The gaming industry needs the occasional brutal shakedown to keep things interesting. New concepts and intriguing mechanics push the medium forward and are often critically and commercially successful. From low profile indies to big-budget games, here are ten upcoming titles that try to think outside of the box.
Very few things can mess with your brain as much as time loops. This is a topic that is severely underexploited in games and movies, with Memento, Edge of Tomorrow and Groundhog Day being some of its finest moments.
When 12 Minutes was announced thanks to a trailer capable of sending chills down your spine, I knew that this was going to be one of the most intriguing games ever made. It’s refreshingly cryptic, palpably tense and unlike anything you’ve ever played before. You must play with your knowledge and use that to anticipate what you know that is going to happen, hopefully solving the mystery and breaking the loop.
What’s best, 12 Minutes uses an uncommon top-down perspective that adds to the overall bleak mood. This is a game, or better, an interactive thriller that dares to try something new and is already getting many people excited for its out-of-the-box thinking.
The time of full-motion video games is fortunately buried in a distant past. That’s not to say that this technique featuring pre-recorded videos isn’t without its perks; however, it’s done more harm than good to the video games medium. Exceptions such as Her Story are praiseworthy and could only come from an indie developer. Such a simple premise resulted in a brain-twister that is going to hit new highs with Telling Lies, the spiritual sequel once again developed by Sam Barlow.
Video footage serves as the basis for an exciting thriller with multiple paths that you must investigate by typing search terms, just as in Her Story. However, this time you have four persons instead of one, and it also helps that they are renowned actors: Logan Marshall-Green (you must see the fantastic movie Upgrade), Alexandra Shipp, Kerry Bishé and Angela Sarafyan. Telling Lies is the embodiment of bigger, better, more.
The Watch Dogs franchise is taking a huge risk that hopefully will pay off with the next chapter, Legion. This game is set in a dystopian, fictional London with hints of post-Brexit, and features a tangled web of characters that you can recruit to aid you in your revolution.
You can recruit up to 20 agents from a very eclectic pool that even includes crazy grandmas. These agents can be killed and live their own personal lives when not under your control. It sounds like a real nightmare to create and connect all these personalities in a coherent world, where everyone must be aware of what is going on with their buddies, but Ubisoft is one of the few studios that can pull a stunt like this.
Dying Light 2
Dying Light 2 retains all the amazing mechanics that turned the first game into a massive hit but dares to push the envelope with a remarkable reactive city. You get to use those amazing parkour moves again, but zombies now play a secondary role, only appearing when the night comes. During daytime, you must carefully consider each decision that you make.
Why? Because every choice comes with a consequence, and not just a cosmetic one. Siding with one faction will bring visible changes to the city, resulting in amazingly different developments and paths. Each player will shape the future of the city, both visually and practically, affecting the abundancy of its resources, with water supply being a priority, and ultimately determining which threats you are going to face. Dying Light 2 is a bold action game with deep RPG elements, where the ever-changing city is its biggest star.
When Arkane announces something, we pay close attention. Deathloop was announced with a cryptic trailer that shows two assassins trapped in a time loop, killing each other over and over again in the enigmatic Black Reef island. That’s probably the definition of hell, but this will surely be a lot more fun.
Deathloop sounds like a great concept and knowing Arkane, it won’t be as simple as the trailer puts it. We’ll certainly have an immersive level design and special abilities to use, offering the sort of freeform gameplay that the studio is known and treasured for. Right now we can only speculate on the way that the rival assassin is going to chase you around – are we in for some chilling Pyramid Head or Nemesis levels of relentlessness?
We’ve lived the life of a peaceful dolphin in Ecco the Dolphin. But what about incarnating a hungry shark in a gritty action game where you can tear humans apart limb by limb? Sounds like entertainment for all the family, doesn’t it?
Maneater is that game and it is described as an action RPG where you evolve as you feed – maybe you’ll get stronger jaws to bite on those larger whales, or improve your fins for faster swimming? No matter what, this is going to be a visceral niche game that will surely make some players think twice before setting foot on the beach.
Sea of Solitude
Sea of Solitude is a grim journey about discovering your human side, about humans that turn into monsters when they become too lonely. You control Kay in a metaphorical world as you meet a variety of monsters, each with their own inner struggles.
The gloomy environment changes as you progress, with water levels rising and falling, uncovering new parts of the city. Sea of Solitude feels like an intimate journey designed to pull your heartstrings, but it should come with a fair dose of dark themes as well, touching on issues such as depression and anger. Hopefully it will bring some interesting mechanics with the flooded city theme, offering original puzzles to go with the impressive visuals.
Spiritfarer isn’t your traditional game about killing; it is a game about dying. You play as the ferrymaster to the deceased, caring for spirits before finally setting them free into the afterlife. Sounds just like the game equivalent of peeling onions and getting something in your eye at the same time.
There is a lot more to do in Spiritfarer, including improving your boat, farming, mining, fishing, cooking and other activities that could be taken straight from Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing. But this is decidedly an emotional game about befriending your spirit friends, hugging them and saying goodbye without becoming a heartbroken mess in the process.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
A new chapter in the Flight Simulator series is long overdue and Microsoft is finally working to solve this matter. The new Microsoft Flight Simulator will provide all the thrills and frills of the former games but pushes the visual aspect to previously unseen levels.
The announcement trailer was almost too beautiful to be true, with real geographical data being used to recreate the amazing locations that we’ll hopefully get to fly across. Snowy mountains, busy cities, pyramids, paradisiacal islands and… err… a flock of pink flamingos are all too impressive to ignore. An honorable mention goes to the weather effects and nighttime, incredibly realistic as well.
Apparently, this geographical data uses two petabytes, a designation that I didn’t even know existed. In a few years we’ll probably see games using one yottabyte of data – that’s real, by the way.
Away: The Survival Series
Have you ever dreamed of living the life of a Sugar Glider? No? Well, I don’t blame you. But soon you’ll be able to run and fly like this little creature in Away: The Survival Series. It may not be the first game where you play an animal, but it is inspired by nature documentaries and looks the part.
Since you’re pretty much defenseless and food for many predators, you must resort to your wits to survive a living ecosystem. Away is a wonderful mix of action, stealth, platforming and RPG in a world that feels too real, but a world without humans – our race was wiped out due to seismic changes and only the animals somehow survived. Now that’s what I call a different kind of post-apocalyptic game.