We’re checking out five recent releases today, as we discuss New World, the Cult of the Holy Detonation DLC for Wasteland 3, the digital version of Gloomhaven, Atari’s Centipede: Recharged and Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire.
New World is out now
We rarely dip into the MMORPG genre, but when Amazon’s ambitious foray finally launched after several delays we couldn’t help but take a look at it. Part of that, of course, is idle curiosity, wondering how Amazon was going to deal with this one after Crucible didn’t turn out quite the way they wanted it to.
First impressions were good though. New World looks fantastic for an MMO, and does a good job of drawing players in with its narrative and world building – something that’s severely lacking in other MMO games that have a loyal following but are daunting for newcomers. And while the fantasy world of Aeternum feels like a somewhat generic setting, it looks the part and the narrative pushes you forward, trying to figure out what’s happening on this new frontier.
A mysterious magic is threatening your advance, and there’s more to this land than meets the eye. You’ll uncover its secrets through familiar quest-driven narrative beats, which for the first few hours feel like an introduction (but possibly too mundane for seasoned MMO players at the same time). Progress isn’t necessarily quick in New World, but part of that is that Rome wasn’t built in a day and your colonization of this world will take time – and gathering and using resources is a big part of that when you’re not busy questing away and slaying monsters – which has an interesting dynamic where your weapons level up more than you do.
And while you can join factions and engage in group missions with others, New World can be played solo without much interaction with human players at all – another plus for those now looking for lengthy daily sessions to keep up with your guild or whatnot. There’s a more relaxed sense of pacing here, where you get to craft your own path in the world and can even turn off PvP encounters completely, making group quest something you do entirely by choice – and something you can just as easily walk away from again when you feel like it.
For us, the jury is still out on New World, but a major positive is that it’s kept us interested so far. There’s always something to do, the world looks great and is a joy to explore. We’re only a few hours in and are curious about how the game will deal with narrative pacing later on, but (unlike with other MMOs) we can’t wait to find out.
Wasteland 3 Cult of the Holy Detonation review (PS4)
The excellent Wasteland 3 just received its second and last major piece of DLC content, which can be bought separately or as part of the game’s season/expansion pass. If you were waiting for your Wasteland 3 experience to be complete before jumping in, now is the time.
Cult of the Holy Detonation has the kind of oddball title you’d expect from inXile’s game, but it’s actually a pretty good description of the core narrative premise here. The holy detonation part refers to a nuclear explosion that’s somehow contained within the confines of an old military bunker, and the cult part is all about the various bands of crazy that worship it for its life-changing and/or destructive power.
As you’d expect, getting close to it means plenty of armed conflicts with the zealots who want to claim it as their own. This is a combat-heavy expansion, and as with any good cult the enemies will often look for strength in numbers as you traverse the Cheyenne Mountain region and edge ever closer to the atomic force that’s waiting for you.
The downside of this combat-heavy approach is that Cult of the Holy Detonation lacks some of the nuance and clever writing that made Wasteland 3 such a standout title. If the world hadn’t already been established, the new DLC campaign would probably feel quite underwhelming as it’s full of characters that are hard to empathize with. It’s an explosive finale, but doesn’t reach the choice-driven highs of what came before.
Gloomhaven leaves Early Access
You’ll find plenty of digital board games on Steam, from recreations of timeless classics to fully licensed digital versions of modern day hits. We generally prefer playing the original, physical versions of these games, but when Asmodee Digital announced their version of Gloomhaven we definitely took note. Developed by Flaming Fowl Studios, it’s about to leave Early Access.
So why is Gloomhaven special? If you regularly check websites like boardgamegeek.com, then you’ve probably seen its ranking system as well. It features user ratings for tens of thousands of board games across all genres and from all eras – a daunting and inspirational list at the same time, because there’s so much to play out there. And for years now, Gloomhaven has been at the very top of that list’s rankings. Not as a top 10 or top 5 game, but as the number 1.
It’s been in Early Access for a while now, and the 1.0 release also marks the launch of the game’s campaign mode, which we’re really looking forward to. You could already play the Guildmaster mode though, and from what we could tell it’s a very good recreation of the physical board game – but at a fraction of the price (which we’ve heard is a factor for people not jumping on the Gloomhaven bandwagon yet).
Gloomhaven is probably also the most visually impressive digital boardgame from Asmodee that we’ve seen thus far, and characters and enemies are brought to life in vivid detail and with a ton of animations. It also feels like a very streamlined and accessible affair, taking care of much of the rulebook for you and thus providing a good starting point for newcomers.
Centipede: Recharged review (PS4)
While Atari initially seemed to focus on their oft-delayed VCS console, they’ve now surprised us with plans to modernize several of their classic arcade games with releases for all mainstream consoles. First up is Centipede: Recharged, which kicks off the series with a true classic.
When it comes to classic arcade shooters from the early era, Space Invaders is king but Centipede certainly isn’t far behind, and its gameplay always felt like a natural evolution of what came before. Your spacecraft couldn’t just move left and right anymore, but also up and down, and the pattern of the enemies was far less predictable, as the centipede that made its way down to you would change paths, be split into two or change direction because you just shot part of the scenery.
The titular centipedes aren’t the only enemies, but they’re certainly the most recognizable and memorable ones. Various creepy crawlies also come down, and they’re all back for Centipede: Recharged, though with a fresh layer of paint and a few gameplay tweaks. The visual style here somewhat resembles Geometry Wars, with neon-infused levels where a grid structure and changing color schemes are excellent partners for the game’s upbeat electronic soundtrack.
New mechanics include power-ups that get dropped by enemies that you shoot down, and support for a two-player cooperative mode, which we found is a lot of fun to play and a good way to appreciate said power-ups. Besides picking up (temporary) new weapons and fire modes, you can also slow down time for a moment, make things easier in other ways or complete specific challenges. The core concept is still simple, but these elements definitely make for a more engaging experience where playthroughs feel different from one another – though it makes pattern recognition a bit harder and you need some luck to shoot up the leaderboards.
Despite the changes, Centipede: Recharged is still a true arcade game in how it’s best enjoyed in short bursts, but with its instant appeal and easy to grasp (yet hard to master) gameplay it’s easy to see why the original has become such a timeless classic.
Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire review (PS4)
Without EastAsiaSoft’s recent ports, we would have never known how prevalent the Pretty Girls license was in gaming. Between poker, solitaire and a take on Qix, we’ve seen several games with the Pretty Girls license in recent months, and now we’re getting a different take on ‘solitaire’ with Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, whereas the previous game we reviewed focuses on Klondike Solitaire. In layman’s terms, Klondike is the famous card game that’s been a popular part of Windows for decades, while Mahjong is the iconic tile-matching game.
The gameplay concept is familiar and deceptively simple – match up two tiles of the same type to remove them from the board, and try to clear the entire board to win. Clearing a tile often opens up access to other tiles you can match (a tile has to be clear on one side and can’t have another tile on top of it), but clear them in the wrong order and you might get stuck long before you have a shot at clearing the board.
Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire features 50 different tile patterns, and while all of them can be solved it’s a challenging game. Clearing boards unlocks new pictures of the “pretty girls” without ever showing you any nudity, so if you’re just in it for the mahjong then there’s a decent game for you here – one that’s rare to find on the PlayStation platform. Fans of the Pretty Girls license who don’t care too much about matching tiles might want to try out a more accessible game like Pretty Girls Panic! though, which makes it a lot easier to unlock some of the licensed content. And if you’re part of that rare niche that enjoys both, then this is the game for you!