Six games to look forward to in 2018
Let’s dispense with the cliches: yes, by and large, 2017 was a terrible year to be a human being. However, in terms of games to distract you from that unfortunate reality, it really delivered on every front, from sad robot simulators like Nier: Automata to sad millennial simulators like Night in the Woods.
Now, with last year a yawning pothole in our rearview mirror, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting games of 2018, and how they might deliver some much-needed entertainment to us as our world withers into dim nothingness.
Monster Hunter World - PC, PS4, Xbox One - January 26th, 2018
First on the docket for the new year is the first home console entry in Capcom’s lauded monstrosity-slaying series in many years, Monster Hunter World. Though MonHun has been known to dominate the charts in Japan, it’s usually dismissed as a niche concern in the West due to its intentionally opaque controls and grind-heavy structure. For World, however, Capcom has taken great pains to emphasize how they’ve sanded down some of the sharper points for a whole new generation of Hunters, simplifying the arcane tracking mechanics and adding in more traditional RPG elements, such as damage numbers and a crude health bar for player characters. Though PC enthusiasts were saddened to learn that World won’t grace their platform of choice until the autumn, PS4 and Xbox One owners will start slicing Jaggis in just a few weeks. It might not be for everyone, but for a dedicated few, World will totally subsume them, and I personally can’t wait for it.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance - PC - February 13th, 2018
While RPGs have grown a bit more outlandish with their inspirations over the past few years - hello, Undertale - the vast majority still happily frolic in the mystic meadows of Tolkien and Vance, complete with haughty elves, swarthy dwarves, and dubious ancient prophecies. Kingdom Come pulls from an entirely different tradition, aiming to provide a grittier, more historically-grounded take on the medieval role-playing game. As the offspring of a lowly blacksmith murdered by an invading force, you take up arms in service of a real-world ruler of your choice, eventually leading an army against the heretics who stand against you. Unlike The Witcher or Dragon Age, you won’t be tanking your way through flurries of arrows or broadsword swings - a few well-placed hits kill almost any foe, and sound tactics matter more than your skill tree. While the story seems a bit thin, you can’t exactly tut around as a medieval peasant in just any RPG, so this is definitely one to watch.
No Truce with the Furies - PC - TBA
The constant deluge of intricate isometric RPGs on Steam can sometimes seem a little daunting and a tad too fond of the tabletop games that inspired them, like Shadowrun. No Truce with the Furies might look like Baldur’s Gate, but it looks to bring a postmodern flair to the ailing detective genre, with a focus on mechanics that evoke and augment storytelling rather than just pure combat. For example, sky-high stats aren’t necessarily a universal good - a character with considerable “intelligence” is susceptible to flattery and elitism, and you wield emotions like “empathy” like you would sling spells in another RPG. It certainly seems very promising, but with works this iconoclastic, it’s impossible to tell if they’ve fulfilled their lofty ambitions until you’ve actually gotten your hands on it.
Laser League - PC, PS4, Xbox One - Early 2018
The frenetic thrills of car-meets-ball love story Rocket League have opened the door for many developers to try their hand at stripped-down arcade-inspired multiplayer games, and Laser League is the most exciting of the current batch. Birthed from the minds that brought us back-to-basics skateboarder OlliOlli, Laser League is a stitching-together of popular trends - Tron-style neon-soaked visuals, king of the hill arena-control mechanics, and a competitive atmosphere more reminiscent of traditional team sports than your average eSport. Still, though it feels a tad focus-tested, after fifteen minutes of chucking lasers and dodge-rolling through beams at E3 last year, I was already sold.
Vampyr - PC, PS4, Xbox One - Q1/Q2 2018
Though games love to delve into mythology for easy inspiration, we still haven’t had a true follow-up to the decades-old blood-sucker Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. And while it’s more than a little surprising that the team behind Life is Strange are taking a crack at it, based on what they’ve shown so far, they’re taking a surprisingly thoughtful approach to material that usually stews in its pulpy and decadent origins. As a one-time doctor-turned-vampire Jonathan Reid, you find yourself caught between your professional need to protect people and your physical need to drain their arteries, and the dilemmas this conflict can produce seems interesting indeed. Though pre-release footage looks a little threadbare - this is, after all, a massive undertaking when compared to a linear narrative-driven game - here’s hoping that they manage to find the vein.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound - PC - February 2018
The first chapter of the relentlessly un-googleable The Fall made a small splash in the world of story-heavy adventure games when it was first released in 2014. Over the past four years, however, that splash has turned into a considerable wave of anticipation for the next installment in the adventures of an AI-controlled robot suit that crash-lands on a scrap-heap planet. Given our current economic climate, games that explore the muddy line between robots, androids, and people have flooded onto the scene in recent years, but The Fall manages to treat those issues with more care than most. Let’s hope the wait was worth it.