When I heard that Paradox and Harebrained were doing Battletech, I expected great things. What I got was... a good thing. Perhaps not actually GREAT in the traditional sense, but fun enough despite its load times and tactical simplicity and clunky graphics and animation. When you punch a mech hard enough that its laser-cannon-equipped arm flies off, or hammer a rain of missiles from the sky into a giant robot and cause its core to explode in a fireball, it's satisfying and lovely. A little more slickness and tactical depth might not have hurt. But overall, I found my time in the cockpit of a giant doom robot to be quite a giggle.
I know it's redundant for me to say - and I'm directly quoting Jon's Far Cry 4 review here - "That growing Ubisoft problem of over-familiarity rears its ugly head once again". If you've had long enough since FC4 or Primal to hunger for more, or you just really hate religious cults, there are many hours of mindless, gun-nut paradise to enjoy here. But it has to be said that if you've played one, you've kinda played them all.
To be honest, Waking the Dragon is worth it for the National Focus trees, new general mechanics and decision system alone. If you have the slightest interest in the Chinese theatre during World War 2 and have any intention of playing one of the nations or warlords, you'll be missing out on so much colour and richness by not having this DLC it'd be a real loss. If, like me, you have little to no real knowledge of what the heck was happening over there during the war, Waking the Dragon will school you real quick and in that beautiful, delicious way that only Hearts of Iron IV can.
I found Nantucket to be high on style but thin on substance, but its modest price point saves it from my more barbed harpoons. It has some pleasantly nostalgic reminiscences of Sid Meier's Pirates and a management system that borrows some of the more surface-level mechanics of Paradox games - both of which are good things. Plus, it really is the only thing that does exactly what it does. The originality of the concept is worth something even when it's not necessarily backed up with mechanical innovation.
In the short term, if you're willing to think of the prefab fantasy setting as comfortingly familiar, Spellforce 3 is a pretty fun. The voice acting is terrific, and the plot easy to understand without requiring weeks of learning why THESE giant wolves are different to other games' giant wolves. Whether this familiarity is a brave counterpoint to the endless setting creep of gaming is really a matter of personal taste. And if you're looking for a fantasy RPG/RTS hybrid, this is a promising contender. However, by trying to do two things at once, it fails to be really remarkable at either.
This Wolfenstein has been broadly politicized and has been the no-doubt eager focus for political stunts and controversy. Which is odd, really, seeing as how at its heart it's one of the most clear-cut examples of an FPS that we've seen in a while. No tricky resource management stuff, no new sub-systems to learn, just straightforward running and gunning, with a side-order of throat-slashing. And leg-removing. And eyeball-popping. And forehead-hatchet-burying. And exploding with diesel-filled grenades. And evaporating with laser guns. Typical, uncomplicated Wolfenstein stuff!
So we come to the fun payload. It's sort of lacking. We've played games like this before, many of them really excellent and with depth and character. Oriental Empires certainly looks nice and has a classical Chinese feel that helps it along its way, but once you're through the surface, it's a lacklustre 4X without a great deal to set it apart from the pack. Much of the time, Oriental Empires feels like playing a game of Total War where you auto-conclude all of the battles, but with a penchant for very slightly unfair and unavoidable disasters.
Games have come a long way since I was a youth. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a clear example of a game as an art form with a strong message and a complex, layered narrative. It's true that you're sort of along for the ride and most of your interactions are through your emotional response to what is depicted rather than through the mechanics of the game, but is that such a bad thing?
If all of this added bullying isn't to your taste, you can just get the new districts and the new character, for instance, so it's not an 'all-or-nothing' affair, and it's this level of customisation that I feel saves Crimson Court from being perhaps just one vampiric bite too far.
Battle Brothers is a game that recognises these classical roots and the way they allow room for the player to use their own imagination to fill in the blanks left by a mostly simplistic interface, but has also learned the lessons of the modern age
Steel Division: Normandy '44 really is my game of the year so far. As a realistic wargame based in a familiar setting with nods to all of the tactics and considerations a real-life battlefield commander needs to keep in mind, from supply to morale, it is second to none.
The tale is the right mixture of occasionally-interactive cutscenes and third-person adventuring to enhance the feeling that you're starring in a big budget space movie that, despite the reams of dialogue, doesn't require you to think too hard in order to keep up.
Adding depth to characters throughout the world is always welcome, and while the concrete plotlines themselves might be a little thin, the new dimensions and allegiances that can affect the unscripted procedural stories are always welcome. Great job as usual, Paradox.
Once you understand that, however, I've not got much bad to say. Time will tell if it hits the market with the impact that Planescape: Torment had. I would guess not, just due to the games industry being a different beast these days. But in quality of writing, and in its ability to make you care about characters and force you kicking and screaming to actually think about things like good and evil, and the value of life, Tides of Numenera is every bit on a par with its illustrious ancestor.
So how to conclude? Well, it's another Sniper Elite game. Much like number three, which admittedly took some major steps forward over V2, but the same level of progress is missing. A new climate and a lick of paint have made another game in practically the precise mould of the brilliant Sniper Elite III, so I can't really complain. It's like going back to your favourite restaurant and ordering what you always order. Sure, it's a bloody delight, and there's not much bad to say about it, but perhaps something slightly different (aware as I am that this is vague and ill-defined) might have been nice?