Xbox Game Pass Chooses Its Games Perfectly

Whenever I speak to a friend about Xbox Game Pass, they’ll usually ask me if it has The Witcher 3. What about all of the Assassin’s Creed games? Call of Duty? FIFA? Skyrim? I mean, it has some of them. These kinds of games aren’t really what Game Pass is all about, though.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic that Game Pass has loads of behemoth RPGs and stellar shooters on offer. I’ve been using it to slowly but surely make my way through the Yakuza series while taking occasional breaks to replay Dragon Age and fire floods of foam at Prey’s malevolent little mimic twats. The most value I’ve got from Game Pass, however, has been in the games I never would have even considered playing without them being there. That’s no disrespect to the developers behind them, mind – we all have our own personal preferences, right? And thanks to Game Pass, mine are widening faster than Shadow Moses parted the Red Sea. That’s his name in the Bible, right? Right…?

Earlier this week, I caught wind of the news that Darkest Dungeon and For Honor were heading to Xbox’s fantastic service. I’ve been told by loads of people that I’d love the former, but I just never got around to buying it, let alone trying it. Reception to the latter, at least among pals I’ve chatted to, is much more mixed, but I’m a sucker for anything medieval filled with loads of beards and battleaxes. It’s daunting though, isn’t it, when you’ve got a million games in your backlog already and recommendations keep on mounting. I’ve spent the last two weeks exclusively playing Mass Effect Legendary Edition – half because it’s a series I love that’s been remastered after nine years, and half because it’s a series I love that’s much easier to boot up than spending three hours staring at a mountain of games I have no conceivable way of scaling.

 

Game Pass removes all of the tedium and confusion from this. I generally play at least two or three games on my Series X a month – at least to completion, I bounce around loads more – and so the 15 quid subscription feels incredibly savvy. But it’s the latter half of that parenthesis that makes it truly worthwhile, because I get to try out all manner of games I’ve heard everything and nothing about.

For example, Monster Train is brilliant and I tend to do at least one quick run most days, usually before or after work depending on whether I’m a bedhead or full of beans (it’s usually the former). Monster Sanctuary, although similarly named and based on a premise I thought I’d dig, never quite clicked with me. I played both games for the first time on the same day, alongside four or five other ones that didn’t quite gel with me, and all of a sudden I’d experimented with almost double digits’ worth of backlog titles in the space of an evening.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m making my way through the streets of Kamurocho for the first time ever and loving every moment, but I was warned I’d be all Yakuza’d out before I could say “Majima Everywhere!” if I didn’t take breaks. Game Pass, combined with Quick Resume, provides the perfect means of making said breaks both productive and legitimately enjoyable. I finally got around to playing Outer Wilds – which is brilliant, but not as much my style as I expected. I’ve been able to dive back into Ori, which is probably my favourite platformer ever made, and I finally got to relive my mischievous glory days in Fable 2, which holds up almost frustratingly well – late ’00s Lionhead was a gem I’m heartbroken we lost, but that’s another article for another day.

I’ll definitely play Darkest Dungeon. I’m not so sure about For Honor, but realistically I’ll at least install it. The thing about Game Pass is that thanks to Xbox Series X’s titanic terabyte of storage, I can just spend ten minutes choosing 20 games to install while I’m knocking about the Milky Way with my favourite alien buds. I’ll usually end up uninstalling half of these to make space for a new batch, mind, but even that process is valuable. If I install a game I’m curious about and get rid of it for something else when it’s within arm’s reach, I’m probably not half as interested in it as I expected, am I? On the other hand, I’ve been dying to jump back into Dishonored 2 as a non-idiot 20-year-old for five years, so that’s carved itself out some firm staying power among the list of “I’ll get to it as soon as I blow up the Reapers” games in my library.

But even that’s something I already own on PS4, a game I knew I’d love before I devoted a single second to playing it. The real magic of Game Pass isn’t all of the colossal Bethesda games that even your granny might have heard of. I love Arkane and id, and despite caring for them significantly less each year, I still have a lot of nostalgia for Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. The real value of Game Pass, though, is in the smaller titles, the hidden gems that you always wanted to get to or diamonds in the rough that completely captivate you despite having names and premises you’ve never heard of. It’s a palate-cleanser and a palate-expander at the same time, offering you hundreds of free, contained experiences that both cater to and help cultivate your own personal taste. So long as Microsoft continues to keep the library stocked with plenty of Not A 60-Hour RPG titles, all of the legacy, prestige stuff will be able to sing even more. I mean, I’m as excited for Halo Infinite as any of you, and I’m definitely more excited about the new Fable than all of you put together – believe me, I’ve done the calculations, and I am the world’s most enormous Fable fan. All of the other stuff is so complementary to these games, though, that they’ve become an essential part of why Game Pass works, and why it will continue to work long into the future. Game Pass curates its library with real finesse, and I can’t wait to see which games I’ve vaguely had my eye on for ages are added next.

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