We have the zenith of the Souls formula, and that is mostly a good thing. Dark Souls 3 is the most elegant distillation of the "demanding but not impossible" style first put forth in Demon's Souls. And the return of the mana bar brings the greatest degree of play-style experimentation the series has had. Add to that From's finally stable-at-launch multiplayer servers, and Dark Souls 3 is the most complete feeling Souls experience in the franchise.
Dropsy is a game that warmed my hardened, cynical heart. Like the titular clown himself, the game smashes an amiable joviality together with an unabashed dementia. Making people happy is such a rare goal in games, and to have one excel at the notion and the motivation for doing so is a doubly rare joy, although glaring missteps do keep it out of the center ring of adventure games.
Playing The Witcher 3 with an eye for grand strategy can be both a densely engrossing and mechanically frustrating, overlong adventure. When played one move at a time, however, Wild Hunt is the supreme alchemical distillation of the role-playing experience. It's a bleakly human play at the heart of a dark fantasy.
At $5, it's hard to find more puzzle content than what is available in BoxBoy. That's not always a good thing, as it feels scared of asking players to learn something new without making them study it for three too many puzzle rooms. But the harsh art design and excess gameplay fat don't do enough to negate the thrill of figuring out a solution or the charm of watching your little square friend celebrate. BoxBoy is a welcome, easy-going new entrant into puzzlers that deserves more attention than it will likely get on its current marketing trend.
Grow Home is a better experiment than a game. The procedural animations of B.U.D. will instantly make him one of the best interactive robot companions you've ever had (no, seriously, HK-47 better watch his back). But the wondrous tension of ascending this Star plant is constantly hampered by the need to waste time collecting arbitrary trinkets so you can waste less time on your main mission.
Counterspy successfully gives you the feeling of being a powerful and deadly third wheel in a Spy vs. Spy game of one-upmanship. Moving to and removing your target of choice amounts to the most gratifying stealth since 2012's Mark of the Ninja. But the problems start flying as soon as the bullets do. Gunplay frequently feels more awkward than enjoyable, and you'll die more times from a cheaply laid out level than you will your own lack of skill.
Daylight is a victim of its most-touted feature. When the random generated items and enemies work, every step carries a palpable sense of dread and unease. But the immersion's lost when the player gets caught in an enemy spawning loop with too few flares is hard to get back. The story's climax works better on paper, and bland visuals just make maze navigation aggravating. The $15 price is also a bit much to ask for what will last most players up to 3 hours without much of a reason to replay it. For the few moments when it all clicks, Daylight is the best we could have hoped for out of the Slender craze. The rest of time will have you remembering why it was a craze to begin with.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a demo being sold as a bargain-priced game. While the Metal Gear franchise is renowned for having exceptional game teasers, the idea of selling one of them at this price is absurd. The unsatisfying, unlockable content is painfully obvious filler. Not enough moments of gameplay or narrative consequence happen in the main mission to justify a price above $10, let alone the $20-$30 range.
Dead Rising 3 proves to be one of the better launch games of this new hardware generation. The single-player is a bit too easy, and the map is far too large to lack a fast travel system. Capcom Vancouver's decision to make the shiniest zombie cliché over truly innovating on this worn out pop-culture trope was also disappointing. Most players will spend the majority of their time cutting through zombie hordes with electrified sledgehammers, however, and the mechanics of the crafting system and combat are solid enough to settle into an engrossing routine of making something and then stabbing a zombie with it.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a pretty game, gorgeous even. But the demand for moments to punctuate trailers or demos forced a sacrifice of story that it never quite recovers from. The OWL will find its place in history as one of the few controller-based mechanics to actually entertain, while the time spent in free fall may make players actually consider a plummet-related death. You find a stride in the minute-to-minute gameplay before drudgery sets in, and the multiplayer suite remains solid, if with a few new tenuous bells and whistles.