Frontier Developments. Elite: Dangerous [Frontier Developments, 2014]
Elite: Dangerous is a MMO-ish space exploration, trading, dogfighting game. Jumping into it isn't a great experience because it's got at least an hour of training videos (available on Youtube) and just as many training missions. However, I skipped most of them and I don't think I missed out on much. Once you've got basic flight under control, the rest you can figure out. There is a lot of downtime as you flight between systems and planets, but it's an oddly compelling game. I find myself going back in despite not having much in the way of goals besides getting more money, more rank, and a bigger, faster space ship. I'm also attracted to the hints of mysteries and aliens in the universe. It plays surprising well on a Steam controller, but it's definitely not for everyone.
Ska Studios. Salt and Sanctuary [Ska Studios, 2016]
Salt and Sanctuary is a Dark Souls-inspired metroidvania. Or it's Dark Souls on a 2D plane with metroidvania influences. Either way, it's dark, dangerous, and flat. It's fantastic, and I say that as someone who was unimpressed by Dark Souls. It still has the Dark Souls danger in that it feels like almost any fight can go badly and kill you. It does the risk/reward of carrying around a lot of experience (salt, in this case) that can be easily lost but stopping to spend some of it will cause all of the enemies to respawn and you're on a hot streak and you don't want to stop progressing. The bosses are suitably challenging and the variety of character builds it supports is huge. I'm having a lot of fun with it, but I'm finding the path to progress as I get further into the game is getting harder to locate.
Rocksteady Studios. Batman: Arkham Knight [Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2015]
Batman: Arkham Knight is the fourth game in the Arkham trilogy, being the third to be developed by Rocksteady but fourth game in existence. It takes Arkham City, makes it even larger, and adds the Batmobile. The Batmobile is both a blessing and a curse; it's powerful and fun to drive to get around Gotham, but it also introduces some chase and racing activities to the game that can be really frustrating. I've played it on Xbox One and PC, and the experience was quite a bit smoother on Xbox One. Riding around Gotham in the Batmobile caused the game to do some really stutter-y loading on PC that simply doesn't happen on Xbox One, and my Batmobile fell through road at least three times during time-sensitive chases. Arkham Knight is still a great addition to the series, even if it feels like they're really leaning hard on the same five Batman villains across the four games. It looks amazing, plays great, and should not be missed by any Batman fan.
POSTED BY: brian, sci-fi/fantasy/video game dork and contributor since 2014