One thing before I get started, I equally love PS+, EA Access, Humble Monthly and the rest of the monthly subscription services, but I play the games in Games With Gold every month, and I had to give a shout out to the increasingly stellar line ups.

With that out of the way, check out the free goodies we got in April 2017, and the month ain’t even over yet. Ryse: Son of Rome, and Darksiders for the first half, and the second batch is joined by The Walking Dead: Season 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. This is a glorious month of games: a solid launch game, a criminally underrated Xbox 360 era Zelda-like, Telltale on top form, and one of the stronger Assassin’s Creed titles.

I’ve written before about the real goodies that these monthly bundles can offer us, and the trend seems to continue towards better and better titles, and a greater variety of genres to dip into. As more games go backwards compatible, the possibilities continue to expand. It’s easy to malign the selection when in the past we’ve been offered Xbox 360 versions of games that we’ve already been given on Xbox One, and at times, we’ve been gifted with some truly awful games, too. I don’t want to name names, but Super Dungeon Bros, Zheroes, and Super Mega Baseball, we’re looking at you.

Every month, people beg for the likes of GTA 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Red Dead Redemption to go free on Games With Gold. In fact, Ryse was so often begged for that the response to its inclusion was more along the lines of finally! Instead of sheer joy over getting another Triple A title for free.

However, April 2017 in particular for me, was a landmark month. This month game me four games that I’ve always wanted to play and never got around to. I skipped buying Ryse when I first got an Xbox One a year after launch, because I had heard mixed to poor reviews about it. It was short, repetitive, and dull, apparently. Getting it for free, I sure felt that all the criticism was unfounded.

More than 3 years later, it holds up as a stellar hack and slash title. The combat is dull as dishwater at times, but it’s a serviceable Arkham clone at the worst of times, and it really shines when you get into the flow of it. There’s strategy in using executions and choosing your bonus (more valor, more health, a damage boost, or xp boost), and it’s the only way to heal yourself outside of checkpointed health restores. It makes for a tense combat system on higher difficulties, where it’s equally about strategy and timing as well as reaction speed.

That’s to say nothing for the sheer spectacle of the game. It’s gorgeous, still beating many current games in terms of graphics, voice acting, and animation. The characters look startlingly life like, and seeing Rome depicted in all its glory, and during its fall, is a spectacle we’ve never seen in a game before, and especially not so astoundingly realised.

White marble, blistering sun, towering buildings, fresh corpses littering street corners adorned with political graffiti… Ryse gives a sense of place like few other games I’ve played.I beat the main campaign in eight hours, but you bet I wanted to go back. To get collectibles, mop up achievements, and try my luck on the hardest difficulty, with all my hard earned skills and executions carrying over.

The multiplayer was trend setting too. It was criticised at launch for having microtransactions, it seems funny to be mad about that now. What game doesn’t offer to let you pay real money to get loot faster? Every Triple A title with multiplayer is doing it now.

Going co-op with a friend in the Colosseum of the multiplayer mode is frenetic and fun, with the right balance of teamwork and lone wolf gameplay. Getting gold, buying loot, and upgrading your gladiator is fun, and every three matches or so gives you enough dosh to get a mid tier loot box. If you’ve never played Ryse, I really can’t recommend diving into it highly enough. I had a blast, and besides, it’s free.

That’s the crux of my love for GWG, really. I can say that I’ve always wanted these games and you can throw it back at me that I should have put my money where my mouth is then, and bought them back in the day, but we all know that there are too many games and not enough pennies to go around. 

Darksiders is another fine example of a game that many missed that begs to be played. It’s the best not-Zelda Zelda game that I’ve played in a long time. While it loses out to Beyond Good and Evil in terms of story, character design, and world, it wins out with perfectly paced puzzles, challenging, deep combat, and an odd, edgy-dark world that’s a fun callback to PS2 era character action games like Devil May Cry and God of War.

It’s just fun to play. Satisfying executions, a plethora of combos and upgrades to unlock, and a world peppered with secrets with an excellent sense of forward momentum. Each boss encounter is preceded by a mini dungeon that gives you a new gadget to puzzle solve with, and there’s an extra layer of fun to learning how to integrate the new goodies into your favorite combos. It doesn’t break any moulds, but it doesn’t try to. It does what it sets out to do, and it’s a ton of fun in the process.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 joins a long list of free Telltale titles that we’ve got for free, including Season 1 and the excellent The Wolf Among Us. While you might wonder why anyone would buy Telltale games when it seems like they’re going to be free eventually anyway, that’s hardly the point. If you wait long enough, any game becomes basically free. However, if you’re a casual Telltale fan, Games With Gold is a worthy investment. Revelations is in the same vein, we’ve got Assassin’s Creed 2 and Black Flag for free before, but it’s good to see that we’re getting these games for free, even though they’ve been remastered in The Ezio Collection.

Most Games With Gold announcements devolve into petty 2006-era console war sniping about how much better the games are than on PS+ or vice versa, the most important thing to remember is that we’re getting more than a hundred dollars for free each month from both consoles. As part of subscription services you’d be paying for anyway if you wanted to play online. Free games, sometimes they’re bad, mostly they’re good. But free games is good news. Rejoice.