Lordy, Will You Look At All These Game Announcements
The Game Awards took place last night, and as always, the event was a mixture of hype for the past year in games (with God of War winning the overused-into-meaninglessness title of Game of the Year), and advertising for the upcoming one. This can only mean one thing: an almost unnavigable sea of trailers. Don’t worry: we’ve narrowed them down a little bit, and given some context for each game.
Obsidian, aggressively touting its designers' status as the “original” developers of Fallout (some might say in an unsportsmanlike fashion, given the abject failure of Bethesda’s Fallout 76), had the best announcement of the night, in the form of The Outer Worlds, which looks like a combination of Fallout, Mass Effect, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It looks bright and fun, with an interesting universe backstory, and even better, shivs one of the tiredest “player choice” mechanics in the book. This immediately shot to the top of my wanted list.
BioWare announced a new Dragon Age, in the vaguest of terms, not even granting so much as a look at a title (unless it is simply titled Dragon Age, hitting that “simply-titled reboot” stage a mere decade after Origins launched). There’s little to go on visually other than the presence of a dragon, although the audio and text strongly hints at (basically outright states) the return of Solas from Dragon Age: Inquisition. I enjoyed Inquisition, though I’m aware opinions on the existing games are both wildly varied and just plain wild; it’ll be interesting to see what the next one’s like, given a great deal of BioWare’s attention is currently focused on its upcoming online game Anthem (also trailered).
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 caused a ruckus by being announced as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Finally, a non-Nintendo exclusive owners of other consoles can get jealous of! I’m not personally a huge fan of these games, but I do understand their appeal. A significant chunk of that appeal comes from the massive rosters of characters on offer, and predictably the trailer highlights all the folks you saw in Avengers: Infinity War, only in weird, slightly off-brand forms clearly trying to be as close to on-brand as possible without breaching likeness rights. Personally, I was surprised this was the night’s Marvel announcement, and not the Avengers game Eidos Montreal has been known to be working on for some time, but that will come when it’s good and ready.
Double Fine Productions finally gave a sizeable glimpse at Psychonauts 2, which looks packed with character and novel gameplay. This is a sequel that’s been clamoured for ever since the original’s 2005 launch, and that was announced at the Game Awards, incredibly, three years ago. Time flies, but based on this carefully-curated glimpse, the game’s looking great. More oddball psychologically-themed adventures? Yes please.
New Zealand studio A44 straight-up released its long-awaited Xbox exclusive Ashen. A Souls-y melee adventure title with a few unique wrinkles of its own, it’s been in development for years, showing up in Xbox’s indie showcase videos at all manner of trade shows. And now it’s out! For Xbox One and PC, that is - the latter as one of the launch titles on Epic Games’ new online store, which hopefully will be able to take Steam down a peg as it grows.
Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Desilets revealed a release window and gameplay footage from his Panache Studio’s prehistoric adventure game (?) Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. I have no idea how this thing is going to play out - hopefully its evolutionary story, taking place across millions of years, plays more coherently than, say, Spore - but it’s a bold concept, and there aren’t enough bold concepts in large-scale game development.
Annapurna's Nintendo Switch game Sayonara Wild Hearts certainly captured my heart (ho, ho) with its magenta-hued, synthpop musical battle gameplay. Described as “a euphoric music video dream about being awesome, riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 mph,” it looks very pretty and unique, and the music is one of the kinds of music I like listening to. I can’t wait.
The creators of Abzu revealed their second game, The Pathless, which looks every bit as beautiful as their debut. You play an archer sprint-traipsing through a forest with an eagle companion, hunting critters and fighting beasties. A curious mixture of cultural elements, The Pathless’ major visual hook has to be the huge, inverted volcano hanging in the sky above its landscape. I’m interested to know what it’d look like if you tilted the camera up a bit higher on that.
Incredibly, Hello Games (of No Man’s Sky fame) found time to announce an entirely new game (a “short,” specifically) amidst its ongoing rolling updates to its flagship title. Or maybe it’s not that incredible: I’m willing to bet the project was greenlit at least in part to help raise morale at the studio. At any rate, The Last Campfire is a cute, artsy puzzle-adventure, and though the trailer doesn’t tell us much, it does have a lot of pretty imagery in it.
Finally: the creators of ARK: Survival Evolved formally announced the long-leaked Atlas, an open-world pirate-themed survival MMO that looks a bit like Rare’s Sea of Thieves, but with more photorealistic graphics and violence. Also, there are dragons, demons, giant sharks, a cyclops, a four-headed King Ghidorah-looking fellow, and what looks like quite the kraken. It’s being designed for “up to 40,000 players,” which seems both technically dubious and wildly optimistic, especially given ARK’s less-than-stellar track record with performance and stability. You can go watch a hanging, though. That’s something.
There were more announcements, and more advertising for already-announced games, of course. Many were updates or sequels to current titles; some looked similar to existing titles; some were souped-up re-releases of older titles; Far Cry: New Dawn and Rage 2’s trailers even looked similar to each other, in many ways. But the ten announcements listed above are the ones that spark my interest the most.
And anyway, they all pale next to Ape Out, the Saul Bass- and Hotline Miami-inspired game where you play an ape escaping from violent humans. That trailer dropped yesterday, but didn’t play in the Game Awards, and honestly, it’s the Awards’ loss.