Flood
Quite an atmospheric and appealing game. The presentation is gorgeous, albeit marred by irritating pop-in even on a GTX 1080. The gameplay is pretty easy to pick up, and while it can be frustrating in the way that a survival game with randomisation inevitably can be (and why the hell can’t I boil water to remove the bugs?!), the checkpoint system is generous enough to ameliorate this.
I am not usually one for VNs, but this is great. Entertaining characters, often hilarious (and oh so wrong) writing and easy enough to play through in 15 minutes (it says the short game is 30 minutes, but it doesn't take me anywhere near that). There is plenty of content, some of which is unlockable, meaning there is substantial replayability.
The first in the series for me, and quite enjoyable. It was funny at times, though the main plot did cause me to drift off towards the end – I wound up doing crosswords during some of the interminable cutscenes. The combat got a bit repetitive, but it was easy enough to get the hang of. I didn’t enjoy it enough to get stuck into the numerous side activities, but the main game was decent enough.
This is a curious game. It is brief (barely an hour long) and linear. The puzzles are simple. Much of the dialogue is sung, for no apparent reason - and not particularly well. The art style has been described as "claymation noire"; there's little er..."mation", and it all looks a bit muddy. Writing is fine. I chuckled at a few bits, but it's hardly memorable.For all that, I quite liked it. It's original and there's heart to it. In a sea of lazy asset flips, generic AAA games with no respect for your time and visionless projects, here's an example of people actually daring to have a go with a unique vision.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Not nearly as well-written as its predecessor, but with significantly better combat. The badge progression system was clumsy, and at one point I was left with a stack of grinding to do. Generally a solid experience, though.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Wonderful presentation, with some of the best voice acting I’ve heard in games. The gameplay itself was decent. Combat was a little too simple, and puzzles could be frustrating at times, but it’s really all about the experience.
I feel a little silly having spent a lot of money on a gaming rig when I use it to play stuff that looks like something out of the early ‘90s. Nonetheless, this was good fun – amusing story, addictive gameplay and a surprising amount of content.
Yoku’s Island Express
Cutely presented and an interesting concept. It can be infuriating at times, requiring a degree of precision which is perhaps best not associated with pinball, and getting around can be a bit confusing. Overall, though, it’s quite fun.
The Darkside Detective
A pretty simple point & click adventure (aside from one strangely hard instalment), broken into small episodes to make it easy to get through a portion at a time. Nothing exceptional, but a decent way to spend a few hours.
Tales of Berseria
A surprisingly engrossing tale. It's frequently funny and features likeable characters. The voice acting is excellent - it's a tour de force for Cristina Valenzuela in particular.
That helps mitigate a convoluted combat system. It was still throwing tutorials at me after 15 hours; I wound up ignoring them and button mashing, which seemed to work fine on Normal difficulty anyway.
Performance is rock solid. Smooth FPS, fast loading and limited pop-in.
I have never played a Tales game before, and may not play another one, but it doesn't take a love for the series to enjoy this game. Perhaps the group best warned to stay away are achievement hunters - some of them seem to take a heck of a lot of work.
The Outer Worlds
Disappointing. The simplistic combat not only makes that portion of the game dull, but also weakens the RPG aspects since you can pour all your upgrade points into speech skills, making those challenges a breeze. The writing is one-note (everyone is quirky, snarky or both), the choices are binary and rarely provoke thought (indeed, the hardest choice was one of the very first) and the characters aren't particularly interesting - nor are they given much chance to be in their shallow quests. It also performed poorly on a decent rig - though that's to be expected from Obsidian.
Agents of Mayhem
It's...not that bad. Sure, it's flawed - repetitive quests, buggy at times and nowhere near the level of Saints Row's writing - but it has an enjoyably distinct set of characters (sadly enough, the character missions were more interesting than those of Outer Worlds) and the combat is enjoyably free-flowing.
PixelJunk Nom Nom Galaxy
I liked the idea of discovering ingredients and turning them into various products, but it quickly became centred around ever more complex process designs which were of no interest to me.
A fun runner; gorgeously presented. I sucked at it though!
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Presented in an enjoyably light-hearted manner, but it felt like it was dragging on even after four hours.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition
I was quite excited to play this, since it featured three of my favourite actors – Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle and Jason Isaacs. That’s the only reason I managed to last five hours. I hated pretty much everything about it; the shoddy fixed camera, the tedious fighting, the cringeworthy writing… The sad thing is that I bought another two games in the series.
A solid little survival management game. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Zafehouse Diaries or Dead State, mainly because the RNG was a bit too impactful. It’s far too common for a game to simply be unwinnable due to a lack of rain and/or the distribution of resources in nearby locations. When things are fairer (or the difficulty is lowered) it becomes quite a grind – with no real winning condition and little in the way of variety (there are a few shallow quests of minimal value or interest) tedium ensues.
Quite liked the new mechanics and enjoyed playing as Australia (though Walzing Matilda is so distinctive that it gets a bit grating). Having spent many hours in its predecessors though, there was nothing particularly groundbreaking which compelled me to play more than a few games.
Porno Studio Tycoon
I’ll give pretty much any management game a go! Unfortunately, things weren’t particularly well explained and while there seemed to be a bit of depth, a lot of it was blocked off (to add to the confusion, the tutorial focused on mechanics which were blocked off for much of the early game).
I normally like tactical games, but this was just too unforgiving and there was no ability to grind to reduce the difficulty.
It’s basically Bubble Bobble, which is fine. It’s quite nicely presented. The problem is that each level is meant to be completed in a certain number of moves, but since the bubble colours are randomly generated, it’s mostly down to luck – you might be able to wipe out half the bubbles on your first move, or might struggle to get any matches at all.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
I got fairly close to the end of this game but was just so fed up with it that I couldn’t push myself to get through it. The story was forgettable, the shooting mechanics were mediocre, all the extraneous gameplay elements were just an annoyance and I felt the game was balanced against me as a solo player (only twice did I find a co-op partner, and both of them screamed in Korean throughout). It looked impressive, at least.
Kingdom: New Lands Edition
I really thought I’d like this game, and had it on my wishlist from release. I love management games, and have no issue with passive management. It also looked gorgeous; this is one of the best-looking pixel-art games I’ve played. Unfortunately, it did not click at all. The AI was not bright, which is inevitably a source of a lot of frustration in a passive management game. Further, the gameplay was just dull. I felt like I was running back and forth endlessly for little reward – pretty though it may have been, I found myself wishing for a button to speed up time. The positive reviews suggest it is a relaxing and chill game – I just found myself frustrated with the AI and bored by the gameplay.
Halcyon 6: Lightspeed Edition
For some reason I thought this was more of a starbase management sim rather than a tactical space battle sim. The starbase elements are there, but they are pretty thin. Most of the game is about the tactical space battles, which were interesting and varied enough early on, but after nine hours and no end in sight I was sick of them.
I haven’t played a FIFA game since ’98, so it was interesting to give this a go. The story mode was okay – quite well presented, but the player rating system was infuriating at times (the out-of-position penalties in particular). I did find that there was a huge gap in the difficulty settings – one was ludicrously easy (insultingly so; the AI kept missing from close range), but the next was a bit too steep for someone essentially new to the series. An option between the two would have been nice, or at least an easier difficulty which at least tried to mask how easy it was making things! I also tried management mode, but having been used to Football Manager’s detail I was not able to get into this.
Seven: The Days Long Gone
This was a frustrating experience. I really liked the concept of an isometric thief RPG, and did my best to give it a fair chance. It had its positive aspects; freedom of movement, decent voice acting and reasonable graphics. However, the freedom of movement also worked against it; confrontations with enemies often spiralled into circular chases suited to Benny Hill music and I lost count of the number of times I plunged to an untimely death through a misstep. Moreover, it didn’t really work to its premise. The game started with a tutorial centred around a stealthy heist, which seemed to be the central premise of the game. The next time I encountered a situation close to that was six hours later.
Age of Wonders 3
I loved Shadow Magic many years ago but struggled to get into this. Maps seemed to take an inordinately long time to the point that armies were monstrously large and there was no research left. Maybe I was too defensive, but the AI was very passive.
A decent little puzzle game with minimal assets.
Out of the Park Baseball 19
A slight improvement on its predecessor. The main addition was an online card-game mode, but I’m not sure that works well in a management game. My squad was rapidly full of high-end talent and I felt no real connection to the team.
Niche: A Genetics Survival Game
Nice concept, but a rather wobbly execution. The genetics aspect tended to be lost due to the fast paced and tough nature of the game; the focus was so much on just keeping any creature alive that genetics didn’t come into my thinking. Apparently the best strategy is to sit on the first island for ages and build up a tribe, but the tutorial didn’t make that clear at all.
A grindy and buggy mobile game.
Endless Space 2 – Digital Deluxe Edition
I thought I was falling out of love with the space 4X genre, having been very disappointed with the last few I placed – particularly Stellaris – but this hit the mark. The alien races are distinct, making for significantly different gameplay. The gameplay itself is always interesting; unlike Stellaris, it doesn’t hit a dead patch mid-game. I found the combat a little frustrating – seemingly even contests would often have completely one-sided results for no apparent reason – but aside from that it was a solid game.
An enjoyable little rogue-lite deck builder. While I normally prefer a bit more flexibility in deck building, tying cards to characters meant that each one had a distinctive feel which gave the game plenty of replayability.
This sounded interesting in concept, but was way too oblique for me.
State of Decay 2
This seemed like the perfect game for me – I love survival management and settlement building. Unfortunately, it wound up feeling rather like a shallow MMO – trite dialogue, grindy tasks and no real sense of purpose or direction. I just found myself engaging in long, dull runs between locations, engaging in the same shoddy combat over and over again.
The Banner Saga 3
I played the first two games in the series to completion and seem to recall enjoying them, but something about this did not click at all. I had zero interest in the story – the time between instalments has dulled my memory of it – and the gameplay just felt so flat. I’m not really sure what changed between playing the last two games and now, but I had no motivation to keep playing.
A reasonably enjoyable but forgettable board game.
Warhammer 40,000 – Space Wolf
This is a game plagued by odd design choices. It has turn-based combat (which I love), but it is deprived of so much of its strategy by the way it is designed. Enemies appear at arbitrary moments from arbitrary locations (including amid your troops) without warning or logic, meaning that success requires either a degree of fortune or grinding missions to know when and where enemies will appear. Perhaps this is to compensate for the weak AI, which is prone to boneheaded acts, but it just makes things irritating and dull.
It also has a card collecting and deck building mechanic (again, which I love). The distribution of cards, however, is bizarre – completing tasks in missions (which can take 30+ minutes each) will give a couple of low-level cards. In contrast, activating one of numerous codes from the forums provides a pile of high-level cards. “Legendary” cards are so readily available in this form that a deck can be filled with them with a few minutes’ effort. There is a clumsy system for upgrading each card, none of which is explained in the shallow tutorial.
There is also an upgrade path for your squadmates – again poorly explained – which is reliant on grinding missions. They don't use your custom decks, so while you're flooded with Elite and Legendary cards for the leader, you have to grind just to eke out a few more Uncommons for the rest of your squad.
There's really nothing else to recommend the game. Graphics and sound are serviceable and the story is barely there. It just feels like yet another Warhammer game pushed out for the sake of it.
Warhammer 40,000 – Dawn of War II
Another disappointing Warhammer game.
Again this had things I liked – a strategic layer with character progression, equippable loot, choice of missions and ebb and flow of the wider battle. However, I found this constrained by the limits placed on that strategy, with constant time pressure funnelling me into the key missions . I’m not sure how much that time pressure would have impacted on the outcome – would doing side missions result in overall failure – as it was never properly explained.
Moreover, I found the RTS gameplay really quite dull and repetitive, such that I didn’t feel compelled to continue.
Incredibly dumb – horrible dialogue, clumsy gameplay (trying to aim guns while riding was a nightmare) and buggy (the one round which I won was as a result of a bug which caused me to be invincible for most of it), but it did have some entertainment value.
Having spent 125 hours in Recettear, it's fair to say I am very much open to the burgeoning shopkeeper-by-day/dungeon-crawler-by-night genre. Unfortunately, this fell flat. Even after a relatively short period it became a dull grind.
Much of that is due to a distinct lack of charm; it looks nice in screenshots, but lacks any real character or presence in game. The absence of any decent writing is another problem; what there was of the story didn't interest me in the slightest. In contrast to a game like Recettear, filled with charm and heart, this was utterly bland. Add in the clumsy storage system, shallow shopkeeping, sluggish combat and irritatingly repetitive music, and seven hours was more than enough for me.
Was rather surprised to dislike this. I found myself getting lost far too easily, which given that it was a very linear game meant a lot of frustration. The visual presentation was grating and confusing.
Moderately interesting hacking game, but too shallow, linear and not particularly well written.
Took a while for this to click, but once it did it was decent enough. I could have spent many hours playing this in the ‘90s, but it didn’t have enough of interest for me to do so now.
12 Labours of Hercules V: Kids of Hellas
Cute enough, I suppose, but quickly became repetitive.
A music-based shooter with poorly explained shooter mechanics and music which was very much not to my taste. One track really stood out as effectively blending the music and game mechanics, but that should have been the standard rather than the exception.
This game is presented as a cutesy, tongue-in-cheek game and for the most part it pulls that off pretty well. If that was the sum of it, I'd be reasonably satisfied. Instead, there is a dark, unpleasant story underneath, with numerous descriptions of animal abuse.
It's utterly jarring - a game which is presented as being for cat lovers (not that kind of lover), yet featuring descriptions of them being victims of torture, experimentation and killing.
The closest thing to a warning on the store page is a reference to "black humour", which doesn't cover it in my view. There is no humour in these scenes, so it’s not “black humour”. I don’t know what it is, other than a simply bizarre choice. Even putting aside the lack of warning, it's an unpleasant and jarring experience. I'm at a loss as to what on earth the devs were thinking.
The writing is otherwise reasonably good. The structure of the game, however, is poor. It requires multiple playthroughs to get a proper ending, and there is no way to quickly skip the text. Prepare for RSI, clicking through page after page of dialogue, if you ever want to get to the ending.
Suffice to say, going through this once is quite enough for me.
Space Hulk Ascension
I normally love turn-based combat, especially with RPG progression, but this was just dull and frustrating. Not having a good year with Warhammer games.
Super Daryl Deluxe
All very QUIRKY, and constantly at pains to remind you of how QUIRKY it is, without ever being particularly amusing. The art style is at least eyecatching, and some of the music is decent, but the writing didn’t grab me at all. The combat was a grindy battle of attrition – the only thing worse than “kill x monster” quests are “collect x items which randomly drop from only a small percentage of monsters after you kill them” quests. Add in the ever-frustrating boss fights where you had to win through repeating an unintuitive set of actions several times, and I didn’t feel like going much further.
Think of the Children
Nice idea, and it’s good to play a locally-made game, but it’s dreadfully designed for a single player. Although it can have up to three co-op partners, it doesn’t adjust the difficulty in the slightest to cater for a solo player rendering it near-impossible.
Legend of Grimrock 2
Obtuse puzzles, clumsy combat and bland design made this quickly unappealing.
I mainly just played for the story mode, which was fine. Didn't notice much of a difference from 18.
Out of the Park Baseball 20
No discernible improvement upon its predecessor.
Some nice ideas, but thoroughly dull. In six hours I was attacked three times by bandits and spent the rest of the time painstakingly building farms.
Iratus: Lord of the Dead
An enjoyable little strategy game. I will probably go back to it since it's in early access and is constantly being rebalanced.
Into the Breach
Moderately interesting strategy, but not enough to keep me coming back.
There Came An Echo
Iridium's previous game, Before the Echo (aka Sequence) was a flawed but enjoyable hidden gem.
There Came an Echo has a similar level of charm, but two fundamental problems.
The first is that it was simply unplayable on my PC. A black screen after loading; no way past it. Apparently it was due to an incompatibility with my microphone which is rather problematic when I don't HAVE a microphone.
The second is that (having used my partner's computer to run it) ultimately it's a very raw proof of concept. Like its predecessor it has charm in the voice acting and writing, but unlike its predecessor it is just not a lot of fun to play. Put aside the gimmick of giving voice commands and you're left with a short, clumsy, shallow and frustrating experience.
World of Mixed Martial Arts 5
As usual for the series (indeed, the dev in general), a stack of good ideas marred by fundamental flaws. Good as a hypnotic experience between other games.
Star Trek Timelines
I tried this briefly a few years ago and didn't get into it, but I certainly did this year. It's all pretty shallow, but as a fan-friendly timewaster it's decent enough.
Football Manager Touch 2019
Endlessly infuriating, and a bit buggy, but always manages to draw me back in.