Setting and a sense of place is something special about video games. In no visual medium can settings be so thoroughly inspected, dissected, and explored as in video games. We often talk about the “world” of a game, the “atmosphere”. The setting of a video game can speak to us, can imprint itself in our memories. Locations in video games can be so familiar, we can navigate them just by memory. To this day, I could guide Link from Hyrule Castle to Death Mountain blindfolded. I can still see these fictitious locales in my mind, down to the specifics of the road there, the people along the way, and the surrounding landmarks. The games featured in this week’s Simply Steam represent the ways different locations can affect how we play games. So let’s see what’s hot this week on Steam. The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna In Their Own Words: This substantial expansion consists of four episodes that take experienced players through some of the most advanced and challenging puzzles yet. The Talos Principle writers Tom Jubert and Jonas Kyratzes have returned to pen the expansion and show players an entirely different side of Elohim’s world through a journey to Gehenna filled with new characters and a new society with its own history and philosophy. In Our Words: Every year there seems to be a video game that holds off until a December release, then slips through the cracks when the time comes to assemble top ten lists and Game of the Year retrospectives. Over the following months, critics and fans finally get around to booting it up only to immediately realize they missed out on something special. While the importance of top ten lists and GOTY nominations is debatable, The Talos Principle was nonetheless significantly overlooked. The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game that allows players to reconfigure the objects within levels to progress. This generally involves moving tripod, camera-looking objects to disarms turrets or activate machinery. The game doesn’t pull punches as the stages become increasingly complex, in hopes that the more intricate solutions yield greater satisfaction. But The Talos Principle is interesting even disregarding its head-scratching puzzles. The game explores the idea of artificial intelligence, knocking about the high-concept theory in a way that echoes Rene Descartes’ famous quote, “I think therefore, I am”. This is all surprisingly deep for studio Croteam, which had previously focused on pumping out Serious Sam sequels.. It might have helped that Jonas Kyratzes (The Sea Will Claim Everything) and Tom Jubert (FTL, The Swapper) lent their scribing abilities to the game, adding a health dose of intellect to the puzzler. Road to Gehenna, a hefty DLC expansion released this week, sets its sights on expanding everything great about the original game. The puzzles are even more difficult, the world is more expansive, and the philosophical musings are deeper than ever before. Road to Gehenna not only urges fans of the original game to return, but nudges those who missed out to bump it up in their backlogs. Blues and Bullets In Their Own Words: Eliot Ness, the former leader of the legendary Untouchables, wished only to spend the rest of his days working in his diner, not dwelling too much on the cesspit of corruption his city, Santa Esperanza, had degenerated into. In Our Words: Ever since Rockstar drenched Max Payne in Brazilian color and effectively ended the series, there has been a noticeable lack of hard-boiled noir protagonists in video games. Blues and Bullets is complex mixture of third person shooting, crime scene investigation, and dialogue choices, with an episodic structure. Add a Sin City-esque aesthetic and noir fans might need to sit down in order to catch their breath. With only one episode released so far, it remains to be seen if these elements will come together in a satisfying way, but for five bucks there’s little risk in checking it out. Oh, and if the trailer and left you wondering, that voice is totally Doug Cockle, aka Geralt from The Witchert. You’re welcome. Quiplash In Their Own Words: Use your phone or tablet to answer simple prompts like “Something you’d be surprised to see a donkey do” or “The worst soup flavor: Cream of _____.” Your answer is pitted against another player’s answer in a head-to-head clash of cleverness and comedy (or just “Which answer is least stupid?”). Other players – and even an Audience of people waiting to get in the next game – then vote for their favorite answer. In Our Own Words: Quiplash is the perfect party game for people who like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity but would rather write their own answers and play on a screen. The games ask questions like “What’s a bad idea for a single word political campaign?” While playing the game recently, the winning answer in our group to such a question was “Balls!” A player just popped that answer into their phone’s browser, other players voted on it, and that answer won by a landslide vote, or as the game calls it, a Quiplash. We can’t stop playing Quiplash in my house. Any time that more than three people are here, we go straight for Quiplash. Each games is only ten to fifteen minutes long. This might be the best party game out there for writers and word lovers of any kind. -M. Joshua Cauller Interstelleria In Their Own Words: Interstellaria is a real time space-exploration sim and crew management game. Command a fleet of vessels wandering the galaxy for adventure and profit. You’ll be forced to make tough decisions as you face hostile starships, crippling space anomalies, and intriguing aliens. In Our Words: Freshman studio Coldrice Games takes to the far reaches of space in this exploration/party management game. Interstellaria puts players in command of their own starship and crew to command. The cut-away interface might make you think of FTL but rather than imitate that game’s roguelike design and punishing difficulty, Interstellaria is keen to focus on the exploration of space and the ensuing interactions with newly-discovered alien worlds.