Deathloop remains Arkane’s best work, and it’s fantastic that Xbox players can finally get in on Cole’s deadly groundhog day. Its unique structure and sheer scope, coupled with the signature Arkane gameplay that has been polished to within an inch of its life, feels like the work of a developer finally fully realizing a vision that began many years ago with the original Dishonoured. Despite the lacking AI, Deathloop is a modern-day classic that should not be overlooked by anyone, something that should hopefully now be made easier by having its audience extended to the Xbox.
No Place for Bravery is another stellar soulslike for genre fans to add to their library on the Switch. By taking the best elements from Sekiro and translating those into a fast-paced, isometric ARPG with deep world-building and compelling narrative hooks, No Place for Bravery does more than enough to provide a title that stands out amidst a sea of samey competition.
Soulstice is a fantastic time and successfully emulates the glory days of the character-driven action genre, whilst also implementing some neat ideas of its own that make it stand out from the competition. Visually, it may not stack up to the best the genre has to offer, but when you are in the thick of the action, looking like a total badass thanks to the easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master combat system, you’ll be having so much fun that it becomes very easy to overlook Soulstice’s flaws.
Biomutant on the PS5 is a greatly enhanced experience that, whilst unable to fix some of the more fundamental issues baked into its core, is a much better-realized version of the developers’ vision. Running on significantly more powerful hardware than that on which it was originally released, Biomutant’s exploration and combat shine brighter than ever. If you were put off by the technical limitations that held Biomutant back, this version is very easy to recommend, and even easier to sink hours upon hours into.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a somewhat uneven package, arguably held back by how dated the jump scares and obtuse nature of the puzzles feel. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth experiencing, though – if you value an uncomfortable, oppressive atmosphere in your survival horror, along with a haunting and compelling story, then White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is definitely worthy of your time.
Steelrising is yet another feather in Spiders’ cap that clearly shows how far the developer has come. Not content with putting out a steady stream of sprawling Western RPGs, the plucky French studio has made a largely seamless transition to the souls-like genre. Hitbox frustrations aside, Steelrising’s challenging combat and deep world-building feel like the work of a team who have been churning out souls-likes for years, rather than a studio stepping into uncharted territory, and they’ve successfully created a world that I hope we see a lot more of in the coming years.
Super Bullet Break uses its difficulty and gacha mechanics to truly great effect, elevating what would otherwise be a fairly standard deck builder, into something that is fiendishly addictive and easy to dump hours into. Sure, the early game can be brutally difficult, and some may find that off-putting, but stick around past those early stages, and Super Bullet Break’s moreish gacha systems will almost certainly suck you in, due to the way in which the randomized systems bring the creative options for deck building to the forefront.
While it isn’t going to be an easy sell for many due to the difficulty spikes that arise in the form of its demanding bosses, I ultimately came away from Book Quest satisfied with the final product. Sure, it wasn’t the laid-back, Zelda-clone I was expecting and presented a challenge that came as a shock, but that was ultimately the best thing about it. If you can look past the, at times, inconsistent hitboxes, and frequent audio bugs, then Book Quest provides a satisfying evening’s worth of, at times, hardcore action that I hope finds an audience.
Unfortunately Aniquilation squanders an interesting concept with poor level design that does its best to ensure that the various mechanics at play are nothing short of frustrating the majority of the time. There is some fun to be had if you can endure the frustrations and fight your way through to the later stages of Aniqulation’s levels, where the environments open up and it becomes more apparent what the developers were going for. Sprinkle in the technical issues, and Aniquilation is difficult to recommend to anyone other than the most dedicated of twin-stick shooter fans.
Bright Memory: Infinite is a shining example of the power of development tools when placed in the hands of someone who truly knows how to get the most out of them. With its AAA production values and polished gameplay, it provides an evening’s worth of action that entertained me in a way that the genre has struggled to do since Respawn’s underappreciated Titanfall 2. If you’re comfortable with dropping twenty dollars on an experience that you know will be over in a couple of hours and are willing to overlook the messy narrative in favour of the excellent gameplay loops, then Bright Memory: Infinite is absolutely worth supporting.
I truly hope that Sword and Fairy: Together Forever finally releasing on consoles gives the series the boost it needs towards more widespread recognition globally. It’s a fantastic title with some of the deepest lore to grace the genre in a while, which also manages to back up its compelling narrative with combat that is a joy to engage with. In a summer that has sorely been lacking in epic RPGs for genre enthusiasts to get stuck into, Sword and Fairy: Together Forever not only helps fill that void but does so with a level of style and heart that begs to be experienced.
Despite some unnecessary padding and a combat system that takes a little too long to get into full swing, F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch is a compelling and thrilling journey from beginning to end. A stunning world, engaging narrative, and rewarding exploration all combine to create one of the most immersive experiences to grace the genre in quite some time.
I truly wanted to love Krut: The Mythic Wings, but ultimately, it’s a title that is extremely difficult to recommend. With its bare-bones combat, imprecise platforming, and an over-reliance on grinding, it completely squanders the potential of its narrative and setting. Whilst there is some fun to be had with the boss fights, the fleeting moments of joy provided by these encounters are completely overshadowed by what a drag the rest of the experience is.
MX vs ATV Legends is the very definition of a “mixed-bag.” On one hand, it can be a genuinely thrilling racer, especially when you’re throwing an MX bike over insane jumps and barreling around corners at breakneck speed. It’s a pity that level of fun doesn’t carry over to the other disciplines, though, and it’s this discrepancy between the enjoyment on offer in each career track that makes MX vs. ATV Legends a bit of a hard sell at the moment. That’s not to say it should be avoided at all costs, but it may be worth waiting to see what’s down the road in terms of optimization and balance, as with a few tweaks to the physics and performance, this could turn out to be a much more well-rounded package.
Touken Ranbu Warriors is an extremely difficult sell for fans of Omega Force’s previous work, given how stripped back a product it is. Small scale battles that can be over in minutes, along with a complete absence of any meaningful progression or grind, completely rip the heart and soul from the now infamous 1 vs. 1000 formula. If you’re a fan of the Touken Ranbu franchise who has yet to sample a Warriors game, then you may find some joy in the depiction of the Touken Ranbu universe and the accessible nature of everything. For everyone else, however, it’s safe to say you can avoid this and hold out for the imminent release of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, which should hopefully have a little more meat on its bones for longtime Musou fans.
Sniper Elite 5 opts for refinement over reinvention, and that’s absolutely fine when the building blocks of its predecessor were already stellar. Its tense sniping action and massive sandboxes are best in class for the series, allowing for creativity and player agency in a way that so few action games do. If you can overlook a narrative that suffers from fatigue due to its subject matter and the somewhat clumsy way in which Karl interacts with his surroundings, then Sniper Elite 5 and its open-ended approach to gameplay provide a stunning, experimental sandbox that you will likely find yourself returning to again and again.
The survival genre rarely manages to surprise these days, given how saturated it has become, but Deadcraft manages to do just that. By executing well upon familiar mechanics whilst adding its own meaningful spin on things, Deadcraft manages to overcome its lack of visual identity by providing an extremely satisfying, innovative, and accessible take on the usual survival tropes. Even if you’re someone who shies away from survival games due to their typically unwelcoming nature, Deadcraft’s action RPG first, survival game second mentality has resulted in a product that I think will be capable of enjoyment by anyone, given the chance.
Evil Dead: The Game is an experience that oozes with an appreciation of the source material from every pore, whilst also providing a gameplay experience that delivers fun and frights in spades. For players looking to dig deep into character progression and team compositions, there’s an absolute wealth of content available to progress through and experiment with. Whilst the teething issues when it comes to balance cannot be ignored, even these struggle to prevent me from hopping back in given how much fun can still be had, despite the need for Saber Interactive to create a more even playing field. If you love asymmetrical multiplayer or the Evil Dead, then grab those boomsticks, you won’t be disappointed.
I went into Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising cynically expecting a title that would serve as nothing more than an appetizer for its bigger JRPG sibling that we can expect next year. I couldn’t have been more wrong as Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is much, much more than that. With its gorgeous art direction, stylish combat, and substantial content offering, it’s a game that arguably offers more than it needed to. If you can make it past the slowish opening act, you’ll find that Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising is a title that is more than capable of standing on its own, to the extent where I can’t help but recommend it, irrespective of whether you are excited for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes or not.
LEGO Builder’s Journey is an experience I can’t help but recommend, both to fans of puzzle games and anyone who enjoys a slower, more thoughtful experience. Going into LEGO Builder’s Journey, I couldn’t help but wonder where the “Journey” element would come in. Having played it, however, I think it’s clear that the intent was to bring the player on a journey of emotion, something I can safely say was achieved. It may not resonate with everyone in the way in which it resonated with me, but I think that’s the beauty of it, as this is a game that is likely to mean many different things, to many different people. And, even if you’re a hardened soul who refuses to be moved by plastic bricks, it’s not a half-bad puzzle game to boot.