So if you guys don’t already know, I cover a lot of games for my channel and website. However, I receive more games than I can actually cover in a reasonable time. So given that, I thought I would throw together this quick feature to cover five such games that I have played, but have been sitting on the review backburner for months (even a year for a couple of them). They’re not full reviews — as I may not have played through each game in its entirety — so I’ll avoid giving scores, but I can definitely give some impressions. So anyways, thanks to the publishers who sent these games to me in order to make this list possible, and with that said let’s get right into the first game.
If you’ve ever wanted a first-person souls-like hack and slasher, ELDERBORN is the game for you. It’s got that dark aesthetic going for it, a combat system designed around dashing and parrying, and a metal soundtrack to go along with it. For a hack and slasher, the game succeeds in not only having some satisfying combat, but actually having a bit of depth to it as well, something others in the genre tend to forget. It isn’t the type of game where you are just mindlessly swinging — I oftentimes found myself swapping weapons mid-battle to take advantage of superior matchups. I would be swinging with my warhammer to take out crowds of enemies, then swap to my spear to parry and take care of a shielded enemy that I wouldn’t have been able to easily deal with otherwise.
That is on top of the combat already feeling great to play though. It’s heavy, it’s meaty, and it is not afraid to let you know when you or an enemy is hit, offering just enough feedback to really give the combat that satisfying feel. And although the weapons and attacks may feel heavy, the game actually has an incredibly responsive dash mechanic, which kinda offers up this neat contrast. There’s no stamina meter and you are able to enter and exit attack animations while dashing, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer to abuse it as much as possible. It can make for some very chaotic combat, but it’s a blast to be constantly dashing around, dishing out a few attacks, and then dashing out just like that.
Of course, there’s more to the combat than just that, there’s also blocking and parrying to take advantage of, the latter of which I pretty much relied on during boss fights. When you’re not in combat, you’re exploring a crudely constructed, yet interesting game world, one that even has some secrets to find. The game may be a bit clunky at times, but it was a fun experience for the roughly four hours that it lasted, and it’s definitely worth a look if you can catch it on sale.
Steam page. ELDERBORN is also available on GOG.
Disc Creatures is probably the closest game to Pokémon that I’ve played on PC. Not only does it have that same classic Game Boy aesthetic, but everything from the creature designs, to the base gameplay, and even the environments just scream gen 1 and 2 Pokémon. I mean, the game starts with you in the second floor of your home in a small town and your first goal is to go to town hall and pick up your first few creatures in order to begin your journey. It really can’t get much more Pokémon than that.
Yet somehow, it feels brand new. The battles, for example, are done 3 on 3 and play more like a party-based JRPG. There’s still type matchups, critical hits, and items, but then you got stuff like the game’s unique move system. Unlike similar monster-catching games, you’re able to swap to and from any of a creature’s learned moves at any time outside of combat, so there’s a good bit of depth in that you can prepare for specific battles by setting up the right moves. The act of actually catching new creatures is quite cool too. Put simply, it’s a random chance upon defeating said creature, but that chance can be boosted by items significantly.
And of course, when you’re not in battle, you’ll be exploring a colorful world full of all these unique creatures, NPCs, towns, and landmarks that really give the game that Game Boy feel. If anything, the only complaint I have so far is the lack of any sort of window or control options, but at least those can be worked around. Disc Creatures changes just enough to separate itself from the crowd, but still manages to maintain that nostalgic feel, making for a pretty fun monster catching experience.
So Kenshi is quite unlike anything I have ever played. Right at the start, you are dropped right into this massive wasteland and given no objective to complete, it is up to you to write your own story. It’s essentially a giant sandbox in this sense, but it’s definitely a fun one. With my first character alone, I have already been attacked by slave traders looking to sell me, recruited a buddy to help loot people in their homes at night, and setup a shop selling the loot I stole from the shop across the street. You’re able to set up your own outpost and become a farmer/trader, become a warlord with a bunch of your own troops, or, if you want to go the simple route, just become an adventuring nomad. There’s a ton to this game and it would take countless hours to experience everything it has to offer.
It is easily one of the most open-ended RPGs I have ever played and it manages to do this with a nice amount of depth too. The mechanics are both complex, yet fun to mess around with and it didn’t really feel like any of them were just tacked-on. Sure, there is a steep learning curve, but it was actually kinda fun stumbling around and figuring out things as I went. In fact, I would argue that the game encourages such experimentation, given the lack of objective and all.
As for the graphics, story, and overall polish, those are definitely on the more questionable side of things. The story is mostly absent and told through bits and pieces of lore picked up through NPCs and books and such. It’s not bad, but it never really caught my interest. As for the graphics, well that is 100% one of the game’s weaker points. It looks (and to a certain extent, plays) like a game from the late 2000s. The models are clunky, the textures are low res, and there’s a bunch of physics and clipping issues. Fortunately, I’m not one to care so much for the graphics, so that doesn’t really bother me too much, but I could easily see it scaring off new players.
However, if you can get over the dated graphics and somewhat clunky gameplay, there’s a lot to like here. It’s definitely one of those games I can see myself coming back to to try out a new play style every now and then and I’m already looking into what kind of mods I can add to improve the experience.
Steam page. Kenshi is also available on GOG.
Tyranny – Gold Edition
Tyranny is a bit of an interesting case. I love Obsidian as a studio and have enjoyed every game they have put out (at least, that I’ve played), but I never actually got into their serious RPG stuff. So I thought I would take a crack at it with Tyranny – the smaller of the bunch. After playing it for a bit though, I must admit that I have some mixed feelings.
I’ll start with the combat. At first glance, it appears to have a lot of depth to it, with a ton of options for how different party members act and what skills and abilities they can use. But in actual play, I found it to be rather simplistic. You basically send your tankiest character in first to take aggro and have the rest of your characters just spam their abilities off of cooldown until the enemies are dead. You can set the AI to do that latter part for you, so you don’t even need to do anything after giving the initial orders. This was a bit disappointing, as given the mechanical depth of the combat, I was expecting it to be a more involved process.
However, one may argue that this game is meant to be played for the story and having now actually seen the sheer weight of the story here – I’d have to agree with them. A lot of the time, it’s not even like you are playing an RPG, but rather reading a fantasy novel with a ton of different characters to it. As a visual novel fan, I can definitely appreciate just how much has gone into establishing the game world here and giving it some deep lore to uncover.
However, as I say that, I did end up dropping the game after spending some hours with it because that deep story never really grabbed me like I thought it would. I love Obsidian, but this might just be a case of “this game just isn’t for me”. Maybe I’ll pick it up again someday or maybe I’ll just try Pillars of Eternity, but for now, I’ll be putting this one on the backburner.
Steam page. Tyranny is also available on GOG.
Stellaris is a bit of a big boy game. It’s one of those massive Paradox grand strategy games that has received a mountain of DLC since its release. As such, it was quite intimidating when I first started playing, as I not only had to figure out the base game, but all of that DLC too. Regardless, I am a fan of such strategy games and am accustomed to the learning curve, so I dove right in.
Right off the bat, I gotta say outright that this game’s tutorial is absolute garbage. Maybe I was just spoiled by Crusader Kings III, but the tutorial here hardly teaches you anything. You get like a couple paragraphs of text any time you click on something new and that’s it. There are a few tutorial “quests” to go through, but beyond that it’s almost 100% trial and error.
This made my first game a bit rocky at the start, but after a few hours, I started getting a handle on things. By that point, hours started going by without me really noticing, as tends to happen with me and Paradox grand strategy games. Stellaris has all that makes such games fun, including the massive amount of mechanical depth, the tons of different playstyles and empires to choose from, and the narrative elements that make the game more than just a straightforward strategy game. You get to investigate alien ruins, map the galaxy, form galactic federations, and build some really cool stuff along the way.
And it does all of this while running surprisingly well. Granted, the game is now four years old, but with all of this DLC and all the stuff that can go at any given point, I was surprised at how optimized the game felt. I had a great time overall and this is definitely one of those strategy games I can see myself returning to for the occasional game or two.
Steam page. Stellaris also available on GOG and has a console version available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
And that’s all the games I got for this list. I’m not planning on another one of these for the time being, but that depends on how many games I want to show you guys, so we’ll have to see. Anyways, I’ve included links to all of the games featured here, so do check them out if you are interested.