Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a quintessential example of a great sequel. It takes everything that's fun about the first game and adds more of the good stuff while removing the mechanics that didn't work the first time around. It's slow to really get started, but once it starts rolling, you never want to stop digging, building, and fighting. If you're curious about the Dragon Quest Builders series on any level, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a good jumping-on point.
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.
Not even striking art direction and sincere storytelling can save the unfortunate nature of Sea of Solitude. Marred by dull action and, at worst, frustrating sequences, Sea of Solitude ends up feeling like twice the length of its runtime. Those monsters and that world sure are gorgeous though.
Outer Wilds is easily my game of the year thus far, and continues to move up the list of my personal favorite games of all time. It's an experience I genuinely cannot stop thinking about, managing to encompass everything I love about the adventure gaming genre and the smart sci-fi musings of my all-time favorite authors. The few negatives brought on by the time loop at the game's core are universally outweighed by the pioneering spirit cultivated throughout. I urge you to seek out Outer Wilds if you can, if only to try out what is surely one of the greatest adventure games ever created.
Samurai Shodown captures the spirit of the older games, veering towards a mix of older and newer series entries. In terms of single-player, but it's a a far cry from Mortal Kombat 11 or even what recent games like Dead or Alive 6 have offered. On the multiplayer side, it offers a solid core, but not much else. It's nice to see SamSho back in the spotlight, but we wish it had a little more to keep us playing beyond just fighting other players.
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.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has been a long time coming, but now that it's here, fans of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night have everything to gain. Playing through Bloodstained feels great if you're already a fan of Koji Igarashi's work—and if you're a fan of action-adventure games in general. There are some unfortunate bugs, hitches, and glitches, but once you download the 1.02 patch, you should be through the worst of them.
Judgment is very much a Yakuza game in detective clothing, but with some clever twists and a killer mystery at the center, it ends up feeling surprisingly distinct. While some of the detective-specific mechanical additions are a drag, everything else vibes really well with the familiar Kamurocho setting. It's easily the best of the recent line of Dragon Engine-developed games in the series—even without Kiryu Kazuma at the center, and even without a karaoke minigame.
Cadence of Hyrule is the Legend of Zelda and Crypt of the NecroDancer crossover we never knew we needed, but now that it's here, we want the song to go on forever. Brace Yourself Games' expert handling of the Zelda property is commendable. Here's hoping we get an encore with some DLC.
Slay the Spire cleverly mixes the roguelite and card game genres, bringing with it a deep and satisfying strategy layer that encourages you to experiment over the course of a multitude of runs to the top of the tower. I can only hope that it continues to see regular updates, because it's already one of my favorite games of 2019.
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.
Observation has no trouble grabbing you from the go, with gripping central mysteries and questions that demand answers. Painstaking progress through even the simplest commands and instructions counteract any sense of progress in Observation, and ultimately dilutes and cheapens the experience.
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 newly introduced cooperative puzzles and some of the new concepts are where BoxBoy + BoxGirl shine the brightest, like a yellow laser striking down pain. Even with a bit too much of a samey feel now four games in, and some performance issues when the levels and abilities get complex, BoxBoy + BoxGirl is a swell puzzle outing for the Switch.
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.