I’ve actually been playing a LOT of games lately, in no small part thanks to the magic of Xbox Game Pass. Without sounding too much like a corporate shill, the ability to try out games, especially indie games, without having to lay out more than $15 a month, has opened me up to so many more things than I would normally be able to afford. By my count, I’ve beaten 8 full games on the service this year, plus an additional 3 DLC expansions where I paid for DLC but not the base game. I’m in the middle of another 4 or 5 right now, with SEVERAL more games catching my eye for the future. I’ve bounced off a few games here or there, but that’s no great loss when it’s a subscription service. I was highly skeptical when I first signed up, but these last few months especially I’ve seen Xbox Game Pass add a shocking amount of games that I’m genuinely interested in.
It’s been a while since I did one of these posts, so I just picked out just a few highlights of things I’m really enjoying. Not included on this list are: ENDER LILLIES, COZY GROVE, GRIFTLANDS, CRIS TALES, and DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: DARK ALLIANCE. Phew.
I’m nowhere near done with this game, but WOW is it for sure going on my favorite games of 2021 list, despite it being a few years old. Like one of my favorites from last year, CONTROL, PREY is a game that invites you to investigate a weird and mysterious building, while also having to fight off monsters roaming the hallways. PREY puts you on an abandoned space station, with little explanation as to what happened or why there are dark and mysterious entities killing anything that moves – oh, and you seem to have a slight case of amnesia. PREY is the kind of game where I find myself hacking every computer terminal I find so I can read employee emails, not only for quests but to see what research teams were up to, what employees were feuding, and what was going on in a recent D&D game. It’s not a game for the faint of heart (there’s a fair bit of combat and monsters that attack from nowhere) but I am DEVOURING this one with the addiction of someone who’s found a good book. (And case in point, I’m playing this through the wonder of Xbox Game Pass.)
The Outer Worlds: Murder on Eridanos
I know I’ve brought up THE OUTER WORLDS before, but I had to do it one more time because I’m having SO much fun with the DLC, MURDER ON ERIDANOS. In this DLC, you’re hired as a neutral party to investigate the murder of famed actress, Halcyon Helen. The result is that you get to spend hours crawling over a resort that floats in the sky above the planet Eridanos, interviewing witnesses, tracking down clues, and hacking into computer terminals looking for incriminating evidence. There’s minimal combat in this expansion (and frankly, would have been better if there had been none at all) and I loved little details like the literal murder board in your penthouse suite that fills in as you gain information.
I played MURDER ON ERIDANOS at the same time as another friend, and it was fun to compare notes on how we approached the investigation. For instance, I chose to spend the early part of my investigation grilling the hotel staff and investigating the back hallways of the hotel, while my friend went straight to the orchard where Helen was seen before her death. It doesn’t take long at all to figure out there is something VERY wrong going on at the resort, which quickly had me going, “NOPE.” If you had fun with the main game and are at all intrigued by a murder mystery, this is worth checking out.
THE WILD AT HEART
An indie game I picked up on Xbox Game Pass, THE WILD AT HEART is about a young boy who runs away from home only to stumble into a magical area of the forest that faces a dark threat. To combat the threat and save the day, our hero slowly recruits the help of different types of woodland sprites. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Pikman, which I’ve never played, but the gameplay scratched a very fun puzzle itch of figuring out how the various types of sprites can help you around obstacles. By the end of the game, I was starting to feel like a frazzled mom counting the heads of children, trying to figure out how I’d lost two kids at the other end of an area (the game makes it simple to dismiss lost sprites and summon new ones). It’s a lovely little game that clocks in around 15 hours.
As soon as I saw gameplay footage for this one, I knew I had to have it. DEATH’S DOOR gives you control of a crow who’s a reaper. The nameless crow is one of many who travel through doors to other realms to collect souls. Except something goes wrong during a collection, leaving the crow on a quest to find out what is going on and what’s hiding behind DEATH’S DOOR. Although I’ve seen some people throw around HOLLOW KNIGHT as a comparison point, this game is much more forgiving. Don’t get me wrong, there are some challenging boss fights (with some very clever designs) but you won’t find yourself losing all your currency upon death.
Instead, this is much more in the vein of Zelda, with dungeons to explore and items to collect, with a splash of Metroidvania style progression. Plus, it has a great sense of humor and a fantastic art style. I’m 75% through this (main story completion only takes about 10 hours I’m told, but I’m determined to find all the collectibles) and hope to finish in the next week or two.
And that’s what I’m playing – what are you playing?