HIDDEN GEMS: Heavy Metal Monster Slayers, Crashing Planes, and Bouncing Betties!

Summer Gaming Avalanche

Remember the days when Summer was relatively quiet on the gaming release front? Well, that's just not the case anymore. It's absolutely stunning the amount of games that have been piled upon our desks and inboxes. While we definitely won't ever complain, there are sometimes some hidden gems that get lost among all the AAA and big releases that are marketed to death. Here are a recent few hidden gems that deserve some love and attention.

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam - Available Now

WWII used to be the flavor of the week but in recent years, the Modern Shooter has completely dominated (for better or worse) the sales charts of the shooter genre. Now, luckily, DICE bucked that trend with Battlefield 1.  If anyone remembers some of the fantastic mods of Battlefield: 1942you'll recognize Antimatter Games behind the realistic Vietnam era shooter, Rising Storm 2: VietnamNot only is the game absolutely gorgeous, but it sounds awesome, plays like a dream and most of all, it stands out among the "me too" shooters in the crowd. Maps are detailed, vehicles, and weaponry are plentiful and weather you are playing in squads or solo, the game is absolute riot. Sure, it could use a bit more for polish but for under $25, you can't friggin beat it!

The Fidelio Incident - Available Now

Games based on operas are rare. Fantastically detailed and hauntingly beautiful games based on operas are even more rare. Check out The Fidelio Incident based off Beethoven's only opera Fidelio. I am finding more and more games that are on the shorter side but more than satisfying and definitely inspired.  God of War 3 Art Director Ken Feldman brings us this incredible tale that must be played to be believed. It's incredibly well acted, extremely gorgeous in the graphics area, and is a labor of love from a small but dedicated team. Even though the "walking simulator" genre has been crowded as of late, this is something that will stick with you well after the credits roll. Check it out. Now.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition - Now Available

Victor Vran is pretty much the most criminally underrated game in the ARPG arena and that bums me out because it is the perfect example of a hidden gem.  If you are looking to scratch that Action RPG itch while we wait for the next Diablo game, you could do much worse.  The original base game was a bit of a cult hit and features Doug Cockle (of the Witcher III fame) as Victor. Now, while I would score the original, base game higher, the latest content of Fractured Worlds and Motorhead DLC makes me scratch my head a little bit.  They feel extremely.. fractured to say the least.  Yeah, they are fun to play but feel like a bit of a hodgepodge instead of a fully fleshed out adventure. That being said, still, you might as well pick up the Overkill Edition because it includes the fantastic base game and the aforementioned goodies for not much more money.

Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception - Available Now

If you haven't had your fill of WTF from Japan, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception is here to fill that basket of WTF in visual novel form. If you haven't ever played a visual novel from Japan, this is a great place to start. Imagine Choose Your Own Adventure mixed with Strategy RPG and there you have Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception. The art and music are absolutely top notch and the adventure is extremely lengthy, but it's definitely an acquired taste. It's got a very simple interface, a ton of dialogue, some voiced, some not but definitely slow moving. If you are looking for something completely in a different camp than the AAA, summer blockbuster, check it out ASAP.

Empathy: Path of Whispers - Available Now

I am totally digging this new resurgence of games that aren't afraid to be different. Empathy definitely fits that bill as you explore an abandoned world of thoughts, emotions, and secrets of the previous inhabitants. It's a first person adventure and borders on crazy but also, crazy good. While it could also use a bit of polish, especially in the interface department, if you are searching for something unique and totally different, Empathy is a short but sweet little gem as well. Graphics are quite good and the environments are extremely odd (in a good way!) -- Man, June is a month of some crazy sh%& in the mental department.