Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora more than lives up to the legacy of its cinematic counterpart. In fact, the title elevates itself to the ranks of exceptional and essential gaming - an incredible feat for a movie franchise tie-in. Ubisoft, often recognised for their prowess in open-world gameplay, absolutely exceeds expectations with this title. While its foundation may draw parallels to the Far Cry series, the game's unique setting, narrative depth, and immersive gameplay set it apart as a groundbreaking experience.
Mortal Kombat 1 ultimately serves as an outstanding soft reboot of an iconic franchise, bringing a fresh perspective while still honouring its rich, three-decade-long history. This instalment also places a pronounced emphasis on storytelling, providing depth and context to the characters’ backstories. Invasion mode increases replayability, whereas the all new Kameo system opens new avenues of play; whilst the thorough tutorial systems keep new players from feeling overwhelmed. Despite feeling somewhat similar to previous entries in the franchise, Mortal Kombat 1 stands out for its commitment to delivering an engaging narrative, consistent performance, and visceral, detailed graphics. Overall, it serves as both a nod to long-time fans and a refreshing take on the classic fighting game.
It is no small feat for a game to impress as much as Forza Motorsport does. There are few titles actively attempting to keep the bar as high as humanly possible for future titles to draw from, and Forza Motorsport is undoubtedly one of those. It is gorgeous in all the right ways; feels amazing to play; and truly immerses players into the entire gameplay loop. Exceptional is hardly an appropriate classification for the game, as it is damn-near one of the best simulators of the generation.
There is no denying how Assassin’s Creed Mirage represents a notable return to the franchise’s roots, offering a fresh yet familiar experience for long-time fans. While the game takes place in the bustling city of Baghdad and explores the origins of Basim Ibn Ishaq, it successfully recaptures the essence of the earlier Assassin’s Creed titles, whilst retaining the personality and mechanics introduced in recent entries. Mirage’s tight and tiered rooftop traversal, along with its one-shot assassinations, hearken back to the franchise’s origins, but it seamlessly incorporates modern gameplay elements from titles like Valhalla. Despite occasional parkour hiccups, the game’s movement feels fluid and responsive, making it one of the best feeling entries in the series. Basim’s glass-cannon playstyle encourages stealth and clever tool usage, reminiscent of Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell. With its compelling narrative, engaging gameplay, and a balanced blend of old and new, Assassin’s Creed Mirage proves how the franchise’s evolution continues to surprise and captivate players, offering a golden return to form for this iconic series.
EA Sports FC 24 may be a rebranding on the surface, but ultimately brings the iconic soccer/football game franchise into the modern age free from imposed constraints. The game truly goes above and beyond to stand on its own as a simulation video game. While it is nowhere near perfect, the game exceeds in everything the best of its previous iterations could offer, and then further builds onto those aspects to prove its place on the podium as the next great leap for EA Sports and Soccer Sim fans the world over. EA Sports FC 24 s a match winning title, and a veritable goal for the reworked franchise.
Immortals of Aveum exists in the intricate intersection of contemporary FPS dynamics. Nestled between the resurgence of high-octane “boomer shooters” and the expansive, narrative-driven FPS realm, the game endeavours to harmonise adrenaline-fueled gameplay with storytelling depth. Jak’s journey as an Immortal and Triarch Magnus in a world consumed by perpetual warfare is undoubtedly intriguing, but execution ultimately falters. While his backstory possesses depth, his often-clichéd dialogue detracts from his impact. Thankfully, the stellar cast and animation imbue the world with life, yet occasional shortcomings dampen its immersive potential. Sadly, one cannot even fall back to the gameplay, where mechanics may be solid and magical elements introduce variety, simply because they feel more like reimagined weapons than unique features. While the introduction of Furies adds excitement, they also expose limitations in resource management ultimately resulting in repetitive combat. In the realm of FPS gaming, Immortals of Aveum aspires to weave a complex narrative within dynamic action, reflecting the inherent challenge of this genre fusion. Armed with strong ideas, a captivating world, and commendable performances, Immortals of Aveum falls short due to too many flaws. There is so much potential on offer, but it ultimately falls short; turning a good game into an average experience.
Fire Emblem Engage is an enjoyable back-to-form romp from start to finish. While its narrative takes a massive departure from the familial drama and deep-rooted political unrest the franchise is known for, it still serves as a decent entry with enough intrigue to keep players hooked. Gameplay, more than anything, is what makes Fire Emblem Engage such a fun romp. Thanks to its emphasis on battlefield tactics more so than a tedious grindfest, players will stay engaged during all battles; even with the battle maps as boring and empty as they can be. Thankfully the game looks great, and runs as smooth as a first-party title rightfully should. Fire Emblem Engage may not be setting the bar the same way its predecessor did, but it remains a good experience worthy of being played.
System Shock by Nightdive Studios is a marvel of a title, whilst also serving as an utterly transcending and faithful adaptation. The game brings the iconic 1994 shooter to life in modern and unique ways, allowing the classic to be experienced by an entire new generation of video gamers. Similarly, it introduces a unique type of gameplay that many games today have all but forgotten about. It requires thinking, encourages exploration, and absolutely does not hold the player’s hand during any of its many challenging levels. Faithfulness is what System Shock beckons, yet perfection is what it achieves.
Miasma Chronicles brings a strong contender to the table with its heavy focus on free movement and exploration. While the RPG elements need some expansion, the basis of a good idea is here and will keep most players engaged for hours on end. The Bearded Ladies have crafted an eye-opener of a dystopian post-apocalyptic America where Miasma, mutants, and cyborg overlords run rampant. The world is rich with lore and collectable bits and bobs, teaching players more about the setting they traverse. Most importantly, the stellar gameplay and mechanics on offer provide for a superb experience overall. Free roaming and exploration are a breath of fresh air for the genre, and the tacked on stealth mechanics make the experience all the better. While there are a few technical hiccups, the game is an exceptional title worthy entry and enjoyment.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is, without a doubt, essential gaming for any Star Wars fan or gamer who enjoys souls-like adventures. It is a game about a Jedi who survives some of the worst trials and tribulations imposed on a person, who then goes on to rebuild and recoup his life, while showcasing to the galaxy how the Empire may not be the only answer to the universe’s problems. It is a title that keeps on giving, even when least expected. Exploration is also key this time around, with truly open zones and rewards around every corner, while the title continues to build upon every single aspect introduced in Fallen Order. While combat animations may be a lot flashier than they rightfully ought to be, the game more than makes up for it by offering players a new “stance” system, a massive skill tree based on the force abilities Cal already knows, and all new mounts. Oh, and you can pet the Bogling this time around too, so there is that. As a sequel, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor doubles down on everything that made the original so good, and offers gamers a truly exceptional experience.
Minecraft Legends is a true treat to experience. While not exactly a full-on strategy title like Age of Empires or even Command & Conquer, strategy fans will still be pleased at the amount of units to command and buildings to erect. The story most definitely takes the main focus here, with around 20 hours of singleplayer gameplay to tide all Minecraft fan over during a single campaign, and many more if players decide to replay certain missions or pursue the ever elusive Award Point goal. Regardless of reasons to play, Minecraft Legends is as true to the vanilla Minecraft experience as any other spin-off, and its strategy and story elements do not impede on the creative freedom the franchise is known for, making it a good addition to the Minecraft fold.
Hogwarts Legacy is phenomenal in its execution, design, and experience. Combat can be challenging and exciting, while exploration shines the spotlight on some of the most breathtakingly beautiful vistas and locations in a game released thus far in 2023. The title does not come without its faults, but what game truly does? Hogwarts Legacy has earned Avalanche Software some of the highest praise gamers can possibly give thanks to the overwhelmingly satisfying and exceptional experience on offer. Also, being a wizard is dope, so there is that.
Ultimately, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe plays it very safe. It is a solid ‘port’ of a good Wii game, and is therefore susceptible to the same issues relating to the original title’s gameplay and structure; with very little added to feel exciting or new. Innovation has seemingly gone out the window, and surprise is nowhere to be seen; leaving faithful Kirby fans in the dark just as much as newcomers to the franchise. With that said, it remains a solid game. It performs well on the likes of the Nintendo Switch, and feels polished and refined enough not to complain about anything other than its age. The game is a serviceable nod to the original Wii version, and should complement the average Kirby fan’s library well enough.
The overarching theme with Forspoken seems to be one of under deliverance. On paper, the game should be a roaring success. From its unique premise and mix of combat and traversal, through to its narrative, there are solid ideas scattered throughout. Alas, much of this potential is left to the wayside. The main protagonist is especially unlikeable and forgettable, yet her story is one which, on paper, absolutely needs to be experienced. The world is empty and bland, yet on paper it might be one of the most intriguing settings in an open world title since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Combat and exploration also leave a lot to be desired in the long run, yet they sounds so good to any outsider who reads the brochure… and herein lies the issue. Forspoken is a surface-level star, but when digging deeper, evidence suggests it will become nothing more than an unspoken disappointment.
Predictably, NBA 2K23 is the best NBA video game to date. While it sounds like a misnomer, and a little bit of an exaggeration, there is simply no other way to put it. Fans of the franchise will find the most fun and the best quality of life updates in this version, while fans who have held out for a few years might find a refreshingly updated experience awaiting them. The game is by no means breaking any new grounds, and it will take Visual Concepts a heck of a lot more effort to make the game feel like it stands above all the others, but it is one of the standout experiences in terms of annual sports titles in 2022.
The Entropy Centre is truly quite the marvel, especially considering how Stubby Games is a one-man band! Not only does it look and play well, but it is an exceptional puzzle solving experience capable of outlasting all of the very obvious Portal design influences it exudes. The Entropy Centre is worth experiencing from start to finish, and by golly is it a good one.
Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion is nothing if not good fun. While pacing issues are evident and its weird PSP-inspired combat feels a bit weird to get used to, spending upwards of 15 hours with Zack and experiencing his [mis]adventures with characters only lightly touched upon in Final Fantasy VII; as well as seeing Cloud and Aerith once more, is a real treat for any FFVII fan. Players who have grown accustomed to seeing one side of Shinra and Wutai are also subjected to a wholly different side, from the perspective of a super soldier with one too many ideals on his belt! It is a quirky adventure not unlike the more frivolous parts modern gamers have experienced with Final Fantasy XV, but with the dark and twisted undertones truly setting the stage for all of the Final Fantasy VII Compilation games that follow, whether chronologically or otherwise.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns does so much right, allowing for gamers to turn a blind eye to the few qualms present in the game. Any XCOM fan will feel right at home with this title. In fact, the evolution of the classic XCOM gameplay loop and the way it merges with the card-based system feels surprisingly natural. Firaxis have also done a markedly good job of bringing the Midnight Suns comic books to life without sacrificing much for the sake of interactivity. The game features a surprisingly heavy focus on narrative, and while the twists and turns are few and far between, it still functions as an incredible ensemble superhero tale where the player’s very own avatar is central to the plot. The golden age of superhero comic books may have passed, but it seems the golden age of superhero games has arrived.
A Plague Tale: Requiem may be one of the safest sequels to one of 2019’s most iconic titles, but it carries itself with all of the recognition it deserves. There are a couple of issues the game has, but all of these can be ironed out with hotfixes and patches down the line — these issues ultimately do not take away from the incredible experience the game offers. From graphical design through to combat, and even exploration, A Plague Tale: Requiem adds enough depth and nuance to make everything feel fresh, and is a worthy sequel.
There is no denying how Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are ambitious games, with Game Freak clearly attempting to reinvent the Pokémon formula with new features and fresh ideas. Although the studio certainly succeeds in some aspects, such as the open world design, new Pokémon, and multiple intertwining storylines; they certainly fail in others, such as the technical performance, graphical fidelity, and subpar sound design. As such, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are enjoyable games for newcomers and Pokémon fans alike, featuring a lot of potential and equal amounts of disappointment.