I can’t say enough good things about Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. It’s a sucker punch aimed at all the bloated, morbidly obese space sims out on the market today. Yes, there’s room for them, too. But Outlaw distills the ‘90s space-combat and trading sim into a great-looking, great-playing game for a new generation.
What goes down must come up. The Sinking City is more than the sum of its glitchy b-game parts. Balanced detective work makes up for shoddy gunplay. A gruff and well-realized cast makes up for brain-dead AI. This is unironically a highwater mark for both detective fiction and Lovecraftian Horror in video gaming.
Urban Warfare brings dynamic changes to the battlefield unlike anything before it. Those changes are surprising, challenging, and push the exploding, collapsing city in new directions. The graphics engine groans under the weight of urbanization. But the city is bright and beautiful.
This isn't Call of Duty in the land of Swedish meatballs, it's Boston Dynamics in an IKEA-effect hunting sim. Come for the difficult robot fights, stay for the Arctic Circle sunsets. The technical issues will make you rage quit one day and then bring you back the next.
Beautiful 2D platformers are practically a meme when it comes to indie game development, but Gris still rises above its contemporaries. Artful in both its watercolor design and broad-strokes storytelling, Gris is a gentle reminder that good puzzle platformers can make you feel smart without smarting, and that being succinct is not a bad thing, especially in the current culture of exhausted replayability.
Sir Hans Capon's DLC could've been chopped up and interwoven into the vanilla game's numerous subplots, but it was much more fun, this way, taking it in as a whole. It's a romantic comedy with a bloody start, but that's medieval Europe for you. I was only disappointed the DLC starts off with a mission structure that's a little too tried-and-true for Kingdom Come.
Original Sin 2 shakes your hand a little too hard when you first meet. It needs to relax until you get to know it better. It's endlessly surprising, with characters that lose their stiffness over time, in dialogues and battle logs that piece together a dangerous, thoughtful world. It's tough. But the reward is that you get tougher, too. It still needs to clean up some of its tactical sloppiness, though. Having a ton of options in battle is only good if its rules are fair and make sense.
If you've played the first two, The Banner Saga 3 is impossible to ignore. In this final chapter, everything is broken and mended and broken again. I was never sure if there would be--or even could be--any kind of happily ever after to this massive mythology Stoic Studios has built.
Dressed as a lion-wrapped Roman or a hawk-headed god of Egypt, season one takes Bayek above and beyond the events of Origins. Building up the Brotherhood in the Sinai Peninsula is solid and unsurprising, while becoming a god killer in eternity is surreal and unexpected. The season goes from monotonous to magnificent and back again in several imaginative leaps.
Origins was worth taking the year off. Egypt will be hard to top as a location. The series' dry, ironic, corporate sense of humor is still dull. But nobody can beat Assassin's Creed's architectural history lessons, even if you're still just stabbing folks and jumping out the window while you're sightseeing the entire timeline.