This is a pretty big one, an unholy grab bag of mixed up games and genres. From action games like Darksiders III and deep, narrative led CRPGs like Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, to the complete tonal shifts to acrade racing with Onrush and Gravel, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in the list below.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: 2018
A pleasant surprise coming out of Gamescom last year, Biomutant is part of THQ Nordic’s push to bring the once fallen publishing name back into the spotlight. Coming from the newly founded Swedish team at Experiment 101, this is an open world action RPG with a number of intriguing ideas.
The world of is lush and verdant, but its inhabitants are threatened when a poisonous oil comes and pollutes the Tree of Life. Saving the tree will save the civilisations built around it, but a branching storyline grows around whether or not you do this and how you help and align yourself with the various tribes that live here. A karma system is at play for each tribe, and you can side with one faction to try and see them grow to power and dominate the world, try to maintain the status quo, or even grab all the power for yourself.
Your character can be customised both in looks and abilities with mutations, bio-mechanical implants and weaponry that you can swap in and out. This affects the style of combat, while all of the weapons can be modified with attachments that could, for example, freeze enemies when his sword. There’s a lot of depth to the system, and that’s part of what makes Biomutant so intriguing and an ideal candidate for Ones to Watch.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: Q1/Q2 2018
Having built a reputation for storytelling through Remember Me and Life Is Strange, Dontnod’s forthcoming Vampyr promises to be just as intriguing. A doctor returning from the First World War to a London being ravaged by the Spanish flu, you’re bitten and turned into a vampire, suddenly caught between your bloodlust and your Hippocratic Oath.
You’ll have to take lives in order to become more powerful to fight the other vampires, werewolf-like Vulkod, and vampire slayers, but killing people in this fictionalised Whitechapel will have an impact on the story, as news of their death spreads among the populace.
Vampyr was delayed from a late 2017 release, so hopefully it can live up to the promise of its intriguing premise.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: 13th February
Another game that’s full of promise, Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes the historical setting the war stricken Kingdom of Bohemia of the early 1400s and spins a realistic RPG around this conflict. You play as a mere son of a blacksmith whose family has been killed by the invading army and seeks revenge by signing up to fight for his liege.
You never have the opportunity to become a lord or ruler in your own right, let alone reach the rank of captain in the army, but your actions can help to determine the war. Combat is tough and gritty, based around stances and positioning so that you can strike an exposed point or block incoming blows from heavy swords, and you’ll be taking part in both small scale fights and larger battles with orderly ranks of soldiers descending into a hectic melee.
However, the realism extends to the rest of the world and how it works. Levelling up your character is all about performing actions, so trying to sweet talk someone makes you more likely to succeed in future, and this can directly tie into the nonlinear quest structure with multiple ways to achieve your goal and different possible outcomes.
One of the most excitingly ambitious games I’ve seen in a long time, it’s been delayed more than a few times, but has a final release date in February.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: Summer 2018
As bold and beautiful as it was, Driveclub was the end of Evolution as part of Sony Worldwide Studios. Thankfully they were rescued by Codemasters and put to work creating a brand new racing game. That game is Onrush, and it sees Codemasters Evo returning to the bombastic arcade racing they do best.
There’s more than a bit of MotorStorm to the game’s reveal trailer, with cars, bikes and off-road vehicles all racing across varied terrain. It’s bright, colourful and looks a lot of fun as you’re be encouraged to pull stunts and bash into rivals in order to earn boost and race for the lead. I’m looking forward to it!
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: Early 2018
There’s maybe something of an arcade racer revival going on this year, with Milestone taking their jump to the Unreal Engine as an opportunity to really branch out from their existing stable of racing games. With everything from rally cars to all-terrain trucks, from gorgeous beaches on tropical islands to racing through quarries and tussling on race tracks and in stadiums, there’s a lot of variety to this game.
All of this is wrapped up in a faux reality TV show, imaginatively called Gravel TV, in which you compete across episodes to be the best across different races and disciplines, before racing against a boss character in order to win.
Gravel marks the start of an exciting new chapter for Milestone as they fully embrace Unreal Engine after years of being stuck on their internal effort. Let’s not forget that we also have MotoGP’s jump to UE4 to look forward to.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: February 2018
Hoping to add a new twist to episodic narrative adventures, The Council drops you into the year 1793 and an unusual situation. A secret society including Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington and a number of other high profile guests are caught up in a branching mystery, with Louis de Richet joining them to try and discover what happened to his mother.
The twist that Big Bad Wolf and Cyanide Studios are adding comes in the form of the Social Influence system, where you can use skill and limited resources to gain the upper hand during tense confrontations with other characters.
The first episode, The Mad ones, arrives in February, with the whole season consisting of five episodes.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux – Release date: 2018
The classically styled computer RPG is alive and kicking in 2018, thanks to the crowdfunding revolution of a few years ago. It led to the very well received Pillars of Eternity in 2015, and Obsidian Entertainment returned to crowdfunding for its sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire.
Still set in the world of Eora, you again assume the role of the Watcher from the first game, but everything you’ve built up is torn apart as Eothas, the god of light and rebirth, awakens from directly underneath your stronghold. It leaves you near death, but you pull yourself together and travel across the world to the Deadfire Archipelago to hunt Eothas down and get answers.
Advancing their underlying engine, Obsidian have added in dynamic weather and feature a world in which everyone has specific tasks to perform during a day. On top of that, with an archipelago to explore, you have a customisable boat stronghold that is your mobile base of operations and can lead to ship-to-ship encounters.
Platforms: PS4, XBO, PC – Release date: 2018
We started with a bright new game from THQ Nordic, and we’ll end with an exciting revival of a series that seemed to have gone down with the ship as THQ crumbled, before the rights were picked up by what was then called Nordic Games. Having remastered the first two games for modern systems, it’s time to continue the story with Darksiders III.
Being developed by Gunfire Games, which is built on a core of former Vigil Games employees, this new entry introduces us to Fury, a sister of War and one of the other Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. She’s a mage who relies of whips and magic in combat, seeking to destroy the Seven Deadly Sins as she attempts to restore humanity and the balance between good and evil.
There’s only been a few glimpses of this game so far, but we’re looking forward to seeing more, especially as it’s coming from many of the same hands that helped craft the originals.
As we near the end of our Ones to Watch, there’s just another batch of VR games and some more PlayStation 4 exclusives for us to preview. Join us tomorrow and on Saturday morning for the thrilling conclusion!