2012 bobs away on the rushing river of history, washing into the past a dozen Dunwall guard bark memes, at least one controversially-terminated space saga and a worryingly-exhilarating excess of animal slaughter. But what’s that on the horizon, surging through the frothy wake of the year just gone? It’s - surprise! - 2013.
The next 12 pages detail nearly every reason to be excited about the 365 days to come, and the armada of delights they bring. There are more combat bows than you can shake a punctured elk at, an unholy host of horrors, genre-smashing interstellar epics, multiplayer mega-franchises, petrolhead-pleasers, reinvigorated point-and-clickers, Kickstarter darlings, Greenlight outliers and many, many more. Click on to discover why 2013 may just be the most exciting year for gamers yet.
Pick a genre:
Action Adventure FPS MMO Platform Puzzle Racing RPG Sim Sport Strategy 2014 AND BEYOND
Below, a special hour-long discussion between Logan, Evan, and Tyler about what they're looking forward to most in 2013. http://youtu.be/IQuQ9J-Z4L4
ACTION Watch Dogs
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Late 2013 Link Though in recent years, Ubisoft has been happy to milk the Assassin’s Creed licence until its ruddy teats squeaked, let us not forget that the space-wizards-thru-history mega-franchise was born of huge creative risk: a new IP that cost so much develop that, rumour has it, sales didn’t cover the cost of development until its sequels were on shelves. Now, the same gigantic studio, Ubisoft Montreal, has unveiled Watch Dogs - a game with no smaller a scope than Assassin’s Creed, combining the complex sedition of information warfare with brutish third-person action and, it is suspected, with some sort of clever multiplayer/singleplayer crossover. It’s not only a showcase for the kind of polygon-crunching power the cutting edge PC can generate (finally loosed from the shackles of last-gen cross platform releases) but it also establishes a fiction that Ubisoft hopes will see it through the next decade. Dead Space 3
Publisher: EA Release: February 8 Link The sudden appearance of a co-op mode in this venerable space-horror franchise may sound like the marketing department got a little trigger happy with the back-of-box checklist, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, didn’t we all the say the same gloomy things about Mass Effect 3’s excellent multiplayer? Secondly, Dead Space already showed it could deliver terror to a twosome in its (actually terrific, sadly undersold) Wii light-gun game. What’s more, the game’s roots have hardly been forgotten: it's still perfectly possible to play the game on your tod. This one promises to add themes of insanity and perception to the traditional jump-scares and body-horror. Tomb Raider
Publisher: Square Enix Release: March 5 Link Vulnerability and survival are the watchwords for this reinvention of the Tomb Raider series, which finds a young and unworldly Lara Croft shipwrecked on an island - a far cry from the backflipping, dual-wielding daredevil treasure-seeker who murdered her way through polygonal archeological hoards during the mid-nineties. Crystal Dynamics are certainly brave in taking this iconic character in such a dark, mature direction - but will the cost to our heroine’s empowerment prove too great a price to pay? Star Wars 1313
Publisher: LucasArts Release: Late 2013 Link “Dark and mature” may not be the go-to description for Star Wars, particularly since LucasArts’ acquisition by the House of Mouse, but such is the promise for this third person actioner. Set in the bowels of Coruscant, the subterranean Level 1313, you take on the role of a bounty hunter embroiled in a murky criminal conspiracy. Early glimpses suggest the game will ignore lightsabers and force powers in favour of gadgetry and guns, and the claims are for a more grounded and gritty fiction, instead of the fruity pangalactic melodrama to which we are accustomed. Strike Suit Zero
Publisher: Born Ready Games Release: January 24 Link Space combat has proven popular on Kickstarter but the interplanetary dogfighting of Strike Suit Zero wasn't born from the crowdfunding process. Instead, this rather beautiful off-world blaster had been a while in development already and will be using the $175k it raised to, uh, kickfinish the project, and then kickpolish it, too. Fortnite
Publisher: Epic Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Perhaps keen to prove that there’s more to Unreal Engine 4 than high-definition beefcakes gunning down space goblins in the destroyed beauty of a future city, Epic Games’ first proof of their new technology will be the cartoonish tower defence game, Fortnite. The clean, chirpy visuals belie technological innovation, however: UE4 will allow players huge freedom in the way they construct their anti-zombie fortifications, editing each wall with a 3x3 grid. The plan is that the game will have a long-tail, with many post-release updates, eventually allowing players to construct Rube Goldberg-style machines of death. Starforge
Publisher: CodeHatch Release: TBC 2013 Link Minecraft with guns, realistic graphics, and both ground and low-orbit construction. Interested? Starforge is a ridiculously ambitious crowd-funded indie project that's already come a remarkably long way. You deform terrain and build a fortress to protect yourself from aliens, and when all else fails, use a shotgun to blast them into pieces. If the small team can make those weapons feel nice to fire, it'll be a winner. Grand Theft Auto 5
Publisher: Rockstar Release: Spring 2013 Link There’s been no confirmation of Rockstar’s next blockbuster for PC, but it would be a world gone topsy-turvy if Grand Theft Auto 5 was marooned on consoles for ever. This isn’t Red Dead Redemption, a game developed by a studio with around three PC credits to its name – this is GTA, a series whose every main instalment has appeared on PC. And it’s developed by Rockstar North, a team that (even including its legacy as DMA Design) has brought all bar seven of its games to PC. And where are the internet petitions to port Walker over from the Amiga, I might ask?
Guaranteed to be one of the biggest releases of 2013, GTA 5 sees the player take on the role of three different characters trying to make a crust amid the tinseltown glamour and sunbaked squalor of Los Santos. And it’s likely to be an ill-gotten crust at that, given the series’ heritage of exuberant criminality: heists, hits and high-speed chases are all to be expected, interspersed with all the leisure activities a high-rolling hoodlum might desire. Remember Me
Publisher: Capcom Release: May Link “We’ll always have Paris,” as the saying goes - not so much in the Neo-Paris of 2084, when memories can be erased or altered by Memory Hunters. You play as one such mnemonic saboteur, called Nilin, herself rendered amnesiac by agents of the oppressive Parisien regime. Thirdperson acrobatics and assassinations ensue as you try to piece together the conspiracy, and featuring the world’s most complicated sounding combat system. You also get to wreck men’s minds by jumping into their memory and replaying events to reconfigure their recollection. Convince someone they killed their girlfriend during an argument, for instance, and you may just drive them to suicide. How lovely. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Spring Link Ninja-spy Sam Fisher without voice-actor Michael Ironside is like bread without butter. Talking butter. Sardonic, gravelly-voiced, talking butter. But despite the new vocal chords lent to Fisher, this sixth outing for the sneak-em-up series may yet prove to be more loyal to the action of the earlier games. While Splinter Cell: Conviction saw Sam on the lam, decimating a small army of enemies with little attempt at secrecy, Blacklist’s latest trailers show off non-lethal takedowns - much more to the tastes of the discerning spy. Lost Planet 3
Publisher: Capcom Release: January Link Previous instalments in this thirdperson shooter series have been an intriguing but not always comfortable mix of Gears of War and Shadow of the Colossus, with players cooperatively slaying giant beasts and hordes of future-pirates on the world of EDN 3 - in the first instance a bleak ball of ice, thawing to a steaming jungle in its sequel. This game promises to be a prequel, so we can assume a few stiff breezes and frosty mornings. It also promises to be more narrative-led - which is worrying given the entirely charmless fiction of previous games. More worrisome still is the fact that the original developers aren’t on board, replaced by Spark Unlimited, responsible for crimping off the reeking digi-turd which was Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. Brr. Star Trek
Publisher: Namco Bandai Release: Early 2013 Link Bridging the gap between JJ Abrams' reboot and the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness, this tie-in will certainly deliver Hollywood glitz with its cast - and usually that would be all you could expect. But this is being handled by Digital Extremes, a studio with an admittedly mixed portfolio, but one riding high after the triumphant carnage of the Darkness 2. They may well have the chops to enliven even the most linear thirdperson actioner. DmC: Devil May Cry
Publisher: Capcom Release: 25 January 2013 Link There were wails of anguish in console-land when this reboot of beloved demon-bashing combo-brawler Devil May Cry was first announced. But if the word from those with review code is good - and so far the mutterings are most auspicious indeed - then few complaints will survive the game’s release. It seems that British devs Ninja Theory may have the moves to make even Bayonetta blush. The one worry is how well it’ll port to PC, a duty outsourced to Polish team QLOC - but a promised 60 FPS, with no maximum limit, is a rather good start. Clang
Publisher: Subutai Release: February Link A PC arena-based duelling game for one-on-one battles? Sure, fine. That very same thing, but made under the direction of sci-fi author and legendary mega-nerd Neal Stephenson with the input of sword-fighting experts and - lest we forget - named Clang? Yes. Yes, please. The game will introduce a new, more realistic way to control your weapons, apparently, and will be an evolving project with a story and other content added over time. Smite
Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios Release: 2013 (closed beta out now) Link Hi-Rez, the makers of the exquisite Tribes: Ascend, have had this thirdperson take on the DotA formula in beta for some time. Instead of defending Ancients with a team of eccentric legendary warriors, however, here you fight to protect your pet minotaur with a cross-pantheon selection of gods taken from major world religions - a fact which has proven controversial with men of the cloth. Dark
Publisher: Kalypso Media Release: Q2 2013 Link A stealth action game in which players take on the role of a vampire anti-hero attempting to bring down a shadowy corporation in a futuristic cel-shaded city - or “a world of blood and darkness” as the press release rather hysterically puts it. As well as being possessed of supernatural sneakiness, our protagonist can face down the police and all many of night-time terrors with a range of vampiric powers that allow him to turn to smoke or close for the kill with lightning speed. Devil's Third
Publisher: TBC Release: TBC 2013 Link Things have been a little quiet since THQ withdrew as the publisher for this thirdperson shooter and melee combat game set on a war-ravaged future Earth. It has good pedigree, coming from a studio forged by principal developers of the Ninja Gaiden games, but neither the presence of near-legendary developers and a multi-million budget proved sufficient reason to keep it on THQ’s slate. We await to hear its fate. Battle Cry Of Freedom
Publisher: Flying Squirrel Entertainment Release: TBC 2013 Link Ambitious indie multiplayer game set during the American Civil War. Promises battles with more than five hundred players, buildable barricades, trenches, and explosives, and even musicians that can play a range of period-appropriate tunes. It's still very early days, but worth keeping an eye on. Furious 4
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: TBC 2013 Link Originally set to be the fourth entry in the po-faced, pseudo-reverent WW2 shooter series, Brothers In Arms, early trailers for Furious 4 took such a divergent and whimsically vicious tone that the project was hurriedly hived off on its own. Since its initial reveal, however, the Tarantino-inspired action caper has been little seen or heard, with Gearbox claiming that there’s been a substantial facelift in the interim. XCOM
Publisher: 2K Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Another project with an uncertain fate, this action-based reboot of XCOM met with such acrimony from fans of the original turnbased strategy game that its release date scurried off into the distant future, allowing Firaxis’ more loyal squad-tactics remake, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, to take centre-stage. It’s status is now unclear, with development bigwigs like the talented Jordan Thomas leaving for BioShock Infinite. The talk is now of a budget-download only release - quite the switcharound from the original plan. Will it even re-emerge with the XCOM name attached? Monaco
Publisher: Pocketwatch Games Release: 2013, or: 'when it's done' Link Players take on role of primary-coloured pixellated thieves, each with specialised roles, in this four-player top-down heist game. It’s great: it won the IGF and a whole bunch of other gongs way back in 2010. Where’s it got to since? Sources assure us it is indeed still in development, and not spending ill-gotten gains in the casinos of Rio de Janeiro as rumoured. Beyond Good And Evil 2
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Late 2013 Link Every silver lining has a cloud: Michel Ancel’s efforts to resurrect 2D platformer hero Rayman proved so tremendously and ebulliently successful that it has delayed his return to Beyond Good And Evil 2. All that’s been seen of the sequel to the superb off-beat action adventure is a rendered trailer and a few splashes of concept art, but if Ancel’s recent form is anything to go by, we won’t be getting half-measures. 2013 is a push, but crazier things have happened. Cross Of The Dutchman
Publisher: Triangle Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link Though the promised demo has missed its October launch date by some way, the signs are that development on this action adventure title still continues apace. Based on the folk legend of Frisian freedom fighter Pier Gerlofs Donia, this hopes to be a historically loyal recreation of the story and setting, despite the lush caricaturish style. Zone: Commando
Publisher: Xitol Softworks Release: February 2013 Link Initially set for release in the middle of 2012, this multiplayer sci-fi shooter’s release date has been in hasty retreat. According to Xitol's Twitter feed, the project is still alive, but there's still not much to go on beyond pre-alpha screenshots and promises. Rambo: The Video Game
Publisher: Reef Entertainment Release: Early 2013 Link While Rambo has since become synonymous with action by dint of its excessive sequels, it’s far from certain that the first film, which is largely about a man undergoing a PTSD-induced meltdown in some woodland, will really adequately satisfy as a shooter. Still, it can’t be any worse the Ubisoft’s recent efforts with The Expendables, right? Legend Of Dungeon
Publisher: RobotLovesKitty Release: January Link This may just be the reason Kickstarter was invented: to fund a four-player roguelike dungeon crawler with a delicious pixel-art style. And presumably the people who helped it hit its funding target six times over agree. Super Comboman
Publisher: Interabang Entertainment Release: May Link A 2D platformer/beat-'em-up hybrid with heavy emphasis on - you may have guessed - combos. Super Comboman sees you rock a sweet mullet and a talking fanny-pack while slamming enemies with an unending string of slickly animated moves. Cute stick-album art-style, too. Retrovirus
Publisher: Cadenza Interactive Release: January Link A shooter with six-axes of freedom, Retrovirus matches the zippy pace of FPS games of yore with the stomach-spinning spatial freedom of disorienting shooter classic, Descent. As an agent of the resident anti-virus program, you must defend a computer system from an infectious onslaught with a slew of physics-enhanced weaponry like gravity wells and chain reactions. Forced
Publisher: BetaDwarf Release: February Link This arena-based fighting game pitches its top-down co-op combat somewhere between Left 4 Dead and Diablo, with four divergent classes and a cooperative combo system. Players battle together through a series of gladiatorial arenas, defeating waves of gruesome fantasy creatures with the aid of a globular spirit mentor, who can assist them by swiping pick-ups and interacting with things “outside the physical realm”. Dungeonland
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: Q1 2013 Link Set in a lethal medieval themepark, Dungeonland is a class-based co-op action game for up to four players. The perspective may put you in mind of Diablo or Torchlight, but with its promise of tossable sheep, ludicrous costumes and frog facts, its tone clearly finds inspiration elsewhere. Humans Must Answer
Publisher: Sumom Games Release: TBC 2013 Link While one bunch of ex-Stalker developers went on to make Survarium, a multiplayer Stalker game in all but name, others had clearly had quite enough of The Zone and its bleak, unrelenting peril. Instead, they’ve gone on to make a 2D bullet-hell space shooter in which a race of space-faring chickens attempts to wipe out the galactic scourge of mankind. Mew-Genics
Publisher: Team Meat Release: TBC 2013 Link There have been few clues from developer Team Meat as to what genre this feline-themed game fits into. The occasional screenshots have teased some sort of damage system - that much we know - and Team Meat’s portfolio would suggest a bias towards action. But given that the screenshots also teased “poop-rates” the mind boggles at what sort of action that might be. State Of Decay
Publisher: Microsoft Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link Undead Labs are a more than a little bit late to the zombie-survival-open-world-game party, but hopefully their entry will be a little less controversial than War Z’s debut. This one promises an ever-evolving world with fortifiable strongholds. Overgrowth
Publisher: Wolfire Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Anthropomorphised rabbits, wolves, cats, rats and dogs kick seven bells out of each other in this thirdperson kung-fu adventure game set in a pre-industrial world. The spiritual successor to 2005’s Lugaru, it’s been a long, long time in development and the creators’ ambitions have sprawled, expanding on the original’s fluid combat system with context-sensitive attacks, reversals and environmental interaction. It also comes with a sandbox mode and suite of editing tools. Warframe
Publisher: Digital Extremes Release: TBC 2013 Link You wait for one free-to-play online shooter with a disyllabic name beginning “War-”, and then two come along at once. Not to be confused with Crytek’s near future blamfest Warface, Digital Extreme’s effort is a procedurally generated co-op affair set in a sci-fi universe. Players take on the role of the Tenno, a race of space-ninjas battling against their former overlords, the Grineer, by suiting up with specialised exoskeletons known as Warframes. Archeblade
Publisher: Codebrush Games Release: March 2013 Link A third-person multiplayer brawler which combines the character-specific movesets and combos of arcade fighting games with the cooperative tactics of a team-shooter. The devs were forced to cancel their Kickstarter, but still say the game is on schedule for its March release. The Showdown Effect
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: Q1 2013 Link A sort of 2D side-scrolling Action: Half Life, The Showdown Effect features up to eight players battling it out with weapons ripped from the hands of cheesy 80s action heroes. It’s a roll-call of cliches - but Magicka creators Arrowhead Studios have shown themselves to be pretty pithy fellows. You can sign up for that macho madness at The Showdown Effect’s beta page. Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2
Publisher: Konami Release: TBC 2013 Link Though the first Lords of Shadow missed a PC release, the vampire-hunting yarn was a pleasant surprise for many in the console world, winning players round with a highly competent (if derivative) mix of thirdperson action, exploration and puzzling. The sequel skips from medieval times to the modern day, with the protagonist, now going under the name of Dracula, awaking from a long slumber. Expect the acrobatic hacking and slashing of enormous supernatural creatures and enough of the red stuff to defeat even the most powerful of detergent cleaners. Sacred Citadel
Publisher: Deep Silver Release: TBC 2013 Link A three player side-scrolling beat-em-up with a rather sumptuous art-style, Sacred Citadel sees players overthrow the oppressive Ashen empire with a slew of melee combos and acrobatic death-dealing. It also promises to update the arcade formula with RPG-lite upgrades and, according to the website, “flawless gameplay”. Good to know. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
Publisher: Spicy Horse Games Release: Early 2013 Link Another action-RPG paying homage to Diablo, Akaneiro: Demon Hunters has the considerable advantage of Spicy Horse Games’ aesthetic sense, which introduces an ink-wash art style to the faux-isometric click-fest. It’s also very, very loosely based on Red Riding Hood, transposing the story to feudal Japan and introducing hordes of monsters to splatter apart. It may be a slight departure from canon, but it’ll be free-to-play and co-op, so who’s complaining? Ether One
Publisher: White Paper Games Release: Early 2013 Link First person adventure that takes place in the 'broken mental structures' of a woman called Jean. It's the first part of two, and it's got lofty aims - the devs claim to want to 'explore the importance and fragility of human memories'. The Adventurer
Publisher: The Farm 51 Release: TBC 2013 Link An action adventure FPS set in the 30s with a globetrotting, treasure-hunting theme - sounds more like an Indiana game than and indie game. The Adventurer doesn’t seem abashed about its inspiration though, promising tomb raiding, traps, lost treasure and a list of exotic locations from Egypt to the Arctic. Zwei
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Release: Late 2013 Link Zwei’s the codename for the first project from Bethesda-owned, Shinji Mikami-headed Tango Gameworks. They’re keeping tight-lipped about its contents, but one thing has been promised: it’ll be a return to the celebrated Resident Evil developer's formative genre of survival horror. Collateral
Publisher: Dancing Dinosaur Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Pitched as a cyberpunk taxi-driving game, Collateral’s twitchy car combat recalls something of the Twisted Metal series - except here, the cars fly, dogfighting amid a garish, futuristic cityscape. It’s not likely to be an overly serious dystopian vision, however, as witnessed by the giant, bloated Elvis statue in the city centre and the numerous nods to The Fifth Element. Tiny Barbarian DX
Publisher: StarQuail Games Release: January Link What is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to play retro 2D action games, much like the excellent free Tiny Barbarian. Following that success, StarQuail Games have successfully Kickstarted Tiny Barbarian DX - a series of four further short-form adventures which expand our diminutive hero’s combos, improve platforming, add boss-fights and giant mounts and even boost the protagonist’s height by a whole pixel. The first episode is due in January with the rest to follow shortly after. Volgarr The Viking
Publisher: Crazy Viking Studios Release: February Link This sidescrolling action game almost doubled its Kickstarter target and is already well on its way to completion. The game comes from a veteran duo of 2D arcade games, and lists a number of venerable influences - Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Castlevania and Rastan - promising to adapt the best ideas from each into this violent hack-and-slash. The Dead Linger
Publisher: Sandswept Studios Release: 2013 Link Another first-person zombie survival game promising the world - in this case literally, since the game boasts a “planet-sized” post-apocalypse to roam. This is quite a small planet, however, going by the wiki’s figure of 25,000 square kilometers. But unlike Day Z, here it’s all procedurally generated and the claim is that you can interact with anything you see. It’s a long way from fulfilling all of its pledged feature-set however, with a good deal of work to be done to get before it competes either visually or mechanically with existing zombie shooters. Paid alpha access is already available at a reduced rate. Nekro
Publisher: darkForge Games Release: Q4 2013 Link A top-down action game that namechecks Dungeon Keeper and Myth, Nekro sees you take on the eponymous role of a dark lord of the undead, raising monsters from the ground to raze townships to the ground. The more you destroy, the more powerful you become, and you can even craft your own spells by combining reagents you find around the randomly generated world. Even better, the game has defecating pigs. Zombie Playground
Publisher: Massive Black Inc Release: March Link It all started with Jason Chan’s awesome illustration of a group of kids battling the shambling grey hordes from atop a helter-skelter. Some time (and near enough $170k of Kickstarter funding) later, and that pre-teen zompocalypse concept has congealed into a thirdperson team-shooter. Though it may be viewed through a child’s imagination, with fanciful touches like tentacled biology-class mannequins and neon-coloured toy guns that fire actual sizzling plasma death, the copious gore attests to the fact that this is certainly not a game for kids. It’s got a pumping soundtrack too, courtesy of hip-hop producer Aesop Rock. Moon Intern
Publisher: LarryPixel Release: November Link On the surface a side-scrolling action game, Moon Intern quickly reveals itself to be something much more reactive and dynamic, with missions, jobs and events being generated on the fly to suit your playstyle. One day you may find yourself delivering lightbulbs and the next exorcising a haunted space station - each mission allowing for a variety of solutions, and whichever you choose biases the selection of future missions towards either action or puzzle. Some events are so drastic that they may change your relationship with every NPC in the colony. Thrillingly ambitious stuff, wrapped in a charming retro presentation. Mercenary Kings
Publisher: Tribute Games Release: May Link The creators of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Wizorb return with another retro-styled title, this time in the vein of Metal Slug - but with weapon crafting. They’re also looking to build in some of the co-op magic of games like Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Online, with the superbly eccentric talents of master pixel-pusher Paul Robertson providing art direction. Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Publisher: Young Horses Release: TBC 2013 Link If you’re not inspired to buy Octodad: Dadliest Catch for the pun alone, you can test the waters with the free original game, in which you attempt to control the flailing limbs of a sea-creature attempting basic domestic chores. Similar cephalopod-based physics-enhanced calamity is promised in this sequel, as our protagonist attempts to conceal his nautical origins from his increasingly suspicious human wife.
ADVENTURE The Cave
Publisher: Sega Release: Early 2013 Link From the mind of Ron Gilbert - creator of Maniac Mansion - and his new found friends at Double Fine, comes this side-scrolling platform-adventure set inside a talking cave. A roster of barmy characters, each of whom harbours a murderous secret, plumb the labyrinthine depths in search of their darkest desires. Up to three players can play the game, taking on separate roles and skill-sets, as in Trine. Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
Publisher: Frictional Games Release: January Link This firstperson horror story sequel sees its production pass from series creator Frictional Games to TheChineseRoom, the masters of atmosphere behind the unsettling metaphysical fable Dear Esther. The game isn’t a direct sequel, transporting events from the gloomy medievalism of Brennenburg Castle to London at the advent of industrialisation. But the birth of technology doesn’t leave our new protagonist any better equipped to fight the unheimlich terror he finds there: as in the first game, expect to spend most of your time running and hiding, trying not to lose your mind as unspeakable evil closes in. Gone Home
Publisher: The Fullbright Company Release: Mid-2013 Link From the veteran devs behind Bioshock 2’s Minerva’s Den comes this “story-exploration” game. In the exploratory, non-violent vein of Dear Esther, Gone Home is a domestic mystery firmly rooted in 1995. The player returns to the family house to find it deserted, and pieces together the clues of its recent past. Though it’s set on a spooky, stormy night, this is assuredly a non-combat experience - but its tale of intertwining lives, written between the lines of Forestry Commission ledgers, postcards and other household ephemera, is rich and moving. Republique
Publisher: Camouflaj Release: September Link An adventure game set in an Orwellian surveillance society, Republique sees the player take on the role of guardian angel, remotely manipulating the environment through their hacking skills to guide the main character, Hope, to safety. The devs promise this isn’t a point-and-click adventure, but contains a strong, gesture-based action element. That said, this is no run-and-gun escapade, and it’s uncertain if or how the PC version of the game will escape the restrictions of the iPhone’s touch-based design paradigm. With veteran talent on board, however, a distinctive theme and some natty looking hacking gameplay, this is certainly one of the most exciting Kickstarter projects to have hit its target. Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
Publisher: 505 Games Release: Spring Link Starbreeze, well known for their ultra-violent shooter fare, are holstering their guns for this moving tale set within a mountainous medieval world. There’s not a gory QTE execution to be found anywhere within the 3-4 hours of the downloadable adventure, which instead focuses on the interlocking abilities of two brothers as they search the land for a cure for their dying father. The quest, designed to evoke emotions than test abilities, is framed by a collaboration with movie director Josef Fares - and its various puzzling encounters can be solved in distinct ways by each of the brothers. Saying much more would be to undermine its emotional heft, but this could easily shape up to be one of the indie darlings of 2013. Double Fine Adventure
Publisher: Double Fine Release: Late 2013 Link Here it is: the monster that started it all. Without the astounding success of Double Fine Adventure’s nostalgia-baiting Kickstarter project, we wouldn't be seeing this current deluge of resurrected point-and-click franchises. Double Fine Adventure itself comes from names indelibly associated with the LucasArts point-and-click classics of yore - and this heritage was alone was enough for people to throw nearly $3.5 million at the company before a concept was even outlined. Still, one has since taken shape: some sort of girl-meets-boy yarn, stretched across interweaving sci-fi and fantasy realities. Routine
Publisher: Lunar Software Release: TBC 2013 Link The occupants of a moonbase have disappeared - for reasons that can only be deeply horrific - so inevitably you are tasked with going in there alone and poking about. Needless to say, something stalks you through the lustrously rendered corridors and gantries of this survival horror game. But this isn’t a simply ghost-train; permadeath, non-linear exploration, and dynamic scares make this a prospect as intriguing as it is unsettling. You can read our massive interview and preview here. Somewhere
Publisher: Cargo Collective Release: February Link Surreal, abstract environments and non-intuitive navigation are the principals behind this otherworldly experience. Bizarre architectural constructs, peculiar interactions and even weirder sounds form something as rich as it is disorienting. Wherever Somewhere is, it certainly ain’t Kansas anymore, Toto. Europa
Publisher: Quick Fingers Release: TBC 2013 Link What started as a small-scale indie project for a seven day long FPS-building competition has sprawled into an open-world exploration-game set on one of Jupiter’s moons. Though he garnered headlines with the throwaway claim of “Fallout 3 in space”, don’t expect it to match the length, or the level of violence, of that game. The developer may even remove weapons altogether. Coma: A Mind Adventure
Publisher: Coma Team Release: TBC 2013 Link From the team behind the superb Left 4 Dead 2 campaign Warcelona, comes something a little more restive: a firstperson puzzler set inside the mind of a comatose patient. That mental landscape is a beautiful but troubling place to be, however, as the patient in question is struggling with a terrible sense of remorse. The player aims to resolve these issues by travelling through the lush pastures and woodland of the imagination, and manipulating the weather and time of day to navigate obstacles. It looks gorgeous and its metaphysical tale clearly packs an emotive weight - could it be this year’s Dear Esther? Dream
Publisher: Hypersloth Release: Q1 2013 Link This non-linear first-person puzzle-adventure takes place in the dreams of a directionless, young graduate struggling with the loss of his uncle and obsessed with the intricacies of his own imagination. Staged across three acts, the player explores ancient temples, rocky deserts and tundra as he unpicks the secrets of the graduate’s unconscious mind. Looks bloody gorgeous too, and should prove doubly atmospheric with its pledged support of the Oculus Rift VR headset. Lilly Looking Through
Publisher: Geeta Games Release: May Link An adventure game of some incredible beauty, this sumptuously animated fantasy sees the player point-and-click their way through puzzles with the aid of a magic pair of goggles. These allow the protagonist, a young girl named Lilly, to flit between past and present world states. The puzzles and movement seen in the currently available demo are restricted to hot-points, but it’s still hard not to get lost in the Pixar-quality animation. Fables
Publisher: Telltale Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Based on the DC Comics series of the same name, Fables concerns the plight of fantasy and fairytale creatures, forced to eke out an existence in New York City after The Adversary forces them from their own realm. Like Neil Gaiman’s epochal Sandman saga, it seeks to weave together the panoply of human mythology into a cohesive and decidedly adult whole. Few clues exist as to how this will work as an adventure game, but given the calibre of Telltale’s adaptation of the Walking Dead, hopes are high. The Thought Saved for Last
Publisher: Igor Hardy Release: Early 2013 Link An Indie Dev Grant nominee (ultimately losing out to Simon Roth's Maia), The Thought Saved For Last is an adventure set within the sort of existential nightmare that’d be fitting for an episode of The Twighlight Zone. You control a man simply trying to get home after he misses the last bus - when things start to become very weird indeed. Among The Sleep
Publisher: Krillbite Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link We often bemoan the prevalence of buzzcut space-marines and lantern-jawed lunks in games - and you couldn’t find a game in starker opposition to mass-market focus-tested tastes than this: a first-person adventure game in which you take control of a two-year-old and navigate an suspiciously deserted house, apparently under the control of malign supernatural forces. This kid’s got a lot of counselling ahead of it. Everybody's Gone To The Rapture
Publisher: The Chinese Room Release: TBC 2013 Link While one-half of TheChineseRoom busy themselves with the sequel to Amnesia, others are at work on this equally unsettling project. Considered the natural follow-up to melancholic island story Dear Esther, this takes the devices of exploration and environmental narrative to an open world - an open world in the grip of a Revelations-style apocalypse. Tengami
Publisher: Nyamyam Release: Late 2013 Link A dark fairy tale set in ancient Japan, Tengami is an utterly gorgeous collision of artistic styles, blending ink wash brush work with oragami, pop-up books and paper marionettes. And this aesthetic influences the puzzles too, with a clever interplay between the 3D world and its reality as a 2D construction. The Stanley Parable HD Remix
Publisher: Galactic Cafe Release: TBC 2013 Link The original Half-Life 2 mod was a wry meta-commentary on linearity and narration in videogames, with branching paths for every decision you made to defy the narrator’s intentions. Hailed as genius by some, the game’s remake will bring it to a larger audience while hopefully leaving a few surprises for fans of the original. Goobye Deponia
Publisher: Daedalic Release: Fall 2013 Link The Deponia point-and-click series concludes with this third instalment, following the travails of Rufus, a hapless mechanical tinkerer marooned on the eponymous trash planet, and his accomplice Goal, a woman from the floating utopian city of Elysium. Previous games uncovered a conspiracy to destroy Deponia - does the name of this final game suggest the conspirators succeed? The Rabbit's Apprentice
Publisher: Daedalic Release: Fall 2013 Link A young boy's daydreams turn to reality in this charming point-and-click from indie adventure game dev Matt Kempke (What Makes You Tick: A Stitch in Time). A giant rabbit calling itself the Marquis de Hoto invites the protagonist to enter Mousewood, a magical realm reminiscent of Wind in the Willows. But are such giant talking rabbits to be trusted? And what dangerous spell has cast a pall over the inhabitants of Mousewood? 1954 Alcatraz
Publisher: Daedalic Release: TBA 2013 Link An adventure game crime-caper charting the interconnecting fates of several characters across 1950s San Francisco, as they flee mobsters, try to escape the notorious island prison and get their hands on a stash of loot. Sporting a non-linear narrative, there are more than a few possible outcomes for the crew's ploys. Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse
Publisher: Revolution Software Release: Q1 2013 Link A new 2D entry to the famed point-and-click Broken Sword series, in which the intrepid investigative duo Nico and George have previously chased Templars and investigated Mayan tombs. This new game takes the action to Turkey, and promises a loyal recreation of the earlier games’ appeal, with many of the original team on hand and the threat of an external publisher's influence lifted thanks to a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. The Journey of Iesir
Publisher: TBC (definitely not Big Blue Cup) Release: TBC 2013 Link A gorgeous looking point-and-click set in a jocular medieval world, heavily influenced by its Nordic past and contemporary pop-culture wit. The player is a struggling playwright in search of inspiration - but finds calamity, art crime, and demon-possessed moose-headed alchemists instead. The Twilight Zone
Publisher: Legacy Games Release: Spring 2013 Link Though this adventure skews to a casual audience, the devs sound astute in recognising the key elements of that most quintessential of weird science TV shows - combining its supernatural oddities with a chilling intelligence and social relevance. It may even get a little bit meta too: the protagonist is an actor, somehow sucked into the multiple fictional worlds of the TV series, unable to escape each until he discovers what role he has to play within the episode. Extrasolar
Publisher: Lazy 8 Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link Blurring the line between adventure game and real-life crowdsourced science project, Extrasolar is an intriguing ARG, detailing the latest voyage to Mars by the eXoplanetary Research Institute, whereupon its many mini-rovers will map the planet with the aid of players. Images returned by the rovers are then analysed for clues, and the exotic lifeforms catalogued within - but to what end is this research being done? Who is behind the mysterious XRI? Who can you trust? Intriguing stuff with a sturdy science-nerd core. Jane Jensen's Moebius
Publisher: Pinkerton Road Studio Release: March Link Yet another Kickstarter appeal to point-and-click nostalgia, Moebius comes from “master storyteller” Jane Jensen, responsible for the Gabriel Knight games. Here, improbably-named antiques dealer Malachi Rector is hired by equally improbably-named billionaire Amble Dexter to investigate the death of a woman in Venice. Metaphysical thrills ensue. Hero U: Rogue To Redemption
Publisher: Far Studio Release: October Link Wouldn't you know it, it's another successful Kickstarter campaign from the creators of a classic adventure series - this time Quest For Glory. A 2D point and click adventure game, unsurprisingly, with a snappy sense of humour. Outlast
Publisher: Red Barrels Release: TBC 2013 Link A deserted asylum on a stormy night is the setting for this gruesome first-person horror adventure. The early sightings leave no cliche unturned - drink two fingers of whiskey every time you see an upturned wheelchair with its spokes mysteriously still turning, glimpse a flash of movement while using night vision goggles or discover the bodies of soldiers sent in to contain the situation. But if all this seems a little well worn, then its “target footage” trailer does suggest some mechanical novelty in the way you get around the place: namely, Mirror’s Edge-style parkour. Starbound
Publisher: Chucklefish Release: Early 2013 Link A “story with a sandbox”, Starbound follows your attempts to rebuild an abandoned space-station, after you crashland on it while fleeing the destruction of your homeworld. Missions take you to a constellation of procedurally generated worlds, presented in side-scrolling 2D. Investigate, explore and harvest resources, and ultimately find yourself a new planet to terraform and settle. Shadowgate
Publisher: Zojoi Release: November Link One of the ground-breaking early examples of the adventure genre, first-person dungeon-puzzler Shadowgate is getting itself a remake thanks to - stop me if this sounds familiar - a successful Kickstarter campaign helmed by the original developers. The Inner World
Publisher: Headup Games Release: Spring 2013 Link A hand-drawn 2D point-and-click adventure game set within a giant hollow in a universe of infinite soil. The hollow is ventilated by three wind tunnels, seemingly governed by wind gods who then turn their back on the people of the hollow. With the air supply running out, it’s down to a clueless court musician and his thieving friend Laura to puzzle their way to salvation. Enola
Publisher: The Domaginarium Release: TBC 2013 Link A horror adventure game propelled by a deep and involved love story, Enola investigates those traditionally romantic themes of fear, isolation and murder, and avoids supernatural horror in place of more 'human' fears. Like getting bills in the post then, I assume. Prominence
Publisher: Digital Media Workshop Release: TBC 2013 Link A science fiction first-person point-and-click of the oldest of old schools. Pre-rendered backdrops describe a deserted, high-tech facility, as the amnesiac protagonist uncovers clues to their whereabouts via audio recordings and data archives. Reincarnation: The Root Of All Evil
Publisher: B-Group Productions Release: August Link The latest in the Reincarnation series - originally planned as a webcomic which has since morphed into a point-and-click franchise. The Root Of All Evil is to be the biggest entry to the series yet thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, as its Hellish protagonist seeks to return the netherworld to its former glory. Leisure Suit Larry In The Land Of The Lounge Lizards
Publisher: Replay Games Release: Q2 2013 Link The 25th anniversary remake of smutty point-and-click snigger-fest Leisure Suit Larry In The Land Of The Lounge Lizards achieved over $650,000 via its Kickstarter campaign. The return of Larry’s legendary creator Al Lowe is certainly encouraging after the series recent abysmal Lowe-less outings. The Raven
Publisher: Nordic Games Release: TBC 2013 Link The Raven tasks players with tracking down the titular art thief across a 1960s Europe in what is described as a 'fast-paced' point-and-click adventure game. The Samaritan Paradox
Publisher: Petter Ljungqvist Release: Late 2013 Link Set in Sweden during the eighties, The Samaritan Paradox is a lo-fi point-and-click adventure that sees players trying to hunt down a dead author's last work. Unsurprisingly, the story goes much deeper than that, as the player unravels a terrible conspiracy. Quest For Infamy
Publisher: Infamous Quests Release: Early 2013 Link The team behind the remakes of King's Quest 3 and Space Quest 2 have raised thousands for this point-and-click adventure on Kickstarter - but the game isn’t merely a rerun of the mechanics of old. Instead, Quest For Infamy brings novel conceits, like character classes, to the hoary old genre. HeXit
Publisher: CyberPhobX Release: TBC 2013 Link This sci-fi point-and-click adventure - inspired by Blade Runner, Total Recall and police procedurals - failed to reach its funding goal on Kickstarter, but the team has promised it will still develop the title. However, the blog has remained fallow for several months. Xing
Publisher: Aya Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link A mixture of adventure game, puzzler and firstperson platformer, Xing is set across a number of lushly drawn tropical islands (with dynamic day-night cycles!) and promises the player strange powers: the physical manipulation of space and control of time. Hidden Dawn
Publisher: E-One Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link A fantasy-adventure set in the aftermath of a world-razing conflict. You star as Heru, a young girl hunted by sinister forces because of her latent magical abilities: control of vegetation, gravity, and thought. Adam Syndrome
Publisher: Dark Motif Release: TBC 2013 Link Not, in fact, a terrestrial sequel to Alien Syndrome, but instead a dark point-and-click mystery about a bloke called Adam Reed investigating the death of his wife. The game has completed pre-production at the time of writing and is looking for a publisher. Jack Houston And The Necronauts
Publisher: Warbird Games Release: December Link It's the sci-fi of the fifties - ray guns, bubble helmets and all - transposed into a traditional point-and-click adventure. As test pilot Jack Houston, you leave the Earth in 1999 for the first manned mission to Venus, only for a crash-landing to leave you in cryo-sleep for 1000 years. Awaking to find the world controlled by “savage beast men who worship a devil god with the power to control the dead”, Jack must face point-and-click peril in a struggle for the planet’s salvation! The Last Crown: Haunting Of Hallowed Isle
Publisher: Darkling Room Release: TBC 2013 Link The sequel to 2007’s The Lost Crown, this latest instalment sees players travel to an English coastal island, unravelling its mystery with an arsenal of ghost-hunting techniques. Asylum
Publisher: Senscape Release: TBC 2013 Link From Buenos Aires-based developer Senscape comes this psychiatric horror yarn. It promises that the rather unsanitary-looking Hanwell Mental Institute will be fully explorable - and based on blueprints of actual asylums. The Dream Machine: Chapter 5
Publisher: Cockroach Inc Release: Late 2013 Link The final part of the beautiful Dream Machine episodic releases, Chapter 5 will see more of the award-winning point-and-click adventuring created with claymation and other real world items. Wychwood Hollow
Publisher: Shadow Tor Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link A supernatural first-person mystery/adventure game set in Cornwall - place of standing stones, ancient mystery and the vengeful spirit of murdered witches. The form the game will take is, however, uncertain: not much has been seen of Wychwood Hollow beyond the live-action teasers on the game's site. A Night At Camp Ravenwood
Publisher: Screen 7 Release: TBC 2013 Link A remote camp for delinquents, owned by vampires and run by a biker gang: that's Camp Ravenwood. The game is very much a traditional point-and-click adventure with its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek. Kinky Island
Publisher: Screen 7 Release: TBC 2013 Link A freeware joke project has transmogrified into a funded production thanks to years of iterative development and a successful IndieGoGo campaign. As the name would suggest, this homage to classic point-and-click games is not for kids and contains some ripe themes. The Adventures Of The Black General
Publisher: Private Moon Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link A first-person adventure game which sees players on the trail of a legend, controlling one Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. Combining historical elements (Napoleon) with mystical ones (Egyptian theology). Rick Future: The Adventure Game
Publisher: MetalPop Release: Early 2013 Link Based on a German audio play series of the same name, players can control three different characters in this spoof sci-fi puzzler. Each has different skills which will need to be combined to overcome the game’s obstacles. Tex Murphy: Project Fedora
Publisher: Big Finish Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Subject of yet another unexpectedly successful Kickstarter campaign, this sees the hardboiled PI from the future return for another adventure of mystery, drama, live-action cut-scenes and natty hats. SpaceVenture
Publisher: Two Guys From Andromeda Release: February Link A new sci-fi comedy adventure game from the creators of the Space Quest series. It was successfully funded to the tune of 'a lot of money' thanks to the combined powers of nostalgia and Kickstarter. Psych
Publisher: Legacy Games Release: TBC 2013 Link A casual puzzle-adventure game based on the US TV show Psych in which a dude pretends to be psychic and somehow the police decide they should employ him. Where Are You? A Tale Of Love
Publisher: Red Sun Games Release: January Link Taking control of a man named Derrick - who has, conveniently, no memory of why he has awoken in the place he has - players must piece together a mystery of who Derrick is, all while solving puzzles and picking up items. Montague's Mount
Publisher: Polypusher Studios Release: Throughout 2013 Link Montague's Mount is a first-person adventure game, described by its developers as a 'psychological rollercoaster'. The game will come in three episodes, each released at different points throughout 2013. And it's all set on a bleak Irish island. The Intruder
Publisher: Mister Royzo Release: TBC 2013 Link The Intruder is a survival horror game set in a poorly-lit but otherwise mundane environment, through which you are hunted by a supernatural being (which, for once, is not the Slender Man). It's all about managing your time: you have a few in-game days to prepare for the inevitable encounter - you need to eat, sleep, arm yourself and, going by the trailer, don your hardiest brown trousers.
FPS Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2
Publisher: Namco Bandai Release: January 18 Link The original game was a right old mess and yet defied critics, QA testers and any sense of worldly justice with some two-million plus sales. Its sequel promises to rectify the mistakes, ditch its more gung-ho shooter sections and return to authentically stealthy sniping action. The CryEngine 3 makes it all look rather spiffy, and will hopefully curtail the number of instances when the player tumbles through the floor into infinity. Aliens: Colonial Marines
Publisher: Sega Release: February 15 Link Gearbox are riding high with the success of Borderlands, but their forever-in-development Aliens tie-in has attracted mixed reports. As a space squaddie in the Marine Corps you are sent back to uncover the fate of the USS Sulaco, and by happy coincidence, help fill out the gap between the second and third movie with the corpses of your comrades. Iconic moments from the movies will be recycled here, as the Marines battle several new flavours of alien and mercs in the pay of the Weyland Yutani corporation. Turret guns, flamethrowers, and frantic door-welding are all in evidence - but will the sheer quantity of xenomorph slaughter rob them of their individual menace? Bioshock Infinite
Publisher: 2K Games Release: March 1 Link Bioshock was set in an underwater objectivist utopia gone awry and its successor is not so much a sequel as a funhouse mirror; transporting the action to an alternate universe, another time - 1912 - and yet another failed experiment in utopianism. This time set in a flying city called Columbia, Bioshock’s art deco gives way to neo-classical sobriety - built as a testament to American exceptionalism, but now shredded by vying factions. You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent, dispatched to Columbia to retrieve a girl with incredible powers - who then remains your near-constant companion, establishing the emotional heart to the game and expanding your tactical options when faced with a horde of crazed Columbian citizens. Though the gunplay still feels very Bioshock, with handheld spells called “vigors” allowing you to ignite people or summon clouds of crows the actual structure of the game feels more like the directed experience of Half-Life 2 than the hub-like environs of Rapture. The interplay between Booker and his charge, Elizabeth, meanwhile, may set a new watermark for player-AI relationships. Crysis 3
Publisher: EA Release: February Link The first Crysis sent the player sneaking, dashing and leaping through extremely open, dense, jungle settings, while the second trapped you in a gorgeously drawn but lamentably trammelled New York - necessarily restricted so the game could fit onto those dinky little consoles. In its third supersoldiers-vs-aliens outing, Crytek attempts to meld the two, unleashing you in a New York some years after its reclamation by nature. Its certainly a showcase for the tech beneath, and Crysis has always offered an interesting array of combat options with the protagonist’s nanosuit allowing you to switch between super strength, speed and stealth. But it’s always come unstuck in its enemy design - the aliens just proved little joy to fight, and it doesn't look like they're being left out of the picture here, unfortunately. Day Z Standalone
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive Release: TBC 2013 Link Our mod of the year in 2012 is getting a proper standalone release in 2013. You play a survivor on a huge open island populated by countless zombies and dozens of other players. Food, ammo and medical supplies are scarce, and the people you meet are as likely to kill you for supplies as help you. The mod was wonderfully tense, but unstable servers could mean hours of frustration for those trying to log on. If the standalone release can spruce up the interface and add a much-needed bout of polish, this could be sensational.
Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive Release: TBC 2013 Link Developed as a collaboration between Tripwire Interactive and the Red Orchestra 2 modding community, Rising Storm is a total conversion that moves the action from Stalingrad to the Pacific theatre. Previous games have had slightly shaky singleplayer campaigns, but proved their worth online, with single-shot death, shellshock and clumsy weaponry conjuring a tremendous sense of oppression and panic. Dead Island: Riptide
Publisher: Deep Silver Release: April 26 Link Riptide follows on directly from the events of the original game - an openworld shooter RPG set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse on a tropical island. Though seemingly rescued at the end of the last game, a tsunami sets the survivors back at square one, and so begins again the process of collecting resources and aiding fellow non-zoms in distress. Hopefully building upon their existing work will allow the dev to focus on squashing some of the game-wrecking bugs players encountered first time round. Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6: Patriots
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: TBC 2013 Link Domestic terrorism on American soil is a fairly brave subject to cover when it comes to mainstream videogames and probably requires delicate handling. Perhaps that’s why so many of the development team have jumped ship following the rather cold reaction to its early trailers. It may have undergone a total overhaul - as do so many of Ubisoft’s big budget releases. We can probably still expect rappelling out of buildings, vision modes and co-operative door breaching to make an appearance, but as to the game’s structure, little is known. Alas, there’s little reason to hope it will ditch the cinematic action nonsense of latterday Clancy games for the series’ origins as a supremely tactical squad shooter Prey 2
Publisher: Bethesda Release: TBC 2013 Link Early previews of this game showed a tremendously appealing vertical slice of sci-fi opening world shooting, with the player taking on the role of a human air marshal accidentally transported to an alien planet during the events of the first game. Here he becomes a bounty hunter, clambering and diving all over the Blade Runner inspired cityscape with some rather tasty firstperson parkour tricks, and no small amount of gadgetry. It looked exhilarating to play, with a wealth of combat and traversal options available to you, as you pursued your quarry through the neon and gunmental of a dizzyingly vertical environment. Alas, some sort of kerfuffle between devs Human Head and their publishers at Bethesda has halted production. Will it emerge from limbo in 2013? Here’s hoping. Metro: Last Light
Publisher: THQ Release: TBC 2013 Link Publisher THQ’s money troubles may have done a great service to Metro: Last Light - its constant discounts and Steam firesales have meant that the game’s excellent predecessor, subterranean supernatural shooter Metro 2033, has ended up in many more hands than it might have otherwise and whet appetites for the sequel. Set in the labyrinthine tunnels beneath Moscow - which connect its nuclear-shielded subway system with cold-war-era military bunkers and underground rivers - Metro told a linear tale of survival following a man-made apocalypse. Monstrous mutants stalk the remnants of humanity, while other supernatural phenomena ravage the lands, and mankind struggles with itself - different factions forever at war in the gloomy echoing caverns. This sequel hopes to recreate the claustrophobic tension of the original, with its cumbersome weaponry and weary sense of embodiment. Arma 3
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive Release: TBC 2013 Link There’s over 320 square kilometres of military sandbox in this latest instalment in the super-realistic military shooter series, now relocating the conflict to a near-future mediterranean. Alas, two of the principal developers of the game were arrested for spying while on holiday in Greece - on the very island on which the game’s environment is based. Production has slowed while Bohemia Interactive petitions the Greek authorities to see sense. Warface
Publisher:Trion Worlds Release:TBC 2013 Link One of the most exuberantly silly names for a shooter it might be, but its doing serious business: Warface already has millions of players in Russia, with the free-to-play multiplayer shooter coming to Western shores as soon as they’ve settled on a regionally-appropriate business model and infrastructure. Though it looks like grimly realistic shooter fare, this is actually a giddily fast-paced team-shooter with outlandish perks and buffs. Shootmania Storm
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: January 23 Link Supporting the Trackmania-style framework of creative tools and online tournaments, Shootmania is a sort of pro-player shooter sandbox, allowing you to build levels, tweak game variables to your satisfaction, organise competitive matches and livestream it all from within the game itself. Being so malleable means it lacks a potent aesthetic of its own, however. Sir, You Are Being Hunted
Publisher: Big Robot Release: July Link A procedurally-generated world inspired by bleak British moorland is the setting for this indie survival game - moorland populated by exceedingly gentlemanly robots intent on killing you for sport. Pitched as a tweedpunk anglophile Stalker, it looks to be a complex game of interacting dynamic systems: different robot factions can be lured into conflict with each other, giving the player a chance to slip through the damp bracken unnoticed. 0x10c
Publisher: Mojang Release: March (alpha) Link Trying to work out what 0x10c is could be a game in itself. Lead developer Markus “Notch” Persson describes it as a Firefly simulator, after the spacefaring TV series. What that means in practice is a hulking hybrid of genres, with the player embodying a character inside a ship, rather than the directly controlling the ship itself, as it voyages through a free-roaming universe. It’s part space-trading game like Elite, part disaster-prone space-ship-sim like FTL, part twitch shooter like Quake, part planet-based resource game like, well, I don’t know what. The ship’s computer is a fully-functioning emulated 16-bit CPU, which you can programme, exchanging code with other pilots (it’s multiplayer, too, by the way) to snag the best docking algorithms, or automated turrets. It’s a colossal endeavour - so don’t expect more than a paid alpha this year. Rise Of The Triad
Publisher: Apogee Software Release: Q1 2013 Link The original ROTT was a frivolously chaotic FPS from the era of sprite-based shooters. It had an inventive arsenal, oodles of gore and a breakneck pace - all of which seem to be returning in this loyal remake. The Unreal Engine 3 brings it up to speed visually - with the evil cultist’s monastery offering architecture with complexity far beyond that possible in the first game’s modified Wolfenstein 3D engine. But that doesn’t mean the devs will be messing with the game’s irreverent tone: this is no gritty reboot. Early glimpses see the player collecting coins, detonating gigantic explosions and otherwise causing carnage worthy of the original’s name. Battlefield 4
Publisher: EA Release: Late 2013 Link The beta access promised as part of Medal Of Honor: Warfighter’s pre-order bonus spilled the beans on Battlefield 4’s existence. Though few can have been surprised that DICE would make another game in the series, it’s early announcement, and the fact that that it would be slated before another Bad Company game, has raised eyebrows. And perhaps for this reason, DICE have remained silent on when we can expect BF4’s beta to actually open or what it might entail. Our hopes for the series: a return to huge, non-linear, highly destructible environments instead of the gung-ho COD-alike singleplayer bombast. Also, more vehicle horns. Honk! Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 4
Publisher: Activision Release: Late 2013 Link Along with flooding in the south west of England and country-wide, bum-crippling outbreaks of the norovirus, a new COD game is a certain fixture for late 2013. It’s not officially confirmed as a Modern Warfare game yet, but Captain Price’s voice actor let the cat out the bag, saying he was primed to record lines for a new game. He’s since claimed to have been quoted out of context, but it’s hard to see how that context would change the substance of what he said. Script leaks reported by Gamesradar hint at some details of a generic man-shooter kind: the main character will be a battle-hardened soldier (surprise!), while enemy armour, air support and carcinogenic dust also make an appearance. It seems we can also confirm that the game won’t be set entirely in Phuket, if at all. Interstellar Marines
Publisher: Zero Point Software Release: TBC 2013 Link This ambitious indie sci-fi shooter has been knocking around for nearly eight years now, but recently built momentum thanks to the release of some playable demos and the increased popularity of pre-order-based crowdfunding. Even so, Zero Point failed to hit their lofty $600k Kickstarter goal for the Prologue chapter of Interstellar Marines. The full game is nonetheless coming - with its promises of non-linear gameplayer, open-ended level design, rich storytelling and four player co-op intact. Zeno Clash 2
Publisher: Atlus Release: Q1 2013 Link The original stands out as one of the most inventive games of recent years, set in an alarming, bizarre reality of Zenozoik, populated by alarming, bizarre man-creature hybrids, who you could then punch to death in the firstperson. Sweet. The sequel looks to pick up where the first game’s unsettlingly Oedipal story left off, though takes the action to a Zelda-style open world (now powered by Unreal Engine 3 as opposed to Source). It’s a thrillingly ambitious project from one of the most brazenly barmy imaginations in game development. Bedlam
Publisher: Redbedlam Release: Q3 2013 Link Bedlam is to be both a game and a book - the first foray into sci-fi by Scottish crime author Christopher Brookmyre. In fact, the game hopes to be part of a trilogy of FPS games, offering a meta-narrative to the book’s own FPS-influenced themes of alluring, violent digital fantasy. The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct
Publisher: Activision Release: Mid-2013 Link With Telltale’s unprecedentedly brilliant adventure game adaptation drawing to a close, the way is clear for this FPS TV-series tie-in from Terminal Reality. It’s a prequel, following TV show characters Daryl and Merle Dixon, as they fight their way through dead-heads in the countryside of Georgia. Early signs don’t get the pulse racing, but then few predicted how good Telltale’s adventure game would be either. Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Early 2013 Link After the ill-advised lurch into the present with The Cartel, the ever-shonky six-shooter series is back in the wild west with Gunslinger. Though technically unpolished, the games have always had a few intriguing mechanical innovations and some colourful characterisation among the grizzled outlaws you encounter along its linear path. This time, Techland has ditched the multi-character epics for a sleeker downloadable title. Here, you’re cherry picking episodes from the memory of a gunman of the old frontier, who variously teamed up with big-name bounty hunters and their big-name bounties. Expect slow-motion gunfights and plenty of frontier dust. Takedown
Publisher: Serellan Release: July Link With the likes of Ghost Recon now tumbling headlong into the big-budget FPS furrow left by COD, many wish for the days when the Clancy brand stood for bitter realism and tactics. Takedown is stepping up to fill this gap, and their promised return to squad strategy of the original Rainbox Six and later SWAT games has netted them $200k on Kickstarter. Tangos beware. Dirty Bomb
Publisher: Splash Damage Release: Late 2013 Link The company behind Brink and Enemy Territory bring us another class-based multiplayer shooter - this time a free-to-play terrorism-tussle set in the heart of near-future London. Early footage shows many of their classic class paradigms and abilities continuing into this new game. How it’ll be monetised is yet to be revealed, though surely anyone would put down a fiver just to nuke Croydon.
MMO The Elder Scrolls: Online
Publisher: Bethesda Release: Mid-2013 Link The Elder Scrolls online has weathered a mixed reception since its announcement. On one hand, it's the largest Elder Scrolls game ever made - and the first to allow players to explore the entire continent of Tamriel. On the other, there are those who argue that an MMO of the traditional sort can't do the series justice - after all, Skyrim's just as famous for its basket-based emergent tomfoolery as it is for its actual RPG mechanics. The real reason to watch The Elder Scrolls Online is the talent behind it - the ex-Mythic developers responsible for the innovative Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and, before that, Dark Age of Camelot. Don't write off the old-school MMO just yet. Shadowrun Online
Publisher: Cliffhanger Productions Release: TBC 2013 Link After a rather limp showing on console a few years ago, legendary cyberpunk pen and paper RPG Shadowrun is getting another stab at life online. Cliffhanger Productions' Unity-powered MMO will allow players to become mages, hackers, cyborg warriors and more. It's the blend of traditional fantasy and near-future sci-fi that has always made Shadowrun stand out - this is a world where elves wear tanktops and assassinate corporate dragons. Player actions will impact the ongoing storyline of the pen and paper version, which is a nice touch. Neverwinter
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment Release: Early 2013 Link Cryptic's latest shares a setting but little else with the BioWare RPG series of a few years ago. It's an action-heavy online RPG set in the Forgotten Realms' most famous city, a hundred years after a terrible disaster. It'll be free to play, and there'll be a proper content creation tool that'll allow players to create their own questlines. Cryptic had success with something similar in City of Heroes - here's hoping they can build on that success. Firefall
Publisher: Red 5 Studios Release: Early 2013 Link Firefall is a hugely amibitious free to play shooter that is attempting to be all things to everyone - co-op MMO blaster, competitive FPS, serious e-sport contender. Jetpacks abound, but despite the presence of Tribes designer Scott Youngbood you're better off thinking more along the lines of Guild Wars 2 and Planetside 2. The developers have been active in responding to the community over the course of the game's long beta, and there's a lot of promise in Firefall's vision of a vibrant, monster-stalked future Earth. Everquest Next
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment Release: Late 2013 Link Not much is known about EverQuest Next, but SOE president John Smedley hopes that it will "define the next generation of MMOs." The developer reportedly scrapped the game's design and started over to avoid the subscription slump experienced by content-led MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World. SOE are looking to build the "the largest sandbox MMO ever designed." Hopefully, that means a step away from prescriptive raiding and endless grind and back towards actual immersion and meaningful interactions between players. Marvel Heroes
Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment Release: TBC 2013 Link Recently shown off to the press in an early form, action RPG Marvel Heroes has been slow to win hearts and minds. You drag classic superheroes on a Diablo-style ganking spree taking place in the Marvel universe. It'll be free to play, but expect to shell out for premim heroes and alternate appearances. Potentially of interest to serious Marvel buffs - is that Rocket Raccoon? - but those less enamoured of the comics giant might want to wait for the reviews before investing their time. Survarium
Publisher: Vostok Games Release: Late 2013 Link A post-apocalyptic MMOFPS by the chaps behind the excellent STALKER games is an exciting notion, but little is known about Survarium save that it takes place following a worldwide ecological disaster and that players will battle 'maddened animals and birds' in the ruins of civilization. Hopefully the presence of other players will enhance - rather than undermine - the pervasive sense of threat that made STALKER so special. Age Of Wulin/Wushu
Publisher: Gala Networks Release: 2013 Link Age of Wulin is a Chinese-developed MMO currently being adapted for a western audience. It's set during the Ming dynasty and focuses on martial artists from various schools. While not wholly realistic, there's a strong attention to historical detail and the tone is more magic realist than outright fantasy. There are a few novel ideas in play, too - when you log out, your character remains in the world, performing your crafting professions as an NPC. Project V13
Publisher: Interplay Release: TBC 2013 Link Following legal troubles between Bethesda and Interplay, not much is known about the oft-rumoured Fallout MMO. There was an attempt last year to spark interest around a series of ARG websites, but don't hold your breath on this seeing a release this year. WildStar
Publisher: NCSoft Release: TBC 2013 Link Wildstar is a cartoonish sci-fi MMO that promises to give players a wide range of options for progression, with combat, crafting and exploration all fully viable games in their own right. The developers recently announced an innovative in-game housing system that'll ensure there's space for every player by ejecting individual chunks of land into the sky with rocket boosters. Hey - it's more imaginative than instancing. Wizardry Online
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment Release: Early 2013 Link The official Wizardry Online website claims that the anime MMO has been in development for thirty years, which seems like a bit of a stretch. It's a 'hardcore' online RPG that features permadeath and looks a little like Dark Souls, were it not for the bobble-headed anime characters. World Of Darkness
Publisher: CCP Games Release: TBC 2013 Link CCP are promising a faithful take on White Wolf's pen and paper vampire RPG, so expect to spend more time talking to the monsters than slaying them. There's talk of a complicated political system that'll allow players to make power plays and betray one another by the rules of the Masquerade, the vampire code of conduct. Otherland
Publisher: Gamigo Release: TBC 2013 Link An action MMO set inside a series of virtual worlds - some fantasy, others medieval, others science fiction - that themselves comprise a virtual world. If there were ever a time that the Inception horn was justified, now would be it. It's free to play, and based on the novels of the same name by Tad Williams. Infinity
Publisher: I-Novae Studios Release: Late 2013 Link Infinity has been around forever, it seems - a dream of a procedurally generated universe featuring seamless space-to-surface flight. The developer is planning a Kickstarter campaign early in the year to finally get this starship MMO into game-like shape - but whether it'll be enough to compete with Star Citizen and a resurgent Elite remains to be seen. City Of Steam
Publisher: Mechanist Games Release: TBC 2013 Link 3D indie action MMO that, impressively, runs entirely in a browser. It features traditional fantasy races transposed to the post-industrial world. Expect dungeons, orcs, and clockwork motorcycles. They're really commiting to that steampunk thing: the world is a giant cog floating in space. World Of Warplanes
Publisher: Wargaming.net Release: Q1 2013 Link The follow-up to World of Tanks transplants Wargaming.net’s multiplayer formula to the skies. Take on squadrons of player-controlled WWII aircraft, level up, and upgrade your plane before heading out to do it all over again. Like its caterpillar-treaded cousin, it’ll be free to play but spending money will unlock exclusive vehicles and speed up your advancement. Heroes And Generals
Publisher: Square Enix Release: TBC 2013 Link Heroes & Generals combines a multiplayer FPS (that'd be the 'heroes' bit) with a persistent web-based strategy metagame (you know, 'generals'). It's set during World War II, and you can access the strategy component on the move by using a smartphone. The Castle Doctrine
Publisher: Jason Rohrer Release: TBC 2013 Link The Castle Doctrine is an MMO by indie developer Jason Rohrer, based around the concept of home defence. The doctrine in question is an aspect of U.S. law that allows homeowners to defend their property. You'll need to buy traps in order to prevent other players from stealing your things - but where do you get the money? That's right: by stealing other people's stuff. Not much else is known at the moment, but Rohrer's 'Sleep is Death' showcased some innovative ideas about multiplayer storytelling. Transformers Universe
Publisher: Jagex Games Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link Autobots and Decepticons do as Autobots and Decepticons will in the MMO debut of the Transformers franchise. Early footage shows off a brightly-coloured take on the series, suggesting something closer to the original cartoon than the recent movies. Which can only be a good thing, frankly. It's being developed by Jagex, of Runescape fame. Defiance
Publisher: SyFy Release: April Link A massively multiplayer action game that ties into a SyFy channel TV show. It's set in the area around San Francisco in a future where alien terraforming has littered the world with Hellbugs. Don't let the name fool you! They're pretty terrible. There's a little of Firefall to the art style and premise, but the cross-media aspect is a novel touch. The Missing Ink
Publisher: Redbedlam Release: TBC 2013 Link A cute British indie MMORPG where every player gets their own sandbox world to manipulate as they see fit. It's browser-based on PC, but there'll be mobile versions to allow players to log in while they're out and about. The art style is adorable - a mixture of chunky 3D and 'paper doll'-style players and monsters. Cartoon Universe
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Release: Q1 2013 Link An MMO based on Warner Bros. cartoons - think Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo and co. Run quests, play games on arcade machines, and defeat bosses - it's straightforward stuff, but as you might expect the game is being aimed squarely at a younger audience. World Of Warships
Publisher: Wargaming.net Release: TBC 2013 Link The third part of Wargaming.net’s World War II action trifecta is a battleship deathmatch game. Planes and tanks, we’re familiar with - warships are a stranger proposition, and it’ll be interesting to see how the developers handle the relatively slow pace of naval warfare. Expect a major difference in playstyle between ship types - an aircraft carrier is a very different beast from a frigate or a submarine.
PLATFORM Spud's Quest
Publisher: ChrisD Release: March Link Derby-developed indie platformer that's currently bidding for support on IndieGogo. The developer cites The Legend of Zelda, Metroid and the Dizzy series as influences. You play as a blue potato wearing shoes, because, you know, the ZX Spectrum. A Hat In Time
Publisher: Mecha The Slag Release: Summer Link A 'collectathon' platformer in the vein of Banjo Kazooie with an art style appropriated from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. It’s not just trading on nostalgia though - it has its own off-beat humour and lurid characters. PixelJunk 1-6
Publisher: Q-Games Release: TBC 2013 Link Co-op side-scrolling indie game starring hordes of lovely little pixel robots in the pay of an intergalactic soup manufacturer. Establish bases with four players (or possibly more - the limit is yet to be decided) and explore a gorgeously artful 2D world, systematically turning its lifeforms into soup. Unusually for the (historically excellent) PixelJunk series, this game’s entire development is being described in progress on their blog, and its principal platform is PC. Apotheon
Publisher: Alientrap Release: TBC 2013 Link A 2D platformer with action RPG elements set in mythological Greece. The art style is astonishing, designed to look like the side of an ancient vase. It's by Alientrap, the guys behind underrated 2D spaceman blaster Capsized. Axiom Verge
Publisher: Thomas Happ Release: TBC 2013 Link Axiom Verge is a Metroid-style platformer by a one-man dev team. It's a traditional-looking game in some respects, with a grimy 16-bit art style that looks a bit like R-Type. The standout feature is a 'glitch ray' that applies bugs to enemies and the environments, from slowdown to corruption. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New N' Tasty!
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants Release: Summer Link A ground-up remake of the classic puzzle platformer that renders Abe’s doom-laden escape in full HD. Oddworld Inhabitants have re-done everything, from the FMV sequences to the way the camera moves. The player’s perspective now follow’s Abe smoothly, rather than changing with each new screen. Harold
Publisher: Moonspider Studio Release: Spring Link Another upcoming platformer with really stunning cartoon art. You play as a guardian angel guiding the titular Harold through a hazard course strewn with pitfalls. In the past, members of the team have worked for Dreamworks, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli - and it shows. Contrast
Publisher: Compulsion Games Release: Q1 2013 Link A surrealist 1920s Vaudeville vibe marks this out as a particularly idiosyncratic puzzle-platformer, in which you help a young girl to uncover the mysteries behind her family’s troubled past. The twist is you control a woman only the girl can see, and, as this possibly imaginary woman, you can interact with shadows, transforming into a silhouette able to dance between the areas of shade cast by real world objects. Lovers In A Dangerous Space Time
Publisher: Asteroid Base Release: TBC 2013 Link You and a friend are a pair of lovelorn starship crewmates attempting to defend an enormous pink Deathstar from incoming alien foes. You run around the interior to man varying weapons stations as enemies pour in from all sides. It’s cooperative by design, but expect the kind of co-op that sunders friendships. In space, no-one can hear you scream at the guy sitting next to you. Super Retro Squad
Publisher: Exploding Rabbit Release: March Link Nintendo-inspired platformer with multiple characters, each a tribute to a classic SNES-era hero. That's tribute of the 'bootleg pallette swap' variety, by the way - though there's a self-awareness to Super Retro Squad that saves it from being outright pastiche. An upgrade system lets you level up your characters abilities, and there's a unifying narrative told through cutscenes.
PUZZLE The Witness
Publisher: Jonathan Blow Release: TBC 2013 Link A puzzle game set on a mysterious island by Jon Blow, the man behind Braid. It shares a little with the Myst series - including, in Eric A. Anderson, a designer. It'll be good to see what Blow is capable of with an experienced team and a budget. Clark
Publisher: Golden Tricycle Release: Q2 2013 Link Isometric puzzler where the player guides a quadrupedal robot through a series of cel-shaded challenge rooms. It's all about manipulating blocks to unlock routes and prevent an enemy robot from catching you. Manipulating lasers using reflective cubes give it a touch of Portal. Gunpoint
Publisher: Suspicious Developments Release: TBC 2013 Link PC Gamer’s Tom Francis is making a 2D stealth game where the player attempts to break into a series of high-security facilities using a tool that allows you to rewire electronic equipment - making a lightswitch open a door, for example. Don’t tell him, but it’s looking pretty good. Tetrobot And Co.
PublisheR: Swing Swing Submarine Release: Early 2013 Link Swing Swing Submarine!'s follow-up to Blocks that Matter is taking criticism of the original to heart, dialing back the frustration and attempting to make the core game more accessible. Fans of Blocks that Matter should still expect a challenge, however. Ir/rational Investigator
Publisher: Tom Jubert Release: Q1 2013 Link A spoof noir story, Ir/rational Investigator may look like an adventure game, but it departs from rote in a big way: pointing-and-clicking is replaced by a puzzle minigame in which you unpick bits of if-then-else propositional logic. Dungeon Hearts
Publisher: Devolver Digital Release: TBC 2013 Link Dungeon Hearts is a hybrid puzzle and roleplaying game that combines match-three and JRPG-style battling with, in the words of the developers, 'the ever-escalating pace of Canabalt'. It was picked up by Devolver Digital during GDC 2012 when the Serious Sam publisher had indie devs jump on a bus to pitch them games. Gorogoa
Publisher: Jason Roberts Release: Late 2013 Link Gorogoa is a puzzle game where the play rearranges tiles to change the properties of the environment. Each tile is a self-contained puzzle, and each puzzle informs the whole. It sounds brain-achingly complicated, and the classical art style helps it to stand out. The Franz Kafka Videogame
Publisher: mif2000 Release: TBC 2013 Link There's little to go on with The Franz Kafka Videogame right now, beyond the fact it's an adventure/puzzle game featuring everyone's favourite existentialist author. Alright, not everyone's favourite, because you can never know everyone. In fact, do you even know yourself? Because to truly know yourself you surely have to be confident in your own existence, and to... oh my. H2Flow
Publisher: Haptix Games Release: January Link H2Flow sees players trying to guide a flow of water from the top of a level to the bottom, avoiding obstacles along the way. Sort of like a liquid Lemmings. It looks to be primarily an iOS project, but will be coming to PC too. Teslagrad
Publisher: Rain Games Release: January Link 2D puzzle-platformer in which you change the polarity of platforms with a handheld device, sending them hurtling to or from their magnetic opposites - all in aid of solving a conspiracy.
RACING Grid 2
Publisher: Codemasters Release: Q2 2013 Link Codemaster’s latest racing title offers a three-way split between track, dirt and street - and an ambition to garner wide appeal while delivering a deep driving simulation. Oh, and lovely menus. You can't forget the lovely menus. Carmageddon: Reincarnation
Publisher: Stainless Games Release: February Link How tame Carmageddon looks now - once the videonasty most reviled, now a harmlessly over-the-top knockabout racer with splattery, jam-filled pedestrians. It’s remake may struggle to deliver the transgressive thrill the original game did, but just as long as it approaches racing with the same riotous sense of destruction it should deliver just as many belly laughs. Distance
Publisher: Refract Studios Release: August Link The developers behind the unique and fun free-to-play racer Nitrionic Rush took to Kickstarter to fund their next project - Distance. Freed from the shackles of a publisher, the studio is aiming to take their futuristic survival racing to the next level. Race The Sun
Publisher: Flippfly Release: TBC 2013 Link A hazardous landscape is procedurally generated before you as you attempt to keep pace with the globe’s orbit and escape the onset of dusk. It’s is fast, fun and right now you can play the demo version for free. Trackmania 2 Valley
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Early 2013 Link Trackmania's Valley expansion takes the racing-game construction kit off-road, with a slew of dirt tracks and rugged rallies to test your tyres. It isn't the the most outlandish of the Trackmania releases, but it looks a treat. Trackmania 2 Stadium
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Early 2013 Link Trackmania 2 Stadium, goes in quite the opposite direction from the grit of Trackmania 2 Valley, introducing ludicrous loops, huge jumps and other stunt-bait to the racing-game construction kit’s grab bag of components.
Dark Souls 2
Publisher: From Software Release: TBC 2013 Link Dark Souls received a bare-bones port to PC in 2012, but once modders had polished it up, it was magnificent. You played as a lonesome undead warrior fighting for his humanity in a macabre and utterly hostile world. Every enemy was a threat, a late block or an ill-timed dodge meant a swift and violent death. The follow-up will hopefully strive to be just as dark and deeply challenging, The PC version was announced alongside the consoles, so it'll likely be a little less rushed this time round. Dragon Age 3: Inquisition
Publisher: EA Release: Late 2013 Link Dragon Age has always proved a divisive series. With its third instalment, Bioware hopes to meld the best parts of its adult fantasy Dragon Age: Origins with its much maligned sequel, and hopefully satiate naysayers in both camps. A new protagonist will enter a world in civil war, with a playable area larger than that of the first game, taking place in and around the Orlais region. There'll be more customisation, increased emphasis on tactical decisions in combat and - if you're lucky - more beards. Wasteland 2
Publisher: InXile Entertainment Release: October Link This post-apocalyptic RPG was one of the earliest nostalgia-bait pitches to appear on Kickstarter, promising to return players to the ruthless isometric world first created by Interplay in 1988. Its vision of a blasted future, and the form of its tactical combat, set the stage for Fallout. It also had probably the best pieces of cover art for a game ever. The principal developers of the original now return with this love letter to old-school RPG mechanics. Grim Dawn
Publisher: Crate Entertainment Release: August Link From the people behind Titan Quest, comes this top down action RPG, set in a world ravaged by otherworldly forces - those who want to enslave humanity and those who want to destroy humanity before they are yoked by their opponents. Only outsiders - humans rejected by their own because of their unearthly powers - can launch a resistance. Five classes, multiple skill trees in each, and synergistic modifiers aplenty are promised, along with oodles of loot and co-op. South Park: The Stick Of Truth
Publisher: THQ Release: Late 2013 Link Recent trailers make it difficult to tell where the cut-scenes end and the action begins - but that’s just as much a testament to the loyal recreation of the potty-mouthed show’s relentless patter as it is a frustration. With longstanding RPG makers Obsidian on board, we can hope that there will be just as much attention paid to its mechanics as there has been to the papery-poo texture of Mr Hankey. Howdy ho, kids! Shadowrun Returns
Publisher: Harebrained Schemes Release: June Link Lifting fantasy cliche out of the medieval era, Shadowrun sends its dwarves, elves, trolls and dragons hurtling into a cyberpunk future. However, the version of Shadowrun that made its way to PC in 2007 was hardly worthy of its name, sullying the memory of the classic turn-based RPG which had delighted console gamers some 14 years earlier. Harebrained Schemes looks to right this wrong with a loyal return to the classic series. Dead State
Publisher: DoubleBear Productions Release: December Link This turnbased survival RPG sees players struggle through a world suffering the early stages of a zombie outbreak. It might not wow visually, but there’s clearly a lot more going on under the hood. The ample talent of Brian Mitsoda (he of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines) is being applied to writing duties, weaving a rich story through the sprawling, non-linear world. There’s a lot of brutal decisions to make here at the end of the world, with players being faced with choices that defy conventional scales of morality. Gorky 21
Publisher: TopWare Interactive Release: TBC 2013 Link 1999’s Gorky 17 – aka Odium – was a Polish take on the postnuclear- war scenario, and in some ways a precursor to Stalker. For follow-up Gorky 21, TopWare have inserted just about every sci-fi cliché going, including steampunk weapons and nano-technology power-ups. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not TopWare go full Fallout 3, or just keep the original game’s top-down roots. Doubly interesting given that there’s been no news of the game for a good year. The Dark Eye: Demonicon
Publisher: Kalypso Media Release: January Link A third-person action-RPG, Demonicon follows the story of a pair of siblings, subject to the machinations of demonic forces. Players take on difficult moral choices in this bleak fantasy world, and their destiny will ultimately shape the fate of an entire continent. Dungeon Gate
Publisher: Wild Game Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link Villages, hordes, dragons, dungeons - you've seen it all before, but this thirdperson action RPG’s unique selling point is the ability to drain the DNA of any living creature you encounter, and allow you to adopt their form, aiding the player in combat and puzzles. Raven's Cry
Publisher: TopWare Interactive Release: Q1 2013 Link A tale of revenge set in the Caribbean of the 17th century, RPG-adventure Raven’s Cry attempts to reassert the realities of buccaneer life - well, up to a point. It may be keen to recreate the architecture of the time, weave in real historical figures, and stay true to the murky morality possessed by your average brigand, but it also features magic pirate treasure which can make you invincible or summon ravens to tear enemies apart. Still, naval battles and duelling should ensure you buckle remains heartily swashed. The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa
Publisher: Tales Of Game's Release: TBC 2013 Link "The ball is in your court. The fate of the galaxy, the Post-Cyberpocalypse and all of b-balldom is in your hands. Do you have the courage, vigor and sagacity to slam with the best? Or are you just going to jam with the rest?" The sequel to pseudo-spoof RPG Barkley: Shut Up And Jam Gaiden returns with the same absurdist humour but with snazzy new graphics and a whole load of new mechanics that promise to make the game as enjoyable to play as it is satirical. It’s now an action-RPG, with top-down-shooter-style combat, and a vast world to explore. The game tore past its Kickstarter target by a factor of three - no doubt because backers were eager to get their hands on the $100 tier reward of a cyber-dwarf body pillow. Sword Of The Stars: The Pit
Publisher: Kerberos Productions Release: Q1 2013 Link Marking a departure from other games to bear the Sword of the Stars name, The Pit is a light-hearted, dungeon-diving action-RPG, with more than a dash of roguelike thrown in for good measure. Eschalon: Book 3
Publisher: Basilisk Games Release: Summer Link An old school RPG of an uncompromising kind, Eschalon’s climactic chapter hopes to recreate the sense of pen-and-paper freedom with its many miles of wilderness and dense dungeon complexes. This third instalment builds in dozens of fan-requested features, overhauls the engine, and promises to be highly modifiable: the development kit will be shipped shortly after the game’s release. Cube World
Publisher: Wollay Release: TBC 2013 Link Minecraft is the obvious touchstone here, but in its action Cube World takes influence from The Legend of Zelda series. Not that it will be called Cube World for long, as the developer wants to avoid copyright issues with litigious Minecraft clones. Watch this space. Caribbean!
Publisher: Snowbird Games Release: February Link The world of the buccaneer is perfect RPG fodder - after all, ship captains did assemble their squads, they did upgrade their ships and they did augment their bodies with stat-boosting hooks and peglegs. Caribbean! aims to fill the swashbuckling RPG gap. Chaos Chronicles
Publisher: bitComposer Release: TBC 2013 Link Hoping to revive the classic party-based western RPG of the 80s (along with nearly every other Kickstarter project), Chaos Chronicles namechecks a list of venerable influences: Ultima, Pool of Radiance, Bard’s Tale and Wizardry. The game promises rather less retro graphics, however, and a hex-based combat system. Sacred 3
Publisher: Deep Silver Release: TBC 2013 Link Development responsibilities for the third main instalment in the action-RPG series have passed on to Keen Games. With that change comes others: classes from the second game will not return, and the entire game is enabled for four-player co-op. Even offline you are accompanied by a squad of AI allies. SaltyPepper
Publisher: SaltyPepper Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link A thirdperson ARPG which hopes to bridge the gap between singleplayer and competitive multiplayer, Saltypepper introduces “groundbreaking” spectator tools for its PvP arena. Not much else is yet known, but its early concept art reveals a fantasy world with manga-influence character design. Divinity: Original Sin
Publisher: Larian Studios Release: Q1 2013 Link This may be an isometric, turnbased fantasy RPG, but in other ways Original Sin casts aside tradition: the game boasts class-free character development, interactive bread products, innovative co-operative dialoguing and a huge development tool-kit. Pier Solar HD
Publisher: Watermelon Co. Release: December Link A high-def port of the only RPG released on Sega's ancient Genesis console this side of the millenium. Originally an experiment among members of the Sega homebrew community back in 2004, Pier Solar sprawled into an RPG matching the size of professional productions from the 16-bit era. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, it’s now coming to PC, too. Nuclear Union
Publisher: 1C Company Release: TBC 2013 Link An irradiated mutation of Fallout and Stalker, Nuclear Union is an RPG set in an alternate timeline where the Cuban missile crisis led to outright war. It's being developed by Best Way, the Ukrainian studio best known for the fabulous strategy game Men of War. It's their first foray into a different genre, but has the weight (and money) of Russian mega-publisher 1C behind it. Expect anomalies, slow-motion death cams and shambling nightmare creatures. Mars: War Logs
Publisher: Spiders Games Release: Mid-2013 Link Say it with me: a cyberpunk RPG set on Mars. That's all you need to know. It's like if Red Faction had deeper elements to it (and didn't go rubbish with Armageddon and then die) like RPG-style combat, dialogue choices, customisable characters and all that jazz. The biggest problem is it's made by Spiders, which means PCG's very own Rich will probably be too afraid to play it. Mistborn: Birthright
Publisher: Little Orbit Release: Autumn Link Birthright is an RPG based on the popular Mistborn fantasy books, which is set in a world of “Allomancers,” who can do magic with select metals by burning and ingesting them. It’s an unusual conceptual bedrock for a magic system, and one that I can imagine transitioning nicely into videogame form. Sadly, there’s very little information about Mistborn: Birthright, save for a little concept art and a “Fall 2013” release window, though the author of the novels, Brandon Sanderson, has signed on for story and dialogue duties. Yogventures!
Publisher: Winterkewl Games Release: Early 2013 Link The inevitable has come to pass. The enormously popular Yogscast has spawned a videogame. The Yogscast crew have earned recent fame exploring Minecraft adventure maps, and it’s quite easy to trace that inspiration right through the Kickstarter description, especially the part that pitches Yogventures as “adventure maps in Minecraft, only now you aren’t limited to just blocks!” Co-hosts Simon and Lewis can’t code, so production is being handled by Winterkewl. This is their first game. Can they take on the mighty Minecraft? Kitaru
Publisher: Aoineko Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link Kitaru is a third person RPG set in a dystopian cyberpunk future. It features free-roaming exploration and turn based combat. Quirky touch controls and minigames make it an interesting proposition on iPhone, but it’s unclear if those features will make the translation to PC. The developers say they’ve been working on art and background work for five years, but only started building it in 2012, which suggests this one could still be some way off. Cult: Awakening Of The Old Ones
Publisher: David Hagar Release: TBC 2013 Link You can take control of a band of adventurers or an entire army in this intriguing roguelike. The world generation tech will model unique dungeons, vast landscapes and then fill them with civilisations, history and old gods. It sounds like Dwarf Fortress, but with less city building, more exploration, and procedurally generated storytelling. “Dialogue, the personal stories of the various characters you meet, cultural anecdotes, and even the mythology of each world will be generated from scratch,” says developer, David M. Hagar. Cult’s kickstarter secured $34k in funding, five more than six times the amount Hagar asked for. Ring Runner - Flight Of The Sages
Publisher: Ring Runner Team Release: TBC 2013 Link Ring Runner is a top-down shmup expanded with RPG elements, customisable ships and a 20 hour singleplayer campaign. Missions challenge you to escape exploding trenches, battle bosses bigger than your screen, race against NPC pilots and engage in spectacular space skirmishes in an engine modelled on the laws of Newtonian physics. You can upgrade your ship’s capabilities with more than 300 items including turrets, rocket launchers, laser cannons and close range grappling hooks. Procedurally generated enemies can spawn with any weapon/hull combination and their AI will adapt to the tools at their disposal. On top of all that, there will be additional multiplayer and co-op modes like “Spire Battles,” which described as “fast paced, MOBA-like base battles.” It’s massive, crazy ambitious and surprisingly pretty too. One to watch. Secrets Of Grindea
Publisher: Pixel Ferrets Release: Early 2013 Link Action RPG Secrets of Grindea is a game about trying to steal everything in the world, even if it’s behind or underneath or inside a monster. You’ll have to murder a lot of wildlife to maximise your stealing potential, but the adorable 16-bit art takes the edge off the necessary mass murder. The co-op mode supports up to four players and there’s an open class system that allows characters to progress any way they want. Oh, and if you’re worried about the name, here’s what the developers say about it: “In the world of Grindea, people are obsessed with collecting items. Imagining how many hours they must spend hunting loot it’s no wonder they named their entire world Grindea. However, you won’t be forced to grind at all, unless you choose to.”
Publisher: EA Release: March 8 Link The most famous city building sim series of all time is set to make a confident return next year. Maxis have built a new engine to simulate the intricacies of each city’s inner workings with even greater detail. Glassbox will dynamically measure hundreds of factors, from pollution levels to citizen satisfaction to hopefully create the most satisfying SimCity game we’ve seen for a long while. Early footage of earthquakes and alien invasions suggest’s there’s plenty of heartache ahead for SimCity’s disaster-prone towns. Prison Architect
Publisher: Introversion Release: TBC 2013 Link Maintain control of a facility of murderous inmates in Introversion’s upcoming prison management sim. Set up cell blocks, organise guard patrol routes, wire up a security system and try your best to stop your captive brutes from breaking out. Escapees aren’t your your biggest problem. Inmates will try their best to get away with as much crime as possible while you’re not looking. They’ll smuggle in shivs, start riots and do their best to run slipshod all over your carefully made plans. Prison Architect is in paid alpa stage, which means you can pay to play an early version right now. Introversion are adding more features every week. Don't Starve
Publisher: Klei Release: March Link “Survive! Collect! Attack!” is the tag line for Klei’s sepia-toned open world survival game, Don’t Starve. You play a top-hatted gentleman adventurer who must wander the randomly generated wilderness, collecting tools for your camp to aid your survival. There will be little in the way of a tutorial, Klei want us to discover how their mysterious world works for ourselves. There are hints scattered throughout the update notes on the Don’t Starve site, however. Your dapper gent can cultivate eggs and hatch feathery companions, fish in ponds and fight flaming hounds. If you’re too callous with those you meet, you risk enraging the “Krampus” demon, who will hunt your adventurer down and punish him for his sins. Eek. Cities In Motion 2
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: Q2 2013 Link Cities in Motion 2 marks Paradox’ return to the strangely fascinating world of mass transit management. The sequel will let you organise bus routes and tweak train fares with a friend in co-op mode and an improved economy model will add a social engineering element to the advanced route-setting features. Affordable transport will affect the prospects of nearby residents, making them more affluent and more demanding. The new day night cycle will add a bit of extra visual flair to your metropolis and there’s even an option to run competing networks in multiplayer. Star Command
Publisher: War Balloon Games Release: Early 2013 Link Star Command lets you recruit a crew, build a spaceship and trawl the universe in search of new life and new civilisations to crush. It was originally backed as an iPhone game on Kickstarter, but should arrive on PC in 2013. You can build new rooms for your craft and bolt new weapons to its exterior as your minions slave away at consoles and gradually level up within. It wouldn’t be a space exploration game without the odd space lobster turning up, but though your crewmembers look suspiciously similar to Star Trek officers, they have the capacity to be a lot more violent. If you decide not to recruit the aliens you meet, you can wipe them out and loot what remains of their civilisation. The Sims 3 70's, 80's, & 90's
Publisher: EA Release: January Link Expansion packs for The Sims 3 have reached the stage where they’ve just started going slowly back in time, decade by decade. They’re likely to reach the Victorian era before Maxis get round to making a proper sequel, which I’d rather like to see, because this pack adds hairstyles, clothing and furniture specific to each era. Flared jeans, flat tops, arcade machines, legwarmers, leotards headbands and grunge threads are just a few of the items included. Bus, Woodcutter, Bridge, Crane, Farming Simulators 2014
Publisher: Wendros Release: Throughout 2013 Link With comforting certainty we can expect to see follow-ups to Excalibur, SCS, UIG and Wendros’ series of simulators. The next Woodcutter Simulator has already been announced, is due in January and will let us wield chainsaws in first-person. Finally Keep an eye out for the next edition of Euro Truck Simulator too, our Tim Stone called it “one of the PC’s finest and freshest driving games” in our review in PC Gamer UK issue 248.
SPORT Most successful sports franchises roll around each year like clockwork. That means that while we don't have much concrete information, we're able to guess at what's on the way in 2013. Trials Evolution: Gold Edition
Publisher: Ubisoft Release: Early 2013 Link Trials could easily fit in the action, platform, puzzle or even sim pages here, but by sneaking it into sports it gets pride of place at the top. Evolution is the demi-sequel to Trials HD released on Xbox 360 and, for some reason, still not released on PC. Trials Evolution is still down for a 2013 PC release though, and I'm ready. IHF Handball Challenge 13
Publisher: Neutron Games Release: January 25 Link If there's anything the 2012 Olympics taught us, it's that handball is a more dramatic and exciting sport than most people realise: it seems mostly to be about charging into your opponent and hurling a large ball directly at their face. If there's anything Handball Challenge 12 taught us, it's that clunky animations won't necessarily stop your game finding an audience. Fingers crossed IHF HC13 smooths out the wrinkles, and delivers on the sport's promise. Football Manager 2014
Publisher: Sega Release: October Link Normally Sports Interactive are coy on their future plans, but this year studio head Miles Jacobson has been slightly more vocal about plans for future releases. Football Manager 2014 is coming, and 2013's successful addition of Classic mode will be built upon. Will it prompt Rich and Graham to disappear a football-shaped hole, never to return? They already have. FIFA 14
Publisher: EA Sports Release: September Link FIFA 12 was the first year that the tremendously popular football game achieved parity between its PC and console versions. FIFA 13 was still excellent, and built on that - slightly - with a few new animations and a new free-kick system. What FIFA 14 will add is anyone's guess, but it feels to us like the series is in need of more significant new features if it's to continue selling in such huge quantities. PES 2014
Publisher: Konami Release: September Link It still had a lot of faults, but PES 2013 was a big step up for a series that has been flagging behind it's EA rival in recent years. PES 2014 will hopefully build on that big step, especially with the creation of a London-based dev team for the game. FIFA Manager 14
Publisher: EA Sports Release: October Link Hey, here's that other football management game - remember it? Hopefully not. Previous editions of FIFA Manager have been absolutely dire, feeling like a weekend warrior in comparison with Football Manager's premiership contender. Still, FIFA Manager 14 is practically inevitable. Pro Wrestling X
Publisher: Wishbone X Release: December Link Development of Pro Wrestling X began in 2006, and it's been a long-road for the game so far. A Kickstarter project launched in late 2012 aimed to speed the development process, but it failed to reach even its meagre $75,000 funding goal. Still we're betting that its passionate developers won't be pinned to the mat quite so easily.
STRATEGY Total War: Rome 2
Publisher: Sega Release: October Link Total War games have been consistently providing astonishing, epic-scale battles for over a decade, and to many, the original Rome: Total War was the pinnacle of the series. Now series' commanders Creative Assembly are returning, bringing with them everything they've learned from the likes of Shogun 2 and Napoleon: Total War. There'll be revamped naval combat (with ships able to interact with land battles), and, well, war elephants. Check one of our Total War: Rome 2 previews to learn more. Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Release: March 12 Link Heart of the Swarm has been in beta for months now, so we've had plenty of time to hop on and try out the changes to StarCraft 2's multiplayer ourselves. The current thinking? Not much has changed, as each proposed new unit has found itself excised for upsetting the game's delicate balance. But! The singleplayer campaign remains something of an unknown. Will it be a tender romance between two lovestruck zerg larvae? One can hope - and we'll find out early next year. Command & Conquer
Publisher: EA Release: TBC 2013 Link Command & Conquer has struggled to find its place in today's gaming landscape, but there's some hope this new multiplayer-only effort might reverse the trend. Developed by a new studio established under the BioWare name and led by Jon Van Caneghem, the creator of Might & Magic, it'll return to the Generals spin-off universe. That means modern military instead of distant future, traditional terrorists instead of aliens, and no Kane. Also, it'll be free-to-play, which either means it'll be the most popular game ever made, or simply really annoying. Company Of Heroes 2
Publisher: THQ Release: Early 2013 Link Company Of Heroes 2 puts players in charge of the Soviet army, battling both the invading German forces and the bitter Russian winter. Despite the change in setting, it's remaining true to what made the first game great: tight, tactical battles, with an emphasis on using the environment to flank and overcome your bitter enemies. Is there a barn in your way? Burn it down. Have a tank behind a wall? Smash it through. See a frozen lake? Trudge dangerously across, or break it apart with grenades it to prevent your enemies from passing.
With THQ's rather public financial woes doing the rounds, Company Of Heroes 2 could be a more important release for the publisher than anyone would have imagined back when it was announced. Their coffers may be helped by a multiplayer component with microtransaction, employing what Relic learned from the short-lived Company of Heroes Online. Europa Universalis 4
Publisher: Paradox Development Studio Release: Q3 2013 Link Taking place in a time of muskets, pikes and natty helmets, Europa Universalis 4 brings grand strategy ideals to the fore: nation building, diplomacy, war and exploration. Given strategy gamer's long-lasting love for EU3 and its many mods and expansions, expect EU4 to have a similarly long tail, and a similarly expansive scale. End of Nations
Publisher:Trion Worlds Release:TBC 2013 Link Developed by Petroglyph, who were founded by former Command and Conquer developers. Published by Rift, who brought considerable tech and online expertise to their MMO, Rift. End of Nations combines the two company's disciplines: a massively multiplayer real-time strategy game, set in a near-future world where three factions are vying for total control of earth and its resources. With up to 64 players on any particular map, each directing an army of dozens of units, you'll work together to capture territory from enemy factions and conquer a global campaign map. Scrolls
Publisher: Mojang Release: TBC 2013 Link Scrolls is a collectible card game set in a traditional fantasy world, of which there are many. What sets it apart from the likes of Magic: The Gathering is its 3D battlefield, which impacts the effectiveness of your cards. It's a card game that could only ever exist digitally. Right now it's available in its early alpha stages, and can only be played against other human opponents. By the time it's finished - sometime in late 2013, we reckon - there'll be a full overworld, where you'll be able to fight the computer and conquer territory. Oh, and it's made by Mojang, the Swedish developer founded on a base of Minecraft's millions. For that alone, it's worth keeping an eye on. Impire
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: Q1 2013 Link Peter Molyneux picked Populous for his first nostalgic Kickstarter campaign, leaving Dungeon Keeper fans to look elsewhere for their devilish strategy games. Thankfully they don't have to look far, with Impire more than happy to pick up the mantle. As in its admitted inspiration, you tend to your underground dungeon, recruit and train up minions, and generally make a nuisance of yourself to the heroes of the world. It's being published by Paradox, who have a good line in compact, throwback strategy. (See also: 2012's A Game of Dwarves). Medieval Mayor
Publisher: Tilted Mill Entertainment Release: TBC 2013 Link From the developers of Caesar 4, Children Of The Nile, SimCity Societies and Pharaoh, Medieval Mayor puts you in charge of a medieval city. From placing the buildings to hiring the local executioner to perhaps implementing the old world equivalent of Boris Bikes, it's a simple enough idea presented by a developer with at least some pedigree. Eador: Masters Of The Broken World
Publisher: Snowblind Studios Release: Q1 2013 Link Hexes and fantasy and turn-based strategy are common bedfellows, but Eador: Masters Of The Broken World introduces a karma system to mix things up a bit. As the developers say - you are the leader of a people, and your choices will have an effect on the world and its people. Beyond just making them all slaughter each other, that is. Omerta: City Of Gangsters
Publisher: Kalypso Media Release: February 5 Link For ten years now Tropico has developed its own small niche, delivering light-hearted strategy japes as the leader of a banana republic. From the same folks, Omerta: City of Gangers may do the same thing for 1920s organised crime. A management game of criminal empire building and turn-based fighting, it's a nice change from more traditional strategy settings. Expeditions: Conquistador
Publisher: Logic Artists Release: January Link A successful Kickstarter campaign has helped launch the expedition of this strategy/RPG, in which players take on the role of a Spanish explorer in the 1500s. Featuring actual topological maps of regions in South America, you're looking at exploration, conversation, management and strategic combat. And brilliant conquistador helmets. Divinity: Dragon Commander
Publisher: Larian Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link How to improve dragons: strap time-slowing jetpacks to them. From the developers of trad-fantasy hack-and-slasher Divinity, Dragon Commander is a mad and brilliant sounding spin-off. As the captain of a fleet of armoured dirigibles, you form your armies (and find a wife) via Mass Effect-style conversations, then switch to a combination of real-time dragon action and mid-battle turn-based strategy to win sky battles. Prime World
Publisher: Nival Release: TBC 2013 Link The minds behind Heroes of Might & Magic 5, Blitzkrieg, and Etherlords come together to make this online strategy title, trying to appeal to the MOBA crowd. They even have a page on their site explaining why you'll love it if you're a Dota 2 or League of Legends player, which is a bold tactic. Godus
Publisher: 22 Cans Release: September Link Peter Molyneux and his team at 22 Cans want to rebirth the god game genre. I have no problem with that, what with Molyneux and chums practically inventing it in the first place. With the shackles of big publishing houses removed, this could well be 22 Cans' magnum opus. Or it could be a confused mess of ambition over coherent design. Chaos Reborn
Publisher: Julian Gollop Release: TBC 2013 Link Chaos is one of the best - and earliest - turn-based strategy games of all time, designed by Julian Gollop in the years before he created his most famous game, X-Com: UFO Defense. Having since lost the rights to both XCOM and Laser Squad, he's now making a sequel to Chaos. It's very early along in the development process, as you can probably see from the screen, but Gollop's recent handheld work proves he hasn't lost his touch. Maia
Publisher: Machine Studios Release: TBC 2013 Link Maia just barely scraped its way to crowdfunding success in late 2012, but it should have had a far easier time. A procedurally-generated strategy game that combines throwback elements from Dungeon Keeper with forward-leaning ideas from Dwarf Fortress, it sounds great in theory and looks great in screenshots. One to watch. The Banner Saga: Factions
Publisher: Stoic Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link An absolutely gorgeous turn-based strategy-cum-RPG title featuring everybody's favourite pillagers, the Vikings. The Banner Saga: Factions stands out with its very pretty hand-animated art stlye. March Of The Eagles
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: March Link The above screen may make it look like a bunch of bored-looking men in pyjamas standing on an oversized floating model of Europe (probably in order to tell you the weather), but March Of The Eagles is actually a deep strategy title taking in the era of the Napoleonic Wars. With a slight chance of rain. Plants Vs Zombies 2
Publisher: EA Release: Spring Link We know next to nothing about it - hence the screenshot above being from the first game - but there's a good bet that it'll contain zombies, plants and their never-ending war. This is also PopCap's first big game since being bought by EA and laying off a chunk of their staff early in 2012. Amongst those lay-offs? Original Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan. Legends Of War: Patton's Campaign
Publisher: PQube Release: TBC 2013 Link If you've ever wanted to be General Patton, or if you're a fan of high level strategy and turn-based combat, then Legends Of War: Patton's Campaign could be the game for you. No word yet on whether there'll there be a 'rousing speech' mini-game. Dreadline
Publisher: Eerie Canal Release: First half 2013 Link Not only does Dreadline have an interesting concept - real-time strategy that sees players (as monsters) killing people off just before they would die in otherwise calamitous real life events - but it has a team with credits like SWAT 4, Bioshock, System Shock 2, Freedom Force, Titan Quest and Rock Band behind it. East vs. West: A Hearts of Iron Game
Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: Q2 2013 Link Real-time strategy in the Second World War period has been done to death, so it's always a relief when a game move on to that horrible post-war period of mass paranoia and nuclear tension. Huzzah then for East vs West: A Hearts Of Iron Game, which covers the Cold War period in Paradox's traditional strategic fashion. Wargame: AirLand Battle
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Release: TBC 2013 Link Continuing the theme of Cold War-based wargames, Wargame: Airland Battle is an RTS set around a series of 'what if' skirmishes - as in 'what if the world had been that dumb and actually broken out into all-out war in that period?' It's also developed by Eugen, they of the excellent and overlooked poker-style strategy game RUSE and last year's just-as-excellent and even-more-overlooked Wargame: European Escalation. Starlight Inception
Publisher: Escape Hatch Entertainment Release: August Link Starlight Inception is pegged as "the rebellious stepchild of Wing Commander, X-Wing and Freespace 2". That sounds like a dream game, and references enough beloved memories that the game reached its funding target during a recent Kickstarter campaign. Some skepticism is warranted, though: its developers are unproven, we've seen nothing more than concept art so far, and creating vast space games is hard, content-intensive work. Northstar
Publisher: Kerberos Productions Release: TBC 2013 Link Only last year it seemed like everyone was jonesing for an Elite-alike - this year there are almost too many to choose from, thanks to Kickstarter’s nostalgia-fuelled boom. But while most are thrashing around wildly to gain the public’s attention, Kerberos have opted to drop space-trading game Northstar off the radar entirely. It’d be easy to write the game off entirely were it not for the creators’ development pedigree with Sword Of The Stars. Planetary Annihilation
Publisher: Uber Entertainment Release: July Link Another dream project funded via Kickstarter. Planetary Annihilation is about massive real-time battles spread across entire planets, in which its even possible to build rockets on a moon and use it as a projectile missile against your planet-bound enemies.
While it sounds too good to be true, the game has established developers behind it. Jon Mavor was a programmer on Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, and has an artillery unit named after him in the latter. He founded PA developer's Uber Entertainment and they made the underrated Monday Night Combat. Now, he's returning to his roots with Planetary Annihilation. It's a throwback to the games that made Mavor's name, but also unlike anything you've ever seen. It was crowdfunded to the tune of $2.2 million, and is one of PC Gamer's most anticipated games of 2013. X Rebirth
Publisher: Deep Silver Release: TBC 2013 Link The X series has often proved a difficult proposition even for committed fans of space-trading games. With this reboot, Egosoft is hoping to make it easier for newcomers while not compromising its hardcore following. Drifter
Publisher: Celsius Game Studios Release: February Link An original creation backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Drifter is another space-trading game looking to take on Elite. A galaxy 100,000 light years across and 10,000 stars means there'll be a fair bit of exploring and adventuring to do - but can a single-man dev studio take on the big budget Elite-alikes? Defense Grid 2
Publisher: Hidden Path Entertainment Release: January Link Everyone who played the original Defense Grid loved it, pretty much, because it was a fantastic, fun and funny tower defence game. This Kickstarter-funded sequel looks like it will end up being more of the same, but with added bells and whistles. That's might not a bad thing. Kinetic Void
Publisher: Badland Studio Release: Q1 2013 Link Freedom, openness, the ability to choose: it's all I really want from my space-faring Elite-alikes. So with a procedurally generated universe, customisable ships and the ability to forge your own path, I'd say Kinetic Void is making all the right noises. Plus it asked for 20 times less than Elite: Dangerous did. Thrifty. Clockwork Empires
Publisher: Gaslamp Games Release: Second half 2013 Link Dwarf Fortress meets SimCity in a Lovecraftian steampunk world from the creator's of Dungeons of Dredmor. It's absurdly ambitious, but we're happy they're trying. War Of Nations
Publisher: Chris_Entropy Release: January Link An ambitious turn-based strategy title from a one-man developer, War Of Nations also takes gold for having the least inspiring name of all time. Still, it has AI opponents, multiplayer, management elements and most of the other things you'd expect from a bigger, commercial release. Xenonauts
Publisher: Goldhawk Interactive Release: Mid-2013 Link Oh, Xenonauts, I still love you. It's just the romance has worn off a bit. Back when you were announced, we both lived in a world where the only XCOM remake in development was a first-person shooter, and the idea of a turn-based strategy game about defending the earth against alien invaders was a novelty. Now it's something I've become used to. But I do still love you. I do still want you. I do still care. Castle Story
Publisher: Sauropod Studio Release: TBC 2013 Link The three-man team at Sauropod Studio asked for a modest $80k to make Castle Story - a Minecraft-inspired strategic game in which players build and defend their own castle from enemy attacks. They got over $700,000. Seems a fair few people are interested in this idea. Folk Tale
Publisher: Games Foundry Release: TBC 2013 Link Fantasy city-building with adventure and questing elements in a world of goblins, blacksmiths and cows. Folk Tale has some interesting ideas and a sense of humour.
2014 AND BEYOND With the rise of Kickstarter pushing games into the public sphere earlier and earlier in development, we already know some games that are out in 2014. Elite: Dangerous
Publisher: Frontier Developments Release: 2014 Link David Braben is finally to make the Elite sequel everyone has been patiently waiting for since Frontier: First Encounters came along in 1995 and didn't work properly. With crowdfunded millions and possibly more from investors, this could be the starbound successor people have longed for. Star Citizen
Publisher: Cloud Imperium Games Corporation Release: November 2014 Link The hype behind Chris Roberts' new project was phenomenal, to the tune of $6.2 million. A spiritual successor to the likes of Wing Commander, Privateer, Freespace and their ilk, Star Citizen is one of the grandest experiments in a genre many considered to be dead. Project Eternity
Publisher: Obsidian Entertainment Release: Late 2014 Link As soon as the Kickstarter boom began there were rumblings from Planescape: Torment fans the world over. Could this be how Chris Avellone and Obsidian get to indulge their writerly RPG fantasies? Yes, it turns out. Project Eternity doesn't have a name yet, but its first pretty screenshot suggests it'll contain trees, water and dirt. We're excited. Starcraft 2: Legacy Of The Void
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Release: 2015 Link Do you remember the past? When Blizzard announced they were splitting Starcraft 2 into three games and the internet went ballistic, claiming they were 'gouging' gamers and we should all put off buying SC2 to spite those money-hungry beggars?
Then Starcraft 2 came out and was so ridiculously good we all forgot about that vocal minority and started looking forward to the second - and this, the third - parts. Legacy Of The Void focuses on the Protoss single-player campaign, and that's about all that is known. Doom 4
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Release: 2015 Link (NOT PICTURED: Doom 4) We've known Doom 4 was coming for over a year, but during that time no other information has dripped out about id's return visit to hell. Will it have a shotgun? Will have a blue keycard? Will it have a BFG? These questions haunt us. Mass Effect 4
Publisher: EA Release: 2015 Link EA have adopted an interesting technique over the last year of being more open with the public about their plans. This means not only has Dragon Age 3 been talked about before there's anything much to talk about, but Bioware have confirmed the existence of a new Mass Effect game.
It's so early in development, in fact, that the series' lead designer Casey Hudson has been asking people on Twitter for ideas. A unique way of creating the next blockbuster entry to the series, or over-the-top damage control from a studio scared witless by the furious response to its last game? Thief 4
Publisher: Square Enix Release: 2014 Link Thief 4 - or Thi4f, pronounced Theefourf - was announced years ago to many a raised eyebrow. Then Square Enix released one of the best games of 2011 in the shape of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. If the Montreal studio can do the same with Thief 4 - update the mechanics of a beloved PC classic while maintaining what made them great the first time - then it could be something really special. Unfortunately, it's gone into stealth mode ever since. Dreamfall Chapters
Publisher: Red Thread Games Release: 2014 Link Much-loved adventure series The Longest Journey is to have at least one more chapter, coming from series creator Ragnar Tornquist and his new studio at Red Thread Games. We know nothing more about it than that, but depending on your point of view, expect unique/tedious puzzles and philosophical/soporific dialogue from strong/Buffy women in their pyjamas/underwear. Cyberpunk 2077
Publisher: CD Projekt RED Release: 2015 Link CD Projekt RED's next hugely ambitious project ditches the sword-and-scars fantasy of The Witcher in favour of the Cyberpunk pen and paper RPG. It'll feature a non-linear story, character customisation, future-robo-people - all the stuff that made the studio's last efforts so so special.
Except the future-robo-people, they're new. Homestuck Adventure Game
Publisher: MS Paint Adventures Release: 2014 Link A webcomic parody of the adventure games of yore in the shape of Homestuck/MS Paint Adventures, transposed to an actual version of an actual adventure game actually funded to the tune of millions of actual dollars by Homestuck's rabid fanbase. It's the sort of thing the internet was made for. So it's nice to see it's the sort of thing that is being made for the internet then, really. Limit Theory
Publisher: Procedural Reality Release: 2014 Link There are a lot of space simulation/adventure games popping up on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but you can never have enough. Limit Theory skips any semblance of scripting or plot in favour of a sandbox universe of procedurally-generated everything, in which you can explore, shoot things, coo at the pretty stars, or die a horrible, horrible death. Sounds great.
If you're not out on the town and can't stomach watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (now with 100% less Dick Clark), have yourself an old-fashioned orcish New Year's Eve in Azeroth. Every hour on the hour today, World of Warcraft will feature oooh-ahhh fireworks displays over its cities. You'll even be encouraged to quaff down exotic festive libations and /dance the night away with the Horde or Alliance toon of your choice.
For the more adventurous, Blizzard has a tip: " For those looking to avoid trouble -- or get into it -- you may want to steer clear of -- or head toward -- Booty Bay as the guards there appear to be spending more time enjoying themselves than enforcing town rules (at least into the morning hours)."
As always, we at PC Gamer encourage you to party responsibly while in Azeroth. If you become too inebriated to fly yourself, please summon a mount. Your safety is our utmost concern.
Sometimes you have to get rid of the old to make way for the new. In a new service update posted on its website, EA has announced that it will be discontinuing online services for several games, including The Sims 2, FIFA Soccer 11, and FIFA Manager 11. If you'd like to have one last online fling with one of these venerable titles, don't delay -- the shutdowns will go into effect over the next two weeks.
EA states in the announcement that "as games get replaced with newer titles, the number of players still enjoying the older games dwindles to a level -- fewer than 1% of all peak online players across all EA titles -- where it’s no longer feasible to continue the behind-the-scenes work involved with keeping these games up and running. We would rather our hard-working engineering and IT staff focus on keeping a positive experience for the other 99% of customers playing our more popular games. We hope you have gotten many hours of enjoyment out of the games and we appreciate your ongoing patronage."
For a full list of affected games, including games that have already had their online services discontinued, click here.
Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
This preview originally appeared in issue 248 of PC Gamer UK.
In space, you’ll remember, no one can hear you scream. But don’t worry, because you won’t be doing much screaming in Dead Space 3. The series once traded on slow-burn body horror and things making wet, meaty bumps in the inky black space-night. Now it prefers hurling gruesome beasts of increasing size at the screen, a psychological warfare of attrition rather than subversion.
The change is debated by developer Visceral Games. Studio vice-president Steve Papoutsis has refuted claims that the game was defanged on the fright front, maintaining that it’s just as scary as previous Dead Spaces. Publishers EA, on the other hand, admitted that they wanted to set a lower fear-barrier for entry, inviting those with lillier livers into the game for the first time.
It’s a confused message, and watching someone else play Dead Space 3 reveals a slightly confused game. Co-op play is the major addition to this third outing. Returning protagonist Isaac Clarke is joined by John Carver, a character more grizzle than man. Carver is the soldier to Isaac’s engineer, removing some of the tension of previous games. Isaac – the shtick went – had to adapt to survive, a nonviolent man by trade. Carver is used to blowing limbs off things though, be those things human or grim megamonsters from beyond the stars.
New enemies include human Unitologist soldiers.
The arsenal has copied that trend. Previously, Isaac would make do with welders and bandsaws, the tools of his trade turned into lethal weapons. Dead Space 3 has standard shotguns and assault rifles – the same kind used by the game’s human enemies, the first of which I spot in a valley on the ice planet of Tau Volantis. Carver and Clarke are picking their way through the world’s snowy wastes when they’re jumped by a group of Unitologist soldiers. They have body armour and wield assault rifles, but they’re quickly jumped in turn by a group of Necromorph ‘twitchers’.
The soldiers are eviscerated before Carver and Clarke can bring their weapons to bear, leaving them with the task of cleaning up the twitchers. The aliens can flick forward at a frightening speed, closing the gap before either of the co-op players I’m watching can draw a bead on them. It’s a mechanically tense section, but it’s not directly unsettling.
Psychological tricks make more concessions to the series’ trademark horror. Playing in co-op, Carver starts to see haunting remnants of his past. They don’t appear on Clarke’s screen, promising some panicky conversations over Ventrilo as one player absorbs his character’s forced madness. Another section that details Carver’s loopiness sends him inside his own mind to fight off his inner demons, in the form of Necromorph enemies. It means the game, for better or worse, doesn’t really cultivate the same oppressive menace as previous Dead Spaces.
I think the reason that Mass Effect 3 remained my favourite game of the year is also the reason it caught some flak: it was the end of a huge story that we were all seriously invested in. For me, that gave the whole 20-hour adventure an almost electric energy, the tingly feeling that everything had been leading up to this. For some, that meant the not entirely satisfying ending felt like a slap in the face.
I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t like the actual end scene much, but it was a few minutes of nonsense among twenty hours of the best Mass Effect has ever been. That was my ending: the full scale invasion of the Reapers, the desperate street battles, the tragic deaths of old friends, the final moments of camaraderie with the ones left alive. I’d already had most of the closure I needed before the... weird bit.
The history we all have with these characters, and the attachments we’ve formed with them, gave Mass Effect 3 an unfair advantage over everything else that came out this year. But it didn’t take that for granted. Despite the praise we’d all heaped on the previous two games, BioWare worked hard to do better.
For me, the most important part of that was the story. It’s BioWare’s strength, of course, but after Mass Effect 2’s unconvincing Cerberus angle I wasn’t sure they’d close it out decisively. I needn’t have worried. The climactic nature of the Reaper invasion gives Mass Effect 3’s story drive and urgency, and the premise of racing around the galaxy to drum up allies gave you a string of critical decisions to make. It felt like being in charge again.
The RPG elements finally clicked, too: it’s the first Mass Effect game where I wanted to continue with each class I tried. As well as being powerful and distinct, they were customisable in a much more significant way: it was up to you how heavily armed your class should be, and how rapidly their powers would recharge. Heavier weapons meant slower powers, and finding your preferred balance was the first time in the series that I got really excited about character builds.
Mass Effect 2 made combat satisfying, but it still dragged after the umpteenth arena scuffle with the same enemy classes and the same low walls. Mass Effect 3’s contribution was a massive overhaul in enemy design. Every faction is completely different to fight against, and you’re fighting a lot of them. Within each army, there are intricate relationships between the enemy types that you need to disrupt before they buff, heal, or armour-plate each other. Figuring out how to combine your squad’s powers to deal with that was a shifting challenge.
But maybe the most remarkable thing about Mass Effect 3 was that we were able to have any personal investment in it at all. This is a series that had been giving us hugely consequential decisions for 40 hours already: the state of the universe and most of its key players were radically different for each of us. From its first scenes to its massive conclusion, Mass Effect 3 could make no assumptions about which of your 13 companions might be alive or dead. Under the hood, it’s a nightmarishly complex web of dependencies and replacement story branches. And yet to us, the whole thing was seamlessly consistent. Everything I’d done was reflected in the ongoing situation, everyone I’d lost was gone – and the story adapted. It’s the most impressive trick I’ve ever seen a sequel pull, and it’s a big part of what made Mass Effect 3 so special.
Questions surrounding the portrayal of women in games, and the treatment of women in the games industry, have been with us throughout the year. Encouragingly, the resulting discussion, and events like #1reasonwhy, managed to rise above the vomitous whirlpool of anonymous abuse that characterises lowest dregs of internet discourse (which exist far away from here, of course). The issue is here to stay.
With that in mind we decided to take a look back across the year and celebrate the games that have done a good job of intelligently portraying a broad range of characters in terms of gender, race and sexuality. I'm happy to deliver an official PC Gamer fist-bump to Telltale games for their work on The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead derives its dramatic momentum from the frictions that spark among its diverse cast members. It succeeds not because it brings together such an interesting group of human beings, but because it simultaneously elevates them above the race and gender cliches that, under the pens of a less thoughtful writing team, could easily come to define them.
In The Walking Dead we meet men and women, young and old, black and white, cowardly and proud, angry and mistrustful. Every trait is a feature of each character's personality, not a direct symptom of their race, gender education or background. In Lee Everett we have a rare example of an african american main character. He's a professor. He's a killer. Kenny is from the deep south but he's not a hick. Young Clementine is vulnerable, but intelligent and independent. In a medium where lazy characterisation based on race and gender is the norm, The Walking Dead represents a breath of cool air. Every character resists cliche. The result is one of the most engrossing and surprising stories of the year.
Props go out, too, to Mass Effect 3. A close runner up. Bioware have gathered a fine team of interesting and capable women, men, androids and space toads for the glorious finale and for the first time in the series they introduced fully written same-sex relationships. The writers blogged about it too.
"I’m fortunate to have gay and lesbian friends at BioWare who were willing to take a look at Traynor for me and help me edit a few bad lines that played into negative stereotypes. As for the fans, the reaction has been very positive so far – I think the nicest thing I’ve heard was, “I think I’ve actually had that conversation in real life," said writer Patrick Weekes.
BONUS AWARD: Most adroit three point turn out of the mindset and values of the 21st century - Hitman Absolution
The fact there have been so many gender-related gaming scandals this year may be a good thing: in previous years these sorts of things have gone largely without comment or complaint. This year’s cavalcade of calumny is proof, at least, that there is an increasing will to change things.
Change things like, say, a game trailer in which the male protagonist brutally murders a host of sexy BDSM nuns in graphic slow-motion. Or the atmosphere of an industry in which women are routinely patronised or abused as evidenced by the #1ReasonWhy Twitter movement. Or games in which female characters appear only to be objectified or killed. Take Black Ops 2’s cast of speaking roles for women, for instance: one (“probably some whore”) gets burnt alive and then blown up with a grenade. Another gets her throat cut (though, in fairness, this can be avoided through the game’s branching paths). The third is a pilot - promising! - although she gets shot out of the sky and our character jumps in and is able to fly the plane with no prior experience.
The longest, loudest facepalm of the year was triggered by the sight of Hitman: Absolution's rubberised nunssassins, and the Facebook campaign that invited friends to order Facebook "hits" on girls for having “awful make-up," "strange odour" and "small tits," and on guys for having a "hairy back," a "big gut" or a "small penis," which at least gave men and women equal opportunites to offend one another. The Facebook campaign was quickly pulled. Hopefully we'll see less of its like next year, and all the years beyond.
Sword of the Stars II was released last year in such a shockingly unfinished state that the developers issued a public apology. Thirteen months later, and this ambitious 4X space game has been allowed to boldly go for a second time. Sadly, while the bugs are (mostly) fixed, the game remains deeply frustrating.
You start off by choosing from a variety of finite 3D galaxy maps to conquer, and one of seven races to play as. Each race is unique in the way it moves around the map, and its particular strategic strengths. The avian Morrigi specialise in trade, and have ships that move faster through space when grouped in large fleets. By comparison, Enhanced Edition newcomers the Loa are a race of sentient AIs that build sequences of relays between stars to speed up their movement, and use nanotechnology to pool their ships, rebuilding and adapting them as required.
Play alternates between the turn-based galaxy map and real-time battles, and there is a range of victory conditions, including last-man-standing and conquering a certain percentage of the map. However you play, the basic game is the same.
Fleet movement is separated into missions that can be assigned to individual fleets. Survey missions reveal any habitable planets in a solar system, and how expensive terraforming one with a colonisation fleet will be. Once a colony is built its population and income will increase, and you can also send construction fleets to build space stations around them, from naval outposts that defend planets and expand the range of fleets to civilian orbitals that enable trade and diplomacy.
When opposing factions are encountered, you can send fleets to battle in single-turn ‘Strike’ or longer ‘Invasion’ missions. During battles, a more conventional RTS control system is adopted – left-click to select ships and right-click to move and attack. Ships can also spin and roll to either avoid enemy fire or take hits in less damaged areas.
On top of all this is an extensive, semi-randomised tech tree to be researched, and the capability to design your own ships, all of which sounds very enticing. And it would be, except these systems appear designed to make the game as slow and unintuitive as possible.
It sorely lacks a comprehensive, playable tutorial, and the UI is more difficult to navigate than an asteroid field: menus upon menus with tiny, illogically placed buttons. It took me half an hour to figure out how to place a space station near a planet.
When do you crack through the game’s outer shell, the resultant experience is inflexible and grating. The mission system is completely arbitrary, severely hindering the game’s strategic potential. You can’t combine a survey/colonisation mission, or change a fleet’s course to respond to an enemy invasion. You can’t react on the fly: everything must be done separately with no room to change your mind, and it slows the game to a crawl.
Battles meanwhile are limited to a maximum of 12 minutes, which initially sounds like a smart idea, but means many conflicts end in a draw. It’s also selective in the information it provides you with: damage, for example, is indicated on your ship but not on the enemy’s. Oh, and the button for rotating the camera during battles also controls ship movement. Imagine if humans moved their legs by blinking: it’s that counterintuitive, and that annoying.
Kerberos have had a year to get this shipshape, but aside from a few patches over holes, Sword of the Stars II is the same ponderous vessel.
Expect to pay: $25 / £15 Release: Out now Developer: Kerberos Productions Publisher: Paradox Interactive Multiplayer: Yes Link: www.swordofthestars.com
Nothing cool lasts forever. When Shogo ($2.99 on GOG) first landed in 1998, it was in a world where anime was finally making a splash in the West. The likes of Ghost in the Shelland Neon Genesis Evangelion were becoming geek household names, making it not just acceptable but (almost) cool to watch cartoons full of blood and nudity, with episode names like “GIVE UP! But Just Before We Do, The Sure Kill Sword Appears!”
In retrospect, Shogo is a slightly toe-curling snapshot of that early excitement. Like so much of the anime world, it seemed exotic and authentic at the time, when not many of us had seen much of it. Seeing it through more experienced eyes now, Shogo’s take on Japanese mecha feels heavy-handed, clichéd, and obvious; like a tourist visiting Germany and immediately investing in a pair of lederhosen and a beer stein to fit in with the locals. Japanese names? Check. Japanese intro song? Check, and one that’s ironically very inappropriately appropriate, in the spirit of the time. Authentic Japanese feel? Not even close, from the bad English-dubbed dialog to the way main character Sanjuro’s base houses a ridiculous collection of shout-outs thrown in to prove the designers’ love of the genre. There’s a sexy girl poster on his wall with a “CURV” logo ripped straight from Evangelion. His (unseen) fellow officers include Patlabor’s Noa Izumi and Macross’ Isamu Dyson. Like so much else, this was cool at the time. Now? Kinda cheap.
KAWAII! SUGOI! YURUSENAI!
Cheap also describes the general feel of the game. Shogo was the first outing of Monolith’s Lithtech engine, which would go on to power the amazing No One Lives Forever, as well as Blood 2. Most of the design problems are unsurprising for 1998, including big, largely featureless levels, low-polygon models that make everyone look like they’ve been stamped in the face with a shovel, and no real way for the characters to express themselves beyond facing each other and waving their arms while audio files play. On release, Shogo's focus on storytelling and character dialog was still pretty refreshing though, spoiled only by Half-Life and (to a lesser extent) SiN rewriting the rule book.
Its central gimmick remains cool though, and ripe for ripping off. Throughout, you regularly swap between traditional FPS action on foot, and running around in a giant mecha to really cut loose and blow stuff up. Say what you will about the big, hulking battle-tanks of games like MechWarriorand Starsiege, there’s something great about the Japanese “physical extension of the pilot” variety, which offer the perfect mix of speed, power and sleek design. Shogois no exception, giving you insane firepower and all the explosions its early particle system can handle. Rockets? Boom. Giant robots? Boom. Parked cars? Boom.
Oddly, though, even in the mecha stages where you’re high above the streets shooting at enemies who exist solely to be crushed underfoot, the experience feels more like running around a model town than actually being a giant. This is partially because there isn't a lot of stuff in the environment to provide a sense of scale, but the problem is mostly the speed of the action. Whether on foot or in your robot, you blitz around at roughly half the speed of light, and the feel of the combat is oddly unchanged. Both you and most of the mechs you face are spectacularly fragile, to the point that being on-foot is far from the killer disadvantage you’d expect, and you rarely get to savor the feeling of actually being a giant death machine. Most of this is more apparent in retrospect than it was at the time, and none of it stopped Shogo from developing a cult following that would still love to see a sequel. No argument there.
Despite a comeback from MechWarrior and the introduction of newcomer Hawken, It’s amazing how few mech games we’ve seen in the last few years now that technology is finally powerful enough to render awesomely destructible cities instead of a few boxes and empty planes. The industry decided that nobody cared any more, even when one look at a Wanzer, an Aestivalis, or any other cool giant robot should be enough to explain why a whole generation would kill to go stomp around Tokyo.
For its part, Monolith was going to continue the Shogo story with expansions, but delays and mediocre sales resulted in it bouncing around several genres in search of a hit before finally striking it big with F.E.A.R.and Condemned. Even so, references in later games still show a fondness for Shogo, so there must be someone in the company who’d love to have a second crack at it. As long as it doesn't get in the way of No One Lives Forever 3, who could complain about more stompy robots?
I knew the moment the tide had turned. It was 15 hours into my first XCOM: Enemy Unknown campaign, and I’d just outfitted my squad’s psychic soldier with psi armour. I’d only discovered Major Tom’s latent mindbending abilities a few missions before, but he’d already proved himself a devastating anti-alien defence in the field. Kitted out in this gear, he was near unstoppable.
Earlier in the game, I’d hung back. I’d waited it out, luring aliens into laser crossfire, overlapping vision cones and overwatch orders, patiently, eventually clearing out XCOM’s alien infestations. Now, I could sprint psychic Tom out into the open, call out those unknown enemies in droves, and melt their puny brains. I revelled in it. I started talking at the screen. “You think you can run, you horrible bug? I’ll make you eat your friends. I’ll make you stand in the open, rip your disgusting body open with hot plasma. I’ll make you die. I’ll make all of you die.” Then I’d start cackling.
I’d invented a fiction. My soldiers were my action figures, I’d made them run and hide and shoot and watch their friends die, and I imbued them with the heroism and pathos of those events. Graham Smith had been impetuous and aggressive. He died when he strayed too close to a burning – later exploding – car. Owen Hill, once carefree and cheerful, was calcified by his death. He became a dead-eye sniper, silent and stoic, and able to lance a Muton through the eyes with a snapshot from half a map away.
Marsh Davies was relentlessly helpful. My team medic never missed a mission, and reinvigorated everyone else when their resolve slipped or their blood drained out. He never once panicked. Richard Cobbett was insane: a close-range monster, he’d hurtle into combat, heavy alloy cannon acting as far-future shotgun and drawing enemies out for easy shooting. He somehow survived the entire campaign.
Until the turning point, I imagined my women and men daunted by the task of saving humanity. After, with the psychic in their midst, I imagined them standing in XCOM’s home base, grinning. They had it in the bag. They were too powerful, too well-equipped, knew too much about their enemy. Enemy known, now.
I’d led them all the way, but I didn’t feel like it was my victory. It was theirs as much as mine. These action figures were alive. XCOM: Enemy Unknown seduces players with attachment, making you know and care for your soldiers. When they die, a tiny part of me dies. Sometimes they live. I love it when they live. Without that attachment, XCOM is merely a mechanically superb turn-based strategy game that I’d suggest everyone plays. With it, XCOM elevates itself even further, forging player memories that’ll live as long as you play and care about games.