Ultimately, Mafia III is a game that's held back by its conventional anchors. It wants to be game about the South but remains content to use its setting rarely as little more than a local color curiosity. It proposes a radical representation of race but falls prey to the conventional chores of open-world banality. Though it initially seems eager to "Tell about the South," Mafia III does not have the patience or interest to do so.
Pavilion is a series of puzzles that become sentences. The painted visuals and Tony Gerber’s haunting soundscape establish mood for the actors in the narrative: protagonist as subject, his actions as verb, the ambiguous goal as object. I was simply there to put it in order or to play with its syntax.
Near Death succeeds in eliciting a sigh of relief at finding a moment to breathe in a place hostile to comfort, and, thankfully, the game’s smart pacing means it does not overstay its welcome. Such tension, after all, is no more sustainable than the station at the game’s center. Ultimately, though, Near Death has nothing to say beyond the struggle to navigate the harshest environment on Earth.
For all its polish, it brand-name polish, it lacks that creative energy found in building battles from faded toys and dumb ideas. Battlefront imposes limits and gates on an expansive universe, reigning in instead of expanding the possible ways to become part of that world. As such, the game remains mercenary in its goal of selling an experience solely on those feelings we have about that galaxy far, far away. Instead of offering a chance to inhabit that space, Battlefront only shows us Star Wars at a distance, perfectly preserved in small pocket dioramas tucked away behind the rose-tinted glass of a toy shop window.
Jotun weaves a tale not about some battle between good or evil, nor does the game construct some "damn-the-gods" narrative about the triumph of the human over unfeeling deities. Instead, Jotun treats its subject with the reverence of a Norse Edda, turning the elements of an ancient poetic tradition into a digital myth.
The game, like the best works of science fiction, understands that horror can come from discomfort inherent to the erasure of boundaries we assume exist. The unintelligible whispers of static and the shattered visuals of glitch provide only the most cursory glances at a machine world inaccessible to us.