2015 saw a staggering amount of great games released, with many of them (Bloodborne, MGSV, The Witcher 3) sizing themselves up to face off against the best games of all time. With the status of games set to such a high bar, 2016 has its work cut out for it if it hopes to measure up. Even if there aren’t quite so many heavy-hitters to get excited about as last year, that doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to look forward to. Here are our choices for the most exciting and enthralling looking games of 2016.
For the Nintendo side of this, check out our list right here.
20) Styx: Shards of Darkness
While 2014’s Styx: Master of Shadows certainly doesn’t match up with Metal Gear Solid V in terms of mechanics, what it did do was provide hardcore stealth fans with a ray of hope. Most stealth games these days, Metal Gear included, give the player too much power. Rather than being a ghost, players have become accustomed to being a hyper-lethal predator. Well, Cyanide Studios means to put us back in the shadows, with classic pure stealth gameplay that hasn’t really gotten much attention since the great Thief: Deadly Shadows. When playing as Styx, you really want to avoid any sort of confrontation. Your goal is to always remain unseen, sneaking through huge environments and leaving no trace of your presence. Master of Shadows was a great game, and Shards of Darkness looks to up the ante. It’ll almost certainly be an underrated game, and most people aren’t going to play it, but if you’re a fan of stealth, do yourself a favor and put this game on your radar. (Matt De Azevedo)
What happens when the makers of Mega Man and Metroid Prime collaborate on a new project? You guessed it, a whole lot of robots. Debuting at E3 2015, the announcement trailer for ReCore shows a human female exploring some ruins with her robotic canine companion. When the protagonists are suddenly swarmed by a bunch mechanical spiders, the robot dog self-destructs, taking out all the enemies, but sacrificing his own body in the process. When the dust settles, the girl walks up to all that remains of her friend, a glowing blue orb that seemed to be the source of his power. She picks up the orb, and places it inside of a large, seemingly broken robot nearby. The new robot comes to life, immediately recognizes the girl, and they continue on their merry way, deeper into the ruins. The end of the trailer shows the female lead with a small army of different robots at her side, hinting that the player will either be able to have multiple companions at once, or simply displaying some (all?) of the different bodies that you can put the core of your ally into. Nothing has been seen of the game since E3, and the trailer was completely CGI, so we don’t even know what actual gameplay looks like, but ReCore’s debut was interesting enough to make it one of Microsoft’s most appealing exclusives of 2016. (Matt De Azevedo)
At this point thousands of people have already played Overwatch via the multiple alpha and beta tests that have been held. There’s no reason to contemplate the quality of this game, we’ve experienced it, and we know it’s fantastic. It’s Team Fortress 2 mixed with DOTA, coated with that beautiful Blizzard sheen. The gun play is awesome, the modes are fun, the maps are fantastic, and the characters are amazing. The addictive gameplay and crazy potential when it comes to mixing and matching team compositions will have people playing this game for many, many years to come. In typical Blizzard fashion they haven’t announced an official release date yet, but come on, the beta already felt perfect. Just release the damn game! (Matt De Azevedo)
17) Sea of Thieves
Let’s be honest, Rare has been in a bit of a rut for a while now. A long while. It’s crazy to think about, but It’s actually been 15 years since they’ve released a truly great game. How did one of the greatest development teams in the world just suddenly fall off the face of the planet? Well, Microsoft bought them, Perfect Dark Zero was horrible, and then they were slowly transitioned into a team that’s been focused on making Kinect games. It’s been painful to watch. Many people, myself included, never really expected Rare to come out and announce anything of significance ever again, and then E3 2015 happened. Dubbed “the most ambitious game Rare has ever created” by Craig Duncan (Rare studio head), Sea of Thieves is an MMO style game where players take the role of pirates in a wide open world of swashbuckling and treasure hunting. How much do we actually know about the game at this point? Very little. But what we do know has us chomping at the bit for more. Sailing a ship bound for adventure with a crew of friends? Check. Ship on ship combat? Check. Being able to make someone walk the plank? Check! No firm release date has been set, and expectations should be tempered, as the Rare of today isn’t run by the same people that made all those N64 classics, but the foundation for Sea of Thieves is solid, and it has the potential to be one of 2016’s sleeper hits. (Matt De Azevedo)
16) Banner Saga 2
The original Banner Saga is a brutally difficult tactical RPG that has an incredibly methodical battle system and a jaw-dropping art style. The sequel, originally slated for a late 2015 release, was pushed back and is now scheduled to launch sometime in Q1 of 2016. Developer Stoic Studio has a good number of changes lined up for the sequel, including new enemy units and various new options in combat, as well as more choices when exploring the game’s over world. While certainly not for everyone, this indie gem is worth looking into if you’re a fan of Strategy RPGs or games that offer a firm challenge. (Matt De Azevedo)
15) New Danganronpa V3: A New Semester for Everyone’s Killing Life
The Danganronpa series has been a surprise hit for Spike Chunsoft, finding a small but passionate audience in the west. The games see gifted teenagers kidnapped, locked up, and forced to enter a deadly game in which the only escape from their prison is to murder one of the other kids and get away with it. After a murder, the teens have to investigate the crime and find out whodunnit, and then the game turns into a Phoenix Wright-esque class trial, with the courtroom drama being presided over by an evil robotic teddy bear named Monokuma. Both of the first two games, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair, told gripping, ambitious stories featuring eccentric and memorable characters. Seeing where this story goes is something I’m really looking forward to in 2016. (John Cal McCormick)
14) Ratchet and Clank
This is going to be a big year for the Ratchet & Clank series. Not only is there a big screen adaptation coming out, but 2016 also sees the release of the rebooted Ratchet and Clank title for PS4. The upcoming platformer developed by Insomniac Games, is described as a re-imagining of the first game, but with a variety of gameplay elements from different entries in the series. As you would expect from Ratchet and Clank, the player can use a wide variety of outrageous new weaponry – and the 2016 release promises an array of new gadgets and tools. Visually, the game looks nothing short of incredible, and truth be told, it is hard to tell the difference between the game and the movie. Ratchet & Clank was originally released for PlayStation 2 in 2002 and in my opinion; it is one of the best exclusives ever released on a Sony console. Chances are this game won’t disappoint. (Bill Clay)
13) Quantum Break
Anyone who played the highly underrated sleeper hit Alan Wake should have good reason to anticipate this one. Alan Wake was hands-down one of the best Microsoft exclusives of the previous generation, and Quantum Break looks to be upholding that tradition just fine for the Xbox One. Set in a reality where time is broken by a failed experiment, Quantum Break looks like it will finally give the worn out stop-time mechanics of gaming yore a much-needed shot in the arm. The graphics are stunning, the presentation is immaculate, and the gameplay looks smooth as silk. Expect this one to turn a lot of heads in 2016, and as a fresh new triple AAA IP from a respected developer, it’s just the kind of game that the Xbox One could really use at this point in the cycle. (Mike Worby)
12) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
With the original Deus Ex being one of my personal favorite games of all time, I couldn’t help but be skeptical about Square-Enix’s choice to revive the long dormant franchise back in 2011. However, developer Eidos Montreal ended up doing a fantastic job, and Human Revolution was both a critical and commercial success. Now that they’ve proven that they can faithfully expand upon the franchise, expectations for Mankind Divided are through the roof. Where Human Revolution was about the Cyber Renaissance, Mankind Divided sees humanity turn its back on the technology, and augmented individuals are being hunted down and persecuted. From a game play perspective, Eidos will maintain the series’ unique blend of shooting, stealth, and RPG elements, but many refinements and additions have been made. The cover system has been overhauled to make it feel more intuitive and smooth, and Adam Jensen will have more than a handful of new augmentations to play around with. Key among the new abilities is the “Icarus Dash”, a blink which allows you to move around the map like Corvo in Dishonored, and an ability named “The Titan”, which allows Jensen to cover himself in a metallic shield that absorbs massive amounts of damage. Based on everything we’ve seen of the game, from story trailers to gameplay demos, Mankind Divided looks primed to be one of 2016’s biggest games, and perhaps even a Game of The Year contender. (Matt De Azevedo)
11) What Remains of Edith Finch
Back in 2012, Giant Sparrow released The Unfinished Swan on PlayStation 3. It’s a short but stylized indie game with a compelling story about a little boy named Monroe, who chases after a swan that has escaped a painting. The game received glowing reviews and went on to win two BAFTA awards. Now the small studio is back with their follow-up – What Remains of Edith Finch, a “collection of short stories” about the deaths of various members of the Finch family. The game begins at the eccentric Finch house, where players can eventually unlock the bedrooms of each family member to reveal their fates. Similar to Gone Home, you’ll follow Edith Finch as she explores the history of her family and tries to learn about their troubled and mysterious past. (Bill Clay)
10) Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon: Zero Dawn turned plenty of heads at E3 2015, which was no mean feat considering it was announced during the same conference that showed off The Last Guardian, the Final Fantasy VII remake, and Shenmue III. Featuring robot dinosaurs and a post-apocalyptic/future stone age setting, Horizon was one of a handful of games shown off at the conference that looked genuinely new and exciting. It’ll be interesting to see what Guerrilla Games can come up with post-Killzone and that they’ve chosen a completely different genre of game to create is commendable and risky. Plus, you know, robot dinosaurs, man. (John Cal McCormick)
As any fan of A Clockwork Orange should well know, a bit of the old ultraviolence goes a long way. With that in mind, if it’s a bloody good time you’re looking for, this Doom reboot should be right up your street. The trailers have showcased what looks to be an insanely wild ride, with tons of returning enemies looking more gorgeous than anyone could have ever imagined, especially for such ugly creatures. The action looks gruesomely intense, but with just enough fun and camp to give the well-worn FPS genre a long-desired about-face. Count on this one to carry on the Doom name with the pride that the FPS grand-daddy deserves. (Mike Worby)
Perhaps the only game that Electronic Arts is releasing this year that we are really excited about is Unravel, an adorable side-scrolling puzzle platformer from Swedish studio Coldwood Interactive. You play as a character made of yarn who uses his body to solve puzzles and swing across gaps while navigating the treacherous environments of northern Scandinavia. The puzzles are all physics based, and rely on the player’s creativity and the story looks to be rather touching. According to the game’s official website, Creative Director Martin Sahlin said that Yarny is a “fragile but capable” character and is a manifestation of the love and bonds between people. (Bill Clay)
7) Persona 5
While Final Fantasy XV will almost certainly be the biggest JRPG of 2016, Persona 5 has a good chance of making quite an impact itself. Persona 3 and 4 were minor hits, providing some old school JRPG action with a modern day twist. The relative lack of quality JRPGs gave Persona a chance to be noticed, one which Atlus have seized upon. After the minor success of Persona 4, they remade the game for Vita, sanctioned two anime series’ based on the game, released 2D fighter and dancing game spin-offs and topped it off with a Persona 4 stage play. There was also an unsanctioned porno, but the less said about that the better. The gaming world is ready for Persona to be a big hit, and given how popular the PS4 is right now, with the right push, Persona 5 could really surprise people in how it sells. Since Final Fantasy has gone off the rails in recent years, the Persona series has become my new go to JRPG. In 2016, there’s no other game I want to play more than Persona 5. (John Cal McCormick)
6) Dark Souls III
If you’re a sucker for punishment, like any good Souls fan, then the promise of another trip into a desolate world of pain and misery is just what you were hoping for. After Bloodborne went a more Gothic horror route, From Software is back to doing what it does best with a pitch-black fantasy tale filled to the brim with all the obscure, indecipherable lore anyone could hope for. Series mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki has expressed concern that the series could grow stale if it continues on this path, and has even affirmed that this might be the final game in the series, a fact that puts, even more, pressure to deliver a satisfying conclusion. Likely in hopes of assuaging fan concerns, the trailers released thus far feature a ton of callbacks to the series for longtime aficionados, and for anyone who hasn’t yet been on the edge of throwing their controller through the flat screen, Dark Souls III is as good a place to start as any! (Mike Worby)
Cuphead is the run-and-gun platform indie game (developed by Canadian brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer) that pretty much stole the show during last year’s Microsoft E3 presentation. Obviously, the visuals are what first grabbed everyone’s attention – Cuphead combines the look of hand-drawn, hand-inked cell animation reminiscent of 1930s cartoons with the sort of shooting challenges that Treasure provided in its early ‘90s games. It also includes its own original jazz recordings and a series of strange bosses that you must defeat in order to repay a debt to the devil. The game is said to be partly inspired by the works of such legendary cartoonists as Max Fleischer’s Fleischer Studios and has sought to keep the works’ subversive and surrealist qualities. Everything is alive in the world of Cuphead: and more importantly, it looks like a blast to play. (Bill Clay)
4) Final Fantasy XV
After the release of a show-stopping trailer at E3 2014, the trickle of information regarding Final Fantasy XV has stagnated down to a slow and seemingly methodical pace, leaving many wondering how far along the game actually is. After years of delays and restructures, though, Square-Enix has assured its fans that the latest Final Fantasy will be launching in 2016, and that is a major cause to celebrate. As the first proper Final Fantasy title to hit shelves in six years, Final Fantasy XV has a lot of weight on its shoulders, and with the bad taste of the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy still fresh in a lot of gamers mouths, XV has a lot to prove for the series. Let’s just hope that Square-Enix can make good on their promise and finally get it out the door. (Mike Worby)
3) Mass Effect: Andromeda
As much as fans love the Mass Effect series, there isn’t a lot of information yet pertaining to the latest installment, Andromeda, outside of a brief synopsis and a quick trailer from E3. Still, Bioware has an impressive track record and it’s hard to contain even a modicum of excitement when you imagine exploring another galaxy of unique planets and getting re-invested in the highly unique lore of the Mass Effect universe. After the mixed reaction to Mass Effect 3, the pressure is going to be heavily magnified for Bioware to deliver a worthy successor, and as such, they won’t be sending Andromeda out of the gates without a ton of polish and forethought. Little as we know, this is still a big game to watch out for in 2016. (Mike Worby)
2) The Last Guardian
Incredibly, 2016 could see the release of both Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian. While I won’t believe that either is actually a real game until I’m holding the disc in my hands, if they do make it out this year, sheer morbid curiosity alone makes me excited to try them out. Coming off the back of two critical darlings in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian is a game that has a lot to live up to, even without taking into account the absurd amount of time it’s been in development. It’s cute, it’s arty, and it’s probably never going to make any money back for Sony. Good or bad, I can’t wait to play this thing. (John Cal McCormick)
1) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a game that worries me slightly. The first three Uncharted games were some of the very best of the last generation, and then Naughty Dog outdid themselves with The Last Of Us. Expectations are high, but a couple of delays and rumors of a tricky development have the cynic in me questioning whether the game is going to deliver or not. Assuming the development and team changes haven’t derailed the latest Uncharted, given Naughty Dog’s track record this should be one of the very best games of the year. Oh, and if Drake dies, I’m going to send you a hamper of poisoned muffins, Naughty Dog. (John Cal McCormick)
Thanks for checking out our most anticipated games of 2016 folks, we’ll, of course, keep you updated on news, reviews and trailers for these titles as the year develops!
10 Years Later: ‘Mass Effect 2’ is An All-Time Sci-fi Classic
Mass Effect 2 didn’t just nail the formula for a successful sequel, it tied together one of the greatest science fiction tales ever.
Mass Effect launched in 2007 as the boldest science fiction project ever conceived for consoles. The complex mythology, history and the many alien races, each with their own political/religious beliefs offered a depth rarely seen in the medium. Only a game as ambitious as Mass Effect 2 could not only match the pedigree of such a massive project but surpass it in every single way imaginable.
Released 3 years after the original, a full decade ago, Mass Effect 2 set the benchmark for not just sequels but for science fiction gaming as well. Few sequels are able to overcome the weaknesses of their predecessors with such perfect accuracy while also doubling down on what made them good in the first place.
The first task that fell to Bioware was to refine the combat. The original game had more of a strategic angle to it but that strategy meant the game was constantly stopping and starting, stuttering the action and ruining the flow of the game. By streamlining the combat into more of an action RPG experience (emphasis on action), Mass Effect 2 created a much better sense of tension in battle sequences. Aiming, using techniques and issuing orders also flowed more smoothly with these changes.
Another major change was the removal of the Mako, an exploratory rover the player drove around alien planets with. While a novel idea, the Mako often lead to aimless wandering as the player sought out resources on the many planets of Mass Effect. Instead of driving to their destination, players were now warped directly to the area they would be exploring. Resource collection was overhauled as a result.
While few players will talk about the thrill of spinning a globe around and aiming a reticle in order to collect resources in Mass Effect 2, the simple speed by which this process was streamlined offered a hefty margin of improvement over the original game. Resources that might have taken a half-hour to collect in the first game could now be found in 1/10 of that time. Resource collection, while a vital part of the game, was never meant to be the time sink it was in the original Mass Effect, and by speeding up this process, Mass Effect 2 allowed players to get back to the meat of the game: doing missions and exploring the galaxy.
Of course, these aren’t necessarily the most significant changes that players will recall from their time with Mass Effect 2. The story and character roster were also expanded considerably from the first game, and these are without a doubt the biggest improvements that this sequel is able to mount.
While Mass Effect had seven playable characters, Mass Effect 2 expanded that to twelve. Not only was the amount of characters an improvement, though, the quality of the characters on offer was also much stronger this time around. A full nine new characters were introduced for players to utilize in combat, strategize with and get to know throughout the game. Among them were badass assassin Thane Krios, dangerous convict Jack, morally dubious Miranda Lawson, and hivemind robot Legion.
In fact, the cast of Mass Effect 2 is so good that it has rightfully become a benchmark for the creation of a compelling cast of characters in RPGs, and video games, in general. The sheer diversity on display in the looks, personalities and movesets allowed for the cast is awe-inspiring, and this is without even considering the trump card that Mass Effect 2 flashed throughout the experience of playing the game.
The monumental suicide mission to raid the Collectors’ base and save humanity is the impetus for the entire plot of Mass Effect 2, and the reason for which the player is recruiting the baddest mother fuckers from all over the galaxy in hopes of success. It isn’t just a suicide mission in name either, many, or even all, of the cast can die during the completion of this mission, adding a layer of suspense and finality to the final stage of Mass Effect 2 that few other games can match.
To this end, players were encouraged to get to know their crew through loyalty missions specific to each cast member. By undertaking these optional missions and completing them in a way that would impress or endear themselves to the character in question, players were able to ascertain the unquestioned respect and loyalty of that character, ensuring they wouldn’t go rogue during the final mission.
Still, even passing these prerequisites with flying colors wasn’t a guarantee for success. Players also had to pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of the characters when assigning tasks and making split-second decisions. Who you would leave to recon an area, repair a piece of equipment, or lock down a path, could make the difference as to who was going to survive the mission. Further complicating things, the characters you wanted to take with you to final branches of the mission might be the very people best suited for these earlier tasks.
“Mass Effect 2 isn’t just one of the greatest science fiction games of all time, but one of the best science fiction experiences in any medium, full stop”.
Getting everyone out alive is a truly Machiavellian task, requiring either a guide or multiple playthroughs in order to get it precisely right. To that end, my feeling is that it’s better to go at it honestly the first time around, dealing with the requisite losses that this experience entails. After all, it isn’t really a suicide mission without a couple of casualties right? Even with all of my preparations and foresight, I lost Tali and Legion in the final mission, but for the fate of the human race, these losses were an acceptable cost.
Even outside the strength of this fantastic cast and the monumental undertaking of planning and executing this final mission, there were other key characters and elements introduced as well. The Illusive Man, voiced by the great Martin Sheen, emerged as a necessary evil, saving Commander Shepard from death but asking morally complex decisions to be made as the cost of doing business. The relationship with, and the choices the player makes, in regard to The Illusive Man have far-reaching consequences for the remainder of the series, and as he emerged to become a primary antagonist in the final game of the trilogy, the considerations to be made were vast and insidious by their very definition.
With so many factors working in its favor, Mass Effect 2 is the rare game that is so perfectly designed that both its predecessor and sequel suffer by comparison as a result. While the improvements of ME2 make it hard to go back to the original game, the scope and ambition of an entire cast that could be alive or dead at the end of the journey also neutered the third game, causing many of the best characters in the trilogy to be excised from the final leg of the trip.
Truly, Mass Effect 2 isn’t just one of the greatest science fiction games of all time, but one of the best science fiction experiences in any medium, full stop. Like The Empire Strikes Back before it, Mass Effect 2 is the best exemplar of its universe and what makes it compelling and worthwhile in general.
PAX South 2020 Hands-On: ‘Speaking Simulator,’ ‘Iron Danger,’ and ‘Wildermyth’
PAX South brought an extremely diverse lineup of games to San Antonio, and in this next roundup, it’s time to look at another diverse assortment of titles. These include Speaking Simulator, the surrealist take on the art of speaking, Wildermyth, a beautiful new RPG based on D&D, and Iron Danger, a surprisingly player-friendly take on roleplaying.
When asked why he was inspired to develop Speaking Simulator, the developer promptly responded, “I don’t know!” That was exactly what I felt while playing its demo at PAX. It left me mystified, amazed that it exists, overwhelmed by its complexity, and delighted with its absurdity. Speaking Simulator follows a highly advanced android tasked with assimilating into human society in order to gain world domination – and to do that, he’ll need to learn how to speak first. Players are thus tasked with controlling every aspect of this android’s face and guiding it through increasingly difficult social situations.
Speaking is an awkward art for many people (including myself), and Speaking Simulator is just that: awkward. You can control nearly every aspect of the android’s face. You can move its tongue with the left stick and its jaw with the right, while manipulating its facial expression, eyebrows, and more with other buttons. This leads to a delicate balancing act where complete control feels just barely out of reach so that you must always be alert and able to sufficiently direct your mechanical face.
During each conversation, you’ll have so many different moving parts to consider. You’ll have to follow prompts about where to move your tongue, how to adjust your mouth, how your face should look, and so on. The more complex the conversation, the trickier it is to speak. Scenarios during my demo included a date, a job interview, and the most normal social situation of all, speaking to a man while he’s using the toilet. And of course, if you don’t perform adequately in these conversations, then your face will start to explode – which is only natural for awkward conversations, after all.
Speaking Simulator is the definition of controlled chaos. It shows just how difficult it really is to be a human – controlling the face alone was far more than I could handle, as my frequent face explosions during my demo showed me. Playing Speaking Simulator was an equally hilarious and surreal experience, one that I can’t wait to experience in full when it releases on Switch and PC at the end of January.
Iron Danger was one of my biggest surprises at PAX South. When I arrived at the Daedalic Entertainment booth for my appointment with Iron Danger, I didn’t expect to enjoy it half as much as I did. As a western-styled, point and click RPG, Iron Danger was outside my comfort zone. Yet the game is explicitly designed for players like me, who can feel intimidated by the immense amount of strategies and decisions that the genre requires. This is thanks to its core mechanic: time reversal. Perhaps this mechanic isn’t entirely unheard of in RPGs (Fire Emblem: Three Houses comes to mind as a recent example), but the way it’s implemented in Iron Danger makes all the difference.
It begins simply enough for an RPG. Your village is under attack, and as you attempt to escape to safety, you have the misfortune of dying. But death is only the beginning: just as you fall, a mysterious being blesses you with the ability to rewind time at any moment you’d like. That means that if you ever make a wrong move during combat, then you can reverse that decision and try something else. Time is divided up into “heartbeats,” which are measured in a bar at the bottom of the screen. If you want to go back in time, simply click on a previous heartbeat. There’s no limit on how often you can use this ability: battles become a process of trial and error, of slowly rewinding and progressing as you discover what works. If you end up walking into an enemy trap, simply click back to the heartbeat before the ambush, and try a different strategy.
Iron Danger takes the stress out of roleplaying. RPGs are all about making decisions, and typically, making the wrong decision comes at a high price. But thanks to the time-reversal mechanic, Iron Dungeon gives you the room to experiment without consequence. As the developers at the booth explained to me, the ability to undo your actions turns Iron Danger into more of a puzzle game than an RPG. It’s all about evaluating your situation, the abilities at your disposal, the locations and actions of different enemies, and so on. And if everything goes wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.
That doesn’t mean that Iron Danger will be too easy, however. Current indications point to the opposite. After I played through the tutorial, the developers took over and showed me an advanced, extremely complex level from later in the game, filled with deadly enemies and dynamic environments to consider, with fields that can catch on fire and explosive barrels to throw at enemies. You’ll have to constantly skip forward and backward in time only to survive. This combination of player-friendly mechanics and hardcore roleplaying combat is an exciting mix, extremely appealing for someone like myself who loves RPGs but doesn’t enjoy the stress that often comes with them.
In addition to video games, PAX South also had a substantial portion of the exhibit hall devoted to tabletop games – including, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. But if you wanted to experience D&D-style action without leaving the video game section of the expo, then Wildermyth perfectly fit the bill.
This new RPG is a hybrid between DnD storytelling and worldbuilding with XCOM-esque combat. Like D&D, it allows players to forge their own adventures and stories. Decisions during story events can impact everything from the way the larger story plays out to the weapons your character can use in each battle. Story sequences play out randomly, with events occurring differently depending on which enemies you’ve faced, which characters are in your party, which regions you’ve explored, and so on. It’s an extremely variable story, but with such adaptable writing, each story sequence feels natural, despite its apparent randomness. Instead, it should encourage replayability, to experience every possible story beat there is.
Combat plays out in a grid-based strategy style, similar to games like XCOM. Each character is decked out with unique abilities of their own, and can interact with their environment dynamically. My favorite ability to experiment with was with the mage character, who can imbue environmental objects with magical abilities, such as attacking enemies who get close or inhibiting nearby enemies with status debuffs. I loved exploiting my surroundings and constructing the best strategies during my demo, and cleverly using special abilities like these will likely be key to strategically mastering combat later in the full game.
Like so many other games at PAX, Wildermyth also boasts of a visually distinct art style. The entire game is framed as a storybook; narrative sequences play out in comic book-like illustrations, and environments and characters consist of flat paper cut-outs in 3D surroundings. Pair this with a muted color palette and a simple, hand-drawn style, and Wildermyth has a quaint, comfortable art style that really supports the fairytale feel of the whole game. Currently available on Steam Early Access, the full game is set to release later this year.
Indie Games Spotlight – Pastels, Parenting, and Pedestrians
Check out five of the most creative and compelling upcoming indies in the second Indie Games Spotlight of 2020.
Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s bi-weekly column that shines a light on some of the most promising new and upcoming independent titles. Though 2020 is already scheduled to have several of the most anticipated indie releases of the last few years, this time we’re going to focus on games coming out in the immediate future. From vibrant brawlers to daughter raising simulators, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy in the coming weeks.
Be John Wick for a Day in Super Crush KO
The neon-tinged shoot ’em up Graceful Explosion Machine quickly became one of the best indies on the Switch in 2017. Almost three years later, the same crew at Vortex Pop is back again with Super Crush KO, a fast-paced brawler set in a vibrant, near-future city. Despite the change in genre, however, it’s clear that Vortex Pop haven’t lost their design sensibilities in the slightest.
Super Crush KO plops players into a pastel world full of evil robots and cat-stealing aliens. Such is the situation of protagonist Karen when she’s rudely awoken to find her fluffy, white-furred pal catnapped. Thus, she embarks on a mission to punch, kick, juggle, and shoot anyone trying to keep her from her feline friend. Just like with Graceful Explosion Machine, the goal here is to clear levels with style, rack up high scores, and climb the leaderboards to compete with players around the world. Super Crush KO is out now for Switch and PC.
LUNA: The Shadow Dust Rekindles Lost Memories
Luna: The Shadow Dust is an absolutely stunning, hand-drawn adventure that follows the quest of a young boy who must restore light and balance to an eerie, enchanted world. This lovingly crafted point-and-click puzzle game originally began as a Kickstarter and is finally seeing the light of day after four long years of development.
Beyond its frame-by-frame character animation and appealing aesthetics, LUNA also promises to offer all manner of environmental puzzles to keep players engaged. Control will be split between the boy and his mysterious companion as the two gradually forge a bond and try to uncover the boy’s lost memories. With emphasis placed on emergent storytelling and atmospheric mastery, LUNA should be well worth investigating when it releases on February 13th for PC. Don’t miss trying out the free demo either!
Georifters – An Earth-Shattering Party Game
Genuinely entertaining party games are shockingly hard to come by in a post-Wii world. Georifters looks to fill that gap by offering a multiplayer-centric platformer centered around spontaneous terrain deformation. Players will be able to push, flip, twist or turn the terrain to overcome challenges and battle competitors in hundreds of stages in single-player, co-op and four-player multiplayer modes.
Of course, multiplayer will be where most of the fun is had here. Each character boasts a unique terrain-altering ability to help them attain the coveted crystal in every match. This makes character selection a serious consideration when planning a winning strategy against friends. To drive this point home even further, there will even be dozens of unique themed skins for players to customize their favorites with. Just like the original Mario Party titles, get ready to ruin friendships the old fashioned way when Georifters launches on all platforms February 20th.
Master Parenting in Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator
To say the simulation genre is ripe with creativity would be a massive understatement. Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator takes the Football Manager approach of letting players manage and schedule nearly every aspect of their daughter’s life; classes, hobbies, time spent with friends, you name it. The week then flies by and players get to see how their decisions play out over the weeks, months and years that follow. To keep things engaging, extracurricular activities and school tests are taken via a fascinating blend of match-three puzzles and card-based gameplay.
Just like in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it’s easy to imagine the strong bonds that’ll form after investing so much time and energy into Ciel’s growth into an adult. Better yet, Ciel Fledge is filled out by what Sudio Namaapa calls “a cast of lovable characters” for Ciel to befriend, learn from, and grow up with. Prepare to raise the daughter you always wanted when Ciel Fledge: A Daughter Raising Simulator releases on February 21st for Switch and PC.
The Pedestrian – Forge Your Own Path
The Pedestrian puts players in the shoes of the ever-recognizable stick figure plastered on public signs the world over. From within the world of the public sign system, players will have to use nodes to rearrange and connect signs to progress through buildings and the world at large.
The Pedestrian is a 2.5D side scrolling puzzle platformer, but the real draw here is the puzzle aspect. The core platforming mechanics are on the simpler side; players can jump and interact with different moving platforms, ladders, and the occasional bouncy surface. The possibilities of where this novel concept can go will all depend on how inventive the types of signs players can navigate will be. The character is also surprisingly charming; it’s inherently fun to guide the little pedestrian man through buildings and environments he wouldn’t normally find himself in.
Whether you’re a puzzle fan or simply appreciate the aesthetics, be sure to look out for the full journey when The Pedestrian launches on PC January 29th. Get an idea of what to expect by trying out the free demo too!
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