Square-Enix re-releases Final Fantasy XIV. In case you can’t keep the Final Fantasies straight, this is the one that’s an MMO. It’s aptly subtitled “A Realm Reborn” because the informal “version 2.0” makes it sound like something Tron. I’m a card-carrying Lost Planet 2 fanboi, but I have zero hope Lost Planet 3 is anything other than a throwaway sequel. Developer Spark Unlimited, who had nothing to do with Lost Planet 2, is known for a console port of the original Call of Duty and then two shooters you’ve never heard of. For Lost Planet 3, they apparently thought it was important that you see the character’s faces (pictured). Suda 51’s Killer is Dead is the “spiritual sequel” (i.e. published by someone who doesn’t have the rights) to Killer 7 and No More Heroes. Unfortunately, the Suda 51 brand, as it were, hasn’t been a reliable bullet point for a game since 2005. Finally, basketball fans will be delighted that Madden 2.5 is available.
I have already played all the way through pre-release versions of Saints Row IV and Splinter Cell Blacklist and I can say about them something I can say about very few games: I will eagerly play them again when they come out. Which is this week. Like Tomb Raider, another game I eagerly played a second time, these are mainstream AAA franchises at their latest best, with great production values, shrewd game design, and a vivid sense of identity. Sometimes mainstream is mainstream because it’s good.
Indie gem Race the Sun officially launches today. But if you’re like me, you’ve been visiting the beta daily for your fix of an “infinite speed experience”. Still, it’s always satisfying to see a version number make the decisive click from 0.9 to 1.0. Which reminds me that the free-to-play and web-based — normally, I’d run screaming from either of those things — Card Hunter comes out of beta this week. I can’t get a sense yet for whether it’s got legs, but I’m really enjoying how it shuffles a tactical combat game with a deck building game.
Disney Infinity, an action figure delivery device, launches with a whimper that includes two Johnny Depp characters and no Star Wars, Marvel, or actual Disney characters. And I have no idea what to expect from 2K Games’ long-in-troubled-development X-com flavored shooter, also out this week. I can’t even keep the title straight. I think it’s something about a bureau or an administration or a classification. But I’ll play anything made by the studio that made Bioshock 2.
UPDATE: Card Hunter just got pushed back a smidge. The new release date is early September.
After a few weeks that were no real threat to your wallet, it’s the week of August 12. Which is no week of August 19, but it’s close.
If you liked Payday, you need — yes, need — Payday 2. Developer Overkill really lived up to their name with this one. Unfortunately, I’m not going to sink much time into such a deeply progression-based game when my progress is just going to be wiped at release. So after sampling a press build, I’m poised to pounce as soon as the game goes live tomorrow. Or tonight. What time is it?
Unfortunately, there’s one problem. That problem is Europa Universalis 4, also out this week. Paradox’s strategy games have been getting exponentially better in terms of design smarts — Victoria and Crusader Kings are nothing short of revolutionary, and their sequels are better in every way — and also in terms of interface, AI, and quality control. I can’t wait to sink some serious time into this fourth version of their magnum opus series. But there’s one problem. That problem is Payday 2.
Also, there’s another problem. Occult Chronicles is Vic Davis’ fiendishly clever and fiendishly fiendish strategy game about exploring a haunted house. After a beta period of letting players bang on it while he does his usual fine-tuning, Davis releases the final version this week.
Also this week Craig Hubbard, the man from Monolith who arguably invented Kate Archer (pictured, because she’s awesome) in the No One Lives Forever series, releases an early access version of his new studio’s game, Betrayer. It’s just an alpha, but given its pedigree and how absolutely weird it is to play a black-and-white shooter about zombie conquistadors, it’s a viable wallet threat for anyone who doesn’t want to wait until the game is done.
High Moon Studios has been doing yeoman’s work with the Transformers games. Can they rise to the absurdity required for a good Deadpool game? We find out this week.
Nintendo’s latest collection of Wario minigames comes out for the Wii U under the name Mario & Watch. I’ve played the multiplayer, where I found exactly one mode worth playing more than once. It’s a Super Monkeyball style game where you and other players try to land your pieces on scored targets. I mainly like this mode because I don’t have to dig out any Wiimotes to play an old copy of Super Monkeyball. Otherwise, I don’t see the appeal of Wario & Game for anyone who isn’t a Wario completionist.
Endless Space, a strategy game without an AI, gets DLC called Disharmony. Among the additions is an “Adaptive Multi-Agent Artificial Intelligence System”. I didn’t make that up. The developers made that up. That’s actually one of the new features. In my experience, the fancier the name for the AI, the dumber the actual AI. But I’d love to be wrong. Endless Space is far too stylish a sci-fi game to be left to languish brainlessly.
The DLC I’m really excited about is the dedicated Tiny Tina add-on for Borderlands 2. Or, as I like to call it, the Burches are back. The conceit is that Tiny Tina is dungeonmastering a session of Bunkers and Badasses. I just failed my saving throw to resist.
This year’s Magic the Gathering release, Magic the Gathering 2014, gets a new sealed deck tournament and more flexible deck-building. These seem like fine additions to an already fine game. At this point, the biggest drawbacks to these digital versions of Magic the Gathering is that you’re still only playing Magic the Gathering. I can think of about a dozen other card-based games I’d rather play.
If you like your vampires in hoodies, Dark is an action/stealth RPG from the German studio that made a Dungeon Keeper clone called Dungeons.
Finally, Company of Heroes 2 is out this week. Have you played the original Company of Heroes? If so, you’re good to go.
The only major release this week is Capcom’s latest appeal to nostalgia with Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, an action RPG with official D&D flavoring available for download for the Xbox 360. This seemed like a good idea to me. Until I played it. This is a direct port of an arcade brawler from 1993 and its 1996 sequel, both of which hurt my eyes and my game design sensibilities. Who would play this? It’s like having Spin Doctors songs in your iTunes library.
This week Capcom releases Remember Me, a sci-fi adventure game in which the main character climbs around a lot (“Can we appeal to the Tomb Raider crowd?”), gets in fistfights (“Can we appeal to the Arkham City crowd?”), and manipulates memories (“Oh, right, we have to fit the central conceit into the game somehow…”). It begins with an interesting aesthetic, but once you escape from the laboratory and climb out of the sewers, you come to that moment when the music swells and a sweeping vista of the amazing sci-fi city stretches before you. My reaction to that moment in Remember Me was, “Really? That’s all you got?” Any further curiosity about the world or the gameplay pretty much dimmed once I got hung up on the first puzzle, which involves watching a doctor give medication to someone over and over again. Basically, these are puzzles about fast-forwarding and rewinding through cutscenes while you guess at whatever obscure solution the developers have in mind. If you really want to play an adventure game, I’m sure someone other than me could recommend a good one.
Also out this week is new DLC for Sins of a Solar Empire, a fantastic RTS that’s no less fantastic for its ongoing touch of feature bloat. Every time I play, there are about six or seven cool things that I know I’m probably not going to touch this time. Whether it’s mines, starbases, titans, some of the cruisers, superweapons, artifacts, inter-imperial pacts, refineries, or cultural boundaries, there are far too many nifty features for any single play sessions. Consider the trade port subgame. You might not even know it exists. But if you string together an unbroken line of trade ports, you get an income bonus. So you don’t just want that dwarf planet because your people need a place to live. You want it because it will extend your trade route by one system. Spacerailroad Tycoon in my RTS. The $5 Forbidden Worlds add-on will lets you further tweak planets, and it will add news planets, bonuses, and technologies.
A possible release this week is State of Decay. It’s in certification at Microsoft, and if all goes well, it will be included in Wednesday’s Xbox Live Arcade releases. Why should you care? Because of all the genres that need more games, single-player open-world zombie survival games need more games the most. Besides, I haven’t headshotted a zombie since dinking around with Resident Evil: Revelations a few weeks agao. I’m starting to go into withdrawal.
Finally, I wouldn’t normally care one whit about a free-to-play action RPG/MMO. But given that Marvel Ultimate Alliance is one of my perennial “you know, I should go back and play that yet again…” games, I’m actually looking forward to the free-to-play action RPG/MMO Marvel Heroes. The early launch this weekend has apparently been beset by problems — the PR rep sheepishly slinked away after last Thursday’s “hey, do you want early access to Marvel Heroes?” email — but whenever its issues get ironed out, I’m looking forward to getting my Jean Grey on. That right, Jean Grey. That’s how I roll.
Grid 2 (not pictured, since there’s nothing duller than a screenshot of a latest-gen racing game) is out this week! The original Grid rivaled the best of Forza and Gran Turismo when it was released, and it even held up next to the upcoming Need for Speed: Shift. Since then, developer Codemasters has mostly been retooling their various Dirt games, which are easily the best arcade rally racers you can race. Now that the wheels are back on pavement, I look forward to seeing how they handle. Consider your wallet threatened.
I’m pretty sure Wargame: AirLand Battles is supposed to be out this week, but it’s already missed one release date. It’s fully playable now as a skirmish game (buy it now and you can bang on the beta to your heart’s content!), so all we’re really waiting for is the ambitious dynamic campaign. Consider your wallet threatened.
Finally, Electronic Arts releases Fuse, Insomniac’s disappointing attempt to fuse the serious shootery bits of Resistance with the wacky weapons bits of Ratchet & Clank with the godawful four-player co-op of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.
Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is the add-on that makes the game that made Elemental better even better. That might sound convoluted. For good reason. But if you want meatier tactical combat and more character development in your Fallen Enchantress, Legendary Heroes will deliver. This is the strongest leg in the three-legged renaissance of fantasy strategy gaming consisting of Fallen Enchantress, Warlock, and Eador.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action RPG from Neocore, the Hungarian developer who made the King Arthur RTS/RPGs. King Arthur featured some clever gameplay in what was mostly a Total War-a-like, so it’s entirely possible this Diablo-a-like might have a few tricks up its sleeve. For instance, this on-the-fly skill tweaking looks promising. Van Helsing is out this week for the PC, with an Xbox 360 version to follow later this year.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is ported to the Nintendo 3DS from the Wii. Resident Evil Revelations is ported from the 3DS to the Xbox 360 and WiiU. It looks a bit, well, chintzy on the 360, but it’s a good game. Here’s my review of the 3DS version which I presume will mostly apply to these latest gen versions. But you should probably keep in mind this was a far more relevant description of my experience with the game.
Ubisoft goes back to the basics — or at least the Old West — with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, in which a cowboy shoots stuff. I don’t have any inside information on whether it’s any good, but I have a mental image of two interns in a back room making this game to fulfill Techland’s obligation to Ubisoft while everyone else was working on Dead Island stuff.
Activision is publishing a Fast and Furious branded racing game. Paul Walker isn’t in it. I bet you didn’t know there have already been a whole mess of Fast and Furious games. I hadn’t heard of a single one of them. Paul Walker wasn’t in those either. Quod erat demonstratum.
This week’s wallet threat is dire. Metro Last Light is every bit as good — and unique — as Metro 2033, and far more gorgeous than any game about a grey wasteland should be. The five-star review — spoiler! — will post later tonight.
Also out this week is Anomaly 2, the sequel to the tower defense game that’s actually a tower offense game. The first Anomaly was clever enough, although it was still “just” a tower defense game. Anomaly 2 has a nice twist — all the units have two forms that you can shift at any time — but what cinches this one for me is the potential of the new multiplayer mode, in which one player sets up towers and the other player wends his convoy around the map trying to take them down. Also this week, you can download Dust 514, a free-to-play shooter for the Playstation 3 made by the developer of Eve Online that intends to take the MMO planetside. See what I did there?
This week your wallet is entirely safe from new releases, because there aren’t any. So what better time to sample something you might have otherwise overlooked, like Sang-froid, Monaco, or Don’t Starve (pictured)?
Remember Ubisoft’s April Fool’s Day announcement for Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon that turned out not to be a joke? The fifteen-dollar downloadable game out this week will presumably demonstrate that the Far Cry 3 engine is too good to be contained solely in Far Cry 3. It is apparently so good that it knocks itself back into a previous decade. This standalone release was inspired by the vision of the future realized on VHS tapes in the 80s. It therefore stars Michael Biehn. In other words, it came across time for me.
The add-on for Heroes of Might & Magic VI, Shades of Darkness, is apparently enough to merit its release as a standalone game, but like Blood Dragon, not enough to increment the Roman numeral. Ubisoft is at the forefront of numeric conservation.
Zeno Clash II — note the incremented Roman numeral! — is the latest installment in Chilean developer Ace Team’s first person puncher series, which began life over ten years ago as a Quake mod. You explore alien worlds and sometimes punch exotice creatures. Even if it’s awful, it will probably be better than anything you see on Syfy these days. Can you tell that I’m watching Defiance?
Deadly Premonitions will be re-released in the form of a “director’s cut”. Consider me surprised that the original release of this weird take on America and Twin Peaks wasn’t already its director’s cut. Did you know that you fight an axe-weilding jawa in that game?
Finally, if you have a Vita, it’s not dead yet. Soul Sacrifice is more than happy to drink up as much time as you want to give it.
I, for one, am glad to have more Dead Island. So Dead Island: Riptide is hitting the sweet spot for me, especially since it’s pretty difficult early on. Yeah, sure, I’ve imported my high-level character from the original game but — surprise! — I got captured at the start and all my weapons got taken away. My captors also apparently took away all my memories of how to make homemade weapons to shock, fry, freeze, melt, fold, spindle, mutilate, and explode zombies. Which is fair enough. This is a sort of reboot in a new area of the same old tropical paradise gone wrong. I have no problem with a reboot. And this time I know to keep all the sticks of deodorant I find for when I remember how to made deodorant bombs.
Namco Bandai (Namco Bandai?) is publishing a Star Trek shooter made by Digital Extremes. I wouldn’t normally care (a Star Trek shooter?), but Digital Extremes’ last game was The Darkness II. Still, a Star Trek shooter? It doesn’t inspire confidence that the only name they could think up was Star Trek: The Video Game. Why couldn’t they take a cue from Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine, a game also out this week that looks like a combination of Pac-Man and a heist?
If you’re up for some serious strategy — I’m not real keen on the moniker 4X, but it fits here — Masters of the Broken World is this week’s fantasy flavor and StarDrive is this week’s sci-fi flavor. Lego City Undercover for the Nintendo DS is a miserably shrunken version of the excellent Wii game that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Dragon’s Dogma gets some DLC. Finally, the third and final installment of Assassin’s Creed III’s Tyranny of King Washington DLC is out this week.
Before Mortal Kombat’s latest surprisingly good reboot, there was Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, which was not surprisingly good. Or so I’ve been told. I myself never explored the implications of who would win in a fight between Superman and Johnny Cage. I’m pretty sure there is no version of that match-up where the answer shouldn’t have been Superman, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen Zack Snyder’s upcoming biopic.
And now this week, the team that made the Mortal Kombat reboot so good, NetherRealm, releases Injustice: Gods Among Us, which reboots only the DC Universe portion of Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. The box cover poses the question, “Who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman?” and implies that the answer is “The Joker”. Well played, box cover.
I just hope it’s not too difficult to unlock Aquaman.
Speaking of heroics at sea, Jetpack Joyride developer Halfbrick will mostly likely release their next game this week (the release date isn’t yet official). Fish out of Water for the iOS, in which you throw fish like you’ve never thrown fish before, is every bit as addicting and adorable as Jetpack Joyride. But wait, there are more naval shenanigans! I’m really excited about Victoria II: Hearts of Darkness, which revamps naval battles and colonization in Paradox’s brilliant strategy game. As you can deduce from the title, the focus is on Africa, often overlooked in favor of the sexier America when it comes to historical strategy gaming and real life.
Sacred Citadels is a side-scrolling brawler not from the folks who made Sacred 2. It’s supposed to be a sort of prequel/appetite whetter for the upcoming Sacred 3, which is also not from the folks who made Sacred 2.
Finally, there’s DLC for Dishonored, in which you play the jerk responsible for the main character getting dishonored, and Black Ops II, in which you play a guy who gets shot a lot by other people online.
This week, the French studio that made the Trackmania games releases Shootmania Storm. As much as I’d like to commend the community support and wild track construction that made Trackmania stand out, I don’t see how that’s supposed to work for an online multiplayer shooter that looks like pretty much any other generic shooter since Unreal Tournament. The only other threat to your wallet this week is a map pack for Halo 4. I nearly fell asleep while typing that.
For an April Fool’s Day joke, I considered pretending that Super Black Bass 3D for the Nintendo 3DS, out this week, is an awesome game. But I’ve never been able to pull off April Fool’s pranks. Speaking of which, maybe Trion’s online shooter/Syfy series tie-in, Definance, is awesome. I wouldn’t know. But it’s worth noting I would have been similarly dismissive of their previous game, Rift, until I played it.
Cities in Motion 2 is the sequel to Cities in Motion 1. Before you get visions of a Sim City that works, I should warn you that these games are strictly about public transportation. I live in Los Angeles, so I have no idea what they’re on about.
Also out this week is Sang-Froid, a werewolf-themed tower defense/action game for the PC. It seems to share gameplay DNA with Orcs Must Die. I’m eager to hear people try to pronounce the name. I’m pretty sure it’s “sang-fwaa”, which is something I’d never attempt to say in public. The latest add-on for Borderlands 2 will raise the level cap and add a super badass difficulty level for your third playthough. In other words, it is of no use to me whatsoever and likely won’t be for a long long time, but I wouldn’t dream of not owning it. Just in case.
Finally, Electronic Arts will release a free patch that makes Sim City work exactly as intended, along with an offline mode for people without reliable internet connections or any interest in playing with others.