Ross Wilkinson looks at some top games before Christmas

Final Fantasy XV PS4, RPG

With Christmas nearly upon us, Square Enix has delivered one RPG gift that gamers have been eagerly anticipating for the best part of three years, since its first reveal. Capitalising on some fantastic lead character development and a rich open world to discover, Final Fantasy XV is a cracking adventure that takes players on a road trip with a quartet of pals en route to Prince Noctis’s wedding, the intended outcome of which is to unite two kingdoms and avoid all-out war. Countless side quests and enjoyable conversational quips keep engagement levels high, even though the group’s car, the Regalia, does its best at times to dampen your enthusiasm through the almost on-rails travel between destinations where five to 10 minutes can pass without anything to do.

While it may give a sense of scale, fast travel becomes a welcome option, catapulting you into the much more engrossing combat encounters and associated levelling up that will satisfy even the most demanding of RPG fans. A chapter-driven mix of play-styles, allied to the coming-of-age storyline, ultimately wins out in the end, meaning FF XV will no doubt fire itself to the top of the gaming wishlist, just in time for the festive season.

The Dwarves PS4, Strategy

The Dwarves is a fantasy RPG that merges a strong story with tactically challenging real-time battles, offering more than a dozen playable heroes, each with individual skills for you to master. Here, strategic thinking needs to be deployed if you’re to emerge victorious from countless battles with squadrons of orcs, ogres, zombies, dark mages, and many more foes.

Following the fantasy novel narrative, you’ll find a wide range of missions to complete, and this storytelling should be applauded in the midst of what is otherwise a similar experience to other titles in the genre. The atmospheric presentation and great voiceover work eventually sucks you in, despite the occasional game glitches. Overall it adds up to a perfectly respectable blend of combat, puzzling and tactical teasers that fans of the novel, or the gaming category, should consider trying out.

Steep XBox One, Sports

Snow sports games enjoyed a flurry of activity a few years back, but the virtual slopes have been pretty uninhabited since. Now, Steep seizes upon the next gen technology to deliver a powder white wonderland for extreme sports fans to get their teeth into, dropping players onto the peaks of alpine mountains with exhilarating experiences that include skiing, wingsuiting, snowboarding, and paragliding.

There’s an unparalleled freedom to explore the game’s open world, allowing you to choose the way you ride and play. Whether you choose to traverse the Alps solo or drop in side-by-side with friends to record and share the most insane tricks possible, Steep has clearly been designed for a generation that’s all about sharing their experiences with the world, and encourages healthy online competition between pals to see who truly comes out on top of the world.

Beyond the “nursery slope” tutorials, the experience is fantastic, looking incredibly realistic with solid controls. And there’ll be no end of GoPro helmet cam replays edited and shared to the masses as, just in real life, snow sports show-offs aren’t afraid to flaunt their skills!

Don’t Grind iPhone/iPad, Action

Don’t Grind is a tap-happy treat for smartphone gamers. With a voracious appetite for frantic action, it puts you in control of a banana of all things, with the sole goal of keeping it alive by strategically tapping around the screen to keep it airborne and avoid the myriad evil obstacles present on each level. Huge buzz-saws, cheeky little horizontal and vertical lasers, rocket launchers and much, much more are all out to make your banana more of a milkshake than a solid fruit.

The game physics are fantastic, and there’s a devilish depth to what, at first glance, seems like an astonishingly simple game. Randomly appearing stars can also be collected to boost your score, gnawing away at that risk vs reward part of your brain that can lose the plot when playing this kind of high-score-hunting game. It’s all free, too, with a one-off payment required if you want to kill the ads. Brilliant banana nonsense.


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