Fallout 4's Vault-Tec Workshop DLC would be more than worth it for most players if all it did was make the cavern space available to build their own vault. That it adds a 4-5 hour quest on top of making these assets available, for the same $5 price as the other workshop DLCs, makes it a really fantastic value, and one that will give a far greater return to anyone who's wanted to take their experience from Fallout Shelter to the main game. But if you're the type of player who expects a fuller story-based DLC from the Fallout series, this may not be for you.
This is a real treasure and a tribute to all-things Witcher, perfectly captured in the final moment before the credits roll: a close-up of Geralt, who turns to look directly at the player through the screen with a subtle grin, as if giving thanks for the chance to tell one last Witcher story.
I had a good time with Star Fox Zero, but it feels like a game whose design is built on contradictions; the desire to have the new targeting control, but with the classic Arwing gameplay keeps both from being entirely functional. It prizes arcade-style progression, but lacks modern concessions for console titles, like adequate checkpoints or multiple difficulty levels. It's at its best when it diverges from traditional gameplay, but does so only fleetingly, as if its scared to commit to different experiences. This mix of playing it safe, relying too heavily on old-school conventions, while also pushing a control scheme that doesn't quite match, makes the points where it works glorious, but only fleetingly fun.
The first episode of Hitman is a solid starting point for the full game content, which is Contract-driven, with each environment focusing on a single mission with multiple objectives. This is a solid structure for the franchise, even if it's a little jarring to finish the first mission and realize you have to wait for the rest of what would have been released as a complete title.
What this all makes for is a much tighter and more precisely balanced game than Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright, where decisions matter, even in Casual mode. The story in Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is stronger, but still feels somewhat like filler meant to set up the true narrative to be revealed in Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation. While this feels like a vastly superior game, it also feels very much like part-two of three, in a three-part title. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest is an excellent, challenging SRPG that requires a great deal of forethought and precision, rewarding the player for hard choices, and keeping your characters in play. While the story is stronger with more engaging characters, it still feels like another "bad ending" setting up the player to have to purchase the third campaign when it releases in March.
In that sense, as a stand-alone title Fire Emblem: Fates: Birthright is not a particularly good game, though it's not a bad one either. It's an above-average tactical RPG with excellent production value and moderately good gameplay scenarios, but it feels surprisingly one-note and dissatisfying if taken on its own merits as a self-contained game.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is an odd game, a semi-successful title that achieves a lot of success in its different elements but fails to come together as a cohesive title. Where gameplay is good, it's got subtle strengths and intense engagement. Where it's bad it borders on game-breaking design, likesome of those Toad-capturing sections, and RPG-lite mediocrity. Hopefully, the game is representative of growing pains for the series.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is epic and a really great game, but one that requires the player to approach it in a specific way. It's an oddity on the Wii U, a full-fledged massive RPG experience from a first-party Nintendo developer. Parts of it are so Japanese—character design, animations, anime/manga-esque plot—that it feels like it should be an Atlus or Nippon-Ichi title; but if it were that niche it would never have been able to develop the expansive environment. There's certainly nothing like it on the Wii U, or anywhere else. It's definitely worth picking up if you have the platform.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is the best of the series yet, with the excellent Twilight of the Republic starter set, and the general polish of the game overall is extremely refined with gameplay feeling much more responsive. The Toy Box feels much more like something you could actually build game content in now as well, with greater detail in the design-by-numbers features.
While this allows for an interesting look at a cross section of Japanese gaming culture, and its creators' views on gender and gaming demographics (with which there may be a problematic relationship for more progressive Western gamers), it doesn't necessarily make for the best game. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is fantastic if your interest is learning what happened to some of the characters between Danganronpa 1 and 2, but as a third-person shooter it's only generally passable but not particularly engaging. Though fans of the series will find a lot to love in the story, it has a particular niche appeal (and I really adored it), but as a complete gameplay experience, it isn't for everyone.
What I experienced instead was a not-infrequent fury that a game could so thoroughly botch precision controls, while trolling you with a presentation designed to lull you into a meditative state, then punishing you for not being able to focus on precise tasks, over and over and over again.
Rocket League was great back when I got to preview it, but having more time with it really made it clear just how much the developer Psyonix has managed to zero in on what's fun about the experience. It has a very limited set of modes currently, and the single-player feels a little flat; but the multiplayer is glorious, fast paced fun, with short explosive play sessions that you just want to keep coming back to, with plenty of amazing moments where you won't believe you—or another player—managed to make that shot.
The simplicity of the plot, the solid combat, and the bizarre perspective shifts during boss gameplay make this feel like it's the "purest" God of War game to me. It's a tribute to how much the game does right to the point that I didn't remember a lot of this stuff when I started playing God of War III again, playing from start to finish in a single session (normally I space these things out).
Currently available at $8.99 on the 3DS e-store, Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure felt a little light to me at first, as there aren't nearly as many Miracle Cure advanced puzzle levels as I'd like to flesh it out. However, Virus Buster is the surprising highlight of the game (but doesn't include any of the Miracle Cure capsules) and offers a new gameplay take on the classic puzzler that allows for experimentation and improvisation. It's also certainly worth a buy if you're into Dr. Mario multiplayer, where it can be played locally or online with a ranking system.
Blackguards 2 had a rocky launch, but the 2.0 patch release fixes virtually all the technical and balancing issues that I encountered with it. I found its story to be a little pedestrian, but really enjoyed the gameplay and customizability of the characters.
LittleBigPlanet 3 is a great creative experience packaged with an unfortunate single-player experience as its forward-facing section and buggy co-op play, both which significantly hamper what is otherwise an excellent creative experience and game-design as play.