Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Above: It’s just like in the movie!

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

3) Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Nobody is a bigger Lord of the Rings fan than me. I’ve read the trilogy multiple times and read every word of it out loud to two of my three kids. (I’m working on the third one). But as much as I would like to play an awesome Lord of the Rings game, I can’t say I ever have.

That’s why Shadow of Mordor was such a surprise. It started with a mysterious story about a Ranger whose family was murdered. A good Wraith, or ghost, helps him escape death. The Wraith turns out to be a character that the evil Dark Lord tricked many years ago into making the Rings of Power and a means to enslave their wielders with the One Ring. Slowly, it dawns on you that this is a pretty epic tale.

As the Ranger, your job is to go into the evil land of Mordor and subvert Sauron’s forces before he can grow too powerful. With its Nemesis System, you can identify the orc leaders that you have to take out. You can take them out in any order, but if you fail in one attempt, the orc leader rises in the hierarchy and becomes more powerful. So the next time you try to kill him, he’s harder to beat and is surrounded by more troops. This means that the game gets harder to play over time, and you have to really think hard about how to win. It’s also highly replayable.

Combined with the great story, the Nemesis System makes Shadow of Mordor an excellent game.


 

Alien: Isolation

Above: Alien: Isolation stars Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley.

Image Credit: Sega

4) Alien: Isolation
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Let’s hear it for interesting heroines in games. Ellen Ripley, the main character of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie, was of the strongest female leads in film. She survived against the odds while fighting the acid-blooded xenomorph, one of the most terrifying creatures ever imagined. Now, many years later, her daughter Amanda Ripley has returned to find out what really happened to her missing mother. She goes to a space station that has lost all communications and finds herself facing the same alien threat that her mother fought.

As Amanda Ripley, you live in a constant state of fear. First, you have to find out what happened on the ruined space station. Then, once you find out about the alien infestation, you have to evade the monster. And the monster isn’t your only enemy. You have to watch out for humans and rogue robots. In short, you are isolated and afraid. But you can stick to the shadows, hide in lockers, hold your breath, and then assemble whatever weapons you can to fight the terrifying creature.

This game brings back the suspense of the original movie as well as its sense of horror. The game also pushes you to solve puzzles, find clues, and figure out how to survive against the odds from a position of complete vulnerability. Your only real tool is a motion detector that tells you when you’re about to be attacked. You die a lot in this game, and you pay very dearly for the smallest of mistakes. You can only survive by stealth and silence. And that’s what makes it a good game.


 

Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Above: Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Image Credit: Activision

5) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Developer: Sledgehammer Games
Publisher: Activision Publishing
Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Like the song in The LEGO Movie suggests, everything about Kevin Spacey is awesome. The actor took what could have been an ordinary role as a mercenary corporate executive and he turned it into a memorable performance. Now that the Cold War is over, it isn’t easy for shooter game script writers to come up with menacing and powerful enemies. But Spacey runs a private military corporation with global ambitions, and he wants to become mightier than any government when it comes to military prowess.

Set in the future, this game introduces all sorts of cool weaponry including an exoskeleton that enables you to jump far and a infrared grenade that reveals enemies that are hiding behind cover. The single-player campaign is tough and it steadily introduces you to new capabilities and weapons. The set pieces are still gripping like a Hollywood action movie. You’ll never forget standing on the Golden Gate Bridge as it collapses. And toward the end of the game, the firefights and action scenes become massive and they push the next-generation consoles to the limit.

And in the multiplayer sessions, I’ve actually been able to continuously improve my scores. Sometimes, the multiplayer requires so much skill that the less-capable veterans and neophytes don’t stand a chance. But I’m steadily leveling up, and I still find a quick multiplayer match as a nice treat at the end of a long day.


 

Some action from The Construct Quarter.

Above: Some action from The Construct Quarter.

Image Credit: TrumpSC

6) Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, Android

I came to Hearthstone late after hearing so much about it from my colleagues and friends. I am not a fan of card games, but this one was easy to learn and addictive. The characters were somewhat familiar from my good old days of playing Warcraft games. The system is easy to understand, and there are so many players that you never have to wait a long time to find an opponent. You draw your hand of cards and use the cards to either defend yourself or attack.

The only trouble is when you’re winning a match and someone plays a card that you’ve never seen before. They can use that card to rip your hero to shreds. The battles ebb and flow, with one side winning during one round and the other side coming back in the next. When I’ve barely lost a match in this free-to-play game, that’s when I feel motivated to buy packs of cards — in the hopes of getting a good one that will let me dish out some pain to other players.