5. Banner Saga 2
The Banner Saga and it’s sequel The Banner Saga 2 are exceptionally well designed, beautifully drawn and animated turn based strategy games set in a Norse inspired fantasy world. The franchise is one of a few games attempting to find footing in the wake of the success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The Banner Saga games do something more innovative than most when it comes to the downtime between battles focussing on character moments over mechanical base building. The Banner Saga 2 does have progression trees for the fighters in the game but each of those fighters is a fully formed character that the player may or may not build a bond with as the story progresses. This departure from the genre norm together with the stunning art and animation of the series makes The Banner Saga 2 absolutely worth a look.
4. Zero Time Dilemma
Visual novels have experienced a renaissance as of late, with the likes of Danganronpa, Steins;Gate and even Hatoful Boyfriend bringing the niche genre into the limelight. Zero Time Dilemma adds to this, bringing a unique, incredibly deep narrative to the genre complete with puzzles and drama.
The Zero Escape trilogy, which the game in question ends, has never been too popular with gamers, likely due to initially being on the Nintendo DS and commercially flopping in Japan. This is a shame, with Zero Time Dilemma having one of the most involved narratives in the genre, in gaming even. Complete with a Lord of the Flies inspired plot that is as gut wrenching as it is depressing, but with a dynamic plot structure that allows for multiple playthroughs. Zero Time Dilemma flew completely under the radar, despite being able to provide so much for those who don’t typically play visual novels.
Despite some initial fanfare, I heard little about Unravel after its release. A cute platformer that served as a sort-of antithesis to the moody and surrealist puzzle platforming of Limbo, Unravel achieved a similar height of quality gameplay and narrative without the same sort of response. It’s an easy game to dip into and even easier to lose time to as the planned 30 minute session leads to the entire game being completed.
Unravel is definitely a pretty game, with the aesthetics of the environment becoming crucial for solving puzzles and traversing through the adventure. The knitted protagonist is as adorable as they come, revelling in charm that put most AAA games to shame.
If the past few years of independent titles has shown anything, it’s that the retro vibe is anything but dead (in fact, it’s near enough saturated). Owlboy is a fine example of this and one of the best old-school platformers to be released since Shovel Knight. Yet somehow, a lot of people failed to check this game out, likely as it released during the November game rush.
Owlboy is a charming adventure revolving around a mute, yet loveable, Owl called Otus on a quest to save the world. From here the game becomes interesting, relying on Otus to collect allies that can be used to progress. It is truly a game with comradery at heart and the charm that comes with that oozes from every facet of the game. It also has a beautiful soundtrack and visuals to match and really shouldn’t be missed.