Asphalt 9: Legends doesn’t quite take off into the air like its predecessor, but reaches new heights thanks to outstanding gameplay and bright visual design. An experience that largely iterates on what Asphalt 8: Airborne built up, the ninth instalment improves on progression and gameplay in meaningful ways that make it one of the best racers on mobile. While it can’t quite escape the various tropes of free-to-play gaming, these are minor complaints in the face of all features available, and progress never halts to a complete stop. What you get here is a streamlined racer with expansive variety and features that send it into the rank of legends, all available at absolutely no cost.
From the start of its plot, Ghost Recon: Wildlands tells you “Do whatever it takes” and follows in that philosophy until the very end of its 45 hour runtime. Giving players complete freedom in approaching its objectives, this tactical sandbox shooter drops you into a representation of Bolivia with one overarching objective to work towards – destabilize the Santa Blanca cartel. The game is bad at plot exposition, but that isn’t really what you’re here for. Instead, you’re dropped into a massive sandbox filled with missions, and choose how to approach each objective in whichever way you prefer, co-op or single player. Ghost Recon Wildlands has a few strengths, but ultimately falls into a generic sandbox experience that does little to engage the player with either its world or story bits. Its main course relies on co-op play, where up to four friends can team up to mess around its sandbox and create thrilling personal experiences. By yourself, you just wouldn’t find as much fun in the game’s repetitive sandbox missions, which often feel like going through an extremely long to-do checklist. While it’s impressive in scope, Wildlands falls short on many gameplay aspects, and this isn’t quite the direction I’d want a Ghost Recon game to take in an open-world setting, although it can engage on gameplay level.
Striking a vast contrast with developer Dontnod’s other games, Vampyr is a dark and gritty adventure set in Victorian London. With a unique spin on player choice, the game presents an interesting dilemma for players in both story and game design aspects. Doctor Jonathan Reid is a renowned surgeon trying to help those in need, but at the same time happens to be a newborn vampire with a thirst for blood. Vampyr thus makes players question the nature of their actions. Will you try to heal everyone in one of its districts? Or will you let the city succumb to complete darkness? It is an interesting setup rarely presented in gaming, although execution of such vital choice is often lacking. Nonetheless, Vampyr is an engaging adventure game well worth playing for its intrigue, mysterious characters and exploration.
Banished is unlike a typical city builder you encounter, with its focus on lower scale management and survival aspect of its population. Yet the experience is very absorbing as you manage a group of exiled villagers into growing a settlement. Playing through Banished reveals a deliberate balance of expansion and survival tactics, where anything can go wrong within a single weather season. You’d be fooled into associating it’s calm music background and a small scale with a relaxing experience, as it is anything but; although it is incredibly rewarding to grow your village into an expansive town. Being able to build a large settlement is both an extreme test of player skill and a rewarding outcome, but getting there is not an easy road. Banished offers a unique spin on the city-building genre, which hasn’t been replicated quite often, and if you’re willing to put up with its slow pace, the game offers a very rewarding experience.
The world of ARK: Survival Evolved is a strange place, one where you can seemingly co-exist with various prehistoric species of dinosaurs. You wake up with a weird artefact in your arm and nothing on your person, tasked with surviving the environment and its many dangers while gradually clothing your character, building a home, and setting out to explore. The premise follows the process of many open-world survival games, except here you’ll likely get killed by a velociraptor within a first couple minutes if you happen to be unfortunate enough to spawn in a danger zone. ARK is a massive sandbox filled with different biomes, countless species of dinosaur and other creatures, as well as a few technological wonders that almost feel out of place in this prehistoric world. If you ever wanted a survival sandbox like this to be playable on the go, the developer Studio Wildcard now has you covered with ARK: Survival Evolved on mobile platforms. While the game experience is naturally limited in areas of graphics and controls, this port fully recreates the world of ARK apart from expansion packs on compact devices.
I never imagined riding a lawn mower on a race track will be so much fun, as those vehicles tend to be far from fast or entertaining in real life. The new game from Bugbear proved that it very well can be, especially when you put 24 mowers against each other in demolition derby. Wreckfest has been stuck in Steam Early Access for such a long time that I’ve entirely forgot about the game’s existence up until its recent full release. The developer Bugbear Entertainment, which many would remember as creators of the FlatOut series, announced this title back in 2012 as Next Car Game. Through lengthy development, numerous delays, and finding a publisher, Wreckfest has finally released on PC, and its long time coming looks to have paid off very well. With a career mode, custom events, mod support and a varied selection of cars, this is a proper FlatOut sequel many have been waiting for, and a realistic damage model is icing on top of the cake. Bugbear have delivered an excellent demolition derby racing title packed full of fun moments, and its numerous release delays really paid off to finish work on this game. Now that the game left Early Access, there is a lot to enjoy about Wreckfest, and long time fans of demolition racing games got a well-made release, even if the developer no longer has the rights to the series’ name they’re well known for.
Dying Light: The Following sets an example of how game expansions should be done, and almost feels like a proper sequel rather than DLC content. Set in the outlying countryside of Harran, it provides a vast landscape entirely different from dense urban regions of the city. With vast stretches of open road, the expansion leans on its newly introduced vehicle gameplay, which sets it apart from main game’s parkour-focused action. Players are free to jump into it at any point in time, as The Following is accessible from the main menu screen, however I’d recommend diving into it at least halfway through Dying Light. Progression carries completely over, so time investment in the main game pays off, and provides you with better equipment and skills. With addition of the buggy, The Following integrates well into the existing framework, and new elements feel like they’ve always existed in the first place. An interesting plot and a vast open world set the back tone for this expansion, which proves to be an excellent improvement over the main game’s central mechanics. With a diverse set of additions, this expansion is worth taking a look if you enjoyed Dying Light’s diverse set of action and survival mechanics.