THE BIG RELEASE
World Of Warcraft: Battle For Azeroth
THE seventh expansion for this massively multiplayer online game picks up from the end of last year’s Legion bolt-on — and it’s all kicking off. The world of Azeroth is dying, the World Tree has burned to a crisp and bedlam hides in every corner as the Alliance continues its epic battle with the Horde. Throw in Phil Mitchell and you’d have a Christmas episode of EastEnders. With elves.
It’s a feisty backdrop indeed — and with new zones to explore (Kul Tiras and Zandalar), each divided into three questing areas, there’s new content to ogle and four new playable races to get your mitts on. The sand dunes of Vol’Dun and the coastal Stormsong Valley? Cornwall, eat your heart out. The Nightborne race, meanwhile, will really give you the heebie-jeebies.
As much as Warcraft stalwarts will have their favourites when choosing between an Alliance and a Horde hero, the quality of quests and character wealth are spread equally between both factions, so this new expansion should be played from both perspectives.
That said, it can be a bit of a grind. Fetch quests and other yawn-inducing tasks arise too often, although the loot and experience points make them worth the effort. The meat on the bones is found in shorter, faction quests that come with added storytelling spice and tap into the history of the Warcraft world.
As always with expansions from the developers, Blizzard, there’s a wealth of new goodies. On the abilities front, Azerite armour is à la mode while players can customise abilities to fit particular fight styles. The player versus player mode, which lets other gamers into your world, can be toggled on and off, and the 20-player co-op player versus environment mode pays homage to classic Warcraft real-time strategy battles. It all adds up to a game that will satisfy hardcore fans and newcomers alike.
A grind at times but epic modes and races breathe new life into a fascinating franchise
We Happy Few
This sinister take on the Swinging Sixties — in which everyone is brainwashed on a drug called Joy and society largely functions behind a mask of happiness, both literally and metaphorically — has all the hallmarks of classic first-person adventuring. Sadly, the joy soon wears off — and with it your gaming smile.
Thrust into a tale of rebellion, our hero Arthur (and, later, Ollie and Sally) starts a chain reaction that will overthrow the cheery status quo once he’s escaped the clutches of this fake world. It’s a witty, eerie, worthy ride with the creepy grins of the patrolling bobbies more than enough to intrigue from the outset. The beguiling concept from small studio Compulsion Games is beautifully realised, drawing on a mishmash of World War II propaganda, Aldous Huxley and Andy Warhol, and fleshed out in a captivating cartoony art style.
However, We Happy Few is a game undone by ideas above its station. The thread of the story, the diverse quests, and some interesting survival and crafting mechanics are not enough to stop it descending into a hit-and-miss experience that struggles to engage. Hack-and-slash combat, a stealth system that feels last-generation and an inconsistent navigation bar are the standout culprits, leaving you with the sense that here is the seed of a great game that doesn’t quite deliver. (PS4, XO, PC)
Ahead of the game: More new releases
This isometric Cold War spy thriller draws on XCOM-like tactics and is an outstanding addition to the genre. It’s a well-tuned machine of bold design, precision gunplay and stealth-oriented strategy akin to Eidos’s Commandos series. And while its complexity could benefit from more explainers, it’s a certain sleeper hit of 2018. (PS4, XO, PC)
The Walking Dead: The Final Season
Unlike the TV series, Telltale’s game of the zomb-pocalypse has consistently charmed since it hit the shelves in 2012, replacing the obvious and outdated head-bashing with moral conundrums and human tragedy. If things lagged last season, this final outing is back with a killer bite. (PS4, XO, NS, PC)
State Of Mind
Ambition doesn’t always pay off and State Of Mind falls short of delivering on its early promise. The Cubist visuals are Marmite, as is the narrative handholding, but there’s some great voice talent and a near-future tale with interesting themes. Still, the many design irregularities mean this is a game that distracts instead of entertains. (PS4, XO, NS, PC)