Even the world itself is a bummer. Victoria 3's map is beautiful, even more than Crusader King 3's, a globe bristling with colour and variety and an ever-changing landscape as cities and railroads expand over the decades. But you rarely, if ever, actually use it. This enormous 3D recreation of the entire planet is sitting in the middle of your screen for almost the entire time you play the game, taking up huge amounts of real estate, and you almost never (there are a few exceptions) have to click on it, since the game’s primary interactions are all more quickly and easily handled via sidebars and buttons. It’s a real shame!
If Persona 3 is in your backlog, or even just on a list of “games I really need to try out someday,” and you haven’t got around to it, please try to fix that ASAP. Even in 2021, it’s more than worth the hoops you need to jump through to play it, because while official copies are now very expensive, I’m sure you’re a smart person who can find other ways to play it.
This is an enormous bummer, because everything else about this game is so good! In so many ways this is the best Total War game ever made, the latest example of a series that has spent the last 3-4 big releases (we don’t talk about the Saga games here) successfully refining a decades-old formula to keep it fresh and interesting. It’s a shame, then, that having come so far in so many respects this time around, Warhammer III stumbles right where it matters most: at the end.
I absolutely loved my time with Like a Dragon. Ichiban was just too charming, Isezaki Ijincho too interesting and its story too irresistible (in its own pulpy way), proving once again that the strength of Yakuza’s heart can easily overcome any of its gameplay shortcomings. Every time I got mad at its RPG failings, I couldn’t stay mad, because every time I got frustrated at the grind Ichiban would do something beautiful, or I’d fight a man holding a giant smoked turkey leg.
The problem with 2K, though, and it’s bigger this year than ever, is that you can rarely be so clear in your perspective. In 2K21, just like we’ve seen for the last few years, every moment of fun on the court is undermined by the racket being run off it.
This sequel does enough to justify standing on its own merits, though, finding a cozy spot between its rival’s offerings. I’m normally always playing a game like this in my spare time, and I’m confident that this is the one I’ll be playing a lot more of through 2020.
And yet year after year 2K, despite intense fan protest online, turn the dial up and try to squeeze everyone just a little bit more. Clearly there are millions of fans who either don’t care, or are at least willing to suffer through it all, and it’s for these players that 2K is happy to continue building their entire game around the central conceits of microtransactions and advertising.
For those new or interested in the series, this is absolutely the best place to start, as it’ll ease you in and communicate its complexities better than any other Total War. And if you’re experienced, you’ll just love how this is a smoother, smarter ride. Three Kingdoms isn’t a perfect Total War game, but it’s the closest the series has come in a long time.
Even taking its whiffs and missed opportunities into account, I’ve still loved every hour I’ve spent with Gathering Storm. It’s an expansion that may not stick its landing, but which should still be applauded and admired for the way it sets out to change the very world we play on, and succeeds.
I'm not angry at Kingdom Come, I'm just… disappointed. It was touted as this grand historical representation, an abandonment of fantasy for a true medieval setting, a game that would let us live the middle ages. But the game we got is just this busted, inconsistently ambitious RPG that shines in points, but falls apart in most others.
Rise & Fall gets its hooks in deep, showing that the enlarged game's greatest strength may not be its scale or its history, but the sense of togetherness it inspires, and the way it drags the player down to the surface of its gorgeous world.