Unlike last year, I’ve actually played enough games in 2019 that I can actually put together a full list of ten games for a end-of-year best-of list! Though I still don’t play anywhere near as many new games as I used to, there were still enough great games that I come away fairly happy with how 2019 turned out in terms of games, and that’s without playing a few of the more notable releases. As always, in no particular order, here is the Top 10 Absolutely Completely Fine Games of 2019:

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Presented without context.

A large portion of the middle of 2019 was spent in my bed, with my Switch playing all three Ace Attorney games. I have a spotty history with these games: I own the first two on DS, as well as the first trilogy release on 3DS, but I never further than the first game. I always petered out somewhere during the (very good, but very long relative to the others) bonus fifth case. This year, with the trilogy getting released on Nintendo’s latest, I committed myself to finishing not just that first game, but the two sequels as well. I imported a physical copy from Japan because I’m a crazy person, and proceeded to spend a few weeks, playing a hour or so before going to sleep.

I did get through all three games, and I’m glad I finally did. I’ve always been a fan of Ace Attorney‘s goofy humour, even in my brief jaunt with the games in the past, but seeing it through three full games, it remains consistent throughout. Characters are fun and charming, the mysteries are enjoyable, and the series has some genuinely fantastic writing, culminating in a story-line that is amazingly well tied-together at the end of the absolutely brilliant third game, Trials and Tribulations. Some of the individual case stories are naturally much better than others, but none in my opinion are outright bad, not even the infamous Turnabout Big Top. I sincerely hopes Capcom plans on putting out a release of the second trilogy of games on the Switch because, even if the reception to those games weren’t as strong, I’d love to spend some more time in this series.

On a slightly related note, I watched the Japanese live-action film adaption of the first game and it isn’t actually that bad???

Apex Legends

Be jealous, Wraith players.

I don’t really give a shit about battle royale shooters. I don’t care about Fortnite, and I never bought into PUBG when that was the hottest thing around. So it says a lot about how well crafted an experience Apex Legends is that is managed to suck me in for a good few months after it’s surprise release earlier this year. A lot of that is down to just how damn good it feels to play, which is to be expected from the folks what made Titanfall. Apex doesn’t have quite the same level of crazy mobility as those games, but it still feels real slick and smooth: crouching into a slide after sprinting, which increases momentum when going down a slope just feels great. The gunplay feels just as good as in Titanfall, but the greatly increased time-to-kill means you have to rely more on being able to control the recoil of your guns. The suite of playable characters is also fun, with set of abilities that serve to give each of them their own niches and playstyles, but not being so wholly defining like say, an Overwatch character – if you can shoot real good, you’ll do well regardless of which character you play. Me, I mostly played Wraith, because I got her incredibly rare “heirloom” set from a lootbox, which gives her a cool knife that she’s always flipping about in first-person view.

I haven’t kept up to much with their post-launch support, however. I started to fall off the game not long after the release of the season 1 battle-pass, partly because the rewards were kinda shite, partly because I’d mostly had my fill of the game at that point. Far from the heady days of Modern Warfare 2, I just don’t really care to stick with shooters for a long time these days. By all accounts, Apex‘s post-launch stuff could probably use work. I remember reading about numerous controversies regarding pricing and availability of limited items and whathaveyou. Regardless, the core experience is fantastic – so much is that Fornite just straight-up stole a bunch of ideas that Apex brought to the table – that you’d be remiss not to give it a go should you have even a passing interest in multiplayer shooters.

Tetris 99

Original Game Boy theme is best, don’t @ me

Moving on from one high-profile battle royale game to another. “Tetris battle royale” has been a meme since, well, pretty much since battle royale games have been in vogue, but those mad lads at Nintendo actually went ahead and made just that in earnest. And it’s really damn good!

I mean, I say that knowing full well how hard it is to fuck up Tetris (not looking at you, Ubisoft), but the battle royale format of Tetris 99 just works so well. It’s fairly standard competitive Tetris at it’s core – clear lines to send junk lines to your opponent – but the intensity is ratcheted up a few notches when it’s ninety-eight opponents rather than just one. There’s also a criminally under-explained badge system, wherein you gain badges for knocking out other players, which in turn acts as a multiplier for the junk you send people’s way, which becomes essential once there’s a smaller number of players remaining.

Tetris 99 takes the near perfect core that is Tetris, and turns it in a nail-biting multiplayer experience unlike anything else I played this year. Unfortunately, I will likely never bask in the glory of winning, because I’m not great at Tetris, and the people playing Tetris 99 are savage.

Hypnospace Outlaw

Remember when the Internet looked like this?

As someone who likes adventure games, and is old enough to have nostalgia for late-90s/early-00s shitty, GeoCities-ass Internet, I feel like this game was practically made for me. Set in an alternate history where a company called Micomsoft have developed the Hyponospace Headband, a thing you wear while asleep so that you can browse the Hyponospace, a closed-wall Internet very reminiscent of the type of pages found on the aforementioned webhost from the 90s. You are initially in the role of an enforcer, tasked with clamping down infractions such as copyright infringement, harassment, and the like, before things, naturally, start taking a turn. It starts out very simple and directed – report X examples of copyright violation, for example – but eventually your objectives will become much more vague, the solutions not immediately obvious. At one point you will need to seek out files hidden in unlisted directories, the game’s puzzle solutions looking like something resembling actual Internet detective work.

The real draw though is the vast amount of fake Internet created for the game’s Hypnospace though. You can tell the it was created by someone with a genuine reverence for the Internet of the time the game is pastiching. Plenty of “under construction” GIFs, badly-utilised, pre-made homepage templates, lots of very bad (but great) autoplaying music, a plethora of cringy user homepages penned by characters in their teens. It all comes together to create a very believable, if not completely accurate tech-wise, but very enjoyable fake Internet that both parodies and celebrates a particular era of the World Wide Web. Almost certainly my favourite experience of the year, if you’re the right age, with the right interests, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Pokémon Sword

I’m a big fan of the league card creator.

I almost feel bad putting this on this list. I’ve you’ve paid any attention, you’re probably well aware of the myriad of controversies surrounding these latest entries in Game Freak’s cockfighting simulator. Aside from the fact more than half of the total amount of pokémon have been unceremoniously excised, there are so many examples of baffling decisions and lack of polish in this game. I feel bad for liking it.

And yet, I do. I’m not even sure why. I’ve spent over sixty hours playing Pokémon Sword, which is the most amount of time I’ve put into a Pokémon game in a long, long time. I’m not sure what it is. The new monster designs are fine. The new characters designs are cute. The world design is as painfully linear as it’s ever been, and story is, as usual, mostly devoid of any challenge. Maybe it’s because this game is on a system that outputs to a TV? It was very easy for me to just grab a controller and kick back in my chair, rather than have to be hunched over looking at a small portable screen with most of the previous games. Who knows? All I know is, this isn’t quite the unmitigated train-wreck the Internet would’ve had you believe it is.

Baba is You

It can get quite complex.

This is the game on this list that I have spent the least amount of time playing. That’s through no fault of the game, however – I’m just a dumbass.

Baba is You is legit one of the coolest puzzle games I’ve ever seen. It’s also not one that’s easily and succinctly described in words, but makes total sense after watching maybe five seconds of it. Basically, it’s a 2D, grid-based game, where you control a cute little bunny thing, the titular Baba. Around each stage there will be short phrases that govern the rules of the stage: Baba is You (the player controls Baba), Wall is Stop (walls block your movement), Flag is Win (touch the flag to complete the stage), etc. The twist is that the words that make up these rules are also physical objects in the game world, which you can move to break rules, and create new ones. For example, remove one of the words in “Wall is Stop” and now you can freely move through walls.

It is an incredibly ingenious and simple concept, that very quickly and exponentially balloons in complexity once more words and verbs are introduced. There are so many stages that I couldn’t even fathom what I had to do, let alone figure out how to do it. Particularly devious are alternative versions of stages, where a very simple change to the layout now means that the solutions you thought you were so clever for figuring out is now useless.

I am terrible at puzzle games, and always have been, but the core concept of Baba is You is so fantastic, that I’m content with the fact that I will never come close to ever finishing it.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

This monkey got what was coming to him. Trust me.

FromSoftware’s latest is a departure in many ways from their previous titles in the awkwardly fan-titled Soulsborne series. Structurally, and in many ways mechanically, it is still very much in that wheelhouse. There is still a bonfire equivalent, checkpoints that respawn all the enemies in the area should you choose to use it. There is an estus flask equivalent, an upgradable, limited use healing item, which is replenished upon resting at the aforementioned checkpoints. The world still has a lot of that “fight through a long area to eventually open a shortcut that loops back to the checkpoint” level-design. There’s a lot here that’s familiar if you’ve played a Souls game or Bloodborne.

The difference comes in terms of character upgrades – you can’t mess around with skill points, you merely have health and damage upgrades, which are dolled out steadily over the course of the game, and only one main weapon. The combat is much more aggressive than any of the other games –  rather than deplete enemies’ health bars, you overwhelm their posture by attacking them while they’re blocking and, crucially, parry their attacks, which opens them up for a deathblow attack.

This style of combat means that you are forced to press the attack: letting off will allow the enemy’s posture to recover, actively punishing more passive playstyles. You cannot slowly but safely chip away at a foe in this game and as such, this entry is the most divisive among players thus far. Personally, it’s my favourite combat in the series thus far. Parrying a flurry of attacks is exhilarating. Unfortunately, I never finished the game – Sekiro loves its multi-phase boss fights, and the second phase of the final fight broke me.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

uhhhhhhhh

Before getting a Switch, I had only ever had Nintendo handhelds growing up, not their home consoles. Therefore, before Breath of the Wild, the original Game Boy version of Link’s Awakening was the only Zelda game I’d ever really played. But I played it a lot. It’s probably one of my favourite games of all time. So an announcement of a remake for the Switch made me ecstatic.

And… yeah. That’s about all there is to say, really. It’s a very faithful remake of a twenty-five year-old game. Aside from the shiny new tilt-shift-style graphics and a few minor quality-of-life changes, it’s the same game. And that’s fine. It had been a long time since I’d played the original, so it was a pleasure to revisit one of my favourite games of my childhood with a more modern coat of paint.

Cytus α

The art is real pretty.

Thought I’ll never be super hardcore, I am a fan of rhythm games. Large portions of my youth were spent playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band, both with friends and solo. Outside of the plastic-instrument side of the genre, I’ve not played to much. I loved the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games on the 3DS, and had a lot of fun with Taiko no Tatsujin on the Vita (and will probably eventually pick up the Switch game).

Cytus was originally an iOS game, and this version packages all of the added content into one nice package, which is a lot. There is a staggering amount of songs to play in this game, that I haven’t even seen all of them yet. It is a very fun game to play though. You can play it with a controller, but similar to how it was presumably played on a phone, the best experience is to lay your Switch down on a flat surface like a desk, and play using the touchscreen, using your fingers almost (but obviously not quite) like playing a piano. Getting through a difficult track is an immensely gratifying feeling, and there’s a lot of good music in here, though a lot of it is, for lack of a better word… weeby.

As a fairly avid consumer of Giant Bomb‘s content, a lot of the staff spent a lot of time a year or two ago talking positively about playing Cytus II on their phones. I hope a similar complete release of that game also finds its way onto Nintendo’s handheld, because I don’t own a tablet and hate playing games on a comparatively tiny phone screen.

Disco Elysium

This was the exchange that convinced me this game is great.

Disco Elysium is a CRPG, often compared to beloved games such as Balder’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. I’ve never played any of those games, but I’m not sure how apt the comparison really is. The RPG aspect is there for sure, you level up and gain skill-points which you invest in a wide swath of different traits. The game is also constantly doing skill-checks in dialogue, both explicitly and quietly in the background. But there’s no combat at all in this “CRPG”, so the result to me ends up feeling more like an isometric point-and-click adventure game, with a healthy dosing of RPG elements.

Genre-semantics aside, this game is fantastic. You wake up as a 40-something detective, suffering from amnesia as a result of a spectacular drinking bender you embarked on before the start of the game, and you are tasked with solving the mystery of a man that has been hanged from a tree in the yard outside the hostel you are staying at (and have trashed during the aforementioned bender).

The RPG elements come in effect based on how you use your skill points, which you invest in various physical and mental traits of your character. Invest in “Drama” and you’ll be more adept at lying to people… and detecting lies from others. You have more physical skills like Endurance, as well as more personality-driven ones like Empathy and Volition. Maybe invest in Electrochemistry if you want to take a lot of drugs. Each of these skills also manifest as voices in your head, which you have full-on conversations with. There is so much dialogue in this game, and most all of it is fantastic and also very responsive to how you decide to play your character, making me excited to try another play-through once I’m done with my current.

Bonus Not Released in 2019 Entry: Granblue Fantasy

Nothing quite like lucksacking two limited characters on a free draw.

Often in my end-of-year list I usually include a game that was very explicitly not released that year, often because I spent a lot of time playing it that year, often to pad out the list due to not playing as many new releases as I have in years prior. This year, I managed to get 10 bona-fide 2019 releases (though, granted, Ace Attorney is maybe stretching that a bit), but I still wanted to include Granblue Fantasy because of the former of those two reasons: I have spent somewhere in the region of four to five hundred hours playing it in the back half of this year.

Granblue Fantasy is a mobile game. In fact no, it’s a browser game. It was clearly originally designed for phones due to the aspect ratio, but you can just load it on a browser on a PC if you wish (which I do). I’ve dabbled with GBF in the past: I was drawn by the gorgeous artwork and the Final Fantasy pedigree of some of the folk who worked on it. I started playing it a few years ago, but fell off fairly quickly, for whatever reason. But then, this past June, the game had a collaboration event with, of all things, Code Geass, an anime I hadn’t even seen yet (though granted, I owned and was interested in). At this point, GBF sunk its hooks in me, which are still firmly planted.

For whatever reason, a grindy game will occasionally grab me and take a long while to ever let go. A game that I can mostly mindlessly play while listing to music or a podcast. Diablo III got hundreds of hours out of me, and I talked last year about getting balls deep into Warframe. Granblue Fantasy‘s grind is like if you took Warframe‘s and multiplied it by like, a factor of 10. It’s also a pretty complicated game, again making me draw somewhat superficial comparison to Warframe. It’s also remarkably free-to-play friendly, for a Japanese gacha game. Sure, you could pay the equivalent of roughly £25 to pull a 10-draw from the gacha and likely get nothing but trash, but the fact your power in this game comes from a grid of weapons you put together, which (outside of super-high-level stuff which I’m nowhere near close to) are farmable and not even possible to pay for, it never feels like you have to pay money. Shiny, cute new characters are nice, yes, but not strictly required to progress. Plus, the developer, Cygames, has a reputation for being very generous to its players in the gacha space that you can still get a lot out of it without ever paying a dime.

But it’s the presentation aspects that have me. Despite the very obvious limitations of being constructed to play in a browser window, the stellar presentation shines through. The art, as mentioned, is fantastic. The music is incredible, some of my favourite tracks from a video game ever, with legendary FF composer Nobuo Uematsu working on a lot of the earlier tracks. The voice acting for the massive amount of very well-designed characters is stellar all round. The stories it tells, both in its main quest as well as side stories and events range from incredibly fun and hilarious to profoundly emotional and impactful. And this is only what I’ve experienced from playing this game for six months or so, the game is entering into its sixth year in 2020, which no plans to slow down anytime soon. Granblue Fantasy has me so invested in its world and characters that I’m waiting with bated breath for Relink, the big console RPG very of the game in development, as well as the fighting game by Arc System Works, the Guilty Gear folk. Even the anime, which by itself is nothing to write home about was great because of seeing these characters I love animated along with music I already adored.

If you told me even at the beginning of the year that a mobile game that runs in a Chrome tab would become one of my favourite games ever, I’d have called you mad.

Welcome, one and all, to the now third annual installant of Those Games What Released This Year That I Think Were Alright. It’s been a slow year here on Jeo.me, with a whopping TWO previous posts in 2014. I had plenty of posts I was planning on putting up this year, but I kind of got lazy and they fell through. Mostly because I was probably too busy playing Street Fighter. Enough of that though, apologising about lack of posts is pretty much a trope round these parts at this point, so on to talking about games from this year that I liked.

You should know the format by now; these games are in no particular order, and being released in 2014 is the only requirement needed to be eligible.

Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again: Final Fantasy X is my favourite game of all time. Is it objectively the greatest game ever made? Of course not, but it’s my favourite. It had probably the greatest impact on my taste in video games that I can think of, and I immensely enjoy all the time that I spend with it. So to be able to play a game that is now almost 15 years old at this point on a somewhat modern console, with somewhat modern looking graphics, is an utmost pleasure. Me being me, I’ll probably also end up double-dipping when it comes to PS4 next year.

Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

I’ve always been a total sucker for the mainline Pokemon games. Ever since the original Blue and Red versions, I’ve always invested a fair amount of time into every major Pokemon release since then. The original Gen III games were probably around the time a lot of people started to write them off, citing “badly designed pokémon” or whatever (even though they often gloss over some of the terrible Gen I designs with their rose glasses). I’ve a particular fondness for each generation of Pokémon, and Ruby and Sapphire were no different. Being able to adventure through Hoenn again, with all that water and all those trumpets, only this time in 3D and with all the gameplay up-grades you’d expect, has been a treat.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Do you like Final Fantasy music? Do you like rhythm games? Then there is almost nothing to not like about Theatrhythm. Curtain Call improves on the first game mostly by just having a metric fucktonne of music, as well as a whole bunch more characters available to build your party with. There’s also a whole new quest system, which is enjoyable to play and provides a little more meat than some of the content of the first game. There’s also a new multiplayer mode, which is… eh, not great, but can be a fun distraction. But the main draw has always been the simple, but fun rhythm gameplay and the swaths of Uematsu-san and company’s music spanning two decades.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Considering I paid the extravagant amount of £0 for Isaac (well, minus my PS+ sub fee of course), the money-per-hour ratio of this game is probably the highest on the list. If you played the original Isaac, you’ll know what to expect here. It’s basically the same game built again from scratch, so it’s no longer a flash game, which is good. Very good. Content wise, I believe it contains everything from BoI plus the Wrath of Lamb expansion, as well as some other new content sprinkled throughout. I never got very heavily into the original, but I’ve played enough of Rebirth to cause my PS4’s left thumbstick to start falling apart. Also, Azazel is hella OP.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

For a brief second, I considered making this entire post just “Street Fighter is rad, peeeeace” and leave it at that. Definitely wins the award for most amount of time I’ve spent with a game this year. This latest version of Street Fighter IV, as well as introducing five “new” characters (four from Street Fighter X Tekken and one literal Cammy clone) also introduces a few new system mechanics to help move the game away from the very set-play heavy state the previous version was. It’s still very much Street Fighter IV and I love me some Street Fighter IV.

The Wolf Among Us

While I feel that the story took somewhat of a dive towards the end, and an episodic format is probably not the best for a murder mystery story, I found myself nevertheless enjoying The Wolf Among Us immensely. As someone who wasn’t familiar with Fables going in, I found the premise incredibly interesting, and the game itself is just… stylish. Killer soundtrack and 80s-inspired neon visuals, the game is a treat for the senses.

Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax

Thankfully, the wait here in Europe this time around for the next Persona 4 Arena game wasn’t quite as painful as it was last time. Ultimax is basically the… well, ultimate version of P4A. The story I felt was a lot weaker this time around compared to the last game, but from a pure gameplay side, there’s a lot to like. An expanded roster, now featuring pretty much every conceivable character from Persona 3 and 4 that makes sense, “shadow” versions of every character who play differently and have different tools, and a whole host of incremental improvements, including a very cool and robust lobby system for online play. I’ll never get into it quite the way I did Street Fighter, because fundamental things about the way anime fighting games play don’t jive well with me, but Ultimax is a great fighter worth checking out if you’re into the genre, or simply just a Persona fan.

The Last of Us: Left Behind

I could put The Last of Us Remastered on here, since that game is still as incredible as it was when it first came out, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to put Left Behind, the story DLC that released earlier this year. There was a lot to love about The Last of Us, and Ellie is at, or close to, the top of that list. So to get the chance to learn a lot more about her backstory is something I just couldn’t pass up. The story aspects of Left Behind are top-notch as you’d expect, but so is the gameplay. They use a lot of the game’s combat mechanics in interesting and novel, non-combat scenarios and it also features the only combat encounters in the entirety of The Last of Us that feature both human and infected enemies, something that should’ve been present in the original game. If you enjoyed The Last of Us, you owe it to yourself to play the Left Behind.

Titanfall

Remember Titanfall? Released way back in, what, March? Man, that game didn’t set the world on fire quite like a lot of people expected it to, but it was still a pretty solid first outing from Respawn. It definitely has some key flaws, but it’s the sort of thing that makes you excited for what could be in Titanfall 2. Plus, the core gameplay is a blast. It’s interesting to see games like Halo 5 and this year’s Call of Duty already seemingly taking influence from the way Titanfall does movement and mobility.

Threes!

Threes! is a mobile game, and mobile games are generally not something I give much of a fuck about. It’s a number game, where you have cards on a grid, and have to move them in 4 directions to combine identical cards, similar to, but not as insane as something like 2048. It also has a great style, with fantastic music, silly voiceovers, and a nice clean aesthetic. There’s even a snappable Xbox One version now, which is cool. It deserves a spot here solely based on the amount of time I spent with it this year. Mobile games tend to have a very “flavour of the week” thing going on, where big games come and go really quickly, but Threes! had a constant presence on my phone throughout the majority of the year.

Honourable Mentions and Games That Would’ve Been on this List had I Played (More of) Them

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is probably the best CoD game in years, and the only one since MW3 that I’ve bothered to finish the campaign of. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a collection of 4 games, each great in their own right, but isn’t on the list because… well, that game was, and still is, broken as fuck. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes gets me real excited for The Phantom Pain, but as a standalone product, there just isn’t enough of what I want out of a Metal Gear game. Destiny is the worst game that I spent the most amount of time playing. I could probably write an entire post about everything that game did wrong, yet for some reason, for a good chunk of time, I couldn’t stop playing it. Fantasy Life is an adorable RPG for the 3DS by the Professor Layton people, that seems like it has a bunch of stuff to do in it, but I simply haven’t been able to put that much time into it yet. Lethal League is an awesome take on the fighting game genre that I definitely need to play more of. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Wolfenstein: The New Order are the two big standout non-Wii U games this year, that are the kind of games I enjoy, but I simply haven’t played.

There are also a multitude of indie games this year that either passed me by, or that I simply didn’t manage to play. This year was also probably the best year yet for the Wii U, with games like Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. putting up a strong argument that, maybe, I should think about getting a Wii U at some point soon.

Looking back, 2014 has been a somewhat lackluster year. The new consoles are out, and have been for over a year now, but are stuggling to make a strong footing with games convincing you to throw down the money for them. Most of the big games for them have been either remasters and rereleases of old games, or big marquee titles that were mostly broken messes at launch.

But tomorrow is 2015, and if Back to the Future taught us anything, it’s that we’re all going to be flying about on hoverboards and flying cars, and that sounds way cooler than any of this video game shit.

So, I posted a little bit about Diablo III when it first came out, way back when. I enjoyed it for the most part, with my only real issues being in the storytelling department. Unfortunately, at that time I had not played through the game all the way to level 60, I only got to somewhere in the mid-30s. So because of that, I hadn’t experienced any of the endgame, which is often the meat and potatoes of this genre. The endgame content of these types of games is basically just doing runs over and over until you find loot upgrades that allow you to do those runs more efficiently. Repeat until you get bored of it. The issues that people had with Diablo III’s endgame basically boiled down to the itemisation. The loot just wasn’t very interesting, and it took too long to find meaningful upgrades.

This was an almost direct result of the existence of the game’s auction house. Whether it be by using in-game gold or real money, players could buy and sell items that they had found in-game. Because of this, finding decent items was a rare occurrence, otherwise virtually everyone could stick their loot on the auction house and make some money. It also meant that the most efficient way to upgrade your character was not by playing the game, but by simply buying upgrades on the auction house.

Since Diablo III’s release two years ago, there have been a number of updates to help fix this issue, with the two main ones being “loot 2.0” and the now complete removal of the auction houses from the game. Loot 2.0, which overhauls the loot system to a more quality-over-quantity experience means you are now more likely to find more meaningful upgrades more often. Where previously a stat on an item could’ve rolled from anywhere between 1-100, it’s now more like 75-100. Add to that much better legendary item drop rates (you’re now pretty much guaranteed a legendary at least every hour or two, compared to my 3 legendaries in about 100 hours previously) means that the loot progression is much more satisfying and feels like much less of a grind.

This week also brought about the game’s first major content update, in the form of Reaper of Souls. As well as adding a whole new act onto the story, the expansion also brings about a whole host of other cool new features. The biggest of these, Adventure Mode, essentially completely changes the way in which you play the game. Unlocked for all your characters once you’ve played through Act V once, Adventure Mode opens up the entire game and allows you to travel wherever you want, completing bounties. These bounties are usually quick, five minute affairs, where you travel to a specific location and kill a specified enemy, or complete a specific event. Completing these nets you experience and gold awards, as well as bonuses if you finish five bounties in one act.

But that’s not even the coolest part. By completing these bounties, you will occasionally be rewarded with Rift Key Fragments. Spending five of these allows you go back to town and open a Nephalem Rift. These are essentially completely random dungeons (seriously, take every tileset and enemy type in the game, and throw them into an RNG) with a powerful boss at the end for you to kill. The monster density in these rifts also tends to be quite high, so the potential for big XP and loot gains is high.

Crusader is pretty dope.

Crusader is pretty dope.

The expansion also increases the level cap by 10, up to a max of 70. Higher level means better loot. Even some of the basic level 70 gears makes the best level 60 gear look terrible. Each class also has a brand new ability and set of runes to go with it, which first unlocks when you hit 61. The only one I’ve tried, the Wizard’s Black Hole, is cool and seems to work well as a decent crowd control ability. There’s also the brand new class, the Crusader. I haven’t messed too much with it (only level 30 or so) but the class seems to play fairly similar to the Barbarian, with the main difference being a lot of more defensive abilities, which require resource spending to use, rather than being cooldown based. They definitely seem like they have the ability to be super tanky. Oh, and one of their passives allows them to weird a two-handed weapon and a shield at the same time. So that’s pretty rad.

There’s also a third artisan to go alongside the blacksmith and jeweller: the enchantress. She can let you enchant items, essentially completely re-rolling a stat on an item in the hopes for a better one, for a price of course. So if you find an item that is great all-round except for one bum stat, it’s very much possible to fix that. She can also “transmogrify” items, altering their appearance. So if you find a really good upgrade, but think it looks ugly as shit, you can pay her to just make it look like another item of the same type. For someone like me who cares a lot about cosmetic customisation in games, this is a very welcome addition.

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

As for the actual new act, it’s pretty good. I’ve only played through it once, but it felt to be of decent length. At least, much longer than the mostly disappointing act IV. Most of the new enemy types aren’t particularly interesting, in my opinion, however, the new environment designs are probably among the best in the entire game. Strong art design has always been one of Blizzard’s strengths and it definition shows here.

If you care at all about Diablo III, the expansion is definitely a worthy addition and worth picking up. If you haven’t played the game much since release, you should probably give it another go. Even before the expansion there have been a number of improvements that have made the game vastly more enjoyable and rewarding to play. You don’t need to upgrade to the expansion to experience the benefits of the new loot system. This is the Diablo III that should’ve been there at launch.