October has been a huge month in the world of games, with a bevy of significant releases. The record five games I reviewed for Entertainium encompass all possible levels of budget and scale. At the indie end of the spectrum, I covered Dome Keeper and the superb retro-style shooter Cultic, which recaptures the grisly glory of Blood (1997).
At the mega-budget, tentpole release side of things, I reviewed the troubled open-world superheroism of Gotham Knights and the solid-as-ever gunplay of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II. In between these two extremes, I also played action-RPG Asterigos: Curse of the Stars, which is what some would term a “AA” game. For some reason, almost every big outlet declined to evaluate this intriguing Taiwanese Soulslike, so I was glad to give it some degree of exposure.
Finally, I found time for just a couple of older games during October. I jumped on the bandwagon of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, which is almost ten years old but became very high-profile in 2022 because of memes - or what the game itself calls “the DNA of the soul”. I also had a great time with the single player campaign of Titanfall 2, which has also won itself cult status due to the quality of its innovative level design.
Asterigos: Curse of the Stars (2022)
Developed by Acme Gamestudio, published by tinyBuild
There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of this one, and that would be understandable. For reasons I can’t explain, almost none of the big gaming sites and channels have reviewed Asterigos. Even IGN, which previewed the game not once but twice, have neglected to cover the finished version. It’s a genuinely odd lapse, but I’m glad I had the chance to review this action RPG for Entertainium.
Now, I haven’t played any of the Dark Souls games but I know enough to realise that Asterigos is very heavily inspired by them. Developed in Taiwan, this is a much brighter and friendlier take on the concept. Combat and progression is much less punishing - although certainly no cakewalk - and the atmosphere is nothing like as ominous. The game is set in a very attractive world inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, and puts players in the role of plucky young warrior Hilda. While I found the story to be thoroughly underwhelming and indifferently delivered, Asterigos gets a lot right. In fact, it’s one of the better games I’ve played this year, and a fine debut for Acme Gamestudio. I just hope it manages to cut through, having been released in such a busy month and with so little fanfare.
Dome Keeper (2022)
Developed by Bippinbits, published by Raw Fury
Produced by a Dresden-based couple who make up the developer Bippinbits, you could say that Dome Keeper is a literal labour of love. This new indie game essentially combines the side-on mining of Steamworld Dig with the static defence combat of the 1980 arcade classic Missile Command. It is published by Raw Fury, who reported that it made back its cost on day one, and has netted over $1 million in sales since then. When you put it that way, it probably didn’t matter too much what I thought of it, but I reviewed it for Entertainium anyway.
Those comparisons don’t immediately make sense, but Dome Keeper is a clever if slight fusion of the two gameplay styles. The downside is that there isn’t really much to the game - it’s a plotless roguelike, and it doesn’t take too many runs to see most or all of what the game has to offer. It’s for that reason that I mainly recommend it as a breezy, lunch break kind of experience. In terms of what I’ve played so far this year, I’d file this alongside B.I.O.T.A., another fun-but-slight 2D indie game that I tackled back in April.
Gotham Knights (2022)
Developed by WB Games Montréal, published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
Batman is dead. Three simple words, but a bold premise for this new game which picks up the legacy of the much-loved Arkham series. WB Games Montréal made the underrated 2013 prequel Origins, but have had a harder road this time around. Gotham Knights has been one of the most talked-about games of 2022, and not always in a good way. Recently, the cancellation of the last-generation console versions and disappointing technical performance across the board have caused some headaches for the devs. Reviews, too, have been mixed - leading some to proclaim that Batman games are dead, too.
To be sure, Gotham Knights is in some ways a confused game. It’s bloated with a number of largely useless systems which strongly imply that it was originally intended to be a live-service game. The performance is indeed less than ideal, even on a formidable PC. All the same, though, I’ve largely enjoyed my time patrolling Gotham City with Batman proteges Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Batgirl. They all play quite differently, and their distinct personalities are handled well by the game’s likeable writing and story. And while this take on Gotham is unlike what we’ve seen before in the Arkham games, it has a beauty and intrigue all of its own. It’s difficult to recommend at full price, but there’s a lot to like in Gotham Knights, especially if WB Games Montréal can improve performance through upcoming patches.
Titanfall 2 (2016)
Developed by Respawn Entertainment, published by Electronic Arts
Six years ago, reviewers and critics alike were bowled over by the single-player campaign for Titanfall 2. It was quite surprising that the game even had a campaign, let alone an excellent one. The original Titanfall (2014) was purely online, and a moderate success. For the sequel, a single-player story was conceived of as a way to draw in new players. This plan didn’t work too well and the second game, too, struggled to find a mass audience. Instead it’s the campaign which has left a legacy, and is the reason why Titanfall 2 is something of a cult game now.
Well, I’m on board. While it lasts only around six hours, the story mode of Titanfall 2 is tremendous, an absolute thrill from minute one and something I wish I’d played sooner. The sci-fi story is fairly generic hokum, the main character is a complete zero, and the graphics have dated a little, but gameplay is king and here Respawn Entertainment knocked it out of the park. Missions switch smoothly back and forth between blistering on-foot shootouts and blood-and-thunder mech battles, and each is totally satisfying. The level design is uniformly superb, and the widely acclaimed chapter “Effect and Cause” is far from the only highlight. Just recently, IGN did an interesting analysis of the chapter “The Abyss”, with designer David Shaver.
Respawn founders Jason West and Vince Zampella splintered off from Infinity Ward, so it makes sense that there is a lot of Call of Duty DNA in Titanfall 2. Crucially, the game preserves all the best parts of that formula: the cinematic moments, careful scripting, and crisp gunplay. Titanfall 2 never feels as restrictive or linear as Call of Duty though, and the sci-fi setting facilitates a lot of the more ambitious and successful design ideas. Put simply, Titanfall 2 is an essential play for FPS fans.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013)
Developed by PlatinumGames, published by Konami
This year, Metal Gear Rising has enjoyed a major resurgence and may even be the most consequential older game in 2022. This has a lot to do with memes, mostly focusing on two of its larger than life villains, Jetstream Sam and Senator Armstrong. Yes, as people like to point out, the final boss of this game is indeed a sitting United States Senator. Enthusiasm for Metal Gear Rising has reached such a fever pitch in recent months that some have breathlessly called it a “masterpiece”. Certainly it is in a better place than PlatinumGames’ new release this year - their live-service action-RPG Babylon’s Fall has been a catastrophic failure.
Now, I wouldn’t call Metal Gear Rising a masterpiece, far from it. But this spin-off to the Metal Gear Solid series is deliriously entertaining. Set further into the future than any other game in the series, it ditches almost all stealth elements. Instead, it’s a third-person action game which moves at an absolutely furious pace. Mildly emo cyborg warrior Raiden - a veteran of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4 - navigates a totally privatised and cyborgised world in which private military companies abduct kids, experiment on brains, and foment new conflicts to keep the war economy ticking over.
The game periodically slams the brakes on to facilitate codec conversations, and at times the camera is terrible, but mostly this is supremely entertaining. The action and cutscenes are magnificently over the top, and slicing enemy cyborgs apart with “blade mode” and feasting on their electrolyte-packed spinal columns remains fun for the eight or so hours it takes to see Raiden’s rampage through to its end. How did PlatinumGames summon the strength to cut this minor gem? It can only have been “nanomachines, son!”
Developed by Jasozz Games, published by 3D Realms
Add a new place at the top table - Cultic is, in my view, a new entry in the club of the very best retro-style shooters. Inspired in large part by Monolith’s 1997 classic Blood, the game crucially does strike out in its own directions. Remarkably, the game is almost entirely the work of one person - Jason Smith of Jasozz Games. He has done a tremendous job here. Everything about Cultic, from its grisly combat and superb soundtrack to its gloomy visuals, feels perfectly pitched and well integrated.
The game captures the appeal of Blood, while adding several thoughtful modernisations. The weapon upgrade system, for example, is a smart addition. The need to find weapon parts encourages exploring the maps to find secrets, and the upgrades are impactful but not mandatory to progress. The game also uses journal entries to tell its story, and avoids the common pitfalls - there aren’t too many of these documents, they’re short, and they’re actually interesting to read. Cultic came out on 13 October, but the ten included levels are actually just the game’s first episode - it’s exciting to think that we can expect more of this fantastic retro shooter in due course.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (2022)
Developed by Infinity Ward (and several support studios), published by Activision
Before reviewing Vanguard in 2021, I hadn’t played a Call of Duty game for 14 years. This year, I’ve been back in action as the Entertainium war correspondent, tackling the single- and multiplayer portions of Modern Warfare II. It’s a juggernaut. As usual, Activision’s many studios, led by Infinity Ward, have had an immense budget to spend and it shows. This game is both huge and technically impressive, albeit in a way that can be easy to ignore because it is “just another Call of Duty”.
Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game. The campaign is as brief as ever, and almost as restrictive, but it is genuinely spectacular to play and has some surprisingly compelling characters. I have a real soft spot for Mexican Special Forces Colonel Alejandro Vargas and his loyal subordinate Rodolfo Parra, who really lift the campaign whenever they’re on screen. The multiplayer is also wonderfully slick, with a plethora of modes sure to fit any taste. I’d love to see a Call of Duty game which gives players some more freedom in its campaign, but Modern Warfare II is difficult to fault. Soon, it will get even bigger, with the addition of the free-to-play Warzone 2.0. Even if there is no game in 2023, as we’re led to believe, the Call of Duty war machine isn’t running out of juice any time soon.
That brings this roundup of a very busy October to a close. In November, I hope to be playing Evil West, among other things. As always, if you enjoy my writing please consider supporting me on Patreon and be sure to keep reading new games coverage at Entertainium.
I write about classic science fiction and occasionally fantasy; I sometimes make maps for Doom II; and I'm a contributor to the videogames site Entertainium, where I regularly review new games.