Aiko’s Choice is a document of a developer at the top of their game, doing what they love to do. Fans of the original Shadow Tactics are sure to enjoy these new missions, particularly because of the way they expand upon and improve the main game. Currently, Mimimi Games are working on their next real-time stealth tactics game with the codename “Süßkartoffel” (or sweet potato in English). Before Shadow Tactics was released, the company nearly went bankrupt – now able to self-publish their next game, anything seems possible. In the meantime, Aiko’s Choice serves as a reminder of how enthralling real-time stealth tactics can be.
It’s a longstanding truism that annual games are not well-suited to innovation. They tend to make only small, incremental changes but even these can thrill or displease the loyal year-on-year purchasers. Vanguard is exactly that kind of game in exactly that kind of series. What it does have is the extremely high production standards and level of polish that Call of Duty is known for these days. This looks and plays every bit like a game which cost many, many millions of dollars to develop. If you have ever enjoyed a Call of Duty game you will enjoy this one, too, and can expect to be kept busy until the next edition. 18 games in, that is about all we can expect.
Eastward is a remarkable achievement in a number of ways. Those for whom the world, story and characters really click will likely regard it as a minor masterpiece. A more general audience can revel in the visuals and music, and also get a lot out of the combat, exploration and puzzles, but may find the game frustratingly talky and slow-moving. Ultimately, it is the prospect of the game’s script that will help players determine if a trip Eastward is one worth taking.
Foreclosed is the work of a very small team, and it shows. This is an indie game which in a number of ways, certainly can’t compete with comparable games with vastly larger budgets. This goes a long way towards explaining the lacklustre combat and the game’s short length, which means it can be completed in under five hours. With that said, Foreclosed has an excellent aesthetic and a number of genuinely intriguing scenes. For fans of cyberpunk, or of third-person adventures generally, this is a trip into the future that is worth taking.
The No More Heroes games are a strange, wild ride. They may be repetitive, and potentially wearying if played back to back, but SUDA51’s unique take on the hack-and-slash genre is a frequently intriguing one. The limitations of these PC ports are clear, but hardly a dealbreaker for anyone who is intrigued by the games but missed them the first time around.
Essays on Empathy is a fairly niche product – the projects here are more intriguing than entertaining, and the relative lack of interactivity will be a red line for many people. On the other hand, for those with a strong interest in narrative design and on the joys and pitfalls of indie development, this collection is a rare and valuable insight into a team who are undoubtedly forging their own unique and admirable path.
It may be more modest in its aspirations than the sprawling open-ended RPG some may have expected, but like a wolfpack on the hunt Earthblood is very efficient at what it does. Its story, characters and scope may leave something to be desired but its use of the lore is intriguing and its stealth and combat components are equally compelling. A pleasant surprise, Earthblood hopefully bodes well for future World of Darkness games.
Looked at as a puzzle game, or as a strictly entry-level stealth adventure, El Hijo has a lot to recommend it. It has a distinctive and attractive look, and a charm all of its own. Those looking for a genuinely emergent or inventive stealth experience, however, will be better served elsewhere.
Gamers who love it when a plan comes together are better catered to than ever, and while they will enjoy much of Partisans 1941, they may prefer instead to revisit one of the new giants of the genre. This particular war story may be best left to the completists.
Pendragon is an extremely dynamic and adaptable narrative experience, and one which makes excellent use of the rich source material of Arthurian legend. Players looking for a highly replayable experience will thrive in this depiction of Britain, with its plethora of meaningful choices, stained-glass graphics and serene music.