Francesco De Meo
With vastly enhanced visuals and audio, a major combat overhaul that finally makes the game fun to play, and a great ending, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Reunion is, without a doubt, one of the best remasters released in recent years. While some of the original's issues haven't been addressed, such as the bad story pacing and mediocre writing, they shouldn't stop any Final Fantasy VII fan from getting the game. The price of freedom is steep, but it is one worth paying.
With many gameplay changes that restore the original's great pacing without doing away with the deeper customization options introduced in the PSP remake, one of the best stories ever seen in tactical role-playing games and an amazing reworked soundtrack, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is, without a doubt, the definitive version of Let Us Cling Together. While some of the gameplay changes aren't exactly for the best, they are only minor issues in an experience that continues to be excellent even 27 years after its original debut.
Sonic Frontiers may not be the best Sonic the Hedgehog ever made, but it's definitely in the upper echelon of the franchise. The new open-world formula works surprisingly well even with its issues, and Cyber Space stages and combat are well-designed, engaging and, most of all, fun. With some tweaks, the Sonic Frontiers formula could be the basis for the franchise moving forward, potentially bringing it back to its glory days.
With little additional story and gameplay content, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin - Wanderer of the Rift is yet another endgame expansion that doesn't introduce enough new features to make most players return to the Strangers' world worthwhile. Only hardcore players who want to explore the maximum potential of the game's mechanics will find some value in an expansion that feels even more disappointing than the one that came before it.
Even with some issues here and there, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is undoubtedly a return to form for the series by tri-Ace. The game delivers a solid JRPG experience that both fans of the series and newcomers will enjoy thanks to the best battle system in the series to date, likable characters, and an engaging but a little slow and not particularly surprising story. Some technical issues and by-the-books game design do take something away from the experience, but for those looking for a traditional Japanese role-playing game with plenty of heart, Star Ocean: The Divine Force is the game to get.
For a choice-driven experience, Bathora: Lost Haven leaves something to be desired. While it does do some clever things with the choice and duality themes, the experience falls somewhat flat due to excessive linearity, clunky and unsatisfying combat, and way too fast pacing that detracts from the emotional weight of some of the choices. The nice-looking visuals and the engaging puzzles that break the monotony of the experience and a few story beats make the experience enjoyable at times, but it could have been so much more.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars had the potential of being one of the most exciting action role-playing games influenced by the Souls series, with its ancient Greek and Roman influences, cartoonish art style, unique approach to story choices, and a more gamey approach to combat and character customization, but it falls a little flat due to the bad level design that damages the entire experience. If one can look past this significant issue, however, one will find a decent enough game with an acceptable story and serviceable combat with some interesting twists.
Featuring new content that expands the game in some interesting ways and new trials that push the limit of the game's mechanics, the Kena: Bridge of Spirits Anniversary Update has a lot to offer to returning and new players alike. The new additions aren't particularly game-changing, so those who did not like the original release won't change their opinion with the new content. Those who loved Kena: Bridge of Spirits, however, will find a lot to like in the Anniversary Update.
Combining a well-realized dark fantasy setting inspired by Claymore and Berserk and an engaging story with solid action gameplay inspired by some of the best character action games, Soulstice is a competent action title. Unfortunately, issues like the horrible camera and the mediocre handling of color-coded enemies and mechanics impact the experience, preventing it from being the great character action game it had the potential to be.
With its setting and story, Steelrising could have been the Bloodborne-inspired Soulslike that many have been waiting for since the release of From Software's masterpiece. Unfortunately, the game developed by Spiders doesn't manage to be anything more than a middling game, with its gameplay issues making it hard to recommend to those who are not die-hard fans of the genre.
With its interesting setting that combines the Old West with supernatural and occult elements and solid tactical turn-based combat with excellent pacing, Hard West 2 is a worthy purchase for fans of the genre. However, balancing issues, limited character customization, which force players to play in specific ways, and a general streamlining of the tactical combat experience make the game more shallow than expected, inevitably turning off some veterans of the genre.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins - Trials of the Dragon King is a DLC aimed at those who have played the base game beyond its ending, providing new customization options, a new difficulty setting, new difficulty modifiers and more. Beyond this, the expansion doesn't provide a lot of new story and gameplay content, making it a worthy purchase only for those who have found Chaos mode too tame, and are ready to get challenged again by the base game's foes and a few new ones.
While quite different from the previous single-player GWENT experience, GWENT: Rogue Mage is an extremely solid title that masterfully combines mechanics from the card game introduced in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with roguelike mechanics. With tons of different cards and different strategies, Alzur's search for the mutagens that will create The Witcher is an extremely engaging one, despite the smaller focus on story, compared to other games belonging to the popular series.
Rune Factory 5's combination of features from simulation games and action role-playing games works as well as it did in previous entries in the series, but the lack of innovation, underwhelming exploration mechanics and a certain disconnect between the urgency of the main quest and living a calm farm life do damage the experience a little. The endearing cast and improved action combat, however, make for an enjoyable experience, so those who venture into Rigbarth without expecting to find a revolutionary title will find plenty to like in the game.
With its huge number of new and returning monsters, new gameplay mechanics, and great refinements to the formula, Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is the massive expansion that the latest entry in the series deserved to get. While the jump from High Rank to Master Rank doesn't feel as big as it was in previous entries in the series, Sunbreak does so many things well that most of the hunters traveling to Elgado and the Citadel will hardly be bothered by it.
The Capcom Fighting Collection is a nostalgic trip through fighting game history enriched with new features like online multiplayer and an extensive Museum Mode that breathe new life into these all-time classics. The lack of cross-platform play and the extremely limited single-player modes, however, do damage the experience, making the collection a game a worthy purchase only for those who live and breathe fighting games.
As already mentioned, live service games live or die depending on how they are supported, so it is difficult to say if investing time in Roller Champions will be worth it in the long run. The game is solid and feels good to play. The plans for the game's first year sound interesting, with each Season introducing new content revolving around a theme and new quality of life features. Hence, the ball is literally on Ubisoft Montreal's court now. Will they be able to complete their three laps of the arena and score five points? We will just have to wait and see.
With its intricate and well-realized setting, engaging story, compelling characters, and well-implemented RPG mechanics, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a truly groundbreaking game that no fan of narrative-driven games should pass on.
The Back 4 Blood - Tunnels of Terror expansion introduces some new quality content such as the Ridden Hives, new Cleaners, and new cards that enhance the base game's experience without revolutionizing it in any way. As such, only those who have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the base game will truly appreciate the additions included in this expansion, as the new content, while well-crafted, doesn't really change how Back 4 Blood is played.
With its gripping story, wacky characters, solid action role-playing game mechanics, and masterfully crafted immersive simulation features, Weird West is one of the very few role-playing games on the market where players truly shape the world with their choices and actions. Some balancing and technical issues damage the experience, but if you're looking for a truly immersive RPG to play, you won't find anything better than Weird West.