I honestly could go on about all of the reasons why Hades is so incredibly good for another 1500 words. There is so much to unpack and explore here, but at a certain point you’re better served by just playing the damn thing yourself. Hades is Supergiant at it’s pinnacle. It is the culmination of a decade’s worth of buildup to an unparalleled experience that leverages all of their expertise, and it exemplifies the possibilities of what early access cycles can be with a supportive community and a responsive, talented team of creators. It feels as though everything Supergiant has made prior has been rehearsal for this triumphant performance, but better still, it shows the heights they’re capable of and leaves you with the strong impression that this is just the beginning of what they have in store. Don’t wait for a sale, don’t wait on Hades for any reason; if you are even remotely interested, you absolutely have to play it right away, and I promise you will not regret it.
I can’t say for sure whether Immortals Fenyx Rising is for you. The systems in this game are absolutely not super in-depth; they are streamlined, easy to understand versions of systems you see in other games, and this is true of character progression, combat, and practically everything else. They are designed to get to the point and let you get on with your game. It’s not overly involved because it doesn’t need to be, and there are plenty of games out there that do get incredibly deep if you want those kinds of experiences. Immortals Fenyx Rising isn’t the perfect antidote to open world fatigue, but it is a damn good first volley at trimming off the extra checklists for the sake of checklists, and giving players a more focused experience that they can dial up or down to suit their tastes. As a bonus, it’s wrapped in a gorgeous looking package with some clever writing and a story that may not be ultra compelling but is fun to enjoy nonetheless. It’s the perfect open world game for somebody who loves Greek mythology, for somebody who wants to have more control over their experience, who wants to be able to kick back and explore without pressure, or who wants to dig into a big game they can actually finish. For me, it’s a fantastic way to revisit a style of game I’d given up on and focus on just having fun with it, which is worth the price of admission for me alone, and I can confidently say that between the three big Ubisoft releases this season, Immortals Fenyx Rising is the game I’ll be choosing to spend my time with.
Paradise Killer checks a lot of my favorite boxes. There’s an exciting and strange world to explore, there’s a strong cast of characters to get to know, a solid mystery to solve, and enough throwback references to 90s-era technology and eclectic iconography thrown in to create something that feels nostalgic and completely alien all at once. I’ve honestly never experienced a game quite like this one, and it’s one of the easiest recommendations I’ve been able to make in some time, especially if you relish in the weird. It’s a delight to get lost in Paradise, which leaves a lasting impression in almost every way imaginable.
Bugsnax may not be the next big thing in creature collection, but it does a great job of bringing something new to the genre and demonstrates a lot of untapped potential therein. More importantly, it instills you with a sense of adventure in a strange new place to explore where any and all of your expectations are subject to defiance at a moment’s notice. The bugsnax themselves are consistently cute punctuation throughout your journey, but the journey of uncovering the mysteries of Snaktooth Island is far and away the real purpose of this game. Bugsnax will surprise you, it will delight you, and it will absolutely, positively burrow its way into your subconscious once you’ve dug in.
The Solitaire Conspiracy almost shouldn’t work, but it’s an example of that rare bit of alchemy that manages to fuse together two things that have no business occupying the same space into a shiny, exciting new thing that’s a joy to behold. You could certainly break down the game into its distinctive components, but there is a throughline that runs through all of it that doesn’t just tie those elements together, but makes them feel like they belong in this place with one another. It’s not necessarily a revolution in gaming, but the story is cheeky and fun, and the Solitaire itself is fun enough that you’ll want to keep it installed to continue playing well after the credits roll.
I think that Star Renegades gets a whole lot of things right, and it plays in an interesting space in the way it tries to cherry pick ideas from a lot of other successful games. Most of these mechanics are designed in a way so that they feed well into one another, and despite its complexity, combat still feels really good once you get into the groove with it. I’d be interested to see a version of Star Renegades with some of the excess fat trimmed down, if that were possible. Just a little more streamlining or editorializing of the mechanics could really benefit the game, because for me it’s something I’ll usually only play one or two runs at a time, and I think it could potentially benefit from a faster overall cadence. Still, it does an impressive job of juggling a lot of ideas at once and mostly keeping all of them up in the air. It’s not my favorite rogue like or RPG of the year, but it’s definitely unique and fun enough that it warrants some of your time.
All of that said, I think Spellbreak is a truly unique take on the Battle Royale genre which brings enough ideas to the table that it feels like a fresh multiplayer experience, even within the familiarity and comfort of the larger mechanical systems at play. It may not spark a revolution in multiplayer gaming, but it’ll give you something new to be excited about in an otherwise crowded landscape of all-too-similar shooters.
Windbound seeks to move beyond the “emergent story through gameplay” standard among survival games, and while it succeeds somewhat, I think it still has some room to grow. There are also some balance issues with some of the systems that the developers have talked about tuning post-launch, so it is entirely possible that Windbound will grow into something that feels overall really polished, but at present it just isn’t quite hitting all the right notes for me. There’s a lot to like about Windbound, and maybe with a little more time and care, there will be a lot to love. For now, it’s a strong concept with some really well implemented mechanics that just leaves me wanting for the better, more fleshed out version of this same thing. In the meantime though, it is a joyful, bright game that has enough going for it that you may want to keep dipping your toes back in. Just know that the waters may be a tad more shallow than they appear.
More of a rough stone than a dazzling gem, Raji is glimmering with potential in lots of important ways and has some truly wonderful moments, but leaves something to be desired in terms of polish and consistency, especially where player movement is concerned. Overall this is a solid debut effort from a new developers and I suspect that the Steam version might be the one to play when it comes out later this year. Still, even with its flaws, Raji: An Ancient Epic offers a unique experience and a great story that are worth seeing, if you can get past the rough edges.
Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break is not a bad game by any stretch, but what was once a promising, unique idea is itself beginning to feel somewhat rote. The game looks great and runs very well, and playing it is absolutely a fine experience, I just never really felt the pull to keep going and had to dig to find the fun in all of it. It may just be series fatigue, and the fact that I played Rock of Ages 2 a little over a year ago, but for all that Rock of Ages 3 adds to its own pantheon of tricks, it doesn’t quite go far enough for me to eagerly recommend it, which is a shame because it may be the most robust offering in the series yet. There’s definitely joy to be found here, but only for the right person who either really loves Rock of Ages, or somebody who’s been waiting for just the right time to jump in.