Sea of Stars aims for, well, the stars, but lands somewhere a bit lower. Its charming world and brilliant combat carry much of the adventure. However, when Sea of Stars wants very much to be a narrative-driven game with a big cast of characters, it’s difficult to overlook the story’s shortcomings.
Armored Core 6 is the essence of a soft reboot. It has the unenviable task of drawing newcomers to a niche, sometimes overly challenging series without changing too much of what made fans like it to begin with. The result is a mixed experience that, while it has some shining moments of brilliance, feels a bit loose and never plays to its strengths.
Baldur’s Gate 3 is unforgettable and one of the best experiences I’ve had in games. I may have just finished my lengthy first playthrough, but I’m already eager to delve further and push the boundaries of what’s possible in this exceptional world that Larian created.
Stray Gods is ambitious in its goals, and while the road Summerfall and co. take to reach them is rough and uneven, I won’t be forgetting Grace’s tale anytime soon. It’s a clever format, and the unfulfilled potential makes me excited for future attempts to meld games and theater.
Age of Wonders 4 might be overwhelming at first, but it's brimming with potential and gives you the tools to tell unique stories with your chosen hero. The nearly decade-long gap between releases gave Triumph the chance to polish Age of Wonders 3's weak points and come up with substantial improvements to combat and presentation. The result is one of the best grand strategy games in ages.
Everspace 2 might seem like more of the same, especially thanks to its plodding prologue, but there's more going on here than you see at first glance. There's a stronger sense of place, better story, and more interesting cast that feel like they fulfill the original game's potential. Exploration is better than ever, and while combat hasn't changed too much, the careful balancing act of managing your resources makes every encounter feel fresh and exciting.
Company of Heroes 3 is a splendid and rewarding RTS game. Tense battles, brilliant map design, and streamlined unit management make it easily one of the best in the genre, with the Italian campaign acting as an exciting blueprint for the series’ future. If Relic wants to use Company of Heroes to tell serious and significant stories, though, the team needs to commit to actually doing that beyond just giving them a surface treatment.
Octopath Traveler II does what an excellent sequel should. Instead of breaking new ground left and right, it improves on the original in nearly every way and feels more confident about the stories it tells. There’s still room for improvement in some of its stiffer areas, but Octopath II is a sterling achievement all around.
Bloody Ties is a fun DLC, especially if you enjoyed the side activities in the main game, but it’s hard not to think Dying Light 2’s first expansion could have benefited from a bit more time - even after the delays - to help it live up to its full potential.
Rather than aiming for evolution similar to Bandai’s Tales of Arise, tri-Ace and Square Enix went back in time for Star Ocean: The Divine Force. The result is solid, but The Divine Force had the potential to reach even greater heights and establish an identity for the series as a thoughtful reflection on technology and philosophy. If nothing else, at least it proves Star Ocean is still brimming with possibility and deserves another chance, one that will hopefully be more forward-thinking and give the series a chance to shine at last.