Strategy Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Strategy RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Special Platinum Tickets Up For Grabs in The Battle Cats 8th Anniversary Campaign Mon, 12 Sep 2022 10:38:02 -0400 The Battle Cats

Partner content by PONOS.

The Battle Cats has just reached its 8th anniversary. Players will be able to enjoy a wide assortment of challenges and events to earn rewards. There are sale events, Arena of Honor events, and Special Cat Sales, among other things.

One reward worth focusing on is the opportunity for players to get their paws on up to two much-coveted Platinum Tickets. There are two different ways players might get one of these. Let’s take a look.

Platinum Ticket Events

The first opportunity to get a Platinum Ticket is by completing the final stage of Empire of Cats Chapter 1 before the end of the 8th Anniversary Celebrations. These run between September 12th and October 10th, which gives players almost a full month to complete this level.

Alternatively, players can buy a Platinum Ticket during a limited-time sale while the anniversary celebrations are ongoing. And there are good reasons why players might want to try and get hold of at least one, if not both, Platinum Tickets.

Uber Rare

Platinum Tickets can be traded for a special Capsule draw. These draws guarantee players an Uber Rare grade Cat hero. Uber Rare cats are the rarest cats in the game. They are powerful and rank above Special Cats, Rare Cats, and Super Rare Cats in terms of strength.

Different Cats each offer different abilities, such as area damage, immunity to different attacks, or significant single target damage. These Cats will be significantly helpful in defending your base from attackers.

Opportunities to get a guaranteed Uber Rare Cat don’t come around too often, so this is surely one event fans will not want to miss. Generally, players will get a 5% chance of winning an Uber Rare Cat when they play the Rare Cat Capsule, which gives you an idea of how difficult these are to come by.

The Battle Cats is available on iOS and Android right now  just click here.

Hard West 2 Review: Supernatural Strategy at Its Finest Tue, 16 Aug 2022 13:39:36 -0400 Josh Broadwell

It's a hard life being a cowboy. It's even harder when someone's stolen your soul, but such is the burden that falls upon Gin Carter and his cursed crew of social outcasts in Hard West 2.

Hard West 2 picks up where we started in our preview, as Gin and the gang raid a ghost train in a bid to find hidden treasure. What they end up with is a hellish curse and a fight to save their souls after getting tangled up with an unspeakable evil after the "treasure" turns out to be something of an eldritch horror that steals your soul in a card game. Y'know, the usual robbery-gone-wrong types of things.

The result is a thrilling tactics experience that, despite a few shortcomings in combat design and character development, is up there among the greats of the genre.

Hard West 2 Review: Supernatural Strategy at Its Finest

The ghost train raid is a strong setup, but Hard West 2 isn't really interested in either Wild West drama or supernatural horror outside of using it as a framework – and for the most part, that's fine. The opportunity to turn this into a narrative-rich tactics game was definitely there. Still, what Hard West 2 misses in deep or interesting narrative development, it makes up for in tone and atmosphere.

The setting may just be window dressing, but it's very effective window dressing.

Gin's core posse includes Flynn, the master of stealth, and Laughing Deer, who's still a Native American caricature that really didn't have to be, though you gradually recruit more fighters as the story progresses. One of Hard West 2's big draws is supposed to be balancing your crew's loyalty by making tough but fair decisions at critical points. Build enough loyalty with one member, and they learn new skills, but if you get on their bad side, they might leave. 

It's a familiar system. Tactics-style games from Final Fantasy Tactics to Surviving the Aftermath include similar layers of strategy centered around the same concept, making difficult choices to keep your merry band of outlaws together.

Hard West 2 wants to distinguish itself by making these choices more character-driven, but the characters just don't have enough depth or development to make it work. It's a bit shallow as a result and seems like a missed opportunity, though it's in keeping with the general approach to plot and character development.

And that's fine, really. Unless you're Valkyria Chronicles, you can skate by with underdeveloped characters and a plot that's mostly fluff. What matters in a squad-based tactics game is, well, the tactics, and Hard West 2 delivers mightily on that front.

I was pretty thrilled with Hard West 2's take on tactics back during our Hard West 2 preview (linked at the top of the review), and it just gets better from there — even as combat basics stay largely the same. Like other squad-based games, you control a team of characters with unique abilities, utilizing cover and gradually creeping forward to take out the enemy forces. Hard West 2 features a ricochet system that adds a clever new dimension to planning your moves. 

Is it better to break cover and use a powerful skill or stick to the safe route and bounce a well-placed shot off the wall (don't ask, it just works) to take out a single foe? Usually, the latter is the best choice, not that it kept me from trying the flashy route from time to time. What's the afterlife without a bit of risk?

Hard West 2's maps are brilliant, for the most part. While most of them don't reach quite the same exciting heights as the train tutorial, the general layout and what they demand more than make up for the relatively bland design.

Imagine maps from Desperados or Shadow Tactics but turn-based instead. You can't avoid enemies forever, so obstacles and cover are more than just convenient ways to avoid being spotted. They're actual lifesavers and vital tools for clearing each challenge.

Each character has limited action points to spend on movement, normal attacks, and skills. If you're not careful, it's easy to wind up trapped and overwhelmed after making a few unwise choices. Thankfully, despite seeming merciless, Hard West 2 has a few features to help maintain balance. The Bravado system allows you to act again under certain circumstances once your Bravado meter maxes out and any character who dies in battle is revived in the next encounter.

Tactics games obviously make you calculate every move carefully. That's inherent in the genre's DNA. But Hard West 2's cover and ricochet systems, limited character actions in each turn, and more make every victory feel genuinely earned.

The only downside is that the design often strays into Valkyria Chronicles territory. The maps often feel purpose-built to encourage one specific strategy  maybe two  more like a puzzle than anything else. It's not a bad thing. Figuring out the right solution is satisfying in most cases, but with the depth of combat and the possibilities it presents, I'd have appreciated a bit more freedom and room for experimentation. It's still excellent, but I hope Hard West 3 just goes all out and lets you create absolute chaos on the battlefield.

Hard West 2 Review  The Bottom Line

  • Excellent map design.
  • Clever and demanding combat.
  • Unique atmosphere.
  • Underdeveloped story and characters.
  • Not enough room for experimentation.

2022 is unexpectedly shaping up to be the year of the tactics game. Despite enjoying the preview, I didn't expect Hard West 2 to grab me quite as much as Triangle Strategy or the likes of Tactics Ogre, which is itself getting a remake later this year. However, if you're a fan of strategy at all, it absolutely deserves your attention.

[Note: Good Shepherd Entertainment provided the copy of Hard West 2 used for this review.]

Digimon Survive Review: Digivolve or Die Wed, 10 Aug 2022 11:32:29 -0400 Joshua Robin

After numerous delays and what feels like a surprise release, Digimon Survive is finally in the wild. Part horror visual novel and part tactics RPG, it follows a group of lost students teleported to a world of monsters. Their goal is to understand why they’re there and escape the dangers of this unknown land with their lives.

Despite Digimon Survive's extended development period, there are still a fair amount of awkward bumps along the way, keeping it from reaching the heights that fans so hoped it would. Issues with the translation are far too common. The story pacing is a little too slow. And the tactics-based combat is a bit too repetitive. It’s a shame since, in spite of these issues, Digimon Survive is still a captivating experience.

Digimon Survive Review — Digivolve or Die

The story begins with the cast on a school camping trip at some local ruins. When a series of landslides hit and block the way to the shrine of the beast god, The Kemonogami, a local girl, Miu, offers to help. But things don’t go as planned, and they’re sucked through a portal into the land of digital monsters.

The Digimon world is a more dangerous one than in many other games. Main characters can die in the fog that occasionally blankets the island, and the Digimon themselves don’t understand how their home works. To complicate matters, the main antagonist group has taken to sacrificing human children to the fog to drive it back, which is why they're so interested in our main cast.

This adventure plays out over a prologue and a subsequent 12 chapters broken down into three sections each: Exploration, Free Action, and linear narrative. Exploration and Free Action are basically the same, though Free Action has a move limit, whereas Exploration does not. In these sections, you’ll choose from a list of locations to visit with a number of intractable objects, such as pieces of furniture, a weird tree, or location landmarks. The ultimate purpose of visiting these locations is to meet other story characters and raise their Affinity, the system Survive uses to track how much others like Takuma, the player character.

Affinity features a list of dialog options and increases when Takuma says things characters enjoy. Occasionally you’ll make a Karmic choice, a complimentary system that tracks important choices and revolves on three axes: Harmony, Wrathful, Moral.

These are never as black and white as a “good option” or an “evil option” but more nuanced and realistic. I never picked a Wrathful response and felt like I was being a jerk or that I was bound to a binary kind/unkind option. That each choice is a different but reasonable way to handle a situation helps create a greater sense of personal expression within the system.

Most of the Karma choices appear in the linear story sections, which fall between or after Exploration and Free Action segments. These typically include a set goal or destination, though you can sometimes pick between people to talk to or locations to explore. Either way, you’ll need to visit one specific area or talk to one specific character eventually, so they all funnel to one place.

The affinity system especially blends well with the complexities written into the cast and adds a palpable sense of realism to Digimon Survive. As in real life, personalities here are varied, and understanding some characters is easier than others. I immediately connected with Minoru and Mio, for example, but there were other characters I never really got a handle on – and it made raising their Affinity difficult. Others still were in between, and I could get their responses right about half the time. These diverse interactions give the very tangible sense that you’re interacting with real people.

Part of the reason the personalities are so strong is because of how varied they are. The main cast members could have easily been standard anime archetypes into the power of friendship with “Never Give Up!” attitudes. Refreshingly, they aren’t. Instead, how they think about and interact with situations is handled with nuance. When one of the cast negatively impacts the morale of the group, there’s a discussion on whether they should be cut loose to preserve the group, with each character having strong, independent opinions.

Some characters don’t get along with their Digimon partners, either, further adding to the game’s sense of authenticity. Two of the students, Ryo and Shuuji, are complete jerks to their monsters, so much so that I started to feel bad for their Digimon. They’re thrown into this life or death situation tethered to such hateful people. It’s something that changed how I played the game, and I spent time with Ryo and Shuuji because I thought raising their Affinity would make them be nicer to their Digimon. Ultimately, my efforts were fruitless since all four of them died in my playthrough.

The visuals of Digimon Survive are jaw-dropping. The character sprites all look fantastic. Each character design is aesthetically pleasing and fits their personalities. The characters are also animated for a small amount of time when they enter the screen. It’s a nice touch even if there is only a little of it. The characters feel more alive than in other visual novels like early Ace Attorney games or GNOSIA. The effect isn’t as dramatic as 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, but it's effective and bolsters the concept that you’re playing through a Digimon anime.

The environments are equally gorgeous. They’re a mix of 2D sprites with polygonal structures in a 3D space. The cinematography of the scenes takes full advantage of that space. The camera will swing purposefully through story scenes as they progress. The amount of drama added to the story beats from the camera work shows off what is possible with visual novels in a 3D space.

The orchestral soundtrack works as a complementary backing layer to what each scene is trying to convey, falling into somber tones or rising into bombast when needed. No arrangement ever feels out of place. Thankfully, then, the music is great. You’ll be listening to a lot of it.

There is voice acting to fill some of the gaps, but it isn’t in most scenes, and it's exclusively in Japanese. The lion’s share of scenes are text only, so you’ll only be guided by the soundtrack as – the clicking of your buttons as you progress dialogue. The voice acting is wonderful, though, emotive and capable of conveying the harsh shifts in a character’s psyche. Even if an English voice-over was out of the budget, I would have liked to have the Japanese voice-over throughout the entire story.

Despite how taken I am with the visual novel portion of Digimon Survive, it isn’t all good. The translation is poor, with numerous grammar mistakes. Sentences have continuity errors in them, and some dialog doesn't make sense for a given situation. An optional cutscene has an editor’s note in it. In need of at least another proofreading pass, if not two, it’s shocking how many silly mistakes are in the script.

There’s another system in the visual novel portions of Survive that’s tacked on. That being Takuma's phone camera. On location screens, Takuma can take out his phone camera and scan the area for distorted spots. Focusing the camera on that spot will reveal hidden objects like training items or encounters such as battles. The game tells you where to point your camera 90% of the time. There are spots that aren’t explicitly told to the player that reveal background lore for the island, which is neat. That’s about it, though. The camera never really amounts to more than another button to press.

The worst problem Digimon Survive has is its pacing. It’s incredibly slow and not always in an interesting way. Survive does not believe in subtlety or trusts the player to understand things the first time. More often than I want, the text will try to clarify concepts that were already clear. If a character is acting weird, Survive will make sure that you’ve noticed.

How overt the cutscenes can be isn't the only issue; too often, Survive's pacing veers into tedium. In the linear story sections, you’ll spend your time doing the same task in locations that are far too similar. There are three chapters that see Takuma running through look-a-like corridors and performing the same actions, and Part 5 has an insufferably mind-numbing section in which you go down several tunnels while trying to convince your squadmates they’re seeing illusions – over and over again.

I’ve saved talking about the tactics RPG portion of Digimon Survive for so long because it’s basically an afterthought. Like most TRPGs, combat plays out in the typical grid-based battlefield where each Digimon makes moves on their turn and order is based on each character’s Speed stat. Characters can attack, defend, use abilities, or use items as expected. Despite the overall monotony, there are two unique twists to the combat, Digivolving and the Talk function.

Story Digimon can evolve at will mid-fight. Being in their evolved state comes at a flat SP — Survive’s version of mana — cost per turn. Any turn that your units are evolved and don’t contribute to the fight is wasted SP. This adds another layer of strategy to fights that need more elements like this. There’s an elemental resistance system with type advantages, which would help, but it never mattered in a way where I had to learn them.

The Talk function allows you to buff story Digimon or recruit wild Digimon into your party by answering questions correctly to charm wild Digimon into liking you. Once charmed, you can either ask them to join you with a random chance of success or to give you an item.

This system smartly ties into the story in a very clever way. Occasionally, you won’t be able to buff story Digimon by talking to them because their human partner was sad or mad and didn’t want to talk to anyone. I couldn’t use a combat mechanic because of someone's emotional state in the story, further compounding the complexity for each character.

Ultimately, nothing about combat will dramatically shift how you think about Survive unless you hate it. The combat sections are fine. Not transcendental, but serviceable. Like the story, pacing issues abound. Battles take too long and play out in uninteresting ways. My ideal version has every character able to move one or two spaces more than they currently do. Too many turns are spent moving the max number of spaces then doing nothing because everything is out of range.


Digimon Survive Review  — The Bottom Line


  • Interesting and engaging story.
  • Excellent characterization.
  • Visually beautiful with animated characters.
  • Pleasant soundtrack.
  • Camera work makes each scene dynamic.


  • So many translation errors.
  • So much filler.
  • Combat is slow and rarely additive.
  • Voice-over isn’t used throughout.

Digimon Survive is a frustrating game from a critical perspective. It could have been great and done so without caveats. I’m a big fan of these characters, and the story and the writing are very good. I laughed. I felt sad. I audibly gasped at moments. Digimon Survive should have been an easy recommendation.

However, It seems like the scope got away from the development team, with the game suffering for it. Translation errors abound. Some accompanying systems aren’t refined enough to become more than filler. Too many of the battles are spent on empty turns. Too much of the story is reading dialogue that has no meaning or just reiterates lines that have already been reiterated.

Digimon Survive's highs are great, but they're sandwiched between content that, if removed, would make a better game. It’s still worth playing, but you’ll have to be okay with a lot of annoyances.

[Note: Bandai Namco provided the copy of Digimon Survive used for this review.] 

Two Point Campus Review: Top of the Class Thu, 04 Aug 2022 10:04:18 -0400 Hayes Madsen

Running a school is tough business, especially when your culinary classes are just a front for a secret spy school.Two Point Campus is a management sim where you build a flourishing university while trying to juggle a variety of kooky elements.

It feels like the perfect follow-up to 2018’s Two Point Hospital, with a zany sense of humor and strong strategy systems that make for an absolute blast. Two Point Campus gets the most important thing about management games right: it's about the big picture rather than the minutiae. 

Two Point Campus Review: Top of the Class

Your goal in Two Point Campus is to build the best college campus possible, all while juggling your income, student happiness, and much more. The primary portion of the game is split into a variety of different maps, all of which come with unique objectives you must complete to earn star ratings, with one star needed on each map to move to the next one. Completing all maps unlocks a sandbox mode, where you can play around to your heart’s content. It is a bit disappointing you can't jump into sandbox immediately, but there's still enough dynamic content to satisfy any player until then. 

The neat thing about Two Point Campus is that each of these maps is designed around a unique college campus blueprint, incrementally introducing the core mechanics of the game, slowly adding more elements as you get the hang of things. One map sees you creating the ideal sports school and challenging other universities to Cheeseball matches, while another lets you create a wizarding school, where you need to keep students happy in the midst of meteor showers and evil hexes. 

There are loose goals that dictate how you build your school, but overall, it’s up to you how things are constructed. Teachers run classrooms and provide private tutoring, assistants help run a variety of locations like libraries and food stands, and janitors work to keep the grounds clean and upgrade equipment. Once you’ve built the various university rooms and staffed them, things virtually run on their own. The core loop of Two Point Campus is much more about finding little ways to improve your overarching operation before reveling in the madness of it running. 

Each room on campus has a prestige level that can be improved by placing additional items in it and making it look nicer. The higher the prestige level is, the better the room will perform. There are a lot of little elements that can tie into how your campus runs, as well. You can place special club podiums around that provide student bonuses; the Speedwalking Club podium increases their overall movement speed, for example. You can also schedule parties and musical performances to confer big boosts to your student’s entertainment needs alongside other bonuses. 

There's also a system called Kudosh, which is used to unlock a wealth of new items. You earn Kudosh by meeting milestones for dozens of different categories, such as providing archaeology classes or increasing the attractiveness of your campus. These milestones apply across the whole game, not just to specific levels. While you generally have a decent income of Kudosh, it can be frustrating to get a request from a student you can't fulfill because you don't have enough of it. Still, the system does give you a secondary set of objectives to work toward. 

When to it comes to making money, every student pays tuition fees that roll in each month, and you get even more money every month from the amount of XP your students earn. You’ll need to balance your income against the salaries of your employees, maintenance fees, and more. It’s a delicate balancing act that you’ll constantly need to stay on top of to keep making improvements.

Two Point Campus features the same cartoony art style as Two Point Hospital, and one of the most fun aspects of the game is watching the whacky antics of your students and staff. Culinary students cook massive burgers the size of a small house, countercultural students swagger around in leather jackets, and wizardry students knock each other silly with spells. There’s so much personality and vibrancy crammed into every aspect that it’s simply a joy to sit back and watch the machine you’ve built run. 

Two Point Campus definitely feels a lot like Two Point Hospital, and if you've sunk hundreds of hours into that game, there might be a bit of deja vu here. However, Two Point Campus really does a phenomenal job at making each campus feel unique and different, and later levels are the best. The music-focused level throws a wrench in things by not giving you any tuition money, but every time a student levels up, you get a bonus. Meanwhile, the spy school introduces another mechanic: a mole infiltrates your campus, and you need to sniff them out and expel them, so they don’t drag your other students down. 

It also helps that the game’s UI and interface are easy to navigate, with everything clearly separated into tabs for rooms, indoor items, and outdoor items. At least on PC, it’s incredibly easy to rotate and adjust items to place them wherever you want or even move and edit them after the fact. 

Two Point Campus Review — The Bottom Line


  • Systems that are easy to pick up.
  • Levels do a fantastic job of mixing up gameplay.
  • Smooth UI and interface that is easy to navigate.
  • Gameplay focuses on improving your campus, instead of micromanaging everything. 
  • Genuinely good sense of humor.


  • Sandbox mode should be unlocked from the start.
  • Doesn't wildly change the formula from Two Point Hospital.
  • Kudosh system can be mildly frustrating.

Just like the previous game in the series, Two Point Campus has a phenomenal sense of humor, with tongue-in-cheek student announcements cutting in to “ask students not to ask questions,” among other chuckle-worthy things. Each map also has advisors and other characters that chime in with their own dialogue every once in a while, and it all adds to the general comedic tone. 

Somehow, Two Point Campus manages to find a great middle ground between easy-to-pick-up gameplay and deep management mechanics. There’s an undeniable, joyful glee in spending hours meticulously placing items, seeing it turn into a massive well-oiled university. As stressful as you might think it’d be to run a school, Two Point Campus is nothing but fun.

[Note: Sega provided the copy of Two Point Campus used for this review.]

Minecraft Legends Unites the Overworld in 2023 Tue, 14 Jun 2022 15:12:44 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Microsoft unveiled Minecraft Legends during its Summer Games Fest 2022 showcase on June 12. The action strategy game is a new twist on the iconic Minecraft formula and is set to release sometime in 2023. There's no firm release date outside of that window just yet, though it will be coming to PC, Xbox, Game Pass, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

The debut trailer can be seen at the top of this article. The first few minutes set up the narrative and lore, where the overworld unites to take on a common, Piglin foe invading the world from another dimension. About 1:36 in, it shifts to a bit of gameplay, showing horse riding, base building, combat with a little tower defense, and one big explosion. 

Developer Mojang has partnered with Blackbird Interactive on the project, which has worked on Hardspace: Shipbreaker, Crossfire: Legion, and Homeworld 3

This isn't the first time that Mojang has taken a side road through the Minecraft universe. Minecraft Dungeons popped up in 2020, and if the name didn't give anything away, it's a dungeon-crawling action-adventure game set in the Minecraft universe. We mostly enjoyed it, praising it for its "gameplay, four-player support on and off-line, large, and large, diverse levels."

The original Minecraft experience, which launched over a decade ago, is still going strong. It recently released its 1.19 Wild Update. 

Marvel's Midnight Suns Pre-Orders: What's In Each Edition? Sun, 12 Jun 2022 11:52:04 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Marvel's Midnight Suns received a new trailer as part of 2022's Summer Games Fest, showcasing Spider-Man as a playable character and the corrupted heroes at Lilith's command. The Hunter will go up against the likes of Sabretooth, Venom, Hulk, and Scarlet Witch. Alongside the new trailer, publisher 2K confirmed that the game is now available for pre-order and detailed what's in each edition. 

All pre-orders will get the Doctor Strange Defenders skin. The official Midnight Suns pre-order page notes that those who pre-order the Legendary Edition will get 30 days early access to the skin, though it's unclear what that means exactly. We've reached out to clarify and will update this article accordingly.

Marvel's Midnight Suns Standard Edition

The Standard Edition of Marvel's Midnight Suns includes the base game for PC (Steam and EGS), PS4, and Xbox One. 

Enhanced Edition

The Enhanced Edition is the next-gen/new-gen version of Marvel's Midnight Suns for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. Alongside the base game and pre-order Doctor Strange Skin, you'll get five other "premium skins:"

  • Captain America  Future Soldier.
  • Captain Marvel  Mar-Vell.
  • Magik  Phoenix 5. 
  • Nico Minoru  Sister Grimm. 
  • Wolverine  X-Force.

Digital+ Edition

The Digital+ Edition includes the base game for PC (Steam and EGS), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. It consists of the base game and the five premium skins from the Enhanced Edition, as well as six more skins:

  • Blade — Demon Hunter.
  • Captain America — Captain of the Guard.
  • Iron Man — Iron Knight.
  • Nico Minoru — Shadow Witch.
  • Ghost Rider — Spirit of Vengeance. 
  • Magik — New Mutant. 

Legendary Edition

The Legendary Edition includes the base game for all platforms, all skins from the Enhanced and Digital+ Editions, access to the game's Season Pass, and 12 more premium skins:

  • Captain Marvel — Medieval Marvel.
  • Wolverine — Cowboy Logan.
  • Blade — 1602.
  • Iron Man — Bleeding Edge. 
  • Ghost Rider — Death Knight.
  • Doctor Strange — Strange Future Supreme. 
  • Scarlet Witch — Boss Witch.
  • Scarlet Witch — Fallen Scarlet Witch.
  • Spider-Man — Symbiote. 
  • Spider-Man — Demon. 
  • Two skins for unannounced heroes. 

Marvel's Midnight Suns releases on October 7, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. 

Songs of Conquest Early Access Review: A Breath of Fresh Air for Strategy Games Tue, 10 May 2022 15:26:39 -0400 Justin Michael

Taking place in a high fantasy world with mysterious faey creatures, hordes of undead, and powerful magic users known as Wielders – of which you are one – Songs of Conquest brings a lot to the table for fans of strategic turn-based games in its Early Access release. With an obvious (and heavy) influence from the Heroes of Might and Magic games, Songs of Conquest offers up the nostalgic feeling of those early- to mid-90s games but with a polished and unique blend of gaming mechanics.

While the main loop falls within turn-based play, Songs of Conquest also provides a blend of exploration, settlement building, RPG-like character progression, tactics-based combat, and much more. It does all of this in a manner that has fluidity and doesn't feel cumbersome or cobbled together. 

Songs of Conquest Early Access Review: A Breath of Fresh Air for Strategy Games

One of the alluring things about games like Songs of Conquest is the setting; the world itself, the lore, and the distinct factions vying for control. Songs of Conquest captures these things perfectly with lore uncovered during play, dialog between characters, and a world that is beautiful to take in. 

Speaking on design, developers Lavapotion have nailed it with their striking and gorgeous pixel style merged with a 2.5D approach. The world map feels alive with various buildings, ancient sites of power, resource points, and gorgeous terrain features.

The character design is also a thing of beauty for the four distinct playable factions, as well as the scores of other enemies and creatures that inhabit this universe. Layered on top of that is an equally enjoyable soundtrack that really helps round out the feel of things.

Songs of Conquest has a blended mechanics system but let you dig a bit deeper into what I think sets it apart from other games in the genre and really makes it shine. 

Settlement building is one of the first things I found myself chomping at the bit for. The settlement and construction system is where the tactics of Songs of Conquest start; that’s what determines a lot about your troop composition. Each settlement has a size ranging from small to medium to large, which factors into how many buildable tiles you’ll have to work with. You’ll find yourself picking and choosing from several buildings, all with their own importance and some with synergies. 

Looking to build a castle (a medium-sized structure)? You'll need a peasants' hut (a small structure) as a requirement. This, coupled with the limited building tiles per settlement makes choices matter and scratches that economy/empire management itch at the same time. 

Combat in Songs of Conquest is another area that has obviously had a lot of thought and intention placed in it. The battle map makes use of a hex-based system with the addition of elevated portions on the battle grid. For more than show, these give troops high-ground advantages and even allow ranged units to fire further with more devastating ability.

Combat is also high stakes. It is quick, bloody, and brutal, especially when you clash with another Wielder. I personally don’t use the auto-resolve button on the combat screen and instead choose to manually handle every encounter. That's after a few early skirmishes where I took heavy losses and then virtually none having redone it manually. While some might find this tedious, I personally don’t mind.

The last and biggest thing that Songs of Conquest really hits out of the park for is the magic system. There are many different spells available to you as a Wielder from several different “schools”' of essence, but that essence is tied to the troops in your command. There are additional means of essence production, such as through equipable artifacts, but the main income lies in the composition of your army. 

With each faction having its own diverse roster of troops, you can expect to come up against different tactics and magics throughout.

At the time of writing, Songs of Conquest is in Early Access with two narrative-driven campaigns available for two of the four factions. The first campaign sees you play as the Arelon, a human faction with a heavy focus on medieval-type units like knights and swordsmen. This is the first campaign and plays as a bit of a tutorial. It's also an introduction to the lore of the world and those that inhabit it. 

The second campaign sees you play as the Rana, an anthropomorphic race of amphibian and reptile creatures rising up against their oppressive slavers. The storytelling is reminiscent of the 90s style that it lovingly imitates but has depth and a sense of satisfaction as you move through the mission maps.

Additionally, Songs of conquest also has multiplayer options for both local and online play, allowing you to have some friendly competition with friends and the community as a whole. There are also the scenario and map editor tools that give you the freedom to create your own challenges with nearly all the same tools as the developers.   

With a roadmap that slates Song of Conquest to be in Early Access for the next year, there’s plenty of time for Lavapotion to smooth out what little bumps there are in the gameplay loop presently. At nearly 10 hours of playtime at the writing of this EA review, I’ve only had two issues: a slight audio glitch during a victory cutscene transition and the audio cutting out midway that a simple save and load fixed. The amount of polish at this stage should serve as an example for future Early Access titles. 

Songs of Conquest Early Access Review — The Bottom Line


  • Stunning visuals.
  • Unique game loop.
  • Immersive world.


  • Slightly repetitive combat.
  • Minor audio glitches.
  • Minor learning curve.

Songs of Conquest delivers unique and enjoyable gameplay with stunning visuals, audio, and a world with lore worth exploring. It's an Early Access title not to be missed, especially for any fan of turn-based strategy. 

[Note: Lavapotion provided the copy of Songs of Conquest used for this EA review.]

Hard West 2 Preview: There's Ghosts in Them Thar Hills Fri, 06 May 2022 16:34:55 -0400 Josh Broadwell

“It’s probably not a real ghost train,” Hard West 2 protagonist Gin Carter tells his posse as they head out to rob a federal locomotive nicknamed The Ghost Train. It’s the kind of foreshadowing that tells you the train will, in fact, be haunted and probably by something more terrible than just your average ghost. The premonition bears fruit, as the gang winds up facing a hellish opponent and unleashing chaos on the world, with Carter losing his own soul in the process.

I spent a few hours with Hard West 2's preview build, and while developer Ice Code isn’t reinventing the steam engine with the sequel’s clever turn-based tactics, Hard West 2 is, so far, proof that innovation isn't always necessary.

Carter’s journey opens with a tutorial that sees you board the Ghost Train and learn the basics. Like its predecessor, Hard West 2 is essentially “what if XCOM, but wild west occult.” Each party member has a pool of action points you can spend by moving or using skills, and the Bravado system replenishes your points if you manage to defeat an enemy with a skill. 

It’s easy to underestimate just how influential Bravado is, but with the right planning and a bit of luck – more on that in a moment – you can take calculated risks and still retreat to cover, potentially turning the tide of battle. Or you could doom your posse if you make the wrong moves, which I totally never did at all (except in every mission). On the bright side, death is temporary for your party. You may have to restart a mission, but you won’t permanently lose a key member of the gang.

It’s a testament to the quality of Hard West 2’s level design that using Bravado never feels like you’re cheesing the game. Other squad-based strategy games invite you to break them with overpowered builds or exploiting the environment for cover, but Hard West 2 built Bravado into its challenges.

Enemy placement, reinforcements, and your posse’s fragile mortality mean you’re always just one step away from defeat even when you’re using every tool available. I could see this potentially becoming a frustration further on if later stages require precise solutions over free strategizing, but for now, I appreciate the balanced difficulty.

Hard West 2’s luck mechanic adds another smart layer to your tactical considerations. You’ll earn Luck for certain actions, which you can expend during your next turn to buff your combat abilities. The most common use in the early stages is increasing the likelihood of certain skills dealing extra damage or scoring critical hits, but I’m eager to see how Ice Code uses it once your party expands further.

Once the tutorial ends, and Gin loses his soul to the devil in the process, you’re free to explore a semi-open world and recruit other party members from a motley variety of human and undead outlaws. It still seems a bit early to say whether these random recruits can hold their own compared to the four lead characters, though, recruiting a team of zombies is fun just for the sake of it.

If you’re thinking “Yep, this all sounds like Hard West,” that’s true, which is a slight problem. So far, Hard West 2 isn’t doing a whole lot different from the first game. Your core team covers the usual melee, ranged, and power classes, and the environment is a crucial tool providing both cover and a way to bounce bullets back into your foes. Gin’s journey to recover his soul means the sequel has greater narrative potential than the original game, but again, it’s still far too early to say. 

The prospect of meaningful stories for the rest of the party is rather less certain, though. Kestral Colt seems like your stereotypical gambling, womanizing cowboy, and Flynn, a young woman scorned by the church, has some kind of supernatural affinity that could make for an intriguing subplot. 

Then there’s Laughing Deer, an unwelcome surprise in the form of your usual two-dimensional portrayal of Native Americans in media. He’s a fighter, possibly a sadist, who lives for combat and makes comments about being a true warrior. And it just… doesn’t need to be that way. 

Hopefully, the rest of Hard West 2 justifies Laughing Deer's existence and builds on the biggest strengths in its opening hours. Familiar it may be, but innovation isn’t everything. There’s just as much value and fun in a solid game executed well.

[Note: Ice Code provided the copy of Hard West 2 used for this preview.]

Dune Spice Wars: How to Get & Farm Water Tue, 03 May 2022 10:03:26 -0400 Hayes Madsen

How to get water is something you've got to figure out relatively quick in Dune Spice Wars. If you want to expand and conquer all of Arrakis, you'll need to be smart about how you go about obtaining water and other resources to stay afloat.

In this guide we are going to go over how to get water and how to farm it, so you do not fall to simple dehydration out in the desert.

How to Harvest Water in Dune Spice Wars

Each match you'll start out with just enough water to build a couple of military units and take over one village. Past that, however, you'll need to how to get water in high quantities, as it is required for taking over villages, training and upkeeping military units, and trading with Sietches. There are essentially three ways of earning water, with the first being through Windtraps. 

Use Windtraps to Get Water

Windtraps are Economy buildings that you can construct in any village, and they're unlocked from the very start. Once you've conquered a village simply click on it and hover over to the Economy tab of the menu. 

There is a trick, however, as the amount of water Windtraps create is dictated by the wind level of a region. When you click on a region you can see the name of that region in the lower left-hand corner, and underneath the name is a Wind Strength number.

For each level of Wind Strength, a Windtrap will produce +3 water, so it's a good idea to place it in the regions with the highest wind. You can place Windtraps anywhere, but placing it on a  region with a 5 or a 6 Wind Strength will eliminate the need to place more.

Use a Water Extractor to Get Water

The second building to get water is the Water Extractor, which can't be built until you've researched it from the green research tree, on the second tier. There's a huge catch with this building, however, as it can only be built on a polar region.

At the moment, there's generally only one polar region in the middle of the map, and building a Water Extractor there will grant you a tremendous +50 water. As a note, the Fremen are unable to build the Water Extractor

Trade to Get Water

The final way to get water is by simply trading for it with other factions. On the top right of the screen are three portraits of the other faction leaders, and clicking on one will bring up a trade menu.

Here you can select which resources you want to offer and what you want in return. An arrow in the middle shows how likely the trade is to succeed. Trading isn't a very reliable way to get water, but if you're in a pinch it's a quick way to get some. 

If you need any more help, make sure to check out our Dune Spice Wars guides hub

Dune Spice Wars Early Access Review: Not So Spicy Yet Mon, 02 May 2022 15:19:03 -0400 Josh Broadwell

4X games light my brain up, and starting Dune Spice Wars the first time was almost like the expanding brain meme come to life. The genre is enough to catch my interest, but add in a fantasy sci-fi setting, the promise of deep political and economic systems revolving around conflict over a basic resource, and you’ll make me a very happy person.

In theory. Dune Spice Wars has all of these things, but it’s also very much still in Early Access. The management systems are at once overly complicated and frustratingly restrictive. You have few meaningful choices over how to lead a campaign, and that means little incentive to keep playing. It has promise, but the current build is a bit of a letdown that betrays its own possibilities.

Dune Spice Wars Early Access Review: Not So Spicy Yet

Dune Spice Wars opens with a dramatic narrative sequence outlining the four factions’ motivations. I opted for the Fremen, initially. They're the only indigenous race left on the planet and one that wants to “turn the planet green” by reclaiming their rightful place. I discovered shortly after the game started that my choice actually mattered very little. Aside from a few minor advantages and some slightly different advisors, the Fremen play similarly to the Smugglers, who play similarly to the Atreides, who play similarly to the Harkonnen.

Your goal is, as ever in a 4X game, total domination. How you arrive at that goal doesn’t matter, mostly because there’s only one way to do it – keep the trade guilds happy with regular spice shipments and conquer the other three factions. You’ll earn spice by harvesting spice fields near certain villages, conquer settlements to gain more resources, and customize these towns and villages with buildings that boost your resources in some form, such as extra water, Dune’s version of supplies or food.

It’s all fairly standard stuff, albeit with a Dune skin pulled over it. Combat revolves around a limited roster of unit types that, despite their apparent strengths and weaknesses, tend to perform the same in most circumstances.

I’m one of those who actually likes overly complex games. If you make me take notes to keep up with your systems, I’ll love it. Spice Wars aims for complexity, but the current build misses the mark in a few ways.

Take the politics system. During my first few Landsraan meetings – nation-wide council gatherings that pass laws and shape government – I threw all of my influence into passing measures that benefited me, even at the expense of the citizenry. There are a few problems with that, though. One is the corruption inherent in that process, a sly, backhanded method of politics that goes against the honor-bound Atreides house or the noble Fremen. 

The other is the unnecessary complexity. Along with influence is a second stat I’ve already forgotten about that determines how many votes you can cast and the likelihood you’ll get your way. You’ll automatically end up with influence regardless of how you play, so the end result seems like complicated window dressing placed over an overly linear system.

The issue spills over into other areas of the game as well. Authority, for example, accrues naturally from the settlements you conquer. If you want to subjugate a new village, you need a certain amount of Authority, but getting it is just a matter of waiting an in-game day. How you manage or mismanage your territories doesn’t matter.

The same goes for the espionage branch. Complicated menu and advisor stats aside, infiltration boils down to sending agents on a quest and hoping they succeed. Here, too, your actions have much less influence than you’d expect.

The advisors and faction leaders also seem like a bit of a missed opportunity. They’re one of the few aspects after the opening introduction with substantial flavor text giving them personality and, you would think, a dynamic role to play in the world. Instead, they perform basically the same functions.

I was surprised to see my espionage-oriented advisor have the same available espionage tasks and even the same chances of success as my second advisor who was less suited to spy work.

Dune Spice Wars Early Access Review — The Bottom Line


  • Strong potential.
  • Rich source material to draw on.
  • Solid 4X strategy foundation.


  • Factions are too similar.
  • Territory management is fairly basic.
  • Needless complexity in several systems.
  • Shallow narrative and characters.

Spice Wars has rich source material to draw on for creating meaningful moments tailored to these distinct personalities, and I hope it ends up doing more with its characters to distinguish itself from similar games.

I still enjoyed my time with Dune Spice Wars despite all this. It’s a strong 4X game with everything you’d expect from the genre, so if you’re just after a strategy game with a trace of Dune flavor, then it’s fine to go ahead and jump in now. There’s just the potential for so much more here, and with some fine-tuning, Spice Wars could be a standout strategy game once it leaves Early Access.

[Note: Shiro Games provided the copy of Dune Spice Wars used for this Early Access review.]

Dune Spice Wars Tips and Tricks Guide Mon, 02 May 2022 13:33:22 -0400 Hayes Madsen

Dune Spice Wars is truly a testament to just how much there is to learn to even stand a chance in a 4X game, with dozens of little systems and features that all tie together in a single match. While the game doesn't currently have multiplayer, the AI can still be quite challenging.

In this guide, we'll give you a few tips and tricks to get you started on your conquest of Arrakis.

Set Your Harvesters and Ornithopters to Auto

Ornithopters and harvesters are the two vehicles you'll use the most in Dune Spice Wars, and while you can control them manually it's much easier to let them do things automatically.

To set your Ornithopter to auto simply click on it, or on the icon on the right side of the screen. In the unit selection panel you'll see a set to auto button.

When selected this lets your Ornithopter scout the map on its own to uncover villages, caches, points of interest, and more. The benefit is you can focus on everything else. You'll start each match with one Ornithopter, but can build more by spending 400 Solario and two fuel. 

Once you take your first village and get a Refinery established you'll have a Spice Harvester. You need to manually select the Harvester and select the harvest button to start it up, but there's a second button for "Auto-Recall". You should absolutely enable this as it lets your harvester automatically flee if a Sandworm appears.

The only catch is that once it's returned to your base you'll need to go and manually start it up again. Still, it's better than losing a harvester and having to wait for another one to be built. 

Spice Is Your Most Valuable Resource

As the name of the game suggests, Spice is everything in your conquest of Arrakis. Your first goal should be to conquer as many spice fields as possible and set up harvesters. Spice fields are highlighted by purple dust markers, so you can use that to plan out your expansion route. 

In the top-left corner of the screen is the Spice gauge, which you can control to change how much spice you sell, versus how much you put in your stockpile. While it's generally a good idea to sell more spice, you want to make sure you have enough in your stockpile to meet the Spice Tax.

Your best plan is, generally, to move the slider mostly into the purple until your stockpile has enough for the tax, then switch it to yellow until the next tax phase starts. 

Focus Mainly on One Playstyle and Research Tree

Considering there are three different ways to win a match, you'll likely want to focus on one playstyle in Dune Spice Wars. That means taking specific actions and investing heavily in one area of the research tree. This could also greatly depend on the faction you play as:

  • House Atreides is good at diplomacy and charters.
  • House Harkonnen excels at military.
  • Smugglers are best at espionage.
  • Fremen benefit from exploration and quick expansion.

To go along with these playstyles you'll want to focus on the research tree that benefits you the most, which are color-coded.

  • Blue upgrades benefit espionage and agents.
  • Green benefits diplomacy and Landsraad.
  • Red is for military.
  • Orange helps with exploration and economy.

You can, of course, dabble in all of the categories as you see fit, but because of how slow research happens it's best to put most of your time into one in order to get the best benefits.

As a note, you can increase research speed by constructing Research Hubs in your villages. 

Airfields and Sandworms are Essential

The map in Dune Spice Wars is massive, and your military units simply don't move very quickly. Luckily, the game does give you faster ways of getting around. Fremen have exclusive access to Sandworms, while the other three factions get shuttles. 

Fremen can use Sandworms at any time to transport units to areas they control, and on the right side of the screen, you'll see a gauge for the worms that has a three. Place your units on the sand and then select the Sandworm. You'll need to choose where the worm picks up and where it lets off, but keep in mind they can only go on sand. You have three charges, that when used will slowly recharge. 

The other factions will need to construct an airfield, found in the military structures section in any village.

Move your units into the airfield's range and select them. Once selected you'll see an option on the unit selection screen to use an airlift, which will cost Solari and fuel. The catch is that your airlift can only travel to wherever another airfield is placed. This means you'll likely want to have a network of airfields within your controlled territory. 

Focus on Improving Villages Before Expanding 

There are dozens of villages to take control of on Arrakis, and it can be tempting to quickly try and conquer as much as you can. However, it's a better idea to conquer a few villages and focus on fully upgrading them before you move on. An unprotected village can easily fall victim to a bandit raid, or a few units from another faction. 

At the very least, make sure you fill any Militia slots you might have open in each village. It's also a good idea to put a Missile Battery in any village that lies on the outskirts of your territory, for extra protection.

Past that, you should unlock at least one or two additional building slots on each village so you can place additional resources, in case you need them. 

Don't Forget About Your Spies and Operations

Roughly 10 to 20 minutes into a match you'll unlock your first agent, and a notification at the top will alert you about it. You can open the Espionage menu by clicking the magnifying glass icon on the right side. Here you'll be able to assign agents to different organizations and factions.

Agents naturally earn a resource called Intel and can earn additional resources based on where they're placed. An unassigned agent isn't doing any good, so make sure you have all of your agents assigned at all times

You can spend Intel to set up Operations, each of which have various effects. For example, one might let you resupply allied units in a region, while another launches an assassination attempt against another faction. It's easy to forget about Operations, but they can help give you a serious edge when you're trying to take over enemy regions. 

Building In Your Capital Can Give the Edge

Your capital is a vital location, but you won't be able to build anything in it until you reach 10,000 Hegemony. Once you reach that threshold you can build incredibly useful districts in the capital that correspond to Economy, Military, and Statecraft. You can even get an extra bonus if all buildings in a district are the same type.

It's likely you'll need to wait a while before you can build in your capital, but if you have some spare resources definitely take a look at the available options, and how they might help your current playstyle.

Hopefully, these tips can help you get a strong start in Dune Spice Wars. For even more guides and walkthroughs, make sure to check out our Dune Spice Wars guides hub.

Kaiju Wars Review: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Tank Thu, 28 Apr 2022 11:16:10 -0400 Justin Michael

If you love turn-based tactics games, then you’ve probably played a few games like Kaiju Wars. Similar in energy to games like Advance Wars and Into the Breach, Kaiju Wars differentiates itself by bringing its own flavor and mechanics to the tactical table. 

Much like the Japanese Kaiju monster movies of the mid-1950s and beyond, you find yourself fighting an unwinnable battle against an invincible monster. Well, a number of them, actually. With a cast of borderline campy advisors, it’s up to you, the leader of your cities, to direct the efforts to keep the Kaiju at bay and from totally demolishing everything in sight. 

Kaiju Wars Review: We're Gonna Need a Bigger Tank

Kaiju Wars has a very basic tutorial with a few fun twists. You meet Major Danger, the leader of your Armed Forces. Short on smarts but big on guns, he walks you through the initial Kaiju incursions. Then you meet Dr. Wagner, the leading mind of all things Kaiju, and eventually, Commander X, who is kind of like a living infomercial. 

Kaiju Wars' pacing is pretty forgiving. With that in mind, you should take your time assessing its maps and thinking about how best to use resources like troops and ability cards. The margin of error is slim, and restarting can become commonplace if too many buildings get destroyed or you don’t have the needed resources to continue fighting.

The need to manage your resources and troops is part of the allure of games like Kaiju Wars. Since everything is important, it forces you to slow down and think your actions through, something especially true since Kaiju can't be killed. At best you can cause them to retreat only to have them come back stronger than before.

Add to this the additional layer of upgradeable troops and the missions where you’re in charge of building your event deck – prompts that can be played to help you survive the onslaught – and there’s a bit of something for everyone in Kaiju Wars five acts. 

Kaiju Wars' art style is a nostalgic love letter to vintage Super Nintendo games. The buildings, units, tiles, and the kaiju themselves all look crisp and retro, further driven home by the audio and sound effects. 

The main menu has so many interactable objects to explore, including video links to a number of old Kaiju films to watch for free online, as well as links to other games on Steam in the same vein. Once you’ve progressed further into the game, you can unlock faithfully-recreated levels from Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters, which was originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1992.

Outside of the main campaign, Kaiju Wars has more to offer with access to a map editor, as well as the option for PvP, with one player taking on the role of the Kaiju.

The map editor suite is extensive, allowing you to very finely tune scenarios down to the precise hitpoints of the Kaiju. Player-created content can be uploaded for others to try out, too, which greatly extends the life of play outside of the 50+ (literally) handcrafted maps in the base game.

Another fun little feature is that Kaiju Wars supports streaming integration with, allowing players to let their community feed text into the game for the various NPCs in buildings. Nothing like a bit of ribbing from your community as the Kaiju destroy your last army base or to cheer you on when you make it slink back off to its lair to lick its wounds. 

Kaiju Wars Review — The Bottom Line


  • Excellent audio and visuals.
  • Challenging design.
  • Community content.
  • Good pacing.


  • Slight learning curve.
  • A few slight graphical glitches.

While Kaiju Wars carries a feeling of familiarity, there’s enough here for it to stand apart from others in the genre. With good pacing, tactical play, and pop-culture moments, there’s plenty of fun to be had with the main campaign. The first act is roughly six hours long, and there are five acts total.

Add to that the near limitless amount of player-generated content, and Kaiju Wars is a game that emulates its namesake — it's something you can keep coming back to again and again. 

[Note: Foolish Mortal Games provided the copy of Kaiju Wars used for this review.]

Reverie Knights Tactics Review: A Middling Strategy Wed, 26 Jan 2022 11:05:50 -0500 Hayes Madsen

Reverie Knights Tactics is a game that takes a lot of inspiration from the masters of the strategy-RPG genre but fails to turn its inspiration into anything truly unique.

Despite being a tactical-RPG, Reverie Knights isn't a particularly long experience, clocking in at roughly 10 hours. The story isn't particularly gripping, and the biggest reason is its characters. In every sense of the word, Reverie Knights Tactics is average.

Reverie Knights Tactics Review: A Middling Strategy

You play as a young girl named Aurora, who works for a religious organization called Tanah Toh. An ancient elven city has been taken over and destroyed by goblin forces, and when an expedition sent by Tannah Toh vanishes, Aurora is sent in to find them. 

The world of Reverie Knights feels like a strange mish-mash of elements that one would "expect" to be in a fantasy setting. There are evil goblins, standoffish elves, and elusive fairies. There is, of course, elemental magic, too.

The biggest issue is that there's no context or history given to any aspect of this universe; it's all just kind of just "there." The main cast does feel unique, but there's simply not enough development for them to shine. I would have liked to learn more about each character, their history, and what really makes them tick, but everything just feels far too brief. 

The basic format here is similar to other tactical-RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. You have a main base that you'll return to while exploring icons on a world map, each of which usually contains a battle. These are broken up by slightly more in-depth dungeons, along with a handful of side objectives. Battles play out on a grid, with your team and the enemy team taking turns. Your team will always go first, except in battles where the enemy ambushes you and takes the advantage.

There are four playable characters, with the second two joining you partway through your journey. Each character has a particular role that they fill; Aurora is a ranged magic user; Brigandine is a high defense knight; Fren is a fast-moving attacker; and Hellaron is your healer support. 

One of the more unique aspects of combat is a variety of obstacles and objects scattered around each of the maps. For example, you might be able to push enemies into a bear trap for extra damage or blow up a hot cauldron to damage anyone around it. This helps make battles feel more dynamic, even if it does feel a bit gimmicky.

As your characters level up, you'll unlock new skills, with three that can be equipped at any one time. Outside of points to equip stats, that's essentially the only kind of progression. There are a couple of other elements that tie in as well, like crafting healing items, traps, and bombs. 

Even with these options, however, combat quickly grows stale, as you're essentially performing the same actions and fighting mostly the same enemies over and over. This is only underlined by a strange design decision: your character's HP doesn't heal after each battle. There are specific points in the story that restore your HP and MP, but otherwise, you'll need to blow through your healing items to keep your party healthy. 

It's a baffling decision that feels like it makes the game unnecessarily difficult, and oftentimes tipped against you. What's even stranger, then, is the wild difficulty spikes. With a three-character party, things are tremendously difficult before getting your fourth character, then the difficulty nosedives after recruiting them, before spiking back up again near the end of the game. 

While battles and dialogue make up most of Reverie Knights Tactics, there are occasional minigames, which are the worst parts of the game. Reverie Knights has a truly dreadful lockpicking minigame, and one puzzle that has you changing electric currents feels particularly obtuse and poorly explained. 

In terms of graphics and sound, Reverie Knights feels fairly average in both departments. The art style can be hit or miss; a lot of environments look vibrantly colorful and filled with tiny details. On the other hand, some characters look uninspired and even ugly in some aspects, with some strange designs and animations that just don't mesh with the overall aesthetic.

I also never got a firm sense of if the game was going for a more cartoony or stylistic design. However, the battle animations are a bright spot; many of the spell effects and combination attacks add some fun visual flair. 

The soundtrack is of higher quality, as combat music does a good job of amping things up with some electric guitar and rock themes.  

Reverie Knights Tactics Review  The Bottom Line


  • Each party member feels unique and distinct.
  • Interesting cast, even if they don't get enough time to shine.
  • Catchy battle music.


  • Story and characters aren't given room to breathe.
  • Combat and enemy variety grows stale.
  • No healing after battle feels entirely unnecessary. 
  • Frustrating and obtuse puzzle design.
  • Art style is hit or miss. 

More than anything, Reverie Knights Tactics feels like the start of something bigger. There's a solid combat system and story that just doesn't get enough time to breathe and improve.

Outside of some frustrating puzzles, playing Reverie Knights Tactics is not a negative experience — it's just one that feels far too average and uninspired, like a piece of bread with no butter.

[Note: 40 Giants Entertainment provided the copy of REverie Knights Tactics used for this review.]

Expeditions: Rome Review-in-Progress — Marching Ever Onward Tue, 18 Jan 2022 13:58:30 -0500 Jason Rodriguez

Expeditions: Rome is a massive game. From the grassy plains of Asia Minor to the sandy dunes of North Africa, I traveled with Legio VI Victrix. I defeated armies to capture settlements, and I emerged unscathed from skirmishes against hostile squads.

Still, with just over 25 hours of playtime under my belt, I've realized that I've progressed no further than the halfway point of the Expeditions' second act so far. Normally, you'd think that you hadn't scratched the surface of such an enormous endeavor within that time. Unfortunately, it feels as though I've experienced all that the game has to offer.

Expeditions: Rome Review-in-Progress — Marching Ever Onward

Expeditions: Rome puts you in the role of a Roman commander from a Patrician family. Your father has been slain and your in-laws have sinister designs. At the start, you'll choose a class and meet none other than Julius Caesar himself. Then, as you progress a bit further in the campaign, there's a twist where you realize that you're about to carve out your own destiny.

Along the way, you're aided by unique companions. There's your loyal friend, Caeso Quinctius Aquilinus, as well as Syneros, a trusted advisor. Soon, you'll meet Bestia, a fighter who's got a chip on his shoulder, as well as Julia Calida, masquerading as a man so she could join the army. Much later, your group is rounded out by Deianeira, a gladiator whom you'll free from servitude.

The revolving door of personages doesn't stop there, as you're also introduced to historical characters, some of whom are integral to the plot. We'll leave those for you to experience yourself. 

Past games in the Expeditions franchise have emphasized exploring the world map with your merry band. In Expeditions: Rome, however, you'll get to lead the Legio VI Victrix.

You'll still roam around to visit villages and points of interest akin to an RPG, though your legion will bear the brunt of Conquest Battles, clashes between your army and a hostile force that controls a region, such as Asia Minor, North Africa, or Gaul. These Conquest Battles are presented as an overhead tactical map where small icons move automatically. In each phase, three cards known as Strategems are drawn. Pick one, and you'll see an outcome.

When your legion conquers a sector, you'll be able to undertake missions to pacify it, as well as send your forces to occupy infrastructure. You'll then receive resources that can be used to upgrade the buildings in your outpost.

This is just the meta-game in Expeditions: Rome. The core component as you advance the narrative is your regular party. You're not just limited to your companions, as you're allowed to recruit generic soldiers who can become Praetorians (party members) in their own right.

All characters belong to a particular class. For instance, Caeso and Deianeira are Princeps, the "tanking class." Bestia, meanwhile, is a Veles, the assassin archetype that can easily flank foes and deliver quick strikes with dual-wielded weaponry.

As for Julia, she's a Sagittarius, but it doesn't mean that she likes Leos and hates Capricorns. Rather, the Sagittarius is your archer class, with an "overwatch-esque" ability to boot. Lastly, there's the Triarius class, which is what Syneros is. It provides utility and healing effects for your team.

Combat with your party in Expeditions: Rome follows a tactical turn-based affair similar to its predecessors and others in the genre. Characters move to hexes and use their abilities to drop their foes. Planning and effective target selection are also vital, so you can chain kills, sunder armor, eliminate incapacitated opponents, or gain buffs through flanking maneuvers.

Moreover, because you're allowed to recruit generic characters, you can build a squad to suit your playstyle. Do you want several Triarii for endless healing, free action refreshes, and AoE boosts? That's perfectly fine. Alternatively, you could bring multiple Sagitarii if you want to hang back and snipe anything that comes your way.

Similarly, you'll partake in siege battles, which are the culmination of each act. These are multi-phase tactical encounters where your entire party is required (you'll split them into squads to tackle different objectives in a fortress). During the final engagement, everyone regroups to push back the last remaining enemies. You even get to use catapults to rain death from afar.

On paper, Expeditions: Rome has a lot going for it. Regrettably, there are a few things that get in the way.

Despite everything, the Conquest meta-game becomes tiresome the further you get into the campaign. When I first started taking over the territories in Asia Minor with my legion, it was like a breath of fresh air. I truly felt that there was a grand adventure that awaited me. Then, a few hours later, I started begging Expeditions: Rome to stop making this mechanic a requirement to advancement.

Indeed, the main quest requires you to pacify five regions at first, then seven, then 10, and then all 13 to advance to the next act. Later, there is a similar requirement in Act 2. "Here we go again," I muttered to myself, cursing the predicament.

It doesn't help matters that Conquest Battles are uninteresting and the Strategem cards you received to complete them are drawn randomly. In the same vein, your outpost buildings basically act as menus, with subsequent upgrades only improving their boosts.

This feeling of disappointment is further compounded by random events on the world map. To be fair, this is a staple that I tend to like in various games. However, because there are dozens of regions that must be conquered, and owing to the fact that you need to let in-game time pass between certain actions, you're going to experience numerous random events.

Many of these have outcomes that must be avoided to keep characters from getting injured, dodge dialogue options that cause approval/loyalty drops, or keep your army from losing rations. As such, it comes to a point where reloading saves to prevent RNG-based mishaps is a common occurrence. 

The tactical side of things in Expeditions: Rome is less problematic, but a few oversights still crop up. For instance, characters assigned to outpost facilities can't be inspected, which means you have to remember their perks and unlocked skills.

On top of that, you won't be able to respec skill points. You have to live with your decisions if you build your companions a certain way and the abilities turn out to be lackluster eventually.

In the case of generic Praetorians, your pool of recruits has random, premade builds already, and I had two options if I wanted the right abilities. The first was to "save scum" until I found a character that I liked. The second was to dismiss my army leaders and rehire them as regular party members. This was to ensure that I had high-level soldiers with skill points that could still be allocated.

Expeditions Rome Review-in-Progress — The Bottom Line So Far


  • Turn-based mechanics offer significant tactical depth.
  • Classes have distinct capabilities and battlefield roles.
  • Party composition allows freedom to mix-and-match different or identical classes.
  • Dual, interchanging loadout system allows for versatility.
  • A decent narrative with key twists.
  • Appearances by real-life historical figures.
  • Companions with their own personalities and traits.
  • Unique items that can truly impact skills trees and builds.
  • Dismantling system that allows you to craft unique variants.
  • Secrets and sidequests.
  • Siege battles and catapults.


  • Lengthy Conquest meta-game devolves into a tedious slog. 
  • Bland army battles with RNG-based card draws.
  • Passing time on the world map leads to random events (which is fine). But too much would mean save-scumming to avoid disastrous outcomes.
  • RNG-based Legion recruitment.
  • Rhetorical Style dialogue options are rarely used.

Expeditions: Rome is ambitious in size and scope. Those who've played the previous games in the franchise would be surprised by the sheer scale of its campaign. Sadly, there are a few missteps on the strategic side of things that veer into tedium, even if the tactical battles keep you on your toes.

So far, I feel as though I've seen everything that Expeditions: Rome has to offer on the mechanics side of things, even though I'm only in Act 2. I'm genuinely engaged with the story, quests, and tactical battles. Likewise, I love the challenge presented by lengthy siege battles. Unfortunately, what I still can't stomach is the meta-game slog just to progress.

[Note: THQ Nordic provided the Expeditions: Rome key used for this review-in-progress.]

GameSkinny's Best Games of 2021 Thu, 30 Dec 2021 12:42:04 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Another year passed means another great list of video games worth playing on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Stadia, and more. To look back on the year that was in video games, we've collected our highest-reviewed games of 2021 into a "best of" list. 

Since we're a small staff at GameSkinny, going the traditional "staff voting route" doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. Though it means there are more games here than on other lists, the best way we've found to highlight the best games of the year in 2021 is to include any game with a score of "8" or higher. So that's what we've done here. 

A few games on this list didn't technically release in 2021 or perhaps have other editions that released in years prior, but we reviewed certain versions and ports that released in 2021, so we've decided to also include them here. 

The Best Games of 2021

12 Minutes

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Luis Antonio (Nomada Studio)
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: 12 Minutes is a game about escaping a time loop, which is ironic given that it's so good that I wish I could see it all again for the first time myself.

Read our full 12 Minutes review.

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

Publisher: Headup Games
Developer: Aerial_Knight
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Aeiral_Knight's Never Yield is a short, yet stylish endless runner with one of the year's best soundtracks.

Read our full Aerial_Knight's Never Yield review.

Alan Wake Remastered

Publisher: Epic Games Publishing
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Alan Wake still shines in a modern landscape thanks to its unique story and intoxicating atmosphere, and the remastered visuals modernize it just in time for Remedy's inevitable sequel.

Read our full Alan Wake Remastered review.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: UsTwo Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure wonderfully recontextualizes the video game sandbox as a wholesome call to action.

Read our full Alba: A Wildlife Adventure review.


Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Nameless XIII
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Ashwalkers tells an open-ended story the right way, mixing equal parts agency and powerlessness, hope and despair.

Read our full Ashwalkers review.

Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX is a hard sell if you've already played it, but remains a stand-out Atelier game with strong heroines, excellent crafting, and good combat.

Read our full Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX review.

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Atelier Ryza 2 improves on the original in almost every way and, despite a few stumbling points, proves Gust is still one of the best at making something magical out of ordinary things.

Read our full Atelier Ryza 2 review.

Axiom Verge 2

Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Axiom Verge 2 marks a fine return to form for the indie darling, providing fans with a compelling adventure worthy of its Metroid-influences roots.

Read our full Axiom Verge 2 review.

Base One

Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Developer: PixFroze
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Overall, Base One is an enjoyable experience that you can play casually for a few in-game cycles or a few IRL hours. It doesn’t really bring anything new or innovative to the table but executes well the familiar game mechanics that make up its loop. 

Read our full Base One review.

Before I Forget

Publisher: 3-Fold Games
Developer: 3-Fold Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Before I Forget is a highly emotive tale about one woman’s struggle with dementia, and a story that everyone should experience.

Read our full Before I Forget review.

Before Your Eyes

Publisher: Skybound Games
Developer: GoobyeWorld Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Telling a gut-punch of a story with novel gameplay mechanics is no small feat, and Before Your Eyes marvelously delivers on both fronts.

Read our full Before Your Eyes review.

Black Book

Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: Morteshka
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Black Book is an RPG/CCG/detective simulator/visual novel where you're either the villain or weakly trying not to be.

Read our full Black Book review.

Blue Reflection: Second Light

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Blue Reflection: Second Light is an improvement upon the first game, following a group of schoolgirls looking for a way back home while fighting evil monsters.

Read our full Blue Reflection: Second Light review.

Bravely Default 2

Publisher: Nintendo/Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Bravely Default 2 is the best JRPG that never came out of 1998 Japan. It has a deep combat system, a sunny disposition, and a weirdly positive outlook.

Read our full Bravely Default 2 review.


Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Developer: RedRuins Softworks
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Breathedge isn't a perfect space survival game and is sometimes aggravating, but there's plenty to enjoy, and few recent games can be so relaxing.

Read our full Breathedge review.

Capcom Arcade Stadium

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S 
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Capcom Arcade Stadium isn’t flawless. It could definitely be more complete, but the 32 games on display here still offer a pretty great slice of gaming history. As examples of their genres, it’s amazing how well most of these games still hold up while serving to vividly illustrate just how much gaming has changed since.

Read our full Capcom Arcade Stadium review.

Castlevania: Advance Collection

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Collecting three superb Castlevania entries from the Game Boy Advance era and one more obscure SNES offering, this is a must-have for any fan of the genre that Castlevania carved out.

Read our full Castlevania: Advance Collection review.

Chivalry 2

Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Chivalry 2's ability to convert chaos into exuberance gifts players with an experience that brilliantly hones in on one of the greatest aspects of gaming: fun.

Read our full Chivalry 2 review.


Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Fishlabs
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: With a solid gameplay loop, a variety of side missions, and an engaging, original story that doesn't overstay its welcome, Chorus delivers one of the best sci-fi experiences of the year.

Read our full Chorus review.

Control: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Control was one of 2019's best games, with the only pervasive issue being that consoles couldn't always run the ambitious game so well. That's all changed.

Read our full Control: Ultimate Edition review.

Cozy Grove

Publisher: Spry Fox
Developer: Spry Fox
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Cozy Grove presents island life sans crass Capitalistic Raccoon Overlords, and it is a lovely experience through and through.

Read our full Cozy Grove review.

Curse of the Dead Gods

Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Passtech Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch 
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Curse of the Dead Gods is an action-roguelike with slick combat and a risk-reward loop that will keep you coming back.

Read our full Curse of the Dead Gods review.

Cyber Shadow

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Mechanical Head Studios (Aarne "MekaSkull" Hunziker)
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Cyber Shadow is a beautiful, lovingly-crafted gut-punch of an experience. Get ready to throw some controllers.

Read our full Cyber Shadow review.

Days Gone (PC)

Publisher: PlayStation PC LLC
Developer: Bend Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Days Gone received a lukewarm reception when it released for PS4, but the brilliant PC port will give new life to a game about a dying world.

Read our full Days Gone PC review.

Death's Door

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Acid Nerve
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Taking somewhere around 8-10 hours to finish, Death’s Door is a macabre journey well worth taking. The combat is generally simple but excellent, the world is fascinating, and the characters are memorable. 

Read our full Death's Door review.


Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Deathloop takes elements from games like Bioshock and Dishonored, combining them with a Groundhogs Day like timeloop to create the coolest, most stylish, and best game of the year.

Read our full Deathloop review.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

Publisher: ZA/UM
Developer: ZA/UM
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disco Elysium’s expanded edition successfully builds upon an already excellent RPG, making it just as relevant today as it was in 2019.

Read our full Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review.

Disgaea 6

Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Disgaea 6 isn't a massive change for the long-running series, but the substantial improvements it brings means it doesn't have to be either.

Read our full Disgaea 6 review.

Dying Light

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Techland
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Dying Light on Switch is the same old Dying Light, which means it's one of the best survival horror games — just portable.

Read our full Dying Light Switch review.

Eldest Souls

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Fallen Flag Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A demanding pixel art Souls-like beautifully rendered and artfully crafted, Eldest Souls is not without issues, but it's worth your time for its bosses, art, and world.

Read our full Eldest Souls review.

Farming Simulator 22

Publisher: GIANTS Software
Developer: GIANTS Software
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: With its many improvements and some important additions, Farming Simulator 22 is the best in the franchise thus far.

Read our full Farming Simulator 22 review.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater

Publisher: Koei Tecmo/Nintendo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: This port of the clever and under-appreciated Wii U J-Horror game might feel a little old but is a terrific example of a familiar genre given a unique spin.

Read our full Fatal Frame: Maiden of Blackwater review.


Publisher: Big Blue Bubble
Developer: Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: An open platformer heavy on combat, upgrading, and exploration, Foregone is an involving and entertaining adventure well worth downloading ... This gorgeous retro platform adventure deftly mixes traditional linear and roguelike elements into one entertaining package.

Read our full Foregone review.

Forza Horizon 5

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Forza Horizon 5 is ultimately more of the same, but that's hardly a bad thing when it does the same thing so darn well.

Read our full Forza Horizon 5 review.

Green Hell (Console)

Publisher: Creepy Jar
Developer: Creepy Jar
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Green Hell is the latest PC survival sim to arrive on consoles, and it brings a solid and challenging survival experience that requires whits and perseverance.

Read our full Green Hell console review.


Publisher: Akupara Games
Developer: Clover Bite
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: GRIME takes influence from more genres than most games and succeeds at combining them into a cohesive whole. It's well worth your time.

Read our full GRIME review.


Publisher: Playism
Developer: Petit Depotto
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Gnosia draws similarities to games like Among Us and Zero Escape, but ultimately crafts a unique story with a crew of memorable characters.

Read our full Gnosia review.

Guilty Gear Strive

Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Guilty Gear Strive continues the long-running series’ love of amazingly bizarre character designs, fantastic fighting action, and gorgeous visuals with superb results.

Read our full Guilty Gear Strive review.

Habroxia 2

Publisher: Lillymo Games
Developer: Lillymo Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Vita
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Lillymo Games have made a great attempt with Habroxia 2. Capturing the spirit of old-school SHMUPS, it isn’t especially long, but these kinds of shooters rarely are. Focusing more on replayability with branching mission paths, a customizable ship, and New Game+, it fills a niche sorely missing on modern platforms.

Read our full Habroxia 2 review.

Halo Infinite

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: While there are some improvements that can be made, Halo: Infinite is a return to form for the storied FPS franchise.

Read our full Halo: Infinite review.

Hitman 3

Publisher: IO Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Hitman 3 brings to a close one of gaming's great trilogies with one last display of immaculate level design and intoxicating mood from IO Interactive.

Read our full Hitman 3 review.


Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Move over Civilization, there's a new strategy sheriff in town, and it's called Humankind. Amplitude Studios knocked this out of the park.

Read our full Humankind review.

It Takes Two

Publisher: EA
Developer: Hazelight Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Series S, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: It Takes Two is the culmination of a decade of novel co op gaming ideas, and that makes it one of 2021's best games no matter what else comes out.

Read our full It Takes Two review.

Judgment Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryo Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Judgment remastered is a fine return for 2019’s Yakuza spin-off. Though all of its changes are purely technical, it's the best version of this detective thriller.

Read our full Judgment Remastered review.

Jurassic World Evolution 2

Publisher: Frontier Developments
Developer: Frontier Developments
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Jurassic World Evolution 2 builds on the foundation of its predecessor to create a memorable and addictive park management sim.

Read our full Jurassic World Evolution 2 review.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

Publisher: Ember Lab
Developer: Ember Lab
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Kena Bridge of Spirits is a charming adventure that packs a ton of heart, as well as a wealth of engaging systems.

Read our full Kena: Bridge of Spirits review.

King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SNK
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: King of Fighters 14 Ultimate Edition really is just the original game with all the DLC automatically added. There’s no other change to the base game. If you missed it the first time around, this is still a fine way to get into the series.

Read our full King of Fighters 14: Ultimate Edition review.

Last Stop

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Variable State
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Variable State rejects one-hit-wonder status with its long-awaited follow-up, Last Stop, a game that feels equal parts arthouse and blockbuster.

Read our full Last Stop review.

Little Nightmares 2

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Little Nightmares 2 is bigger and better than the original, offering up a larger world to explore and all new enemies waiting to devour you.

Read our full Little Nightmares 2 review.


Publisher: SmashGames
Developer: Sean Young
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Littlewood's warm setting, deep customization, and endearing characters make it one of the better farm-sims on Nintendo Switch.

Read our full Littlewood review.

Loop Hero

Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Four Quarters
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Loop Hero blends a number of influences and ideas for a time-bending adventure that's familiar but refreshing.

Read our full Loop Hero review.

Mario Golf: Super Rush

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Between all of the positives on offer in Mario Golf: Super Rush, it's hard to find a complaint for anyone looking to play this in a way that you'd expect from other titles in Nintendo's Switch catalog. Even if things could be a little deeper or more difficult, this game is just too much good, old-fashioned fun to let those things get in the way. 

Read our full Mario Golf: Super Rush review.

Mario Party Superstars

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: NDcube
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Mario Party Superstars is the best of classic Mario Party in one package, and it's just as glorious as it's ever been.

Read our full Mario Party Superstars review.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a surprisingly compelling single-player adventure that packs in some real emotion, despite a few shortcomings.

Read our full Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy review.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Publisher: EA
Developer: Bioware
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Though it shows its age in spots, Mass Effect is still as mesmerizing today as it ever was. The Legendary Edition is a fully-featured revival of one of gaming's greatest stories.

Read our full Mass Effect Legendary Edition review.

Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Metro Exodus is back in a high-octane enhanced edition to push your new gaming hardware to the limit. For newcomers eager to put their new hardware through its paces, this is both a visual wonder and a generally great game.

Read our full Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition review.

Metroid Dread

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Mercury Steam
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Metroid finally returns with a new sequel, and it’s exactly what we expect from the series. It’s a fine return to form for Samus with a huge world to explore but definitely doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

Read our full Metroid Dread review.

MLB The Show 21

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment 
Developer: Sony San Diego Studio
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: MLB The Show 21 isn't as flashy as its cover star. Lacking many overhauls to its modes, this year's game focuses on a decent laissez-faire story mode, a cool new Stadium Creator, and more of the superb baseball sim gameplay that has earned the series its reputation as one of the best Sony exclusives. 

Read our full MLB The Show 21 review.

Monster Hunter Rise

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Monster Hunter Rise as it stands might be one of the easiest games in the series, but it's also one of the most flexible and ultimately satisfying in each and every regard, and for that, it deserves full marks.

Read our full Monster Hunter Rise review.

My Friend Peppa Pig

Publisher: Outright Games
Developer: Petoons Studio
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS4, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: My Friend Peppa has the unenviable task of convincing parents their young kids deserve video games. For the families that don't shy from the medium, this is a delightful new way to play together.

Read our full My Friend Peppa Pig review.

NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 ... 

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: NieR Replicant Ver. 1.22474487139 is an upgraded version of the original NieR, and it improves on almost all aspects to offer something for both newcomers and veterans alike.

Read our full NieR Replicant review.


Publisher: Noiseminded
Developer: Noiseminded
Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sometimes we wake from a dream and wish we could recall its details. Sometimes we're trapped in a nightmare and wish we could wake at all. Nightslink feels like a bit of both.

Read our full Nightslink review.

New Pokemon Snap

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: New Pokemon Snap delights at every turn, offsetting a grindy mid-game with a parade of charming Pokemon in this cozy on-rails photo adventure.

Read our full New Pokemon Snap review.

NEO: The World Ends With You

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: NEO: The World Ends with You is everything a fan of the series could ever ask for in a sequel. This isn’t just only the best JRPG released in 2021 so far, but perhaps one of the best games this year, period. It’s simply incredible.

Read our full NEO: The World Ends With You review.

Nioh Collection

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Team Ninja
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Nioh Collection brings two of the most satisfying last-gen games to next-gen, offering improvements both new and returning players are sure to love.

Read our full Nioh Collection review.

Pac-Man 99

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Arika
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Pac-Man 99 follows deftly in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Tetris 99 to provide a near-perfect multiplayer Pac experience.

Read our Pac-Man 99 review.

Persona 5 Strikers

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Persona 5 Strikers is a fantastic sequel to the original game. It's fun, stylish, and sleek, a road trip to remember.

Read our full Persona 5 Strikers review.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: ILCA
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Despite some rough edges, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the best of modern and classic Pokemon.

Read our full review of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Psychonauts 2

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Double Fine
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Psychonauts 2 is a brilliant, thoughtful sequel and one of the most creative experiences of the last generation.

Read our full Psychonauts 2 review.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an exemplary PS5 game, showing full well what the system is capable of — all while masterfully reviving a beloved series for the new generation.

Read our full Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart review.

Resident Evil Village

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil Village has some of the biggest scares in the series to date, but it also has a peculiar feel to it, like a lot of story and gameplay was chopped out before launch.

Read our full Resident Evil Village review.

Resident Evil 4 VR

Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: Armature Studio
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Resident Evil 4 VR is a brilliant port of an already fantastic game and the ideal way to experience Capcom's classic.

Read our full Resident Evil 4 VR review.


Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Returnal is a tightly designed roguelike with some of the best gameplay the genre can provide, and it's the first game since Demon's Souls to provide a reason to own a PS5.

Read our full Returnal review.

Riders Republic

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Amazon Luna
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Riders Republic boasts an open world full of exciting challenges, scenic views, and the freedom to tackle anything as you wish, making it a surprise hit for 2021.

Read our full Riders Republic review.

SaGa Frontier Remastered

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: You'll be hard-pressed to find many RPGs that are so enthralling from a combat and mechanical perspective, that suck you in with a myriad of questions about more than just story and ultimately compel you to do it again and again. 

Read our full SaGa Frontier Remastered review.

Scarlet Nexus

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Scarlet Nexus is slick, stylish, smartly executed, and just all-around cool.

Read our full Scarlet Nexus review.


Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Flying Oak Games
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PC, Xbox One, Switch
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Like so many indies before it, roguelike Scourgebringer has found its true home on the PlayStation Vita. 

Read our full Scourgebringer review.

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne Remastered

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei 3 remastered might show its age in some places, but its narrative excellence remains unaltered.

Read our full Shin Megami 3: Nocturne Remastered review.

Shin Megami Tensei V

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Shin Megami Tensei V is a triumph, boasting a stellar narrative and combat system with unique style all its own.

Read our full Shin Megami Tensei V review.

Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon

Publisher: Yacht Club Games
Developer: Vine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon brings one of the best puzzle games of the year while staying true to its roots.

Read our full Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon review.

Skul: The Hero Slayer

Publisher: Neowiz Games
Developer: SouthPAW Games
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: As endearing as it is challenging, Skul: The Hero Slayer takes the rogue-lite mechanics you know and adds some flair of its own and a unique take on the fantasy narrative.

Read our full Skul: The Hero Slayer review.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2

Publisher: CI Games
Developer: CI Games
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 delivers one of the best shooters of the year, with intense sniping, skillfully crafted progression, and engaging levels.

Read our full Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts 2 review.

Solar Ash

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Heart Machine
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Solar Ash is a complete package, with stellar gameplay, a well-told story, and a realized world ripe for exploring.

Read our full Solar Ash review.

Song of Horror (Console Edition)

Publisher: Raiser Games
Developer: Protocol Games
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Whereas so many modern indie horror games can feel like on-rails haunted hayrides, Song of Horror keeps players on their toes.

Read our full Song of Horror review.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Aspyr
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Overall, KOTOR on Nintendo Switch is well worth picking up. Not only is it relatively cheap at $15, it's still one of the very best RPGs you can play. And it's high on the list of the best Star Wars games available. There's a reason people want more KOTOR.

Read our full KOTOR Switch review.

Subnautica: Below Zero

Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS4, PS5
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The follow-up to Subnautica offers more of the same intriguing mix of gorgeous underwater exploration, survival and crafting, and fascinating alien intrigue. 

Read our full Subnautica: Below Zero review.

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 10/10

What we said: With some of the cleverest level designs and a boundless sense of joy, Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is essential playing for any Mario fan.

Read our full Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury review.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is the best of classic Monkey Ball with some fantastic new touches to keep things interesting, though accessibility takes a back seat in these remakes.

Read our full Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania review.

Tails of Iron

Publisher: United Label
Developer: Odd Bug Studio
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Out of humble materials, Odd Bug Studios have created a rich, beautiful, and thrilling fantasy world in Tails of Iron.

Read our full Tails of Iron review.

Tales of Arise

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Tales of Arise heralds a brilliant new dawn for the series and is one of the best RPGs of the last generation.

Read our full Tales of Arise review.

The Artful Escape

Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Platforms: Xbox Series X (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Rating: 8/10

What we said: The Artful Escape is a kaleidoscopic coming-of-age story that is a joy to move through, even if the actual gameplay is sometimes hardly there.

Read our full review for The Artful Escape.

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 10/10

What we said: Despite a few pacing issues, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles takes the series to new heights with its splendid characters, storytelling, and setting.

Read our full Great Ace Attorney Chronicles review.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Tantalus Media
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Skyward Sword HD on Switch still suffers from backtracking and gimmicks, but its clever dungeons and engaging narrative make it one of the best games in the series.

Read our full Skyward Sword HD review.


Publisher: Thorium
Developer: Thorium
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: UnderMine on Switch is a strong, quirky roguelike full of personality that strikes a healthy balance between challenge and accessibility.

Read our full UnderMine review.


Publisher: Humble Bundle
Developer: Witch Beam
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Unpacking is simple in concept but complex, interesting, and ultimately meditative in execution. Simply put, it's delightful.

Read our full Unpacking review.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a quaint game that doesn't bring anything exceptionally new to the genre, but it is undeniably charming.

Read our full Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars review.

WarioWare: Get It Together

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Platforms: Switch (reviewed)
Rating: 9/10

What we said: WarioWare: Get It Together is probably one of the best and most frantic multiplayer games on the Nintendo Switch.

Read our full WarioWare: Get It Together review.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Heart of the Forest

Publisher: Walkabout
Developer: Different Tales
Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: 8/10

What we said: A well-done and intelligent choose your own text adventure set in the venerable World of Darkness Werewolf RPG universe makes for a satisfying bit of interactive fiction.

Read our full Heart of the Forest review

Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife

Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Developer: Fast Travel Games
Platforms: Oculus Quest (reviewed), PC, PS4
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife is a thrilling VR horror game that engrosses on a level not seen since last year's Half-Life: Alyx Jeff sequence.

Read our full Wraith: The Oblivion — Afterlife review.


Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Bugbear Entertainment
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed), PS4, PC, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 8/10

What we said: Wreckfest is back with a fine next-gen port, going that extra mile with some wonderfully chaotic gameplay.

Read our full Wreckfest review.

Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, Switch, Stadia
Rating: 9/10

What we said: Ys IX: Monstrum Nox is an outstanding RPG and a big step forward for Ys, with superb story, combat, and characters — plus one of the best settings in the series.

Read our full Ys IX: Monstrum Nox review.

That's it for our list of the best, highest-scored games of 2021. What were your favorite games? Let us know in the comments below! 

Age of Empires 4 Review: The Page of Kings Fri, 19 Nov 2021 18:14:24 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Age of Empires 4 stands at a crossroads. In many ways, it worships at the feet of its past, clinging to series history like a lord their land. But in others, it gazes into the horizon at a greater destiny ready for the taking, should it grow unafraid to seize it.

Calling Age of Empires 4 an Age of Empires 2 reboot would be easy enough. Similarly exploring the medieval period, and even some of the same battles, AoE 4 employs familiar mechanics found in that beloved 1999 entry and its expansions. After several remasters, new DLC releases, various developer updates, and wonderful support from the community, AoE 2 remains the standard-bearer of the franchise, with AoE 4 acting as its page.

That isn’t to say Age of Empires 4 fails; it certainly does not. More so, it's to acknowledge Age 4 doesn’t fully seize its destiny — at least not so close to launch.

Age of Empires 4 Review: The Page of Kings

Age of Empires 4 has a solid foundation to build upon in the years to come. The campaign mode is the best and most engaging it’s ever been. Four of the eight available civilizations are represented in the mode: the English, French, Mongols, and Rus. Each campaign has a series of missions (35 in total) that focus on key historical conflicts, such as the Battle of Hastings or the Battle of Kalka River.

Each campaign becomes increasingly complex the further you fight through the ages, and each can take a few hours to complete depending on your skill and chosen difficulty.

As a long-time Age player, I can’t help but wish there were campaigns for each of the eight civilizations at launch. The Holy Roman Empire, Chinese, Delhi Sultanate, and Abbassid Dynasty are left out. But the breadth of the mode blunts that blow, even if we’ve seen some of these engagements before.

The best parts are the brief but in-depth "Hands on History" educational videos. Shot documentary-style and on location, these expertly filmed, produced, and narrated shorts are immersive and engaging in ways the old-style history pages could never be.

Relic Entertainment takes things a step further by superimposing animations of soldiers and siege engines on real-world locations, imbuing these annals with History-Channel-infused grandiosity that will fill fans with glee.

Alongside these videos are others that give insight into various middle-age building and crafting techniques, as well as lifestyle activities. One explores the painstaking process of crafting chainmail, and another examines the role of hawking and falconry in Norman culture. For history buffs — and who plays Age of Empires that isn’t? — there’s no retreating to parchment in future installments.

Outside of the campaign mode, it’s no surprise that skirmish and multiplayer modes make their returns. You select your civilization, teams, victory conditions, and map from 17 varied choices that randomly generate topography and resources. Nicely, there’s a map seed generator that allows you to capture and replay specific map layouts in future games.

As for other, more granular options, you won’t find the likes of turbo mode, sudden death, or regicide here. There’s no option to open the full tech tree from the start, post-imperial age isn’t available yet, you can’t bump the population above 200, and infinite resources has been swapped out for high resources.

I’m not particularly fussed about all of that  even if it seems regressive — and I imagine most players won’t be either. It does, however, highlight a grander overall point: there’s currently less in Age of Empires 4 than in other currently-available games in the franchise.

Perhaps most baffling is the absence of a map or scenario editor at launch. Editing maps and creating custom scenarios is baked into the DNA of Age of Empires, so it's rightfully a point of contention.

Countless players have spent thousands of hours customizing skirmishes and campaigns over the decades, making incredible experiences shared by the wider Age community and acting as engines by which the franchise has stayed alive and improved. There may have never been an Age 2: DE without such modes.

To be fair, it seems like those tools are coming in 2022.

Some additions, though, seek to adjust or refine the familiar formula to varying degrees of success.

Masteries are one of those, and they're all about bragging rights. These in-game challenges and achievements ask you to complete various tasks for each civilization, such as beating the hardest A.I. in Skirmish mode or producing a certain number of units from Keeps. There are 15 Masteries for each nation, gifting you rewards in experience, player portraits, banner designs, and more for your player card.

The rub is that Masteries can’t be completed in any order; instead, they must be completed sequentially, and their hierarchy is haphazard at best.

For example, killing 10 enemy units with Galeasses affected by the Armored Hull technology for the French isn’t so tricky, but it’s only available after Test of Strength III, which requires beating the A.I. on hard in Skirmish mode. Some players won’t find this problematic, but others will simply be locked out of rewards because accomplishing the latter isn’t attractive or just plain unattainable.

There’s also a level system at play, greeting you front and center on the main screen after completing the mandatory tutorial. Experience for this system comes from completing Masteries and daily quests (more in-game challenges not tied to Masteries). But that experience level doesn’t matter beyond showing other players in multiplayer lobbies that you’ve attained a certain level.

Experience isn’t used for purchasing items or unlocking new Masteries, maps, or units. It just exists. For those after a purely single-player experience, it serves no function whatsoever, and I can’t help but think time and effort could have been spent elsewhere.

Adding in a map or scenario editor, perhaps?

Mechanically, Age of Empires 4 plays like a mixture of Age of Empires 2 and Age of Empires 3. Advancing from the Dark Age to the Imperial Age, you build villagers, military units, and structures at a blistering pace to gather resources and take control of land faster than your opponent. 

From combat to trade, many systems are familiar instantly, and this is where Age of Empires 4 doesn’t really need to iterate very much. The franchise has honed its gameplay to a fine point. 

Grouping returns, which allows you to select units for the creation of regiments of any unit type. The system is perfect for sieges, flanking, or bump and run aggression. Stealth forests take a cue from the stealth mechanics found in AoE 3: The Warchiefs and allow you to place units in certain areas out of enemy sightlines.

Wall battles make sieges both flashier and more engaging, whereby swordsmen and spearmen can now attack archers and other units by way of siege towers or infiltrating gates and guard towers. 

Neatly, rank and file soldiers can now build battering rams and siege towers in the field, using them as Trojan Horses to approach embattlements. No longer must you send engines ahead without protection lest troops be cut down by arrows. Soldiers can hide inside, exit to battle nearby enemy units, and retreat to cover while remaining on the front lines.

Landmarks tweak the familiar aging-up mechanic, and like Age 3, bypass the need for building a certain number of structures to move on to the next epoch. These Landmarks are like little wonders; they can be built as soon as you have the resources to do so, and each has unique buffs and rewards, such as having the ability to heal nearby units or reduce the cost of all technologies throughout the ages.

It’s a tangible improvement I appreciate over the more removed nature of politicians in AoE 3 or the drudgery of building structures for the sake of it in Age 2.

Perhaps one of the more exciting parts of Age of Empires 4 is the inclusion of asymmetric nations in the Mongols, Chinese, Rus, and Delhi Sultanate.

Mirroring their true pastoral nomadic lifestyle, the Mongols can pack up and move all of their buildings at will. They also have access to the Ovoo, a building that automatically collects stone, freeing up villagers for other tasks. They don’t have access to farms or farming technology, so they rely on pastures and sheep. 

When aging up, the Chinese employ dynasties with buffs and unlocks, calling to mind Home City Shipments in Age of Empires 3. They also have Imperial Officials, which collect gold from buildings, subsidizing the need for gold mines. The biggest hurdle with the Chinese is that they must build both Landmarks to move on to the next dynasty and open up more buildings, units, and techs. 

The Rus have unique relationships with resources. They can generate gold from hunting cabins placed near dense forests. More trees equate to more money over time, though building too many in close proximity decreases that yield. This dynamic creates new stratagems around Lumber Camps to push players further from their bases than they usually would venture. 

The Delhi Sultanate doesn't need resources to research technologies, but progress is painstaking. To boost this and military production, they employ Scholars, garrisoning them in various buildings for speed boosts. 

And the Abbasid Dynasty takes an entirely different approach when advancing to the next age by building a singular Landmark, the House of Wisdom, and attaching different wings to advance and research new technologies.

All told, there are many unique elements with these civilizations that open up numerous tactic/counter-tactic playstyles. And despite the learning curves each of these factions presents, it’s in using them that the true potential of Age of Empires 4 shines brightest.

Age of Empires 4 Review — The Bottom Line


  • Stunning "Hands on History" documentary-style campaign videos
  • Improvements to siege mechanics
  • Improvements to building and combat animations
  • Addition of stealth forests
  • Asymmetric civilizations
  • Familiar gameplay


  • Familiar gameplay
  • No map or scenario editor at launch
  • Over-emphasis on cosmetics
  • Pointless experience system
  • Unbalanced Mastery challenges
  • Water-color art style is muddy in places
  • Long load times in Skirmish mode

Age of Empires 4 does a lot of things right, but it curiously gets knocked off its horse when it could be champion of the tourney.

New asymmetric civilizations with unique units and compelling mechanics create new strategies in a land well-trodden. Add in the adjustments to siege warfare, modified systems for aging up, and the inclusion of stealth forests, and there’s the start of something here, perhaps something that could grow to be as impressive as Age of Empires 2.

But there’s also a general feeling that Age of Empires 4 doesn’t quite know what it wants to be yet or who it wants to cater to. Putting so much focus at launch on multiplayer is perfectly fine, but it also leaves some long-time single-player fans cold, especially with the exclusion of a map or scenario editor.

Notwithstanding the tremendously engaging educational elements of the campaign, having only four civilizations playable in that mode at launch seems like missed potential, even if, historically, we’ve never gotten scenarios for all of the civs from the start.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Age of Empires 4 quite a bit, and I’d recommend it to any Age fan. But I wouldn’t do so without a few important caveats. Age of Empires 4 may finally be available after 16 years, but it hasn't arrived just yet. There are still resources to gather and troops to assemble.

[Note: Microsoft provided the copy of Age of Empires 4 used for this review.]

Shadow Tactics — Aiko's Choice Preview: A Puzzle Within a Puzzle Wed, 03 Nov 2021 10:05:06 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The 10th time I deployed my tanuki decoy, I actually managed to squeeze little, old Takuma past the guards to mark one of the mission’s target items. It was a short-lived success. I misjudged how distracted one of the straw-hat guards would be while speaking with a comrade. It didn’t take long for them both to strike down poor, defenseless Takuma, and it was time to try again.

Shadow Tactics: Aiko’s Choice takes what you knew about Shadow Tactics and turns it on its head, even if some of the same mechanics are still present. These missions might seem familiar on the surface, but Aiko's Choice is a different take on Shadow Tactics' strategy, for better or worse.

Aiko’s Choice takes place roughly in the middle of the Shadow Tactics campaign and explores some of its characters in more depth than the original story. It revolves around the mysterious reappearance of Aiko’s old sensei. The preview build I played dropped me in the second chapter, though, so there wasn’t much chance to get a full idea of the expansion’s story.

What I did get was a different way to play. Takuma, normally a competent sniper, was stripped of everything but his tanuki and thrown in prison aboard a cramped ship. This first mission tasked me with marking five crates carrying dangerous weapons, so Takuma’s companions could find and deal with the threat once they rescued him. The trouble was actually reaching the crates. 

The overview for the preview said the mission should take roughly 10 minutes to complete, though that doesn’t take into account the process of figuring out how everything in it works. It certainly took me longer than that to navigate through the guards and find the right path.

Mimimi wasn’t kidding when they said Aiko’s Choice drastically increases the challenge compared to the main campaign. Granted, the preview skipped the tutorial and first mission, dropping me in the second challenge, but this is definitely meant for those familiar with strategy and Shadow Tactics’ particular brand of it.

Fortunately, save-scumming — reloading if your plan fails — is easy, and Aiko’s Choice actually encourages you to do it. It’s a small touch, but a welcome one that keeps frustration at bay.

I appreciate the approach, even if it also gives me slight cause for concern with the final version. On the one hand, this is Shadow Tactics unrestrained and at its most imaginative. The ship level might have given me serious cause to doubt my strategic ability, but it’s still brilliantly designed, not least because it makes you use a familiar character in a completely new way.

The follow-up level is even better, trading tight spaces for freedom of movement and forcing you to divide your strategy between two different islands.

On the other hand, Aiko’s Choice has a bit of Valkyria Chronicles syndrome, at least in the first half of the preview build I played. There’s strategy involved, but it starts to feel more like you're experimenting until you find the one tactic that works. Takuma’s first mission requires exact timing and placement, for example. There’s some wiggle room in how you approach it, but less free-thinking and planning than I expected.

Still, this is only two of Aiko’s Choice’s six total missions — three primary challenges and three interlude stages — so it’s tough to say whether the remainder will follow the same trend. While I might have hoped for a bit more strategic option so far, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with the expansion and can’t wait to experience the full thing when it releases in December for PC. Stay tuned for more.

Age of Empires 4 Hill Bonus Explained: How Does It Work? Sun, 31 Oct 2021 15:03:24 -0400 Hayes Madsen

The hill bonus is something familiar to long time Age of Empires fans, and whether Age of Empires 4 has a hill bonus is a question on many minds. There are plenty of differences from the previous game, including how the hill bonus works. We'll go over exactly what's different in this guide, so read on.

How Age of Empires 4's Hill Bonus Works

The short answer is that, yes, Age of Empires 4 does have a hill bonus, although it doesn't work like past games. Fans of Age of Empires 2 will know that units get a roughly 25 percent boost when fighting enemies at a lower elevation, but Age of Empires 4 doesn't have any damage bonus. 

Instead, units have an increased line of sight when on hills and higher elevations. This means that it's advantageous to put archers or siege engines on hills, as they have the highest vision of any unit and will be able to pelt enemies from a distance. 

One of the other bonuses of being on a hill is that enemy units, like cavalry, don't get a charge bonus. On solid ground, cavalry has a charge attack that does extra damage when they connect with an enemy, but this bonus doesn't get applied when cavalry moves up higher elevation. 

Keep in mind that units on walls function differently, gaining a big boost to defense as well as a bonus to their actual ranged attack. 

Fighting on higher ground isn't going to be a total game-changer in Age of Empires 4, but it can help give you the leg-up you need if you place your units correctly and take advantage of the hill bonus as it was intended.

If you found this guide helpful, take a look at our other Age of Empires 4 guides here on GameSkinny.

Age of Empires 4 Connection Lost: Error C00T01R-2x-01 Fix Fri, 29 Oct 2021 10:10:49 -0400 Sergey_3847

The C00T01R-2x-01 error in Age of Empires 4 has been plaguing players using Steam. The error is caused by the game being unable to connect the player's Xbox Live and Steam accounts, and locks them out of Age of Empires 4 completely.

Relic are trying to deal with the C00T01R-2x-01 error on their end, but in the meantime there are a few things you can do to maybe get around the C00T01R-2x-01 error.

Update Your Game to the Latest Version

Relic have been releasing hotfixes, so first make sure that your game has them all. Turn on the automatic updating in your Steam client:

  1. Go to your Steam client
  2. Select "Library" tab
  3. Right-click on the Age of Empires 4 game
  4. Select "Properties" from the list
  5. Select "Updates" tab
  6. Choose "Always Keep This Game Updated" feature

Now you can be sure that Steam will update your game every time a new batch of bug fixes is being released.

Turn off Your Antivirus and Firewall

The official statement from the developer is the following:

"If you are unable to connect to Xbox Live, your antivirus or firewall may be preventing you from accessing the online service."

This means that you need to temporarily disable your firewall and antivirus settings to get around error C00T01R-2x-01.

If you're running an in-build Windows Defender antivirus, then you can temporarily turn it off by following these steps:

  1. Press the Start button
  2. Go to "Settings" tab
  3. Select "Update and Security" feature
  4. Go to "Windows Security" tab
  5. Select "Virus and Threat Protection" feature
  6. Go to "Manage Settings" option
  7. Set the real-time protection to OFF

You can do the same with the Windows firewall:

  1. Press the Start button
  2. Go to "Settings" tab
  3. Select "Update and Security" feature
  4. Go to "Windows Security" tab
  5. Select "Firewall and Windows Protection" feature
  6. Open "Windows Security" settings
  7. Switch the Microsoft Defender Firewall option OFF

When you're finished playing, you can switch both antivirus and firewall back on.

Reinstall Your Game

The support team of Age of Empires 4 also added the following statement:

"Some antivirus programs can also interfere with the installation of the game files. Try reinstalling the game before trying to play again."

If you're using any other antivirus software besides Windows Defender, then you might need to turn it off and re-install the game:

  1. Go to your Steam client
  2. Select "Library" tab
  3. Right-click on the Age of Empires 4 game
  4. Go to "Manage" option
  5. Select "Uninstall" from the list

After that, reboot your PC, start the Steam app, and install Age of Empires 4 by pressing the Install button.

Enable Set Time Automatically

Another statement from the developer asks players to check their time settings:

"If you’re having problems signing in with your Xbox Live account, enable the “Set Time Automatically” setting. If your time is not synced, you will not be able to login."

You can set your time automatically by following these steps:

  1. Press Start button
  2. Go to "Settings" menu
  3. Select "Time and Language" option
  4. Go to "Date and Time" tab
  5. Set "Set Time Automatically" option to "ON"

Press OK and try to log-in to your Xbox Live account once again and see whether you get the C00T01R-2x-01 error.

Adjust Internet Explorer Settings

Internet Explorer may also prevent you from connecting with the Xbox Live services, hence causing error C00T01R-2x-01. Try to do the following:

  1. Launch Internet Explorer app
  2. Click on Tools menu (Gear icon)
  3. Select "Internet Options" menu
  4. Go to "Security" tab
  5. Set the "Security Level for the Internet Zone" to "Medium"
  6. Go to "Privacy" tab
  7. Set the "Privacy Setting" to "Medium"

After turning on the medium security settings for your connection, you need to clear your cache and cookies:

  1. Launch Internet Explorer app
  2. Click on Tools menu (Gear icon)
  3. Select "Internet Options" menu
  4. Click on the "Delete" button
  5. Select "Cache" and "Cookies' from the list
  6. Confirm by pressing "Delete"

Those are the official solutions to the connection lost error in Age of Empires 4. If you were looking for other AoE4 guides, then check out our dedicated hub page.

Related guides

The 11 Best Riftbreaker Mods Mon, 25 Oct 2021 12:10:43 -0400 Sergey_3847


Rare Element Synthesizers Mod


There are already several rare elements synthesizers in the game, such as Carbonium and Ironium. But this mod adds some more that will surely make you happy once you get to implement them:

  • Cobalt
  • \n
  • Titanium
  • \n
  • Palladium
  • \n
  • Uranium
  • \n

After installing the mod, all the new synthesizers will be available from the Resource menu in the game.


Get this mod


Those are the best mods for The Riftbreaker, and be sure to check out other guide on our dedicated hub page.


Highspeed Drill Mod


Here is another mod that increases the speed of your operations, but this time it's all about mining and ore drilling.


The drill works only at one speed, which is instant, so you won't be able to adjust the speed to your preference. You probably won't have to, as mining is something you do all the time in The Riftbreaker anyway.


Get this mod


Vaporater Mod


This unique mod for The Riftbreaker doesn't change any existing instances in the game, but adds a new type of building: the Vaporater.


This structure is capable of transforming energy into water at the rate of 50 energy to 25 water. With this mod you can have it from the very beginning, and it can play a crucial role in the waterless biomes, such as desert.


Get this mod


Tanky Pipes and Floors Mod


Every The Riftbreaker player who has reached the latter parts of the game, has experienced the devastating effects of aerial damage caused by meteor storms and tornadoes on their bases.


If you want to keep your base well protected from harm, this mod will help you armor it all up so that the damage will be completely eliminated.


Get this mod


No Random Weapons Mod


When crafting any gear or weapons on the crafting menu of The Riftbreaker, players will notice that all weapons will have randomly generated damage stats.


This parameter cannot be influenced much in the game, so if you don't want to entrust the success of your campaign into the hands of RNG, then it would be a good idea to install this mod that always sets your crafted weapon damage at max.


Get this mod


Bioscanner Speed Mod


Bioscanner is an absolutely essential item for cultivating new materials, but every The Riftbreaker player knows just how long and grindy the Bioscanner can be.


The Bio Speed mod fixes this issue and allows you to manually control the speed of scanning at the following rates:

  • x2
  • \n
  • x5
  • \n
  • x10
  • \n
  • Instant
  • \n

Now you can direct the progress of your research on your own terms.


Get this mod


Geoscanner Tweak Mod


While the problem with Boscanner was its unbearably long scanning times, the real issue with the Geoscanner is the range it covers while treasure hunting.


The Geoscanner Tweak mod increases the range significantly, so now you can search for valuable materials much more effectively. This one not only saves you time, but also makes you money.


Get this mod


Massive Repair Mod


It seems that the developer has made a lot of things grindy on purpose in The Riftbreaker, including the repair bots and the speed they work at.


The new mod from MKeller25 will give you a whole new infrastructure of repair bots that can now be deployed up to 20 units at once in comparison to just one puny bot in the vanilla version of the game.


Get this mod


Bioscanner Speed Mod


Bioscanner is an absolutely essential item for cultivating new materials, but every The Riftbreaker player knows just how long and grindy the Bioscanner can be.


The Bio Speed mod fixes this issue and allows you to manually control the speed of scanning at the following rates:

  • x2
  • \n
  • x5
  • \n
  • x10
  • \n
  • Instant
  • \n

Now you can direct the progress of your research on your own terms.


Get this mod


Long Range Energy Mod


Collecting and preserving energy can be a tough call, and that's why having efficient energy connectors can either  make or break the deal.


This mod increases the max distance of energy connectors from 5 tiles to 10, which is a huge difference once you try it out.


On top of that, it will regenerate your health at the speed of 1HP per second as a nice little bonus from the mod creator.


Get this mod


Bigger Storage Mod


Being able to store more energy, liquid, solid materials, and ammo can play a huge role in the success of your campaign in The Riftbreaker.


The problem is that you will have to significantly expand your base and spend even more resources, if you want to achieve this in the vanilla version.


This mod removes all that unnecessary work and simply gives you a lot of extra storage space without the need to expand your base.


Get this mod


The Riftbreaker has a lot to offer in terms of mechanics, and the community has taken much of the game into its own hands as with any release with mod capabilities these days. Many of the game's more frustrating facets can be dealt with through mods, and some can add further gameplay elements to spice things up.


In this list we'll show you 11 of the best mods in The Riftbreaker, for the time being. The game still has a plenty of ways it can grow, but there are already some impressive offerings from the game's modding community.