Despite being behind in the sale’s arms race, Microsoft’s Xbox One continues to offer exclusive games that make for a compelling argument for owning one. 2016 saw the return of powerhouse franchises like Gears Of War and Forza Horizon as well as new IPs such as ReCore, and while they’re now putting a lot of effort into dual releasing such titles on PC, an Xbox One remains the most cost-effective place to play them.
2017 looks to be much the same, with Microsoft doubling down on sequels to their most popular properties, alongside a few all-new titles. However, if you remember our Ones to Watch feature from the tail end of last year, you might get a feeling of déjà vu from this list…
When the original Halo Wars arrived on Xbox 360, it made for a surprisingly strong argument for the fact that RTS could work on console. Ensemble Studios took all of their experience with the Age Of Empires franchise and translated it with aplomb to the hugely popular world of Halo. Being able to micro-manage armies of Spartans, ODST, and Warthogs was just as much fun as it sounds, and for the sequel it looks as though Creative Assembly and 343 Studios have simply gone for the ‘bigger is better’ school of design.
Introducing an all-new faction called the Banished who take the place of traditional franchise antagonists the Covenant, thus far it looks as though the series’ RTS gameplay remains largely unchanged, albeit with bigger battlegrounds, new units and new commander abilities. Then again, when they got it so right the first time around, why make too many changes?
Sea Of Thieves is a new action-adventure game from Rare. That in itself should put it on the most wanted list of any self-respecting game fan. The fact that it’s first-person gameplay exhibits Rare’s flare for characterful visuals and creating a game world that’s begging to be explored makes it all the better.
Beyond the game’s open world environments and online co-op underpinnings, we know fairly little about the game and its piratical setting, but it has promised user generated content that can be tackled cooperatively, sea battles, and plenty of treasure. If even a small amount of that old Rare magic finds its way into the game it should be a winner. Currently pegged for release in the first quarter of next year, we shouldn’t have too long to wait to find out.
State Of Decay 2 is the sequel to another of the Xbox 360’s surprise hits. The zombie-fuelled survival horror game overcame its indie roots thanks to its offering of a convincing slice of America, and gameplay that centred on the minutiae of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Once again Undead Labs are looking at amping everything up for the sequel, and early footage already shows a massive leap in the game’s visuals, alongside the ability to now play online with up to three other survivors.
It’s going to be interesting to see the Microsoft-published title go head to head with Sony’s similarly zombie focussed Days Gone – assuming they both release in 2017 – but Undead Labs more cerebral take on the genre could see it come out on top.
Alongside Halo Wars, Crackdown stands as one of Microsofts more quietly successful series. The original sold well off the back of a bundled Halo 3 beta access code, but the game itself surprised everyone by turning out to be a hugely fun open-world experience, where bounding to the top of the tallest building was the ultimate in superhero wish fulfilment.
Crackdown 3’s development looked to begin Microsoft’s push towards using cloud-based computing power within their games, and while it’s still set to use Microsoft Azure to help in the game’s environmental destruction, it’s the first to do so in a meaningful way. Given the online nature of the system, the fully destructible environments will be limited to the multiplayer portion of the game which is a little disappointing, but it should make for some truly impressive moments under the right circumstances.
Despite having been subject to an awful lot of delays, it’s currently planned for a 2017 release.
Scalebound could be the jewel in Microsoft’s 2017 software crown, with the Platinum developed title looking like a joyous mix of Bayonetta and Monster Hunter, with a smidgen of The Last Guardian albeit with a dragon rather than a giant cat-thing.
Taking control of Drew – a headphone-sporting attitude-laden dude – who has found himself drawn into the fantastical world of Draconis, you find yourself inexplicably linked with the immense dragon Thuban. That link forms the basis of combat, and you’ll be able to direct your dragon companion towards enemies, either to back you up in a fight or take out other threats on his own. Then again, maybe you take on your foes in co-operative multiplayer?
With Hideki Kamiya at the helm, whose CV includes Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, Scalebound has all the hallmarks of a sure-fire hit, even if several delays mean it’s taking its sweet time.
When we first caught a glimpse of Cuphead we were completely taken in by its frankly amazing vintage cartoon visuals. Sporting an aesthetic completely drawn from the animations of the 1930s, really you have to see this game in motion to to understand just how remarkable it could be. Unfortunately Cuphead has been beset by delays – it was in this same feature last year – but the particularly strange thing about that is that it seemed so close to completion then. We went hands on with it in 2015 and it looked and played great, but another two years of development should surely only mean one thing – an even better game.
Tacoma is the upcoming game from Gone Home developers Fullbright, and you find yourself on a space-station that’s missing its crew. Given the previous game’s focus on exploration and mystery it seems likely that they’ll be part of the core experience here as well.
Taking control of Amy Ferrier as she searches the Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma some 200,000 miles above Earth, it’s clear that something is very wrong. There’s a distinct Doctor Who mixed with Bioshock vibe, which is a good start, but the setting can only go so far. Hopefully the issues found by playtesters this year – which caused its subsequent delay – should ensure that it lives up to its promise in 2017.