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Melvor Idle
Melvor Idle

Jun 22

Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms
Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms

Jun 22

Destiny 2
Destiny 2

Jun 21

Lethal Company
Lethal Company

May 31

Sky: Children of the Light
Sky: Children of the Light

Apr 15

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While I recognize that The Crew is just another disposable helping of Ubisoft open-world slop full of map-revealing radar towers and distracting activity icons that get in your way at least as often as they represent opportunities for rewards, I can't help but feel a great affection for it. The ridiculous deep-cover gang infiltration (it's incredible how many things can be accomplished through the medium of illegal street racing) story and world flavor, however thin and clichéd, are so much more fun than the bland sports festival theming that seems to be the trend today. Race design is hit and miss, but the hits are memorable, like the time I bested a high-performance supercar with my dirt-tuned Nissan Fairlady by efficiently drifting through a series of off-road shortcuts that ran alongside and often cut across the street, a twisting duel of contrasts that felt much more interesting than a typical race between similar vehicles sharing the same circuit.

But, more than anything else, I just enjoyed tracing my way across the massive map, winding through the mountainous northeast on a rainy night to Laurent Juillet's ambient music or stomping through a southern swamp to Baby or Black Milk. I know it doesn't seem very impressive, but I think I might just be happy if a game gives me a map, a car, and a soundtrack. My love for paths and routes and mazes is something that I think about all the time in the context of videogames but rarely talk about because I don't entirely know how to explain it and doubt most people would understand, but the point here is that I take great pleasure in simply following The Crew's interstates and highways. Those relaxing cross-country trips that lasted twenty or thirty minutes before I reached New York or Los Angeles for the first time, flying down the overpass as the buildings gradually enveloped me, decelerating into the smooth cruise of an exit loop, fluidly weaving through traffic as I cleanly transitioned into a tunnel or a grid of city blocks, coolly emboldened by the Arctic Monkeys or American Princes song on the radio—those are the experiences that I'll remember most from this game.

Is that really anything remarkable for the genre? Am I overvaluing The Crew because I simply haven't played many of its influences, competitors, and successors? I honestly don't know. I look forward to finding out.

I meant to spend more time with it before it got shut down, but thankfully members of the community seem pretty confident that they can get some kind of server emulation up and running to preserve the game. I hope it won't take long. I still have to finish avenging my brother's murder by driving real good.

Despite good intentions and a sincere effort, this is a scattered, confused, reductive, and utterly graceless approach to delicate subject matter packaged in a tedious and frustrating gameplay experience.

I decided to stop playing—well, more like I just didn't pick it back up to fulfill my daily obligations once the new season began, enjoyed how freeing that felt, and went with it. And yet...

Maybe someone with under two weeks of play and an aversion to competitive games is not the best person to review this thing, but I think it's very good, actually? Play is quick and punchy, card powers are simple but compelling, the field division into three locations leads to interesting combos and mind games that wouldn't exist on a uniform board, collection upgrading is addictive ("frame break!"), the music is a clew of earworms, and the game as a whole feels more approachable and less burdensome than competitors owing to brief matches and small decks.

I used to play Hearthstone (really, aside from scant single-player adventures, I would just log in and make a ranking push each month for the card back even though I usually didn't feel like it), and putting a deck together was a massive slog because, with 30 cards per deck and a huge catalog of possibilities, flipping through all those pages to consider the often redundant options for so many positions along the curve made holding a strategic picture in mind daunting at best—and attempting to optimize it without copying a pre-made from some website nearly impossible. This isn't the case in Snap, where most cards seem distinct, each of the six turns represents a clear step in your tactical plan, and every space in your deck feels important. It could well be that players who've dipped into several pools are seeing a more bloated game by now, but at my level this is pretty tight. Every card has something to offer, with the exception of the few throwaway starter cards that don't bring any actual abilities to the board (and there are ways to mess around with even those).

And collecting those cards is fun in its own right. Seeing friends share images of their broad rosters of diverse characters was a big part of Snap's draw for me, especially with some of the fun and sometimes bizarro variant art available for them. Every character has their own unique logo design, and seeing them all assembled in a big set is naturally pleasurable. Abilities usually make a good logical match to the character themselves, and cards further express that character through unique visual effects both on play and on ability activation. The game just does an excellent job overall of harnessing the immense and colorful stable of characters that Marvel has to offer. I mentioned the card upgrades earlier, but it bears repeating that this sense that you're investing in cards or variants that you often play with or think are cool by upgrading their art is a very smart addition to the collectable card game format. If you've got a favorite, giving it 3D layering or animated elements just feels great. More than in many similar games, there's a powerful physicality in the cards you collect, and you come to feel like they actually belong to you.

Honestly, writing this review is dangerous. I can feel the pull to get back in there, but I'm resisting because, as enjoyable as Snap is just to play, I can't do it casually. Everything about its structure is designed to draw commitment from you through collection levels, a risk/reward rank ladder, and daily/weekly/monthly missions feeding season pass rewards. Maybe I've just been beaten down by the industry to the point where I cynically expect this stuff rather than resent its manipulation as strongly as I should, but either way the simple truth is that I don't have room in my life for another game that wants to make me play it all of the time.

I look at Marvel Snap and extrapolate the progression I've experienced so far to ask: What would I actually get out of investing in this for months of regular—frequent, even!—play? This is obviously personal, but because it's a competitive game the answer for me is very little. There's no content to conquer. There's no puzzle to solve. There's no end point. It's just about continuously being better than other players, grinding along infinite progression tracks, and acquiring more cards and cosmetic collectables. I don't deny that there's satisfaction in a win, but competitive victories never last. Beating other players isn't really meaningful or attractive to me enough on its own. So I have made the adult decision to not get sucked into this, because I know that, eventually, it will leave me feeling hollow.

And maybe it wasn't all that hard for me, after all; I just needed a single day off to remember how nice it felt not to be constantly compelled to keep up. I indulge enough games like that already, believe me. No matter how shiny, another can't be good for my mental health.