Pixel art and 2D sidescrolling? At first glance, few styles of art or gameplay seem worse-suited to the survival-horror ambiance of Lone Survivor, yet good horror reveals the fear lurking in the midst of the familiar. True to form, indie developer Jasper Byrne’s haunting tale upturns our ideas of what we should expect with such pixelated minimalism. Wrapped in the same aesthetic many of us still associate with early days of Mario and Zelda, Lone Survivor nevertheless manages to deliver survival horror experience on par with its richer cousins. I found it a compelling premise on the PC last year, but I’ve found it’s especially potent on the Vita.
A great RPG is one where choices actually matter, but The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings takes that to an entirely new level. Instead of merely swapping out a few dialogue lines and enemies, certain decisions affect the outcome of your entire story, thus leading you into vastly different settings and confrontations. More than that, The Witcher 2 is dark fantasy done right, and not just a bunch of regurgitated JRR Tolkein tropes. We see guerrilla elves running wild and sad, dilapidated dwarven cities together in a detailed world that’s almost as striking on the Xbox 360 as on the PC. Even with its tough learning curve, it’s a journey worth taking.
At this point, MechWarrior Online has been in open beta for so long that you could be forgiven for thinking it came out months ago. To be sure, there was little in the way of new content when the official launch date dropped last week; instead, the well-worn “beta” tag at last slipped away and presented new players with essentially the same game others have been playing for months. What we have here is a combat experience that’s exciting and intense for many sessions, but winds down once the tedium of the free-to-play model and repetitive objectives takes over.
Gone are the days when saying you played an MMORPG meant you either played World of Warcraft or EverQuest; these days, the field is crowded with worthy rivals like Guild Wars 2, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and a surfeit of free-to-play MMORPGs that run the gamut from garbage to gold. And the field’s about to become even more crowded. New MMOs are on the way from both native shores and Korea, with most revealing a strong affection for sandbox-style gameplay and action-oriented combat.
In the beginning there was Final Fantasy XIV, and it was not good. For most games, the story would’ve ended there. But Square Enix, perhaps feeling that its prized franchise’s name was in danger of becoming too literal, undertook a mammoth effort to keep Final Fantasy’s legacy from being marred by such a disaster. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the resulting do-over, and it’s a huge success on both PC and PlayStation 3. Beautiful, fun, and only a bit uneven in the late game, this dramatic reinvention easily establishes itself as one of the most sincere and effective apologies in gaming history.
Dig far enough under all the news about the tussles over mandatory Kinects and indie support for either the Xbox One and the PS4, and you’ll find a shocking bit of info: PC gaming is at its best since the 1990s. Were it John Lennon, PC gaming would be making haughty claims about how it’s “bigger than Mario” and scoffing at the petty squabbles of its box-bound competitors. And with good reason. Provided you’re not wild about jumping into exclusives like Forza 5 or Infamous: Second Son, it’s looking more and more like you won’t be left too far behind if you decide to skip the upcoming console generation altogether. PC gaming is on the rise, and while it’d be easy to claim that these successes lie in the superior processing and graphical potential of the PC caused by such a lengthy console cycle, the truth is that keys of the platform’s resurgence may ultimately lie in much more mundane roots.
If The Knife of Dunwall downloadable content allowed us to step into the shoes of Daud, the assassin responsible for making Corvo’s life such a mess in Dishonored proper, then The Brigmore Witches allows us to slip into his soul. There are witches here, yes, but this new chapter is just as much about a conflicted killer’s path toward possible redemption. Arkane Studios sticks with its winning formula, delivering masterful moments of character growth and memorable settings that will make you relish this final trek through Dunwall.