I’ve played Pendragon dozens of times. I’ve unlocked most of the characters (I still can’t see to get Branwen the archer to trust me) and I know there are stories I haven’t pursued to their conclusions (Excalibur is out there, and I will find it). So rather than a traditional RPG or strategy game, Pendragon plays like an impressionistic take on a classic Nintendo formula. You’ll tell your own stories and if you play them right, the dream of Camelot will live on.
By borrowing solid mechanics from the best of the genre, Iron Harvest has the makings of a pretty good RTS. What pushes it across the finish line is a well-realized setting, a wonderful aesthetic, and a solid grounding in what sort of story it wants to tell. I personally wish it could have had more fun with the world, but that’s just me.
Beyond its two parts though, Control: AWE takes concepts from the previous chapters of the story and heightens them in every way. This is the best-written chapter of Control yet, and one that has me frantically searching wikis to figure out where the story is going next
I unfortunately can’t recommend Sentinels of Freedom as an introduction to that world. If you’ve got the money and a group of friends, maybe try to original card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse. Or if you are more into digital games (and you’re here aren’t you?) you would do well to try out the excellent video game version from Handelabra Games. There’s also the official podcast, which is a gas. But I’ll be honest with you, I’m really hoping you come back and play Sentinels of Freedom. Because despite the unappealing looks, this is a really fun way to explore the Sentinels universe and I hope you’ll come back and play this. There’s an ineffable alchemy at the heart of Sentinels of Freedom, one that goes beyond scores and polygon counts. If you invest the time, maybe you’ll learn to love this troubled little game as I have.
With a couple more years of open-world games behind us, I think it’s clear that Mafia 3 is middle of the pack. It looks good and sounds good, but the core gameplay tasks aren’t as tight as they should be. The story is well presented but lacks the spark you find in more straightforward RPGs. The documentary framing device is brilliant, but beyond that, there’s not much happening that you won’t find done better elsewhere. Mafia 3: Definitive Edition is exactly that – the definitive version of a so-so 2016 action game.
But there’s still a question of why. Why remake these games? Why put a fresh coat of paint on this weird little action shooter that is not so fondly remembered? I’m sure there are compelling business reasons, but nothing that makes sense to me as a gamer. Mafia II is an imperfect fix to a game that was already pretty flawed. Now it’s just as flawed, but in a way that can be appreciated by modern audiences.