Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the sequel I've been waiting for, returning to the roots of what made the first game so special. It adds a handful of new and interesting mechanics to its tactical battles, nearly all of which improve the formula in tangible ways, but otherwise plays it fairly safe. The story can feel a little bit impersonal and disconnected from the rest of the series, but the way it makes even the smallest characters important and alive is remarkable. It's great to see the Valkyria Chronicles series back on track, as it's still one-of-a-kind.
Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania with a well of content to discover that's as deep as its labyrinthine caves. The world of Hallownest is compelling and rich, full of story that's left for you to discover on your own, and built with branching paths that offer an absurd amount of choice in how you go about discovering it. With such a high density of secrets to find and fun, challenging enemies to face, it's worth spending every moment you can in Hollow Knight.
Yoku's Island Express is a novel Metroidvania-pinball hybrid that stands out as something wholly unique. It blends those clashing genres with a beautiful island style, and its satisfying flippers and bumpers make uncovering its wide island a ton of fun. Retreading completed areas while hunting for secrets can occasionally get stale, but Yoku's Island Express has a refreshingly positive attitude that kept me smiling the whole way through.
BattleTech provides exciting strategic decisions and a compelling story, plus the slow-paced and meticulous fun of building up and customizing a mercenary company but suffers from the frustrating unpredictability of its weapons and procedural missions, and losing a favorite mechwarrior to a random head hit feels like it somewhat undermines the choices I've made along the way. Those frustrating moments didn't ruin my many hours with BattleTech by any means, but they did mean I wasn't rushing back for more after I beat the campaign.
Warhammer Vermintide 2 is a beautifully dark game, and I'm in love with its hard-hitting, meaty melee weapons. It's a gorgeous game with tons of fun play styles and customization options to uncover, even if most of the loot you earn for your efforts is a letdown. But thankfully you don't need to pay much attention to it to simply enjoy the hack-n-slash, Left 4 Dead-inspired co-op fun of bashing hordes of rats and zombies to a pulp.