Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PC

Posted by | Feature, PC | No Comments

The PC ranges from the best gaming destination to the worst, depending on your computer and your needs. It’s not the most family-friendly gaming device out of the box, but you can nab games far cheaper than anywhere else thanks to the abundance of constant sales with places like Steam and GOG. With just a little DIY know-how you can rig your PC into a family room device, complete with controllers and streaming.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

Indie developer Zeboyd Games specializes in retro-style RPGs, and Cosmic Star Heroine sets its lofty goals at emulating the golden era of 16-bit JRPGs, like Chrono Trigger. It mostly succeeds thanks to a great cast of characters, solid battle system, and killer soundtrack. If you like your RPGs pixelated, don’t sleep on Cosmic Star Heroine.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PS Vita

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch,

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Older Kids & Teens

Halo Wars 2

halo wars 2

Traditional real-time strategy games are incredibly rare these days as the genre shifts into MOBAs, making the Halo Wars sequel a nice treat for both fans of the long-running sci-fi series and RTS gameplay. Controlling an RTS with a controller is never easy but Halo Wars 2 manages it with ease by focusing on smaller, intense skirmishes. The new card-based Blitz mode cleverly adds strategic deckbuilding and an enjoyable progression system into multiplayer matches.

Also available on: Xbox One

Thimbleweed Park

Veteran adventure game developer Ron Gilbert took to Kickstarter to create this most excellent retro adventure game that infuses all the best elements of a classic 90s LucasArts adventure set within an intriguing Twin Peaks-style mystery. With intricate and clever puzzle designs and a compelling story all the way to the end, Thimbleweed Park has reignited my old adventure gaming passion.

Also available on: Xbox One

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Pyre

Pyre

Supergiant Games is one of the best indie developers of our time, and well known for crafting richly story-driven games with beautiful soundtracks. Pyre continues the trend, using a unique sports-like combat system set within a purgatory-like world, as your band of survivors compete in a series of games to earn their freedom.

Also available on: PlayStation 4

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Cuphead

indie

The long-awaited Cuphead finally released this year, giving players a unique platforming experience set within the very stylized, jaunty world of 1930s animation. It looks gorgeous but it’s brutally difficult, which is why we’re putting it under the Older Kids category.

Also available on: Xbox One

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Mature Teens & Parents

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Divinity: Original Sin II

Few tactical RPGs have become as beloved as 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin. Larian Studios went back to the Kickstarter well to produce this sequel, which is every bit an improvement, combining four player online multiplayer with a lengthy 50+ hour adventure within the rich world of Rivellon. It’s the closest you’ll get to playing Dungeons & Dragons in a modern video game.

Also available on: N/A

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Early Access)

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds exploded onto Steam earlier this year with millions of players vying to be the last one standing in a 100-person Battle Royale. Everyone drops onto a third-world island and fends for themselves, scavenging weapons, items, and vehicles in what has quickly become one of the most enjoyable games to spectate live through Twitch and YouTube.

Also available on: Xbox One

xbox one

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Xbox One

Posted by | Feature, Xbox One | No Comments

While the Xbox One has somewhat lacked in big exclusive games this year, it did receive a notable hardware release in the Xbox One X, which is marketed as the most powerful console ever built. Most of the big games are (or will be) enhanced with free updates, adding 4k support for the Xbox One X. If you don’t want to spend it all on raw power, the Xbox One S still features all the great games below, many of which feature cross-platform purchase with the Windows 10 PC version.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Older Kids & Teens

 

Halo Wars 2

halo wars 2

Traditional real-time strategy games are incredibly rare these days as the genre shifts into MOBAs, making the Halo Wars sequel a nice treat for both fans of the long-running sci-fi series and RTS gameplay. Controlling an RTS with a controller is never easy but Halo Wars 2 manages it with ease by focusing on smaller, intense skirmishes. The new card-based Blitz mode cleverly adds strategic deckbuilding and an enjoyable progression system into multiplayer matches.

Also available on: PC

Thimbleweed Park

Veteran adventure game developer Ron Gilbert took to Kickstarter to create this most excellent retro adventure game that infuses all the best elements of a classic 90s LucasArts adventure set within an intriguing Twin Peaks-style mystery. With intricate and clever puzzle designs and a compelling story all the way to the end, Thimbleweed Park has reignited my old adventure gaming passion.

Also available on: PC

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Cuphead

indie

The long-awaited Cuphead finally released this year, giving players a unique platforming experience set within the very stylized, jaunty world of 1930s animation. It looks gorgeous but it’s brutally difficult, which is why we’re putting it under the Older Kids category.

Also available on: PC

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Mature Teens & Parents

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: PlayStation 4, PC

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Early Access)

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

The biggest game Xbox has going for it this year is an Early Access title: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (arriving on Xbox Game Preview in December). PUBG exploded onto Steam earlier this year with millions of players vying to be the last one standing in a 100-person Battle Royale. Everyone drops onto a third-world island and fends for themselves, scavenging weapons, items, and vehicles in what has quickly become one of the most enjoyable games to spectate live through Twitch and YouTube.

Also available on: PC

playstation 4 hack

Pixelkin 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: PlayStation 4

Posted by | Feature, PlayStation 4 | No Comments

The PlayStation 4 has had a solid year in 2017, with several stellar exclusive titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Persona 5. The PlayStation 4 is starting to get on years, with the half-step PlayStation 4 Pro released last fall which added 4K support. The good news is you can nab a regular PS4 for relatively cheap this holiday season, and there’s a nice mix of games for kids and teens.

Younger Kids

LEGO Worlds

lego worlds

LEGO + Minecraft is an easy sell, but LEGO Worlds ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Still, LEGO gameplay is always kid-friendly and intuitive, and offers split-screen and online multiplayer. LEGO Worlds lets you earn gold bricks through quests and exploration as well as build your world brick-by-brick.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX

The unique mashup of Japanese RPG and Disney properties is well known for having bizarre titles. This giant compilation includes every Kingdom Hearts game you could ever went: Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 and the myriad of mobile and handheld spin-offs. Fans are still desperately waiting for Kingdom Hearts III and this could be a great excuse to jump back in.

Also Available On: N/A

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of a 1989 platformer on the Sega Master System. The remake offers new hand-drawn graphics, a female playable character, and the ability to switch between old and new audio and visual settings. It’s a solid side-scrolling platformer with classic design and modern features.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

Indie developer Zeboyd Games specializes in retro-style RPGs, and Cosmic Star Heroine sets its lofty goals at emulating the golden era of 16-bit JRPGs, like Chrono Trigger. It mostly succeeds thanks to a great cast of characters, solid battle system, and killer soundtrack. If you like your RPGs pixelated, don’t sleep on Cosmic Star Heroine.

Also available on: PC, PS Vita

Stardew Valley: Collector’s Edition

stardew valley

Charming, pixelated farming sim Stardew Valley was my personal Game of the Year last year. The Collector’s Edition, which released this year, is mostly an excuse to buy a physical version, which includes a pull-out map, digital soundtrack, and a guide book. Cooperative multiplayer is slated to arrive sometime next year.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2

lego

The LEGO games have consistently remained one of the best go-to family-friendly series over the last decade. If you’ve played any of them, you’ve played them all. Marvel’s tone and characters mesh particularly well with LEGO’s silly storytelling and style. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 tells a tale of time-travel, meshing together multiple realms from the modern MCU, including Asgard, Sakaar, and Wakanda.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Older Kids & Teens

Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn

One of the biggest, best-reviewed games of the year stars young woman Aloy in a unique future world of tribal humans and prowling robotic animals. The open world of Horizon Zero Dawn is breathtakingly gorgeous, and the kind you can spend dozens of hours getting lost in. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best games of the year and should not be missed by PS4 owners.

Also available on: N/A

What Remains of Edith Finch

I played this atmospheric indie title earlier this year at PAX South and knew it would be one of this year’s critical hits. It’s a narrative-rich first-person adventure with elements of mystery, horror, and discovery as you play a young woman returning to the creepy, yet fascinating house where all her relatives died.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Injustice 2

Another fantastic fighting game by the Mortal Kombat developers, Injustice 2 spreads its grasp over even more DC characters, including Swamp Thing and Gorilla Grodd. The fun single player campaign continues the excellent What-If setting of Superman turning bad guy. If you’re tired of being disappointed in the DC films, take a look at Injustice 2 to get your fix.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

final fantasy xii

Final Fantasy XII may be the most forgotten Final Fantasy game, arriving towards the end of the very long PlayStation 2’s life cycle. A year later Japan received an updated version with tons of improvements, but the rest of us would have to wait a decade before receiving this HD remaster. It’s very likely that even big JRPG fans may have missed FF12 the first time around, making this excellent HD version a no-brainer.

Also Available on: N/A

Fortnite (Early Access)

Fortnite is an online cooperative action game that combines third person combat and exploration with crafting weapons and building towers. There’s a lot of content but much of it is driven by a laborious progression system and loot boxes – it’s slated to become Free to Play next year.

One major treat, however, is the Battle Royale mode, which directly apes the hugely popular last-man-standing shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Fortnite could be a great alternative to provide a more cartoony, family-friendly version of that popular multiplayer mode.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Pyre

Pyre

Supergiant Games is one of the best indie developers of our time, and well known for crafting richly story-driven games with beautiful soundtracks. Pyre continues the trend, using a unique sports-like combat system set within a purgatory-like world, as your band of survivors compete in a series of games to earn their freedom.

Also available on: PC

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

xcom 2

War of the Chosen is such a big expansion to last year’s stellar tactical squad sequel XCOM 2 it could almost be considered XCOM 2.5. New hero classes are balanced by a new menace: the Chosen, three boss-like enemies who appear throughout your campaign to harass you, as if liberating the planet wasn’t hard enough already.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Ark: Survival Evolved

ark: survival evolved

Ark has been in Early Access so long (2015) it’s weird to see it officially launch. The dinosaur-survival game has waned in popularity but remains an incredibly ambitious, time-sucking create-your-own-adventure world, as you start with nothing but your underwear on an island filled with resources – and dinosaurs! Play by yourself or join a server and band together to create entire villages and wage war. Everything’s better with dinosaurs.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

The Lost Legacy began life has a DLC expansion to last year’s Uncharted 4, but ended up big enough in scope and breadth to warrant a full release. It takes place after Uncharted 4, but this time focusing on previously supporting character Chloe Frazer who teams up with mercenary Nadine in a very Uncharted-like plot and action. Awesome to see a big AAA spin-off headlined by women.

Also available on: N/A

Destiny 2

destiny 2

Halo developer Bungie’s foray into a loot-based cooperative shooter was divisive when it launched in 2014. It was bolstered over the years by well-received DLC and expansions. Now with Destiny 2 Bungie has comfortably hit its stride, creating a more compelling story and world and while retaining the action-focused gameplay that makes the game a popular destination for online co-op.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

battle chasers: nightwar

One of the bigger indie Kickstarter games of the year, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is based on an old late 90s comic series that you probably never heard of. The eye-catching art style and characters will draw you in, but you’ll stay for the meaty JRPG and challenging turn-based combat.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been in the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, as publisher EA has seemingly hamstrung their own game with a poor progression and loot box economy. If you can forgive that, the multiplayer 40-person battle grounds are still rock-solid, featuring the most jaw-dropping Star Wars action we’ve ever seen outside of the movies themselves.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

 

Mature Teens & Parents

Night in the Woods

night in the woods

This indie adventure game defies standard genre gameplay, focusing instead on a narrative-rich story and heavy themes like depression as you explore your hometown of Possum Springs and interact with the anthropomorphic residents. An excellent, introspective mystery.

Also available on: PC

Nier: Automata

NieR: Automata

The sequel to 2010’s Nier may be one of the biggest surprises of the year. The third person action-RPG is set within a far-flung future in which mankind has retreated to the moon, sending androids to battle the machines that now rule the Earth. The combat is great, as expected from the Bayonetta developers, but the multiple-endings story and complex characters really sets it apart.

Also available on: PC

Persona 5

It doesn’t get much more Japanese-RPG than the Persona series. The stylistic series combines a high-school age social sim with RPG-like combat, as students battle using their personas. By building relationships in the real world you can gain bonuses when exploring the dungeons of the Metaverse. Persona 5 is widely considered not only the best in the series, but one of the best modern RPGs, period.

Also available on: N/A

Prey

 

Any fans of the BioShock and Dishonored games need to play Prey, which is not to be confused with 2006 game of the same name. This Prey is developed by the Dishonored devs, and features the classic Space Station Gone Wrong. Protagonist Morgan (whom can be male or female) must battle an alien species that can hide in plain sight. It’s dripping in atmospheric tension and important choices that change the outcome of the ending.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

It’s tough be an MMO without ‘Warcraft’ in your title, but the Elder Scrolls soldiers on thanks to its own rich fantasy-verse based on the best-selling single-player games. Morrowind represents The Elder Scrolls Online’s first major stand-alone expansion pack, based on The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It richly recreates that beloved alien world of dark elves and giant mushrooms while adding lots of welcome content to one of the best MMOs on the market.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

life is strange

Before the Storm is a mini-prequel to 2015’s breakout episodic adventure series Life is Strange. The prequel stars teen Chloe Price before discovering her time-travel powers, as she begins to develop a relationship with classmate Rachel. Two episodes have been released so far; the third should arrive within the next month or two.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

 

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Last year’s Dishonored 2 was a fantastic sequel that gave us more awesome Batman-like stealth gameplay with BioShock’s level design and story-telling. Death of the Outsider is a stand-alone expansion (similar to Uncharted: The Lost Legacy) that ties up one loose thread from the sequel: the enigmatic, brutal assassin known as Billie Lurk. You don’t necessarily have to play Dishonored 2 to understand the story, but I heartily recommend the entire series.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

assassin's creed origins

Ubisoft took an extra year to develop the tenth Assassin’s Creed game, and the extra time definitely helped. Origins is one of the best Assassin’s Creed games of all time, with an intriguing Ancient Egypt setting, new combat mechanics, and fun loot system while retaining the rich attention to historical detail and open world design that makes the series so compelling.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

It’s depressing that a game about killing Nazis would suddenly spark controversy in 2017, despite that being Wolfenstein’s whole deal since the 80s. The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein reboot, this time taking place in an alternate United States, now occupied by the winning Nazi forces. The first-person shooter remains exhilarating but the real treat are the all-too human character moments with your plucky resistance group.

Also available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Call of Duty: WWII

call of duty: wwii

Death, taxes, and Call of Duty. Every year adds another notch to the giant first-person shooter franchise. Call of Duty: WWII takes the series back to where it began: World War 2. The single-player campaign is by-the-books but the multiplayer is solid as always. The popular cooperative Zombies mode returns better than ever, proving that the only thing more fun to kill than a Nazi is a zombified Nazi.

Also available on: Xbox One, PC

dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 Free Trial Available April 6

Posted by | News, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

Bethesda is offering a Dishonored 2 free trial, available this Thursday, April 6. The free trial will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It offers the first three missions of the campaign, and you can choose between playing as Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano.

Dishonored 2 released last Fall. It is the sequel to stealth-action title Dishonored, released in 2012.

When the mad witch Delilah seizes the throne, the fate of your Empire is left hanging in the balance. As Emily or Corvo, travel beyond the legendary streets of Dunwall to Karnaca, the once-dazzling coastal city that holds the keys to restoring Emily to power. Armed with powerful supernatural abilities, weapons and gadgets, how far will you go to hunt down your enemies and take back what’s yours?

The series is set in a unique steampunk-whaling fantasy setting and gives the player choice between playing stealthily or action-packed or some combination in between. You can read our review here. Dishonored 2 won “Game of the Year” from PC Gamer, “PlayStation 4 Game of the Year” by IGN, and “Best Action-Adventure Game” at The Game Awards last year.

Emily and Corvo have different shadow powers you can unlock by finding runes. You can also reject the powers and go through the game with only weapons and wits. Missions are quite large and sprawling (other than the prologue/intro). The free trial’s first three missions could easily take five or six hours – twice that if you want to run through with both Emily and Corvo.

Dishonored 2 has also received significant post-launch updates that addressed some of the criticisms at launch. New features include mission select and restart and a New Game Plus mode.

If you decide to purchase Dishonored 2, you can continue the save game from the free trial.

dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
We played on Xbox One
We played as Emily

I can easily get really excited about a game. I think we all do. Believe it or not, there haven’t been very many for me this review season. But Dishonored 2 was one of the few. I hadn’t played the first game, and since the world and the gameplay looked so cool I was very sure I was going to like it. And I do like it…a bit. But unfortunately some aspects and limits of the gameplay have really scarred what could have been a great experience for me.

The Story

As you might imagine, Dishonored 2 is set after the end of the first game… 15 years to be exact. Emily Kaldwin is now the empress and her rule has mostly been a peaceful one. But there’s the problem of someone going around and killing those who oppose some of Emily’s policies, making it look like she or someone she hired had been responsible for the murders. But that quickly turns into small problem compared to the arrival of Delilah, a woman who claims to be Emily’s aunt and therefore the rightful empress of the land. After she shows up, Emily is apprehended and a massive slaughter takes place in the throne room. Emily has to escape and figure out how all of this happened.

dishonored 2

The Gameplay

Dishonored 2 can be played as either Korvo Attano (the main character from the first game) or Emily, the empress who has just been overthrown. The distinction is more than simply aesthetic. The two characters have different abilites and special powers. The main gameplay is all about stealth. You need to find your way past guards and guards and more guards to accomplish each mission goal. You can choose to dispatch of your enemies one of two ways. You can sneak up behind them and knock them out, or you can just kill everyone you see. Though the latter isn’t really a viable form of gameplay because there are simply too many enemies in the world.

Besides that basic gameplay, each character can unlock special powers to help them along. This was the part that I was most excited about, and they turned out to be really, really cool. They can be used in stealth situations, but are also great to help with combat when you’re surrounded by enemies. You obtain these special powers by collecting runes throughout the world and then purchasing them in a skill tree fashion.

Frustration

As mentioned above, the core gameplay in Dishonored is good. The powers were by far the coolest part of the game and probably the biggest reason I wanted to give the game a try. The problem there is that they’re “optional.” I mean come on, who wants to play this game and not use the powers? That meant some other aspects of the game became not so “optional.” I spent a lot of the game in what felt like collectible hunting just to be able to gain those special powers. However, admittedly the hunting down of these “runes” was pretty cool. You use a clockwork heart – yes, a real anatomically correct beating heart with some gears in it – to locate the things you need. Still the need to hunt around for things felt like a slog and interrupted the rest of the experience. It seemed to me that the game would have been better if the base level of these powers would simply unlock in stages throughout the game, and then the hunting would be for boosts.

I was also frustrated by how smart the guard characters are. Lots of them don’t follow any pattern that you can read for the perfect time to sneak up on them. And often times, there’s a guard that you didn’t see able to catch you in the act and then send down a flurry of enemies that almost always means certain death. At least for me. I was doubly frustrated by the fact that I selected to play the game on easy, thinking that would enable me to complete it quicker. Nope. I don’t even want to know what normal is like much less hard. I’ve played a lot of games over my nearly 40 years and I can objectively say here that easy was not easy.

dishonored2-screen-1

In addition, there’s no way to restart a level if you feel like you’ve messed up and want to try a different strategy.  The autosave happens pretty frequently, which is great for most of the gameplay. But unless you do a manual save in certain places – like between levels – then you’re screwed. You want to resart this mission you’ve just spent a half hour in? Unless you manually saved, forget it. I’ll openly admit that I do not know the technical complexities behind the reason for not including it. But since each level takes place in a totally different location, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to implement.

The Rating

Dishonored 2 is rated M with descriptors for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any M rated game. The thing that stood out the most for me was how bloody and intense killing a character can be. You can stab your weapon into an enemy’s face or behead them altogether and you’ll get a large amount of blood. Since the game is played in first person, this effect is just enhanced.

The Takeaway

I think the world in Dishonored 2 is interesting and those cool powers are pretty awesome, but the rest of the game just doesn’t measure up. A lot of discourse is often bantered about in relation to how long a game is. The issue here is that the game is supposed to take about 10 hours to complete. But that’s only true if you’re an insanely awesome player who has the time to dedicate large chunks of time to playing it. Even on easy, the game is difficult and requires way more of a time investment than most parents – if you’re like me – are able to commit. I’ll admit it was possible that I had unrealistic expectations going into Dishonored 2. I really wanted to play it and I really wanted to love it. But at the end of the day, it’s not good enough to make me overlook the frustrations.