Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook. I’m talking about hands, maps, cats, startup screens – things we ignore at the time but can recall years later because, it turns out, they’re integral to our memory of the game. Now is the time to celebrate them!
It works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces. So come on, what are you waiting for? On we go!
Did you know the UK has the next dozen or so storm names already figured out? Following the rather mundane “Dennis” will be Ellen, then Francis and then Gerda, which is a great name! There are a few other bangers in there too: Iris (imagine the puns!), Noah (ironically reincarnated as the storm) and Willow (great to see her working again Buffy).
The names were crowdsourced last autumn but there are still blanks. The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z still lack associated names, and they’re not the easiest to work with. Any ideas?
Meanwhile, and more to the point, here are five of the best storms in games. Rage on!
It’s impossible to ignore the storm in Spec Ops: The Line, mostly because a very large one is tearing up Dubai. It’s the backdrop for a descent into chaos – cutting off communication with the outside world and funnelling the characters into the city centre, where social order and notions of heroism are stripped away to reveal violent human tendencies underneath. For both the protagonist and the player.
The sand infiltrates almost every aspect of Spec Ops, including the gameplay. Enemies can be buried with sand avalanches or temporarily blinded by sand if a grenade explodes in front of them. Sand, like the overall situation, becomes a tool humans can manipulate to exert power and kill.
In levels where the sandstorm whips up, it paints a hellish red landscape through which shadowy figures emerge in the main characters’ PTSD-fuelled hallucinations. And in moments where the sandstorm clears, an underlying truth is revealed.
Fortnite’s storm is wonderfully radioactive. Even before you start to lose health it’s just not a nice place to be. This purple, sizzling no-man’s land that sweeps across the map transforming day into… what exactly?
Weirdly, it’s the recent addition of secret agent strongholds that has really brought the storm into focus for me. And this is because it encourages you to forget all about it until it’s too late. When you’re playing vanilla Fortnite, you’re playing the storm – it’s always part of your thinking. But these little HQs to infiltrate and rob make you forget all about it. Until it’s too late.
Yesterday I finally got into the vault on Shark, my favourite of the secret agent hide-outs. The vault is your reason for visiting these places, and I had played so badly I got in just as the storm reached me. All this treasure around me and then this purple radioactive wall crackled through the air and I realised I had to get a move on. Magic.
Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves’ storm is a constant, ever-shifting companion, lingering menacingly on the horizon at all times. Yet despite its languid trajectory and unignorable presence, it has a sneaky knack for being in exactly the right place at precisely the wrong time, raining torment on anyone foolish enough to let their guard down.
But even so, it’s not a threat in the usual sense; at worst, it’s a wrinkle in your carefully laid plans, at best it’s an invitation to adventure. You’ll barrel gleefully into its rough embrace as a cunning ruse to lose a particularly persistent pursuer, or with cavalier abandon when you simply can’t be bothered to sail the long way around, or, sometimes, even just to revel in Rare’s breathtaking audio-visual handiwork and the sheer cinematic splendour of it all.
At its drizzly edges, the storm won’t do much more than slick your deck and tousle your hair; push inward, though, and you’re in for one hell of a time. Skies darkens, the heavens open, and with a sudden, frantic lunge, the entire ocean drops away, your rain-battered boat flailing ceaselessly atop vast, churning waves. Spray flies, lightning flashes, wood groans and splinters, and all the while you fight to regain control of your ship’s furiously spinning wheel. Needless to say, when the waters finally calm enough for you to dare a breath, and the fog parts once more on a blazing Caribbean sun, it’s hard to resist the temptation to swing back around for another glorious ride.
-Matt Wales (who sails us through a storm in the video below)
Life is Strange
Imagine being sat at your desk on a long, dull day and then suddenly getting a vision of the near-future where an apocalyptic tornado – the kind able to sweep up whole houses, which you only get in disaster films and also The Wizard of Oz – is about to destroy your whole town. Freaky, huh? And then you wake up. Did you see the future or just dream it? And if it was the future, shouldn’t you be getting off your bum to do something about it?
There’s a lot more to the time-twisty high school drama of Life is Strange than a possible future tornado, but its opening daydream sets up the stakes, and suggests how the small decisions you begin to make can – like the beating of a butterfly’s wings – eventually cause a storm.
The Storm is Frostpunk’s final boss. It announces itself long before it arrives, lurking as a tidal wave of avalanchey doom on your horizon, slowly rumbling closer. Everything you do from the moment it appears becomes about bracing for it. Laws you previously felt morally incapable of passing become possibilities, and ethical boundaries erode. Are you sure you’ve done enough?
When the storm finally does crash in, it makes everything that came before – all the extremely cold temperatures – look positively balmy. The thermometer plunges to minus 70 degrees centigrade, minus 80 degrees centigrade, down and down until you cannot believe your eyes, frankly (probably because they’ve frozen). And even with your city’s generator heart cranked into overdrive, things begin to cease up and freeze.
The storm brings a tension and excitement – a clinging-on for dear life – I have never experienced in a city-building game before. It’s exhilarating.