Lonely Mountains: Downhill Is The Perfect Game For This Moment

Any attempt to articulate the challenges of 2020 to another person feels a lot like shouting at the seatmate next to you on the plane that is threatening to crash. Suffice to say, we’re all facing the same dilemma. If there’s anything that we share, it’s that recent months have brought a fair share of frustration and difficulty. As such, any game that offers a sense of calm, focus, and peace is worth its weight in gold. If you share my desire for entertainment of that variety, then whether you’ve played it yet or not, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is like hitting the motherlode, especially as the game prepares to roll out its biggest expansion to date.

If you’re new to the game, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is a mountain biking game in which you navigate winding paths down idyllic mountainous terrain. As the soft sounds of birdcall and gentle wind fill your ears, the gameplay rides a delicate line between beautiful and gradual exploration of a gorgeous nature setting, and breakneck jumps and drops through highly vertical geometry. In my original review from 2019, I recalled the way Lonely Mountains: Downhill brought to mind the old classic Marble Madness and its isometric descents, but mixed with the careful practice-makes-perfect vibe of games in the Trials series. Even at release, it was a lovely and engaging game.

In the months since, the developers at Megagon have only improved what was already a great experience, tweaking almost all of the issues that frustrated me in that original release. New mountains and trails are now easier to unlock and discover, even as the challenges in those environments remain as tricky as before. A new bike part unlock system ensures that players have far more flexibility to start using the bicycles they want at a more measured pace. And, among other small additions, a night mode offers a way to experience each mountain trail in a whole new (and challenging) light.


On top of all that, Megagon is preparing to release its biggest expansion to the game on October 22. I had a chance to play an early build of Eldjfall Island this week, and it’s easily the most diverse and entertaining set of trails, leveraging the best ideas for level design and artistic presentation that were a part of the core game, and making them better. Eldjfall is a brand-new mountain (really, a small range) that includes four lengthy trails, spread across a particularly striking and varied landscape. On one, a thunderstorm lashes the island landscape, and you race to the base amid pouring rain and flashes of lightning. On another trail, you start at the peak of an active volcano, and pedal along past molten streams before dropping down cliffs and switchbacks to eventually hear the calls of gulls by the seashore. And, on top of this massive new space to explore, the expansion also brings a wealth of new unlockable cosmetics, from backpacks to helmets.

The Eldjfall Island expansion is a great motivation to hop in, especially if you’re a player who enjoyed the game in the past but you’re ready to return. However, the real reason to play Lonely Mountains Downhill right now isn’t all the new stuff – it’s the way that the game is like a video game balm for the rash of current events. Its quiet and Zen-like aesthetic is a welcome relief from the constant political refrains we hear on the news right now. The intense focus required to successfully navigate the trails pulls you into a flow, making it easy (if only for a time) to set aside concerns about viruses, masks, and infection, and instead embrace the freedom and careless joy of rocketing your little virtual biker off a cliff, and hoping you nail the landing. And the time trials, challenges, and leaderboards welcome engagement from both you and your friends; it may be a lonely mountain that only features single-player play options, but the developer has crafted a rich interplay of leaderboard tracking across the game, making it a great choice for friends looking to compete during a time that most of us must stay far away from one another.

There’s no shortage of awesome new games on the horizon, and the latest consoles are now only weeks away from launch; we have plenty of novel things for a gamer to be excited about. But thanks to some robust support from its creators, Lonely Mountains Downhill is in the best place it has ever been, and is much improved since its launch last year. If you’ve found yourself distracted and troubled by the events around you in the real world, you’re not alone. And, to be clear,  those troubles aren’t something I’m recommending you run away from. But if all you need is a game that gives a moment’s respite from concern, Lonely Mountains: Downhill is as perfect a place to find it as I’ve encountered.

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Ghost Of Tsushima’s Multiplayer Is Narrated By Avatar’s Uncle Iroh

Players of Ghost of Tsushima: Legends are just getting their feet wet today with the launch of the new multiplayer mode. And as soon as the tutorial gets going, a narrator by the name of Gyozen begins to set the stage duing a snazzy opening cinematic and subsequent tutorial. If that voice sounds especially familiar, it’s likely you’re also a big animation fan, as the voice actor in question, Greg Baldwin, is also the voice behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra’s Iroh character, as well as Aku from Samurai Jack.

The story is slightly more complicated, because Baldwin himself, along with the particular inflections he uses in those roles (some of which have carried over for Gyozen) are his efforts to imitate the great Mako Iwamatsu, who died in 2006, and who originally played both Aku and Iroh. Mako had a long and storied career, and it was only in his later life that he took on the familiar roles in Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender. After his death, Greg Baldwin took over those roles, and studied the late actor’s techniques and inflections carefully to appropriately honor his work.

The new role of Gyozen in Ghost of Tsushima: Legends bears the unmistakable tenor and quality of that voice, and certainly made me smile as I began my dive back into the gorgeous world of Ghost of Tsushima.  


Bungie Reveals Next-Gen Destiny 2 Dates And Details

Bungie today shared new details about what players can expect to experience with Destiny 2 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. And, equally important, we learned about when major features are coming online for next-gen console players. While Destiny 2 will be available on next-gen platforms beginning on November 10, several of the new enhancements on those systems will not release until December 8.

At console launch, players can expect to see both faster load times and cross-generation play within console families (PS5 with PS4, and Xbox Series X/S with Xbox One). The better load times will be a particularly enticing feature for many console players, as it means not only shorter waits to fly into places like the Tower, but also faster loading of inventory information, such as when you hover over a particular equipment slot in your character sheet – a problem that has plagued current-gen console players for a long time.

Meanwhile, several other features are going to take a bit more time before they go online, and won’t arrive until December 8, including 4K resolution (on PS5 and Xbox Series X, but not on Xbox Series S), 60fps framerate, and a newly announced field of view slider, a feature that aims to be similar to the same option already on PC.

Upgrading to the next-gen version of Destiny 2 is free on PlayStation 5, and on Xbox Series X/S through Xbox Smart Delivery.

Console players who were eager to play the next expansion, Beyond Light, and get the full 4K and 60fps experience right away at expansion launch may be frustrated that the full suite of capabilities won’t be online right away. On the other hand, cross-generational play at launch is a huge deal, ensuring that clans and other friend groups will be able to keep playing together, no matter who has the money to upgrade their system.

Check out the full rundown about next-gen features on Bungie’s site


Torchlight III Review – Seamless Destruction

Publisher: Perfect World
Developer: Echtra Games

(PlayStation 4,
Xbox One,
PC), 2020 (Switch)

Reviewed on: PC
Also on:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

Torchlight III knows what it is, and embraces that identity. It’s not the biggest action/RPG on the market. It doesn’t have the most grim or mature setting, nor does it have the most complicated fictional backdrop. Instead, Echtra has crafted a buoyant adventure that joyfully hops players from one environment to the next, with barely a hitch of story or quest-tracking needed. The monsters are plentiful, the powers you wield are bombastic, and the unfolding battles fill the screen with colorful blasts and thunderous noise. The seamless nature of the action and leveling is just barely complex enough to demand your attention, making it a welcome fit for laid-back nights of escape, whether by yourself or with up to four friends working together.

Even as an enthusiast for gaming narrative, I skipped along the light storytelling of Torchlight III like a rock across water, vaguely capturing the gist of a tale set 100 years after the last game, with some bad guys from another dimension hoping to take over the world. The visual world-building is more robust, capturing a fun aesthetic mixing classic fantasy with clockwork/steampunk aesthetics. The result is a colorful setting filled with flashing elemental blasts and endless gears. The playful tone and art direction are a pleasant departures from the dark and gory norms of the genre, even if some spaces feel too similar. I was also frequently frustrated that large environmental objects occlude the view, which can sometimes just be annoying, but occasionally put your hero in a vulnerable spot.

In a mostly frictionless game, the one space Echtra has carved out depth is a rewarding character upgrade system. Four amusing classes each offer something enticing, from the dark and light balancing of the Dusk Mage to the borderline silly Railmaster, who literally builds a railway track and hauls a train behind him throughout the adventure. Each class is further enhanced through the selection of a relic subclass – a special elemental object that adds an additional tree of abilities. As such, your Sharpshooter class plays quite differently, depending on whether you’ve decided to freeze your enemies with the Coldheart relic or set the world ablaze with the Flaming Destroyer.

No matter your selection, it only takes a few levels to transform into a walking engine of destruction, encouraging that pleasant flow that comes from decimating dozens of enemies every minute in increasingly cathartic area-effect blasts and crushing weapon smashes. Multiple adjustable difficulty levels allow for efficient scaling to your experience or attention level; players who want a more dangerous adventure certainly have that option, though the game feels best when it moves at high speed, rather than slogging through a challenge your character isn’t ready for. No matter how hard you make it, you settle quickly into a mostly mindless rhythm of power rotation and satisfying loot bursts.

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Thanks to a pet who happily jets off to sell your gear, inventory management is a breeze, and I liked the variety of both cosmetic and functional features reflected in the many weapon and armor pieces I gathered. Players looking for an especially rich system of attribute optimization are likely to be disappointed. Like most things in the game, the focus is on quickly getting you back into the fray, not endless hand-wringing about which gloves to put on.

After you complete the campaign, Echtra has planted a number of wrinkles to maintain your interest, including an enchantment system, increased focus on crafting, and the ability to further customize your fort. I never warmed to fort development, which unfolds in a cramped space, and the changes I made rarely affected gameplay enough to be satisfying.

I enjoyed the post-game dungeon system, in which an enterprising djinni sets up shop to create endless “Dun’djinns” (get it?) for you to explore, each with increasingly challenging modifiers, and ever greater rewards. For players who fall in love with continued character development, there’s no shortage of additional battles on the horizon, though I was personally ready to try a new hero after a few hours of post-game. That end-game option is especially welcome if you’re playing with friends. Torchlight III supports up to four-player online cooperative options, and it’s borderline ridiculous to watch even more chaos unfold, even if the onscreen visual clutter can get especially hard to track.

Clever class design accepted, Torchlight III doesn’t offer tremendous innovation or nuance in its systems or gameplay. The gratuitous destruction is often great fun, right up until the hour marker when it’s not, and it all starts to feel a bit tedious. Thankfully, there’s always a new magic sword to collect, a respec to try out, a new character class to discover, or a dungeon to delve. Torchlight III is an approachable action/RPG that’s especially welcoming to newcomers, or simply players who don’t want to focus too hard on their evening’s entertainment. Repeat conquerors of heaven and hell may wish to look elsewhere, but if your desires for fantasy destruction are more about high-octane action, Torchlight III rarely disappoints.

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Score: 8

Summary: Echtra has put together a no-frills action/RPG with plenty of fun monster smashing, even if the approachable gameplay is not incredibly deep or complex.

Concept: Hack, slash, and loot your way through a colorful clockwork world

Graphics: Attractive but lighthearted designs mostly defy the genre convention for dark settings, helping the visuals stand apart

Sound: How do you feel about explosions and spell effects? Those sounds tend to override everything else

Playability: The interlocking leveling and crafting systems are all sensibly presented and easy to navigate, and action feels smooth on controller or with mouse and keyboard

Entertainment: A simple and no-frills action/RPG that ticks all the boxes, so you can keep clicking the monsters.

Replay: Moderately High

Click to Purchase


Top Of The Table – Small World Of Warcraft

I suspect that Small World of Warcraft began its life with someone giggling about the way the two franchise names combined in an amusing way. But after that initial laugh, it must not have taken very long to realize that the popular Small World board game concept was an excellent match for the celebrated Blizzard video game. The resulting marriage has led to a tabletop game that should readily engage fans of the Warcraft universe, whether you’ve ever played the original Small World or not. Accessible rules and some gorgeous art on Small World of Warcraft’s plentiful components make this an easy choice for game night for you and your friends, especially if you’re waiting impatiently for a certain expansion to arrive.

Like the original Small World, the new World of Warcraft-themed version is an area control game, in which victory is earned by controlling as many territories around the board as possible. Unlike in the original game and its larger landmass, the new WoW-themed variation unfolds on several large islands, clearly in a nod to the distinct continents and islands that are part of the video game. Players move units of their chosen race onto different regions around the board, initially taking over unclaimed spots, or areas held by neutral units. But eventually, because the game world is indeed too small for everyone, each player is forced into battle as they attempt to conquer areas already held by another player, usually simply by moving in with a larger force than is present for the controlling player.

Small World of Warcraft deserves praise for its bright and inviting aesthetic, and the solid production value on all its plentiful components

That fairly basic overall structure is easy to explain to new players, and certainly lines up well with some of the narrative contrivances of the Warcraft fiction. But it’s the interesting twists that keep Small World of Warcraft so much fun for one play session after the next. First, not only does each race, from Humans and Draenei, to Trolls and Tauren, have their own special capabilities, but in each game, those player races are matched together with separate special power tokens, which add yet more variety. So, in one game the Worgen might be Herbalists, but in another, they might be Mountaineers.

With 16 races, and 20 special powers, there’s a huge variety of combos that show up, ensuring each game has several new surprises. I was impressed by how well each race and power matched up with dynamics from the video game. Dwarves are better at conquering mountain regions, and Blood Elves earn more victory coins for magic regions. Amid special powers, it’s the same; for instance, Portal Mages can freely move tokens around the board between different magic regions. For players of the video game, in particular, it’s great fun to see these powers and racial capabilities roll out into play. Just wait until someone starts throwing out bombs as they control the Goblins, some of which explode, and some of which are total duds.

Another rewarding mechanic is the idea of sending a race into decline. Like the Night Elves once withdrew from the world in the story of the MMO, players of Small World of Warcraft can choose to put their race into decline, and select a new one at some point over the course of the game. You’re still gaining victory points for the race you’ve left behind, but they halt their expansion efforts and special power usage. However, in return, you get to choose a brand new race to send into the field – fresh blood that suddenly changes up the entire dynamic of the board while sending your opponents plans into disarray.

Each race comes into play with a random special power, leading to tremendous variety

Another big change from the original Small World leads to my preferred playstyle – team-based play, built around the seemingly unending war between the Horde and Alliance, sometimes with neutral races like the Naga thrown into the mix, depending on player count. This alternate play mode is a ton of fun, but is likely best saved for a time when all the players at the table already know the game, since it adds a bit more complexity. Even so, I like the new wrinkle provided by having allied players working together across the board to win the day.

But even if you don’t choose team play, the Alliance and Horde affiliations still must be factored in for even a standard game, as you’ll get bonus victory coins each time you take down enemies from the opposing faction. It’s a small addition that honors the source fiction, and those extra points can make a big difference in close games.

For players looking for even more WoW-related theming, the addition of artifacts and legendary places goes a long way to lock in the vibe. Artifacts like the Doomhammer and Frostmourne lend your race extra capabilities, like conquering regions at a lower token cost. Likewise, legendary places like the Dark Portal and Light’s Hope Chapel bestow powerful benefits for the controlling player. Beyond the flavor it brings, I like the way these additional high-power items and locations lead to hotbeds of contention across the board, often changing hands multiple times.

Even without the connection to the video game, the new team-based variant and other additions like artifacts make this my preferred version of Small World

Through the use of smaller island landmasses, Small World of Warcraft scales to the player count in some smart ways. Nonetheless, I found that the game is best suited for larger player counts, in which the constant push and pull between numerous races with different powers feels especially impactful. In larger games, a meta-layer of player storytelling can emerge; since each player can attack and take over whatever region they want, it’s easy for table conversation to take amusing turns, like pretending the Orcs have bad blood with the Trolls, that the Forsaken don’t care who they attack, or any number of other emergent tales based on the way each player moves across the board.

A lot has happened in the tabletop gaming world since Small World’s original release in 2009, but I find the easy-to-play strategy gameplay still holds up in this new version, especially thanks to the smart partnership with World of Warcraft. The new game is squarely targeted at WoW enthusiasts, but the fantasy setting means that even players who have never stepped foot in Azeroth aren’t going to lose their way in this board game, any more than they would have in the original. Small World of Warcraft is a game filled with gorgeous art, smart and balanced gameplay, and plenty of nods to the setting, and it makes for an easy recommendation to anyone with even a passing enthusiasm for the Warcraft universe.

There’s no shortage of wonderful new tabletop games to discover on the market right now. If you’re looking for something new, hop into the Top of the Table hub from the banner below, and check out some recent recommendations. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to drop me a line directly; I’m always happy to help you find the next game you want to set up on game night.


Game Informer’s End-Of-Generation Awards

Some games were the standard-bearing must-plays of the last generation, like those highlighted in our Best Games of the Generation piece. But other projects earn our praise for the features and experiences that set them apart, pushing technology, design, and overall fun to new heights. Here are our individual awards for the games that shaped the last generation of the hobby.



Few would have guessed when Fortnite was first revealed as a cooperative fort builder that it would transform into the juggernaut it became in more recent years. From its defining role in growing the booming battle-royale scene to its games-as-service business model, this game crossed into the world’s consciousness, and remains a fixture in gaming and popular culture.


Best Survival

Dead Cells

Best Roguelike

Beat Saber

Best Music⁄Rhythm


Best Arcade Action

Half-Life: Alyx

Best VR

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Best Stratetic Gameplay

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best New Property

Super Mario Odyssey

Best Level Design

Super Mario Maker 2

Best Level Building

Sonic Mania

Best Retro Revival

Dragon Quest Builders 2

Best Spinoff

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Best Evolution

Destiny 2

Best Gunplay


Best Shooter Heroes

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Best Remake

Shadow of the Colossus

Best Remaster

Gone Home

Most Creative


Most Innovative Gameplay

Ghost of Tsushima

Best Art Style

Rainbow Six Siege

Best Teamwork

Into the Breach

Most Balanced


Best Atmosphere

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Most Challenging

Dishonored 2

Most Reactive World

No Man’s Sky

Most Improved

World of Warcraft

Most Long-Lived

Until Dawn

Best Jump Scares

Slime Rancher

Most Adorable


Best Breakout Series

The Outer Worlds

Best Spiritual Successor

Slay the Spire

Best New Design

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Best Choices

Death Stranding

Best Strand Game


Best Ending


The Thing I Want Most From Destiny 2: Beyond Light Is Less Wasted Game Time

For over six years, one game franchise has remained a consistent part of my gaming regimen. Destiny and its sequel hit a lot of sweet spots for me, combining engrossing sci-fi/fantasy world-building, role-playing-style character upgrades, and immaculate action/gunplay. It’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and I’m intensely excited for Beyond Light. But that doesn’t mean the game always works for me in every way. Even as I’m thrilled to experiment with new stasis powers or witness the return of The Stranger, the thing I most want out of Destiny 2 at this point is a relief from the exhausting time-wasters.

Like many adult gamers, the demands of balancing work at home, childcare, and increased inconveniences due to the ongoing pandemic hasn’t made for more free time, but less. When I sit down to play a game outside of work hours, I am looking for a getaway and for the time I invest to feel worthwhile.

Contrary to some detractors, I think Destiny 2 has a lot to offer in this regard, including over the last year of content. New activities, like the recent Contact public event, and interesting high-end opportunities like the Prophecy dungeon, are interesting and highly playable. My beef isn’t with the times I’m running around shooting at aliens, but rather much of what surrounds it.

Before I’m able to get into the action, the current model virtually demands that I spend a significant chunk of time gathering bounties. Pick up bounties at the Tower, often from vendors at opposite ends of the structure. Pick up bounties for the planet I’ll be visiting. Pick up bounties for the activity I’m doing, and the guns I’ll be using. It is, quite frankly, a chore. But without those bounties, it’s next to impossible to reasonably progress through the season’s leveling and acquire the desirable goodies that are a part of that system.

On top of that, despite being a problem almost since the game’s launch, I also spend an inordinate amount of time juggling my inventory, my vault space, and my postmaster. In a confounding move, Destiny 2 still offers no easy way to opt into instant dismantling of blue (rare) items, so if I complete a long string of strikes or spend the evening completing waves of Escalation Protocol, I’m virtually guaranteed to have my postmaster fill up – sometimes placing planetary materials, useless blue guns, and other undesirable items into the postmaster, pushing out higher quality items I haven’t yet retrieved. The choice becomes one of either wasting precious game time clearing out items or disregarding entirely the rewards that come along with what I’m doing. And sure, I can spend all my load times hopping into third-party apps like Destiny Item Manager, but that’s more of a workaround for a problem, not a solution. 

The postmaster dilemma is exacerbated by a dysfunctional vaulting system. Despite regular expansions over the years to the overall size of player vaults, the problem remains that most players simply fill that vault and are eventually left with the unenviable task of having to sort old rewards and endlessly delete old items. The argument can be made (and has been made) that players shouldn’t need to hold on to all those old items, but I think that misses the point. When a game like Destiny 2 is built around the acquisition and celebration of loot, it’s simply not enjoyable to be forced into a decision to get rid of those old items. Will I ever use that Iron Banner armor from a year ago? Maybe not, but its presence in my vault is a reminder of the time I invested, and I neither wish to get rid of it nor spend the time involved to make that decision. The game (and its players) desperately cry out for a more comprehensive and reasonable way to chronicle newly acquired items, and be able to retrieve them as desired.

The most recent iteration of in-game rewards highlights a similar dilemma. Umbral engrams were, at first, a lot of fun; they dropped from numerous activities and could be turned in for customizable rewards. But months in, the project has become yet another dull routine, demanding that I endlessly return to the Tower Annex or risk filling up the available slots I have for engrams. Which in turn – you guessed it – further fills my postmaster box.

The problem is not that of a game that isn’t fun; despite what the haters may say, Destiny 2 remains one of the most rewarding and thoughtfully realized shooters ever created. Rather, these accumulated time-wasters can diminish the scale of that fun, forcing players into drudgery that isn’t worthwhile. I have some friends who are still able to invest four or more hours every day into the game, but that’s simply not a reality for most of us, especially in the dumpster-fire year of 2020.  If I have to spend 20-30 minutes of my game time every night completing deletions, turning in engrams, clearing my postmaster, and picking up bounties, that’s a significant chunk of my leisure time wasted. And that’s a bummer.

I’m happy to say that the developers at Bungie seem to recognize at least some of the concerns I’m voicing, and it would be unfair to not acknowledge their public statements to that point. The supposedly impending arrival of transmogrification in the coming months should hopefully do much to ease the concerns about losing old rewards – at least cosmetically. And Bungie has also promised a move away from bounties as a critical path to begin in the next season. I desperately hope some of these changes come sooner rather than later, but the reality is that even with those promises, the game today feels compromised.

As it is, I’m not going to pretend that I won’t be a day-one player of Beyond Light, or that these issues sap everything I love from the game. Destiny 2 is still a wonderful hobby game, and one that I look forward to playing. But I hate that when I talk with others right now, my conversations often include words like “drudgery” or “tedium.” This is too good a game to be saddled with these kinds of problems, and their resolution is the biggest thing I hope to see change as the game moves into its next yearly cycle.


Steam Digital Tabletop Festival Coming In October

Even as the popularity of both tabletop and digital gaming continues to rise, the links between the two grow ever stronger. With every year, we see more board games adopting app-aided designs and other features from the digital world, while the video game milieu has had a long practice of borrowing tactical elements, storytelling concepts, and leveling from the board game and tabletop role-playing sphere. The two mediums are inextricably linked.

A new event is coming this October 21st through 26th, a joint venture between Valve and Auroch Digital, aiming to curate and celebrate this crossover between physical and digital gaming. Announced today, the event aims to highlight several big-name designers, including the likes of Steve Jackson (Munchkin, Ogre), Elizabeth Hargrave (Wingspan), Ian Livingstone (Games Workshop co-founder), and Sandy Petersen (Call of Cthulhu RPG).

Events include a livestream highlighting the next big update coming to the Gloomhaven early access release on Steam, a panel on games about Mars, a panel on Cthulhu games, and a comparative look at the physical and digital design of Plague Inc., hosted by the designer of both versions.

Tabletop and video gamers who wish to learn more about the live-streamed and VOD event can check out Steam’s official page for the event. For more on Game Informer’s coverage of the tabletop gaming world, check out our Top of the Table hub.  


Seven Out-Of-This-World Sci-Fi Board Games

Science fiction is a perennial favorite in the gaming world for good reason. With futuristic tech, alien life, and the boundless options of outer space as just some of the hallmarks, it’s easy for designers to find a unique corner to play in and create something memorable.

This week, we’re looking at several recent tabletop releases that show off the breadth of experiences available, from a familiar setting involving a certain DeLorean car to a game where you literally build a city that looks like it’s from the future.

Here’s hoping you find something new, and don’t hesitate to leave some of your favorite sci-fi board games in the comments below.

Project Elite
Publisher: Artipia/CMON

CMON revived and updated this delightful real-time cooperative game this year, after an earlier version won praise for its action-movie vibe and fast-paced play. Each player adopts the persona of a seasoned alien-slaying soldier, ready to wade into the fight and mow down some extra-planetary threats. On each turn, you’ve got an actual two-minute timer to roll dice and take out the enemy forces as they assault your position. Between these action-packed, real-time sequences, the aliens activate and you plan your next approach. Featuring some gorgeous miniatures and smart (but mechanically simple) combat systems, Project Elite is a shot of adrenaline packed into a tight hour-or-less timeframe, and it just begs for repeat plays.

Publisher: Gale Force Nine

I can’t resist the chance to resurface this awesome revival of Dune, which was also named in our Best Tabletop Games of 2019. The original game was one of the early classics in the thematic strategy board game scene when it released in 1979. The new version features lovely new art and some rule changes, but largely maintains the cutthroat and sometimes painfully crushing turnarounds that the original was known for. Not for the faint of heart, Dune’s unfolding gameplay can see a single decision that completely changes the course of the game, echoing some of the same life-and-death dynamics present in the celebrated novel. With the Villeneuve-helmed movie adaptation about to arrive, it’s fair to expect a surge in enthusiasm around this game. It can make for a brutal game night, but it’s also a great time. Don’t be scared away; fear is the mind-killer.  

The Search For Planet X
Publisher: Foxtrot Games/Renegade Game Studios

This one squeezes into the sci-fi category by the skin of its teeth, but it’s too unique a concept to leave off this list. Ostensibly, this could be said to be a real-world game, rather than something from a far-flung future, since it focuses on a group of astronomers hunting for a distant planet. The potentially speculative element arises through the existence of a Planet X orbiting far distant from the sun, a concept only theorized in real-world astronomical circles.

In the game, players use deduction from limited clues to identify the location of the mysterious world. The game is aided by a free app that gives each player some information to get started. From there, each player surveys different areas of the night sky (depicted on the board) and tries to gradually uncover the true location of the planet and what is nearby to it. It makes for an intricate and engaging puzzle to solve, and with the aid of the app, every game is different from the last.

Last Defense
Publisher: Funko Games

A lighthearted and brisk-playing cooperative, Last Defense is action game that gives you and your group exactly 20 minutes to save the world from threats like spider robots, sentient plants, and giant tentacles. A free app offers audio details that help to set up the game, and provide tension and narrative fun. In addition to an active timer counting down your remaining game time, the app also regularly announces new events and activity from the alien forces that must be enacted on the board. It’s a silly and engaging twist on classic alien invasion stories, and of all the games on this list, the best pick for a fun family game night with kids.

Cloud City
Publisher: Blue Orange

Phil Walker-Harding has designed several of my favorites, including Sushi Go and Imhotep. Cloud City is an awesome new release from the designer, offering a simple and engaging concept that should entertain both dedicated tabletop fans as well as relative newcomers to the hobby. Players compete as architects to build an actual three-dimensional futuristic city with a number of differently shaped pieces. Players lay out tiles on the table that get overlaid with buildings of different heights, and then you interconnect those buildings with bridges. The winner is the architect who creates the city-planning project chosen by the city council, which is determined by managing to craft nice long walkways across your setup. It’s a ton of fun to see your tiny city coming together in the playspace in front of you. Thanks to ease of play and a quick path to getting new players up to speed, I predict a lot of gaming groups embracing this one, especially as an appetizer game before a longer and more involved session playing something else.  

Escape The Dark Sector
Publisher: Themeborne/Asmodee

The original Escape the Dark Castle provided a riveting retro adventure about, well, you guessed it – escaping a dark and forbidding castle. The second game in the series translates the fun to a science-fiction setting, as you and your friends become an intrepid space crew that must navigate their way out of a massive space station, working cooperatively to confront events, roll dice, and eventually fight a boss to get to safety. The black-and-white aesthetic recalls old-school gaming art, which will delight gamers of a certain age. But even without the nostalgia, the real fun here is seeing a three-act sci-fi tale unfold with new encounters and experiences every time, and the sense that you’re dropping into a real narrative accompanied by custom resolutions to complete the story.

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time
Publisher: Ravensburger

To close out these recommendations, I have to give a nod to this zany new take on the Back to the Future movies. After Biff steals the DeLorean and screws up a bunch of important events in time, players cooperate to put the pieces back together. The focus is on dice-rolling, including an interesting twist where you can set aside an unspent die to be used in the future. In another fun nod to the fiction of the classic movies, you’ve got to watch out for running into yourselves, which creates a paradox and penalties that make it harder to win. Ultimately, this is all about a fond trip down memory lane through the events of the three films. If you and your group are particular fans of those wonderful sci-fi comedies, you’ll be thoroughly entertained by all the nods to the adventures you recall, even as you furiously roll die after die.

Science fiction is undoubtedly a pretty familiar milieu within the tabletop world, so even though the above games are a ton of fun, I could understand if you’re looking for other options. If you’re in that camp, don’t hesitate to dig into the backlog of Top of the Table recommendations, viewable by clicking into the banner below, where you’ll find plenty of other options that explore other settings. As always, I’m also happy to help offer personalized recommendations. Drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to help you find the next great game to bring home.

Hades Review – The Highs And Lows Of Repetition

Publisher: Supergiant Games
Developer: Supergiant Games

(PlayStation 5,
Xbox Series X/S,
PlayStation 4,
Xbox One)

Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PC, PlayStation 5
Also on:
Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

Developer Supergiant Games is known for creating titles with rich narratives and sophisticated themes, and one of the great triumphs of Hades is how those elements are seamlessly integrated into a roguelite structure. Through a seemingly limitless array of character interactions and plot progression, Hades seeds its storytelling over many hours of repeated runs, as you lead your character along one attempted escape from hell to the next. In addition to weapon and character upgrades, new story insights are among the most satisfying rewards. But that also means that you’ll be eager to see those plot threads resolve, and to do that, you should prepare for an especially long road.

Zagreus is the son of mighty Hades, who rules the realm of the dead with a barely controlled anger only matched by his insistence on total control. He’s the definition of an overbearing father, and Zagreus’ desire to strike out on his own feels as much like a family drama as the retelling of a familiar mythology. His quest to find a mother he’s never known brings him into contact with a who’s who of Olympus and the Greek ancient world, including Zeus, Athena, Achilles, and Medusa. The constantly shifting dynamics between these characters makes for great fun, from the sibling rivalry among the Olympians to reconnecting old flames like Orpheus and Eurydice, and I love the way story tidbits creep in both between action sequences and during them.

Each escape attempt encompasses a series of isometric arena battles, assaulting an impressive variety of enemies in throwdowns that demand precision and careful observation. The combat is fast-paced and challenging, nodding more to stylish action games like Devil May Cry than the isometric RPGs it might look like at first glance. The sense of adrenaline is always high, but there’s also a potential for encounters to devolve into frantic button mashing as you spam out every available attack to bring foes down before they can unleash their worst counters.

New weapons unlock regularly, and they can dramatically change your playstyle, from the precision of the Heart-Seeking Bow to the furious melee dominance of the Twin Fists of Malphon. The most impressive design feat is how even the same weapon inevitably feels different on each run, as god-gifted boons alter and enhance individual armaments, spells, and other abilities. As I got into the rhythm of flowing from one death into my next attempt, I was consistently excited to see how my approach might change.

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Among the many familiar names encountered, Zagreus gets to know the good-natured Sisyphus, who endlessly pushes a boulder up a hill he will never top, never complaining of his task. It’s an appropriate allegory that speaks to the broader game, which kept me engaged thanks to its slow drip of character improvement and fiction, but along a path that felt increasingly Sisyphean the longer I played. I spent dozens of hours picking away at the various plot threads and chasing upgrades. It’s enjoyable, but as the hours wear on, my interest in the same sequence of chambers wore thin. I longed for a wrap-up, even as the game demanded more escape attempts. Even after “winning,” that tease continues for hours more before a proper conclusion.

The story is stretched across too many hours of play to maintain excitement throughout, but there’s absolutely a rich bounty of content to uncover along the way. Hades is a massive game, with a wealth of additional content to appease even the most hardcore of engagement. A “god mode” offers a gradual increase in damage resistance after each death, putting victory in reach for even those with a cap on their skills. On the other hand, risk-takers looking for more rewards can eventually access a way to increase the difficulty. Alternate boss fights, new weapon aspects, hidden storylines, and plenty more invite the player to get lost in Hades’ potential. These variants and additional options provide life to the game, long after the charm of standard completion attempts begins to wear out. 

Even serious engagement doesn’t ensure story completion without many hours of investment, and only the most dedicated players will see the full spread of what Hades has to offer. But Supergiant’s latest opus is a beautiful and thoughtful twist on Greek mythology, flipping these old stories on their head and transforming them into commentaries on modern relationships. High-octane action gameplay may pull you into hell for the first time, but I suspect you’ll stay to find out about this eccentric and fascinating family.


Click image thumbnails to view larger version



Score: 8.5

Summary: Supergiant’s excellent roguelike is releasing on new-gen platforms, and if you haven’t played it yet, it’s the perfect time to take a trip to hell.

Concept: Fight your way out of hell over and over again as the son of Hades

Graphics: Stylish and painterly touches lend the action an exaggerated, animated aesthetic

Sound: In keeping with Supergiant’s heritage, excellent voice acting and dialogue create some wonderful characters. The high-octane musical score is fun, but can wear thin after several dozen runs

Playability: Hades finds variety in its many weapons and playstyles, and each is balanced thoughtfully for a tight and challenging ride

Entertainment: A cleverly reimagined take on Greek mythology with fast and challenging combat, but seeing it through to the end is an endurance challenge

Replay: High

Click to Purchase


Oddworld: Soulstorm Trailer Shows Abe On PS5

Since its reveal, Oddworld: Soulstorm has always been a game that looks like it could benefit from next-gen technical specs, thanks to the huge number of characters it aims to put on screen.

In today’s PS5 Showcase, we got to see some of the game running on PS5, and the video proves out that Abe and his friends are in for some explosive action on the new platform.

Check out the new trailer below. Oddworld: Soulstorm is headed to release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Click here to watch embedded media



God Of War Sequel Teased For PlayStation 5

God of War was one of the defining game experiences of the last generation. So, in advance of the PlayStation’s launch, Sony is making sure we’re all aware of where we will get to play the sequel.

Without confirming an actual title, a brief video during today’s showcase featured Kratos voice, the imposing words that “Ragnarok Is Coming,” and a date of 2021.

That’s all the confirmation we’re likely to get about the next adventure in the long-running series, but for many, it will be a potent reason to keep the PS5 in strong consideration for purchase this holiday season.


Spider-Man: Miles Morales Hits The Streets In New Demo

The new gameplay demo showcases Miles as he takes on Roxxon and a force called the Underground as the two forces battle it out on a bridge near Harlem.

In a cinematic sequence, we see Spider-Man use his venom blast to break free of some attackers, before the masked superhero breaks into action to bring down his foes.

In comparison with Peter Parker as Spider-Man in the previous game, Miles appears to have a number of new moves at his disposal, including the ability to stealth into a nearly invisible form to sneak behind foes, as well as a variety of electric shock attacks.

After the fight, another sequence shows Miles as he saves the riders in a bus from the collapsing bridge. Afterward, he webs together portions of the bridge to create a way for stranded people to cross to safely on the bridge.

The sequence is action-packed, and shows off some especially impressive integration of gameplay that flows directly into cinematic moments.

Spider-Man Miles Morales is headed to PS5 this holiday season, and in a separate blog post about the game, Insomniac has confirmed that the game is also coming to PS4. 

As part of that blog post, we also learned that purchasers of the PS5 Ultimate Edition of the Miles game will also receive a voucher code for the original Spider-Man game, remastered to run on PS5, and including both the full game and its DLC. 

The standard edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales is going to cost $49.99, while the Ultimate Edition will set purchasers back $69.99. 


Remastering A Classic – 7 Wonders: 2nd Edition

There’s always a danger in messing with something that is particularly well-loved. 7 Wonders has been a staple game at many gaming tables since its release in 2010, and for very good reason. Designed by Antoine Bauza, with gorgeous illustrations by Miguel Coimbra, that original game hit all the right marks, with complex and varied opportunities for strategy and card development, tremendous replayability, and the appealing theme of controlling and building one of the great civilizations of the ancient world.

Thankfully, rather than try and rework an already excellent experience, the new edition of 7 Wonders maintains everything that already worked, and simply offers a more attractive and playable experience that is easier to learn for new players. It’s a win all-around, and an easy recommendation for any gaming group. But what has changed? And is it worth a purchase if you already own the original?

What Has Stayed The Same?

7 Wonders is a card-drafting and resource management game about competing ancient civilizations. Each player strives to gather victory points for a variety of ventures, including building up a culture of science, establishing military might, or finding success as a trading superpower. And, of course, there’s the game’s name; you can gradually build up your civilization’s Wonder, from the Pyramids of Giza to the Colossus of Rhodes.

Conceptually, the game (in both its editions) hits a wonderful sweet spot between accessibility and strategic depth, with mechanics that are easy to learn, and a playtime of under an hour once you know the basics. As such, I’ve often found 7 Wonders acts as a uniting game that invites a broad array of players with differing levels of experience to the table.

While card drafting has had a variety of incarnations, 7 Wonders’ original release certainly helped to further popularize the concept, which sees much broader use today in a variety of board games. In brief, 7 Wonders demands that players pass individual hands of cards around the table, with each player pulling one card before passing the entire hand on, and then receiving another hand of cards with which you do the same. In this way, the resources and options presented in any given hand get spread around the table, and there’s always an intriguing choice between what you need, and denying your neighbor what they are chasing.

My favorite thing about 7 Wonders is how each playthrough inevitably feels so dramatically different from the last. That’s because of some very astute balance work on the part of the designer, but also because of the variety of winning strategies. The strategy you play in a given round can rarely be static or repeated verbatim. A winning approach one round may simply not meet the needs of a subsequent round, so you’re forced to think on your feet.

That’s because you’re always competing with your direct neighbors at the left and right of the table, thanks to the way trading and warfare is handled. While there’s one winner across the entire table, you’re regularly interacting with your direct neighbor, so it behooves you to pay close attention to their machinations, and respond accordingly. Thematically, I love the way this concept echoes the nature of conflict in these societies from thousands of years ago; everyone is forced to deal with their neighbor, but any one society might have a dearth of understanding or direct interaction with a nation much farther away.

Across three ages of play, each player gradually builds out a civilization focused on different technologies and capabilities. And just when things really start humming, the game accelerates to a final cycle of cards around the table, and it’s time to count up your score. On more than one occasion, players I’ve enjoyed the game with are ready to dive immediately back in to try again, no matter how their ancient society fared in the final standings.

What Has Changed?

The new edition of 7 Wonders isn’t a dramatic overhaul of systems or mechanics. Rather, think of it more as a sort of definitive edition of the core game, which tweaks balance and improves presentation in as many ways as it can, but without losing almost any of the original game’s essence or flow.

Gorgeous new cover art echoes the iconic appearance of the original illustration, but with a grander scope and central focal point on the Colossus statue. Open the box, and the fixation on improved production values is also apparent. A cleaner, brighter rulebook is easier to parse, and at about two-thirds the length of the original edition’s rulebook, quicker to digest. Several single-sheet symbol breakdowns show clear descriptions of effects, and can be passed around the table to help as you learn the iconography. And another sheet depicts the card chains that are available for players who really like to plan ahead in their strategies.

Another important note is that the game’s player count has been revised. The original edition offered a two-player variant, but it was never the best way to play the game. With this new edition, publisher Repos Production seems to acknowledge that fact, and simply acknowledges that the game is explicitly built for three to seven players.

The box insert is more helpfully organized, with easy rounded pockets for quick retrieval of tokens inside. And, on that subject, the tokens themselves have been tweaked for easier quick identification at a glance, with a sharp black border aesthetic on many, and easier reading  of the numbers on the point value tabs, thanks to stark white backgrounds.

The biggest aesthetic jump is with the Wonder cardboard planks that act as a player’s central play area. The Wonders are now depicted on larger cardboard pieces than in the original, to better show off the evocative art. And unlike in the original, those large cardboard sheets now have different art on each side – a picture of the Wonder in the day, and a new, separate image depicting the same site at night – each offering a slightly different play experience.

While the many cards might not have the “wow” factor of the new Wonders, they manage a very close second. All the card backs are now coated in an attractive metallic sheen, split between bronze, silver, and gold, to match the three respective Ages through which the game moves. The effect lends an almost decadent vibe to the decks. Perhaps more importantly, the card fronts have been reorganized. Borrowing a presentation style from 7 Wonders Duel (an excellent 2-player game in its own right), the new cards layer all the relevant icon information at the top of the card, allowing for vertical stacking. In the prior edition, you’d have to fan the cards out in your playspace in order to see all the relevant info; this newer, vertical orientation makes for a cleaner and more organized table. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you’ve played a few games of the first edition of 7 Wonders, at which point you know that table sprawl can sometimes be a problem, especially in large player count sessions.

Beyond quality-of-life improvements and some new artwork, experienced players will note that some of the cards and Wonders have new values and resource costs connected to them. With a game as complex and multi-layered as 7 Wonders, I’ll be honest that it’s hard even after several playthroughs to speak to how those small tweaks change the value of individual cards and resources, in direct comparison with the older values. However, I can say with authority that the new edition still has that feel of seamless interaction and balance that experienced tabletop players begin to get a sense for. Play flows smoothly, all the strategies still seem viable, and the card chains and interconnections all match the theming of the ancient world.

Should I Get The New Edition?

There’s an easy answer to this question if you don’t yet own 7 Wonders, but you consider yourself a burgeoning tabletop enthusiast. Pick up a copy of 7 Wonders, and make sure it’s this new edition. If in doubt, look for the positioning of the big statue on the cover. The new edition has the statue’s head directly underneath the “D” in the title. This is the better version to own if you’re starting fresh, and I guarantee, a stellar addition to your library.

If you already own 7 Wonders, I think the answer is more complicated. I’ve played enough of the original edition to say that it holds up quite well, even stacked against the alluring features of this new edition. Plus, you may have expansions for that first edition that you don’t want to leave behind. If that’s the camp you’re in, I truly believe you’ll continue to love your old (and likely well loved) copy.

With that said, this new edition is a beauty; if you’re a particularly enthusiastic fan of the game, you certainly won’t be sad to see the slick presentation and table presence afforded by this rework.

7 Wonders is stellar game that welcomes a broad range of players to the table. If you’re looking for a deep game with tons of replayability, and the ancient civilization vibe strikes a chord, you really can’t go wrong. However, if you’re looking for something else entirely, don’t hesitate to click into the Top of the Table banner from below to find dozens of other recommended board, card, miniature, and role-playing games. As always, if you need a bit more personal recommendation, drop me an email and I’ll help you find the right game for your family or friend group.


Destiny 2 Traveler’s Chosen Exotic Trailer Showcases New Weapon

As players wait for the impending arrival of Destiny 2: Beyond Light on November 10, the ongoing Destiny 2 experience still has some new content to offer up. The biggest new addition is the Exodus questline, which became available at weekly reset this week. Complete the multi-part quest, which focuses on evacuating allies from the planets being overtaken by The Darkness, and the new Traveler’s Chosen exotic sidearm will be yours.

Traveler’s Chosen is actually a refit of the sidearm Guardians first acquired at the launch of Destiny 2, during the mission that saw the fall of the old tower. The new version has some sweet new tricks up its sleeve. By nailing final blows with the gun, you’ll be granted stacks of a buff called Gathering Light. Each stack, in turn, improves reload, handling, and target acquisition. You can subsequently consume those stacks to grant grenade, melee, and class ability energy. That combo of abilities is sure to make the weapon a popular option for many players, as it could help facilitate some particularly strong streaks of enemy killing.

Check out the trailer for the new exotic weapon below. The Exodus questline, and the resulting Traveler’s Chosen sidearm, is free for all Destiny 2 players.

Click here to watch embedded media



Ubisoft Goes Big With Riders Republic

At the company’s digital event today, Ubisoft revealed a new game and IP called Riders Republic. Developed at Ubisoft Annecy, the new extreme sports game aims to offer a lighthearted but engaging take on a variety of sports, including biking, snowboarding, skiing, wing suiting, and rocket wing suiting.

The game includes a variety of environments to race and ride through, focusing on America’s National Parks, including Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Grand Teton, Mammoth Mountain, Sequoia Park, Yosemite Valley, and Zion.

The game is touting its focus on 50-player races, but the game is also playable solo and co-op, as well as in multiplayer arenas that focus on 6v6 maps.

Riders Republic is charting release on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC on February 25, 2021. Players who purchase the game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will be able to upgrade to the next-gen version at no additional cost.

Check out the gameplay preview trailer and cinematic trailer below.

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Click here to watch embedded media



Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game Complete Edition Announced

Whether you are eager to return to fight the evil exes of the Scott Pilgrim world, or you never had a chance to check out the original brawler in all its glory, you’ll have a chance this holiday to check out his adventures. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game Complete Edition is coming, and is scheduled for launch on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC at some point before the end of the year.

Check out the new trailer below.

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The Outer Worlds: Peril On Gorgon Trailer Goes For Pulp

If you’ve been longing for a return to the strange and often amusing planets of The Outer Worlds, today brings the launch of Peril on Gorgon, a new expansion to the game that lets players visit an entirely new asteroid. We took a look at the new experience in a recent New Gameplay Today. But with the release date now upon us, you can now view the official trailer in all its glory.

The Outer Worlds: Peril On Gorgon is out today for PS4, Xbox One, and PC, and available both as part of the expansion pass or as an individual purchase.

Click here to watch embedded media



Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Trailer Breaks Out Of The Sand

For sci-fi fans, few properties have the pull of Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s a property that reaches beyond its origins as a novel, and has had significant impact on speculative fiction as it appears in TV, movies, games, comics, and more.

The first book has been adapted for the screen more than once, but Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has been hard at work bringing his new vision of the story to life, and the new three-minute trailer offers an awesome look at what’s in store.

The film is targeting release in theaters on December 18.

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What’s The Difference Between Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S?

Microsoft has unloaded a slew of information about its next-gen consoles, and it’s a lot to take in. Of particular importance for gamers trying to budget for the holidays, the long-rumored reveal of the Xbox Series S means that there will be a choice to be made between the two distinct products.

While Microsoft will almost certainly have new details to share as the launch nears, there are a few big differences between the Series X and Series S that can already help you to reach a buying decision.

First, with a $200 price difference (Xbox Series X: $499, Xbox Series S: $299), the Series S is positioned as a far more budget-friendly option that will still allow players to enjoy next-gen games. The Series S is also nearly 60% smaller than its more powerful cousin, making it an easier fit into smaller shelf spaces.

Of greater importance for most players, however, is distinctions in technical capabilities. While the full tech specs articulated in the below video and comparison image tell a more complete story, the short version is that the Xbox Series S runs at a reduced rendering resolution. The Series X runs native 4K, while the Series S offers a similar experience at 1440p. However, it’s worth nothing that the Series S does upscale when connected to a 4K TV. In addition, both Xbox Series X and Series S are capable of offering 60 fps, with support for up to 120 fps.

Beyond that, another important distinction for some players will be the absence of a physical disc drive on the Series S. If owning physical discs of your games is important to you, then the Series S is likely the wrong choice.

For a complete picture of the distinctions between the two new Xbox consoles, check out Microsoft’s official video overview of the Xbox Series S, included at the end of this article. And for a one-to-one comparison chart, check out the embedded picture below (click on the image to enlarge) to get a sense of the components that separate the two devices.

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Two-Player Games For a Locked-Down Life

If you’re a tabletop enthusiast, recent months may have come with an extra frustration. Beyond being stuck at home a lot and wearing a mask everywhere we go, it’s simply a lot harder to safely get together with friends to play a great game. If you’re in that camp, but you have at least one partner, spouse, or roommate close at hand, then there are still some great options to explore. While plenty of tabletop games support two-player options, these recent and excellent releases are built from the ground up for a pair of gamers to enjoy together.

An abridged version of this article originally ran in Game Informer Issue 328.

The Fox In The Forest Duet
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios/Foxtrot Games

Many cooperative games are built for big groups and feature large and involved set-ups, but Fox in the Forest Duet is a lovely and inexpensive two-player option that offers an enjoyable and easy-to-learn challenge focused on working together with limited information. Over three hands, this trick-taking card game provides a fascinating experiment in non-verbal communication. The goal is to walk back and forth along a forested path, collecting red gems that appear at each space. Players take turns revealing cards from their hand to push and pull the play token in opposing directions along the path, trying to avoid walking beyond the edge of the board. Each player must try to play a card that either purposefully trumps or loses the trick, which determines which way the token will move. Special powers on several of the beautifully illustrated cards add an additional tactical layer. Of course, along the way, you can only let the cards do the talking – no verbal coordination is allowed.

Simple mechanics and a quiet, nature-focused setting lend this casual cooperative affair a feeling of breezy fun. It’s an especially great fit for an experienced player alongside a relatively casual partner, demanding that the two of you sync up your plays.

Cosmic Encounter Duel
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The original Cosmic Encounter is a classic of the early boardgaming scene, spawning numerous new editions and revisions over the years. The new Cosmic Encounter Duel takes that larger multiplayer experience and retrofits everything for a tense two-person competition. Players control one of over two-dozen unique alien species, each of which breaks the standard rules of play in a unique way. You and your opponent are both vying to join the Cosmic Citizenship Council, but there’s only space for one of you; the first to control five newly discovered planets wins the slot.

Players move their ships across the vastness of space, discovering new worlds, confronting surprising outer-space events, and gradually building up forces and allies to win the day. A clever dueling mechanic demands that each player secretly selects numbers of ships and tactics before revealing a plan of attack and resolving the throwdown.

The science-fiction theming and art is wonderfully imagined, the playtimes are under an hour, and the tense one-versus-one exchanges are great fun, doing honor to this venerable tabletop franchise.

Publisher: Smirk and Laughter Games

Lovers of abstract strategy games like chess, go, or Othello should pause to consider the intriguing potential of Shobu, an especially striking new two-player game that feels like it’s been unearthed from some long-forgotten treasure hoard. Four small wooden boards each house a set of white and black smooth-tumbled stones. On your turn, move one of your stones one or two spaces in any direction. Then, move any one other stone on one of the boards of the opposite color, where it must shift in the same direction and number of spaces. The goal is to knock all your opponent’s stones off of any one board to win.

Shobu is one of those fascinating games that takes only moments to pick up, but promises a rich spatial challenge with nearly endless replayability. Inevitably, the early part of each session sees many stones knocked away on both sides, until the two opponents have just a few viable pieces left on each board, and the real match begins in earnest. With a Zen-like aesthetic and gorgeous components, it’s a great fit for two deep thinkers ready to get lost in a novel matching of wits.

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

You are competing stargazers and astronomers, working to gather insight about the universe as you stare through your telescope. This clever card-drafting game challenges the two players to gather cards of planets, asteroids, black holes, and other celestial objects, and form a beautiful tableau of the night sky.

In practice, Stellar is a particularly fascinating and challenging competition, offering plenty of interesting choices over the course of its brief 30 minutes of playtime. Playing cards with smart placement into either your telescope or your notebook garners points that help you edge out a victory. Beautiful card art does a great job of reinforcing the outer space theme, but it’s the puzzle-like structure of play that will appeal to players who enjoy formulating interesting sets; expect to spend a lot of time staring at your hand, and trying to figure out your exact path to the highest point totals over the course of the game’s 11 quick-playing rounds.

Codenames Duet
Publisher: Czech Games Edition

The Codenames series of games has gathered a host of accolades, not to mention a regular spot at the table for lots of players around the world. And that’s for good reason. The game, in all its incarnations, is fun, smart, and easy to learn. Codenames Duet earns a spot on this list, as it is the best way to play the game when you want to enjoy the fun of Codenames, but only have two players ready to give it a shot.

For players new to the concept, Codenames demands that one player offers up a clue word that connects to multiple concepts displayed on cards on the table, and the number of cards that connect to that word; the player on their team then tries to find and select the cards in question. But you have to be careful not to give a clue that accidentally guides your teammate to the wrong word. So, “Yellow 2” might be a good match as a clue to guide your teammates to “Bumblebee” and “Bus,” but maybe not if one of the cards you’re trying to avoid is “Sun.” It’s a game that is immediately accessible and exciting, but remains great fun for nearly endless replays.

Codenames Duet changes up the formula by making the whole experience into a cooperative venture, rather than two competing teams. Minor adjustments to the rules ably convert the dynamic, and beyond the two-player option, it also may appeal strongly to couples who prefer non-competitive dynamics. Codenames Duet works great as an ideal solution for two players; alternately, you can also still play the whole experience with a big group, if that situation arises.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

The Arkham Horror brand and its many spin-offs have a long history in the tabletop scene, and there are plenty of great games to explore, each of which approaches the Cthulhu Mythos from its own unique perspective. But many of these games are squarely targeted at larger groups of players looking for a beefy, full-evening game session. If there’s just two of you looking to play out an exciting adventure against the backdrop of Lovecraftian horror, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is an ideal choice.

Over the course of the game, each player embodies an investigator exploring the threat of ancient evil in a small New England town, balancing your talents and flaws to overcome certain death. A wonderful risk/reward mechanic lives at the heart of the game, all about discarding cards to increase the chance of success in a given situation, but losing out on that card’s ability that might come in handy later.

There’s an engaging RPG feeling to the ever-growing campaign of this card game, which can be expanded by a wide array of expansion sets that have come out since the core game’s launch. After several years, it’s a rich and rewarding adventure, with a ton of branching paths and stories, that could keep you and a partner playing for a long time. Also, while the core game only supports two players, it’s worth noting that a second core set expands the player count options to four.

What two-player board games win a spot at your table? Share your selections in the comments below.

And if you don’t see quite what you’re looking for in this list, or you are simply looking for something else in the tabletop sphere to bring out for family game night, don’t hesitate to drop me a line and let me know what you’re looking for. I’m always happy to offer up a personalized recommendation.


Evergate Launch Trailer Shows Off Charming Puzzle/Platforming

Players looking to stretch the old brain muscle may wish to investigate the recent release of Evergate, a new puzzle/platformer that has now arrived on Steam. With its big-eyed protagonist and hand-drawn aesthetic, it seems clear that the developers at Stone Lantern Games were inspired by the Ori series. But a closer look at the gameplay reveals a style of play that is less about overt action, and more about navigating the environment using a sort of slingshot mechanic, as well as other platforming options that arise from connecting to gems in the world, and then solving the environmental puzzles that movement system engenders.

Evergate hit Switch a few weeks ago, and released earlier this week on Steam.

Check out the launch trailer to learn more.

Click here to watch embedded media



Avengers: Infinity Quest Pinball Machine Looks Amazing

If you enjoy a side of mechanical flipper action alongside your video game hobby, then you’ll want to check out the latest from Stern Pinball, as they announce info on the new upcoming Avengers: Infinity Quest pinball machine.

Today saw a collection of videos that show off the new machine, which includes an Avengers Tower magnetic lock  ramp, the ability to capture pinballs in midair, and plenty more bells and whistles.

The new machine comes in pro, premium, and limited edition models, each of which has slightly different features. The premium and limited editions, for instance, have a Dr. Strange motorized pop-up disc scoop, and a custom light-up Infinity Gauntlet, among other bonuses. And the limited edition has additional backglass, custom art, and several other exclusive features, and only 500 units will be made available worldwide.

Here’s hoping the eventual release finds one of the machines making its way to an arcade near you.

Check out the videos below for a better look at the new pinball game in action.

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Gotham Knights Creators Shed Light On What’s To Come

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Warner Bros. Games Montreal


Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Gotham Knights made a splash last weekend, and not only because the game is a new promised fixture in the universe of DC video games. In a surprise narrative twist, the opening trailer for the game revealed the death of Batman, setting the stage for four other characters to step into the lead as Gotham’s premier crime-fighters.

I spoke with creative director Patrick Redding and senior producer Fleur Marty about the reveal of the game, and learned some additional details about just what players can expect out of this latest expedition into the dark streets of Gotham. Read our full interview below.

Gotham Knights is slated for release in 2021 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Now that the announcement is out there, what have been some of the elements of the game that you’ve been most excited to get to share?

Patrick Redding: First and foremost, we managed to keep a lid on the fact that we were killing Batman. That was the thing I was most excited about. I know that sounds a bit morbid. But the promise of delivering a new guard of heroes from out of the Batman universe, and really putting the spotlight on a playable Batman family, and the reason why. Why is that cool? Why is having this range of characters that are so different and distinctive, and early enough in their careers that they have a lot of room for growth, why is that a cool promise for people?

So that’s one consequence. The other consequence is: What happens to Gotham City when Batman gets killed? People understand intuitively, no matter how familiar you are with the franchise, that all hell’s going to break loose. That’s exciting. What kind of hell is going to break loose? We are able to start planting the seeds of that.

But the reveal was really all about the heroes. We knew that going in.

Are those four characters really the core characters of the game?

Redding: We’re going to have more detail later about our post-launch line-up. But those are the four.

Fleur Marty: Yes. Those are the four playable characters of our game.

How is Gotham Knights distinct from the Arkham universe? What are the ways it’s different, other than the obvious, that it’s a separate fiction?

Marty: There are many ways. But first and foremost, this is not a Batman story or game. This is about four really distinct characters that each have their own unique playstyles, personalities, and abilities. It’s really about taking them from the start and growing them into dark knights.

The second is the ecosystem of Gotham City. It’s not a game that takes place over just one night, in that kind of deserted city. This is a vast open world city and it takes places over many nights of crime-fighting. You are going to encounter the citizens of Gotham City as they try to go about their business, even as all the gangs and criminals are prowling out of the shadows, now that Batman is gone. The state of Gotham is a big difference.

The Arkham games often focused on a particular part of Gotham. Is Gotham Knights different from that – is it a larger part of Gotham?

Redding: Gotham City is a really important element of the game, as it would be for any Batman universe experience. What we wanted to do is have a whole city. It has five distinct boroughs, each of which has their own sub-neighborhoods and districts. What that lets us do is two things. As a gameplay environment, it lets us create architecturally distinct spaces that offer a different kind of story from a traversal and party-crashing-on-crime point of view. But also, it allows us to take a lot of the bigger themes of the game, narratively, in terms of the overall focus on mystery and the Court of Owls, and say: “How does a Gotham City grow, historically?” So, our neighborhoods reflect different influences, and the role that different families have played. It becomes an exploratory environment, a kind of environmental storytelling space that’s very different.

In order to do that, we needed to deliver density and quality of details – like with every crack in the sidewalk that has a cigarette butt wedged into it, and weeds growing out of it, and graffiti on the walls – all of it, down to the masonry and the stuff that’s carved into the bricks, which maybe points you toward some hidden piece of history. That’s the level at which our Gotham City needed to flourish and be amazing. It’s a full city, and it has a lot of different districts, but it’s the size we wanted it to be to support all that crime and all the missions we have in the game.

The Court of Owls is a favorite corner of the universe for many fans, but for more casual fans who may be more familiar with Batman from the movies or other sources, they might not even know what that is. Would you tell us about your team’s take on the Court of Owls, and why, for someone who might not know about it, that might be just as exciting as Joker story, or some other more familiar villain?

Redding: That’s a deep question, and we are going to have a lot more details later in the campaign to share. But the punchy version is that the Court of Owls is a secret society of Gotham’s most decadent and corrupt wealthy, who have been around since the founding of the city, 350 years ago. Over time, as they’ve sought to entrench their power and hold over Gotham, they’ve warped it into the twisted east coast city that it is.

In a lot of ways, their influence is really embedded deep in the bedrock and foundations of the city. But because they protect their secrets, they remained in the shadows for a really long time, to the modern era, and even Batman struggled to learn what he could about them.

That becomes the jumping off point for serving up a very different kind of enemy and adversary for the New Guard to deal with. Who better for the new guard to deal with than the old, crusty, entrenched power of the city.

Marty: And to the question of how the Court of Owls is not as well known to the general public, I think what will make people relate to it is that it brings the mystery, and at the core, Batman and the Batman family – they’re detectives! Conspiracies and secret societies are a perfect gateway to put on your detective hat and dive into the mystery.

When you have four distinct characters, that means you have to reflect four unique playstyles that all work. What can you tell me about what makes each of these characters distinct,and compelling on their own within the game world?

Redding: For us, they aren’t supposed to be four mini-Batmans. They are people who have trained and have some of that crimefighting DNA as a starting point, but either through virtue of their story or just their personalities, they’ve started to evolve in these four distinct ways.

For example, our Robin, Tim Drake, he’s relatively young. He’s a teenager. But he’s still formidable. It’s just that his focus becomes more on stealth and using the tricks to disrupt the AI and confuse and apply status effects.

Conversely, a character like Nightwing – while he’s still very much a martial arts combatant – he’s a very acrobatic character. He’s more ping-pongy. It allows him to tackle groups of enemies.

There’s a flavor and stylistic support, that we wanted to provide. Every player, regardless of their preference for how to play, can approach it the way they want.

Marty: And that’s going to be even more true as you progress through the game. Those four characters, as they unlock abilities, and bring them to what we call their knighthood, the idea is that they really diverge even more. They are each their own version of a dark knight.

Redding: That’s reflected in the ability tree, and their gear. Because each of them has distinct gear, suits, and ultimates that they’ll unlock.

Marty: Batgirl has two sides. She’s the hacker. But in terms of her playstyle, she will focus on one enemy, and pummel them until they’re down. She’s super focused.

Red Hood is a more ranged focused character. Everybody can use some ranged attacks. But he’s a gunslinger, and has a more brutal approach to combat. What’s really interesting, though, is Red Hood’s evolution. I think it’s going to really surprise people. It taps into his storyline. He was dead, and was resurrected. And there’s something that is going to come out of there, and that he’s bringing to the fight.

The first trailer for the game really highlights the progression for these characters toward knighthood. Is that codified in the progression sytem? Are you literally moving through phases of these characters?

Redding: In a sense. Each of the four has a distinct ability tree, and areas that a player can focus on. We expect people to have different builds of these characters that link to their style and strategy. That’s very much in the action/RPG blueprint.

But there’s a component of your ability tree that is specifically linked to you starting to take on the tools as your dark knight version. Knighthood represents not just a narrative concept. It’s represented and expressed in parts of our ability tree, and even in some of the gear.

What aspects of the game are you most excited to delve into and share with fans?

Redding: One of the challenging things when you do a reveal is that you don’t want to spam people with so much information that they don’t know what’s going on, and that the only people who are parsing it are the people who are scrubbing through frame by frame. But we know about Gotham City and crime-fighting in the city, and going back to the Belfry, and taking what you’ve learned and gathered in terms of clue, and using that to enhance your crimefighting. That’s a big piece of it. We’ve alluded to it. But we know that showing that is going to be a big beat for us. How the Belfry fits into Gotham as a whole. The shape of the city. To be in a hidden location and discover something they haven’t seen before.

Marty: When we were thinking about our gameplay demo, we had to pick a specific part that is kind of self-contained. I can’t wait to show the non-linear parts of the game. We showed a cool epic mission, but I’m really looking forward to showing off our open world, and how you go into the streets and fight crime.

Redding: Even with the gameplay video, that was eight minutes. It’s a very digested, condensed snapshot of a particular mission. I also want people to understand what missions are like, either in a villain storyline, or in one of our mystery chapters – what that experience feels like, from beginning to end. What kind of impact does it have? And what does it do to Gotham City when you’ve completed one of those major chapters.

Marty: Co-op is also a really important piece for us. The game is fully playable solo, if you wish to. You won’t be missing anything, if you choose to play solo. But the team-up fantasy of two-player co-op is really important for our studio.


Detail Emerges On New Destiny 2 Subclasses In Latest Trailer

Today’s Gamescom Opening Night presentation offered a look at a new Destiny 2: Beyond Light trailer. And while the video showcases a wealth of great action and shooting, the big takeaways were closer looks at the three new subclasses coming to the game, each of which uses Stasis, the new Darkness-infused power source that is arriving with this expansion.

Warlocks gain the abilities of the Shadebinder, who appears to wield a staff to fracture enemies with cold, reminiscent of a fantasy frost mage. Hunters will take on the role of the Revenant, who seems to wield two kamas that they can fling at enemies and bounce off walls. Finally, Titan players can look forward to taking on the role of the Behemoth, who seems to “hulk out” and create a smashing fist that can be slammed into enemies.

Destiny 2: Beyond Light is headed for release on November 10.

Check out the new trailer below.

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New Look At Star Wars Squadrons Focuses On Narrative

In a presentation during Gamescom Opening Night, we got a new look at the storytelling coming to Star Wars: Squadrons. As has been previously discussed, players will alternate between playing two distinct pilots, each on opposing sides of the galactic war.

We saw snippets of several missions, from an extraction of a high-value target above Hosnian Prime, to bombing runs at the Nadiri Dockyards. In one brief moment, the trailer also shows a glimpse of fan-favorite character, Hera Syndulla, from Star Wars: Rebels. It appears she’ll play a part in the game’s unfolding narrative.

Check out the trailer below. Star Wars Squadrons is headed for a launch on October 2 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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