Immortals of Aveum should be applauded for trying something unique and exciting. It’s not every day that a studio attempts to aesthetically reinvent the first-person shooter genre with its debut game, and it’s clear the folks at Ascendant Studios tried their damndest to make the “Call of Duty but with magic” concept work. But for all its overwhelming visual splendor and adherence to modern conventions like skill trees and stat-boosting equipment, Immortals of Aveum is just as soulless as the military shooters from which it takes inspiration. It’s a paint-by-numbers buffet of contemporary tropes, and even when regarded against the full scope of creative and moral bankruptcy in the AAA space, it somehow still manages to fade into the scenery.
Like most great works, Elden Ring is magnificently flawed, equal parts beautiful and ostentatious. In this age of cookie-cutter, paint-by-numbers, triple-A development, what more can you ask for than something wholly confident in its bullshit? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m only about one-third of the way through the game and would love to see at least one of its multiple endings sometime this year.
Village may not live up to the potential of its immediate predecessor, but it’s a safe new entry in the series that induces the same entertaining anxiety as my favorite Resident Evil games and provides a few interesting wrinkles for where the franchise might go next.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is essentially the same game on Switch that some of you may have experienced on Wii U. While there’s no denying that the new hardware can’t keep up with the game’s ambitions at times, this bundle is at its core another fantastic Mario experience.
Demon’s Souls on PlayStation 5 is very much the Demon’s Souls you remember from PlayStation 3. It doesn’t miss a beat, nailing the same melancholy atmosphere and compelling gameplay that would eventually spawn fellow instant-classics like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. While there were bound to be a few aspects that could have been more faithful to the original, PlayStation 5’s Demon’s Souls remake stands out as an incredibly fun way to revisit the cursed land of Boletaria. It’s creepy. It’s gloomy. You’ll get invaded by laggy assholes near the end of a long level and have to do the whole thing over again. It feels like coming home.
Although I have my qualms with this collection—strange inconsistencies in the Super Mario Sunshine port chief among them—it does what it set out to do: chart Mario’s evolution from a bushwhacking pioneer to the inimitable mascot of 3D platforming.
Even with all its changes, THPS1+2 perfectly captures a moment in time. It’s a damaged Polaroid photo scanned, digitized, and lovingly retouched. It’s gravel picked out of a scraped knee. It’s a night of sleep untouched by nightmares and insomnia. It is, as it always was, just what I need in this moment.