It is baffling how a franchise more than a dozen titles in, would suffer from such unusual and strange game design decisions as those found in Harvest Moon: One World. This is unfortunate, given how the premise tries its hardest to intrigue, and its aesthetic is somewhat enjoyable (with a glimmer of a unique gameplay feature here and there for good measure). Unfortunately, it is overshadowed by an overall gameplay design that simply does not work. In a way the charming nature of the game makes sense: it is an indie title meant for the occasional pick up every time someone has a free minute or two to spare. Tackling the game head-on, however, with the misconception that it is a true simulator, thus having in-depth gameplay beyond the huge lore dump at the start; will leave gamers with nothing but seedless disappointment.
It may be obvious, but Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity might be one of the best Warriors titles in recent years. It is befitting of the Breath of the Wild timeline (since universes are so last-decade), as it beautifully matches every aspect of the franchise thereafter. The game introduces a whole new way to play as its Dynasty Warriors roots are showcased in full force, but still manages to feel so much like a Legend of Zelda title that it will be very hard to pass up by any Zelda fan. Those who do give it a pass, however, have no idea how good of a game they are missing out on.
Persona 5 Strikers is neat package perfect for anyone who is already invested in the story featured in the Persona franchise. Unfortunately, this does mean it ostracises outsiders and newcomers as the title does not feature any way for players to catch up on the lore and story from the previous titles. Anyone brave enough to look past this, however, will be in for a heck of a treat. The game is pretty, and the gameplay is wonderfully new to the franchise – so much so that it compliments the story in ways previously thought impossible. It is stunning in the way that it just works with every other facet, but the most intriguing part of it, bar none, is how unapologetically Persona it remains.
The entire Super Mario World 3D + Bowser’s Fury package is basically a remastered seven-year-old title and a wholly new expansion that truly shines thanks to its disparity from the main entries. It is a particularly fun experience perfect for anyone who might be a fan of the red plumber and who missed the original release on Wii-U. The overall experience, as enjoyable as it is, relies heavily on how much players are willing to replay the older game, with nothing more than a promise of around eight hours of new content. While the same sentiment is true for previous Mario 35th releases, those were much more immediate recommendations due to them being Nintendo Limited Releases. The fact that Super Mario World 3D + Bowser’s Fury is a permanent release means fans can hold off as long as they want before diving in. Therefore, the overall experience is quite good; and does a wonderful job of mixing nostalgia for an older title with some newer gameplay ideas.
Truth be told, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood has a lot of promise. From its narrative hook that sadly never catches on, through to its would-be addictive gameplay loop that never delivers, it is clear to see where things should have worked out well. Unfortunately, the emptiness felt from the repetitive levels and incredibly samey mission structures are too difficult to ignore. On a positive note, the dialogue system feels modern and less primitive than its overall design, and the RPG-lite system can be fleshed out in a possible expansion down the line. Sadly, these positives are not enough to sway away from the tepid gameplay, aged visuals and a total missed opportunity to further explore the copious amounts of lore and background from which the game is based! Until the developers pull some Hello Games antics and completely end up bringing more to the table than what this game offers, it simply cannot be said that Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood is any good.
From an insane amount of replayability in missions, and maps that showcase how much IO Interactive has evolved; it is clear Hitman 3 ends off the trilogy with a bang. There are so many facets and features working expertly together to produce what could be called the ‘definitive Hitman experience’. The game serves around 10 hours of gameplay for a single pass and hundreds more for players who love going through and figuring out what other creative ways there are to get rid of 47’s marks. Thankfully, whether players go through it once or a hundred times, the vistas will never disappoint. Sound can sometimes get in the way of immersion, but thankfully the world itself is expertly crafted. The leap in the console generation serves the franchise well by giving the game the exact amount of horsepower it needs. The result is a great sendoff for the trilogy and an incredible starting point for any new players.
While not entirely original, The Medium serves as a wonderful experience that marries the best of the classic fixed camera horror titles with brand-new gameplay mechanics and level design. The story is a little bit short and there are one too few explorable locales, but the experience itself remains fun. Bloober Team did a great job at creating yet another suspenseful video game. Everything, from the world [both of them] to the way the characters are designed to interact with it, and everything in between, show a lot of dedication. Voices may be a bit weak, and animation does leave a lot to be desired, but The Medium is a must-have for fans of the classic horror genre. It is a slow and methodical game with a decent pay off at the end. The Medium may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it most assuredly fills a niche no longer catered for by the likes of Capcom or Konami.
GOOD - Little Nightmares II is a delight to play, but its weak narrative and overarching goal dissuade from a wonderfully immersive world. Running away from big bad enemies and solving frantic puzzles in dark rooms are incredibly fun and surprisingly addictive. The game is fairly small with a very short campaign spread over three or four main locales (hopefully future DLC will alleviate this feeling). The game’s reliance on external sources for lore is also a bit disappointing. Fortunately, the minor caveats are forgotten courtesy of the wonderfully scary and well thought out world on offer. Little Nightmares II is a wonderfully scary delight, a great addition to the Little Nightmares Collection, and is a must play for anyone who enjoyed the first title.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a truly massive game. While it is not as big in scale as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, or as great in status as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it most certainly is one of the most ambitious titles of 2020 and now 2021. There are bugs and the game may not be as polished as many gamers have hoped, but it is nowhere near as scary or as bad as the bandwagon has made it out to be. In practice, the game serves as a fun romp in a dystopian world where cybernetic implants and prosthetics prevail. The player takes on the role of V, a merc who wants to make it big, in a living and breathing city with a life of its own. Supporting characters are by far the game’s strongest feature, with animations and voice overs that truly are next level. It may not be the masterpiece everyone expected, but it comes very close.
Verdict: Good Raji: An Ancient Epic proves it is worthy of its title. It is often easy to think of an indie title as good looking; or with masterful platforming segments in levels that make sense given the story. However, it is extremely rare for an indie title to have all those facets combined in a single package. At its core, gameplay may be uninteresting, but this entire facet allows for something way more important: world building. Raji also finds an incredible boon in its excellent voice over work and sound design, which is especially true for supporting characters like Durgu. Where Raji absolutely shines, however, is in its exceptional narrative. It combines level design and storytelling in beautiful ways that not only teaches, but also moves the plot forward. Raji: An Ancient Epic may not be a big triple-A hit, but it most certainly is a title that deserves to be experienced.