Balance is important, so I searched high and low for something to cite as could-be-better. I found nothing. Lovingly crafted by Quebec City’s Sabotage Studio, Sea of Stars is quite a departure for the team responsible for The Messenger. It’s a risk that’s resulted in one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, and well balanced RPGs I’ve ever played.
Fort Solis is a moderately successful first effort from Fallen Leaf. It scores points for atmosphere and good voice work, but suffers from clashing tonality. Tension is often severed before it takes hold, and the experience wraps up before exploring threads sufficiently. I understand why the scope is limited mostly to the critical path, but there were numerous threads along the way I wanted desperately to be able to tug at. Fort Solis isn’t exactly blazing any new trails, but there’s an entertaining few hours to be had here for fans of narrative adventures.
Lightfall as a whole package falls short of the standard set by The Witch Queen last year. The story is shaky and tangential, and the gameplay changes are few and far between outside of the underwhelming Strand powers. Neomuna isn’t nearly as memorable, and difficulty changes make it more challenging to engage with Destiny’s bread and butter content. Thankfully, overall quality of life improvements and the rock solid bones of the gameplay save the package as a whole. If you’re after more Destiny 2, Lightfall is certainly that, but as the most expensive expansion yet ($100 USD with the annual pass), I expected to have my hair blown back a bit more.
If you’re not familiar with Destiny, it all probably sounds pretty overwhelming. That’s because it is. Destiny 2 has a dumptruck full of mechanics, concepts, and items, and it will take you a long time to figure everything out. What’s important is that getting to the light level cap, or doing the raid, or maxing out faction rep isn’t necessary to have a good time. The game still plays phenomenally, and the balance the new activities strike make The Witch Queen an ideal place to give Destiny 2 another shot. It worked for me, and well, if you knew exactly how much I’d grown to despise helium coils and faction rep, you’d be shocked I came back at all. But come back I did, and I won’t be putting Destiny 2 down for a very, very long time.
So while Horizon Forbidden West isn’t changing the rules of the genre, it’s an excellently crafted, entertaining, and satisfying adventure. It looks phenomenal and offers a sandbox of gameplay that remains just as unique as the original. Is it more of the same? In a way, I suppose. But I know I wouldn’t say no to more of Horizon Zero Dawn as it was 5 years ago, and Forbidden West is an improvement in nearly every way.
At its core, Forza Horizon 5 is about having fun behind the wheel. It’s technically excellent and plays brilliantly, but it never takes itself too seriously. I mean, I jumped a pinata float off a mountain at one point. That balance makes the Horizon series the most grin-inducing racing games out there, and arguably one of the largest feathers in Xbox Game Studios’ cap.
Where Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart took an old formula and brought it into the modern era, Kena: Bridge of Spirits’ approach was more adherent to the old ways. The technical aspects are phenomenal and thoroughly current, but the game itself relies heavily on the old way of doing things. Limited paths. Contrived situational limitations. Collectables galore. You likely already know if that’s something you’re interested in playing, and I personally believe they’ve done an admirable job here. Especially for a first crack.
Hideo Kojima is the physical manifestation of the Director’s Cut. Often times his idea of a nice neat package is like having a 6 hour version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but I’m ever so grateful for his presence in our industry. He’s not scared to take chances and make something people don’t like, and more often than not, he makes things I like or can at least appreciate. Death Stranding is some combination of all those things. I appreciate it, enjoy playing it, and on this third playthrough became more convinced than ever that there’s something really special here for those willing to take the time to stare at their boots.
Set in an idyllic town, amongst the harmony of nature, Life is Strange: True Colors might appear to be an escapist fantasy. But it has something to say. Subtly, and most importantly effectively, it reflects its characters and themes onto the player. It’s a timely reminder of the importance of empathy, and an adventure that ultimately kept me glued to it from start to finish.
While I was intrigued by the narrative, and enjoyed the performances, Twelve Minutes was an experience I’d had enough of by the time I completed it. There are just enough seams, jank, and clunk around that the act of playing the game felt like a task at times. I absolutely applaud the effort though. Twelve Minutes is an audacious first crack at a unique narrative structure, and one that will certainly lead to more refined and robust takes on this style of experience.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart has something for almost everyone. Fast and satisfying combat and gameplay, absolutely jaw-dropping good looks, a fantastic score, and narrative design, writing, and acting that could be plugged right in as the next Pixar film.
The story of Commander Shepard as told through Mass Effect Legendary Edition is excellent. It was groundbreaking a decade ago, and it’s still a powerful tale open to interpretation. Veterans of the franchise need not hesitate: this is a faithful polishing of the original games, with thoughtful changes that modernize the experience. If you’ve never taken a trip with the crew of the Normandy, there’s no better time than now. There’s a mammoth amount of quality content in the Mass Effect trilogy, and it’s all well worth the time investment.
It Takes Two is a dazzling adventure filled with more mechanics than you can shake a stick at. Working together throughout the mesmerizing set of levels is compelling and full of hearty chuckles, but sadly the story falls short of that bar with inconsistent tone and a lack of perceptible character growth along the way. It’s still well worth your time and energy, just don’t expect to be as emotionally invested in the journey as you might have been with Hazelight’s past work.
As a whole package The Medium is very much a story of compromise. For all its successes in visual storytelling and interesting setting, it’s collared by poor pacing and dated game design. Still, it’s well worth a look for history buffs and those fascinated by the unknown. So what lies beyond? It’s still up for debate. In the present, The Medium offers an intriguing possibility to puzzle on.
Sackboy: A Big Adventure represents a nearly forgotten genre of game, and represents it in fine fashion. Competent if not revolutionary platforming propels Sackboy through a stunning world full of fun set pieces and clever writing, while an approachable challenge level opens the experience to all skill levels. It’s about having fun, and Sackboy’s first full adventure absolutely succeeds.
The Pathless is a great game. It’s beyond stunning, with a remarkable soundtrack and phenomenal sense of place. Refined traversal mechanics do a lot of the heavy lifting, while puzzles and boss battles could use an extra dose of variety. Though the formula gets tired by the end of the tale, The Pathless proudly stands among giants of the genre like Journey.
Though it’s not as polished as the 2018 original, Spider-Man Miles Morales is a smashing success. It looks sensational and is an absolute riot to play. Miles’ story brings all the drama and feels it needs to, and highlights a community outside what’d normally be on the drawing board for a game like this. Despite some bugginess, this is the game you want to show off your impressive new hardware. I can guarantee I’ll be slinging from Harlem to Hell’s Kitchen daily for the foreseeable future.
Alas, Astro’s Playroom is only a few astonishing, magical hours long. There are lots of collectibles to go after and a leaderboard driven speedrun mode, but when I finished I was still hungry for more. And that’s kind of the only criticism I can levy against it. The way it leverages PlayStation’s history, I can’t wait to see what irresistible creation Team ASOBI comes up with next. In the here and now, Astro Bot has earned a place in my heart among the very best of PlayStation’s franchises.