Kingdom Come: Deliverance
"Kingdom Come is a mess of bugs, and there’s the constant feeling that independent developer Warhorse is biting off more than it can chew. But there’s a charm to its scrappiness, and it does enough interesting stuff that I’m willing to tolerate the creaky framework struggling to prop everything up. It’s one of the most satisfying, rewarding role-playing experiences I’ve enjoyed on PC for a while, but the inconsistent performance and the game’s tendency to completely break does test my patience from time to time."
Verdict: Bugs and performance issues aside, Kingdom Come is a seriously satisfying role-playing experience set in a rich, reactive world.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
"It's frustrating that a sequel would still struggle to nail such simple multiplayer basics, and the obscured RPG progression doesn't entice me the way it does in similar games. But Vermintide 2 succeeds on the merits of its stellar combat and level design. After nearly 40 hours, that Rotblood warhorn signalling a zerg-like rush of raiders, or the sound of a Gutter Runner assassin chattering in the darkness, still turns my blood to ice."
Verdict: Vermintide 2's combat and level design are so feverishly fun that I'll put up with its bad matchmaking and RPG progression if it means chopping more ratmen in half.
Full Metal Furies
"Full Metal Furies' most entertaining idea, though, is the deep set of skill trees and equipment upgrades for each character, which encourage creative experimentation and multi-character combos. At one point, I upgraded my engineer's turret to shoot in every direction at once, locking down a section of the screen with low-damage bullets. While enemies were pinned down, I marched my tank right into the middle of the group and used her special power, a shout that flings victims in every direction. Some poor soul had to scrape chunks of bad guy off the ceiling after that move."
Verdict: An excellent beat-em-up with tons of wit and great combat, Full Metal Furies belongs on any couch co-op playlist.
On balance, I think I slightly prefer Botanicula—its thematic cohesion and more overt musical playfulness resonated with me more. But that takes little away from the many things Chuchel does well. While I rarely found it laugh-out-loud funny, there's a joyfulness to its scenarios that I couldn't help but smile at. And, while it can often feel arbitrarily surreal, it grounds itself well with a central relationship between Chuchel and rodent-ish nemesis Kekel that's heartwarming to watch unfold.
Verdict: Joyful and surprising, even when you're cracking open an anthropomorphised egg.
A Case of Distrust
"The mystery is engaging, and resolves in genre appropriate fashion. Malone's interactions, though basic, are enjoyable—a fulfilling loop of gathering information and using it to put the squeeze on suspects. Moreover, A Cast of Distrust feels atmospheric and evocative—its unique look and sense of style creating a compelling period drama that cuts through the few small missteps and frustrations."
Verdict: A well-formed slice of noir mystery, beautifully presented. Some writing issues aside, A Case of Distrust is well worth your time.
Into the Breach
"For those who loved FTL for its thoughtful and clever design, it’s all here, too. But Into the Breach is a much tighter, more focused game. While there are plenty of weapons to experiment with, pilots with differing abilities to unlock, and level gimmicks to get your head around, you’ll have a very good idea of its breadth in your first run. For some, Into the Breach might lack a sense of mystery and expansiveness, but for me, it’s more than enough to fuel a hundred hours or more of the most consistently rewarding tactics I’ve played in many years."
Verdict: Exacting, agonising, challenging, and intensely rewarding, Into the Breach delivers in the tiniest package the most perfectly formed tactics around.
"It's hard to think of many other games that are this uncompromising in its worldview, and I'm utterly entranced with how little faith it has in our ability to get along. We could build a utopia on this island! We could cast aside our weapons, and construct a peaceful commune where everyone is fed, warm, and loved. I love how Facepunch dangles that potential in front of our face, with no real incentive pushing us in any direction. If we are to dehumanize ourselves, and turn this Eden into a battlefield, we will do it on our own terms. In Rust there is a real sense of complicitness when you eventually succumb to violence, more potent than in any other survival game on the market. Despite the lack of rankings to chase, or K/D to nurture, or exclusive vendors to unlock—despite the unassailable fact that none of this will matter as soon as the server is wiped—we are at war, and we always will be."
Verdict: Rust is a malicious experience rife with betrayal, cruelty and greed. That can make it both frustrating and sublime in equal doses.
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age
"12 sits in an awkward place in the Final Fantasy canon, sandwiched between the FF11 MMO game and the restrictive rebound of Final Fantasy 13. Its opening third does it no favours, and the confused plot never engaged enough to pull me into the inter-kingdom squabbling. If you approach it as a vehicle for party experimentation then it's easy to fast-forward to the quality extra-curricular stuff, like the hunting lodge that lets you fight up through a series of increasingly intense monster battles. The gambit system is so good it deserves to be spun off into its own RPG sub-genre. If you like theorycrafting, clever levelling systems and lavish worlds, this could easily be your new favourite Final Fantasy."
Verdict: A decent port of a great Final Fantasy with one of the cleverest combat systems in RPGs.
Civilization 6: Rise and Fall
"It’s an expansion that homes in on these single moments or specific periods and gives them greater meaning and impact. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to see the big picture, especially when you’re desperately trying to get enough era points and time’s running out. It shakes things up, so it won’t convert everyone, but the added tension and dynamism is a massive boon for a series where the pace can be a bit predictable."
Verdict: Rise and Fall is a great addition to Civilization 6 that doesn’t quite go far enough to be essential.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
"If your impression of all this is one of a game aimed at, and solely at, people who wouldn’t know a super cancel if it smacked them in the face, think again. As you’ll discover once you clear the generous, if insultingly easy, Story mode, and either take on the upper tiers of Arcade mode or head online, this is a game of tremendous complexity. The moves may be easy, but working them into a team of three, finding synergy in assists and supers, is anything but. The CPU AI suddenly turns into a monster with a few dozen tournament wins under its belt, while the online competition is stiff indeed. The game does a wonderful job of easing you in, but a pasting, whether you venture online or not, is as good as inevitable."
Verdict: Accessible yet complex, chaotic yet beautiful, this is the real fighting game deal.
"I have spent nearly 50 hours on my current playthrough and my total playtime is over 120 hours. I am actually still playing (although I did indeed rage quite twice because of the vehicular issues). I have more than 2,000 screenshots of the beautiful world and its strange creatures, and now that the review is over I can go back to meandering at my own pace. It is, without doubt, my favourite game of the last five years."
Verdict: A smattering of technical issues keep Subnautica from true legendary status, but only just.
"Celeste is an adventure about overcoming adversity, and what better way to simulate adversity than with a punishingly difficult platformer? Don’t let that scare you, though. For those who have finished (or almost finished) the likes of Super Meat Boy, 1001 Spikes, and N++, Celeste probably won’t feel difficult at all. And that’s because, crucially, Celeste is a game that feels designed to accommodate people who can’t complete those games. Rather than being hard for its own sake (sometimes, in the right hands, a good thing), Celeste is hard for a reason that dovetails with its themes and narrative. And much like the demons that haunt the game’s protagonist, the difficulty does relent. You will finish this game. But if you’re like me, you’ll die upwards of 3,000 times doing so."
Verdict: An engaging, vibrant and challenging platformer that adds narrative to a genre often shy of it.
"Taking it as a whole, PUBG is an achievement in contradictory brutality and breathing room. It's a hyper-competitive sandbox shooter where you can be killed from half a kilometer away without any warning. It also has an autorun button so you can take a generous bite of your sandwich or shout thanks to your most recent Twitch subscribers. PUBG has plenty of issues to address before it fully exits adolescence, but its mixture of nonchalance and military intensity is deep, respectful of your time, and a reliable war story generator."
Verdict: PUBG takes the tradition of big-map survival games like DayZ and compresses it into digestible, 3-to-30-minute sprints that are reliably scary and low-key.
"Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory."
Verdict: Slick platforming, well-designed puzzles, and a huge, connected world, with occasional moments of frustration.