It is now mid January and the holiday season is officially over. Whatever your poison may have been over the break, that gaming experience is most likely coming to an end and you’re hankering after something shiny and new. In my particular case I was entirely beholden to Dragon Age: Inquisition over Christmas. It was a good game…. no, actually it was a great game; rich and engrossing as a RPG should be with so many elements that just kept you coming back for more and more. What I particularly loved was how side quests felt woven into the main narrative, everything you were doing seemed to be leading to one grand overarching goal, so very little felt tacked on. It was another great example of how focused Bioware games can be compared to Bethesda’s RPG efforts.
Indeed, I only have one specific gripe with the game, namely the killing of the dragons themselves. There are ten of these monstrous beasts you can seek out and execute as an optional extra and at no point was it mentioned why you’re doing this. It was an Everest situation in that you had to conquer them because they were there. They weren’t hurting anyone, they were mostly just chilling in their lairs and in I come all high and mighty and summarily dispatch them. A few of them were even asleep when I stumbled upon them and rather than let these majestic creatures lie, I felt the need to throw a jar of bees at them to wake them up…talk about rude. I felt particularly bad when a handful tried to defend themselves by summoning their young to attack me, so not only was I responsible for killing ten beautiful dragons but also a lot of dragon babies. I committed dragon genocide. Anyway, I digress… over the last three months I’ve poured over 100 hours doing every last little bit of that game and now I’m finally satisfied. It is securely back in its case and on the shelf hopefully never to be opened again because frankly, at this stage, if I see another dragon I might just pass out. Poor lil Dragon – was just hanging out until the Inquisitor came knocking.
So what next? It’s been a quiet few weeks on the new releases front at the start of 2015 but we’re on the cusp a slew of great games what will hopefully litter 2015. With that in mind, here are the titles on the three big consoles I’m most looking forward to playing in the coming months:
As we all know the end of 2014 was a pretty bad time for Sony in terms of first party titles. Driveclub was a buggy mess on release and though those issues are now resolved, on feels that the game has missed it’s chance to make any real impact. Similarly, Little Big Planet 3 also shipped too early and it took a while and a host of patches to bring it up to scratch. Fortunately, the beginning of 2015 looks a lot more promising. Let’s hope that the extra time the devs have had on the upcoming titles will bear fruit and we’ll get some truly outstanding next gen games:
The Order: 1886
One of the plethora of titles that was delayed from last year, The Order: 1886 has never stopped looking absolutely stunning but early builds had some journalists concerned with a lack of fun in the gameplay. Recent news from the grapevine suggests that dev Ready At Dawn has addressed this in last few months and recent iterations have had a real injection of playability. As a truly new IP that’s been next gen focused from the start, it really is one to watch and let’s be honest, Sony needs a big win with this so must be throwing a lot of resources behind it to ensure it’s good. A steampunky werewolf hunter set in Victorian London just sounds too tempting to not be excited about.
Bring On The Werewolves.
If you’ve been left cold by the idea of ‘The Order: 1886’ (admittedly unlikely…steampunk werewolves people) then Bloodborne may be more your sort of thing. The spiritual successor to the hugely popular ‘souls’ games on last gen, this seems to take the hard as nails winning formula of its predecessor and adds much faster, more dynamic controls. I liked Dark Souls, it was a very well put together third person action game (as Bloodborne seems to be) but I did find the clunky controls of the ‘Souls’ series hard to get into. Something with that same, deliciously dark feel but presented in a much slicker, faster way is very a welcome addition to the PS4 exclusive stable indeed. My only concern is that tonally, it feels very similar to The Order: 1886 and as these games will be released within a few weeks of each other, I worry that i’ll be ghoulled out by the time Bloodborne ships.Bloodborne: Prepare to feel spooky.
Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
This game won’t be on everyone’s radar but it’s certainly worth looking into if you haven’t yet because it seems so intriguing. From The Chinese Room critically-acclaimed creator of Dear Esther, not much is known about their new title save it’s set in Shropshire during the apocalypse when everyone worthy has literally been Raptured. I’m not entirely sure what the game element of this title will be yet but the premise and the sneak peeks we’ve had so far certainly make me curious to see what this is all about.Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture will put players in a beautifully realised, desolate world.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
This supposed final chapter in the ‘Uncharted’ series is certainly something to get excited about. In a way i’m a little disappointed Naughty Dog, the crown jewel of Sony’s dev studios, isn’t working on a new IP but that’s a minor quibble because no matter what this team puts out it’s always stunning. There was some suggestion that after the troubles this studio faced early last year, they wouldn’t be able to deliver a game in 2015, but the demo they recently put out of Uncharted 4 seems to have quietened down those rumours. This isn’t going to be out till the end of the year, but when it does arrive, it’s sure to once again blow the doors down and delivery truly quality gaming.
A possible darker chapter for Nathan Drake? Let’s hope it doesn’t lose it’s sense of fun.
Despite falling behind in sales compared to it’s chief rival, X1 had a pretty good year last year and certainly won the day when it came to first party software. The playing field seems a little more even in 2015 with both companies having a number of exciting new titles in their arsenal. Of course Xbox has the juggernaut that is Halo coming out this year but one feels it’ll be how the new IPs fare that’ll decide how well Microsoft’s studios do when we come to look back on 2015.
Halo 5: Guardians
Much like Uncharted what can you really say about Halo that hasn’t already been said? It’s almost always a quality release and one you’d expect Microsoft to ensure they get right. The only real concern is that it’s a new studio handling things after Bungie finally gave up the reins but from what we’ve seen from the multiplayer beta, the game seems to be in worthy hands. Besides the airtight multiplayer experience which’ll undoubtedly set the bar high, I’m most interested to see in what direction they take the story in, maybe a new protagonist is on the cards?That iconic Halo look is set to make a comeback.
As a Playstation gamer myself, one of the biggest regrets I have is not being able to play the Fable series. Back in it’s ‘Black and White’ days Lionhead Studios were king in my mind and it was such a shame when they went console exclusive (much like Rare before them). Legends looks like a refreshing turn for the series as it’s based on cooperative action rather than its traditional 3rd person RPG style. What excites me about this game is how fun the whole experience seems. From the art style to the character interactions and all the way to the gameplay itself, this iteration of Fable really looks like something you’d want to jump into with your mates. Hopefully it’ll live up to expectations and if it does, Sony should pay attention cause it’s the type of game we really want on the PS4.Fable Legends: Looking fun and beautiful.
Ori and the Blind Forest
One I’m looking forward to on the strength of art style alone (plus a bit of a heartbreaking launch trailer) ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ reminds me of the sort of 2D action platformers I used to enjoy on the SNES, games like ‘The Lion King’. This small, charming title could really make a splash in the way ‘Child Of LIght’ did last year.Ori and the Blind Forest: This year’s Child of Light?
This third person cover based shooter initially grabbed gamer’s attention as it was going to be released alongside a companion TV show, but with Microsoft closing the production studio responsible for delivering it’s filmed content for X1, this idea seems completely lost now. Regardless of this lack of what seemed like a gimmick anyway, the game looks solid enough. Both players and antagonists have access to time-bending powers which, if pulled off successfully, could lead to some unique gameplay mechanics.
Next to Xbox and Playstation, Nintendo has a sparse cupboard when it comes to new releases this year. This is very much par for the course however and one is increasingly aware that the Wii U is not an everyday console like its rivals. Nintendo had a good end to 2014 with ‘Mario Kart 8’ and ‘Super Smash Bros Wii U’ demonstrating that key franchises still have plenty of gas left in the tank, but hopefully this year will focus on more single player experiences.
The Legend of Zelda Wii U
Sony has Uncharted, Microsoft has Halo and Nintendo has The Legend of Zelda and from what we’ve seen so far, this is gonna be a real push into current gen gaming for the series. The beautifully rendered environment we saw at E3 is fully explorable and the combat that was briefly demonstrated looks pretty up to date. The Zelda fanbase is a pretty hard one to please but with the success of the current gen iterations of other key franchises, one can expect Nintendo to do a decent job on Link’s latest adventure.
Starfox Wii U
This one may not be coming out in 2015 but it’s certainly one of the biggest announced games for Nintendo. My first console was a Super Nintendo and my first 3 games on it were ‘Super Mario Allstars’, ‘Street Fighter II Turbo’ and ofcourse ‘Starfox’ so i’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the adventures of Fox Mcloud. Though it’s hard to see on rails shooters being relevant in this day and age, the innovative use of the gamepad as your cockpit view, motion controls to position your crosshairs and analog sticks to control your Arwing, there’s a lot on offer in terms of new gameplay. Here’s hoping that the new Starfox can capture some of the magic of the SNES original.A very unusual set of superheroes.
A 4v4 arena shooter with a very Nintendo-esque feel, Splatoon replaces bullets with ink and invites you to claim as much territory in a level as you can by marking it with your team’s colours. I love the design of the levels and of course the big, vibrant colours that are on display here. If executed well, this new IP could challenge for best multiplayer experience of 2015. You just want to COAT these levels in colour.
THIRD PARTY RELEASES
Besides the annual releases of Call Of Duty and Assassin’s Creed which I could not be more bored with at this stage, the three major consoles (well maybe not Nintendo) are getting a slew of third party software from which it’s hard to pick favourites. One would assume that the first party studios are getting their act together when it comes to the bugs that accompanied releases this autumn, and we can only hope that the various studios and publishers that are responsible for the games below realise how dissatisfied customers were at the end of last year and finally deliver working games.
The first big release of the year, Evolve, if it comes off, could be a mainstay of multiplayer sessions for the rest of 2015. The premise is pretty simple: one player takes the role of a constantly evolving monster while four other players take the roles of hunters trying to fell said monster before it becomes too powerful. As you can imagine, this game will be all about balance. If the gameplay between hunter and hunted is even slightly off, it will lead to dull matches but if there’s enough back and forth in the 4 v 1 environment, it could lead to some real multiplayer madness. I’ve been waiting for a truly definative multiplayer experience on the PS4 and i’m really hoping this is it.Bagsy the giant monster thingy
Batman: Arkham Knight
I absolutely love this series, not only was it a genre defining third person adventure but it really bought a beloved comicbook universe to life in a way no other series has managed to do in gaming. Although most people love ‘Arkham City’, my favourite game in the series is Arkham Asylum as the confined environment led to a much more chilling atmosphere than the sequel achieved. It reminded me of the thrills you experienced in the original Metal Gear Solid swapping Shadow Moses for the Asylum. I hope Arkham Knight can recapture the buckets of atmosphere the first game had and that they get the new mechanics of the batmobile spot on. Either way, this series has delivered quality games and there’s no reason to think this entry will be any different.
Rocksteady’s last Batman game? If so they gotta go out with a bang!
Final Fantasy XV
I’m a big Final Fantasy fan…actually scratch that I used to be a big Final Fantasy fan. I merrily played 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (10-2) and 12 and thought they were all excellent games and genuinely looked forward to every release, but then 13 happened. I ran to Game and got my copy of FF XIII, slid the disk into my PS3 and then was bored to tears for eleven hours before trading it back in for something better. Thirteen stripped the series of everything I loved about it and became walking down a long corridor then pressing the × button to win fights. With the success of the Final Fantasy online games, one hopes that Square Enix will return to the engrossing story and fun RPG elements that made earlier games a success. So far trailers have shown us an utterly, UTTERLY gorgeous looking game and what certainly seems like an intriguing story. I just can’t wait to drive that beautiful black car.Might be the best vehicle ever conceived in the Final Fantasy universe….yes better than Balham Garden
From the list above, 2015 is certainly looking set to outperform the games released in 2014. Historically, the 2nd year of a new console’s life cycle is the one that shows the true potential of what the generation will hold. For the new machines and the suddenly in form Wii U, this should be a VERY good year for gaming.