Xbox, Amid a Series of Distractions, Sneaks Through November’s Gold Games

By on November 16, 2020

The release of the new Xbox Series systems has finally arrived and, as one can expect, they’re a hot commodity and in short supply. Attention is fully on the new bells and whistles of the new system: games with day-one Series X upgrades, how backwards-compatible games look without the dedicated upgrades, what storage methods and accessories are necessary, etc. On the other side of the coin, more casual console owners are leaning into the opposite type of enthusiasm, getting ramped up for the holidays and early shopping.  And then, of course, we’ve got the … other distractions still lingering throughout the end of election season and amid the pandemic. 

Amid all that, it isn’t much of a surprise that November’s Games With Gold have very little capability go grab attention, a slate of passable, forgettable titles during a time when something big could’ve made an impression and drawn in new subscribers. Perhaps, at this point, they’re more interested in Game Pass. It’s still possible to Grab a Year Xbox Live Digital Code from Amazon, so it’s worth considering stocking up while they’re still out there.

Xbox One

Aragami: Shadow Edition (November 1-30)

Thief: The Dark Project stands out as one of the earliest, most effective games to capture suspense and realism, and essentially created the 3D stealth subgenre as it’s known today. Across two decades, a slew of stealth games have built upon its versatility and moved into the third-person perspective — from Assassin’s Creed and Batman to smaller titles like Styx – and they’ve each gone above and beyond the genre’s limitations in some way.

With its bold quasi cel-shaded graphics and usage of a “shadow” mechanic, Aragami doesn’t attempt to branch out by trying a bunch of other things like those titles, instead sticking to the effective basics of stealth movement and kills in a ninja- like environment. Critics and players tend to agree that the stealth aspects are challenging and very well-executed, and that’s great for aficionados of the genre, but the story and lack of versatility limits its appeal to the devotees.

Swimsanity! (November 16 – December 15)

4-player couch and online multiplayer games will always hold a soft spot in the gaming community, but the 360/PS3 era of games enjoyed a proper resurgence of this concept, mostly led by Castle Crashers. Since, developers have mined the “couch co-op” subgenre and landed on several successful formulas, with several – such as Lovers in a Dangerous Space Time – involving quick-response shooting and coordination. Conversely, the popularity of new 4-player competitive combat games that aren’t Smash Bros. has also shot up, like Rivals of Aether and Speedrunners

Swimsanity combines both cooperative and competitive ideas into one, allowing up to 4 players to descend into the water and shoot their way through obstacles and enemies … with the ever-present threat of a massive shark, whale, or other critter to come swimming and eating everyone up.

Xbox / Xbox 360

Full Spectrum Warrior (November 1-15)

Pandemic Studios are best known for a game released in 2004, Star Wars: Battlefront, and it’s a good thing that it came out when it did because the developers were also charging head-on into another controversial title released in the same year. In coordination with the armed forces after they learned about the popularity and effectiveness of military games, Pandemic helped to develop a combat strategy simulator for the Army, which gave birth to Full Spectrum Warrior

While it may seem like a Rainbow Six type of squad-based shooter at first glance, players will need to readjust their expectations upon learning that it’s a turn-based tactical game with no direct control over the characters and their shooting, only in making decisions about their actions. It’s a unique piece of gaming history for how it emerged before the armed forced adopted the likes of Call of Duty as a readiness module and recruitment tool, though even the Army claimed it was “out of date” upon release.

LEGO Indiana Jones (November 16-30)

Nowadays, it’s hard to keep track of all the franchises that have LEGO video game versions of their movies or shows, but there was a time when LEGO Star Wars was a novel, charming, and singular concept: an amusing spoof of the movie’s events whose controls are effortlessly family-friendly.  The first attempt made by developer Traveller’s Tales to adapt another franchise in the LEGO concept was with Indiana Jones … and the rest, as they say, is history.

Is it a great LEGO-ized version of the game? Not particularly. In this first transition to another franchise, Traveller’s Tales didn’t do a flawless job of keeping monotony in check with its activities, both because of the amount of stuff to do and the fact that they didn’t make the new activities feel particularly unique to the Indiana Jones universe.  Did that matter? Nah.  Its humorous, lively take on an established property make up for it, and evidently cemented the developer’s future for the next decade-plus.

About Thomas Spurlin

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

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