The last installment in the Age of Wonders fantasy turn-based strategy series came way back in 2002, but, after a delay from its original fall 2013 target date, the next version looks ready to reach PCs early this year, thanks to a cash infusion from Minecraft creator Markus Persson. Much of the original development team is still involved, and longtime fans will find many changes, including full 3D graphics, additional RPG-like elements, and much more in what the studio has described as “the largest game in the series.”
The last time we featured a game based on the Alien film series in one of our previews, this was the unfortunate result. We have higher hopes for Isolation, which comes from a different developer (The Creative Assembly, best known for the Total War series), uses the original 1979 film for inspiration, and (appropriately enough) moves into the survival horror/stealth genres, rather than serving as yet another shooter. Set 15 years after the events in Alien, the single-player game focuses on the character of Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda, who is alone and trying to remain alive while hunted by a single xenomorph. Early reports suggest a tense, claustrophobic, and unnerving experience. Note that despite its presence on the other next-gen consoles, Isolation will not be released for the Wii U.
While the first hack-and-slash Bayonetta game was released for the 360 and PS3, the sequel is headed to Nintendo’s Wii U as an exclusive (which didn’t exactly make fans of the previous game very happy). Platinum Games remains as developer (Nintendo is only consulting), and the new game will retain the first’s emphasis on combat, combat, and more combat, while adding a new two-player mode.
While Sony has been touting the PS4 as the console of choice for indie developers, the Xbox One isn’t exactly bereft of indie titles. Perhaps the most anticipated such XB1 game in the coming year is Below, an extremely stylish roguelike from Capybara Games, the studio behind the hit mobile/PC game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Details about the new game are scarce—the studio wants the story to be a secret—but the atmospheric, top-down adventure is said to be extremely difficult (permanent death doesn’t help matters), and it will feature an original score by Jim Guthrie. Below is expected to be ported to additional platforms at a later date.
An old-school point-and-click adventure game funded through Kickstarter (collecting a then-record $3.3 million despite asking for a mere $400,000), Broken Age comes from Tim Schafer, a legendary game designer behind some of the classics in the adventure genre (including the Monkey Island series and Grim Fandango). The story centers on two child characters (you’ll switch between both): a girl who is expected to be sacrificed to a monster by her town, and a boy who is bored with life on an AI-controlled spaceship. The extra money has been used to make the game far more detailed and ambitious than originally planned, and the likes of Elijah Wood, Pendleton Ward, Wil Wheaton, Jennifer Hale, and Jack Black have been enlisted to provide voices. The game is expected to be released in two parts, with the first arriving this week (via Steam Early Access) and the second following in May. Regardless of how it turns out, Broken Age will be remembered as the project that kickstarted the Kickstarter craze for game development, and you’ll see several other crowd-funded projects that followed its lead listed below.
This sequel to the 2010 action-adventure game Castlevania: Lords of Shadow comes from the same studio (MercurySteam) and centers on Dracula as he faces a new nemesis. In a switch for the franchise, much of the game will take place in an open world, modern-day city, though you’ll still get to spend some time in Dracula’s castle. Note that the PC version is reported to be “almost like a next-gen version”—in other words, you may want to skip the console versions and grab the PC release. MercurySteam is expected to move on from the Castlevania franchise after this game, with reports surfacing of a secretive new project for next-gen consoles.
Featuring visuals “inspired by the art style of Studio Ghibli” (though not associated with the Japanese animation masters in any way), Child of Light comes from some of the development team behind Far Cry 3 and blends RPG elements with 2D, side-scrolling platforming. You control a 19th century Austrian girl named Aurora, who wakes up in a mythical world where the sun, moon, and stars have been stolen by an evil queen; a co-op multiplayer mode adds control of that glowing blue orb (technically, a firefly), above.
Ready to put your next-gen console through its paces to see what it can do? Why not take The Crew out for a spin. Designed from the ground up for the new hardware, this new open-world racing game is set in the United States—by that, we mean the entire country. (It’ll take you 90 minutes to drive coast to coast.) A single-player campaign mode features missions that involve infiltrating criminal organizations, but The Crew also offers online multiplayer for racing against friends and strangers.
No relation to the video game D2, the Xbox One-only D4 is an episodic, noir-ish mystery from one of the creators of Deadly Premonition. The third-person adventure game finds you cast as a man investigating his wife’s murder, an event so traumatic that you can’t remember it—though you do suddenly have the ability to travel through time. D4 features cel-shaded visuals reminiscent of a graphic novel, and all controls are done via Kinect—think “point and speak” instead of “point and click”—so there’s no need to pick up a controller.
A sequel to the notoriously challenging 2011 action-RPG game Dark Souls, Dark Souls II retains the previous game’s controls and extreme difficulty level, but puts you in a world that’s twice as large. (It’s a completely different setting than the prior game.) Sure, the early going is reported to be “more accessible” to newcomers, but rest assured that the game was designed to be hard. Note that while the PC release has been delayed slightly, the PC version should be much stronger out of the gate than the previous game (which required modding to improve the graphics).
Easily one of the year’s most-anticipated games, Destiny is the first post-Halo project for newly independent studio Bungie—which means it’s also the first Bungie game in ages not exclusive to Microsoft consoles. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has spread out throughout the solar system but is now on the brink of collapse. Yes, Destiny is another sci-fi, first-person shooter—so far, nothing new—but its scope seems far more ambitious, with a massive, constantly growing, online persistent world (and a timeframe spanning a full decade) for you to shoot your way through, either alone or with friends online. Bungie calls that a “shared-world shooter”; we call it a Halo MMORPG. (And, no, there’s no monthly fee.) Even the music will be big, with Paul McCartney collaborating on the score. Look for a beta this summer prior to the early fall release.
Delayed from its original late 2013 release date, Tropical Freeze is the first Donkey Kong release for the Wii U platform and the first in HD. Developed by the team behind 2010’s solid Donkey Kong Country Returns, the new game is a side-scrolling platformer featuring all of your favorite Kongs (assuming that your favorites fall in the group of Donkey, Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky), who must fight their way across multiple islands—and, for the first time in years, underwater—to return to their home island, which has been frozen over by evil animal Vikings.