Category Archives: Features

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Leaks are Making me Second Guess Myself

I’m normally not one for engaging with spoilers, often chastising certain people in my life who are so deep in the spoiler game that they do things like dangle the plot points of unreleased Star Wars movies in my face because they needed to talk about it with someone. I’m usually pretty good about not engaging with that kind of stuff, but recently my normally steely resolve crumbled into dust when The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leaked all over the internet, making for the most tantalizing of minefields I so carelessly wander through. While most of what I’ve seen is cause for excitement, building upon the sensational foundation of Breath of the Wild, I’m getting pretty worried that it might not be the game for me.

Note: There will be a clearly marked paragraph with a non-story spoiler later in this article. Aside from that, this article only references things seen throughout the various trailers that have been officially released by Nintendo.

So how could the upcoming release of sequel to one of my favorite games of all time be cause for panic above anything else? Simply put, it looks really difficult. I know a lot of folks like to debate how difficult Breath of the Wild was and if it should have been tougher or not, but I found it to be an extremely challenging and punishing game, both in terms of the mechanics at play like weapon degradation, and simpler elements like how hard everything hits you.

I recently started another playthrough of Breath of the Wild in preparation for the sequel, and found myself getting my ass kicked up and down Hyrule with minimal resistance. I struggled with some of the bosses, and have been so thoroughly stomped by the slightly tougher variants of the basic enemies that I go out of my way to avoid any and all conflicts. I don’t remember the game whipping my ass as much when it released 6 years ago, but maybe in that time my “gamer skillz” have atrophied. Or maybe I just don’t have the time or desire to bash my head against the rippling abs of a Lynel that’s dead set on skewering Link and making him a delicious, blonde, shish kabob.

So when these leaks reveal a whole litany of bone-crushing, skin-melting enemies lining up to pummel Link into dust, it makes me a tad worried that this game might be a bit much for me. I’m all for more enemies and challenges, but I’m not looking for something that’s basically Dark Souls dressed up in a green tunic. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I enjoyed Breath of the Wild in spite of its combat mechanics, not because of them.

What really made Breath of the Wild so special for me was that feeling of limitless exploration mixed with endless possibility. Combing through every nook and cranny of Hyrule was the best part of the game, but it was constantly undercut by being ambushed by some enemy or enemies that were not only eager to but exceedingly capable of turning Link into toothpaste.

Breath of the Wild was one of the only games I’ve ever played that was so good at encouraging exploring and charting a wild, untamed world. That feeling of cresting a hill only to spot some far off anomaly that necessitated further investigation, whether it be a curious stone formation, a forest shrouded in darkness, or the gentle puffs of smoke coming from a distant campfire, Breath of the Wild was unparalleled in fostering that sense of discovery and wonder.


I’m not saying that I want no enemies or combat whatsoever in my Zelda games, but would it be too much to ask for an easy mode or the basest of accessibility options? Tears of the Kingdom apparently boasts a massive underground map that rivals the size of Hyrule’s overworld from Breath of the Wild, and that sounds really exciting to me in concept, but I’ve also heard that some of the hardest enemies in the game reside down there, making it one of the most challenging areas of the game. The area is positioned as incredibly tough and punishing, a fact I’m sure plenty of people are thrilled about, but I am most certainly not one of them. Hearing about the depths just fills me with a looming dread that gives way to the realization that I’m going to have to head down below eventually, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome whatever awaits me down there.


I don’t know what the optimal balance is for me when it comes to a game like Tears of the Kingdom, but I fear that from what I’ve seen already, it’s going to be a much harder game than I am prepared to take on. I get that Zelda games are all about Link stopping some, usually Ganon-centric, world ending calamity, which Tears of the Kingdom seems to absolutely be leaning into, but how about a “story mode” for me and my fellow aging gamers?

What’s really frustrating is that Nintendo could address these concerns with some difficulty options, or heaven forbid, any accessibility options whatsoever, but that seems like a bridge too far with them. Seriously, just allowing me to be heartier or make enemies less formidable would be huge for opening up the game to more players, but it just doesn’t seem like they’re interested in that.

Maybe I’m just psyching myself out and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom won’t be that difficult, but some of the stuff I’ve seen really makes me think that I’m being set up for disappointment. A lot of what I’ve seen, hell, most of it is really exciting and makes waiting for May 12th even harder than it already is, but I keep being brought back every time I see anything about the difficulty. Hopefully the people saying this stuff just suck at playing video games more than I do.

The Perfect City

I sometimes think back on the numerous, half-formed neighborhoods and townships I’ve left behind to fend for themselves after some catastrophic occurrence led them to ruin. I wonder if the people there are still suffering the effect of polluted ground water, coastal flooding, rolling blackouts I inadvertently inflicted upon them through a combination of ignorance, amateurism and neglect. I’d routinely rub up against some society ending issue that I’d opt to run away from rather than stay and attempt to fix my terrible city planning blunders. This is my endless cycle in Cities: Skylines, the rinse and repeat I find myself in as I search for the perfect city.

I’ve enjoyed Cities: Skylines a lot in the past, mostly by disabling all economic restrictions and building idyllic utopias to my heart’s content, as if some altruistic Scrooge McDuck was financially backing me. But after a long hiatus from being such a prolific mayor, the new console remaster of Cities: Skylines released recently, and I’ve fallen right back into my old ways. There is a big difference this time around however, which is that this time I’m playing by the rules. No cheats, no mods, no deviations from the standard, city-building experience, just pure, uncut mayorship.

It has been an adjustment to say the least, as suddenly I have to account for the fact that I can’t just give the people a fire station to preempt a burning building. I can’t just give people an elementary school, nor can I just take out the trash or even provide a steady supply of electricity. I kind of have to let the people tough these things out until the finances work out in such a way that building that service won’t doom the entire city. It’s required a patience that I’ve had no choice but to learn, but it’s been kind of satisfying to see my city experience these financial boons that ultimately allow for extremely expensive boondoggles that usually result in my unceremonious abandoning of the city.

This is NOT a picture of a city I doomed. This is a nice zoo

The first city I started, Lakeshore, a city with a ridiculous name that Cities: Skylines ginned up all by itself. Lakeshore, as the very good name would imply, had access to water, albeit a river and not a lake, but whatever, there was water. It was only a few months into the simulation before I learned the harsh lesson about how generalized industrial zones pollute the ground beneath it, making that a pretty shitty location for a water tower that would supply a burgeoning city. Not having a hospital really compounded that issue, which led to a sudden drop in the population and the income Lakeshore was enjoying. People were just dying off in droves, collapsing in the streets or not being found until some conscientious neighbor came to check on the smell next door. The snowball rolled faster and faster downhill, gaining speed and size with every unattended moment. Eventually it got so big that I turned tail and walked away towards my next unintentionally dubious endeavor.

That next endeavor was where I experienced an unyielding success that resulted in me being brought down by my own hubris. San Ramos, (again, stellar name generation) was a cozy, sun-soaked beachfront city with a speedy little river running through the starting landmass. Picturesque in its natural beauty, I built waterfront properties, thriving business districts, and a vast logging and farming operation that funded so much of the services and utilities that the citizens had come to love and expect. It was also a place that had significant waste management issues, particularly when it came to wastewater.

See, in Cities: Skylines, the only tool you get to deal with sewage when you start a town, is a literal shit-spewing pipe that you can either output onto land or into the water. I chose to place that output line far enough downstream that it would be some other Cities: Skylines player’s problem. Side note: I find it fucked up that the only option, aside from buying DLC, to deal with shit in this game is to dump it in the ocean. It wasn’t a huge problem unless you angled the camera in such a way that you’d see all of the rivers in the distance had turned a nasty brown, but the water in San Ramos was totally fine.

You can’t see it from here, but the traffic is terrible

As my city began to outgrow its predefined borders, I had to buy up the surrounding land to expand my fledgling empire, which also meant that the nasty shit pipes had to be moved. Not a problem though, it was an easy fix. As the city grew, however, so did our need for energy. The best option at my disposal to handle this growing crisis was by building a hydro-electric dam, which with my overwhelming success as mayor, I could easily afford and would solve the energy crisis 30 times over.

Here’s where I have to mention that in the console remaster of Cities: Skylines, you don’t have the ability to freely look at the plots of land you don’t own. Maybe there’s a setting I could toggle, or maybe I could have just gone to the display for buying more land to get a better look, but either way, I could not actually see the areas of this continent that I didn’t currently own. This is an important detail that the jury should know.

Upon placing the dam down two things immediately happened. The first was that rolling blackouts were a thing of the past and everyone in the city was stoked out of their minds about it. The second thing that happened was that I’d see the icon for “this shit is flooded,” pulsating faintly over stretches of highway that I did not own and could barely see at best. Unable to actually do anything about those locations, I continued on my way.

What happened next took time. It was a gradual thing that I might have seen coming had it not been for arbitrary camera restrictions, but ultimately it was something I did not have any ability to fix. It was too late for intervention. The river of San Ramos flowed from east to west, the latter direction being the place where my city’s nasty toilet leavings flowed away into. So you can imagine my surprise when that same fetid, toxic sludge rolled back through the river, only this time from the east.

Yes, it turned out that the dam raised the water levels in the east enough that they poured over into the river that housed our wastewater, which wrapped around the continent in just such a way that made these two separate bodies of water, one menacing flume of doom whose endpoint was right at my dam.

The brown water splashed up against the front of the dam, settled and collected there. Our hydro-electric plant wasn’t fast enough to process this hideous sludge, which created this massive Ouroboros of shit that wrapped around the entire world, starting and ending in the heart of San Ramos. When that slime finally came back around and made a perfect loop around the continent, that’s when things got really bad.

The shore was quickly overtaken by the shit-slurry we had created. It washed over roads and neighborhoods, slowly and completely infiltrating every artery of the city, painting districts a heinous brown as it flowed across the ground. It consumed so much of my city, so fast, and there was nothing I could do but watch in horror and think about how to better plan for this situation in the next city. Surely in the next place I’d get it right.

So I left. I abandoned San Ramos in its greatest moment of need. I did the mental arithmetic and the only answer was that this place was doomed and nothing could save it. The water was poisoned, the people were sick and the roads and buildings were destroyed. San Ramos was done for, and I got out while I still could. Since then, I’ve moved on to a new city, and this time I’m going to do it right. Surely nothing could go wrong this time around. Right?

Hogwarts Legacy is Pretty Good; Rowling Still Sucks Though

When talking about anything related to Harry Potter, it’s important to remember that its creator, J.K. Rowling, is a bad person who does not deserve your attention. It’s a damn shame how much of a shadow she casts over this beloved franchise by being a bigoted asshole, particularly in the wake of the release of Hogwarts Legacy, which is a good game with its fair share of faults. It also raises the very good question of, “should I play this game knowing that she benefits from my purchase?” To that end, I don’t have a good answer. All I can confidently say is that Hogwarts Legacy is an enjoyable game and Rowling is a bad person.

I’m not very well-versed in the Harry Potter franchise, having only seen the movies for the first time this year, but even I was intrigued by the idea of being able to explore a fully realized Hogwarts Castle and its surroundings. In terms of presentation and world construction, Hogwarts Legacy is an absolute triumph. Nearly every house and room is immaculately designed and explorable, packed with shelves overflowing with books, knickknacks and all kinds of magic minutia, well-worn chairs and the clutter of everyday life strewn across the floors. The houses are cozy and lived in, the shops are dense and stocked with all sorts of baubles and trinkets, and in-between all of it are sprawling meadows, hills and forests that hide dank and dreary dungeons and other curious oddities to discover. Every ounce of the world is filled with evidence of a development team that truly loved and understood what fans of the series were looking for.

I was surprised to find just how much that presentational excellence actually worked for me, considering I was more interested in the gameplay going into it. I was curious as to how you make magic-only combat interesting, fun and impactful, especially over the course the near 70 hours it would take to see everything it has to offer. It turns out that all you really have to do is give the player an absurd amount of magical powers on short cooldowns, and graft the Arkham Asylum combat onto it. It didn’t take much time before I was pirouetting my way through enemies, 360-no-scoping everything that so much as threatened to attack me. A dozen hours or so and the only real wrinkle in combat has been when enemies use magical shields that require certain types of spells to dispel them. The combat is serviceable and visually exciting, but has yet to be overly challenging or exceptionally interesting in any way.

That actually leads me to one of my biggest issues with Hogwarts Legacy, you know, aside from the obvious one, which is how clunky playing it can feel. Early on, you’re given access to more spells than you can actually use at once, as spells are mapped to the face buttons and there’s only so many of those. Using another spell requires you to open your spell book and map the new spell to one of the face buttons in order to cast it. This makes for a real clumsy experience when you need to use something new to accomplish one of the many collectible-based challenges that litter the open world. Through upgrades you can open up more sets of mappable slots that you have to page through with the d-pad, but even that feels impossibly awkward to do when you’re in combat and dodging attacks.

Hogwarts Legacy follows the classic open world format that has you running from map marker to map marker, gathering collectibles, crafting items and so on and so forth. It isn’t reinventing the wheel with its structure, rather, it’s just a really solid one of those kinds of game, with a very cool and fan-service-filled setting. It doesn’t really deliver on the promise of being a student at this school either. The classes start out as fun little tutorial levels, but devolve into montages of wacky magic imagery, followed by the professor giving you a checklist of objectives to accomplish before the next story mission.

Hogwarts Legacy is a lot like AI generated art in that at a glance looks it phenomenal, but once you start to look a little closer at the details you notice how the hands are all fucked up and the NPCs are kind of phasing through the floor. Textures don’t load in correctly and the game hitches a lot both in and outside of the magic castle, whether it be décor, lighting or the people themselves. In fact, the other students seem to be nothing more than ephemera that you sprint through from objective to objective, listlessly lingering in common areas and meandering up and down hallways. It’s clear that developer Avalanche Software tried to make the world feel alive and lived in, but following NPCs around for more than a few seconds breaks that illusion when you see them get hitched on the environment or disappear into the walls. I know that walking through walls is a thing in Harry Potter, but these were not clever little nods, these were glitches.

But that’s all of Hogwarts Legacy. The game is a little messy and buggy, but it’s so expansive and filled with things for Harry Potter fans to experience. One of those experiences however, happens to be engaging in a significant aspect of the story that’s about crushing a goblin rebellion, which doesn’t seem great considering the already problematic portrayal of goblins in the world. Like I said, I don’t know much of anything beyond what I vaguely remember from seeing the films, but even I can see just how bad the depiction of the goblins is.

The moment to moment stuff in Hogwarts Legacy is very good though. Juggling enemies with endless magical combos, solving the bevvy of micro-puzzles that are scattered around the world, and jetting across the massive landmass, which I’ll call Wizardville, on your broom is a blast. In the open world, there’s definitely that, “just one more thing” aspect to exploring, where you just can’t help but take a little peek at what lay beyond the next ridge.

There’s a lot of game here, and even 12 hours in I’m still being introduced to new mechanics and concepts that open up entirely new questlines, activities and abilities. Oh, and if you like seeing numbers go up, then you’ll love the sheer amount of scored loot this game hurls at you. Genuinely, it becomes a problem with how frequently you have to do inventory management, and how you have to manually change the appearance of every piece of clothing every time you equip something new in order to avoid looking completely ridiculous.

There’s a lot for Harry Potter fans to like here, and it’s evident that the people who worked on this game poured a lot of love into crafting a love letter to the universe, and they deserve praise and reward for their work. While some could argue that most of the things we buy benefit some shitty CEO with horrendous views, something about the visibility of Rowling makes it harder to ignore than the usual bits of soul crushing capitalism we have to engage with on a daily basis.

As someone on the outside of this fandom looking in, I feel like there’s also an aspect of betrayal that permeates this whole situation. Someone creates this wonderful world that captivates a generation of children who literally grow up alongside these beloved characters, only for the creator to come out as a hateful piece of garbage. Maybe I’m completely off base, but even as someone who doesn’t identify as a fan, I kind of feel that way about this whole mess.

Ultimately it’s your decision as to whether or not you want to engage with Hogwarts Legacy and handle all the baggage that comes with it. You may want to support the people who made the game, which is fantastic, developers deserve adoration for their good work. But I also recognize that there’s no way to do that without kicking cash over to the shithead who thinks Trans people aren’t people, which is objectively wrong. Hogwarts Legacy is a fine game, made by people who clearly cared, based on the wonderous source material of an miserable and awful person. So do with that information what you will.

2023 Seems Cool So Far

While malformed and incomplete, 2023’s release schedule is already looking pretty impressive full. In the first few months alone we’re getting highly anticipated titles like Forspoken, the Dead Space remake, Atomic Heart, Octopath Traveler 2 and Destiny 2: Lightfall. While I don’t necessarily care about those games, other people seem pretty jazzed about it. But hey, let’s take a look at the announced titles that I actually am looking forward to thus far.

Hogwarts Legacy

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter films or books, but even I can appreciate the atmosphere of the source material enough to want to play a game set in that universe. Considering Hogwarts Legacy is set around 100 years before the events of the film, I feel like I can get away with playing this game and not feel like a sucker for not being a diehard fan.

Based on the trailers, Hogwarts Legacy is visually impressive and certainly nails the feeling of kicking it in that old, wizardly castle that we all know and love. It also looks like its got a speedy and mechanically satisfying combat system coupled with some cool in-world RPG trappings, mostly surrounding making and learning new wizardly abilities by taking their respective classes, which to clarify all sounds pretty rad to me.

Outside of a trailer or two, I haven’t really kept up with much of the marketing blitz or promotional materials which has allowed me to live in blissful ignorance about whether or not Hogwarts Legacy is actually going to be the game for me. The one thing that does worry me and give me pause about actually buying the game surrounds J.K. Rowling being a miserable transphobe who monetarily benefits from my purchase, along with the fact that the lead designer has a history of being a shithead. I’ll wait and see how this one reviews when it eventually launches on February 10th, 2023, but I don’t know if I can justify a purchase.

Wild Hearts

On paper I really like the main conceit of the Monster Hunter franchise, but in practice I’ve found them to be clunky and unsatisfying to play. I know that I’m in the minority with those complaints but they’ve always been obstacles that have kept me from enjoying this wildly popular franchise. I’m hoping that the upcoming Wild Hearts can scratch that long unattended monster-hunting itch for me with what looks like much faster and more action-oriented combat.

The idea of teaming up with friends and setting out to hunt down some monstrous prey is extremely tantalizing as is, but Wild Hearts looks to blend in some light tower defense elements into the mix which if done well, could be a real game changer. In my mind I’m imagining a game that isn’t just about tracking creatures down, but also setting up traps and acting on what you’ve learned about said creature to use its natural instincts against it. I assume that’s something that happens in Monster Hunter, but I’ve never played long enough to know for sure. I also am well aware that this being a game about hunting legendary beasts, there might be less natural instinct to work against and more ancient magic or whatever.

If the combat and the tower defense mechanics actually deliver on their promise however, Wild Hearts might be the first monster hunting game I end up enjoy playing. Lastly, and this is a minor quibble, but if the menus in this game could be more straightforward and less of an Eldritch mystery that requires a damn cypher to decode, that would be huge for me. Wild Hearts is slated to release on February 16th, 2023, potentially becoming the second video game I end up buying in a six day period.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

While not perfect, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was one of the best pieces of Star Wars media I’ve consumed in the past few years and a fun game to boot. The characters were likeable, the gameplay was tough but satisfying, and the story, while underdeveloped, was still filled with interesting and surprising moments filled with nods to deeper Star Wars lore for the hardcore fans.

Hopefully Star Wars Jedi: Survivor will build upon its solid foundation, adding in more variety in both lightsaber and force power combat, the latter of which in my opinion should resemble the Stormtrooper flinging simulator that was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Judging by preorder bonuses, it also looks to address the pitiful lack of customization options of the previous entry by offering more character skins that aren’t just color swaps of the tunic you’re wearing.

My only real fear here is that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor leans too much into its ‘souls-like’ or ‘masocore’ inspirations, tweaking the difficulty curve to be more inline with other games in the genre. Hopefully with it being a licensed game of one of the most popular franchises ever, the game will boast a wide variety of accessibility and difficulty options that’ll let even a casual like myself enjoy it. Guess I’ll find out when it releases on March 17th of 2023.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

I feel like I really shouldn’t have to explain why I’m excited for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom considering its predecessor is probably one of the greatest games of all time, but I’ll give it the ol’ college try.

I’ve never been a big Zelda guy, but Breath of the Wild was such a phenomenal experience that dropped you into a painterly version of Hyrule with the simple goal of ‘stop Ganon.” You could always look toward the castle to see wisps of his menace swirling around and encompassing it just begging for you to come and square off against the horrors within. But before you’d even attempt to tackle that, you could see seven other interesting places to explore, all of which led to several more.

Breath of the Wild represents the pinnacle of motivating the player to explore their surroundings and all I can hope for from a sequel is more of that. More places to see with more tools at my disposal to explore them. I’d also super love to not have to worry about weapon degradation anymore. I know that’s a common complaint and hot debate topic amongst fans, but for once I’d like to see Nintendo give a shit about their players and offer some accessibility options, specifically one that lets me use the Master Sword as much as I want without having to go through hell to do it. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom allegedly comes out on May 12th of 2023, but I won’t hold my breath.

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I’m a big fan of the Suicide Squad or anything, but I’ve certainly been won over by what little I’ve seen Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. Granted, there hasn’t been a ton of gameplay or anything for me to reference, but I trust Rocksteady Studios’ ability to make compelling gameplay so much that I’d play a game solely about Calendar Man if they made it.

In Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, you play as one of 4 members of the Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark, or Captain Boomerang, as you square off against a Brainiac controlled Justice League that’s doing some real nasty shit. I don’t know too much more about it other than it’s cooperative, but will fill in computer controlled allies where you need them which will come in handy when you can’t find anyone to play as Captain Boomerang, a character I know nothing about aside from his dumb name.

I’m excited to play this game because I’m a big fan of the Arkham games and trust that Rocksteady is going to make something that’s fun to play. As long as they don’t add some boring but mandatory Batmobile-tank battles to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League like some other Batman games, I think it’ll be a great time. They say it’ll be out on May 26th of 2023, but I’ve been lied to before.

Baldur’s Gate 3

This one’s interesting because I’ve already played Baldur’s Gate 3 back when it released into early access approximately 14 years ago and liked it despite its rough, buggy busted-ness. I made the conscious decision to not play it until its full release because every major update brought with it a wipe of save files and I didn’t want to deal with that, so I just put it back on the digital shelf so it could marinate longer.

But now Baldur’s Gate 3 has a projected release window for August of 2023, and once it does I’m fully anticipating losing a lot of hours of my life to what might become the best Dungeons & Dragons video game of all time, depending on who you ask. I for one have high hopes for Baldur’s Gate 3 because it represents the first real turn-based RPG I’ve ever really enjoyed, which is a colossal feat in itself.

The biggest thing for me about Baldur’s Gate 3 is that it’s using the 5th Edition rules, and since I’m fairly well-versed in those I’ve had a much easier time playing this genre of game without essentially having to learn two games at once. I just want a good way to play D&D without having to be a DM or even finding a group, and Baldur’s Gate 3 seems like it’ll fill that void for me.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

I really enjoyed both Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, so being excited for their inevitable sequel doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. Insomniac Games already proved that they know how to make a mechanically sound Spider-Man game that can also deliver a compelling narrative, and that’s kind of all I want out of a sequel.

A lot of folks are clamoring for some sort of cooperative play between Miles and Peter, which would be cool for sure, but isn’t something that I need from Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. All I want from the sequel is a little more variety, both in terms of main story missions and side quests. Sprinkle in some new abilities and costumes, and you’ve got yourself a solid follow up to one of my favorite games of 2018.

But therein lies the exciting part, cause I don’t know what Insomniac could do outside of the things I’ve already listed in order to top themselves. I’m sure they’ve got something wonderful cooked up for players, but I’d sound stupid even attempting to predict what that could be. Sure I could theorize payoffs for the last game’s cliffhangers, but I’m more excited about what mechanical changes are implemented. I suppose I’ll find out at some point in 2023.

Mina the Hollower

For those unaware, Mina the Hollower is the next title from Yacht Club Games, makers of the tremendous Shovel Knight series. If Shovel Knight was their Mega-Man, then Mina the Hollower looks to be their Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, which an incredibly exciting concept to me.

Full transparency: I backed Mina the Hollower on Kickstarter because it not only looks dope as hell, but is being made by a studio I trust. What really sold me in its initial pitch was the core mechanic of digging through the earth as a quick means of transportation, hence the ‘Hollower.’ That coupled with the variety of weapons, enemies and zones in the world made it really easy to throw 20 or 30 dollars at this unfinished product.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not really a Zelda guy, but as I’ve essentially screamed at the top of my lungs twice already, I think Yacht Club Games could be the ones to finally make that math work out for me. It doesn’t have a concrete release date just yet, but they’re aiming for 2023 at the moment, but something tells me that date wont stick.


Call it wishful thinking or misplaced optimism, but I really hope that Starfield is good. My feelings about Bethesda as a competent game maker aside, I would love for a good sci-fi RPG cause I haven’t had one of those since Mass Effect was set in the Milky Way. I guess The Outer Worlds was pretty good, but it didn’t really leave a lasting impression despite really enjoying it at the time.

What excites me about Starfield is the fact that it’s a fresh start in terms of lore. Despite enjoying some of the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I could not tell you much of anything about that world because of how dense the lore was. I can’t say for certain, but it definitely felt like I was missing a lot of context for the universe by not following the series since its inception. Starfield represents a chance to get in on the ground floor and have Bethesda introduce not just myself, but everyone to this new setting.

Aside from lore, I just hope that Starfield isn’t as buggy and busted as some of its predecessors, a thing that most fans seem to find endearing for some reason. I also wouldn’t mind if the shooting was good. I get that it’s an RPG first, but there has never been anything less satisfying to me than shooting a character in the head being met with them just losing slightly more health. I mention this because as a sci-fi game, I would expect Starfield to rely more on gunplay than Fallout did, which I would hope would result in weightier combat, but what do I know? Those and other questions are bound to be answered when it releases sometime in 2023.

This list could have been a dozen or so more entries long, but these are kind of the big ones that I could think of from where I’m at in 2022. I’m sure a bevy of things will be announced and released as the year progresses that I’ll be equally excited for. There’s also the possibility that something on this list will slip into 2024 which would be insane considering most of these games already have been delayed. But hey, I’m sure we’ll talk about that stuff as it comes up during the year.

My Top Games of 2022

Between unemployment and being depressed, I had a lot of time to play video games this year, and while I did play a decent amount of titles only a handful of them really left a lasting impression on me. More accurately, these were the games this year I remember playing and thinking, “yeah, I had a good time with that.” So in no particular order, here are my favorite games that I played this year.


When I think back on my time with Tunic, also known as the cute fox Zelda game, I tend to remember a lot of the negative things first, like how difficult and incongruous the combat felt in comparison to the rest of the game. I remember feeling frustrated at the lack of direction and general ambiguity of everything that was happening. I remember feeling lost and confused, almost like I wasn’t smart enough for Tunic and should just give up and stop playing.

But then I remember the many “Oh shit!” moments I had with Tunic, where I’d figure out how to navigate a seemingly impassable part of the map and felt like the smartest person in the world. I remember finding pages for and utilizing the in-game manual to complete puzzles and shed some light on what the hell was going on in this world. Every low moment I had with Tunic was eventually followed by some satisfying high that would carry me over and past each of these peaks and valleys.

Tunic was a game that genuinely challenged me even after I adjusted the accessibility settings to nullify the challenge of combat. Tunic is filled to the brim with mysterious secrets that lead to wondrous revelations, most of which I pretty much understood. My only complaint with Tunic is that its combat didn’t need to be as punishing as it was, as it detracted from the real treasure of the experience, which was exploring and uncovering every little secret Tunic had tucked away.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn’t the most difficult or complex game I’ve played this year, but it didn’t need to be. Kirby games are usually a lightweight and breezy experience, and this entry was no different. Kirby and the Forgotten Land was a cozy little 3D platformer that was oozing with charm which is something I needed this year. It was a fun, low-stakes game that I could mindlessly play, stopping to occasionally appreciate its lovely art direction and endearing character design.

There’s a surprising amount of stuff crammed inside of this Kirby game, from some very light upgrade mechanics that alter and change the effect of the powers you suck up, to these challenge levels that test your abilities to control and utilize said powers effectively within a time limit. In addition, each level has a set of challenges or collectibles for you to tackle and collect, granting you additional upgrade resources and currency for the rest of the game.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn’t the Mario 64 of Kirby games, but it is a lot of fun and a fresh take on the Kirby formula that’ll scratch that platformer itch I know you’ve got.

Road 96

A setting where a fascist dictatorship violently tamps down on dissent and propagandizes its populace through an overly complimentary ‘news’ network might seem like an odd backdrop for a teenage coming-of-age adventure game, but it actually works surprisingly well.

In Road 96, you play as a series of unnamed teenagers who are hitchhiking their way through their terrible country in the hopes of crossing the border and fleeing into a less oppressive country. On its surface, the game almost presents itself as a roguelike because you’re essentially making runs on the border as different characters, but there is cumulative story that concludes despite which character you choose for each run.

On your journey you’ll run into a reoccurring cast of weird and fairly complex characters, aiding or avoiding them all in service of gaining cash and inching closer towards freedom all while keeping your morality intact. It’s a game about making choices and living with the consequences, and it was one of the more memorable experiences I had this year.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game about safely deconstructing and salvaging spaceships with cool laser beams. There’s some other stuff about working in a future capitalism-ravaged hell-scape where you’re paying off a massive debt to the demolition company, but none of that is particularly interesting or necessary to enjoying the simple act of safely demolishing a space ship. It has this zen-like quality where you fall into that zone you get into when you’re doing your job and doing it well, as if it’s second nature to you.

The default mode in Hardspace: Shipbreaker puts some oxygen and fuel restrictions on you that I found to be more restrictive than I wanted, but luckily you can toggle that stuff off or just play in a free-mode with no restrictions, which I’ve found to be the optimal way to play the game. I find that disabling those restrictions lends it a more puzzle game feeling that’s far more satisfying than having to juggle the light survival mechanics.

The pacing in Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a little off, as the first few hours of the campaign don’t really afford you too much variety in ship types or tools to use, but after enough time that eventually starts to change. But aside from that tiny quibble, I’ve got nothing but praise for the slow and methodical gameplay of Hardspace: Shipbreaker.

Sniper Elite 5

Sniper Elite 5 doesn’t reinvent the Sniper Elite formula, but it was one of the most fun cooperative gaming experiences I had this year which is mainly why it’s on this list. While the slow motion bullet-cam is still as exciting and gruesome as ever, but what really made this entry come alive was how flexible it was in catering to different play styles. More specifically, it allowed me to watch from a safe distance as my cooperative partner charged into overwhelming odds and chained knife-takedowns on hostile Nazis, thus obliterating any and all sense of stealth that might be implied in a game called Sniper Elite 5. It was frustrating to watch, but hilarious to experience.

The best thing about Sniper Elite 5 is how much of a perfect platform it was for my friend and I to make each other laugh, which we did a lot of. It’s a game that you don’t have to really think about too much because the objective is simple: destroy all Nazis. Knowing that core mission left ample opportunities for us to perform comedy bits with each other as we bumbled our way through the sprawling levels, completing objectives in our own ways and more often than not, screwing over the other player because stealth was never an option.

PowerWash Simulator

Much like Hardspace: Shipbreaker, PowerWash Simulator is one of those meditative, ‘lose four hours of time’ kind of games that has you doing something mindless yet incredibly satisfying. In this game you blast grime and dirt off of the filthiest structures and vehicles in the world, utilizing stronger power washers, nozzles and soaps. That’s it. That’s the whole game. There’s a story, but who really cares about that? There is something borderline indescribable about PowerWash Simulator that makes it easily one of the best games I played this year.

Aside from its cutting edge dirt-tech, something that I’ve just made up, it doesn’t look especially great nor does it run flawlessly, but it lets you and your friends come together to methodically blast the cruft off of things, and that’s good enough for me.

NBA 2K23

Without question, the games that I end up putting the most time into year after year are in the NBA 2K series, and this year’s entry might be one of my favorites, ever. NBA 2K23 is the latest in a series of basketball simulation games that seems overly eager in siphoning as much cash away from you as it possibly can depending on what modes you play. If you’re like me however and don’t play those modes, opting to stick with the tried and true franchise mode, this is another solid iteration that still has some of the same lingering bugs as it did 3 years ago.

But what really changes everything for me is the ‘MyEras’ mode, which is basically just your standard franchise mode, but you can start it in the ’80s, ’90s or early 2000s. It isn’t a perfect mode, but it is the only thing I’ve been playing in NBA 2K23. The game reskins the courts, jerseys and imports the appropriate draft classes all while implementing historical changes as they happened, such as ripping my precious Nets away from me and taking them to Brooklyn. NBA 2K23 is one of favorites cause it lets me play in the time period I’m most familiar with, which is something I never thought would happen.

Vampire Survivors

I don’t know that there’s a game that I’ve played this year that so deeply sunk its fangs into me like Vampire Survivors did. Never would I have guessed that a roguelike would ever capture my interest for more than a few runs, but Vampire Survivors is the game I keep wanting to play above anything else. Which is crazy considering the only control you have over anything in the game is moving your character and selecting your upgrades.

As you level up during a run, you are presented with a random array of weapons and buffs to choose from, one per level. Combining the right items and leveling them up can create some devastating effects that let you feel like an all-powerful demigod projecting an impassable zone of death around you that vaporizes any enemy the moment they stupidly enter it.

It also takes a lot of weird turns which is a crazy thing for me to say about a game with no real story or lore, but it still found a way to toy with me when I felt like I ‘got’ the game. Ultimately, what I’m saying is that you should 100% try this silly little arcade game if you haven’t, because it’s way better than it has any right to be.

Vampire Survivors is the Only Roguelike I Like

I remember booting up Vampire Survivors for the first time a few months ago and feeling genuinely confused as to what I was doing, why I was doing it, and why people were raving about it. Here was this pixelated, barely animated game where the only control I had was movement, making for a digital version of ‘keep-away’ that didn’t seem engaging or particularly interesting. Fast forward to 20 hours later, and that silly little game turned into a genuine obsession of mine.

Vampire Survivors is a fairly simple game that as mentioned, only allows you to directly control the movement of any of the characters you select, making your only goal to bob and weave your way through endless hordes of enemies as your weapons and magical effects automatically fire. The key to survival and success lies in gobbling up as much XP as you can so you can unlock and upgrade as many powers as you can, from multiple projectiles, increased health, speed and range augments, and so much more.

Finding the right build is necessary to tackle the endless swarm of enemies that descend upon you, increasing in strength and numbers as you grow and spend more time in a level. From run to run you’re earning money that you can spend on permanent upgrades like health regeneration and speed boosts, along with new characters and mods that augment the general flow of a run. Think of the ‘skulls’ in the Halo games, except they aren’t brutal like Halo‘s were.

The game is fairly simple in terms of minute-to-minute action, but in that simplicity I found a game that perfectly slots into my lifestyle and what I’m looking for. Vampire Survivors can run on basically anything which is good considering I like playing it on the couch, away from my console and desktop, on a laptop from that barely runs Windows. Runs are also pretty short and consumable, lasting 30 minutes unless you beef it sooner. After 30 minutes elapses, a giant Grim Reaper appears, explodes all other enemies on screen and rushes at you, killing you in an instant. I do believe you can defeat the Reaper if you have the right build, but I haven’t achieved that just yet.

I think what really made Vampire Survivors earn a spot in my regular game rotation is how good it is at making you feel incredibly powerful without actually having to do much of anything aside from choosing which upgrade to take when you level up. That feeling is doubled when you unlock an evolved version of a power, which happens if you choose two complimentary weapons or boosts and level them up, eventually leading to an ‘evolved’ version of those weapons, some of which can feel genuinely overpowered in the best way possible. For instance, levelling up the garlic weapon, which projects a damaging shield around you, along with the health restoration buff, turns into a massive black zone around you that saps enemy health and gives it to you.

Even better is when you stack up a couple of these evolved abilities and instantly become this whirling dervish of death, clearing out swaths of enemies and projectiles who dare to approach you. And that feeling lasts for a good ten levels or so before you realize that because you’re so efficient at mowing these ding-dongs down, they’re getting stronger and heartier too.

I’ve probably put in about 15-20 hours into Vampire Survivors at this point, and just when it was starting to feel a bit too repetitive, I discovered a new character with completely new weapon that I had never seen before. It doesn’t sound like much, but after spending that much time with the same handful of abilities, seeing a new one completely changes things for me. Like, what does that one evolve into and how do I accomplish that? How many more things are there for me to discover? It turns out there’s a whole lot of stuff hidden away in Vampire Survivors just waiting to be found.

What’s really nice about Vampire Survivors to me is the feeling of progress it gives me from run to run. So far the basic structure of the game has been involved me heading into a level and trying to follow the big green arrow that points towards some objective, usually an item or some boss to fight. Once I clear the handful of objectives from a level, all of which do not have to be completed in a single run, the next level is unlocked and I can move on to tackle that one. All the while you’re drowning in coins that you can use for more buffs and characters, adding slight variations into each subsequent run.

I guess this is how other people feel about roguelikes, but I’ve never had one resonate with me in this kind of way. Usually I get frustrated by the lack of progress or I get caught up in this feeling of futility by constantly failing, but Vampire Survivors allows me to feel like I’m doing so well they have to literally cut me off after 30 minutes before I destroy the universe or uncover the secret of why a game called Vampire Survivors contains no vampires.

Questionable Comedy Undermines High on Life’s Solid Gameplay

High on Life is the latest game from developer Squanch Games, a studio you might know for titles like Trover Saves the Universe or Accounting, but you’d probably know it better as the game studio that Rick and Morty creator, Justin Roiland created. High on Life is a surprisingly competent puzzle-platforming first-person shooter that just so happens to be mired in some of the most divisive, hit-or-miss comedy I’ve ever seen.

High on Life is a first-person shooter blended with a Metriodvania that places you in the bounty hunting shoes of a human who manages to escape an alien invasion of Earth thanks to the help of constantly chattering alien pistol that you find during the attack. Your whole house becomes your spaceship as you’re transported across the galaxy to the city of Blim, where you set out on your quest to hunt down and kill those who invaded your home.

I’m not a fan of Rick and Morty, which isn’t to say I hate the show or anything, I just don’t like it enough to want to watch it. It’s fine. But with my limited knowledge of the show, it’s already clear that a 22 minute episode is a much better platform for Roiland’s humor than a 15 hour video game. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the chatter coming from the NPC’s quickly devolves into expletive-laden ramblings about jerking off.

To use my favorite idiom, High on Life throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall, except in this case the spaghetti is jokes and you’re the wall. While I’ve found most of it doesn’t stick, some of the jokes land, eliciting a chuckle or chortle here and there. But a lot of it hasn’t really connected with me, because Roiland’s sense of humor involves making a joke at you and then continuing that joke for way longer than it needs to go on for until you feel uncomfortable, almost as if the joke says, “certainly I’m funny now, right?”

The humor being so divisive really undermines the fact that there’s a pretty decent game being underneath it all. The gun play, while nothing special, is serviceable and satisfying, with more weapons and upgrades being layered in at a steady pace. High on Life offers players a good amount of variety in how they can dispatch enemies by giving them weapons that have multiple functionalities. For instance, the second weapon you unlock, Gus, operates as a standard shotgun, but when you aim down sights it sucks in enemies like some murderous vacuum, making it perfect for dealing with scurrying or flying enemies. It also has another ability to shoot out saw blades that both act as platforms for you to climb to, but as normal saw blades that’ll cut dudes down.

The two main issues with High on Life stem from its rough humor and slow building introductory sequence. It makes a bad first impression from a gameplay perspective because of how limited you are in your abilities. It takes maybe about an hour or so to unlock a melee attack and grappling hook, which doesn’t sound bad until you realize that most of that hour is spent listening to Roiland’s cast of characters do comedy at you, cursing and making dick jokes the whole time. That first hour really tested my patience with this game, but now that I have more options at my disposal, things are getting slightly more tolerable.

One thing I can say for sure is that everything in the game, not just the talking weapons, talk way too much. I get that Roiland’s thing is making very long running gags, but everything in this game is just far too verbose for their own good. Every conversation is infinitely longer than it needs to be, which is a problem when everything has something to say at you.

Game Pass is the best place for a game like High on Life to launch, because your enjoyment of it will hinge on whether you’re either into or can tolerate the humor enough to trudge forward. While decent already, I imagine the gameplay can only improve the further I progress thanks to additional weapon and ability unlocks, but I’m really curious to see how the humor holds up over time. I hope it gets better, but judging by how things are right now, it probably will go the other way. It’s kind of like watching a train wreck that you just can’t look away from, except the train is constantly saying “fuck” and is shaped like a ding dong.

Somerville is Bewildering, Buggy and Beautiful

Somerville‘s hauntingly gorgeous atmosphere and visually impressive set-pieces aren’t enough to make up for its nebulous storytelling, uninteresting gameplay and painfully prominent technical issues. It only took me about five hours or so to roll credits on Somerville and see all of its multiple endings, but even after doing so I could not tell you a damn thing about what actually happened in the story, leaving me with more questions than answers.

Somerville is the first game from developer, Jumpship, helmed by some of the former leadership that was responsible for the cult-classics Limbo and Inside. It wouldn’t be completely unfair to compare Somerville to either of those games, but doing so would only serve to highlight how good those previous titles were and how underwhelming Somerville actually is. Just like those games, it’s a strikingly beautiful, dialogue free, puzzle-platformer, but it severely lacks the polish and direction of those titles.

Somerville starts out by upending the lives of a family and I suppose if you want to split hairs, the entire world, by having an alien invasion(?) take place and really muck up everything. The family itself gets separated after the protagonist comes into contact with what I think was an alien that crashed through the roof of his home, but in doing so you’re granted the first of two powers that you’ll use throughout the game. When unlocked, the two powers allow you to interact with alien technology in two different ways: liquifying or solidifying it. In order to actually do either of those things however, you need to interact with a source of light that can project your magic-alien-aura out over a manipulatable surface. On paper this sounds way cooler than it actually is, because in practice you’re mostly just making stairs or making tunnels for you to walk over and through. There were only a few instances towards the end of the game that really did anything cool with the mechanics and even those were short lived.

While lacking in the mechanics department, Somerville is very visually captivating. I may not know much about the lore of Somerville or the circumstances surrounding the events that took place, but the game does a great job of communicating a truly dreary and hopeless world. I remember the desperate beauty of a moment when I crossed a lifeless highway, traversing over, around and through the scores of abandoned cars that littered the pavement, and made my way into what looked to be a refugee camp of some sort where the survivors of this invasion were holed up in tents that filled the landscape. As I made my way through I saw the shadows of survivors moving inside of the tents, desperately trying to avoid being seen by either myself or the giant, human-abducting monolith that hovered in the sky.

Unfortunately that beauty is wasted on the gameplay of Somerville. Most of what you do in the game involves slowly trudging from one screen to another, sometimes solving simplistic light-based puzzles, and sometimes running away from the insta-killing alien robot dogs or giant sky monolith that serve as your only sources of conflict. The lack of polish becomes really apparent when you’re trying to navigate the levels during these escape sequences because you’ll often get hitched on something in the environment that breaks your momentum, sucking the tension out of these moments by having you run through them over and over until you find the correct path forward.

Somerville isn’t outstandingly bad or anything, the gameplay is perfectly serviceable but it suffers from numerous little pain points that pop up every so often. I was intrigued the entire way through Somerville just hoping that at some point the story would make sense and give me that “aha!” moment that I was waiting for, but it never did. Instead Somerville just gets weirder and weirder, leaving me with so many moments where I wondered why I was moving forward or what my character’s motivation even was. The whole game eventually culminates in a final sequence that can result in several different endings, none of which do a great job of explaining anything about what just happened or what state the world is left in.

Somerville feels like one of those games where someone eventually will come up with a really poignant interpretation of the game that will clarify the story, or someone is going to find some obscure detail in it that will recontextualize the whole world. It’s hauntingly beautiful at times, invoking genuine feelings of dread and hopelessness as you trudge from one dystopian landscape to another. But as it stands, Somerville is little more than a visually interesting game that’s underdeveloped both in terms of mechanics and polish.

Disney Dreamlight Valley has Taken Over my Home

I showed a real lack of willpower recently when I casually Googled and shortly after ordered an Xbox Series X despite having a Series S in my possession. I could give all manner of excuses for why I actually bought the dang thing, but the real answer is that I wanted one and it was available. With a massive new console in my possession I had to figure out what to do with the Series S that served as my primary console for the past two years, so I went ahead and plopped it in our living room, set up an account for my partner, installed some titles off of Game Pass I thought they’d enjoy and went on my merry way. Little did I know that I had just taken the first steps towards allowing a Disney-themed game monopolize all of their free time.

At first they just wanted to continue playing our cooperative game of the month, Battleblock Theater, but eventually curiosity got the better of them when I booted up Disney Dreamlight Valley, a game I promptly decided was not gonna be the next ‘big thing’ for me. But their affinity for Disney characters mixed with the slightly more mechanically rich Animal Crossing-esque gameplay loop must have resonated with them because all they wanna do now is hang out with Goofy, Elsa and a horrifying dead-eyed version of Mickey who never seems to close his mouth.

What first started as a vague curiosity has turned into something that resembles an addiction, but in a good way. When I first asked them about their feelings on the game I was met with a lot of, “it’s okay,” and “I just wanna see where it goes.” Recently however they’ve approached me with a gleeful sense of pride while asking, “do you wanna see what I’ve done with my town in that game?” I’ve even checked the Xbox app while I was on my lunchbreak and caught a certain someone tending to their village while ‘working’ from home.

I tease them about their newfound addiction but it genuinely makes me happy to see that they’re having fun with this console that I basically replaced with a bigger, stronger version. They’re a fairly casual gamer and to see them get hooked on a game the way I can sometimes get sucked into games makes me weirdly happy. I don’t know how to exactly explain it but it’s kind of vindicating in a weird way. It isn’t as if they judge me for spending time playing games or anything, if anything they’re incredibly supportive of my gaming hobby and the time and energy I spend on it.

Knowing how bored of the game I would get within a few hours, I’ve already prepped them for the burnout by just installing a bunch of other games I thought they might enjoy on the console, just hoping curiosity will take hold and lead them into something newer and more visually exciting to watch. As of writing this however, that has not been the case as we’re both ‘hotly anticipating’ the Toy Story update for the game, which I think we can all agree is really gonna shake things up.

How I feel about Disney Dreamlight Valley is irrelevant though, because all that matters is that they’re having a good time with it and getting that feeling of satisfaction that a good game can provide. While I wouldn’t mind seeing something different on our TV, or more specifically, hear something other than the same 3 bars of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, I’m just happy that my partner is happy. What more can you really ask for?