Persona 5 review: Can style override substance?



Persona 5, the biggest JRPG release of 2017, has been out for weeks. Clear of the game’s launch hype, is it deserving of stealing the public’s heart or is it merely a bombastic masked pretender that needs exposing?

Art design is aces

Bold red, black, and white serve as its visual foundation. This arresting palette kip-ups to life and sweeps you off your feet with the gentleman thief/punk rock/latex fetish design of the main cast. It bumps and bounces in the menus, shaking up the UI when you button through. All-out attacks culminate in wallpaper-worthy graphics, and it’s never not satisfying.

There’s elegance to every transition. From winning battles to navigating between areas, the colors slink and slide across the screen, and you can’t help but smile at every context-sensitive swipe of the display.


Smooth-grooving audio

Pressing O or X to cancel or confirm actions gives a satisfying squee. That precision glass shatter of a critical hit jolts of excitement. Every gunshot crackles staccato.

Series composer Shoji Meguro matches the rebel imagery with a super-slick soundtrack. The music effortlessly switches from sweeping jazzy strings and keys to grinding hard guitar riffs, all the while riding funky bass licks and finger-snapping percussion.

Criminally good opening animation:

Rebellious spirit restricted 

It’s technically not part of Persona 5’s overall design, and I wrote about it in an earlier article, but the irrationality of Atlus in restricting capturing footage of the game bears repeating. I enjoy archiving my playthroughs on the PS4 with screenshots and videos. Atlus denies me and millions of other players that simple pleasure of keeping our own memories of an enjoyable experience. It’s harsh and petty, and I pray that future installments aren’t shackled by this backwards mentality.

Atlus has softened its stance on streaming since the game’s release, but the restrictions on the sharing features of the PS4 still stand.

Regressive representation

Persona 4 took on the issue of gender identity head on with two of its main characters, shining a light on the struggles teens go through when reconciling their sexuality with society’s expectations on masculinity and femininity. It wasn’t perfect, but at least it had some nuance.

Persona 5’s “contribution” to the issue? A homophobic scene showing an age old stereotype of gay men as predatory pedophiles played solely for laughs. It’s one moment in a 100+ hour journey, and that might make it easy for some to wave off, but it only stands out even more to me as an inexcusable stain on an otherwise inspiring epic adventure of resistance.

Heavy topics done halfway right

While previous titles focused on personal turmoil, this latest entry serves up larger social issues like institutionalized abuse, labor exploitation, and political corruption for the good guys to take down.

It’s admirable and reflective of the large-scale “wokeness” we’re seeing in the youth now, but the shonen anime trappings, which Persona 5 indulges a little too much in, hamper the serious messages with long-winded exposition and, at times, clunky English translations from the original Japanese text. The always impressive voice acting performances do manage to carry most scenes, but not all of them.

The old-school, turn-based battles are now layered with shooting, enemy negotiation, and more team synergy that allow you to combo more attacks for quicker ends to fights. The year-long slice of high school life where you bond with schoolmates and strangers is as rewarding as ever with its weird, wacky, and intimate tales, while also being more exploratory as you can hang out with your friends all over Tokyo, too.

The most significant improvement is in the dungeons, or as the game calls them, the Palaces, that your gang of Phantom Thieves have to infiltrate and steal the treasures within to overcome the main antagonists. Each one is a fantastical psychological tableau that comes alive through unique puzzles and ways of navigation. What felt like a chore in the earlier Personas plays like a dream in Persona 5.

That is until you hit the last couple of areas that feel like they just go on forever for no reason other than to pad length and difficulty, which is especially egregious in the last couple of dungeons.

Supreme style and stunted substance

If you’re up for committing around 70 to 120 hours to complete one game, I do think Persona 5 is worth the time for its cool creativity, thematic ambitions, and irresistible gameplay hooks. Just steel your heart for the obnoxious narrative failings, and don’t expect to have much of a shared experience with your friends.

SEE ALSO: Persona 5’s developer doesn’t want you doing this — it’s nonsense

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Baldur’s Gate 3: Why you should play the 2023 Game of the Year

Now is the best time to try it out



Last night, Baldur’s Gate 3 won the coveted Game of the Year award at the annual Game Awards for 2023. Though the title rightfully got millions of players this year, getting into the 2023 Game of the Year is still a daunting challenge, especially for those who don’t have experience with the turn-based RPG genre. If you’re also scared to commit to a genre you’re not familiar with, I’m here to tell you that you still absolutely should.

Who am I?

When the year started, Baldur’s Gate 3 was not on my radar at all. In fact, I wasn’t a fan of turn-based games. My only experience with the genre was through Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. Though a turn-based game, it’s hardly similar to Baldur’s Gate 3. And at the end of the day, I’d still prefer a quicker-paced action-adventure over a turn-based slog.

I am, however, a fan of roleplaying games. There’s just something appealing about putting myself in the shoes of a game’s protagonist and taking them through their story. Now, most of the big RPGs today have turned into giant collect-a-thons. Playing through them was a chore. That, and modern games just doesn’t allow for a lot of roleplaying.

When I saw people playing Baldur’s Gate 3, I was captivated. You could play as anything you want. You could roleplay however you choose. Every decision and dice roll absolutely mattered. Even if it was still at full price, I had to get it.

Creating a character

Steam has a two-hour policy for refunds. If you’ve played a game for less than two hours, the platform will grant you a refund automatically if you ask for it, no questions asked. As the logic goes, two hours is enough for players to tell if a game is worth keeping. Two hours, however, is not enough to get to the meat of Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s just enough to dip your toes in and get a feel for the game’s mechanics.

I used to laugh at RPG players who spent hours on the character creation menu. I never fiddled around with sliders and customization options. I wanted to get into the game as soon as possible. That changed with Baldur’s Gate 3.

While the game still has a lot of options to change how your character will look (including, yes, genital size), the character creation screen focuses a lot on how you want your character to be. I spent a good chunk of time figuring out the best race and class for me. Should I be an evil monk or a goody-two-shoes bard? Oh, and do these black horns go well with how I want my tiefling’s junk to be?

The prologue

Right after creating a character, the game quickly catapults you into the fire. A mind flayer — a tentacled humanoid that looks like child of Cthulhu — abducts your character and infects you with a parasitic worm that can turn you into a mind flayer like them. Your first job is to escape the mind flayer’s spaceship.

The introductory prologue teaches players the basics of Baldur’s Gate 3 — moving, fighting, and talking. However, one of the biggest aspects of the prologue is the introduction of two vital characters you can add to your party: Shadowheart, a selfish half-elf cleric, and Lae’zel, a brash githyanki fighter. From the beginning, these two characters are at each other’s throats. Unlike a lot of games that immediately portray teams as well-oiled machines, Baldur’s Gate 3 thrives on conflict. Party members are often at odds with one another. A lot of times, you’ll find yourself playing a mediator. Sometimes, you might even do something that causes them to leave your camp for good.

The focus on character-driven actions makes it so compelling to follow everyone’s stories to their conclusion. Every player will have favorite characters and interesting ways to deal with their conflict. They’re not just warm bodies you can throw at enemies. It also helps that Baldur’s Gate 3 has the best voice action and motion capture I’ve ever seen in a game. After you play the game, every other game will pale in comparison.

The moment everything clicked

After the prologue, the game drops you into the meatiest part of the game. The first act is a vast playground. Though there are goals, players are invited to tackle the game however they want — peacefully or with a sword in hand. This is also when the most important part of the game rears its head: the dice roll.

As with the traditional Dungeons and Dragons experience, everything is determined by the roll of the dice. In battle, the swing of a sword is determined by a dice roll. Planning before engaging is important just to account for the randomness. More importantly, dialogue and actions away from battle are determined by the same dice. Want to pick that locked door? Roll for dexterity. Want to talk down a rampaging barbarian from attacking you? Roll for persuasion.

The moment this is all clicked for me was a moment shortly after the start of the first act. My party runs into a dying mind flayer. The game asks me if I want to explore the monster’s mind. Since it was dying (and I felt that I had enough intelligence), I said yes.

Cue the dice roll.

I rolled a natural 20, the best possible roll because it’s an automatic win. However, this encounter was one of the rare moments when the game asks for a second, more difficult roll right after passing the first.

Cue the next dice roll. I went for it. After all, I rolled a 20 beforehand.

I rolled a 1, the worst possible roll because it’s an automatic failure. Unbeknownst to me, this was a death-saving roll. If you pass, you live. If you fail, you die. And I failed spectacularly.

The mind flayer took control and killed me. Fade to black.

Game over.

Aghast, I could do nothing but applaud. I wasn’t even two hours into the game. Though it was a kick to the gut, I was amazed at how willing the game was to let go of your hand. This isn’t an easy traipse through a fantasy land. It’s a complicated maze that will take you through a lot of unexpected twists and turns. I knew I was in for a good time.

Randomness defines the community

It’s understandable that making randomness a feature might turn some players off. If you can’t rely on pure skill, what’s the point?

However, the concept of failure does not mean an end to the game. Yes, my particular experience ended in a game over screen. Most don’t, though. A lot of times, failing a dice roll often means the opportunity to tackle a problem in a different way. Failed to persuade an enemy to lay down their arms? Maybe you can sneak past them. Failed that? Well, time for a battle.

Baldur’s Gate 3 makes failure fun. Every playthrough is automatically unique. It also adds to the community aspect of the game.

After a lengthy session, my first instinct is to go to the game’s subreddit and read what other players did in their playthroughs. Every single time, I would find an encounter I’ve never seen before or a result I haven’t tried yet. I’d immediately want to hop back on to see if I can replicate how they did with my character.

Outside of the actual game, Baldur’s Gate 3’s biggest appeal is its community. It’s almost like sharing war stories around the campfire. Every experience is valid, no matter how good or evil a playthrough can be.

A generational game

The game’s six awards should speak for themselves. Larian Studios created a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Baldur’s Gate 3 offers a fresh gaming experience, near infinite replayability, unmatched acting, and a supportive community.

Even at full price, the game is worth every penny. If you haven’t tried this year’s Game of the Year yet, there are so many reasons to go for it. It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.

SEE ALSO: The Game Awards 2023: Full list of winners

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The Game Awards 2023: Full list of winners

Game of the Year and more



Much like your favorite movies and shows, your favorite video games are also deserving of awards at the end of the year. Though a lot of organizations give out awards throughout the season, the biggest event is the annual Game Awards hosted by Geoff Keighley. If you missed the event, here’s a rundown of the winners this year.

Game of the Year

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Resident Evil 4 Remake
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Best Game Direction

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Best Narrative

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
  • Final Fantasy 16
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Best Art Direction

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • Lies of P
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Best Score and Music

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Final Fantasy 16
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Best Audio Design

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Dead Space Remake
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Resident Evil 4 Remake

Best Performance

  • Ben Starr, Final Fantasy XVI
  • Cameron Monaghan, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
  • Idris Elba, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
  • Melanie Liburd, Alan Wake 2
  • Neil Newbon, Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Yuri Lowenthal, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Innovation in Accessibility

  • Diablo IV
  • Forza Motorsport
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Mortal Kombat 1
  • Street Fighter 6

Games for Impact

  • A Space for the Unbound
  • Chants of Sennaar
  • Goodbye Volcano High
  • Tchia
  • Terra Nil
  • Venba

Best Ongoing Game

  • Apex Legends
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Final Fantasy 14
  • Fortnite
  • Genshin Impact

Best Indie Game

  • Cocoon
  • Dave the Diver
  • Dredge
  • Sea of Stars
  • Viewfinder

Best Debut Indie Game

  • Cocoon
  • Dredge
  • Pizza Tower
  • Venba
  • Viewfinder

Best Mobile Game

  • Final Fantasy 7: Ever Crisis
  • Honkai: Star Rail
  • Hello Kitty Island Adventure
  • Monster Hunter Now
  • Terra Nil

Best Community Support

  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
  • Destiny 2
  • Final Fantasy 16
  • No Man’s Sky

Best VR/AR Game

  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Humanity
  • Horizon: Call of the Mountain
  • Resident Evil Village
  • Synapse

Best Action Game

  • Armored Core 6: Fires of Rubicon
  • Dead Island 2
  • Ghostrunner 2
  • Hi-Fi Rush
  • Remnant 2

Best Action/Adventure Game

  • Alan Wake 2
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Resident Evil 4
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Best RPG

  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Final Fantasy 16
  • Lies of P
  • Sea of Stars
  • Starfield

Best Fighting Game

  • God of Rock
  • Mortal Kombat 1
  • Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
  • Pocket Bravery
  • Street Fighter 6

Best Family Game

  • Disney Illusion Island
  • Party Animals
  • Pikmin 4
  • Sonic Superstars
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Best Sports/Racing Game

  • EA Sports FC 24
  • F1 23
  • Forza Motorsport
  • Hot Wheels Unleashed 2: Turbocharged
  • The Crew Motorfest

Best Sim/Strategy Game

  • Advanced Wars 1+” Re-Boot Camp
  • Cities: Skylines 2
  • Company of Heroes 3
  • Fire Emblem Engage
  • Pikmin 4

Best Multiplayer Game

  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Diablo 4
  • Party Animals
  • Street Fighter 6
  • Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Content Creator of the Year

  • IronMouse
  • PeopleMakeGames
  • Quackity
  • Spreen
  • SypherPK

Best Esports Athlete

  • Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok
  • Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
  • Max “Demon1” Mazanov
  • Paco “HyDra” Rusiewiez
  • Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk
  • Phillip “ImperialHal” Dosen

Best Esports Coach

  • Christine “potter” Chi
  • Danny “zonic” Sorensen
  • Jordan “Gunba” Graham
  • Remy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam
  • Yoon “Homme” Sung-young

Best Esports Event

  • 2023 League of Legends World Championship
  • Paris Major 2023
  • EVO 2023
  • The International Dota 2 Championships 2023
  • VALORANT Champions 2023

Best Esports Game

  • Counter-Strike 2
  • Dota 2
  • Leage of Legends
  • PUBG Mobile
  • Valorant

Best Esports Team

  • Evil Geniuses
  • Fnatic
  • Gaimin Gladiators
  • JD Gaming
  • Team Vitality

Most Anticipated Game

  • Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth
  • Hades 2
  • Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
  • Star Wars Outlaws
  • Tekken 8

Best Adaptation

  • Castlevania: Nocturne
  • Gran Turismo
  • The Last of Us
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie
  • Twisted Metal

Player’s Voice

  • Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
  • Genshin Impact
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
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The Game Awards 2023: Huge trailers you might have missed

Featuring a new Hideo Kojima title



The Game Awards is the pinnacle of gaming events these days. During the annual ceremony, the best games of the year are recognized and awarded. However, it also reveals trailers for highly anticipated titles coming within An enduring franchise for a lot of gamers,

Monster Hunter Wilds

Monster Hunter is ready to take it to the next generation. Kicking off the sixth generation, Monster Hunter Wilds takes advantage of next-gen graphics. Newer and grander monsters are coming. While there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the upcoming game, the trailer reveals a desert-themed map and flying mounts.


Once again, Hideo Kojima is the master of mystery in the gaming industry. We have no way to describe this game accurately. It’s a Kojima project for Xbox. It will also have acclaimed director Jordan Peele, Sophia Lillis, Hunter Schafer, and Udo Kier attached. That’s enough of a reason to check it out.

Marvel’s Blade

Hot off the heels of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Marvel has a new gaming project: Marvel’s Blade. However, rather than Insomniac Games, this project will be helmed by Bethesda and Arkane Lyon, the minds behind the Dishonored series and Deathloop.

God of War Ragnarok Valhalla


One of the craziest drops this Game Awards, one of last year’s best game, God of War Ragnarok, is getting a free DLC in a few days’ time. While it’s not exactly a new game, it will meld the fluid combat of the original game with the dynamic gameplay of the roguelite genre.

Final Fantasy XVI: Echoes of the Fallen and The Rising Tide

Both announced this event, Final Fantasy XVI will get a pair of DLCs. The first one, Echoes of the Fallen, is already available with new chapters. Meanwhile, The Rising Tide will come out next spring.

Zenless Zone Zero


Hoyoverse is back with its next title. Inspired by the ARPG genre, Zenless Zone Zero takes the studio’s iconic style to a new universe with all-new gameplay.

Skull and Bones

Inspired by the success of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, Skull and Bones was announced a long time ago without a release date. Now, Ubisoft has revealed when the pirate-themed RPG is coming: February 16, 2024.

World of Goo 2


World of Goo was such an indie hit back in the day that gamers are still playing the physics-based puzzler today. Now, the title is finally getting a sequel. Featuring the same mechanics as the original, World of Goo 2 will experiment with more ways to connect goo blobs. It’s coming next year.


A BUDOKAI TENKACHI game in everything but name. And Bandai Namco has confirmed as much saying this game retains the all the battle and action elements of the aforementioned game. This includes follow-up attacks and timing-based counters, while adding all-new actions. They’re calling this one the ultimate 3D Dragon Ball action battle game.

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