This week, Absolver, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legacy provide very different gaming experiences, while the episodic hit Life is Strange gets a prequel. But first, the Uncharted series plots a course with new protagonists, and everything works out just fine, thank you.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proves Naughty Dog's storytelling strengths
The Lost Legacy may be formulaic, but it is also inspired storytelling, a blend of the best parts of the Indiana Jones films and Thelma and Louise.
The latest game in the Uncharted series of action adventures for Sony's consoles, which released for PS4 last week, is set in India. Like previous games, the plot revolves around the search for a lost artifact. In this case, the artifact, Ganesh's Tusk, is pulled from Hindu mythology.
While previous Uncharted games featured Nathan Drake as the protagonist, here it's Chloe Frazer who gets top billing. The elevation of Frazer, who was a sidekick of sorts to Drake in previous games, gives developers Naughty Dog an opportunity to use their profile and platform, in this case literally, to balance the scales a bit.
So while playing The Lost Legacy will be very familiar, especially for those who played Uncharted 4, in terms of how the characters move, and climb, and fight enemies, the experience of playing this game is completely different.
Frazer is acted with panache by Claudia Black, who is joined by the equally excellent Laura Bailey playing Nadine Ross. This is Frazer's story, but Ross's character is vital as the two female leads give us the best buddy film we've had in years. The character development even rivals the work that Naughty Dog did with Nathan and his long-lost brother, Sam, in Uncharted 4.
I'm comfortable making comparisons to films with the Uncharted games, because these games really are films you get to play. While there are some open world elements in The Lost Legacy, the narrative is linear.
That's okay with me, and it should be for you, too. Because even if the running and jumping feels the same, this is a compelling story that is populated with characters that you will come to care about.
This is Naughty Dog in a groove, using the framework and tools they've developed for games to hone storytelling technique. The Lost Legacy is master work.
Life is Strange prequel replaces time travel with dialogue dexterity
The episodic adventure game, Life is Strange, featured female protagonists in a twisting plot that involved intrigue, high school drama, and time travel. Developed by Dontnod, the game was a success for publisher Square Enix.
Before the Storm is a three-episode prequel that features Chloe Price, one of the two main characters from the first game. The game relies on character and dialogue, and while moving through time was a mechanic in the first game, here it's the abilty to manipulate conversations, which result in different consequences.
"Awake", the first episode of Before the Storm, releases this week for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One.
Action game Absolver will test your melee mettle
From developer Sloclap and published by Devolver Digital, Absolver is a most curious game that will delight you with its style and challenge you with its precision.
You become a Prospect in the game, trying to achieve Absolver status, which is granted to highly skilled fighters who look to maintain balance. Your character wears a magical mask that helps keep you alive. When you are defeated in battle, you simply fold up into the mask, then unfold at a spawn point.
The fighting is entirely customized, and consists of a complex mix of attacks and blocks, feints and counters. There are four fighting stances that anchor your style, but there is a sublime rhythm and flow to the combat.
Absolver has both co-operative and player-versus-player experiences, as well as Mines to explore, where the deeper you go the more difficult the enemies, and the better the loot.
Absolver is available this week for PS4 and Windows.
Naruto Shippuden collection packed with fun
Collecting the four games in the Storm series, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Legay provides versions of those games that have been remastered for current generation consoles.
These games are baed on the popular anime series that was itself borne out of manga. The Ultimate Ninja Storm titles are fighting games, which pit two players, or a player against AI, in an arena battle. All DLC from the four games is included in the collection.
Available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, the collection also includes an art book and a Blu-ray disc of Naruto anime episodes.
Games released or releasing
- XCOM 2: War of the Chosen: From 2K and Firaxis is this expansion to last year's stunning strategy game. Available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One. Note that you'll need to own XCOM 2 to be able to play the expansion.
- Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle for Switch is a whacky turn-based tactical mashup of Nintendo's Mushroom Kingdom and Ubisoft's chaotic Rabbids.