Three games down in quick succession, Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden manages to mostly avoid that infamous and known series fatigue. That's largely thanks to yet another compelling fantasy story and enchanting immersion of a tabletop campaign journey. It's in fact my favourite story of the trilogy, complete with a new and welcome mechanic that is monster collecting. It just is ever so slightly barred from being great due to more obvious padding and traipsing around until it reaches its wondrous conclusion. Regardless, we have another good entry in this weird little Square Enix series. That voice inviting you to play cards? Trust it. It's as enjoyable as ever.
As a franchise newcomer, I found my entry point with The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero utterly fascinating, tantalising, and enjoyable. Within are some of my favourite blending of mechanics and tidbits within turn-based combat I've seen yet. It's a comfy RPG that you can lose plenty of time to, sinking into the moving character narrative, all set within the colourful world of Crossbell. Character models will occasionally show their age and menus are a little funky. Still, it's easy to forgive and just hang out with Lloyd and friends, saving the better part of humanity. Team SSS forever.
At the end of the day, Foretales offers a broad and delightful journey all within a digital tabletop setting. Its card art and party are diverse. Clever and varied card mechanics, along with party members' abilities, make for a fun suite of solution tools to use against some tough and fantastical narrative-based obstacles. However, with a lack of checkpoints, players may at times feel like they have bitten off more than they can chew in a run. Still, this remains a funky, unique little indie worth checking out for ambition and coziness alone. Carry on.
A silky, suave graphic novel art-style and engaging Cyberpunk world can't save Sunday Gold. With every strength on offer comes some weird design choices or bugs that will ruin your fun at every turn. This game is an experimental risk, blending both the point-and-click genre with turn-based combat, peppering in RPG progression. That mixture shows promise at the start but ultimately ends up being an average net loss. A gamble that's not worth taking. Don't place your bets on this one. Go all in elsewhere.
Immortality is Sam Barlow's magnum opus and the best FMV game ever made. Manon Gage is a riotous force of an actor, accompanied by just as capable a cast, all capable of blowing up. Deep and rewarding investigation mechanics mean you too are rewarded by more of these very performances. Forty years ago at the genre's start, ideas this broad, sweeping and memorable were inconceivable. Now they've arrived, serving as the mastering of technology, writing and acting, all wrapped up in a momentous and moving package. Immortality is a game-changer, utterly needing to forever be immortalised in gaming and art history.
Undoubtedly set to be divisive, We Are OFK will garner fans in with its catchy pop tunes and emotional storytelling, but also lose just as many with narrative and character omissions, light gameplay and purposefully cheesy dialogue. Still, for better or worse, this is an experience not like many others. Captivating cinematography also paints a haunting if bittersweet L.A. narrative. Like a classic pop debut that its own self is based on, We Are OFK has heart and moments that'll reel you in while remaining plenty messy. If all else, isn't that how this road was always going to go?
Rollerdrome is an unbelievably fun single-player experience that hasn't quite reached its full potential. The explosive gunplay and rollerskating trickery are complemented by the picturesque yet bleak world all realised in a graphic novel art style. However, improvements can be made with some of the enemy types, bosses, and the inclusion of other competitors. Despite room for growth, this game is clearly being made by one hell of a talented team and Rollerdrome proves to be one hell of a shooter.
The Mortuary Assistant is a great game that can only be made better down the line with patches and quality of life fixes. Interruptive but brief bugs did not deter from the wondrous and horrific experience to be had. Deep, bone-chilling moments are aplenty, offering some of the biggest spooks I've experienced in a game ever. Narrative moments provide haunting and memorable imagery, making The Mortuary Assistant a must-play horror experience this year. So get dissecting, investigating, and hunting.
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes shines bright in the long lineage of games in the Musou formula. Miles better than its predecessor, this is one of the smoothest Warriors-style games yet. Barring a rare example, its mission and gameplay loop holds up. The narrative does the best it can in a genre not particularly known for stellar stories, but will still remain a little oddly paced from time to time. Provided is a joyous occasion to revisit some treasured familiar faces and engage in riotous combat and a smooth experience not too barred down by menus. If the series continues on this trajectory, it’s all smooth sailing ahead. For Fódlan!
The Centennial Case: A Shijima Story is a great game hurt only by its length and occasionally convoluted mystery mechanics. I’ve been around the block and then some with the FMV genre. This particular experience has certainly climbed up there in the ranks for me. With ambition and potential reached avidly, this is frankly a type of foray I haven’t played before. Provided are mesmerising set and costume designs, along with excellent character working and acting. Topping it all off is an enticing mystery and gorgeous cinematography to immerse you further. This is one for the books and a case worth investigating indeed.
For every frustration I had for not having quite as many “Aha!” moments when opening a door or discovering some lore, it’s equalled with other ways the game is working to impress. On offer is a solid nightmarish journey from the darkest depths to the dreadfully eerie conclusion at the world’s own horrific ground zero. This is held up by clever combat implementations and a rewarding sense of experimentation and exploration.
Enter Kirby and the Forgotten Lands with reasonable expectations and you’ll soon see one of the best refinements of a long-standing Nintendo formula yet. Cooperative play may waver in quality but does not diminish the wondrous experience ahead of you. On offer is plenty of platforming fun to sink your teeth into. Exploration, combat and the completionist itch that comes with a Kirby title are all present and strong here, and it also serves to be one of the longer adventures yet, with more to do than ever before. If you’re looking for the bright and joyous game to cosy up with on the couch this year, Kirby and the Forgotten Lands is without a doubt the one. Just maybe keep a suspicious eye on that beast pack.
We may be some time away from a new Final Fantasy Tactics, if ever. However, save the iconography, because Triangle Strategy is more or less that very experience that players have been looking for. It’s the most sweeping, expansive fantasy story I’ve played in some time, with plenty of engaging political intrigue that’ll whet many appetites. On offer is some of the best and most strategic tactics gameplay ever, rife with reward. So many setpieces, close call victories, and narrative moments will stick with me for some time. If you’re itching for a tactics game to amaze and move you this year, Triangle Strategy is it.
Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden now proves this is a viable franchise that Square Enix should hold onto. While it doesn’t exactly reinvent itself and sometimes has some technical hitches, it’s simply a great and fun follow-up to lose yourself in for a few hours without demanding all that much. The talented and beloved team are pretty much on their A-game, bringing an excellent experience of gameplay, visuals, audio, and storytelling. With this, I can wholeheartedly recommend a journey into the deep blue sea. You won’t regret it.
Without a doubt, OlliOlli World is going to be the skateboarding game to check out in 2022. It’s an adventure full of plenty of fun and is incredibly hard to fault. Where the challenge in the late game can be a bit much, plenty of accessibility options help you make do. On offer are luscious and vibrant levels to absolutely melt away into with rewarding easy-to-pick-up and at times hard-to-master gameplay. Roll7’s hard work refining their craft and genre niche over the years have well paid off, shaping one of the best and most joyous skating games in a long time. It’s well worth creating your own weird skating hero, diving head first into the wondrous weird OlliOlli World has on offer. You owe yourself that much.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human is a more than worthy follow up and worth the wait. Whilst not necessarily reinventing the wheel, it excels in being one of the best versions of the open-world formula we’ve known for some time. With silky-smooth parkour and combat mechanics, and plenty of things to see and do, I highly recommend the plunge into The City. Where there’s slight polishing to still be done and the story at times leaves a bit to be desired, shining moments and performances make it all the more worthwhile, standing as a stronger entry than its predecessor. This has become my favourite free roam zombie game to date and has me constantly itching to jump back in and tool around some more in its playground. Not bloody bad, Techland.
Ammunition-fueled ATV trips, Mech piloting sequences and taking down squid-operated choppers levels of insane action can’t save Serious Sam: Siberian Mayhem. No matter how varied the environments or silky smooth the gunplay and weapons may be this time around, it’s clear the franchise is in need of more of a shakeup. Blowing through waves and waves of extraterrestrial threats doesn’t take long to blur together and once more feels like going through the motions. It’s frustrating too; creating a game with the help of loyal fan modders is arguably as true as the franchise can get. Still, it struggles to impress. Maybe it’s high time the Serious Sam series take notes from its most recent setting: traipsing away on ice for a little while.
I’ve fallen in love with Solar Ash. It proves to be one of the best recent action-adventure games with a stunning sci-fi world, rich with bits of lore and worldbuilding to unravel. It may have come just under the wire in terms of 2021 releases, but it’s still a game that’s a must-play. Step on in and you have an experience with none of the fat and all of the glory. Gameplay that feels fluid and satisfying, moments and cinematography that feel like paintings of art, a story that resolves in an impacting way… this game has it all. Heart Machine you’ve bloody done it again.
Demon Turf is a good game begging the eyes of those invested in the collectathon niche. Plenty of fun hours are on offer to watch those numbers tick up and pull off some tight and joyful platforming. It may waver in some of its later combat and ability design, also proving unfriendly for younger audiences. Though just as much forgiveness is issued when you consider how devoted the game is to tackling its genre. If you’re looking for a more modest and fun game to wind down the year, this is it.
Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a great little gem to come out of this year. Where NieR is a good series though not quite for me, this absolutely is. The team have created a true sleeper hit that is well worth seeking out for NieR or fantasy adventure fans alike. The music and wondrous exploration on offer are engaging throughout. While other limitations in roleplaying are noticeable, they’re never enough to rob you of your enjoyment. What’s here is some clever and wonderful writing, a charming cast of characters and another weird world worth delving into. Yoko Taro and the team have done it again.