Ah, Christmas. Long winter nights, tons of food and drink, and time away from work (for some) make the perfect combination for some cosy gaming sessions. Sadly, it also comes at the tail end of the busiest release schedule of the year. It’s impossible to play everything, but I’m here to help you decide. Here are four games that you should be playing over the Christmas season.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy world of The Witcher has captured the heart of fans worldwide, bringing Polish/Eastern European mythology into the mainstream. While we’ve followed Geralt through books and TV series, perhaps nothing has realised the world so entirely as 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Set in a land devastated by war and inquisition, Geralt is hunting for something far different from his typical prey… his adopted daughter, Ciri, upon whom their world may rely.
Geralt’s search will take him from the body-strewn battlefields plagued by flesh-eating scavengers to the sprawling city of Novigrad. As good as the main narrative is, it’s the side characters and world you’ll ultimately fall in love with. The open world is beyond spectacular, whether walking the streets of a bustling town or hunting a monster in the frozen wastes of Skellige. It’s impossible not to stop in admiration, especially with the current-gen upgrade releasing later in December. Arguably, the finest example of a Western RPG.
The Callisto Protocol
If massive open world RPGs don’t scream ‘comfy Christmas gaming’ to you, perhaps the latest in horror will satisfy all that free time over the festive holidays. From the mind behind the cult horror classic Dead Space comes a new horror tale to chill your bones and give you nightmares. The Callisto Protocol takes place on the desolate moon of Callisto. Crashed landed and Imprisoned without charge, Jacob Lee and his colleague Dani Nakamura find themselves in a prison overrun by diseased prisoners, twisted into horrific monsters.
Expect claustrophobic environments, close combat and gruesome death sequences sure to leave you squirming in your seat, ready get jump right back in and do it all again. Many have been waiting years for the spiritual successor to Dead Space, and The Callisto Protocol intends to end that wait with jump-scare galore! The question is, are you brave enough to play it?
A Plague Tale: Requiem
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to medieval Europe, the plague is once again raging out of control. Our favourite French aristocrats, still getting over the previous game’s events, find themselves returning to a world of war, fear, superstition and rats… lots and lots of rats. In fact, the sheer amount of rats on screen has been used as a selling point to some extent. However, Requiem doesn’t rest on its rodent credentials. Amecia and Hugo’s journey in search of sanctuary and a cure is a genuinely heart-wrenching tale that equals the brilliance of its predecessor.
Like any good sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem expands its world and gameplay while carrying over characters and combat. Something I loved about the original was the trepidation of all combat encounters. Regardless of the weapon or odds, Amicia is always in danger of rats or soldiers. Amicia feels more confident in her abilities, but combat is still a risk. Still, you will want to take your time with the story because the world of Requiem is spectacular, capturing the beauty of the Mediterranean, on land and sea. A powerful narrative with a strong cast of protagonists and some of the best visuals I’ve seen this generation.
God of War: Ragnarok
Let’s get this out of the way first – God of War Ragnarok is a masterpiece from a gameplay and narrative perspective. Several years have passed since Kratos and Atreus’ last Nordic outing, and Fimbulwinter has arrived as the harbinger of Ragnarok. Without spoiling anything, we’re treated to an emotional journey for Kratos, a coming-of-age story for Atreus, as well as a stellar ensemble cast of mythic characters, old and new. It’s a wild, epic adventure worthy of the title.
God of War: Ragnarok builds on the solid gameplay foundation set by its predecessor. Franchise mainstays like the Chaos Blades and Leviathan Axe make a welcome return. Added to your armoury is a spear that’ll devastate the many foes you’ll meet across the nine realms. Speaking of realms, all nine will be visited this time around, each stunningly gorgeous you may find yourself just staring into the distance. If any game deserves your attention this Christmas, it’s this one.