Diego Nicolás Argüello
After 30 hours and counting, the world of Lords of the Fallen is one I have enjoyed visiting, but ultimately dread inhabiting. Quality-of-life elements, like the option to create your own checkpoints in designated areas, are often jeopardized by an actual checkpoint found two houses later, after you just used up a rare resource. Magic classes, which are introduced as "advanced" in the character creator, actually seem integral, with item descriptions, weapons, and rather powerful spells demanding a stat commitment that knights or archers simply can't afford. Seamlessly switching between realities, as impressive as it looks in action, isn't new. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and The Medium boasted their SSD-powered tech years prior, while Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver showcased similar ideas to Umbral with its Spectral Realm decades ago.
Lies of P’s contributions to the genre are slow burns. There’s just enough intrigue at the beginning to lure you into the world, and thankfully, it pays off. The game surprised and engulfed me with its grim tale, in which greed and obsession for power turned a city against itself. Despite a clear obligation to pay homage to its pioneers, it carves its own reality — one in which you decide which illusions to believe in.
These moments rival those of the best stealth games, when the slightest noise can mean revealing your position to much more powerful foes. Frictional has made a name for itself by creating these moments out of elegant yet terrifying systems. The Bunker’s standout achievement, then, is creating a nonlinear sandbox where you’re constantly learning from your own bad habits. I’ve never been so conscious of how much noise everything makes around me in a digital space, cautiously entering rooms to avoid kicking an empty wine bottle or activating the flashlight intermittently when I knew the monster was near. As McKee described, it’s your mundane actions, in conjunction with the crude and hostile setting, that create a solid ceiling of sound — one that only grows thicker the longer you inhabit the bunker.
In 2019, Warframe’s then-creative director Steve Sinclair called the live-service game’s community a “hungry monster to feed.” For as many newcomers as these “endless” games attract, there are also swaths of dedicated veterans, with hundreds or even thousands of hours logged, craving more: more loot, more story quests, more characters — the list goes on. Path of Exile, for its part, has its own beast to feed. Its inexhaustible trickle of expansions and updates is a testament to that fact. How Grinding Gear plans to sate its community in the future remains to be seen — for now, there’s plenty of food to go around.
I can picture myself weeks from now, strolling among the creations, gadgets, and objects that my friends and I have left littered across our worlds, thinking back on these early days in Wild Hearts. These constructions are marks of solidarity in a game that could have been mere homage. Building in Wild Hearts isn’t just a mechanical conceit. It’s the pillar of its identity.
The shadow drop was novel in and of itself, but the game is a triumph. The gorgeous animations and Jet Set Radio-esque art style are vivid and arresting. The array of tutorials, visual aids, and clever mechanics makes the rhythm aspects approachable to genre newcomers. And the vibrant, positive energy is present in every beat, keeping you tapping your feet as you take down a corporation built on a lack of vision. Hi-Fi Rush is a cathartic anthem that arrived at the perfect time.
Some people will understandably be put off by all of this. Yet, for all the flaws in its script, Persona 4 Golden manages to mine heartfelt stories from other veins. Persona 5 Royal is a veritable amusement park of side activities that can sometimes be overwhelming. In Inaba, however, having fewer distractions lets you focus on your bonds much more closely. It will take some time to adjust to being away from the city, especially without a smartphone constantly buzzing to let you know where everybody is at all times. But there is no need for one. You’re bound to stumble upon a friendly face on your way to the riverbank.
I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to be returning to “World of Warcraft” any time soon, whether it is to see how “Dragonflight” evolves from here or to try out future expansions. But after all these years, I’m glad I returned to witness the start of a new journey for a group that spent decades in stasis. Seeing the Dracthyr regaining control of their fate gave me hope that the next time I visit Azeroth, the people behind this world might have freed themselves from their historic shackles.
It’s unfortunate to see a Sonic game that tries, and often succeeds, in retreading past foundations and applying them to a different setting. But the highs of fighting the Titans or playing remakes of classic levels can’t justify the frustrations that constantly put stops along the way.
Throughout the 30 hours it took to hit credits, I kept trying to latch onto the elements that work. Soul Hackers 2’s saving grace lies in its main characters, each with a distinct personality that often clashes with the rest. Witnessing the group’s growth by putting their differences aside and opening themselves up to camaraderie was a joy.
It's fitting, then, that the championship's final subverts the expectation of the long, silent stroll through the hall by kicking the music in as soon as you start moving forward. This time the nerves are left in the dressing room. She's revisited her footsteps time and time again until she's ready for the grand finale. After tonight, everyone in the crowd is going to remember Kara Hassan's name.
Failbetter Games have brought upon themselves a trademark capable of enduring over time, born with Fallen London back in the day and now present in both Sunless Sea and the upcoming Sunless Skies. This is by far the best way to experience the studio's vision and their unique take in narrative driven games.