This is a competent survival game, adding nothing to a formula long since perfected by games like Subnautica, games that it falls far short of. It relies on the pull of Tolkien to keep players pushing through, otherwise it would be all too easy to give up on your mission and do something else, anything but mining. There are moments of magic, like when your team of dwarves begin to sing, deep harmonies echoing off the cavernous walls. But these moments are too few and far between, and the lore can only take you so far. As a space to hang out with fantasy-minded friends, Return to Moria is a nice jaunt. I just wish there was something more to do than swing this damn pickaxe at another damn wall.
I had a great time with Cassette Beasts, but it was undeniably frustrating in places. It iterates on the Pokemon formula in nearly every possible way, and exploring the world via companion quests rather than just doing a big circle on your Gym challenge creates a wonderful sense of adventure. Cassette Beasts tries a lot of new things and most of them are successful. The story is compelling, the characters are engaging, and the battle system is one of the best I’ve ever used. It doesn’t pull everything off, but I’d much rather play a game that takes risks, rather than one that rehashes the same old formula time and time again.
Blood Bowl players no longer have to make their own fun. Tournament creation is easier than ever, cosmetic upgrades are plentiful and varied, and the core game is the same as ever. Question marks still loom over the live-service elements like towering punctuation-shaped advertising blimps, but if you’re a Blood Bowl fan, you’ll like Blood Bowl 3. But you probably knew that already.
Darktide is built on great foundations and I enjoy playing it a lot – especially with friends. There’s a brilliant game buried deep within this Hive World, filled with exciting combat and gruesome enemies in equal measure. However, to properly enjoy those glorious moments, you have to break through the pustular skin of Darktide’s pointless upgrade systems and wade through the poisoned viscera of dull progression. I just hope that the countless obstructions in the live service elements don’t turn too many players away from the game mired underneath.
When you hit a streak on the beat, enemies melt before you and you race across the map, racking up eight- or nine-figure scores with ease. Sometimes you fall off a little, though, and start missing every shot as you struggle to find the rhythm. This is frustrating, but it’s meant to be. Once you stop, take a breath, and start shooting again – to the rhythm, this time – you soon find your groove again and everything makes sense. The shooting feels great again, the game flows perfectly again, the toughest enemies are felled again. In these moments, Metal: Hellsinger feels really special.
Neon White, behind the sexy suitors and anime villains, underneath the storyline and relationship building, is a game about speedrunning. It’s about learning and replaying, and it’s about beating your friends. It’s a modern iteration of a classic, simple premise, but without perfect execution, a simple premise can easily flop. Thankfully, Neon White delivers nearly flawlessly. Just make sure to take your time with this whirlwind ride, you’ll thank me for it.
I’ll close the curtain on the behind-the-scenes look at games criticism and I won’t spoil any more of Citizen Sleeper, but this review in particular was a joy to write. More specifically, Citizen Sleeper is a joy to play. The Eye is crammed with wonderful stories, and it feels like it’s truly bustling with activity – far more than any Triple-A open world populated with soulless NPCs going about their same daily routines. The simple visuals allow your mind to fill in the gaps like a good book, and it’s a testament to Jump Over the Age’s storytelling that it manages to create such a rich world. I already know that I’ll pop back to the Eye for the rest of the year, maybe longer, just to experience stories I missed, to see how different decisions play out, but mostly just to spend more time there, soaking up the atmosphere in an obsolete body as I absentmindedly peoplewatch over a steaming pot of noodles.
FAR: Changing Tides’ gameplay loop of keeping your ramshackle vehicle running is simple but enjoyable. When you get into a good rhythm, you feel at one with your craft, everything goes smoothly for a minute, and you can enjoy the ride until the next mast snaps or abandoned wreckage blocks your way. It takes patience, but when every quick task is rewarded by a hum, whir, or click, and every obstacle inspires as much awe as it does terror, it’s all worth it.
But Pokemon Legends: Arceus is proof that Pokemon can evolve. It's taken 25 years but this feels like the first true evolution of the series; a far bigger change than moving from 2D to 3D. It feels like the awkward middle evolution though, as graphics, voice acting, and boss fights all need serious work. If this is the path that the series is headed down, then I can’t wait for it to evolve again because let’s face it, nobody remembers Quilava.
Hitman 3 builds on the successes of previous entries in the series to create a blockbuster finale to the World of Assassination series. Io Interactive is the best level designer in the business, and next-gen graphics and a twisting story lift Agent 47 to new heights.
There's an interesting and fun game buried somewhere deep beneath the surface of Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf, but you'll need to crack the tough, unintuitive armour that protects the core mechanics before you can find it. Unfortunately, you don't have the privilege of a Thunder Hammer at your disposal – all you have is time, and you'll need a lot of it to get any real enjoyment out of this rather disappointing title.
Construction Simulator 2 is a celebration of the mundane; a relaxing game that reassures you with every repeated action as you patiently build your construction empire. And it achieves that with brilliance. It would be harsh to say the unpredictable driving ruins the reassuring regularity, but when every other nail has been hammered with such precision, this slight misstep sticks out like the sore thumb that the hammer hit instead. Still, this is a highly recommended way to spend a few weeks, despite that rather odd issue.
Monaco offers a solid solo experience which benefits from some excellent storytelling and multiple perspectives, as well as brilliantly-constructed heist-based gameplay focused on putting each criminal's skills to the best use. However, it truly shines in multiplayer, whether couch co-op or online. As the servers are pretty quiet, grabbing a group of friends and forming your own motley crew is your best route into this explosive heist thriller.