May’s Uneventful Xbox Games With Gold: Dungeons, Dice, Legos

By on May 14, 2021

There are some mighty big games coming out this month that’ll likely be occupying the attentions of Xbox users – Resident Evil, Mass Effect, and a new open-world RPG in the same month? Yes, please! – so this would be one of those months where a lack of noteworthy Games With Gold could be acceptable. Unfortunately, this also happens to be another in a string of underwhelming lineups for the subscription service’s free titles, in which the most recognizable, highest profile offering is … a LEGO game from a decade-plus ago that’s doing the heavy lifting alongside three strategy/management games.

There’s still some hope that Xbox Live will turn things around and start dishing out more noteworthy freebies, but that’ll have to wait for a later month.  Let’s take a closer look at what’s here, but be sure to Grab a 3-Month Subscription of Game Pass Ultimate at Amazon to have access to both these games and the bountiful roster of quality titles through Xbox’s other sub platform.

armello xbox

Xbox One

Armello – May 1-31

Creating a tabletop game to be played on a digital interface has a few unique challenges. For the most part, those interested in that kind of thing likely either want digital replications of some of their favorite standard boardgames – Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Pandemic have all been popular — or want a game that kinda-sorta feels like a boardgame while concealing that it’s operating like a boardgame. You get the attitude of the tabletop experience from war strategy and tower defense games, but under an illusion of “realism”.

Armello pushes that concept to the edge. It’s a stat-based, grid-based RPG with obvious “pieces” that move between spaces, those being large humanoid animals that visually tower above hexagon cities, forests, and other areas. The goal? To engage in combat and become ruler of the area, by way of making decisions that are enacted in the gamespace through turn-based action and stat checks / dice rolls. Along with a soundtrack that sounds like a fusion of Skyrim and Game of Thrones, Armello is a hodgepodge of ideas combined in a well-received package deemed to be a worthy tabletop substitute.

Dungeons III – May 16-June 15

Those who’ve played the role of dungeon master understand the joys and plights of being the one who has to, essentially, “control” how the gaming landscape operates, making it exciting and reactive for those who enter locations. By way of the “god game” method of design, the folks at Realmforge essentially gave players the chance to do this whenever they want with Dungeons. Designed with clear influence from Bullfrog’s Dungeon Keeper, the game swings on the player’s ability to design an alluring dungeon that adventurers would want to explore and, ultimately, get trapped in.

Dungeons III marks 10 years of development around the concept, and the folks at Realmforge have evolved the franchise into something that knows exactly what it wants to be, honing its dark humor and real-time strategy aspects. By all measures, it’s the most warmly-received entry in the series, too, both by critics/players with experience with the franchise and new players.  

Xbox 360

Lego Batman – May 1-15

It may be hard to believe, but the first Lego Star Wars game was released over 15 years ago now, and it doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that its arrival reshaped how folks view “family friendly games”. Since then, Travelers Tales has cranked out roughly 20 titles from across a plethora of franchises, from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to Pirates of the Caribbean and even Marvel. Among the first titles released after the success of Star Wars (along with Indiana Jones), Lego Batman: The Videogame tests the waters of those same gameplay philosophies in a different setting.

For those who might not want to let their kids control Batman in a combat-heavy setting like Arkham Asylum, this one finds a way of capturing the essence of the Caped Crusader’s escapades without the hard-hitting violence. That’s not the limit of its appeal, though, as the satirical depictions of the character’s universe – as well as straightforward controls — makes for an enjoyable gaming atmosphere for both younger audiences and those older folks with marginal interest in games. The Lego games have advanced in variety and polish since this one, but the entertainment value’s still there.

Tropico 4 — May 16-31

This month, you’re not getting one title from Kalypso Media, but two! The Tropico series has been cranking out titles for 2 decades now, with Haimemont Games taking over from the third to the fifth installment. During that period, their island business management simulator series maintained a consistently high critical reputation, maintaining enough popularity to, well, keep cranking out installments that possess slight variations from the formula. Under this reign of El Presidente, this fourth installment would likely be considered the best of that lot, regarded as an improvement over Tropico 3 without much innovation or additional gameplay depth. Players who struggle to get into other management simulators still seem to click with Tropico’s setup, so it’s worth giving it a shot.

About Thomas Spurlin

Film, home-media, and videogame scribe who digs green tea and walking his dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *