My Fave Five for 2018!

If you’re cringing at the title, I make no apologies. “5 Games I’m looking forward to in 2018” doesn’t have nearly as much a ring to it, plus it’s a wrestling meme that is out of date and needs to be brought back.

I didn’t actually buy a lot of new games last year. Outside of .hack//G.U. Last Recode which in itself is a remake (albeit of a 15 year old game), I only bought Foxhole, Conan: Exiles, and the ill-fated Mirage: Arcane Warfare. Everything else either consisted of sale purchases, or currency/DLC. Two of those were games to play with my friends, and while I liked the experience, I would never have played them without that group.

So looking onward to 2018, I’m genuinely looking forward to a selection of titles coming out. It’s a little odd being even slightly plugged into the industry anymore; way back when (we’re talking almost a decade ago) I was fully immersed in videogames as they were my only outlet, and I contributed to the news side of it for nearly three years. Didn’t get much of anywhere (my ego, raw as it was, saw to that) but it was an experience worth it’s time nonetheless.

Alas I digress. Off we go.

VAMPYR

I’ve been fascinated with vampires and vampirism as a topic in literature, films and games for a long time. My undying appraisal of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines all the way through to my begrudging acceptance of the later Underworld films alongside the tomes from Anne Rice and Bram Stoker betrays that (as if it was a secret at all). In games, there are very few that focus on the topic itself; content with using vampirism as an excuse for gameplay mechanics instead, a la BloodRayne (which, for the record, is a blast if you’re willing to excuse the dated graphics). The aforementioned Bloodlines title submerged the player in the lore, the politics, and the world of night-bound creatures as a whole.

Vampyr, from all accounts, seems to be the successor to that legacy but in a different world. Playing a doctor struck with vampirism in the middle of the Spanish Flu outbreak and subsequent epidemic of 1918, you’re stuck between the oath of ‘do no harm’ and the beast within that must kill, or at least feed, to survive. It’s made by Dontnod, the makers of Life is Strange, and they appear to want to put the same sort of moral quandaries in the game that made Life is Strange as popular as it was.

I cannot find the source, but someone in the industry declared Vampyr as ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines meets Deus Ex‘, and that has sold me on it. If the world is fantastic, and the gameplay is servicable, it will be a purchase if I haven’t already pre-ordered it by that point. Dontnod are not planning any DLC (beyond the pre-order bonus of a gun, a sword and an outfit), and are openly saying that if the game is successful, a sequel will be made instead of DLC.

I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this, pun fully intended.

BATTLETECH

If you didn’t think this game was going to make it’s way on here, you really need to get to know me better. I have been waxing lyrical about this game for months to anyone that asks me what I’m looking forward to, and with good reason.

BattleTech is a turn-based mech-combat RPG centred around commanding squads of “Battlemechs” (a.k.a. walking death machines) on the field. I haven’t backed the game, despite my appreciation for the title, because of my feelings on Kickstarters in general. But with all the credentials that Harebrained Schemes have in Kickstarters I would make an exception for them. HBS made the Shadowrun series, the first game of which I believe began the revival of the cRPG genre, and are available on both Android and iOS if you lack a PC. Jordan Weisman, the co-founder of HBS, literally wrote the book on BattleTech, having been the designer of the initial pen-and-paper RPG that this title is based on.

My obsession with big, stompy robots has been with me since I played the Heavy Gear 2 Demo in 1999, and I don’t expect it to leave anytime soon. Outside of a few exceptions, I prefer slower games, hence ‘mech games (outside of MechWarrior Online) have always been my go-to genre when I want to make things explode.

BLOODSTAINED: RITUAL OF THE NIGHT

Another Kickstarted game, however hopefully one that bears a little more fruit than Mighty No. 9 did. I make that comparison because they are both similar stories: a developer famous for a specific series or style of game wants to make a similar game to what they are famous for, but since the big developers see no future in it they need your help. It’s that level of personal investment in the title that sent Keiji Inafune’s (hopefully) Swan Song of ‘it’s better than nothing’ a.k.a. Mighty No 9, a Megaman-esque game so wide of the mark that if they aimed a little wider the coriolis effect would make it hit something worthwhile.

I may be a little sour about Mighty No. 9 and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the reason why.

I was never lucky enough to experience Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the PS1; from all accounts it was the first game in the series that made the game what it is today, a ‘Metroidvania’ game of gaining more abilities that unlock other areas in the overall map, focussing on exploration as opposed to outright progression. Another name for the genre is ‘Igavania’, named after Koji Igarashi, the designer behind the genre as a whole, and the project lead of Bloodstained.

This game carries with it the burden of being a ‘cult of personality’ game, akin to Mighty No. 9 and games like Death Stranding. But of my (admittedly limited) knowledge Ritual of the Night is one of the last of these games to come to fruition, and may be the punctuation mark on the idea of independent games being sold around a single person.

THE LAST NIGHT

The Last Night is a Cyberpunk 2D RPG set in the future where everyone is looked after, nobody has to work and all those around the protagonist are able to see into a virtual, gamified world that he cannot due to a childhood injury, the nature of which I’ve not been able to find. The game itself looks beautiful, a mashup of hand-drawn pixel art with fully animated effects at 60fps, creating a mesmerising effect of disjointed harmony, the art reflecting the subject it’s portraying. Direct democracy and universal basic income, and the shortcomings of such are entrenched in the mind of the Tim Soret, the creator of the title, along with the protagonist’s own dogma at being an outsider. I want to see this game do well for several reasons. One is that I think it might be the Braid of this generation, both game and undisputed art, but I also want to see this game succeed as one of the few that criticises such well-protected ideals.

Right now, there is very little being said about The Last Night thanks to Soret’s previous views on GamerGate and being an anti-feminist essentially forcing him into toeing the industry line while he works. The release date is set to 2018, and I honestly just want to be able to look at the world that Soret is crafting, because it looks breathtaking so far.

UNDERWORLD: ASCENDANT

My first game was a dungeoncrawler called Stonekeep, released in 1995. I finished it about three months go on a stream, and frankly got a little emotional about it. Rightly or wrongly, I had an investment in finishing the game that I couldn’t explain, but I think it was down to the fact that I had become so interested in the lore, the fact that even now I could recite the Gods in the game and talk about Rathe, Orvig and Kelandra from the prequel novella like I just read it, nevermind trying to figure out Wahooka’s motivations (because why would a Sharga mage with that level of power just want jewels for the sake of riches?) …I think I’ve made my point.

Ultima has been praised for it’s storied history both in-game and in the industry (outside of Ultima 9: Ascension), and Ultima: Underworld was released three years prior to Stonekeep, either being a seminal influence to the latter development of the game, or at the very least a preview of what the genre held. Underworld: Ascendant is the spiritual successor to U:U and even has a lot of the creative staff onboard as part of Otherside Entertainment (probably more famous at the moment for System Shock 3). Ultima: Underworld was essentially a whole world confined to the inside of a mountain (I want to say volcano, but I’m pretty sure nobody would be that dumb), and this reboot is meant to match that; with realism in mind for puzzles, and a magic system that is meant to be based on logical upgrading of spells (like Meta Runes in Stonekeep for AoE, Power, Effect Length etc) rather than just upgrading to the best spell available.

Outside of Legend of Grimlock, I think this game holds the key to many hours of frustration, moments of elation and excessive amounts of corpse combustion.

HONORABLE MENTION: CAMELOT UNCHAINED

This game… Oh God this game… I am starting to believe that it is becoming a notion of IF this game comes out as opposed to when.

Cyrus, the guild I am currently estranged from due to a lack of THIS DAMN GAME, was reformed specifically with the notion of coming into Camelot Unchained. I backed it (albeit at the minimum amount to gain access to the forums), a decision that I am beginning to question; not because of the desire to play with the guildies and bring the Arthurians and Tuatha De Danann to heel under the boot of Viking oppression, but because of the troubled journey the game has had so far. Engine rewrites, a full rewrite of the abilities system (although like Ascendant, wanting to rely on logically compiling spells & abilities), and delays to the point where even Mark Jacobs can’t put a timeframe in place despite the Kickstarter promises, it doesn’t look rosy.

I want to love this game. I want to get home from work, put on some music, grab a coffee and prepare for the next guild outing while everyone else finishes their 9-5 grind, then maybe play another game for an hour or so while everyone while we wait to have enough people for a scouting party. There’s even a deliberate crafting class in the game like Merchants in Ragnarok Online for crying out loud! There’s so much there for the successor of DAoC’s legacy, if only it would step up, while it still has legs, and reach for it.

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