Hidden Gems of Xbox Game Pass

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Xbox Game Pass always gets pitched as a Netflix-like service for Xbox games, so why not have a Netflix-like thread for finding the best of what's available?

I got an Xbox through the All Access program, so I'm signed up for Game Pass for the next two years. I've been excited so far by some of what's available, and I'd love to know what I might be overlooking. What are the rest of you playing?

You can find the full list of games here.

I played a bit of Aven Colony. I half expected to like Aven Colony more than Cities Skylines, but it's just not very successful.

On a first pass, it is: it has a strong theme (colonizing a planet!) and makes some good promises to provide a more structured introduction to, and progression through, city building than you usually get. It doesn't have a narrative campaign, but it has a progression of maps you unlock, and each map has a series of missions to fulfill as you go along.

But the missions are badly designed. They're presented as tutorials of a sort, but they bypass crucial mechanics like crime and "retail morale" (how's you like that one for mechanics reflecting a worldview; your people literally cannot be happy if they cannot go shopping) and instead force you into specific solutions to problems you may have already solved in other ways. For example, you might have increased your housing capacity by upgrading your existing units, but your quest will require you to build multiple small units you may not need. It puts planning and managing your city at odds with fulfilling your objectives.

Another issue is that the visual design seems straight out of the '90s with the buildings all sharing a similar gun metal look. This not only makes your city visually unappealing, it makes it more difficult to manage. Need to upgrade the power plant? The farms? The air filters? You gotta find them first.

Overall, not a huge fan.

Just to make it easier to see what is available.

There are now 208 listings on Xbox Game Pass

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/4yftwsbup2y11.jpg)

So Aven Colony is not a hidden gem, then?

I'm finding the idea of these subscriptions services tempting as time goes on, especially if I were to go down to only one gaming platform. There's no time to play everything, and even playing a lot of things is quite expensive if you're buying on day one (which I rarely do now anyway). Having a whole library at my fingertips for a monthly cost is appealing.

beanman101283 wrote:

So Aven Colony is not a hidden gem, then?

I suppose not. That's why I'm counting on everyone else!

beanman101283 wrote:

I'm finding the idea of these subscriptions services tempting as time goes on, especially if I were to go down to only one gaming platform. There's no time to play everything, and even playing a lot of things is quite expensive if you're buying on day one (which I rarely do now anyway). Having a whole library at my fingertips for a monthly cost is appealing.

I really like it. I'm subscribed to both Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now, and between the two I have more than enough to play. Heck, I'd probably be fine with just one of them.

What I've enjoyed most is being able to play games that I likely wouldn't have bought otherwise. So far I've put time into Aven Colony, Halo Wars 2, Abzu, Wasteland 2, and Cities: Skylines with more in the wings. I wouldn't have been able to buy all five of those games for the cost of a month of Game Pass even during the deepest sales of the year.

Aven Colony looks like the type of game I'd like to watch somebody else play.
On the other hand, Ninja Gaiden Black looks terrific with enhanced graphics, it doesn't feel like an oldie.

I played some of a real hidden gem via Game Pass last night: Halo 5!

I've never been a Halo guy--I bounced off of both Halo 1 and 2, which were from the era in my life where I was a PC gamer who could not tolerate using a controller for an FPS, though I did play all the way through Halo 3--and the response to Halos 4 and 5 seemed sufficiently muted that I didn't feel compelled to jump in. But with Game Pass, I was curious enough to check it out.

I played through the first mission of the campaign and didn't really like it. I used maybe a dozen different weapons throughout the level but found most of them to be strange and uncomfortable; I *hated* the odd overlay on the screen, the little blinders around the edge simulating the helmet view; and I found it annoying that cut scenes showed a significant amount of my character and teammates doing cool action stuff, including taking down a sort of "boss" character, without any input from me whatsoever. I then thought I'd jump into multiplayer to see if I fared any better there. I did not! It was a team deathmatch map and my kdr was something like 3:20.

I was tempted to keep this on my harddrive in the theory that maybe I'd enjoy better the second mission featuring actual Masterchief, or that one of the other multiplayer modes might appeal to me, but at 100gb+ I decided it wasn't worth it. Deleted.

I also played more Hitman, which was significantly better! I completed the Morocco mission and hope to get through the campaign before Xmas, when I hope to get Hitman 2. I'm assuming that, if I still have access to Hitman 1 via Game Pass, Hitman 2 will still let me access the original levels in the new game?

Sad news I just saw (as I was googling whether it is officially Gamepass or Game Pass): seven games expiring from Game Pass by the end of the month, notable on this list for me are Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter and The Technomancer, both games that appeal to me as likely more interesting than they are good, prime Game Pass territory for me. I suspect the Sherlock game is will be easier to complete by the end of the month, so I'll probably prioritize that one. Also on that list of expiring games you all may want to make sure to get through is Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons, which is great.

I guess I'll go ahead and download Brothers, then. I had been thinking about Technomancer, but I'm not sure I'd be able to finish it by the end of the month.

I tried out Golf Club, I like golf games and was always interested in that one. It is pretty fun, I like how it puts you against 3 people on your friends list and plays against their ghost rounds. I’m going to dig into it a bit further but perfect game for Game Pass.

I started up Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter and played through the first case...it's not very good!

I played the previous Frogwares Sherlock game, "Crimes and Punishment," and recall being generally kind of impressed by it. It was low budget and had some odd gameplay and a few goofy moments, but I really liked the mysteries and found them compelling. Having played the first case of Devil's Daughter, the mysteries are still pretty solid (this case was an extremely obvious cliche, but still a fairly well-executed one), but the gameplay was really bad. There's a sort of stealth sequence where you control a street urchin trying to tail someone for Holmes that is way too long and unintuitive. There's an unnecessary scene where you control Holmes' dog to have him follow some sort of scent. And there's a really bad action sequence where you are being chased and have to hide behind cover to avoid getting shot and recharge your stamina, but meanwhile there are completely invisible bear traps to occasionally trip you up that were really really not fun. I am ever so slightly tempted to keep playing, given the holiday weekend and the fact that this game is getting booted off of Game Pass soon, but I will probably be better off if I don't get around to it.

That's disappointing. Frogwares are currently working on a Lovecraftian game called "The Sinking City" that interests me. So do the Sherlock games, but I don't know if I'll ever get around to playing them.

I’ve barely dipped into it but Westerado has me intrigued. It’s just that there are so many huge games on my docket right now. No time for small fries ATM.

In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a super blocky “retro” thing. It’s published by Adult Swim. It feels like it could have been a very expensive Atari 2600 game back in the day.

My favorite "lesser known" games (not including all the AAA games) from this list are:

Braid
Brothers
Guacamelee
Iron Brigade
Kingdom New Lands
Ryse
Ruiner
Shadow Complex
Sunset Overdrive
The Final Station
This War of Mine
Toy Soldiers
Warhammer: Vermintide 2

I have my console queued up with a bunch of Game Pass stuff. Darksiders, >observer_; Layers of Fear; Master Chief Collection; Metro 2033; Quantum Break; DmC: Devil May Cry; Hitman; D4. It just depends on how much I'm able to download while I have it on an unmetered connection for a day.

RawkGWJ wrote:

I’ve barely dipped into it but Westerado has me intrigued. It’s just that there are so many huge games on my docket right now. No time for small fries ATM.

In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a super blocky “retro” thing. It’s published by Adult Swim. It feels like it could have been a very expensive Atari 2600 game back in the day.

We've discussed Westerado somewhere on GWJ, and it does sound really cool. I have this "it will never happen, but" fantasy of RDR2 adding it as a game mode.

Fedaykin98 wrote:
RawkGWJ wrote:

I’ve barely dipped into it but Westerado has me intrigued. It’s just that there are so many huge games on my docket right now. No time for small fries ATM.

In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a super blocky “retro” thing. It’s published by Adult Swim. It feels like it could have been a very expensive Atari 2600 game back in the day.

We've discussed Westerado somewhere on GWJ, and it does sound really cool. I have this "it will never happen, but" fantasy of RDR2 adding it as a game mode.

What if R* just commissioned the devs of Wetserado to make new versions of it with an RDR skin? They could flesh out the back stories of some of the supporting characters. I would love to play Westerado Redemption: Hosea.

Fedaykin98 wrote:

That's disappointing. Frogwares are currently working on a Lovecraftian game called "The Sinking City" that interests me. So do the Sherlock games, but I don't know if I'll ever get around to playing them.

Yeah, I remember Crimes and Punishments being charming with its sort of blend of quirkiness/borderline incompetence along with a really solid mystery--like a less weird and better built Swery game?--so I'm disappointed by Devil's Daughter. Not sure if it's really on par with C&P but I'm just feeling less patient, but my sense is they crammed in some new attempts at gameplay sections that are just much worse than in the last game. Action-y stuff is not their strongsuit. If you want to play it, it expires from Game Pass at the end of the month!

On Westerado, I played that a few weeks ago and it did mark an interesting contrast to/setup for Red Dead 2. It's really worth getting into if you have some time. On a spectrum ranging from West of Loathing on one end to Red Dead 2 on the other, I think Westerado is closer to Red Dead on that scale than one might expect!

ClockworkHouse wrote:

It just depends on how much I'm able to download while I have it on an unmetered connection for a day. :)

Final tally:

  • >Observer_
  • The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
  • D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die
  • Darksiders Warmastered Edition
  • Dead Island
  • Deadlight
  • DmC Devil May Cry
  • Fallout 3
  • Hitman
  • Kingdom: New Land
  • Layers of Fear
  • Mass Effect
  • Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 & 2
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
  • Metro 2033
  • Rage
  • Recore
  • Ruiner
  • State of Decay 2
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Super Lucky's Tale
  • Thief of Thieves

Quantum Break, too, if it hurries up a bit. Surely I can find something in all of that to play.

Agents of Mayhem, MGXP 3, and Thomas Was Alone are now available.

Thomas was Alone is AMAZING. I don't do art games normally,but this really clicked for me.

Agents of Mayhem woot! Gamepass is the gift that keeps on giving.

What's the deal with Agents of Mayhem? It looks like a latter day Saint's Row game, but all the Saint's Row fans seem to dislike it.

I've never had the slightest interest in a Saint's Row game, the gangster/thug stuff turns me off, even if it's comedic. Agents of Mayhem just looks much more appealing.

MXGP3 is a great motocross game if you are into that, I paid full price for it when it came out.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

What's the deal with Agents of Mayhem? It looks like a latter day Saint's Row game, but all the Saint's Row fans seem to dislike it.

Some are mad that it's from the SR devs (and universe) but we haven't had an SR game in forever. Others are mad that this game seems like it's begging for co-op but doesn't have it, even though SR has more going on and still had it.

On top of that, it got mediocre reviews.

I finished the campaign for Hitman via Game Pass tonight. Such a great game! Looking forward to receiving Hitman 2 as an Xmas gift...I'm assuming the thing where Hitman 2 imports Hitman 1 levels if you own the game will work if my "ownership" is via Game Pass, but does anyone know for sure?

Anyone played Thief of Thieves yet? I read the first volume of the comic ages ago and thought it was just fine. Given that it's also a Robert Kirkman property, I'm guessing this episodic adventure game is somewhere in the area of a Telltale style game? It's on my list to try out sooner rather than later.

The Saints Row franchise is essentially a parody of the seriousness of GTA, except at every conceivable decision point during the development process it's like the developer's asked themselves, "What's the singly-most fun option we could choose here?" and went with that one. SR was OK, SR2 was great, SR3 was unspeakably glorious. They're silly, over-the-top fun sandboxes where there are actual genuine characters you get to love, and AoM doesn't look like any of that. I'll play it for free, but expect to be greatly disappointed.

For other games, I have played a lot of State of Decay 2, but I find the grind kind of relaxing. It's basically a survival-lite game, but there's enough in it in terms of activities and complexity that I found it quite enjoyable.

I gave Technomancer a shot last night. I've always been intrigued by Spiders' apparent ambition to make a Bioware-style game, since first seeing Giant Bomb do a Quick Look for Mars War Logs. Seeing that Technomancer was on the list of games to leave the service soon, I finally started it up last night. I'm sad to say, it was not good. The leveling/crafting/upgrades system felt pretty standard for an action RPG. The story was very silly in an unintentional and self-serious way. There's an uninspired morality system where the enemies you defeat are "knocked out" (despite using knives and guns on them) unless you "drain" them for some resource and kill them, losing karma. Why would you want that resource despite the karma hit? I dunno. Why wouldn't you kill these people who are random attackers trying to murder you? I dunno. Finally, I got to a boss fight that I presume was the end of the prologue to the game, a giant spider monster. I was playing on Easy, the lowest difficulty, and I died to it about 5 times before I just quit and deleted the game from my Xbox. Ridiculous for a boss in the first hour of the game and on easy mode...the mentor character wasn't around to assist or shout clues to me about what I should be doing, the game didn't give me any tooltips about some mistake I was making or upgrade I needed. I imagine I would've beaten it if I spent an hour or so on it, but it became clear that wouldn't be a good use of my time. Even though my expectations were low, I'm disappointed. I thought I'd get a lot further before the game's shortcomings overcame my interest. Oh well.

Unexpectedly, The Gardens Between popped up on Game Pass. That's worth a run through if you haven't played it. A true hidden gem! At last!

Just a reminder: Mutant Year Zero will be available tomorrow.

Strange Brigade will be available on Thursday.

I was very interested in Strange Brigade because I like that pulpy, Indiana Jonesy setting, and co-op. I didn't get it at launch, which was in a bit of a crowded window for a niche title, but it's definitely on my list for when I get Gamepass.

There is going to be a point at which Gamepass is the lifeblood of groups that want to play multiplayer together, because it can guarantee everyone has access to the same games.

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