February is usually the month where the bulk of the gaming world kicks back into gear after the post-holiday lull. As of 2019, it looks like that rule is going to continue to hold. Whether you’re partial to free-to-play battle royales, AAA releases or indie darlings, there was plenty to sink your time into.
Here’s what we’ve been playing.
Resident Evil 2
I came away impressed after my early hands-on with Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 last year and the final product did not disappoint.
If you’re a fan of the original game, it manages to recapture a lot of the appeal and charm. If you never had the pleasure, the new Resident Evil 2 does a great job of modernising the structure and gameplay of the original. It strikes a great balance between the two that ends up being super-easy to pick up and play, even if you’re somewhat who hasn’t spent much time with the franchise before.
As I said in my review, “if you’re the kind of player who dug returning to the original Resident Evil in one of its many remakes, you’re probably also the kind of player who will dig what Capcom are doing here. They’ve taken a rightly-venerated classic and attached a ton of smart modernizations to make it more palatable for modern audience. It hearkens back to a simpler time in the series past, and it doesn’t struggle to meet those humble goals.”
You can read our full review of Resident Evil 2 here.
As a newcomer to the Fallen London universe, it took me a good couple of hours to warm to the specific pacing of Failbetters’ follow-up to 2017’s Sunless Seas. That said, once I did, I had a solid time exploring Sunless Skies sprawling settings.
It’s a slow burn and there’s quite a learning curve but, if you’re a fan of CRPGs especially, Sunless Skies is well-worth checking out. The combat and mechanics are a little simple but the writing hits all the right notes and the visual and sound design works overtime to immerse you in the game’s unique setting.
As I said in my review, “Sunless Skies is a tremendous piece of work and a more than worthy follow-up to Failbetter's earlier games. It plays its cards right, and it feels like everyone involved brought their A-game. Yet, it asks something from you in return. Sunless Skies asks you to to overlook its sins. The near-glacial pacing, shallow combat, repetitive design and insufficient onboarding.”
“Sometimes that’s a hard ask. Sometimes the narrative experience you get in return makes it a price worth paying. I can’t speak for everyone who tries this game but I like to think the latter applies here more oft than not.
Sunless Skies offers a world of few limits and rich storytelling but its open-ended design isn’t going to be for everyone.”
You can read our full review Sunless Skies here.
If you’re a fan of cyberpunk shooters like Syndicate, 2084 is an early access title that might be worth a look. Born out of a 72-hour game jam, the first-person shooter lets you “battle your way through hordes of enemies, hack their minds to gain advantage on the battlefield, and immerse yourself in a riveting short story set in a grim cyberpunk landscape.”
It’s not super long or complex. Some of the the shooting and environments are a little rough in spots but it’s got plenty of style if that’s what you’re after.
You can find 2084 on Steam here.
It’s so nice to see Respawn have a winner on their hands. To date, the studio (originally formed out of the core team behind the original Call of Duty games) have released two critically-acclaimed but commercially-disappointing, shooters in the form of Titanfall and Titanfall 2.
Their latest effort, Apex Legends, bucks this trend. Since it launched last week, the game has already racked up over 10 million players. It is a free-to-play game, so that probably didn’t hurt. All the same, Apex Legends has fast-emerged as a frontrunner for this month’s most talked-about release.
The game itself is a battle royale game in the same vein as fare like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. You’re airdropped onto an island with 59 other players and forced to fight to the death within an ever-shrinking circle. For all that this setup has in common with other battle royale games, there’s more than enough here to give Apex its own identity.
It’s a little more serious than Fortnite but a lot more polished than PUBG. Rather than play on your own or as a squad of two or four, you’re always working as a team of three. If you die, surviving teammates can use respawn beacons bring you back into the fight. Each of Apex’s eight playable character also has their own unique set of abilities that they can use to change the dynamics of play in various ways.
Whether or not Apex Legends has what it takes to stick around remains to be seen but, right now, it’s the game to beat.
You can read our hands on preview of Apex Legends here.
New from the developers of Starbound and the publisher of Stardew Valley, Wargroove is a turn-based fantasy strategy game in the vein of Nintendo’s now-defunct Advance Wars games.
The story here is pretty standard fare (and more than a little reminiscent of that of last year’s Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales): “When war breaks out in the Kingdom of Cherrystone, the young Queen Mercia must flee her home. Pursued by her foes, the only way to save her kingdom is to travel to new lands in search of allies. But who will she meet along the way, and what sinister challenges will she face?”
Nevertheless, if you’re here for snappy turn-based action, Wargroove has plenty to offer. While it all looks very cutesy, there’s actually a lot of depth here. Much like the games it's trying to evoke, Wargroove nails that sweet spot between easy to learn and hard to master.
With any luck, we’ll have a review of Wargroove up sometime in the near future.
Devil May Cry HD Collection
Ninja Theory’s DmC: Devil May Cry is one of my all-time favorite action games but - confession time - it’s actually the only game in the popular franchise I’ve played. With Devil May Cry V on the horizon, I wanted to take the time to go back and tick the earlier installments off my bucket list.
First stop? The Devil May Cry HD Collection, which brings together the first three games in the series.
Initially, I was a little lukewarm on the original Devil May Cry. As much as it feels like a foundational text for modern character action titles like Bayonetta and God of War, it also feels pretty limited by the technology and standards of its time.
I found I could appreciate Devil May Cry but the experience of playing it never quite clicked over into what I’d call fun. I dug the Resident Evil-esque level design but was a little turned off by the cringe voice acting and cliched, predictable story. That said, I instantly became more fond of all the things this game does get right once I dove into the sequel.
Devil May Cry 2 feels a lot closer to modern incarnations in terms of graphics and complexity but it’s dragged down by drab environments, tedious level designs and boring enemies. The limp and listless story here also made me nostalgic for the simpler, more-elegant and merely-annoying plotline of the first game.
I'm still working my way through Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening but it already seems like a strong contender for the best of the three. Part of that is down to the modern look and feel of it, to be sure. Still, a few hours in, it already seems to be doing a great job of smartly updating the concepts and ideas that worked so well about the first game in the series and rectifying what didn't about the second. It's fast, it's fun and I'll probably burn through the rest of it later this week. See you soon, Devil May Cry 4.
If you’d like to read about what we played in January click here.