- Bionic Commando
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a treasure of both classic tactical RPG design and modern sensibilities. I really like the quality-of-life features that make it so much easier to play and stay on the path of the story without much padding. I can also appreciate that this game also contains some tough-as-nails challenges that take an incredible amount of dedication to overcome. In between all that, it’s also just a great story and I really appreciate the Chariot Tarot system allowing you to see the paths untaken at any point you desire. If you want a great tactical RPG, this is not only the forerunner to many favorites, it’s also well-polished for a new generation.
Between removing the movement grid, adding more strategic options, new characters, new abilities, and expanding and revising the roster in an enjoyable story, Sparks of Hope feels like another exceptional collaboration between Ubisoft and Nintendo.
I really like the overall style of Gundam Evolution. The maps are neat and the mobile suits are a decent starting lineup, even if I don’t like some of the omissions from throughout the franchise in both the roster and cosmetic options. There’s also the fact that some of these mobile suits just feel straight-up overpowered compared to certain other niche options in team comp. That said, as a live-service free-to-play game, I’ve never had an issue finding a match in Gundam Evolution and it looks like the groundwork is here for some good improvements, additions, and balancing over time.
Ultimately, Overwatch 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a refresh, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The new Heroes are neat, as are the refreshed looks of previous Heroes. The new Push mode and other new maps are fun as well. That said, the game pretty much plays the same. If you loved Overwatch, there’s really no reason why you won’t enjoy continuing this journey. If you weren’t a fan, this isn’t going to change your mind. That said, if the first batch of heroes, modes, and maps were any indication, it at least looks like Overwatch 2’s new free-to-play seasonal content rotation is going to keep things interesting for a long time to come.
Of all the survival games I’ve played, Grounded is easily one of the coolest. The very theme of it is fun and the execution is pretty on target too. Playing as micro-sized kids in a vast yard full of pests and threats is really interesting, the story keeps exploration intriguing, and the progression, whether alone or with friends, feels satisfying. I’m not fond of how hard it is on normal difficulty alone, or the lack of variety among nearly required gear, but it really gets all the more delightful with friends helping. Even then, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy Grounded solo, too. Between Creative Modes, multiple difficulties, and a nice set of accessibility options, Grounded feels like one of the strongest entries to the survival genre in a long time.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a softy when it comes to good stories, but I’ve still played quite a few games and seen enough narratives of all kinds to think it’s hard to floor me these days. Or so I thought, anyway. I’m not sure if I was caught off guard or if Beacon Pines really is just that good. It’s pretty easy to see that its art and music are both top notch. Ultimately, this is also a story good enough that I’d love more people to see it so I can talk to them about it. It might not be the longest game, and the thrill of the exploration may bottleneck a bit at the end, but the changing course, different routes, and ultimate ending of Beacon Pines are still more than worth exploring for any fan of narrative adventure.
SD Gundam Battle Alliance has me at odds because there’s a lot of things I like about it and a lot of things I don’t, both as a Gundam fan and just a general player. The mobile suits and pilots are fun to collect and explore. The story and missions are also fairly well-done and I like the look of the super deformed versions of a lot of my favorite mobile suits from across the series. My big miff is that the difficulty spike between series of missions makes repeatedly playing the same scenarios to level up your pilots and mobile suits a near-mandatory chore. I also just don’t think it makes good use of the SD spinoff formula. Mix in some annoying inconveniences in camera and other gameplay design and while SD Gundam Battle Alliance may be fun at first, the luster will likely fade for many after a few hours.
GigaBash has a lot of fun elements to it. The monsters are quite varied and well-designed, in terms of both original creatures and obvious nods to classics. I also really enjoyed the battlegrounds, music, and stories (as short as the latter was). And that last note ultimately sums up my experience. In both gameplay modes and story, it doesn’t take a lot of time to see everything GigaBash has going on. Even so, if you can wrangle some buddies together either locally or online, GigaBash would make a solid addition to a party game night.
Frozenheim is quite a test of strategic resource management and combat tactics as you raise your settlement, make it self-sufficient, and defend it from outside forces. I really enjoyed the ability to diversify through clan types and the maps are just plain beautiful at all ends. Some resources are far more unwieldy than others, and players will likely find frustration learning how to keep the things they constantly need in check. However, for everything on offer, Frozenheim is a solid arrangement of primitive economics and warfare and should scratch an itch for anyone looking to enjoy a solid strategy experience, either solo or with friendly opponents.
Eyes in the Dark doesn’t exactly reinvent roguelites or twin stick shooters so much as it simply takes good parts of those things and ties it up neatly in a darkly humored style, both charming and creepy. The black and white art style, quirky soundtrack, and unique light-vs-dark elements are quite enjoyable. RNG can and will cut your runs short, and I think its permanent upgrade system is a bit too stingy to keep things moving along, but it’s still quite an amusing roguelite romp that will keep you cutting through the darkness on your way to discovering the mysteries of the Bloom family.
Between the well-adapted cast of characters, stages, and music from Dungeon Fighter Online, this is both a love letter to DFO fans, as well as a quality and accessible fighting game to boot. It will be interesting to see how much longevity this game has in it, though. Where some characters have risen to the top in past fighting games with enough exploration and discovery, DNF Duel feels a little too easy to crack. It’s the most unbalanced of any Arc System Works fighter I’ve played in recent memory, and that makes me concerned for its community health. That said, it’s still a fun fighting game to play with good offline modes to boot. If you want a good-looking fighter that doesn’t take too much practice to access and feel good about, or if you just love Dungeon Fighter Online and want to play a game that adapts it well, DNF Duel might be the brawler you’re looking for.
I really feel like anyone who has been through Three Houses would be doing themselves a disservice to skip Three Hopes. The story diverges enough to make each house a new adventure all its own and each of the paths has a vastly different array of battles to fight. Additionally, aspects of strategy, classes, skills, and camaraderie between characters have also made their way over and are implemented well here. I wish characters fought a bit more uniquely and that the game performed a bit better in docked mode, but outside of these complaints, Three Hopes feels like another solid example of what Omega Force can do when Nintendo entrusts its IP to the Musou dev.
I never thought we’d see love for Darkstalkers again outside of something like another Vs. Capcom game. Not only am I happy to have been wrong, but I’m glad it came in such generally high quality as Capcom has given us here in the Capcom Fighting Collection. More than that, having Red Earth, Cyberbots, and Super Puzzle Fighter alongside options like training modes, one-button specials, and other quality-of-life features is just excellent. I lament the lack of crossplay, and some might not be fond of the arcade-hard mentality of some of these games. Still, Capcom Fighting Collection is a delicious buffet of classic fighting goodness that plays quite well across the board.
Spacelines from the Far Out was an unexpected delight. The premise itself is just bananas, but the execution is also excellent as you figure out what will get you from A to B with as few holes in your spacecraft as possible. The cartoonish visuals, music, and gameplay were excellent even if the game could be stressful, but overcoming its challenge to arrive at Gambulon V is glorious. I wish there was more variety in upgrades and ships, and that targeting when performing activities in cramped spots wasn’t so nitpicky. However, whether you’re alone or playing with friends, Spacelines from the Far Out feels like a zany approach to customer service and roguelike elements that should make for quite a few sessions of challenges and fun.
Some dizzying tricks and cheap, sudden encounters aside, Card Shark feels like a genuine and charming mystery interwoven into a very interesting series of mechanics mimicking the fascinating sleight of hand behind card tricks. Don’t get me wrong, the concepts won’t exactly give you the dexterity you need to do these tricks yourselves, but the proper utilization of them throughout the game was a fun aside to a story that’s really about digging into the backroom secrets of 18th century aristocracy. With fun animation, narrative, and music to sell that venture, Card Shark comes out with a purse that’s far more full than it is light.
Soundfall does quite a few things right. Its loot and shoot design set to a lot of good music is commendable. The tracks included in the game are of a wide variety and even if you get through the entire game, the ability to play levels to your own favorite music is pretty great (on PC). The problem is… Soundfall’s gear and enemies just aren’t all that compelling. The music and rhythmic gameplay are good enough to carry a lot of this game, but I can’t help but wish it had a more rewarding variety of gear to look forward to and enemies that didn’t quickly end up feeling like repetitive drones. Even so, if you can get down with a good rhythm action game alone or with friends, Soundfall might be worth it whether you play to its soundtrack or bring your own.
The idea of going back to a sort of Version 1.0 experience of Cities is actually enticing to me. Fast Travel Games has already promised that Cities: VR is set to grow over time with content updates and more. As it is, it’s still a great jumping off point for the VR adaptation. I once again lost myself in its urban management often as long as my headset would allow me to play. The planning and reacting to various events around your town is still fun to handle and the VR controls are good for it. All-in-all, Cities: VR might be a little limited to those who want everything the PC version has come to offer in terms of features and visuals, but still, it might be one of the most relaxing VR titles around right now and feels like it’s bound to only get better from here.