Image: Campo Santo, IGDB

2019 is going to be better

The Interactive Futures Festival in Leamington had lots of highlights but it certainly wanted to go out on a bang. The final talk of the three-day event, by Alysia Judge of IGN fame, looked at the highlights of games coming out in 2019.

In her predictions of what was to come, Judge correctly anticipated the promise and hype that would follow Anthem and Metro Exodus (both released in February 2019).

Anthem is BioWare’s entry to the Games As A Service field. This open world multiplayer post-apocalypse piece is a self-admitted attempt by BioWare to bring their strong storytelling skills to the open world multiplayer format. This was hyped up to be the genre’s “most emotional shooter”. And beyond some teething problems surrounding the farming of legendary loot by certain eagle-eyed players, it seems to have delivered just that.

Metro Exodus is the newest instalment in the Metro game franchise, based on the books by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Whilst previous instalments were defined by the enclosed underground space of the Moscow Metro, Exodus is broadened out to all Russia that you explore on a Snowpiercer-esque train and each area you explore will come at a radically different time of year. Despite jumping from enclosed spaces to open worlds and no climate to the changing seasons, it the intricate attention to detail the franchise is known for, comes together in this compelling feat of graphic innovation. The game has been praised for its use of real-time ray tracing and it’s all-around feel for the future of console gaming.

Days Gone is an open-world zombie game set for release in April. You play as a former outlaw and biker, in a zombie-packed world. What makes this zombie game unique, however, is that unlike the solitary stalkers of other games, this one has programmed a huge amount of smart physics for huge zombie hordes. This holds promise beyond the world of the ravenous zombie. Such horde coding mechanics could have influence across how gaming portrays crowds and groups. Whatever this game’s influence, it seems to set that unlike other zombie games, fight your way out seems to no longer be an option, so you better keep that motorcycle close.

Dreams is potentially the most unique game on this list. An open platform for people to design on, many have said it is something that can lead to a “game within a game” after one player managed to perfectly recreate the shelved PT game. This sandbox game from Little Big Planet developer Media Molecule seems to fully envelop its tagline of “play, create and share” and could offer easy access to something truly unique when it is released later this year.

For those seeking a beautifully designed, narrative-centric game In The Valley of The Gods should be for you

In The Valley of Gods is the newest entry by developer Campo Santo, who jumped onto the scene in 2016 with psychological adventure game Firewatch, that became an instant indie classic. This new game, set in the Egyptian Valley of Kings, during the great excavation rush of the 1920s. For those seeking a beautifully designed, narrative-centric game In The Valley of The Gods should be for you. Beyond their proven record, Campo Santo has made waves for putting hundreds of hours of research into producing a character with type four hair. This hair, usually of Afro-Caribbean tradition, is almost non-existent in gaming, and this move not only marks a progressive step but also has opened debates about representation in game design.

Sable is a unique game, to say the least. Published by Raw Fury, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic desert world where all children must wear a literal mask displaying their persona when they come of age. Where this game differs from other such games however is that it has no direct plot, you as a player embark on exploring the world, and as an extension yourself. You have random encounters that slowly inform you of your character, but there is no actual direct narrative. Such viscerally real aimlessness is something that translates well into the pastime of gaming.

Sea of Solitude is a small part of EA’s reinvigorated indie games drive. This game stands out, however: a touching exploration of mental health and chronic loneliness through the metaphor of literally exploring a sea of solitude. Many have lauded the ability of a game to give players a direct line to the experience of mental illness, something more passive art forms like cinema, television or books often fail to do. Time will tell if such a serious topic proves to be something that resonates with wider audiences just yet, but change might be on the horizon.

Control is one of the few games on this list not set in a post-apocalypse or dystopian world. That doesn’t mean it scrimps on the strangeness. Playing as a character with supernatural powers, focusing around time and telekinesis, you visit the brutalist Ministry of the Supernatural in New York only to find nothing there is as it seems. This game is notable, not only because of developer Remedy’s reputation but also in how it is planning to push the boundaries of fighting physics in third person shooters. In Control, supposedly everything can be a weapon.

Change might be on the horizon

Untitled Goose Game is in one word, crazy. But also potentially one of the best games on this list. Made as a joke by some developers who thought it would be funny to have a game about being a particularly belligerent goose, this project exploded when footage of that joke project was released. Whilst the game idea is unendingly funny, what separates this from other joke games like Goat Simulator, is that quite a lot of effort has been put into the physics and design of this game. What now stands is a hilarious game with a direct plot and goals and some pristine stealth physics. Who said jokes couldn’t be serious!

Beyond Judge’s own predictions there is even more in store for gamers to be excited about this year. For fans of grand strategy, Total War’s newest instalment Three Kingdoms is set for release on May 23. Despite criticisms of previous games like Attila and Thrones of Britannia for lacking innovation and feeling generally rushed, early reviews of Three Kingdoms have heaped it with praise, saying the malaise at Creative Assembly has been reversed. Set during Three Kingdoms split in China, this game is praised for bringing the mix of history, story and strategy that made the series endearing in its earlier games.

Also, it seems to be the year for Nintendo fans, with the switch getting releases of Animal Crossing, Kingdom Hearts 3 and the long-awaited Luigi’s Mansion 3.

With a huge selection of dystopian world ending games, you have to wonder what it says about our cultural mindset right now. It seems are all occupied with the threat of the apocalypse. It poses an interesting question about the gaming world. Is our fascination with apocalypse an escape from mundane everyday life, a reflection on the insanity of the world at the moment, with raging climate change and radically increasing political tribalism and extremism, or somewhere in-between the two. Whatever the answer it seems 2019 is the year of the apocalypse games – and I’m definitely not complaining.



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