April wasn’t exactly a stellar month for gamers. With no huge releases, events or announcements many of us were busying ourselves and catching up on 2013’s latest and greatest, not to mention those neglected, ever-growing backlogs.
That’s not to say April was a complete write-off, mind you. Despite a few disappointments here and there, we also had a clutch of good games, one of which grabbed a much-coveted 9/10 when it launched on PlayStation 3 and Vita. I am, of course, referring to the sublime Thomas Was Alone. Incredibly simple yet endearing, Mike Bithell’s masterpiece introduced players to a cast of shapes, each with their own personalities.
Considering they don’t have faces or voices, the premise seems bizarre and slightly detached at first. However, through the narration of Danny Wallace, we began to feel something for these shapes, who eventually band together on quite an emotional journey. Thomas Was Alone is definitely one of our highlights from 2013 and we’re eagerly looking forward to Mike’s next project, Volume.
April also saw the launch of another, slightly more ambitious game. Defiance brought a unique experience to players with its massively muliplayer sci-fi shooter that, curiously enough, ran in parallel to a live action television series. The link between the two may not have been as pronounced as originally expected, yet both provided hours of quality entertainment. A very worthy effort, considering some of SyFy’s other programming.
Gameloft’s Dungeon Hunter made a return in April with its fourth instalment. Though hardly ground-breaking, it won over those who felt betrayed when the series turned into an arena brawler with Dungeon Hunter III, but one series that didn’t see much of an improvement was Dead Island.
The original game, though incredibly flawed, had a certain charm and playability. So, when Riptide was announced, fans were once again full of excitement, just with a shopping list of fixes and improvements in mind.
Sadly, when the game finally launched, it soon became evident that Riptide wasn’t exactly a sequel. It was more of an over-priced expansion, tossing players a wealth of content but hardly revising any of the series’ core mechanics or systems. It was a bit of a let down, though the subsequent announcement of Techland’s next game, Dying Light, was a nice silver lining.
Another horror game that received mixed reviews was Deadly Premonition. The Access Games joint had previously launched it as an Xbox 360 exclusive, garnering a wealth of hateful reviews. It was one of those games that is so bad it’s good, as argued by Jim Sterling in his bonkers 10/10 review. When the Director’s Cut launched on PlayStation 3, it hardly came sailing in on a raft of improvements. Janky, unresponsive and absolutely garish, it was exactly what we expected.
Age of Empires II (now available in HD!) and Dragon’s Dogma also saw fresh releases in April. The latter came as a surprise to many, considering how the original Dragon’s Dogma was less than a year old. Dark Arisen packaged the core game with a lengthy expansion, Capcom slapping it with a reduced pricetag in the process. A strange move indeed, though one that probably helped to shift units, reaffirming DD as a fledgling Capcom flagship title.
Elsewhere in the world of action RPGs, handheld gamers finally got their hands on the much-anticipated Soul Sacrifice. Personally I found the game a bore despite enjoying the first few hours immensely. Soul Sacrifice had some great ideas, but the limited combat and repetitive design left much to be desired from the Vita’s supposed “killer-app”. It was certainly no Monster Hunter, proving that Sony still has a way to go if it intends to top Nintendo’s exclusive software line-up.
So April had little to excite, but May and June were both set to host some major events for us to look forward to.