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Dragon Quest XI, The Messenger, and more great games this week

This week, we explore two fantastic RPG realms, suck things into a giant hole, jump between 8-bit and 16-bit worlds, and throw a steaming bowl of soup in some yakuza’s face.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Reinvention is often necessary for a video game franchise to survive. The enduring “Dragon Quest” series, however, owes much of its success to keeping tradition alive.

Despite being a classic JRPG through and through, “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” never feels old. Its cast of loveable heroes, charming supporting characters, and memorable villains bring a massive, vibrant world to life.

The story revolves around a reincarnated ancient hero who must save the world from a looming evil—not exactly something you haven’t heard before. But the writing is hilarious when it needs to be, heartbreaking when the situation calls for drama, and suspenseful when things take a turn for the worse for the good guys. Simply put, it’s compelling stuff.

While linear, the game gives players over a hundred hours of things to do, from completing side quests and exploring optional areas, to collecting powerful items to encountering new people both friendly and hostile.

The turn-based combat should be familiar to anyone who’s ever played a JRPG, but it does offer satisfying, tactical challenges. The bosses, in particular, encourage the strategic use of your magic, skills, and characters’ strengths.

With its fascinating characters and story, enormous world, enchanting visuals, and gameplay that’s both challenging and rewarding, “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” is a must for all RPG fans.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC

Divinity: Original Sin II - Definitive Edition

“Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition” harks back to the isometric, story-driven RPGs of yesteryear, but builds on what made those classic titles great to create something timeless. The writing is topnotch. The story is deep and engrossing, with numerous side quests that are as enthralling as the main one. The world is enormous and presented in a way that’ll make your eyes pop. The soundtrack is as moving as it is grand, to boot.

The choices you make in the game matter. A seemingly innocuous decision could end up killing an important NPC and disabling entire quest lines. Your character’s race or the race of a person in your party could draw ire from certain people. You’ll have numerous dialogue options to choose from, some of which will allow you to work your way through situations without having to resort to bloodshed. Responding to your actions like a living organism, the world feels like it has a soul.

Your choices are just as important in battle. Because fights are like puzzles, the turn-based combat encourages experimentation, and rewards creativity and strategic thinking.

And just when you thought “Divinity: Original Sin II” was the best RPG of all time, the “Definitive Edition” modifies the UI to perfection for console gamers, rebalances battles while adding new fights, tweaks the difficulty, rewrites entire lines of dialogue and clarifies character motivations, and adds a slew of other updates that make the entire experience even more gratifying.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Donut County

In “Donut County,” you control a hole in the ground that devours everything in its path. You start off small, posing a danger only to tiny critters, rocks, and chairs. The more you consume, however, the bigger you get, and soon enough, you’ll be gulping down vehicles, barns, giant rock formations, and more. Once you’ve eaten everything in a level, you move on to the next.

It’s rarely as simple as that, though. Levels contain clever puzzles that will have you interacting with the environment in diverse ways to achieve specific goals. For example, you can swallow then spew out water to get a waterwheel to turn. Gobble up a snake, and you can use its tail to smash buttons. Experimentation is key to success here, and part of what makes “Donut County” so much fun.

To top it off, “Donut County” comes with adorable characters and a delightfully silly story that’ll have you smiling one second and laughing out loud the next. There are lots of heartwarming moments, too.

“Donut County” could benefit from being a little longer. But with its wonderful visuals, comedic story, and innovative gameplay, you’ve got a nice, compact puzzler that’ll bring you more joy than most games five times its length.

Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, iOS

The Messenger

Old school Metroidvania games are a dime a dozen these days. But writing off “The Messenger” as another pixelated clone cashing in on the nostalgia craze would be a mistake, as the game boasts not only pulse-pounding ninja action, but plenty of innovative surprises, as well.

As the “The Messenger” pays tribute the legendary “Ninja Gaiden” series, you’ll be cutting a swath through minions of evil as you jump, wall-bounce, and glide your way through the game’s many regions. Traversing tricky, trap-laden zones is intense, but using your tools in strategic combination to solve platforming puzzles is as gratifying as it sounds.

The game’s standout feature is your character’s ability to phase between 8-bit and 16-bit realms. Doing so not only changes the visuals, music, and sound effects; it also drastically alters the layout of familiar areas, giving you unexpected obstacles to surmount.

As the world opens up to introduce dozens of new challenges, and you find yourself exploiting fantastic new abilities with every victory, “The Messenger” is a game that only gets better as you progress through it

Platforms: Switch, PC

Yakuza Kiwami 2

Open world action-adventure game “Yakuza Kiwami 2” is a flashy, action-packed remake of 2006’s “Yakuza 2.” And like any crime story, it’s chockfull of backstabbing, intrigue, and violence.

You play as Kazuma Kiryu, a former yakuza who finds himself returning to his former clan after its chairman is murdered. As you search for someone to replace him, you’ll be exploring Tokyo, Osaka, and other locations jam-packed with dazzling sights, fun things to do, and thugs to pound into submission.

The combat is furious and fluid, often ending in outrageous special attacks that look as painful as they are hilarious. You can pick up weapons such as bats to give your strikes that extra oomph, while people you’ve made friends with will occasionally lend you a hand to turn the tide of battle to your favor.

Plenty of minigames and side activities will eat up your time; you can manage a club, create a clan, play sports, gamble, and more.

All that, and the remake adds mechanics featured in later games, introduces new plot elements to make the story more cohesive, and even allows you to play as Goro Majima in his own scenario.

Platform: PlayStation 4 

— BM, GMA News