In a way, Bowser's Fury's restraint in world design and simplicity actually puts it more directly in line with 3D World than Odyssey, feeling like its true successor, but settling for this halfway step between them due to how it was released. Regardless of how both titles were delivered, I'm absolutely delighted with 3D World and fascinated at what a fuller title in the vein of Bowser's Fury might look like. Here's hoping we see more like both of these standout Mario titles sooner rather than later.
While it may seem unengaging because it effectively plays itself, it really is just prompting the player to look at gameplay from another angle, namely a more systems-driven one. For a person like me, who doesn't really craft "builds" in RPGs, it's made me realize why that is actually a rewarding aspect of those games. Now I spend half my time in Loop Hero making numbers go up and making optimizations I never would have, before embarking on another loop.
While I can nitpick about Deathloop's shortcomings, I'd rather just point you to a game that's a joy to play, confident in itself, touts two wonderful Black leads, looks wonderful, and rewards you for thinking outside the box. While it doesn' quite feel like an evolution of the formula, it's almost assuredly Arkane's most feature-complete and refined take on it. Like I said at the top of this review, Deathloop is countless things, and most of them are great.
With multiple endings to earn and only a few under my belt, I don't really want to come up either. Instead, I want to go back to the market, snipe an organ out from under WOOHOO CHARLIE, and work through Trading Simulator's absurd sense of humor, banger of a soundtrack, and mechanical twists on my journey to become the greatest organ-trading warlord in space.
It's inexpensive to boot and simple to keep up with, making it markedly less of a chore to log into, have fun with for an hour or two, and hop back out of unlike most service games. It's got a fun style and look to it that makes it all the more inviting, and solid enough mechanics to master that I feel satisfied coming back to practice. Straight up, it's also just fun as hell to play something that isn't so grim or serious, making Knockout City a success in my eyes.
Nobody is ambitious but not too in over its head, funny to boot and grounded in an idea that understands the joy of defining conventions. It may miss a bit of the formula that's made its influences as strong as they were, but it's got style and confidence and those are swings I'm glad connected. Most of all, it reminds me of the fun I used to have playing pretend, and even though I've stopped, games like this one help keep that sense of adventure alive.
It's all cozy but rote, which is a shame because the series has been bolder in the past. Walking away from it, I'm impressed at how much I cared for the cast, for example, and am also keenly aware of the fact that while I liked them, I will largely forget who they are because I've done this before and will likely do it again somewhere else in a few years. Life is Strange may sell itself on comfort, and True Colors may be the one most emblematic of this, but I wonder if the series itself has become too comfortable for its own good.
I don't think there's a situation so bleak they wouldn't try to render in service of people-pleasing and making sales climb higher. Battlefield 2042 represents the pinnacle of a feedback loop that told its creators that bigger is always better. Now that we're here, I'm sure we were never right to think that and I don't think we're stepping back from it anytime soon.