A completely new year brings completely new Games with Gold! Two adventurers await your game time in the form of Van Helsing and Lara Croft.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III is an action RPG in the vein of Diablo or Torchlight and is available from January 1st to January 31st. Tomb Raider: Underworld is also free to own if you download it between January 1st and January 15th. This is one of the better Lara Croft games and will scratch the platforming itch you never knew you had.
If you missed December's Games with Gold, Back to the Future: The Game is still available to download until Jan 15th and is one of Telltale's earlier story-driven games. You can find the review for it here.
Available January 1st - January 31st
The third installment of this action RPG franchise is the best yet, with improvements in every area, from the sound and story to the combat, and even the class and advancement system.
This time around there are six character classes to choose from, including the stereotype Wizard, Tank, and Rogue classes to the more interesting Phlogistoneer, who has an impressive exoskeleton suit to run around in and who uses the power of science to destroy all enemies.
His upgradeable forcefield recharges between fights, and you can make it into an offensive weapon or increase its defensive capabilities even more if you wish.
Each class focuses on either ranged or melee combat, and they all have their separate skill trees to progress through which does add some replayability to the game.
The maps are just as vast and varied as ever, and if you are a fan of this genre, you will really enjoy hacking your way through each locale, picking up hundreds of drops and upgrading your gear.
As with the previous two games, you're also joined by Lady Katarina, a spirit sidekick who will help Van Helsing in many ways, including combat, collecting loot and even mundane shopping runs.
Many the boring aspects of this type of game are done away with due to the number of options you can customize. Katarina can be set to pick up loot that doesn't match the quality you're after as well as any gold coins lying around. This means less time spent messing around with your own inventory, which probably accounts for half my playtime in games like Diablo 2!
There is also a Tower Defence mini-game which has you defending your lair against the forces of darkness, and it's good enough not to detract from the main meat of the game, which is the action RPG side.
The voice acting in this series, with the exception of Van Helsing and Lady Katarina, has always been a little dodgy and that trend continues in the third installment, but when you consider that the game isn't taking itself too seriously anyway, you can forgive and almost enjoy the rest of the dialogue!
Available January 1st - January 15th
Lara Croft probably needs no introduction by now, as she's a character that has featured in many games and even films.
In Tomb Raider: Underworld, the game begins with Lara's beautiful mansion exploding and then a rewind to a week earlier where Lara is searching for her mother, whom she has not seen for years.
From here you can expect everything you have come to know and love about the Lara Croft games, from the ancient temples, menacing creatures, and quick time events.
What's that? You hate quick time events, and in previous games, they sucked?
Well, in Underworld time slows down when something catastrophic is about to happen, and you have to use your wits to evade the impending doom that's about to encompass you. This might take the form of a well-timed leap to spotting a place where your grappling hook can save your life.
Your grappling hook is also more useful in Underworld, as you can now stretch it taut and drag items around to help you solve the many physics-based puzzles that dot the landscape.
One of the significant changes to the game is Lara's ability to use the terrain as she sees fit. There are now multiple ways to traverse the landscape and how you get from broken ruin A to gleaming door B is up to you. Playing this way is a lot more rewarding and engaging and helps immerse you in the world more.
Combat has been improved somewhat, with melee attacks available, easily interchangeable weapons and the ability to target two opponents if using dual pistols.
You will have to make yourself scarce after some firefights too as dead bodies can attract other enemies to your location rather than disappearing instantly like they used to.
Tomb Raider: Underworld is still a linear game, but the improvements make it a much better one, with more fun to be had.