The beginning of the year is always a great time for gaming. Everything is once again ahead of us, and this means we can finally let go of our disappointments from the year prior. Naturally, the cynic in all of us wants us to be cautious and remember past let-downs, but it’s just too exciting not to embrace the hype of 2016 – even if it’s just for a month. After all, 2015 was an impressive year overall despite its issues; with games such as The Witcher 3 and Bloodborne leading the charge. There were also an absurd amount of games pushed back to 2016 that are finally due to be released – so many that this year’s line up is almost too good to be true. I’d even go as far as to say that this year is already a strong contender for one of the best years in gaming, so see below as our team highlights the games we’re most excited for!
It’s hard to believe I first heard the theme song for Final Fantasy XV (then Versus XIII), “Somnus Nemoris” by Yoko Shimomura, almost ten years ago. Finally hearing it played within a real game (the Duscae demo last year), however, was one of the most surreal moments in gaming I’ve ever experienced. I realised at that moment just how long Noctis has already been a part of my life. I remember clearly how hyped I would become from each new trailer, and how, for so many years, I’ve spent time hypothesising about the possibilities that lay in store for this “dark horse” of the franchise. Furthermore, the rebranding as XV at E3 2013 is arguably my favourite E3 memory of all time. As an adult, excitement doesn’t come the way it used to, and the emotions that it stirred within me were almost child-like in nature.
Over the years, a lot of things about this game have evolved. And while Noctis isn’t exactly the same silver-haired, brooding protagonist that we first met during the debut trailer from 2006, there are still many elements about his world which stay true to Tetsuya Nomura’s original vision. What was once vapourware is now very much a reality – I’ve played the demo, it’s coming out in 2016, and we’re getting a release date this March. Say what you will about the development cycle, but since Director, Hajime Tabata came on board, fan communication and updates on the game’s progress have been excellent. I’ve enjoyed Square Enix’s approach with their ‘Active Time Reports,’ and I believe the team are committed to making this the best game it can be. A lot of faith is riding on this game, and it’s time to deliver.
XCOM is a series that I’m relatively new to, in the grand scheme of things. I started out with XCOM: Enemy Unknown (XCOM: EU), which is technically the ninth entry in the series and is also a “re-imagining” of the original X-COM title from ’94. Steam says I’ve dumped 84 hours into it, and I know I must have invested at least a fifth of that into the console version when I first found it on PS+. XCOM: EU combines excellent turn-based, tactical RPG gameplay with a goofy, tongue-in-cheek alien invasion story that I enjoyed immensely while playing. Any game that does an apocalypse/end-of-days/post-apocalypse scenario well will always have my vote, and XCOM: EU delivers on that in spades.
The only thing that was disappointing about the game was the ending; it kind of fit in with the silly nature of the rest of the story, but after so much effort I really wanted more. Firaxis apparently heard my silent prayers to the gaming Gods of Old, and XCOM2 will be releasing a little later this year. For anyone that hasn’t seen the trailer, XCOM2 is set post-alien invasion; humans have been conquered, subjugated, and integrated into the Advent Coalition. The XCOM initiative is now an underground resistance force, waging a guerrilla war against the oppressive alien overlords, and– You know what? Just watch the trailer: http://tinyurl.com/gmaa4bs
Remember how I said I loved the goofiness of XCOM: EU? Well, let’s consider for a moment, with things presented in the trailer as they are, that the entire human race has bought into the Advent Coalition, except for those in the XCOM initiative. That kind of makes the XCOM initiative a terrorist organisation, I guess? Also, there’s always the argument of “but why would an alien race want to invade a planet that has such limited technology?” The explanation for which at the end of XCOM: EU is, just… Mmhmm. It was clearly a setup for a sequel, one which promises a lot of what I loved from the first, and I’m sure Firaxis won’t find a way to ruin it. Right?
Oh, Team Ico, you tease. There’s a promise every year – normally around E3 – that you chaps are working on a game guaranteed to delight me and forgive the nonsensical delays I’ve endured. Last year, though, you actually showed me the most promising piece of footage I’ve seen since, well, far too long ago. We finally got a proper, live demo of The Last Guardian, and even though it barely showed anything, it left me in awe. Once “2016” flashed on the screen, I knew my body was ready to go jumping through ancient ruins with a giant owl-dog.
It’s not so much the gameplay of the game that appeals to me; it’s the atmosphere of the game. With games like Shadow of the Colossus and Ico under their belt, Team Ico have gotten pretty good at producing games that make you feel insignificant. It’s like the world existed long before you showed up, and it will continue to do so regardless of what you do. You’re a tiny speck of dust compared to the grandeur of what’s around you, and that’s awesome in the most literal meaning of the word.
It also seems like The Last Guardian will be a lot better in terms of gameplay than Ico was. As intriguing as Ico was, I mainly remember being frustrated that I couldn’t hurl that bitch off one of the cliffs. Last Guardian give you a companion too, but a giant owl-dog that can help you out is a lot better than a helpless child to join you in gallivanting through ruins. It’s looking like The Last Guardian could be this generation’s Shadow of the Colossus. Well, maybe not, but it’s looking pretty bloody awesome any way!
Roughly this time last year we were asked what release we were salivating for, and it was a no brainer. My choice was 100% ‘Zelda U,’ and 12 months later nothing has changed. It was unbelievably frustrating when news of Zelda’s delay surfaced, and a tiny part of me gave up hope on it entirely; especially after the release of the less than riveting Triforce Heros. However, here we are, still dangling the carrot of a Zelda to compete with the likes of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword with almost no new information to go on, yet I’m still obsessively excited.
I will continue to trawl every Zelda news site and Nintendo page on the off chance that new art or clips appear, but I’m not holding my breath. The basic insights we have were just a huge tease before, but I’m coming to realize that less can be more. If we had more to analyze over the intolerable wait time for release day, I’d be among the masses that continued to pick apart the game before it’s even playable. Without that narrative or gameplay experience to enjoy as a whole package, I’d be endlessly comparing what I had to go on with previous games and my massive expectations for the newest one. This would result in my moving to some Zelda cave where I could be forever online debating every tiny detail of the 19th game before playing even a second of it.
So Nintendo, it’s 2016, I’m old and impatient, and I believe you owe me an absolutely brilliant Zelda game. The HD re-release of Twilight Princess is great, but I need new content, and I can’t wait another year – mostly because people will notice if I reuse this paragraph three years running.
Have you ever wanted to become a real Pokemon master but realised that would involve illegally storing endangered species in your shoebox of an apartment? Fear not! Now you can achieve the next best thing with Nintendo’s up and coming smartphone game- Pokemon GO.
Though likely developed in response to the success of Nintendo’s 2014 April Fools’ Google Maps prank, the logistics of Pokemon GO are not yet clear- there will potentially be different Pokemon in different regions of the real world (made possible through partnership with Google maps), smartphone notifications of wild encounters, catching, trading… who knows? And yet even at the vague mention of these elements, unassuming Pokemon fans have come out of the woodwork and declared they will quit their jobs and live a nomadic lifestyle in pursuit of the golden 151 (they might reconsider when they find out about the additional 570 Pokemon).
Now consider the potential to couple all of this with augmented reality devices! That could be pretty rad (ticate) and may result in a game (or rather, experience) that actually resembles the official trailers (which I urge you to view).
Aside from the fact that this is a Pokemon game, Nintendo’s potential approach to Pokemon GO appeals to the traveller and exercise enthusiast within me. Many have jested that GO is an acronym for ‘Go Outside’- it’s like Nintendo might have been sending us a message with the Pokewalker all those years ago…
However, there are already concerns about the role of microtransactions. Can you imagine climbing Mount Everest to find that you cannot capture Articuno because an ultra ball is hidden behind a pay wall? Yeah, I’d climb swiftly back down to base camp too. Microtransactions could become old very quickly. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo approach this game.
At this stage, I am pretty certain that I’ll be able to say that I Pokemon went.
Due in March/April, Path of Exile: Ascendency is my most anticipated “game” (expansion) of 2016 because Dungeon Crawlers are my JAM these days, after being sufficiently burned out on competitive nonsense like MOBAs and FPS.
Immense customisability with hundreds of gem and item combinations as well as a massive passive tree allowing you to specialise your character down to the last detail, interesting sub-leagues that introduce challenges and game mechanics that refresh every few months, as well as a thriving economy based on consumable items instead of gold – and no RMAH.
The other interesting factor with Path of Exile is that it was developed just across the sea in the goofy-ass land of New Zealand, by a small team up in Auckland called Grinding Gear Games. And despite coming from pretty meagre roots, it’s managed to capture the attention and continued playerbase of people all over the world. Constantly improving and updating and rebalancing, stagnancy is nearly nonexistent – especially when combined with the sheer number of skill combinations to change how you hack and slash your way through the content.
People gripe about the graphics in comparison to triple-A titles like Diablo 3, but even those are improving on the regular, and the dark, murky tone is a welcome departure from the guns and dust of modern shooters, or the lighthearted pigtails and dance animations of Riot Games or Blizzard.
Would recommend to anyone looking for a thinking man’s hack ‘n’ slash – the detail goes all the way down. I guess you could also reason that the story being very thin on the ground unless you go out of your way to read and listen would contribute to it being the “thinking man’s” hack and slash but you could also reason that the story being thin on the ground contributes to the story being kinda bad.
Grinding Gear Games developed an ugly, free-to-play, semi-traditional dungeon crawler with just enough twist and modernisation to make it a world-class entry to the genre that anyone could be proud of.
The last game in this franchise, Fire Emblem: Awakening, was my first exposure to this tactical and relationships-based RPG series. Thankfully its success encouraged Nintendo to develop another title for the long-running franchise. Fire Emblem: Fates is an ambitious project that will exist as three different stories.
It’s good to see improving the plot is going to be a priority this time. While the last game was incredibly engaging and interesting, the overarching plot was largely clichéd and predictable, though it was nice that your actions affected how it played out. However, for Fates, the developers have hired prolific comic and screenwriter Shin Kibayashi. You may know him by one of his many pennames.
Honestly, I am a little wary that it’s being released as three separate games. Usually, a game with multiple, interrelated plot paths would all be part of the same package. The official reason given for the choice is that only having to buy one path makes it ‘cheaper’, but I’m thinking it will only end up being more expensive for fans who want to play all the story paths. And even if someone were only to buy one or two versions of it, how are they supposed to know which side they want to take without meeting the characters first?
Having said this, Fates came out in Japan last year and was incredibly successful with both versions of the game selling extremely well. The new choice to play Phoenix Mode, where your characters can be revived during battle (as opposed to between battles, or the infamous permadeath of Classic Mode) will make the series more accessible to new players while retaining the difficulties long-time fans have come to expect. I’m still looking forward to checking it out next month!
I’ve always been fascinated by the possibilities presented by procedural generation in games, since my first experience playing the seminal space trader Elite with its thousands of real-time generated star systems, to later experimentation with procedural animation and node-based texture algorithms.
With unprecedented hype gathering momentum since Hello Game’s teaser release in 2013, various high profile interviews with the developers have done plenty to suggest the uncapped scale of its open-ended interplanetary exploration and less to describe how this will translate to actual gameplay dynamics. Several gameplay videos reveal the active patrol of sentry drones, issuing a ‘wanted level’ for the slaughter of native fauna or inappropriate mining activities; however, there is little more than piecey information about how players will go about various crafting and trading activities as they progress toward the centre of their respective universe. Despite facing similar criticism to other open-world games capitalising on a wave of retro nostalgia (the ship HUD, a noted tip of the hat to Elite) the game itself has so far avoided the sometimes hard-edged, arbitrary effects traditionally associated with procedurally generated games and suggests further emergent possibilities for the crafting /exploration genre in a space setting.
This may all sound rather like technical posturing, but regardless of the final scope of play the release of a ‘procedurally generated deterministic universe’ by a team of under ten is still cause for interest, alone in what it represents to an industry still reliant on large teams laboriously developing pre-baked content. Whether or not the focus on single-player is enough to draw gamers from other contemplative online spaces, remains to be seen.
I’m sure I speak for a good chunk of the internet when I say I’ve played through the original Dues Ex over five times. The world of Dues Ex is so captivating because how closely it resembles the real world; the themes and conflicts that appear are relevant to our modern day societies, so it makes us draw parallels and reflect upon our own future. Over the next few decades we’re going to witness augmentations and cybernetics take off, how is the world going to handle it? Morally ambiguous conflicts are so much more compelling than the generic plot of saving the world, again.
The narrative of Dues Ex games (Yes, I’m even including Invisible War) are so fantastic because of all the indirect storytelling. The world is brought to life through an abundance of data cubes, emails, tabloids and lengthy conversations with random NPC’s. It plays to the strength of the medium; rewarding players for their curiosity and encouraging them to interact with the world around them. It caters to hardcore and casual fans alike, by not forcing anyone to sit through excessive cutscenes and dialogue. It’s almost like a difficulty setting for the story.
I suppose this is more just a rant about why Dues Ex is awesome, but if Mankind Divided doesn’t stray too far from Human Revolution, then we’re in for a good time. We already have a likable character, a fantastic writer and a bunch of lessons learned from Human Revolution. (Looking at you, awful boss fights.) I just hope they improve on the weaknesses of its predecessor’s gameplay, such as Melee combat literally being a battery powered QTE.
Here’s something that’s hard to admit: I still haven’t finished Dark Souls 2. Or Bloodborne. So it’s almost with trepidation that I meet the release of a new Souls game by From Software, as there’s a good chance it will simply pile onto my growing pile of shame. Dark Souls 3 looks to be the last of the Souls games according to a recent interview with From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki, a move I happen to agree with. While each iteration of the series is distinct from each other, the core gameplay has remained quite rigid – a testament to the excellence of the series’ game design. Rather than see the series stagnate in a never ending line of sequels, I’m looking forward to a Souls last hurrah, celebrating all the things that have made the games so memorable.
From the trailers and information released so far, it looks like Darks Souls 3 will have a more interconnected map than Dark Souls 2, and will reintroduce the magic meter from Demons Souls. To be honest, regardless of what small or large changes are made to a Souls game, I always look forward to the challenge. Souls veterans will know the visceral tension and fear of exploring new territory, and the exultation of finding the next bonfire or defeating a boss. With promises that the lore and story will have an increased focus in Dark Souls 3, it will be exciting to see how the three games tie together and if we’ll see closure to the rather obtuse storyline. Calling it now: at some point, you will have to fight some crazy version of the original player character in Dark Souls 1. Also, Sunbros are back! Praise the sun!
After watching Martin Sahlin, the Creative Director of Coldwood Interactive, nervously but excellently speak in front of thousands of people, showing off his game Unravel, and immediately touching the hearts of many with little “Yarny,” I knew I had to play the game. While puzzle platformers are probably not my strongest suit, it probably is one of my favourite genres, mainly because a lot of the time the presentation of the game is so unique or pretty it catches my eye, much like the games Limbo and Thomas Was Alone did.
Unravel is an upcoming puzzle-platformer game, set in northern Sweden, where Martin was born. What excites me about this game is the fact that while they haven’t shown much of the story. At the 2015 E3 Conference, almost everyone, the people at home as well as the people there, were somehow instantly won over by this little red yarn character, and I’m hoping that that love towards the character follows through once the game comes out. I am a little concerned about the puzzles, as I have read a couple of interviews with Mr. Sahlin and he says that it’s not going to be all “sunshines and rainbows” but I have confidence it’ll be a memorable game nonetheless.
I think what really excites me about this game is the yarn mechanic, where you use the character’s yarn that is attached to Yarny, to traverse the land of Sweden, all the way down at a height of no taller than about 6 inches. The visuals also look vibrant and colourful which is one thing that attracts me to many games. Also emotional attachment. If I can play as a creature that is made of yarn and travels by leaving breadcrumbs behind where the breadcrumbs are the string that comes off the characters body, and become somehow emotionally attached to that, I feel like the developers have done a good job.
And you bet I will be making my own “Yarny” before the game comes out.
What do you get when you combine the schematics of the classic N64 era, the art style of Wind Waker and the combat elements of Dark Souls?
Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth, a third-person 3D action-adventure puzzle game created by Australia’s own, Cardboard Keep, that will throw you into a nostalgia for old school game genres.
You start off playing a boy named Tavian, who is separated from his father, Emperor Magulus, by foul golems very early in the game. He is then confronted by Nyona, mother of the forest, who beckons him to begin his journey.
Throughout the game, you can change into two other “Warden” characters that have their own special abilities and traits which are predominate to succeed through to the area you are exploring. Medeira comes across as a spritely hippie girl who controls the flora while Bitt is a short tempered aged fire spirit who can shoot fire and even launch himself a fair distance using his Inferno ability.
Some of the enemies that you encounter resemble Amazonian jungle plants or moving Maori tikis. As you progress along, some give almost a supernatural sepulchral theme. These can be defeated by the weapon you collect. Your weapons aren’t infinite; they break after excess use. So you are required to scavenge for more weapons or recover them from your defeated enemy.
As you explore the environment, you are confronted by vibrant, colourful tones that blend well with their objects, surroundings and characters alike. The shadow casting as you carry the torch you find through the dark caves textures perfectly against the various settings.
Since playing a beta version last year, I can’t wait for its full release, set to be early this year. It’s a gorgeous classic styled game, and I promise you won’t be disappointed!
With the last installment of the Uncharted Series only months away from hitting the shelves (both physical and virtual) – an end of an era is cresting the horizon for lauded gaming studio Naughty Dog. While initially known for famed PlayStation platformer franchise Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog has gone on to further success with the Uncharted series as well as current stand-alone title, The Last of Us.
As someone who came quite late into the Uncharted fold around 2012, I instantly regretted having not been aware of what I was missing out on. Part movie, part video game – the Uncharted franchise has truly defined in my eyes the current generation of action/adventure gaming and has done so with a style, class and substance that has been unmatched in its field.
Following the journey of protagonist Nathan Drake, the game has sprawled across continents and told a slowly winding story that is coming to conclusion in April of this year with an old, bedraggled Drake going out for one last big score.
But despite all the things I feel this series has done for gaming and its genre, I also can’t help but respect Naughty Dog in how they’ve handled the conclusion of arguably their biggest success to date. Rather than continue to produce titles when the story has long passed its expiry date, ND have kept their artistic integrity intact and allowed themselves the clarity to understand that this is where the journey must end.
Regardless of the technical issues that have pushed back the games release back until Q2 of this year, I’m still incredibly excited and believe that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is going to be a contender for 2016 Game of the Year.
Sea of Thieves has been described as the most ambitious game Rare has ever set out to create. That statement alone gets me excited, regardless of what the game is about, but luckily it’s about the Pirates. Sea of Thieves was announced in June last year during the Xbox E3 media briefing and looks to be an epic multiplayer adventure game set in a treacherous open world of both land and sea. It is also said to feature endless opportunities within a pirate-themed realm which will allow players total freedom and customization.
Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda has noted that Sea of Thieves’ use of user-generated content will be one of the biggest selling points of the game as you’ll have the ability to generate dramatic and memorable stories. If creating isn’t your thing, you and a team of players can set sail on voyages for hidden treasures or jump into naval battles with rival crews. The presentation so far looks fantastic, with tropical island backdrops that look lush and that iconic Rare Studios design style throughout the visuals. If this game does indeed has exciting quests, fun online combat and a great user-creation community, then I’m sure Rare is onto another sure winner. Here’s hoping for a comprehensive and rewarding pirate experience, I can’t wait for Arrr!
I’m so ready for a real Ratchet & Clank game. Nothing could be more exciting to me than the idea of an R&C game with astounding production value, modernised controls, and new takes on classic settings like Metropolis or Veldin. Give me an HD Ratchet game with the branching paths and metroidvania stylings of the original. Give me hoverboard races, weapon upgrades, gold bolts and the heli-pack. I need these things in my life, and I need them ASAP. With such overwhelmingly high standards, it’s hard not to be sceptical, but I’m putting my faith in Insomniac. Don’t pull a “Fuse” on this one.
I’m bummed that the lore I’ve come to know so well is scrapped, but what’s new? Will the events of later Ratchet titles come to fruition in this new narrative? Will we meet Tachyon, Talwyn, or Skid McMarx? Will they explain why Clank’s name is inexplicably no longer XJ-0461? Having the benefit of telling a new story with already proven and developed personalities and settings won’t be taken for granted, but changing things up is just as exciting.
Now is the time for Ratchet & Clank. Considering the amount of people I’ve come across who loved the R&C games back on PS2 but never followed them onto the PS3, it’s no surprise sales of the series have been on a steady decline right from the beginning. It’s those same people, though, who make up the PS4’s now tremendous install base, and those same people who (I’m hoping) will cough up some cash when they spot a new entry in-store. Conversely, the Ratchet faithful have been waiting for a new, full-length, single-player game since A Crack in Time in ’09. There’s a wider audience than ever for Ratchet, and I hope they pull them back in.
Since its reveal during E3 2015, I have been anticipating the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn – it didn’t take much convincing to be sold on the idea of adventuring in a world inhabited my roaming mech-animals. Since the spectacular demo at E3, which showed off the dynamic combat and incredible creature design, very little has been said about Horizon: Zero Dawn. However, during Paris Games Week, Guerilla Games Lead Producer, Mark Norris showed off the game some more and expanded on the RPG elements of the game.
Guerilla Games has carved out a reputation for high-fidelity graphical action games with titles such as the Killzone series. With this style carrying through to Horizon, the games looks great, and, as seen in the E3 trailer, the action and combat are set to be very entertaining. As highlighted in a previous article, the dynamic combat system is definitely something to look forward to and one I hope to see a lot of in Horizon. On top of this, in the more recent showcase, it was shown how more strategic approaches to taking down the mech-creatures can be implemented. For example, predicting a herd’s behavior patterns and luring them into traps that you have set.
While I was sold on the “action” side of Horizon early on, as more is revealed about the game, I’m pleased to see more RPG elements creeping in. From simple things such as floating combat text displaying how much damage your character deals, to the reveal of an EXP and leveling system. Hopefully, these elements give context to quests and exploration that allow the well-presented world to be more fleshed out. It is definitely a game to look out for in 2016!