The Flame in the Flood has learned a lot from the survival games that came before it, but The Molasses Flood have added a unique charm that you won't find anywhere else. The character and environment design is superbly animated, and I can't stress enough how fantastic the soundtrack is. The entire experience had a wonderful Roald Dahl/Aesop's Fables feel to it, which created one of the most unique atmospheres I've seen in a survival game. If dark and depressing survival games have left you out in the rain, you'll find shelter and warmth here.
In my preview of Layers of Fear I wrote that "psychedelic" was assuredly the single best word to describe the game, and if I was to build on that at all my only other words would be "perfect balance." A perfectly balanced psychedelic acid trip through the mind of a delusional and less-than quintessentially tortured artist. At its core that's what makes Layers of Fear such an evocatively thrilling horror game: it strikes a fantastic balance between narrative, gameplay, atmospheric immersion, and evolving horror themes. If P.T. provided the inspiration for this new genre of atmospheric horror games, Layers of Fear has undoubtedly begun its perfection.
It really is a shame because with a slightly more captivating story and deeper customization both in terms of characters and combat, this could have been the game that welcomed a new breed of SAO fans and gave renewed life to the series on the whole. What we are left with instead is a typical lite action-RPG set within the world of ALfheim and geared exclusively at people like me who can't wait to take another bite out of anything remotely Sword Art Online.
With cheerful retro music paired with a fairly colorful 8-bit palette, The Escapists: The Walking Dead is a wonderful and meticulous romp through the world of Robert Kirkman. The game treats the graphic novels as canon, and does a thorough job recreating the experience. I've played every The Walking Dead video game released in the past five years, and Team17's reskinning of their hit prison breakout sim is by far my favorite. Combining meticulous micromanagement with the constantly looming threat of walker attacks creates tense gameplay that rewards players who are willing to take the time to craft the perfect escape plan.
Overall, Hearts of Stone was everything that I wanted out of the first story expansion for Wild Hunt. I'm already anxiously awaiting the release of its follow-up Blood and Wine, which is said to consist of an additional 20 hours of gameplay. Whether you're looking for engaging combat with memorable boss fights, new interpersonal relationships and meaningful character development, or a mysterious and enthralling quest line that will keep you hooked until the very end, Hearts of Stone has it for you in spades. CD Projekt RED has once again outdone themselves and created an expansion that stands far enough apart from the original game to provide completely new adventure, but close enough to home to remind you why The Witcher 3 is one of the best RPGs of our time.
Until Dawn contains almost everything I want from a story-driven horror game. A thoroughly captivating narrative, a believable dynamic between characters, choices that have a direct and meaningful impact on the storyline, and most essentially: a constant state of tense fear created through the environment and narrative. If you're looking for the next great horror game, look no further. Just wait for the sun to go down, turn off the lights, and try and survive Until Dawn.