A new year of PC gaming is upon us. But what dark delights await? Wonder not, for we've sent our tobacco-powered robot down into the game-mines to report on what is being hauled to the surface by the terrified ponies of development. Onwards for elucidation!
PLEASE NOTE: THIS LIST IS ORDERED BY APPROXIMATE EXCITINGNESS DIVIDED BY LIKELIHOOD OF ACTUALLY BEING RELEASED IN 2012. EXCITINGNESS IS MEASURED INDEPENDENTLY BY SWISS SCIENTISTS.
And at the top of the list is...
Arkane Studios' weird fiction of an alternate universe and an assassin with strange (and occasionally rat-based) powers promises to land squarely in the sort of territory we like to explore. With Deus Ex lead Harvey Smith plus Dark Messiah brain Raphael Colantonio at the controls, and a mandate to make things stealthy and sneaky, this could well be the most interesting game to appear in 2012. Find out what we know about the game by reading more here.
There's not a whole lot of faith out there that SOE will get the MMOFPS thing right with Planetside 2, but they came so close with the original, and delivered such epic combat, that we can't wait to see what they achieve here. The mix of territory war across infantry and vehicular action kept us engrossed for several months back in 2003, and if they can keep the server populations up for the remake, we'll probably be counting this as one of the great games of 2012. Read our most recent interview about Planetside 2 right here.
Still sitting on the list from last year, our interest in zombie RPG Dead State is nevertheless undiminished. It's a full-blown survival RPG, being developed by some veterans from Troika (Bloodlines) in their own indie outfit. We hear that there's to be big news about the game in 2012, but until that comes along you can catch up with why we're so excited about this game by reading this interview with Brian Mitsoda, in which he sets out his ambitions for the title.
There's no point denying that we're lusting for more of this, despite the diabolical always-on setup. The beta gave us a taste of the most beautifully hyper-violent dungeon-crawler and we want to sink our stubby little teeth into the rest of it. Entertaining solo and genuinely brilliant co-op, the beta was just a hint of what is probably going to be the most popular PC game of 2012, even if it is not the most interesting. For some impressions of what we thought you can take a read of this article about the beta access.
That's right, the Mass Effect arc comes to its Earth-invading conclusion in 2012. Bioware's space-based guns & conversation game looking like the most spectacular game of the series, but we've yet to really get to grips with the changes that the single player is introducing. Interesting, perhaps, that the only bit of it RPS has been able to see first hand has been the co-op play? You can read about that just here.
The Zerg-led second single-player campaign for Starcraft II will arrive in 2012, and that will excite some, but it's really the changes to the highly-competitive multiplayer (eight new units and three removed) that will be wrought by this, which will earn the most attention. Blizzard haven't let an RPS agent look at the game, yet, but our Eurogamer chums have a campaign-focused preview just here.
NCSoft and ArenaNet can't afford to get this one wrong, and we doubt they will, either. The sequel to no-subscription MMO Guild Wars is one of the most promising multiplayer titles we've ever seen, with a vast and beautiful MMO world, an astonishing array of characters and potential customisation, and more of an open-world focus, while still sustaining the individual storyline stuff that made the original game so interesting. We went hands on with the game over here.
Reckoning has impressed us. Not as much as it might have done, but enough that we're now definitely paying attention. A really big budget RPG with a new IP (and an old trad fantasy theme) and an action focus means this wants to be all things to all players (as long as they like swords & conversation) and it's looking ludicrously slick to seal the deal. Alec had some time alone with it over here and it seems to be improving with each glimpse we get of it.
Another big name that we expected to land in 2011 but that has crept in 2012, Monaco is probably the indie title we are most keen to see go live. It's a ludicrous lo-fi multiplayer heist brimming with ideas and smart design. There's even online multiplayer for launch, which means the hivemind will be all over this like tar and feathers. Read more about why and how to excited about Andy Schatz' project here.
The original Borderlands' cell-shaded FPS Diablo 'em up wasn't to everyone's tastes, but to those who enjoyed getting a posse together and roaring out into the wastelands, it was a minor classic. Returning to Pandora with a squad of new characters, the sequel promises more of the same, only bigger and better. Which is what sequels do, right? We've already had a chance to talk to Gearbox about the game and see a little bit of it in action, and you can read the account of that just here.
Kim Swift, one of the key brains behind Portal, did not stay at Valve. Instead she moved over to Airtight Games, where she's the creative lead on a new puzzler called Quantum Conundrum. It throws the player into the mansion of mad scientist, in which everything is a loopy science experiment. Needless to say, we'll have to puzzle our way through. The first glimpses of the game can be see here.
The other MMO we're getting excited about is Funcom's The Secret World. If nothing else, it deals with subject matter that MMOs haven't tackled before: the contemporary supernatural and global conspiracy. In The Secret World everything is true, and you're just as likely to be tangling with Great Old Ones as you are sorting the vampires from the werewolves. With guns and hip contemporary clothing, it's bound to gather a sizeable audience. We're written loads about it, as you can see here.
Following a hiatus of eight years, Max is to return. It's being developed by Rockstar this time, with Remedy having moved on to Alan Wake, and it's dripping with spectacular gun action. It's looking like an appropriate update to the series, too, despite the surprising move from New York ghetto to Sao Paulo slum. We've already had a look at the game in motion, and you can read those impressions here.
And while we're on the subject of Remedy, they've announced that their 360 spooky action 'em up, Alan Wake, is going to arrive on PC. Will it be polished for PC or impractically ported? Only time will tell. We had a bit of a chat with them here.
Runic's dungeon-crawling sequel has been delayed and delayed, missing the expected 2011 release, and that can only be a good thing. It means they've got more time and money to spend on making it even better. The original was such a quick development, and still a minor gem, that we're hoping the extra time given to this will bring it to a wondrous shine! Dan had a play of an early build of the game and you can read about that here.
Few games due for a 2012 release are as intriguing as Human Head's Prey 2. It bares little resemblance to the original offbeat linear shooter, and instead is pitched as an open-ended alien-stalking bounty-hunter game set in a sci-fi space city. Yes, that DOES sound like the kind of game we'd like to take a look at. Fortunately we got to chat with the devs about it just here.
The flying city of Columbia pretty much ensures that the big Bioshock sequel has an even more impressive backdrop than its predecessor, but can it also build on the FPS mechanics? With a companion character and some critical choices to be made about the action, it looks a lot less "would you kindly" than the first game, but it's hard to know whether Irrational can really pull off something that will wow the sceptics. But then when was the last time those guys were wowed? Exactly. RPS Agent Gillen had a chat with Ken Levine about the game over here.
Arma 3 will continue the heavily simulatory trend in the Arma games, but it also has a new twist: it leaps forward into the near future. This means that while it's going to feature some contemporary hardware it's also going to feature a lot of what might be in the hands of soldiers in a couple of decades time. It's going to be a weird, wired war. I had a quick chat with Bohemia boss Marek Spanel last year.
There's a real danger that this amazing-looking multiplayer mech game will be snapped up for exclusivity on the consoles, but right now the developers Adhesive say they want to bring it to PC as well as the TV boxes. It certainly deserves to be on the format of ultimate deathmatch, because the fast-paced play and stupendous visuals do basically ask for a PC setup. At least in my brain. A bunch more videos can be seen here.
In what was basically a reaction to EA announcing that Syndicate would be a co-op FPS, Paradox announced they'd be developing a cyberpunk world-conquest game (with attending tactical mode) called Cartel. We talked to them about their plans just here, and laughed the sad laugh of journalists who have seen too much.
Nothing can contain our excitement over Grim Dawn - look! there goes a bit of it now, whizzing off into space. Crate Entertainment spoke to us about their plans for the hardcore ARPG, and said: "I think we’re probably unique just in the sense that, while most studios are redesigning their games to be more casual-player friendly, we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile." I could have hugged them. We hoped this would appear in 2011, actually, but we'll settle for 2012.
Few men can truly say that they wouldn't want to have conquered Europe in Medieval times, but the truth is that most of us would be too lazy and weak to actually get on with doing so. Not to worry, because there's a game for that - Crusader Kings II should appear in a few short weeks and sort the men from the benevolent dictators. A simulation that is as much about people as it is armies, this will is one of the more fascinating wargames out there. We have studied it at length.
Carbine's beautiful-looking intergalactic pseudo-Wild West seems the perfect locale for a traditional MMO romp. With exploration skills and giant alien yetis, we can't see any way that this can fail to be entertaining. That is, of course, if you like to do a bit of questing. And we know you do, you filthy beast. You can read lots about what to expect from the thing just here.
Ooh, a remake 80s super-classic Carrier Command? One that's actually faithful to the original game? Why, it can only be from a European studio. Yes, that's right, it's by Bohemia, the Arma chaps. Odd choice, perhaps, but this is actually a new studio that the Czech company have purchased, and it will be cross platform. That might limit things a bit, but my hands on time with the game was promising indeed. Haha, I used the tagline "carrier bagged". I am clever.
Germanic RPG Risen did a great deal to impress us, and we're expecting far more from its pirate-themed sequel, Dark Waters. With a huge archipelago to explore and a mix of 18th century swashbuckle and magic, this could well be the pirate-RPG treasure we've been searching for all these years. Some more coverage can be found here.
Almost everyone I've spoken to who played the original Metro 2033 talked about what a great game it nearly was, and then about how they hoped the team would fix its problems the next time around. That's precisely what 4A are aiming to do with Last Light, and that means it could be a classic if they're successful. John had a first glimpse of the game back during E3.
UPDATE: This one is for 2013, actually. Sorry. We don't know too much about this yet, other than that it is definitely happening on the Bioware label (with a studio formed from the ashes of old C&C teams), and that it is following on from Generals rather than the other C&C fictions. The game will also be using a variant of DICE's Frostbite engine, which means it could have the same level of fidelity as Battlefield 3, as well as lots of exploding scenery.
The game of Mr Martin's fantasy feudalism is being made by Cyanide, which means there's some scepticism about how good it's going to be, which is something that will dampen the excitement we might otherwise feel about this enormously popular book-to-TV series becoming a game. If they can get the backstabbing and the undiplomatic power-mongering right, then this really could be a classic. We wait and hope. Here's what we know so far.
Red Five Studios' attempt at making an open world shooter look fabulous in their Borderlands-style sci-fi cell-shadings, but it should play well, too, with the lead designers from World Of Warcraft and the original Tribes games both being involved in the genesis of this free-to-play beast. Jetpacks and aliens and so forth make us quite excited about getting our hands on this. We talked to the team back when the game was announced.
When we're talking about multiplayer jetpack games, however, there's another name on the block: Tribes Ascend. Hi-Rez (of Global Agenda and more jetpacks) bought the Tribes licence and are now making their own game in the series. The free-to-play shooter is in beta right now and we're hearing some positive noises from in there. Our own Mr Cobbett even had a cautious look at how it's getting on.
It'll be worth playing End Of Nations if just for the sheer amount of stuff you can get on screen. With huge maps full of strategically-manic players, this could be one of busiest multiplayer RTS games of all time, and it'll be free to play, too. Behold the prior coverage.
2011 might have been brimming with open-world games, but few of them were straight up shooters. That should hopefully be remedied in 2012 by the arrival of the third Far Cry game. The second game received a mixed reception and so Ubi are claiming to have read the signs, understood the feedback, and put it together to create a jungle-island shooter to please everyone. Here's what Dan saw of the game at E3 last year.
The big publishers might have decided that the age of turn-based games is at an end, but that doesn't mean they're right to do so. Xenonauts is one game aiming to prove them wrong by making a game that resides firmly with the spirit of the incredible X-Com games. Will it take over the world in 2012? Perhaps. Take a look at what Alec thought when he previewed the game.
The chances that the PC version of GTA V will fall in 2012 do seem slim, but it's hard not to be intrigued by what the Rockstar chums will come up with for the fifth game in the series. We've already seen that trailer, of course, but it will be the details which really make the gangster pudding... so to speak. Mmm, pudding. Anyway, a big game, however you look at it.
Thi4f (No, really, that is their logo. I'm sorry.)
Whether the ludicrous Thi4f nomenclature will survive into release, or whether the game will arrive in 2012, these things are unclear. What is clear is this: We are so excited about the studio that made Deus Ex: Human Revolution making a new Thief game, that we might have some kind of frantic episode. What we know about the mystery game so far is compiled here.
Look, we're all disappointed that it's not actually called "Hitman: Subtitle", but that's just the way life is: unfair, po-faced, taking itself too seriously. Hopefully though the game will be more Blood Money and less... we'll less Hitman movie with Tim Olyphant. What we know about the new killing game is here.
Gosh, this is a long list. Am I half way through writing it yet? Must be close. Anyway, Hecker's Spy Party - and one of the most exciting indie games ever, in my opinion - is one of those ludicrously ambitious game ideas: you attend a party and some of the people in there are spies. Can you figure out which ones? There's actually a beta sign-up going on, so you can express your interest in discovering the spy just here.
While we're on the topic of enormously ambitious and clever indie games we should probably mention that Jon Blow is making a PC-exclusive, The Witness. It's an open-world first-person puzzle game. That might sound a bit like something Cryo would have a go at if they were still around today, but there's every reason to expect that Blow's impressive brain will create something rewardingly complex and cerebrally tickling. Reasons for this line of thinking can be found in this.
I know. I'm sorry. But I still want to play it, I think it's going to be a blast. The team making it are good at what they do, which is make shooty FPS games with lovely art, and that's exactly what's going on here, only with additional squad management and a sprinkling of alien-technology metagame. I can't wait to get my hands on it, frankly. Here's an interview.
There's every reason why this could be a splendid co-op shooter in a cyberpunk world. It's looking absurdly violent, too, so there's lots of scope for this to entertain us with exploding heads and evisceration. A tactical world-conquering isometric shooter it isn't, but there's scope for that elsewhere on this list. Everything we know about the new Syndicate can be found here.
Crystal Dynamics seem to know what they're doing with Tomb Raider, so it's encouraging to see them being given some freedom to remake the lady adventurer for a 2012 reboot. Lara looks more realistic, younger, and for some reason much dirtier. We had a chat with Squeenix's Karl Stewart about what this all meant just here.
Civ with Wizards, or something like that. It looks right up our street, anyway, with a fantasy world draped across a big turn-based (and multiplayer) world of conquest. Paradox are hitting a lot of the right notes with their games for 2012 and this looks to be one of the most promising.
We don't know too much about Piranha's Mechwarrior Online, but we do know it'll be using "real" time against the Battletech universe's timeline from launch, and that it will be using CryEngine 3 to power its robot battles. The idea of a huge online war of the stompy robots - and free to play, too - is almost too thrilling for us to contemplate. Here's hoping it's actually good!
Mixing Larian's familiar RPG stuff with strategy and aerial dragon combat, Dragon Commander is one of the more unusual games due to hit in 2012, and we're enormously interested to see how it will play out. Alec had a good look at it last year, and was intrigued. You can read what he had to say about it here.
I got a kick out of the original King Arthur game, thanks to its blending an RPG with something like a fantasy version of the Total War games. If the sequel can offer a bit more polish then it could be one of the strongest strategy games in 2012.
The Counter-Strike games have been one of the most popular PC games since their inception in the mod scene 567 years ago. Valve are updating it in 2012 with the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, in which the terrorists finally win. (Half of the time.)
I can think of a couple of games that ask us to save a little girl from horrors, but Amy's particular take on getting the girl out a zombie apocalypse looks wilfully unusual. Hugging the little girl herself will be one of the ways your character can stave off becoming a zombie herself, and it looks like there might be some grisly ends to not managing to stay human... What we know about Amy is collected here.
The new Monday Night Combat game, prefixed with what we hope is an indicative "Super", is going to be a PC-only free-to-play sort of thing, and it looks like it'll be just as wacky as the original game. Apparently it will be slower and more strategic than the first game, making things a little easier on players who aren't so comfortable with fast-paced combat stuff.
It wasn't long ago that I had a chat with Wargaming.net to see what their plans for the sky-variant of their multiplayer combat game would be like. It sounds pretty bold, to be honest, and I will be fascinated to see if it's as popular as the tank-based incarnation.
This is going to be the best game about rabbits beating the living crap out of each other, EVER! I mean it. It's also one of the indie games we're expect to go a bit massive in 2012. I also found out a bit more about what the Wolfire were doing with their playable work-in-progress title in this here interview. They said some words.
To me it feels like Natural Selection 2 has been in development for about ten thousand years (and I really thought it would land in 2011), but it will finally arrive in 2012. The commercial sequel to the mod that really put multiplayer RTS/FPS hybrid on the regular gaming agenda, Natural Selection 2 should be a big deal for everyone who likes space marines, aliens, and meticulous FPS combat.
The Shadowrun world, which blends standard fantasy tropes with cyberpunk, has always been a pet favourite of mine. I couldn't help being interested, then, when Cliffhangar dropped us a line to say they were developing a version of it, multiplayer and online. I had a chat with them about what that will entail just here.
There's definitely not enough in the way of brutal medieval melee combat on the PC. Two of the melee games that came out in 2011 were rubbish, so Paradox are trying to fix it all with War Of The Roses, a saga that will have both a single player campaign and a major multiplayer component. Dudes are going to get sliced, I suspect. Paradox Dan had a chat with the devs just here.
Ah, while we are on the subject of Paradox trying to address niche audiences, Salem is their sandbox MMO set in colonial north America. Yes, a bit of an unusual one, but the boldness of the idea has us interested. There's going to be permadeath and other things that MMOs rarely broach. It could be a fascinating escapade.
The existence of this big sci-fi shooter from Gearbox looked unclear for a while there, but it's now due to hit in 2012 and the glimpses we've seen so far make it look pretty impressive. You can catch up with the current story on Colonial Marines just here.
It's fair to say that in the competitive world of games that are a bit like DOTA, Valve's DOTA 2 is going to be a big deal. Currently in beta, it's already a hot topic for the MOBA crowd, and drawing lots of pro-gaming interest. It'll be even more interesting to see what kind of impact the official launch makes. Everything we have on DOTA 2 is just here.
Radical's grotesque open-world eviscerate 'em up has a sequel intended for 2012 that is bound to be even more spectacularly violent and silly than the original. The complaint that the city was a little bit spartan last time is being met by dividing the city up into three sections and then making up for lost space with more goings on. It's bound to be bloody fun.
Speaking of ultraviolence, we're expecting The Darkness sequel to arrive on PC in 2012, too. We're not totally convinced about the quality of this one, but the first game was surprisingly solid, so it'll be interesting to see how this one turns out.
The one series that is keeping the Elite-style space trader/fighter game idea alive expects a new member in 2012. Like Elite it will be focusing on a single ship, too. Interesting.
Cliff takes his Gratuitous series away from the space fleet management line of business and into a territory that looks a lot more like tower defence. It's World War I with mechs, and I spoke to him about it when I saw the game in 2011.
300AD are having a crack at the MMOFPS lark with Line Of Defense and promise a truly huge theatre of action, with vast maps and citys many kilometres across. Can they take on the other big scale FPS contenders?
And lo, another game from the same studio that is doing The Darkness II. The action game based on the recent reboot of the Star Trek franchise! That is not a pleasant sentence to have been responsible for, but it could still turn out to be a decent action game. Let us not dismiss an egg before it is revealed to be a holodeck trick.
Man, I got pretty pissed off with DarkSiders, but it was still a well put together sort of game. The next one has Death as the main character, too, so where can it go wrong? We actually got an early look at the game, to see where it might go wrong, and you can read that here.
Calling itself "a garden in four dimensions", Miegakure promises to be the puzzle game which curdles our brain milk in 2012. Well, there had to be at least one, didn't there?
Last year's list had Subversion on it, but that game might now never come to be. Instead Introversion are working on a game about successfully imprisoning people. I played a bit of an early build of Prison Architect and wrote about it here.
The Cold War becomes hot, Hot, HOT war in Eugen Systems' next game. Yes, they were the chaps who made RUSE, which we were rather fond of. Doesn't look like Ubisoft were too fond of it, because they aren't the publishers for this next game...
Will Vince D Weller bring us his RPG in 2012? Only time will tell. Whatever happens, we'll always have that interview.
Looks like Lucius didn't quite make the Q4 2011 release date, but I trust it will land in 2012 because I do rather what to see demon-child vs household in a game that looks a bit like The Omen crossed with Hitman.
John made me put this in the list. These are his reasons.
There's a certain wistfulness in the eye of anyone who takes time out to recall the cartoon violence of Carmageddon. It really was something special. It's with that glee that the original dev team, Stainless Games, have returned to the franchise. They're raising money for the remake now, and they had a chat with Alec about their plans for the game itself, which you can read here.
Double Fine's brilliant puzzle adventure based on nesting dolls is coming to PC. Funny and clever, it's an ideal game for the one true platform.
Monolith seem to be doing something genuinely ludicrous with Gotham City Imposters, a multiplayer game about everyone pretending to be the Gotham heroes and villains. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but you can examine the clues we've gathered here.
The boldest attempt at user-generated content we've seen in the racing world, with a crowd-sourced model. Yep, they're basically trying to get the community to build the content while relying on the enormous tech expertise of race game veterans Slightly Mad Studios. A bold idea, and I will be fascinated to see how it pans out in 2012.
Well, it'll be interesting to see what Gearbox do with this four-player co-op reboot of the Brothers In Arms series. It's always interesting when an FPS studio tries to do funny, isn't it?
With the layoffs at CCP priotising bizarre PS3-only crossover shooter DUST 514, I have no expectation of World Of Darkness making a showing in 2012, let alone being released, but I add it here for the sake of optimism. It remains the one MMO I think could truly change things for the genre, and I live in hope.
At the time of writing it's not entirely clear whether there is even going to be a Stalker 2, let alone whether it will appear in 2012, and that is the ONLY reason it appears at the bottom of this list. If it were definitely happening then it would be at the top, and I would be doing a dance while singing: "Yeah, yeah, apocalyptic dys-topi-aaaaAAAAaaa!"
There are loads more games coming out in 2012, of course, but this is where this list ends. Good luck to everyone trying to get their games done! We'll be having a nice cup of tea. And waiting.