September’s Xbox Game Pass and Gold Titles: Shadows, Space, and MYST
Altogether, combining both the new Game Pass offerings and the Games With Gold freebies, September’s coming off as a tame month for Xbox’s subscription services. That’s a relatively uncommon occurrence: while the quality of the monthly Gold freebies has been on a steady decline over the past year, the high interest levels in the new Game Pass titles typically offsets the legacy program and, advantageously, draws attention away from it. By most measures, this isn’t really the case for September and its arrangement of lower-key games … except for maybe the retro gamers out there. Slipped into the mix is a rebuilt, gorgeous version of a classic puzzle adventure game from decades ago that’ll likely spark just enough interest to earn the month a pass. Let’s take a gander at the titles, but before doing so, be sure to Grab a 3-Month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subscription Card from Amazon.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — New and Upcoming
When it comes to point-and-click adventures, many gamers with a few years under their belts likely have a blind spot for MYST, the eerie tale of exploration, hubris, and family conflict lovingly crafted by brothers Rand and Robyn Miller of Cyan Worlds. Since exploding into the mainstream and becoming a commercial computer game success in the early ‘90s, MYST has been remastered and retooled numerous times to varying degrees of success, always attempting to keep memory of it alive alongside the changing video game climate. Whether the game itself — its narrative and puzzles — has aged well seems to matter less than relishing the pulse of nostalgia and the inventive art design of the puzzle-based world.
In the current era, there’s been a newfound appreciation for relaxed, atmospheric gaming experiences driven by mysterious storytelling and aesthetics, and it seems like a fine time for MYST to yet again make its presence known. While the original MYST has shown up on the likes of the original PlayStation, this marks the game’s first availability on an Xbox console, and it happens in a big way. Similar to realMYST, this iteration is essentially a PC port of the recent VR version of the game that’s been modified for standard flatscreen play, rebuilt from top to bottom for seamless exploration of a 3D iteration of the environment. It’s a beautiful, modernized reconstruction of a whimsical masterwork from computer gaming’s history, essentially visualizing what people imagined when moving from screen-to-screen in the point-and-click original.
Speaking of the lower-key adventure subgenre, one of the more recent successes from that niche would be Subnautica, in which the lone survivor of a space exploration crash sticks it out on a water planet and discovers the secrets of the mission that brought the crew there. Many people who’ve played it on PC have stated that Breathedge is essentially “Subnautica, but out in space”, and based on the premise itself, that doesn’t seem far off. This game from RedRuins Softworks finds the main character stranded in the debris of a wrecked spaceship, hunting for clues about an underlying conspiracy.
Here’s the catch: the spaceship was actually a big hearse transporting corpses, and the game’s sense of humor uses that as a jumping-off point. From sassy robots and immortal chickens to the freedom in how one uses propulsion engines with the surroundings, Breathedge aims to be both a survival sim with genuine layers of strategic inventory thinking and a sarcastic playground that invites explosive experimentation. But it also eventually knows when to shift gears and tell the story going on underneath, even though that abrupt shift has led some critics and players to feel like separate, sometimes tedious experiences when progressing through the game.
Nowadays, most stealth-centered games are centered on variety. Sure, it’s possible to get from Point A to Point B by being clever and sneaky, but there’s usually enough freedom in those games – Assassin’s Creed, Dishonored, Deus Ex, Batman, even Thief — that they can charge guns blazing to their destination, or use other more volatile strategies to achieve roughly the same result. Aragami cracks the whip on this concept, focusing entirely on the stealth aspects as a supernatural ninja-like spirit uses shadows and maneuvers to infiltrate a city in pursuit of an imprisoned empress. While some might’ve found the stealth too ever-present to a point of repetitive, many players found the focus to be satisfying.
Aragami 2 engages the player’s Shadow Spirit in a different sort of mission, pursuing the key to freeing those warriors from their other-worldly curse and the invaders who frequently imprison them. Stealth once again appears paramount to the game’s intentions, with new bells-‘n-whistles centered on elevating those techniques instead of straying from them. The inclusion of 3-player co-op and a bevy of new customization options for your particular aragami character suggest a heightened level of variety and features this time around, though, which will hopefully deepen the experience. Aragami 2 will be ready for action on September 16.
Xbox Games With Gold
With the release of the
remastered resurrected Diablo II coming later in the month of September, it’s unsurprising yet still mildly satisfying to see Microsoft provide an Xbox One substitute of sorts in their free Games With Gold for those who might not be delving into those particular dungeons. Warhammer: Chaosbane (September 1-30) goes crawling through the same hack-‘n-slash subgenre as Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, and Torchlight, only through the popular Warhammer 40K universe. While it scratches the same itch, players and critics tend to agree that it’s too short and unpolished to be considered among those higher-tier crawlers. Also available for the Xbox One is Mulaka (September 16-October 15), which also vaguely satisfies the same kind of desire with players hacking and slashing their way through an indigenous tribal atmosphere centered in Mexico. Both critics and players seems to agree that the novelty of its setting makes the everyday Zelda-like gameplay and map clearing worth the time.
Over on the legacy system offerings, there’s the cult classics Zone of the Enders HD Collection (September 1-15), which includes both games of the mech battle franchise produced by Hideo Kojima. A critical evaluation of the games in 2012 by both players and critics reaffirmed that the second game in the series, 2nd Runner, is vastly superior on almost all fronts. Finally, there’s Samurai Shodown 2 (September 16-30), a decade-plus old port of the original SNK sequel frequently described as being better than the original. Whether that’s still a viable position will likely depend on the player’s threshold for flavorful character models and vintage fighting games without the speed of others from the era.