Bogdan Robert Mateș
- The Witcher 3
- Kentucky Route Zero
- Warcraft 3
A masterpiece in terms of atmosphere building and one of the few games in a long while that effortlessly kept me fully engrossed in its world, Alan Wake 2 is Remedy Entertainment's best game yet. Expert use of the contrast between light and dark works in tandem with spot-on sound design and deadly enemies to successfully insert horror even in the most inoffensive of places.
The Lamplighters League's stimulating turn-based battles encourage you to carefully consider your actions each turn. Use your agents unique abilities in just the right order and you can go well beyond the default number of action points, while taking down entire groups of opponents.
Remnant 2's revamped archetype system and improved world generation breathe new life into what otherwise remains an iterative sequel that sees no need to fix what isn't broken. Great gunplay and creative weapon mods fuel its addictive moment-to-moment gameplay, while offering enough reasons to keep clearing dungeons, grinding materials, and upgrading or trying out new guns.
Age of Wonders 4: Dragon Dawn offers a satisfactory amount of content at its price point, focusing on a beloved element of the fantasy genre. The inclusion of mixed affinity tomes adds intriguing twists to gameplay, although witnessing the evolution of new units can prove challenging due to their inherent fragility. The larger dragon units and Dragon Lords themselves appropriately embody a sense of awe and power on the battlefield.
Diablo 4 doesn't revolutionize hack and slash RPGs like its predecessors did, but its blend of new and old features works quite well. Its return to a darker, gothic art style that embraces gore, ugliness, and religious imagery really makes its world effortlessly etch into your mind the detailed shapes of demonic sculptures and remains of obliterated foes.
Drenched in retro nostalgia, Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun is a straightforward boomer shooter with a 40K skin. Its minimal story is as bog-standard as Warhammer gets, but is enough to justify the on-screen slaughter, while allowing for a pure focus on satisfying action.
Age of Wonders 4 reshuffles some elements of the traditional 4X strategy formula in rather significant ways, making for an entry that puts choice and customization at the forefront. It does so excellently, offering plenty of spells and culture combinations that let you roleplay a variety of archetypal or contradictory factions while seeking the most overpowered spell and unit mix.
Dead Island 2's visceral combat can effortlessly pull you into the zone as you slash, shoot, and kick zombies, while making sure they head into the afterlife with fewer limbs attached. A simple but effective upgrade system gives you the means to counter any foe, while its varied arsenal of melee and ranged weapons keeps things interesting for a good while.
Total War: Warhammer 3: Forge of the Chaos Dwarfs introduces a much-needed new race and units, potentially signaling a faster pace for post-launch content. While not every mechanic introduced is as impressive as the flames of Hashut and the campaign revisits some familiar tactics, it never truly disappoints. The diverse roster of units is the true highlight of this expansion.
Aware of its past yet looking towards the future, Company of Heroes 3 offers something for everyone. The dynamic map of Italy is a great experience, although it's slightly marred by passive AI, abilities that don't always work, small UI issues, and a gameplay loop that doesn't encourage the use of all available tools.
In a month or five or twelve, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide may reach the state it should have launched in. In a month or five or twelve, it may become a co-op game that's easy to recommend. But while I undoubtedly had fun during the missions I completed over 40+ hours playing both the pre-order beta and full versions, it's clear that we're dealing with yet another title whose potential isn't allowed to fully shine through at launch.
Evil West's old-school sensibilities aren't what drag it down, although its linear levels might not appeal to everyone. Its combat feels glorious when it clicks, but the studio's latest third-person shooter struggles to find its stride, resulting in a fun but rather unremarkable adventure.
A Plague Tale: Requiem's trump card is the variety of gameplay sequences between which it alternates. At its best, it spices up the original's stealth action-adventure formula with new ways of eliminating foes or holding rats at bay. At its worst, it has you slogging through tedious or frustrating stealth sections.
Metal: Hellsinger's infectious blend of rhythm game and first-person shooter elements gripped me all the way through its story mode and beyond, despite its mostly disappointing boss battles. Its roaring metal soundtrack ebbs and flows around how well you deal death to Hell's denizens, constantly pushing you to do better.
Stray is at its best when it lets you do the things you'd expect from a cat – sleeping on cozy pillows, meowing, or scratching sofas – but fails to build consistently compelling gameplay around these flavorful bits. Although it creates a believable world, I found it hard to connect with the robots you encounter across its forgotten city, making the game's admittedly grand climax feel hollow.
There's not much about Sniper Elite 5 that's particularly remarkable. That, however, didn't stop the visceral X-Ray kills and the simple act of mowing down Nazis to see me through to the end of its campaign. There are plenty of other games out there that do stealth, action, or World War II better, yet the series' formula is very much its own and does manage to carry a game that otherwise struggles to do anything interesting.
Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters' focus on clarity and aggressiveness allows for a calculated, more active approach to its tactical battles. A varied enemy roster that consistently outnumbers you coupled with the Bloom's effects make each fight feel like a battle against the odds. This feeling extends to the campaign as a whole, your barracks consistently housing Knights recovering from their wounds earned in painstakingly won battles.
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands plays it safe, never leaning enough into its fantasy elements or bringing any significant changes to the Borderlands formula, but offering more of the fun looting and shooting the main series is known for. It boasts better writing and humor than Borderlands 3 while throwing in interesting spells and class powers that spice up its otherwise familiar combat system.
Ghostwire: Tokyo's mechanics aren't fleshed out enough to support its open-world gameplay, failing to come together and form a cohesive experience. It has a premise that could easily hook you but doesn't do anything to capitalize on its eerie rendition of the Japanese city.
Far: Changing Tides largely sticks to the same recipe as its predecessor, making its vessel more complex and sending players on a journey through a different world. Its description as a companion game is fitting – although you will get slightly more out of it if you play the series in order – and while I loved the original, the sequel didn't grab me as much.