With the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X just around the corner, there is no better time to begin taking a look back at the generation we will be leaving behind. Like every console generation, there is a long list of highlights and disappointments. If you are anything like me, you have probably played most of the high profile tent pole releases of the generation, and with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is no better time to take a look at some quality lesser-known releases.
Listed in no particular order, I have tried to pick out a range of options so just about any player can find something to play. From a party local-play sports title to a cute space-faring indie, there is a breadth of options out there to enjoy. Here are ten of the highlights.
Call of Cthulhu: The Official Video Game
Call of Cthulhu, based on the classic tabletop roleplaying game, puts players in control of an alcoholic detective who begins unraveling the mysteries of a small dilapidated island town. Drawing heavily from H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos of insanity-causing ancient gods, the game blends a mix of RPG elements in a horror-themed world that allows the player to solve problems and collect information in a variety of ways. While poorly balanced at launch, a handful of patches properly calibrated the skill system to allow players to make any build they wish to explore work. And while the gameplay is not revolutionary, the well-paced story and engaging mechanics result in a gripping middle-tier game that is great for a single playthrough.
Outward blends hardcore survival with a no handholding approach to RPG combat. It offers a single-player or two-player co-op adventure where one must balance a variety of different survival mechanics, such as temperature, hunger, energy, etc., with high stakes combat and a variety of fantastical creatures and beasts. Light on story and worldbuilding content Outward shines in its mechanics. The variety of options for solving any encounter or problem mixed with the level of difficulty results in a game that is as rewarding as any other. As the player creates their own stories within the constant challenges of Outward, the game offers moments like a peaceful serenity setting up camp in a rainy forest or cooking food in the middle of a raging blizzard.
Astroneer drops players in a procedurally generated solar system that is completely moldable. Starting with only their terrain modifying tool, players, with up to three friends, must explore hazardous environments, build bases, research new buildings and vehicles, and expand their reach across the solar system. It rewards creativity through the player’s ability to mold anything on the planet to how they want and offers a wide variety of breathtaking alien environments through its cute toy-like art style. It is a must-play game for any fans of survival or exploration, especially if you have a friend or two to come along for the ride.
Mordheim: City of the Damned
Based on the immensely popular Warhammer fantasy world, Mordheim: City of the Damned is a turn-based strategy game that aims to please any X-COM fan. Offering multiple playable factions, in-depth squad building, and multiple story campaigns, Mordheim offers a large package that is frequently deeply discounted during sales. The graphics and story content may be lackluster to the more polished higher budget games of the genre, but the core mechanics are solid and engaging, and that is what really matters for tactical games such as this.
No party is complete without a handful of games of Laser League. Best described as if Tron was an e-sport, Laser League pits teams of up to four against one another in complex maps of lasers players activate in attempts to knock out the enemy team. With a large selection of maps, addictive gameplay with a high skill ceiling, and chaotic adrenaline-pumping matches, Laser League is an easy buy for any group looking for a fun time.
A top-down shooter with three varied classes to play, Livelock offers a hefty helping of action with three very distinct ways to play. Best played with two friends (it’s all about that synergy), the player(s) is tasked with ending a disastrous war between machines in order to revive humanity on a post-apocalyptic earth. The story is nothing spectacular, but it is engaging enough to carry you through the game’s campaign, and the varied playstyles of the different classes are more than enough motivation to play through it multiple times.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Turn-based RPGs go almost as far back as videogames themselves, and Battle Chasers: Nightwar is one of the finest. Set in an unassuming world with a lot of depth hidden just beneath the surface, Battle Chasers delivers a dungeon-delving, story-driven experience with a lot of punch. Deep, interesting combat blends with great visual direction and pointed subversion of genre tropes to deliver an experience that respects the classics that came before while carving a well-deserved spot for itself.
Rogue-likes are a delicate balancing act of difficulty, satisfying combat, incentive, and a large selection of playstyles. Ziggurat balances all of this marvelously while wrapping it up in a wizard-themed FPS. The combat is satisfying in its bullet hell difficulty, with a healthy variety of enemies and bosses to conquer. Environments are visually interesting and have a variety of different rooms with puzzles, hazards, secrets, and platforming challenges. Add in myriad different weapons to unlock and plenty of characters with unique playstyles, and there is plenty on offer here to keep you coming back over and over again.
A cheeky mix between a word-based puzzler and dystopian 2D platformer, Typoman is a short but pleasant experience unlike any other. With a beautiful and smart presentation, Typoman tasks players with mixing and matching letters to complete puzzles while including basic platforming challenges as well. Smart design fuels challenges unlike what is on offer in most games, with its theme being integrated deeply into the design of every facet of the game.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is a brilliantly written adventure game that focuses entirely on talking with its cast of characters and plumbing the depths of its story. Following Mae, a girl returning to her hometown after dropping out of college, Night in the Woods explores the existential dread that grips so many young adults as they struggle to identify just what they want to do with their lives. As thoughtful as it is sublimely beautiful, Night in the Woods will touch a specific audience in a deep way that only great pieces of media can.