Ultimately, Mafia III is a game that's held back by its conventional anchors. It wants to be game about the South but remains content to use its setting rarely as little more than a local color curiosity. It proposes a radical representation of race but falls prey to the conventional chores of open-world banality. Though it initially seems eager to "Tell about the South," Mafia III does not have the patience or interest to do so.
Civilization VI carries forward almost all of the mechanics from V: spies, trading routes, religion, ideologies, the hexagonal map, and so on. As a result, the game is just as strong as its previous incarnation, while nevertheless finding ways to expand upon this experience.
Thoth’s main addition to the twin-stick shooter is its constant intimidation tactics. The short segments you set out to beat—64 in all—keep you aghast constantly, and you’ll learn quickly that even when things look peaceful it can mean that something deadly hasn’t shown itself to you yet. Silence is just an opportunity for a bomb to go off.
The Last of Us took a boring idea and made everything about it sublime; Aragami takes a lot of good ideas and neglects to make any of them great. Even the story feels uninterested in itself: the cutscenes are mostly under 10 seconds, and the characters habitually preface expository statements with phrases like “By the way” and “In case you were wondering.”
Pavilion is a series of puzzles that become sentences. The painted visuals and Tony Gerber’s haunting soundscape establish mood for the actors in the narrative: protagonist as subject, his actions as verb, the ambiguous goal as object. I was simply there to put it in order or to play with its syntax.
Gears 4 takes only half measures. It discards a lighthearted adventure premise for another fate-of-humanity monster invasion. It gives up on the anti-militarist bent of its early fight against the COG for another plot about soldiers trying to save humanity.
The creators of Pac-Man CE 2 had the difficult task of remixing a game that has already been expanded upon and reworked to the point of refinement, and they chose to pile on the complexity anyway. The result is a Frankenstein’s Pac-Man—a mess of features and modes that, despite all the power pellets and fruit and ghosts, still left me feeling hungry.
Delicate moments that point towards the optimism at the heart of Spaceport Janitor. By bridging the gap between our daily struggles and the daydreams that surround them, it suggests that the one space we truly own is our imagination.
By the game's end, I found I didn't care about any of the characters. Instead, I was fed up, hunting down the rest of the prismatic cores in order to reach the end. The game had done a full 180. It's a major disappointment, given the promise ReCore shows at its beginning, when it's just Joule and Mack.