Well, it is very much so overdue time for the monthly video game of the month list. This feature relies heavily on contributions from other bloggers, and even though it has been the busiest time of year, there were still submissions. One would presume that people have better things to do in December than indulge my monthly cries for attention. But I am as always very thankful to the team here at Zatu.
I am fully much so aware that December is an absolute scramble of a month to crawl through. Especially as an adult. Oh, to be young and free of obligations. I remember as a kid I would tell my mum what games I wanted for Christmas sometime around March and lived the rest of the year in eager excitement wondering what one would be waiting for my ear-to-ear grin, nestled in under the tree. That doesn’t happen anymore, I simply just buy what I want, when I want. Oh, to be old and responsible.
Christmas aside though, as it will be way past the holidays by the time this feature finds its way to you, there is still magic in games. Even as an adult. So, what games have the team been playing over the holidays then?
I know, I know, I am a bit late on this one but to play, watch and read all the stuff I need to, I would need a clone of myself just to catch up on all the shenanigans. I loved the first two Life is Strange games and I had heard good things about this one. Received very well by players and critics alike, with numerous awards, I was greatly looking forward to all the feels and emotion that has come hand in hand with these titles.
True Colours follows the emotional exploits of Alex Chen, an empath of sorts who can feel and even experience other peoples heightened emotional states. After a sudden emotional experience that I will not spoil, the quiet and beautiful setting of Haven Springs is thrown into turmoil. As with all the Life is Strange games, True Colours has amazing characters, great writing and some really gut-wrenching scenes.
Alex is a very likeable character, very fleshed out and very relatable. With games like this, the relatable thing is so important. Alex feels lifelike, real and when she feels something, because she is so lifelike and relatable, you feel it too. The other characters dotted through Haven Springs are also very deep, from the local DJ to the local town hero come bar owner, trying to forget the past. Every nook and cranny of Haven Springsdrips with narrative, not only that, but these stories are also interesting and genuine to the core.
Being able to solve problems, help people and progress the story by peering into the minds of others is quite an interesting mechanic. Learning what makes people tick, their dreams and fears is quite insightful. Following on from that, repairing people’s memories, helping them through their troubles by using this powerful ability is both rewarding and wholesome.
What I was not ready for is how beautiful it is. True Colours is much more beautiful than its predecessors and Haven Springs is gorgeous. If you liked the first two in the series you will love this one but if you are not fond of this type of title, True Colours may change your mind. I want to do a special shout-out to the LARPing chapter of the game, it is truly amazing. Well done everyone, True Colours is an excellent, emotional adventure that most players will enjoy.
343 haven’t had an easy time since taking over the Halo series from Bungie. Halo 4 was fairly divisive. The Master Chief Collection had a rocky start with connection issues across the board, so much so that they gave Halo: ODST away for free as an apology. Halo 5 took the series in a new and mostly unwelcome direction and gave far too much time to Agent Locke. And the development of Halo Infinite hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, with the game going back to the drawing board more than once.
Halo Infinite aims to get back to the good old days of Halo. And, I’m pleased to say, it has succeeded. Now featuring an open world map (don’t’ panic) which is essentially the second level of the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Y’know, the one when you first land of the ring itself. It has the usual open-world checklist - collectables, stuff to destroy, outposts to clear, high-value targets to find, and campaign levels dotted around. It definitely brings back the fun of the original trilogy. And Master Chief’s all-new grappling hook is a very welcome addition - so much so that when I went back to play Halo 2 I missed it enormously.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each entry in the Halo franchise. Including the excellent Halo Wars titles, but Halo 5 did feel like a step in the wrong direction. Halo Infinite is most definitely a course correct, but not without a few sacrifices story-wise. It has the Chief getting chucked into space and going MIA for six months. Which is apparently how long it takes to undo the damage of Halo 5’s writing and stick a lovely bow on it before moving onto a new plot. Don’t get me wrong, watching events and mysteries surrounding the last six months unfold is great. Cortana’s replacement - The Weapon and jittery, homesick pilot - Echo-216 are great additions to the cast. And, most importantly, the game is extremely satisfying, while making me want more!
Ghost of Tsushima was a massively successful PlayStation 4 exclusive. It was gorgeous, had a good story, an interesting open world and a classic, authentic combat system. Up rocks the PlayStation 5 and an improved version of Ghost with some swanky new DLC in tow. Ghost of Tsushima: Directors Cut is the same base game as the PlayStation 4 original. However, there are some juicy PlayStation 5 features and a new island to explore.
The PS5 version of Ghost has improved load times and let’s be honest, the base PS4 version was no slouch. It has improved graphics options, haptic feedback, and 3D audio. The best thing though in my opinion is the synced Japanese voiceover. I wanted to play the original PS4 version in Japanese for a more authentic feel but the motion capture was the English version so it looked off. Not anymore, now Ghosts can be played in its truest Japanese form. Awesome!
Ghost of Tsushima on the PlayStation 5 is more gorgeous than before, which if you have played the original, you would find it hard to believe. The cherry blossoms, the sunsets and the amazing environments look beautiful in 4k. Riding through fields on your horse, climbing shrines and playing your flute on a cliffside never looked so good. I took so many photos in this game it is unbelievable and my SSD will testify to that!
Collecting armours, playing minigames and climbing shrines litter the rolling landscapes. Everything from Haiku’s to soothing spas can be found and explored. I loved the navigation system too, instead of waypoints, you just stroke your touchpad and let the wind guide you to your next mission. This means following map markers less and encourages exploration. I have found so many secrets this way and it really increases the immersion by not having to constantly check the map.
It's the same story with the wildlife, bugs, birds, and foxes lead you to things you need to find. I did not do it myself but I am sure you could complete this game and find most of its content without ever looking at a map. From a design point of view, it's an amazing achievement, as well as making the game massively cinematic and more immersive. Exploring these Islands is never a chore and full of interesting things to do and find.
The Iki Island expansion comes with new mini-games enemies and a whole new Island to explore. The game is expensive, don’t get me wrong but if you have not played before, this is the best version to play, by far. The story is still intriguing, the open world is still stunning and the combat, boy that combat, is brilliant. I especially love the stand-off mechanic and how the further you get through the game, the more people you can challenge to a duel. It's brilliant.
So lately, I have been feeling the humdrum of a lack of a new world to explore. Don’t get me wrong, I was thoroughly enjoying my time with Fallout 4 last month, but it is a game I know through and through. I was in need of a new adventure, in a new land, full of new mysteries. My all-time favourite genre of game is RPG (which, many have probably figured out by now). I am not a massive fan of turn-based combat, so if a game nails both the open world and action RPG hack and slash combat then I will sing its praises until the end of time.
The ‘Tales’ series of games have always been one that I have mostly avoided for one reason or another. Mostly due to trying a few of them and feeling as though the combat was always a bit clunky. But after watching the trailer for Tales of Arise, I knew I needed it. The combat looked stylish and fluid and the world and story seemed interesting. I knew I had found a cure to my cravings. And I must admit, I am very much so loving it so far. To the point where I have had it for a week, and I have almost 50 hours of gameplay already!
I will admit, the exploration of the world suffers a little due to it being mostly linear with some wide areas for farming resources. The combat is pretty much spot on. The story is the heart of these kind of games and Tales of Arise delivers in spades, never spending much more than a few hours in each area before the game progresses along smoothly. It haves you following a somewhat predictable story but definitely has enough twists and turns to make it worth your time.
If (like me) you need a little fix in the RPG department before we see the likes of Elden Ring grace us with its presence, then you can’t go far wrong with Tales of Arise!
And there we are. Another selection of games for you to check out! I hope you all managed to get some shiny new games for Christmas. Whether as a gift, or a treat to yourself. And if not, then it is not too late. Maybe something on this feature has caught your eye enough to give a chance.
Thanks for reading, and we will catch you next month, for another set of games for you.