Despite its narrative shortcomings, Draugen still has plenty to offer. Graavik has no shortage of beautiful views and stunningly detailed locations. In under three hours, Draugen pulls off a series of well-composed shots that are worth the entry price alone. Teddy and Lissie's story never reaches its full potential, but there are worse ways to spend a few hours than exploring a wind-swept fjord.
Pathologic 2 is a surrealist drama wrapped in a survival game's tattered clothes. It's frustrating and haunting all at once. It's also one of the most atmospheric games ever made. Every element of Pathologic 2 – the persistent plague, delightfully twisted dialogue, and punishing survival mechanics – come together to form an intensely memorable experience. Is it fun? Not really. Is it brilliant? Almost certainly.
Taken as a whole, Outward practically screams "cult classic." Its consistent challenge, cumbersome combat, and co-op systems won't resonate with everyone. But for a particular type of player—ones that don't mind trading dozens of frustrating moments for open-ended experiences—Nine Dot Studios' RPG is sure to find a dedicated audience. Outward's aspirations are commendable, but just like its protagonist, the end result is just average.
Donut County is as charming and funny as it is inventive and beautiful. It excels at what it sets out to do --there's never been a better hole simulator in video game history. But underneath its colorful scenery and intuitive gameplay is an experience that feels like its inches away from true greatness.
State of Decay 2 comes together as a game that feels designed for players who like to make checklists and chip away at long-term tasks. That notion might sound contradictory to existence in a zombie apocalypse, where death comes fast and often, but engaging with the game from this perspective makes its rough edges seem more like minor smudges. State of Decay 2's unique approach to survival and management might not appeal to everyone, but it certainly feels like an instant cult classic.
The Swords of Ditto is charming, humorous, and fun to play. It's not the biggest game, but its generation-crossing story makes you feel like you're a part of its world's history. Even though it relies heavily on randomized components, the cartoon-like presentation and baked-in charm make every single screen seem as though it's part of a cohesive, authored map. The Swords of Ditto might not be the most epic adventure of all time, but there's little denying that it's one of the cutest.
Far Cry 5 is a solid first-person shooter set in a vibrant, breathtaking location. It plays well, looks great, and is packed with enough content to keep players invested in Hope County for a good, long while. Though Joseph Seed and Eden's Gate work better in theory than in practice, the Montana-based doomsday cult marks a departure for the franchise that pays off.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is an excellent exploration of stories and the meanings we place upon them. It's a road trip game through the American landscape that's punctuated by astounding writing and entertaining encounters. There's nothing quite like it, and it's doubtful that there ever will be.
Though it has some rough edges, including occasional script-related issues and town-wide events that seem to ignore changes players have enacted around the village, Gleaner Heights has enough content to make it feel like an instant cult classic.
So much can happen in Rust over the course of a week. Overcoming the elements is no small task in and of itself, and the game's punishing survival systems make it hard to recommend to everyone. But for those who are willing to put the time in and stick with it, Rust provides both a social sandbox and a deep, functioning crafting system. At times, it feels like anything is possible in Rust; like witnessing players double-crossing one another or stumbling upon a small sheet metal city in the desert. You just have to accept that nothing is permanent on the player-driven island. And sooner or later, you have to build everything back up again.
The Red Strings Club comes full circle. It ends almost exactly where it begins. Brandeis is still falling. He's still going to collide with the ground. His fate's sealed. But that doesn't really matter. In The Red Strings Club, it's how you arrive at a moment that stands out.
Still, there's something whimsical and endearing that drives Battle Chef Brigade forward. Across seven-to-ten hours, Mina and her cooking companions grow on you. Charming characters and a unique blend of gameplay systems create for an alluring little game that's simple fun throughout.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode's intended audience is almost certainly established fans. It's a solid remaster that looks great and runs smoothly. But it's still a dated JRPG that dominates dozens of hours with sub-par combat and repetitive beats. If you have never experienced The World, it's unlikely that Last Recode will pull you in. For those that never wanted to log out, it's a decent way to reconnect.
By the time Death of the Outsider comes to a close, Billie's gone through the ringer. It's not the longest expansion out there, and it seems to miss a step or two in the main plot, but there's more than enough for anyone who appreciated the moment-to-moment formula of Dishonored 2. Billie Lurk never had it easy, but after her last job, it's finally time to rest. And that's more than a fitting farewell for one of the best video game franchises in recent memory.
Darkwood does a great job of showing off its weird, unsettling world, but it struggles to tell players what they have to do. The woods are home to secrets and terrible truths alike. Though it falls short of reaching its full potential, mostly due to questionable controls and cumbersome combat, this horror game is worth the experience on the merits of its haunting atmosphere alone.