Although the series naturally lends itself to scale, it has often been observed that Total War is at its worst when bloat sets in. So perhaps it should have been no surprise that Arena finds victory in focus, accentuating just a handful of tactical elements so that they become the totality of the game. Then again, that is exactly what makes Arena so much fun: surprise.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 stands as a remarkable example of three genres: the classic roleplaying game, the online arena battler, and the tabletop-style adventure enabler. If its campaign fails to shake off some of Larian’s unfriendlier habits, those flaws are mitigated by the ways in which the studio have shaped a genre moulded by nostalgia into genuinely new forms – changing more than just the keyboard shortcuts for the better.
In its new expansion, XCOM 2 makes people of its soldiers and turns its aliens into personalities. It cares about the individual. But that's only so you feel the loss of your bonds more keenly, and hate the enemy more personally. In War of the Chosen, Firaxis are being kind to be cruel.
As an exercise in empathy, Beyond Eyes is brilliant. As Rae muddles through her self-induced socialisation period, you'll see her sense of adventure overcome her fear of the unknown. Its message is loud and clear - to let life in, with all its risk and upset, so that the good can enter too - and its conclusion Watership-Down uncompromising. What's more, it's occasionally fun to indulge in a small-scale kind of exploration that encourages you to feel out the entirety of your environment rather than cast your eyes about for enemies and items. But for the most part the execution is too simplistic, and the frustrations are too frequent. Beyond recommendation.
But you'll keep bothering. Because there's no question that Guild of Dungeoneering is a tightly-conceived, devilish little game, keen to show dungeon crawling conventions the trapdoor. It takes what it needs from the best in CCGs and tactics and folds them into a structure that's clever and consciously underivative. It's a deck I intend to keep playing with.
Frozen Cortex deserves a place in your inbox and your heart: while its stark simplicity might feel cold or even cruel at first, Mode 7 have in fact boiled the Synapse formula down to something perhaps more beautiful, burning away its impurities to leave hard diamond.
Beginning as a universally relatable fantasy about overcoming red tape, The Fall winds up as a game about identity and civil rights without ever talking too much or treading too clumsily. The fact that this is the first episode of a larger game only makes its climax more thrilling. Just as there's a sense that your powwers are building as you play through The Fall, there's a feeling that developer Over the Moon's powers are building too. We like who they're becoming.
By the end, most of its sights and systems will be all too familiar. But between its uniquely provincial setting and dedication to undergrowth stealth, there's more than enough novel in Sir that you'll gladly be the rabbit in its lights at least one time through.