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The Season is coming, and with it the annual jolly good mess of everything happening at once, until the day comes and we can enjoy a moment of serenity and free time.
And given that we are all gamers here, we can probably safely assume that at least a bit of that free time we’ll spend playing. Whether getting up to speed with the latest releases or reducing the pile of shame before it reaches critical mass, by the BSoDs and RRoDs, there will be gaming!
To add to your unending library of choices, we have prepared a nifty list of games you may want to consider playing to fight off the sweet drowsiness of a food coma.
What’s better to get your blood pumping for thrills and adrenaline kicking in to speed up your entire existence until reality seems to slow down to a crawl? TPP action games are a jolt of pure energy, and there’s been some cool stuff going on this year, so let’s take a gander.
Talion’s roaring rampage of revenge continues, this time with a new toy of canon-breaking might. A new Ring of Power, forged with the help of the Wraith of Celebrimbor gives the undying ranger a bunch of new options, one of them includes full-feature orc conversion. It’s in fact strong enough to build a loyal army of procedurally generated uglies. We also get a ton of loot, gear sets, fortresses to capture…
You’ll likely spend a lot of time with Shadow of War, because there is a lot to be done.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Ubisoft’s gambit clearly paid-off, and the soft reboot of the uncannily prolific franchise turned out to be a generally well-liked success. The journey WAY back in time to the Ancient Egypt of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra BC is a one of a kind trip. We play as Bayek, the last of the Medjay (look them up, they were a thing), who gets inadvertently tangled up in a political powerplay which made the Egypt of that era such a fascinating place. There’s also loot, fighting hippos, and petting cats, so, you know, almost the best things in life. Assassin’s Creed: Origins has it all.
[buy,Assassin’s Creed Origins]
The Rockstar crime saga is still alive and well, and Grand Theft Auto V keeps making it to Steam top sales charts four years since release. Three men with troubled pasts wind up tangled up in an extended criminal scheme, which none of them are seemingly able to escape without consequences. Find out how career criminal Michael, unhinged Trevor, and Franklin who wants to turn over a new leaf handle the resulting mess. And if singleplayer experiences don’t exactly get your blood pumping, you can always jump into GTA Online and test yourself against other players in a variety of modes, including a vehicular battle royale called Motor Wars.
Grand Theft Auto V (Rockstar)
How about a journey around a post-apocalyptic planet full of references to philosophers and philosophies in the cybernetic bodies of combat and support androids acrobatically fighting seemingly bubbly robots? This is just the surface look at NieR: Automata, but depending on how invested you get, it might be a very accurate one. Envisioned by Yoko Taro and developed in the brilliance-foundry of Platinum Games, NieR stands as one of the most interesting and unique games of the year. Couple it with the weirdest form of New game Plus you’ve seen and you’re getting a game which lets you play it and interpret it for a long time, with a new perspective each time.
Take a shot every time you see a German helmet on the screen. You’d think it’s some weird drinking game, but it’s Sniper Elite 4, a game about shooting people in various fragile extremities and watching said extremities explode in graphic, and yet oddly sterile detail. In this iteration of Rebellion’s series you’re roaming the large locations spread across Italy, taking down Axis operations along the way. Sniper Elite 4 mixes shooter mechanics with stealth gameplay, letting you lay down traps, perform stealth takedowns, or, true to its name, shoot objects and enemies from afar. And the best part is that you get to see the grisly results of your work in anatomical slo-mo. It’s definitely not for the squeamish.
Sniper Elite 4
Sometime after a day of feasting and merriment we just want to sit down with a glass of eggnog and play our way through an interesting, engaging story, kicking ass, taking names, solving people problems or being one of said problems. If that’s your preference, then RPGs of all sorts are for you. Let’s see what you may want to scoop this year in this department.
It’s been a somewhat long wait, but it finally came. The GotY edition of Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 4 mean you can get all the content in one hefty package, instead of hunting for sales on each individual piece of DLC and expansion separately. Buy in bulk, save time and money! F4 is a solid crafting game, letting you found your own settlements and create complex foundries and other machinery to fuel their economies or your own amusement. Nothing says fun like a homemade flare which triggers a radstorm. Or you could go and do some quests, there is a virtually infinite supply of them.
Yeah, it had a rocky start. It happens. But underneath all the mess there is an RPG waiting to happen, and a fair bit more flexible progression than we’ve had in the series since ME2 decided the trilogy should become a shooter. Take a 600-years long journey to another galaxy alongside thousands of other colonists from several other species, find a new home, and fight against the mysterious Kett. You are no Shepard, but this isn’t a valid excuse, so get started, there is a lot of work ahead of you.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
The Fractured But Whole is a direct sequel to a very warmly welcomed Stick of Truth, and this time The new Kid’s fartastic adventure makes fun of the current prevalent superhero craze. Cartman and co. had a falling out over the grand plan for their own cinematic universe and descended into a mocking re-enactment of both the eternal battle between Marvel and DC fanbases and the Marvel Civil War movie. You expect all the South-Parkiest things of The Fractured But Whole, including fecal and raunchy humour, and vicious mockery of popular culture. From a gameplay side of things, we’re getting a revamped and expanded turn-based battle system, complete with 12 superhero archetypes with various powers acting as classes.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Piranha Bytes games are the kind of game that punches you in the teeth as a hello, but then turns out to be just really excited and got carried away easily. They invariably feature open worlds (before it was cool) with rewarding exploration (instead of feathers or RNG loot), fully voiced dialogues, and palpable atmosphere. ELEX does all of that and more, for the first time in the developer’s history sinking claws into the science-fiction themes. The world of ELEX is divided into four factions: traditionalistic Berserkers, hi-tech Clerics, post-apocalyptic Outlaws, and the universally antagonistic Albs, devoid of all emotion. All of them found their own use for the Elex, a substance carried by the comet, and a great source of energy and deadly mutations, to boot. And you are thrown into the mix as a betrayed general of the Albs. Have fun.
Final Fantasy XIV is a great game, greater than many people probably suspected. The last expansion, Stormblood, in addition to some fantastic cinematic trailers turned out to be among the best stories in MMOs in general, praised by multiple media outlets. Although FFXIV isn’t free to play, it is certainly worth checking out, especially if as a PC player you feel drastically undersupplied in Final Fantasy games. Getting a prepaid at an attractive price might help alleviate some of the stress, though.
Final Fantasy XIV
Who hasn’t heard of WoW? It’s been an integral part of the gaming landscape for the past thirteen years, with millions of players taking part in the epic tale for the fate of Azeroth. Over the years WoW has received a hefty number of substantial expansions, each expanding the playable territory, moving the plot forward, and providing players with more options. All the good stuff. Although you can enjoy World of Warcraft for free up to a certain point, it is very likely you’ll take the shining to the game, which means paying up to keep playing. This is where the prepaids come in, especially if you have some problems with completing payment at the source.
World of Warcraft Battlechest
Since its launch in 2015 the MMORPG version of Bethesda’s famous The Elder Scrolls franchise has managed to polish and straighten many points of contention which riddled the early release, and has even introduced the province of Morrowind, AKA for many people the most fondly remembered part of the franchise. TESO has a fairly open-ended progression, a large world to explore, and a pretty epic storyline, involving primordial deities trying to wrap their hands around a nice world full of potential worshippers and servants. And the best part? You don’t actually need to play any subscription fees if you feel you don’t need extra benefits coming from paying a bit. Pay once, play at your leisure.
The Elder Scrolls Online
After a good meal running around chasing a ball doesn’t seem very appealing, and an impromptu boxing match with your stubborn uncle is never a good idea. There is a way out, though: sport games. They are the great equaliser. And a great way to keep your kid cousin occupied, just give him or her an unconnected pad. Everybody wins!
Annual releases of EA Sports’ football simulator are something we’ve grown accustomed to over the past twenty years (yes, really). The long stream of improvements and polished applied to an ever-developing formula resulted in this year’s FIFA 18 which, all points considered, has a solid gameplay and an online segment which you’re likely to find yourself playing for a long time. There’s also The Journey, better known as the story mode. Interestingly enough, instead of giving us a new avatar to meet, FIFA 18 stays with Alex Hunter, whom we’ve met in the previous game, not striking out beyond UK teams, because why not.
If football (or soccer, if you happen to be from the United States) isn’t really anywhere close to your sports-related preferences, maybe you’ll take the shine for NBA 2K18, 2K Games’ own basketball simulator. What’s to say, other than that it has the current rosters, relevant licenses, solid moment-to-moment gameplay and a MyCareer mode, which despite some amusingly wonky story setup could be a worthwhile distraction from the meat of the game in other modes.
While FIFA may be the queen of the football simulators, Pro Evolution Soccer also had the proper credentials to be on the throne, but can’t seem to stage a coup massive enough to overthrow the government. And while the metaphor has run wild, the fact stands that ProEvo is consistently great, including this year’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2018. PES2018 can be especially proud of how it improved ball handling, including related animations. That change effectively contributed to further closing the gap between live football and simulated, computer-generated puppets bound to our controllers.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
If chasing the ball in any version doesn’t appeal to your primal instincts and a sense of drama, not all is lost yet. One of the best simulators of a true American wrestling experience, WWE2k19, is here to help. If you always dreamed of staging a confrontation between two (or more, if your fancy flies that high) wrestlers from different eras to see John Cena’s face forcefully planted in the floor by Macho Man Randy Savage himself, now’s your chance. WWE2K18 is another annual release on the list, and, as usual carries a batch of gameplay improvements which seem obvious only after somebody thought to introduce them. You can’t suplex your uncle, but you can suplex a digitally recreated WWE avatar of your uncle. That’s almost as satisfying and not nearly as damaging to your surroundings.
The Forza games are typically large endeavours, with large numbers of cars available to the players, large swathes of land, and enough activities and events to keep anyone occupied. In the case of Forza Motorsport 7 we’re getting over 700 cars of various types, over 30 places to race through, resulting in around ten score individual configurations. For extra fun, fans of the Forza Horizon branch can enjoy dynamic weather for the first time in Motorsport, and people who’d rather pick a suit colour for the driver than focus on the car’s performance also have something to do.
Forza Motorsport 7
Project CARS rose from nowhere, in no small part thanks to crowdfunding. The sequel had a significantly smoother start, and one again brought us a great driving sim for people of various skill and patience levels. In this edition we’re getting nearly 200 cars from almost forty manufacturers, and 121 tracks spread across 46 locations. Fans of motorsports will surely recognize some of them, since there is a good number of real places scanned into the game. Although there are other sims on the market, the level of complexity and realism achieved in Project CARS 2 still makes it worth taking into consideration, if you like this genre.
Project CARS 2
Fancy cars, picturesque locations, gleam of the chrome. Yes, it’s great and all, but let’s talk about the real speed. F1 2017 is a game for the enthusiasts of machines which are to cars what space shuttles are to planes. If Formula 1 is where your racing loyalties lie, the bolids, recreated down to the tiniest parts, of this year’s edition of F1 are going to make the final days of 2017 so much more satisfying. While Codemaster’s production doesn’t put the kind of strain on you the real bolids do, it’s a far cry from casual, arcade stroll through the park, so keep your wits about you, even as David Croft and Anthony Davidson narrate your recent failures.
What could the Need for Speed franchise lack after twenty years of nigh-annual releases? What about a story campaign? Ok, sure, some plot-related build up has been present in NFS for years, but a hundred Internets to someone who can recall any specifics beyond “a dude lost a car, tough luck, get riding”. NFS: Payback has actual characters and something much more closely resembling plot than anything else in the franchise to date. With its focus on heists, cooperation and flashy cars, comparisons to the Fast and the Furious franchise are obvious. Decide for yourself how it makes you feel. Regardless, if you’re starved for urban racing and running from the police get yourself a copy of Need for Speed: Payback.
Need for Speed Payback
We’ve done the TPP action games, so let’s move into a closer view, and consider the first-person perspective shooters, to amp the action and immersion. Seeing lead or energy fly at your enemies out of lovingly rendered barrel is a blast.
Our appreciation for the creations of Arkane Studios knows no bounds, and this year they created another excellent title, coming hot after Dishonored 2. Prey takes all the guided sandbox feel of other Arcane games, but puts it in the science-fiction environment, sprinkles it with a fair bit of horror, and adds the writing of Chris Avellone, one of the most brilliant writers in the industry. Nothing could go wrong, and nothing did. Which is a stark contrast to the research done in the facility you’re going to traverse in Prey.
Ah, Wolfenstein. What a long and winding way has BJ Blazkowicz come since his first appearance all those years ago when enemies were but sprites. Now he’s getting high-budget sequels, chiselled 3D chin, and dual wielding machine guns, because old-school didn’t know the meaning of “overkill”. What’s the setup? Blazkowicz spent the last 14 years in a coma, so the Nazis, emboldened, took over America, which isn’t the kind of world BJ wants for his child. So he starts doing what he does best. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an awesome, fast-paced, brutal first-person shooter with a great setup and finely tuned gameplay.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
DOOM. I mean, Doom. The grandfather of FPSs, that kind of deal. The game with a title that sounds like unloading Super Shotgun shells onto some dim-witted demon. One of the legendary games everyone has at least heard about. And last year it got another proper sequel, inconspicuously called DOOM. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s bloody fun. The wild ride starts right as you are freed from the chains, and doesn’t stop until the demons are dead, the gates are closed, and you don’t have to reload your shotgun any more. For extra points: although the Doom Slayer never speaks, he’s plenty expressive anyway, and in the best of ways, too.
The stand-out hit of 2016, a game which would herald the dawn of hero shooters and continuously strive to be as friendly and inclusive as possible. But then you find a guy who mains Genji or something. Overwatch is Blizzards first foray into the twitchy online FPS genre, and one with a bright, cartoonish aesthetic and a pleasantly inconsequential backstory giving characters some, well, character. Gameplay wise, it’s a strictly objective-based kerfuffle, pitting two teams against each other. There are also seasonal cooperative modes, like Junkenstein’s Revenge, a four-player wave survival in the trappings of a cheesy old-school horror.
We’ve had a bunch of World War II shooters in this century. Enough for the public to become tired and for the developers to abandon the era for a long time, except in a grand strategy form (hello, Hearts of Iron) or dogfighting simulators. But World War I shooters? That’s something of a novelty, best embodied by DICE’s Battlefield 1, which was pretty nifty. BF1 featured a full, varied singleplayer campaign, showing the players different fronts of the war from various perspectives, and the multiplayer segment was an interesting mix between faithful visual recreation of weapons and uniforms and a bit… modern approach to shooting itself. But it worked, and Battlefield 1 was one of the better games of late 2016.
How about that. Two years ago Ubisoft launched another game based on the Tom Clancy license, and it’s still alive and kicking, with updates still being planned and delivered. Siege is a tactical shooter portraying close-quarters combat scenarios between police operatives and criminals occupying a location. It’s asymmetric, dynamic, and the locations are destructible, so there are many avenues of approach and other tactical options, like patching a hole in a wall with a portable barrier. Every update to Rainbow Six: Siege is free to all, although people who want to dish out some more money can get the new operators (classes) without having to gather the in-game currency first.
Rainbow Six Siege (Uplay)
The first Destiny had problems. Now that we got the “duh!” part out of the way, let’s talk about the sequel, which for a change also got released on PC, after a short wait. It has the story right in the game, it has great moment to moment gameplay, it looks great both in stills and in motion. Story-wise, it’s nothing memorable (barring a panzer potato villain), but it does its job, and gives more character to the Vanguard, whom we’ve met previously. It also has Nathan Fillion as the voice of Cayde-6, a Hunter Vanguard, so there’s that. A gun-toting rogue voiced by Fillion of Destiny 2 isn’t quite the Firefly continuation many people hope for, but it’s better than nothing.
Call of Duty has ventured far from the nitty-gritty trenches of World War II where it began. Last year it wound up in space, of all places, and if it went any further it’d end up in Star Wars, or, more likely, Starship Troopers territory. So the franchise backtracked, and plopped us back into World War II scenario. And it happened to be a great idea. In a surprising twist, CoD: WWII even has a good singleplayer campaign, with some great facial animations and personalities. What a time to be alive! Multiplayer is good too, although not everybody is going to enjoy a distinct lack of jetpacks.
Call of Duty: WWII
What can one say about CS:GO that hasn’t been said before? It’s an engaging online team-based tactical shooter, and the latest iteration of a franchise born 17 years ago from a Half-Life mod. And look at it now: large-scale tournaments, permanent esport presence, people getting famous thanks to playing it well. CS:GO is a great game for anyone who enjoys good competition.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive (Prime Status)
Sometimes it’s great to let go of the comfortable shackles of civilization and let loose your basic instincts. For some people, this desire find an outlet during pre-holiday shopping sprees and, indeed, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For others, launching a survival game and trying to build a shack out of driftwood and rusty nails is enough. And it’s for the people who’d like to try the latter method that we address this section.
Probably one of the best known survival game out there, in no small part thanks to DINOSAURS! Also because after a long time spent in Early Access it did actually manage to launch as a full product, something very rare indeed. In ARK: Survival Evolved you are plopped onto an alien world, with a diamond-shaped device planted in your forearm and not much direction. What follows is a cycle of gathering resources, crafting, fighting to defend your property, and looting the dead to get a boost or restarting from scratch, because you died in the fight and had everything stolen. Most importantly, though: you get to capture, tame, and ride a myriad of various creatures, including dinosaurs, cryptids, and there’s even a dragon or two. How are you not playing it right now?
ARK: Survival Evolved
Before we had “Dark Souls, but…” glued to a bunch of games, another bunch of games attempted “Minecraft, but…”. With good reason. The blocky-stocky off-brand Lego simulator was a smash hit, and allowed people to build truly astounding creations using its various resources, simple, but logical physics, and endless possibilities. Just a cursory trip through Google can reveal working logic engines, reconstructed temples and an odd Castle Grayskull for all the 80s’ cartoons out there. There’s also something to be said about the creepers and other critters running rampant in the night, acting as a pretty reasonable motivation for you to keep building.
Rust got famous a while back, because unlike other survival games, here you don’t get to customise your appearance. In Rust it is assigned based on your Steam ID. Otherwise it’s a proper survival game, in which you still need to manage your hunger levels, avoid wild animals until you are strong enough to defeat them, etc.
Your spaceship has crashed into an alien planet’s ocean. Have fun surviving. Subnautica takes you on an underwater voyage through waters filled with weird wildlife, sometimes friendly, sometimes skittish, sometimes hungry. The game is remarkably beautiful, in part by the virtue of the style and design, although it certainly doesn’t lag behind in its technical aspects either. Of course there is also a crafting system, allowing you to eventually build an underwater base and a variety of submersibles to aid your exploration of the game’s environment.
Every seven days a wave of zombies comes rampaging. And you have little to your name. Can you manage to scrounge enough stuff to build yourself any kind of safe place to hide in? 7DtD offers a randomly generated world you can break apart for resources or amusement, solid crafting system, player avatar progression, blood, guts, and limbs. You need to manage your time well, or you’ll be zombie chow. 7 Days to Die is a study in managing your time.
PUBG is a game which has probably defined 2017. It wasn’t long before more developers attempted to patch some kind of Battle Royale mode onto their productions in hopes of repeating the insane popularity of Brendan Greene’s survival+Last Man Standing gameplay. So the gist is that you get airdropped onto an island surrounded by a force field. Every couple minutes or so the field shrinks, which would result in the match becoming more crowded if it wasn’t for the fact that everyone is out to kill everyone else, because that’s one of the most reliable ways of making sure you don’t get axed yourself. The closer to being the last person alive on the map you are, the bigger the props. Be that person who dances on the graves of enemies and you get a congratulatory pat on the back in the form of a chicken dinner for being a winner. In PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS surviving is the prize.
Playerunknowns Battlegrounds PUBG
Fast gameplay, quick reactions, visceral combat, it’s all fine and dandy, but let’s get a couple notches up on the scale of operations. Strategies test your ability to control the situation beyond the down-to-earth shooting and slashing. Let’s see what gems you can play during the break this year.
Total War: Warhammer II is a sequel to Creative Assembly’s first foray into fantasy themes thanks to the license of Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy. In the second part of the Old World’s new conflict we get to control High and Dark Elves, Lizardmen, and the ratlike Skaven. The four factions are fighting for control over the Grand Vortex, a swirling mass of pure magic. Whoever controls the vortex, controls the archipelago.
Total War: Warhammer II
Stellaris is a science fiction-themed 4X, and quite a gem at that to boot. Developed and published by Paradox, it’s a delightfully complex and accessible game. It also happens to have a robust library of community-created modifications to spice up your campaigns in the way you want. Select (or create) a species and take it from a single-system civilisation to an interstellar empire. It could happen.
It’s Civilization. What more is there to say, really? A franchise of a long history of excellent and engaging “from zero to empire” games, and if you’ve never been nuked by Ghandi before, you won’t know why people enjoy playing Civs off all shapes and sizes. Civilization VI is the latest of the batch, and consequently easily among the best, by the virtue of decades of testing features and seeing what clicks.
Sid Meiers Civilization VI
There is something paradoxically magical to space-based turn-based strategies that seems to keep people invested. So much so, that 2012 Endless Space lived to see its very own sequel, Endless Space 2. And it’s pretty good too. The basics don’t really differ from other games of the genre, the proof of the game is in its gameplay, but it’ll be best judged by yourself based on gameplay videos. Maybe you’ll find it suits your preferences.
Endless Space 2
The last point in our Gamer’s Guide to Games for this Winter season are simulations. There’s no glorious slaughter, little by way of diplomacy, and only occasional acts of creation, but they may be a tad bit closer to how our reality works than most other games, barring maybe sport ones.
If you’ve ever fancied yourself a benevolent ruler, you may wish to test your aptitude in Cities: Skylines, a simulator of a modern city. You can decree who the roads cut through the city, where the particular districts lie, and how well the public transport works. It’s the full urban planning package. And if you doubt the quality, consider this: in the city where Paradox (the game’s publisher) HQ is located used Cities: Skylines to help them model a new transportation system. How’s that for a proof of quality?
The Sims. One of the most famous video games out there. Improvements and new features abound in each edition, and since The Sims 4 is the latest of the batch, it’s the most refined. If you’re new to gaming (and managed to read through all of this to get here), The Sims are games about creating a house for a family, meticulously designing the faces, bodies and style of the family members, and then finding ways to mess with them, for instance by removing the only door to a room when they’re inside. Or playing the advertised way, following the family in their a Full House routines.
The Sims 4 (Origin)
Transporting wares across the continent isn’t exactly a glorious job, but someone has to do this and thank the fates somebody does. But while you’re not exactly going to enjoy the thrills of high adventure, you get to see a lot of places and talk to a lot of people. Euro Truck Simulator 2 captures a slice of that life, and if you can handle the apparent monotony, it may be worth checking out and seeing if 18-wheelers are something you’d find yourself driving.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
A glorified Excel to some, the most comprehensive representation of the football backstage dealing to others. The debate rages on and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, but that’s beside the point. Football Manager 2018 is a game more complex than any career mode you’d find on PES or FIFA, but pays for it with a reasonably simpler match depiction. But it’s fine, because the game is about transfers, strategies, and management, not playing the ball specifically.
Football Manager 2018
No, not THAT kind of farming. The real farming. Cultivating land, raising livestock, reaping crops. This kind of farming. Sure. It won’t appeal to many, but there is something oddly calming about plodding around in a harvester, for instance. FS17 has well over 200 farming vehicles and equipment recreated faithfully from real machines. If you’re a farming equipment buff, you’re sure to find some familiar brands and products.
Farming Simulator 19
Ok, so maybe you prefer to play on consoles. And it’s great, too. Much less of a hassle to keep up with the climbing requirements, playing from the comfortable couch, fun all around. We have something for you as well, two smashing categories, in fact.
With a recent launch of Xbox One X taking a good second look at Microsoft’s console and the game library is more worthwhile than ever before.
Sony’s console has been rocking it the past couple years, and some games like Horizon Zero Dawn have gotten wide acclaim. Take a peek at G2A’s offer of PS games.
That concludes our guide to games you could be playing this holiday season, if they fall into your gaming tastes. From TPP action games to diverse simulators, we hope we covered everything there was to cover to provide you with games to hunt for when The Season comes. Did we leave something out? Are you hunting something else? Let us know in the comments.