By all accounts 2015 is already rounding up to be a much more eventful year for gaming then this past year. While 2014 with its somewhat arbitrary jump to “next-gen” brought forth releases that were markedly more technically sophisticated, the supposed leap in hardware simply didn’t result in any sort of significant or paradigmal-shifting change. Nor did the release of the PS4 or the Xbox One bring with it many new releases or properties.
The past year in regards to major releases was largely bare with most of the releases clustered towards the holiday season. And while there were definite noteworthy releases like the offerings from Telltale, Bungie’s Destiny, or continuing franchises like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, 2014 was largely characterized by the advent of Steam Early Access and various controversies that have resulted in a healthy amount of lively discourse that has largely put scrutiny upon the industry and those that professionally write about it.
In other words, 2014 was a year as much about the smaller releases and those technically still in production like The Forest, Gang Beasts, or Rust which have already received relative success due to both Steam Early Access and coverage by Youtubers like the Yogscast or TheCreatures.
Conversely 2015 while likely seeing the proper release of many of these current Early Access titles, will largely be characterized as the first year that will heavily promote games specifically for the next-gen consoles and the roster of upcoming major releases is already quite substantial.
The following is a selection of what I am personally looking most forward to playing and is by no means meant to be authoritative. These are simply the games I am most likely to play over the multitude of other great releases coming out next year.
Without a doubt, the thing I am most looking forward to in 2015 is playing through the rest of Dreamfall Chapters. As someone who considers The Longest Journey as one of the greatest, if not “the greatest” point-and-click adventure ever made, Dreamfall Chapters was something I was immediately excited for.
Dreamfall the sequel to The Longest Journey left things off at a massive cliffhanger over eight years ago with no hope of ever seeing proper resolution. Thanks to Kickstarter, the original developers funded Dreamfall Chapters which picks things up right where they left off. In the first episode, we learn immediately of April Ryan’s fate and whether or not Zoe comes out of her coma. While it’s hard to say whether a great deal actually happens in the first episode, it does leave the player eager for more and does a fairly decent job of laying down some solid groundwork to both build interest and reintroduce players back to the worlds of Arcadia and Stark.
But much like its predecessors, Dreamfall Chapters so far has excelled at the simple exploration of its world spaces which are somehow still refreshing and engaging. Walking around Propast one can easily get sidetracked despite the actual small scale of the district. What it lacks for in size, it makes up for with depth and intricacy. PCGamer’s Richard Cobbett did a rather intriguing write-up on how the space of Propast differs from other game spaces and examples of cyberpunk then people might be used to which is definitely worth a read.
And while Dreamfall Chapters should for the most part be accessible to newcomers, much of its appeal may be lost on those unfamiliar with the rather complex lore and backstory of the series prior. But that said, while point-and-click is most certainly a dated genre, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall can still be enjoyed in this day and age especially by those who enjoy the more modernized adventure games put out by Telltale.
GTA V has actually been out for awhile, but the PC release of it won’t release until the beginning of 2015. Of which will seemingly have more sophisticated graphical options, improved visual fidelity, and a litany of other features that didn’t make it to consoles. And while I may seem to come off as highly critical of GTA on a regular basis especially when comparing it to Saints Row, it’s still a series I have always enjoyed immensely. GTA V with its grand scope is no exception and its upcoming release on PC is something I’ve definitely been eagerly anticipating.
And while there is no word on any sort of official mod support, GTA V much like its predecessors will likely result in a lively and robust modding community that is only possible through a PC release. And in this manner much like Skyrim, GTA V offers an exciting venture not simply for the gameplay developed by Rockstar themselves, rather what modders and players can potentially create on their own.
And as someone who typically avoids multiplayer, GTA V is the rare game where the multiplayer aspect is what intrigues me the most. Open world multiplayer hasn’t had the best track record especially considering Rockstar’s own past forays into it and the notorious failure of MMO A.P.B. But if the various “Let’s Play” videos by Youtubers like UberHaxorNova are any indication, it’s looking as if GTA V finally got it right with gameplay that has actually been carefully thought out, instead of lazily tacked on as merely an additional advertised feature.
I have to say that the idea of flying around Hell fighting demons isn’t exactly what I had in mind, but then again neither was being stuck in a Matrix-like simulation and Saints Row IV somehow made that work out brilliantly. That said, while the Saints Row series has once again went off on a huge unexpected tangent, I have no worries that Volition will somehow make it work.
And from a purely mechanical standpoint, Gat Out of Hell is definitely continuing a tradition of coming up with ever increasingly insane arsenals. With this upcoming hellish iteration, Volition has come up with weapons based off the seven deadly sins. A definite favorite being the “Sloth” weapon which sees Gat sitting back in a mobile recliner equipped with miniguns and rocket launchers.
What will ultimately be interesting about this particular entry in the Saints Row series is how the absence of the main protagonist will effect the manner in which players connect to the game world with players now controlling Johnny Gat or Kinzie in cooperative play. And while concerns over not being able to play as one’s own custom Boss are partially valid, Gat Out of Hell may prove to be an effective way at exploring secondary characters of the franchise that previously didn’t get the attention they deserve.
In either case as a standalone expansion to Saints Row IV, it might be best to simply consider it as a fun diversionary venture as opposed to a proper followup in the series’ main narrative for those that may find the premise of this upcoming entry a bit too much.
But personally at the end of the day any Saints Row is a good thing and it’s difficult not to get excited about the simple fact that Saints Row IV won’t be the end of this great franchise. Gat Out of Hell past its own potential merits, can easily be taken as a sign that Saints Row V will most certainly go into development shortly after dependent on its success. My write-up of the Saints Row series so far can also be read here.
It seems that within the last decade or so that fighting games have become somewhat of a niche genre. One that is while most certainly played by the general gaming public, is only enjoyed passionately by a select few. It is a genre that is also frequently ignored by the media in light of more exciting narrative-driven titles or those continually introducing innovative or experimental approaches to gameplay.
For better or worse, fighting games haven’t really changed all that much from their inception. Past simply adding more moves, combos, or other complexities, the genre hasn’t gone through any sort of significant paradigmal shifts in recent history. If anything it has become an arena of competitive play over thoughtful methodology in bridging any sort of gap between utilizing gameplay past its own direct merits of recreation.
It’s a genre that is extremely centered upon a single mechanical system and doesn’t typically lend itself to work outside its very specified scope. This isn’t directly something to criticize but it has more often then not resulted in franchises that have been unable to hold any lasting interest once the bare mechanics have become all too familiar.
Mortal Kombat has more or less avoided this dilemma by building a complex and lore-heavy world around its roster of characters. And while pretty much every other major fighting franchise has some sort of story mode of play, Mortal Kombat has always stood out personally with its completely “otherworldly” nature.
The upcoming Mortal Kombat X is looking to be a landmark release not only for being the 10th entry in a long-running series, but in its mechanical approach that sees it taking the best bits from previous entries in the franchise as a sort of “greatest hits.” The multiple fighting styles from Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance are being reintroduced in conjunction with the popular X-Ray specials taken directly from the last release.
Also from the new character and set designs, Mortal Kombat X is wrapping up to be one of the more aesthetically divergent and refreshing titles in a while, all packaged with a high level of visual fidelity that is decidedly next-gen.
As someone who typically avoids horror games and also hasn’t been a huge fan of Resident Evil in many years, Resident Evil Revelations was a surprisingly solid play. Ported to PC back in 2013 from the 3DS, its original constraints on hardware may have inadvertently stripped the experience back down to its core qualities. Something I found lacking in the main series with its more recent entries such as Resident Evil 5 or Resident Evil 6 which I found somewhat of a chore to get through.
And while my main interest in the followup is largely from the strength of its predecessor, from released gameplay footage and information it isn’t actually looking to be all that similar. Resident Evil Revelations 2 is appearing to be more atmospheric and explorative then the sometimes “run-and-gun” feel of the first game or the main series of late. It is also comparatively much higher in production given its development directly for the big platforms as opposed to something portable like with the 3DS.
But this isn’t necessarily bad especially considering the improvements in its visual fidelity, animations, and other assets. If anything, Resident Evil Revelations 2 is wrapping up to be an extremely intriguing title separate of its connections to an already established franchise and more as its own separate entity.
With its largely standalone nature, Resident Evil Revelations 2 might have the right amount of creative freedom to breakaway from a series that has become somewhat stagnate, but also provide a workable entry point for newcomers to a series that has often been too reliant on pre-established familiarity with the series prior.
With that said, I do have some reservations on the episodic structure proposed which seems like it will only prove to make the experience unnaturally segmented. And past simply sharing the name, Resident Evil Relevations 2 has basically nothing to do with its predecessor which is admittedly the primary reason I ever paid any attention to this. However from what I have seen and considering it on its own, the game is still definitely holding my interest.
Aside from a brief cinematic trailer and a sampling of concept art, little has yet to be revealed on Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it is fairly safe to assume that it should follow closely on the successes of its predecessor both mechanically and in narrative given the return of most of the same individuals behind it like lead writer Rhianna Pratchett and actress Camilla Luddington.
And still in its early days of development, it has already been the focus of one of the year’s gaming controversies with Microsoft’s announcement of a timed exclusivity deal that will prevent a simultaneous PC or Playstation release at launch. While my own personal opinions on the matter are somewhat mixed, I do tend to believe that the deal may have simply been a necessity for Crystal Dynamics to get the proper funding in order for the game to be developed especially in light of Square Enix’s continually questionable financial state. In which case, a mere delayed release for the non-Xbox market is a small price to pay to get the game at all.
I basically loved the original reboot from 2013 which can be read about here and on the strength of what Crystal Dynamics was able to achieve previously, Rise of the Tomb Raider is quite easy to get excited for.
And while Tomb Raider did a solid job on resolving its own self-contained narratives, as an origin story of sorts, it still didn’t leave players off at a point where they would expect Lara to be. Rise of the Tomb Raider by all accounts seems to continue that development into the type of character that most of us are expecting her to become. Someone who simply didn’t go through traumatic events, but becomes someone else entirely.
My personal hopes for the game considering little has yet to be revealed, is to essentially see a refinement of the original reboot but also a shift to a different type of game space that brings with it its own span of mechanical relationships. The 2013 reboot already did an excellent job at placing Lara in a survivalist setting so one would hope that the followup doesn’t simply retread this same area. Rather I fully expect to see a much more prepared Lara faced with an even greater ordeal. But above all else, I expect Crystal Dynamics to continue and build upon the already excellent character progression established in their first game.
The premise alone had me sold on The Division and I am honestly surprised it took this long for a major developer to make something along these lines. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a post-apocalyptic scenario where I could play out all of my tactical SHTF survivalist fantasies as a complete gear-junkie/prepper myself. While people might argue that State of Decay or DayZ already did this, both of those relied on the threat of zombies as opposed to other human survivors. And even though we have had games like I Am Alive, the execution left much to be desired.
Comparatively The Division is appearing to truly be the first game in years to really push the envelope technically speaking delivering jaw-dropping visuals and technical fluidity. Screenshots are indistinguishable from real photographs and in-game footage is on par with what one might see in a film with real life actors.
And it has to be mentioned that its graphical fidelity is somewhat questionable in light of Ubisoft’s other releases this year that suffered from misleading footage prior to release. Watch Dogs for example has been proven to falsely been shown in demo footage with markedly more sophisticated visuals then the final release.
My main concern however or where I might see the game ultimately failing is whether or not the online aspect will actually work as intended. The initial reveal footage showcased a squad of players expertly coordinating through a skirmish by way of verbal communication, but in reality online play is never so predictably structured especially when playing with random individuals who may or may not even have a mic. Ultimately what might look impressive in scripted promotional footage might be entirely misleading of the end experience and given The Division is online-only, this isn’t something they can afford to screw up.
Lastly while I don’t want to go off on a Ubisoft-bashing tirade, the rather invasive and abundant presence of microtransactions in their latest release Assassin’s Creed: Unity doesn’t do anything to instill confidence that corporate greed won’t completely takeover a project that is explicitly online-only. While the effects of real world currency into a largely single player game are often manageable, within the realm of massive multiplayer such an inclusion can inject altogether troubling dynamics and balance issues that lockout players unwilling to spend more money in a game they already paid full price for at retail.
For the most part, Skyrim has satisfied my RPG cravings for the last several years but I’ve definitely been aching for something new. The Witcher 3 is looking to fulfill that need with its claim of the largest open world of any modern RPG, stating a world 20% larger then Skyrim. Coupled with the claim of no loading screens and a playtime of at least 100 hours, its looking to be the next great time-sink or go-to game in between other releases.
With that said, while I enjoyed my playthrough of The Witcher 2, I was disappointed somewhat in its narrative that largely felt disconnected to players like myself unfamiliar with its world or lore. I’m hoping that The Witcher 3 with its grander scale will also bring forth a more engaging focused narrative welcoming to new and old players alike. And from what I’ve seen in gameplay videos, it does seem that the writing this time around is noticeably more accessible and standalone.
And while I don’t expect The Witcher 3 to have me finally uninstalling Skyrim or New Vegas, it might be the next best thing in regards to a momentary stop before Bethesda eventually announces their next release, presumably Fallout 4 hopefully within the next year. The manner in which quests are structured in The Witcher 3 seems to suggest the opportunity for an excessive level of worthwhile replayability where no two playthroughs will be entirely the same.
Lastly the one aspect of The Witcher 2 I was completely impressed by was in its balance between thoughtful strategy and action-oriented swordplay which looks better then ever in this upcoming followup. In conjunction with a return of branching narratives and a wide array of content to play through, its completely understandable to see why The Witcher 3 is already in contention for supposed “game of the year” status.
As arguably the originator of stealth gaming as we know it and one of the greatest video game series of all time, it should come as no surprise that the upcoming Metal Gear Solid title is widely anticipated especially considering its cross-platform release opening up the market from past Sony exclusivity.
Metal Gear Solid V sees the main series delving back into the past and placing players behind Big Boss much like in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. And while not a great deal has been revealed in regards to its narrative or premise, one can easily assume given the time-frame that this upcoming entry will further work to close the gap between the story of Naked Snake becoming Big Boss, and the events experienced by Solid Snake years later.
Mechanically, it is also appearing as if Metal Gear Solid V will be a significant departure from a series that has largely been formulaic in its approach. Instead of distinct and self-contained spaces, Metal Gear Solid V makes the shift to proper openworld play in addition to exploring new interactive systems such as horseback riding or utilizing companion characters such as Quiet or D.D.
Honestly D.D. might be good enough reason to want to play Metal Gear Solid V. One only needs to watch the released footage of him in action or the introductory cinematic to see why. And aside from the cute factor, it will be interesting to see exactly how a dog companion will translate into gameplay and exactly what that relationship will entail.
And while I did have some reservations on hearing David Hayter would not be reprising his role as Snake, Kiefer Sutherland especially given his role as Jack Bauer of 24 does seem like a fitting replacement.
Lastly there is something distinctly special about Metal Gear Solid in general that would otherwise be characteristically idiotic. Everything from its completely over the top musical score to its blatant 80’s action-hero sensibilities mashed together with a surprisingly convoluted and emotionally gripping narrative sprinkled with a bad case of juvenile dumb humor. But somehow Hideo Kojima makes it all work into a coherent whole. And already within the brief trailers released, this similar tonality is coming across which is admittedly very refreshing to see in an industry that has recently started to take itself too seriously.