Earlier this week we asked what games you guys have been enjoying the most this month, and you responded (thanks!). Here are the results, along with what the USG staff is enjoying right now.
Obviously, this poll isn't anything approaching scientific given the very small sample size. If anything, it showed how diverse our community really is, with our users playing everything from Parasite Eve to Hitman. Still, a few games definitely stood out from the pack, and we've listed them below. Our main takeaway? You guys really love Japanese games, and you really, really like Overwatch (so do we).
Read on for the rest of the list.
#1. Overwatch (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Overwatch has unquestionably been the biggest game of the first half of 2016, and it seems to have its hooks in USgamer as much as anywhere else. With eight mentions, it easily cleared the rest of the field. User dr134 summed up its broad appeal when they wrote, "I never play online only games, and never venture online in FPS games, but Overwatch has me completely hooked. The reviews were so positive, I gave it a shot and have put in over 50 hours so far." IPA put it even more succinctly: "Overwatch. Overwatch Overwatch." We here you guys loud and clear. It will be interesting to see if Overwatch manages to keep its momentum through the rest of the year; but as of right now, it's the biggest thing going in gaming.
#2. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita)
This one came as kind of a surprise. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir was released to very positive reviews earlier this month, but it hasn't been easy to get a read on how much traction it's been able to get. Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but Leifthrasir definitely stood out from the pack in garnering seven mentions - one short of Overwatch. Maybe HD remasters are a good idea after all! At least, they're a good idea when they improve the original game this much.
#3. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U)
Judging by our informal polling, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is turning a few heads, garnering five mentions from our community. As NiceGuyNeo wrote, "TMS has me blown away. It was not on my radar at all because I thought it sounded dumb. All of a sudden I have a new RPG addiction that's an HD Atlus RPG that plays like Persona. I'm hooked! The battle system is so good. And all the controversy about censorship and other nonsense is just so hilarious! People need to just enjoy the battle system and cool designs already!" Mike ended up enjoying it quite a bit, too. Here's hoping this little gem continues to get the word-of-mouth it deserves.
#4. Valkyria Chronicles (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC)
Valkyria Chronicles was released back in May, but it seems like several of you are still playing Sega's remastered edition, whether on PC or the PlayStation 4. Not surprising given that Valkyria Chronicles consistently rates as one of last generation's very best strategy RPGs. Here's the real question: Out of the five of you who mentioned Valkyria Chronicles, how many of you are playing for the very first time? It would be interesting to know in light of the original release's initial struggles.
Other games that received multiple votes: Dark Souls III (3); Mighty No. 9 (3); Rocket League (3); Persona 4 Golden (3); Street Fighter V (3); Kirby: Planet Robobot (3); DOOM (3); Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (3); Mega Man Legacy Collection (2); Uncharted 4 (2); Hitman (2); Final Fantasy VI (2); Chrono Trigger (2); The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (2); The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (2); Witcher 3 (2); Pocket Card Jockey (2); Rhythm Heaven Megamix (2); Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (2); Fire Emblem Fates (2); Parasite Eve (2); Grand Kingdom (2); Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (2).
The games I'm spending the most time with at the moment is 7th Dragon III, but I've already weighed in on that for a community question and don't want to seem like I'm spinning my wheels. So let me talk about my quest to amend a grievous personal failure: After all these years, I've never finished Super Mario Bros. legitimately. And it's time to change that.
Super Mario was basically the game that I cut my video gaming teeth on. I'd played plenty of arcade games before that, and my family owned a ColecoVision, but Super Mario was different. My best pal in 1986 lived a few houses down from me and ended up being an NES early adopter, and every day after school for what seemed like a year I'd stop at his place for a little while on the way home from school and hang out to play NES and read comics and stuff. We'd mostly play Mario, and mostly in 2P mode… which meant I spent a lot of time sitting and watching, because it was his game that he played all the time and I barely had the first clue of what to do.
Over time, though, I got the hang of it, and of the NES's weird D-pad controls. But by the time I finally got my own NES, much later, I was bored to death of Super Mario, having spent so much time watching passively. I was ready for new experiences. I gave my own copy of the game one genuine effort and made it as far as the crazy jump in 8-2 before running out of lives and never bothered making another attempt. In the following years, I got really good at NES games, but I never returned to Super Mario. I have since finished it… but only by abusing save states. This week, I finally sat down to finish the game and record the effort, and I came close. Didn't quite make it, as I ended up stuck at the final confrontation with Bowser thanks to the lack of any sort of power-ups in World 8-4. But it was pretty fantastic after all these years to play the game in its entirety — no warps! — and have a fairly easy time of it. It's funny how this once-enormous, once-daunting game seems so relatively easy and brief now. I'm pretty sure all the time I've spent with Super Mario Maker has something to do with that...
I think I'm up to the task now that I know the route through 8-4 (the trick is to always go down the first pipe after you clear a pit of lava). I should be able to make it to Bowser all powered-up for success. I'm gonna do this thing. And then, I guess, I have to beat The Lost Levels. I'm not feeling quite so stoked about that one, I admit.
At the moment, my gaming diet consists of nothing but stuffing my face with Overwatch. I'm totally addicted to it, and am playing it a couple of hours a night at least. I've been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is about this release that I find so appealing, and think that it's the game's excellent variety that attracts me to it.
Sure, Blizzard's newest title is ultimately a first-person shooter and its gameplay boils down to various flavors of pew-pewing the enemy, but I find that the game's range and styles of characters is very broad, and each has his or her own tactics that make for a subtly different experience depending on who you play. I tend to be team-oriented and am usually the last person to pick my character, based on what the team needs. That's usually a support character, and in that situation I'll play Mercy or Lucio. Both those characters are healers, but they have distinctly different styles of gameplay: Lucio is super-fast and can really tear around the battlefield using his AoE heal to top up his teammate's health bars. Mercy, on the other hand, is a more focused healer, and you need to specifically target allies to ensure they stay at full health. I also find she's more of a target for enemy players than Lucio, but that also might be due to the fact that Lucio can move around so fast that he can be harder to hit than Mercy.
This week, though, I've been playing Bastion whenever I can. I hadn't really played him before, although I've certainly been killed by him many times. And now I can see why. He can be an absolute terror on certain maps where he can hole up in a corner and command a broad firing line on hapless enemies as they try to attack a point. Fortunately he does have his counters, and that's been a good learning experience this week - there's nothing like playing a character to help you understand his or her strengths and weaknesses.
I don't know how long my love affair with Overwatch will continue, but with competitive play launching next week on consoles, I think it's got a long way to go yet - and I still haven't seriously played most of the characters as of yet. Some are just not quite my style, but there are definitely a few that I'd like to try to master, like Zenyatta, Zarya, Symmetra, Genji, and Mei.
The issue I have is that occasionally games at E3 make me recall past titles, especially in the case of direct sequels. Given the fact that I can't play most of those games I saw at E3, I tend to jump back to their direct predecessors to recapture a similar feeling. Dishonored 2 was one of my highlights during the show, but since it's not coming out until November, I'm replaying the original.
Dishonored is a first-person stealth action title with cool weapons and kick-ass magic. It's roughly analogous to the old Thief series of game, even if the stealth doesn't work quite the same. I'm not a huge fan of third-person action-adventure games; I prefer to play shooters in first-person and action-adventure titles in third-person. Despite that, Dishonored works. Hiding in the shadows, teleporting short distances with Blink, freezing time, and even sword fighting, it all works rather well in Dishonored. I would've prefered a harder delineation between hidden and un-hidden, like Thief and Splinter Cell, but I understand why Arkane made the choice it did. It prized the feeling of being a part of a real world and a guard that can't see you because you're standing in a dark spot right in front of him doesn't make much sense.
And you do feel like you're in a real world, because Arkane put in the work in creating the city of Dunwall. Beginning with late 19th century London, Arkane added a heavy layer of science-fiction on top. It's not quite steampunk, with the city using whale oil to power fantastic weapons like the Tallboy suits or Walls of Light. The contrast between the slums, struck down by a rat-borne plague and the city center, where the Lords and Ladies that run the government, is strong. Dishonored isn't just a game you play, it's a game that rewards you for taking a bit of time to look around.
I'm enjoying my second playthrough of the game, this time on PC and with a beefier desktop. If you're a stealth action fan like me, Dishonored is simply a fantastic game that still holds up. Which is why I'm still playing it.
I've been doing back-to-back reviews since E3 ended, so if you want to read my commentary on recent games I've actually enjoyed, you can always check out my reviews of Rhythm Heaven Megamix and Zero Time Dilemma. That said, I've had time to play at least one other thing, mainly because it's so easy to leave on in the background while I do other stuff: Final Fantasy XIV. And, since I don't work in an office anymore, it provides an excellent substitute for those long coffee breaks I used to take for no apparent reason. (Come on, you do it too—don't lie.)
I used to play Final Fantasy XIV pretty casually, maybe jumping back into it for a few weekends before being distracted by other stuff for months at a time. But the increased challenge of the post-game/pre-expansion content has really made me up my game and become intimately familiar with systems and mechanics I previously ignored. It's a far different experience than playing the core game's content, seeing as it's very difficult to truly fail at taking down challenges or bosses; unless you're incredibly incompetent, FFXIV is pretty generous with how many mistakes you can make.
This philosophy goes out the window with the post-game content, though, as its new and remixed bosses offer very little room for error. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time more than once will usually have your character keeling over, forcing your healer or healers to stop providing HP to the group for the sake of resurrecting your sorry ass. Unless you want your team to be mad at you—thankfully, most FFXIV players are kind and helpful—figuring out these later challenges entails studying the patterns and sometimes unique mechanics.
And Final Fantasy XIV great game to fit into my work schedule since I can leave it on in the background, jump into a queue for some of the post-game content, and continue going about my day. Since I'm in a role that's not exactly in demand (Dragoon), some of these post-game challenges can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to fill with the necessary amount of players, meaning I won't ever be too distracted from my day job. I guess it's kind of strange that FFXIV now has the status of "the game I wait to play while I play other games," but at the point I fully embrace our weird, new future.
I think the game I've been enjoying the most this month is Overwatch (all the wonders of competitive and cooperative gameplay in one package), but the game that has really had my attention lately is Hearts of Iron IV - Paradox's insanely deep World War II strategy sim. I'm learning it in part because I was recently roped into a LAN party that will heavily feature HOI; and someone who plays games for a living, my pride is kind of on the line.
What I've discovered is a wargame that is fascinating in its depth in dimension. It covers the war from seemingly every angle, from supply lines to the way the weather impacts your planes on sorties. It also does a fantastic job of covering the various diplomatic angles; allowing you to, for example, subvert France from within and try to make them Communist. The resulting what-if scenarios are truly intriguing for a history nerd for myself.
With that said, Hearts of Iron IV is also one of the most stressful games I've ever played. I've watched hours of Let's Plays, started multiple games, and pored over the wiki, and I'm only just now feeling like I'm getting the hang of all the systems at play. The byzantine interface and deep strategy demand the utmost commitment from its players. But damn if I'm not intrigued.
Win or lose on Saturday, I suspect that this won't be my last trip into Hearts of Iron IV. I really want to see if I can win the war with Japan.
I’m currently engaged with Rhythm Heaven Megamix (“Peck your beak!”), a collection of old and new rhythm games for the Nintendo 3DS (“Stretch! Out! Your neck!”). At some point the West decided rhythm games need licensed music and plastic accessories that will inevitably be sent to die in your closet with in a year, but the Rhythm Heaven games remind us what the genre’s really about: Single-button controls combined with unforgettable characters, loads of personality, and insanely catchy tunes (“Ten flipper rolls!”).
There’s really only one word that describes Rhythm Heaven Megamix: Joyous. The world’s an increasingly serious place, and the game industry is likewise becoming more serious as games get increasingly complex and explore social themes. That’s fine. In fact, it’s a healthy sign that video games are growing up and becoming more thoughtful. But we still need to take time out and retreat into bright colors, raw fun, and great music (“Spin it, boys!”).
If you want a game that grabs you by every nerve ending and makes you utterly forget about the world around you in the happiest way possible, Rhythm Heaven Megamix is a game you ought to spend time with. Better still, it collects Rhythm Heaven games from years past, so if you missed out on any or all the previously-released titles, it’s a perfect starting line. Don’t be afraid to get it and dance. You know it’s only rock ‘n roll.