January 01, 2019

What excites and concerns us in 2019

Well, 2018 is done and dusted and it was a pretty good year for gamers, we got some excellent entries in long running series, some reboots that kicked the series into action again and, of course, some duds here and there. But when one-year ends, another begins and with 2019 now upon us, it is time to look towards the future, to see what excites us and concerns us for the next 12 months.

Bioware had been the masters of their craft for a number of years, their earlier PC games like Baldur’s Gate gave the studio a lot of leeway for their next project and Mass Effect was the result. As that series grew, there was an exceptional amount of attention thrust upon it and in the background, Bioware also managed to drop Dragon Age as well, another game that has since developed quite a following.

However, with Dragon Age Inquisition and Mass Effect Andromeda both failing to meet expectations, there is a lot riding on the success of Anthem. Can a game, built around story, a core component of any Bioware game, survive in the open world MMO genre, especially when so many others floundered out of the gate. Destiny, The Division, Sea of Thieves all had horrible launches, but as time went on, severs stabilised, more content was added, and players found nothing but wonder in these vast worlds.

As we only got our first look at the story, at the Game Awards in early December 2018, with the game being set for release on February 22nd, many players are quite cautious about the game. I have had the chance to check it out a few times and I am optimistic, but as the genre track record has proven, launch is not an easy thing and given the reception of the recent Bioware games, I don’t know if they can afford to have a shaky launch.

Though, I am happy to be proven wrong, I feel that committing myself to the game now, might be a little early.

Oh, Far Cry, how I love and hate you. The series started off, as quite a serious shooter, but over the years has devolved into more about exploration and crazy stunts, then anything else, but we have had a blessing as well, with some truly wonderful villains… except in Far Cry 5. Joseph Seed was by no means horrible, but he lacked the charm and character that Pagan Min and Vaas had in spades and to find that New Dawn is a narrative sequel to 5, well it sets my expectations low.

The problem is, Far Cry is a game all about choice and 5 ended by taking away your choice, it seemed no matter your actions, the ending was always going to be the same and now, they are continuing that trend. New Dawn has a lot to do, in order to win people over and yes, while its just a retooled map from 5, given that the story seems to revolve around people that listen to the teachings of Seed, it does not seem to be off to a great start.

Perhaps the element that New Dawn has going for it, the sheer and utter craziness of the world, much like Rage 2, which is also due out in 2019, they seem to be adding a host of colour to the world, skewing the perception of what an apocalypse might look like. This alone, makes me think that the studio is having a ton of fun with the game, losing the seriousness that they picked up in 5.

No matter where you fell on the ending of 5, New Dawn seems to be going back to the zaniness of what makes Far Cry great, but only time will tell if that is what players really want.

Star Wars, the series that falls into one of three camps, you love it, you know of it or for some reason, you have never seen it and for Star Wars video games it is even more divisive.

We know only four things about Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, its name, which was revealed in perhaps one of the most awkward E3 moments ever and yes, I am including Mr Caffeine in that, that the games director is Stig Asmussen, whose last game was God of War 3, the game is being designed as a 3rd person action-adventure game and that it is being developed by Respawn Entertainment, outside of that we know nothing.

Given that a lot of Star Wars news comes out on Star Wars Day, which is May 4th, we can hope that someone comes from then, or sooner. The problem is, Electronic Arts have already cancelled one Star Wars game, which from all reports would have been a great single player adventure, and they fumbled their Battlefront series in a massive way, so right now, trust in them delivering a great Star Wars game is low.

The game could be announced, with a kick-ass trailer and really solid looking gameplay, but given the publishers history with Star Wars, it could easily be the opposite. Of course, the worst part, is that EA have come out stating that they want games people can play for years, and closed down Visceral, who were making their own Star Wars game, leaving a lot of pressure on this new Star Wars game.

Gears of War is series that I have fond memories of, beating the first game with a mate, the night it came out and then jumping right back in and going for the hardest difficulty, was nothing by pure delight, though with 4, I was honestly let down and not because the gameplay was bad, but because a lot of characters were annoying.

This is the problem I have with Gears 5, which has officially dropped the ‘of War’ part of the series name, the game will follow the story of Kait Diaz and she is the character I hated the most from 4. The story there never grabbed me, the fact that as the game progressed the focus went off from saving people from the village to being more about the enemy was great, but they never revealed enough of anything to make me care for another.

My biggest worry about Gears 5, is that they simply won’t change enough again, leaving the gameplay stuck in the macho-man mould that the original defined back in 2006, I am not saying it needs to re-invent itself, but it surely needs to evolve, else it becomes stagnant. And sure, new locations seem interesting, but I don’t know if that is enough for this shooter, plus with a character that I really don’t like, I can see myself dismissing the game now, unless something major changes.

With 3 new Gears games due out over the next 12 months, right now, I can tell you I am putting the Pop Funko game ahead of Gears 5.

Another year, another mobile game from Nintendo, which is quite accurate as they seem to only do one a game a year, and 2019 is all about Mario and his love of racing.

Mario Kart Tour was announced in a shareholder meeting last year and since then, nothing, not a word has been said about it, which is pretty standard for Nintendo. In fact, a few weeks after the announcement, the CEO of DeNA, the mobile studio Nintendo has partnered with for most of their mobile offerings had stated that the game would be free-to-start, meaning it will likely follow the Super Mario Run model.

It has been rumoured, but never confirmed that series producer Hideki Konno will be helping steer (he he) development of this mobile version of the game, as he has for the past games in the series, the man directed Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64, so he knows his stuff. If he is involved, with how Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has evolved the series, it is possible that Tour could be the best version of the game ever.

The downside is Nintendo makes a lot of crazy decisions and then never provides any sort of reason for them, voice chat on Switch being done through a mobile app; Super Mario Run, of which the bulk of the gameplay is solo in nature, requires you to be online for ‘piracy concerns’. Given how microtransaction focused their recent games like Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp have been, it is possible that Tour could follow suit, something I hope does not happen.

Will Mario Kart Tour be the biggest mobile game since Pokémon Go, who knows, as Nintendo has not shared anything on the game, but given roughly 89% of the developed world has access to a smartphone, that is one massive market ready for some karting action.

Well, another PlayStation 4 game delayed a lot, clearly this means it will be horrible right? Well I hope not as Days Gone has a lot of potential, but potential is not enough in this day and age. When the PlayStation 4 launched, it was supposed to come with Driveclub, but just before the consoles launch it was delayed until early the next year and then, again, weeks before the new launch date, it was delayed again and Days Gone has followed that same pattern.

When the game was announced, a lot of people just looked at is as another zombie filled game, but these ‘freakers’ were different, in that they are smart and there are a lot of them. Playing the game had put in on my radar, but that was after one delay and before the second, so what might have changed could be enough to pull it from the position it holds.

The part that I like about Days Gone, is it is taking away most of that which we know, but keeping just enough to draw people in, everyone knows a single zombie is easy to defeat, but 5 or 10, well that is a challenge. Drawing in 100 at once, then having them call in more, that is just beyond crazy and seeing it all happen real time on screen, that was something else.

Days Gone has not gotten a lot of attention and what it has, sadly has been quite negative, but I hope a somewhat open release window in April will let the game get the audience it needs, otherwise, this game might be just as dead as a lot of its enemies.

What games are you looking forward to in 2019?

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