- Half-Life 2
- World of Warcraft
If you're not into nostalgia for titles from the 16-bit or arcade eras, you should probably avoid this game (and, at at the very least, subtract 15 points from the review score). But if you are … this is definitely the action-RPG for you.
Warlords of Draenor is, simply put, the biggest change to World of Warcraft since it debuted in 2004. Player abilities, tradeskills, questing, dungeons, graphics — all have received a dramatic overhaul, with your character plopped down in the center of it. Not all the changes were perfectly executed, and lingering problems mar the play experience. But this is a tremendous start to the new expansion, and just the kick in the pants this game needed after 10 years on the streets.
Sorcerer King offers a nice strategic balance, and the feeling of carving a swath through a landscape already dominated by your enemy gives the game a fun, challenging feel. Galactic Civilizations may be a more-polished Stardock strategy title, but Sorcerer King offers more enjoyment and certainly a lot more humor.
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is an extremely satisfying pairing — if not actually a blend — of the puzzle solving and courtroom twists from the two series. The game’s high production values add charm and character to the experience. The compelling storyline and animation make up for dialogue that might linger a little too long and puzzles that might speed by a little too quickly. If you like both nonviolent handheld heroes, “Take That” copy of Layton vs. Wright, without hesitation.
The PlayStation platform has always hosted tremendous driving games, and Driveclub tries hard to live up to that legacy. The parts that are exceedingly well-polished (gorgeous cars, skill-based driving) make those that trip up (ugly A.I.) all the more disappointing. It sets a high bar for the inevitable competitors to follow, but like an inexperienced driver on a hot lap in a solo challenge, it's sloppy in the turns.
This War of Mine makes the most of its clean, attractive graphics, its moody ambient soundtrack, and the intense, emotional nature of its gameplay. You'll care about your refugees, and you'll want to work hard to keep them healthy, fed, alive, and well. Unfortunately, This War of Mine doesn't make it easy on you. Even when you keep your people alive, you're left with the feeling that you've only marginally improved their existence. If the typical war-based video game is the big blockbuster movie, with tons of special effects and rockets flying overhead as brave well-muscled soldiers stand and give speeches, this game is the indie drama about the consequences of war. It's gripping, a beautiful depiction of an ugly time, and, fittingly, depressing as hell.
Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer feels like a minigame for fans of the series. It features some of the best characters, gives you the chance to play house with their possessions, and offers the opportunity to put your unique design flair all over the village. The selection of items grows as you complete the game, which makes it feel even deeper than the broad selection of villagers you can choose. And its control scheme is simple and perfect.
The Girl and the Robot is a truly family-friendly, engaging, simple story about the relationship between a little girl and her protector, both trapped and attempting to find freedom. While it offers very limited features, reused and simple graphics, and a nearly nonexistent score, the overall aesthetic proves consistently charming.
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate is a solid entry in the series, with a great setting and two likable protagonists. It gets its badass female character just right, and it nails the fun with carriages and zip lines. The Victorian London cityscape offers a huge gameplay map, but many ways to get around easily. The amount of fun, if mindless, gameplay Syndicate offers bumps up the score quite a bit.
The Need for Speed reboot improves upon several of the more recent installments in the game, which were plagued with problems more serious than these. But I was disappointed when my pure joy in the look and driving feel of NFS drained away over time, sucked out by boring treks across the city and one too many encounters with unfair A.I.
I wanted to like Supreme League of Patriots in the worst way because of its point-and-click adventure genre, its voice acting, its promise of humor, and its intriguing story. But by the third episode, I couldn't be rid of it fast enough.
Just Cause 3 offers the tantalizing tease of a terrific open-world adventure, with weapons and tools that make blowing up the bad guys hilarious fun. The wide maps and great selection of missions, although fairly repetitive, means you always have something engaging to look forward to. Unfortunately, technical problems ranging from serious connection issues to NPC failures make the game nearly unplayable at times, and if the bugs don't drive you insane, the loading times will.
Stellaris won't expand strategy to a mass audience; while more accessible, it won't appeal to people who like building things in reality rather than in concept. But if you're like me, on the fence between 4X and grand strategy titles, you'll enjoy the heck out of the single-player campaign.