Now that 2018 is behind us, we can start focusing on the new year. Thankfully, 2019 is shaping up to be another good year for video games, and while we don’t expect this year to be as good as 2018 or 2017, both of which gave us some of the most critically acclaimed games of all time (God of War, Breath of the Wild, Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Spider-Man and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, to name a few), we expect there to be enough great games to keep us more than busy over the next twelve months.
It should be noted that while we’re super excited about games like The Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Cyberpunk 2077, Halo Infinite, and the Final Fantasy VII remake, only games (with the exception of one) that have been confirmed for a 2019 release are eligible to make the cut. In case you are wondering, we included one special mention because many of us here at Goomba Stomp are certain it will get a release in 2019, despite Nintendo not yet giving us any indication to believe so (can you guess which game?).
In any case, the results are a mix of triple-A blockbusters, unique indies, sequels, remakes, remasters, and new IPs that have piqued our curiosity. In other words, there’s something on this list for every type of gamer.
Here is our list of the most anticipated games of 2019 as decided by the GS crew, in alphabetical order.
It’s been six years since we’ve seen a proper release of Animal Crossing, and the world is ready to once again owe a raccoon a pile of bells.
Traditionally, the games see you as a cute villager who lives among cute animals and does cute things. These cute things include (but are not limited to): running about, fishing, shaking trees, fishing, catching bugs, fishing, talking to other animals, designing clothes, and celebrating a variety of adorable holidays. And fishing. A real-time clock clicks through the easy-going days and seasons, and for the right audience (this writer included), the laid-back sim is pure magic.
With each iteration of Animal Crossing, small improvements have been made. The latest will be the fifth in the main series, and thus far Nintendo has done little but reveal the fact that it is coming to us in 2019. But the hope of the legions of shovel-wielding devotees is that this iteration of their legendary IP might undergo a more dramatic evolution than we’ve seen in the past.
Regardless of whether or not we see a full overhaul of the undisputed cutest life sim, or just another slate of small changes, millions will no doubt be ready and waiting to pay their debts to Tom Nook again. (Marty Allen)
Microsoft debuted the first gameplay footage of Anthem at E3 2017, showing off BioWare’s brand new title from Drew Karpyshyn, a BioWare veteran who has worked as a designer and writer on multiple projects, including Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The game looks set to be a large-scale shooter in the vein of Destiny (albeit from a third-person perspective), and takes place in a futuristic, hostile alien world where humanity resides in a city guarded by a giant wall to help protect themselves from outside threats. Players take the role of a Freelancer, a heroic group that acts as humanity’s guardians and scouts beyond the wall. These warriors don suits of armour, known as Javelins. In other words, it seems like a cross between Attack on Titan, Destiny and Star Wars rolled into one.
A non-RPG is certainly a departure from BioWare’s usual development territory, but given Karpyshyn’s track record, I’m assuming the game will still have a decent narrative. It’ll be interesting to see what the developer can bring to this genre given their background in storytelling, but one thing is for sure: Anthem is an important game both for EA and BioWare, and an opportunity to restore their faltering reputation after a disappointing couple of years. (Ricky D)
There isn’t a whole lot of information about Babylon’s Fall, the latest collaborative project from PlatinumGames — the studio responsible for stylish, hair-trigger action games such as Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance — and Square Enix. The trailer, which debuted during Square Enix’s E3 Showcase in 2018, depicts dark fantasy world featuring a war with ancient gods, technological advancements reliant on a mysterious energy source known as the Oversoul, and prophetic visions of mankind’s doom at the hands of all-encompassing darkness.
The latter half of the trailer depicts a Nomad — an elite warrior and likely the game’s protagonist — using an energy whip to grab a towering, armored enemy’s sword to slice them in half, all without moving a muscle.
I must admit that the trailer, which is mostly just concept art followed by a short animation, left me rather cold on first viewing until the reveal of developer PlatinumGames at the last second. Almost everything Platinum touches turns to gold, and the last collaboration with Square Enix, Nier: Automata, might be their best game yet. Here’s hoping that Platinum have made yet another action masterpiece. Babylon’s Fall could also be a foray into a different style of game, as studio head Atsushi Inaba has described it as “a new challenge for PlatinumGames.” Here’s hoping it’ll blow our socks off. (George Cheese)
In 1991, Rare developers Tim and Chris Stamper created Battletoads, a game that became infamous for its difficulty while being praised for its gameplay, personality, and sense of humour. It was a landmark beat-em-up, and one of the most graphically advanced video games ever released for the NES. The premise featured two space mutant anthropomorphic toads (known as Rash and Zitz) who embark on a mission to defeat the evil Dark Queen in hopes of rescuing their kidnapped friends, Pimple and Princess Angelica. The game won six awards from the 1991 Nintendo Power Awards, and led to Rare developing various sequels — although none as unforgiving as the original.
After years of waiting, last year Microsoft announced a new entry in the series, and while we haven’t seen much (if anything) of the upcoming reboot of Battletoads, there is plenty of reason to be excited for the release. We do know the game will include three-player couch co-op, 4K hand-drawn 2.5D graphics, and more importantly, it is developed by Rare, who created the original Battletoads in 1991. For fans like myself who grew up playing the NES original, the new Battletoads is high on my list of most anticipated games of 2019. (Ricky D)
Everyone’s favorite Umbra Witch is once again returning to a Nintendo platform! After the spectacular Bayonetta 2 didn’t sell as well as expected, fans were wondering whether or not there would ever be another game. Luckily, a teaser for the Switch exclusive Bayonetta 3 was shown at the 2017 Game Awards, along with ports of the first two games. That being said, we don’t actually know anything about the game itself.
The first two titles run incredibly on the Switch, so it’s safe to assume that not much will be changing with the third. The level of over-the-top insanity was seemingly doubled between the first and second titles, and I’m not sure if our visual and auditory sensors are prepared for what PlatinumGames is cooking up for the third iteration. I’m not sure they’ll be able to top the intro of Bayonetta 2, as that is easily one of the most insane startup sequences of all time, but there’s a lot more speculation to be had as well, especially in regards to some of the game’s other modes. It’s possible that they could expand upon the online modes found in Bayonetta 2, as those were a fun diversion from the main campaign.
The real question on everyone’s mind has nothing to do with the story or gameplay, however. Fans really only need to know one thing: what will Bayonetta’s hairstyle be like in the third game? Long? Short? Ponytails? Bald? Who the hell knows, but it has to be different, right? (Zack Rezac)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
The ups and downs during the nearly four years since its Kickstarter campaign began may have been enough to dampen some players’ enthusiasm for finally getting their hands on Koji Igarashi’s spiritual successor to the many Castlevania games he helped produce, but lovers of that series and the genre, in general, should still be plenty excited when the game finally releases this year. Sure, the 2017 E3 demo was a long time ago, but even back then it looked great, sounded great, and — most importantly — played great. Hopefully, things have only gotten better.
Sporting a plot with eerie overtones of the body curse found in Simon’s Quest, the story sees a woman named Miriam who ventures to a creepy castle in order to track down the person that can save her life. What she finds are skeleton monsters, disembodied heads, and a vengeful witch that rains blood from the sky. These grisly freaks can be slain via the variety of weapons and magical abilities picked up along the way, all of which have strengths and weaknesses that encourage strategy and experimentation. A leveling system makes for continued progression, and the labyrinthine corridors of the crumbling castle are sure to hide many dark secrets. None of this is wholly original, but when executed well in concert, these elements can be supremely satisfying.
The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorites, and based upon his past successes — from Symphony of the Night through the excellent DS games — I can’t help but believe that Igarashi will pull this one out. The promised spin-off ended up well, and hopefully, the same attention and care will translate to the larger experience. I know I can’t wait to find out. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has certainly had its share of development issues, but that gorgeously gothic setting is begging to be explored, and the responsive controls suggest we’ll have a blast doing it. (Patrick Murphy)
Originally expected to drop last September, Code Vein is an anime-style action roleplaying game from Hiroshi Yoshimura — the director of many of the God Eater games — that is often described as an anime version of Dark Souls. The emphasis on parries and dodges, not to mention the juggernaut bosses, means that the comparisons to Dark Souls are inevitable, but Code Vein does distinguish itself with its premise, which underpins a dark story of vampiric entities collectively referred to as The Revenant, who have formed an underground post-apocalyptic society. Code Vein will also emphasize a “Buddy” system that allows you to take a companion into new areas and develop them alongside your main hero.
There’s still much we don’t know about Code Vein, but so far everything we’ve seen suggests it could Bandai Namco’s next great hardcore RPG. If the game does interest you, I highly recommend reading our hands-on preview from MCM London Comic Con. (Ricky D)
One of the more pleasant surprises of 2017 at Paris Games Week was the reveal of Concrete Genie, a puzzler/action-platformer that gently explores themes of bullying and childhood through gorgeous, hand-drawn art that stands out in contrast to its depressing urban environment. According to PixelOpus (a Sony-owned studio that works out of San Mateo, California), Concrete Genie follows a bullied teenager named Ash, who escapes his troubles by painting spectacular living landscapes and mischievous creatures throughout his abandoned hometown of Denska. As he masters this magical paint, he discovers it can purify Denska’s polluted walls.
Using the DualShock 4’s motion sensor, players can create stunning landscapes and strange creatures on the walls of the city, which then turn into living artwork that helps Ash overcome the heartaches of adolescence as he paints his hometown back to life. (Ricky D)
Remedy Entertainment, best known for Alan Wake and Quantum Break, remains one of the most exciting developers in gaming, if only for how they’ve spent the past few years experimenting with different ways to tell stories in video games. Now, they are back with another high-tech, supernatural, third-person action adventure set in a reality-bending version of New York. A woman named Jesse Faden (Courtney Hope), who is blessed with supernatural powers, becomes entangled in a struggle between mysterious invaders (known as the Hiss) and a secret government agency called the Federal Bureau of Control. After the Bureau’s headquarters (called the Oldest House) is invaded, Jesse is thrust into the role of Director of the FBC via a strange, ritualistic process, and must find her way through the ever-shifting halls of the Oldest House in order to defeat the enemy and uncover the answers she seeks.
It’s a complicated premise no doubt, but from what we’ve seen of Control, we expect it will be full of Remedy’s trademark personality. The developer has talked about having another game in development for years, but details have been scant. Apart from the synopsis revealed alongside the trailer, all we really know is that this time around, the game is focused on environmental storytelling, and the missions that players embark on will be more than just linear fetch quests. (Ricky D)
Even since Dave Jones presented game footage of Crackdown 3 during Microsoft’s 2015 Gamescom media briefing, Crackdown 3 has appeared on our list of most anticipated games. And now, after multiple delays and development hiccups, Crackdown 3 will launch early in 2019 for Xbox One and PC.
The open-world crime-fighting game retains the core gameplay of Crackdown and Crackdown 2, featuring a number of different organizations controlling the city of New Providence that players will need to take down by killing their bosses and Kingpins, destroying their facilities, and destabilizing their infrastructures. Right from the start, players are free to explore the entire city and go wherever they want, whenever they want, including in terms of how you choose to proceed through the game’s story mode.
Alongside the new date announcement, Microsoft also revealed a new five-on-five multiplayer deathmatch mode in a dedicated arena which should further help make Crackdown 3 one of the best multiplayer games of 2019. But while the game’s multiplayer definitely sounds ambitious, the tentpole feature of Crackdown 3 is its destruction, and from what we’ve seen and read, Crackdown 3 promises a scale and detail to its demolition like nothing we’ve seen a game before. (Ricky D)
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
First came Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and now we have another retro-inspired remake on our hands that stars the original mascot for Playstation. Dubbed Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, this is essentially a remake of the original Crash Team Racing, only completely rebuilt from the ground up to take full advantage of modern hardware.
It’s been nearly twenty years since Crash Team Racing first released for the original PlayStation in 1999, but Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled looks to give the Mario Kart series a run for its money. According to the press release, fans will be getting access to all the re-imagined assets from the beloved original game, including every original racer, kart, track, and arena, as well as options like Time Trial, Arcade, Versus, Battle Mode, and the much-adored Adventure mode — with some minor adjustments, one being the inclusion of online multiplayer. Expect more characters, more levels, and more chaos. (Ricky D)
Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
Technically, we are breaking the rule by including The Delicious Last Course, since it isn’t a new game but rather DLC, but that’s ok — the Delicious Last Course may just be the very last we’ll see of Cuphead and his friends for a very long time. At the centerpiece of this new adventure is the premiere of a new isle, new boss enemies, new weapons, and Ms. Chalice — a new playable character with a brand new twist on the classic Cuphead move set.
To say that we’re thrilled to see Studio MDHR release more Cuphead content is a bit of an understatement. Not only is the original Cuphead an artistic feat, but it’s also one of the best (if not the best) exclusives available for the Xbox One, and one of our favorite games of 2017. (Ricky D)
Days Gone is another post-apocalyptic game coming out this year which looks like it could have a lot of potential. An action adventure game developed by SIE Bend Studio, it focuses on a horror element that has dominated video games over the years: zombies.
Set in Oregon, the player takes on the role of Deacon St. John, a biker trying to survive after the apocalypse. The game will have to be impressive to stand out from the crowd, but I’ve felt cautiously optimistic from what has been shown. The zombies here are called Freakers, and one of the noteworthy elements about them is the sheer amount that can be on screen as they chase the player. In the released gameplay videos, it would seem that hundreds of Freakers can follow you at the same time. They can also run, so death is likely if a large group spots you, which could make for a more frightening experience as you play. The shrieking and screaming that the Freakers emit as they chase you is also pretty good nightmare fuel.
Gameplay seems to be your usual survival game fare. Deacon will need to scrounge resources in order to craft weapons, upgrades, and other useful items. He’ll also have to set up encampments throughout the large open world, as well as maintain his home base, which he will be able to communicate with during his travels. One of the key features will be maintaining Deacon’s motorcycle, which will be his only mode of transportation. Players will need to ensure that Deacon has enough fuel, and that his bike is well kept, or they may find themselves in the midst of a Freaker attack with no means of escape. Although a lot of this is stuff we have seen before, if utilized properly, it could be a fun experience.
Whilst not entirely original in its ideas, Days Gone has an interesting premise and shows promise. (Toni Haynes)
Devil May Cry 5
It’s such a shame that Capcom has already set out their cynical stall to try and add microtransactions to Devil May Cry V, because having played it at Gamescom last year, I can say without reservation that no fan of the series will be disappointed with how the game plays. It’s fast, it’s fluid, and Dante’s hair is the right colour — it’s all there.
After the angsty, emo DmC, Capcom has taken the reigns back from Ninja Theory, and camped the whole thing right up again, doing its best to be as ludicrous as possible to pull the fans back in. A transformable robotic arm for Nero, devil arms for Dante that are also a motorbike, and ESRB ratings that advise of people being impaled by demon tentacles and partially nude women whose “breasts and buttocks [are] minimally covered by blood, light, or clothing” — yeah, Devil May Cry is back, folks.
There are three playable characters to enjoy this time around, with the introduction of the mysterious V. Wielding a cane and a book — and apparently playing very differently to Nero and Dante — he should offer a significantly fresh element to the gameplay, which is otherwise the tried-and-true hack ‘n’ slash ‘n’ shoot ‘n’ juggle fare, albeit with a more photo-realistic graphical style, as well as some lovely 60fps to make it look all slick and sexy.
Capcom had a pretty strong 2018 with Monster Hunter World and Mega Man 11 revitalizing their respective series,’ and 2019 seems primed to do the same for Resident Evil and DMC. We don’t even have to wait that long for either title, and by the time spring hits, Capcom could well have two Game of the Year contenders on their hands. (Alex Aldridge)
Doom 2016 has unquestionably one of the best FPS campaigns of the last decade. Hell, I’d argue that it has one of the best campaigns in any shooter ever made. A brutal ballet of blood-soaked badassery, the game was so exhilarating that I genuinely needed a rest after every level completion. What was most pleasing about the reboot was that it expertly exemplified just how much the current team at id Software just get Doom.
Based on everything we’ve seen of the game so far — most notably the gameplay trailer revealed at Quake Con — these dudes seem to know exactly what to put in a sequel. The Doomslayer is taking his bad attitude back to Earth, and he’s bringing an overhauled arsenal with a healthy dose of athleticism along for the ride.
Sporting a Predator-like shoulder cannon and a serrated bayonet on his arm, you can be sure that the explosions and glory kills will be even more explodey and glorious in Doom Eternal. Not only that, but every weapon has been improved to boast an even cooler secondary function than in the original. The Super Shotgun, as the best example, comes replete with a meat hook that can be used to rappel straight into an enemy’s mush for extra shotgun justice, like some kind of reverse Scorpion. Don’t get over here; I’ll come over there.
The vastly enhanced mobility of the Doomslayer — who can dash, swing, and climb around the arenas with breath-taking style — will punctuate the long-awaited return of the smoothest, most brutal 60fps in gaming. As if slaying demons doesn’t look fun enough, players can now invade another person’s game as Hellspawn, and can even bring a mate along if they want to be a couple of ganky gits. Unfortunately, Eternal doesn’t have a release date yet, but will it be worth the wait? Hell yeah. (Alex Aldridge)
The long-awaited next game from Media Molecule, titled Dreams, allows players to customize and control characters that are used to solve puzzles by manipulating items and objects across the game’s segmented levels. It’s somewhat hard to explain, but for the unfamiliar, Media Molecule is best known for LittleBigPlanet, and Dreams is likewise a game about creating. It’s a wildly ambitious project full of imagination, featuring a narrator in a coffin and a bear armed with a hammer. What else could you want? (Ricky D)
The past few years have given a rise to the popularity of dungeon-crawling Roguelikes and Soulslikes, all attempting to capture a sort of atmosphere of death, despair and insurmountable odds, set to tough-as-nails gameplay. Eneme Entertainment’s Eitr is one such game (with a seemingly long-ish development history, now confirmed to be set for a 2018 release by Devolver Digital), yet Eitr set itself apart with its focus on nuanced (yet streamlined) combat, and a Norse-inspired fantasy setting that invoke the best of both of its major inspiration: the infernal hellscape of Diablo and the diseased dark medieval fantasy of Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls.
Visually, what is striking about Eitr is the satisfyingly evil-looking crypts full of both RPG and tabletop gaming tropes and plagues, and the Nordic, cold eeriness to it all is not something we have seen properly explored in this genre — or in gaming in general.
The genre Eitr will find itself in upon release is full of comparisons and not-so-subtle attempts at re-creating elements of existing games. Here’s hoping that Eitr can elevate itself beyond just that. (Maxwell N)
Far Cry New Dawn
Spoiler Warning for Far Cry 5
The ending of Far Cry 5 polarized a fair portion of gamers for its depressing and bleak tone, but I loved it. The game ends with the main antagonist’s premonition of the apocalypse becoming a reality, as a nuclear war breaks out and engulfs Hope County in flames. It was a shock the first time I played it; the bad guy was right and I was left intrigued, so I was pleasantly surprised by the announcement of Far Cry New Dawn.
A direct sequel, Far Cry New Dawn takes place seventeen years after Far Cry 5. It is set in Hope County still, though it’s looking slightly more post-apocalyptic than it did in the last game. Gameplay videos and trailers show what we have come to expect from the Far Cry series: guns, cars, animal companions, and just a generally fun time. They also show that the world has become more vibrant and colourful despite its seeming end. Games with a post-apocalyptic setting tend to have bland and dull colour schemes to emphasize the dreary nature, so it is a nice change to see blooming flowers and overflowing greenery.
Far Cry New Dawn is interesting in its concept as a post-apocalyptic game. The market is full of these sorts of games, but Far Cry usually airs on the side of fun. The ridiculous, makeshift weapons, over-the-top gameplay, and copious amounts of pink that we have seen so far suggest that this will be the case here as well. It is also worth noting that while New Dawn uses the same map, it is a smaller game, so it will also likely be slightly cheaper than the previous installment. (Toni Haynes)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a lot to live up to. Though the series maintained a small, dedicated following for decades, it was the incredible success of Fire Emblem Awakening that ultimately saved the franchise and thrust it into the AAA spotlight. Nintendo has treated it like a part of their core lineup ever since, and I couldn’t be more excited.
The brief glimpse of gameplay we saw of the game at E3 signaled several things. For one, the added horsepower of the Switch is finally allowing Fire Emblem to visually represent how many fighters comprise a unit on the battlefield (in previous games, it always felt like the characters being directly controlled were the only ones fighting). This extra power to play with is also translating to some truly gorgeous, almost Disgaea 5-caliber HD character portraits. While the backgrounds didn’t look quite as spectacular from what we saw at E3, the character designs were all fairly interesting. 2017’s Fire Emblem Echoes excelled with its presentation, so hopefully Three Houses gets the same treatment — including full voice acting — by launch.
The main questions still surrounding Three Houses largely come down to the story and gameplay innovations. While Awakening and Fates didn’t have the most memorable narratives, their casts of characters and the way they interacted on and off the battlefield was a huge focus. Will Three Houses follow a similar formula, or might it be more story-heavy this time around? Will the partner battle system, marriage, and children return from previous entries? And in a series recently infamous for having tons of paid DLC, will the game launch with a season pass like Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? I can’t wait to find out (except for that last one — that’s definitely happening). (Brent Middleton)
Obviously, the big selling point of Jump Force is the huge character roster featuring icons from Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bleach, One Piece, My Hero Academia, Fist of the North Star, City Hunter, and so much more. But Bandai Namco’s 3-on-3 tag team fighting game also has many other features that other fighting games don’t generally have that are worth pointing out. For starters, Jump Force features fighters battling in 3D stages based on real-world locations, such as Himeji Castle, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New York, as well as series-specific settings. It also allows players to create custom characters with just about every look, style, moveset, and detail familiar to the genre.
Unlike most games that have players pick a team of three characters, Jump Force has your entire team sharing the same health meter and special meter. Last but not least, Jump Force also comes with a story mode that attempts to draw together all of the characters from the many disparate series, while also introducing some new ones. All in all, that is a lot of content being offered in a fighting game, and while the jury is still out on whether or not the gameplay mechanics work well, it does look promising. (Ricky D)
Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Fortnite’
Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.
You know, I never thought I’d be writing this article.
I thought Fortnite was going to be another one of those fads that came around quickly and left just as quickly, a fading blip of relevance like every other AAA game that releases and is buried under something better. Whether that be better looking, better playing, or just plain…better.
That never happened. Instead, what we got was a phenomenon.
There are only three other times in history where I feel like the world “phenomenon” really translates well: the original NES, PokéMania in the West, and the launch of World of Warcraft. However, Fortnite really captures the meaning of that word. It absorbed, and to a slightly lesser extent, continues to absorb large amounts of popular culture, integrating itself into the American ethos in a way that sent ripples throughout the larger, non-gamer market.
It’s hard to quantify the impact of a peak claim of nearly 250 million players. Most games don’t reach a fraction of that player base and those that do don’t often carry the clout that Fortnite accumulated for itself. Oftentimes, when a game is as mentioned and cited in the industry as Fortnite, it’s for unmitigated disasters or fads that quickly fade due to their failure to adapt.
Fortnite, on the other hand, has done nothing but adapt to changing player tastes, pumping out content on a hitherto unimaginable scale on an ever-expanding number of platforms. What started out confined to the typical trio of PC, PS4, and Xbox One soon expanded onto Android, iOS, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch quickly. Well-optimized ports and eventual cross-play enabled players to play with each other despite their own hardware choices. That two friends with an iPhone SE and a GTX 2080ti-equipped PC can play together is proof that Fortnite has done well to integrate players together from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.
If anything, Fortnite has proven right a premise that Nintendo has preached for years: that the more accessible a game is, the greater the success that it can be. Fortnite’s accessibility didn’t stop at its incredibly easy-to-run game engine or its easy-to-learn gameplay loop, but also continued in its actual presentation. For a game ostensibly about hunting down other players Hunger Games-style until only one player remains, it has strikingly bright and appealing visuals. Characters and skins are not only instantly recognizable, but easily marketable, ensuring that all fans–yes, even the middle-schoolers you overhear at your local games store–can purchase physical, in addition to digital, representations of their favorite characters.
In many ways, Fortnite, and its publisher, Epic Games, remind me of NES-era Nintendo.
Did they operate calculating business with a keen eye for profit through manipulating kids’ access to the First Bank of Mom and Dad? Yes. Did they create playground, and message board, conversation starters that create narratives that continue exist long after irrelevance? Yes.
But, in the end, did they create games whose importance changed gaming forever?
Ultimately, I think that is the biggest aspect of Fortnite‘s legacy: it is one of the few games that did not shackle its free-to-play players with unfair restrictions or give paying players unfair, buy-to-win advantages. For all that it offered: hours of fun with friends, inclusion in massive social events, and the ability to continue your play across nearly every console, it gave it all for free.
And that, I think, will endure long after all the V-bucks and Battle Buses have faded away.
‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning
KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.
KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.
Push to Start
Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.
Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.
Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.
While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.
One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.
KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.
The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019
From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.
It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.
The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.
Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.
Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.
Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.
To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.
Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.
It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.
The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.
These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.
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