Francesco De Meo
With a unique twist that gives it a puzzle-game feel, Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior is a solid title that definitely stands out in the hack-and-slash genre. The emphasis on combat, the absence of RPG-like mechanics, and reliance on trial-and-error impact the experience slightly, making the game a worthwhile purchase only for die-hard fans of the genre who are tired of the constant grind for better loot.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is, without a doubt, the best way to enjoy Naughty Dog's excellent survival horror game, thanks to addition of the surprisingly fun No Return roguelike mode, the cut Lost Levels, developer commentary and two display modes for a proper 4K resolution experience. The main campaign's bleak story remains as controversial as it was when the original game launched on PlayStation 4, but underneath it is one of the finest survival horror games ever made.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown couldn't have brought back the series after its more than a decade-long hiatus in a better way. With an engaging story, well-crafted Metroidvania mechanics, and a touch of character-action games features in its combat system, Sargon's adventure will be remembered by fans for a long time, even with its minor issues.
With its roguelite take on the base game's formula, engaging story, decent amount of new content and excellent accessibility, God of War Ragnarok: Valhalla is a great expansion that is worthy of any God of War's fans time. The focus on combat may turn some players off, but it's only a minor issue in an expansion that could have been easily sold as paid DLC.
With the great amount of love for the setting that was poured into the game evident from every line of dialogue and every little detail, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is one of the best games based on the universe created by Games Workshop, and a solid tactical turn-based role-playing game that can provide hundreds of hours of fun.
The narrative remains compelling, the characters charming, the presentation slick and the solid tactical rounds the package well, making the game an engaging experience from beginning to end. The game's low challenge level, however, and the established status of the Phantom Thieves limits its appeal to die-hard fans of the series.
The Dead Island 2 Haus DLC is a very small expansion that doesn't bring anything substantially new to the experience. Its brevity prevents it from overstaying its welcome, but the additionl of a cool crossbow weapon is not enough to get most players to return to Hell-A so soon.
Tales of Arise: Beyond the Dawn feels like a missed opportunity. While the story held some potential, it doesn't go beyond passable at best, its uneven pacing and the lack of meaningful gameplay additions making the whole experience feel dull at times. As such, only die hard fans of the base game will find some value in what is, essentially, an extended prologue with limited appeal.
Star Ocean: The Second Story R is, hands down, the best entry in the series, and one of the best remakes ever made. With the excellent combat reworking, massive slew of quality of life improvements and impressive 2D-HD visuals that make the game's simple yet engaging story and charming characters even more enjoyable, Gemdrops has set a very high bar for classic JRPGs remakes that will be very difficult to top.
With its excellent trippy horror story, memorable characters, amazing atmosphere, and some of the best visuals in gaming to date, Alan Wake II is a game like few others and Remedy Entertainment's best. It took 13 years for the acclaimed writer to come back, but the long wait was worth it. We could have hardly wished for a better sequel, despite the derivative survival horror gameplay holding the experience back a bit.
Not even attempting to hide the massive influence Bloodborne has had on it, Lies of P is a solid imitation of the game developed by FromSoftware. While it lacks the same combat and world design finesse of its illustrious inspiration, the action role-playing game by NEOWIZ is among the most accomplished soulslike game released this year, thanks to its dark retelling of the story of Pinocchio, combat and character customization tweaks and great enemy design.
With its unique premise and setting, Atlas Fallen could have been one of the best action games of the year, but its mediocre combat system, dull open-world areas, and lack of interesting characters drag the experience down. The full package ends up being just a decent game for those willing to look past its most critical shortcomings.
With its engaging story, charming characters, extremely dynamic world that constantly reacts and adapts to the player's actions and choice and a solid tactical combat system, Baldur's Gate 3 is among the best cRPGs ever released. A wonky interface, the lack of some quality-of-life features and Larian Studios' trademark save scumming design impact the experience, but they're only minor issues that don't away too much from the whole experience. After years in development, Baldur's Gate 3 definitely exceeded all expectations, and in the best possible way.
While its basics are solid, and its story surprisingly interesting, Exoprimal leaves something to be desired. With a limited amount of PvP and PvE missions, and average maps, the excellent visual and combat design of the Exosuits and the occasional surprise raid mission are not enough to keep the whole experience engaging after a dozen or so hours. Taking down hordes of dinosaurs can be fun, but the game definitely needed something more to be a must-have, especially at its price tag.
They say an artist's work is never truly done, but with Layers of Fear, Bloober Team and Anshar Studios have completed the Master Opus started back in 2016. With superb UE5 powered visuals, improved writing and some new gameplay mechanics, these journeys into the darkest recesses of the human mind have never been so immersive, although some issues prevent Layers of Fear from being an absolute masterpiece.
With its colorful fantasy setting, and decent lore, characters, and story, Stray Blade could have been an enjoyable action role-playing game, but having plenty of heart is not enough to make a game one that is universally worthy of playing. The clunkiness of combat, the bad level design, and the general lack of polish make the journey to the Valley of Acrea a frustrating one that only die-hard action role-playing game fans will have the stomach to complete.