It’s been four weeks so you’ve probably worked your way through last month’s GWG offerings – remember Truck Racing Championship is still available to download until May 15 – or, more than likely, you’re suffering from a touch of ‘Gamer’s Dilemma’: the art of having so many games to play in your backlog that you’re crippled with indecision and the only way to proceed is to get something new. Luckily, the fair folk at Microsoft are on hand to dish out 4 games throughout the month of May – absolutely free – as part of your Xbox Network subscription.
But first, as a very old vampire slayer once said, we have to have some rules around here.
First off, Games with Gold are only free for those with a valid Xbox Network membership. So if you don’t have one yet, you’ll need to sign up first and while you’re there it’s probably worth looking at Game Pass Ultimate as that includes a Network subscription on top of all those other lovely games.
Unlike Playstation’s monthly free games, Games with Gold aren’t all available throughout the calendar month. One game (usually the biggest title) is always downloadable for the full four weeks but two titles will swap over during the month (available for two weeks apiece) and the fourth game will start part-way through the month and still be available for a couple of weeks of the following month. In short, don’t procrastinate away what you can download today!
The first game on offer this month comes courtesy of the delightfully named League of Geeks and is an RPG fused with strategy and deck-building elements called Armello. Based on a tabletop game, Armello casts you as a member of one of several clans with ambitious plans of winning the throne of the titular fantasy kingdom and prevailing over your enemies, both AI and human.
Boasting a gorgeous art style, Armello is a swashbuckling turn-based adventure that sees oversized player-characters roaming a charming procedurally-generated miniature overworld map, either in single-player or with up to 3 other players/opponents. Explore dungeons, vanquish monsters, hire agents to bolster your forces, cast spells and scheme against those that would beat you to the throne as you advance your character in skills and gear. Learning the tactics of your enemies is key to survival but wisely deploying your deck of cards to frustrate your rivals is just as important!
Available May 1 to May 31.
LEGO BATMAN: THE VIDEO GAME
Before Will Arnett created his hilarious, irreverent iteration of the Dark Knight in The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie, Lego Batman was already very much a thing. Back in 2010, developer Traveller’s Tales were already coasting a wave of success after porting notable franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones to the playful world of Lego but Batman, Robin, Batgirl and Nightwing (as well as their colourful Rogue’s Gallery of villains) would be their first foray into the superhero genre (and first original story to boot).
Enjoy the familiar mechanics of fighting, traversal, puzzle-solving and, of course, building as Batman and friends defend Gotham City from a plethora of eccentric villains determined to reduce it to a pile of bricks. Fight through three chapters – each 5 levels long – chock full of precision platforming, hidden secrets and outings in iconic bat-vehicles, using each character’s unique abilities, before turning things on their head and waging war on the heroes for three further chapters of mayhem as villains like The Joker, The Penguin or Mr Freeze to name but a few.
Available from May 1 to May 15.
From the mean streets of Gotham, to the dark fantasy underworld of Dungeons 3, a management sim incorporating real-time strategy elements that casts players as the ultimate villain. Become the Dungeon Lord by building a perilous underground lair, full of a wide array of traps, rooms and structures for unwitting heroes to explore and perish in. Recruit a wide variety of menacing minions to your dastardly cause, from zombies, orcs and succubae, and, using your despicable lieutenant, Thayla, wage war against the forces of light in a completely redesigned overworld.
Dungeons 3 has a comprehensive 20-hour single-player campaign that utilises randomly generated assets to ensure that no 2 sessions are the same, coupled with ubiquitous commentary from the series trademark Dungeons narrator. And, for those who prefer to have a partner in crime, there’s even a co-op mode for conniving companions.
Available from May 16 to June 15.
Moving from medieval antagonists to modern-day dictators, the final free game for May is also a simulator, Tropico 4. A tongue-in-cheek city management and political manipulation sim, the Tropico series gives players the opportunity to step into the shoes of ‘El Presidente’, the dictator of a fictional banana republic designed and managed to their exact specification.
After choosing the characteristics of their customisable dictator and the island that they will transform into an empire, players will be thrust into the financial, logistical and political challenges of running a republic. Gain support from your constituents to triumph over naysayers or appoint sympathetic ministers in government to guarantee your more controversial policies are passed. Negotiate with other superpowers for your own (and your people’s) benefit but remain vigilant as everyone in Tropico has their own agenda too! But building your island paradise and negotiating the shark-infested political waters of public office are only part of the challenge. Tropico 4 has a terrifying arsenal of natural disasters that will assault player’s populace and test their mettle in resource management and emergency response.
Available May 16 to May 31.
Another month, another truckload of free from the vaults of Microsoft. May’s download list certainly seems to be a more considered affair, favouring strategy and planning over action but there’s always the simple, button-bashing joy of a Lego game for those in need of quick-fix thrills. Stay tuned right here in the weeks to come and we’ll keep you up to speed with June’s Games with Gold. (Hang on, now that Xbox Live Gold has changed to Xbox Network, shouldn’t they change the name…?)