Ones To Watch 2015: PC

When you consider the number of high profile exclusive titles the major consoles get and the trend over the last decade which saw a large number of slapdash ports being made from console to PC, it’s easy to forget that the PC leads the way in a number of areas and genres. The last few years might have seen the courting of indie developers by console manufacturers, and by Sony in particular, but a large number of indie games still come to PC first and foremost. We even featured a number of these as games to watch for 2015, as they make the jump from PC to console.

However, with keyboard and mouse inputs, the PC still holds dominion over simulation and strategy games, from Company of Heroes to Elite: Dangerous. There’s plenty more where that came from set for 2015.

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If Total War: Rome II saw the rise to greatness of the Roman Empire, then Total War: Attila chronicles its downfall. Germanic migrations and invasions hurt the Empire quite substantially and, then Attila was ultimately rebuffed and unable to conquer either Constantinople or Rome. However, it’s not just the Romans who should fear the advancing armies of the Hunnic Empire, as they savaged the Sassinid Empire and marched into northern Europe.

Total War games named after historical figures haven’t always fared quite as well as the others, but this time around it was Rome II that divided opinion and Attila has the opportunity to address some of those complaints. Rome II was ambitious in the way it overhauled Total War’s empire management, but didn’t quite manage to pull it off, so this is Creative Assembly’s opportunity to improve upon those ideas whilst also telling a new story.

The Dark Ages are coming and as well as the advance of Attila, this game will feature climate change over the course of the campaign, new systems surrounding the spread of diseases and battles will be set alight with dynamic fire. Total War: Attila is set for release on February 17th.

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Up until this point, the Cities games have been all about managing the transport system within a city. Cities: Skylines changes all that, as Paradox and Colossal Order seize upon the opportunity made available to them by the disappointment surrounding the latest SimCity. This is set to be a fully fledged city builder on a huge scale.

Starting off with a simple 2km^2 tile, you can expand across the map in whatever direction you want, picking up to 9 tiles from a grid of 25. Naturally, you have the ability to lay roads wherever you please, be they straight, curved, wide or narrow, and then zone for houses, businesses and industry. What could set this apart is that as your city begins to sprawl, you can create and name different districts, setting civic policies and taxation on a per-district basis to help your city thrive.

With just a small team working on the game, Skylines will also feature quite extensive support for modification via Steam Workshop, allowing you to do everything from create new building and vehicle models to giving yourself unlimited money and more.

Cities: Skylines is set for a release some time in the first half of next year.

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Though it has a rather similar title, the recently announced Cities XXL is most definitely a rival game to Skylines – they’re from different publishers, after all – but aims for the same kind of scale and scope as that game.

XXL is set to feature 70 maps across a wide range of environments, region specific roads, over 1000 buildings and more options than its predecessors in terms of greenery and eco-friendliness. It’s also all backed up by greater and simpler to use modding that’s facilitated by the Steam Workshop.

It’s really building upon the foundations set in XL and its follow ons, but perhaps the most important change for fans of the series is that the game now has support for multi-core processors, allowing for even larger cities than before (hence the extra ‘X’) without the performance hit.

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It’s been over a decade since we last saw a RollerCoaster Tycoon game on the PC, and the series has only been propped up recently by RollerCoaster 3D on 3DS in 2012 and this year’s quite abysmally bad RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile (get it?). Neither of these was even vaguely well received, so those with fans of the originals might well be wary of this.

Then again, its World’s announcement also brought with it some good news. Not only would it not feature the dreaded microtransactions that blighted 4 Mobile, but it would also have an offline mode, featuring easier roller coaster creation and themes for your amusement park.

And then we had the announcement a few days ago that development on the game would be tackled by a new team, as Atari have now partnered up with Area 52 Games and replaced Pipeworks. On the plus side, Area 52’s team seems to have a lot of experience with this genre and style of game, but a wholesale replacement of a studio is always cause of concern or, at the very least, leads to delays.

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Speaking of delays, the crowdfunded Pillars of Eternity – and one of the largest crowdfunded projects to date – was originally planned for a release in 2014 but saw itself get pushed back to 2015. One of primary reasons for this was actually the feedback that the team at Obsidian received from their backer after the release of a private backer beta.

Pillars of Eternity is a return to the classic form of the old and still very popular Infinity Engine RPGs of the late 90s and early 2000s, such as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. However, while it takes on that graphical and style and certain elements of the gameplay, Pillars of Eternity is also trying to forge it own path in the world of Eora.

For example, it’s not sticking with the established and archetypal classes, races and characters that we often see in a fantasy RPG setting, instead trying to create new and uniquely different ones to play with. Yes, you still have Humans, Dwarves and Elves, but these sit alongside Godlike, Orlan and Aumaua, and there’s also set to be a rich and branching dialogue system which helps to build your character in any direction you choose.

There’s a lot to like about what Obsidian are doing with Pillars, and with more development time, this could be another must-have classically styled RPG when it arrives in early 2015.

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Surpassing Pillars of Eternity’s record on Kickstarter was no mean feat, but Torment: Tides of Numenera managed to do so off the back of some rather similar aims. Following on from their Wasteland 2 Kickstarter, Brian Fargo and inXile Entertainment launched their second just months later, with this spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment.

In other words, it looks to build upon what made Planescape so popular in the first place, a focus on narrative and decision-based story telling, set in the tabletop role-playing science fantasy game world of Numenera.

Originally planned for a release this month, Tides of Numenera was pushed back by quite a margin to Q4 2015, which it can hopefully stick to.

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Yes, it’s since been announced for a simultaneous release on PS Vita and PS4 at the PlayStation Experience event, but with our lists already compiled, it would have been difficult to stuff Broken Age: Act 2 in somewhere else and I still want to talk about it.

As we’ve seen a few times in this entry, Broken Age was another popular Kickstarter project, with Tim Schafer’s return to the point and click adventure genre striking a chord that helped to really establish Kickstarter as a viable means of funding. However, as with so many of these projects, it too has suffered delays and complications, eventually being split in half to help them fund the game as Tim was envisioning it.

With a gorgeous art style, this is the story of two teenagers coming of age in two completely different worlds. Vella escaped her ritualistic sacrifice to a monster, while Shay sought to take on more responsibility and break out of his childish and coddling world. Letting you jump back and forth between the characters at will, or play either story to its conclusion before the other, the first act ended with a whopping great big cliffhanger which I’m personally relishing the chance to see resolved when the second act is released early next year.

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