Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

The patch notes for the upcoming Civilization 6 Spring Update break down a wide range of changes coming to the game, which 2K games said will include "balance changes, AI adjustments, multiplayer changes, and bug fixes." Highlights include a Harbor buff that "will bring the strength of the various districts in line with each other," and a reduction in warmonger penalties, "so they only hit with their full strength if you are truly wresting valuable cities from your opponents." 

The changed warmonger penalties will impact both your Diplomatic status and City Populations. With a few very specific exceptions, the hit to your Diplomatic status will be reduced by 20 percent if you declare war on, or capture a city from, a player you have previously denounced, or 40 percent if you take the city from someone you're already at war with. Captured cities will also suffer a reduced population loss if the city's population after it's been taken is lower than the average population of all the cities in the game.   

The AI is also being tuned to improve to improve its performance on various fronts, and a handful of bugs (and a terribly awkward reference to Australian Prime Minister John Curtin as "President") have been fixed. A multiplayer issue that caused the online games list to fail to properly show all available games has been taken care of, and the list will also now show results from additional regions. 

There's no hard date on the Civ 6 Spring Update yet, but 2K said it will hit the PC sometime this week, and don't forget that a couple of Great guys—Cyrus and Alexander—are on the way in an upcoming Civilization and Scenario pack, too. Full patch notes are available on Steam

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Yesterday, 2K announced that Persia, led by Cyrus the Great, would be one of two new civilizations added to Civilization 6 in upcoming DLC. Today, it unveiled Cyrus' partner in that expansion, and he's pretty great too. His name is Alexander, son of Philip, and he's the ruler of Macedon. 

Macedon's unique Hypaspist units are elite, shield-bearing soldiers who carry a spear and short sword into battle, while the Hetairoi—better known as the Companions—are a fast, heavy cavalry unit that's "widely regarded as the world's first shock troops." For a unique building, Macedon gets the Basilikoi Paides, where noble sons and young boys taken as political hostages are raised to "serve, honor and protect the king, and to serve Macedon’s interests above all else," and the unique "Hellenistic Fusion" ability grants it a bonus every time a city is conquered.   

As for Big Al himself, he's all about the fight. His ability, To the World's End, grants reduced war weariness, so that Macedon can stay at war with its neighbors for longer stretches without suffering unduly for it.   

Ironically, in the same sense of the term as Tomyris' appearance in the Persia teaser, Alexander was ultimately unable to reach the world's end: His army refused to follow him into India, and he was forced to turn back at the Beas River. He died three years later, in Babylon, at the age of 32. 

Macedon and Persia will be available together in an upcoming Civilization and Scenario Pack, scheduled to come out later this spring.   

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

It seems a little odd to me that the Persians weren't in Civilization 6 right from the start, but better late than never, and today 2K announced that the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire, with Cyrus the Great at its head, will be added to the game in an upcoming Civilization and Scenario pack. 

The Persian unique unit is the famed Immortal, a replacement for the Swordsman unit, which boasts a ranged attack and strong defense in combat, while its unique improvement, the Pairidaeza—Persian Gardens—provides culture, gold, and appeal, with bonuses for adjacent tiles. I won't even try to spell its unique ability (related to satraps, as best I can make out), but it gives Persia a free trade route, and bonuses to internal trade routes, when Political Philosophy is unlocked. 

As for Cyrus, he brings the Fall of Babylon ability to the table, which provides bonus movement to Persian units following the declaration of a surprise war. He also suffers reduced diplomatic penalties for declaring surprise wars, a handy trait if you're the sort of ruler who gets along well with others but really can't be trusted. 

2K said Persia "can be very successful with sneak attacks," but it also used an image of Tomyris of Scythia when talking about Cyrus' military acumen, and she, you may recall, reportedly cut the man's head off and dunked it in a bucket of blood when he messed with her. Kind of mixed signals on that point, then. On the other hand, Persia can also be grown into a wealthy and powerful nation through the more peaceful application of Wonders and the Pairidaeza, so maybe that's a better way to go. 

A release date hasn't been announced, but 2K said Persia will be one of two nations included in an upcoming Civilization and Scenario Pack. Based on previous releases, you can expect it to set you back $5, and it will be free if you own the Civ 6 Digital Deluxe edition. 

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Whenever a developer decides to throw Australia into the pool of cultural insensitivity that videogames can sometimes be, I get a little scared. The trepidation is caused as much by patriotism as it is by the opposite of that: I don’t want my glorious nation to be represented by a slouch-hatted cattle drover whose key trait is ‘mateship’, but on the other hand, leave us alone we’re boring!The latest Premium DLC for Civilization 6 brings the great southern land into the fray for the first time in the series’ quarter-century history. At the helm is our 14th Prime Minister, John Curtin, who’s perhaps best known for leading the country in its defense against the Japanese during World War II, and having been the only PM to go to jail. He was no doubt chosen due to the former of these two facts, as Curtin’s unique ability triggers a production boom whenever war is declared on Australia, or when it liberates another civ’s city.

I ll wait all day for my game to load if it means I get to gaze into Curtin s agreeable face.

The Aussie portrayal in this game preys on both my fears: it is at once dripping with stereotypes, and grossly incongruent with the history books. There is something unnerving about sending your ‘Diggers’, fresh from bumming around an ‘Outback Station’, to storm the beaches of a distant land at the request of an overly-powerful ally. On the other hand, it’s even more peculiar to play as some Anglo-looking brutes romping around Canberra in the year 4000 BC, eventually researching mass production, signing off on extensive foreign trade agreements, and rising to the height of modernity well before Australia was even due to be colonised in 1788. However, this goofy dissonance is a cornerstone of the Civilization series and shouldn’t be taken personally. The joy of this game doesn’t have to come from some attempt at a realistic play-by-play of historical events—atomically-aggressive Gandhi should have made this clear by now. Instead, it can be found in the forging of your own civilization from a melting pot of randomised events and bad decisions, and the specialities that come with your chosen civ can just as easily be exploited as ignored. In fact, it’s fair to say that the region in which your first settler is randomly plopped is probably going to be a more significant factor in your complete annihilation at the hands of Montezuma (that leafy bastard) than your civ’s strengths and weaknesses will be.The perks and uniquities of any particular civ is more akin to the playable races found in Skyrim, where there are obvious advantages to choosing a sneaky Khajiit if you want to pickpocket your way across the province, but with a tiny bit more effort you can become a cat with a battleaxe. See what you miss out on when you play by the rules?

As dry as a dead dingo's donger

Now that we’ve dealt with historical purists who only play videogames to get off on the gritty realism, let’s talk details. Australia’s unique unit is the Digger, a burly alternative to the standard infantry of the modern era, who excels at fighting on foreign soil and coastal tiles. This makes for some supreme Gallipoli-style shore assaults (except more successful), as well as a pretty handy boon when defending your own coastal cities—which you will have a lot of due to the extra housing Australia’s unique ability provides. 

Darwin hasn t changed much in the last 3,000 years.

While there are rich rewards for founding a city on the coast, especially if it happens to be surrounded by sheep, cattle, and horses, Australia is also able to make use of its vast sunburnt plains thanks to the Outback Station tile improvement. This dusty domicile is at its dinkum-est when within range of a cluster of pastures (which themselves set off a ‘culture bomb’ when improved—much better than it sounds) or more outback stations. So when you see some precious resource in the middle of the desert surrounded by shit-all else, it may still be a viable settling location. Alongside conquering the globe with your regime of mateship, there’s a new scenario to play that goes by the name ‘Outback Tycoon’ (okay guys, we get it). This is a purely peaceful scenario and is surprisingly fun in spite of this. It was a pleasant change to be forced to focus on economics and expansion and not even be given the option of conflict, considering my generally bloodthirsty approach to the game. You can choose to play as the premier of Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, or Western Australia, and each have their own leadership bonuses like any other civilization, although they are a little less powerful. You set off from New South Wales in the year 1814 AD and immediately begin the process of exploring and settling the vast continent—and it truly is massive, complete with aptly located natural wonders and resources. You then have 60 turns to blossom into a booming business state, with the dollars that you rake in every turn counting as your score.Generally I find that you’re either a scenario person or you’re not, and even though I’m in the latter camp, this was by far one of the better and more involved scenarios I’ve played in strategy games over the years. It felt genuinely specialised and non-tokenistic, with relevant civic policy, research, worker units, and even these adorable messages that would pop up and tell me that my explorer has permanently lost a movement point because he was “harassed by dingoes”. 

The pleasure you get out of this DLC will boil down to how seriously you take it, and how seriously you already take the Civilization franchise. For some of us, it may be a little ‘too real’ having to decide if 2017-Australia should support and expand its mining industry in order to satisfy international trading partners, even if it means sacrificing some of the globe's last remaining national parks and all hope at conservationism—all while a fiddle and a didgeridoo slowly drone through a somber rendition of Waltzing Matilda. But for others, they’ll just nuke France then go to bed.Oh, and the flag is a kangaroo.

Sid Meier’s Civilization® VI

Since its arrival last October, Firaxis and 2K's Civilization 6 has launched a host of updates, a catalogue of player-made mods, and its Australian Summer DLC—which sees the land Down Under enter the fold for the first time in the entire Civ series. If you're yet to experience any of that, it's also now launched a free demo. 

Downloadable via Steam, players who do so will assume control of China's Qin Shi Huang and play out 60 turns in charge of The Red Dragon. World domination can be levied by way of the Crouching Tiger Cannon, a ranged gunpowder unit; and the Great Wall improvement, where early game defence and gold transitions to culture and tourism—however you should consult Civ expert T.J. Hafer's full rundown over here

Here's how T.J. summed up Civilization 6 in his review last year: "Sight, sound, and systems harmonize to make Civilization 6 the liveliest, most engrossing, most rewarding, most challenging 4X in any corner of the earth."

Alongside the free demo, 2K is running a Publisher Weekend Sale which will net you discounts on Civ 6's full release, as well as the likes of XCOM 2 and Mafia 3. More information on that can be found this way.

PC Gamer

Civilization 6 is about to get much, much weirder. A post on the Civilization blog on Thursday announced the "Australian Summer 2017 update," available now, includes support for Steam Workshop and modding tools for anyone who wants to give Dr. Eggman his own Civilization. The update also includes team support for multiplayer, premium DLC for the Australia civilization, and the usual balance changes and bugfixes.

The mod tools include the following, as detailed on the blog

  • Added Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Development Tools, which includes ModBuddy, Tools, FireTuner, and the Steam Workshop Uploader.
  • ModBuddy: A packaging and development tool.
  • Art/Asset Tools: Import FBX files into a format usable by the game, as well as customize existing art.
  • FireTuner: In-game debugging and editing tool.
  • Added Sid Meier’s Civiliation VI Development Assets, which includes the game art assets. This is a large download (approximately 7GB compressed download and 27GB on disk) which contains game assets, including models, textures, and interface elements.

The post also adds that ModBuddy will be updated in the future as part of a modding SDK update, and that "these tools do not include DLL source for Civilization VI at this time." 

The Australia DLC marks the first time an Australian civilization has appeared in the series. We got a first look at it on Tuesday, and it turned out "coming soon" really meant soon. The Civ blog says Australia has been a "consistent top pick by our fans," which finally earned it a seat at the table. The Australia civilization and scenario pack costs $5 and includes the 'Outback Tycoon' scenario, which the blog describes like so:

"In this 60 turn non-combat scenario, you race to explore Australia, find its natural resources, and use them to enrich your colony. This competitive economic scenario has no combat. It emphasizes exploration and territorial expansion to increase your Gold per Turn net income, which is your score."

Modding/Steam Workshop support, and the rest of the changes in this patch, are free.

PC Gamer

Civilization 6 is set to add Australia to its turn-based 4X strategy bounds, which is the first time the land Down Under has featured in the series. Led by its 14th Prime Minister John Curtin, the Ozzies will enter the world domination fold as premium DLC alongside the game's forthcoming Australian Summer update.  

Said to be "coming soon", the update itself will be free-of-charge and will see the introduction of both multiplayer teams and mod tools. "Steam Workshop will allow you to browse, add, and subscribe to mods more easily," reads this Steam community post, while other tools are set to make things easier for modders themselves. The addition of multiplayer will of course allow players to bundle up and conquer the world against AI or human opponents.  

As for the Australian DLC, the new Civ will come packing a new unique ability, named Land Down Under, which provides cities extra housing when built on coastal tiles; a new unique unit, named The Digger, which replaces the infantry unit and offers additional power on land tiles adjacent to water; and a new unique improvement, the Outback Station, which unlocks with the guild civic and provides food and production—providing bonus food for adjacent pastures. 

More on that is written here, and showcased here:

Civilization 6's Australian Summer update is "coming soon." You may wish to check out the Humble Civilization Bundle in the meantime.

PC Gamer

Today's launch of the Humble Civilization Bundle means that, for the low price of just $1, you can be the proud owner of Sid Meier's Civilization 3 Complete and Sid Meier's Civilization 4: The Complete Edition on Steam. And if you have more money, they have more games. 

Bounce that buck up to more than the average purchase price and you'll add Civ 5, the Gods and Kings and Brave New World expansion packs, a big wad of DLC including Scrambled Continents, the Explorer's Map Pack, and the Civilization and Scenario packs, and coupons for 20 percent off Civ 6, and 25 percent off Civ 6 Digital Deluxe, in the Humble Store. 

Make it $15 (or more, if you're feeling generous) and you'll also take home Civilization: Beyond Earth, and the Exoplanets and Rising Tide expansions.  

That is a ridiculous amount of Civilization for a ridiculously good price. Dare to compare: Civilization 5, without the expansions, costs twice as much on Steam as this entire bundle, as do each of the expansions. The Civilization: Beyond Earth Collection, with the base game and the two expansions, lists for $60—four times the price of the bundle. Even Civ 4 is still $20, compared to $6 here.

The Humble Civilization Bundle is live now and will be available until 1 pm ET on March 7. 

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.

PC Gamer

Official Civilization 6 mod tools and Steam Workshop integration aren't ready yet, but they are still on their way. Firaxis's Pete Murray reconfirmed during a multiplayer livestream today that "the team is working on those, and when we have more information to share with you, we will be sure to do so." You can watch the statement in the Twitch clip above, posted to Reddit by user ConsiderableNames.

Murray also included multiplayer teams in that list, which is another hotly requested item among the multiplayer community. We had previously heard these features were coming, but Firaxis hadn't given too much information recently about the status of them. So in this case, no news is good news as it means nothing was canceled.

Of course, the lack of official mod support hasn't stopped people from making great Civilization 6 mods, but the community hasn't grown in the way Firaxis's other hit XCOM 2's mod scene did by having mod and workshop support at launch. Obviously they are different teams working on the two games, but given the lush history of Civilization 5 mods one would think support would have arrived sooner. Still, it's always nice to see big developers support the mod community at all. 

PC Gamer

Our Game of the Year awards get more difficult to pick every year. With approximately 38% of all Steam games released this year alone, playing them all is impossible, but we do our best to review a cross-section of releases we think will both appeal to our audience and represent the majority of quickly multiplying corners throughout all genres in PC gaming. Last year, we cut off the list at scores above 80%, but because there were so many games that made the cut, we’ve upped our standards to 84%. These games were reviewed by many different people with varying perspectives, but all according to our reviews policy. As such, try not to sweat it when scores don’t correlate across the board. And if a favorite game is missing, swing by our reviews page to find it or let us know in the comments. 

Dishonored 2

Release date: Nov 11, 2016 ▪ Developer: Arkane ▪ Our review (93%)

Despite some technical troubles—which are steadily being patched out—Dishonored 2 is one of our favorite games of the year. It's no secret that we're big fans of systems-driven games at PC Gamer, and we've celebrated Metal Gear Solid 5 and the new Hitman thoroughly for that reason. Dishonored 2 is another for the list, even better than its predecessor and one of the best stealth/action games we've played.

Football Manager 2017

Release date: Nov 3, 2016 ▪ Developer: Sports Interactive ▪ Our review (85%)If you’ve ever played Football Manager, then you already know what to expect in the latest version. It’s a refinement that makes important information easier to access so you spend more time living the stories of your teams instead of processing dense screens of statistics, but it doesn’t entirely upend the formula. Why would it? Football Manager 2017 is the best entry in a well established series, so far unparalleled. If you want to manage some football, Football Manager 2017 is the way to go. 

Hitman: The Complete First Season

Release date: Many ▪ Developer: IO Interactive ▪ Our review (84%)

We were all a little surprised when we found out the new Hitman would be episodic, but as Phil says in his review of the full first season, pulling back on Absolution's story focus was a boon. While there's still a story, what's at the heart of new Hitman is "a standalone series of sandbox murder playgrounds," as Phil put it. Blood Money fans should be pleased.

Titanfall 2

Release date: Oct 28, 2016 ▪ Developer: Respawn ▪ Our review (91%) 

With the addition of a single-player campaign and no season pass to divide the community, Titanfall 2 sheds two common complaints about the original—and also does what it does fantastically. "If this were a game from the late nineties or early noughties, we'd likely look back at the mission 'Effect and Cause' as one of the greats of the genre," wrote Chris in his review. The multiplayer is better than before as well, but there's one worry—Titanfall 2's population could suffer from its proximity to Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Let's hope it doesn't.

Battlefield 1

Release date: Oct 21, 2016 ▪ Developer: DICE ▪ Our review (89%) 

The leap back in time to WWI had good results, as Battlefield 1's focus on infantry combat pairs well with more meaningful planes and tanks, and its finicky guns slow things down a little, giving us more time to move and more pride in our good shots. The campaign is enjoyable too, which hasn't quite been the case in a Battlefield game for some time.

Civilization 6

Release date: Oct 21, 2016 ▪ Developer: Firaxis ▪ Our review (93%)

There's of course room for improvement, but Civilization 6 is nevertheless the "ultimate digital board game," as we put it in our review. It's the most  transformative version of Civ so far, changing the rules of city-management and tweaking just about everything else. And Civ 6 will only get better with expansions and user-made additions—even though the mod tools aren't out yet, the modders are already at work.

Sunless Sea: Zubmariner

Release date: Oct 11, 2016 ▪ Developer: Failbetter Games ▪ Our review (90%)In any Lovecraftian narrative, the descent always gives way to more unspeakable madness and horror, which is exactly what Zubmariner accomplishes. As an expansion to the oceanic exploration text adventuring of Sunless Sea, it sends the player beneath the waves and on the path to unraveling the mysteries of the flooded world. As scary as it is, there’s nothing spooky about more of an already excellent thing.

Forza Horizon 3

Release date: Sep 27, 2016 ▪ Developer:  Playground Games  ▪ Our review (92%)

One of the best racing games on PC, with a huge open world Australian playground (that's also full of irritating personalities) and over 350 gorgeous cars. As it's published by Microsoft Studios, Forza Horizon 3 is only available on the Windows Store—but at least Chris managed a smooth 60 fps, and didn't have many technical issues despite the Universal Windows Platform's rocky start.

World of Warcraft: Legion

Release date: Aug 30, 2016 ▪ Developer:  Blizzard  ▪ Our review (90%) 

Legion had a lot of work to do after the disappointing Warlords of Draenor, but even before all its pieces are in place, it succeeds. The quest writing, new order halls, and improved class identity are all high points. "For the first time, I don't just feel like I'm playing a druid—I am a druid," wrote Steven in his review.

N++

Release date: Aug 25, 2016 ▪ Developer: Metanet Software ▪ Our review (92%)

A refined action platformer with tricky, floaty jumps, 1,125 levels and a level editor—so there's no risk of being left wanting. Shaun has played over 300 hours of the original PS4 version, and put another 20 into this new PC release. "In some ways N++ feels like the end of the action platformer, like an exhaustive final document, a catalogue of its emotional highs and lows," he wrote in his review. It's safe to say he liked it a bit.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Release date: Aug 23, 2016 ▪ Developer: Eidos Montreal ▪ Our review (88%)

Andy wasn't super impressed by the story, but Mankind Divided's detailed vision of a future Prague, new augmentations, and level design earned it high marks. "Everywhere you look there are sentry turrets, security bots, criss-crossed laser tripwires, and patrolling guards," Andy wrote. "Getting inside, stealing the particular item you’re looking for, and escaping unseen was hugely satisfying."

F1 2016

Release date: Aug 18, 2016 ▪ Developer:  Codemasters ▪ Our review (87%) 

After last year's disappointment F1 2016 deserved some skepticism, but Codemasters came through—F1 2016 is "the most well-featured, authentic recreation of Formula One ever created, and it’s a genuinely good PC port," wrote reviewer Sam White. Better physics, better AI, and new details hoist it above the series' previous missteps.

Overcooked

Release date: Aug 3, 2016 ▪ Developer: Ghost Town Games ▪ Our review (86%)If you need to test your friendships, Overcooked is the game for you. A top down co-op cooking game, Overcooked places up to four players in crazy kitchens and throws an endless series of dishes their way. Getting a high score requires close, coordinated teamwork, but the moment communication breaks down, things can get messy. Tom calls it, “the perfect balance of chaos that can be conquered with skill,” and “hands down one of the best couch party games ever made.” Overcooked is a guaranteed recipe for fun. And disaster. And absolute despair. If you have the company, don’t miss it. 

Abzu

Release date: Aug 2, 2016 ▪ Developer: Giant Squid ▪ Our review (88%)James calls Abzu “an expertly directed psychedelic marine tour without a single UI or text prompt telling you where to go or what to do, purely driven by curiosity.” You control a diver and explore big, colorful underwater scenes, interacting with a wide assortment of sea life while unraveling a quiet story with an environmental message. Accompanied by an inspiring score from Austin Wintory, Abzu is an easy emotional journey to recommend.

Starbound

Release date: Jul 22, 2016 ▪ Developer: Chucklefish ▪ Our review (84%)According to Chris, Starbound is the charming and deep space exploration sandbox we were promised during its prolonged Early Access phase. It’s not perfect, lacking in combat systems and it’s still pretty cryptic, but “Starbound is otherwise a great pleasure, full of verve and laden with seemingly endless diversions and self-directed projects that you can lose yourself in for hours or days at a time.”

Lovely Planet Arcade

Release date: Jul 22, 2016 ▪ Developer: Quicktequila ▪ Our review (84%)

The follow-up to the great Lovely Planet, Lovely Planet Arcade strips the Y-axis from its precision, small-level shooting, meaning you can't look up and down. It's very different from its predecessor, but the essence of what makes it fun is still there: "the thrill of executing prescriptive shooting challenges with nearly zero room for error," as James put it in his review. 

Furi

Release date: Jul 5, 2016 ▪ Developer: The Game Bakers ▪ Our review (86%)

Furi has "a ludicrous premise, strenuous combat, loud neon synth jams, and saturated color palette"—but also restraint, says James. A series of bullet-hell hack n' slash boss fights train you in simple combat techniques:  slash, parry, shoot, and dash. Some bugs and difficulty spikes held it back a little, but Furi is still one of our favorite surprise hits of the year.

Hearts of Iron 4

Release date: June 6, 2016 ▪ Developer: Paradox ▪ Our review (88%)

You’ll find some cracks in the simulation, but how could there not be a few holes in such a sweeping, complicated scenario? Hearts of Iron 4 is “a beautiful, thrilling wargame” that presents the entire globe as it was at the outbreak of World War 2—and everything that happens from there is up to you and the AI.

“The AI may not always be sensible, and maybe combat doesn't always seem quite historically accurate,” wrote Rob in our review, “but then, you might be playing a version of World War 2 where Italy broke away from Germany to create a new Roman Empire with Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union was plunged into civil war and Stalin was deposed by 1942.” 

Overwatch

Release date: May 24, 2016 ▪ Developer: Blizzard ▪ Our review (88%)

A great team shooter that emphasizes positioning, teamwork and tactics over agility and marksmanship, but still leaves room for players to grow in the latter department. There are still character tweaks to be made to ensure they’re continuously viable and fun and all create interesting dynamics, but it’s the sort of game you could tweak forever. Overwatch can't replace Team Fortress 2 for us, but it’s certainly recaptured the experience of getting a bunch of friends together for night-long sessions of the current top shooter. Competitive mode is out now, and we’re keen to earn some golden guns.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

Release date: May 31, 2016 ▪ Developer: CD Projekt RED ▪ Our review (94%)

With Geralt's journey into the sun-drenched vintner lands of Toussaint, CD Projekt RED capstones an RPG masterpiece, defining a standard for interactive storytelling. The Witcher 3's Blood and Wine expansion follows Hearts of Stone in adding new gear and combat abilities as well as stitching together small yet eventful scenarios into a greater web of intrigue. The wonderfully paced narrative of an ostensibly routine whodunit set in Toussaint's fairytale countryside reflects what makes The Witcher games so great: a politically divided world, superb dialogue, and distinctly memorable characters. 

Total War: Warhammer

Release date: May 24, 2016 ▪ Developer: Creative Assembly ▪ Our review (86%)

The Total War series and the Warhammer franchise share a love for massive armies crashing into each other on an epic battlefield, but the latter also includes wizards with fire for hair and smelly sentient fungus. That results in more distinctly characterized armies in Total War: Warhammer emphasized by the Warhammer universe’s magic spells and flying units—all added strategy layered on the Total War pedigree of positional and tactical superiority.

Duskers

Release date: May 18, 2016 ▪ Developer: Misfits Attic ▪ Our review (86%)

Piloting drones through abstract maps of derelict spaceships might not sound tense, but Duskers can be nightmarish. “Frantically typing commands into the console when things suddenly go sideways makes me feel like I’m really huddled in a darkened dropship, alone, desperately trying to save my drones and by extension myself,” said Chris Livingston in his review. Watch out for aliens.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster

Release date: May 12, 2016 ▪ Developer: Square Enix ▪ Our review (85%)In the last few years, Square Enix started plugging the gaps missing in the Final Fantasy series availability on PC, with varying degrees of commitment. Not every port has been stellar, but X and X-2 HD both function pretty well, albeit not particularly well with a mouse and keyboard. They’re among the more divisive entries in the series and haven’t aged perfectly, but looking back, Sam still thinks, “Spira is a wonderful world that’s well worth exploring, and X and X-2’s different approaches to combat systems are both deep and exciting.”

Doom

Release date: May 12, 2016 ▪ Developer: id Software ▪ Our review (88%)

Doom's reverence of a primordial aspect of FPS design—killing—borders on comical exaggeration with its fountains of demon blood and a main character who communicates by punching things. That fittingly fuels fast and fun combat indulging the nostalgia of id's run-and-gun lineage without smothering its metal brutality. Doom's first major update since launch adds a Photo mode for screenshots and ups the classic feel with an optional center-aligned weapon model. 

Offworld Trading Company

Release date: Apr 28, 2016 ▪ Developer: Mohawk Games ▪ Our review (88%)Imagine an intro to marketing class, streamlined and condensed into a sweet, chewy bubblegum format—and set on Mars. That’s Offworld Trading Company, a strategy and management sim where you take control of a business dedicated to supplying new human colonies. Matt praises the unknowable depth and feedback in his review, stating ‘There’s a simple, tactile joy of seeing every a nudge of the finger explode into a flourish of numbers, but a deep and lasting satisfaction from knowing every profit was carefully engineered.”

Duelyst

Release date: April 27, 2016 ▪ Developer: Counterplay ▪ Our review (84%)

Hearthstone blazed a path by making digital card games popular on PC, and many competitors have followed in the years since. But none of them have broken so far away from the pack as Duelyst. It’s a tactics game and a CCG mixed into one, wrapped up with some of the best pixel art animations and character design of any game all year. It’s easy to pick up, but the addition of movement to largely traditional card game mechanics give it an amazing amount of depth that has kept it as one of our favorite card games all year. 

The Banner Saga 2

Release date: April 19, 2016 ▪ Developer: Stoic ▪ Our review (86%)

We loved the original, and the sequel is even better. The Banner Saga 2 is a weighty tale of survival, and a brutal strategy challenge. Some interface issues carry over from the first game, but as our reviewer put it: “Yes, there’s still room for improvement, but this is a smart, worthy sequel: denser, richer, more complex and yet more intimate. Even if you’ll feel in dire need of a stiff drink once this second act draws to its devastating close.”

Dark Souls 3

Release date: April 11, 2016 ▪ Developer: FromSoftware ▪ Our review (94%)

James calls Dark Souls 3 “the most focused, potent game in the series” in his review. It has diverse and numerous enemies, masterful combat and world design, and a dense, mysterious story to every inch of stone. Most importantly, it’s not good simply because it’s hard

Chronos

Release date: Mar 28, 2016 ▪ Developer: Gunfire Games ▪ Our review (84%)VR is still lacking a deep, directed experience that begs to be played in the steadily growing medium, but Chronos might be the closest we’ll get for a while. It’s a full blown action adventure, taking cues from The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls with punishing 3rd person sword-and-board combat and winding monolithic level design. It also makes clever use of VR in ways that can’t be replicated on a monitor, but they’re best experienced firsthand. Wes is dying for more, saying, “It’s a rare thing for me to be halfway through a game and already excited to play a sequel.” Let’s hope Oculus moves enough headsets to make it happen.

Samorost 3

Release date: March 24, 2016 ▪ Developer: Amanita Design ▪ Our review (87%)

The greatest work so far from Czech indie studio Amanita Design. It’s a point-and-click adventure, but puzzles aren’t as important here as imagery, metaphor, and surreal weirdness. “They're also so surreal that when I did something right, it was sometimes impossible to tell exactly what I did, or why it was right,” said Andy Chalk in our review. “I crept up behind a glowing, golden gazelle, leapt upon its back, and went for a wild ride along the side of a mountain.” 

Out of the Park Baseball 17

Release date: Mar 22, 2016 ▪ Developer: Out of the Park Developments ▪ Our review (89%)There’s no baseball management sim that comes close to the batting average of Out of the Park Baseball, and while it may not feel like a complete reinvention of the series, it’s still the best in the business. In our review, Ben says, “A wealth of up-to-date licences and attribute ratings make OOTP 17 an essential purchase for the devoted player, while newcomers will swiftly grasp, and love, its relentless brilliance.” 

Day of the Tentacle Remastered

Release date: March 21, 2016 ▪ Developer: Double Fine  ▪ Our review (87%)

Day of the Tentacle is great. Day of the Tentacle Remastered is that great game, remastered, and is also great. It holds up over 20 years later, and the modernization gives us an appealing opportunity to take another trip through time. “You can still play your old copy in DOSBox or ScummVM, of course,” noted Andy in our review, “but if you want a more streamlined, modern experience, with some fascinating insight into how the game was made, the remaster is worth investing in.” 

Superhot

Release date: Feb 25, 2016 ▪ Developer: Superhot Team ▪ Our review (84%)

Time moves when you move in Superhot, a shooter distilling its mechanics into a polygonal portrayal of bullet-time. It doesn't take long to complete, but clearing a level without dying in a single hit is a challenging demand of mental forethought echoing the zen-like state of FPS professionals. A VR version of Superhot for the Oculus Rift is in the works, so you can make those Matrix moves in your living room without looking too ridiculous (or maybe not).

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Release date: Feb 18, 2016 ▪ Developer: Spike Chunsoft ▪ Our review (86%)

As a visual novel, Danganronpa's length is matched only by the ridiculousness of its premise. That 15 of Japan's most gifted students could get trapped into playing a murderous game of "Guess Who?" by a mechanical bear is certainly a very anime concept. But through that goofy setup, Danganronpa takes a dark turn and displays a real gift for taking absurd characters and making them endearing—which makes it all the more gut-wrenching when they inevitably die. There's a reason that in our review, Andy said, "the story is so compelling that I barely noticed that all I was doing was clicking through lines of dialogue." 

Firewatch

Release date: Feb 9, 2016 ▪ Developer: Campo Santo ▪ Our review (85%)

Great dialogue, excellent voice performances, a minimal soundtrack, and some beautiful visuals brought real life to this first-person adventure game. Set in Wyoming, you play the glum and haunted Henry who is spending a secluded summer as a firewatchman. While the conclusion of the story doesn’t live up to the compelling setup, the believable relationship between Henry and Delilah, another park ranger, more than make up for it.

XCOM 2

Release date: Feb 4, 2016 ▪ Developer: Firaxis ▪ Our review (94%)

Sid Meier once described a game as a "series of interesting decisions." And in our review, Tom said that "XCOM 2 is the purest expression of that ethos that Firaxis has yet produced." From the moment you first take up arms against your alien oppressors, XCOM 2 hits you with a relentless barrage of choices so jaw-clenchingly difficult you're going to need a cigarette after each one. The lives you sacrifice for the greater good will be etched in your mind, and the temptation to reload an old save will be overwhelming. If you can resist and embrace consequence, XCOM 2 will transform you into a grizzled commander through the fires of conflict.

The Witness

Release date: Jan 26, 2016 ▪ Developer: Thekla, Inc. ▪ Our review (89%)

The Witness is brilliant in its simplicity. It speaks in a language without words, but uses shape and form to impart philosophical ideas that will change the way you see its world. Repetition is a stern yet fair teacher, and engaging with that silent discourse as a student begins to unravel the relationship entirely. But The Witness can also feel frustratingly vague. As Edwin said in our review, "what it ultimately seeks to offer is a vantage point, a perspective on life's mysteries, rather than answers." But even if you don't like the answer, The Witness proves questions are worth asking.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak

Release date: Jan 20, 2016 ▪ Developer: Blackbird ▪ Our review (90%)

To take Homeworld and put it on the ground seems “almost sacrilegious,” wrote Rob Zacny in our review. But it works. “It's not only a terrific RTS that sets itself apart from the rest of the genre's recent games,” he said, “but it's also an excellent Homeworld game that reinvents the series while also recapturing its magic.” Deserts of Kharak is both approachable—less about production, more about tactics—and another example of all the life still flowing through the RTS genre.

Darkest Dungeon

Release date: Jan 19, 2016 ▪ Developer: Red Hook Studios ▪ Our review (88%)

Darkest Dungeon is cruel, probably too cruel. It's a dungeon crawler that doesn't deal in stats and loot alone but also trades on the mental well-being of the heroes you send into its festering crypts. But these heroes don't return stronger for their troubles; they come back battered and broken, a liability you're much better off dismissing. Beneath all that doom and gloom is an innovative take on turn-based RPGs that weaves the positioning of party members with an unconventional class system, that inspires experimentation despite the constant dread of what will happen if you fail.

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

Release date: Jan 19, 2016 ▪ Developer: YCJY ▪ Our review (90%)

Our reviewer loved how Aquatic Adventure “fast-forwards through the Metroidvania template, stripping it down to its most essential parts: exploration, atmosphere, and player growth”. It’s an underwater take on the classic genre, where you putter around gorgeous pixel-art environments, collecting upgrades, taking out challenging bosses, and try to decipher how earth’s oceanic apocalypse came about. You also get to swim out of a giant sea worm’s ass, a necessary experience. 

Pony Island

Release date: Jan 4, 2016 ▪ Developer: Daniel Mullins ▪ Our review (91%)

Pony Island is so dependent on its little self-referential gimmicks that it’s hard to explain without giving it all away. In a sense, and because there’s a pun to be made, that makes it a one-trick pony, but it does a great trick. One of its pranks near the end of the game is so devious we won’t likely forget it soon. If you like Undertale or The Stanley Parable, you’ll probably enjoy Pony Island. 

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