Ultimately, Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker marked the end of an era. Plot threads from A Realm Reborn onward come to a close. The story is rife with fanfare, paying homage to past expansions in ways that sometimes feel overmuch or hit in just the right way.
There is just a lot to do in The Good Life, which means that players can potentially sink upwards of forty-plus hours taking pictures or running mundane, everyday tasks. And while I like life simulators, I don’t like them when they can barely run at over 3 FPS.
There is just so much to do in Lost Judgment, both to its benefit and detriment. The story felt so bloated by the time it hit its climax that I was relieved to see it end. Ultimately, this is another case of one step forward, two steps back for Ryu ga Gotoku Studio, just like Yakuza: Like a Dragon and its presentation of topical issues in Japan. Even though Lost Judgment tries to open a conversation about bullying and sexual harassment, those themes end up taking a back seat in favor of bombastic drama. Lost Judgment succeeds in its emulation of a Japanese legal drama, but it's a mediocre one that would have benefited from a smaller scope, or at least, a better grasp on what it's trying to comment on.
While it was largely considered one of the less popular titles in the franchise, Nintendo rereleased Skyward Sword HD for the Nintendo Switch so a new generation of players that can experience what is considered to be the narrative foundation for the series. The result is an adequate entry, but one where its history and original control scheme’s legacy still can influence people’s enjoyment.
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights begins with the soft pitter-patter of rain and text scrawling itself along the bottom of the screen. A short exposition accompanies a beautiful illustration that showcases the player character: a young girl fast asleep with lilies in her hair and a foreboding, sinister looking brand on her forehead. She awakens alone in an unfamiliar world with the spirit of a deceased knight to guide her. This paints an evocative picture of the world of Ender Lilies and sets the tone going forward.
And as the franchise has continued to endure the test of time, each game builds upon the foundation of the first game in many ways. Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny attempts to bring something new to the formula to reinvigorate the series. While there are more than enough quality of life improvements to make this entry arguably the most accessible entry, it greatly suffers in other areas.
In missions, players have two options upon clearing set areas, which are to increase the rarity of loot that will drop, or to rest at camp, which will create a checkpoint for the player and restore any used healing items. On the Legendary and Ascended difficulty - the final two tiers of difficulty the game offers - I would spend most of these instances resting at camp to refill my resources, because enemies at this level, be they goblins or frenzied psionic cultists, would simply evaporate my health with a single strike. That was also a normal occurrence if my character's power level did not meet the suggested requirement of the selected difficulty.
Walking away from Resident Evil Village leaves me with mixed feelings. It wasn’t a game that I immediately disliked, and I can’t say that I didn’t have a lot of fun playing it. But a second playthrough made me more aware of pacing issues, and on harder difficulties the general spike that otherwise feels somewhat artificial.
Monster Hunter Rise is without a doubt one of the best Monster Hunter games I have ever played, if not the best outright. It caters to new and veteran players effortlessly, and while some accessibility issues holding it back from outright being a perfect game, it really offers the best of both worlds.
Valheim's world is low-poly for the most part, but features enhanced lighting and water refraction effects that create a beautiful blend of the early 2000s and modern graphics. Oceans and rivers look lovely, while even the dreariest of environments somehow stand out. Particle effects bloom and blossom in snowy locales, with dense fog sometimes permeating endless meadows of yellowing grass. It made me stop and appreciate the environmental design and procedurally generated scenery. This approach also allows for those even with fairly low-end machines to run the game.
Like a Dragon's story attempts to touch on certain social issues that are relevant in present-day Japan, such as classism, social status, sex work, and government corruption on a prefectural level. However, the writing often lacks the nuance or range to address the topics at hand, and doesn't give any of them adequate room to breathe. The second half of the game gains some measure of focus as plot threads tie together and result in genuinely surprising twists, but when Like a Dragon drops the ball, it drops it hard. Despite this, the Japanese cast's performances sell the story with evocative deliveries that breathe life into the characters. The finale is an emotional one that brought me to tears and moved me, just as most previous Yakuza games have.
Another installment of Supermassive Games’ The Dark Pictures Anthology is upon us. This next chapter in the series places players in the town of Little Hope, a mysterious and enigmatic city beset with tragedy and a dark history. Similar to the previous entry, Man of Medan, this bite sized story attempts to scare players while convincing them that their choices will result in life or death for mostly under developed cast of characters.
There is something all encompassing about the darkness in Amnesia: Rebirth. The distinction is how it swells around the player and creeps up the corners of your screen, and how you’re left scrambling over rocks and oddly shaped architecture when resources run thin. I’ve never felt something more complete and simultaneously frustrating in all of my years playing horror games.
Ultimately, Marvel’s Avengers makes an attempt at breaking into an already flooded market of battle passes, cosmetics, and surface-level systems that attempt to show some kind of variety. There are better options out there for players to enjoy with fewer caveats and bugs.