Tropico 6 matches and even exceeds the breadth of content found in fellow city-builders, but it does not delve deeply enough into its simulation to take the genre forward a step. For some prospective players, the lack of depth may be too great an impertinence to brook, but everyone else will find a delightful management sim with one of the best settings the genre has ever seen.
Devil May Cry 5 does so many things right: the engrossing narrative, the understated integration of online elements, and, most prominently, the stunning amount of variety in the combat mechanics. These aspects move the series forward, but this new entry also replicates some of the duller qualities from action games of yesteryear. This tendency prevents Devil May Cry 5 from being the new standard bearer for the genre, but that does not prevent it from being something truly special.
The comparison to Joss Whedon’s short-lived television series is apt, with similarities extending beyond the music to the genre-bending space adventure and focus on stories that explore humanity in straits. Imperialism, the value of time, the tenuous nature of reality, and the mysteries of the cosmos are just some of the themes that emerge in the strange world of Sunless Skies, contributing to a tapestry of a richness almost unparalleled in the world of video games. The overall pace of the game is staid, but its brilliant simplicity is to be commended, and, come year’s end, it could prove enough to make Sunless Skies a strong Game of the Year contender.
Ensuring the game appeals to strategy die-hards appears to have been a driving force in development, and that approach pays off thanks to the high level of satisfaction arising from successful completion of missions. However, players sucked in by the promise of a "next-generation" experience are likely to be disappointed by the shortage of mechanics that truly push the genre forward. Meanwhile, the investigation elements are too simplified to make it a key draw. A number of minor bugs also mar the experience, but these issues are not severe enough to harm enjoyment. In many ways, Phantom Doctrine is a brilliant addition to the lineage of the turn-based strategy genre, introducing some novel wrinkles to make the typically disparate gameplay and narrative feel more cohesive.
That the game is such a disappointment is a true shame; its ideas are as intriguing and novel as any to be found across the vast plains of the indie sector. The Piano's strengths prime the title to embed itself in the hearts and minds of gamers willing to give it a chance. Unfortunately, the weaknesses are too many and the sense of discord across the production too high. Put simply, The Piano falls flat.
Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered is not the first time that THQ Nordic has commissioned the services of KAIKO, with the developer previously bringing the first two Darksiders games to current-generation consoles. The experience gained while updating those titles appears to have paid off, with this latest offering lending vivid life to the Martian landscape. Nevertheless, the game is the product of a different era, and its age shows through in a number of key areas, the most notable of which is the archaic and uninspired open world. Despite these drawbacks, the game remains as engaging, and a series revival with Volition once again at the helm would surely be welcomed by many.
Unfortunately, Agony stumbles off the starting block and, despite a valiant later effort, is never able to make up lost ground. In this case, a poor first impression irreparably mars the experience, despite measurable improvement in many of the fundamental design principles as the game wears on. The art and audio is striking, but the project may have benefited immensely from less ambition, and the hope is that, should Madmind have a second chance, it will create a more focused and cohesive title. Agony is not great, but it is far from the irredeemable abomination the media has painted it as.
From Remember Me through Life is Strange and now to Vampyr, Dontnod Entertainment has striven to introduce new ideas to each genre it dabbles in. However, the team's latest project is also the one in which that desire feels the most diluted. Novel mechanics including the social web and that core conflict between the Hippocratic Oath and vampiric urges hold immense promise for a project to carry weighty consequences, but the potential is never fully achieved in Vampyr. The need to ground these ideas within familiar, saleable gameplay leaves the title lacking. While the game is enjoyable and engaging, the apparent lack of courage in the strength of its more unusual ideas is slightly disheartening, leaving it feeling slightly toothless.
Far from attempting to elicit mass market appeal, the game targets a niche and shows itself to be a project from a developer stretching beyond what it knows best. Longbow Games's heritage in RTS titles emerges in the point-and-click gameplay, yet, in most other respects, Golem is a departure. While the team's attempt to create something complex and novel is admirable, its ambition occasionally outstrips its execution. Meanwhile, although the game's reliance on colonialist tropes is slightly troublesome, it will be overlooked by most players who have much else to occupy their minds across this evocating, engaging, and challenging adventure.
Conan Exiles is plump with content, combining a sprawling continent with enough progression mechanics to provide endless engagement. However, the game does not feel deserving of its namesake. Between bland combat and an uninspired world, Funcom's Hyboria bears little resemblance to Robert E. Howard's glorious battles and fantastic locales, even failing to live up to its digital forebears. That crafting and community building saves the title from the bin of also-rans similarly seems like a betrayal of the tenets of those time-worn tales. Pedantic literary enthusiasts aside, players will find much to keep them engaged in Conan Exiles, particularly as the developers continue to work on the title in the coming months, ironing out the shortcomings evident in this initial release.