In those areas where Diablo II: Resurrected attempts to improve on the original, it absolutely succeeds. It looks infinitely better, it’s more accessible to a wider range of gamers, and it mostly feels like it deserves to live on current-gen systems. At the same time, some of the changes seem arbitrary when looked at through the lens of what could have, and should have, been updated. Part of Diablo II: Resurrected feels wonderfully nostalgic and timeless, but another part feels mired in outdated mechanics from decades past, and pretty graphics alone can’t fix that.
I think that whether you enjoy Sable will very much depend on your mood and expectations. Some gamers will appreciate it for the chill, Zen-like, conflict-and-combat-free, emotionally resonant story that it absolutely is. Other gamers may grow impatient with its lack of real incident, and weary of the pace and absence of challenge. I tend to land in the latter camp. Sable is a beautiful game, but it needs to rev up the dramatic engine or raise the stakes for the player to keep fidgety gamers like me engaged.
Arboria’s Souls-inspired combat is solid and it does some original things with the roguelike genre. It’s a modest title to be sure, but punches well above its weight when it comes to pure entertainment value. It’s weird and irreverent, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and all its systems work pretty well together. Arboria is one of those games that doesn’t try to do everything, but it has a distinctive approach to familiar mechanics and while it gets a little repetitive, it’s still fun for a good long time.
Most cyberpunk games focus on the flotsam and jetsam of the environment, the strobing lights, the economically stratified world, the gadgets and imagined technologies. Gamedec, in contrast, reminds us that fundamental human passions and personal failures will probably endure well into whatever advanced future comes to pass. Gamedec has a lot of interesting ideas and mechanics, and its hardboiled- detective-in-the-22nd-century story is a great premise. Either the developers had ambitions beyond their ability to deliver, or maybe the game just needs a few more passes with the random orbital sander to smooth down the rough edges, but in its present state Gamedec’s flaws definitely detract from an otherwise intriguing experience.
If you thought Groundhog Day would have been even more awesome with guns and assassinations or that Dishonored would have been a better game if only Quentin Tarantino had directed it, you’d probably enjoy Deathloop. Despite some issues with pacing, bugs, AI, and mechanical clarity, Deathloop is smart, funny, intricately designed, and driven by engaging action, cool puzzles, and relative freedom to approach its objectives in various ways. Deathloop is an addictive and rewarding shooter and one of the most ambitious action games this year.
I think that if you translated Lost in Random’s dark narrative and engagingly strange visual style into a stop-motion animated style film, it would be a powerful exploration of a harrowing and at times poignant journey through an upside down world ruled by disorder. There’s a lot of that conceit in the game, too, but it’s made less impactful by tepid mechanics and tedious, unrewarding combat. The story and setting are absolutely worth experiencing, but there’s probably a chance you’ll be as disappointed by the gameplay as you are enchanted by the tale.
Townscaper exists in that special chill vibe genre that includes games like digital coloring books and virtual bubble wrap, but it also nudges gently up against city builders as well, only without any of the complications or stress. It makes you feel like a creative, relaxed time traveler, bringing into existence a peaceful, little perfect town out in the middle of a perfectly calm sea. Townscaper doesn’t try to do a lot of things, instead it does one thing very, very well.
The Artful Escape is by turns psychedelic, moving, exultant, and lovely. The central metaphor of a young performer bringing fantastic new worlds into existence through the art of music is a powerful one, and while the theme of a struggling musician finding his authentic voice while paying homage to the past might not be a new one, it’s certainly new to videogames. The Artful Escape only missteps when it tries too hard to be a game, ironic given the story’s premise of search for authenticity. Aside from that, The Artful Escape is a surprising and joyous exploration of the power of collaboration, the struggle for identity, and the mind-blowing, life-altering sound of the very loud galactic symphony.
The only question to really debate is who should buy Civilization VI Anthology. For anyone new to the game on any platform, the answer is easy. Anthology is the most complete and full-featured portal to Civilization available, probably for the rest of the game’s life. It’s an exceptional value, entertaining and richly rewarding to play. For players who already own Gathering Storm and several other add-on packs, the answer is less clear and probably depends on how much more Civilization VI they want. Nothing is perfect, but Civilization VI and its wealth of additional content still represents the pinnacle of accessible yet immensely deep strategy gameplay.
The best thing about Super Animal Royale, aside from its lighthearted art style, is that is reasonably satisfying to play without requiring the kind of time commitment that those other battle royale games assume you’re willing to make. Matches are fun, fast and the dopamine won’t even have time to leave your system before you’re in the next round again. It might not be the most complex or graphically impressive game in the genre, but Super Animal Royale accomplishes its goals of being accessible, adorable and addictive.