This week, you get your third chance to experience one of the most thrilling and absorbing templates for a single-player campaign this generation. Yep - Capybara's wonderful Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes has been released on PC!
"Clash of Heroes blends RPG, turn-based strategy and a unit-stacking variation of a match-three puzzle game," I wrote when awarding the HD console version, which followed a DS original, Game of the Week in April. "It achieves this bizarre genre synthesis with a depth, poise and sophistication that makes Puzzle Quest and even Gyromancer look crude, while matching them for slot-machine gratification. It even has a fantasy storyline that's not completely terrible." If you haven't played it before, it's nothing short of an essential purchase.
I don't know if Ubisoft is on a charm offensive to win back PC gamers alienated by its copy-protection strategy, but it's certainly showering the format in digital gems at the moment. Clash of Heroes joins TrackMania 2: Canyon, released last week, a very welcome return for Nadeo's exacting time trial stunt racer and its very welcoming community.
"TrackMania 2... captures that rarest commodity in gaming: joy. It's an experience where comedy, camaraderie and personal improvement are tied together in one glorious whole," wrote John B in our slightly belated TrackMania 2 review.
Racing of a very different stripe is available in Codemasters' F1 2011 this week. A year hasn't been quite enough to iron out every kink, but it remains an engrossing sim racing experience with huge long-term promise, especially for fans of the sport. "Strip away the new lick of paint and it's tough to tell F1 2011 apart from its predecessor, and though it's certainly tighter, smarter and more technically accomplished, some of the old faults remain. A marginally better outing than last year, then, and that's enough to ensure that, as F1 games go, this is still quite comfortably the best," Martin wrote in our F1 2011 review, awarding another 8/10.
Our Game of the Week got the same score, but it was a different story...
Gears of War 3
Just for the record, 8/10 means we really liked it. Yes, even when it's a "triple-A" blockbuster, or a format exclusive, or both.
Gears of War 3 is ruthlessly polished and heroically complete. Perhaps its campaign isn't quite as consistently thrilling as the second game's - although at its best it's an incomparable rush. Really, Epic's only mistake was to have nailed the concept on the first attempt and the delivery on the second, leaving us, three years later, wanting a third ambitious leap they weren't able to make.
Or perhaps Gears of War's scoring trajectory on our site - from 8 to 9 and back again - is really a gentle echo of the journey of its host platform, or even the whole console generation. Early promise is followed by fully-realised glory, but in maturity both the machine and its iconic series can only offer diminishing returns.
"Gears of War 3, then. In its multiplayer, all you could have reasonably asked for; in its visuals, new heights reached, while cracks of old age are papered over; in its story, a fitting conclusion; and in its campaign, though short of the consistent brilliance of its predecessor, a mostly rousing and memorable spectacle," wrote Johnny Minkley in our Gears of War 3 review.
It's a far too early to sound a death knell for Xbox 360, let alone any of this console generation - but it's hard not to find significance and poignancy in the conclusion of a series that has done as much as any other to define the platform. Endings are never easy, but Epic's pulled this one off with aplomb, and left us more than eager to see its next beginning.