As we always like to do, we bring our round of Staff Picks to an end with a look forward towards the next twelve months, and the gaming delights that we hope 2015 will bring. Remember, the voting for Retailer of the Year 2014 and the Readers' Choice Game of the Year 2014 is open until the end of the month, so cast those votes and get stuck into the discussion if you haven't already!
Jon | Broforce
Early Access gets a bad rap when a game flunks out, but the system works. Often it allows you to discover a rare gem and watch it evolve throughout development, blossoming eventually into something truly wonderful.
Or in the case of Broforce, brotally brodaciously broliant.
It's already ridiculous. Delivering more ridiculous action than Contra, Metal Slug and Stallone's entire filmography put together, this outrageous run & gun sidescroller has been giving us an insane amount of joy for the last few months and it isn't even finished yet. With luck it's going to be a very, very happy new year.
Matt | The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt... and all the new IPs
There's so much to be excited for in 2015, my head is spinning with delight just thinking about it. We're getting new Uncharted, new Tomb Raider, new Halo, new Battlefront, new Zelda, new Metal Gear Solid, and new Witcher. That just scratches the surfaces of big names returning in 2015. But although The Witcher III is the game I'm most rabidly excited for, it's the sheer wealth of new IPs to be found in 2015 that's seriously piquing my curiosity.
I'm loving everything that I've seen of Mike Bithell's Volume, and bitesized, stealth-em-up puzzling with full level editing sounds awesome. Despite my dislike of the Souls games by From Software, I'm interested to see what Bloodborne is like. Then there are the more exploratory games -- titles like Everybody's Going To The Rapture and Adrift. We've only really scratched the surface in terms of these games that have you exploring and interacting with worlds in ways that don't involve bullets of gore, and I'm interested to see where they go in 2015. I want to know, finally, what the hell No Man's Sky actually is. I want to sink myself into that environment like it's a hot bath, and soak it all up.
Then there are colourful, charming, quirky titles that I'm desperate to play -- things like Rime and Ori and Splatoon. I'm intrigued to see where Nintendo take that last one, and if/how they manage to build a compelling long-term experience out of the fun little pick-up-and-play demo I played this year. I have a feeling that 2015 is going to be something of a vintage year, and I really hope that I'm right.
But yeah, really it's The Witcher 3. I'm so absolutely ready for CD Projekt RED to blow everybody away and be recognised as one of, if not the finest studio in the business today. No pressure.
Carl | EverQuest Next
While it’s probably shocking to learn that there’s an MMO I’m looking forward to, there’s a good reason why this has my attention more than anything that is definitely releasing next year. You see, I had a rather colossal article written that chances are you’ll probably never get to read now, but the short of it is that theme park MMOs like The Secret World, Guild Wars 2 and WildStar will never enjoy the success they have done in the past. This is partly because, love it or hate it, World of Warcraft is still a tour-de-force, but it’s also because static, repetitive open worlds have been done to death. On the flip side, sandbox titles have seen a huge surge in popularity but requires huge investments of time and / or money. Sure, you have EVE Online, but despite its recent concessions it’s still a harsh mistress to tame, whereas Minecraft requires a consistently imaginative mind of a child with a LEGO kit to stay interesting.
So, what we need is a halfway house that can be accessible. A sandbox game that also has direction and a sense of place in an evolving world, and if SOE aren’t pulling a fast one on us, that game will be EverQuest Next.
To truly understand why I’m excited about it, you need to watch the video above from SOE and AI scripters Storybricks to see what they have planned (there’s an extended 30 min version for those wishing more details) but here’s the short of it. Imagine an MMO experience where the NPCs of the world directly respond to the actions of the players, and evolve the world as a result. Here’s an quick example – a band of goblins set up an encampment on a busy road to steal money from anyone who wanders it. Left to their own devices they might set up a camp to increase their presence, or become bolder and raid the nearby town. However, if players stop them early enough they might give up and move on, but if left too long the goblins might decide to team up with some local Orcs, escalating the situation to a full-on assault where the fate of the town is decided.
It’s almost the next logical step of the Nemesis System found in Shadow of Mordor, but the fact this means every server will end up being completely unique is an exciting prospect. Take this imaginary exchange, for example – “Hey, did you hear that the Optimus server beat that elder dragon?” “Seriously? We on the Heisenberg server didn’t have the support of the Dark Elves to initiate that. We’re stuck fighting a goblin invasion.” “Well at least it’s not as bad as the Numberwang server who had their main town burned to the ground. That lot are screeeeeewed.”
With the reactionary systems Storybricks are placing in the world paired with the creation toolkit we’ve seen developing in Landmark, it places EverQuest Next in a position to deliver that dream middle ground I’ve been longing for. There’s still a long way to go until we know it for sure, but seeing how development progresses will be one of my top priorities next year.
That said, another will be Firefly Online. Because Firefly.
Brendan | Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Batman? Witcher III? They're going to be great, but I'd burn them all and possibly saw off my own toes to bring Uncharted 4 a bit closer. I've had my doubts and was downright furious after the complete lack of gameplay with in Sony's E3 presser, but last weekend's PlayStation Experience show rocked my face off.
Looking suitably next-gen and with even lusher jungles than those found in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (the current jungle king), my inner graphics whore was suitably impressed. The open spaces seem to work incredibly well with the gunfights and I can't wait to try out the new grappling hook in mid-air.
It's the as yet unseen set pieces that I'm really excited for though. Naughty Dog don't disappoint in that department and I can't wait to see what they've got planned. Uncharted has always had a fantastic selection of characters too, with nigh-on perfect casting. Can they improve? Well, they've only gone and added Troy Baker to the mix as Nate's older brother! That Tomb Raider wound just got a hell of a lot less painful.