With Man of Medan, Supermassive builds on the foundation established in 2015's Until Dawn. While the core of the game remains the same, driven by dialog, choices, and quick-time events, the developers has added some multiplayer action to the mix. The two-player online Shared Story is the primary highlight here, allowing two players to simultaneously determine the course of the story. Unfortunately, the story itself isn't as good as the horror yarn spun in Until Dawn.
The Ultimate Alliance comes roaring back with this Nintendo Switch exclusive. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 pulls inspiration for Marvel comics, movies, TV, and more to create an homage to the brand's long history. Unfortunately, some camera issues and general readability mar the overall experience, and the alternate costumes fall short of the Ultimate Alliance standard. Despite that, this is a great couch co-op adventure with all your Marvel favorites.
Final Fantasy 14 set a high bar with its previous expansions, but Shadowbringers stands above the rest. Expected additions come in the form of new regions and the new jobs, Dancer and Gunbreaker. Both bring their own flavor to the game, though the Dancer is the standout. More importantly, Shadowbringers tells a tale that not only contains some meaningful real-world connections, but also provides an experience that's firmly Final Fantasy-esque. Great writing, solid voice acting, and an excellent soundtrack wrap Shadowbringers up in a package that should satisfy Final Fantasy 14 fans and neophytes alike.
Players now have the chance to make their own hellish, evil Mario levels on Nintendo Switch. Super Mario Maker 2 starts with the foundation established in the first game, and adds new themes, new game styles, and new items. It falters due to the loss of the second screen of the Wii U and 3DS iterations, and the lack of Amiibo costumes hurt, but this is still a fantastic package for a Mario fan or budding lever designer.
Elder Scrolls Online heads to Elsweyr, the homeland of the Khajiit. While the environment isn't as impressive as Morrowind or Summerset, Zenimax Online's storytelling is still impressive and entertaining. Unfortunately, the combat mechanics need a little more punch and the addition of dragons ends up be less impactful than advertised. It's a good expansion, but feels like a step down from the previous few.
Dauntless is Monster Hunter for those that don't have the time or money to devote to Capcom's Monster Hunter: World. Dauntless falters in certain areas, but provides the feel of hunting and gear progression in a more streamlined manner. the world can feel a bit lifeless and gamey at time, but this is definitely good enough to carve out it's own space alongside Capcom's flagship series. And being free-to-play with full cross-platform play helps a great deal.
The roguelike nature of Darkest Dungeon combine with more substantial narrative and exploration, and a Korean manhwa aesthetic. Unfortunately, the mechanics of Vambrace need work. Your squad of mercenaries is largely disposable, there's too much randomization in terms of progress, and there are several issues with the user interface. Perhaps a sequel can bring the gameplay closer to the excellent aesthetics, but Vambrace: Cold Soul doesn't come together completely.
Sumo Digital is back to hit you with that fantastic Sonic Racing action. Team Sonic Racing has a new focus on team-based mechanics, but it ultimately feels like a step back from the excellent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The tracks are great, there's a whole of new customization options, and Team Adventure's challenge courses do well to differentiate the game from its peers, but it's a rebuilding year.
In Rage 2, you move fast and kill faster. It's the synthesis between id Software's 2016 reboot of Doom and Avalanche Studios' Mad Max, bringing together some of the best ideas from both. Moment-to-moment play on foot is fantastic with each weapon and ability just opening up your options for destruction. Driving could be improved and it's a little on the shorter side, but Rage 2 is a damned good time.
The zombie apocalypse is well-trodden territory and the open-world spin of Days Gone can only differentiate it so much. There's a strong narrative focus, but Deacon St. John doesn't carry that weight as deftly as he could. There are highlights and fun tools available within, but the game doesn't push those forward first, leaving the players to deal with some tedium first. Days Gone is a great foundation for something better though, so hopefully Bend gets the chance to improve upon it.
There's a lot to love in Mortal Kombat 11. It's a fantastic fighter with a roster of 25 varied characters, tons of customization options, beautiful graphics, and one of the best story modes in a fighting game. It's a shame that modes like the Krypt and Towers of Time inject annoyance and tedium into what was an excellent experience. The progression is complex and obtuse, when it should be easy and straightforward. MK 11 could been an all-time best, but it's just a contender.
Be the ultimate badass and kill your enemies in slow-motion. There are a lot of games that try to be like Hotline Miami, moving from area-to-area murdering with sheer ruthlessness, but few games match the execution and style like Katana Zero. Great pixel art, a wonderful use of color, and fantastic synthwave soundtrack. From start to finish, it's a fever dream worth having.
Anno 1800 is a city-builder that caters to new players. It's gorgeous, has a campaign that's a huge tutorial, and players don't have to worry about sim aspects like traffic and power distribution. While there have been improvements to the Anno formula, some mechanics are simply not explained and the user interface is lacking for a game built so heavily around trade and economics. It's a good game for sure, but it needs some tweaks to make it fantastic.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain plays around with the concepts players have gotten used to with previous EDFs. Classes are open, and the new Prowl Rider offers a new flavor of play that hasn't been seen in the franchise before. Weapons are open, giving more player freedom in terms of character loadouts. But Iron Rain loses some things from the main series, notably the huge swarms of enemies in favor of larger, more meaningful enemies. It's a fine entry in the EDF franchise, but it doesn't step far beyond its predecessors sadly.
Recent games have reminded me that sometimes great execution is better than a noble failure, and The Division 2 executes on its concept with finesse. The story is lackluster, and the real-world aesthetic will turn of some players, but it doesn't matter because the core and flow of this looter shooter is great. There are something things that could be tweaked, like enemy density and their ability to one-shot you, but overall The Division 2 is a sequel done right.
Capcom fills fans' dark souls with light! Devil May Cry 5 is an excellent return to form for the franchise, setting it up for a bright future. Nero's here, Dante's back in pitch-perfect form, and V provides a brand-new style of play. All Capcom really needed to do with Devil May Cry 5 was repackage the classic DMC gameplay with a modern coat of paint, but DMC 5 is an excellent, thoughtful update.
Dead or Alive 6 carries much of the franchise's risque DNA, but shows a bit more initial restraint. The more revealing costumes are unlockable and the jiggle physics tend towards a bit more realism now. Combat remains accessible, but new moves like the Break Blow and evasion add new layers for DOA vets. Dead or Alive 6 could use a little more graphical polish and its netcode needs to be better, but it's a pretty good fighter all around.