December has a reputation for being a quieter month for the video game industry, but that was far from the case in 2023. This month saw a new, controversial iteration of The Game Awards, the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto 6, a headline-making ransomware attack on Insomniac Games, and the release of lots of new titles. While bigger releases like Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora disappointed, plenty of other new games were still very much worth your time.
These great December games are spread across a nice variety of platforms and genres. We have solid RPGs in the console and VR space, indie games punching above their weight, and more. As 2023 wraps up and 2024 begins, take the time to check out any of these seven fantastic December games during the early January lull.
VR gaming had started to feel stagnant, but the launch of the Meta Quest 3 this fall has revitalized that space. Last month, we loved Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR; this month, Sanzaru Games and Meta released the ambitious 60-hour RPG Asgard’s Wrath 2. It’s certainly one of, if not the, biggest and boldest VR games to be released, rivaling the scope of action RPGs that one can play on consoles. For fans of VR gaming, it’s a must-play.
“Asgard’s Wrath 2 feels like a maximalist vision of everything VR gaming could possibly deliver at its current level,” Digital Trends’ Giovanni Colantonio wrote of Asgard’s Wrath 2 after playing through its early hours. “It’s enormous, full of complex systems, features satisfying traversal, and is packed with blockbuster action made possible by a technically advanced new headset. Though that undoubtedly makes it the most impressive VR game ever built, I’m more interested to see what happens when developers begin deconstructing it into more digestible experiences that bridge the gap between it and those early “Atari” VR experiences that impressed me a decade ago.”
As someone who currently only owns a PlayStation VR2, I’m very jealous of the Meta Quest 3 owners who have this game locked down as an exclusive or got it for free when they purchased the headset. Hopefully, more VR games attempt to match Asgard’s Wrath 2’s ambition across all VR platforms.
If you were looking for another solid CRPG to play after dumping hundreds of hours into Baldur’s Gate 3, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader is a solid pick. Based on the popular Warhammer tabletop and video game franchise, Rogue Trader is an expansive RPG adventure entrenched in the series’ lore and full of tense turn-based combat and dialogue choices.
“Owlcat Games has crafted a title that’s a cut above other Warhammer tie-ins available now,” Jason Rodriguez wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader for Digital Trends. “It has a rich narrative that’s filled to the brim with references, and a keen attention to detail that’s a testament to the grandness of the 40K universe. Battles are tough, but they often reward me for experimenting with various classes and builds. It’s just going to need some polish over time to remove some unwanted friction from an incredibly long RPG.”
Rogue Trader is definitely on the more hardcore end of the RPG spectrum, so trying this game out is best for those familiar with Warhammer or this game genre. Thankfully, Baldur’s Gate 3 popularized CRPGs and hopefully paved the way for the success of similar games like Rogue Trader. It’s available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
Sometimes, a task you’d never find enjoyable in real life is extremely entertaining in a video game. House Flipper 2 is not about just cleaning messes, but also redesigning a house to fit specific criteria or your own image. You can renovate specific rooms, clean up and change the textures on particular objects, or go into Sandbox mode and build a house from scratch.
“I just love diving into new spaces and uncovering their stories under layers of filth,” Colantonio wrote of House Flipper 2. “I piece together what happened in the aftermath of a rock concert when I follow a trail of paint-soaked footprints from the garage inside the house. In another home, I fix a shoddy bathroom DIY project gone awry by cleaning uneven stencil patterns off the tiled walls. They’re often funny, but charming household mishaps that bring something human to the mechanical series. House Flipper 2 gives us a chance to laugh at our own accidents before granting us the power to clean them up.”
For those who love building and customizing their own spaces in video games, House Flipper 2 provides a sandbox that you could get lost in for dozens of hours. House Flipper 2 is available now for PC.
In a year full of fantastic indie games, A Highland Song stands out as one of the best. Players control a young girl running away from home and venturing across the Scottish Highlands in what’s actually a mesmerizing coming-of-age musical experience. It frequently gives off a sense of awe-inspiring discovery and tense moments as players run and climb through the Scottish Highlands while managing the young heroine’s stamina and keeping her healthy and uninjured along the way.
“A Highland Song is a meditative quest for self-discovery that successfully translates the freedom of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to a grounded indie adventure,” Colantonio said in his four-star review of A Highland Song. “There may be frustrations and setbacks along the way, but imperfection is part of the journey. It’s our job to learn from those mistakes and be better for them.”
If its coming-of-age story or the idea of a 2D Breath of the Wild-like intrigues you, A Highland Song is well worth trying. A Highland Song is available now for PC and Nintendo Switch.
Sonic Dream Team is a 3D platformer set in a dream world, and although it’s pretty short, it nails the momentum and speed-centric design needed to create a fantastic 3D experience. It’s small in scope, but it understands that sometimes keeping things simple and nailing the game feel can elevate a platformer to greater heights.
“Though it ends just as it’s getting into its top gear, Sonic Dream Team is a wise direction for the ever-changing series,” Colantonio said in his three-and-a-half star review of Sonic Dream Team. “It’s not another radical reinvention, nor a tired nostalgia act, but a sharply designed Sonic adventure that puts snappy 3D platforming at the forefront. If nothing else, it’s a successful audition for a developer who seems best equipped to take the series’ reins moving forward”
Even though it’s a mobile game, it looks and plays much better than 2022’s Sonic Frontiers. For our money, that makes it the best 3D Sonic game in over a decade. Sonic Dream Team is available now via Apple Arcade.
While Fortnite technically isn’t a new game, December 2023 marked the start of a new era for the liv- service title as it transitioned to being more of a platform for different kinds of games. In addition to the traditional Battle Royale and Zero Build modes, Epic Games also created the survival game Lego Fortnite, arcade racer Rocket Racing, and rhythm game Fortnite Festival. All of these are full-sized games or experiences that can be accessed right from Fortnite’s main menu.
Digital Trends has spent a lot of time with each experience since launch, with mostly positive thoughts. Colantonio wrote that Lego Fortnite “feels like the ultimate kid’s game,” and that Rocket Racing is a “top-notch, all-ages racer that developer Psyonix was always destined to make.” We were less impressed by Fornite Festival, but it’s still fine for those who’ve always enjoyed the music aspects of Fortnite and want to play a simplistic, yet approachable rhythm game.
With a new season and the addition of these three games within a game, Fortnite feels as fresh as it did in 2017. If you dropped the game a while back and were waiting for a reason to return, Epic Games just gave you three of them.
As our final pick for the year, we fittingly end on The Finals. It’s a live-service, competitive first-person shooter that emphasizes destruction with some of the most impressive environmental destructibility this side of Teardown. It’s a polished shooter in its own right too, with the Battlefield DNA of its developers shining through. Its modes also stand out from those of other shooters by focusing more on collecting and depositing cash while working tactically with your teammates.
“Ahead of its stealth release at The Game Awards 2023, I went hands-on with the launch version. It retained the exhilarating spirit from my previous times trying it out, and I get the feeling that The Finals could catch on and become another mainstay live-service game,” Digital Trends’ Tomas Franzese wrote in an article about The Finals‘ surprise launch.
While it hasn’t set the world on fire, The Finals is shaping up to be a solid shooter that I’ve added to my live-service game rotation. The competitive FPS space desperately needed some new blood to shake things up, and Embark Studios and The Finals may be exactly what it needed. The Finals is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
Courtesy by: Digital Trends