The world isn’t even a full week into 2018 yet, and already my eyes are open wide to the enormous docket of video games studios have lined up for release this year. With the big whigs Sony and Microsoft engaged in a tense tug-of-war for domination in the 4K market, the VR industry heating up (especially PC-side) to a white-hot blaze, and Nintendo eyeing every chance to capitalize on its hyper-successful Switch console that it can, there’s plenty to look forward to in the next 12 months across various platforms and genres.
And though my early-to-the-party anticipation isn’t quite enough to fully call 2018 as fantastic a year in gaming as 2017 was (since I’m not a soothsayer or anything), it’s an undeniable truth that what AAA and indie developers will do this year will make the collective gaming experience fascinating — and my wallet empty from all the purchases I just have to make.
Here are just eight of the games I can hardly wait to get my hands on in 2018.
Marvel’s Spider-Man — Early 2018
My initial reaction to the news that Insomniac Games was tinkering away at a new Spider-Man game was to tingle with anticipation. My subsequent reaction, once I questioned if there was a genuine need for said Spider-Man game, was to huff in skepticism. Following that, when Sony popped the lid off the first footage of the upcoming title at E3 2017, a third response came: I tossed aside any doubt and returned to my natural state of fangirl glee over anything involving the web-slinging vigilante, a sensation heightened by what appears to be an imaginative, invigorating gameplay experience.
Insomniac’s Marvel’s Spider-Man approaches its eponymous hero from a new angle, a necessary conscious decision given the abundance of top-notch Spidey games that have rolled out in years past. Wilson Fisk (better known as Kingpin) is locked up in the slammer, leaving the Big Apple quiet and secure — and calling Spider-Man’s crime fighting purpose into question.
But the script gets flipped when a nefarious new villain, aptly called Mr. Negative, takes to the streets of New York in search of power; when Norman Osborn kicks off a campaign to stay in office as the mayor of NYC; and when the classic Spidey villain the Shocker starts creating chaos around every corner. Peter Parker’s world transforms from a still and safe sliver in time into a swirling tornado of destruction. Thankfully, the Brooklyn-based teen as Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales by his side to help restore normalcy and save the city.
Sign me the heck up, my guy.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom — January 19
Our resident games expert Brad Weston has gushed over Persona 5, its hip-shaking, head-bopping soundtrack, and its incredibly cool storyline only trumped in style by its slick aesthetic. The rest of the gaming world has been longing for Kingdom Hearts III — nay, totally fanging it, since they’ve awaited the title for quite some time. Then there’s me, who has yet to play either of those two games, feeling bookended by what passed me by in 2017 and what’s still to come at the end of 2018. My saving gaming grace comes in Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, the perfect Japanese RPG to seal the space between P5 and KH3.
The Ni no Kuni sequel continues down the path the original game set, granting players the chance to creep-crawl through dungeons, explore a lush open world, and fight to the finish in expansive battlegrounds using a fine-tuned combat system. Developer Level-5 integrates a lot of newness in the upcoming title, like the Higgledies creatures that lend a helping hand during battle; the playable character Roland, who was crafted for the older crowd; and a wholly more mature tone.
It isn’t just the technical gameplay of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom that has me so jazzed, it’s also the art. Studio Ghibli provided its inimitable design aid for Ni no Kuni the first, and one-time Ghibl designer Yoshiyuki Momose and composer Joe Hisaishi return for the second, promising that the follow-up will be an all-around marvel.
Sea of Thieves — March 20
One of the ballsiest moves a developer as revered as Rare could make would be launching a game as rambunctious as Sea of Thieves. The studio that built a longstanding legacy with series like Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, and Donkey Kong as well as standalone titles like GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark Zero has had its hands stuck in developing the perfect pirate game for years now, initially hoping to create a more realistic portrayal of life on the high seas but then deciding to ditch that idea in favor of espousing the over-the-top characteristics of the seafaring crooks and their actions. I think I speak for many when I say I couldn’t be happier for Rare’s calculated abandonment.
The most endearing quality of Sea of Thieves is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, a crucial asset in the modern gaming market, as so many titles swap fun for somber emotion and a gray narrative. Days spent pulling up the sails and swabbing the deck and nights wasted away drinking grog and singing old shanties await in Sea of Thieves, as do swashbuckling adventures sprinkled with dangerous creatures, cursed treasure chests, plenty of peg legs, and lots and lots of booty. (Of the coin variety, you nasties!)
Far Cry 5 — March 27
How cool, Ubisoft made a movie about modern-day America! Oh, wait, sorry. Ubisoft made a video game about an alternate future America that was likely meant to come off as realistic yet radical enough that everyone knows its just a work fiction but ended up being terrifyingly close to the truth of the country in its current state. Easy mistake.
The newest entry into Ubisoft’s first-person shooter game series succeeds some pretty intense installments, like the one set in the fictional country of Kyrat during a civil war, or the one in which the protagonist’s island vacation goes royally wrong when he’s kidnapped by pirates. This time around, things are even more terrifying. Ubisoft zooms into the made-up Hope County, Montana, a slice of the rural States spoiled by the violence and religious extremism that seep through its serene geography. Far Cry 5 focuses on the biggest threat that besets Hope County: the Project at Eden’s Gate, a faith-obsessed cult that aims to strike down non-believers, convert sinners, and cleanse the midwestern U.S.
Far Cry 5 looks like the rural gothic genre at its absolute finest, made all the better by the game’s readily available cooperative multiplayer element. March 27 can’t come soon enough.
Anthem — Q4 2018
BioWare’s impending sci-fi shooter Anthem elicited from me a thought I never dreamt of having: Is this how the studio can make up for the blunder that was Mass Effect: Andromeda? The 2017 release embodied the very definition of graphical faux pas in its shoddy facial animations, which were rumored to have been outsourced by BioWare to a third-party designer, adding a blistering layer of sourness to the already messy situation. It would take a lot for BioWare to redeem itself post-Andromeda, or at least something really special, and Anthem just might be that something.
The open-world shooter sees BioWare veer from its tried-and-true roots of RPG releases (including iconic games like Dragon Age, Knights of the Old Republic, and even the OG Mass Effect), and it appears that the risk will pay off. The E3 trailer for Anthem depicts gameplay in stunning, life-like visual accuracy as the narrative follows the Freelancers, an unflinching team of explorers tasked with keeping their sheltered society protected from outside threats. But this isn’t your average “ensure things are always locked up and be on the lookout 25/8” plan; it’s more of a “venture out into the unknown and try not to perish at the jaws of a gnarly beast or get shot down by a larger-than-life villain that lurks within the wilderness”-type deal.
Anthem‘s multi-person gameplay allows for players to pick and choose their classes, which reach from the tanky Colossus to the good-in-all-situations Ranger. Character variation and a rock-solid team of travelers will benefit all future Anthem fans, since there’s a great deal at stake in the game’s sprawling world.
Fingers crossed that Anthem will be BioWare’s biggest hit yet.
Code Vein — TBA 2018
There’s a lot to soak in when it comes to Code Vein, Bandai Namco’s latest brainchild. From game director Hiroshi Yoshimura and the team that created the sci-fi action-adventure game franchise God Eater, Code Vein dishes up vampiric themes and blood-sucking characters, supernatural abilities and powers beyond your most unruly imagination, and a shrouded labyrinth that holds secrets not fit to rise to the surface — and sets the entire thing smack in the middle of a dark and drippy landscape typical of a post-apocalyptic dystopia.
Billed as an action-adventure RPG, a somewhat milquetoast description considering how frenzied its content promises to be, Code Vein has often been compared to Dark Souls, the FromSoftware-developed series stamped with the same genre summary. Though most developers and designers would rather suffer through a self-inflicted black eye than create a game that’s continuously compared to a hyper-popular franchise that already exists, Yoshimura isn’t bothered by people drawing similarities between Code Vein and Dark Souls, and even embraces the juxtaposition.
And he’s right for that. Truthfully, Code Vein isn’t just a love letter to Dark Souls, and doesn’t look to be a rehashing of that game’s story with new characters and new circumstances. Gamers traverse the immersive, anime-styled world of Code Vein as a vampire Revenant in search of someone they can sink their fangs into — a worthwhile mission, since ripping into flesh gifts them with additional otherworldly abilities. Players can try these new powers on for size in Code Vein‘s hidden maze that contains — and demystifies — the secrets of the clandestine tales of Revenant coalition known as the Vein.
All things considered, the makers of Code Vein weren’t interested in trying to recreate the sullen tone and ambiguous story of Dark Souls, as wonderful as those things may be. Instead, the forthcoming title offers a fang-to-the-flesh spin on the genre that’s sure to be supremely satisfying.
Detroit: Become Human — TBA 2018
Studio Quantic Dream and game designer David Cage ride a paper-thin line with Detroit: Become Human. It could turn out an unimaginably clever, functionally smooth, and aesthetically gorgeous dream a la Heavy Rain, Cage’s interactive action-adventure drama from 2010; or it could end up a wildly befuddling… thing that polarizes audiences, not unlike Cage’s recent release Beyond: Two Souls.
A gritty neo-noir thriller with the stock smatterings of sci-fi game fare, Detroit: Become Human centers on a trio of androids writhing under the abusive hand of a society that doesn’t understand them, constantly on the run from those who are tasked with bringing them to an end. The title follows three vastly different androids who use their artificial intelligence for varying purposes. There’s Kara (Valorie Curry), a freshly made android who breaks out of the factory in which she was created in search of meaning and a way to explore her sentience; Connor, (Bryan Dechart), a police model android who hunts down androids like Kara, ones that have deviated from their programmed behaviours; and Markus (Jesse Williams), a benevolent android who devotes himself to freeing androids from their worlds of bondage and servitude.
Whether Kara survives, Markus is successful in his mission, or Connor can capture the ne’er-do-well androids remains a mystery, and is shaped entirely by the choices players make in game. Similarly, whether Detroit: Become Human will fall more closely to Blade Runner than to RoboCop 3 is yet to be determined. Honestly, I’m excited to see how it all shakes out.
Ooblets — TBA 2018
Stardew Valley and Pokemon set up a date, had a few drinks, started a lovely three-year-long relationship, got married, and had a baby. “That’s the stuff of some gamers’ fantasies; it can’t be real!” you cry. “And that’s a really convoluted metaphor! You could’ve said, like, anything else!” Listen, you’ve got a point (and also: rude), but I’m here to assure you that the Star-Poke lovechild is 100 percent legitimate.
The proverbial bundle of joy is called Ooblets, the forthcoming life simulation game developed by Rebecca Cordingley and Ben Wasser. (Seriously, only two people were the main brains behind the indie game.) Inspired also by elements seen in Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, two of the most twee titles in the modern gaming canon, Ooblets has the potential to be the most adorable life-sim you’ll ever play. And the real clincher that will have you hooked on its creature-capturing, house-decorating, home-building goodness is that it isn’t a PC exclusive — console gamers can experience all the joys and charms on Xbox One, too.
Which games are you most excited to play this year? Let us know in the comments below!