Sunday, January 31, 2016

Two years of games slashing!!!

                Who would have thought this day would come? I had my doubts in the beginning, but as I wrote more and more I started to realize how much I like what I’m doing and those doubts went away. So, despite my style of quitting everything I knew that won’t happen with this project.
I want to keep things pretty simple with this post. Sure it wasn’t easy to get so far and it will probably become harder in the future. But this is a celebration of a birthday not a funeral so there is no need to get emotional.
                Another year of slashing through video games and what a year! I had a pre-release review, three interviews and a few popular articles with views in the order of thousands. The articles almost doubled in number and the views almost tripled and that has to mean something and that gives me confidence to continue and to work harder.
I might have missed on my deadlines and didn’t deliver on some of the promised articles, but my focus for quality hasn’t changed. I want my articles to be the best they can be and if I can’t do that I’m not reluctant to let go (and also time clearly isn’t on my side...).
The plans for the future are crystal clear for me: write more (and better), expand the variety of articles and ultimately and the most important one is switching to a real website and that is taken care of (coming really soon!).
                I have the tendency of overwriting everything but I’m learning to control this. So, in the spirit of keeping things shorter I’ll end this with my gratitude.
I want to thank TopSOUL for taking out of his time to help me by editing most of the articles and supporting me with this endeavor (which can’t be easy). I want to thank Wolfe for joining in with a few but well written articles. I want to thank Mosquito Media for taking on the job to build the future for The Game Slashers. And ultimately I want to thank all those who didn’t doubt me and the readers who have the willpower to put up with a ton of text and see what’s underneath.
I still remember the promise I made when I started this, but DayZ is still not done yet, so if you really want that full review you should stick around (for a couple of years :D).

Happy Birthday The Game Slashers!!!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Upcoming Shooters in 2016

                There have been a couple of dry years for shooters, but this is about to change. Sequels, reboots, expansions and even new licenses are coming to treat the starved fans of this genre.
Here is a list with of the most interesting shooters that 2016 has in store. Keep in mind that there are some missing titles because they will be part of the last article from this series.

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
Release Date: Q1

                Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 is an upcoming tactical FPS developed by CI Games.  It is the first title in the series to be set in an open world and with a production value worthy of an AAA title.
                We will play as Jonathan North, a retired US marine on the way to Georgia to help put an end to a proxy war and the civil unrest that might start a second Cold War.
                Taking advantage of the fully explorable open world setting Ghost Warrior 3 will feature a lesser linear gameplay allowing for different approaches. The gameplay will support different play styles with both stealth and run and gun being viable options. One of the highlights is the new navigation system which allows for parkour, repelling and climbing ledges opening new ways to better positions for engagement. There is also a hardcore vibe as objectives don’t show on the map and have to be discovered by completing intel gathering missions. Drones will be available to survey the area and scan for enemies helping to set up a much more exact tactic.
                I haven’t played any Sniper: Ghost Warrior game so far, but I enjoy playing as a sniper and the new features that Ghost Warrior 3 has made me put it on my watch list.

Release Date: Q1/Q2

                The classic shooter that has the players fighting demons on Mars is returning in the form of a reboot developed by id Software, the pioneers of the FPS genre.
                With the Union Aerospace Corporation facility on Mars being overrun by demons a lone DOOM marine is activated to put an end to this. The players will fight hordes of powerful demons with a wide variety of brutal weapons in a fun arcady shooter style.
                id Software always had a knack for technology and DOOM is going to showcase that. The game’s graphics and physics look amazing ramping up the intensity of the visceral and gory combat to eleven.
                The classic fast paced arena multiplayer will make a return with newer game modes available. Powerful weapons, verticality and unique power-ups which include the possibility to play as a demon expect those who want to test their skills against other players.
                The long waited sequel that turned into a reboot seems worthy of the series and it’s about time to fight some demons with a BFG!

Homefront: The Revolution
Release Date: May 17

                The history of Homefront: The Revolution is long, with THQ shutting down Kaos Studios, the developer of the original game, the task of making a sequel fell first on the shoulders of THQ Montreal. It was later announced that Crytek UK took over the project and with THQ filing for bankruptcy Crytek bought the rights for the game and continued working on it. At E3 2014 a partnership was announced and Deep Silver jumped in as a co-publisher. Due to Crytek’s financial problems the license was sold to Koch Media, the parent company of Deep Silver, and the development of the game was to be continued by the newly formed Dambuster Studios.
                Four years after being occupied America is in a terrible shape with a dictatorial military power treating the citizens in horrible ways. But in Philadelphia, now a ghetto, a resistance is forming ready to fight a guerilla war in the name of freedom.
                Homefront: The Revolution is an open world FPS in which the players assume the role of a fighter leading the resistance in an uphill war against the powerful occupant forces.  Ambush, sabotage, infiltration and deception are tactics needed to stand a chance in this fight. Build the resistance, recruit new members and establish bases of operation as territory is taken back from the enemy in a story driven open-ended singleplayer campaign.
For those who consider that the singleplayer campaign is not enough you can continue the fight for freedom in the Resistance mode. Team up with 3 more players and fight through 12 narrative driven co-op missions in a multiplayer mode that will be expanded with free content updates throughout the year.
                Homefront: The Revolution sounds good in theory, but the tangled development could take a toll out of this game.

ARMA 3 Apex
Release Date: TBA

                ARMA 3 new expansion will take the players to Tanoa, a tropical island with rich history and full of lush tropical vegetation and unique landmarks.
100 km2 of lively colored open world is what the new area has to offer. Fly, swim, drive or walk through this beautiful place that is about to see war once again.
                ARMA 3 roadmap for 2015 promises a lot, including a new lighting system and enhanced water visuals. At the end of the roadmap stands APEX, the first expansion of the game that comes with more content and improvements.

Killing Floor 2
Release Date: TBA, Currently in Early Access

                I’ve played the hell out of Killing Floor 2 from the beginning of its Early Access. The horde mode FPS has returned with better visuals, extreme gore and some impressive shooting mechanics that add up to a satisfying experience of killing wave after wave of deformed monsters.
                Now taking place in Europe, Killing Floor 2 has a lot of different landscapes squeezing the best Unreal Engine 3 has to offer into stunning looking maps with great level design. The combat is more visceral than ever before leading to a fun experience either in solo more or in 6 player co-op.
Perks and weapons of the past have been remade to face an improved version of older enemies with a better AI that leads to brutally challenging fights especially on the higher difficulty levels.
And to extend the game’s lifespan a full SDK will be available so that fans can create additional content in the form of new maps, mods and much more.
                Killing Floor 2 hit a community bump with the launch of microtransactions during its Early Access, but that’s not such a big deal considering they are only cosmetics. The game still needs more content, but the core mechanics are working wonderfully! A release is expected sometime during this year, together with another game from Tripwire Interactive: Rising Storm 2: Vietnam.

Shadow Warrior 2
Release Date: TBA

                The 2013 reboot of the 1997 Shadow Warrior was ok, but despite some hilarious comedy and engaging combat it got too repetitive too fast. Shadow Warrior 2 comes as a true evolution in every possible way. With greatly improved graphics, a more dynamic combat and a 4 player co-op mode.
                The players will retake their role as the former corporate shogun Lo Wang. Five years have passed since in his attempt to destroy the darkness corrupted the world leading to a new order where humans and demons live together. Now a mercenary, Wang is drawn in a conflict between multiple parties and has to put his particular set of skills to good use in another attempt to protect the world from evil forces.
                With over 70 customizable weapons to use in a bloody combat system that takes full advantage of modern physics technology, Shadow Warrior 2 surely aims to be fun. Adding to that the co-op mode with procedurally generated maps and success and replayability are almost guaranteed.
                There’s no denying that Shadow Warrior 2 looks great. The developers seem to have put a lot of effort into solving the issues of the previous game and hopefully this will show at release.

Space Hulk - Deathwing
Release Date: TBA

                Focus Home Interactive is taking over the Warhammer universe fantasy or 40k and one of their latest upcoming titles is Space Hulk – Deathwing.
                The action takes place on an abandoned Space Hulk where a group of Terminators from the Dark Angels Chapter is fighting through hordes of Tyranids. The game campaign can be played solo or in co-op mode with up to 5 players.
The game has customizable loadouts with a multitude weapons from the 40k lore allowing the players to choose between ranged and melee, each coming with its specific perks.
                Power by Unreal Engine 4, Deathwing looks absolutely mind blowing with some extremely detailed interiors and character models worthy of the Warhammer 40k universe. The graphics manage to create the claustrophobic atmosphere of a Space Hulk but also renders the grandeur of some of its special locations.
                Space Hulk – Deathwing is one of the most beautiful looking games coming in 2016 and it might be the high quality shooter that the Warhammer 40k universe needs to break the ice and expand its popularity to other genres than strategy.

Titanfall 2
Release Date: TBA

                Titanfall was a nice concept of combining competitive multiplayer with some sort of online campaign. Despite what the numbers say (over 10 million copies sold), the execution was poorly done and the lack of content ruined a game that deserved more.
                Respawn Entertainment has confirmed that it is working on a sequel that should be released in 2016. While they are very enigmatic about this game (including its name), the developers hint at the possibility of a singleplayer campaign and other changes (hopefully for the better).
                Titanfall did some things right with slightly innovative gameplay mechanics and by bringing mechs into the mix it really set the game apart. But the price was too steep for the content and separating the community through DLCs wasn’t a good move. Hopefully the developers learned from their mistakes and things will be different with this sequel.

This list is short but if we take in consideration the few titles we received lately and the fact that a new Battlefield and Call of Duty are going to be released this year, it turns out right impressive.
2016 is a promising year for a genre that was in desperate need for more releases. If no delays intervene and these games deliver on their promises this might become a reference year for the shooters fans.

See also:


Monday, January 25, 2016

An interview with KillHouse Games!

                Door Kickers 2 was officially announced on January 17. In the light of these news and the fact that I’m having such a good time with the original game I asked KillHouse Games for an interview and they agreed to do it.
So let’s find out more about the studio and the people who are now working on a sequel to the successful indie game Door Kickers.

First of all I want to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for The Game Slashers. I’m Romanian but not a nationalist by any stretch of the imagination yet I have to be honest looking at the accomplishments of Door Kickers I’m a little proud that an independent studio from Romania made such a game. After all, Romania is known more for exporting beta testers than producing video games.
Before this interview I’ve done a little digging on the internet and there is less information out there about KillHouse Games than it should be and that’s a shame. I couldn’t even find a Wikipedia entry for the studio or Door Kickers.
For those that don’t know much about KillHouse Games, can you tell a few things about your studio?

“First of all, thanks for the kind words … but I must respectfully disagree with the “known more for exporting beta testers... “ part, and I’m sure hundreds of talented Romanian developers at Ubisoft, EA, King, AMC, Funlabs, Amber Studio, Mobility Games, etc disagree too. Romanians are known as excellent programmers, and our artists are top notch too. Silent Hunter 3/4/5, Tom Clancy’s HAWX, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Assassin’s Creed … are only a few of the games that are built integrally or in significant part by Romanians. And our guys go and work abroad too! Just a small example - checkout the interface team for Witcher 3 - who’s the first name on that list? I’ve worked with that Dan, he’s a very good professional and deserves to be on top of that list :)

Now, about us. KillHouse Games was established in late 2012 by 3 veterans of the local game industry, ready to be more than simply “cogs in a large corporate machine” :) We’re very hardcore gamers, we play a lot, but we’re not young anymore and this means we don’t have that much time to play - part of our days are spent changing diapers, reading children stories or teaching young ones to skate or … run-jump :)

This is important as it translates in our game making philosophy - we want our players to get both their money AND their time’s worth. Our games are full of content, but also fulfilling! When you master a couple of missions in Door Kickers, you feel you’ve accomplished something, not just spent time in front of the computer.”

In the modern era of gaming the tactical shooter sub-genre is slowly dying being abandoned in favor of blockbuster action oriented games. Because of this, right now Door Kickers is one of the few options for those interested in a gameplay similar in concept to the older Rainbow Six games and SWAT 4. Knowing about this market shift you still made Door Kickers which must have been a huge undertaking for an indie developer.
What drove you to create Door Kickers and how many obstacles did you have to overcome to get it done?

“In today’s market, just making a good game is not enough - people will simply not find out about your game and you’ll starve to death with no visibility.

In that sense, going for a niche game is much better than going mainstream, as niche players will care for your game and be on your side when promoting the game. They care someone is finally making a game for them - as there are indeed “too few options like that”.  They will share news about your game, help with the buzz and in general be on your team!

But, to be honest, what we really wanted to do was make a cool game that we’d like to play - and a tactics / strategy game akin to the old favorite Rainbow Six was high on the list of possible projects. We analyzed it and decided it was a good first project too, technical and production wise.

From that point of view, it was not that difficult - we made sure when we started that we didn’t bite more than we can chew (in our experience many wannabe indies fail this part). But on the design and interface side we didn’t want to make “just another strategy game” or copy an existing project. We wanted to bring something new in the way these games are played, better accessibility but also deeper control than usual. We wanted players to be able to focus on their tactics and ideas instead of interfaces and action points, and we struggled to create the interface for that. In Door Kickers 2 you’ll see the next iteration of that idea and interface.

On a different note, any startup is a tough job, you have to be unflinching in your focus and dedication, work a lot and be at your maximum capacity. And plan well - on our side we advise peers to “have something to sell in max 6 months”, but this is a longer story :)”

Door Kickers has seen success since its early Alpha stages and the community rallied behind you with ideas and tons of user created content. Now, what I observed with the official announcement of Door Kickers 2 – Task Force North is that you clearly know how to keep the community on your side. Complete modding support, improved mission editor and partial source code access is part of the love you are showing to the community in the upcoming sequel.
Are you on the track of setting an example for other developers out there on how fans and customers should be treated? (:D)

“We do have the greatest fans around and it’s natural for us to treat them very well. But we’re not alone in this approach, many indie developers do the same. That’s part of the fun of going indie - you don’t have to ask for permission to talk to your fans, you don’t need countless approvals to add something to the game. You want to release the source code, it’s yours to do so. Minimum red tape, maximum fun :)

However, even when we were working for Ubisoft we kept in contact with our players, helped them enjoy their games better, helped them understand the technical side so they can mod the game and improve it, which in the end benefitted us as developers. Every developer should understand this, but the lesson is not new - we’ve known it ever since Gooseman has modded Counter Strike and people have bought Half Life just so they can play it!

And in the end, it’s our little fame as “good guys that stand behind their project” that helped us get attention when we first revealed Door Kickers :)”

Door Kickers is mostly about breaching buildings and close quarters combat with little outdoors action. But Door Kickers 2 moves the action to the Middle East with a Task Force fighting what look like insurgents equipped with some powerful weaponry. It feels like the change in setting between the two games could radically affect the gameplay.
How much different is Door Kickers 2 than its predecessor?

“Door Kickers is meant to be different - we’re not just doing a DLC in different colors, but a whole new game, and we mean to do justice to the new setting and provide the gameplay and challenges that fit it.

Door Kickers 2 takes place in a fictional country in the Middle East, and it’s not always a friendly place for player’s units. Mission locations can be secure, uncertain or even fully hostile to your presence and actions. This means you need to secure a way in, but also a way out. You also need to make sure you bring your boys back even when the mission fails. It also means that you have to be careful with bystanders - people live there and can get in your way. Most of them are innocents that should be protected, but some can prove to be a threat.

On the gunfight side, suppression is in, and you’ll need it to fend of the new threats. But there’s more than that, related to the new player units and classes and the way they work. We’re not, however, ready to reveal that part yet :)”

Door Kickers 2 is making the transition from 2D to 3D graphics. Does this change come with other advantages aside of a better graphical fidelity?

“We’re mostly interested in the advantages rather than the better graphics - specifically that 3D characters can easily share a set of animations without hundreds of sprite sheets :) This means adding a new animation is possible without rendering it for ALL characters, and changing a character or an animation does not mean rendering everything again. Should make modding characters much easier too!

3D characters also mean we can change weapons and gear in their hands, add attachments where appropriate and - most important given our feature set - customize their appearance for multiplayer purposes.
There’s also plenty of opportunities created by using a 3D environment - but we’ll talk about those later in development - or you can read below :)”

I have to say that my only big complaint with Door Kickers comes from its controls. Rerouting individual links from the movement chain is impossible and getting the cursor stuck in various objects is never fun.
Does Door Kickers 2 come with improved controls?

“You have valid concerns. I am happy to say that switching to 3D environment will indirectly improve path plotting as we’re not using a low resolution collision map anymore; There’s also an alternative path plotting method we’re investigating, one that should work better for multiplayer purposes.

This new path plotting should also take care of the “can’t modify path” issues that you mention.”

I’ve noticed in the only screenshot released for Door Kickers 2 a new command that seems to chain units together and also one of the troopers is leaning. I think it’s safe to assume that there are some improvements to the original concept for tactical commands and that’s more than welcomed.
Can you give some details about these new mechanics?

“The leaning will be straightforward stuff, with troopers doing it when the opportunity arises - based on your orders and the field of fire you assign to them. You’ll also be able to order them to “keep their head down”, which is the opposite of leaning out :)

The “group command” means to allow better coordination in the field. Grouped troopers will walk together at the speed of the slowest one, and they’ll keep the orientation you set. You can have a formation with all around security, if that’s what you need. We also have some features related to coordination which are not revealed yet.”

Door Kickers 2 will include a co-op multiplayer which is great! But the game is designed to work through a planning phase and a real time phase in which the players can adjust their strategy with the help of a pause system.
It seems tricky to build a multiplayer around these core mechanics and I’m wondering how exactly will the multiplayer work?

“It’s tricky indeed but not impossible to do :) The multiplayer we announced is Cooperative in nature, so it’s based on players working together, not competing. We have some ideas on how we can make the planning/pause work naturally, in any case.”

Is the unlocking system going to make a comeback in Door Kickers 2? And if so, will the classes be again blocked behind unlocks?

“There will be some unlocking in DK2 - as in most games out there, and we took the player’s feedback into account when we designed it. As in the first game, the unlocking is meant to give the player a chance to gradually get himself accustomed to the various units under his command and the tactics needed to be proficient in the game. The game can still be completed with basic units, and they never get “out of style” and have their role in the game.”

When will Door Kickers 2 be released and on what gaming platforms do you plan to release it?

“Door Kickers 2 is planned to hit Early Access in October 2016, on PC. As Early Access implies lots of fast version updates, we’ll go for Steam only initially. The full release date is not set in stone as we want to have a good, complete and polished game first, and only then apply the “finished” stamp. So “When it’s done” sounds about right :)

After we’re done with the PC we’ll do Handhelds, mainly Android and iOS - but no options are out of the books ;)”

                I want to thank KillHouse Games and Dan Dimitrescu once again for giving me the opportunity to take this interview. You can follow any news about Door Kickers 2 on the studio’s official website. I wish the people at KillHouse Games best of luck with the development process of their newly announced game and with any projects that might come in the future.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Screenshot of the Week #69: Archeological preparations!

                January 28 is getting closer and closer so I thought I’ll give Tomb Raider (2013) another run so I can make a fair comparison between the two games.
                First of all, the game holds up pretty well, the gameplay mechanics are good, the visuals are pleasing and Lara’s hair is as phenomenal as ever. The UI is a console mess, the shooting is average and the story is more about Lara falling into a chain of quick time events, but overall, Tomb Raider is as good of an action adventure game today as it was back in 2013.
That being said I’m expecting big improvements from Rise of the Tomb Raider. I want a game with more survival elements, a story with less coincidental moments, better gun play and if possible no quick time events. I know the game has some of these things sorted out. But despite seeing the ending on a stream I’ve stayed away for as much as possible from any video content so I can have a fresh experience of the game. I’m looking forward to being surprised by Rise of the Tomb Raider!
Brace for QTEs!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Upcoming Strategy Games in 2016

                Following on the streak of articles about upcoming games of 2016 I’m going to list now some of the most notable strategy games that should be released this year.

Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Release Date: January 20

                Originally a free to play game, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is the planetary prequel to the space RTS series Homeworld.
                Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is developed by Blackbird Interactive, a studio founded by veterans of Homeworld and Company of Heroes. The game changes the scenery from ship battles in the vastness of space to ground battles on the deserts of planet Kharak.
The game promises an origin story to the series and it will feature tactical combat in massive environments following a similar concept to the previous games.
                Considering the videos detailing the game have just started to come a few weeks before release I would say Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak is a flight risk. But with the experienced and creative minds behind the game there is the potential for something good.

Release Date: February 5

                While I wasn’t a big fan of XCOM: Enemy Unknown due to the focus on a good combat system and production value but not much else, I have to say that XCOM 2 is looking more intriguing.
                XCOM was shut down and the aliens took over the Earth. Twenty years have passed and the commander is brought back and reinstated to lead the XCOM organization in a desperate attempt to take back the planet. Lacking the resources and with little support the last free warriors of humanity are on the run aboard the Avenger, an alien supply ship converted into a flying base, and carry a guerilla warfare against the occupying alien forces.
                XCOM 2 takes a jump forward into customization with an in depth system which allows for numerous changes in each character’s appearance, but customization isn’t only about looks. Five classes will be available each with its own unique skill tree, weapons and abilities.
Researching new technologies, developing new items and upgrading the Avenger will bring XCOM one step closer to victory. But the real victory comes on the battlefield which now is unpredictable as never before with procedurally generated maps that look visually amazing but never have the same layout.
The combat system was the strongest point of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and has been refined. Various new mechanics will allow for a wider variety of tactics which will be required to face the newer and deadlier enemies.
                From all the videos shown to date, XCOM 2 looks amazing and it seems like a big improvement over the previous title and its expansion. Leaving the shooting through walls aside which hasn’t been fixed, if we get a bug - free release and a better written story I don’t see a reason why XCOM 2 won't be a success.

Total War: Warhammer
Release Date: April 28

                The newest title from the never-ending cycle of Creative Assembly annual releases isn’t a historical one instead is set in the universe of the popular tabletop game Warhammer. A bold and welcomed change since Creative Assembly leaves the comfort zone and while that can be a little dangerous there is  a great opportunity to get creative.
                Right off the bat the second most iconic faction in the universe, Chaos Warriors, is blocked behind a pay wall. The Chaos Warriors come as a DLC available for free with pre-purchase and most likely as a separate purchase after release, a mischievous but not totally unexpected move from Sega/Creative Assembly.
                Leaving bad practices aside, Total War: Warhammer is the first big change in the franchise in years. The Warhammer setting comes with a set of rules and mechanics that even if they work together quite well with the base mechanics of Total War will still make this game different.
The game will give the players the opportunity to play with four (five through DLC) of the Warhammer factions: the Empire, the Dwarfs, the Vampire Counts and the Greenskins. The factions are represented accurately in game through units, heroes and special mechanics.
Gigantic monsters, flying units and magic will be part of the battlefield now adding the needed diversity in tactics and gameplay.
                Total War: Warhammer is the first big step that Creative Assembly takes in years and if all goes well we might get to see more Total War games outside of the overused historical settings.

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Release Date: Q1

                Powered by Unreal Engine 4 the space title from Tindalos Interactive is going to take the players into the contested space of the Warhammer 40k universe.
                In order to take control the Gothic sector, the forces of Chaos, Eldar, Ork and Imperium of Mankind clash in epic space battles using their gigantic and powerful space ships.
Armada will include a singleplayer campaign against the infamous Abaddon the Despoiler and various game modes for singleplayer and multiplayer. The game will also has a progression to provide more ships and better upgrades for them but also special skills for their captains.
                Never before a video game has featured space battles in the Warhammer 40k universe. The uniqueness of this Armada’s setting is going to be extremely appealing for the huge number of fans of the Games Workshop universe and strategy fans alike.

Blitzkrieg 3
Release Date: May, currently in Early Access

                Blitzkrieg 3 is a MMORTS but with a singleplayer campaign that takes place in the Second World War covering events from the invasion of Poland to the capture of Berlin by Soviet forces in 1945.
                While the Blitzkrieg series has always been about strategic singleplayer, the third installment in the series changes things quite a lot and aims for being the first truly working MMORTS.
The main multiplayer mode is an attack - defense scenario which functions even when the defending player is not online as AI takes over player’s bases and continues to defend. The battles take place in a unified world on the same server where people from opposite parts of the globe can fight each other without restrictions.
Even the gameplay has changed to accommodate with the new style, Blitzkrieg 3 is now a faster paced and less realistic RTS compared to its predecessors.
                Blitzkrieg 3 has come a long way from its Early Access launch in May 2015 switching from Mixed to Positive Steam reviews score and it’s now preparing for a full release this year.

StarCraft II: Nova Cover Ops
Release Date: First mission pack by June 19, all three mission packs before December 1

                The main story in StarCraft II might have come to a conclusion but Blizzard isn’t done with the universe or the game. The developer found a good way to cash in on the fans that really want more (and the fans of StarCraft: Ghost).
                Nova Cover Ops is the first mission pack for StarCraft II coming in the form of a DLC pack split in three parts composed of three missions each. The story takes place years after the epilogue of Legacy of the Void with the reign of Emperor Valerian Mengsk threatened by political opposition. Dominion ghosts have gone mission in action and their trail leads to a Terran group called the Defenders of Man.
Nova will dive into this conspiracy to uncover the truth behind the ghost’s disappearance and the plans of this new organization.
                This mini-campaign will have players controlling Nova in each mission with her personalized gear which includes a loadout feature. She will be supported by various black ops forces which will be unlocked in a manner similar to the main campaigns.
The campaign will come with the typical production value of Blizzard games, including fully voiced cutscenes.
                I can’t say that I’m totally on board with this practice, but there are many StarCraft II fans out there who want more. DLCs are an efficient way to deliver new content and if Nova Cover Ops delivers quality and length for the money than it’s more than welcomed.

Age of Mythology: Tales of the Dragon
Release Date: TBA

                Age of Mythology: Tales of the Dragon is an upcoming expansion for Age of Mythology: Extended Edition, an updated enhanced and complete version of the original game which was released in 2014.
                Via a livestream in October 2015 it was revealed that the expansion will expand the game with the Chinese Major Gods and various Chinese units including Terra Cotta Soldiers, White Tigers, Chu Ko Nu and many other.
Tales of the Dragon’s campaign will feature a new story unrelated to the Fall of the Trident and The New Atlantis campaigns.
                The information about the expansion is scarce and more details are expected from the developers Forgotten Empires and SkyBox Labs which released a new expansion for Age of Empires II last autumn.

Ashes of the Singularity
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

                Ashes of the Singularity is best known for being one of the first games to use DirectX 12 and for being the benchmark that got the AMD cards in front in the performance race on Microsoft’s new API.
                The game is a RTS that is advertised as a technological advancement for the genre with a 64bit engine capable of creating extremely large maps. Huge and detailed units will engage in massive-scale tactical battles and a sophisticated AI engine that needs a minimum of 4-cores CPU will make the players’ life hell by using ingenious strategies.
                A lot of what could make Ashes of the Singularity great comes from the investment in technology and I sincerely want this game to succeed. This could set a good example that holding back technology not only affects the graphical fidelity but gameplay quality as well.

Call to Arms
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access

Call to Arms is the upcoming RTT game from Digitalmindsoft that looks feels and plays like Men of War but it has enough new features to stand on its own.
                With Call to Arms Digitalmindsoft finally move to the modern warfare era where the USA Army and the Global Revolutionary Movement will battle for control of a Middle-Eastern looking location.
                There are a group of new features that make Call to Arms feel different than its siblings. One of the most exciting ones is a fully fledged campaign spanning over several missions enticed through storytelling.
Another feature that is rather unique for the strategy games is allowing the players to take control over the aiming of their units in a weird 3rd person action mode designed to help with accuracy in tough situations. This new feature is extremely cool as now you can control the fire of precious units like tanks and armored vehicles preventing the waste of ammunition on failed shots by the AI.
Last but not least, the game has some technical improvements. While the visuals are strikingly similar with Assault Squad 2 the physics have been ramped up by a lot. Call to Arms features extensive destructibility with most of objects on the map being destroyable.
                Call to Arms is currently in Early Access and I had the chance to play it and I can say it looks very promising and I’m waiting for a full release to experience the campaign and the intense multiplayer battles.

Cossacks 3
Release Date: TBA

                After a 10 years break from the series time in which they made the cult following STALKER, GSC Game World is returning with Cossacks 3.
                Cossacks 3 will be a remake of the original game set again between the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The scope is ambitious with 12 playable nations and a total of 70 units and the number of scientific researches and building also goes into the hundreds. But that’s not all. The game looks technologically promising with detailed graphics and realistic physics for bullets and cannonballs.
                Players can expect ferocious and tactical battles in a multiplayer mode that can hold up to 7 players on a map and up to 10,000 units.
                Cossacks comes from a different time when the RTS genre was in its prime, but hopefully that will change with the return of such a classic and many other titles set to release in 2016.

Endless Space 2
Release Date: TBA

                I respect AMPLITUDE Studios because of the work they invest in their games even after release and the way they listen to their fans through the GAMES2GETHER program.
                Endless Space is a good 4X strategy but has undeniable problems. That might be about to change with the release of the sequel which will bring the players back to the Endless universe to guide the various races through an era of space colonization.
The sequel might tie the story of the space game to the other 4X strategy from AMPLITUDE that is more fantasy oriented, Endless Legend.
                At the current time not much is known about Endless Space 2, but in a gameplay video we got a glimpse at an improved combat system which was the previous game biggest flaw. The politics will also be made more complex so the population management doesn’t rely only on happiness and the space exploration has been slightly changed. With such welcomed improvements we can hope that Endless Space 2 will be a better game.

Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars
Release Date: TBA

                Conquer the Stars is a reboot of the classical 1993 4X strategy Master of Orion created by Argentinean-based NGD Studio and published by Wargaming, the new owner of the license.
                All 10 of the original races will make a return in the reboot but with an enhanced AI and brought to life through quality voice acting. The game will also feature a complex research system and customizable ships.
The action takes place on vast galaxy with up to 100 different solar systems each with a multitude of planets.
                4X strategy is returning to its roots with Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and to make sure things turn out right Wargaming has some of the developers of the original game overseeing the project.

RollerCoaster Tycoon World
Release Date: TBA

                The fourth game in the series to make it on the PC platform, RollerCoaster Tycoon World should take theme park simulation to the next level.
                I’m not very familiar with the series but the game comes with a multitude of features that should make park creation and customization complex and fun. With features like Freeform Object Placement, Fully Deformable Terrain, Expansive Selection of in-game Objects and an actual 3D tool that allows creating and importing objects into the game it seems that each theme park will be completely unique.
                RollerCoaster Tycoon World currently holds a Mixed review rating on Steam due to various problems and bugs met in the Beta version. The game has been delayed for a 2016 release which will hopefully give the developers enough time to fix the issues pointed out by the community.

Space Pirates and Zombies 2
Release Date: TBA

                The indie strategy with a quirky theme gets a 3D sequel in Space Pirates and Zombies 2. With the space zombie apocalypse defeated, the Galaxy is now a post-apocalyptic mess in which survival is all that matters. With the infrastructures collapsed fuel is hard to obtain, which leaves scavenging and banditry as the only options.
The Galaxy will contain hundreds of AI controlled fleets trying to survive and as the limited resources are used conflict between fleets is imminent.
                The most appealing feature of the game is its factions system which is in a continuous and constant change as the game progresses. Factions split, allies becomes enemies and new factions will form out of necessity or desperation. The players will have a small role in this and things will happen whether or not they are there to intervene.
                SPAZ 2 will have a fully physics based environment with everything being destructible including the ships. The ship building is complex and every design choice matters. A poorly designed ship will result in a salvageable debris floating in the vast vacuum of the Galaxy.
                The movement is on a 2D plane and screen relative, this will lead to battles where positioning and ship power management will be the determinant factors for victory.
                Spaces Pirates and Zombies 2 takes gameplay to an unexpected level of complexity. Get ready to fight for survival in this post zombie apocalypse Galaxy!

SpellForce 3
Release Date: TBA

                Since SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars this game has seen more sequels and changed more developers/publishers than I can remember. What can I say is that SpellForce was a great game and one of the most innovative strategies that have seen the light of the screen and I wouldn’t mind more sequels if they were up to the quality of the original game.
                SpellForce 3’s story will take place before the action in The Order of Dawn and it won’t require any knowledge of the franchise. The game will continue using the unique mix of RPG and RTS elements allowing the players to create and customize their own hero and develop it as they want. Alongside their hero, the players will build and control an army and use advanced tactics worthy of an RTS to defeat any foe.
                Now that the time has passed and the slate has been wiped clean, Grimlore Games has the chance to regain this franchises name and I’m pretty sure there are many gamers out there eager to see another Role Playing Strategy (that’s right!).

Release Date: TBA

                Paradox Interactive doesn’t give up on grand strategies and three years after Europa Universalis IV Paradox Development Studio is bringing Stellaris.
                Stellaris is a grand strategy that has space exploration at its core. With a multitude of alien races, a system that rewards interstellar exploration, strategic gameplay and an emergent storytelling, Paradox is going away from their classic historic formula that the fans love so much and tries to mix things more.
                Stellaris has some competition this year in Endless Space 2 and Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars and despite being part of different sub-genres, Paradox must bring their A game if they want to come on top.

The Guild 3
Release Date: TBA

                The Guild 3 will let the players experience a medieval Europe blending economic simulation, history, RPG elements and strategy into one game.
                Start as a common citizen and work your way up by acquiring business and properties, producing and trading goods and getting mixed in politics, war and even love to create a dynasty that can last for centuries.
                The game features a day and night cycle and four seasons influencing the world and building immersion. There are 12 unique scenario maps based on historical location which will provide a complex and detailed environment with story quests leading up to hours of gameplay.
                The Guild 3 is probably the most unique game on this list and I’m eager to see some gameplay footage to showcase all these intriguing features.

                Looking back at this article I can’t believe how many strategy games are coming in 2016 and I’m glad to see that the genre is finally finding some stability. RTS, RTT, TBS, 4X, grand strategies, simulators and even an RPS, 2016 will be a busy year for the strategy fans.

See also:


Monday, January 18, 2016

The Upcoming Action Games in 2016

                I’ve wrote about the adventure games and RPGs coming in 2016. Now let’s see the genre that over the years has combined elements from both adventures and RPGs.
This is a list of the most attractive action games that have been announced to come in 2016:

Resident Evil 0 HD REMASTER
Release Date: January 19

                Last year we got to relive the Resident evil that started it all in a remastered format. This year we get the remastered version of the prequel, 2002 Resident Evil Zero.
                CAPCOM is taking us back to a time when Resident Evil games were more about survival and horror and less about being zombie shooters.
                Resident Evil 0 HD REMASTER will present, again, the events starting in July 23 1998 when a train owned by the Umbrella Corporation was attacked. Following up on that the Bravo team of STARS is sent to investigate a series of cannibalistic murders outside of Raccoon City. As the Bravo team helicopter crashes in a forest, the field medic Rebecca Chambers teams up with former marine Billy Coen in order to survive and unveil the horrifying mystery of the murders.
                This HD remaster not only takes us back to the series’ origins but it does it with enhanced visuals featuring high-resolution textures and full HD support. The sound has also been remastered and comes with 5.1 surround support.
                I’m up for classic games remastered versions if they are properly made and the Resident Evil HD REMASTER was a success so I’m pretty sure this game will follow on its footsteps and deliver a visually enhanced experience that will be appealing to older and younger gamers alike.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Release Date: January 28

                The XBOX One timed exclusive is coming to the other platforms earlier than anyone was expecting it. Maybe due to the fact that it didn’t sell that well or maybe the developers remembered that the fans of the series are not tied to a gaming platform. Either way, Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming to the PC on January 28 and if you managed to stay away from media related content of this game you might be in for a treat. For me, on the other hand the story’s ending has already been spoiled, reminding me (not like I forgot) why business practices like this one are terrible for the gamers.
                Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to the 2013 reboot of the series which features a less sexualized and more humanized Lara Croft, a big step in the series and for the video games industry. The game follows on the footsteps of its predecessor delivering an experience closer to a survival rather than a full action game.
Lara Croft will continue her journey of uncovering the supernatural mysteries of the world. This journey will take her to Siberia and its harsh winter in a race to find the Lost City of Kitzeh before the Trinity organization. Outnumbered and outgunned, Lara will have to resort to guerilla warfare.  In a battle for survival she will be forced to hunt animals, scavenge resources and craft her own weapons.
                A feature that is returning in its full splendor in this sequel are the tombs, which were highly undeveloped in the previous game. The tombs will be bigger, much more dangerous and filled with puzzles and secrets worthy of the world’s best tomb raider (in the making).
                Rise of the Tomb Raider is the opener for the AAA releases of this year and despite the ugly business model I’m waiting for Lara’s return.

Dying Light: The Following
Release Date: February 9

                Dying Light was a tremendous success for the Techland studio which abandoned Dead Island to work on this new and improved version of… Dead Island.
                The Following is a story based expansion which comes as part of the Season Pass package for Dying Light (would be nice if this catches with other developers). The expansion will take the players to a countryside area outside Harran afflicted by the contained zombie outbreak. The protagonist Kyle Crane will meet mysterious characters, fight zombies and explore the area taking advantage of his parkour skills and an upgradeable dirt buggy ready to run over some zombies. 
The expansion will be content rich with new weapons, quests, skills, enemies and much more to provide an improved experience of the same length as the original game.
                Dying Light was a big surprise for me in 2015. The game was improved over numerous content updates and The Following is going to top that with some welcomed new content.

Far Cry Primal
Release Date: February 23

                Far Cry 2 is one of my favorite FPSs because of its impeccable game mechanics that are so important to this genre. But over the years Far Cry went a little more on the story department and a lot less on those particular game mechanics. Either way, the series has been a great success for Ubisoft and a new Far Cry game was imminent.
The modern setting with crazy warlords has been overused and a change in landscape is coming with Far Cry Primal which is set in the Stone Age.
Takkar, a seasoned hunter and the last living member of his group, has to survive the harsh condition of the Stone Age (around 12,000 years before present). An unkind time when sabertooth tigers, massive elks and wooly mammoths roamed a world that has the man at the bottom of the food chain. But with his newfound taming skills, Takkar will rise in power and get to lead his own tribe.
                Due to the massive change in setting, the new Far Cry will not feature guns instead the players will have to rely mostly on melee weapons and bows to fight their way through. As an action adventure and a Far Cry game, Primal will offer a huge world to explore. The world of Oros will provide numerous and marvelous open world locations including glacial mountains, taigas, swamps and towering forests.
                This new change might be good for Far Cry. Survival games with a prehistoric setting like ARK have been extremely successful and Ubisoft seems to wants to appeal to those interested in such a setting with a well done singleplayer game.

Release Date: March 19

                The history of new Hitman comes as a reminder of what developers wouldn’t do to sell their products. Initially Hitman was supposed to be a game with a normal release this was followed by an option to purchase the game in parts. Ultimately Hitman is going to be released in an episodic format spanning from March to May and with exclusive content for PS4. Such practice is hard to go uncriticized, but this article is not about that so I’ll let the subject go (for now).
                The players will reprise their role as Agent 47, an elite assassin, and travel to various international locations to eliminate contracted targets. As before the game won’t be story driven and will focus mostly on the gameplay experience.
                The game will retain the level design concept of the previous titles in the series offering small sandbox-like maps so the players can go nuts with the multitude of available options for assassinations (this sounds so wrong).
The contracts mode from Hitman: Absolution will make a return with revamped mechanics and will include tons of targets and special events in which players can compete against one another.
                It feels like Hitman is coming back to the series’ roots. The gameplay trailers have shown complex game mechanics and felt less arcady which is a good thing. Aside of the suspicious business model Hitman could actually be a hit.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Release Date: March 24

                The only other title that DICE worked on until recently, Mirror’s Edge was a well received game with a cult following. Fans have been waiting for years for a sequel and after it was teased through Battlefield 4 maps, DICE had finally something to show at E3 2015.
                Catalyst is not a sequel but a reboot in which the players will get to experience a much more story focused campaign that has Faith Connors in the middle of it.
                The innovative parkour gameplay is going to return in an enhanced version to be used in an open world environment which allows for free roaming, arcade challenges and even puzzles.
The combat has been changed completely and Faith can’t pick up guns anymore. Now she has to rely on her agility and swift melee attacks to deal with the enemies that threaten her life.
                The game is developed using the latest version of Frosbite engine and it looks beautiful following the same primary color artistic design that made Mirror’s Edge so unique.
                This is going to be a jumpy year with games like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and Dying Light: The Following and I’m glad that we will be able to enjoy a bigger diversity in gameplay.

Release Date: Spring

                Originally said to be an Xbox One exclusive, ReCore, the action adventure from Comcept and Armature Studio is coming to PC as well.
                The players will take control of young woman who is one of the last remaining humans on a planet under the control of robots set on the destruction of the human race. The protagonist has to befriend a group of robots each with unique abilities to help her in a dangerous journey that could lead to the salvation of mankind.
                I wish there was more to say about this game, but at this moment there are little to no details about it except for the E3 2015 presentation video which hints at some of the game’s mechanics.

Dishonored 2
Release Date: Q2

                A sequel to Dishonored was imminent and at E3 2015 it was officially announced. The big twist of Dishonored 2 is that players can take either the role of the previous protagonist Corvo Attano or play as the empress Emily Kaldwin.
                15 years has passed since the events of the original game and the empress Emily Kaldwin has been dethroned by an otherworldly usurper and forced to become an outlaw. She takes on the path that Corvo followed years back and becomes an assassin in order to retake her throne.
                The gameplay was the best part of Dishonored and the sequel will feature the same level of complexity combining action elements with stealth and allowing the players to choose their own playstyle. Going through the game without killing anyone is entirely possible, but no doubt there will be enough gadgets and skills to help those in search for action.
                Dishonored’s biggest flaw was its weak story and while it compensated for that with a solid gameplay it wasn’t enough. If Dishonored 2 can deliver an enhanced gameplay with a better story (now seen from two perspectives) it will have the potential to reach greatness.

Release Date: TBA

                Below was one of my most anticipated games in 2015 but it went dark and I haven’t heard anything about it for a long time.
                The action adventure game with rogulike elements will take a tiny warrior to explore the depths of an island. Exploration, survival and a brutal but fair combat with permanent death awaits those brave enough to descent into this mysterious place.
                Below has been in works for years and the developers are working now on improving the game and fixing its bugs for a problems free release.

For Honor
Release Date: TBA

                First shown at E3 2015, For Honor is another game from Ubisoft that looks really great (at first). Initially presented to be an online only action game focusing on 4v4 combat on a battlefield filled with AI combatants it was recently announced that For Honor will also come with singleplayer campaign worthy of an AAA game.
                The graphics might look amazing (waiting for that downgrade), but the selling point of this game is the action combat system which pits samurais, knights and Vikings in a battle to death. The combat is visceral, fast paced yet tactical allowing the players to choose the direction and power of their weapon swings and control the blocking.
                The idea behind the game sounds amazing, with a competitive multiplayer and a campaign that should add value for money. For Honor’s only downside is in the small number of players facing each other in a match, but that might lead up to a lesser chaotic gameplay with teamwork and fights that will better highlight the combat system.

Ghost of a Tale
Release Date: TBA

                The action-adventure indie game from SeithCG was on the list of games to come in 2015, but it was postponed and is going to be released this year.
                The game takes place in a medieval world inhabited by anthropomorphized animals. Mice, rats, crabs, badgers, hawks, spiders and many other animals are part of this peculiar world lore which also contains various undead creatures.
                A few centuries after the mice have been banished as traitors in the War of the Green Flame, the minstrel mouse named Tilo is thrown in jail by the rats. Tilo has to escape from his imprisonment and from the surrounding lands and uncover mysteries long forgotten.
                Ghost of a Tale takes inspiration from video games like Dark Souls and Legend of Zelda and from movies like The Secret of NIMH, Robin Hood and The Dark Crystal. Its charming fantasy world, loveable protagonist and the action adventurous gameplay make it a game to follow.

Release Date: TBA
                Described as an indie AAA, Hellblade is an upcoming action game from Ninja Theory with a story based on Celtic myths and an investment in technology that looks to put AAA tiles to shame.
                Senua is on a personal journey through the underworld which was born from a psychotic manifestation of her mind. Senua is suffering from a mental illness that affects the world around her not through hallucination but in a physical way. To deal with problems created by her own mind, Senua is well trained in the art of combat and ready to take on any enemy through a well balanced combat system focusing on one-on-one fights.
                Ninja Theory has a pretty good experience with action games (DmC: Devil May Cry) and the development diary videos show a lot of effort put into this game to look and feel as best as possible. I would like to see some more gameplay footage, but I can’t say I’m not intrigued about Hellblade’s premise and the way it plays.

Mafia III
Release Date: TBA

                Mafia III is an upcoming third person action shooter developed by Hangar 13 under the 2K Games banner.
                As a debut title for the Hangar 13 studio and the third installment in the series, the most surprising thing about Mafia III is how different the game is from the previous titles.
Mafia III is still a game about mafia set in an open world environment. The footage shown so far presents an extremely action oriented game featuring a lot of combat including melee, finishing moves and a cover system.
                After his friends are murdered by the local mob, Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam War veteran, seeks to revenge them by starting a criminal organization. With the help of his allies, including Vito Scalleta (Mafia II protagonist), Lincoln will drive out the Italian mob and take New Orleans for himself!
                I enjoyed the Mafia games despite not being very fond of the subject, but I’m not sure what to say about Mafia III. This is a great chance for the Hangar 13 studio to make itself known and maybe some good will come out of this.

Release Date: TBA

                The creators of Trine take upon the challenge of making an action stealth game. Shadwen is a ruthless sneaking game where a slight failure will get the female protagonist captured by the ever vigilant guards.
                Shadwen is an assassin on a quest to kill the king which is forced to take with her an orphan girl by the name of Lily. In her journey Shadwen is has to decide between killing guards and finding another way to deal with them in order to protect Lily’s innocence.
                The game will focus on physics based action stealth gameplay in which the players will be able to use the environment at their own advantage in order to sneak around or take out the guards. Another neat mechanic will be the ability to control time allowing to stop Shadwen mid-jump and preventing her from being detected. Players will also be able to rewind time in order to execute things in a different manner taking advantage of the knowledge gained from previous failed attempts.
                After the troubled launch of Trine 3 I hope the indie studio Frozenbyte will manage to recapture the love of their fans with this interesting take on the action stealth sub-genre.

                The long list of action games designed to make this year entertaining is coming to an end.  I probably only scratched the surface here as there  are more action games worth checking out that will come this year and their numbers will continue to grow.
Either way, as things look now, 2016 is going to be a pretty action packed year.

See also: