Like a lot of the DLC packs for Total War: Three Kingdoms Fates Divided does not add anything that fundamentally changes things, rather it is a lot of smaller tweaks to gameplay and a few additions that add a touch of spice to the campaign. There is a new faction here, some new units there and a bundle of new mechanics and tools to strategise with. Some could be disappointed, but for £7.99 it feels like a fair price for what it includes.
While any content added to Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV is obviously welcomed, the Diplomacy and Strategy Expansion Pack sadly falls far short of what is to be expected, considering the significant cost of the additions. With just two headline gameplay features and no change to how the base game operates, this is very much a disappointing development. It would be great if Koei took stock at this point on just where the series is at in comparison with some heavy competition in this genre, and went all out to make the RTK franchise what it deserves to be.
It's hard to think of a better example of what VR does so well than Pistol Whip. An immensely enjoyable soundtrack that directly feeds into the core gameplay loop and some wonderfully vibrant visuals all add together with addictive gameplay to make this a fantastic experience. For a great workout it's perfect but with the modifiers allowing more relaxed gameplay, it also can appeal to those who just want some escapism. 2089 adds a new layer on top with an actual narrative tying together the gameplay, adding to what is already a pretty great package. The fact that all the content was added as free updates also goes to show not all VR games need to be extortionately priced.
In Death: Unchained might not be one of the fanciest or idea-rich experiences in VR, but this is definitely one of the most fun to step into and play. An addictive gaming loop of meaty and satisfying bow-play, mixed with the rogue-lite incentive to keep playing, makes this title one that is easy to just keep coming back and playing time and time again. With a really impressive visual style, some fantastically scary moments, and some great AI, as well as developer being so committed to adding ever more content, In Death: Unchained is one that comes highly recommended to Oculus Quest users.
Elite Dangerous: Odyssey is a fundamental shift in how this operates - literally. From space to the ground. Taking those first steps on a planet's surface after having landed there is simply awesome, and is decades in the making for fans of the Frontier franchise. The unfortunate reality however is that the performance is currently letting it down. Serious optimisation work is a necessity to iron out a multitude of issues - albeit it's probably not as bad as some are portraying in the immediate aftermath of release. While the new gameplay mechanics come with some variety for those bored of simple space combat, the shooting on the ground also needs a good deal of attention, with AI, and the general standard of combat, alongside the amount of different locations generated on planets, all in need of work. The thing is, this is a journey; a road map, and this is just the first staging post. Hopefully there's a lot more to come down the line.
FitXR's new subscription and membership model isn't going to appeal to everyone, in the same way that fitness games in general are not going to appeal to everyone. For those who are invested in complimenting their real life workout with something a bit more lighthearted and fun in their spare time, this is a very compelling offer, even if the UI and usability experience can be a little rough around the edges compared to the more polished VR titles on the market. However, the meat of the title - a regular schedule of new classes, a good variety of workout types, and, most importantly, multiplayer - all combine to make FitXR an enticing offer.
Despite the relatively short run-time, B.R.U.C.E. Saves Christmas is an entertaining family friendly adventure that everyone can get involved in. The simplicity of running it plays in its favour in a big way as it will avoid those less tech-savvy getting flustered when trying to join the fun. Puzzles can be tough, but never too difficult to be massively frustrating, and the addition of a hint system should alleviate getting stuck at any point. While it would have been nice to have a few more rooms to explore and solve puzzles in, it's a great social means of playing games together from a distance.
Battle Brothers feels like a really natural fit on the Switch. The open-world nature of the game is one that is easy to get lost in and therefore having the ability to take it on the go is a fantastic attribute. As good as that is, the clunkiness of some of the controls on the console will take a bit of getting used to. However, the fact is there is not really any other title like this on the console with such a uniquely procedural role-playing feel. Making the player care about characters is one of the hardest tricks in gaming and Battle Brothers delivers this, with the sense of loss after a tough battle being really palpable.
Apex Legends is a live service experience, so there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of the title. The best advice at the moment to is to turn off cross-play and just compete against others with the same limitations. At its core, though, there is something really good here. Unfortunately, it's just hidden behind a wall of technical issues in terms of graphics, frame rate, resolution and overall stability. Panic Button is the king of Switch ports, though, and it feels like the developer deserves the chance to try and put this right. Fix the stability, adjust the graphics and work on cross-progression. If Panic Button can put things right, it will enhance its reputation to no end.
VirtuaVerse isn't all bad. It is a solid 10-plus hour plot that is a clear homage to some of the best portrayals of this dystopian vision of a futuristic world. There are a few nice set pieces here and there, and from a graphical standpoint, the visuals pop on the screen and are incredibly memorable. Likewise, the musical score compliments them ideally. However, this is an adventure that never gets off the ground thanks to lacklustre main characters, forgettable dialogue, and a clichéd plot. Worse still, the puzzling point-and-click adventure aspects of gameplay detract from the above more often than they enhance.
Shut In captures these unprecedented times in a small but unique package. With depth far beyond the initial on-the-surface horror story, this experience taps into the evocativeness of a mental health crisis, and the commentary it makes on the dread suffered by those with mental illnesses is powerful. It isn't all deep, though. The narrator successfully plays on the Undertale vibe and the comedic elements within such a tonally dark tale come across very well.
Beat Saber feels like the title that has propelled VR gaming into the mainstream and its effect on inspiring a whole host of other developers to enter this space cannot be underestimated. The core gameplay loop here is one the whole family can get involved in and it is not an over exaggeration to say this game can consume hours once it gets its hooks in. The BTS tracks are a welcome addition and if there is one band whose music seems to fit perfectly with this, it surely has to be theirs. Energetic, bombastic and addictive - prepare to be replaying Dynamite a lot to perfect its tough beat map. While some will argue the game itself and subsequent packs are ever so slightly overpriced, with multiplayer now active and the ability to add as many custom songs as one desires, for any VR owner this is simply a must-buy.
Football Manager 2021 is a continual improvement over its predecessor. While not doing anything that radically shifts the dial, this latest addition further improves the user experience and gives even more ways to set up and run a successful football team. With a 3D match engine that is really starting to do a great job at bringing the action to life, and further touches of realism to player and media interactions, there's enough innovation here for fans to jump onboard. Social life be warned, FM21 is a fantastic time sink and once stuck inside, it's hard to get out.
Star Renegades is exceptionally fun to play and a great addition to any Switch library. With endless combinations of battles to fight and a ton of weapons and items to unlock, there is plenty of content here to deliver dozens of hours of fun. While the Switch version does suffer from some downgrades with load times and performance on occasion, the portability of this rogue-lite means it is ideal for playing on the move. Star Renegades has a lot of scope and ideas under the hood and the dynamic enemy promotions is just one that is incredibly impressive. Exceptionally tough, at times frustrating but always rewarding - this visual treat is definitely one to pick up - especially since the game is set to receive regular content updates over the months ahead.
For a title that is both modestly priced and was also developed by just a small team, The Guise is a valiant attempt at making a Metroidvania-esque title in a gaming world packed with similar efforts. It is a visually striking world that is memorable, with an enjoyable but maybe not so complex fairytale story. While the abilities Ogden can collect do mix things up a bit when it comes to combat, the patterns of enemies make things just a little too simplistic, while at the same time frustrations around the fluidity of controlling Ogden increase that. There is some good fun to be had here, and the boss battles are a highlight among a story that is simple but enjoyable. However, it is possibly not a game likely to stick in the mind over other better executed attempts.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a memorable and excellent story that does justice to both its original groundbreaking title and the movies it is paying homage to. The character and story of protagonist Tommy Angelo is one that is easy to get invested in and this world of Lost Heaven exudes the charm and atmosphere of 1930s New York. Excellent pacing and plot over the course of 10-12 hours mean it will keep anyone hooked. That said, it feels like a game pushing this hardware to its limit and the limitations do catch up with it in a lot of ways. Anyone who has a PC capable of playing the game would be well advised to maybe opt for that platform. Additionally, some unnecessary bugs and controls that can be difficult on a console controller sour the experience somewhat. However, there are not many alternative titles of this genre and Mafia: Definitive Edition certainly delivers a rip-roaring tale for those who wish to experience it.
Anyone expecting a radical overhaul of anything major within Civilization VI in this latest New Frontier Pass release may be disappointed. While the two factions are a fun change and focus on military might, which is always enjoyable, there is not much else within them that will set pulses racing. Where the Gaul and Byzantium pack adds enough to be worthwhile is in the 'Dramatic Ages' game mode - which does indeed provide an alteration on a key game mechanic in such a way that it will force players to have to rethink their style of playing.
As an expansion for Total War: Three Kingdoms, The Furious Wild is a no brainer to pick up. Adding a ton of content and tens of hours of new gameplay for a mere snip, this DLC is definitely worth the asking price. The Nanman campaign is one that has plenty of drama attached with a host of faction specific missions and events and then best of all, once it is completed it is just the prologue of the adventure to come, with the rest of China to capture and a whole host of 'outsiders' to convert or conquer in the name of the Nanman. Visually impressive and with a lot of creative ideas in the mechanics used to keep the factions interesting -The Furious Wild is an excellent addition to the game.
For a first pack in the New Frontier Pass, Maya & Gran Columbia is not a bad start. It adds a bit more variety in the selection of factions to choose from, which is always ideal, and there are a few new units and mechanics to play with that will keep things a bit more fresh for any Civ VI fan. The real standout in the pack is obviously the Apocalypse difficulty mode, and it injects a reason to think, particularly in the endgame state, which can notoriously get bogged down. That said, as fun as it can be, it probably isn't the kind of game one would choose to experience with every play-through as it can certainly edge towards frustration at being crippled by the hazardous effects of climate change.
Yakuza Kiwami 2 delivers a slick fresh coat of paint onto this Japanese epic tale, while keeping the same engaging and complex story that fans know and love.