If you’re a gamer–especially one who’s always chasing the Next Big Game–summer can be a bit of a drag. Years ago, a super-secret cabal of publishers and developers conspired against you–yes, you–and agreed that all major titles would be released during a two week period in November. And even if that isn’t totally true, it’s not inaccurate to say that the number of notable summer releases can be on the thin side.
So you’ve explored every nook and cranny of The Witcher 3 and Arkham Knight is old news. Now what? Well, you could dip into the tottering tower of unfinished, maybe even un-started games clogging your Steam library, or you could veer ever-so-slightly off the well-worn path and take a chance on something new. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order.
1) Victor Vran (PC)
Despite the ill-advised title, Victor Vran is an action RPG that offers many hours of dungeon-crawling at a bargain price. Although playable characters are limited to, uh, Victor Vran himself, there’s a pretty wide range of weapons, upgrades, and abilities with which to play. Crowd control is high on the list, as enemy encounters are usually chaotic mob scenes. There’s some pretty good writing and voice work, too, with a narrator that will remind you of Bastion–in a good way. Quality action RPGs are hard to come by and when they get the pacing just right, they can be an excellent way to pass some time out of the summer sun and help you preserve your pale gamer skin.
2) The Magic Circle (PC)
This game almost defies description. Part game, part satiric commentary on the making of a game and the industry itself, The Magic Circle is a first-person action-puzzle game that puts the player in the role of Early Access playtester, exploiting bugs and inconsistencies in a seriously broken project to creatively solve puzzles and escape the code. In addition to its puzzles and enjoyable gameplay, The Magic Circle is an entertaining and rather biting critique of all those flawed games and empty promises that dedicated gamers–and journalists–must endure. Well voiced and written, The Magic Circle would be strictly inside-baseball stuff if it didn’t actually play well as a game.
3) Rocket League (PC. PS4)
Perhaps the biggest surprise hit of the summer, Rocket League is an insanely fun mash up of soccer and a racing game, with the goal of nudging an over sized ball towards the goal with a remote-controlled car. At its very best in 4×4 multiplayer, Rocket League is simple to pick up and play but seriously addictive in its blend of driving–which is tuned very well–and competitive, arena game play. Early players had server issues and bugs to contend with but things have improved with time.
4) Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward (PC, PS4)
Final Fantasy XIV had a notoriously rocky start and a successful re-launch, and is now one of the go-to games for serious, old-school MMORPG players. Extremely story driven, chock full of systems that are complex and deep, with frequent call-outs to the Final Fantasy faithful, FFXIV is also grind-heavy and requires a huge commitment of time. Heavensward is the game’s first major expansion, and adds a huge new area and three new jobs (classes) and a ton of story and lore. Unfortunately, enjoying the new content is literally only possible with a max level character from the core game, as the new stuff is locked to newbies. Still, what better way to pass those long summer days than deep down the rabbit hole of an MMO.
5) Her Story (PC)
Her Story is a murder mystery game that eschews dark corridors and jump scares in favor of dozens of hours of full-motion video of a witness/suspect being interviewed by police. Skillfully written, acted, and shot, the player searches through the video archives by keyword, piecing together his/her solution. Though it’s a little short and the lack of a definitive ending may not appeal to those in need of absolute closure, Her Story is perhaps most enjoyable played side by side with a friend, where discussions and conjecture can add to the texture of the experience.
6) Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (PS4)
I was a big fan of Dear Esther, a creepy, evocative “game” from The Chinese Room, with incredible music by English composer Jessica Curry. A little like Gone Home, Dear Esther belongs to that genre of games in which players explore the environment and piece together their version of the story. Set in rural England during the apocalypse and featuring six playable characters, Rapture promises to deliver a slightly greater degree of action and interactivity this time around. Releases on August 10.
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