Pour decisions: wine with video games

Getting Commander Shepherd drunk in every bar in Mass Effect. Using cocktails to manipulate moods in The Red Strings Club. Downing so much beer in Fable that you throw up and earn The Drinking Game achievement. Alcohol has long featured in video games in ways both subtle and over-the-top.

I’m writing this now with a fuzzy head on a Sunday morning, after going to my first wine-tasting event in London with my other-half the previous night. I can’t remember how many varieties we ended up trying but it must have been quite a few – and thankfully we managed to keep a list of those we really enjoyed. Through my alcohol-induced fog, I began thinking which of our chosen bottles would go well with video games so here’s a list of my best pour decisions.

Katie Jones La Gare Old Vine Syrah 2018

A classic big red ripe with dark fruit and notes of wild rosemary and thyme, with a peppery aroma. Barrel aging helps soften the wine and control its wild rustic character. Goes well with a meaty steak and chips.

Pete’s favourite wine of the evening. There’s nothing understated about it: it’s strong and packs a punch of flavour, and a wine like that needs a beefy video game to stand up to it. So how about something like Red Dead Redemption 2? These two ‘wild rustic characters’ could be a match made in heaven.

Stefano di Blasi Montepuliciano DOC 2018

An intense and velvety modern red, full to the brim with bright red fruit and smooth dark chocolate. It’s very easy drinking and will therefore suit many different pallets. Goes well with a rich, gamey stew.

A glass of this would be perfect in front of a roaring fire in the winter, and where better to find a ‘gamey stew’ than one of the traditional inns in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s a game that many people love regardless of what their preferred genre is so this easy-drinking tipple could be its perfect pairing.

Simpsons of Servian Sparkling Syrah 2018

A deliciously soft and fruity sparkling red with a fabulous deep opaque colour. Bursting with sweet red fruits, this is one to try if you’re intrigued by something different. Goes well with traditional fare like roasted turkey.

Sparkling wines go with special occasions and there’s nothing more special than this festive time of year – convenient, seeing as this one pairs well with turkey. Pour yourself a glass before digging out your old-school consoles so we can go retro with Home Alone. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.

Ocaso Sparkling Rosé

This modern sparkling rosé may win over some red wine drinkers and convince them to give pink fizz a try. Think fresh cherries and strawberries full of small and brilliant bubbles. Goes well with grilled marinated shrimp or fish.

This tipple is a bright and happy one, and there’s just something about its bubbles that make it feel very uplifting. It therefore needs a positive game to go alongside it so a title like Journey could be a lovely choice here. I bet you’d have a great big smile on your face by the end of your play session… hic.

Cecilia Simon Tokaji 2015

Full-bodied and complex, here’s a modern dessert wine with sumptuous aromas of peach and figs. Subtle wooden notes thanks to spending 18-months in some big old barrels. Goes well with a meal of nuts, fig, dates, citrus or pear.

My favourite tasting of the night: I love the sweetness of dessert wine but this one had a slight acidity to it. That meant it was in no way sickly and was somehow refreshing, so a title like Eastshade would be a good match. The colour of the wine even reminds me of the golden sunset glow in game.

Quevedo LBV Port 2013

A late bottled vintage port lovingly aged for six years. Velvety caramel with a massive smack of vanilla and strawberries, and a hint of cherry bakewell tart. Goes well with cheese and roasted almonds after a delicious dinner.

A refined tipple. I’m not a port person but this one made me reconsider: it was incredibly smooth and like dessert in a glass. We felt it would be perfect for after Christmas dinner, sipping it on the sofa while playing cards, so how about a few rounds of solitaire with a game like Shadowhand?

Let’s end this post with a line suggested by Pete in his wine-induced morning haze: wine is fine, especially at game time. I’m now turning off the laptop and going to find the paracetamol.

Five indie games to look forward to

With the great indie showcase that is EGX Rezzed fast approaching, I thought I’d share some of the upcoming games made by independent developers that are on my radar. The community is very alive, very active and has some very exciting concepts to reveal in the coming months.

Shadowhand

I first came across Shadowhand at EGX 2015, where the husband and wife team of Grey Alien Games were in full costume to show off their latest project. I was immediately smitten with what I played. It’s a clever little game of solitaire-meets-RPG-meets-highwaywoman’s adventure, where you are tasked with guiding the titular Shadowhand (Lady Darkmoor by day) on her quest to retrieve a stolen family jewel.

It builds on the successful higher/lower system from the excellent Regency Solitaire and will include the addition of weapons, clothing and special abilities in the mix. I’m so confident about this title I think it may well be the sleeper hit of the next 12 months. Absolutely worth a look when it arrives later this year on PC and Mac.

Mighty Tactical Shooter

Bullet-hell games have been around since the days of Space Invader and yet no-one has put the spin on it that the team at Sock Thuggery have. On the outside it plays just like any other side-scrolling shooter with a lone spaceship blasting away at alien hordes until only one is left standing. The twist here is that every move you make has been plotted, planned and executed in a clever tactical interface.

It’s a clever blend of RPG and real-time-strategy mechanics where control of the ship comes from pausing the game, plotting out the route it will take over the next couple of seconds and choosing the right armament for the job. Helpful lines show the expected trajectory of bullets and baddies, allowing the player to determine the best route to dodge and destroy. It might sound like a slow process but the intuitive control systems means the time to the end of each level flies by.

Even better is once a level is complete you can view a replay of the whole thing in real time as if it were a single run. It’s the most satisfying thing to see your ship zip in and out of enemy bullets like a pro, blasting to victory. Yes it’s moving slowly, and there’s no fixed release date yet but it’s bullet-hell with brains – can’t wait.

Absolver

I’m surprised the buzz around Absolver isn’t louder. It’s an online melee-combat RPG that sets you in the role of a Prospect who must wander the land, fighting and learning from other Prospects online. Alliances will be formed, enemies made, students will become teachers. There’s a certain (dare I say it) Jedi-like appeal to the concept.

The team at Sloclap promise intense real-time fights, with weapons, combat styles, combos and counters to learn. There will be PvE alongside the PVP environments. Why don’t you check out the trailer above? It looks very special indeed.

Pyre

Did you like Transistor? How about Bastion? Chances are the answer to at least one of those is yes. Incredibly stylish games with amazing design, deep gameplay and meaningful story. Well, the team at Supergiant Games are going to be releasing another this year called Pyre, an action-RPG. Here you must lead a band of exiles through ‘an ancient competition spread across a vast, mystical purgatory’.

Sounds cracking and given Supergiant’s past, it will look stunning. Coming soon to PS4 and PC.

Divinity: Original Sin II

This one’s already available on Steam’s Early Access but, as it’s not finished, it sneaks on the list by way of a technicality. Building on the excellent systems and classic RPG elements of Divinity: Original Sin it looks as though Larian Studios are making another winner, and this time with four-player co-op. I’m forever hovering over the purchase button for this sequel but keep reminding myself to wait until it’s finished. I want to experience it in all it’s glory.

But… If you didn’t play the first one, then brace yourself for deep, deep CRPG mechanics with a modern twist. In fact, why don’t you go and play it while you wait for this one to be finished? It’s really that good.

Which indie games are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!