Although Midnight Suns has its hits and misses when it comes to character development – I may have leveled up my friendship with Tony Stark, but I didn’t enjoy a single minute – the Deadpool DLC finds the mark well, emphasizing this character’s most annoying qualities while also letting his inner softie burst through. His playstyle in combat didn’t exactly blow my mind, but his personality was the real draw for me, and the writers got that part right. Firaxis has three more DLC packs on the way, each featuring a new character, and after Deadpool’s arc, I can’t wait to spend more time with the next weirdo who joins the squad.
Forspoken’s opening hours are by far its worst. It took me 16 hours to complete the game, taking in a fair bit of the side offerings in this open-world action RPG, being careful not to sprint too quickly toward the game’s conclusion, though the temptation was there.
It’s clear, both in Odyssey’s thrilling combat and colorful art direction, that ILCA harbors a lot of love for its source material. But these fleeting moments of joy make their counterparts — hapless storytelling, terrible pacing, and stilted navigation — all the more exhausting by comparison. The kernel of a good RPG exists within Odyssey’s framework, but it’s surrounded by so much muck that it can’t shine through. One Piece has a long, storied history, but I suspect Odyssey will soon be forgotten.
Still, after getting fully sucked into Persona 5 in 2017, I had fully intended on playing Persona 3 after so many people had told me it was their favorite entry. While the systems don’t hold up when stacked against the newer titles, I found its bleaker tone more endearing and lovable. It takes work to get to the end, but the complicated, messy, weird story is worth it.
Some people will understandably be put off by all of this. Yet, for all the flaws in its script, Persona 4 Golden manages to mine heartfelt stories from other veins. Persona 5 Royal is a veritable amusement park of side activities that can sometimes be overwhelming. In Inaba, however, having fewer distractions lets you focus on your bonds much more closely. It will take some time to adjust to being away from the city, especially without a smartphone constantly buzzing to let you know where everybody is at all times. But there is no need for one. You’re bound to stumble upon a friendly face on your way to the riverbank.
Look no further than the integrated proximity chat, which incorporates voice and text. It's not nearly as nuanced as the Teamspeak plugins utilized by dedicated military simulation groups like Shack Tactical (a group of which I am a member, for what it's worth). Camelpoop420 sounds just as loud and shrill when he's across the street as when he's right next to you, and the directional audio in these situations is a bit hit-or-miss. But it gets the job done. You can heckle, you can taunt, you can make people panic as you stalk them through the smoke... or you can make friends.
The next-gen upgrade is going to make that available for more people, and I’m excited for that. But it did leave me with a melancholy feeling about where we’ve been and, given the future of The Witcher franchise, where a post-Cyberpunk Witcher game might go. I hope CD Projekt Red’s 2015 RPG, rather than the one it released in 2020, is the foundation that’s built upon.
Dwarf Fortress operates under a similar logic. It will instill in you, the player, that “slender intuition” of what to do. It may, as it did for me, invoke a sense of anxiety as you feel unsure what it is you ought to be doing. But in following your instincts, stories will begin to arise, just as they do for a novelist when they sit down to write. Your base motivation (survive the winter) will be supplanted by something else as you respond to what unfolds before you — whether that be drunken cats or, in my case, a dwarf who struggles to find purpose in life. Your only role, then, is to see that story through.
Heat, a solid game that built up a dedicated audience, probably didn’t get the fairest shake in public opinion after it launched three years ago. Electronic Arts reorganized its action-racing development in response. Unbound arrives with the same lack of glamour, the same diminished cachet, but it is so much more fun, and so much more worth my time racing and running from the law, that the game feels like racing’s comeback player of the year.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a game full of rich texture. The voice acting is superb and the abbey’s relationship-building is the perfect chill interlude to the tactically sophisticated card play. The two formats are beautifully intertwined through the accrual of additional cards and abilities, and there’s a genuine sense of satisfaction in deepening both battlefield prowess and social role-playing connections. Midnight Suns is not XCOM — but that’s ultimately its greatest strength. It’s something completely distinct and entirely exceptional.
Still, knowing Fatshark’s previous work, I’m confident Darktide will be in much better shape in just a few months’ time. And perhaps, in a year or two, after a couple of expansions and numerous updates, it may be something extraordinary. As things stand right now, it’s only very good… which is hard to complain about. A fantastic setting with tons of replayability and the same old juicy combat? There’s plenty to get sucked into, and no signs of slowing down.
The Devil in Me doesn’t rank particularly high on my personal Dark Pictures ranking — it comes in just under House of Ashes and Man of Medan, which are great for different reasons. But what the game does do very right is take a famous true-crime case and explore it in a manner that comes across as more interesting than exploitative, even while fitting in jump scares and relationship drama. Supermassive could probably have carved a good two or three hours out of this game and ended up with a much stronger product — just as long as it left all of the Holmes-related stuff untouched, please, because that’s where it shines.
Still, disregarding the downtime spent on its charmless characters and bland plot, there’s an undeniable thrill to the fighting. If only the rest of the game packed as memorable a punch as its protagonist does when beating the insides out of Evil West’s vampires, it would be easier to recommend. As it stands, it’s not much more than a series of better-than-average monster-pummeling arenas interrupted by uninspired storytelling.