Luke Plunkett's Reviews
It may have taken 17 years and one disappointing sequel along the way, but Relic are to be commended here for somehow managing to take tactical perfection and redefining it not just for old veterans, but for a whole new generation of armchair generals as well.
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!
That’s naïve, overly-simplistic advice, maybe, but we’re a decade into this series’ slide straight into hell and nothing else seems to be working, so it’s worth a shot.
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.
Crusader Kings III may begin in what we used to call the Dark Ages, but it’s a Renaissance for strategy gaming in 2020.
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.
Unity of Command II shows that even in a genre as tried-and-tested as this, where so much has remained the same for so long, that there’s room for change that not only interesting, but exciting.
This is one of gaming’s great sandboxes (provided you can tame its expanse), and if you thought it was satisfying linking some theme park rides together, wait until you do the same thing only for baby pandas.
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.
It strikes a great balance between retaining much of what makes a Paradox grand strategy game so time-consuming while streamlining its approach and interface.
Kiwami has a much smaller scope than something like Yakuza 0 but I think that also gives it a lot of focus. While the series is now famous for side quests and random activities, Kiwami has a focus and drive to it that I really enjoyed by the end.
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.
2K19's MyCareer represents some of the very worst in exploitative, money-hungry design in all of video games.
The story I ended up with, with its highs and lows, felt like my story, forged by the calls I made in the stress of battle, and I own them. For better or worse.
Given the technological advances made here, and its breezier outlook on life with a cast freed from the confines of Yakuza's dense lore, I'd prefer to look at this as the first of a new breed of Yakuza game.
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.