Footage of a supposed “3rd person open-world action RPG” set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter recently surfaced on Reddit, after a user claimed to have been part of an audience survey relating to the unannounced game. Promising the ability to create your own Hogwarts student and embark on an original adventure taking place before anything yet seen, it prompted equal measures of excitement and doubt from fans.
Order of the Phoenix was a good film tie-in.
I'm aware of the franchise's existence but know little of the subject matter. Having always been an avid reader and a fan of all things fantasy, Harry Potter should be right up my street, though I have no desire to watch the films and would sooner opt to read a pizza menu than any of the books. Of course, when it was first released there were only two wizards in my mind - Rincewind and Gandalf - and we didn't (and still don't) need any more.
That being said, I love open world RPGs and Rowling's tales seem like a perfect fit for the genre. I assume that there's a hefty amount of lore and plenty of stories to tell in that universe, especially given the alleged time frame it takes place in. The ability to create your own character is certainly a plus point and a much more attractive prospect than being stuck playing as the series' milquetoast protagonist.
This would be a great opportunity to win over a new audience with a more adult-oriented take, if they can achieve that without losing the child-friendly appeal.
Half Blood Prince wasn't bad, either.
I loved the Harry Potter books when I was younger, but towards the end of the series, as I hit my late teens, I had grown more cynical about all things magical. I still read every book to completion, but I couldn’t help but wonder why Witches and Wizards were so dismissive of Muggle technology – I’d like to see Voldemort stop a drone strike as easily as he counters a disarming spell. You’re welcome, Mr. Fudge.
It’s something that, however unlikely, I would like to see explored more in an RPG set in the Harry Potter extended universe. Along with Quidditch and Aurors, the secretive balancing act between the magical world and our more mundane one was one of my favourite concepts, more so than lessons in potion brewing and herbology.
If proceedings stay purely fantastical, however, then I’d like to see the developers double down on original stories (maybe even some starring Hogwarts’ ancient founders?) rather than revisiting well-trodden ground. Even though it’d pull an audience in, the world and his Hungarian Horntail already knows the tale of Harry, Voldemort, Dumbledore, et al.
I’m not instantly excited by the idea, but a proper game – not some movie tie-in cash grab – does have potential.
Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 were dire.
As a child who had the pleasure of translating Harry Potter from Latin into English at school, it's fair to say I'm well acquainted with the universe now known as the Wizarding World. While the prospect of more films initially induced a slight eye-roll, in gaming the series as a whole has been criminally underused and under-represented.
The prospect of finally becoming a fledgling wizard and attending Hogwarts is an exciting one then, with childish excitement bubbling up like a fresh batch of Polyjuice Potion.
Whether the reality will do the potential justice is another matter however, with so much lore protected by frenzied fans, whatever era you fancy jumping into. On top of that, how much will you have to specialise to reach the coolest spells? As any casual Dungeons & Dragons player will tell you, it can take a fair few adventures to get to the really tasty stuff.
Hopefully though, this will at least be more accessible than DnD (despite its resurgence in the past few years) and provide a fun entry point. Plus, we'll get to make friends with an owl!
Harry Potter for Kinect was the worst, naturally.
Would you be up for playing a Wizarding World RPG? Let us know in the comments below.
For more Team Talk, check out last week's feature on Telltale Games' best told tales.
Today is PlayStation VR’s second birthday - hooray! The peripheral is now well into its stride, recently giving home to a couple of stellar exclusives in tactical shooter Firewall: Zero Hour and 3D platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Critical darlings were fewer and farther between back at launch, though not unheard of, thanks to the likes of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Thumper, so we turned back the clock and dove into a pile of premier titles to see if we missed any gems amongst the opening deluge.
Here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Intended to be a flagship heavy hitter, RIGS instead floundered as a mid-tier game. Its ambition in marrying broadcast spots and FPS into an all-new virtual reality spectacle is certainly admirable, but also misguided, given that this introductory experience is capable of nauseating even a grizzled VR vet.
Sharp visuals, precise controls and a range of tweakable comfort settings just aren’t enough to save our stomachs on this occasion. You need to tear around arenas at speed, turning and changing elevation on a dime in order to stand any chance of beating even the AI.
There’s really a lot of depth on offer, so it’s a damn shame that keeping RIGS at arm’s length seems to be standard practice; it spent months as a PS+ freebie, yet there’s absolutely nobody competing in the integrated online league.
Tumble VR is proof that simple ideas are often the best executed. The basic premise of playing with building blocks should be familiar to anyone with a childhood to their name, though things do get a little more advanced than chewing the corners and clacking them together.
While Tumble arguably doesn’t make the most exciting use of VR, its 3D environments offer increased spatial awareness and depth perception that no doubt serve as a performance booster when, for example, delicately stacking towers. With the complement of precise motion control and accurate physics, tackling the game’s varied suite of challenges is a simple pleasure.
This touching ‘look and click’ adventure from Uber Entertainment, creators of the underrated Monday Night Combat games, casts you as a young girl on course to save her father after their biplane crash lands on a floating fortress.
It does a great job of utilising perspective, seamlessly switching between multiple camera angles to help convey a very charming and genuine story with sparing use of dialogue.
That being said, it’s really the regular introduction of fun new gameplay mechanics that’ll keep you coming back until you’ve seen the impromptu trip through.
A horror game for all the wrong reasons, Weeping Doll is at least amusingly bad. Its abysmal writing, acting and visual effects inspire laughs at the game’s expense, yet fortunately it ends before the issues stop being funny and start to become overly tedious.
You’ll spend an hour or so awkwardly teleporting around an ugly family home, managing a cumbersome inventory and breezing through puzzles whilst unravelling a by-the-numbers story through weak environmental storytelling.
If you’re a fan of Resident Evil 7, it’s almost worth checking Weeping Doll out to witness the bargain bin implementation of its themes. Almost...
Another from Weeping Doll (and Pixel Gear) developer Oasis Games, Ace Banana doesn’t even begin to flirt with the same ‘so bad it's good’ territory.
You play a bow-wielding banana tasked with defending bunches of baby bananas against waves of monkeys with bad intentions. There’s just one map and one game mode, though enemy and power-up spawns are somewhat shuffled between sessions in a failed attempt to keep things fresh.
Confusion underpins Ace Banana’s poor general execution as well-aimed shots inexplicably miss their mark, certain power-ups have no discernible effect, a lack of audiovisual feedback often makes it unclear as to whether or not you’re actually dealing damage, and, perhaps best of all, the in-game encyclopaedia - which should help to set some of these issues straight - is so poorly translated that discerning useful information is almost impossible.
The game’s insane second boss is an even bigger impasse, making quick work of ourselves and seemingly most others, with only 0.4% of players having beaten the encounter at the time of writing. Tackling it with the help of a friend might help, if only the promised multiplayer update had actually ever materialised…
Here They Lie
Far preferable a spookfest to Weeping Doll, Here They Lie boasts a noir-style presentation and some very adult content that’ll leave you feeling in need of a good scrub.
A raw, sexual focus provides basis for an animalistic horror that can feel both grounded and abstract, with the helpless inability to combat aggressors forcing you to linger on the occult, ritualistic and thoroughly bizarre.
There are multiple paths to the same conclusion, offering a little more freedom than VR games of the time tended to, though, thanks to a post-launch patch, Here They Lie is now also playable on a television. You’ll certainly miss much of the atmosphere in TV mode, and probably all of the “Nope!” moments, but the game’s subtle philosophy should still translate.
Harmonix Music VR
This one’s still a great way to unwind, be that to settle your racing heart after tangling with Here They Lie or following a stressful work day. It’s not really a game, by Harmonix’ own admission, rather an encompassing music visualiser with interactive elements.
Four varied game modes see you relax on a beach that pulses in time to music, effortlessly create neon works of art on a blank 3D canvas (so effortlessly that we were never tempted to fall back on the trusty ol’ penis portrait), hilariously manipulate party-goers to create looping scenes and dance routines, and take a kaleidoscopic trip through a psychedelic representation of a song.
17 included tracks all fit thematically, but more than likely won’t match your taste, so you’ll want to stick some MP3 files onto a USB flash drive in order to import them into the game. This essentially makes Music VR endless, while, even more importantly, providing powerful new ways to interact with pieces of music that are meaningful to you.
Not too shabby, we’re sure you’ll agree. Big names like Rush of Blood and Arkham VR lived up to the hype, whilst plentiful hidden gems - Tumble VR, Wayward Sky, Harmonix Music VR, Here They Lie and Tethered - make it easy to imagine that revisiting the launch lineup for basically any other peripheral wouldn’t be anywhere near as positive an experience.
So, here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
If you’re interested in reading about more launch games, check out our reviews for PlayStation VR Worlds and Super Stardust Ultra VR. For an overview of all our PlayStation VR reviews, head over to our vrgamecritic profile.
Team Talk is our shiny new regular feature, in which Pass the Controller staff come together and voice their opinions on different topics throughout the world of gaming.
Chris | The Wolf Among Us
Despite enjoying The Walking Dead, I wasn't initially sold on The Wolf Among Us. I figured I wasn’t the target audience for a story about fairy tale characters living in the real world, but a free trial did enough to convince me otherwise. Sufficiently intrigued, I purchase the first episode and then immediately bought the season pass upon completing that.
This was a far darker story than I’d expected. Whilst protagonist Bigby Wolf (also known as The Big Bad Wolf) is a reformed character, most of his fellow Fables’ lives are quite tragic and far removed from the cheery tales you may have heard about them as a child. Take Georgie Porgie, who’s a brash loudmouth and pimp operating out of his strip club, the Pudding ‘n’ Pie, or the Woodsman, who once upon a time saved Little Red Riding Hood from Bigby, but is now a hopeless alcoholic.
This is Telltale at their finest, bringing personalities to life and creating an engaging narrative which demands your attention. It's just a shame we'll never get to see how the sequel would’ve panned out.
James | Tales from the Borderlands
In a revelation that will come as no surprise to many, I was never very good at Borderlands. However, the prospect of something a bit more story-y and less shooty was a welcome one; enter Tales from the Borderlands.
One of the first Telltale offerings to bring a dual-protagonist perspective (to my knowledge), with corporate yes man Rhys and hat-wearing rebel Fiona, the game benefited from smart writing and the faithful inclusion of series stalwart Handsome Jack to make everything feel significant and connected in that universe.
Where the Game of Thrones series’ ties felt more like tokenism, here the plot device of having Jack be a projection only experienced by Rhys proves to be far more effective than you'd think, frequently impacting the real world beyond just the character getting weird looks.
The adventure has you discover the origins of Atlas, one of Borderlands’ numerous weapons manufacturers, through a structure - much of the game being retold by a captive Rhys, who can misremember events on purpose - that introduces comedic moments to accompany a lot of genuinely interesting lore which serves to enhance the overall Borderlands canon.
Liam | Game of Thrones & The Wolf Among Us
I’ve never really given Telltale games the chance they probably deserve, though it’s hard to say exactly why that is. Perhaps it’s that their most prominent series, The Walking Dead, centres around a topic that terrifies me to the core.
I can handle the odd bout of Zombies in Call of Duty, or the tongue-in-cheek take on the apocalypse seen in Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, but The Walking Dead’s relentless misery just seems so oppressive.
That’s not to say I’ve had no interaction with Telltale’s work whatsoever; I enjoyed The Wolf Among Us’ alternate take on fairy tale creatures living in a real-world setting, and their Game of Thrones series was a sobering reminder that I could never cut it as a little Lord in Westeros. It’s important to stand up to bullies, just not ones named Ramsay Snow (never Bolton)!
If there’s any personal smidgen of good to be salvaged from this unfortunate situation, it’s that I now feel far more inclined to explore some of Telltale’s back catalogue than I ever did previously. Just nothing starring the undead.
Unlike the rest of the team, I’ve never finished a Telltale series. I’ve played a few bits of The Walking Dead’s first season and have The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones on the old hard drive, but I’ve never really felt compelled to get stuck in.
Similar to Liam, I’m not too sure why I haven’t committed. I’ve always appreciated their unique stylings - the gorgeous visuals, branching narratives and choices that really affect what happens to characters - though I’m often late to the party with games, so will no doubt rectify my wrongs in the not-so-distant future!
With that in mind, it’s been really disappointing to see the way in which the company has collapsed. Huge job losses and (what has been reported to be) a complete lack of severance pay, after talented people worked long hours on apparently unprofitable projects, showcases the dark and difficult side of business. How this can still happen in the modern world is pretty despicable.
Which Telltale series is your favourite? Let us know with a comment.
For more Team Talk, check out last week's debut feature, in which the team discussed the latest gameplay trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2.
Team Talk is our shiny new regular feature, in which Pass the Controller staff come together and voice their opinions on different topics throughout the world of gaming.
Give the trailer a watch if you haven't already.
Heists! Sure it's pushing on an open door given how effective they've been in GTA Online and how salivating the fanbase has been for more, but there's something altogether more authentic about a bank robbery in the Old West.
This trailer specifically emphasises player choice, so it'll be interesting to see if different interactions with NPCs cause significant change or simply prompt transparent alterations to dialogue. Everything Rockstar does is taken to the nth degree in terms of visual fidelity and thinking things through of course, so if any development team can be relied on to give us the real deal, it's them.
Snippets of activities like fishing and playing cards, amongst a few other bits and pieces, don’t do anything for me personally, but it's nice that they’re there for anybody interested.
Dead Eye, arguably the series’ signature party piece, looks absolutely as you might expect. Gunslinging and the associated cool factor will quite possibly be the game’s bread and butter, but references to eating suggest there may be some survival elements, not just RPG-lite aspects as we've often see from Rockstar in the past. If that is the case, might shootouts become slower and more considered affairs?
Redemption 2 is clearly vast and deep, and it feels like there's a lot of scope to make of it what you want, but a wide open map of possibilities can be daunting and overwhelming at the same time. While it could cut down the number of players who make it to the end credits, the lucrative online mode is no doubt the real endgame for Rockstar, so does that even matter?
I'm impressed. Combat looks meaty, as if there's real weight to each blow. Shooting, which I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of, appears to be similarly satisfying. If it plays as good as it looks, it'll be a strong Game of the Year contender.
There's always a plethora of side activities in Rockstar's open-world titles and, for the most part, they’re done the right way. I can, and will, happily ignore the likes of collectibles in any and all games - unless they’re directly on my path or offer some type of gameplay advantage - but I'll no doubt while away hours robbing houses and playing poker.
Cinematic camera angles will be great for taking screenshots, which is now a popular pastime for many gamers, plus I can see myself at least trying out the new first-person mode.
One thing putting me off, which is admittedly unrelated to the trailer, is the game’s massive 105 GB file size. I'm pretty sure I could design and create my own game in the time it’d take me to download that. I'm struggling to think of a decent title though, so that idea’s on hold for now.
I think the thing that impressed me most from the new footage was first-person mode; it didn’t even cross my mind that we might be getting it in RDR2, despite its appearance in GTA V. For some reason, experiencing the Wild West this way just appeals more.
On the other hand, I can definitely see myself taking advantage of the ‘new’ cinematic camera – another feature borrowed from Rockstar’s flagship franchise - for some stunning rides through the rather gorgeous-looking vistas.
The seamless transitions between gameplay and cutscenes look cool, but seemed quite prevalent. Hopefully it’s not something that constantly crops up with every encounter, so as to not keep interrupting dynamic gameplay with scripted moments.
As always, I'll end up skipping most extracurricular activities like poker and eating (if possible), but I did enjoy hunting down bounties in the first game so I’m glad they’re back.
For the sake of balance, I definitely don’t like the idea of the whole bathing malarkey. In a game about robbing trains, bank heists and awesome shootouts, I don’t want to waste time on such mundane tasks. At least in first-person mode I won’t see how filthy I've gotten...
What did you think of the trailer? Let us know in the comments below.
I recently spoke with a friend who we'll call Dave - because that’s his name - who claimed that playing original Xbox or 360 games on a shiny new Xbox One felt wrong in some way. That prompted me to draft this shortlist in order to debunk his nonsense theory, so, basically, here’s a select few games that I think prove Dave a wrong’un.
KOTOR released on the original Xbox way back in 2003, which, in the world of videogames, pretty much makes it an antique. It runs about as well as you'd expect and it won't win any beauty contests, but, it makes up for what it lacks on those fronts with its surprisingly in-depth systems.
Fully exploring the handful of open areas on offer is encouraged, as each location has its own distinctly unique feel and side quests. Players are given free reign when it comes to deciding how they want certain situations to play out, although it can be difficult not to stray towards the dark side when so many folks are susceptible to Jedi mind tricks or will just straight up pay you to leave them alone. Man's gotta eat.
On the surface, this 2D platformer may come across as just another Super Mario clone, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Braid, at its core, is more of a puzzle game with platforming elements.
Tim, the protagonist, has the ability to rewind time, which is essential when it comes to solving many of the game's challenges and erasing any unfortunate deaths. Tim's obsession with undoing his previous mistakes is a trait that becomes integral as the enthralling story unravels, gradually adopting a much darker tone. It’s more than a little bit Manhattan Project-y.
There's even a secret (and very difficult to attain) ending for those with the required patience and dedication, though it’s definitely worth the effort.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Before Skyrim was ported to every single device you own, predecessor Oblivion was top dog in Bethesda Game Studios’ house. It plays in much the same way as its more spritely sibling, but, despite its age, Oblivion is by no means the lesser of the two.
As you’d expect, there are activities aplenty to keep you entertained (or rather distracted) as you march (or rather meander) towards the inevitable final showdown. Guilds offer memorable questlines to anyone that happens to make contact, iconic side quests rival the main story, whilst a generous spattering of Oblivion Gates - portals to a fiery hellscape which must be closed to prevent their demonic denizens from escaping - will have you proudly pushing out your chest as the hero of the realm.
Trials’ simple, physics-based mechanics make it incredibly easy to pick up and play, but, as you progress, environments are deviously built upon to the point that they require savant levels of execution. Beginner tracks require little more than an understanding of the basic premise - get from A to B quick and clean - though before too long you're expected to pull off aerobatic manoeuvres that shouldn't be possible on a bike.
There's an unequivocal feeling of achievement to be taken from just shaving a few seconds off your best time and knowing, should he choose to embrace backwards compatibility, that Dave will never best me on the leaderboards. Isn't that what friendships are really all about?
The inclusion of a track editor increases the game's longevity by a huge margin, especially since many community creations play so well that they seemingly could’ve been designed by developer Red Lynx themselves.
Was Dave wrong to doubt the viability of Xbox One backwards compatibility? Have any of these suggestions convinced you to revisit a classic? Let us know and share your own picks in the comments below.
The recent double drop of Earthfall and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 saw an unprecedented peak of interest in frenetic cooperative action games here at PTC towers, with Sam even pitting the two against each other to see which is the better romp through an apocalyptic world for you and your friends.
The Lord of the Rings
Squint whilst playing Vermintide 2 and you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a slice of Middle-earth, rather than high Warhammer fantasy. Axe-wielding Dwarves? Check. Large hordes of repugnant enemies? Yep. Towering baddies bringing about the end of days? It’s got ‘em.
No doubt there are modders out there capable of giving Fatshark’s latest effort a Middle-earth makeover on PC, but it’d be great to see the supremely satisfying melee combat of Vermintide 2 officially melded with Tolkien lore.
Any of the franchise’s signature set pieces – the mad dash through the infested mines of Moria, the desperate battle in the woods around Parth Galen, or, perhaps most excitingly of all, the siege of Helm’s Deep – would make perfect settings for epic co-op action, plus the world is rich enough in factions and heroes for there to be any number of enemies and playable characters, each with their own unique weapons and abilities.
Aliens vs. Predator
As was made evident in the infamous Aliens: Colonial Marines, and to a lesser extent the human campaign of 2010’s Aliens vs. Predator, turning H.R. Giger’s terrifying, eight-foot-tall space ants into mindless fodder, easily knocked back and culled by puny humans, all but eradicates their mystique.
Ditching the human element in favour of Predators would make much more sense in any L4D-style iteration; not only do they have a bespoke arsenal of melee and ranged gadgetry, but, most importantly, their natural physique means they’re feasibly able to hang with the iconic, interstellar monstrosities in close-quarters combat.
Before there was the Covenant and the Master Chief, there was the Flood. Coming up against this parasitic life form in the original Halo was almost like a precursor to the L4D games themselves. Agile, deadly, and with a nasty habit of attacking in numbers, the Flood and their various forms are basically already tailored to the genre.
A campaign focussed on the Forerunners’ desperate war to stop them could be an awesome way to both reinvigorate an ageing franchise and explore some of the lesser known lore that’s only really been significantly touched upon in the expanded universe.
Plus, the Forerunners’ advanced array of technology means there’s no shortage of badass weaponry to play with. You could even have Monitors fill in if you’re short on co-op partners for added immersion.
So, those were just a few franchises we think would look good wearing a Left 4 Dead skin. What do you think of our choices? Are there any we missed that’d be perfectly suited to the genre? Let us know below or sound off in the forums.
2017 was a pretty great year for games, wasn’t it? Games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Wolfenstein 2 were just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating new Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi titles for the Switch, not to mention a potential new Pokémon game, as well as the remastered versions of Bayonetta 1 and 2 that are just around the corner. With a fresh suite of reveals from the recent Mini Direct topping things off, Ninty look set for another strong year.
With yet more exclusives and, of course, an endless supply of multi-platform releases on the horizon, allow me to present my picks of the bunch to help focus those wandering eyes.
The Last of Us Part 2
A bit of a cheat pick straight out of the gate, I know, as it isn’t confirmed to be releasing this year, but a girl can dream, no?
I was unfashionably late to the PlayStation 3 party, finally getting one after watching a trailer for what I deemed at the time to be a Western Resident Evil, without the awful voice acting and story that has often gone hand-in-hand with the (in)famous Japanese series.
The game turned out to be a great deal more than that, combining stealth gameplay and brutal combat with fully-formed characters and a story that far surpassed the usual zombie apocalypse garbage. The multiplayer was pretty damn good, too.
The two trailers released thus far by developer Naughty Dog have shown a glimpse of returning characters Joel and Ellie, alongside some newbies and one helluva lot of violence. Fingers crossed we get to continue this story by the end of the year!
Sea of Thieves
I grew up on Rare’s marvellous Nintendo 64 years - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, et al - but have to be honest when I say, I haven’t enjoyed a great deal of their Microsoft output in the ensuing years. This all looks set to change with the colourful pirate plundering of Sea of Thieves.
Band together with a shoal of chums, hitting the high-seas in a quest for treasure, adventure, cannon and cutlass-based skirmishes, and a good few tankards of grog!
Personally, this is exactly the kind of fun-filled experience I was looking for when I climbed aboard the good ship Xbox back in 2016, so I can’t stress how much I’m looking forward to getting lost in Sea of Thieves’ world with the PTC mob.
The granddaddy of open-world RPGs finally returns, after way too many years in the wilderness.
Regular visitors to PTC may recall my plea for remastered versions of the original two games after part three was first announced, and although things have been quiet on that front, 2018 seems to be the year that we’ll finish Ryo Hazuki’s slow-burn quest to avenge his Father’s death.
A truly groundbreaking game on release in 1999, Shenmue set the precedent for open world adventure/RPG titles. The main quest was fleshed out beautifully with a brilliant Virtua Fighter-influenced combat system, side quests and mini-games to play, along with some of the most unintentionally amusing script writing and delivery of all time.
For me, these extras are as vital as the story and combat, so here’s praying Yu Suzuki and his team get it right and we finally get to duff-up that bastard Lan-Di, with or without sailors.
Charming art, beautiful music, a rich colour palette and an isometric viewpoint; I could easily be talking about any of the top-down Zelda games, but it’s a different adventure I’m most looking forward to in indie-land this year.
You’ll be exploring a massive world as a little fox, encountering baddies to battle, secrets to search for and puzzles to ponder. What’s really impressive here is that the bulk of the work has been done by one man: Andrew Shouldice. Check out the first of his developer updates and try not to be impressed by what you see. I can’t wait to delve deeper into Tunic later in the year.
Intelligent Systems, a Nintendo second-party studio, are famous for their output in the world of strategy RPGs, most namely with the fantastic Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series’. Both of these great franchises are a clear influence on Chucklefish Games’ Wargroove, a pixel art strategy title releasing across the major platforms.
The game promises an impressive twelve different campaigns, in which you’ll select a commander to follow from one of the four warring factions. Combine this with full co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer, as well as a map creation suite, and it really does seem like a generous package.
Having sampled the game at last year’s Rezzed, I can tell you first-hand how ruddy good it is. I got thoroughly lost in its world, art and gameplay, even going as far as to go back and replay it. Being an indie game, it’s very likely that Wargroove will launch at an attractive price point, providing yet another reason to take a look when it launches early this year.
Keep your eyes open for more from us on all of the games mentioned above, but, most importantly, have a happy new gaming year, folks!
I must admit, chums, I find end of year lists rather hard to compile. The reason in chief here is that I don’t often get around to playing all of the major releases that I would’ve liked to - it’s a hard knock world, I know - be it down to life or simply not owning the hardware (sorry Super Mario Odyssey).
Yeah, yeah, I know: most folks find sports sims as interesting as spending the afternoon with their spouses’ family, but for me, Ashes Cricket is the best sports game released this year. Dirt 4 came close with it’s rambunctious rallying, but the pure joy of putting my own stamp on a fully licensed Ashes series is just too glorious to deny.
Aussie developer Big Ant builds on the disappointing Don Bradman Cricket 17 with improved visuals, motion capture and audio, to create a game that offers up a grand experience to both the cricketing pro and novice. To do so on a budget the size of titans EA Sports’ biscuit account is even more impressive.
4. World to the West
I first sampled World to the West at this year’s rezzed, and I have to admit, I found it an average adventure during my first foray into its universe. How wrong I was, as the game world turned out to be one of my favourite of not only this year, but this console generation so far.
The game sees you switching between four main characters (a mind control expert, an aristocratic strongman, a shovel-wielding child and a teslamancer) to explore the lush, cel-shaded world, solve puzzles and fight bosses. It’s charming, fun, full of things to do, and sticks just the right side of inspiration over parody with its use of Zelda and Metroid staples - what more could you want?
3. Stardew Valley
I’d been fretting over the choice of Sundered or Hellblade for the final spot on this list, but when I picked up ConcernedApe’s fair farming simulator that ceased to be an issue. I’d always fancied trying Harvest Moon, and here was a modern equivalent that was affordable (£14.99 or less UK-ers) and that I could easily pass off to the girlfriend if it failed to grip me...
Well, it gripped both of us, chums, and its stranglehold is yet to weaken. From the chunky SNES-style visuals, to the many, many side quests, to the pleasure of watching your farming empire rise from a few parsnip seeds - grazie Mayor Lewis - to trying to find a wife/husband by bribing them with gifts, every aspect of the game is truly joyous. If you have children or needy animals be warned, mind: Stardew Valley is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played!
2. Serial Cleaner
In any other year - naughty Zelda - Serial Cleaner would be walking away with the title here, without question. The premise is simple: you are hired to clean crime scenes of bodies, evidence and blood, without being caught by the rozzers.
Serial Cleaner is, for me, one of the few independently made games to take a fabulous idea and actually compress it into a fully formed diamond. Its simple premise is fleshed out with superb comic book-style visuals, a hilarious 70s setting (complete with costumes, disco and nods to infamous serial killers of the time), easy-to-understand-yet-constantly-evolving gameplay, and the best cop show soundtrack of all time. The indie game of the year for me, without question!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said, honestly. Zelda has always had a special place in my heart, mainly down to the wonderful blend of quality gameplay, wistful story and guaranteed ethereal, beautiful music. Breath of the Wild boasts all of these, and though I found the dungeons and final boss fight a little disappointing compared to the genre/childhood defining Ocarina of Time, there’s no denying just how glorious an experience the game was - and still is - overall.
There are moments of wonder at every single corner, from the way the beautiful, cel-shaded (I think I might have a thing for this graphical style…) grass moves in the wind, to the goosebumps that I feel every time a soft piano riff suddenly creeps in, to the depth of the game’s crafting and cooking systems. The sheer amount of freedom on offer it staggering, and really does make up for the ever-so-slightly underwhelming aspects of the game.
I’m still searching for every shrine, side quest, new horse and treasure chest, putting in nearly 100 hours thus far - that might not sound like a lot to some, but anything over 30 hours for a non-sports game is huge for me - and that doesn’t show any sign of stopping, especially with The Champion’s Ballad DLC now live. If you’re one of the strange hermits of mink hollow yet to play the game, I implore thee to venture out of the burrow and enjoy one of the best game worlds ever created.
What do you think of Rob’s picks? Let us know and share your favourite games from the past 12 months below.
For me, 2017 continued the trend of offering up far too many great games to accommodate in a mere 365 days. While that means I haven’t found the time to play big-hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn and Super Mario Odyssey, the many I have gotten to still made whittling my picks down to just five quite an involved process.
Shoehorning an open world into a linear series is very rarely a good idea, but Tango Gameworks obviously didn’t get the memo, because they artfully implemented sandbox environments into The Evil Within 2. The only comparable example that comes to mind is the excellent Batman: Arkham City, whereby rich and spontaneous encounters make scouring environments opposite to the generic busywork we've come to expect.
This acts in conjunction with a bevy of improvements over the original, which itself was a return to form for the (at the time) misguided survival horror genre, to complete one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
After being blown away by Uncharted 4, I approached The Lost Legacy equal parts excited and uncertain. More Uncharted couldn’t be a bad thing, surely, but a standalone expansion with a new leading lady? That wasn’t going to match Nathan Drake’s full-fledged magnum opus...
Well, I was wrong. Controller in hand, I seamlessly cut a path through the game like a hot knife through butter, every quiet moment and set piece punctuated by characterful banter. Not only did The Lost Legacy deliver the goods, but it did so in generous fashion, costing half as much as your average game whilst being twice as good and lasting just as long.
The outstanding visuals are also worthy of specific mention. I haven’t put my Xbox One X through its paces yet, but The Lost Legacy on PS4 Pro surpasses anything I’ve yet seen from the beefiest console on the market.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Never having played Skyrim - where have I been for the last six years, right? - made my virtual reality trip to the Nordic region all the more memorable. Being fully immersed in such a well-realised new frontier, in which you grow with each and every action, had me prioritising my virtual life as a dark elf above all else throughout November.
Accurate motion controls helped to further anchor me in the simulation, whilst small nuances that would go unappreciated, or totally unnoticed, in any other version of the game flourished into standout moments. These tangible differences make Skyrim VR a must, both for virgins and veterans.
A mixed launch reception has left Prey out in the cold as we wade through awards season. That’s a travesty. Prey is a mechanics and systems-rich game set in an exquisitely realised location, all of which worked in tandem with a gripping narrative to pull me in and keep me firmly rooted in my seat throughout its course.
BioShock ranks amongst my favourite games of all time and Prey expertly channels it without feeling cynical or derivative. For me to say it even comes close to Irrational Games’ seminal 2007 experience, of which I’m quite fond, if I hadn't mentioned, doesn’t come lightly and should help illustrate Prey’s quality.
1. Resident Evil 7: biohazard
I was thoroughly spoilt this year as a big fan of survival horror. The Evil Within II and Prey perhaps offered a glimpse into the genre’s future - the former defying expectations with the fantastic implementation of an open world, the latter an enemy that creates constant tension by mimicking everyday objects - but by revelling in its storied past, Resident Evil 7 surpassed them both.
The microscopically detailed Baker household evokes the original’s iconic Spencer Mansion, a locale so incredibly conceived that these years later I can vividly recall my way around it. It’s a good sign then that I could draw you a map of the Baker home eleven months down the road, even pinpointing every encounter with its brilliantly deranged inhabitants.
Playing in virtual reality further elevates all aspects of the game, most notably imbuing it with a guttural horror that at times got so intense I needed to pause and let my heartbeat recover. In being so affecting and consistently bringing me back with a strong suite of downloadable content, Resident Evil 7 tops my 2017.
Agree with Sam’s choices? Let us know and share your own below.
Good tidings, chums, and welcome to a festive feature with our very own Krampus; yours truly. There’s plenty to look forward to this Christmas though, with a plethora of both corpulent and meager budgeted games, accessories and tidbits. With that in mind, please join me in delving deep into the stocking for a look at some of this season’s succulent silicone satsumas.
Echo - PS4, PC
Echo is one of those games that should be played with all the lights off. The initial hours hooked me with their trippy, sci-fi stylings, inspired use of lighting and mysterious characters. What builds from there is a truly heart-racing third-person stealth/action game that casts the setting itself - a creepy future palace decked out in gold, with faces on every door, and clones or “echoes” of the protagonist - as your enemy-in-chief.
A thinking man/woman’s Resident Evil/Deus Ex in space is the closest comparison I can make, with the way shadows and lighting are used to freak the player out, but it’s the evolving nature of the echoes that really steal the show. The game is under £20 quid, and well worth it for action or stealth fans who are looking for something unique.
Verdict: A trippy, original game well worth playing.
Cat Quest - PS4, Switch, PC, Mobile
I had the good fortune of sampling this entertaining cat-venture at this year’s MCM Comic Con, where I thoroughly enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fun. The full-fat experience is no less brilliant, as you step into the claws, purr-box and dragon-filled kitty world ripe for adventure.
You set out on a Zelda-esque top-down adventure, to save your sister from the evil clutches of a white cat blessed with the power of dragons... lots of dragons. Follow the main storyline or undertake the many side quests posted on town notice boards to level up, get better gear, and ultimately become one hell of a badass kitty. This one is available physically too, so can be wrapped up for the cat-loving adventurer at home.
Verdict: Meowvelous fun!
The Pillars of the Earth - PS4, Xbox One, PC
Based on Ken Follett’s classic novel, The Pillars of the Earth takes the source material and transforms it into a three-part visual novel/point-and-click adventure. There’s a great deal to admire in the charming art style, characters and music, but it’s the lovely pace of the game that stands out the most.
Book one is available now both physically and digitally, with books 2 and 3 to follow (2 is now available on Steam), so you certainly get your money’s worth for the £20 or so you’ll spend. Essential if you enjoyed the novel or TV series, and definitely worth a punt for anyone else with an interest in historical fiction, sublime art, or branching storylines.
Verdict: A gorgeous, well acted and emotional adaptation.
Snakebyte Game:Pad 4 S - PS4
Last up, we have this wired PS4 controller from the fellows at Snakebyte. Having owned their earlier PS3 effort I can happily say that this is definitely an improvement, but not without its flaws.
First and foremost, the wire is plenty long enough to play from the sofa or bed, so no worries there. The ergonomic design of the controller is decent enough, presenting a smaller, yet stockier design more in line with the Xbox pad - but certainly a few leagues lower in terms of comfort and performance.
The buttons and sticks are a bit hit-and-miss, though. The face buttons are accurate enough, but sit loosely in the controller, resulting in a horrid, cheap plastic rattle every time the workmanlike rumble kicks in. The bumpers are on the soft side, making it hard to tell if you’re actually putting pressure on them, and the triggers are functional but lack the comfort of the Dualshock 4 or the official Xbox pad. The clickable touch-pad is brilliant, though!
The sticks are the real let down though, unfortunately, as we encountered problems on all four diagonals while testing games Stardew Valley (diagonal walking speed is painfully slow for some reason), Ashes Cricket (precision batting and bowling is made difficult) and The Last of Us (aiming issues).
As a backup to your DualShock - think local multiplayer FIFA sessions, etc. - then this is fine, but by no means should this be your number one, especially when, at £30, you only have to shell out an extra fifteen or so for the real deal.
Verdict: More potato than present!
And with that we bid you farewell for now, folks. Have a cracking Christmas!