Xbox Game Pass, Gold Freebies for August Keep Excitement on Inside
All it takes is a few short months for subscription services to enact rumored, some might say “feared” choices that will pave the way for larger overhauls in the programs. The key one on the Xbox side of the coin being, of course: when will Games With Gold be phased out? For quite a while, Microsoft maintained that their original Gold subscription program would remain a component of their strategy for the foreseeable future, but that foreseeable future may be coming into sight with the elimination of legacy Xbox 360 and OG Xbox games in October as part of the subscription benefits. In contrast to the newer Game Pass titles, which remain eye-catching even if they aren’t high-profile, the energy has been dramatically slumping with what’s being offered through Game Pass – both Xbox One and legacy games – and seems to be slowing down as a way of approaching this discontinuation.
Let’s take a closer look at this month’s Gold titles and some recent Game Pass additions, but before doing so, head over and Grab a 3-Month Game Pass Ultimate Subscription to get the benefits of the Game Pass titles, the regular Gold sales, and of course online gaming.
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Many elements went into the success of LIMBO, the grayscale platformer from developers PLAYDEAD, chief among them being the stark shadowy aesthetic that gave it the visual tempo of a classic horror film. The studio had something to prove with their second project, though: that their talents extend beyond the slick gimmick that certainly accentuated the violence of a young, silhouetted protagonist repeatedly meeting their demise in gloomy shadows. INSIDE proves that there’s plenty more to them than that.
The second game from PLAYDEAD scraps the stark silhouettes and brings depth and dimension to their familiar side-scrolling gameplay mechanics, in which another young boy navigates a terrifying dystopian environment. While there might not be much color in INSIDE and the platform mechanics will feel similar, the sights and sounds come across very differently in this textural stream of nightmarish tableaus. Both critics and players have been absorbed by the insistently grim and grotesque experience, engaged by its tense levels and exploring interpretations of what its dual endings actually mean.
Watch Dogs 2
Ubisoft’s first run at the Watch Dogs concept ended up being marred by potential that couldn’t quite be satisfied, delivering a surveillance tech stealth game that lacked the expected innovation and freedom boasted by its creators. Once the player cuts through those aspects, however, the overall experience delivers familiar stealth action game design with fresh tools at its disposal, eventually earning a reputation after a few years for being somewhat underrated. With expectations more in check and a list of things to improve, Ubisoft Montreal took a second crack at the concept with Watch Dogs 2.
Armed with a superior protagonist and a more engaging narrative that borrows a little from the likes of Minority Report, this sequel centers on a hacker wrongly accused of committing crimes by the predictive aspects of San Francisco’s electronic infrastructure. From there, Watch Dogs 2 takes the general outline of the first game and juices up the mission structure, the flexibility of the user interface, and the general openness of the game design. Both critics and players acknowledge the focus on those improvements while also dinging it for not refining its suspension of disbelief or not letting go of certain things that just didn’t work, landing on a generally more positive impression than the one left by the original.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
There was a glorious period in the mid-2010s where isometric RPGs made a serious run at a comeback in the absence of many other fantasy-RPing options, largely on the energy of wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns that proved the interest is still very much there. Alongside Pillars of Eternity that provides a “spiritual successor” to the likes of Baldur’s Gate, Torment: Tides of Numenera focuses on doing the same as a love letter to Planescape: Torment, concerning itself with dense, layered storytelling that molds to player choices throughout the adventure.
Taking place far into a future where civilizations have risen and fallen, Torment refocuses on the world in a less-advanced state full of scattered settlements and lingering mysteries from before the setting’s “Ninth Age”. The protagonist has been constructed as the “vessel” for an ancient man who has discovered how to transfer consciousness from body to body, and it’s up to the protagonist to stop the chain and to defeat a force called “The Sorrow” before it consumes them both. As expected, the narrative and choice-and-consequence versatility in Torment: Tides of Numenera have been widely celebrated and deemed worth playing for any RPG fan interested in those aspects; however, many critics and players view the clunky mundaneness of its combat and encounters as a big obstacle.
Xbox Games With Gold
For those still riding on the Gold train, we’ve got a foursome of middling, yet decent titles that can certainly be described as eclectic. Over on the Xbox One, we’ve got Calico (August 1-31), a management sim in which the player runs their own … cat café, or more accurately reconstructs one within a town and repopulates it with new furry residents. Some who might be drawn into the pastel, magical aesthetic and cat collection and management might want to give it a go, but critics and players have struggled with glitches and bugs since launch. The other title is ScourgeBringer (August 16 – September-15), a colorful and retro-infused roguelike platformer that delivers the kind of fast-paced challenge and rinse-and-repeat learning gameplay that devotees of the genres adore.
In one of the last months of legacy titles to be offered, at least Microsoft’s going out with a banger or two. This month, they’re offering folks the chance to have Saints Row 2 (August 1-15) — yes, the game that’s routinely priced lower than $5 through digital sales — ready to go on their hard-drives for free. As the middle title between the franchise’s slightly more serious first game and the balls-out humor of Saints Row: The Third (my personal favorite), the second one strikes a pretty satisfying balance between those two spectrums as it imitates the open-world gangster gameplay of Grand Theft Auto with a satirical edge. Finally, there’s Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine (August 16-31), a top-down heist management and strategy game noteworthy for being developed by the sole designer behind Pocketwatch Games.