Smite Season 5 : I’ll be honest, Season 5, overall, isn’t the greatest for a few reasons. While not technically a new game, Smite Season 5 has seen some overhauls to their “Conquest” mode (A 5v5, 3 lane MOBA style battle), as well as quite a few visual updates. Other than that, Smite pretty much feels like Smite. The first new God introduced for season 5, Achilles didn’t really add anything we hadn’t already seen, including yet another “insta-kill” ultimate.
They’ve also made arbitrary changes to the draft picking for fantasy, which are more annoying than convenient in their current state. Unfortunately, chests have become “more” random, and it makes it much more difficult to get the items you really want, including adventure skins, even if you pay for the adventure this time around. They’ve added the ability to use fantasy points to buy FP specifics skins for this season of Smite however, so that’s one new thing that’s actually pretty cool. Overall, the update saw several BRUTAL glitches initially, and hasn’t done much to spice up the game, leaving a “Same shit different day” feeling in it’s wake.
Hand of Fate 2: Hand of Fate 2 takes the original formula, and manages to change enough to make the game feel fresh, without changing so much that it follows the “sequels are never as good as the first”, trope. One of the most refreshing parts of the game, is that the combat mechanics feel more crisp and consistent. There have been a bevy of new cards and events added to the game to really make some of the adventures an actual challenge. The game also has a more congruent story this time around, really bringing life to your hero and making it feel like your character matters this time around.
One of the cooler new features is, as you go through the game you can acquire companions that will join you in battle. Each of these companions has their own special ability that can help aid you in battle. You’ve also got more weapon choices this time around as well, including two handed weapons that can break through shields, dual wield weapons to fight faster enemies, and explosives. Great small additions add up to take an already solid game, and give it a little boost for the second installment.
Deep Rock Galactic (Game Preview): To set the scene, you’re a bunch of grumpy dwarves who have been commissioned by an intergalactic mining company to collect specific or rare minerals across multiple locations in space. You choose your dwarf from four specific classes, each with their own set of weapons and skills, with up to 4 person co-op, choose a mission, grab your pick axe, and drop into an area. You are able to mine out and dig paths throughout most areas of the map. However, often the missions revolve around you trying to mind specific minerals, as well as specific minerals that heal you, or allow you to call in a drop that refills all your ammo. The other element of the game involved defending yourself from the occasional wave of various giant ant-like creatures, a la earth defense force, as you try to make your way deeper into the often times dark and claustrophobic feeling areas that you’ll be mining out.
Overall, the game reminds me of some of the more fun elements of games like “Left 4 Dead” mixed with classic minecraft style play, with atmosphere similar to some of the more exploratory horror style games we’ve seen over the last few years. As far as the downsides go, the progression system, which allows you to take on harder missions which get you gold and let you upgrade your weapons, is painfully slow right now, as well as lackluster graphics in it’s current state, and the menu systems/on screen information feels fairly clunky at best. As this game is currently in the game preview program, that means that the developers will continue to add content and most likely add some QOL features to make menu systems and on screen information more palatable.
QUBE 2: For years since the game “Portal” came out, there have been games trying to recapture the magic of one of the most lovable and intricate puzzle games to come out in this generation. QUBE and QUBE 2 are as close as a game has gotten since, in my opinion. QUBE 2 has you waking up in an alien, desert-like environment, not knowing how you got there, or where you’re going…..much like many of my nights drinking in Savannah. While the story isn’t as charming as Portal it does reveal itself in a very straight forward, well paced way, that is fulfilling enough to not feel like it’s missing something.
The gameplay has your character solving puzzles with a “manipulation suit”, which allows you to control various aspects of your environment around you. One thing I appreciated, was that the game doesn’t hold your hand, and clearly assumes you’ve played the original. New mechanics are thrown in fairly quickly in the beginning, and puzzle complexity jumps fairly early on. If you want a portal adjacent experience that is relaxing, rewarding, and will keep you on your problem solving toes, QUBE 2 is a great experience.
Burnout Paradise Remastered: What can be said about Burnout Paradise Remastered that wasn’t said about the original? Well to start, the game looks absolutely mother f…..ahem, I mean awesome! Visually speaking, the difference is quite noticeable. I feel that with a lot of remasters, the difference often feels lackluster at best, which is not the case here. Other than that, it’s basically the same game, with some of the extra content unlocked.
I feel that mechanically speaking though, this is a great example of a game that truly stands the test of time. This is a 10 year old game, but I feel that it can still hold up to the level of fun and engagement that most racing games deliver today, and in some cases, more fun. If you are looking for a throwback that can throw hands with current generation racers, then throw down some cash for BPR.
Darkest Dungeon: With darkest dungeon we have another PC port making it’s way over to Xbox, in the form of a rogue-like side scrolling turn based rpg. Jesus that was a mouthful. The game has you exploring the dungeons between a gothic mansion that you have inherited, as you try to rebuild the estate around it, and protect the world from the evils below.
The game introduces a “fear” mechanic that can affect the way your characters react to the world around them. You also need to make sure you carry torches, as your “light” will go out, creating darkness around your characters which can cause them to become scared, or more susceptible to “fear” based attacks. Once a characters fear meter maxes out, they become mostly useless in combat (save for some very rare instances when a character steps up and overcomes their fear) during which time you need to recruit a new unit in town, and send your mentally damaged unit to one of various activities to blow off steam, reducing their fear meter.
As someone who enjoys using the same characters consistently in an RPG, the constant swap in, swap out, character management began to feel like a massive chore to me after a while, despite other game mechanics being mostly solid. It feels like a game that could be more smooth around most of it’s edges, but the edges aren’t sharp enough to cut you for giving it a shot.
Sea of Thieves: Have you ever wanted to be a pirate, in a world where the water is as beautiful as that girl you see at the coffee shop sometime, but you’re like way too nervous to say hi? Well then, enter Sea of Thieves, a silly pirate game that let’s you play by yourself or with up to three other friends to either take quests to find treasure, which allows you to rank up and buy aesthetic items, or have ship battles where you load and fire your cannons yourself, man your own sails, use a manual map to guide your way, fight skeletons, and occasionally attack a skeleton fort.But, you can do most of that stuff in the matter of a day or two, leaving a lot of players wondering, where the hell is the content?
There’s very few styles of missions to find treasure, which is largely used for pointless baubles at this point, giving no true feeling of progression.Then there’s the ship battles which are fun from time to time but, the respawn system is an absolute mess, allowing people you’ve beaten to spawn very close to you and constantly harass you as you try to make it back to claim your money for any chests you may have acquired.While sailing itself is fun, and getting so drunk that you start throwing up, then catching that throw up in a bucket and throwing it at your friends is super fun, I find myself wondering what’s the point?
If you can’t actually get anything that does something different than what every brand new player starts with after dropping hours and hours into a game that isn’t specifically geared towards multiplayer competition, I don’t get the point. If you want to pay for a game that has seen little to no new content added since the Beta, feel free to drop some change on Sea of Thieves.
Farcry 5: Much like the previous installments of the franchise, the world is visually stunning, and teeming with crazy ass animals waiting to dive into the middle of your gunfight with no allegiance to anyone involved. This time around you’ll be fighting a militaristic doomsday cult that has the fictional county of Hope, Montana, under it’s thumb. The structure of the game is largely similar, if not identical to previous installments, which simultaneously feels comfortable, but leaves me wanting something a little different. The game does add one interesting thing called “Farcry Arcade”, which is basically a map maker that the community has access to, allowing other users to play your maps/missions, similar to the forge in Halo.
While the game shines in single player, and is overall a very solid entry into the series, the disappointments start with the much touted, and heavily bragged about multiplayer mode. While you can do the entire story with a friend, NONE of the main story progression will save in your game if you are not the host. In conjunction with this, there are several achievements that are locked when you play with a friend, as well as a VERY short tether, that does not allow you to stray too far from the host of the room before it forcibly teleport you to them. In my opinion, when you brag about your co-op, and then aggressively limit it’s freedom, you really take away from the co-op experience.