Waypoint 101 is our special book-club style, roundtable series, where both staff and community play through and chat about a game that either left an imprint on us and the industry or else was unfortunately overlooked. Click here to check out previous entries in the series!
Sometimes when we choose Waypoint 101 games, we're looking for an immediate connection to a recent release or news story: Revisiting Red Dead Redemption this fall was great critical prep for returning to Rockstar's version of the wild west in RDR2. Shadowrun: Dragonfall, meanwhile, helped us work through the ongoing conversation about the past and future of the cyberpunk genre. And in early 2018, it felt important that we spend time wrapping our heads around Fortnite, undoubtedly the year's biggest game.
I like this method of choosing games to return to, partially because it helps to elbow out space to have conversations that otherwise die on the vine (or in our brains), or to contextualize discourse that is often built on memory instead of recent analysis. But it's also limiting in a lot of ways, and over time, it led us to choose bigger AAA games, with a serious bias towards shooters.
So, when I went to our forums to ask for suggestions for the final Waypoint 101 of the year, I brought some requirements:
- Shorter is better. Given how busy the end of year is, between GOTY packages and travel and everything else, it's unlikely that any of us will be able to give a long game its due. Listen, in the wake of Fallout 76, I'd love to return to New Vegas, especially since I never played any of that game's DLC. I know. I know. But we just don't have the time this year.
- Controller support. Some past games were hard for a number of players to join us with because they relied on keyboard and mouse input. For the last episode of the year, I want make sure more people can join in.
- Not a shooter. Let's just say that Waypoint 101s of the past have had a type. Metro 2033, ZombiU, Wolfenstein, Red Dead Redemption, Binary Domain. All shooters or shooter-adjacent. Mad Max wasn't a shooter, per se, but boy is it still totally in the same AAA design paradigm. Wanted to break out of that, and ideally find something with a handhold for everyone. Again, would love to do New Vegas, but… at the end of the day, a lot of that game is just lining up the sights and pulling a trigger.
- Platform availability. Red Dead was something we thought would be pretty easy for people to get to: After all, it's widely available used on PS3 and Xbox 360, backwards compatible on Xbox One, and on Sony's "PS Now" streaming service. We underestimated, though, how ready people were to drag out their old consoles and discs. And we overestimated the strength of PS Now. So, this time we wanted something really, truly, widely available.
- Finally, not just a big Western AAA dev again. I think we've done a pretty good job of mixing things up in terms of nationality in Waypoint 101. We’ve had Japanese, American, French, Swedish, Ukranian, and UK devs so far, but the bulk of those were in the AAA space, with Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun: Dragonfall being the “smallest” game in our list. Fallout: New Vegas, of course… (okay, okay I'll stop hinting at the fact that in 2019, I'd really like to return to New Vegas!)
After looking at a ton of great suggestions from y'all, we decided to go with Klei's 2012 Mark of the Ninja. It hits a lot of these categories: It was a break out success from the then small, Vancouver-based Klei Games. With the recent remaster, it's available on a huge range of platforms. Despite having a lot of bonus challenges, a basic playthrough is about eight hours long. It's got controller support and it's definitely not a shooter. And hey, as a bonus, it's got a little bit of something for everyone. Stealth takedowns. unique platforming challenges. Klei's distinctive animation style. Ninjas.
Despite the game's success (and the familiarity some of us have with it), I think this will lead to some great convos. It's been six years since most of us have looked at it, and that means it's ripe for revisiting and re-evaluation.
And hey, as always with 101s, we want you to join us in that task. So go ahead and use this forum thread to start chatting about it, and feel free to start sending questions in to firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject "Waypoint 101 Question." We're aiming to release this ep during the final couple of weeks of the year, just in time for any holiday travel you have planned.
See you in the shadows.