As always, the battles are exciting, and the scope and scale never fails to impress, with the addition of the heroes adding a new dimension to tactics and strategies. This is the game that Romance of the Three Kingdoms fans have been waiting for.
Quite simply, Metro Exodus is the perfect way to round off this trilogy, and a testament to the powerful evolution that a gaming franchise can make. The open world offers a whole new perspective from which to enjoy Artom's tale. Whilst there are some niggly issues with AI, and maybe an overuse of bespoke animations, the fact remains that it is hard to think of a better example of how to design a single-player survival adventure. Visually stunning and packed with audio detail, this is something that should be experienced by any PC gamer.
Ultimately, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a valued successor in the series and brings the franchise right back to its roots. Graphically, the game is stunning. It pops with glistening detail and lighting, and lots of delicate touches, such as the raindrops on the windows. This is matched by the bombastic sound quality which delivers pounding thrust and thundering cannons through the clouds. Whilst the campaign could be a touch longer, and it is regrettable that the VR mode is not yet present in the PC version, overall the package on offer here is well worth it for any flight combat fans.
Project Highrise: Architect's Edition is a great overall package for any sim fan to enjoy. Thanks to the DLC, there is a lot of content here to enjoy, and a really addicting experience to have. The scenarios could be a little more varied, but they all have their own set of unique challenges to overcome - not to mention, for those that prefer, the sandbox mode allows players to enjoy building any way they want. Playing on the Switch is generally a good experience, albeit the UI can pose some challenges to clarity on the screen, particularly in undocked mode. This is a title to pick up, though, and is sure to scratch the simulation itch for so many.
The Wizards is generally a good VR action-adventure title. Using some imaginative and intuitive controls to cast spells, it does an excellent job of making the player feel like they are indeed controlling a powerful wizard. The narrator is brilliant, and there are some really special effects and sights to see. However, things are let down slightly by the overall length of the game, which can be polished off in just a few hours. Additionally, many of the landscapes and levels have the habit of merging together due to how similar in style they look to one another, with only small bits of variety. It isn't the cheapest adventure on the market, but certainly one to pick up if a fan of this genre.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a tour de force of a game. It says something that this very title inspired the creation of many similar turn-based styles, and probably helped push the rogue-like nature of permadeath even further than it had already started to become back in 2012. The sense of scale, and the equal sense of responsibility on the shoulders of the player to lead humanity's last stand, is immense, as, from USA to Australia, every theatre is covered, every front is battled, and every soldier's death is a tragedy that has an individual story behind it. That is the beauty of this creation, and that is the beauty of a game that feels like it is more than just a hobby - although it soon becomes an obsession. Of course, that was proven with its critical and commercial success, which spawned multiple expansions, a full-fledged sequel, and has, in many ways, turned the circle all the way back by inspiring future titles to build on the success and mechanics employed here.
Football Manager 2019 is a fantastic entry in the series and anyone that hasn't picked up the game in a few years will be blown away by the structural changes to the way it works. The training system allows so much more flexibility in management, whilst drawing on real world examples of how teams are coached in the modern age. In addition, the tactical system overhaul makes creating a specific style for teams to play in much easier. The all-round performance is great, with the UI sensibly remaining as clean and user-friendly as it has been for a number of years now. There are a few minor things that could be polished up, but this is a great buy and sure to have a whole new group of football fanatics addicted.
From a pure mechanical point of view Lost on Mars is decent. It generally retains the fun of Far Cry 5 action in a different setting and story. The problem comes in the execution, with the previous originality and variety of missions and situations replaced by bland tower climbing and frustratingly repetitive boss fights. There is humour in Hurk and his tale and the AI 'ANNE' displays all the traits of a typically psychopathic computer system well. However, this humour only goes so far and can't assist in battling through the hours and hours of looped gameplay with weapon upgrades being the only meaningful reward for doing so. It is fair to say it hasn't been a vintage collection of expansion campaigns for Season Pass holders so far, with many arguably wanting more quality so far for Far Cry 5. Hopefully, the final one will make up for these disappointments.
PES is always such a hard game to review and a frustrating one to score. Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, despite the issues mentioned previously, is by no means a bad game. In fact, this is a very good game. It is probably the single best representation of the sport of football that someone has created in the videogame medium. It represents the beautiful flowing moves and the tough as nails tackles. It represents the skill and movement of a variety of different types of players. It makes it a challenge to score great goals past strong AI defenders and rewards putting time and dedication into developing teams and tactics. All of this is wonderful and just what a football title should be. The issue is that whilst people can appreciate this for a few years, standing still is not acceptable when charging full price for a new version every year. There are some glaring flaws that need real focus and attention in order to elevate PES back to the glory days as the king of football.
Hours of Darkness is a solid DLC entry for an already great title. It certainly presents a diverse style of stealth oriented gameplay, alongside a different setting to the main story. Seeing the background context of a previously acknowledged Far Cry 5 NPC is also a neat bonus. However, there are issues with the lack of content and having just one main objective in a relatively straight and linear path means that the realistic timeframe of a play-through is going to be somewhere in the region of one to three hours depending on how incentivised the player is to complete side objectives and collect items.
Within the VR community, a mech title is something that is regularly touted as being something that could bring the best out of the platform. On the evidence of Archangel: Hellfire, this is certainly the case. The production values in the single-player campaign do a fine job of rivalling Skydance Interactive's movie arm, and the graphical fidelity and scale is impressive. However, the multiplayer expansion adds a real shot in the arm and provides the potential for a community to spring up and really enjoy this unique experience together.
Ultimately, Naked Sun is a good first VR effort by a small team. There is definitely a lot of potential here and a base to build on for future titles. Where it slips is simply a lack of content and imagination on the narrative front, with a lot of stereotypes employed within the setting. However, the gameplay fundamentals here are solid, with a fine shooting system and some impressive graphics. A bit more scale in terms of expanding from simply a linear on rails with only 180 degrees of movement stops Naked Sun from really excelling over some of the competition which have done this genre a bit better.
In some ways, Siegecraft Commander works well for the VR medium; it introduces an apt and engaging control mechanism with the structure flinging. In addition, the control of the map and units and the touches of love in the UI all are positive things. The disappointing part is that the main gameplay on top of those things is just simply not anywhere near engaging or interesting enough to make for a great experience. Battles, whilst having a touch of strategic thought, more often than not descend into a boring slog of tower-defence mechanics. Similarly, the campaign is not interesting or lengthy enough to pull the rest of the game up to standard. It's not the cheapest VR strategy title on the market, either, and with multiplayer effectively dead, the chances of having a long-term relationship with Siegecraft Commander looks rather unlikely.
Skyrim VR is an excellent RPG that obviously directly plants down all of the amazing work developing it. Of course, even in VR there are an abundance of user-created mods to enhance the experience. With that said, judging it purely as a virtual reality title, the limitations of trying to deliver a grand RPG of this size crop up a little more clearly than otherwise would be the case. This feels like a technological leap too far for the current generation of headsets and, despite the world being easy to get lost in, it displays constant reminders of just how far there still is to go. However, this is still one of the most ambitious VR titles on the market and possibly one of the very few AAA experiences so, in that sense, it would be a shame to take away from Bethesda's effort in not just bringing Skyrim to VR but to making a distinct change to the combat engine and allowing people to experience a great story in a whole new way.
Far Cry 5, while having some issues, such as the janky AI and a rather far-fetched plot, more than makes up for these things with some compelling and truly innovative approaches from Ubisoft. There is a real sense that it put a lot of love back into a series that over the last spin-off and fully-fledged entry was possibly becoming mundane. The world set in the USA presents a real contrast to the tropical paradise settings of all the previous entries. Additionally, the organic approach to missions and narrative advancement mean that Far Cry 5 avoids the 'cleaning up of the map' feel that some previous games have conveyed. The gunplay is smooth and fantastic and the graphics are stunning. Anyone who hasn't played a Far Cry game before needs to get this and any doubters of Ubisoft's ability to deliver a truly great open-world title need to do likewise.
Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition is firstly and primarily a fantastic addition to the Final Fantasy catalogue. It addresses the critical faults of its predecessor and sets the franchise back up on the path to greatness. Memorable characters, exciting combat, and a risk taken with the change to the open world, show Square Enix as developers who have proven their credentials for delivering top-class RPG experiences. It just slightly feels that it was behind the curve here, which may be as a result of the long development time. There is the overriding feeling that the open world lags behind some of the competitors in the field alongside a story that has a number of issues that detract from it. With that said, the PC release has redressed many of the technical issues with that world and has given it a whole new lease of life that brings out the immense beauty of the world.
Quite simply, Rise and Fall is a must-buy expansion for any Civilization VI owner. The fundamental core of the experience has, of course, not been radically changed - however it didn't need to. Rather, what has been added is a refinement that encourages strategic development and thinking and gives a constant treadmill of challenges to overcome in order to create the greatest civilisation. The loyalty mechanic accompanies this all nicely by again increasing the difficulty curve by just the right amount to avoid annoyance. The disappointment about the global emergencies does not detract from the experience enough to consider Rise and Fall anything other than a triumph.