Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Hype List - 2015.

2015 is upon us, and it looks to prove itself a banner year in gaming - not just because super hot-looking games like Superhot are coming to a console near you, but because some of the biggest games that were supposed to come out in 2013 or 2014 have been pushed to this calendar.  This effect was pronounced to the point of comedy fodder.

And it will be awesome.  Here we are!  Twenty fifteen, and the water's fine.  The format remains identical to last year's list - and I'll probably update this sometime in late June or mid July.  Maybe.  

The number of cool-looking games bound for a platform near you, in 2015, is sizable.  Huge.  Ridiculous - and there are a few big, triple-A titles that I just can't bring myself to care about - so let's make this an honest type list.  Let's cut away the chaff.  Let's ignore the games that I just can't bring myself to care about like the next Assassin's Creed or the next Call of Duty.

Let's narrow it down to oh... let's say a hundred games.  Keep it light. And while quite a few of that hundred are big triple-A titles, if I'm being honest, the one game I can't stop thinking about getting to play is...
Darkest Dungeon - PC, OSX, Linux, PS4, Vita - Q3-Q4 2015
Developer : Red Hook Studios

#1 on my hype list is Canadian studio Red Hook's Darkest Dungeon.  It's a 2D Roguelike dungeon crawler with permadeath, tactical, position-based combat and a rich home base to tend to the needs of your tragic heroes, but that's not the interesting part.  Red Hook's hook for the title is the concept that, if actual people went down into RPG dungeons and battled the evil that lurks in those dark corners, it would royally screw them up, and their potential to succeed would rest upon their ability to manage their scarred psyches  The game oozes a Lovecraftian tone, in which witnessing the brutal attacks of a particularly grotesque grotesque against a comrade panics your Crusader - "this is folly!" he cries, "all hope is lost!" - which, naturally, brings down the rest of your party.  Thankfully, the pious Vestal is a woman of faith, and when her resolve is similarly tested she discovers a forgotten inner strength that steels her resolve, strengthens her and inspires her comrades to fight on.

It's stylish as hell, it's mature in a meaningful way, it's tactical, it's procedurally generated, and it's driven an exclusively-console gamer to make their first-ever Steam purchase an early-access pass.  I can't get my hands on Darkest Dungeon soon enough.
Galak-Z - PS4, Vita, PC - 2015
Developer: 17-Bit

#2 is 17-Bit's Galak-Z, a 2D sci-fi action Roguelike which sees the player dancing through procedurally-generated asteroid fields and space caves, avoiding incoming fire with fore and aft thrusters, gliding about on Newtonian physics in zero G.  It's got the styling of a 70s space-opera anime and the enemy AI of Halo or Far Cry.  I have a friend who was hyped for Watch Dogs 'cause he believed it promised new-gen emergent gameplay.  He was looking in the wrong place.

Two indie Roguelikes top my list.  No wonder so many folks are heading in that direction.

Dying Light - PS4, One, PC - January 27th
Developer: Techland

#3 With Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide, developer Techland have cemented themselves as the masters of first-person brawling.  Each time a Dead Island game dropped, it wound up somewhere in the top-five gameplay experiences of that year - there has never been another first-person game in which melee combat is so profoundly visceral and immersive.  Now, Techland have broken with (Dead Island) publisher Deep Silver to finance and control the IP rights on Dying Light - and it looks to be the realization of the earnest little developer's dreams  specifically, a child born of a creepy tryst between Dead Island and Mirrors Edge.  They've said, with Dying Light, they want to establish themselves as a triple-A studio (the Dead Island games, in terms of presentation and polish were always pretty B-list), and if Techland can combine their trademark brilliant gameplay with top-tier presentation?  

Dying Light is a heavy GotY contender, for yours truly. 
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5 - PS3, PS4 - 2015
Developer: Atlus

#4 Atlus's Persona - one of several Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs - has the distinction of being both the most-successful thing to come out of Atlus's stable and the series that taught me I could love a JRPG. Now, SMT scholars will tell you Persona is a blunter (easier) instrument than the core franchise, even as they acknowledge its excellence, but there's a flip side to that - its tactical combat is easy and rewarding enough that an action-centric gamer like me can enjoy an emotionally mature JRPG epic with a huge emphasis on its characters. 

So thank you for that, Atlus. 
Bloodborne – PS4 – March 24th
Developer: From Software

#5 Famed King’s Field, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki didn’t helm 2014’s Dark Souls II – he was hard at work on Bloodborne, the PS4-exclusive spiritual successor to those towering games. Bloodborne’s atmosphere is just as looming, its evil world just as romantic as Miyazaki’s previous titles, but the combat seems a touch more focused.  We’ve never seen a single spell used in the gameplay videos we’ve seen thus far, with heroes relying on (kind of awesome!) transforming melee weaponry, low-range shotguns and dodging – lots of dodging. 

The undisputed king of action RPGs returns, and going on precedence it’s gonna’ be one of the best games of the year.
No Man’s Sky – PS4, PC – 2015
Developer: Hello Games

#6 No Man’s Sky is an excellent example of hype above all things.  What do you actually do in No Man’s Sky?  We’re not sure.  You might be able to eke out a living just exploring space and discovering new planets and species.  You might need to ally yourself with the local interstellar government and hunt down bounties, you might pirate unsuspecting ships, you might be a space miner – the fact is, we don’t know.  All we know is the game is ambitious to the point of insanity – an entire galaxy with countless stars and systems to explore, no two planets alike, no two types of grass the same, no two avian species identical – because it’s entirely procedurally generated. 

We, gamers, want to believe No Man’s Sky is the answer to our sci-fi gaming dreams, despite very little evidence to support the idea that it’s fun to play – and I do too.  I want to believe.  I choose hope.  And hype.  If it's the game we see in our minds every time a trailer drops, it might... change everything. 
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End – PS4  2015
Developer: Naughty Dog

#7 There has never been a bad Uncharted game.  There’s been Uncharted 2 and other Uncharted games that weren’t quite as amazing, but the series and its developer still lead the industry on cutting-edge graphics, smooth gameplay and compelling narratives in modern gaming.  These are games that set standards, and in many cases (see: cutscene presentation, in-engine graphics) they remain unrivaled years after their last release. 

Our first look at gameplay from 2014’s PSX shows Uncharted has learned a lot of valuable lessons from The Last of Us  namely how to make third-person fisticuffs more stylish and involving for the player while maintaining its pulpy, real-world-ish weight and impact, and if nothing else we can rest assured it will be gorgeous.
The Banner Saga - PS4, Vita - 2015
Developer: Stoic

#8 Stoic's The Banner Saga, an early standout of the Kickstarter generation of games, should nicely fill the brutally-difficult-strategy-game void on my Vita that’s remained in the absence of an XCOM: Enemy Withinport. When The Banner Saga dropped on PCs in 2014, it earned a lot of critical praise and several best strategy game nods – and I’m definitely in the market for some uncompromising, turn-based low fantasy.
Mirror's Edge 2 – PS4, One, PC – 2015?  Maybe?  We have no idea.
Developer: D.I.C.E.

#9 2008’s Mirror’s Edge – a pure first-person platformer with a lovely atmospheric soundtrack and bright, minimal, modern art direction – remains unique, more than a half-decade since its release on last-gen consoles.  To this day, I hold that Mirror’s Edge represents the type of leap (heh) the platforming genre hadn’t seen since Super Mario went 64, and an instant classic.  Fans have been clamoring for a sequel ever since, and EA have finally admitted they’re giving it to us.
Praise be.  Let's hope it actually comes out this year. 
Severed – Vita – Spring 2015
Developer: Drinkbox Studios

#10 Drinkbox, who cut their teeth on cute, fun platformers before establishing themselves with one of the better action-platformers of the past decade in the shape of Guacamelee, pull a Klei with Severed – striking out in a completely new direction for the studio.  A first-person gesture-controlled dungeon crawler with a morbid but vibrantly colourful and beautiful aesthetic, Severed sets the player as a young woman who survives an attack on her clan and the loss of her arm.  She sets out to put things right, exploring, chopping parts off fanciful, bold enemy designs and grafting them on to herself to gain their strength – growing ever more powerful and grotesque.  Oh, and what we've heard of the soundtrack thus far is incredible

It’s Drinkbox.  Count me in.
Hyper Light Drifter – PC, OSX, Linux, PS4, Vita, Wii U, One – "Early" 2015
Developer: Heart Machine

#11 Perhaps the most prominent Kickstarted game in recent memory, Hyper Light Drifter’s gorgeously animated, expressive pixel art and lush presentation – combined with the promise of deep, fast-paced action and a ton of exploration – put the game at the top of many most-anticipated indie lists.  Heart Machine have taken a lot of time fine-tuning the game’s zippy, supremely challenging combat, and press reaction to the gameplay at recent events has been uniformly positive – now we just need to see if they can finish the game.

They're hiring. 
Batman: Arkham Knight – PS4, One, PC – June 2, 2015
Developer: Rocksteady

#12 Go ahead and forget the forgettable Arkham Origins from Warner Bros’ Montreal studio.  Rocksteady is back – the Batman-obsessed crew that gave us Arkham Asylum and Arkham City – and I’ll be more than a bit surprised if they turn in anything less than another definitive Batman adventure.  Dangle from tightropes in your dashing cape, soar across a gothic metropolis on leathery wings, take down thugs with vicious crowd-controlling precision and cruise for trouble in the Batmobile.

God yes.
Salt and Sanctuary – PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Ska Studios

#13 Imagine Dark Souls in 2D on your Vita. 

You’re welcome.

 Not A Hero – PC, PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Roll7

#14 The crew behind the mechanically ultra-sharp skateboarder Olli Olli turn their attention to fast-paced, stylish pixellated shooting inNot A Hero.  Given its pedigree, expect simple but deep mechanics, tight controls and absolutely uncompromising challenge.

Hellraid – PS4, One – 2015
Developer: Techland

#15 Dead Island devs Techland have more in the works than just Dying Light.  Hellraid, a dark-fantasy co-op open-world action-RPG, should maintain their exceptional first-person brawling in a creepy kingdom of ambulatory skeletons, demons, monsters and dank crypts ripe for cleansing.

Hell yes.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – PC, Linux, OSX, PS4, PS3, Vita – Q1 2015
Developer: Dennaton Games

#16 Back for a bit more of the old ultraviolence, crossover hit Hotline Miami returns with its spectacular music, blink-and-you’ll-miss-action, murder-simulator-as-puzzle levels and gobsmacking levels of violence, gore and shock, made somehow more vivid through its detailed, meaningfully-ugly pixel art. 

This is easily the indie with the biggest built-in audience of 2015.

The Order: 1886 – PS4 – February 20th
Developer: Ready at Dawn

#17 Ready at Dawn, the crew that pushed the PlayStation Portable way beyond its comfort zone with the gorgeous, fun, well-designed, emotionally moving God of War: Chains of Olympus andGod of War: Ghost of Sparta, leapfrogs the PS3 and Vita to land on the PS4 with The Order: 1886.  The media, critics and humble bloggers still arent quite sure what to make of The Order, even with its release less than a month away  the story centers around centuries-old knights battling half-breed lycanthropes in alternate-history 1880s steampunk London  it could be one of the best games of 2015, or it could be a tired, confined shooter thats all sizzle and very little steak, with way-too-many quicktime events. 

There’s a lot going against the game – not the least of which is the fact that Ready at Dawn more or less established themselves with brawler-platformers on the PSP in the shape of Daxter and God of War  they have zero experience with shooters, zero experience with photorealism, zero experience with console gaming, unless you’re prepared to count their (not great) Wii port of Okami.  But here’s the thing – God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus were gorgeous, fun, well-designed and emotionally moving games, and one thing all comers agree on is that The Order is gorgeous.

One down.  Three to go.
Olli Olli 2: Welcome to Olliwood – PS4, Vita – 2015
Developer: Roll7

#18 The crew behind the mechanically ultra-sharp skateboarder Olli Olli return with... more Olli Olli – which, I’ll admit, I appreciated more than enjoyed at first blush.  A year later, Olli Olli has proven itself a lovely portable game – easy to slip in to for a few minutes of grind-bustin’, high-flying action, and rewarding for long sessions in search of perfection. 

Yeah, I’m down for more of that.

 Inner City Kids - Vita - "Early" 2015
Developer: Jamo Games

#19 If Darkest Dungeon and The Banner Saga don’t end up replacing XCOM in my heart, Inner City Kids may have what the doctor orders for turn-based strategy RPGs. A lovely pixel-art game about some urban youth throwin' down with alien invaders, it boasts a deep customization system for your characters and... that’s pretty much all we know about it. I’ll likely wait for reviews of Inner City Kids – but if it’s the game it is in my head, it’ll be awesome.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - PS3, PS4, 360, One, PC - 2015
Developer: Kojima Productions

#20 After a hiatus – and a youth largely spent adoring Metal Gear Solid and its sequel – I returned to gaming in earnest about the time Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater came out.  In the years between it, 4 and V, I've played a comparatively infinite number of games more than I had in my entire youth, and I'll be honest - Metal Gear does not cause the stir in my soul it once did.  My affection for the series is, these days, entirely nostalgic, and couldn’t bring me to put more than a few runs into Ground Zeroes last year. 

But that’s not how Metal Gear games are meant to be played.  They’re designed for an obscene amount of replay and experimentation, on the part of the player – an exceptional value for a triple-A, third-person action title, which usually ensures a tight campaign with little replay potential beyond harder difficulty levels. Given Kojima’s style, given the series’ very nature, MGS V will very likely prove one of the best games of 2015 – if one can let themselves get absorbed in it.

 * * *

 So there's my top twenty.  But there's more, my friend.  Much more.  

(How many more?)

Seventy seven more.  After the break below. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Okay, what stands out on this weekend's PSN flash sale..?

Still plucking away on the Hype List - but that's no excuse to let a day go without a post, so let's take a peeksie at the sale on PSN this weekend... it's an all indie, all the time smorgasbord with some fantastic prices.  Top picks?

Guacamelee (PS3/Vita cross-buy) for three bucks?  That's one of the best platformer/brawlers of the past few years for the price of a (cheaper) Starbucks coffee.  Definitely get Guacamelee if you haven't already played (and loved) it.

Resogun is absolutely incredible, it's cross-buy, which means you can get the game for PS4, PS3 and Vita for just three bucks.  Definitely snag that, if you haven't.

Also of note:

Road Not Taken (PS4) is a gorgeously-presented, insanely deep survival/puzzler/Roguelike from indie studio Spry Fox.  I feel like it would do better on my Vita than my PS4, but for four fifty you can afford to be wrong.

Shadow Warrior (PS4) is a rather classic-feeling, arcadey FPS with some nicely crude humor.  I'll admit, I feel a bit fleeced that I paid forty bucks for a disc copy, but I'd encourage you to check it out for six.

Oh, and I'm actually pretty tempted by the PS4 version of Costume Quest 2 for three bucks.  A Double Fine-produced adorable RPG?  That's just good value.

Limbo (PS3/Vita cross-buy) for three bucks.  A great price for a short, excellent, play-it-once game.
Fez for three dollars?  I didn't fall in love with it, but it's one of the most critically-acclaimed indies of the past ten years - you might want to check it out.

Finally, I would absolutely encourage you to grab Olli Olli, At two ninety-nine, you can afford to find out it's not your cup of tea - and if it is your cup of tea, you're gonna' love it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Darkest Dungeon gameplay!

This comes from PC Gamer - the world premier of the Wizened Hag boss fight - but it also shows off how sharp the game's assets are, how pleasant its animation, and the way the perspective will slightly shift depending on which "side" is up to bat is a new addition.

Also, I think I love the Into The Pot mechanic.  February 3rd cannot come nearly soon enough.

Watch this trailer.

This is what this game should have been showing for the past year.  This looks epic and new-gen and fun and Galahad will discover the truth of this conspiracy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well, this is the best trailer since Dead Island.

Not that it makes me want to play the game or back its Kickstarter - it's just a really awesome trailer.

Mannn Ori and the Blind Forest still looks awesoooome...

Coming March 11th.

Oh, and State of Decay will drop on the Xbox One on April 28th.

Oh, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was announced for new-gen consoles today.

Heheh.  The Heavy.

Oh, and BioShock and BioShock 2 are five bucks each on PSN right now.

Oh, and PS+ subscribers get their 10% off whatever this weekend only.

Oh and...

...actually, I think that's it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

February's releases just got infinitely more interesting.

Talkin' 'bout Darkest Dungeon, yo.

Witnessing the Skeletal Defender's vicious attack against her comrade Lincoln, Paracael is dealt seven points of stress damage. This pushes her stress level beyond a hundred percent - her resolve is tested - and she is found wanting.  She has become Afflicted.  Being Afflicted isn't always a bad thing - she may deal more damage or have a higher chance to crit - but she may also do whatever the hell she wants when her turn comes.

If she makes it back to town, she'll need to blow off some steam.  Of course, she's devoutly religious, so sending her to the brothel or tavern won't do - she won't be able to relax unless she's sent to the chapel for some good ol' fashioned flagellation.

And man.


I can't stop thinking about Darkest Dungeon.

Over the weekend, while working on my Hype List post, I realized that Galak-Z is no longer my most-anticipated game of 2015.  It's still up there, mind you.  Of the 100-ish games coming in 2015, it's number two on my list - but Darkest Dungeon is the game that I just can't get out of my head.

I have watched hour-long livestreams consisting of the developers drawing game art and just chatting.  I have watched hour-long gameplay vids that contain new characters who aren't animated yet, floating across the game space like little cardboard cutouts, because I am ravenous for this game.

And I don't know why.  I don't know what Darkest Dungeon's got that managed to bury itself so deeply in my imagination, but I can't rid myself of this dark dungeon-lust that's overtaken me.

Darkest Dungeon lands on Steam Early Access on February 3rd.  That is like two weeks away.

It won't be the complete game, but Red Hook have apparently poured a ton in to the Early Access version with three finished (endlessly randomly-generated) dungeons, the town available for respite and upgrades and a ton (10+) of cool classes - including the Hellion, Leper, Bounty Hunter and (above) Grave Robber.

That's one of the things I really love about the game.  Around half of your tragic heroes are ladies - and c'mon, when was the last game you played that had Leper as a class?  ("A sick man with a death wish, the Leper's ambivalence permits resistance to stress damage, but his condition makes healing him... problematic.")

It won't have a story mode or a campaign, but you'll be able to play it indefinitely - taking quests in town, defeating monsters in the dungeons, earning loot, buying new character skills, tending to their tender psyches and sending them back into the black.

They've estimated Early Access's cost at about twenty bucks, and that feels beyond-reasonable to finally play the game I can't get out of my head.

I worry, I suppose, that I'm so damned ultra-hyped for the game that if I wait the six or nine months until it lands on my PS4 or Vita, I'll be post-hyped for it.  That I might feel the same way about DD as I do about, say, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.  That I still like the idea of it, but I'm not exactly excited to play it.

Similarly, getting Darkest Dungeon on Early Access and playing the crap out of it may ensure I'm weary of it, by the time the full game launches - and that wouldn't do at all.

But y'know what?  It's worth the risk.

Everything you touch could add a new quirk to your heroes.  Junia's Dark Temptation may make it impossible for her to resist rifling through that next corpse pile...

And so, yesterday, I reinstalled Steam.  Today, I downloaded my copy of Don't Starve just to see if it will run on my decidedly non-gaming PC.  It does!  It seems to run as well as it does on PS4, actually!

Thus, armed with a credit card and an unshakable desire for Red Hook's ultra-stylish turn-based tactical psycho-sensitive Roguelike dungeon crawler, February's release calendar just got a lot more interesting.  This game has turned me from a stalwart console gamer back to the PC master, for the first time in like fifteen years.

What?  The Order: 1886 is coming out in February?

Don't care.  Darkest Dungeon.  After fourteen months of drooling over it.

Darkest Dungeon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wonder Womaaaan.

The other day I walked up to a desk an associate was working at, and there was a Wonder Woman action figure by the monitor.  We got into a short chat about what female superheroes, if any, could be named that needed their own movie.

"Well Catwoman," she said.  "Except they made it already, and it was awful."

"Yeah, but imagine if someone made a good Catwoman movie.  I would totally see that."

But, try as we might, we couldn't think of anyone other than Catwoman and Wonder Woman.  Then a colleague who's big into comics walked by, and we put it to him - which female super hero deserves to have her own movie?

He shrugged.  "Wonder Woman."

(Then told us that, with modern comics, Miss Marvel probably deserves one too.)