Standing here, surveying the year of videogames ahead, things look pretty exciting. There are plenty of titles set to come out before 2015 comes to an end and, luckily, a great many of them are extremely promising. Let’s kick off the new year by highlighting a few of them.
No Man’s Sky (Hello Games)
Hello Games’ space exploration simulator has looked enormously promising since its first reveal. Though it’s difficult to tell exactly how it will play, No Man’s Sky’s colourful visual style and focus on the thrill of discovery—its universe is filled with an infinite number of procedurally generated planets—makes it an exciting prospect. There’s a very real chance that the end result will simply prove an ambitious proof of concept rather than a lot of genuine fun in its own right, but, for now, I’m remaining optimistic.
The Legend of Zelda – Working Title (Nintendo EAD, Nintendo)
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with the Zelda series. As much as I love the sense of adventure that characterizes many of its entries, too often I find its repeated design elements and character types squash any sense of real novelty. Though not much is known about the game at this point, Nintendo has shown footage emphasizing a large open world—one that looks like it may pull more inspiration from modern sandbox games than the series’ own past. That’s why the game—currently unnamed—seems so exciting. If Nintendo EAD is willing to shake up Zelda’s formula by introducing a greater level of exploratory freedom in this latest release, it could serve as a real revitalization of a well-worn style of play. It could make Zelda feel like a real adventure again.
Firewatch (Campo Santo, Panic)
The creative pedigree behind new development studio Campo Santo is impressive enough to make Firewatch, its debut, stand out. The team includes Telltale Games veterans Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin, visual artist Olly Moss, composer Chris Remo, and Nels Anderson, the lead designer on Klei Entertainment’s excellent Mark of the Ninja. The game itself seems to follow in the path of first-person exploration titles like Gone Home or Dear Esther, but promises to introduce a level of choice that shapes the park ranger main character as he attempts to protect the forest and wrestle with personal relationships. If the storytelling is nearly as good as Vanaman and Rodkin’s work on The Walking Dead’s first season, Firewatch should be something special.
Soma (Frictional Games)
Frictional Games has maintained almost complete radio silence since releasing horror classic Amnesia: The Dark Descent back in 2010. In the meantime the developer has been hard at work on a follow-up entitled Soma, which trades Amnesia’s 19th century setting for a strange, quasi-futuristic one. The claustrophobic nature of broken-down research labs and the terrifying potential that comes from science fiction creature designs all seem like great fodder for Frictional’s return to the genre. Soma may not be able to redefine horror games like Amnesia did, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the enormously talented studio gets up to next regardless.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Kojima Productions, Konami)
If it wasn’t for Metal Gear Solid I probably wouldn’t be writing about videogames today. Kojima Productions’ series of spy thrillers/super-weird melodramas offer a consistently fascinating blend of political conspiracy, postmodern media theory, and over-the-top action set-pieces. In the past this combination has consistently lead to games that rank among the medium’s most unique works. Last year’s Metal Gear Solid V teaser/prequel Ground Zeroes played and looked great, but contained only the slightest suggestions of a plot. I’m anxious for The Phantom Pain to compensate for this with a proper continuation of the series’ storyline. Hopefully it also manages to address Ground Zeroes’ questionable treatment of its sole female character by properly resolving her plot when Big Boss’ story resumes.
Of course, there are plenty of other games worth keeping an eye on in the months ahead. The above list is by no means meant to be exhaustive—it’s just a rundown of a few titles I’m most interested in. I’m also excited to see what becomes of games like The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Atlus’ Persona 5, Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, From Software’s Bloodborne, Ninja Theory’s Hellblade, CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and many, many others. It’s probably testament to the number of exciting projects slated to arrive in 2015 that even adding those to the list doesn’t feel like enough.