It's not hard to argue that Dragon Quest XI is the best in the series, but this is for a series that isn't exactly known for its innovations. Its core gameplay loop still feels like something from over a decade a go, but there's such a high level of polish as well as small improvements and changes that the game still is fun to play. There's no denying that it appeals almost entirely to an already-existing fanbase, but there's no denying that, for what Dragon Quest XI does, it does well.
I like Conan Exiles. I’ve dumped at least four hundred hours into exploring and escaping the Exiled Lands. But there are so many fundamental issues with the experience. The game is a time sink on the level of an MMO and has just about as much repetition. It’s just a draining, exhausting experience. Other players can alleviate the strain but they’re just as apt to make it even worse.
No matter how much fun I have while playing the game, State of Decay 2 is just a huge mess in its current condition. It’s a shame too since everything else about State of Decay 2 is so much better than the first. But all of that promise falls apart if you’re constantly assailed by bugs and glitches while also being hammered by repetitive quests and infestations. It just kind of glomps together into one gigantic mess of a game that actively fights against you enjoying it.
The Alliance Alive comes with a lot of interesting ideas, such as character growth without experience points or levels, a lot of tactical choices, and a skill system that's based around specialization. Unfortunately, it doesn't really do a good job at creating a lot of depth in the gameplay with these mechanics, instead creating a number of pitfalls in its execution that leave a lot to be desired as you play the game.
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life brings a new look to the series, showcasing off what the series really could look and feel like. Unfortunately in the process a lot of content is missing, making it feel like the game's lacking something small, yet important. That said, a story that hits closer to Kiryu's heart, combined with some interesting new characters and smoother gameplay, still make for a game that stands out on the console.
The Etrian Odyssey series started with few frills - go into a dungeon and clear it floor by floor. The fifth core game in its series has gone back to these roots, removing extraneous gameplay elements and focusing on a single, multi-tiered dungeon exploration experience - but while also adding layers of depth in its character growth, culminating in a satisfyingly complex experience that will have you venturing deeper and deeper to see exactly how well your party options will pan out against the next foe.
A lot of effort went into Blood Bowl 2, the Legendary Edition even more so. Beautiful graphics, humorous voice acting and a glut of options make for a game that is even more appealing than the table top. Something has been lost in the transfer, mostly the experience of playing with close friends. But if you don’t mind a somewhat spiteful dice roller there’s a lot of fun, and content, to be had here. Just… try not to get too attached to anyone.
Where Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, spent numerous hours creating a world lacking in characters with much, if any depth, and a plot in which little happened, Mask of Truth gives a second half of the tale that actually creates interesting situations, protagonists, and battles, improving upon what came before in numerous ways.
Pillars of Eternity is an amazing game. There was no point in the one hundred plus hours of playing it that something really annoyed me beyond a few minor control quabbles. A few disappointments and difficulty bumps mar the experience but nowhere near enough to negatively impact my enjoyment. Obsidian has managed to make a classic RPG that will be talked about for years to come.
It will test your skills. It will test your nerves. But Cuphead is a game this generation deserves.
Yakuza Kiwami, a remake of the original Yakuza, lets you see exactly how Kiryu Kazuma started on his path. Remade from the ground up using Yakuza 0's engine, it certainly looks almost unrecognizable from its original release. That said, so much content, from minigames, to characters, to combat mechancis, seem lifted from Yakuza 0 directly, making the game as a whole feel like like a standalone release, and more like a big piece of story-based downloadable content. So, while giving a good experience on its own, those who have played Yakuza 0 will find less new content to enjoy here.
If I really had to boil Aven Colony down into one word, that word would be relaxing. It’s not the most aggressively deep strategy game on the market nor the most difficult. This is a game that is content to let you sit back, enjoy the music and build an awesome colony on an alien planet. Sometimes that’s really all you want for your money. If you’re coming into this expecting a very deep, challenging experience you will very likely leave disappointed.
West of Loathing is a game where you use a pickaxe to find meat in the ground, where shovelling manure earns you experience points, and where every haystack holds a needle. It's a game where you punch cows and sling beans, dicker with merchants, and fight evil rodeo clowns. It's got some rough mechanics, but it's a heck of an experience.
It's hard to recommend Valkyria Revolution to anyone - billed as a spin-off of the cult hit Valkyria Chronicles, it presents squad-based gameplay as a more action-oriented affair. But it doesn't do a good job of translating the gameplay or the feel of executing a plan on the battlefield. Instead, a thin, repetitive veneer of gameplay remains, with little to draw in anyone looking for a good experience.
What infuriates me is that The Surge isn’t a terrible game. Realistically speaking it’s a better than average game. It looks great, sounds rather good and is clearly a labor of love. But it’s also a hollow, joyless experience that doesn’t stick with the player. The game provides no mythos to chew on, no interesting concepts to discuss with your fellow players. Months from now the only part of this game I’ll remember is the song that plays during the visits to the Med-Bay.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is a mouthful to say but delivers nothing tangible in its experience. As a visual novel, it lacks depth in most of its plot and gives no choices for the player to make. As a tactics game, it fails to give an experience that makes you feel like your choices in combat matter beyond simply hitting the enemy with whatever attack you have. Additionally, it's objectivication and sexualization of nearly every female character in the game made for an experience that I didn't want anyone to see me playing.
Overall though Prey is one of the best games out there right now. It has just about everything that you could ask for from an action-adventure game. The story is gripping and has a surprising depth to it. You’ve got a bevy of equipment, powers and tools to explore the station with. Your enemies are smart, dangerous and numerous. All of this comes together to create a fantastic experience and comes highly recommended.
There isn't much good to say about The Caligula Effect, except that it sounds a lot more fun than it is to play. While there are certainly some elements within the game that are enjoyable, those elements are few and far between - whether it's the chaotic (not in a good way) battles, the meandering and pointless dungeons, or the story that just sort of plods slowly forward with little purpose, it's a game that can easily be passed up.
Persona 5 has been a long time coming, but it's worth the wait - with a ton of ways to spend your time in game, hand-crafted dungeons, improved combat, and more characters to get to know and grow your social links with, it's a hell of a compelling experience. Despite some dialogue that gets creepy and weird at times, Persona 5 is a stunning RPG that's sure to be remembered for quite some time.
What this means is that while Tides of Numenera is a well written experience it has glaring issues. How these issues hamper your experience will vary depending on who you are and how you play your games. If you’re of the mind that combat is unimportant and the writing compensates for the weakness of the NPC’s, great! This will be a winner for you. But if you’re someone who likes having combat as an option and well written NPC companions? You're going to have a more critical experience. Even that said this is an experience any cRPG fan should have at least once. The experience, warts and all, is well worth giving it that chance.