Fall’s Best Video Games Beckon
BY CHARLES BATTERSBY | The months ahead will see a glut of new video games scrambling to be the must-have holiday gift. However, recent releases have brought a swarm of titles that will keep players entertained until the big holiday rush arrives — and beyond. Among them are early Game of The Year contenders, high-definition re-releases of classics, and long-running hits that are still going strong, thanks to new content updates.
WORLD OF WARCRAFT: LEGION: “World of Warcraft” (“WoW”) wasn’t the first Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, but it has dominated the other MMOs for 12 years, with over five million people still subscribed at the end of 2015. Every couple of years it gets a big update, and its most recent one, “Legion,” was just released. Many “WoW” fans consider it the best one yet.
“Legion” is a separate purchase from the main “WoW” game, and its missions are intended for high-level characters. Purchasing it will grant players a “Level Boost” token that can instantly bring any character to level 100. There is also a new playable class called the “Demon Hunter,” which starts at level 98. Demon Hunters have a special introductory set of missions that will let new players begin their adventure with “Legion,” instead of spending months leveling up from square one. However, it is strongly recommended that new players do level up a character the hard way before tackling “Legion.”
For former “WoW” players who have not logged on recently, the Demon Hunters are a compelling reason to jump back in. They are elves who have gained demonic powers, which grant them abilities not available to other classes. They can double jump, sprout bat wings for gliding, and wield a wide set of offensive and defensive powers. Their versatility and fast movement make them an excellent choice for soloing through the new content.
DESTINY: RISE OF IRON: Back in 2014, “Destiny” was a hotly anticipated new game from Bungie, the team that made the original “Halo” games. “Destiny” has a lot in common with its ancestor: It’s a multiplayer shooter with a sci-fi setting and a richly detailed story. However, it distinguishes itself from many other shooters by using elements of MMO games, like “World of Warcraft.”
When it was first released, it won several Game of the Year awards, but also disappointed some of Bungie’s hardcore fans. In the year after its release, “Destiny” had several major updates that added new content, altered some of the mechanics, and even removed the voice-over acting of Peter Dinklage (of “Game of Thrones” fame). Each of the paid downloadable content (DLC) packs received increasingly positive response from players and critics, and the latest big update for the game, “Rise of Iron,” arrived on September 20.
“Destiny: Rise of Iron” added more content to just about every aspect of the game. There is a new single-player campaign with new enemies and locations, new cooperative and competitive multiplayer maps, and more loot (including a giant flaming ax). It’s the perfect excuse to grab a game whose launch controversies prevented many potential fans from ever trying it out.
DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED: The “Deus Ex” franchise has an illustrious lineage dating back to the late ’90s. The series is set in the near future, where every conspiracy theory ever dreamed up is actually true. The newest game, “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided,” arrived last month, and it continues the story of Adam Jensen, a cybernetically augmented government agent, who fights cyborg terrorists, even as he fights prejudice against people with cybernetic augmentations.
The subtitle, “Mankind Divided,” refers to the way that people with augmentations have become second-class citizens in the future. Jensen has cool cyborg superpowers, but most “augs” are just ordinary people with mundane augmentations, like prosthetic limbs. Despite this, they are viewed with suspicion, due to an incident where many augs were hacked and went crazy. Because the playable character is augmented, the game gives players a sense of what it might be like to live on the bottom rung of an unfair society. Players then get to choose how Jensen responds to the countless injustices that he and other augs face.
BIOSHOCK: THE COLLECTION: When people debate whether or not video games are art, the game that takes the vanguard is “Bioshock.” It has been 10 years since the first “Bioshock” game arrived, and two sequels were released in the ensuing decade. All three games, along with their DLC, have been bundled together in a new high-definition format for modern game consoles. People who never played this franchise should consider it a must-play experience.
Gamers who actually did run through the games in the past also have a reason to grab this edition: a new director’s commentary featuring Ken Levine and Shawn Robertson of “Bioshock” developer Irrational Games.
We spoke with Levine about his experience making a commentary track a decade after the first game was released. “The thing that I, myself, remember from the commentary session is how much other people remembered that I didn’t,” he said of his old masterwork. “I found it interesting how you can just bury stuff in your head, and how when someone summons it back up, it kind of comes barreling at you like something rising from the dead.”
Longtime fans of the franchise will likewise be able to scour the games again, to see what memories they left buried on the ocean floor.
THE WITCHER III: GAME OF THE YEAR EDITION: “The Witcher” is a series of sword and sorcery books from Poland. Although it’s essentially the “Lord of the Rings” of Poland, the series was mostly unheard of in America until the books were adapted into video games. The first game was a cult hit on the PC, but the second and third “Witcher” games grew exponentially in popularity.
Witchers are professional monster hunters, and the game trilogy tells the story of a Witcher named Geralt. His use of alchemy has made him more than human, although most people see him as less than human. His magical powers make him the guy to call when a griffon needs to be killed, but once the job is done, villagers can’t wait to get Geralt out of town. He faces prejudice similar to what players find in “Deus Ex.”
While “The Witcher III” won numerous Game of the Year awards in 2015, it continued to release DLC packs in 2016. This is the rare case of DLC being considered just as good as the main game. The game and all of its DLC have just been released together in the “Game of the Year Edition.”
This is Geralt’s final adventure, and much of the story revolves around events from the previous two games, so players are encouraged to play them as well. Alas, there is no convenient collection of all three games bundled together, but the first two installments are easily purchased online.