On our review scale, games in the 50% and 60% range have something to offer, but usually with heavy caveats—perhaps other games nail ideas that they only graze. Up in the 70% range, we offer unreserved recommendations: good games that are worth your time. At 80% and above, however, we have to have at least glimpsed something brilliant, whether that's an old idea that's been executed superbly, or a new idea that challenges our assumptions.
2019 was full of games that fulfilled one or both of those conditions. MechWarrior 5 and F1 2019 might not qualify as avant garde, but they brought us stompy mechs and fast cars with gusto. Disco Elysium, meanwhile, is a game in which you can die from kicking a mailbox—unexpected, unusual, and brilliantly written.
In our 2019 Game of the Year Awards, we're picking out a small selection of games to celebrate for their contributions to the year—the best of the best, as decided by PC Gamer as a whole. As individuals, however, each one of us would have a slightly or totally different list of favorites. It was a great year, and a tidy 50 games received PC Gamer review scores of 80% or higher. Below, we've collected all of them. These are the 2019 games that we not only recommend, but consider exceptional.
MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
"MW5 is unmistakably a game about being a sandbox mech jockey, and the stories are just a low-quality veneer over some superb robot combat. If you're here for a mech smashing simulator, this is the best new mech smashing simulator around."
Verdict: MechWarrior 5 is a showcase of nostalgic, joyful mech combat.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
"Calling Dragon Quest Builders 2 a Minecraft clone is a disservice. Yes, they’re both block-based building games, but DQB2’s story gives your building purpose. You might not be able to craft impressive redstone circuitry, but at least the furniture actually looks like something you can use rather than wool, trapdoors and guesswork slapped together. By having so many individual items, DQB2 feels way more polished. It’s also easier to make something that looks good even if you don’t feel particularly creative."
Verdict: A lighthearted romp, with plenty of opportunities for creative building and a surprisingly good story.
"Developer Airship Syndicate—which was formed by members of Vigil Games, who made the first two Darksiders games—has an obvious, genuine fondness for the series. Not only do we see returning characters such as Samael and Vulgrim (I never would’ve forgiven the absence of my favourite demonic shopkeeper), weapons and abilities from the core games have been carefully integrated. For example, War still has his boomerang-like Vorpal Blade, both horsemen can grab objects from afar with a sort of ghostly Inspector Gadget arm, and Strife soon unlocks the Void Bomb for some portal creation shenanigans. Fellow Darksiders fans, we are home!"
Verdict: A great one-shot adventure or an enjoyable grindfest, depending on which you want.
"Take a stroll through the wildflowers, pick some herbs. Shoot the breeze with the watchmen at the bridge leading into the village. Work on your capsule toy collection. Tell Shenhua about growing up in Japan. In an increasingly loud and relentless world, Shenmue 3 is an ocean of calm. Step back into 1980s China and just go with the flow. That's when that curious, hard to define Shenmue magic emerges and you find yourself completely entranced by it. Will Yu Suzuki ever finish his story? I'm not sure, but being invited back into his world is a rare treat we may never experience again. So might as well savour it, eh?"
Verdict: A seamless continuation of the series that makes up for its limitations with pure heart. It's like Ryo never left us.
"I resisted taking screenshots of certain events, and even animals, because I want as many people as possible to discover them for themselves. Mooneye has infused Lost Ember with a wonder and a magic that is rarely seen, and I connected with it on a level I never expected."
Verdict: Lost Ember is a wonderful, unique, and unforgettable experience with a love for nature.
Red Dead Redemption 2
"Every pretty vista is something to lose through Arthur's eyes, cut through by power lines and train tracks, the skies and his remaining life slowly filling up with factory smoke. Just about everyone sees an unhappy ending in RDR2, too. It's a story I might not retain every moment of, but I won't forget its brutal arc or the man in the middle of it all. God damn is it sad. An apocalypse that led to this."
Verdict: Red Dead Redemption 2's stark, slow depiction of America's fading frontier is a monumental work straining against stubborn mission design and stability problems.
Unity of Command 2
"One of my high bars for a strategy game's sequel is that I can unreservedly recommend the game over its predecessor. Unity of Command 2 is one of those games; somewhat to my surprise, as I was initially wary of all the new mechanics being added to an otherwise delightfully simple wargame. Unity of Command 2 is a new wargaming standard in every aspect. It has good mechanics, a fun campaign structure, and it even looks quite good to boot. This is a pure wargame: it's about moving troops and tanks and fighting with no consideration for politicking or ceasefires."
Verdict: Wargames don't see a lot of innovation, but Unity of Command 2 builds new things out of familiar parts.
Football Manager 2020
"If you can afford the time, this year's game is absolutely worth your attention, particularly if long-term saves are your thing. There's scope to play for countless seasons and still be presented with fresh challenges, and the new Development Centre system makes building for the future more compelling than ever. It's Football Manager with a substantially greater dose of longevity, and that both delights and terrifies me at the same time."
Verdict: Another superb entry that feels tailor-made for the series' most dedicated players.
"It's a joy to try and work out Manifold Garden's impossible geometry and world wrapping. It's an intricate and impressive spectacle and one that took William Chyr seven years of development to make—and it shows. When I finished playing it the first time I immediately started again, just to revisit some of those infinity rooms. It's strange that a gravity puzzle so grounded in physics can emit a serene, almost divine, energy—it's like a unity of two worlds. With Manifold Garden, Chyr has joined two opposing forces creating an ethereal physics puzzler."
Verdict: A serene gravity flipping puzzler with impossible structures to wrap your head around.
"I had high expectations for Afterparty. I was expecting a comedy title, set in a fantasy world that could have been from a Noel Fielding sketch. But the very real relationship between Lola and Milo, the witty humour that had me chuckling every minute and the audacity on show from Night School Studio to go where they did, at the risk of their player's discomfort, made Afterparty even more than I thought it could be."
Verdict: The top-notch writing and superb voice acting, coupled with the visually vibrant hellscape, keeps your interest from start to finish.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
"I love Modern Warfare for the big swings it does take. It sets the bar high for first-person gun feel. Gunfight is a standout mode that proves to me Call of Duty can slow down and the sky won’t fall. I hope to see even bigger risks with its post-launch support. Modern Warfare is a promising platform for new ideas, but the sentiment will carry little weight if Activision shoves this game aside and we’re talking about Black Ops 5 in 2020. For now, it’s the Call of Duty to beat."
Verdict: Modern Warfare evolves the series for the better, but it could be so much more.
Six Ages: Ride Like the Wind
"Welcome to Six Ages. It's a belated follow up to the 1999 cult oddity King of Dragon Pass, and works the same way: you manage a small clan in an iron age fantasy world, and try to help them prosper by making a series of decisions, largely involving praying to gods and acquiring more and more livestock. It's a sort of hybrid of visual novel and town management game, with large parts played out via little choose-your-own-adventure vignettes, plus town management-esque decisions on various menu screens. Imagine Crusader Kings 2 without the real time strategy overmap, but with even more weird events."
Verdict: This charming sequel doesn't need flashy new innovations to craft an engrossing adventure.
"You can create a highly empathetic communist disco music enthusiast, a self-deprecating artist who punches first and asks questions later, a deluded rock-and-roll cop with a passion for democracy, or a drug-addicted feminist psychic. Every person who plays Disco Elysium will have a different experience as a result of the frankly audacious depth of its role playing."
Verdict: An irresponsibly deep detective RPG that lets you be any kind of detective you want. Even a bad one.
John Wick Hex
Our review (80%) | Buy it: Epic Games Store
"John Wick Hex is a movie tie-in that doesn’t go for the lowest common denominator. What could easily have been a generic real-time action game works wonderfully in this form—converting the pace of the movie action into a very elegant illusion of it."
Verdict: An elegant tactical puzzler that captures the pace and action of the movies.
What the Golf?
"It's a hilarious and surprising game. Every time something funny happened I recorded it, and now I probably have about forty-five damn minutes of footage that I'm not going to put in gif form because the surprises are much better if you discover them yourself. Sometimes what you think you're going to be sending across the 'golf' 'course' isn't what actually moves when you release your mouse button. Sometimes there's a silly pun that fills the screen when you've finished a level. I laughed a lot while playing."
Verdict: A humorous and surprising puzzle game about golf and not-golf.
Untitled Goose Game
"There aren’t nearly enough games that let you play the villain. The beauty here of course is that, as much as it might feel like it on occasion, geese are not evil creatures. They’re just birds adapting to a world that humans have taken over with a cold disregard for nature. I, on the other hand, take immense pleasure in being a horrible git—and therefore, I love this game."
Verdict: Hilarious, bursting with charm, and satisfying to play. Untitled Goose Game is a winger.
World of Warcraft Classic
"Returning to World of Warcraft Classic is a humbling experience. With thousands of hours spent in Azeroth, I've defeated intergalactic demon armies and thwarted orc hordes from alternate timelines all while amassing the most powerful gear the universe has ever known. But Classic makes braving a cave filled with level 12 troggs feel like a massive achievement. It's not so much a nostalgia trip as it is a nostalgia fall into a pit of rusty razor blades. And, dammit, I kind of like it that way."
Verdict: World of Warcraft Classic's uncanny ability to bring players together and immerse them in adventure hasn't aged a day.
Man of Medan
Our review (81%) | Buy it: Steam
"Man of Medan, the first entry in Supermassive Game's Dark Pictures Anthology, isn't particularly scary. If it were a movie, it'd be the kind that releases direct to video, one of those schlocky DVDs lining the convenience store displays stuffed between the trail mix and sunglasses. The usual character archetypes are there: the nerd, the hunk, the blonde, the stranger, the horny creep that no one should put up with but do because at least one death should be cathartic. Queue up the ghost ship, murderous pirates, and cheap jump scares galore.
As a film, it would be fun, but familiar and forgettable. You have to have a taste for it. But as co-op adventure game, Man of Medan is unparalleled."
Verdict: Man of Medan tells a familiar story in a fascinating way, and even moreso with a partner.
Our review (88%) | Buy it: Epic Games Store
"When you're fully powered-up, Remedy's love of flying objects comes to the fore. The Oldest House's tidy environments are like water. Every dash sends papers flying, coffee cups crashing. Jesse can toss any object in the environment with her brain, turning banal office spaces and retro futurist underground labs into disaster areas. Levitating pulls errant objects into Jesse's orbit, like lazy little moons: staplers, rubble, pencils, printers, corpses. Max Payne would be proud.
Control is a top-tier mess-making simulator. Jesse's telekinesis joins Half-Life 2's juiced gravity gun in the videogame physics toy hall of fame. "
Verdict: Control's thin protagonist and abrupt ending are propped up by an abundance of mystery, wonder, and glorious room-destroying combat.
"You might find a clip in your first ten minutes that I found three hours in, and it's fascinating to think about how that would completely skew your perception of the story. But even with all this randomness, it's amazing how the game almost feels like it was paced and structured by hand. Her Story pulled the same trick, but the greater variety of stories here only heightens that sense of mystery, discovery, shock, and revelation."
Verdict: An atmospheric, brilliantly written and acted detective thriller that tells a compelling story in a unique way.
Our review (81%) | Buy it: Steam
"There’s a deceptively massive chunk of game here, and if the likes of Hearthstone or Gwent never clicked with you it’s an easy way to slide into the world of agonising over deck builds. You only have space for a handful of cards, but striking the right balance between attack, defense, and modifiers is just as engrossing. At some point you’re certain to pause and wonder how you ended up putting such brainpower into the meta of a chirpy cartoon dice game."
Verdict: Endearing, compulsive, and just weird enough to want to keep exploring.
Age of Wonders: Planetfall
"Age of Wonders: Planetfall is the long-running fantasy series' sci-fi spin-off; the Alpha Centauri to Age of Wonders' Civilization II. Fans of the series will find Planetfall immediately familiar, as it maintains Triumph's now well-established 'faster 4X' dynamics peppered with XCOM-style tactical battles. What Planetfall has that's new is a cast of delightful factions that range from hyperintelligent jellyfish to a species that constantly rebuilds itself from the flesh of its fallen enemies."
Verdict: Age of Wonders: Planetfall, while a bit opaque in some areas, is the most entertaining 4X I've played in years.
Streets of Rogue
"After 15 hours, I’m still finding new ways to use characters I thought I’d mastered. I only just realised, for example, that hackers can hack fridges to make them literally ‘run’ (geddit?), flattening anyone in their path and then bursting open to reveal the food inside, which restores HP. I also just discovered eating burnt bodies restores more HP as the cannibal, so I buy a flamethrower whenever I can."
Verdict: A flexible roguelike with more than enough playstyles to keep you coming back.
"My actions, from twisting and turning Tetrominos to arranging them in order, are now part of a whole musical and sound effect landscape. In one of the levels, the blocks look to be made of wood and make pleasant clunking sounds when set down, elsewhere they crinkle like crystal. Music and background visuals work together like a slowly building symphony with distinct movements—after a few rounds the visuals shift, revealing the level’s theme or adding to it in a meaningful way. Whales of light weave through invisible oceans in the background, fireworks glitter or hypnotic shapes multiply to the point they leave an imprint on your retinas."
Verdict: Whole new sensory layers make Tetris Effect the best version of an already timeless game.
Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers
"Shadowbringers is the Avengers: Endgame of Final Fantasy 14, an emotionally stirring climax that draws on six years of character development, storytelling, and worldbuilding to weave an epic, dimension-spanning story rooted in the relationships of its chief characters."
Verdict: Coupled with a striking new world to explore, Shadowbringers' poignant and character-driven story is one of the best in the entire series.
"My favorite thing about Amid Evil is that while its Hard Mode is challenging, just about every bad situation is salvageable—it feels nearly ideal to me, as difficulty modes go. I've mentioned quicksaving, which is one useful tool, and secret areas with big heath boosts are also helpful. There's also the part where you can go super saiyan."
Verdict: At its best when the screen is full of enemies, Amid Evil is a badass monster mash.
My Friend Pedro
"The gamers running at me have swords, because all gamers own swords, I guess. They also have Monty Python Dark Souls cosplay armor, but it can't save them from the shotgun blasts that reduce them to lumps at my feet. I'm out of ammo before I'm out of gamers, the last one charging with sword held high. But any object you kick is a one-shot kill in this game, and dead gamer lumps are kickable objects."
Verdict: Breezy fun that also rewards combo-chasing mastery. Barrel through the story once for a laugh, then replay the best levels until you are John Wick on a skateboard.
"It seems so obvious now in retrospect. The best way for an annualised, licensed motorsport game to stay fresh every summer, clearly, is to chuck in an entirely different racing series as well. With the inclusion of the 2018 F2 championship, F1 2019 feels, for the first time in the series, like a wider world of motorsport. It offers that irresistible rags-to-riches journey in career mode, and a handling model all of its own to master."
Verdict: F1 2019 retains immaculate handling and visuals while adding cinematic spectacle and junior series racing.
"The time loop might feel like a gimmick, but it's central to Outer Wilds' thesis of exploration. It lets the planets act like living, moving environments that can change over time. The Hourglass Twins, for instance, are two planets connected by a giant column of sand. Over the course of the loop, the sand is transferred from Ash Twin to Ember Twin, filling in the canyons of one while revealing what hides under the surface of another. Each planet has something that makes it an immediately interesting space to explore, and often one that rewards repeat visits at different times through the loop."
Verdict: Beneath its charming and inventive worlds, Outer Wilds hides a cleverly unfolding mystery.
"Each puzzle is represented by a wonderfully stylised interface, with the kind of hard, functional design you'd expect from something that was only ever meant to be accessed by a machine. It's no coincidence that the game was directed by the person responsible for Alien: Isolation's similarly utilitarian AI. Tasks include adjusting a magnetic field in the aforementioned fusion reactor, running diagnostics on your own damaged memory core, fixing the clamps that hold the station together, and rebooting a faulty cooling system. And all of these jobs have their own unique interface and means of interaction, rooted in smart, well-designed puzzles that are immensely satisfying to solve."
Verdict: A stylish, understated, and subtly chilling psychological thriller with a compelling mystery at its core.
"Most games that hand you a sword and point you in the direction of a battalion of foes feel empowering and heroic. After a few rounds of Mordhau, the prospect of heading once more into the breach seemed more terrifying than anything else. Of all the multiplayer melee games I’ve played over the years, this one has decidedly the highest skill cap and the least patience for those who haven’t taken the time to learn its complex, twitch-based combat. The upside to that is when you do go on a hot streak, you feel like way more of a badass than any of those more forgiving games can ever let you feel."
Verdict: High skill cap melee combat is equally rewarding and daunting, though the archery and support roles could use some work.
Yakuza Kiwami 2
"While the story isn't quite as tight as Yakuza 0—suffering from the occasional tangent, lull and contrived twist —it's still one of the strongest of the series. And elsewhere, Kiwami 2 is packed full of interesting diversions. There's a return of Yakuza 0's cabaret club storyline, which picks up some of the same story threads. There's a strange RTS minigame featuring Majima's construction company that is admittedly more functional than enjoyable, but offers lots of fun character moments. There's bouncer missions, gambling, the colosseum, street bosses, golf, men in diapers, and loads more. There's even a couple of minigames about pissing."
Verdict: A triumphant remake of Yakuza 2, full of fun diversions and featuring one of the series' best stories.
Mortal Kombat 11
"Mortal Kombat X was a great fighter that got a horrible port, but MK 11 feels like it’s been designed with us in mind. The autoconfigure tool didn’t work brilliantly for me, but I was able to run the game on max settings using a 1070 and get a consistent 55fps during fights. There are also some PC-specific features like integration with RGB displays—they’re little touches, obviously, but it’s enough to make PC players feel less like we’re the Hsu Hao of gaming platforms."
Verdict: A deep, customisable fighter that just happens to include the best video game movie never made.
"It's a lot, but everything you build and tweak is connected to one of the game's pillars, like creating more fodder for your armies or fattening up your bank account, and eventually starts to make sense. You need a bigger army? Build more training camps and get more freemen. Broke? Hike up taxes and build more marketplaces. And you can make lots of changes very quickly. Alternatively, you can go through each province individually, fine-tuning them, moving people between cities, endlessly tweaking until it's 3 am and when you close your eyes all you can see are demographics. And then you make a mistake and you've got a revolt on your hands. It's great."
Verdict: Huge, inventive and the reason I'm sleep deprived. It's brilliant.
"For the hardcore grammar/linguistics/logic nerds (HOLLER!) you can grab your notebook and deduce more nuanced systems. At one point I took a break from visiting locations to pick through my dictionary and established that there are markers denoting the past-tense, signaling adjectives and verbs, and indicating that two concepts are tied to one another. My most insufferably smug moment was being able to translate fragments which Heaven's Vault wouldn't let Aliya decipher in-game yet."
Verdict: Heaven's Vault communicates the beauty of assigning meaning to symbols, and thus the people who wrote them.
"Anno 1800 belongs to a select group of games that I like to refer to as 'blink and it’s 2 am' games. For example, you might sit down in an evening with the plan of setting up your first steel mill. Then you blink and it’s 2 am and you’ve somehow founded a colony in the New World. Alternatively, perhaps you set the goal of reaching the next population milestone to unlock a new building. Then you do that, and the building you unlock is a zoo for which you can build individual enclosures to fill with several dozen type of animals."
Verdict: Despite an annoying story mode, Anno 1800 is the biggest and best entry in the series to date.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
"Ace Attorney hooks you the same way any good crime serial does: you want to know whodunit, and how, and once you do, you want to point your finger at the criminal in a heroic fashion and laugh. I dare you not to be sold on Ace Attorney as soon as the verdict hits the screen in big, bold letters, and the room erupts into cheers and confetti."
Verdict: Just what a visual novel should be—fun characters and the rush of solving mysteries make you eager to keep going.
"Outward's unusual design provides a different experience than I've found in most RPGs. It completely breaks the common habits of fast-traveling, gaining a fortune in loot, becoming an all-powerful god, and reloading saved games when things don't go as planned or you make a choice you regret. It makes minor setbacks feel like major obstacles to overcome and it makes small victories feel like utter triumphs. Outward is harsh and occasionally frustrating, but it does what so few games do. It requires you to put real thought into the choices you make, and it makes those choices feel like they really matter. Most of all, it makes you approach each and every encounter as if your life depended on it—even though you never die."
Verdict: A few rough edges don't stop Outward from being a gem of an RPG.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
"Sekiro took me 73 hours to complete, but there are high level challenges hidden throughout that could add another ten before I plunge into new game plus. Sekiro's combat system serves up exciting new challenges to the end and the shinobi fantasy is powerfully realised in every savage deathblow and perfectly timed parry. If you're up for the challenge, Sekiro will reward your patience with some of the most spectacular, nerve-wracking duelling on PC."
Verdict: A brutal, uncompromising action game with sensational sword combat. From Software has done it again.
The Division 2
"This is a very complete-feeling follow-up to The Division, from a team that clearly learned a lot about its audience after a series of successful, high-value updates. Dedicated players know they want this already. For everyone else, this is an exciting, moreish shooter set in an impressive world that already offers tens of hours of enjoyable shooting and cool loot."
Verdict: A packed, rewarding, and frequently thrilling looter shooter that should have a bright future.
Baba is You
"Baba is You deserves its critical acclaim. It’s part logic puzzle, part existential quandary, part love letter to how much potential is contained in the tiny building blocks of language."
Verdict: Baba is You manages to take the familiar idea of nudging blocks and solving puzzles in a fresh direction. Brilliant.
"Hypnospace Outlaw is, rather unexpectedly, one of the best detective games on PC. Its puzzles are layered and complex, but never unfair. It respects you enough to let you figure things out at your own pace, and with almost no hand-holding. But if you do hit a wall (trust me, you will) there's a well-designed hint system buried in there too. Its internet is a joyous explosion of art, music, creativity, and weirdness, and a pleasure to explore. And it's a nice reminder of when the internet felt like a cool underground club, rather than a pervasive Hell from which there is no escape."
Verdict: A satisfying detective adventure based around a weird and wonderfully imaginative retro internet.
Devil May Cry 5
"Devil May Cry 5 is a 16-hour exploration of the hundreds of ways a magical man might hit a demon. There are swords and guns, of course, which you use interchangeably to create flowing, acrobatic combos. Alternatively, Devil May Cry’s ageing original hero Dante can hit demons with two halves of a haunted motorbike. Nero can slap on one of seven mechanical arms that can punch enemies with a big electric fist, or shoot rocket fists that punch demons from a distance. The magical antihero V commands a demonic condor and a panther to hit demons for him. All of these approaches look sensational, and feel so good that I’m happily ploughing into new game plus when the review is already finished."
Verdict: Three great characters and a beautiful, fluid combat system make this a must-buy for hack-and-slash fans.
Dirt Rally 2.0
"A rally stage is an assault on every sense (alright, perhaps not taste or smell if we’re being pedantic), rattling the cockpit camera violently while an audio onslaught of complicated but crucially important pacenotes hits you, whether you’re ready for them or not. Force feedback surges through your wheel, fizzing your brain as though you’ve licked a battery, and whether using a wheel (preferable) or pad, vehicles behave just as you want them to—barely tameable, occasionally balletic in their powerslides, always convincing. This was broadly true of its predecessor—but in truth, Dirt Rally never felt anything like as scary or as taxing."
Verdict: Simply the best rally sim around, building on its predecessor’s already fine foundations.
"Apex Legends is a lot like most battle royale games. You drop from the sky onto an island, sweep the floor for weapons and gear, and scramble to stay inside a series of ever-shrinking circles pressing 60 people towards inevitable conflict. But Apex Legends is also the product of the genre's failures so far, a patient and refined response that makes for the most accessible, uncompromising battle royale experience yet."
Verdict: Apex Legends is a quiet revolution in how we communicate in games, and an excellent team-based battle royale I can recommend to anyone, caveat-free.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
"...It’s an absorbing space strategy game, and we don’t get enough of them. The many featured factions are as varied and characterful as you would expect from the 40K universe. Tyranids infect enemy vessels with swarms of hungry monsters, and latch onto enemies with long space tentacles. The Eldar are fast and near-invisible at the start of a fight. The Orks, well, they crash into stuff. If you’re a fan of the universe there is even more to enjoy here. The voice acting sometimes goes full ham, but this is one of the most authentic attempts to capture the grandiosity of Warhammer 40,000. Emperor knows, many have tried."
Verdict: Involved, spectacular, space battles packaged into satisfying campaigns, and great fan service too.
"If it’s all getting a bit much, or the dice really seem to be screwing you over, dying needn’t mean starting again: when it’s game over you can choose to carry on from the last port you visited instead. And if you’re still struggling, there are extra difficulty modifiers that make enemy projectiles easier to dodge or supplies last longer.
All of which makes it easier to get to what really makes Sunless Skies great: the writing. Evocative, witty and razor sharp, it turns text into a reward: you’ll find yourself seeking the right combination of items just to open up new lines of conversation. They’re the most important currency in a game that gives you a clutch of weird and wonderful tales to tell, even when you fail miserably. In these moments you’ll realise that while you may not have achieved your goal, Failbetter certainly has."
Verdict: The sharpest writing around, wrapped inside a surprising adventure that’s tough but rarely unfair. Failbetter’s finest hour.
Slay the Spire
"The joy of a singleplayer card game like Slay the Spire is that it puts absolutely broken combos within your grasp. It feels good to deal 50 poison damage to something. But it feels even better when you drop a series of cards that sextuples that amount of poison, kills an enemy, and triggers a corpse explosion that cascades splash damage to all of the other things that are trying to kill you."
Verdict: A strategically deep deckbuilder that, with any luck, has spawned a brilliant new subgenre.
Resident Evil 2
"One of the most remarkable things about this Resident Evil 2 remake is that it makes zombies—the slow, shambling, groaning kind—exciting again. The undead in this game are incredible, horrible things: shuffling lumps of bloody meat who batter down doors, tumble through broken windows, and lunge hungrily from the shadows. They're physical and clumsy and an absolute joy to kill—if you have the ammunition to spare."
Verdict: A tense, challenging, and beautiful remake of a classic survival horror game, and with enough fresh ideas to make it feel excitingly new.
"In my time with Kenshi, I've crossed swamps so vast that I haven't dared return. I've been beaten shitless by a pack of goats that were intended to feed my rabble of listless nomads. I've been a shopkeeper and a thief, a lone wanderer and a slave, and I've been an entire community of people working together to—one day—erect our own city in the wasteland. One day.
None of these events were part of questlines. There’s no such regimentation in Kenshi, no tangible sense of scripted behaviour, just a ragged web of vicious systems so myriad that they sometimes tangle and fumble and descend into absurdity. But there is a cold order to Kenshi too, a formidable degree of depth that’s as impressive as it is stubborn."
Verdict: Work through the presentational ugliness and technical awkwardness, and you’ll find an experience of frightening depth.