It's the start of a new month, which means I’m back to tell you about ten games you can play over the next four and a half weeks that aren’t Valheim. After initially wrestling with its systems, I started to get why it’s so popular when I built a
terrible hovel rustic, ground-floor studio flat.
I’d like to find the hours to do more Vikinging – if only to build a house where the floor isn't grass – but I mightn’t get a chance over the next few weeks. While March is lacking a marquee release, it could prove to be a sleeper month given the amount of decent-looking games on the way.
If you like moving images set to words and music, you can have a watch of the video above. But, if you prefer text, then read on.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination (March 30th)
17 years after the original captured the hearts of Blofeld apologists around the world, the campy base-building game where you get to play as a supervillian is back. Evil Genius 2 is all about showcasing the effort a criminal mastermind has to put in if they’re going to achieve world domination. That means you have to build a fortress that includes living quarters and training rooms for your minions, science labs for research, control rooms to support your nefarious networks and so on. You’ve obviously got to have a cover, and while I’m pretty sure waste management isn’t an option, there are some suitably silly Bond-esque front operations to throw people off the scent like hotels and casinos. While it embraces the silly, Evil Genius 2 promises a deep and complex management game wherein the goal is pretty simple: take over the entire gaff.
Spacebase Startopia (March 26th)
Similar story to Evil Genius here, but in spaaaaaaace. The original Startopia launched in 2001 and garnered praise for its genuinely funny funniness, on top of its playful management sim base. Spacebase Startopia includes everything you’d expect from a spiritual successor to the 20-year-old game: a dilapidated doughnut-shaped space station to do up, and loads of quirky aliens who’ll gladly use the facilities you provide. You’ll have to make sure you’re tending to the needs of your visitors, by building food dispensers, medical centres, and ensuring you've got a massive disco on your entertainment deck. There's even an entire separate bio-deck for terraforming a beautiful and varied alien garden. As long as they get the humour right and don’t end up doing an impression of the first Startopia, this could end up being one of the best games out this month.
Minute Of Islands (March 18th)
Minute Of Islands is a super-detailed, cartoony 2D puzzle-platformer where you play as Mo – a poloneck-wearing mechanic that must fix a bunch of broken-down machines that are integral to her world’s restoration. On the surface it looks like a sweet and cuddly narrative-driven game, but anyone that played the Steam Winter Festival demo came away with an understanding that there’s a dark and twisted undercurrent to the whole thing. Minute Of Islands is weird. Fingers crossed the full game embraces the gruesome, yet beautiful oddness that so many enjoyed after getting a little taste last month.
Stronghold: Warlords (March 9th)
The next game in Firefly Studios’ long-running real-time strategy series sees you building (and destroying) castles across East Asia. As well as the setting, the biggest change in this Stronghold is the introduction of warlords. What this means is that you’ll be able to recruit up to eight powerful armies, and then command them to kick ass in your name. It isn’t all about besieging with your new buddies, though; these new pals can also send you resources, boost diplomacy and more. When it comes to combat, Stronghold: Warlords will have many of the classic bits and bobs you’d expect, as well as new additions like gunpowder. Lovely. Who wants to mess around with a trebuchet when you can line up a few rocket launchers outside your enemy’s door?
Loop Hero (March 4th)
Loop Hero is what you get when you cross a roguelike with a deckbuilder with an autobattler with a match-3 puzzler. It could’ve been a total mess, but after dabbling with the Steam demo, I can already tell that some people are going to dump days into this one. So, your little pixelated hero walks around this looping road, looting equipment and cards from slain enemies. The gear you pick up is pretty standard stuff, like armour or weapons that’ll make you more formidable in battles that you don’t have any direct control over. The cards are your way of populating this bleak world with mountains and meadows and the like. Some cards will reward your brave adventurer with buffs, and those buffs will increase if you place cards in certain formations. Just be wide: while certain cards are forthcoming about the baddies that’ll pop up after their placement, some combinations will spawn enemies you didn’t see coming. There are nuances I’m sure I’m not mentioning, but Loop Hero is a game about discovery. And dying. But mostly discovery.
Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life (March 25th)
It’s taken a while, but on the 25th of this month every mainline Yakuza game will be available on PC. Hooray! The Song Of Life is the conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu’s story, so don’t go into this thinking you’ll get the turn-based battles of Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Kiryu doesn’t wait around to punch or kick a menacing man’s head in. In 2018 (when this came to PS4 over here), some of the new additions, like fully-voiced substories and being able to run away from random encounters, were revolutionary for the series. Obviously, all of that, and being able to save whenever you want, isn’t as groundbreaking in a post Kiwami world. Still, with its heartwarming story, the gorgeous new location of Onomichi, and the inclusion of professional wrestler Kazuchika Okada, Yakuza 6 is a must play for all fans.
Mundaun (March 16th)
Usually, when people mention hand-drawn art in games, they’re referring to things that look like colourful cartoons, not sepia tone-drenched first-person horror games like Mundaun. But, every character and environment in Mundaun has indeed been drawn on paper, with pencil, and then inserted into the game via witchcraft. Or maybe just computer doodads that I don’t understand. One thing I am sure of is that all that work has resulted in something that looks truly special. If the scares land and the puzzles satisfy, then Mundaun could prove to be one of the better horror games of the year.
It Takes Two (March 26th)
Remember the man that said “oooh, the Oscars are rubbish and I don’t particularly care for them” or words to that effect? Well, he also works at a company that makes interactive software you can purchase and play! Wonderful. I actually thought Hazelight Studios’ first game, A Way Out, was better than most people gave it credit for. It was far from perfect, but it had some cool ideas. It Takes Two is the dev’s latest co-op action-adventure, but this one is a little more whimsical than their 2017 release. This time around you and a pal play as a married couple that are on the verge of divorce – the whimsy is coming – but you’ve been turned into tiny dolls! You must work together to navigate the dangers your now gigantic home presents, like some very angry wasps that have set up shop in your garden. Hazelight have really pushed that most levels introduce new mechanics, so this could be tons of fun with the right co-op partner.
Maquette (March 2nd)
Like It Takes Two, Maquette’s narrative is one about love - but probably fewer talking squirrels in this one. What makes this first-person puzzle game stand out is that it’s set in a world that features larger and larger replicas of that same world – or smaller and smaller replicas, depending on where you are in the game, I guess. Any changes you make to the objects within are then reflected in all the duplicates. The example the developer uses to describe how you actually solve puzzles in Maquette is that if a large, unpickupable cube is blocking your path in the human-sized world, then pootle on over to a diorama of the same world you’re standing in and move the smaller cube that’s there. That previously blocked path is blocked no more. If it gets way more complex I'm sure my brain will have a meltdown, but I'm looking forward to playing around with this unique puzzler.
Balan Wonderworld (March 26th)
I wouldn’t say I’m entirely confident 3D platformer Balan Wonderworld will prove to be one of March’s best, but it is a bizarre game I find hard to ignore. Former Sonic Team heads Yuji Naka and Naota Ohshima are involved, so it’s got some eyeballs on it for that alone. The eyeballs stay transfixed on the game once they see the talking top hat, or the giant farmer, or the weirdly pulsating backgrounds. When not gawking at whatever fucked up thing is happening on the screen, you’ll be travelling around these colourful worlds, picking up costumes that allow you to perform specific abilities when worn. For example, a wolf costume allows you to spin like the tasmanian devil, while a kangaroo outfit lets you jump longer distances. So, will this turn out to be a belter? Probably not. But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in learning more about coked-up Cappy
Kingdom Hearts III (March 30th)
(and Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 + II.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue and Kingdom Hearts: Melody Of Memory, all out on March 30th, too)
A good friend of mine once sat me down and explained, in great detail, the story of Kingdom Hearts. I have retained none of that information. So, instead of trying to feign excitement, I’m going to tell you that all the Kingdom Hearts games are coming to PC on the 30th of this month. You probably already know whether that’s a thing you’re interested in. It’s a bit Final Fantasy. A bit Mickey Mouse. And you have a big key that you can whack enemies with. That’s alright, I suppose. That Melody Of Memory might be decent, because it’s a rhythm action game and I usually enjoy them… yeah… anyway… Kingdom Hearts, that sure is a video game series that’s going to be available to purchase on PC, later this month.
Whatever you end up playing over March – for a lot you that will likely be the viking game that’s taken over the world – I hope you have a lovely time with it. But, do tell: what new games, if any, are you looking forward to getting your hands on this month? Gonna become the Bond villain you’ve always been dreamed of in Evil Genius 2? Keen to see whether Josef Fares will owe you a grand after playing It Takes Two? Or do you want to grab The Song Of Life and complete your Yakuza collection? Let us know in the comments.