For all of its strengths, Like a Dragon: Ishin is still weighed down by its cartoonish undercurrent and abrasive ending. On a mechanical and systemic level, it’s a fun jaunt, with familiar faces and more fan service than anyone could possibly ask for, in a vivid historical world. But narratively, it’s a reminder of how quickly the stories in these games can go south. And by the time the credits rolled, I remembered why I’ve had difficulty keeping up with the series over the last few entries. Ishin may be a remake of a 2014 title, but those problems have persisted throughout the interim, and each time it tries to address social issues — current or historical — it takes one step forward, two steps back. The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in the world of Yakuza.
Shadows of Rose isn’t a spectacular DLC, and it doesn’t necessarily do or say anything meaningful. It feels like a B-tier horror film, which isn’t out of place for Resident Evil, though its sometimes self-serious tone can become tiring, especially after two whole games in the decidedly grim saga of the Winters family. Those invested in their narrative will find something to chew on, and the addition of the third-person perspective makes returning to the base game an exciting possibility. But it doesn’t do anything to further the narrative. Much like Rose herself, it feels less like a stepping stone in the franchise — a gentle nudge toward more plot points that will potentially remain unresolved for years to come.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a prime example of what a AA studio, given enough trust and resources, can accomplish. It’s a concise experience that didn’t waste my time, but it also scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had: a well-crafted stealth title meshed with folk horror elements that I had been craving since Siren: Blood Curse’s release in 2008. With an emotionally resonant script and an expert flow between stealth, horror, and exploration, A Plague Tale: Requiem feels like the sequel Innocence deserves.
The roguelike action-adventure game Cult of the Lamb wraps the grotesque in a charming little package of characters that look like they could be pulled straight from a children’s story.
And I haven't even mentioned naval travel, field bosses, or timed battles. In its sheer breadth of content, Lost Ark is gargantuan, and learning its intricate systems means being rewarded every step of the way, for a very long time. As it stands, after 90 hours, I have roughly 40% of each region completed, and have multiple characters well into the second tier of endgame content.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the surface, V Rising appears to be just another survival game, slathered with a different coat of paint. In many ways, it’s hard to argue otherwise. However, it manages to layer complex systems inspired by the popular mythology of the vampire to distinguish it from the sea of survival games. While V Rising hasn't completely satiated my thirst in its current form, I’m hopeful that it will somewhere down the line.
Redfall has some relatively interesting concepts, and could make for a decent multiplayer shooter, but is lacks the substance to see it through.
Technical issues aside, The Callisto Protocol is mostly forgettable.
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 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.
Worlds are colliding in Sonic the Hedgehog’s newest high-speed adventure! In search of the missing Chaos emeralds, Sonic becomes stranded on an ancient island teeming with unusual creatures. Battle hordes of powerful enemies as you explore a breathtaking world of action, adventure, and mystery. Accelerate to new heights and experience the thrill of high-velocity, open-zone platforming freedom as you race across the five massive Starfall Islands. Jump into adventure, wield the power of the Ancients, and fight to stop these new mysterious foes. Welcome to the evolution of Sonic games! Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
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.
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.
Embracing a more RPG approach, Origins's engrossing open world experience is marred by persistent glitches and a narrative that suffers from poor pacing.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story manages to retain the essence of what it is to play Sylas, but suffers from consistency issues with its storytelling.
Capcom created a complete reimagining of Resident Evil 4 through this remake, which may leave some fans feeling lukewarm as it pivots further away from horror and straight into action.