Double Damage Games has nailed it out of the park with the near-perfect evolution of Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. With its stunning graphics, detailed universe, and stellar gameplay, it is an upgrade in every sense of the word from the original Rebel Galaxy, but it has not lost touch with the core of the original title. Strong quests, side missions, customization options, and scope will firmly land RGO as the best space game of 2019.
While it is no genre-defining title like Command & Conquer, Conan Unconquered is more than just a worthy successor to a team of developers known for their storied past. Excellent graphics, if troublesome user interface, and a pacing that will have you both glued to the seat and your heart beating with the very drums of war. Conan Unconquered should without a doubt, be in every RTS fan’s library.
Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the World is a unique look at the Atelier franchise’s worl outside of the mainstream titles. Lighthearted as it may be, it still feels shallow, though well-designed and full of things do to on a casual level. While fun, interest easily wanes after an hour or two, though its art, voice acting, and overall scope should not be taken lightly. Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the World is a niche title best suited to those that are deep in the fandom of the Atelier Franchise.
Outward is a fun, challenging, if empty and slightly misguided, open-world roleplaying game where death is not only common, but guaranteed (do not be like me and accidentally drink the salt water; you will die … fast). Beautiful but hollow, Outward is an absolute must for those looking for something different, but be warned, you might bite off more than you can choose.
From a technical standpoint, the port to PlayStation 4 that supports 4k textures, is excellent; it is smooth (minus the wooden, garbage-like animations), bright, and full of intense colors and detailed hand-drawn textures, but a new paint job is not enough to fix what is wrong with The Legend of Heroes: Trails Of Cold Steel … and that is that it is old.
Though flawed and missing a few crucial quality of life updates, World War Z does indeed scratch that itch that folks who were looking for a Left 4 Dead-style game. Chalk full of exciting and memorable moments, World War Z for the most part has successfully blended action-packed goodness with that panic-ridden anxiety of being overwhelmed with (literally) hundreds of zombies. With a few user updates and more variety in missions, World War Z could be a mainstay cooperative shooter that is here to stay.
With its gorgeous models, bountiful explosions, excellent sound design and voice acting, and an interesting story for each of its campaigns, Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2 is a worthy entrance into the very small cadre of excellent Warhammer 40,000 titles. Well done Tindalos and Focus Home, well done indeed.
There is little not to like and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has a little bit of something for everyone, franchise fan or not. Perhaps as the release cycle continues we will see tweaks, like the ability to turn down the overpowering and extremely loud background music or compare ships, but those are more quality of life issues and less game-stopping problems. Even as it stands, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is wicked fun that should be experienced by all.
Insurgency: Sandstorm was a bit of a mystery to me going into it; I grew up playing countless hours of Team Fortress (the original!), Counterstrike, and Unreal Tournament, leading all the way through to modern shooters like Call of Duty, Player Unknown's Battlegrounds, Arma, and Battlefield, so I was not sure what to think going in. Boy was I shaken to my core; my daughter would often pop her head into the room to check up on me as I giddily laughed or made some exclamation at the awesomeness that will be found throughout the entirety of Insurgency: Sandstorm. Well done I say, well done indeed.
Kenshi is a unique blend of pure squad-based RPG leveling set in a sandbox world where your goal is to first survive then thrive and it is an extremely difficult title. Not only is it difficult it is also extraordinarily complex yet with an dated but useful user interface that leaves no vital information too far out of grasp, with graphics that are both complex and at times, stunning while reminiscent of mid-late 2000's isometric viewpoint RPG titles (I believe it has graphics comparable to those found in the Dungeon Siege franchise) yet do not let the graphics fool you; Kenshi is deep and highly complex and at times feels like a management / sim game with RPG aspects built into it. This is a good thing and the brilliant mix of various game genres has me eyeballing their update notes as I am itching to get back in there … even if it means my squad ends up eaten by cannibals.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a must-buy this holiday season. Such a seamless and wonderful amalgamation of genres is rare and The Bearded Ladies have blended them so well that in Road to Eden you have a completely unique experience that feels natural, almost welcoming. Until it steps on your face but I say that is a part of the charm…
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is, I hope, the start of an interesting genre that blends relatively free-form movement until turn-based tactical combat rears its bestial head. A perfect title for those that are itching something different than their three hundredth playthrough of XCOM 2, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a great way to pass the long days of your holiday vacation.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is exactly what the roleplaying genre needed; an excellent evolution to one of the most respected and beloved genres in gaming. Though there are plenty of little technical oddities, the level of detail put into every single aspect of Kingmaker is something many other studios should take note of; if you are looking to create a rich world that is utterly encompassing, then look to OwlCat's Pathfinder: Kingmaker. With a world full of consequence, for good or worse, with tactical combat, extremely deep character customization and growth, and some of the best micro-stories I have seen since The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is here to stay. Watch out Larian Studios, the Divinity franchise is no longer alone in its excellence. In fact with a little optimization, Pathfinder: Kingmaker can, and will, give you a run for its money …
If you are looking for something different, something deeper, but want to maintain the darker presence of a Lovecraftian novel, then Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition on PlayStation 4 is most certainly your game. With patience and perseverance you may even be able to survive well enough that you do not need to eat your crew… A note of fair warning though, is that this game is less about pushing off from a dock and blowing everything up but rather about managing supplies, fuel, food, and terror as you work to perform quests throughout the Unterzee. With a port that seems meant to be, Sunless Sea: Zubmariner Edition is the perfect game to pick up as we roll into Halloween 2018.
Conan Exiles could have been so good, so rich, but instead it turned out to be an awkward and often poor experience just on the gameplay mechanics alone. Add in the poor framerate on consoles and you will likely do as I did and turn the game off for a spell, hoping against hope that further console optimization without any additional loss in graphical fidelity happens (hint, it likely will not happen). Even the animations do not know where to stand in the quality and functionality of Conan Exiles, as many are plastic or wooden looking while others are smooth as a buttered baby's backside. Hell, even the environments are confused … Water? It is stunning but grass and shrub textures? Purely out of the mid-2000's. Once Conan Exiles is able to take itself seriously it may actually turn out to be a decent game, but by then it may be too late.
Though I may be harsh on Strange Brigade it is because it is coming from a studio that has consistently put out top-quality, engaging, enjoyable, and replayable titles; Zombie Army Trilogy, next to Tom Clancy's The Division and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands is one of the most-played titles in my household. Sniper Elite 3 is literally one of the only games I have 100%'ed … since the Super Nintendo was the primary household gaming system. I can say this with utter certainty … After beating Strange Brigade I will not be back to play it again for a long, long time. I cannot say the same for other Rebellion titles, as they are not chalk-full of reused and tiresome puzzles, simple and predictable levels, or sympathetic player characters. Sure the mid-mission briefings done old-school Newsreel-style with a bit of comic relief thrown in are spectacular, but it just feels "off."
Shenmue 2 is an excellent continuation of not only Ryo Hazuki's story, but also showing the evolution of open-world adventure RPGs around the turn of the century. Shenmue 1 & 2 paved the way for so many other greats; Dragon Age: Origins, Grand Theft Auto IV and V, Demon's Souls/Dark Souls, and even the Tomb Raider reboots. Though they may not have necessarily pioneered some of the now-standard aspects of gaming, Shenmue 1 & 2 showed that abrasive functions like the QTE or that open-world aspect of "alive" worlds. With Shenmue 1 & 2's rerelease, gamers of all ages can experience a cult classic that deserved for more exposure than it received. Now, with it releasing on common platforms, Shenmue 1 & 2 has a larger audience than ever before, and those that decide to follow Ryo's story will be richly rewarded.