2015’s Hand of Fate from Defiant Entertainment was one of those genuinely wonderful surprises, a game that came out of nowhere with a small budget and a loving team who had a concept they wanted to turn into a reality. So over two years later we’ve got a sequel, and like the first game it has come out of nowhere. I didn’t even realize there was going to be a Hand of Fate 2 until the press release stating it was released landed in my inbox. Is this one a wonderful surprise, too?
The mighty Roman Empire is ingrained in my head, such a big role it has played in history. But while many people can envision marching columns of Roman troops conquering everything they came near there are huge swathes of their history that is much lesser known. It’s in one of these lesser-known eras that Numantia has settled its strategic routes, telling a tale firmly entrenched in reality and embellished with a few heroic characters.
A sprawling open-world, microtransactions, RPG levelling mechanics, loot and clusters of mundane side-quests that have been copied and pasted. These, it seems, are the foundations of modern triple-A video game development, the industry pumping them out like there is no tomorrow. And yet here’s is Bethesda and MachineGames putting out a linear, singleplayer FPS without a microtransaction in sight that is easily the best shooter since 2016’s awesome DOOM reboot. It’s almost like you can make a quality game without slapping consumers in the face, isn’t it?
God damn, Warner Bros., you couldn’t just release a game without finding a way to stuff microtransactions into it, could you? Before Shadow of War even hit stores shelves it was revealed that there would be purchasable loot crates, and understandably the Internet was not happy, especially since Warner Bros. had already announced different tiers of the game for you to buy on launch. Having played through the game I can at least confirm that they are optional, but at the same time they’ve clearly influenced the design as the end-game is a brutal slog in order to get a second ending that feels as though it was made with the sole intention of pushing players toward spending real cash. It’s a shame because these microtransactions cash a shadow (see what I did there, eh? EH!?) across what is otherwise a very fun title.
In Party Hard Tycoon your job is to run a business planning and hosting kickass parties across a variety of locations from abandoned buildings to tiny clubs to tropical beaches and even lavish casinos. Launching on October 19th as an Early Access title this is the game that finally lets you live out your dreams of picking out which absurdly large speaker to use. Hint: the biggest one.
On paper, Raid: World War II sounds like a good idea: four players work together to attack German forces while snagging any Nazi gold they come across, their secret work sanctioned by the army who will quietly ignore any missing loot provided the squad does some serious damage along the way. Toss in comedic scenes FMV of Hitler in a rage and the legend that is John Cleese and you have something that shouldn’t fail. Right? Wrong.
Oh, adventure games! As a colossal part of my childhood, their modern resurgence has done my heart good. Suddenly we’re back to the days of witty dialogue, fun puzzles and mad stories complete with modern graphics. The downside of this comeback, though, is that it also shows how little adventure games have really come over the years. Darkestville Castle is a prime example of this, a point and click title that has the witty dialogue, fun puzzles and mad stories complete with modern graphics, but that doesn’t ultimately feel any different from something like Monkey Island released all those years ago.
Divinity: Original Sin was something of a surprise hit, the RPG managing to once again prove triple A developers wrong by crafting a game on a budget that went on to sell extremely well. It just goes to show that if you don’t try to please everyone, gear your product toward a certain market and be sensible with your budget you can create something amazing that turns a profit. Now Larian are back with a sequel, and man is it all kinds of awesome. Best RPG since The Witcher 3? Best RPG since The Witcher 3.
Videogames don’t often affect me emotionally outside of making me annoyed or happy because I’m having fun. But The Last Day of June hit me in the feels. There weren’t any tears, yet I did walk away in a contemplative frame of mind. I was invested in the story it wanted to tell, a story of heartfelt love and terrible loss, of learning to accept, of sacrifice and of grief.
I’ve talked before about how some games can surprise you before in other reviews. Sure, it’s nice to be confident that a game is going to be good ahead of time and then to have your assumptions justified once you finally play it, but that never manages to capture the same sense of elation as a game coming out of nowhere and blowing you away can. That’s how I feel about Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock from Black Lab Games. I heard about it many moons ago, thought little of it and then was mildly surprised to get review code come through a few days before launch. I was even more surprised when I played it.