Most people are already aware of the major issues with
streaming video games. Latency, data caps, subscription models, and ownership
seem to get brought up every time a newcomer enters the streaming scene.
However, these are all problems that will be sorted out over time. There is
another concern that people don’t bring up as often as they should, though, and
that is the problem of video game preservation.
This week, Google announced Stadia, their new service that
will allow users to stream AAA video games to just about any screen they can
think of, whether it be a television, a phone, a PC, or a tablet. The idea
behind Stadia is great; lowering the entry barrier to gaming will open the
doors of this great medium to so many people, but an all-streaming future
presents problems that haven’t quite been experienced at a large scale yet.
Stadia games aren’t owned by the players, they’re just
streamed from whatever data center the players happen to be connected to. What
happens, then, if a game is pulled from Stadia? What if Stadia shuts down
entirely? Games like Assassin’sCreed Odyssey or Doom Eternal, both of which were featured prominently in Google’s
keynote, will still be available on other platforms, but what about Stadia
exclusive titles? Stadia Games and Entertainment is Google’s first-party studio
tasked with creating exclusive games for the platform. This studio is comprised
of incredibly talented developers who will no doubt create excellent games, but
what becomes of these games when Stadia is gone? Even if Stadia is a runaway
success, the servers will be turned off one day. It’s an inevitability, and
when that inevitability happens, those games are lost.
Scenarios like this aren’t even hypothetical. They’ve
already happened to beloved titles, both low-profile and high-profile alike.
Konami pulled P.T. from the
PlayStation Store following the cancellation of Silent Hills, and even those who own it can no longer redownload
it. Aside from some very wonky workarounds (and a very faithful fan recreation
on PC), P.T. can no longer be played.
Being a strictly digital release that can no longer be downloaded, P.T. practically doesn’t exist anymore. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game
were both pulled from digital storefronts as well, presumably due to licensing
issues. On top of these examples, the closure of the Wii Shop Channel in
January left a multitude of WiiWare titles abandoned, unable to be
Luckily, these games still have homes on consoles where
they’re still installed. However, a service completely centered around
streaming like Stadia won’t allow users to install games locally or access the
files at all. When Stadia goes the way of the Wii Shop Channel, those games
will be gone for good.
Even if games aren’t pulled from the service outright, there
are still other issues that arise with an all-streaming future. Final Fantasy XV has undergone radical
changes since its release back in 2016, and although it may be a better game in
its current state, the vanilla version still has value, at least from a
historical perspective. With a disc, the vanilla version is playable offline if
updates aren’t installed, but a game like Destiny
2 doesn’t have that luxury. Vanilla Destiny
2 doesn’t exist anymore. Destiny 2
is not playable without updates or an internet connection, so there’s no way to
experience the game as it launched. At
least with single-player games, older versions can be accessed offline, but
with online games, the experience is constantly evolving, and older versions
are lost. With streaming, even single-player games cannot be experienced
pre-patch, and games might even be replaced by inferior versions, like the
awful Silent Hill 2 HD version
replacing the original masterpiece.
Game preservation is a tricky subject, especially in today’s
climate of live services and ever-changing games. Regardless, video games are
art. They’ve been recognized by the government as art since 2011 and they’ve
been recognized by gamers as art for far longer, and it’s time for people to
start taking game preservation more seriously, before some games end up
permanently lost and forgotten.
Capcom’s Devil May Cry 5 is currently sitting at an 87% on Metacritic, and I don’t understand why. The game is flawed on a fundamental level, holding onto tropes from over a decade ago for no reason, especially when so many advancements in game design have been made over the past two console generations. Devil May Cry 5 is an awful video game and it’s insulting that its myriad of issues have gone unnoticed by so-called game “journalists”.
Devil May Cry 5’s problems begin to present themselves as soon as you start the game, the first issue being a complete lack of direction. Where are the objective markers? The waypoints? There isn’t even a minimap, which is a complete oversight on Capcom’s part. This is abysmal game design. How am I supposed to know what to do without a gold diamond hovering over my destination? How will I know which route to take if I don’t have a dotted line to follow?
Navigation is only the start of Devil May Cry 5’s problems. For a game so heavily centered around combat, you’d think the combat would actually be good. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 drops the ball in this department as well. The game is a mindless hack and slash in which you’ll find yourself mashing the attack button until the enemies die. There is no variety, there is no skill, and there is absolutely nothing engaging. Two of the three playable characters have guns, but the lack of any sort of customization through attachments or perks alongside the completely baffling design choice of not being able to aim down sights makes Devil May Cry 5’s gunplay feel shoddy when compared to other contemporary titles like Battlefield V or Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2.
Devil May Cry 5’s combat is not only insulting in its simplicity, but also insulting in the literal sense. The game’s archaic and dated rating system keeps calling my attacks “dismal”, which discourages me from even attempting combos. I did not pay $60 to be ridiculed, Capcom. On top of that, parts of the battle theme won’t play unless you can achieve high style rankings during combat. This sort of elitist game design hurts Devil May Cry 5 in the long run, restricting the soundtrack to the same repetitive drivel throughout the entirety of the game’s campaign. Arbitrarily gating things off and rewarding more skilled players creates an artificial barrier within the community, and this game would benefit infinitely from a paid easy combo system ala the ingenious easy fatality tokens in Mortal Kombat X.
Multiple weapon types are supplied in an attempt to break up the monotony, but they ultimately fail to spice things up due to their poor implementation. Nero’s devil breakers, for example, cannot be freely cycled between. Not only that, but they can also be broken. Without any kind of crafting system to repair or modify these disposable weapons, the devil breaker system feels contrived and poorly thought out. Considering the Tomb Raider reboot had crafting all the way back in 2013, it’s downright unacceptable for Devil May Cry 5 to launch without crafting 6 years later.
The game is also incredibly linear. There’s no open world, not even a social hub or anything, and the majority of the levels feel like hallways. Player choice is completely ignored in favor of an old-fashioned predetermined plot. I really wish there were dialogue options in the cutscenes so I could make my Dante feel different from everyone else’s Dante. A story with a defined beginning, middle, and end is a relic of a bygone era, and it feels like something straight out of an antiquated 2001 video game like Metal Gear Solid 2 or Max Payne.
Fans of the series will be exceptionally disappointed with the changes made to the Devil May Cry lore as well. Dante has white hair again, which totally ignores the changes made to his character in 2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry. Stomping all over continuity only serves to further scramble the franchise’s already confusing timeline, and for little to no purpose. Again, if there was a choice between hairstyles when playing as Dante (or even a wholly customizable protagonist, which should be a given in 2019) then maybe this would work, but in its current iteration it doesn’t feel earned.
The story isn’t the only thing that lacks any sort of choice or interactivity, either. The progression system is also very restricting. Devil May Cry 5 forgoes skill trees in favor of an old-school upgrade system in which you spend red orbs, the game’s currency, to upgrade abilities for different weapons. While this works in theory, in practice it only succeeds in annihilating any semblance of build diversity and taking freedom away from players. If players could specialize in ranged combat or stealth and be free to engage enemy encampments in their own way, it’d vastly improve the experience.
A weak story and campaign could be saved by a fulfilling endgame, but Devil May Cry 5’s endgame is anemic in comparison to its competition. The developers just expect players to repeat the campaign on a higher difficulty or aim for higher rankings on missions. Sadly, Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t have any challenging content to work toward or gear up for either. This is a full $60 game without a raid. Of course, Capcom hasn’t unveiled the 2019 roadmap for the game, but launching in a state this content light is a mistake, and the game will bleed players until new content is released.
Devil May Cry 5 has moments where it shines, but these are few and far between, absolutely overshadowed by the assortment of flaws. Sometimes revivals of classic franchises work out, just look at Mega Man 11. Other times, however, it’s best to let the classics remain just that: classics. Maybe there’s a reason it’s been 11 years since DMC 4. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 has a ridiculously small amount of content that is almost never compelling in any way. Its desire to hang on to what made the originals so great ultimately drags down the final product in the end, resulting in a game that feels straight out of the early 2000’s.
(In case you couldn’t tell, this is 100% satire. Please play Devil May Cry 5.)
The Division 2 has the majority of the features added to the original game over its three year lifespan available at launch, making it one of the most content-rich looter shooters on the market. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to learn, so we’re here to give you some pointers to aid you in your fight to take back D.C.
Check everywhere for loot
The Division 2 isn’t stingy when it comes to loot drops. It’s quite the opposite, actually. D.C. isn’t only littered with trash, but also loot. A good chunk of the crates, backpacks, and bags you come across can be searched for weapons and resources. Make sure to check alleyways and garages for any tucked way caches, and shoot any locks standing between you and a chest. Even if you only get resources like food or water, it adds up.
Do your projects
Settlements like the Theater, which you encounter very early in the game, provide you with optional projects. These projects require you to donate a mixture of gear and resources in order to improve the settlement. The rewards are incredibly useful, ranging from XP to blueprints to bounties. Be sure to hang onto spare weapons and armor just in case you need to donate them. Junk items can be donated, too, so see your projects officer before dismantling any unwanted pieces of gear.
Weapon skins can only be applied to certain rarities
Being a game centered around loot, it’s only natural you’d want to customize your gear to better suit your style. Unfortunately, weapon skins cannot be applied to white and green rarity guns. The same goes for armor and dyes. Only blue gear and above can be personalized, so those of you with special skins from pre-orders or the Ubisoft Club will have to wait a while. Once you’ve acquired a blue item, you can personalize it in the mod menu.
Optimize your perk selection
There are a vast array of perks to choose from in The Division 2, but there’s only so much SHD Tech to spend in the opening hours. Your first batch of SHD Tech should go directly into the Accolade perks, which provide you with more XP for headshots, killing multiple enemies at the same time, destroying weakpoints, and the like. This will speed up your progression and earn you field proficiency caches at a faster rate. After unlocking the Accolade perks, unlock the Field Proficiency Cache perk, which gives you a 50% chance to receive a bonus item when opening a Field Proficiency Cache. Lastly, make sure to pick up the Deconstruction perks, which give you extra materials when deconstructing gear. After investing in these three perks, spend your SHD Tech however you like, but we recommend upping your inventory space and unlocking attachments.
Reload during cover transitions
Enemies in The Division 2 take more than a couple bullets to go down, so you’ll find yourself reloading quite often. It’s not hard to find yourself in a bad spot, out of ammo and being rushed down by a melee enemy. You can reload your weapon while transitioning from cover to cover, so be sure to top off your ammo count while you move to a more strategic location. A full magazine and ideal positioning can mean the difference between life or death in The Division 2, so why not cover all your bases at the same time?
The Division 2 is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Far Cry games are all about gratification. You get to run, drive, and fly around beautiful open worlds, armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry, gunning down the bad guys like an unstoppable killing machine. It feels good, but the games just sort of hand you everything. Not Far Cry 2, though. Far Cry 2 fights back, and that’s why it’s the best game in the series.
Far Cry always struggles with blending gritty realism and survival with lighthearted open world fun, and while later games lean more toward open world shenanigans, Far Cry 2 is all grit, all the time. Set in an unnamed African country embroiled in a bloody civil war, Far Cry 2 never lets the player feel safe. And that’s brilliant.
The setting itself plays a huge role in that. Being a video game from 2008, you better believe Far Cry 2 is drowning in different shades of brown and gray. That’s not to say it isn’t pretty, there are still stunning vistas and landscapes to behold, but the environment feels oppressive. Other games in the series try to do this by just throwing a bunch of wildlife at you, but I never felt as unwelcome in the mountains of Kyrat as I did roaming the jungles and savannas of Far Cry 2.
The gameplay is a far cry from other Far Cry games too (I apologize for that joke). 3, 4, and 5 supply you with shiny new assault rifles tricked out with multiple attachments, alongside buckets of ammunition. Far Cry 2’s weaponry is held together with duct tape. Your guns will jam, and they will jam at the worst times. Your guns will fall apart in your hands. These are not the pristine firearms of later Far Cry games, these are heavily used, poorly maintained weapons caked in dirt and grime, and you’ll have to work if you want better equipment. These guns aren’t the laser beams most other first person shooters give you either, you have to manage and control your aim to land shots. It’s tough, and combat is incredibly tense because of it.
There’s also the issue of malaria. Very early in the game, you contract malaria, and you need pills to suppress the negative effects. Pills, however, are scarce, and the malaria stays remains an issue throughout the entirety of the game. You’ll feel the effects of it at random, even in combat, and you’ll lose control until you take a pill, or pass out and wake up at the doctor’s if you’re out. Far Cry 2 very rarely lets things go according to plan. You may think you’ve planned out the perfect outpost takedown, but then malaria strikes, or your gun james in the firefight, or there’s a fire, or the car you planned to escape with won’t start. This forces you to react and respond, and it makes for incredibly engaging gameplay.
The buddy system is another one of Far Cry 2’s dynamic systems. Rather than playing a predetermined, voiced character, you choose one of nine mercenaries. The other eight aren’t just forgotten, though, they’re out running around like you are, and they’ll even help you out in combat, give you side missions, and save you before you die. Buddies can die, too, and you make even have to be the one to put them down. The buddy system creates memorable emergent stories. Maybe a buddy swooped in and rescued you after a malaria attack left you vulnerable. Maybe a buddy called you on your way to a mission and offered an alternative means of completion. The buddy system and the sandbox Far Cry 2 provides creates highly personal stories that you’ll want to share with people, just like something out of Breath of the Wild. Far Cry 4 and 5’s Guns for Hire system is just a hollow shell of what the buddy system once was. Sure, Hurk’s lines might get a chuckle out of me every now and then, but that’s nothing compared to the time I had to mercy kill my buddy Warren.
Far Cry 2 also excels in its UI. For the most part, there’s never anything on your screen. When you shoot you’ll get an ammo count and health info, but that’s pretty much it. The lack of UI really helps immerse you in the world, and, like the Metro games, the map is a physical item you have to look at, and it makes navigating more fun than just pressing start and placing a waypoint. The map might seem like a small detail, but it really adds a whole new layer to the experience.
Of course, the game does have its faults. Enemies at outposts respawn way too quickly, to the point where if you drive away and turn right back around, there’ll be new enemies. It really gets old when you’re just trying to reach an objective on the other side of the map. The voice acting is stilted to say the least, and the story is as generic as they come. The shooting also feels clunky compared to today’s standards. This is a decade old game, after all.
Despite these flaws, Far Cry 2 is still a phenomenal video game. It nails the feeling of a hostile environment like no other game. You really are just some guy lost in the jungle with nothing but a map, a worn down gun, and a deadly disease. Not even a character, just one of nine mercenaries. Just another solider in a world where you’re not treated like a superhero or a one man army. Far Cry 2 has a vision that it commits to wholeheartedly, and because of that, it fosters its own unique identity and I’ve yet to play anything like it to this day. It sets out to create a specific mood and it accomplishes that with flying colors. If only Ubisoft would look back at this one instead of the follow up.
I’ve played a lot of Anthem over the past two weekends and while it’s not the dumpster fire some might lead you to believe it is, it definitely has its share of problems.
Before we get into the gameplay, the story, and all that fun stuff, I have to mention the plethora of technical issues I encountered during my time with Anthem, especially during the VIP Demo weekend. Server issues were rampant. I logged less than an hour of play time the first weekend because I couldn’t even get into the game. When I did, my time was cut short by infinite load screens or crashes. It was a mess.
Luckily, the second weekend fared much better. I could actually play the game, which was nice. However, textures wouldn’t load, the draw distance was abysmal, environments were barren, enemies would despawn, and the framerate was consistently below 30fps on PS4 Pro. All of that on top of a noticeable graphical downgrade from what we saw at E3 2018.
There was an abundance of gameplay glitches too, not just visual ones. When I would die, my respawn timer would count down from 5 and then say “respawning”, but I never did. I had to wait for a teammate to come and revive me, but a lot of the time squadmates would be AFK or just not even care. I just had to wait or abandon the mission. Sometimes enemies wouldn’t take damage from my attacks. Other times they would take damage but they’d just ignore me and stand in place. I had to close the game once because the exit button stopped working while I was customizing my javelin.
During most of the time I spent with Anthem, Anthem did not work. Considering this game is out next week for EA Access subscribers, it’s not in a good spot. But how’s the gameplay? Surely flying around in those cool suits and shooting ash titans with your friends is a good time, right? Well, sort of.
The javelins are awesome. Learning to balance flying and hovering with being on the ground and managing cooldowns creates a relatively high skill ceiling. A really good Interceptor, for example, won’t get hit often if they utilize their jumps, dodges, and flight efficiently. Each javelin handles differently from one another. The Ranger is the balanced one and handles just like you’d expect it to. The Interceptor is the agile glass cannon that can weave in and out of incoming fire with three jumps and quick dodges. The Colossus is the tank and it has quite a heft to it, so it can’t move too quickly, but it can take a lot of damage. The Storm is essentially the Warlock from Destiny, relying on elemental attacks to do damage and handling way floatier than the other three. Navigating combat arenas in whichever javelin you may choose feels good, and nailing your cooldown management so you don’t overheat is a fun challenge on top of regular shooting.
Of course, you won’t be spending all your time flying. Anthem is a shooter, not a flight-sim, after all. Unfortunately, the gunplay in Anthem just isn’t good. A game’s shotgun is an easy way of telling how good the shooting is. Destiny? Great shotguns. Doom? Even better. Anthem? It’s like I’m shooting marshmallows instead of bullets. I spent most of my time as the nimble, close-range Interceptor, so I would fly in and expect to blast somebody point-blank with my shotgun, except it didn’t feel nearly as powerful as it should’ve. Using a shotgun in Anthem feels like using an Airzooka. The rest of the arsenal feels a bit better, but enemies are spongy and don’t react to getting shot. Guns in Anthem just feel weak, and that’s a shame when its competitors do it so much better.
What Anthem does better than its competitors, though, is team play. Anthem has a combo system that’s very poorly explained, but once understood, it adds a layer of depth to the combat system. Some javelin abilities are primers, which usually afflict enemies with a status effect. If these enemies are then hit with a detonator ability, it’ll combo with the primer and do a lot of damage. Having a squadmate prime a bunch of enemies with a flamethrower so I could fly in and detonate with a melee ability felt good, and combos like these are a necessity at higher difficulties. Not every ability is a primer or a detonator though, and those falling outside of either category seem useless in comparison.
The customization system is pretty deep. Not only can you paint each individual part of your javelin, but you can also change the material and the wear status of each part. Want to run a bright pink leather Interceptor? You can. How about a battle-scarred red and black Colossus with metal plates laid over rubber? Go for it. There was only one additional vanity set available for each javelin in the demo, but people got really creative with mixing and matching just the base set and the one extra one we got. It seemed the first minute or so of every mission involved my squad and I inspecting each other’s javelins and looking at the cool designs other players had come up with (or laughing at ridiculous material/color schemes). Player expression is a huge part of this genre, and Anthem nails this aspect so far.
Anthem’s endgame has me worried, though. The endgame will consist of daily missions, strongholds, of which there are only three, and cataclysms, events that change the open world and present players with new challenges and rewards. Daily mission and strongholds offer a decent amount of content, especially the strongholds, which last about half an hour or longer on harder difficulties, but I feel they won’t be enough to keep players engaged for a long time. Cataclysms, ideally, offer the variety Anthem so dearly needs, but the “small tease” we got right before the demo ended worries me. All it did was change the skybox and spawn strong enemies, but that’s not a big enough change to keep players interested, and the spawn rates are so low that you just end up flying around aimlessly for 15 minutes until you find one ash titan.
Hopefully a strong campaign will make up for a relatively weak endgame experience, and Anthem might actually be able to provide one. The mission design was simplistic, it’s the same go here and kill this design philosophy that so many multiplayer shooters employ today, but some of the boss fights were really cool and made me utilize my movement abilities to dodge area of effect attacks or weave in and out of rings of fire. The writing also didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, which is a plus. The scenario the demo let us play through kept me somewhat engaged, but cutscenes dragged a little. Of course, it’s hard to judge the full story now, but Anthem does show some promise in that regard.
The majority of the game’s narrative segments take place in Fort Tarsis, the game’s single player hub. Here you’ll pick up quests, shop at vendors, and talk to people. It’s strange having the hub in a game like this be strictly single-player, but a social hub is coming at launch. There are some other strange decisions about Fort Tarsis, like the movement speed being way too slow, or having a generic five second song loop right next to the vendors, but Bioware has stated they’re adding some quality of life features for Fort Tarsis for the game’s full release, and the social hub will hopefully alleviate some of the other issues with the antisocial nature of Fort Tarsis.
Anthem has a lot of problems. The gunplay needs some work, the game needs a lot of technical improvements under the hood, and it’s in desperate need of substantial endgame content. However, what’s here is a promising foundation that could possibly blossom into a fantastic cooperative shooter. I just hope it won’t be too late by the time that happens.
Earlier today, January 30, 2019, the Wii Shop Channel shut down for good. The Wii Shop Channel has been on life support for a while, with the ability to add Wii points, the Shop’s form of currency, being disabled last March, but today, Nintendo finally pulled the plug on the dying service. Purchases can no longer be made with existing Wii points, games can no longer be downloaded, and the channel can no longer be accessed.
Launching shortly after the Wii in 2006, the Wii Shop Channel was a pioneer in the digital distribution market. With the advent of online storefronts like the Wii Shop Channel, PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live Marketplace, people no longer had to leave their homes to buy video games. Not only that, but older, harder to find games that would run for upwards of a hundred dollars or more were now widely available for a low price, no original hardware needed. If you wanted to play Castlevania Dracula X, you could! It truly was the best of times.
The Wii Shop Channel also set a fantastic example for game preservation. Nowadays, if you’re looking to legally play Paper Mario, you’ll have to hook up your Wii U that’s been gathering dust since the Switch launched. And while that works now, the Wii U eShop will shut down eventually, and then I’ll have to write a “Saying Goodbye to the Wii U eShop” article, you won’t be able to play Paper Mario, and nobody will be happy.
Nintendo seems to have forgotten they used to the example when it came to classic game availability. The Wii Shop Channel not only had NES, SNES, N64, and other Nintendo console lineups readily available, but also NeoGeo, Genesis, and even TurboGrafx games. Compare that to the Switch, which only has about 30 NES games only available through a subscription.
Original content was also a centerpiece of the Wii Shop Channel. WiiWare allowed for smaller-budget experimental titles to exist alongside mainstream AAA games. Konami’s Rebirth series, Dr. Mario Online Rx, Pokemon Rumble, My Pokemon Ranch, all of these were only possibly because of WiiWare. Sadly, these WiiWare games were only available on the Wii Shop Channel, so now they’re no longer available.
The Wii Shop Channel, along with its contemporary counterparts, set a standard in digital distribution that led to the meteoric rise of digital video game sales. Its influence can be seen throughout the industry today. Unfortunately, its focus on making older games widely available hasn’t lived on in its successors or with any of its competitors, but Microsoft’s recent push for backwards compatibility is starting to bring that topic back into relevancy. Also, WiiWare helped pioneer the independent development scene, and today indie games are in the spotlight year-round.The Wii Shop Channel was an amazing service, and we’re sad to see it go.
2018 was a standout year for gaming. AAA games are in an incredible place right now (for the most part, Todd Howard is still on time out), there was a surplus of phenomenal indies like Celeste and The Messenger, and the industry is holding its breath waiting to see what new hardware awaits us in the coming years.
But now it’s 2019, so naturally, none of that matters anymore. What does matter are the games, and there sure are a lot of them, so without further ado, here are the most noteworthy titles releasing in the next 12 months.
Life is Strange 2
Dontnod’s Life is Strange is widely regarded as one of the best episodic games ever, and its sequel is already off to a strong start, arguably a stronger start than its predecessor. Life is Strange 2 is, at least for now, unrelated to the first, so feel free to jump right in. The first episode is already available, and and the next four will be released over the year. It’s a touching story about two young Hispanic brothers on the run, and it doesn’t stray from political themes. It’s a complex story that we don’t often see in video games, and this is sure to be one people will be talking about more and more as the story progresses.
Resident Evil 2
Originally announced back in 2015, the remake of survival horror masterpiece Resident Evil 2 is long overdue. Capcom has undergone a resurgence over the last two years, revitalizing and reinventing each of its key franchises. Resident Evil 7 brought the series back to its roots after the questionable 5 and 6, Monster Hunter World brought the niche series to consoles and it exploded in popularity, Mega Man 11 was a return to form for the Blue Bomber, and Devil May Cry is finally back. Capcom has proven to the world that it knows what it’s doing again, and everything they’ve shown of Resident Evil 2 looks amazing. The aesthetics, gameplay, and sound are all top notch, and that, on top of the already phenomenal source material, makes this one a surefire hit.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in 2006. Now, 13 years later, Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally upon us. There have been Kingdom Hearts game since 2, but they’ve seemed to cover every number but 3. 358/2, 1.5, 2.5, 1.5+2.5, 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and even 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, whatever that means. All jokes aside, Kingdom Hearts 3 is real, and it feels good to have a Kingdom Hearts game that doesn’t feel like studying for a calculus exam.
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Ace Combat games have a small but extremely devoted fanbase. They’re fun arcade air combat games with surprisingly interesting stories and great soundtracks. Essentially, they’re Metal Gear Solid with planes. If that doesn’t sell you on Ace Combat, nothing will. Pre-ordering Ace Combat 7 gets you a digital copy of Ace Combat 5 on PS4 or Ace Combat 6 on Xbox One. There’s also a VR mode for all you PSVR owners out there.
The poster child of development hell is finally releasing in February. Announced in 2014 and originally set to release in 2016, Crackdown 3 will finally be in the hands of Xbox gamers on February 15. This entry focuses on destruction on such a large scale that it uses Microsoft Azure cloud computing to make sure everything is destructible. It’s also got Terry Crews, if that’s your thing.
Far Cry New Dawn
Every Far Cry since 3 has come with a spin-off following it the next year that reuses assets and the general layout of the map but with a drastically different theme. Blood Dragon followed Far Cry 3, Primal followed Far Cry 4, and now New Dawn is following Far Cry 5. New Dawn is different in that it is a direct sequel to Far Cry 5, and the game’s existence itself is also a massive spoiler, not that Far Cry 5’s narrative was anything to write home about. New Dawn probably won’t have an award winning plot either, but the shooting will be solid, the setting is gorgeous, and there are moss covered bison and deer with scarlet red antlers. It’s dumb fun, but it’s good fun.
After two linear entries, the incredibly atmospheric post-apocalyptic Metro franchise is going open world. Metro games have a way of pulling you into their world, making you use a compass and lighter to navigate and having your gas mask crack and get dirty. Bullets are scarce, and mutants roam the outside world, so people spend most of their time underground in the metro. Venturing outside was always a tense moment in previous Metro games, but more open environments will require planning and vigilance even more so than before.
Bioware’s Iron Man Meets Destiny Looting Extravaganza, more commonly known as Anthem, was initially brushed off by many upon its initial reveal as a shameless cash grab orchestrated by EA to get a slice of the Destiny pie, but the more they show of the game, the more unique and inspired it looks. Bioware’s narrative prowess began to show itself more and more, especially in later trailers and the showing at The Game Awards, and now Anthem is shaping up to be not as big a disappointment as people thought it’d be. Of course, nothing is certain until launch, but Anthem went from Destiny clone to its own thing that could actually hold its own against today’s multiplayer offerings.
A Square Enix mech game wouldn’t garner that much attention under normal circumstances, but this is part survival shooter, part mech game, and the team behind it is incredibly talented. Toshifumi Nabeshima, director of Armored Core, Takayuki Yanase, designer of mechs featured in Mobile Suit Gundam and Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Yoji Shinkawa, character designer of the Metal Gear series are all working together on Left Alive. An all star team working with a completely original IP, there’s definitely a lot of potential here.
Devil May Cry 5
After the solid but bland reboot, Devil May Cry is finally back with a new mainline entry. It’s been a full decade since Devil May Cry 4, and it feels good to be racking up stylish combos again. The Devil Breaker system’s disposable arms spice up the gameplay and add a layer of strategy to the combat in which arms you bring with you and which you destroy. A fluid combat system, awesome music, and charming characters make Devil May Cry 5 a must play in 2019. There’s a demo out on Xbox One right now, so be sure to take a break from Forza Horizon 4 and go check that out.
The Division 2
While The Division wasn’t the tactical team-based experience many wanted it to be, it was a solid RPG shooter with interesting ideas like the dark zone that ultimately didn’t pan out in quite the way the developers intended. However, like Ubisoft’s other titles, The Division wasn’t abandoned, and it was elevated to a truly great co-op RPG shooter with an interesting story and a remarkably detailed world that was a joy to explore. The Division 2 looks to be starting off right at the level of quality The Division 1 ended on, and numerous quality of life changes like reducing the sponginess of certain enemies makes The Division 2 a joy to play, and a game you definitely shouldn’t skip.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software, creators of the Dark Souls franchise and Bloodborne, is one of the most talented studios in the industry. Now that Souls is over, From has the freedom to pursue a new IP and free themselves from the formula they’ve used since 2009. The result is Sekiro, a game that looks faster and more fluid than Souls with a focus on stealth, aerial combat, and free-flowing fighting. There’s also a grappling hook, which is a huge plus.
Mortal Kombat 11
There’s not much that needs to be said about this one. Mortal Kombat X was almost four years ago now, and people are hungry for a new Mortal Kombat. A surprise reveal at The Game Awards showed that Mortal Kombat 11 was happening, and very soon. The game is scheduled for April, launching day and date on the Switch, too. It appears classic characters will be a focus for this entry, and character customization will be included as well. More Mortal Kombat 11 news will come at the game’s full reveal event, but as it stands right now, Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up to be a solid new entry in the series.
There’s not a lot of buzz around Days Gone. Since its reveal, it’s been written off as generic, forgettable zombie stuff by pretty much everyone, but as more and more people have been getting their hands on it, public perception is starting to change, but just barely. The gameplay is where this game shines. Maintaining the bike, scrounging for gas and supplies, and circumventing the truly massive crowds of freakers (the developers are very adamant about not calling them zombies) are the bread and butter of Days Gone, and while there is no shortage of open world zombie games, there hasn’t really been a high budget, quality, AAA open world zombie survival game other than maybe Dying Light, but Days Gone and Dying Light are aiming for completely different experiences. People love to be critical of Days Gone, and the marketing and demos of this game really haven’t helped its case, but just give Days Gone a chance. There are zombie bears, man. Sorry, freaker bears.
Nobody asked for Rage 2. Nobody wanted Rage 2. Rage was good, but forgettable, and it seemed like the only color that game knew existed was brown. It also came out 7 years ago, so the sequel window passed a while ago. However, Rage 2 looks awesome. It’s almost unrecognizable when compared to its predecessor. Much like Far Cry New Dawn, there’s color everywhere, and the game is practically bleeding character. The shooting looks wonderfully satisfying and the new movement amplifying abilities look to complement that perfectly. The development team is also perfect for this kind of game. The minds behind Mad Max and Just Cause teaming up with the creators of Doom to create an open world shooter with lots of driving and destruction? How did someone not think of this sooner?
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
After the success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, this was inevitable. Crash Team Racing is one of the few kart racing games that can stand shoulder to shoulder with Mario Kart and even top it in some aspects. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled also features tracks from the PS2 games, Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing. Nitro-Fueled looks like it’ll be the definitive Crash racing experience and the best way to play CTR, just as the N. Sane Trilogy was for Crash 1-3.
Shenmue 3 is similar to Kingdom Hearts 3 in that the last Shenmue came out forever ago. Shenmue 2 came out in 2002, making it a whopping 17 years between 2 and 3. Today, Yakuza has filled the void Shenmue left open, but Shenmue 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger, so that story needs to be finished. Shenmue was famous for its level of detail in its world, but nowadays video game worlds are filled with a mind-boggling amount of details and secrets to uncover. Just look at Red Dead Redemption 2, for example. Hopefully Shenmue 3 will be able to capture the magic the original games had back in the very early 2000’s. It’ll be difficult, but not impossible.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a masterpiece. Ask anyone who has had the pleasure of playing it and they’ll tell you the same thing. Now that Castlevania has been long forgotten by Konami, Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi has taken matters into his own hands, turning to Kickstarter to fund what he considers to be a spiritual successor to the franchise. Originally planned to release in 2017, Bloodstained was been pushed back to 2018 and now 2019. Ritual of the Night is a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night, but there was a bonus Bloodstained game called Curse of the Moon that released last year inspired by Castlevania III, and it’s great. A lot of people are wary of Kickstarter games, and they have every right to be after disasters like Mighty No. 9, but Bloodstained is shaping up to be everything that was promised, and Curse of the Moon helps prove the developers love the franchise and know what they are doing.
It’s been five years since Animal Crossing: New Leaf released on 3DS, and it’ll probably be six when this new Animal Crossing comes out on Switch. Animal Crossing on Switch was an inevitability, it was just a matter of when. And when Isabelle got announced for Smash, Animal Crossing fans thought that was all Nintendo had to say, but it was a fake out. Animal Crossing for Switch was happening, and so soon, too. The world needs a new Animal Crossing, and everyone will be able to partake in bug catching, fishing, and home decorating sometime this year.
This is another game a long time coming. Revealed alongside the PlayStation 4 and officially announced at E3 2015, Dreams is finally coming out sometime this year (hopefully). A beta was scheduled for 2016, and then 2017, and then 2018, and Media Molecule just barely met that 2018 deadline with the beta starting for a select few on December 19 and everyone on January 8. Dreams is the follow up to LittleBigPlanet, letting players create more than just platformer levels, but entire games. Media Molecule also claims Dreams can be used to make films and comes with a complete music creation suite. There’s VR support too, but there hasn’t been much said about it. It’s strange that this game was unveiled at the PS4 reveal event and still isn’t available despite the PS4 being on its last legs, but Dreams should be out in 2019.
Gears of War 4 was a solid entry in the series, but nothing truly spectacular. This was expected, though, as it was the first game in the franchise developed by The Coalition and not Epic Games. Gears 5 seems to be taking the franchise in a different direction, giving Gears of War a much needed change of pace. It looks like it will offer a wider variety of gameplay through vehicles and different locales instead of being a standard cover based shooter.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem is back on a console for the first time since 2007. Three Houses retains the same grid based tactical gameplay as the other games but features fully 3D maps and arenas, an upgrade from the 2D backgrounds of the 3DS games. The game’s world is also fully rendered and able to be explored outside of battle, similar to Fire Emblem Echoes’s dungeons but on a larger scale.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest took the world by surprise not only with its tight platforming gameplay and metroidvania elements, but also its gorgeous presentation and graphical style. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the sequel to the Blind Forest and looks to be more of what people loved about the first Ori. It’s breathtaking, the orchestral score is sweeping and beautiful, and the gameplay looks solid.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 took everyone by surprise. A sequel to a Marvel series that has been dormant for a decade, and it’s published by Nintendo and developed by Team Ninja? While it may sound like someone drew those names out of a hat, Ultimate Alliance 3 is real, and it looks like it’ll deliver the same Diablo-esque combat and cooperative gameplay that is right at home on the Switch.
A fully fledged mainline Pokemon game is scheduled to come to the Switch sometime this year. While the Switch already has a Pokemon game in the form of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, those aren’t the mainline games that were promised. The new games will likely be the eighth generation of Pokemon and feature a more traditional experience instead of the more beginner friendly approach of Let’s Go.
Skull and Bones
When Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was released back in 2013, a lot of people liked the pirate parts of that game and didn’t really care for the assassin parts of that game. Skull and Bones is just the pirate part of Black Flag, but fleshed out into its own game. Unfortunately, players cannot leave their ships and explore islands like in Black Flag, but the naval combat and gameplay have been expanded upon and improved. The game is primarily a cooperative or single player experience but there are “uncharted waters” where PvP is available, similar to The Division’s dark zone.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a Star Wars game being developed by Respawn, the studio behind the phenomenal Titanfall 2. Not much is known about this game other than that it is slated for late 2019.
Untitled Goose Game
Untitled Goose Game is the actual name of the game, not a working title. Untitled Goose Game is a stealth game, believe it or not. You play as a goose, and you are let loose to cause mischief in a small town. It sounds wonderful, and it’s out this year.
Doom 2016 is such a fantastic shooter. Nobody expected it to turn out as good as it did. It was the first game to follow Bethesda’s anti review copy policy, and people thought it was indicative of the game’s quality. It turns out the game was extraordinary and the review copy thing was unrelated. Doom Eternal is the sequel, and this one is set on Earth, just like the original Doom 2: Hell on Earth. This one has an energy sword and a grappling hook. It’s also coming to the Switch. It’ll be good.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment are the go to guys when it comes to RPGs. They made the incredible Fallout: New Vegas, the wonderful Star Wars KOTOR 2, and the Pillars of Eternity series. The Outer Worlds is their newest creation, a first person shooter RPG that looks like Fallout meets Borderlands. The reveal at The Game Awards was awesome and it was pretty much all everyone was talking about afterward (besides Joker being in Smash). Obsidian knows how to make a good RPG, and the Outer Worlds is one of the safest bets for 2019.
All of these great games in pretty much the first half of the year. There isn’t really anything dated for Q3 or Q4 yet, so there are still many more surprises to come. Did we miss anything big this year? Any indies we should keep on our radar? Let us know down below, and be sure to stay tuned to Circle Square games.