As the year draws to a close, there's one more month of free games on subscription services for 2021. Microsoft has now announced the games coming to Xbox's Games with Gold for December. With such a wide range of subscription gaming services available right now, players have a huge selection of services to choose from. While Games with Gold hasn't received quite as much praise as the Xbox Game Pass, it is very easy for Xbox owners to make use of both services, and there has been a number of notable Games with Gold. This month, subscribers to Xbox Live Gold will get access to two Xbox One games and two Xbox 360 games, available via backward compatibility.
The four games this month have a combined retail value of $69.96. December's free game lineup will give subscribers access to a selection of eclectic and lighthearted games, which are suitable for the increasingly busy holiday season. Xbox has received a lot of praise for its strong push towards backward compatibility, and Games with Gold has often offered a variety of old and new games. The same is true of this month, and while not every player would be eager to pay for these titles, this service gives a great opportunity to check out different games and perhaps find something surprising. The Xbox games up for grabs are Tropico 5, The Escapist 2, Orcs Must Die!, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Co-op fans will want to check out The Escapist 2, in particular, or possibly Tropico 5, and the full lineup is explained below.
Tropico 5 - Pentilutimate Edition
Tropico 5 is a construction and management sim, and as with previous Tropico games, the player will have to contend with political developments in a relatively relaxed and comical way. This game was actually banned in Thailand due to fears the game's political content could upset the tenuous political balance in the country. However, generally, players find the imagined political situation of Tropico 5 to be a fun set up to play as either a dictator or aim for a more democratic route.
Unlike previous Tropico games, this game will also include a co-op mode, letting players build cities next to each other and choose whether to be friendly or hostile to other players. With a Gold subscription, players will also get access to the DLCs The Big Cheese and Hostile Takeover. Tropico 5 will be available on Games with Gold from December 16th to January 15th.
The Escapist 2
The Escapist 2 is a fun top-down perspective RPG. In the game, players control an inmate trying to escape prison, using whatever means they can. The game has combat and stamina mechanics, which call for strategic play. The most fun in this game is found playing with friends, though, wherein players can work together to engineer wild prison escapes or race against each other to escape the fastest. Following on from 2015's The Escapist, this game offers more complex combat and customization mechanics and includes a wider variety of prison settings to escape from. Feedback from the first game led the development team to basically build The Escapist 2 from the ground up. This game will be available on Games with Gold all of December.
Orcs Must Die!
The first entry in the Orcs Must Die! series is a common inclusion on free game services, and is a tower defense game where players control a powerful War Mage. Originally released in 2011, the game has been well-received by players and it is a smart, if safe, choice for Games with Gold this month. The towers in this game are Rifts, which are magical openings between the human world and the "Dead World".
The player will place various traps to defend the Rifts, and can also engage in combat to fend off the waves of attacking orcs. After defeating these waves, players earn money and then skulls for the final wave; these can be used to buy new traps, expand the mage's spellbook, and improve items. Orcs Must Die! is a fun, well-crafted game for fans of the genre, and will be available from December 1st to December 15th.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a puzzle game largely inspired by animator Michael Gange's series Insanely Twisted Sock Puppets made for Nickelodeon. Gange teamed up with game developer Joe Olsen to create this game, despite Gange's familiarity with games ending at 1993's Doom. The 2D adventure game will see players battling to the center of the mysterious Shadow Planet. The puzzles and combat are engaging, but more significantly this marks another example of collaboration between TV and film animators and game developers, which is always a good thing for the industry overall, especially in terms of visual styles. This game will be available from December 16th to December 31st.
There is no standout game from this month's selection, but there are a variety of genres on offer to attract different gamers. There were some rumors earlier this year that Games with Gold may eventually be discontinued by Microsoft, and in general, the complete 2021 lineup has been viewed overall as somewhat lackluster. As such, players will want to snap up any available games they're interested in quickly. However, the service has definitely offered a good incentive to be a subscriber, with a wide range of games giving players ample opportunity to get their money's worth. While Game Pass may be the more popular Xbox service, this year has seen Games with Gold include games like Gears 5, Resident Evil, and Dead Rising. With offerings like those, there is still plenty of reason to subscribe to the service for now, even if it does have stiff competition from other services that offer free games.
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