“Every moment of pleasure in life has to be purchased by an equal moment of pain,” said Danilo Odell, a minor character in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
That seems to be Xbox Game Pass’ operating principle this March. In less than 30 days, the service will lose access to one of the greatest games that it offers in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. But just as CD Projekt Red’s fantasy epic departs, fans will be able to boot up Star Wars: Squadrons, which is arguably the finest sci-fi space combat sim in years.
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This information comes from Microsoft’s Xbox Wire blog, which details all of the games coming to, and departing from, the company’s Xbox Game Pass service this month.
For those who haven’t yet tried it, Xbox Game Pass is a subscription service that lets you download hundreds of games for Xbox, or PC, or both, for one flat monthly fee. Like video-streaming services, the selection on Xbox Game Pass changes over time, which means that old favorites occasionally give way to newer fare.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Xbox Game Pass
First off, the bad news: You have only about 10 days left to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, as it’s leaving the service on March 15. This epic fantasy RPG debuted in 2015, and it’s still arguably the gold standard for the whole genre.
In it, you take control of roving monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, who must seek out a lost sorceress, navigate a world of complex royal politics and fight against a battalion of spectral invaders, all while a devastating war rages in the background. The main story is gripping, there’s a ton of meaningful side content and you can customize Geralt to excel in swordplay, magic or alchemy.
As you might imagine, it’s almost impossible to get through the game in less than two weeks, unless you’re willing to treat it like a day job, night job and weekend job, all rolled into one. But if you have any affinity for the genre (or for Netflix’s excellent TV adaptation of the source material), you owe it to yourself to at least carve out a few hours to try The Witcher 3.
If you like it, you can always buy the game (currently $40) and continue playing for as long as you like. As long as you’re on an Xbox console, your save files will carry over.
Star Wars: Squadrons on Xbox Game Pass
The good news is that another excellent game is on its way to Game Pass. That game is Star Wars: Squadrons, which placed highly among the Tom’s Guide staff in our “Best games of 2020” awards.
This intricate space-combat sim puts you in the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter — among other iconic Star Wars ships — and lets you battle it out with other players for galactic supremacy. The multiplayer here is the big draw, but there’s also a thoroughly decent single-player campaign, which serves as a good tutorial.
The cool thing about Star Wars: Squadrons is that it strikes a beautiful balance between hardcore “manage every system at all times” space sims and arcade-style “just fly and shoot” action games.
You’ll have to power various subsystems, control your thrust and angle, keep an eye out for missile resupplies and learn the layouts of different ship cockpits. But the main thrust of the game is still high-octane dogfights among fast, powerful ships. The game will be available later in March, although Microsoft didn’t give an exact date.
There are other games coming and going from Xbox Game Pass this month, too. Sports fans will probably enjoy Madden NFL 21 and NBA 2K21, both of which are available now. But Metroidvania fans will no doubt be sad to learn that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will no longer be available after March 15.
In any case, one beloved game departs, and another beloved game arrives. That’s the cycle of life on Xbox Game Pass.