It’s strange to do one of these lists in the middle of the year. But then, I can (and I will) justify the strange timing by saying that it’s near the end of financial year here, and that Steam’s Summer/Winter Sale is currently wreaking havoc on my bank account. If only I could claim some of these juicy deals as work expenses! Anyway, the list, in no particular order.
Sacred 3 (Deepsilver Games)
Sacred is a high fantasy hack-n-slash series where the ensemble of the classes and characters have mystical and magical origins. The last game in the series, Sacred 2: Fallen Angel was actually decent in terms of graphics and gameplay. Unfortunately, the story was incomprehensible, but then again, so are the plots of lots of games and movies. That doesn’t make them terrible. It just takes away some of the emotional investment a player might have in the outcome.
From the trailers, it appears that Sacred 3 will launch with similar levels of action and crazy powers as any other hack-n-slash entry, but with bright glowy graphics. I like bright glowy graphics. Hopefully, this game won’t be as buggy as its predecessor, or even Diablo 3 on launch.
The reason that I’m looking forward to this, is the overhyped disappointment that Diablo 3 was. The monster variety was less of a spectrum and more like the limited selection of animals you see at the pet shop. The lack of character customisation killed any kind of creativity and, frankly, gameplay design logic. But the worst aspect of Diablo 3 was the online auction house, which is thankfully now defunct. Still, it leaves a bitter taste in any player’s mouth when the grind for loot becomes a commodity for developers.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (EA/Bioware)
I kind of look at the Dragon Age series as Mass Effect’s other half. One is a high fantasy, turn-based and real-time hybrid RPG, the other is a shooter-RPG hybrid. Both have engaging storylines and fantastic writing, apart from Mass Effect 3‘s gloriously stupid original, enraging, space magic ending, of course. The major differences, apart from the fantasy and futuristic science fiction settings, is of course, the way your player characters carry through each iteration.
Where Mass Effect has a single, constant player character, as well as gaming’s most awesome sidekick in Garrus Vakarian, Dragon Age has gone through two different heroes in the first two games, with a third protagonist, the Inquisitor now leading the charge. Of course, actions and consequences from previous games carry through to the ending of the trilogy, but just whether you’ll even see your original Wardens or Champions of Kirkwall is anyone’s guess.
Hopefully, Bioware has learned a great deal about just how fans react to bad writing and deus ex machina type resolutions. That is to say, of course there is a time and a place for that kind of stuff, but overhyping the end of Mass Effect 3 really killed it for many fans. Perhaps this is why the development team has actually been relatively quiet on that front, or I just haven’t really kept up with it. On the other hand, Inquisition is being made with the new Frostbite 3 engine, which promises some spectacular environments and graphics.
From the looks of things, Inquisition will return to the Origins way of RPGing, with proper turn based tactical encounters rather than the silly action platforming combat we got in Dragon Age 2. There’s even a massive scope, including capturing key forts and positions, and ability to deck out the halls of your castles as you see fit. If the development team does indeed learn the lessons of what went wrong with Dragon Age 2 and Mass Effect 3‘s ending, Inquisition could well be the RPG of 2014.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD ProjektRED)
I love The Witcher series. It’s a remarkably grown up trilogy, in the same way that Game of Thrones is a fully grown up television show and is a no holds barred interpretation of medieval life. The first two Witchers saw Geralt of Rivia trying to decipher the reason he suffers from amnesia , while at the same time putting down monsters, humans and dealing with powerful kingdoms, and bedding a bevy of women.
The games were a surprise hit and CD ProjektRED appear to be masters of making good RPGs. For the conclusion of the trilogy, we’re getting a Skyrim-esque open world game, which will allow players to truly make their own decisions about how the story will unfold and finally reveal the mystery of Geralt’s past. I’m sure there will be plenty of nudity, sex and general violence to please the fans.
If there’s one RPG that has the potential to kill Dragon Age as the best RPG for the next twelve months, this will be the one. It may not have the massive scope and goal that Dragon Age is aiming for, but it might just surpass its competition if it fulfills the requirements of gamers everywhere: a good f*cking game. Geralt of Rivia doesn’t need a castle to get his business done. He needs his trusty swords and his bevy of women though.
Grand Theft Auto 5 (Rockstar Games)
Currently, my go to game is Watch Dogs. I do love my open world games, but GTA is my all time favourite. With its freakishly over the top action, dark humour, and ridiculous blunt force trauma depiction of American culture, the series has gone from strength to strength. Enough has been written about the game on the interwebs, but all I can say is that I wish future instalments would get a simultaneous launch on PC, so we won’t have to wait for months to get the port. Frankly, it’s ridiculous and silly.
Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft)
Normally, I’m not a big fan of first person shooters. I can’t fathom why, because I used to like them in high school. Maybe playing a little too much Counterstrike killed the genre for me. Whatever the case, Far Cry 3, with its open world, semi-RPG world and choice in armaments allowed me to get back into the game (so to speak). Indeed, it’s a great series and is lots of fun.
Where the Far Cry series has so far visited tropical islands and deserts, the next stop for the series is the Himalayas, and mountainous terrain should be an interesting mix for the series, as players face off once again, opposite a crazy psycopath as an antagonist. I’m also sure there will be crazy gun fighting, sneaking into bases and the hunting of more digital animals. Maybe there’ll be elephants this time?
Whore of the Orient
Yes, it’s not a particularly nice name for a game, but this entry from Team Bondi, which made the rather fantastic LA Noire is another historical throwback in history. This time, 1930s Shanghai gets the treatment (hence the name of the game), occurring before the onslaught of the Second World War and the Chinese Civil War, Shanghai was a den of corruption, drugs and nasty people. Probably similar to today’s Shanghai, just with less skyscrapers.
Supposing this is another detective story with some action blended in, Whore of the Orient sounds like an interesting proposition, especially if Team Bondi incorporates its facial motion technology used in LA Noire. However, given some of the turmoil that surrounded Team Bondi at post the release of LA Noire, it remains to be seen whether this title actually makes it to market.
Civilization: Beyond Earth (Firaxis)
This is the one and only strategy game on my list. Sad, isn’t it? I used to love strategy games and wonderful examples such as Command and Conquer and Master of Orion live on in memory rather than on my hard drive. About the only series of vintage that has kept going is Civilization, and Beyond Earth promises to be very interesting, in exploring and dominating a new planet as pioneers.
Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen (Indie)
These two are neck and neck for what I think could well be the next generation of proper space trading and flight simulation games. Both developers have history and presence in the genre, with Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame and the developers behind the original Elite series making their next instalment via Kickstarter programs. I really would love a good space sim, because X-Rebirth was and remains such a huge disappointment. If these are any good, I might even buy a joystick!
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (Frogware)
Here’s a game that I wouldn’t actually play. You might wonder why I have this listed. It’s because The Boss will play it and she loves Sherlock Holmes games. This actually looks like quite an interesting departure from the norm of the series. The older games had you running around solving puzzles, which, to be frank, isn’t really what Holmes does. Thankfully, this game looks like it will allow you to do actual detective work, and ultimately decide the fate of suspects with your decisions. Hopefully the puzzle solving element is dampened down in favour of the far more interesting mechanism of clue collection and using the clues to determine whodunnit.