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This year hasn’t been easy and the fact that there’s just under half of it left is likely small comfort. But with every dark cloud there’s a ray of sunshine desperate to break through. It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for gaming so far but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete write-off as yet. There’s plenty to look forward to as we enter into late summer and autumn before the heavy hitters land in winter. That’s saying nothing about the beginning of a new console generation just before Christmas as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launch. So whether it’s a tactical RPG, a new entry in a beloved platformer series, the game superhero fans have been asking for or the (apparently) epoch-shattering sci-fi game gamers of all stripes will find something to look forward to here. The dark days are here but they too will pass.
Ghost of Tsushima – July 17
Ever since Assassin’s Creed came out players have said “This is good but it’d be even better if I was a samurai or a ninja”. Well wish granted. Infamous series developer Sucker Punch have been working on Ghost of Tsushima since 2015 and those long years in production show. The game looks gorgeous in ways few other AAA open-worlds do. Colours pop and blossom, protagonist Jin Sakai moves and fights with a fluidity few third person action games can manage and what’s more it feels like stepping into an Akira Kurosawa samurai film. Left for dead Jin survives the initial Mongol invasion of Japanese island Tsushima in 1274. Trained by a thief he masters both the way of the ninja and samurai in an effort to cast out the invaders.
Ghost of Tsushima offers a unique take on the samurai tale. No longer bound by honor Jin is free to do what other samurai can’t. With the Japanese armies in ribbons Jin must forsake his honour and become the titular ghost if he wants to save his family and home. It’s a good twist on the classic ronin fables and with inspiration drawn from Yojimbo, Seven Samurai and Ran right down to the appropriately titled Kurosawa monochrome mode Ghost of Tsushima wears its influences on its sleeve even as it carves a new path through these popular tropes.
Carrion – July 23
The reverse horror experience – playing as the monster rather than the victims – has been reserved mostly to multiplayer games like Friday the 13th: The Game, Predator: Hunting Grounds and Dead by Daylight. That came with a certain amount of risk however as players who wanted to play as Jason Voorhees or any of the horrors offered by Dead by Daylight would also be rolling the dice with a slim chance of getting to play as their favourite slasher villain. Not so with Carrion. The Devolver Digital published game promises to give monster sympathisers the world over the chance to slaughter any amount of guards and scientists as an amorphous red, fanged blob.
Wasteland 3 – August 28
Still have that old Fallout itch? Need something better looking than Fallout or Fallout 2? Wasteland should have that feeling and graphical update in spades. Inspired by the post-apocalyptic setting of the original Fallout games before Bethesda streamlined them into the barely tactical mass market shooter RPGs we know today the Wasteland series has flown its Fallout flag high across three PC games so far. Following the last survivor of Team November, a member of Wasteland’s infamous ranger squads, the game will ask you to fight and survive in the snowy wastelands of post-apocalypse Colorado.
Wasteland 3 is like any good sequel in that it promises more of the same but better. The distinct challenge of an isometric RPG remains but with a snowy, icy aesthetic ripped from the likes of Metro 2033 and Lost Planet. Think The Day After Tomorrow but if the Russians and Americans had nuked the world, hastening climate change and mutating entire species in the process. That’s a lot worse than Jake Gyllenhaal freezing in the New York Public Library right?
Baldur’s Gate 3 – August (Maybe)
Speaking of isometric RPGs that happen to be the third game in a series Baldur’s Gate 3 is due an Early Access release in August. Although developer Larian Studios have been hedging their bets a release some time this year still looks likely. The Baldur’s Gate 3 hype cycle has suggested great things to come. From lovingly rendered characters and scenery to open ended quests to an intelligent and varied combat system the developers of the Divinity series are promising big things with a much loved property.
Based on the 5th edition of the Dungeons and Dragons rule set Baldur’s Gate 3 promises to advance the tactical, challenging and hardcore combat that made Divinity: Original Sin 2 such a hit with RPG fans. Although its release date is still uncertain the long gameplay sections we’ve been shown so far are doing a pretty good job of showing just how Larian Studios plan to deliver on some enormous promises. This won’t break the RPG world wide open but it will deepen the aspects everyone already loves about these games.
Marvel’s Avengers – September 4
We got a brief taste of what it’s like to be a superhero with Iron Man VR earlier this summer but now we’re taking control of the whole Avengers team. Not all at the same time of course. Although Earth’s greatest superheroes don’t look anything like they do in the movies this is pretty clearly a different direction to Marvel’s long-running Extended Universe. Beginning as the game does with the apparent death of Captain America and the dissolution of the Avengers it’s hard to make a cleaner break from the movies a great deal of people love so much.
It’s not easy making games what with all their moving parts but at least superhero games like the Arkham games and the more recent Spider-Man had a specific superhero to focus on. Marvel’s Avengers has a whole team of them from the Hulk to Miss Marvel to Black Widow and Iron Man. The difficulty here is making each hero feel unique and different. In Arkham City you felt like you were Batman ditto in Spider-Man (but with, well, Spider-Man). Time will tell whether Marvel’s Avengers feels as varied as its roster but playing as them will certainly be that bit more exciting than watching them.
Star Wars: Squadrons – October 2
One of the best parts of the original Star Wars Battlefront II was the space battles. Whether it was in the campaign as the 501st Legion or playing as one of the four factions in Galactic Conquest space warfare was one of the most fun and challenging parts of the game. Now its back in a multiplayer format. Set after the Return of the Jedi Motive Studios’ game pits the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron against the Empire’s Titan Squadron. With ten players of five versus five Star Wars: Squadrons promises the frenetic pace of Battlefront II’s space battles updated for the modern era.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – October 2
Yes it’s technically the eighth mainstream entry in the Crash franchise. No I don’t care. After the decidedly too loyal remaster left a lot of PS4 controllers in heaps of plastic kindling Crash Bandicoot 4 seems to be aiming for a similar challenge level but with less of the frustration the remastered trilogy brought with it. With the option to switch between Crash and Coco as well as the occasional switcheroo with Dr N. Cortex Crash Bandicoot 4’s gameplay promises as much variety as its multiverse setting does. It’s about time indeed…
Cyberpunk 2077 – November 19
Cyberpunk 2077 will shatter the epoch we are currently living in. It will redefine what it means to play games. It will heal the divide between gamers and non-gamers. Or it won’t. At the very worst Cyberpunk 2077 will just be very good. But with that said it does promise a lot. No game will ever offer true freedom but CD Projekt Red’s long-in-the-works sci-fi RPG promises to expand on the freedom offered by their paradigmatic work The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Set in Night City on the California coast the game seems to be living up to the cyber in the title but can it live up to the punk it also promises?
There’s no point in calling something cyberpunk if the game isn’t about fighting the system. That’s not what William Gibson died for. What do you mean he’s not dead? He just retweets former President Bush Jr’s speechwriter? OK somehow that’s worse. Point being: you can’t call something punk without raging against the machine a little or a lot. There’s no doubt that Cyberpunk 2077 will land where it matters to gamers but for cyberpunk fans? Well, only time will tell.