Blood & Wine, Titanfall 2, The Unfinished Swan, Elite: Dangerous, Mr. Robot
The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine
The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece. It succeeds where so many other open-world RPGs fail. It’s the type of game that’s difficult to imagine how it could have possibly all come together so well. It’s a massive game and yet so much of it feels hand crafted and made with a minute attention to detail. This is most apparent in its writing, which exhibits a level of maturity and complexity so rarely seen in gaming. And it’s not just the core parts of the game that receive this treatment, it extends to the most irrelevant of minor NPCs. Even if they only exist to point protagonist monster slaying Geralt of Rivia in the right direction, there’s a sense that these characters are people too, that if Geralt was to ask them their story, they’d have one to tell. Obviously this isn’t true, it couldn’t be, but that the game manages to establish this veneer of believably so consistently throughout its huge expanse, is a remarkable achievement.
That was in large part why I enjoyed The Witcher 3 and it’s first piece of DLC Hearts of Stone so much. And thankfully, developers CD Projekt Red were able to capture it again with Blood & Wine, incorporating a brand new land mass and culture to explore. Everything that made the base so great is here again in spades, in condensed form. It’s a self contained tale but also works an end to Geralt’s arc and what a great send off it is for the beloved character, with friends of old popping up again and it even takes into account some small but appreciated choices made way back in the main game. The Witcher 3 was already masterful but taken as a whole with the two expansions packs, it is easily among the all time greats.
Cyberpunk 2077 can’t come soon enough. 5/5
This is a text based adventure game set in the Mr. Robot universe. The setup sees your character finding Darlene’s phone and being drawn into the shady work of hacking in an effort to the help bring the evil E-Corp. It’s a great premise and a fun way to interact with one of the show’s best characters. By talking to her and others you’ll manipulate poor folks caught in the crossfire into doing your bidding via such nefarious means as social engineering. The game never extends behind simple dialogue choices but it’s well written and believable and it’s a thrill to feel like a small part of the drama that’s happening in the show, even if it’s in a fairly distant manner. There’s an element of real time progression too, in which you’ll receive messages through the game like you would with any other social media app, which is a nice immersion building touch.
It’s short and straightforward but very well executed and definitely something fans of the series would do well to check out. 4/5
2016 was a banner year for first person shooters and Titanfall 2 is right up there with the best of them. It expands upon the original with the introduction of a proper fully-fledged single player campaign and further refines the movement-centric multiplayer. The campaign is an enjoyable romp very much in the vein of Call of Duty (unsurprising given the pedigree) but feels distinctly fresher. The story itself isn’t anything noteworthy although the interactions between the player character and titan companion BT are well done and build to a endearing friendship.
It is largely the blockbuster set-piece fest you’d expect but it does innovate with one particular level that’s a certain highlight. I found the campaign, on the whole, to be a little underwhelming. It’s enjoyable but nothing that warrants some of the lavish praise it’s received. Compared to DOOM especially it does little to differentiate itself from other modern shooter campaigns, as solid as the execution is.
The multiplayer however is best in class. It affords moments of pure joy like few other shooters by allowing players the tools to chain together exceptionally cool sequences. Nailing a perfect headshot, wall running across the map, landing a melee kill, taking down a titan, and then calling in your own all in the space of 30 seconds is an exceptional rush. And to the shock of no one, summoning a giant robot from the sky never gets old.
Having said all that, while it is the best of its kind, this kind of multiplayer does rub me the wrong way in some key areas. The endless stream of gameplay changing unlockables which inherently make it more much unbalanced and the knowledge that not everyone is on a level playing field is off putting. Something like Overwatch, where everyone has the same set of tools at their disposal is much more to my tastes but Titanfall 2 is obviously doing something other shooters aren’t since it was still able to drawn me in it spite of these qualms.
A solid, if overrated single player combined with an essential multiplayer component solidify Titanfall 2 as another of 2016’s great shooters. 4/5
Amidst the bitter disappointment of No Man’s Sky, Elite Dangerous rose from the ashes. Or so was the case for me and I would imagine at least a few others who were left wanting. It was a worthy replacement and while the two games are certainly offering different interpretations of interplanetary life, I found Elite‘s much more engaging. This is a space sim which very much feels like a space sim but is at the same time very accessible. The entire game can easily be played with a controller and activities such as landing and docking aren’t simple single button press affairs but rather requite a series of steps which seem a little tricky at first but quickly become second nature.
Touching down on a planet with a well performed landing feels like an achievement every time. Watching a friend emerge from the darkness of space and then land right beside you on such a massive landmass is an awe inspiring moment. It’s all presented beautifully from the excellent in-ship HUD, to the sounds of the warp drive, and the fantastically evocative OST by Erasmus Talbot.
There’s definitely room for improvement though and the game is very much still in active development with major updates released every few months. I’d really like more universe building and narrative as well as being able to leave your ship and explore space stations along with more variety in missions objectives. It’s possible Star Citizen will release before Elite every gets around to such things (or not, who knows if that’ll ever see the light of day and if it can possibly live up to the biggest of expectations) but until then, Elite is a very well realised vision of life in space and I look forward to its continued improvement with great anticipation. 4/5
The Unfinished Swan
Being completely honest, I remember little about The Unfinished Swan although I don’t think this is really any fault of the game. From what I do remember, it’s a charming fairy tale brought to life with a striking visual style and a fun way to spend an afternoon. [no score given due to memory failure]