View the rest of my favorites here.
THE FORGOTTEN CITY
The many shall suffer for the sins of the one.
Drawing from history, philosophy, and religion to create something entirely unlike anything else I’ve played, The Forgotten City is a beautiful game that fosters an immersive world with a compelling narrative. It’s hard to believe it started as a Skyrim mod. The game’s core mechanic is failure; falling into a bizarre, subterranean Roman city where residents all adhere unflinchingly to “the golden rule”, a heaven-imposed law that punishes any instance of sin by turning every living person in the city to solid gold, you come with one critical trick up your sleeve: any time one of those sins is committed, if you can make it back in time, you can take a portal to take you… back in time. Each failure is a learning experience that furthers your ability to solve the mystery at the center of the story: who is about to sin? In pursuit of that mystery, the answer will almost always be “you”. But eventually, through perseverance, you’ll figure it out. That, or attach yourself to a more important and noble goal.
I really enjoyed my time in The Forgotten City. Its titular city is fun to explore, its characters and their relationships dynamic and interesting. The game’s central time travel mechanic is really well plotted-out, preventing the game from growing repetitive by allowing you to shoulder the burden of repetitive actions on another character instead of Groundhog Daying the whole thing.
The Forgotten City feels like a passion project, a thoroughly unique experience from a team in love with history, mythology, and storytelling. If only I could go back in time to experience it anew. (…Galerius?)
Read my complete review of The Forgotten City here.
THE HITMAN TRILOGY
I went into Hitman blind, expecting violence. I got violence. It’s an inherently violent game. It’s called “Hitman”. But unless you throw off the yoke of the entire concept and go into every mission guns blazing (I confess my occasional guilt; the Colombian level awoke something primal in me), Hitman is more of a puzzle game with a veneer of homicide than an unadulterated romp of wanton death and destruction. Sure, the end goal of every mission is death (sometimes a lot of it), but the real story, the focus of the game, is the journey you take to get there. Hitman‘s strength is its freedom. Each level comes with a plethora of paths to each objective. There are so many methods to murder, so many routes, so many side objectives, that these small, contained levels feel massive and open, and the level of choice available to the player feels real and liberating. There’s space to choose which pre-imagined avenue to homicide is best for you, but there’s also enough room at the margins to think up methods the developers didn’t anticipate. The game is full of built-in achievements and preconceived challenges, but the best objectives are the ones you think up and go for on your own. Whether it’s maximizing the potential of explosive golf balls or menacing Miami in a flamingo suit, Hitman really is as fun as you make it. The real game was the friends we lost along the way.
RAISIN D’OR: IT TAKES TWO
It Takes Two is a masterpiece of cooperative design. Fun, creative, and, most importantly in my eyes, challenging without ever becoming frustrating. Maybe that’s misleading—any game can be frustrating. What It Takes Two manages to do is to direct its opportunities for frustration inward. The game’s failure states only trigger when both players fail an objective, meaning it’s never the case that a restarted section is the fault of one player to the unending ire of the other. It’s a small change to an otherwise-stable design formula, and one that might not be critical to those freaks who love nothing more than screwing over their friends, but it’s a big part of what elevates It Takes Two for me, supercharging this expertly-crafted game and helping to make it one of my favorite co-op games of all time.
Some sections of the game are more fun than others, but nothing in It Takes Two overstays its welcome. Each new level feels unique and mechanically interesting, preventing the autopiloting of problem solving skills as the game draws on. The story is (mostly) entertaining, the art consistently lovely. This is a game that succeeds at just about everything it attempts.
It Takes Two tops my list of best games to play with your partner. I played it with mine early last year and we’ve looked back on the experience fondly throughout. It’s one of my favorite cooperative games of all time and easily the best game I played this year.
Read my complete review of It Takes Two here.
- Fallout 3
- Fallout 4
- Slime Rancher