The WWAC Games section chats a lot about the games we’re all currently obsessed with, and it’s not just Stardew Valley (though a lot of our talk has been about the gardening game). Here’s a sneak peek into the games consuming our time and what we’ve been talking about behind the scenes.

Clash Royale Supercell iOS, AndroidAl Rosenberg is playing:
Clash Royale
iOS, Android
January 4, 2016

Why am I playing this game? I usually hate games like this. I have no patience for waiting for my turns to refill or chests to unlock. Yet, here I am, obsessed with this mobile game. I did not enjoy Clash of Clans at all. Royale is something different. Supercell has created a PvP, simple, fast, card-powered, tower-defense game and I am sold! There are still things I hate (some of the cards are definitely overpowered, and I still hate waiting), but they did so many things right! There’s no chatting in-game, just emoting, the graphics are adorable, and there’s a wide range of characters which allows for a variety of strategies.

What drew you to this game when you don’t like similar games?

Well, honestly, my roommate was playing it and he started an LGBTQ clan and I thought I’d give it a try. Now I can’t put it down.

Wendy Browne is playing:
Star Wars: The Old Republic
BioWare, Electronic Arts
December 20, 2011

I have had these lofty goals of completing the storyline for all the classes (I’m at 3/8 so far) and finally checking out the expansions since updates to this MMO have made it much easier to do so and I’ve heard such good things about the new storyline, “Knights of the Fallen Empire.” I’ve also got the gang back together and am playing regularly with friends on Tuesday nights and completing flashpoints, laughing a lot. We’re helping our newbie friend through her missions and applying just enough peer pressure to get her to shut up and give EA her money like a good subscriber who falls victim to EA’s so-called free-2-play game. But, while there is some actual game play happening during the many hours I’ve logged recently, a large chunk of my time is spent in front of the Galactic Trade Network searching for outfits and dyes to make sure my characters look their absolute best for my Star Wars fashion show. Fashion > the Force.

What’s your favorite outfit so far?

Ummm. All of them. There are so many (too many!) outfits available now that it’s easy to find just the right look to suit my character’s personality and appearance.

Do you have to structure your outfits based on stats or do you just get to look cool all the time with no restrictions?

Priority is on looking cool. The Outfit Designer lets you create many different looks that overlay whatever actual gear you’re wearing.

Stardew Valley Chucklefish LTD February 2016Cathryn Sinjin-Starr is playing:
Stardew Valley
26 Feb 2016

Stardew Valley is an indie, retro-inspired “country life” simulation RPG game, created by ConcernedApe (Eric Barone). The game hearkens back to nostalgia for the Harvest Moon games by Natsume. Left a farm by your grandfather, you create your future-farmer and transplant yourself to Stardew Valley to escape the crippling atmosphere of corporate life. The game features multiple activities besides farming, such as foraging, mining, fighting monsters, cooking, fishing, making friends, getting married and having kids. The beauty of the game is that you get to choose how you want to play. The game gives you hints in case you don’t know what you want to do, but for the most part, it’s full reign to the player. The game also supports mods, so players are able to adjust the game to their preference. It continues to see development, with bug fixes and new features (such as adding more marriage candidates, and a planned 4-player co-op farm!).

What I love about the game, unlike the Harvest Moon games, is that there IS no end-game. The game does not end by a predetermined end or have some static goal. It is all up the player what is important to them and how to go about it. It’s also addictive once you get going—a quick jump-on can easily turn into 5 hours logged and counting. The game tweaks well on the nostalgia of those that remember the early Harvest Moon games, while improving features that many were annoyed with back then.

What do you find keeps you motivated in-game when there’s no end-game?

I find the sheer quantity of available activities, and the ability to have personal goals are a good pushing force. I’m just onto Year 2 and have only managed to build two silos and upgrade my house once. I can’t tell if that’s slow or not, but it means I still have a lot to do before I’m a farming millionaire. Because the game doesn’t impose any hard goals (but does have a few soft ones to give you guidance), I can come up with my own personal milestones and objectives.

Are you playing with any mods?

I am, yes, but they are all cosmetic—oh, the vanity! I’ve not delved into any gameplay-changing mods, as I don’t want to touch the vanilla mechanics on this play-through, especially since there are more updates coming in the future that could break mods and save files that use them. At the moment, I have mods installed to update some of the portraits and a couple sprites that just weren’t doing it for me. Fairly tame for me, given my past modding addictions in The Elder Scrolls and Sims games.

Rise of the Tomb RaiderAndrea Smith is playing:
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Square Enix
Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
November 10, 2015

I’m late to the game playing this, because it came out the same day as Fallout 4, and that was a terrible idea by Square Enix. That said, I’m really enjoying this game. I’m only 27% of the way through, according to the menu screen, and it’s entirely possible that I will be 27% of the way through for the rest of my life, because I am trapped in an endless loop of getting my ass kicked. (Note: This is entirely my fault for playing on Survival difficulty and not saving up enough crafting items to heal myself.) I enjoyed the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, and Rise expands upon that version of Lara Croft, sending her to colder climates in search of immortality and the approval of her dead father. As with its 2013 successor, Rise is a game for the collectible junkie; there’s lots to find and explore. Crafting is a simple matter of possessing the right components to make things, as are weapons upgrades. Being only a quarter of the way through the game, I don’t feel comfortable commenting on the plot except to say that I’m intrigued with where it’s going so far, and I wouldn’t be mad if I got to see more of sexy Syrian prisoner Jacob.

Draven Katayama is playing:
Love is Strange
Team Rumblebee
Windows, Mac OS X, Linux
April 1, 2016

Life is Strange fans, here’s your chance to return to Arcadia Bay and the lives of Max and Chloe! Love is Strange is an impressive fan game/visual novel. You again play Max, and you’re back to daily life at Blackwell Academy. The darker elements of Life is Strange‘s story are absent here. The focus is on your relationships with Chloe, Rachel Amber, Victoria Chase, and Kate Marsh. As Max, you choose whom of these four characters you want to get to know better.

The art is a fitting tribute to the original game, with familiar outfits and backgrounds. The gameplay is much simpler as it’s completely text-driven, only requiring you to choose between options. The sheer amount of dialogue makes for an immersive, detailed game. Also, remember Max’s journal? It’s back, and the choices you make affect what’s recorded. I’m impressed with the new backstory Love is Strange gives to Rachel Amber. We see sides of all of these characters we didn’t see in Life is Strange, and you can easily spend hours choosing how to unfold the story.

What’s your favorite romance in this game? Would playing this be enjoyable if I haven’t played Life is Strange? Or would I be totally lost?

Romances have to be between Max and another character, and so far I’ve only started the Max and Rachel storyline. Their dialogue is cute and their bond feels genuine. You wouldn’t be totally lost if you haven’t played Life is Strange: in the opening scenes before you choose a romance storyline, you’re introduced to each character. This game could even function like a prologue to Life is Strange.

Animal CrossingCarly Smith is playing:
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer
September 25, 2015

I don’t have the money or the space to do interior design for myself, so a big thanks to Nintendo for letting me do it for cute animals at a much cheaper price than I would spend on cute furniture in real life! Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer switches you from mayoral duties to designer duties under the paw of Lottie at Nook’s Homes. The game starts off slow as Lottie introduces you to the basics of decorating in Happy Home Designer, and with each client you take on, you unlock more furniture, wallpaper, and flooring you can use. The game starts off small and then gets bigger as you start designing the outdoor decor of clients’ homes and even work with Isabelle, the mayor’s assistant, to design a cafe, a school, a hospital, and a store.

The game is cute, easy to learn, and great for playing in small chunks of time. What else could I want out of a portable game?

Do you have a lot of freedom in the designs or do you have to follow certain rules?

Each client requires you to design their space based on a theme they like, such as a color or a style (e.g. ornate, modern, etc.), and they also bring a couple items of furniture they love that must be incorporated into the design. I actually really enjoy this because as much as I’m designing the space based on what I like, the theme the client sets guides me in a direction. Some boundaries can help creativity along. And as you work with more clients, the kind of furniture and decorations you can use increases. While you can make custom patterns and decorations, you aren’t able to do this when you begin the game.

Do you think this is substantial enough to fill the Animal Crossing void until the next one is announced?

If you’re the kind of Animal Crossing player who gets really into decorating their house, Happy Home Designer is a great game to play in the meantime! And if you haven’t played an Animal Crossing game before, this is a good place to start, too.

Star Fox ZeroKathy Beyerle is playing:
Star Fox: Zero
Nintendo and Platinum Games
Nintendo Wii U

I am one of the few and mighty who is still standing strong by my Wii-U. Loyal Nintendo fan here. That being said, I think it’s now obvious why I played Star Fox Zero amongst the mixed (okay, not great) reviews out there. Star Fox 64 is a great game from my childhood, I loved that it was one of the games I could easily sit down and beat within a day. Fox McCloud and his furry (and slippery) friends are a lovable crew. Star Fox Zero delivers almost exactly what I was expecting—and what I want..but from a Nintendo 64 game. With the addition of some spiffy new graphics, the team is looking better than ever, but not so amazing that I feel like it’s 2016. There was never a moment while I was playing that I was in awe of the art, or character design. There also wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t extremely annoyed with the motion controls. I have to admit, I do enjoy the nostalgia factor of the game—but it’s not something I will be playing every evening addictively until I force myself to focus on other things (cough Platoon). It is, however, an easy trip down memory lane, and I’m OK with that.

Does the game need the nostalgia element to be enjoyable, or do you think people will appreciate it regardless of their connection to earlier games?

I definitely think it needs the nostalgia element to be the most enjoyable that it can be. This is pretty typical for a Nintendo fan base though—I think the gameplay is not quite easy enough to say this is a great starter game for kids/those with less experience either, which is something that I think the older Star Fox games had.

Melissa Brinks is playing
Campo Santo
PC, Mac OSX, Linux, PlayStation 4
February 9, 2016

I’ve been drooling over how gorgeous Firewatch looks since it first premiered, and I probably would have been happy with the game if all it did was sit there and look pretty. Thankfully, this is the kind of game I stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing, shirking adult responsibilities to find out what’s going to happen next.

You take on the role of Henry, a guy trying to escape his past by playing fire lookout in 1989 Wyoming. Your only companion is a woman named Delilah, who you can ignore, chat, or flirt with through walkie-talkies.

The tension ramps up quickly and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s told linearly, and while you can wander the park at will, it’s not quite open world. While many found themselves underwhelmed by the game’s ending, I thought it was perfectly suited to the themes and tone. It’s not a perfectly polished piece—some pacing issues could be tightened up and sometimes the amount of instructions oscillate wildly between too much information and not enough—but it’s an impressive effort for the first game from Campo Santo, and I’ll happily throw my money at them in the future.

How much of a role does Delilah play in the journey?

I think it depends on how you look at it. For me, she played an incredibly significant role. Both Henry and Delilah are dealing with some things they’re avoiding, and seeing how each of them runs away from their problems shows the other how that sort of stunts their growth as people. Delilah’s actions are also a big catalyst for the plot, and you see how who she is as a person affects others. I thought she was a fantastic character, like someone you might know in real life who’s both likable and a total mess.

What are you playing?