For a walking simulator, you’d think that Starward Industries would have at least nailed down the walking. Instead, it’s arguably one of the worst parts of The Invincible. Walking sims can be great if they have an interesting story (which this one does, in fairness) but with such laborious, sluggish mechanics to accompany that, this is way more of a chore to get through than it should be.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and when it comes to Lies of P, this game pays homage to Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls beautifully. It’s not going to win any contests for originality, but the original content here is certainly worth of remembrance. The puppet aesthetic is excellent, the story engaging, and the sheer amount of customization, alongside some memorable boss fights, makes this one of the best Souls-like games outside FromSoft’s catalogue.
If ever there was a game that embodies the term wasted potential, Atlas Fallen is it. There’s some nice ideas in here, but none of them are executed all that well. They’re muddled with a myriad of disappointing and poor elements that just do not work. Atlas has well and truly fallen here but at least it’s not as bad as Forspoken. Which, I guess, is one saving grace.
Overall though, there’s plenty to like with Illusion Island. This is a fun, vibrant platformer that feels designed to be played in multiplayer with your friends or family. While it’s not going to blow anyone away, this is well worth checking out all the same.
Dave the Diver is a delightfully delicious game packed full of charm. It’s a title that doubles up as both an adventure sim and a restaurant tycoon, and harmoniously blends both beats together to create one of the best symphonies of 2023. This is an an absolute must-play.
Oxenfree II doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it also doesn’t really spin in a way that makes you feel the momentum of a good story or gameplay mechanics you can sink your teeth into. This is an underwhelming sequel with lackluster characters and a profound lack of anything substantial to help this stand out like the original did.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty isn’t a bad game per-se and fans of Dark Souls-esque combat should find enough to whet the appetite. Once you get the hang of the Critical-counters and playing aggressively, Wo Long isn’t too much of a challenge though, which is perhaps a bit of a disappointment. The gameplay is very much going to be a make-or-break affair for many people.
Octopath Traveler II manages to bring everything together in the end, and the 50+ hours you’ll spend getting through the main missions certainly won’t feel wasted. Whether this will be crowned best RPG at year’s end is debatable, but it’s a damn good game all the same and well worth playing.
With over 300 tracks to play, plenty of unlockables and some excellent Easter eggs along the way, Final Fantasy fans will be in their element here. It’s not perfect, and a few hang-ups like the repetitive backgrounds hold this back from being a perfect rhythm game, but there’s no denying this is an absolute blast to play through.
Atomic Heart could have been a great game. All the pieces are here to form a beautiful picture but it feels like these have been run through a blender, set on fire and then Sellotaped together to form a grotesque Frankenstein’s monster. Almost every facet of this game is underwhelming or broken in some way; if you’re expecting the next Bioshock you’re going to be very disappointed. This is closer to We Happy Few or Duke Nukem Forever. What a shame.
There’s a whole bunch of Easter eggs here, not to mention an expansive world brimming with secrets and plenty of busywork to keep you playing long after the main quest has finished. The combat is pretty fun, especially late on when you can mix and match spells, and you can tell a lot of care and attention has been putting into this. Hogwarts Legacy isn’t the best open world game on the market but it is a surprisingly polished experience and the perfect thrill-ride for Potter fans.
The few glimmers of brilliance in Forspoken are overshadowed by an abundance of problems that are hard to overlook. A horribly written story is accentuated by a morally disengaged protagonist; an empty open-world with the usual checkbox of meaningless busywork gives no incentive to explore; while the magic system sports lots of control and options but very little reason to deviate from spamming the same moves. This is a game in desperate need of another year in development rather than the bland-fest we're served up. Forspoken? More like For-shame.
Dead Space is a shining example of how to do a remake – and do it well. The tiny changes to the core gameplay are all beneficial to the overall experience, while the aesthetic is absolutely stunning all round. It’s testament to how good the original is that even now, 14 years later, Dead Space holds up as one of the best survival horror games on the market. If you haven’t played it before, or fancy reliving a classic, you should absolutely give this a play.
Minor narrative gripes aside, NeverAwake is a surprisingly great twin shooter. It's a fun, chaotic and beautifully designed game that's well worth your time. This Indie gem is easy to pick up and difficult to put down; once you start though you'll be glad you did as this could prove to be one of 2023's best console games.
As a tranquil Indie experience, SEASON certainly isn’t bad but it's not a particularly good game either. It does have some stand-out moments and the general worldbuilding is pretty good but everything else around that is woefully substandard. Traversing the world on your bike is surprisingly dull (don’t expect to fall off your bike or find any physics applied to this), while both the animation and general mechanics at play here leave a lot to be desired. SEASON's simplistic design is both its biggest selling point and its Achille's heel.
If this was just a collection of the mini-levels thrown together with a sort of hub area to hone your skills, Frontier may have been a solid Sonic game. As it stands though, there’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start. Some will undoubtedly have fun with this one, pointing out other, worse, Sonic games on the market, but compared to platforming giants like Mario and Crash Bandicoot, this one barely stumbles out the gates before being left in the dust.
Midnight Suns is definitely worth checking out. The game has a lot going for it and the story is actually pretty interesting across the board. There’s a lot of scope for the future with this one, including playable characters like Venom and Morbius (not to mention THAT teaser after the final battle!) this game may just be the brightest star in a dark Marvel sky this year.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is not a perfect game but it is a perfect example of how to take everything that's come before and improve all facets of its development. From the beautiful soundtrack to the stunning locales; from the thematically resonant story to the tight gameplay mechanics; Plague Tale: Requiem is an absolute joy to play through and easily one of this year's best games.