2015? Already? Man, is it just me or does each year seem shorter as time passes? Eh, that must be a thing that happens as you become older. Anyway, I’m on time for my annual list of most anticipated games unlike last year, and as for how my 2014 picks turned out, nearly half of them were either delayed until this year or turned out to be less amazing than I imagined they’d be. However, there were still some solid hits and even a couple of games that were better than I expected. I also have a feeling that 2015 will be even grander than 2014, especially since the PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U have games lined up that we’ve been waiting and clamoring for since their respective launches. In other words, each console has a solid list of AAA titles, exclusives, and indie games that will make any person who sides with Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo (or anyone who’s a part of the nebulous “PC Master Race”) rejoice at what awaits them this year. So, as we leap across the precipice of 2014 into the new, uncertain future of 2015, let’s all take a gander at the 10 games I’m looking forward to the most and be upset/sad/confused about the ones that have been cut, too. Seriously, you think I enjoy leaving off stuff like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Xenoblade Chronicles X, or No Man’s Sky? I’m crying tears over here. There are other games as well like Scalebound and Kingdom Hearts III that aren’t on the list because I don’t believe they’ll be out by this year, but if they were present, you can bet they’d be in the upper half of my list. Anyway, begin!
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Open World
Developer: Tequila Works
Release Date (NA): TBA
I haven’t really given much attention to this indie game, but upon taking a closer inspection at the trailers, I was surprised that it has been lying in the back of my mind. This kind of game is right up my alley! The developer previously worked on the “2.5D” survival platformer Deadlight, which is still buried in my library of games on Steam. So, if you’re looking at the picture above and visualizing what Deadlight is like, you’d probably guess that they couldn’t be more different, and you’d be right! The unofficial consensus is that it has the gameplay of Ico and the cel-shaded graphics of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I don’t know about you, but that makes it an automatic winner in my book. But to avoid more comparisons, Rime is specifically about a young boy who must reach a mysterious tower and escape the cursed island he’s confined to by relying on his mind and agility.
What makes it unconventional is that there’s no combat to be found here. Every obstacle seems to involve some degree of platforming prowess and puzzle solving skills. The latter is the larger focus for the gameplay though, and there’ll even be puzzles that involve harnessing light and darkness thanks to the island’s day-night cycles. What’s even more awesome is that Rime has no spoken or written aspects throughout the experience; only what you see and hear will convey everything from the entire story to every challenge. This is what Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does as well, and I consider it one of the most daring, emotionally impactful games I’ve played. It’s a rare example of a game that doesn’t explicitly tell you how to do anything. You discover how to do everything yourself by experimenting and trying out things yourself, which leads to greater satisfaction in completing anything that tests your wits. And while the challenges themselves aren’t that hard, they are presented this way, and I find that to be the most intelligent kind of game design, considering how hard it is to keep it from being unfair and frustrating. Super Metroid is an even better example of this, so it’s cool to see Rime attempting to be like this.
That’s just the gameplay! The cel-shaded graphics, wonder and innocence conveyed by the story, and (hopefully) the music is the delectable icing on this intriguing cake. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to bite into it later this year.
9. Yoshi’s Woolly World
Platform: Wii U
Release Date (NA): TBA
Ugh. This is one of those games where a man cannot maintain his, well, manliness while playing or looking at it. Anyone – male or female – is just going to have to gush over it in a fit of loud giggles, sighs, and “awww’s” because it looks SO DANG CUTE. Look at it! Everything (the backdrops, platforms, characters, etc.) is made from yarn, cloth, and various textiles, amplifying the game’s welcoming, warm vibe by tenfold. In addition, since the game will apparently play at 1080p at 60fps, it’ll be like you could just reach into the TV to touch the game’s soft tactile environments and objects. Unfortunately, that’s where reality rudely butts in and says you can’t do that due to the laws of the universe, so I expect a collector’s edition with a yarn Yoshi to make up for this, Nintendo. Don’t make me throw money at you!
As for the gameplay, it’s an obvious extension of the type of platforming seen in the Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story titles, which makes sense because Takashi Tezuka (producer of those games) himself is helping to guide Yoshi’s Woolly World development. I’ve only played Yoshi’s Island DS, but I distinctly remember its unique, vibrant graphics, tight platforming, and joyous music. I see all of these traits in the newest game and more, but what I especially love is that the visuals are not merely there to make your eyeballs melt from adorableness, but also to play a part in how you play and interact with the levels. Yoshi can unravel parts of stages to find hidden spots, form platforms in the air by throwing balls of yarn (which you’ll be using instead of eggs), and impede enemies by throwing yarn strands at them. There’s a multiplayer aspect to the game as well, and despite the fact that 2D platformers can be a hit or miss with this feature, it looks like it won’t be a frustrating trial to work cooperatively (looking at you, New Super Mario Bros. Wii). There are plenty of points where teamwork is highlighted in the trailers that I could list off here, such as being able to eat your partner, turn them into a ball of yarn, and throw them to an area you’d otherwise not be able to reach. Besides that though, there isn’t much else to say.
I usually like to play games that test my skills and immerse me in action, but I adore others that allow me to find fun in different ways, such as by merely discovering new territories or building collections of rare items. By focusing on level exploration without a time limit and much difficulty, Yoshi’s Woolly World might just be a relaxing, carefree game I’ll really enjoy. Also, there are so few games that my family and I have played together (I’m the only “gamer” in the house), so perhaps this’ll finally be one that my two younger sisters will desire to play with me. Who knows? It might even turn out to be more fun this way than going solo, which would be an exceptionally rare yet pleasant surprise for me since I prefer being a lone wolf player. Crossing my fingers!
8. Quantum Break
Genre: Action, Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date (NA): TBA
Remedy Entertainment has a talent for bring a TV show-like quality to their video games, which is most evident in its most recent game Alan Wake: a survival horror game that divides its story into “episodes.” Even the presentations of the cutscenes and dialogue have this quality to them, and I’m sure the Max Payne series shows this in other ways, but I cannot speak for it since I haven’t played the games (I know, I should). I did play Alan Wake though, and it’s funny because I bought it and didn’t open it for two whole years. Crazy, right? I just got it on sale one day and left it on the shelf since I had other video games to dive into. When I finally completed it in the summer of 2013, I was blown away by the mind-bending narrative, impressed by its immensely creative spin on traditional shooter gameplay, and drawn into its world by the foreboding and sometimes breathtaking atmosphere and meaningful characters. Point? The developer has a knack for story-driven video games that contain a couple of novel ideas (the famous “Bullet Time” mechanic in Max Payne, using light as a weapon in Alan Wake, etc.), and Quantum Break looks to continue that trend with how you can use time itself as a weapon and tool to bend to your will.
A University in the United States has been sanctioned to go through with a revolutionary time travel experiment, but everything goes horribly wrong (as always with this sci-fi stuff). Time itself is breaking down and will slowly reach a critical point, but Jack Joyce – among other protagonists – is affected by this botched trial and can now manipulate time in a number of ways. He can briefly freeze time and move to a different location to confuse his foes; he can cast a field of sorts around a person, shoot several bullets at them, and eliminate the field so that all of the bullets hit them at once; he’s able to approach an enemy (before they can react) and melee them as he resumes time, and so on. Since all of time is falling apart, Jack will notice the world stop at random intervals, which are nicknamed “Stutters.” They’re completely unpredictable in how they will help or hinder him, but he is one of a handful of characters who can naturally operate in these moments with his unexplainable powers. There will be enemies who have the technology to move in these Stutters though, and they work for Jack’s best friend, who gets caught in the experiment and returns to the present 17 years older to form a corporation to eliminate Jack and his friends. Why? It’s a mystery.
The story may sound a bit conventional and the gameplay repetitive, but what’s good to hear is that Jack will gain new abilities over the course of the game to mix things up, which was a problem Alan Wake possessed. As for the story, what makes me excited to get into it is that Remedy is really pushing the boundaries in how they tie TV to their video games. A live-action TV show is being produced that is directly impacted by the choices you make in the game, so I imagine there will be divided chapters and small TV episodes to watch in between each one that reflect your in-game decisions with, say, who survives, where your character goes, etc. I’ve never heard of anything like this! With this developer behind an idea like this, I bet they’ll succeed in their vision for Quantum Break.
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: From Software
Release Date (NA): March 24, 2015
I love Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls games. In fact, I own all of them, but I actually haven’t finished them. They require major time investments and I just haven’t had the time (or patience) to sit down and die over and over again to make slow progress. It’s a really satisfying progress though. In fact, these games are the most rewarding games I’ve ever played; they balance on the fringe of being infuriatingly difficult, but still feel fair enough because I always feel at fault for my deaths. It’s commendable game design that we’re seeing come back because of From Software, so with Bloodborne on the horizon, you bet I’ll be picking up the next masochistic entry in this dark game series.
We’re again placed in a freaky, ominous world that’s packed with relentless foes that will demand every ounce of your skill to defeat. This time though, the setting is taking a massive jump into the future with a twisted version of London packed with Victorian architecture. While much is unknown about who you play as and what you’re after, what’s known is that this city called Yharnam has fallen to a great illness, and you have to scour this place to find out why this is happening. Also, blood (as the title suggests) plays a major part in the story and gameplay. Speaking of the gameplay, what interests me the most is that it’s designed for players to take a completely offensive approach rather than the mixed offensive/defensive gameplay in From Software’s past projects. It’s all about dealing brutal damage and being swift on your feet, which is especially emphasized by the melee-oriented weapons. In one hand, you’ll yield a cleaver-like weapon that can be adjusted for shorter, quicker attacks and extended to deal slower but more powerful blows. In the other hand, you actually have a shotgun that is primarily used to stun enemies and get in every precious bit of damage to your enemies. However, what I can’t wait to try out is how the new risk vs. reward design to combat will turn out. What happens is that for every time you deal damage (i.e. every time you spill blood…what could this mean?), you gain back health, but you obviously make yourself more open to being hit the more you’re willing to attack.
With epic boss battles, some procedurally generated dungeons to explore, and greater depth being added to the co-op multiplayer, Bloodborne will definitely be a slight departure from its predecessors’ formulas, but it seems appropriate and a step in the right direction to keep things fresh for this developer’s widely adored games. Oh, don’t just prepare to repeatedly die. Prepare to adapt as well.
6. Halo 5: Guardians
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date (NA): TBA
Oh, Halo. It’s easily one of the best FPS franchises that has been consistently good. Well, to me at least. I’ve played through all of the main titles (with the exception of Halo: Spartan Assault) and love how nearly each one just feels grand. The scope of the universe’s lore; the wonder of the imaginative worlds, and the perfection of the gunplay is always a pleasure to come back to whenever a new title is released. With Halo 5: Guardians, I have no doubt that 343 Industries will do a fine job since Halo 4 was a fine start for the developer after taking Bungie’s place. What’s known about the sequel? Not much. The story premise is that a special Spartan agent named Agent Locke is commissioned to hunt down and find the Master Chief. He and the universe will need John-117 as a threat approaches that will threaten everything. Come on. It’s the Flood. Make it happen, 343.
Other than that, the multiplayer beta showcases a lot of surprising changes being made to the signature gameplay. You’ll be able to ADS for any weapon now, but it’s not like Call of Duty because if you get hit, you’re forced to fire from the hip, so it stands out in that regard. You can sprint indefinitely, but your shield won’t recharge while doing this. Every Spartan can charge enemies, hoist themselves up onto close ledges, quickly boost forward, backward, or to any side with their thruster packs (unintentionally like Advanced Warfare’s Exoskeletons), and so forth. Yeah, no Halo has made this many radical changes before, and it seems like they’re for the best to make the multiplayer a more dynamic, adrenaline-packed mode. But will these changes make their way into the campaign? What else can be expected? Only time will tell.
5. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Developer: Kojima Productions
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Release Date (NA): TBA
If you played Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, you know that The Phantom Pain is going to be a masterpiece. Even with a small sliver of gameplay compared to the dozens of hours the full game will offer up, it’s incredible how refined and improved the stealth gameplay is compared to MGS4: Guns of the Patriots (the last one I played. Sorry, haven’t gotten to Peacewalker!). The movement is impeccably smooth and snappy, CQC combat and shootouts can turn into epic scenarios where you feel like a boss (or a Big Boss, ha…I’ll see myself out), and the myriad methods in which you can take down enemies and reach your objectives are seemingly countless. The core gameplay is here from the past with improvements galore, but what makes this one of the biggest steps in the franchise’s history is that levels you’ll find youself in take place in sprawling open world sections. You thought the Camp Omega was big in Ground Zeroes? Oh man, just you wait. All of The Phantom Pain’s intricately detailed environments add up to being 200 times bigger than Camp Omega. Think about that for a second.
What you’ll be able to accomplish in this upcoming blockbuster is unbelievable. After the events of Ground Zeroes, you need to rebuild your base of operations as you recruit soldiers, steal equipment, and upgrade Mother Base by completing certain story missions in the order you prefer. While in the open world sections, there are day and night cycles, you can operate vehicles, machine turrets, and ride horses. The AI behaves realistically to your presence and each one will pose a threat since they can alert everyone to your presence. You’ll also be able to call in allies to support you on the battlefield, such as the sniper Quiet or even a wolf that can kill and distract enemies. Besides the gameplay, the graphical fidelity will match or even exceed what The Last of Us looks like on the PS4 on current-gen consoles with the new Fox Engine. The story – besides being wonderfully convoluted and intricate as usual – is tackling more modern and controversial issues. And with Harry-Gregson Williams behind the score, Hideo Kojima-san will be going out with a bang. This is his last time directing a Metal Gear Solid title. I have no doubt the man is attempting to make this his very best one.
4. The Legend of Zelda Wii U / Majora’s Mask 3D
Genre: Action-Adventure, Open World / Action-adventure, Open World
Developers: Nintendo / Nintendo, Grezzo
Publisher: Nintendo / Nintendo
Platforms: Wii U / 3DS
Release Dates (NA): TBA / February 13, 2015
Cheating? I’m not cheating by putting two games in one slot…okay, maybe just a little, but since I’m equally anticipating the both of them and they belong to the same franchise, it wouldn’t feel right separating them. So, my personal history with The Legend of Zelda isn’t that long, but I’ve played and loved Ocarina of Time 3D, Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and The Wind Waker (still going through this one though). There are many others I’d like to play, but the one at the top of my list is Majora’s Mask for its unusually mature, dark themes, unconventional mechanics, and time-based objectives. After I played Ocarina of Time on my 3DS, I intensely hoped alongside many others that Nintendo would take the next logical step and remake the strange sequel from the ground up as well. That wish has come true, and the same developer is doing it again in collaboration with Nintendo. It’ll have updated graphics and touchscreen controls as expected, making it look and play significantly better. However, minimal changes like a refined saving system, less obscure side missions, tweaks to boss levels, and more are being implemented to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable. Nintendo and even Miyamoto himself have said that fixing small aspects like these are shaping Majora’s Mask to be what it should have been back in 2000. Count me in for the new and improved version next month!
With The Legend of Zelda on Wii U, I feel like I’m at a perfect point where the franchise is taking drastic measures to change in a natural manner to prevent stagnation. Eiji Aonuma-san, who has been one of the most notable influences on the series’ direction since Ocarina of Time, seeks to challenge its core design philosophy of exploring dungeons and solving puzzles by allowing players to approach them differently this time around. What’s also never been possible is creating a ginormous open world title that consists of one, big landscape, but with the Wii U, the road has been opened. Gorgeous HD visuals and a newfound focus on player exploration and freedom only accentuate that the game is truly attempting to make an ambitious leap, and that alone is admirable. I understand people might not like the comparison, but this is basically a mash up of The Legend of Zelda and The Elder Scrolls (specifically Skyrim). Typing that out just sends shivers down my spine with what Nintendo has in store for us later this year.
3. Batman: Arkham Knight
Genre: Action-Adventure, Open World, Stealth
Developer: Rocksteady Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date (Worldwide): June 2, 2015
Aren’t licensed games that are exceptionally good just wonderful to come across? Back in 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum was and still is one of the best examples of taking a license that has long been haphazardly used in the game industry and finally doing it justice. Since we’re talking about Batman, it only makes sense because justice is what he’s all about! But seriously, no one could believe how great every aspect of that game was some years ago. It was under everyone’s radars and the definition of an underdog title. Heck, it even held the Guinness World Record for the most critically acclaimed superhero game ever during its time. That’s why no one thought the sequel could be any better. How can you surpass those kinds of accolades? Despite the odds though, Arkham City was held by the majority as superior to its predecessor in every way, and that’s something I can agree with since it’s my sixth favorite game that I’ve ever played. You could say I have a high amount of respect for Rocksteady Studios, especially since Batman is my favorite superhero because he’s the most interesting, psychologically complex character I’ve read about out of all the DC and Marvel comics I’ve read. Oh, and I love him because he’s Batman. Need I say more?
I could list off why the combat and stealth sequences, engaging narrative, open world exploration, enticing side quests, and more are what make (specifically) Arkham City such an incredible video game, but let’s avoid that and discuss what the closing entry in the main trilogy, Arkham Knight, is doing differently by taking advantage of the current-gen consoles. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s been a year since the events of the last game and Batman is struggling with something shocking that happened during its closing acts. I’ll avoid mentioning it, but Gotham City is at a greater peace that its ever been because of this event, but the Caped Crusader’s foes are going to capitalize on it by giving a last hurrah of sorts by putting aside their differences to team up and destroy him. Scarecrow is also returning with a vengeance, threatening to poison the entire city with a toxin. On one dreadful night, Batman will face everything his villains have to throw at him. Gotham is evacuated. Only the GCPD and a few allies of Batman remain. Everything will change.
Since this is the last Batman: Arkham game for Rocksteady, they’re making sure that this will be the pinnacle of coming closest to feeling like the Batman. You’ll be able to explore a massive portion of Gotham, which is five times bigger than Arkham City’s open world! Nearly all of his gadgets and abilities return as well, but they will serve new purposes as well along with other things to unlock along the way. Additional moves made by the AI and Batman himself will be evident in combat, including an awesome feature where you can take down around three enemies at once in slow motion if you remain undetected and strategize your attack. The biggest element that’s being implemented though is the Batmobile, which Rocksteady has wanted to include with gameplay since the beginning. Now, you can literally summon it at any time you want and drive through Gotham’s dark streets. You’ll even be able to use it in vehicle combat to disable foes, normal combat to back you up, and to solve puzzles. There are multiple reasons to marvel at the ambition on display here, and if the game’s better than Arkham City…that alone would make it an instant GOTY contender.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date (NA): TBA
I don’t think it’s understated that Naughty Dog is one of the most well known developers in the game industry that has turned out nothing but revolutionary work. Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, and The Last of Us. All of these franchises have played different roles in gamers’ lives, and for me, Crash Bandicoot 1 introduced me to the wonder of video games around the age of 5; Uncharted 2: Among Thieves truly showed me how powerful and impactful video games can be, and The Last of Us forced me to approach moral and philosophical issues that no piece of media has ever made me contemplate so deeply. I shouldn’t have to explain why the final chapter to Nathan Drake’s adventures is so high on my list.
It’s been a couple of years since our swashbuckling treasure hunter has gone on any death-defying, exotic journeys. He’s settled down with Elena to live a quiet, normal life, but when his brother returns – who was thought to be lost – and needs him to join in on one, last escapade, Nathan makes the decision to break his promise to Elena to relive his love for adventuring. Like Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, this game will delve more meaningfully into the psychology of the characters and the complex, emotional relationships between them, but in an even deeper, more serious narrative (but the humor will remain!). The level design is being broadened for more open, non-linear, and vertical levels that allow you to form your own path to objectives, something that the typically linear series hasn’t experimented with until now. Gameplay is being designed for my dynamic and realistic interactions with the environment and AI, which means Naughty Dog is refining and improving upon the gunplay, melee combat, and parkour. Also, Uncharted may be known for all out, daring action, but the stealth will finally be fleshed out and an equally important approach to take when conflict arises compared to going out guns blazing.
There’s no question that Uncharted 4 will be one of the best games this year. It’s Naughty Dog. What do you expect? They put so much love, passion, creativity, and care into all of their projects that they seemingly can’t fail. The worst I imagine the developer could do is turn out something above average. But here’s a real question…will it be revolutionary? I would argue that not all of its great games reach that level, so will this one? From what I’ve read and seen of it so far, I believe it will be, and I couldn’t be more stoked to play it whenever it releases this year.
1. Star Wars: Battlefront
Genre: First-Person Shooter and/or Third-Person Shooter (?)
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (?)
Release Date (NA): TBA
My memories of playing Star Wars: Battlefront II for dozens upon dozens of hours have a fond place in my gaming heart. I would relive the campaign and its fascinating story that follows the 501st Legion of Clone Troopers from the beginning of the Clone Wars to the rise of the Empire. I played the Galactic Conquest mode over and over again as the Republic, Separatists, Empire, and Rebellion as different classes of soldiers to see if I could conquer the universe with my fleet of ships and huge armies. And, of course, I played countless rounds of Heroes and Villains mode on Mos Eisley to see if I could beat the Jedi as Boba Fett, destroy Darth Sideous as Han Solo, etc. Oh, and then there were the space battles. I cannot stress how fun those were, especially when I was able to sabotage an enemy ship from the inside.
Unfortunately, there’s no information on how the new Star Wars: Battlefront will be changing or staying the same compared to what Pandemic Studios already accomplished with the console titles. What’s known is that DICE has shown that its team is going around the world to actual settings that are in all of the movies. They have access to official Star Wars props, information, and other various things used in the films as well. A glimpse at the game engine was shown several months ago with a Rebel soldier traversing the forest of Endor on a speeder bike, but that’s about it. The massive, epically scaled multiplayer battles will return, but can it be played in a first-person and/or third-person mode? Will you be able to play as the Republic and Separatists? Will there be a campaign with a meaningful story that will contribute to the new canon of Star Wars? Will there be customizable classes or preset classes? Design Director Niklas Fegraeus says that DICE is “building the game that we as fans want to play” and “hard at work creating the best Star Wars shooter of all time.” Those are big promises, and considering that the developer is entirely known for its ambitious, massive, and graphically beautiful FPSs, I honestly couldn’t have thought of a more suited studio to take on this slumbering franchise. It feels like it’s in a galaxy far, far away for now, but I’m willing to wait for it to come out of hyperspace and arrive later this year.
That’s all of them! What do you think of the video games I’ve selected for my list? Are my hype levels set to the right frequencies or am I absolutely crazy and stupid for leaving off something like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt? Give me a shout out in the comments section below and let me know what you’re stoked for this year. Thanks for reading!
This article was originally published on my Google Blogger website.