I might have mentioned that Crusader Kings 2 was one of my favorite games. All I really want out of a game - any game - is to lose myself in a good story. Crusader Kings gives me that, fresh, every time I sit down to play. Crusader Kings 3 is at the start of its own story - I'm estimating we're going to see around 300 DLCs for this beast before it's all said and done - and already through its clarity of interface and intelligent design decisions I can see years of amazing "OH MY GOD, you'll never guess what happened in CK3" moments clogging up Felix's email inbox as I continue on my own journey with this wonderful, wonderful game.
It's not a perfect game, and there are a couple of small issues. But they really are small. I had two CTDs, and a few instances of Sniper Elite 3 freezing up for about fifteen seconds during the bullet cam. Once, I seemed to be unable to relocate, with the attention marker stuck on my player, despite the fact that I fled into a series of empty underground tunnels. The game relies perhaps a little too heavily on the 'OMG' tactic of dropping a tank into a level as a mandatory boss fight. But for everything that Rebellion has got right here, these are minor flaws. Sniper Elite III is so enjoyable because it's a stealth game done right.
Just like the previous two games, Shadowrun: Hong Kong has stayed with me when I'm not playing it. The flawed, moody characters and the clever use of Asian magical traditions got into my head, and when it finished, I missed all of the main characters. It takes a pretty cool game to do that. For that intensity and depth to be maintained over a series of three games is pretty remarkable.
Civ is a game that almost defies a straightforward 1-10 scoring system. It's a way of life. A serious undertaking which can't be quantified with a simple number. Suffice to say, this is a feature-rich and immersive iteration where attention to detail in design is apparent from the first turn and systems you didn't even realise could be significantly improved have been infused with a spark of genius. True, the AI is a woeful mess and it's lacking a few tooltips but there is none of the hollowness that Civ V had on release. Could this be a worthy successor to the majesty and awe of Civilization IV? Well, ask me again when I top the 300 hour mark. But at the moment, all signs point very clearly to yes.
It's remarkable how effective a game Playdead have created from a few static backgrounds and a bunch of playforms and ladders. I suppose it goes to show that games as art are as good as the emotional investment of the designers. Good for you, Playdead. I'll be interested to see where you go next.
Tyranny weighs in at significantly fewer hours than Pillars. But a lot of this is replayable in ways that are interesting and thought-provoking. The potential to do some seriously messed-up stuff abounds, and so does the option to play in a subversive and morally-ambiguous way as well. There are few fights that seem 'just for the hell of it', which might drive down the overall number of hours. But you know what? We only have so many hours of gaming time. Wouldn't you rather spend it ruling the world in a fun and interesting way?
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 sort of have to criticise, you know? It's the job. Truth is, though, I've really enjoyed every minute I've spent with Dirt Rally 2.0, just as I did with 1.0 before it. The handling is gorgeous, the routes are truly beautiful to look at, and the management is ...manageable. The cars all have tons of individual character, the rallycross feels scrappy and frenetic and everything just comes together wonderfully. Codemasters, eh? They really have the hang of this thing.