Assassin's Creed: Origins is as much a departure as it is a homecoming. Revamped combat mechanics defibrillate the series with much-needed challenge. The guided open-world design encourages and rewards exploration unlike any Assassin's Creed game before it, and takes place in one of the series' most memorable settings. But at the end of the day, and despite some growing pains, Origins is a culmination of the best aspects of the series. And for that, some hiccups in the transition to full-fledged RPG are a fair trade.
Most of A Hat in Time feels like a modge podge of creative ideas only amateurly stitched together. The game teeters between delightful charm (like the time I encountered a Mafiosa who wanted to play patty-cake then deceptively punched me across Mafia Town) and blatant lack of polish (like a cutscene where certain characters' limbs seemed paralyzed in a T position.) If a lighthearted, collect-a-thon platformer is your jam, A Hat in Time will constantly please you with its fun platforming and nuanced, cartoony world, but don't go in expecting the finish and cohesion of the classic platformers it takes its inspiration from.
Hellblade could have been carried alone by its insanely beautiful graphics and standout voice performances — some of the best of 2017 — but while these scenarios were always refreshing interruptions from long, meditative walks through Helheim, they distracted from the game's greater focus on demystifying a taboo mental disorder.
LawBreakers feels like combat occurring inside a snowglobe while a five-year-old shakes it really, really quickly. It's a shooter, like so many others out there, but it doesn't camouflage an axis-locked multiplayer formula with a new historical setting or gimmicky abilities — its low-gravity environments and lightning-fast traversal make it like no shooter you've ever played.
Perception's unique echolocation gameplay hook is enough to sustain the game for its 4-5-hour run, but I was saddened that The Deep End Games didn't explore this mechanic any more than it did. Had it, Perception's shallow plot and characters might have found some redemption. Ultimately, Perception is more carnival than amusement park – cheap thrills than top shelf. If you like horror games, you'll like Perception, but you've probably already experienced a bunch of horror titles scarier than this one.
Get Even is a respectable first-person shooter, sure. But despite finishing the game eager to start a second playthrough to experience the story with new perspective, the lack of player choice was a considerable disappointment. I felt duped for hunting down every piece of evidence during my time with Cole Black, because it didn't influence the truth that ultimately emerged. This omission reduces Get Even from an imaginative game to a passable one that made me feel I was watching a thriller film more than playing a game.
Don't question it — just buy it. Buy it right now. It isn't a shooter, and there are no puzzles and some will question if this even qualifies as a “game,” but What Remains of Edith Finch is an exemplar in video game narrative design. No other game I've ever played has provoked the same meditation on death, and ultimately life and the beauty of it all.
Free-to-play games often carry the stigma of being “pay-to-win” — a design philosophy that says if you want to win, buy in. Orcs Must Die! Unchained isn't that. It's a hoopla of co-op action that works whether or not you want to drop some dough. While the new Sabotage mode is a welcome, albeit lesser refined addition to the series, it's in Battlegrounds that Robot Entertainment flexes its action gameplay muscles and it's the game type that will keep me coming back for dozens more hours — or at the very least, to nab those daily login bonuses.
Tank Troopers is, at most times, everything you want in a downloadable title. It fires you right into the action, quickly introducing you to its simple tank-based mechanics then forcing you to test your mettle in increasingly difficult challenges that never take more than a few minutes to conquer. But for longer, more social gameplay sessions, the game also sports multiplayer modes that are accessible for both competitive mode newcomers and strategy-minded gamers alike, albeit a challenge to round up the people to play it.
Steep is a triumph at merging gameplay and presentation to deliver players a sense of place in its beautiful open world. Controlling each sport feels simple yet laser precise, and the diversity in sports and challenges encouraged me to stay in the game even when challenges became too frustrating or uninteresting. Add to this a solid layer of social functionality, albeit shallow when playing with strangers, and you have a game that reaches the great heights it endeavors to recreate.
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse is a hell of a mess. At moments, the complex and fun combat and progression systems break through the game’s ick presentation and sexist character designs, but what little fun exists gradually fades before you’re even halfway through the campaign. If you’re a fan of the series, there’s plenty to love here, but Apocalypse is unforgiving for any new players.
Jotun: Valhalla Edition is a beautiful, but sometimes shallow, crash course in Norse mythology that shines in its boss fights’ designs and overall presentation. And while Valhalla Mode isn’t much of an incentive to jump back in for returning players, it adds tremendous challenge to the already difficult core experience.