The uneven charm of Starfield

Almost immediately, Starfield felt fragmented to me. Navigating the UI was a chore, and every move I made inevitably required awkward loading screens. Most of all, the entire experience felt obscured. Starfield is overstuffed with things to do, but most of the time it feels like you’re going against the grain. For me, the biggest appeal of Skyrim was the effortless flow of its open world. Anything I did felt in line with everything else in the game.

And that’s what was most jarring about Starfield – it lacked direction or even a sense that what I was doing was right (it can still feel this way). There are an endless amount of great quests, things to build, places to make sense of, and general paths of exploration. Bethesda clearly swung wide with this game, and at many points during my time with the game so far I was overwhelmed by possibility. But it also feels very uneven and, above all, feels like a whole that’s very systems driven. Right down to its exploration, each of these major aspects can feel very siloed off.

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Forza Horizon 5 works flawlessly with Windows Snap (PC Game Pass)

forza horizon 5 sunset landscape

One of the best parts of getting a competent PC has been the ability to multitask without a hitch. Being able to throw The Simpsons or The X-Files to the side while I play something has been incredible. Excess stimulation? Definitely. But it’s just one of the things Xbox Series X and other consoles can’t match.

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Need for Speed Unbound: not the worst (Xbox Game Pass)

There’s nothing better than a racer that nails physics, presentation, and that itch to push further. I’ve mainly gotten that out of the Forza Horizon series in recent years, but have played a ton of Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo in the past. Of course you’ve also got your older series like Test Drive, Burnout, and one off titles that died way too soon like Driveclub. And that’s the kicker – it’s damn sad to see the genre flatten out as time goes on.

So when Need for Speed Unbound recently hit Xbox Game Pass I had to at least try it out. It kind of approaches the aspects I look for in a racing game but never really gets there (at least in the first few hours). But it’s scarce for new arcade racers and you can’t exactly be choosy.

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Perpetual haze (The Division 2 screenshots)

It’s been months since I’ve played The Division 2 but it still stands as one of my favorite third-person shooters ever. The game is also stunning and I remember having a blast diving into the in-game photography.

You’ll eventually find yourself in a gameplay loop of repetition but The Division 2’s atmosphere and detailed setting make it so much easier to digest. The shots below (click for full resolution) really highlight the oppressive humidity you’ll find in the fictionalized Washington DC.

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Diablo 4 feels like a live service game 2 years into its future

For all of the time I put into the launch of the original Destiny, it was beyond barren in terms of content. It was a damn good time, but most of that was in the excitement of something new from Bungie other than Halo. Playing with friends also tends to polish mediocre experiences.

I went through the same cycle with Destiny 2, and watched as Anthem crashed and burned a couple years later. That era during the launch of the original Destiny feels like the real start of the live service boom, and since then new types of experiences that demand all of your attention have been popping up every month it seems. But it’s really the normalizing of that type of release strategy that stings the most these days – rushing a game to market only to fix things up after the fact.

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The Division 2 has got the mood

moody storm in The Division 2

Ever since taking a break with Destiny 2 I’ve been missing having a “dick around” shooter. The Division 2 seemed like the perfect fit being featured in a recent Xbox sale – tons of exploration, solo viable, and plenty of legitimately new content to enjoy before hopping onto an inevitable hamster wheel. The Destiny 2 hamster wheel is fun, but things get stale without breaks.

I originally tried it out on PS4, and I’m almost positive it was a free PS Plus game at the time. The only problem is that it was closer to the peak of the pandemic frenzy so it played a little too close to home at the time what with the narrative setup of the game.

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What will Mobius Digital do next?

Overlook of Outer Wilds starting location

Outer Wilds was an experience that cultivated wanting more. It was the special type of game where I had landed on something that was so refreshing compared to the modern landscape. Mobius Digital’s standout release was emotional in the sincerest way, and I think many others found and valued this in what it offered.

It’s still quite fresh in my mind, and I want to allow myself a little more time before venturing into Echoes of the Eye. I’ve read nothing but good things upon doing the usual scouring of reception and thoughts of others on Reddit and elsewhere after beating the main release. But I can’t help but wonder – what will Mobius Digital’s next game be?

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Fallout 76 is the pinnacle of atmospheric design

Fallout 76 capitol

Half baked and thoroughly puzzling – I like many others was confused by the initial release of Fallout 76. From the outside looking in it seemed to run the gamut of all issues associated with a GaaS title released a tad too soon. Unsurprisingly, it received a mountain of backlash.

Over time, my curiosity in what Bethesda Games Studios had developed started to overtake Fallout 76’s initial blunder. Recently, nearly 3 years after its release, I decided to take the plunge. Part of me wanted to see if things had remained truly horrendous and the other part of me wondered if a steady stream of updates had brought Fallout 76 to the surface.

What I’ve found after 20 some odd hours of playtime is that while it certainly lacks qualities found in traditional Fallout games, its level of atmosphere is far and away above anything I would have expected. Fallout 76’s rendition of West Virginia might even be one of my favorite examples of open world atmosphere.

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Halo Infinite’s campaign looks modern in the best way possible

halo infinite you're safe now

Halo has always had a certain flavor to the hype behind it. Most notable for me was the run up to Halo 3. Bungie enveloped my teenage mind with visions of expansive sci-fi settings and the ways in which I’d get lost in its multiplayer. Halo 3’s marketing was simply something to be felt. In many ways, it was also the peak of the Halo hype machine.

Each release of Halo has left its mark on my gaming career, but it’s also become murkier ever since the release of Halo Reach. I had my fill of over 100 hours with Bungie’s last hoorah, but 343’s entries never truly got their hooks in me. I didn’t feel the connection with my gut that earlier titles provided. Punctuated by the latest release of Halo Infinite’s campaign overview, this lapse in loyalty seems to finally be coming to an end. For the first time in years, it feels fantastic to be invested in the Halo franchise.

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Awe at every turn (Skyrim Special Edition wallpapers)

All screenshots were captured in 4K on an Xbox Series X. This is the vanilla version of Skyrim Special Edition with no mods. To download a screenshot as a wallpaper, click the image in the gallery below and open it in a new tab. From here you can save the wallpaper locally to your computer or phone.

Virtual photography has a way of shining a light on the intricacies of games. And what game better than Skyrim Special Edition to go on a hunt for shots. Since upgrading to the Series X, it’s been one of my favorite games to eye up in a new way (especially with its performance boosts).

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