Oh god, my eyes.
This is something that may not come across in my reviews of their games, but I have a lot of respect for the various Ubisoft development studios. They work to deadlines that would put nearly every other game developer to shame, and if you ignore the writing (which is practically required when dealing with anything under the Tom Clancy name) there’s a refreshing lack of pretension about the games they’re making. They scope out what they’re going to make at a very early stage during development, and once it’s defined they don’t muck about with spending years bogged down in ridiculous scope creep such as accurately-modelled horse testicles; they just knuckle down and make the game they planned in the first place. They’ve mastered the process of developing games better than any other company in the triple-A space — things such as efficient content pipelines, consistent design philosophy and effective project management across all of their games1 — which is how they’ve been able to publish a whopping eleven Assassin’s Creed games in eleven years and have only two of them be crap.
Ah, it’s inXile, my favourite developers of middling RPGs funded via Kickstarter. What do you have for me this time, inXile? What’s that? You’ve made a new iteration of Bard’s Tale, an RPG series so old that its last installment was released in 1988 and which even I would never have heard of if my flatmate didn’t keep going on about it all the time? Ah, well, given the highly uneven quality of Wasteland 2 and Torment and my complete lack of caring about the source material I think I might pass this time, thanks.
…wait, it’s a first-person dungeon crawler? Tell me more.
God, I’m disappointed with Shadow Of The Tomb Raider. Not because it is particularly bad (it isn’t), or because it’s an almost exact carbon copy of Rise Of The Tomb Raider (it is, even down to the plot), but because I really think this incarnation of Lara Croft would be a much happier woman if she gave up the sham cover story of stealing ancient artifacts from their rightful owners and just accepted the fact that she really, really likes killing people.
I’ve always regarded Theme Hospital as the odd one out when it comes to Bullfrog’s strategy games. Theme Park made all the sense in the world, even when I was 11 years old, but I just didn’t understand the concept behind Theme Hospital. Even now I think running a for-profit hospital was a really weird theme for a British developer to build a game around; unfortunately the severe cuts the NHS has suffered over the last decade has given private healthcare the opportunity to become more deeply entrenched in the UK’s healthcare system1, but back in the 90s it was still a deeply alien concept to the British psyche and I often wonder how exactly Bullfrog ended up deciding to make it. Odd choice or no, though, Theme Hospital remains one of Bullfrog’s most fondly-remembered titles (for those who actually played it, at least), and so it’s no surprise that it’s the latest one to receive a modern attempt at a do-over in the form of Two Point Hospital.
If you’re into anime at all1 you’ve probably seen One Punch Man. One Punch Man was something of an anime phenomena a few years ago; it’s essentially a comedy that mercilessly parodies all of the cliched Dragonball Z knockoffs out there, while also having the self-awareness not to fall into the same traps by delivering some exquisitely well-animated fight scenes interspersed with a plot decent enough to stitch them together and held up by believable, natural character arcs. Basically, it’s an anime that has its cake and eats it too; it’s a parody of action anime that’s also a better anime, period, than the things it’s parodying. I mention this because watching One Punch Man is the best analogue I can come up with for what playing Yakuza 0 feels like — of course it’s a little different, as Yakuza is first and foremost a crime drama about factional politicking within the Japanese yakuza, but the dramatic story bits are juxtaposed with scenes of such insane frivolity that it can’t help but feel like it’s taking the piss out of itself at the same time.
For someone who really likes the Metroidvania style of games1 it’s possibly a little strange that it’s taken me this long to get around to playing Hollow Knight. It came out at the start of last year, it costs almost nothing (thanks to Brexit any game priced at £10 or less counts as “almost nothing” these days), it looks absolutely gorgeous and it’s by far the most Metroidvania game I’ve played since Portrait of Ruin of my ancient DS. These are all significant points in Hollow Knight’s favour, but counting against it is a word that is rather unfortunately all the rage these days: Soulslike.