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Games to Get Excited About – December 2016

Hello and welcome to our final installment of Games to Get Excited About for 2016. Of course, its December, so most of the high profile releases for the year have already released and a number of titles that I would have used this feature to talk about have been delayed into 2017. So, since I already wrote about The Last Guardian (no, I can’t believe its finally coming out either), we’ll be taking a look at a release coming early in the new year…

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Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush 2 is (surprise!) the sequel to Gravity Rush, or Gravity Daze if you prefer the original Japanese title. You may have heard of the original game but it honestly wouldn’t be too surprising if you hadn’t. It was a flagship release for Sony’s ill-fated PlayStation Vita handheld and it was an ambitious attempt to show what the system could do with an open-world style game. The game put players in the shoes of Kat, an amnesiac who wakes up in a strange city that hangs suspended in the sky from the trunk of a massive tree.

Before long, Kat discovers that she is a “shifter,” a person with the ability to manipulate gravity, and sets about helping the citizens of the city fight monsters, complete tasks, and repair the damage caused by increasingly frequent gravity storms. The game was fairly popular on the Vita, but didn’t make much of a splash in the wider consciousness. Earlier this year the game was remastered and re-released on the Playstation 4, hoping to find a wider audience before the sequel releases.

Why are we excited?

The first Gravity Rush had a fantastic visual style inspired by French nouveau comics and a gameplay loop focuses on using gravity to fling yourself and your enemies around massive floating environments. It was charming and inventive, if a bit rough around the edges. Even when re-released on the Playstation 4 it was obvious that the game had been created for less powerful hardware and some of the maps could seem sparsely populated. The sequel has been created specifically for the Playstation 4 and is taking advantage of the bump in horsepower to create larger, more detailed, more dynamic environments.

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In addition to making the game larger and more detailed, the developers claim they are tuning up the combat, which was a weak point in the original game. Hopefully the sequel will offer more dynamic encounters and more varied enemy designs. As a fan of the first game, I hope that the sequel retains the charm and inventiveness of the first title while refining its formula and smoothing out some of its rough edges such as imprecise combat and a meandering story.

Gravity Rush 2 is currently slated to release in January 2017 on PS4.

Notable December Releases

As noted in the introduction, things are pretty thin on the ground this month. There are a few notable ports but only two new releases are on my radar.

Warhammer 40K Space Hulk: Deathwing

There have been a lot of games released under the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K names over the past few years but this one looks like it might be a standout. It is based on the classic Space Hulk board game and puts an emphasis on gorgeous visuals and frantic action. The game is a first person shooter and will release in December for the PC with console ports to follow next year.

Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero

This is the 4th game in the Shantae series which began back on the Gameboy Color. It was launched as a successful Kickstarter and will be the first game in the series to see simultaneous release across multiple handheld and home platforms. The Shantae games have carved out a niche as solid Metroid-style platformers with a fun art style and cast. Here’s hoping the newest entry lives up to the pedigree of the previous titles.

Games to Get Excited About: November 2016

by Michael Wells

November is here with the usual flood of new releases. Here’s an in-depth look at one upcoming title we’re excited about and a rundown of notable releases in the coming month.

2016 is seeing the release of two games that have been in development for so long that you would be forgiven for assuming they would never actually come out. One is Final Fantasy XV, the much anticipated new entry in Square Enix’s cultural juggernaut of a series that was first announced as Final Fantasy Versus XIII all the way back in 2006. The other is…

The Last Guardian

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The Last Guardian has been a fixture on vaporware lists for years. The game was originally announced as a PS3 exclusive at E3 in 2009. Even at the time of its announcement it had already been in development for 2 years. The Last Guardian generated a lot of buzz because it was the next, and possibly final, game from Fumito Ueda. Ueda is best known for his previous two games, the cult classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Both games are known for their minimalist presentation and stark, beautiful visuals.

The Last Guardian showed a young boy protagonist and a large fantastic creature that seemed like something between a bird, a cat, and a deer. The boy seems reminiscent of the protagonist of Ico and a focus on working with a companion to move through the game evokes that earlier title. The creature was incredibly detailed for the time and promised to push the graphical capabilities of the PS3. The original release window came and went and news of the game slowly dwindled to a trickle. Most of it was rumors and most of the rumors were bad.

Members of the team left to pursue other projects, Ueda himself stepped down to become a creative consultant, and the press began to speculate that Sony had quietly canned the project. Despite the rumors, Sony continued to insist that the game was being developed and that it would be worth the wait. Still, with each year that passed with no news, a release for the troubled title seemed less and less likely. Had it been too ambitious? Was the detailed model and complex behavior for the creature too much of a technical hurdle to overcome? Even if it was possible, could the aging PS3 hardware handle a game that lived up to the original vision?

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In 2015, Sony brought The Last Guardian back to E3 and announced that it would be released in the 4th quarter of 2016. It joined other long awaited announcements such as Shenmue 3 and the Final Fantasy VII remake. As we approach the game’s release date, details remain scarce but there is no denying that the game looks striking and very much in the spirit of its forbears.

The game still seems to be an adventure game that keeps the austere and crumbling environments of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. The protagonist must work together with the creature that the development team has tried to model realistic animal behavior for. This means that players should be able to entice it with food, sooth it when it is frightened, and care for it when it is hurt. The central goal of the game is to forge an emotional attachment to the creature.

Skepticism is warranted for any project with a history as long and troubled as The Last Guardian. The questions that plagued it throughout its development remain relevant even as the game nears release. With that said, I have been waiting for this game for eight years and I love Ueda’s previous work. I am glad that the wait is nearly over. The Last Guardian is currently scheduled to release December 6, 2016 in North America, exclusively for the PS4.

Notable November Releases:

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare

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Infinite Warfare is certainly shaping up to be one of the most contentious entries in Activision’s Call of Duty series. The title doubles down on the sci-fi themes the series has been trending towards and introduces space ships, dog fighting, and battles in zer0-G. Some fans of the series are disappointed at the direction taken by these once fairly realistic games while others are excited by the change of pace. Activision has also stirred up controversy by packing in a remaster of the first Modern Warfare game that will only be available to gamers who purchase the new title. Love it or hate it, CoD is likely to be another huge sales success this holiday season.

Watch Dogs 2

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The first Watch Dogs rode a wave of hype and excitement to a resounding “meh” on release. What had promised to be a freewheeling open world title with strange and interesting hacking abilities that affected your environment ended up being another also-ran Grand Theft Auto clone with a humorless plot and an unlikable main character. The developers have decided to take another crack at the concept, moving the action to the more colorful and interesting San Francisco and introducing a new main character that promises to at least have something like a personality. We’ll be waiting for reviews to see if the second time is the charm for this one.

Pokemon Sun and Moon

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Pokemon is back! You probably didn’t need me to tell you that. The first and by far the largest monster fighting and collecting game returns for its seventh generation with Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon. This time the games are set in the tropical Alola region and Game Freak has cooked up another batch of weird and wonderful creatures to go catch. If you want a taste before the game releases, there is currently a demo available on the Nintendo e-Shop.

Final Fantasy XV

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Here it is, the other game that seemed like it might just never come out. Final Fantasy XV has gone through a lot of changes in the decade since it was announced. Much like The Last Guardian rumors have followed its troubled development almost from the start. There have been two demos available for the game, and if those are any indication the game feels like a fusion of things that feel undeniably connected to the series’ roots with other elements that can seem almost jarringly out of place. Soon we’ll be able to see if Square Enix managed to pull it off. Here’s hoping it won’t be another decade until the next one.

 

Games to Get Excited About – October 2016

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by Michael Wells

Welcome back to another installment of Games to Get Excited About. For a few months now, we’ve been playing around with the format of this column but now that I’m taking it over for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided on a hybrid approach. Each month I’m going to call out an upcoming game that I think is worthy of attention and give a detailed preview of why I think it may be worth paying attention to. After that, I’ll give a brief rundown of any notable releases coming in the month ahead.

So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Dishonored 2

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Spoiler Warning: This entry discusses the plot and characters of the first Dishonored

Dishonored 2 is the sequel to the 2012 stealth action game Dishonored. Dishonored was a critical success and ended up being a bit of a surprise hit for publisher Bethesda and developer Arkane Studios. After four years Arkane is back with a sequel and is hoping that gamers are going to be up for another trip to the Empire of the Isles.

The wronged Imperial bodyguard of the first game, Corvo Attano, returns as one of two playable characters in the sequel. Players can now choose to experience the story through Corvo’s eyes or through the eyes of his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. Though the levels they explore will be the same, the two characters have different abilities and powers, meaning that they may approach challenges very differently.

So, what’s worth getting excited about? Well, let’s talk about what made the first game so good.

Superb Level Design

A great deal has been written about a particular level in Dishonored. In fact, as soon as I mentioned the game, I’m betting a few readers thought to themselves, “Dishonored, that’s the game with the party, right?” The fourth level of the game, “Lady Boyle’s Last Party,” is often brought up in discussions about truly great gaming levels. It’s easy to see why, too. The level is novel, takes place in an intricately designed space that incorporates not just a mansion but the quarantined streets around it. Players make their way to the party only to discover that it is a masquerade party and they have no need to skulk around as their mask allows them to fit right in.

The level is cheeky, full of sly character moments, and offers a number of ways to dispatch your target. Like the best levels in immersive sims such as Deus Ex, it is full of little discoveries that make you realize that you could have approached your mission in a completely different way and encourages you to play through again to experiment. What I think a lot of people miss though, in their, rush to praise “Lady Boyle’s Last Party,” is that almost every level in the game is as good. They play with your expectations, let you get familiar with the various powers and tools at your disposal, and surprise you by letting you discover how all the pieces fit together.

The thing that I like best about the level design in Dishonored is the way that levels help to tell the story. “The Flooded District” takes place at a time when, as a character, Corvo has been betrayed and left for dead. The level is very long and keeps up a sense of being unprepared in hostile territory. As you scrounge for tools and elixirs you fall into a mindset of desperation which feels like a mirror for what the character must be going through. Later, you return to an area that was previously the game’s mission hub to find it crawling with enemies. Your familiarity with the space and all of its hidden nooks and crannies lets you feel like a canny predator even in the face of overwhelming numbers. It takes what is a moment of triumphant return for the character and makes you, the player, feel powerful and in control.

A Fascinating World

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Dishonored takes place in the fantastical city of Dunwall. Dunwall imagines a place where the early excesses of the Industrial Revolution met the horrors of commercial whaling. It is a grim place but it feels fully realized. In both the broad strokes and tiny details Dunwall sucks you in and invites you to discover more of its beauty and depravity. The second game is taking us to a different region of the game’s world. I am hopeful that it will be just as fascinating and intricate as Dunwall.

DLC Done Right

DLC is a sore spot for many gamers but I think that Arkane really got it right for Dishonored. Dishonored has two pieces of story DLC, “The Knife of Dunwall,” and “The Brigmore Witches.” Rather than continue the story of Corvo, the DLC campaign puts you in the roll of one of the game’s antagonists, the assassin Daud. The DLC features all new levels which continue to play with design ideas and new challenges, building on the work of the base game. The DLC campaign also gives Daud a voice as opposed to the mute Corvo. Not only was the DLC and great value, offering another full game’s worth of levels, it also was clear that Arkane was still being incredibly ambitious about what they could do with the Dishonored formula.

More of a Good Thing

Dishonored 2 has some large shoes to fill. Not only is it the follow up to a very impressive title, it’s coming out when gamers are growing increasingly jaded about pre-release hype and developer promises. The information that Arkane has shared so far makes it seem that they paid a lot of attention to how players approached the previous game and want to expand on the elements that players enjoyed. Many players in the first game decided to play the game without using any of Corvo’s supernatural powers. When Arkane saw how popular that play-style was with the player base, they decided to add a specific no powers mode to Dishonored 2 which players can select at the beginning of the game.

In the end, my hope is that Arkane has continued to refine and polish the Dishonored formula just as they did with the first game’s DLC. If they have, and if they have managed to transition to the the new generation of gaming hardware, then Dishonored 2 could be something very special. Dishonored 2 is currently scheduled to release November 11 in North America for the PC, PS4, and XBO.

Notable October Releases:

0dac02915226b21c1fe9dea6c48d4b21_248_krDragon Quest Builders

A number of games have tried to capture a bit of Minecraft’s success over the past few years. One of the more high profile attempts is Square Enix’s Dragon Quest Builders. The game takes the familiar monsters and characters of the Dragon Quest series and plops them down in a world of blocky landscapes that will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever been in the same room as Minecraft. Impressions from the game’s Japanese release were generally positive so I am thinking about giving this a try.

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The Paper Mario series makes its debut on the Wii U late in the system’s life cycle. Paper Mario games have gone through a lot of changes through the years and Color Splash seems to mostly follow in the design footsteps of 3DS series entry Paper Mario Sticker StarSticker Star was a divisive entry in the franchise so Color Splash may not be a slam dunk recommendation. Still, it promises to have some great art and the zany writing that has been a hallmark of the series since the beginning. If you’re a fan and you own a Wii U, Color Splash might be worth checking out.

3125647-playstationvrPlaystation VR

Ok, so this one isn’t a game. The consumer VR revolution continues in October with the Playstation VR. The price tag is lower than its PC competitors but still fairly prohibitive. Preview impressions seems solid with concessions to the PS4’s weaker processing power. Like the Kinect before it, console VR will live or die based on the games that use its functionality. I’m hopeful that it turns out well but we’re going to have to see if the software support is there. Fingers crossed.

That’s it for Games to Get Excited About for October. Are you looking forward to Dishonored 2? What October release are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments.

Games to Get Excited About – September 2016

Fall may be around the corner but the weather is still hot. The holiday release calendar is also heating up, so lets take a look at some of the upcoming releases that we’re keeping an eye on. September is surprisingly full of ports of previously released games and early access releases but there are still a few promising full releases.

Steins;Gate 0

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Visual Novels are finally starting to get wide release in the West. Last year, we were finally able to get the fantastic Steins;Gate which is one of the best Visual Novels ever released. It is a twisting ride of a story that deals with both time-travel conspiracies and Tokyo’s otaku culture in ways that wind together in surprising ways. Steins;Gate 0 is a semi-sequel to the original game that explores an alternate timeline and explores ideas of Artificial Intelligence. Hopes are high that it will live up to the quality of the first game.

ReCore

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ReCore is a new IP from Keiji Inafune and team members that worked on the Metroid Prime trilogy. The game will be an exclusive for the XBOX One and it places players in the shoes of Joule, a scavenger, as she attempts to survive a ruined wasteland with the help of robot companions that she meets during her adventure. The game has an impressive pedigree and its art style offers a welcome bit of variety to the XBOX One’s lineup. Hopefully the gameplay will live up to some of the great work of its creators’ previous projects.

Destiny: Rise of Iron

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Year 3 of Destiny launches, this month with the full Rise of Iron expansion. Destiny was initially met with mixed reactions from gamers who generally praised the moment to moment gunplay but complained about the boring, stilted story and the extreme grind required to make progress on post-game gear. Developer Bungie worked to keep the community active and the second year expansion, The Taken King, was generally much better received. We are very curious to see if they have kept up the quality in the new expansion.

 

Yokai Watch 2

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Level 5’s Yokai Watch has become a cultural institution over the past few years in Japan, with sales that have even come to eclipse the juggernaut that is the Pokemon franchise. The franchise came to the US last fall. Yokai Watch did not become nearly as big in the west as it is in its home territory, but it did well enough that the next game in the series in being brought over. The Yokai Watch series draws inevitable comparisons to Pokemon, but focuses on a smaller scope stories in a single community and encourages the player to get to know the town and its inhabitants while solving problems caused by mischievous spirits. We’ll see if this iteration can pick up a larger audience than its predecessor.

 

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice

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The beloved Phoenix Wright series with Spirit of Justice. Spirit of Justice is the 6th main game in the series and will focus on both Phoenix Wright and his proteges Apollo Justice and Athena Sykes. The series is well established at this point so if you are a fan of previous installments, chances are you’ll be happy for the chance to get back into the courtroom with Phoenix. If you have never played one of these games then this might not be the best entry to jump in with.

Honorable Mentions

We normally don’t feature ports of already released games in this feature, but I would be remiss for not pointing out that Darkest Dungeon is finally releasing on Playstation consoles this month. If you’ve been salivating over this title like I have since the PC release, then know that the wait is almost over.

Note from the editor: Games to Get Excited About was delayed this month due to conflicting schedules. Please expect October’s edition of Games to Get Excited About to be on time.

 

Games to Get Excited About: August 2016

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Games to Get Excited About: August 2016

Welcome to August! Our scorching summer is wrapping up but there are still a few interesting titles coming our way. The fall rush of releases is just around the corner but here are a few promising games we’re looking forward to getting our hands on before the big name titles start releasing in September.

No Man’s Sky

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It shouldn’t be any surprise to see this on our list, given that we previously wrote a spotlight about it. No Man’s Sky will be releasing August 9th on PS4 and August 12th on PC. The game promises a frankly ridiculous amount of space to explore along with an art style that is reminiscent of sci-fi art of the 60s and 70s. Think classic paperback covers come to life.

God Eater 2

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The God Eater franchise belongs to the hunting action genre pioneered by the Monster Hunter Series. It trades the medieval fantasy setting of Monster Hunter for an anime-inspired post apocalypse and places a heavier emphasis on story than some of its peers in the genre. God Eater 2 continues the story of the first game and introduces new monsters, new customization options, and new ways to upgrade your gear. Don’t worry if you never got the chance to play the first game on the PSP. Buying the game for PS4 or PC will give you the updated remaster, God Eater Resurrection, for free so you can get caught up.

Abzû

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One of the best games to come to Sony’s PS3 was the meditative and surprising hit Journey. After that game was completed, a few members of its design team left that studio to form a new studio and begin work on what many are viewing as Journey‘s successor. Abzû puts players in the fins of a diver, exploring gorgeously rendered ocean environments and seeking answers to the game’s central mysteries. The game promises an extremely dynamic virtual eco-system and hopes are high that it will capture some of the magic and wonder of its predecessor.

Grow Up

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Grow Home surprised many with its robust and intuitive climbing system. Given its success, it should come as no surprise that the game is getting a sequel. Grow Up is releasing for PC, PS4, and XBox One, so whatever you game on, you’ll be able to take on a whole new world of climbing challenges and colorful surprises.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

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If No Man’s Sky is the epitome of techno-optimism in science-fiction, then you could probably make the case that the Deus Ex series sits at the other end of spectrum as a representation of the idea that progress can never truly save us. Following the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mankind Divided continues to tell the story of cyborg Adam Jensen as he must attempt to navigate a murky future of conflicting loyalties and frightening advances in technology. Square Enix has promised to give fans of the series more of the action, stealth, and choice that they love, while also addressing criticism of the previous game such as lackluster story paths and poor boss fights.

This is just a taste of the games coming out this month. We’ll also be seeing the release of a new Madden game and Assetto Corso, if sports or racing are more your speed. As always, there are more Indie games releasing at any one time than we could ever hope to cover. Here’s hoping you have a great month and happy gaming!

Games to Get Excited About: July 2016

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Games to Get Excited About: July 2016

Here we are in July. Summer is in full swing. Hopefully you are having some fun this summer. Whether you choose bonfires, beach trips or staying safely indoors (ahhh! The sun! It burns!), there is one thing that would make your plans better. Games!

So without further ado, here are some games, listed in no particular order, that gamers should be getting excited about in July.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter

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Kicking off July, and this list, is Ethan: Meteor Hunter. This game is due to be released on July 1st for Xbox One. Players play Ethan, a rat who touched a meteor and now has powers. Ethan is searching for more meteors so that he can gain more power.

Lost Sea

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Lost Sea will be released on July 5th for PS4. Set in the Bermuda Triangle, Lost Sea is an action-adventure game that heavily features exploring. Players can go to different islands. Each island has different creatures, crew and landmarks.

Moon Hunters

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On July 12th, Moon Hunters will be released for PS4. This game can have one to four players. One night, the moon, the source of all magic and power, does not rise. It is up to the player to decide if they set off alone or in a group in this myth-based game to find out what is wrong and restore balance in the game.

I am Setsuna

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I am Setsuna is finally set to be released on PS4 and Steam on July 19th. This game is a Japanese RPG set in perpetual winter. The player follows and mercenary and the maiden in his care, Setsuna.

Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force

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Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is another RPG set for release this month. It will be released for PS4 on July 26th. The conflict in the game is brought about because a goddess and an evil god clashed, but could not fight each other directly, a long time ago. They both have chosen powered weapons. In modern times, these leftover weapons are highly sought after by the Fencers, who are the only ones who can control them.

Here’s hoping you found something that piques your interest this month. If not, trust me, there are many other great games coming out this month.

Happy gaming!

Games to Get Excited About in June 2016

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Games to Get Excited About in June 2016

 

Ah, June! June is the unofficial start of summer fun. A month full of promises. Schools are letting out. Father’s day is coming up. What better way to celebrate than with games?  We have so many games releases coming up this month, which is why I’ve decided that, instead of writing about just one game, I’d write about several!

Here are some games, in no real order, to get excited about in June.

Oh My Goods

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Okay, let’s start off with a tabletop game. Oh My Goods is a game set in the Middle Ages. Use your connections to become the most powerful merchant in the land. Only if you are clever will you have the most points at the end of the game. Fun bonus is that the rules are in both English and German.

Anima: Gate of Memories

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Set to be released for PlayStation 4 on June 3rd, Anima: Gate of Memories is a third person RPG. Players get to explore a vast world with dragons. I have read great things about the soundtrack and the story that accompany game play.

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

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If convenient, play. If not, play anyway. So, I won’t lie, I get excited by the prospect of almost anything Sherlock Holmes related. In true Holmes fashion, the game will be mostly centered on examining crime scenes. Then the player can add clues to the “deduction board.” These deductions  can lead to success in finding the culprit or failure.

Grand Kingdom

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Grand Kingdom is set to be released in North America and Europe this month. It is a tactical RPG. Players get to play turn-based battles with magic and sword attacks depending on the specialties of the combat class the player belongs to. This will be a great game for players who like to think about a big picture, such as how to best position their whole unit.

7 Days to Die

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This is a survival horror game. Set after the third world war, the player is a survivor who must find basic needs, such as food, shelter and water. Players also must scavenge and fight off zombie-like creatures. Oh, did I forget to mention that I read that the zombies get more aggressive over time?

There are so many more interesting games to look forward this month, so keep your eyes peeled for them if you didn’t see something you liked above. Really we are getting spoiled this year between remakes and new releases. Also, if you are looking for a gift, perhaps one of the above would be a good game to give.

Have fun gaming this month, friends!