There’s only one way to win in Battlerite, and that’s by directly taking down the enemy team. Behind the colorful art style is a free-to-play MOBA crafted specifically for intense, ultra-competitive teamfights. Its solid balance, skill-based combat, and ever-growing cast of champions go a long way to ensure every trip to the arena breathed new life into each match and kept me coming back for more.
The first thing I noticed when I hopped into Battlerite was that, much like its now-defunct predecessor Bloodline Champions, it condenses much of what I love about MOBAs into a faster-paced format. Long gone are elements like lanes of automated minions and critical hits; in are WASD movement and a laser focus on engaging combat. It may seem like MOBA blasphemy, but cutting out the extras and focusing on teamfighting makes each match feel like a quick cage fight rather than an hour-long endurance test.
It’s always a great feeling when I can jump into a turn-based tactical wargame like Tiny Metal and feel like I’m winning battles by analyzing the scenario and making the best use of my tools. That feeling deflates, however, when I realize the AI can’t put up a good fight to (literally) save its life. Where this anime-inspired strategy excursion succeeds in personality and unit diversity, it misses the mark in trying to present interesting challenges, and again when trying to frame them with a meaningful story.
Billed as a successor to the Nintendo DS’ highly rated Advance Wars franchise, Tiny Metal follows that formula faithfully while avoiding some of its pitfalls like “puzzle missions” that had only one really valid way to win. You move a versatile toolbox of infantry, tanks, and aircraft with varying speeds and combat stats around a grid with the ultimate objective of capturing the enemy’s HQ building or destroying all of their forces. All the while, you vie for control of resource-generating cities and unit-producing factories on the map which can only be captured by infantry, keeping weaker, early-game units interesting and essential to protect throughout a match.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t invent the last-person-standing formula that’s made it one of the most massively successful PC games in history, but – over the course of a nine-month-long early access period – it certainly turned it into something special. 100 players drop onto a sprawling map and fight to the death using whatever weapons they can find within a shrinking force-field. This simple, bare-bones take on the Battle Royale-style deathmatch foregoes the fluff and high time investment of most hardcore survival sims in favor of fast, accessible action. The result is a tight, focused, no-frills experience that’s as exciting as it is unpredictable, and where no two games are ever alike.
The final act of Life is Strange: Before The Storm is so caught up in the interesting question of whether the truth is better than a lie if the truth only causes pain that most other things Chloe Price has been dealing with are hastily pushed out of the way. The theme is present in both the small, inconsequential choices and the path-dividing decisions presented throughout this chapter. This motif constantly challenges Chloe to question her angsty, black-and-white, no-BS views. This episode, called Hell Is Empty, asks us over and over again what justifies deceit and, if it was fine once, why not again? If dead suns can be beautiful stars, can bad people be good fathers? This constant barrage picks away at her resolve and builds into a final choice where no answer feels completely right or wrong. This constant lump of grey uncertainty in your throat brings the story to a deserving though abrupt close.
With Saturn looming above me and the labyrinth of a sprawling space station below me, I can't stop thinking about Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. Dreadnought’s space combat is literally worlds away from the galleons and sabers of Ubisoft's pirate epic, but it delivers the same nautical warfare satisfaction when I pull up one of the hulking titular ships alongside another dreadnought and let the broadside cannons erupt in a blaze of glory. I miss swinging abroad and taking the vessel for myself, but Dreadnought makes up for that with some Trekkie tech like cloaking devices and warp jumps.
That’s the kind of fun Dreadnought delivers in its finest moments. It’s a free-to-play, team-based PvP-focused area shooter in the style of World of Tanks, with its biggest and most distinctive difference being that it’s set in space. It thrives on the same type of slow, cooperative play that keeps Wargaming’s WW2 shooter appealing almost in spite of itself, while at the same time adding some depth in the form of vertical play allowed by the ships’ disregard for gravity.
As a puzzle game, Bridge Constructor Portal comes as a breath of fresh air. Its Lemmings-like rules are simple and intuitive, but mesh together to create a lot of interesting depth and challenge. Plus, getting to revisit Aperture Laboratories in some form for one of the few times since 2011’s Portal 2 was a welcome treat.
The dubious science to be done in Bridge Constructor Portal involves safely guiding a vehicle with its gas pedal permanently floored across a set of clever obstacles to an exit point using metal girders and suspension wires to – as the name suggests – construct bridges. The challenging part is that the bridges, ramps, and towers you lay down can only attach to the level at set anchor points, and the realistic physics system requires that you distribute weight efficiently so that they’re able to hold up under stress.
It's been a year of big surprises on small devices. I was already impressed when Bethesda showed us that you could put something as graphically intensive as the new Doom on the diminutive Nintendo Switch, but Aspyr has accomplished something almost as commendable with its wonderful iPad port of Sid Meier's Civilization VI that makes it worth reconsidering the idea that phone and tablet games shouldn’t cost as much as PC and console counterparts.
It's a bigger deal than it may sound like. Card games like Hearthstone and Elder Scrolls Legends have made successful leaps from the PC to the iPad, but for the most part iPad ports consist of old games like Baldur's Gate II or relatively simple ones like Limbo or FTL: Faster Than Light. Lately we’ve also seen ports of some of IGN’s top-rated PC and console games including The Witness and Inside, but Civilization VI represents something far more mechanically complex than any of them.
Walking through the ruins of Boston in Fallout 4 VR is a sobering experience that makes the post-nuclear world feel that much more real. Fallout 4 clearly wasn’t built for this, as the troublesome Pip Boy menu system demonstrates all too well, but you can get around and defend yourself well enough that if you love Fallout and have a high-end PC and an HTC Vive, it’s hard to say no to.
Given the sky-high system requirements of a GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD RX Vega 56, it’s not all that surprising that Fallout 4 looks pretty respectable in VR. Far fewer knobs had to be turned to their lowest setting here than in Skyrim VR on the PlayStation 4, and while Fallout 4 was never a cutting-edge game when it comes to graphics, character models, textures, and draw distances are only a little bit below where I remembered them. I did have a few stutters on hardware above the requirements (a GTX 1080), but those appear to be limited to certain areas – such as Vault 111, which doesn’t make the best first impression. But it soon smoothed out, and for the most part played as expected.
Beating a level in Opus Magnum is just the beginning. Sure, I built a machine to assemble that level’s target product, but how do I make it better? How do I make that machine of pistons, moving arms, and base components cheaper, smaller, or more efficient? It’s questions like this that literally kept me up at night, and what makes Opus Magnum one of the most captivating puzzle games I’ve ever played.
It’s set in a stylish, pseudo-futuristic fantasy world where alchemy is a fundamental part of life and, with a little thought, devices can turn water to fuel, lead to gold, and a whole lot more. The machines you build move and shift with satisfying, mechanical clunks that help make the 2D art pop as they operate. That mix of science and magic reinforces the idea that anything is possible, but it’s going to take work to figure out how.
Despite all its acclaim, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series that ran from 2004 to 2009 has been severely underrepresented when it comes to quality games. Similarly, recent choices for space-based strategy games have been limited too, especially if you aren’t looking for a 4X experience. But Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock solves all of these issues single-handedly, with tactical-strategy gameplay featuring Cylons, Vipers, and Battlestars. The best surprise, though, is that it’s all of that and a good game.
Deadlock is a cleverly designed space combat game layered on top of a challenging resource-management simulation. In this regard, Deadlock echos what makes games like XCOM so addictive: the ships you manage from a strategic perspective are the same ones you command in combat, so decisions made in one phase have significant impacts on the other. For instance, spending resources on a fleet officer might enhance a ship’s firepower in combat, but lose that ship and you will have a harder time tackling future missions. It’s a formula that’s worked in other games, and works just as well here.
If The Champions’ Ballad is indeed the last new content we see for Breath of the Wild, it doesn’t feel like much of a send-off. This web of new overworld trials and Shrines is strung together by some fairly throwaway backstory, and its rewards are minimal. And yet, as it came to a close, it was what I'd played, not the story I'd been told, that shone through. I'd just been given 8 more stellar hours of one of the best games ever made. This isn't a goodbye from Hyrule, it's a nudge to return there.
While it’s teed up as story-focused DLC, The Champions’ Ballad feels much more akin to the first DLC pack, The Master Trials, in structure. It’s definitively endgame material, focused on challenging players who think they’ve mastered Breath of the Wild’s beautifully tessellated systems.
The almost entirely sparse and dull content of Curse of Osiris for Destiny 2 makes it one of the most disappointing Destiny additions to date. It includes a brief two- to three-hour campaign with a hollow story, a tiny public space with little to do, and two new multiplayer maps (three on PlayStation 4). Its only saving grace is the fantastic Raid Lair activity, which offers real challenges, unique puzzles, and high-level loot.
The unexciting campaign takes you inside the new Infinite Forest area of Mercury (when you’re not completing a fetch quest on one of the existing destinations) and extends itself by including the two new Strikes, called A Garden World and Tree of Probabilities, within the nine total missions. These Strikes are the best portion of the campaign, thanks to time-traveling jaunts through moments that present a glimpse of Mercury when it was a much more lush, vibrant, and inviting place to visit.
When I was a kid, I had a pair of creepy, reclusive neighbors who lived next door and greeted everyone with a sneer. My imagination spent a lot of time constructing what kind of weird stuff might actually be going on in their shuttered, suburban home - so the premise of Hello Neighbor was enticing because it was practically out of my autobiography. As the plucky, unnamed child protagonist, you hear and see some disturbing things through your strange middle-aged neighbor’s window and take it upon yourself to investigate. Unfortunately, the most disturbing thing you find within ends up being the puzzle design.
Hello Neighbor is essentially a stealth game in which the ultimate goal of each of its three acts is to find a way into the neighbor’s basement and uncover what he’s hiding while he roams around trying to catch you and kick you out. However, because the house’s floor plan gets larger and more elaborate across each of the acts, it creates some pacing issues and a strange inverse difficulty curve where stealth is much harder to maintain in the beginning. Act 1’s modest cottage, for instance, was a pain to infiltrate due to the sheer lack of space between me and the neighbor. He was always practically on top of me, and getting caught was very common, even with cabinets to hide in and the ability to slow him down by throwing objects in his path. This served to really dull the tension - a...
In my review of WWE 2K18 on the other platforms, I had a mostly positive experience with the still-solid wrestling gameplay but criticized it for not addressing the modes and features that needed the most work after WWE 2K17, and for the especially underwhelming MyCareer and Universe Modes. I gave it a 7.0, for Good. Unfortunately, the Switch version of WWE 2K18 is an inconsistent, buggy mess, and even if the wrestling was as strong as Mark Henry, it still wouldn’t save what is one of the worst ports in the Switch’s library.
It’s to be expected that a Switch port of WWE 2K18 would have a pretty dramatic graphical downgrade, and sure enough, wrestlers look much less detailed, there’s not as much animation in the crowd, and various lighting and other visual effects are turned off. It’s noticeable at first, especially coming from the other versions, but I got used to it quickly. The big problem with WWE 2K18 on the Switch is that even with the graphical downgrade, it still performs terribly.
With a beautiful art style and dynamic twin-stick combat, Nine Parchments is a dungeon crawler that shines best in a co-op group of up to four players. However, with such a shallow pool of loot to change things up for repeated playthroughs, this action RPG leans a little bit on the repetitive side.
Nine Parchments tells a light story of a group of drop-out wizard apprentices who’ve decided to skip their normal training regimen for a quick path to power by gathering artifacts. Its whimsical tone is very similar to developer Frozenbyte’s charming Trine trilogy, which makes sense because Nine Parchments shares the same fantasy universe.
What makes Nine Parchments stand out from most other top-down shooters is its combat, which is all about zipping around the screen with a fun and useful blink teleport as you blast away at foes with an assortment of potent spells.
When I initially reviewed Rocket League on PlayStation 4 and PC in 2015, and Xbox One in 2016, I gave it an 8.0 for “Great.” Here’s what I said then:
“Whether it’s online casual or ranked matches, no-pressure exhibitions, split-screen local co-op with up to four players, or an intense 36-week season mode, Rocket League is all about getting into the next throttle-pounding match as fast as possible. Unfortunately, servers are still struggling, which means your mileage may vary day-to-day when it comes to online features. But the silver lining is the mostly formidable AI can make even offline matches interesting and tense. The execution of this simple idea is so strong and so engaging that it keeps bringing me back, time and time again, for just one more match.” (Read the archived original Rocket League review.)
I mostly enjoyed my time with The Surge (read the full review) when it came out back in May, and I’m glad to have an excuse to jump back into its bleak-yet-bright sci-fi world. While the A Walk in the Park DLC might not add much to or dramatically change up the gameplay, it offers more of the same solid combat and exploration in a colorfully creepy new setting.
A Walk in the Park retroactively inserts its new area early into the existing storyline (near the beginning, so if you start a new campaign or New Game + you don’t have to go far to see it), essentially adding an optional six- to eight-hour side mission. Building on The Surge’s tale of robots run amok, it takes some cues from Westworld, The Simpsons, and Jurassic Park and sends you into Creo World, an oh-so-cleverly-named amusement park that serves as a “fun zone” for Creo’s employees.
Disclosure: Humble Bundle (which is owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of IGN) is either the publisher or financier of this game and may receive a commission or fee in connection with sales. Humble Bundle and IGN operate completely independently, and no special consideration is given to Humble Bundle-published or financed games for coverage or scoring.
Like so many games, Seven: The Days Long Gone sounds like a great idea on paper. Take the action-RPG gameplay of Diablo, give plenty of options for stealth, and add jumping and climbing to the mix for an acrobatic flourish. It just fails to stick the landing.
Update: Since publishing this review, I’ve been made aware of a couple of errors in the original text. Firstly, Bluetooth speakers can be connected simultaneously with the DropMix board - I appear to have run into a bug during testing (it’s unclear whether this is a problem with the DropMix app or iOS).
Secondly, and more importantly, DropMix’s smaller booster packs are not sold blind. While it’s not made clear on the packaging, Discover packs are distinct sets of cards, marked out by the different illustration shown on the front of each pack. Buying different packs will never result in a duplicate card. Clearly, more needs to be done to inform potential buyers what they’re getting, but the point stands that one of my key concerns is far less problematic than I’d at first assumed.
Not so long ago I would’ve balked at the idea of living inside a stomach. Yet, after dozens of hours of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I've fallen in love with the kingdom of Uraya’s vibrantly colored forests and cascading, strangely tinted waterfalls. It’s but one of the massive living Titans that serve as floating islands or continents and home to the citizens of the ocean world of Alrest and the setting of this impressively large role-playing game. Much like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 itself, they grow more interesting the further you venture inside them.
You see most of this through the eyes of Rex, a young man initially found making his living by sifting through the junk of dead civilizations on the ocean floor. His boundless optimism somehow never gets annoying, perhaps thanks in part to the excellent English voice acting for him and virtually every character in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. (For purists, a Japanese language pack is available for download at launch.) It's not long, though, before Rex finds himself permanently bound in a symbiotic relationship with a sentient living weapon known as a Blade – one of the most powerful his world has ever known.