Locked in? Isolated? Bored? Pft, who am I asking? We’re gamers, and if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s how to have fun in spite of that ray of Spring sunshine sliding in through those closed curtains. The day of the hermit has dawned, and because of that, we’ve decided to take a crack at one of the most important thought experiments of our time: If you were quarantined on a deserted island with your dream gaming rig, which games would you bring? ~ Amala & Keeley
Ahem. A note before we continue. When you conjure up the images of ‘island’ and ‘gaming’ you’re probably already thinking about that one game. Perhaps you’re playing it now while reading this article. It certainly is the quarantine game of choice, but no, Animal Crossing: New Horizons will not be on our list. We won’t be explaining ourselves.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
A: Skyrim is one of those games I could disappear into. It’s pure, fantastical escapism. Just create a character, escape your execution and trek your way through nordic cities, underground caves, hidden glades, bandit camps, other dimensions and mountains which you stubbornly make your horse climb because going around is for milk-drinkers. There are a gazillion side quests and each city has a story. It’s one of those games where it’s easy to get pulled away from the main quest because you’re having fun directing your own exploration.
Speaking of making your own fun, one thing famously synonymous with the Skyrim experience is, of course, mods. Heroes from the modding community create special assets or experiences that give this 2011 game an ever-changing face.
Guild Wars 2
A: I won’t make it on the island without the game I’ve been addicted to for the last four years. In times like these where your usual human contact has been reduced to your household, we’re all at risk of varying levels of loneliness. Being a part of the various online communities in Guild Wars 2 is a part of my mental wellbeing. I’m really lucky to be a part of an awesome guild that I mesh with and who regularly do guild activities; I have two amazing (and hilarious) statics who have nurtured me as a raider and I love being a part of the Virtually Interrupted team.
The friends you make in a mmo is an important ‘staying factor’, but I’m also in love with Tyria and its story. Between the immense spikes of hype I feel whenever it’s close to a Living World update and my new interest in pugging strike missions, there is still always something I’m working on in-game. Recently, my game has been all about fashion wars and collecting as many skins as I can. Each unlock is a sweet hit of dopamine.
Divinity: Original Sin
K: Right now, my idea of a romantic evening involves a sofa, a blanket and Divinity: Original Sin. With local co-op and compelling interaction between the player characters, this fantasy RPG is great for couples who have run out of Netflix shows to binge together. The story is rich, the combat is turn-based, and the jokes are so bad they’re great. The beautiful, open world gives so much freedom – arguably too much. Where some games hold your hand with arrows and prompts, Divinity: Original Sin parachutes you into the wilderness and tells you to just find the thing. The crafting system? I don’t know, put this eye in that bottle and see what happens.
As you explore, you will meet a selection of playable companions willing to join your party. Each companion has different skills to offer and stories to tell. I encountered a mute rogue named Wolgraff lurking beneath the cemetery and decided to let him tag along; my boyfriend swapped companions a few times before settling on Madora, a fierce fighter with a bee in her bonnet about some orcs. They became as integral to our story as the characters we created at the start. Madora brazenly voiced her opinion about almost everyone we met, and Wolgraff passed notes advising us of nearby traps and treasure, ever adding to his silent mystery. We soon realized that Wolgraff’s skill set overlapped considerably with my character’s own, and my partner suggested it might be time to switch. Replace Wolgraff? My Wolgraff? I would not be so fickle!
Over the 70 hours we spent completing every quest we could, this game intrigued, entertained and frustrated us. Solving puzzles together, besting foes together, and sometimes just working out what you’re supposed to do next together made this one of the most fun collaborative gaming experiences I’ve had.
I Love Hue Too
A: We’re living in stressful times and sometimes when I’m worked up, I can’t get into the right mindset to play the games I usually enjoy. In these moments, I need something quieter. Simpler. I Love Hue Too is a cutely-named mobile game where you simply have to move disordered tiles until they fit the colour gradient of that level. That’s it.
Games like this where you can easily lose time in the flow is a great way to relax. However, as this is a free mobile game, after the first uninterrupted 10 levels, ads will come in and disrupt that precious flow. I forked over £4.99 to get rid of ads permanently pretty early on, which I think is a wise investment for the mental refuge the game’s 450 levels have to offer.
You can also see how you stack up against the world average in the levels past the first 10 if you’re like me and enjoy games telling you what a big brain you have. There’s also an option to turn off the world average or even scores completely, if you just want to play… which I’m sure I’ll eventually do once the levels get harder.
Two Point Hospital
K: Is it tasteless or amusingly apt to feature this on our list? Perhaps both? All I know is that I’ve been playing it a lot over the past few weeks and it’s been going down a treat. If you were, like me, a fan of Theme Hospital back in the day, Two Point Hospital will scratch that itch in a snazzier, shinier way (although you really should see a doctor about that).
Much of the game’s charm is in its silly, near-the-knuckle humour, from punny illnesses like Misery Guts and Freudian Lips to the downright stupid names of patients and staff. Combined with its endearing visual style and easy-listening soundtrack, it’s a pleasant distraction from the stresses of quarantine life. Stages can be repetitive in the long run, but it’s a fun, relaxing way to waste a couple of hours, and sometimes that’s just what you’re looking for. It may not be the most high-brow game out there, but if now isn’t the time to chuckle at Nora Cucumber’s Jest Infection, then when?
With this eclectic selection of games, we’re sure to keep ourselves sane during these crazy times, however every player’s essential games are bound to be different. Whichever games are getting you through the hermit days, we wish you good health and many achievement unlocks.