Tower of Fantasy is a whirlwind of enjoyable combat, exploration and mini-games, mixed with a nefarious gacha system and the annoying proclivity to time and level gate progression. The ability to create your own character, team up with other players, participate in a huge guild, and battle hordes of monsters with a deep yet simplistic combat system tips the scales just enough to warrant the hype that it has been given. Tower of Fantasy dips its toe into greatness through extensive gameplay systems and an accessible game loop that has broad appeal. No matter what you like doing, whether it’s team play, exploration, PvP, or dungeon running, you can find it here. Just temper this fantasy with the realization that you should never spend more than you can afford. Hotta built Tower of Fantasy as a marathon, so there’s no better time than now to enjoy the journey at your own pace.
Chimeraland by Pixel Soft is an unpolished experience with minor bugs, but it is still weirdly fun. Player races and various creatures are some of the oddest things I have seen in any MMO. The layout of the UI for PC is not intuitive compared to mobile, and there are localization issues. Players may be turned away by some of the graphics and the initial learning curve. But if you can get by these issues, there is a lot of game here for players who enjoy exploration, survival building mechanics, and pet collection/evolution. While many of Chimeraland’s systems at a base level can feel familiar, it is a unique experience.
There’s nothing new to see here, just a port of an old classic. For some, I’m sure that this is all that they want or need, but for others I feel that it’s a shame Dark Alliance II hasn’t been modernized - at least a little bit - to bring the gameplay more in line with the times so that it would feel more accessible to newer players. Even still, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II’s price tag at $29.99 feels too steep for what it is. Unless you’re a diehard fan of the Dark Alliance series, I’d wait for a hefty sale before picking this up.
The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle brings with it many great moments, and the landscape of the Systres is a joy to explore, especially the jungle prison of Amenos. While its story is predictable, I’m not uninterested as I look forward to the rest of the year’s content drops. In the end, it's this formulaic malaise that keeps The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle from being truly great.
Harebrained Schemes has done an excellent job porting the Shadowrun Trilogy to consoles. I only tried the PlayStation 5 version, but I would expect to have the same experience on the PS4 or any of the Xbox consoles. As a primarily PC gamer, I must admit that the team did an excellent job of adapting the UI to support a controller and big-screen TV. I would even say it’s worth paying full price to get the console version over the PC version, which can be found at a discount. The only thing missing is an upgrade in performance. Maybe Harebrained Schemes is saving that for another foray into the Shadowrun universe.
The bones of Worldslayer are excellent, but the story and end game content are greatly lacking. I would love to see a hybrid system that comes in smaller chunks of content at a faster pace, such as in the form of a season passes. Leave out the microtransactions and add $10 clips of content quarterly, that way players can feel like the story is still alive. As it stands, the story abruptly ended in a frustrating way. I am rooting for Outriders to succeed as one of the best looter shooters, but right now the end game is going to get just as tedious as the previous end game content.
I had such excitement for Diablo: Immortal through development, and the game itself is a solid experience and well worth the time. I'm not sure how well it will hold up over the long term as an MMO, but it's a good effort, and if I could just score that alone, it would be a 9. However, the monetization is very player unfriendly currently. Rather than getting out of the way and letting players enjoy the game and then spend money because they want to support a game they love, we are consistently being leveraged into feeling like we have to spend an indeterminate amount of money just to have a chance. Heck, you might have to shell out money just to make a clan to play with your friends. This isn't the worst monetization I have seen, but it's still a far cry from good.
Stardock has created a game with good bones. Some of the new systems, such as the core world management and ideology system, add to/improve the game. Unfortunately, other systems feel tedious at times. They are not broken per se but are not quite there yet. They either bog down the gameplay or lack impact on the experience. The core gameplay loop is decent, but it just didn’t hook me into feeling the need to play one more turn before bed. If you enjoy the series, Galactic Civilizations IV is worth picking up. Otherwise, I would wait for a few patches or DLC to help flesh out some of the systems.
Triangle Strategy focuses on delivering a deep story with an emphasis on player choices and dealing with the consequences of those choices. The amount of narrative between battles might be too much for some players, however, it’s also what makes the game stand out. The combat and class systems are relatively straightforward but rewarding in their own right. Finally, with four different endings and multiple different paths throughout, Triangle Strategy will make you keep coming back for more.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands isn’t a masterclass in game design or storytelling, but it is a notable improvement over Gearbox Studio’s previous entries. Multiple quality of life additions, like holding down the melee button to just keep swinging as well as changing the Mayhem Mode difficulties to the new and less confusing Chaos Levels, are a great step forward. The weapons feel more inventive than before, and the addition of spells make combat more fun and engaging. It’s unfortunate that the story fails to live up to the events in Assault on Dragon’s Keep but it’s still more memorable than what Gearbox has recently done. The fact that Chaos Runs are randomized and offer a rogue-like mix already makes it one of the strongest launches for endgame play.
Mortal Online 2 is not a complete game. This feels like an early access title in disguise, just waiting to start charging its players a $15 monthly subscription fee in order to keep development on track. The fact that its first two and a half weeks after launch was unplayable by the majority of the playerbase is the most telling of all, but in tandem with too many missing systems and features it’s not hard to think of it as an unfinished product.
You will enjoy this game if you can stomach the abuse that Elden Ring dishes out. Even if you cannot, there is so much out there that you can do if you aren't afraid of running from scary fights. Some locations can be less fun than others, and some bosses create skill-based stopgaps. Elden Ring is all about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and sometimes finding something more enjoyable to do. It's worth the investment.
Zenith: The Last City, by RamenVR, has been a hard game to rate. It is an excellent VR experience that shows what the future of a fully realized VR MMORPG could look like, and Zenith could be that MMORPG with time. The game can be a grind, especially when soloing. But the combat, group activities, and box price all are on target. Features like climbing and gliding make for a uniquely VR experience. But lack of content and the existing bugs are currently holding it back from being a must-own VR title.
Overall, End of Dragons feels like ArenaNet has taken all the lessons of both Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire and honed their newest expansion into the best of both. The few areas where things aren't quite there, they are working hard at fixing them in the right way, which will be best over the long term, rather than quick kneejerk solutions. This is the perfect capstone to the story they have been telling for the last ten years, and this expansion makes me excited to see where they will go from here.
Creative Assembly has done a great job with the final entry in the series. I am really enjoying Total War: Warhammer III, but it may not be for everyone since specific mechanics, like the spawning chaos gates, could become tedious for some players as the campaign progresses. The story could also not resonate with some players. I personally have enjoyed the prologue and campaigns, but I could see it missing the mark depending on how interested someone is in the daemons and the Choas Gods. The game does have some technical problems, and I am a touch disappointed with parts of the enemy AI. But the single-player story, new features, and solid multiplayer offerings are top-notch. If you are a fan of the previous games or this genre, this is a must-play title.
Everything about my experience points to GATO Studio either running out of time or money (or both) before they could complete The Waylanders. A story that starts off in a fresh setting and filled with interesting characters, nice visuals and outstanding voice acting is quickly derailed by technical flaws and an ever-growing list of bugs. I rarely complain about too many side missions or additional features like romantic endeavors being added to a game, but this is a perfect example where cutting out unnecessary features would have allowed GATO Studios to focus on the things that really mattered. Sometimes, less can be more, and that appears to be the case here.