Remnant 2’s story is as obtuse as the secrets it keeps. But from a pure gameplay standpoint, it’s a phenomenal game and incredibly replayable whether you’re flying solo or with a couple of friends. It’s just a shame that so many of the game’s secrets were designed to be solved by a Google Search rather than the player.
Ultimately Dredge is a charming, atmospheric game with excellent exploration gameplay and clever puzzles punctuated by tense moments of fear and dread of what lurks in the dark. I just wish it leaned more into being the game it pretended to be with a larger focus on its simulation gameplay. Because in the end, Dredge makes you think you’re getting a fishing sim with horror elements when what you’re really getting is an enjoyable adventure puzzle game with tacked-on simulation elements.
For better or worse The Pale Reach is quintessentially more Dredge. It doesn’t improve upon or expand any given gameplay mechanic or feature. Nor does it address any of the problems I had with the base game. At the same time, the region it offers is as interesting and varied as the rest and fits in quite well. The Pale Reach simply adds a simple dessert plate to Dredge’s seafood dinner and extends the adventure just a tiny bit.
Starfield joins the ranks of one of my favorite games of all time by sharing the mantle with Skyrim. While some aspects can be improved, and I certainly hope that over time they will be. Starfield offers an experience that can only be found in the other Bethesda games that predate it. It’s an epic space adventure that offers you the freedom to enjoy its vast universe in whatever manner you choose to lose yourself in.
Exoprimal’s core gameplay is stellar. The exosuits are a blast to play, and the game’s entire structure lends itself to team play really well, even with randoms. Its novel blend of PvP & PvE is incredibly unique and makes each match a fluid ever-changing experience. The game’s use of epic 10-player cooperative raids to break up the cycle is a nice touch. You always look forward to them, but the fact that they aren’t used constantly keeps them from getting stale.
Minor complaints aside, State of Decay 2 is still one of the very best survival games I’ve played. Update 33 further entombs its legacy with an excellent revamped Plague Heart system. Open World games could learn a lot from its dynamic world. Each trek is fraught with danger rather than an exercise in holding down the left thumbstick until you arrive. It has a bit of a cult following, but State of Decay 2 is still a highly underrated game. It is worth another look thanks to years of ongoing updates and improvements.
Age of Wonders 4 has its pitfalls, and some aspects may end up stinging fans of the franchise. However, it's a wonderful step up in a lot of ways for 4X games and offers an unparalleled degree of customization for the genre. There's so much joy to be had in spending hours playing through a game as a faction and ruler you created. The best stories in games are the ones you make while playing, and Age of Wonders 4 offers you a solid foundation to do so while wrapped in the form of an excellent strategy game.
The overall nature of the gameplay led The Last Spell to become one of my favorite games of the year. It’s such a great spin on the genre. It feels fast-paced but retains every ounce of tactical goodness you would come to expect. The freeform nature of progressing my heroes and controlling them in battle is fantastic, and the entire game just oozes a good time.
Mahokenshi adding a movement element to the deck-building genre is a stroke of brilliance that’s only matched by the clever way its mission structure requires you to constantly adapt your playstyle. It’s just a pity that the experience ends so quickly because it’s one that I definitely want to have more of.
Deathloop’s a solid shooter with room for creativity in how you approach the individual districts. But its hamfisted linear handholding of a single viable sequence of events to actually break the loop greatly diminishes the novelty of the experience and reduces the game down to what feels like a reskin of the Dishonored games.
In the end, Midnight Suns is a phenomenal tactical game with so much superhero spectacle that you will forget it’s being played with cards. The social sim aspects aren’t going to be for everyone, but there are a ton of clever nods and treats to enjoy as a Marvel fan. The dialogue can be excessive, but the cerebral joy derived from the excellent combat system more than makes up for it.
The pure freedom that it offers you is impressive. The more you’re willing to invest yourself into taking apart the ships in different ways, the more satisfying it is. It just feels good to form a plan of your own and watch it pay off in real time as pieces of the ship gracefully peel away in the exact fashion you imagined in your mind.
Its compact nature makes for a graceful game that isn’t bloated, but it also steps on its own toes. The number of upgrades, and even how you mine out resources feels like an illusion of choice as the optimal way to play becomes obvious fairly quickly. Up until that point, and even for a while afterward, it’s fun to play. It just doesn’t stand its ground for nearly as long as other rogue-lite games, and replayability is an important defining feature of the genre.
Blacken Slash is a well-designed, challenging, and deep game hidden behind its minimalistic but charming aesthetic. Its core gameplay is simple to understand, but its stat-crunching character building extends far beyond its pick-up and play nature. It feels fast-paced despite being turn-based, and a solid upbeat soundtrack enhances that vibe even further.
There are so many great tactics games out there, that any new one that enters the fold has to give me a good reason to spend my time with it over the others. While Legends of Kingdom Rush isn’t truly a bad game, it really doesn’t bring anything notable to the table. It simply exists.