To say Frostpunk is fun would be like saying watching The Road is fun. It's engaging, challenging, inventive and unique. It cleverly re-purposes old genre tropes, and embraces the rigors of micromanaging dire people in a dark time with such earnest that it's hard not to get charmed into hours of sadistic yet satisfying struggle.
At a budget price and launching with a last minute ad bumrush, Remnant: From the Ashes is the kind of title you'd expect to come out and vanish quickly. But for fans of tough RPGs, action shooters, or post-apocalyptic fiction, passing up on Remnant would be a devastating mistake. It easily joins the ranks of games like Vampyr, that stubbornly outgrow their financial constraints to truly innovate and elevate a genre that has long since needed new ideas.
The survival genre is so crowded that there's little ground left to break, but The Forest has done it. Leveraging complex enemy AI and subverting expectations of the sort of terrible things waiting for you in the wild, Endlight Games creates a new sort of thriller. With some more polish, and a better emphasis on making all of the systems more coherent and intuitive, The Forest could truly be a very huge deal. That said, there's a reason it's sold 5 million copies. It's laser focus on executing specific ideas well pays off. It's worth trying to work around its shortcomings for at least a few playthroughs.
All in all, Phantom Doctrine is good tactical action game with a great spy culture motif. It's perfect for people who like their spy stories grounded in reality, but also appreciate the subtle approach to world dominating super criminals introduced by modern Bond films like Spectre. CreativeForge succeeds at taking lessons from its previous game, Hard West, and updating the formula. Even if that formula is ultimately a less elegant, less original version of the most popular game in the genre.
That said, there's really something here to enjoy in They Are Billions. Taken as a whole, it is an entirely new and interesting take on genres that are as old as gaming. Billions has such great moments at times that it's rather surprising that these genres hadn't been smashed together already. Billions leaves plenty to be desired everywhere else though—in visual fidelity, art direction, sound design, and even game balance. Clearly, this is a first step on a new and mysterious frontier. Hopefully, not the last.
That said, for the budget price, there could be room on your digital shelf for Blast Zone! Tournament. At its core, you can get mostly the same experience out of it. I don't know the reasons why you wouldn't just spring for the real thing, but I don't judge. So long as you are willing to get over the strange music and art choices, and can work around how they can adversely affect your play, you can absolutely get something from BZT.
As a new interpretation of this almost decade-old formula, Sinner asks some great questions. When we strip away the exploration of the dungeon crawl and the tension of the storytelling, what's the core of Dark Souls? Risky, challenging, and rewarding encounters with larger than life baddies. Sinner may not be the final answer, unfortunately. It's too derivative, both in enemy and environment design. Sinner focused and simple, but over-complicates things with the sacrifice experiment. It's a step in a new and right direction, but it's only a half step at best.