Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 6 Cool Games To Check Out

Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 6 Cool Games To Check Out

It feels like this week’s passed quickly…perhaps owing to the wild news? Just for starters, a certain former president got indicted a third time, pop star Lizzo broke a million hearts, and that supposed room-temperature superconductor is still keeping us nerds in suspense.

So there’s that. Or maybe it’s just because we’ve been binging on games like Baldur’s Gate III and a bunch of others both new and old that we’d really like to tell you about. If you’re looking for something interesting to play this weekend, read on for some instant inspiration. We’ll start with the 800-pound gorilla…

Baldur’s Gate III

Screenshot: Larian Studios

Play it on: Windows
Current goal: Kiss Gale

I’m about 20 hours into Baldur’s Gate III right now, and I can’t stop thinking about it. When I’m not playing it, I’m wishing I was playing it. Its characters have me wrapped around its fingers, its deep systems both frustrate and enrapture me, and I am so invested in getting the tadpoles out of my party’s head you’d think they were my own children.

Baldur’s Gate III feels like the kind of big-budget RPG I’ve been missing in the years since BioWare has fallen into a weird limbo state working on Dragon Age: Dreadwolf and the next Mass Effect. The relationship building and chances for player expression poke at everything I love about video games, all wrapped in an enthralling fantasy RPG packaging that draws me back in every time a wall threatens to keep me out. I gotta see how it all ends. I don’t know that I’ll do that this weekend, but you best believe I’m gonna make some headway. — Kenneth Shepard

Call of Duty: Warzone

Image: Activision / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Do it on ‘em

I did say that Nicki Minaj coming to Call of Duty: Warzone would single handedly get me back into the battle royale, and I wasn’t lying. I already started playing it before the newest season dropped on August 2, and found that I can still hang with the try-hards despite being Overwatch 2-pilled for the last 10 months. I still prefer to play the Resurgence mode over the traditional battle royale or DMZ options, as the fast-paced, more forgiving gametype is the most efficient way to get accustomed to pacing, gun mechanics, and level layout after a long time away from Call of Duty. Now, with Nicki Minaj as my operator, I plan on spending the weekend terrorizing men as the queen of the Barbs. — Alyssa Mercante

Picross DS

Dugongue / Nintendo

Play it on: Nintendo DS (but there are similar games on many platforms)
Current goal: See if it can stump me

In the final days of the Neo Geo Pocket Color’s brief, beautiful life I imported several of the final English-translated games from the UK, and among them was an unassuming cart called Picture Puzzle. Little did I know it would be my gateway into the world of nonograms, a type of logic puzzle in which you deduce the layouts of dots on a grid based on numerical clues, eventually forming a picture. It was love at first furrow.

Though I got my fill of these games over the next few years, I still enjoy the way they scratch my brain, and there’s a near-limitless number of them available for Nintendo handhelds. So it was that I loaded Nintendo’s Picross DS onto my DSi XL this week and once again started deciphering the dots.

I don’t even remember if I’ve played this one before, but as long as the UI is good, and it is in the Nintendo ones, most any nonogram game will do. (Picross DS has some nice music, but stick with the basic blue-on-white color scheme, as many of the alt ones are eye-rending.) One thing I wonder, and I usually drift away before finding out, is if a given nonogram game, in its later stages, will depart from purely logic-based puzzles and start to require—I shudder just typing this—guessing.

I remember feeling some of the late-game Picture Puzzle grids did, but I was young and inexperienced. Even now it’s possible there exist some advanced, logic-based solving techniques that yet elude me. Perhaps this time I’ll stick with Picross DS, which I understand maxes out at monstrous 25×20 grids, long enough to see just how difficult it can really get. — Alexandra Hall

Sea of Stars (Demo)

Gif: Sabotage Studio / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Remain patient until the full game releases

The demo of upcoming Japanese-style RPG Sea of Stars is ticking all the right boxes for me thus far. Yes, I know that other big RPG just came out, but if you have the time, consider giving this demo a spin before the full game’s release on August 29. Sea of Stars is wonderfully colorful, with a pleasing soundtrack that is both subdued but still packed with enough happily looping melodies that I can chill out during exploration and enjoy bobbing my head along during combat.

I also love turn-based combat. It gives me the opportunity to remain engaged in strategy, contemplate the consequences of my actions while also planning ahead for possible outcomes, all without demanding both math and reaction time simultaneously. I also love RPGs that don’t have voice acting. I mean, I love games without voice acting, period. I like having the sounds of characters exist in my head and I don’t like feeling like I need to bounce back and forth between playing a game and then watching a mini-drama unfold. When I’m reading text in a game, the whole experience feels more intimate and personal. Sea of Stars has all of that, and thus far the demo teases a very satisfying RPG experience.

The Sea of Stars demo is brief, but you’ll get to know the characters a little bit, enjoy brief environmental exploration, and get a taste of its combat, which features wonderful turn-based trappings and great moments of synergy across the different characters. It’s very much worth checking out to get a sense of whether or not you’ll be in the mood for a more classical-style RPG come the end of the month. — Claire Jackson

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Screenshot: Warner Bros. / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, PS4, PS3,Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows (Steam Deck OK), macOS, Linux
Current goal: Regenerate brain cells

I might be playing its Game of the Year edition, but 2014 action-adventure Shadow of Mordor is more accurately something between the worst game ever made and a perfectly OK Assassin’s Creed for people who sort of like Liv Tyler. Its nemesis system—which pits players against monologuing Orc captains who get more pissed each time you kill them—is ridiculous. Mostly because of the monologues, in which some racially charged monster named Bimbo the Destroyer calls you racially charged epithets and demands you fight him.

Nevertheless, I’ve been persisting. I’m playing Shadow of Mordor for the first time, because in 2014, I was preoccupied with keeping my One Direction shrine well-maintained. I’m constantly astounded and enthralled by how absurd the game is and how awful its mechanics are. Jumping off a wall should not require you mash X until you accidentally sort of slip down. Being able to hold down R1 to grab Orcs by the neck in a mob and create an infinite meat shield is a huge, although hilarious, oversight.

The story is remarkably unintelligent. I’ve been noticing how all the slaves are white bald men, which, if nothing else, is at least an insight into how Ben Shapiro earnestly sees the world. So far in my playthrough, I’ve encountered one woman. She died.

In short, Shadow of Mordor is an awkwardly made, political wasp nest with a guy named Ratbag in it and…all right, I change my mind, it’s actually the best game ever. — Ashley Bardhan


Cold Brew Entertainment

Play it on: Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Survive

There are a ton of Vampire Survivors clones, but somehow I never get bored of them, especially the ones that take the roguelite bullet hell formula and dress it up a little differently with a twist or two. Disfigure is one of those. Made by Cold Brew Entertainment, it came to Steam a few days ago, it’s pretty fun, and for now at least it’s completely free.

You navigate a top-down map full of shadowy eldritch horrors you can shoot with a gun, stab with swords, or hack away at using an array of other unlockables. The gimmick is that you can only see and damage enemies inside a small cone of light that surrounds you. Upgrades will let you make the field of light bigger, as well as augment your speed within it or how the enemies that are visible take damage. Like a lot of Vampire Survivors-likes it seems like “just another one of those” until you start playing and it gets its hooks in you and then it’s 20 minutes later and you’re still intent on giving it another go. — Ethan Gach

And that’s it for this weekend’s games roundup. What recs do you have for us?

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