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The RPS hivemind presents: The most anticipated games of 2019

Oh no there are too many games


Wow 2019 is a thing, huh? How are we all doing? Relieved? Bowling a hangover and a nagging sense of trepidation? Maybe you work in retail and, surprise! You were supposed to be at work half an hour ago. Time loses all meaning post-New Year break, doesn’t it? You’re just sort of adrift in a sea of empty Quality Street wrappers. That’s okay. We’re all there too.

Pretty soon the grim news cycle is going to grind to life again. Only three months until — no! Don’t think about it. We still have a moment here, on the crinkly, brightly coloured waves. Listen to their quiet rustling and think, not about reality, but about games! Yes, lovely, shiny games. We can bury our face right in them. And from that point of view the next 12 months are looking pretty good. Here’s our selection of the games we’re most looking forward to next year.

Metro Exodus

Brendan: I like a corridor shooter. No open world to gawk at. No map to consult. No mountain to tramp towards. Just a nice, grim-faced bulletfunnel, with some nonsensical story and firey set pieces thrown in. The Metro games were not perfect, but they are among the best examples of a shooter admirably concentrating on its own genre. While Call of Duty’s corridor shoots became so stale that they dropped the singleplayer mode entirely for Codblops 4, the Metro folks went quiet. In recent years, only Titanfall 2 has offered an old-fashioned big-budget shoot-the-baddies story mode that was worth playing. When Metro Exodus was unveiled and showed foggy-eyed hero Artyom stumbling out of his tunnels into the open, I was worried. No no no, I thought. If they just make a Fallout game I am going to be very sad.

It seems I can relax. Exodus is not an “open world” by the looks of things, it’s just a wider corridor. You’re shooting mutant bears in the woods and angry raiders in their settlements, but you’re still confined to levels. Large levels, with multiple paths, but levels nonetheless. The tunnel-vision and linearity is always what gave Metro games their focus. So I’m hopeful, based on the adorable manchildren I met in a demo, that this isn’t an endless sweep of wasteland with semi-random encounters and half-hearted storytelling, but a broader tunnel with just as much attention to grimy detail as the studio’s previous Nazi-stomping romps.

Katharine: I’m looking forward to Nvidia’s fancy ray tracing reflection gubbins completely tanking the frame rate.

Anthem

Alice Bee: I’m too much of a mark to not get excited about at least one big studio monstrosity, and if I have my druthers, which I do, that will be a BioWare game. Anthem seems to be EA’s play for the Destiny crowd, and the game-playing public was initially disappointed that Anthem isn’t going to be a big RPG where you can smooch all your mates in space. You can’t smooch anyone at all, in fact, in space or not. What is this nonsense, BioWare?

I did, though, get to play the extremely controlled press demo, about 20 minutes long, and look, I know that it was carefully scripted and we were shepherded by two BioWare employees (who had been sat in a box doing the same 20 minutes with functionally indistinguishable journos all day). And I know that Anthem is probably going to be quite shallow when it comes out, like, well, Destiny.

But the thing is, the demo was really, really fun. I got to fly around in a big rocket propelled mech suit! Flying is probably my most favourite form of movement in games, and in Anthem it felt weighty, a weird mix of freedom and restriction. I could go anywhere in the air, but the ground was awkward and slow, so I was constantly afraid of my mech overheating. When I fell to the ground it was with a big, horrible crunch. So I am excited to do more of that. But I will probably just do it by myself, because hell is other people.

Matt Cox: Hey, I’m part of the Destiny crowd! Sort of. I’m no hobbyist.

Sure, part of Destiny’s allure lies in collecting increasingly shiny guns – and sure, I’m glad that Anthem has teased some shiny gun collecting. With Destiny that’s a meta-attraction though, a cloak draped over shooting and ducking and jumping that feels weighty and punchy and good. I want another game that plays like that, ideally with even more zipping about.

Based on what Alice just said: hurray! That is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to read about Anthem, a confirmation that flying feels as good as it looks. I’m running out of ways to say I really like being agile in games, to the point where I’m pretty sure I’ve already said I’m running out of ways to say I really like being agile in games. This is my cup of mobili-tea.

Who needs smooching when you’ve got jetpacks?

The Pathless

Alec: Look, I’m awful and old, so what I most wanted from an Abzu follow-up was More Fish. All the fish, all the time. Fish. Fish!

The trailer for The Pathless lulled me into a false sense of security by initially showing water. Where there is water, there must be fish. Another fish game, callooh callay.

But: no fish. Instead, forests. Many-limbed flame-beasts. Absurdly endearing eagles. A no-tail. Spectral god-deer. Upside-down sky volcanoes.

Fine, fine, it looks amazing. A veritable blitz of imagination and wonder. I can’t wait. But, please, any hope of a fish cameo, at least? A rainbow trout hidden behind a waterfall, a big squid hiding in a cupboard? C’mon, just one little manta ray tucked behind a spooky sycamore tree. For me. Do it as a favour, yeah? A little fishy favour, just for me.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Video Matthew: Yes, one of the games I’m most excited for is a port of a Nintendo DS series made eight million years ago. Shockingly, in the following eight million years few games have managed to capture the same mix of drama, charm, wit and exploding haircuts of Capcom’s legendary lawyer-em-up. You play as Phoenix Wright, a fresh-faced defence attorney who turns up to court woefully unprepared and has to scrape through with a mix of cocksure bellowing (in the DS original you could should “Objection!” into the handheld’s mic) and your ability to pick out contradictions in witness testimony using evidence.

As a deduction game it’s linear and a bit wonky, often tripping over itself when you see through the case and try to play the smoking gun too early. But it doesn’t matter. Not when you’re blowing a man’s wig off with the power of logic. Or trying to remember how to lawyer because you’ve been bonked on the head with a fire extinguisher. Or exchanging harsh words with your nemesis, and walking smirk, Miles Edgeworth. Or ducking cups of coffee lobbed by Prosecutor Godot (voiced by Hideki ‘Bayonetta’ Kamiya, no less!). God, I could write a list of my hundred happiest Ace Attorney memories and still not get to the bit where you cross-examine a parrot.

I love this game so much, I’m even willing to overlook Capcom wheeling out the slightly ropey HD graphics from the remastered iOS port again. It looks too clean compared to the pixel art of the originals, but the characters are so brilliantly written that I can stomach some rough – well, technically, ‘smooth’ – edges. This is the bit where I’d usually sign off with some terrible old line about you not ‘hearing any objections from me’ but I respect you too much to do that. If the feeling’s mutual, heed my words and give it a go.

Alice Bee: The entire team has had access to the document for this article for like three weeks and nobody added an OBJECTION! But really, these games are ridiculous and good.

Flotsam

Alice III: I saw a lot of amazing games at EGX this year, many of which I’d like to include, but one of the standouts for me was Flotsam. It’s mainly because of it being a city builder/management game that is cute af. But it’s partly due to it’s message about pollution and waste. Sure that’s not the main aspect of the game, but it’s something that means a lot to me, so that’s why it stood out. Here you’re floating around the ocean. Which now engulfs the whole of the planet. You have to avoid ruins and shipwrecks, and scavenge for parts. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Game.

The hands-on I had with it at EGX just made me want to take it home and keep playing until I got bored. Though this colourful, quirky, cute little world that’s built around the aftermath of an apocalypse doesn’t look like it could ever get boring. Instead of greys, greens, and the drabness and sadness you’d expect after the world gets flooded, this world is full of blues and oranges. And you have a very helpful guide called Steven Seagull. No prizes for guessing which species he is.

Griftlands

Ollie: After its announcement at E3 2017, Klei stayed pretty silent on the topic of their latest endeavour, sci-fi Sid-Meier’s-Pirates-like RPG Griftlands. That is, until they posted an update on the Klei forums on the 29th October saying, in a nutshell, “yeah, we are still working on this game, sorry for the lack of news”.

Which I, for one, was overjoyed to read! Klei’s previous games are nearly all firmly rooted in the “Favourites” category of my Steam library, and I’m just so darn excited to see what they’re bringing to the table with this. After Brendan poked Klei asking for more details, we learned that, while it bears some similarities to the Banner Saga formula, it’s not nearly so rigidly linear in story. It’s more like a “pirate sandbox” within which you can set (solar) sail, make your fortune, and undoubtedly piss off a whole lot of people in the process.

The thing is, they’ve released very little information about the game itself, relying on “the next game by Klei” to fuel the hype train. And they have a point. But at this stage we know that Klei can bounce between genres like nobody’s business, somehow managing to keep their signature charm and whimsy not just intact but evolving with each iteration. And a Sid Meier’s Pirates set in space with aliens and backstabbing and emergent storytelling all wrapped up in Klei’s glorious animation?

Take as long as you need, Klei. But seriously, make it fast.

Wargroove

Katharine: It seems like an age since I played my first demo of Wargroove, but hopefully 2019 will finally, finally be the year we’ll be able to play this pixelated Advance Wars-alike in all its turn-based tactics glory. Personally, I’m more of a Fire Emblem gal than an Advance Wars grunt, but Wargroove is just so darned charming with its smiley-faced commanders and cheery colour palette that it’s hard not to feel instantly drawn to its teeny little soldiers and good boy dog heroes.

The wait looks as though it’s been worth it, as Chucklefish’s various delays have meant the addition of a dedicated ‘one turn to win’ puzzle mode (which I’m hoping will scratch a similar itch to Into The Breach’s tightly-constructed 3-4 turn tactics grids), over 45 different kinds of PVP maps, an built-in map creator, its very own campaign creator, as well as new types of units such as magical mages and witches. And let’s not forget all that great-sounding music, either, giving the game it’s all-important, titular groove.

There’s still no specific date for it other than sometime between January and March at this point, but provided Chucklefish can deliver its many promises, this is probably going to be the closest we ever get to Advance Wars on PC.

John: My teeny tiny secret, as someone who gets a fair amount of mileage out of not liking strategy games, is the amount of my time I sank into Advance Wars on the GBA. Unlikely Katharine, I could never get into Fire Emblem, but became utterly absorbed by AW, and later Advance Wars: Dual Strike on the DS. So, yes, so long as Wargroove manages to contain itself, to keep that magical simplicity, I’m really interested in this.

I’m doubtful too. Because this is Chucklefish, and while you can’t question the success of Starbound, it’s fair to say there’s the potential for feature-creep. Gosh I hope not though.

But goodness me, did you know it’s been nearly 11 years since the last Advance Wars game?! ELEVEN YEARS? Eight Fire Emblem games since then from Intelligent Systems, the monsters. So thank goodness for Chucklefish, stepping into the breach. Godspeed to them.

Sea Of Solitude

John: I know almost nothing about this, other than that I want to play it most of all of all the games I know of. It looks, and it sounds, wonderful.

An abandoned, submerged city to explore? Yes please! A city filled with metaphorical and literal fears, monstrous depictions of unease and loneliness? Um, eek!

It’s been known about since 2015, but very minimally promoted since. In fact, peculiarly under-promoted. A trailer, six screenshots, a brief appearance at EA Play this year, and that’s it. It doesn’t even have its own Twitter account! That’ll be EA Originals publishing then. Anyhow, watch the trailer and you’ll see what I mean:

Apparently the reason the character is a monster is because she’s so lonely, which seems a bit harsh. But it looks proper lovely, and is said to be a very personal project by creator Cornelia Geppert.

If it can deliver on an experience of solitude, then I’m so in for this. I am so completely in love with the idea of games creating big, beautiful spaces to explore on my own, even if that will eventually turn me into some sort of solipsistic monster. I’m cool with that.

Genesis Noir

Alice Bee: I am perhaps being optimistic with this, but I do really hope Genesis Noir is out next year. Dear Fr. Christmas, I have been reasonably good in 2018 and definitely score well compared to a bunch of people in the news. Please can Genesis Noir come out in Q3. Yrs sincerely, Alice Bell (aged 28 ⅘).

I played a little hands on with Genesis Noir earlier in the year, and it’s so lovely. If someone asks you “Are games art?” instead of punching them in the stomach immediately and running away, you could say: “There’s this game where you play a private detective but, like, for the universe, and you have to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet, because it turns out the big bang was a gunshot and the bullet is travelling towards your girlfriend, who is sort of the universe, possibly.” And then run away.

Genesis Noir is mostly white lines, like chalk on a blackboard that is the entirety of everything. But despite that, the game communicates a wonderful level of detail. When you make your little gumshoe run he puts one hand up to stop his hat falling off. How lovely is that?

Heaven’s Vault

Brendan: If Duolingo included a “mysterious alien language” course (that wasn’t Klingon) I would be all over that [indecipherable symbol]. I enjoyed tinkering with the strange patterns on an extraterrestrial computer in Sethian. And when I got to play a demo of Heaven’s Vault, an archaeological adventure through extra-dimensional space, I was [symbol for very] [symbol for happy]. You play a professional history knower wandering through the ruins of an alien world, deciphering glyphs carved on doorways and tombstones (or what you guess are tombstones). Translating these messages is partly a matter of trial and error, putting this hieroglyphic symbol with that one, and wondering aloud: “Yeah, it probably does mean ‘Temple’.”

There was a lot of guesswork when I sauntered through the leafy temples of this lost civilisation. But hopefully, as you build up your knowledge of the language, you’ll be able to piece things together more reliably. It’s being made by the developers of 80 Days so I’m guessing there’ll also be some branching story stuff going on. But I’m more excited about the language itself, and how it aims to be “Guitar Hero of linguistics”, according to developer man Jon Ingold. During my demo, all the developers showed me their business cards, which were adorned with the ancient script. The word for writer is a long string of symbol spaghetti, which literally translates to: “Person-who-speaks-without-speaking.” Well, I’m excited to do some more speaking-without-speaking about this game.

Katharine: Heaven’s Vault is also high up on my 2019 [symbol for wish] list. The demo I played at Rezzed earlier in the year instantly captivated me with its trial and error language guess work, and I loved that ‘being wrong’ was a perfectly valid way of approaching the game. In the end, the bit I played did in fact correct me once I’d finished bumbling around the ruins I thought were a fort but were in fact some kind of healing facility, but it was a gentle ‘how about this?’ sort of nudge rather than a great big angry red cross on my homework book. I love that, and am very much looking forward to making more incorrect guesses and puzzling them out in the full game next year.

Mortal Kombat 11

Dave: I love a bit of the ol’ fisticuffs. And one of the best of the best has to be the revival of Mortal Kombat. Gone are the days of create-a-fatality, and in their place are intricately designed fighting games that are as dazzling as they are gory. So it comes as no surprise that I’m excited for a new one.

As soon as I heard the announcement at The Game Awards, I knew I was going to put Mortal Kombat 11 in my most anticipated selection. It was refreshing to see that the teaser trailer didn’t have Sub-Zero in it; instead it had Raiden with some weird red aura fighting and killing one Scorpion, only for a more retro looking one to appear. What? MADNESS.

What was most exciting for me was the hint at where the story mode is going. Mortal Kombat has always had decent stories, more so than any other traditional 2D fighter, and the image of what looked like an Elder God stroking an hourglass has me intrigued and hopeful. There were some omissions in the character roster in Mortal Kombat X, such as Baraka for example, so the hint of possible time travel could spark a return for those characters. The teaser is all I have to go on right now, so I’ll be very interested to see more of the fighting itself during the community reveal in January.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Katharine: It’s not yet clear when the sequel to the weepingly good/difficult Ori and the Blind Forest is coming out, but I love some wistful, jumpy backtracking games, me, and the original was right up my street. Ori himself (herself?) is by far one of the most nimble, lithe and joyous creatures I’ve ever controlled. From their adorable little wall-jump to their all-powerful, enemy-projectile-flipping Bash attack, and I’m very much looking forward to putting all those skills (and hopefully more) to use in Will of the Wisps.

After all, how could you not when one of its lead developers has described this game as “what Super Mario Bros 3 was to the original Super Mario Bros”? That’s a bold claim if ever I saw one, but an exciting one, especially when I regard the original Ori as one of the best 2D platformers of the last decade (sorry Hollow Knight).

Then there’s the music, which was just so damn beautiful the first time round that I had the soundtrack on repeat for over a month after I finished playing it back in 2015. Original composer Gareth Coker is on music duties this time round, too, and I’m almost as excited about the score of Will of the Wisps as I am about the actual Metroidvania-ing. If the score is anything like the first one, this is almost certainly going to be one of the best soundtracks of 2019, and my ears are absolutely ready for those heartfelt strings and haunting ooos and ahhhs.

John: That this will inevitably be cursed by being only available on the godforsaken Windows Store is so crushingly miserable. It’s like composing and recording the most beautiful aria, and only ever broadcasting it over a tinny speaker in some rancid public toilet.

I’m so very much looking forward to more Ori, and I do hope they don’t feel a burden to feature-swell, just because it’s a sequel. Something fresh, with more of their exquisite storytelling, world-beating animation, and sumptuous music, is what we want. Not a small demand, certainly, but definitely not something overly busy, trying to outdo the previous game. No need for that. Just loveliness. So much more loveliness.

Satisfactory

Ollie: This one’s perhaps a teensy bit more niche than most games on this list, but oh boy, is it my niche.

The folks over at Coffee Stain will have to forgive me for making the obvious comparison, but it really does seem on the money: Satisfactory looks like Factorio, but in first person. This will probably do a fair job of indicating whether you’d be interested in this game or not. I have played over 700 hours of Factorio and consider it one of the finest games ever made [I do not believe this claim because I do not think Ollie has even been alive for 700 hours – Editor]. So I’m more than a little intrigued by what Coffee Stain can bring to the factory-building, production-automating, alien-world-exploring formula.

One of the great things about Factorio is how well-optimised it is for constructing absolutely monumental factories, with millions of simultaneous moving parts. The prospect of Satisfactory accomplishing the same, but in 3D, is… well… hmm.

But from what we’ve seen of the game so far, it certainly looks promising. The setting evokes No Man’s Sky, but it looks to be an isolated experience, which I wouldn’t mind at all. Factorio always made me feel like Matt Damon in The Martian. Though Matt Damon didn’t have to contend with swarms of Zerg-esque aliens nibbling at your kneecaps, which it seems Satisfactory also offers.

Doom Eternal

Dave: The 2016 reboot Doom was a thoroughly thrilling romp through the gates of hell. While I still mourn for the actual name Doom Guy, putting on the Doomslayer helmet and blasting my way through hordes of hellspawn was intense thanks to all the firepower from both myself and my enemies.

The only logical next step is to put hell on earth, so Doom Eternal of course looks to be a bit more of the old ultra-violence. A new grappling hook to improve movement is made even more Doom-like by the ability to use monsters as anchors for zipping around. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, because after all, nothing says “Doom” more than embedding a grappling hook in a Cacodemon’s mouth to get up there and feed it its own eyeball.

Control

Katharine: I haven’t had a chance to play Control myself yet, but everything I’ve seen and heard about this third-person, psychological shooter so far suggests this could be something very special. I’ve always admired Remedy’s ability to try something new, even if it fails horribly and ends up being something completely different than the original pitch (*cough*Quantum Break*cough*), and I’m excited to see how they interpret a more open-ended, Metroidvania-style of design.

Lead character Jesse’s shape-shifting gun (appropriately named The Director’s Pistol) also looks incredibly cool, and I can’t wait to see what other ‘Objects of Power’ exist outside of the mysterious, creepy fridge Remedy showed off in their Gamescom demo. In all honesty, I didn’t think much of the poor man stuck staring at said fridge because his colleague hadn’t come to relieve him due to being horribly murdered by whatever unnatural force is tearing through The Federal Bureau of Control’s Oldest House – that’s essentially Matthew’s default position every time I come to cook dinner. So I’m crossing my fingers that Remedy will have some even weirder household objects in store for us whenever the heck they manage to finish Control sometime next year.

Really, though, I secretly want to play Control just to see all the newly-added Nvidia RTX-ified contact shadows on things like chair legs and other miniscule details no one in their right mind is going to notice unless you’re really, really pedantic about such things.

Alice III: I saw Control this year at E3 in a hands-off demo, and boy-oh-boy if it isn’t everything I love in games then I don’t know what is. Although, considering I was too terrified to even get past the first hour of Alan Wake, I hope I’m not too scared by this. To be honest, I’m terrified of most things, so the odds aren’t good.

Katherine’s pretty much said everything I could possibly want to say about it, so I’m not going to bang on about it too much, though I’m feeling less excited about graphics cards than she is. I’m just so excited to use Jesse’s cool gun and figure out what the heck is going on with all of those Inside-esque bodies floating around on the ceiling.

Matt Cox: When Brendy saw Control he described it as “a big lucid cheesedream, with extra bullets”. I definitely want to know what that means, and I definitely don’t want to find out any more before I get a chance to play it for myself.

Resident Evil 2

Video Matthew: I love Resident Evil 2’s limb damage animation. Hit a zombie on the elbow and the lower arm tears away and swings from a tendril of skin. Zap them in the knee and they’ll stumble and lose the leg entirely, sending them gnawing for your ankles. I spent so long disarming the undead that I began to get worried looks from our friendly Capcom PR. It remains the only video I’ve made for the RPS YouTube channel that can’t be monetised on the grounds of violence. I am living 13-year-old Matthew’s dream life.

Of course, 13-year-old Matthew could never imagine Resi 2 looking like this. Not just a visual makeover, a la GameCube’s Resident Evil, but a total reinvention that swaps fixed camera angles for Resi 4’s over-the-shoulder fun and incorporates lessons learned from Resident Evil 7. So while this is the Racoon City Police Department you know and love from 1998(!), it’s now a properly free-flowing building. Zombies are no longer penned in with loading door animations and are persistent, so try to remember where you leave any legless fiends.

The best showcase for the new approach is the dreaded Tyrant, Mr X. He’s like a supercharged Jack Baker from RE7, the slow stomp stomp stomp of his boots helping you lose your cool as you work out how to ferry keys about with limited inventory space. Because for all the modern tweaks, this is still a bullshit world where a police station has door locks based on card suits and people put USB sticks in boxes you unlock with jewels. It’s the best bits of new Resi mixed with the dumbest bits of the old – really potent stuff.

Far Cry: New Dawn

John: OK, yes, I know. Looking forward to a new Far Cry game is a pretty stupid endeavour. Each is so much like the last, only enough time has passed that you’d forgotten how awful the stories are and how much they make you want to punch the sun out of the sky.

But I’m what some like to call an “optimist” and what scientists like to call an “idiot”. Each new Far Cry game I think, “Maybe this will be the one! Maybe this time they’ll combine their massive maps of silly mayhem with something that isn’t offensively stupid!” So maybe this one will be.

It’s post-apocalyptic, which isn’t perhaps the most original grounds for a gaming scenario, but it does follow on from the end OMG SPOILERS of Far Cry 5, and what both I and scientists like to call one of The Worst Endings To Any Game Ever. Perhaps it’s an attempt at redemption? Perhaps it’s because they thought, “Wow, Joseph Nutcase [sub please check] was such a wonderful and compelling character, what the fans want is more of him!” Or maybe, juuuust maybe, they realised they could do something interesting with the setting? Have a bit more fun, be a little less po-faced? Drop the agonising attempts to include apolitical commentary?

Yeah, yeah, it’ll probably just be more of the same, with grimly stupid cutscenes where ghastly caricatures bleat their drivel at us too close to the monitor. But maybe it’ll have the sense to not have the game interrupt us in the middle of a mission to do it this time?

Why am I writing about this at all then? Because the ridiculous truth is, I am looking forward to it. Because I genuinely enjoy clearing a Far Cry map of its icons – it’s pretty much the only icon-clearing genre series that I find reliably engrossing. That’s always despite the god-awful arrogance and contemptible writing, but I do. Which is why I keep hoping the next one will be the one that manages to not be a dick about it.

Video Matthew: After Fallout 76 I’m just looking forward a post-apocalyptic world that doesn’t look like it crawled out from one itself.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Brendan: Jumpy Dark Souls! It could have felt so bad. It could have been a From Software game composed entirely of a giant ninja Blighttown. And yet, the grappling hook and wall-hopping of feels good. At least, it did when I got to play a 25 minute demo. There is plenty of slicing, dicing and dying, and the world has all that Soulsy gloom to it. But the speed of it is striking, and you’re encouraged to fight fast. To leap across rooftops and throw shurikens at bad dudes, to sneak on the tiles above foes and land on top of them like a sack of deadly potatoes. The tune is familiar but the tempo is allegro, not adagio. Did I get this tempo analogy correct? I have no idea what music is.

In many ways, it feels easier too. Stealth kills mean you can thin out batches of enemies, and even large enemies can be dispatched with judicious special moves, just by clashing swords with them in the right way. You can resurrect yourself after death (with some limitations). And without multiplayer, there will be no invading players to turn your trip through creepy Edo Japan into a form of PvP torture. That will be unwelcome to a few Smoughheads, maybe. But it’s still no ninja cakewalk. Even in 25 minutes, I died plenty. And after losing momentum halfway through Bloodborne, I will be happy to stab my way through a (slightly) more forgiving Soulser.

Dave: I was the go-to Soulsborne guinea pig at my old job, so naturally I’ve been conditioned to believe that everything From Software have produced, since Demon’s Souls way back when, has had the Midas touch. That’s not completely true (Dark Souls II is the one that I like least, for the record), but with Sekiro there’s also the whole ninja thing it has going for it.

I’m very interested to see just how different Sekiro is from that other ninja Souls-like game, Nioh. The shinobi here has a lot more flexibility, looking like a weird blend of Souls games and Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden. Clearly there’s some cross-contamination going on here, but it makes for a more interesting game. Even with its main schtick of allowing players to get back up after dying (as long as you’ve met certain conditions), I can imagine that this will enable the team to make a more punishing game. To that, I say: Bring it on.

Civilization VI: Gathering Storm

Alec: Civ VI is by quite some distance my least-played Civilization ever, but part of the reason is that it feels like it was released about three minutes after Civilization V. To this day, hearing that the Civ series is somehow up to six now immediately makes me jump out the window and run off into the nearest ocean, screeching about how the entirety of existence is playing a monstrous trick upon me.

And to compound that, there’s a worry that one of my oldest gaming friendships is dying on the vine. That Civ has become conservative and fearful in its dotage, and so my eye increasingly turns to fresher turn-based relationships – Into The Breach, Slay The Spire and other such sprightly young whippersnappers.

On paper though, the upcoming Gathering Storm expansion claims to meaningfully rewrite Civ after 3 non-boat-rocking affairs (admittedly I grew to love the initially underwhelming V, after some suitably chunky DLC – I did not grow to love staid sci-fi spin-off Beyond Earth, even after chunky DLC).

Talk of mass-scale, potentially civ-eradicating natural disasters, treading a risky line between wealth and environmental safety, new tech paths to manage all these new dangers, and a much more defined ‘be a nice guy’ path make me yearn for Uncle Sid to come read me another bedtime story after a couple of years shunning him. I particularly dig the idea of a Civ game that is, effectively, more about playing against the Earth itself than it is, yet again, the noodle-headed random aggression of rival civs.

Or: I really hope that Gathering Storm gives me a solid gold reason to love Civ again.

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