Editor’s note: We will be finalizing this review once Doom Eternal has officially released and its multiplayer servers become available. Look out for an update after the game launches on March 20; for now, read on for our full thoughts on the single-player portion.
Id Software’s return to Doom in 2016 was a phenomenal update of the franchise’s classic shooter formula. It was fast and intense, full of huge monsters and scorching metal tracks, modernizing the feel of the 1990s original while adding some new-school flourishes. Where Doom 2016 brought the original Doom into the present, Doom Eternal feels like a big step forward in making the franchise something new: It’s a master class in demon dismemberment after the introductory course to ripping and tearing of four years ago. Like its predecessor, Doom Eternal makes you feel like a monster-shredding badass–not just because you’re the strongest Doom Slayer, but because you’re also the smartest.
Doom Eternal is all about effectively using the huge amount of murder tools at your disposal. Health, armor, and ammo pickups are at a minimum in Eternal’s many combat arenas, and the game instead requires you to earn these by massacring monsters in a variety of different ways. Stagger an enemy and you can tear them apart with a brutal glory kill, which refills your health; douse a demon with the new flamethrower and they’ll start to spout armor pickups; or cut them in half with the chainsaw to grab some much-needed ammo.
There’s only so much you can do every day in Animal Crossing. Part of the fun of its real-time clock is going to bed wondering what you might wake up to in the morning–how your town might change, who might move in, what special visitor might be there tomorrow. So far, I’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 80 hours over 17 days, and that anticipation hasn’t yet gone away. While I’ve spent a lot of time developing my island so far, I still feel as if there’s plenty left for me to do and see–there’s a lot in New Horizons to occupy your time with.
Unlike in previous games, you’re not moving to a lived-in town in New Horizons; the island is completely empty when you and two animals arrive as part of Tom Nook’s “getaway package,” save for the tiny airport. There’s no store or museum, all three of you live in tents, and Tom Nook himself operates out of a tent that he shares with his adorable nephews, Timmy and Tommy. Tom Nook clearly expected this whole thing to be a bit more glamorous (or at least popular), and in typical Tom Nook fashion, one of his first actions is to put you to work collecting tree branches and fruit to make a fire pit and drinks for a welcome party.
The party serves as an introduction to the resource-gathering aspect of New Horizons’ new crafting system, but it’s also the first of many endearing moments with the animals. In their high-pitched, sped-up way of talking, their chit-chat centers around friendship and helping one another on the island. One of my villagers played a tambourine, shifting back and forth to his own beat while smiling, while the other sipped juice by the fire. Tommy, the more precious of the Nookling duo, stood by the tent, holding a small flag that seemed to be part of his welcome getup. It feels like a proper community from the start, despite the small population size and total lack of amenities on the island.
Nioh 2 is not to be trifled with. Building on the original’s tough-as-nails reputation, Team Ninja’s second samurai action-RPG brings back the original’s penchant for punishing and highly nuanced combat. The sequel hones the original’s distinctive take on the Souls-like without completely reinventing itself. The result is a long, tough slog that will push even the most challenge-hungry players to their breaking points as they fight for every inch of ground and become master samurai.
Despite the title, Nioh 2 is a prequel, revealing the secret history of a decades-long period of war in medieval Japan. As the silent, customizable hero Hide, you fight to uncover the secret nature of “spirit stones,” which grant supernatural power, and defeat hordes of Yokai across the country. The plot, which you mostly hear through cutscenes and exposition between missions, has an interesting historical bent, but it is really just glue to hold the levels together. Historically relevant names like Nobunaga and Tokugawa play into the saga, but whatever flavor they add in the moment fades the second you take control and it’s time to start killing demons.
But that’s okay. Nioh 2’s story gives just enough context for you to follow along and make you feel like you’re making progress without getting in the way of the gameplay. Nioh 2’s definitive feature is its challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 boils down to a series of battles and duels in all kinds of situations. These battles demand intense precision: Not only are your attacks and skills limited by a stamina meter–called Ki–but any extra attack or mistimed movement will leave you exposed, often to an attack that will cost you a substantial amount of health. Like other Souls-like games, there is a painful pleasure in mastering whatever opponents the game throws your way.
If you had asked me to write out a checklist of features I would expect to find in a Metroidvania, my final list would be pretty close to what I found in Mindseize. It’s a decent one, too. Solid, even. And, for all that, just a little bit dull. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with an unimaginative adherence to the basic Metroidvania formula, but Mindseize also fails to inspire with its approach to theme-setting and story development. The final result is a competent but unspectacular action-platformer with precious few ideas of its own.
You play a father bent on exacting revenge on an evil sci-fi organisation that, uh… seized the mind of his daughter. An early unsuccessful encounter with the Big Bad leaves Angry Dad disabled but, with the help of a good sci-fi organisation, able to continue his crusade by transplanting his own mind into a robot. It’s nonsense, of course–though it’s inoffensive nonsense, sparing in its narrative dumps and blessedly easy to ignore.
More urgent matters involve exploring the various planets, each of which is presented as a vast network of 2D platforms appropriated from conventional stock–the jungle area, the industrial factory, the rainy dystopian nightscape, the caves littered with glowing crystals, and the caves that are a bit darker because there are no glowing crystals. They’re all there, present and correct, and no more imaginative than similar scenes in countless other games.
Ori and the Blind Forest was a delight in 2015–a tough-as-nails combination of a metroidvania structure and Meat Boy-like demands with a surprising amount of heartfelt heft. Five years later, Moon Studios’ followup, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is every bit as graceful and lovely as its predecessor, even if some of the emotional beats and exploration feel a little less novel the second time around.
Will of the Wisps picks up almost immediately where Blind Forest left off, with Ori’s patchwork family unit welcoming a new member, the owlet Ku. The family is happy and loving, but Ku wants to fly and Ori wants to help her. Soon the two are swept off in a gale to a new forest deep with rot, which begins the adventure in earnest.
Because this setting is disconnected from the one in Blind Forest, the geography is new, yet familiar. The painterly imagery is comforting, especially in the opening hours as you explore similar biomes. They’re beautifully rendered again, but a little samey if you’ve played the first game. After a while, Will of the Wisps opens up to more varied locales, like an almost pitch-black spider’s den or a windswept desert. The theme throughout the story is the encroachment of the Decay, a creeping evil that overtook this neighboring forest after its own magical life tree withered. But if it’s meant to be ugly, you wouldn’t know it from many of the lush backgrounds–especially in the case of a vibrant underwater section. Ori is often swallowed up by these sweeping environments, emphasizing just how small the little forest spirit is compared to their massive surroundings.