In a recent session, I had a rival pair, and one of them was slain by the final boss in the last turns of the entire game. I was presented with an option to either allow them to slink off the battlefield with a career-altering wound or have them strike out with their dying strength, dealing massive damage and sealing the victory. I weighed my options and had them take out the boss. What better way to end a rivalry than by saving the world?
And, look, I don't blame anyone for this. You don't secure the Baldur's Gate license and the lore around it without committing to D&D as your ruleset, and the places where the design team has worked on the toolset for the game (such as how versatile jumping is) feel great. In previous games, the shortcuts that were made in the adaptation from tabletop to digital game made for a faster experience. Combat worked in a fast pause-and-play mode that felt as much like a real-time strategy game as it did an RPG. Skill checks rarely happened in dialogue, so you didn't have to grind to a halt to make a roll three or four times per conversation. They were not extremely quick experiences, but by comparison, the classic games feel fast and loose where Baldur's Gate 3 can often feel like a constrained, slow slog through various systems stacked on top of each other. When I am in the groove with the game, it's exciting and it moves right along. Getting into the right mindset to start remembering what all the buttons, skills, and abilities do is another matter entirely. I'm hoping that feedback over the early access period will give us a more varied experience, or at least a wider set of approaches.
It is a great game that had to smear itself in a layer of whatever-nothing to convince you that it belonged in a certain genre. But like the octopus pretending to be a rock, Metro Exodus is a brilliant creature in the guise of a worse one. With some time, energy, and emotional investment it springs to life.
I am not out here hollering for a specific mode of card game design, and I love that we live in a world where there are a plurality of games for people with different desires and likes in their card games. I am simply saying that Artifact has emerged into a world where digital card games finally seem to have figured out the sweet spot between mechanical complexity and friendliness for new players, and it has totally ignored any and all of those lessons in favor of a model that, to me at least, seems to be interested in attracting diehard fans of massive complexity and basically no one else. And maybe that works for Valve and the Artifact design team, but it sure as hell doesn't work for me.
It's a structure, like a gym or a concert, and we have our role to play in it. It is good for what it is, but it isn't more than that. This is a first-person shooter on a large scale, and if you've played one before and you're itching for the most-recent and best-looking Battlefield, then you've found it. Anything more or less than that and you're better off getting last year's model. It's probably gotten all the kinks worked out, at least.
And I guess, for some people, that might be the carrot that keeps them moving on. But when I reached that point in Horizon 4 after a couple dozen hours, I didn't have the drive to keep going and pursuing new paths. If you do, it is probably a game that will get its hooks in you like Need For Speed Underground 2 did me all those years ago.
Overall, I have some mixed feelings about State of Decay 2. It is a game that feels less focused than its predecessor despite making strong moves to deepen the experience in every realm. Focusing in on the details somehow made the game lose something; the steps the game took forward cost something fundamental and core to the experience.
Dead In Vinland scratches the same itch as Darkest Dungeon's less combat-focused parts and King of Dragon Pass's more personal moments. It's unique in the world of games, and it shows what the medium can do when it's committed to a distinct vision of what numbers-and-narrative can do when they're understood as intertwined and integral to one another.
I'm in a weird place because I know that Surviving Mars is probably excellent for someone who is not me. If you enjoy Paradox games like Crusader Kings II but not city builders, then this is probably a great bridge for you to relax and play. If you like managing numbers, resources, and people, then this is the game for you. What I wanted was a more freeform experience that allowed me to design and fiddle with Martian landscapes to my heart's content, and this is not the game for that.
Ni no Kuni 2 aims for a lot of different targets: world-spanning story, management sim, recruitment game and solid combat experience. Against all odds, it manages to hit them all in a way that very few games in its genre can manage.