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The most exciting games of 2018

The year two thousand and eighteen is upon us

2018gamesheader

As we lay 2017 to rest, let us remember all of the wonderful games that flickered across our screens and occupied our hearts and minds. But now we must promise never to think of them again because times have changed. This is 2018 and if we’ve learned one thing from the few hours we’ve spent in it it’s that there are games everywhere. Every firework that exploded in the many midnights of New Year’s celebrations was stuffed with games and they were still raining down across the world this morning. We cannot stop them, we cannot contain them, but we can attempt to understand them.

Hundreds of them will be worth our time and attention, but we’ve selected a few of the ones that excite us most as we prepare for another year of splendid PC gaming. There’s something for everyone, from Aunt Maude, the military genius, to merry Ian Rogue, the man who hates permadeath and procedural generation with a passion.

To navigate this post, use the little arrows below the header image or the arrows on your keyboard. The games are in alphabetical order. We were going to sort them by release date but proposed release dates are so often a work of fiction that we decided to stick with the sequential solidity of the alphabet.

A Way Out

Hazelight Studios, 23 March 2018, official site

John: Really I didn’t need to hear more than “the next game from the people who made Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons.” Sold! But it turns out, A Way Out looks completely fascinating in its own right. A co-op prison break/on the run story, that emphasises its linear nature (hooray!), designed to be played by two co-operating chums. And somehow, despite being published by EA, the obvious money grab of needing to sell two copies per play is entirely rejected – you can buy a single copy, then invite a chum to join your game, without their owning it. Splendid.

Two brothers, once again, played either with couch or online co-op, going on the run from prison through a scripted story. Clearly whether it works will depend upon the writing and the overall tale, but Brothers implied these guys know what they’re doing. My fear is that it could get a bit too film-referency, a bit too Scorsese meets Tarantino, rather than more boldly being its own thing. If it can avoid that, it could be a wonderful one-and-done experience, to play with a friend. I shall begin the auditioning process now.

Read more: Adam reported the original announcement, and Vic picked up the news that you only needed one copy.

American Truck Simulator: Oregon

SCS Software, TBA, official site

Alec: This one is, admittedly, just speculation at this point, but all the signs we have so far point towards the Beaver state being SCS Software’s next rest stop along their almighty journey to chronicle every US state in their ultimate roadtrip sim. Quite literally so – a few Oregon roadsigns have cropped up on the American Truck Simulator blog, and, moreover, it’s pretty much got to be that or Texas next. The combo of even more desert and sheer size just doesn’t feel like something either the playerbase or the creators would have the most appetite for right now – not when the alternative is the forests, coasts and even snow-topped mountains of Oregon. We’d also get to enjoy the cultural hive that is Portland, and I’m very curious to see whether ATS could shake off what is often a rather lifeless approach to settlements in order to get that right.

And for me, Oregon would bring me within spitting – or, at least, other-side-of-the-river – distance of Washington State, preparing for that beautiful day in which I get to go on a Twin Peaks filming location odyssey from the comfort of my desk. That would be – excuse me – damn fine indeed.

Read more: an ATS lost highway photo diary; how the New Mexico DLC shows off a different kind of American roadtrip

Anthem

Bioware, Autumn 2018, official site

Matt: The problem with Anthem, for many people, is that it looks an awful lot like Destiny. I’m cautiously excited about it for exactly that reason. Apart from a teaser trailer, our only glimpse at it has been the E3 trailer above, which seems to take the strong character design and interesting dialogue choices that have been BioWare’s forte (though perhaps less so recently) and throw them out of the window. It’s a ‘shared world’ shooter from a studio which has had varying degrees of success putting that on multiplayer side-shows to their story focused RPGs. The thing is, if I can jetpack through that window and swoop and glide around a gorgeous alien jungle…I might not care.

Destiny has proven to me that rock solid shooting through lush environments can be A Good Time without the need for an enthralling story or deep characters. Gimme some stuff to gawp at, neat weapons to chase and the occasional quip and yeah, I’m on board. The E3 demo is, of course, a carefully choreographed display and who knows how good the gunplay will end up feeling – but it piqued my interest nonetheless. And hey, maybe the return of Mass Effect Project Director Casey Hudson might restore a little bit of that BioWare magic after all.

Read more: Anthem is going for Star Wars style ‘soft’ sci-fi; EA explain Anthem

Ashen

Aurora44, Early 2018

John: I don’t know much about Ashen beyond trailers. But bloody hell, I love everything about this trailer. I love the aesthetic, the way it gives you a glimpse of how ridiculously pretty it can be in the light, then plunges you into a still-beautiful dark. I love the terrifyingly skittish and unpleasant spiders. I love how that creature whisps into smoke in that frightening dash. I love that the people don’t have faces, and I’ve no idea why they don’t, nor why I love it. I love the narration, which feels exquisitely well written. I love that the combat looks grim and desperate. I love the name!

It’s been around awhile, first appearing in 2014 and described as an open world ARPG, with “passive multiplayer”. This means you can apparently encounter other players as you explore the astoundingly pretty world, and ignore if them if you wish (yes), or interact, even invite them back to your camp. This seems quite an important notion, based on my guesswork, as the Steam page stresses, “At its core, Ashen is about forging relationships.”

Gosh I hope this doesn’t end up being too Dark Soulsy, and is instead as calm and meditative as it appears. Combat, we’re told, will be “high risk”, and I’m really hoping that also means “avoidable”.

Microsoft have their teeth in it, securing it as an Xbox console exclusive, which likely means the poor game will be buried alive on PC in the darkness of their godforsaken Windows 10 Store. Perhaps by 2018 that whole colossally awful thing will have been abandoned, and it can be sold on proper online stores too.

Read more: Graham first wrote about Ashen in 2014.

BattleTech

Harebrained Schemes, Early 2018

Adam: I already love BattleTech. Having only played a sample of singleplayer skirmish missions, it’s basically a big playground where I can pretend to be a kid smashing toy robots against one another. It’s the kind of turn-based game that’s incredibly good at letting you engage with the fantasy of its setting, thanks to some gorgeous damage effects and mechs that feel just as weighty and dangerous as you’d want them to.

Crucially, the mechs feel like dangerous machines to inhabit as well as to unleash. When the heat rises and flames flicker across the surface, vents of steam bursting from the torso, I feel like my pilots are locked inside giant metal coffins. They’re monstrous things, these war machines.

They’re also complex, one-hex armies with a full arsenal of weapons and the ability to flank, retreat and launch full-on frontal assaults. They’re varied, allowing you to focus on bulk or speed, on artillery or melee, and I’m already exciting about managing my pilots and mechs as well as throwing them into combat.

But I’m most excited about the campaign. If Harebrained can pull off the kind of dynamic merc company management sim they’re aiming for, this could be one of my favourite games of the year, and my favourite game in the BattleTech universe.

Read more: Why BattleTech is the mech game I’ve always wanted, an early look at the campaign.

Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt Red, TBA, official site

Matt: This is less likely to come out in 2018 than Trump is to shut down his Twitter account, but makes my list anyway because ‘the Witcher 3 but sci-fi’ might be my dream game. It’s a story-driven RPG from the Witcher devs set in a dystopian cyberpunk city. It’s the same world as Cyberpunk 2020, a much beloved pen and paper RPG that provides CD project with a fleshed out setting in much the same way as the Witcher novels.

We also know that it’s going to be larger than any game they’ve previously made and will include some form of ‘seamless multiplayer’. That last part has a lot of people concerned, but CD project co-founder Marcin Iwinski assures us that we can still expect an ‘all out RPG’ with a focus on storytelling. If that means something like the multiplayer elements in Dark Souls or Watch Dogs, then I’m all for it.

Read more: Adam talks to the Cyberpunk creator about how CD Project are aiming to stay true to the genre; Jody Macgregor peers into the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG for more details about Cyberpunk 2077.

Darksiders III

Gunfire Games, 2018, official site

John: When Darksiders III was announced back in May, we almost immediately got to see 12 minutes of the game in action. And, eek, they weren’t so great. Fury’s whip looked feeble and clunky, seemingly a huge step down from Death’s mighty clunking hammers and axes in Darksiders II. The happiness to see the splendid series was going to survive post THQ was quickly dampened by some really ill-advised early footage.

I’m pleased to report that more recent in-game action (as seen in the video above) enormously improves expectations. The oddly thin and useless-looking whip is gone, replaced by something far more impressive, looking like it can do some proper harm, as well as making a fun-looking means of leaping about levels. And once again I’m building anticipation.

The developers are Gunfire Games, who have no priors, but fortunately when you look at who they actually are, they’re staffed by lots of names who were previously at Vigil, and worked on the first two. So at this point, things are starting to look in place to create a fun, meaty action adventure for next year. Although I’ll say something that doesn’t often get said about games: I really hope it’s a shorter game than Darksiders II. Did anyone finish II? Surely no one. If they can contain it to a huge and satisfying 20 hours, this’ll be ideal.

Read more: Here’s that troubling first 12 minutes, but beyond that, very little is known so far.

Far Cry 5

Ubisoft, March 27th, official site

Graham: I probably shouldn’t be looking forward to this, should I? The next iteration of Ubisoft’s first-person shooter series is set in America in a region taken over by cultists, and it seems determined to avoid being meaningfully political. It’ll probably be dumb trash. But then: all Far Cry games are dumb trash, but they also have really satisfying bows and arrows, forts to clear out stealthily and in co-op, and fun vehicle and animal-based japes. I never complete games and I completed both Far Cry 3 and 4. So I can’t help but be excited to dive headlong into Far Cry 5. It doesn’t look as pretty as the previous games, but hey, it’s got a dog.

Matt: Ubisoft can keep releasing Far Cry games well into the next decade, and I’ll keep lapping them up. That’s not through love of their characters or plots, which have been both underwhelming and offensive – and I don’t expect Far Cry 5’s American setting to turn that on its head. What I do expect are more forts to conquer, more wildlife to hunt and more valleys to wing suit down. That wing suit alone is enough to get me pumped: it turns traversing the environment into an absolute joy, and me into an avid collectable hunter when I normally wouldn’t bother. A new Far Cry game doesn’t have to provide me with more than a new playground and a few more toys to make it one of the best games in any given year.

John: I’m not shy about looking forward to this. Far Cries 3 and 4 might have had stories you only don’t want to shoot behind the shed because they’re just too pitiable to look at, but damn they were fun games. The trailers show some amazingly silly details, and knowing how awful Ubisoft are at narratives, all I can hope is that it doesn’t get too much in the way of daft entertainment.

Read more: Adam’s immediate love for Far Cry 5’s dog

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition

Square Enix, early 2018, official site

Alec: I abandoned The Lovely Carboys somewhere in the middle of the desert on PlayStation 4 earlier this year, tempted away as I was by the superior open world systems and surprises of Zelda on Switch. But it’s to Noctis, Ignis, Prompto and Gladio, not Hyrule, that my mind increasingly returns. Those boys and their bromance and their goofiness and their comic-pathetic posturing, their freedom and nonchalance even though they had to save the world from crisis, their car, their camps, their selfies and, oh god, their beautiful, glistening, colourful food. I dream of that food, I really do.

I dream also of seeing it sharper and fancier and even more glistening on PC, to the point that I am seriously considering buying an HDR monitor purely to better enjoy Ignis’ recipes. Most of all though, I feel so ready to go back, not to finish what I started, but to have another combat-roadtrip with The Lovely Carboys. It’s the only Final Fantasy since my time with VII as a very callow youth that hasn’t made me seethe and eye-roll, and I await this homecoming keenly.

Katharine: Unlike Alec, I finished The Lovely Carboys well before Zelda could steal me away from its campfire delights, but I too am very much looking forward to returning to Best Boy Fest early next year. Even after having seen it all the way through to its rather dreadful end, I still love it to absolute bits. Bombing around in that ridiculous car with Noctis and his three pals is just a lovely way to spend a cold winter evening, and the fact we’ll also be getting it in lovely 4K with all of Nvidia’s mad hair and particle physics only makes the prospect even more enticing. Roll on Round 2 of ‘Who is Best Boy 2018?’ (It’s still Ignis).

Read more: FFXV’s director chooses his favourite Lovely Carboy

Frostpunk

11 Bit, Early 2018, official site

Graham: Everything I know about surviving a freezing post-apocalyptic wasteland I learned from Adam, who has actually spent time with Frostpunk. It’s a “city-building survival sim”, he says, where you must plan and expand a city in world undone by climate change, but where you’re also dealing with the human realities of your workers and citizens. They suffer from depression as much as frostbite and your job is to inspire as much as direct. From the steady stream of big decisions it forces you to make, it sounds like a modern take on the same ideas underpinning King of Dragon Pass. Although I don’t remember ever legalising cannibalism among my tribe, which is one of the things you can do here.

Read more: Adam’s Frostpunk preview which first placed ice in my heart.

Griftlands

Klei Entertainment, TBA 2018, official site

Brendan: Klei like to thrust each of their cartoony fingers into separate genre pies. Squelch goes Don’t Starve into the survival bake. Plop goes Oxygen Not Inlcuded into the management pasty. Crunch goes Invisible Inc into the turn-based tactics tart. This would be disgusting if they weren’t so good at it. The next savoury they’re interfering with is the RPG. Griftlands is about being a sci-fi bounty hunter “where everything is negotiable”. Sadly, we don’t know much about it apart from it being described by designer Kevin Forbes as “more of a pirate/mercenary sandbox than a sequence of story battles”. There’ll be companions and player characters with their own storylines but much of it will take place in a world with consequences, he says, where NPCs will “remember what you did to them”. We hear that line a lot in this industry, but if there’s any pie-fingerer I trust to follow through, it’s Klei.

Read more: A few words from Griftlands lead designer

Into The Breach

Subset Games, early 2018, official site

Alec: I suspect this is somewhere very near the top of the most of the RPS staff’s 2018 wants-list right now, and that’s even though we already have beta versions of it. The follow-up to the remarkably timeless spaceship management/roguelite FTL was always going to be a big deal, but its place in our hearts became absolute when we played it, were punished by it, learned from it and almost instantly knew we loved it.

There are some similarities to FTL, not least in the art style, but also in terms of replaceable crew, different vehicles (mechs, in this case) for different jobs and the cruel fates of procedural-generation. But it’s very much its own thing, these micro-strategy battles which evoke an endless, even more focused version of classic GBA tank-battler Advance Wars, and in which every single decision feels like the climatic one. Everything depends on this moment – every moment.

It’s less wantonly cruel than FTL too, partly because you’ve always got breathing space before you commit to actions, partly because there’s nothing to, say, randomly eradicate one of your people off-screen, but it’s no less forgiving – successfully re-bottling that ‘just one more try’ lightning.

Read more: the RPS team discuss their love for ITB; an after-action report of ULTIMATE DOOM

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Warhorse Studios, Feb 13th

Adam: Divinity: Original Sin 2 made me fall in love with RPGs all over again, but it was The Witcher 3 that gave me hope when it comes to massive, glossy open world RPGs. Kingdom Come: Deliverance won’t be as polished as The Witcher 3 (what is?) but it’s aiming to do for a certain parcel of history what CD Projekt Red did for Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy series. A huge world in which you play as a set character but have the freedom to make of life what you will to a certain extent.

What I’m really excited about, having spent some time talking to the developers and looking at the game, is the combination of realism and systemic depth. Alchemy, for instance, involves fiddling with ingredients, burners and flasks rather than simply clicking items on a menu. Your reputation isn’t just about the things that you do but also about the clothes that you wear, going so far as to change temporarily when you’re spattered with the blood of your enemies or innocents.

It’s a huge game and a hugely complex one, but if Warhorse achieve even half of what they’re attempting, it’ll be absolutely fascinating.

Read more: Falling in love with Kingdom Come’s skill trees.

Metro Exodus

4A Games, Fall 2018, official site

Katharine: The apocalyptic nuclear winter continues – hooray! While I doubt Metro Exodus will end up being anywhere near as dramatic or emergent as its E3 reveal might have us believe, the idea of finally venturing topside instead of being stuck in a dark tunnel for 90% of the game is certainly an appealing one. I love Metro’s mix of FPS horror stealth, if only because it’s one of the few survival horror games I can play with the lights turned off. The things I do for immersion, eh? (No, really, I actually can’t see anything on my screen because of the glare from my lightbulb). Either way, I’m intrigued to see what kind of world 4A’s got cooking for us – provided our own fair land hasn’t also been roasted to a nuclear crisp by the time it comes out.

Read more: Metro bids farewell to Moscow in a shiny new trailer.

Mineko’s Night Market

Meowza Games, TBA 2018, official site]

Alice: ‘Enter a community and start poking at their mysteries’ is a fine setup for a game, and doubly so when the mysteries involve a large number of cats (and a large cat too) on a Japanese-y island. The in-game weeks centering around a night market sounds grand and all. I don’t know too much about Mineko’s Night Market but with this gorgeous art style, yes, sign me up for crafting, making friends, exploring, eating, wrestling, and cat racing.

Read more: The announcement.

Monster Hunter World

Capcom, January 26th, official site

Katharine: I’ve never been a die-hard Monster Hunter fan. I only got into them when Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate came out on the Nintendo 3DS, and even then I only really dabbled with them for a dozen hours or so rather than hundreds. But having played an hour of Monster Hunter World at Gamescom this year, this might finally be the one that sticks with me.

Not only does it look gorgeous, but it also finally gives you the chance to hunt gigantic beasts and jumbo dinosaurs in seamless, multi-layered environments without all those irritating loading screens. It’s simplified a lot of the traditional hang-ups that always made those early hours such a slog, too, allowing you to dive into the meat of the action much faster – a tasty prospect if ever I saw one. I also have to applaud Capcom’s animation team on another stellar effort here, as each and every single creature I’ve seen so far just has a wonderful sense of lumbering physicality to them. Now if they can just work some of that slick Ghost Trick dancing magic into your feline Palico companions, then Capcom could easily have a Game of the Year on their hands.

Read more: The time Adam turned a dinosaur into a pair of pants.

Mount and Blade II: Bannerlord

TaleWorlds Entertainment, TBA 2018, official site

Brendan: I think of the next Mount and Blade with some trepidation, only because TaleWorlds have been working on it for so long (it was announced in 2012) and we know very little about the campaign. We’ve seen siege defences and horse archers and even played a bit of the multiplayer captain mode but my real interest lies in the singleplayer. A chimera of strategy, management and RPG that sees you wandering around a big world map and scheming with kings, princesses and generals. We’ve been told about a few features, like the ability to engage in diplomacy with bandit groups. But we still don’t know how it will feel to play. Will I still be able to finagle my way into the Khan’s court? Does my old manky dungeon cell still await me if I’m once again captured during a botched assault on a castle? Most importantly: will the game’s dialogue be more varied and interesting than the samey chat we saw from every military and political leader in Warband? I’m eager to find out. I left some nice straw in that dungeon.

Read more: Here’s an interview with the developers and a hands-on with the multiplayer.

No Truce With The Furies

ZA/UM, TBA 2018, official site

Alice: This RPG fizzes with ideas. Play an alcoholic seaside cop who can enter his own head to talk to his memories and senses. Build an inventory of thoughts and realign them to take different stances. Fail badly and in interesting ways. Even plain ol’ character attributes bring downsides, such as high Intellect leaving you vulnerable to flattery and getting lost in details.

It’ll all hang on the writing but god, it’s built of some interesting pieces. Poke around the dev blog for more on ’em.

Adam: If this isn’t in my top five at the end of the year, I’ll eat a hat. Any hat. Several hats. Perhaps every hat.

Read more: We’ve talked about it more than we’ve written about it, mostly because every time Adam starts putting words onto the screen he gets too excited and has to go for a walk.

Ooblets

Glumberland, TBA 2018, official site

Alice: It’s rare to see a game and think the characters look like they’re having fun. People in Ooblets are having a great time. Whether they’re dancing, chatting, exploring, farming, running a shop, or raising little monster friends to battle, everyone’s enjoying themselves. Even when things look tough, they’re earnest and enthusiastic. How wonderful!

Stardew Valley’s tone didn’t quite click with me, something about its human side feeling distant and calculating, but I want to meet these people and monsters and engage in good times while also building a really great farm.

Read more: The first time we spotted an Ooblet.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Moon Studios, TBA, official site

Katharine: We’ve only seen the briefest of melancholy glimpses of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but if Moon Studio’s latest platformer is anything like 2015’s ingenious Ori and the Blind Forest, then this will be a treat indeed. Unless, of course, you have an aversion to sad-looking owls and contrite spiritual cat monkeys. Then maybe this game isn’t for you.

For everyone else, though, this should be one of the finest Metroidvanias/Princess Mononoke sims of the year if Moon delivers the goods, and even if it isn’t, at least we’ll have another wistful Gareth Coker score to wallow in as we ponder the fragility of nature and stuff.

Read more: Wot John thinks of Ori and the Blind Forest’s Definitive Edition.

Pathologic 2

Ice-Pick Lodge, TBA

Adam: Whether it wants to call itself Pathologic 2, Pathologic 2017 or Arthouse Disease Sim, Ice-Pick Lodge’s return to the city that put them on the map is one of the hottest tickets in town. It’s the only game I know of that is likely to have writing more extraordinary than any other novel I’ll read next year, and what I’ve already played of it shows not only an understanding of what made the original work so well, but also an understanding of how to improve it in every way.

It’s laugh-out-loud funny, creepy and smartly surreal. What I found most impressive, when playing the demo, was the realisation that in the years since the original release, lots of other games have been treading similar ground. Not the survival games or strange RPGS, but the walking simulators. Pathologic pre-empts so many of them simply by dropping you into an unusual place and asking you to explore and see the sights.

The difference is that Pathologic isn’t just telling a story, it’s also trapping you in all of its arcane machinery. It looks like an RPG, with survival elements, but take nothing for granted. The systems that push you forward and then down into the mud are as strange as the setting. Be wary and be ready for something truly bizarre and wonderful.

Read more: Butchering Pathologic: an in-depth look at the original game, developers Ice-Pick Lodge on preserving their original vision.

Phoenix Point

Snapshot Games, TBA

Adam: You don’t really need me to tell you why having the creator of the original X-COM returning to the tactical alien-smashing genre is exciting. Gollop and his team aren’t trying to hang their hat on past glories though – with its truly unknowable semi-procedural enemies and all kinds of inter-faction dealings, Phoenix Point could be a much stranger and more complex game than I ever expected when it was first announced.

With Frozen Synapse 2 and Phoenix Point both coming out next year, and both exploring the possibilities of a world with simulated factions rather than abstract mission generation, 2018 is going to be an exciting time for fans of turn-based tactics and high-concept strategy.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Phoenix Point, an interview with creator Julian Gollop.

Spelunky 2

Mossmouth, TBA, official site

Graham: Spelunky 2! I honestly didn’t think this would ever happen. The original Spelunky – possibly my favourite game – feels complete in a way so few games do. I can imagine plugging a bunch of new content into the original’s existing systems to create a fifth world with a few new enemies and items, but I can’t imagine Derek Yu being particularly interested in doing that. That suggests, I think, that Spelunky 2 will do more to mix up the game’s formula. The only information available so far comes via the trailer, which shows that you’re now playing as your daughter and hints that it might take place among the clouds rather than underground. Whatever it proves to be, I can’t wait to play it.

Matt: Oh my word. Steam tells me I’ve played nearly 300 hours of Spelunky, and I’ve probably spent hundreds more with the original free version. I can’t imagine starting a new game for the thousandth time in any other roguelike, but Spelunky’s artful proc gen and remarkable ability to generate interesting stories makes every run feel fresh. I can’t wait to see what chain of chaos will lead to my demise. Sure, it’s frustrating when a spring-propelled rock hits a spaceship that explodes, which sends a mine hurtling towards my face that knocks me out and then detonates. It’s also hilarious, and has me clicking the restart button with a grin on my face.

We don’t know really know anything about Spelunky 2, except that I’m inevitably going to spend literal days playing it.

Stardew Valley co-op

ConcernedApe, Early 2018, official site

Brendan: I’m looking forward to this because I want to go into my girlfriend’s farmhouse and put a single block of cheese in the wrong place. The co-op for this farming adventure has been teased long enough for a janky unofficial mod to attempt the same thing. But I can’t be bothered with all that fiddling. The real deal, when it arrives, will let me be a farmhand, relegated to a cabin on the same plot of land as my significant farmer. I will be able to place crab traps, plant wheat seeds, compete in festivals and even marry one of the townsfolk on the sly. But only the head farmer gets to decide when to sleep. So I can’t just lie in my pit all week until Friday arrives then go to the local disco, which is a complete demolition of my actual countryside fantasy.

Read more: Stardew Valley’s multiplayer is “coming along great” says its creator.

Surviving Mars

Haemimont Games, TBA 2018, official site

Alec: For decades now, I’ve always wondered about what happened after I won a space-race victory in Civilization. Sure, Alpha Centauri and Beyond Earth both answered that question in their own intriguing ways, but for me the fantasy was never “and then they continue to basically play Civ but on another planet.” It was about how they made society happen on a hostile world – overcoming the most fundamental challenges of starting from scratch. It’s a science-sci-fi conundrum that’s been explored in a number of ways and in a number of games, but this Mars settlement-sim from the creators of the reliable Tropico series (with Paradox backing) looks like it’s going the whole hog in the way I always wanted (even though the Civ ship didn’t go to Mars).

It covers everything from the first drone-placed girders to early, makeshift domes to full-on civilised society on the red planet. I can’t speak to how the game’s going to feel to play, but I am so down with the concept.

Read more: Surviving Mars brings hard science to colony-building ; how to survive in Surviving Mars

Tunic

Andrew Shouldice, 2018, official site

John: It’s just so gosh-darned gorgeous. A ridiculously cute cartoon fox, in an isometric world of smooth-edged geometric construction, that looks like someone took Zelda and ran it through the Cute-o-Tron 3000 four or five times. Oh, and with the neatest-looking dodge I’ve seen in a long time.

I’m a big sucker for such action adventures, so give me a cute playground and enough enemies to biff and treasures to find, and I can be kept happy and distracted while the grown ups get on with something. But this looks pretty special within that remit. And not just for the outrageously lovely way the trees wobble. I’m really impressed with the combat this trailer shows, and especially that dodge-roll – it’s so nippy, and from experience makes for some challenging, frantic fights.

Now, this has been around awhile, previously under the far too ambiguous name Secret Legend. That revealed it to be a little bit Metroidvania, and a lot bursting with potential. I was especially intrigued by the way it eschewed hand-holding, and in fact deliberately obfuscated the basics with a mostly unintelligible language. It suggested a lot of depth behind the cutesy veneer.

My only concerns are that we’ve heard not a peep since the E3 renaming announcement trailer, despite a release date for next year. This normally indicates that there’s a lot of developing still going on, and I’d not be surprised if this ended up being a 2019 game. I do hope not though, as I’m dying to play it.

Read more: John’s hands-on with the game when it was called Secret Legend.

UFO 50

Mossmouth, 2018, official site

Graham: I love Spelunky so much that I’ll play anything Derek Yu ever makes, possibly for the rest of his career. This may prove time-consuming, since part of what he’s currently working on is a collection of 50 retro-inspired single and multiplayer games called UFO50. Apparently these aren’t mini-games, either, but full (though presumably short-ish?) games with fully explored mechanics. The games run the gamut of genres including platformers, shmups, puzzles, RPGs, sports and more. My one relief might have been that Yu isn’t personally responsible for all 50, as he’s teamed up with four other developers to make them. Except that’s no relief at all, since the list of other developers includes Ojiro Fumoto, the maker of the also-excellent gunboots platformer Downwell.

Read more: Our review of Downwell.

Untitled Goose Game

House House, TBA 2018, official site

Alice: After getting back into Metal Gear Solid V recently, I’m so up for Metal Goose Solid. The goose is, I only realise now, my ideal protagonist: playful yet spiteful, loud but capable of subterfuge. I am so excited to trick and bully people into helping me achieve my goosey aims. The announcement video, showing the goose tricking a gardener into letting it into the garden then tormenting the poor fella by stealing his hat and his lunch, is one of the most delightful things I’ve seen in yonks.

The combination of manipulating an NPC’s behaviour, sneaking around, malice, and honking at will speaks to me so much. I adore this prick of a goose.

[Disclosure: I’m chummy with some of the devs, by which I mean I once forced one to eat mayonaisse from the squeeze bottle while the others watched appalled.]

Read more: A tutorial.

Wargroove

Chucklefish, Early 2018, official site

Brendan: Had it not been for the stompy mechs and spitting aliens of Into The Breach, I would’ve been a hundred times more excited for Wargroove. But even if the Advance Wars-shaped hole in my heart has been filled, there is always room for more miniature army dudes fumbling around a grassy map and accidentally firing at the wrong artillery tank.

Wargroove re-imagines the industrialised 20th century soldiers of its GameBoy muse as swordsmen, accompanied by the wagons, dragons and trebuchets of a fantasy world. But the turn-based shctick is the same. Hit your foe’s battalion of stabbers with your own spritey cavalry unit and capture cities on the map. Speaking of which, you’ll be able to create your own maps, say developers Chucklefish. And there’s online and local multiplayer.

Read more: Chucklefish show off Wargroove at E3.

gamesof2018

That’s it! There are many more games we’re excited about, of course, and there will be plenty of surprises as the year unfolds. The best experiences are often the ones you don’t expect so by the time 2018 has been all wrapped up and placed into another of our celebratory Advent Calendars, chances are there’ll be some games in there that we haven’t even heard of yet. That’s brilliant, isn’t it?

Let us know what’s tickling your fancy in the comments and even if you guzzled all the champagne last night, let’s raise a glass or a thumb to another year of playing together. We’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, happy new year!

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