Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 5 Enticing Games That Will Send You On Epic Adventures

Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 5 Enticing Games That Will Send You On Epic Adventures

We’ve reached the end of yet another week here on planet Earth, so we’re turning our attention to the games we’re hoping to check out for the first time, or those we want to spend more time with. This weekend we’ve got two perspectives on a certain popular fantasy MMO, and sword-swinging action of the aggressively narrative and aggressively mechanical vibes.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

Screenshot: Ninja Theory / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Play it on: Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV*)
Current goal: Beat it in a weekend

I’m glad to hear that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a brisk, mostly simple journey through a woman’s psychosis. Developer Ninja Theory has talked about the need for shorter games, and the thought of a big-budget experience I can finish in a sitting or two is music to my ears. Hellblade II is also pretty divisive, and hearing that people are split on something naturally makes me want to find out where I fall. I enjoyed the first Hellblade when I played it in 2017, so I really should have jumped on the sequel sooner than this weekend. Here’s hoping I can get through it before the Sunday Scaries show up. — Kenneth Shepard

*Your mileage may vary

Final Fantasy XIV

Screenshot: Square Enix

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Become the Warrior of Light

I’ve dipped my toes into Final Fantasy XIV a few times in the past, but quickly fell off when tackling its widely praised main story quests felt a bit too casual and chill to me. With no real demand put upon me as a player, there was nothing for me to push back against, no enjoyable texture or sense of accomplishment, and so I moved on. Now, however, I’m in a different place, one where a pleasant, low-key journey through a vast and beautiful world sounds appealing, so I’m approaching it with a different mindset. I’m thinking of it more as a way to unwind after a long day at work like I might with a good book, rather than as a game I come to for challenges I can overcome. (I’m well aware that the game, with its tough dungeons and raids, has plenty of challenging encounters and opportunities for skillful play if that’s what you want. But it’s the quality of the story campaigns that I’ve heard so much about, so that’s primarily what I want to experience, at least to start.)

And so far, Final Fantasy XIV is proving to be a lovely, pleasantly low-pressure experience. I log on sometime in the evenings, play a few main story quests (and whatever side quests I can gather along the way), and just enjoy being in Eorzea and seeing my marauder continue her journey to becoming the Warrior of Light. The world, with its elegant cities and vast countryside, is distinctive and fun to explore, and though I mostly tend to keep to myself, the community seems very pleasant and positive. I don’t know yet if I’m going to keep making my way through all the stories the game has to offer with its existing expansions so that I can hop into this summer’s Dawntrail soon after launch, or if I’m going to space it out over the coming months or years, but for now, at least, I’m glad to finally be enjoying a game I’ve heard so many good things about in recent years. — Carolyn Petit

Master Key

Screenshot: Achromi

Play it on: Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Find the other sodding mushroom

If you’re looking for a follow-up after Animal Well, then I am very pleased to be able to recommend you Master Key. So far grimly unnoticed by the games press, this is a bloody brilliant Zelda-like, presented in monochrome chunky pixels, with a sublime journey delivered through new skills opening up new areas.

It’s monstrously clever about it all, encouraging widespread exploration to discover how your latest upgrade unlocks entire new dungeons where previously you thought there was only a plain wall, and boss fights are scrupulously fair. It’s wordless, but the game’s smattering of NPCs communicate in the simplest of image-based speech bubbles, letting me weave my own narrative and motivations for everything that’s going on.

And despite the reasonably small map, it’s enormous, multi-layered and bulging with secrets. It’s such a brilliantly refined delivery of the old-school Zelda format, streamlined to its purest excellence, and most importantly, has a hookshot and boomerang. Those are worth 20 percentage points each, ensuring an already great game scores at around the 124 percent mark. — John Walker

Elden Ring

Screenshot: FromSoftware / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Give it just one more chance to see if we work well together

Here I am again, wondering if I can put up with a FromSoft game of Elden Ring’s caliber. No, I’m not good at these kinds of games generally speaking. I’ve played various Soulslikes to mixed results (I did finish all of The Surge). But I do get curious from time to time. A friend of mine suggested I start with Demon’s Souls on PS5. That idea is enticing…but with the new Elden Ring DLC coming in a month, I feel a sense of urgency here.

Well, I haven’t learned my lesson, it would seem. I am presently redownloading Elden Ring. Am I going to continue with my old character I abandoned in 2022? Maybe? Can I possibly get far enough in a month for a game that I’m not too jazzed about to get into its expansion? Perhaps?

I want to like this game. I want to understand what others see in it. So this weekend will be yet another attempt at this genre that frustrates me so much. — Claire Jackson

Final Fantasy XIV

Screenshot: Square Enix

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Finish Endwalker (for real this time)

After the latest live letter for Final Fantasy XIV was held last week, it really set in for me that I only have a little over a month to get ready for Dawntrail. I am nowhere near close to that at the moment. Despite already trying to commit to finishing up the Main Scenario Quests of Endwalker with the help of a platform switch to PS5, I haven’t been putting in the time with my Warrior of Light. In my defense, May ended up being packed full of amazing indie games I had to play and cover, but it did mean that my FF14 missions got put wayyyyyyyy on the back burner. But now May is nearly over and I am pretty sure I’ve played all the new releases I want to, so it’s time to get serious.

Thankfully, this weekend seems like the perfect time for me to do a marathon through the story. It’s a three-day weekend and my fiancee is out of town, meaning I can stop being a real person and just live on my couch running around Eorzea as a bunny girl. So this time, for real, I am going to complete Endwalker. However, to be realistic I think I might just commit to beating the main story and leave the post-Endwalker patch content for another time. — Willa Rowe

Stellar Blade

Screenshot: Shift Up / Claire Jackson / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5
Current goal: Explore the last remaining city of Xion

Stellar Blade is everything I want out of a game right now. Its sci-fi worldbuilding is evocative, its story is intriguing but not belabored, and the action hits a perfect sweet spot of arcade combat and RPG-lite progression. I’d be far from the first person to suggest there’s a heavy dose of nostalgia in how it appears to successfully straddle the divide between the streamlined focus of an early PS3 game and the systems-heavy bloat of a late PS4 one.

Each level has just enough trinkets to pick up, enemies to fight, and forks in the road to explore to keep me engaged without ever getting overwhelming. At first glance, combat has the methodical and ruthless weight of a Soulsborne, but a bevy of upgrades make sure you can ultimately bruteforce your way through any encounter without too much fuss. I’m still early on, but the allure of Stellar Blade’s elegant post-apocalyptic future and the incredible soundtrack already have their hooks in me. — Ethan Gach

And that wraps our picks for this weekend. See ya next week, folks.

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