2016 Preview Day One (Abzû-Cyberpunk)

Hey there.  If you didn’t read the original post about what I’m doing, you can do so here.  However, the gist of it is that everyday this week I will be talking about 10 games coming out this year that might be good, or at the very least have my interest.  I think that ranking 70 games is a dumb thing to do, so instead I’ll just be listing them in alphabetical order.  Today, we have our first 10 games, ranging from Abzû to Cyberpunk 2077.


Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

Abzû is the first game from Giant Squid, a studio founded by Matt Nava, the art director of Journey.  This influence shows, as the game is absolutely gorgeous and will be bolstered by a soundtrack from Austin Wintory.  Abzû is a game that stars a scuba diver and takes place completely underwater.  Water levels are the worst in most games, but it seems like Giant Squid has the issue of underwater movement solved.  Instead of making something challenging and frustrating to control, they decided to give you much more freedom to move at your will.  Much like Journey, there is no combat and no failure state in Abzû.  Instead, you progress by interacting with the sea life.  These interactions include getting a ride from a sea turtle, which is an awesome thing to do.  If they can keep these interactions interesting and diverse and create a good mix of exploration and story, then they have something really special on their hands.  It is hard to imagine a world in which Abzû is bad, and easy to imagine one in which it is great.


Developer: Three One Zero
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PC (Oculus Rift), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: Q1 2016 (For PC/OR)

Adam Orth is a man whose name most will recognize from the #dealwithit debacle surrounding the Xbox One reveal.  After that, Orth lost his job and received both criticism and a fair bit of vitriol for his comments.  After becoming an online punching bag, Orth decided to create a game about this experience.  Insert Adr1ft.  Adr1ft is a game about picking up the pieces once everything goes wrong.  Adr1ft stars an astronaut who is the sole survivor of a destroyed space station.  Also, her suit is leaking oxygen and you have to find more floating around the station in order to stay alive.  The game consists of you exploring this station, finding audio diaries along the way that tell the story of your fallen crew members.  This game has the potential to tell a very emotional story if these characters feel fully realized.  Also, floating above Earth is awe-inspiring, and I can imagine it would be even more so in virtual reality.  The one worry I have is that searching for oxygen will be a mechanic that gets in the way and isn’t very fun.  Orth has said that this becomes a smaller portion of the game as it progresses, but that just strikes me as him saying that he realizes the problems with the mechanic and instead of solving them just decides to remove them halfway through the game.  Regardless, I remain cautiously optimistic and hope that this game can at least deliver on telling a personal story.


Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: March 1, 2016

Housemarque, the developer behind Stardust, Outland, Dead Nation, and Resogun is back with a follow up to Dead Nation.  The problem?  Dead Nation is widely considered to be the worst Housemarque game.  So why would I have high expectations going into the game’s spiritual successor.  To start, Housemarque is a phenomenal developer.  They are the kings of twin-stick shooters, and one bad game that came out in 2010 doesn’t change that.  Also, everything that’s been said about this game implies that they know the problems with Dead Nation.  One problem with Dead Nation was that the movement was fairly sluggish.  Alienation is faster and more frantic, and it even features a dodge button that allows you to teleport.  Dead Nation was about you making your way through corridors and sometimes taking on hordes in a larger area.  Alienation features much larger maps in which you complete objectives which go further than just survive and advance.  This allows for much more interesting AI placement and experimentation with the game’s mechanics.  The other big improvement is the RPG elements.  Dead Nation had the unlockable weapons, and Alienation still has those.  However, it also adds three classes, each with unique, upgradable abilities.  The class system also plays into the co-op, something that is much more of a focus here than in other Housemarque titles.  The final note to make is that the game looks gorgeous for a top down shooter.  It has the Resogun particle effects as well as diverse, interesting environments.  Alienation has the potential to be one of Housemarque’s best games yet.


Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.
Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Music games are back, and I haven’t cared a bit.  Rock Band 4 looked like more of the same, and while Guitar Hero Live seemed new and interesting, I still wasn’t willing to buy plastic instruments in the year 2015.  That’s why Amplitude is the one music franchise revival that I can get behind.  For a lot of people, Amplitude (and Frequency) is the first note highway music game.  The franchise was tossed aside once Guitar Hero (and then Rock Band) got big, but the plastic instrument fad is all but over, creating an opening for Amplitude to come back.  Amplitude is a weird game to include here, not only because it will be out by the time I done with this preview, but also because it is already out for Kickstarter backers.  The reception so far has been positive.  The basic takeaway is that it looks and plays like Amplitude.  And if you were somebody who preferred Frequency, the recently announced Freq Mode has you covered.  The most divisive aspect of the game is the tracklist, but that is bound to be a subjective things based on people’s personal tastes.  A lot of people are mad that the game features music primarily from Harmonix and other video game composers as opposed to the popular artists that were featured in the original game.  Names like Jim Guthrie, Darren Korb, and Danny Baranowsky get me excited, but I can appreciate that not everybody feels the same way about that.


Batman: A Telltale Games Series
Telltale Games
 Telltale Games
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 
TBA 2016

After this past year, I was pretty much done with both Telltale games and Batman games.  I played and loved Tales from the Borderlands, but the performance on Xbox One was so bad that I said I was done playing Telltale games until they moved onto a new engine.  As for Batman, I played Arkham Knight and wasn’t a huge fan.  Then when the game ended and it was clear Warner wasn’t going to let that series end, I was really annoyed by that.  However, a Telltale Batman game is also a dream pairing.  Ever since I played Arkham Asylum, I have wanted a Batman game that was more focused on detective work and a living, breathing Gotham.  This is the one way that will happen.  That doesn’t mean that I’m confident it will happen though.  Modern Telltale is great at storytelling, but they aren’t necessarily known for adventure games focused around puzzle solving.  I could easily see any detective work being incredibly streamlined or even cut from the game entirely to focus on story and action.  Also, there is a good chance that their engine will not be fixed.  However, this is a game that I have wanted for a long time, I have confidence in Telltale’s writing, and that trailer they showed at The Game Awards set the exact tone I am looking for.  I just hope they can pull it off.


Capybara Games
Capybara Games
PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: 
TBA 2016

So imagine a roguelike with Zelda-esque dungeons.  So like Binding of Isaac?  Sure, but imagine Binding of Isaac with good gameplay and a pleasing aesthetic.  That might be a bit harsh.  There is way more than just those two things which makes Below more appealing to me than Isaac.  I’ll start with those though.  Below is the newest game from Capy, and it shares a similar aesthetic to Swords and Sorcery.  The game has a beautiful art style that manages to be both grim and awe-inspiring.  It also features a soundtrack from the great Jim Guthrie.  This is another game that is absolutely guaranteed to deliver on the aesthetic aspects.  The gameplay is also apparently very tight.  The sword-based combat has gained a lot of comparisons to Dark Souls for the way that it is deliberate and challenging.  This challenge is where some of the roguelike elements start to come in.  The game has permadeath, and every time you die you start over with a new character.  Much like Zombi U, you can find your corpse and grab the gear off of it.  The dungeons you explore also reset, and I don’t know how this works with the last feature I described.  However, Capy has been clear that there will be some sort of persistenc


Cosmic Star Heroine
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Zeboyd Games
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: TBA 2016

I should note that I have almost no connection to the Phantasy Star series, so any comparisons I make with it are purely based on hearsay.  With that out of the way, Cosmic Star Heroine looks a lot like Phantasy Star.  It also takes inspiration from Chrono Trigger and Suikoden, two games I do have a fondness for.  The game looks like a 16-bit RPG with its beautifully done pixel art.  The previous games from Zeboyd show that they have an understanding of what makes RPGs from this era great.  The world they have set up seems ridiculous in an awesome way.  The main character is a spy who gets put up on a pedestal after uncovering a conspiracy.  The problem is that this also paints a target on her back for every evil organization in this world which of course has a bunch of evil organizations.  That set up is just ridiculous enough to work.  From a gameplay perspective, it seems like Zeboyd is being faithful to its inspirations but not annoyingly so.  For instance, they stress that there won’t be any grinding in the game.  Of course, they could say that since grinding existed in old school RPGs it should exist in Cosmic Star Heroine.  Instead, they are refining old formulas to make sense in the modern day.  And in an age where most AAA RPGs are moving away from turn-based systems, it is nice to see one that shows so much promise.  Plus, the game is coming to Vita which automatically makes me like it more.


Crackdown 3
Developer: Reagent
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox One
Release Date: Summer 2016

Do you believe in the cloud?  If you don’t, then you should be worried about Crackdown 3.  If everything goes wrong, this will be Microsoft’s biggest launch disaster since The Master Chief Collection.  Crackdown 3’s main selling point so far has been a multiplayer mode in which everything can be destroyed, and all of that processing is going to be done in the cloud.  This is going to be the first big test for this feature Microsoft has been toting for years, and I worry that they might not deliver.  But that is a technical problem, what about the actual game?  I think Crackdown 3 could be really cool, but I do have mechanical concerns as well.  The first Crackdown was a surprise hit, but it wasn’t the best game.  It was a really cool thing that people bought for the Halo 3 Beta.  The second game was really bad.  I worry that they either won’t understand what made the first game fun or will lean into it too much.  Like I said, Crackdown was a cool game in 2007.  Remaking that game nine years later would be foolish.  They need to find a way to make a fun game with substance and not just a Just Cause knock off with superpowers.  Nothing they have shown so far gives me confidence that they can do this.  The presentation at Gamescom focused on co-op destruction, something that cannot sustain a full game.  I should be clear that I love the idea of a new Crackdown, but nothing I have seen or heard about this game gives me confidence that they will deliver.


 Studio MDHR
Studio MDHR
Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 
TBA 2016

Cuphead looks awesome.  But that’s just it.  It looks awesome.  The game has the art style and animation of a 1930s cartoon, and it pulls it off.  The game looks absolutely phenomenal, and it has the personality to match.  The music, characters, and enemy design all fit with the aesthetic perfectly.  There is no doubt that I will play Cuphead and just enjoy taking in the visuals.  However, it is still a game predicated on gameplay.  In this aspect, I’m worried that Cuphead’s art style actually works against it.  The controls and mechanics seem fine.  It is a side-scrolling shooter with platforming elements, and for all intents and purposes the controls seem tight.  However, what killed some of my excitement for this game was the revelation that it is a boss rush.  After thinking about that, it makes sense.  Creating full levels within that art style would be hard to do, and the bosses are incredible, visual set pieces.  This brings up some concerns though.  The fact that they’re making gameplay decisions based on the visuals is bothersome, and I worry that either there won’t be enough content to keep the game interesting for a long time, or that in order to make the game last longer they’ll ramp up the difficulty to a point that it isn’t fun.  I like hard platformers, but impressions have said that Cuphead difficulty is borderline insane.  Regardless, I can’t look at a gif of this game and not get excited for it.  The visuals are so incredible that in the end the gameplay only needs to be serviceable.


Cyberpunk 2077
CD Projekt RED
Publisher: CD Projeky RED
Platforms: PC (Presumably PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)
Release Date: TBA

I know Cyberpunk won’t come out in 2016.  However, there was a rumor about it lately, and that is enough of an excuse for me to talk about this game.  There is no announced game that I am more interested in seeing more of than Cyberpunk 2077.  We know very little about the details of this game, but everything around the periphery gets me excited.  First of all, it is a Cyberpunk RPG.  Cyberpunk settings are probably my favorite, and outside of Deus Ex I can’t think of a modern AAA game that tackles the setting and does it well.   The one trailer we have seen sets a great tone for this game.  But what really excites me and most people about this game is the pedigree behind it.  CD Projekt RED is coming off of The Witcher 3 winning a bunch of Game of the Year awards, and there have been developers from the studio talking about how Cyberpunk is going to be an even more ambitious game.  Those guys are great at creating dense worlds, and I can’t wait to get lost in a believable Cyberpunk world for weeks.  They have also brought on Mike Pondsmith, the writer of the table-top games this is based on, to help form the world and story of this game.  Cyberpunk 2077 will not release in 2016, but it is still my most anticipated game this year.  I am anticipating seeing the first footage for this game.  I am anticipating the announcement that it is coming to consoles (please do).  I am putting unreasonable hopes on this game that it can never live up to, but this has the potential to be everything I want out of an RPG.  I can’t wait until it finally releases in 2018.

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