Near the end of the game, I had a private conversation with one of my party members, Disciple. He was a former Jedi trainee who metaphorically worshiped the Exile. My character opened up about how guilty they felt about leading others into a galactic space war, and expressed doubts as to whether the party members had followed of their own free will. Disciple didn’t wholly convince me that he was totally unaffected by the Exile’s Force sensitivity, but in 2004 it felt transgressive for KotOR 2 to interrogate the ethics of RPG protagonism. It still feels relevant in 2022, when even the most ambitious, story-rich games can’t seem to avoid centering themselves around the player. What a very important person they must be.
This is tremendous stuff, a game that could absolutely have been released alongside Raven Software’s mid-90s fantasy shooters and held up. (Although people would have been mystified by the lighting tech.) Admittedly, you can get Hexen for a buck-fifty right now, but there’s a good chance you already did. Hands Of Necromancy is a welcome addition to that fold, and developers HON Team have become a name to follow.
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.
There’s a co-op mode, even, so you can be trapped in these escape rooms with a chum, which sounds absolutely fantastic. But on my own, Escape Simulator offers a far more tangible sense of the feeling of playing a real-world escape room, one spaceship aside, keeping things within the realms of possibility. Ooh I can’t wait for that DLC.
From its rapture beginnings to its M. Night Shyamalan-like twist ending, Kirby and the Forgotten Land is a shining example that Kirby warrants his lion’s share of open-world treatment alongside other Nintendo properties like Legend of Zelda and Mario.
I can’t think of another Star Wars game that’s included so much of the franchise, in such a brilliant and well-made package, and does it all without becoming boring, or bogged down in canon details and retcons. Star Wars is silly. Star Wars is epic. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga knows this and embraces both aspects, while being a lot of fun and very funny. It’s one of my favorite games of 2022, and while some hardcore Star Wars fans may be loathe to admit it, yes, this is probably the best Star Wars game yet made.
With the game’s ending hinting at a possible sequel, Mutationem stands as a messy first draft. If a follow-up does come, I hope ThinkingStars’ will have the confidence to boldly stand and tell its own unique story rather than remain so shackled to its inspirations.
Like most great works, Elden Ring is magnificently flawed, equal parts beautiful and ostentatious. In this age of cookie-cutter, paint-by-numbers, triple-A development, what more can you ask for than something wholly confident in its bullshit? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m only about one-third of the way through the game and would love to see at least one of its multiple endings sometime this year.
This was a risky project, given the automatic assumptions someone might make about a game where dating and invading are conflated. Cast aside all those concerns, because this is a game where consent is primary, yet nonsense is overwhelmingly more important. It’s so funny that this is so lovely, and it’s lovely that this is so funny.
I thoroughly enjoyed Horizon Forbidden West, and I suspect anyone who loves open-world RPGs will thoroughly enjoy it as well. But despite getting a kick out of fighting robot dinos, despite the enthralling time sink of “Machine Strike,” despite finding myself ravenous to return to this rich, inspired open world, I can’t shake how plainly Forbidden West misses the one philosophical throughline that helped its predecessor ascend to greatness: Sometimes, the question is more interesting than the answer.
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.
Dying Light 2 doesn’t tell a great or original zombie story, and it features a lot of big choices that mostly amount to nothing. But that’s fine, because where Dying Light 2 succeeds is in the smaller moments between the big ones. A fight against a horde of undead that you hadn’t planned on and might not survive. Escaping a tough enemy using all the parkour moves at your disposal. Barely surviving a nighttime excursion gone wrong and breaking your last good sword in the process. Or just swinging around, looking for the next place to explore but getting too distracted by how much fun it is to move around this place that you just…don’t stop.
How do you even consider Halo Infinite in totality? I’m not sure that you do, not least because 343 Industries has stated that Infinite isn’t the end of a lengthy development process but the start of an ever-evolving game. (See: seasonal model, incoming cooperative and creative modes, the barest wisps of rumored story expansions.) Master Chief loves to prattle on about “finishing the fight.” But the fight never ends. And if Halo Infinite is what we get as a result? Bring it on.
So here we are. Supposedly, the saga is complete, and I’m left with mixed feelings. I’m glad that Dread really goes for it, that it wants to make you feel hunted and disadvantaged and that it’s willing to feel hostile in order to accomplish that. The result is a feeling that survival itself is a reward more meaningful than all the upgrades in the world, a feeling I rarely get from games anymore. But ZDR never captivated me the way previous Metroid settings have, and as a conclusion to the story arc, Dread seems to misunderstand what made the early chapters resonate. Samus is wonderful, a survivor, an icon, and she endures. But when I think back on my time with her over the past several decades, Dread will forever dwell in the shadows of my favorite Metroid memories.
Psychonauts 2 isn’t about gunning down the big boss at the end and cheering over their dead body. It’s about understanding that even the biggest asshole is still a person, and deep down they may just need some help. We all need some help sometimes. The key is asking for it. Today, in 2021, it’s easy to look around and see people who seem cruel and evil, and to assume they are lost souls, not worth saving. Psychonauts 2 says otherwise. It says that everyone can change. I’m not sure I fully believe that, but I’ll be damned if that’s not one hell of a hopeful message.
It’s a shame that Biomutant isn’t a better put-together piece of software. Its world feels unique, the way it blends different combat styles is fun and it’s a visual treat to look at on a big 4K TV. But countless bugs, performance issues, overly talkative NPCs, boring quest design, and a sense of overall jank makes it hard to excitedly share this game with people.
Village may not live up to the potential of its immediate predecessor, but it’s a safe new entry in the series that induces the same entertaining anxiety as my favorite Resident Evil games and provides a few interesting wrinkles for where the franchise might go next.