Streamlined is a good word to describe Expeditions: Rome. Instead of jamming it full of every feature under the sun, it’s lean and mean. Maybe you are making fewer choices than you would in the latest Pathfinder game, but every one of those choices is meaningful. That philosophy permeates every level of the game, from the combat systems, to the art design, to the music, and the writing. A lot of thought went into every part of this game. RPG fans should honor that by giving just as much thought back to this game.
Wytchwood isn’t a bad game because it’s easier than Dark Souls. Difficulty is not the only reason to play a game. But Wytchwood does let the player down with such a vague and uninteresting story. A game needs a hook, and this story ain’t it. Crafting games make me uniquely aware of how much time I am wasting by playing them. But in the end, I like to look back at the little work of art I made by building a house, or a city, or a space station. In Wytchwood I am just collecting ingredients because the game told me to collect those ingredients. It’s an attractive enough game, but it needs something else substantial.
If you’re a 30 year fan of Super Robot Wars, the latest entry into the saga is something pretty special. No expense was spared bringing crunchy strategy rules and every mecha IP under the sun into one full throttle extravaganza. And even if you are a complete noob like me, this feels like a great entry to the wider world of giant robot anime. I suppose if you are only looking for the most finely honed strategy game and style is meaningless to you, you’re not going to find what you are looking for in Super Robot Wars 30. But give it a chance, it might grab you with a 10 foot long mechanized fist and not let go.
But then… how much did it cost to go to the movies last time you went? Do you remember what you saw? Unpacking is going to stick with me at least as hard as the latest superhero movie I saw, and it’s going to make the next time I need to look for a new place that much more tolerable. Maybe even fun. I enjoyed the brief time I spent with Unpacking, and I’m not going to stop thinking about it before my next move.
All that said… Into the Pit is still relentless. It’s a fast paced shooter, that feels really tight as a first person shooter. It’s meant to be played in fast bursts, so maybe it’s the perfect exciting thing to get you pumped while commuting on the bus. Or the kind of game where you breeze through the dialogue, turn off the sound and play while listening to a 25 hour audiobook. Into the Pit is a well-constructed roguelike shooting game and if you’re the kind of person who hears those words and yells, “I’m sold!” then you will probably have a lot of fun. But it’s not going to make believers out of genre-skeptics.
The thing is, there’s not a lot of games in the style of King of Dragon Pass. There’s not a lot of games like Vagrus period. Even in the world of indie RPGs, it’s rare to encounter writing so rich, or such an original world. Vagrus is exactly what I hope to get from my indie games, ideas so original that I can’t quite articulate what they could have done better. With immersive music, stylish art, creative combat, and a sometimes baffling interface, Vagrus: The Riven Realms is what you’re looking for if you are tired of versions of the same game, over and over again.
The bright side is, the strategy layer of Sheltered 2 is better than ever. If this kind of game is your jam and the original flew under your radar, it’s worth checking out. And if you played the original to death (as I did) and you’re looking for a reason to fall back into it, think of this as a sort of pricey update. If that doesn’t repel you, Sheltered 2 is just fine. Or maybe that sounds really appealing to you. Despite some of the underwhelming changes, I anticipate putting a lot more time into Sheltered 2. The core gameplay is just that appealing. That makes Sheltered 2 a game where the core mechanic is strong, but none of the set dressing is all that exciting.
If you are nostalgic for the gaming scene of the 90s, The Big Con is a can’t-miss throwback. But even if you are maybe a little younger, or sick of wallowing in that most radical of eras, you may find a lot to like. It’s certainly a very cool con artist story, which is appealing to me. Funny and a little melancholy, The Big Con is exactly the sort of adventure game I’ve been wanting to play for decades.
I don’t think that CreatorCrate is striving for meaningless chaos though. I feel like it set out to be a smart, tricky game. And it is, to a point. But maybe it’s not as smart as it thinks it is? Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure. I can’t claim that the game accomplishes all its goals. But I had fun with it. And you, the person reading this review, might even have the skills you need to get good at it. I can’t imagine how much fun you’d have with it then; my guess would be oodles.
I would recommend Siege Survival: Gloria Victis to players who like difficult management games and muddy depressing fantasy. I know you guys are out there. I’m one of those people. And despite my many criticisms of the game, I intend to keep playing it after this review has gone live. That’s not necessarily always the case! But there is a spark of something at the core of Siege Survival: Gloria Victis. It’s a puzzle, and if I can just line all the pieces up, I know I’ll feel the satisfaction of solving a difficult gaming challenge. But I will not be able to help imagining the game this could have been; brighter, sleeker, and more imaginative.
So is the Dance With Dragons DLC good? Yeah, absolutely! Does it reshape the game? Maybe, arguably, a little bit. Not much. Does it give you more ways to play an already fun game? You bet! But is it worth it? That I do not know my friend. All I know is that thing about winning or dying, and with this new DLC I’ve won quite a bit.
So I turned off my Switch and booted up my PC. I started a new game of Battle Brothers on that. And you know what? It’s as good as it ever was. A truly superlative strategy game made better with mods. I could not recommend Battle Brothers enough, but do yourself a favor and avoid the Nintendo Switch version. You’ll avoid one tragic end to meet a much more satisfactory one.
Then again… sometimes I want to play out certain scenarios in gaming. Sometimes I want to pilot a starship and escape from devious traps. Other times, I want to make my way through an emotional family drama. There are different feelings for different days. Evil Genius 2 has a strength that no other game can offer – there’s nowhere else to play out this fantasy. Because some days you want to be Dr. Evil, and it’s pretty cool that there’s an outlet for those megalomaniacal tendencies!
But, now, there are other turn-based strategy games. You can assemble a squad of mechas, a coven of mages, an elite military unit, or even a heavily armed pig and duck. You can fight aliens, fish-men, soldiers, pirates, and existential dread. What I mean to say is that I like the ideas in Black Legend, and I applaud the devs for remaining true to their vision. Although, this is an environment with stiff competition, and it wasn’t long before I felt my attention being pulled elsewhere. Black Legend will doubtlessly have its fans, but the magic simply isn’t there.
The gameplay is fun for a time, but once you see what Curious Expedition 2 has to offer, you will start to look beneath the surface. If you do that and you still like what you see, maybe you’ll have a new indie favorite. Or maybe you’ll find that your curiosity is quickly sated, and you’ll move on to the next thing.
I don’t think the story or characters or themes of Olija will stick with me for a long time, but I will remember the game nonetheless. I will remember the world actually, as if I was the one braving mosquito filled bogs and slimy tombs. Thomas Olsson and Skeleton Crew Studio aren’t telling stories so much as they are crafting worlds. That’s what kind of game Olija is: a world you can get lost in.
Game of Thrones: The Board Game is the best way to feel like a devious genius of Westeros.
The complexity of the interlocking systems in Empire of Sin feel like more than the game can handle. For every time a story emerges about love and loss as I described above, there are times when your speakeasy suddenly starts losing money and the game doesn’t communicate why. I’m sure through hours of play a pattern will emerge, but for now too much is too opaque and difficult.
I will fully admit to getting stuck in a few places. On a few tries, I overextended too quickly or didn’t adapt well to the changing planet. I always mismanage my electrical grid, or my maintenance bots, and build my way into a corner. But I keep coming back. Never before has a strategy game offered me such an involved story in such a staid sandbox. I think I’ll be turning Mars green for a long time to come.
That being said, there’s a real audience for a game like this. It’s $20 on Steam, and I’ve got little cousins. This is a great multigenerational game. It’s also the kind of party game that could be fun to play remotely with a group of friends. It’s the same appeal of playing Mario Kart on the couch. In other words, in a world where it’s tough to meet up in person and where a lot of socializing has to happen online, Witch It is the kind of simple game you could play with your non-gamer friends. The kind of person unlikely to drop money on in-game currency in your favorite shooter might feel compelled to join you for a few rounds of Witch It over the weekend. And hey, take them up on it! Enjoy being a floppy pizza for a few weeks of gameplay as you reconnect with your friends. That sounds like it’s worth 20 American dollars of laughs.