Mimimi Games returns to the real-time stealth tactical genre with Desperados 3. Across massive levels, players will guide their magnificent five characters toward their objectives. Each hero has their own strength they bring to the team, and they're all essential to survive. Desperados is a game of trial-and-error, expecting quicksaves and quickloads to "solve" each level. There's some small muddiness in the controls and enemy perception, and occasionally the punishment for slight mistakes in character or item placement feels punitive. That said, Desperados 3 nonetheless remains a fantastic follow-up to the first game and another win for the developer.
The Elder Scrolls Online heads back to familiar locale ahead of the 10th anniversary of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim. Unfortunately, Western Skyrim isn't the same stunning location as Morrowind or Summerset. There are moments of beauty, but Skyrim itself is drab, grey landscape for the most part. The undercroft of Blackreach is a more interesting and fantastical location, but it's only half of the entire experience. And while the Antiquities system is a fun addition, the harrowstorm open-world events feel hauntingly familiar. ESO's storytelling is still top-notch, but where that story is told matters just as much.
Mojang spins up its own take on the Diablo dungeon crawling formula. While it looks like it might be "Baby's First Diablo," Minecraft Dungeons has a good degree of challenge available for you and three friends. It's more focused on lowering barriers by streamlining the acquisition of loot, instead of miring you in pages of stats. There's a decent tail of playability with three levels of difficulty, but you'll have to look to potential post-launch content for the length of experience some dungeon crawling fans crave.
Saints Row: The Third time travels to 2020 with a solid remaster. This is the same game you remember from 2011, with all of the DLC and content packs along for the ride. Developer Sperasoft has redone some of the models, especially with regards to the vehicles, and added an all-new, more realistic lighting engine. Unfortunately, it still doesn't quite measure up to the original PC release, and all the bugs of the original are still here. Still, Saints Row: The Third is a wonderful experience despite all its flaws, and that remains true of this remaster release.
Gears Tactics finds its niche by leaning further into the hyper-aggressive action and gore of the franchise. It throws tons of enemies at you, which forces you to move and keeps you on your toes, but can also become annoying and tedious in some missions. For a first-time outing though, Gears Tactics is a fantastic start.
Nioh 2 crafts its tough experience with precise, delicious Team Ninja combat. On top of that is an entire mass of additional systems that offer players a way forward if your skills aren't top-notch. When those systems come together, Nioh 2 can make you feel powerful, but it does feel like a mess of numbers and bonuses thrown your way at times. You're surprisingly versatile, but you're also forced into a lot of management. A bit of trimming would've led to a near-perfect experience, rather than just a great one.
Dragon Ball Z: Karakot distills 291 episodes of Dragon Ball Z down into a 40-hour action-RPG experience. While the pacing is a bit off, seeing the story of Goku and friends told in wide swaths mostly works. The combat also manages to capture the feel of the series in certain boss fights. Unfortunately, the RPG side of things is lacking, with muddy progression, systems that feel useless, and random enemy encounters that can grow tedious. It's a good start, but more training is needed to reach its final form.
Phoenix Point fits firmly on the foundation of modern XCOM, but rethinks combat with an action point system and the ability to free aim. While the latter seems like a gimmick, it's actually a wonderful tactical option that pushes the strategy forward. It's a shame then that a reliance on procedural generation leads to a lack of variety, weapon balance isn't great, and the technical execution is rough. Phoenix Point is a great starting point for something amazing, but it's not quite there yet.