2016 Preview Day Seven (The Division – Zero Time Dilema)

We are here at last.  The seventh and final day of my 2016 preview is finally here.  Despite being incredibly daunting and time consuming, I really enjoyed this feature.  If I give myself more time to plan, I might do a similar thing next year.  This list of seventy games is a good snapshot of what the gaming landscape might look like in 2016.  Needless to say, it looks pretty great.  The new consoles have started to hit their stride, and I have already played two fantastic games this year.  The gaming landscape is also diverse right now, with something to fill every niche.  I now look forward to moving into more normal coverage.  But until then, enjoy Day Seven.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division
Developer: 
Ubisoft Massive
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: March 8, 2016

I played a little bit of the beta for The Division last week, and I don’t know what to think about it.  There are things I like.  I think that they have created a beautiful world, and although New York and post-apocalypse are both overused settings, I still thought their own interpretation of these things was unique.  It also seems somewhat deep in the RPG mechanics.  There are a lot of skill trees, equipment slots, and things not even available in the beta.  The loot fell at what seemed to be a pretty fair rate too.  The battlefield was never covered in guns, but you typically got at least one drop per shootout.  The encounters were enjoyable, with well designed cover placement and satisfying shooting mechanics.  Some people were complaining about bullet sponge enemies, but that’s the kind of game this is.  You can use the same argument against something like Borderlands or Destiny.  When you bring the RPG formula to a different framework, you keep everything that made the genre what it is.  That includes enemies that take a fair amount of hits.  I do get the criticism that The Division has guys in hoodies that require twenty bullets to take down, but you have to suspend disbelief in games like these.  I also think that the Dark Zone has some potential.  I think there is way too much downtime in that mode, but the moments where you are at the evac are intense.  If they make it worth it to participate in that mode and lessen the downtime, they might be on to something special.  And despite all of this praise I am heaping on the game, I still can’t manage to care about it.  Their early attempts at story seem awful so far.  The sidequests in the world seem uninspired.  In fact, I think that is the word that best encompasses The Division.  Uninspired.  It is technically a great game with a lot of great systems, but I think I need more than that to really get invested into a game.  This feels like the AAA equivalent of an exploitative mobile game.  It is designed with the intentions of getting its hooks in you.  It is designed to be addictive, and there is something that I really don’t like about that.  However, you can close car doors, and that will always be cool.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 26, 2016

I could talk for days about Uncharted 4.  In my opinion, Naughty Dog is the best developer in the industry and they keep getting better with every game.  Every thing about Uncharted 4 has me excited.  The level design looks much more open this time around, the shooting in the multiplayer beta felt great, and it might be the best looking video game I have seen.  But the best part about Uncharted 4 is that it is supposed to be the last game in the series.  An important thing to me with games is finality.  Very few franchises come to a planned end.  Often times they end when they stop selling.  However, Uncharted 4 will probably outsell the previous games in the series.  But Sony is still letting Naughty Dog move on to other things.  This is great, because we will get closure on the franchise and the characters.  After the ending to The Last of Us, I trust Neil Druckman to write a satisfying conclusion to a game.  I hope that Uncharted 4 provides a satisfying conclusion to a series.  I hope that the series ends for creative reasons and not financial ones.  I hope that Naughty Dog can pull off what so many developers fail to do.  I have a ton of faith in this game but am also incredibly nervous about it.  I just want it to be good so bad that the thought of it under delivering is devastating to me.  Uncharted is probably my favorite modern franchise, so I hope the final game delivers.

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Unravel
Developer: 
ColdWood Interactive
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: February 9, 2016

Unravel is a very charming game.  Yarny is an adorable character and the guy presenting the game at E3 last year was endearing.  Now with that out of the way, I am challenging myself to not use the words charming, adorable, or endearing for the rest of this write up.  Unravel is a great looking game.  The environments and the character are both incredible striking and well animated.  There also appears to be a fair amount of visual diversity judging by what we have seen so far.  It is also great to see EA publishing a game like this.  I hope that this and Mirror’s Edge so well in order to inspire EA to continue funding unique games.  But while I will be supporting Mirror’s Edge as soon as I can, I am not sold on Unravel yet.  The platforming reminds me of LittleBigPlanet, which is not a good thing.  It just looks very floaty and slow.  I am also kind of tired of this type of puzzle platformer.  I think using the yarn to interact with environment changes things up a bit, but not necessarily enough.  I also think that despite the visual style trying to evoke an emotional response, the game won’t have that engaging of a story.  I hope Unravel proves me wrong, because I want this game to be good.  I just don’t think it will be.

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Valkyria: Azure Revolution
Developer: 
Media.Vision
Publisher: Sega
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA 2016 (Japan)

Valkyria: Azure Revolution is not even confirmed for western launch yet, but I do not care and am including it anyway.  I am just thrilled that Sega has been dedicated recently to bring back the Valkyria franchise.  They ported the original Valkyria Chronicles to PC in 2013 and are bringing it to PS4 this spring.  Valkyria Chronicles was a fantastic game, and it is a shame that the series was then relegated to the PSP and then further relegated to the PSP in Japan only.  However, it might be making a comeback in the west after gaining a cult classic in the years since the first game launched.  Azure Revolution plays differently than the Chronicles game.  It is more of an RPG whereas the earlier games in the franchise were primarily strategy games.  However, it still has the sense of style and the setting that made the first game great.  We don’t know too much about this game yet and we will definitely not get it this year in the west, but I am just happy to see a new commitment to this franchise.

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Wattam
Developer: 
Funomena
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA 2016

Keita Takahashi is one weird dude.  And I’m not just talking about the games he makes.  Go and watch the announcement of Wattam at PSX 2014 if you don’t believe me.  He holds a spoon and spins in a circle while Robin Hunicke announces the game.  However, he is weird in a gleeful, childish way.  This comes across in his games too.  Katamari Damacy is a fantastic game.  It takes place in a bizarre universe and introduces a unique gameplay hook.  Noby Noby Boy is less fantastic, but it still has the charm that Katamari had.  Wattam has that charm and then some.  The game involves a bunch of household objects, such as a mug, a toilet, and a boombox interacting with each other, making towers, and exploding.  All of these objects have names above their end.  But these aren’t crazy, video game names.  These are just everyday names like Steve.  I don’t know exactly what Wattam is, but I love it.  I love Keita Takahashi and am willing to support whatever crazy idea that guy comes up with.  He and his games are a joyous presence in the video game industry.

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We Happy Few
Developer: 
Compulsion Games
Publisher: Compulsion Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: June 2016

We Happy Few has its style down.  Taking clear influences from Bioshock, this game takes place in a very messed up world where people are wearing masks all of the time.  You are in a fairly run down city trying to survive.  That sounds like a great set up for a game.  Somewhat of a horror game with an intriguing world and a story that moves you along is an easy pitch.  But We Happy Few is a roguelike.  I’m still not entirely sure how that works.  That seems to be antithetical to everything the original trailer showed about this game.  It makes me think that they are not trying to make the game I thought they were making.  It is possible that they are just taking all these great art assets and using them to make a survival roguelike.  Roguelikes are popular, and people stick with them for a long time.  I understand why they would do this, and I still hope that this game can provide what I want.  I am just not in the market for this type of roguelike.

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What Remains of Edith Finch
Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: TBA 2016

The Unfinished Swan was a really cool game with a bunch of creative ideas.  After playing that game, myself and many others saw great potential in Giant Sparrow.  The three game deal they signed drew comparisons to thatgamecompany, and the first game of that deal lived up to those expectations.  We finally got to see game two at PSX 2014.  What Remains of Edith Finch is the story of a cursed family.  The game has you live through the last moments of all these family members who died.  The protagonist is the last remaining member of this family, Edith Finch.  There is a great set up for an intriguing mystery here, and I hope the game delivers on that.  However, all of my expectations were thrown out the window when gameplay was shown at Paris Games Week.  The gameplay in question showed you playing as different animals.  For instance, you played as a shark rolling down a hill and some type of sea monster attacking a boat.  That is not what I expected from this game.  I expected something serious, but this seemed goofy.  It was still awesome though, just not in the way I thought it would be.  This game confuses me, but I have faith in the developers to do something creative with it.

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XCOM 2
Developer: 
Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: February 5, 2016

Much like The Witness, XCOM 2 is a game I’m already playing as I write this.  I was a big fan of 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown and have been a Firaxis fan for a long time.  Enemy Unknown was a great re-imagining of a classic strategy franchise and XCOM 2 is so far a fantastic sequel.  It keeps the same basic structure of field tactics and base building but changes the formula for the better.  When I first heard about the turn limits on missions, I thought that was a terrible idea.  In the previous game I would never dash and would always overwatch.  XCOM 2 is causing me to change my strategy, but I am okay with that.  It is a different game, and it has mechanical changes that fit the turn limits.  The big one is concealment.  You no longer have to worry about running up on an enemy that you can’t see.  You are now invisible to enemies until you enter certain areas.  This encourages dashing on you initial few turns to get to the middle of the battle.  All of this feels tonally consistent with the resistance angle the story takes.  A guerrilla force would wage a fast, scrappy war as opposed to the more stoic pace that a larger, organized military would.  XCOM 2 is hard too.  I have already had 4 soldiers die and 2 captured by the enemy.  I consider myself pretty good at XCOM and am only playing the game on normal.  But the game has its hooks in me and I am enjoying getting my butt kicked.  Every time I have a bad mission, I just want to get back out there and do better the next time.

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Yooka-Laylee
Developer: 
Playtonic Games
Publisher: Playtonic Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U
Release Date: October 2016

There is a part of me that is happy we don’t live in a world were 3D Rare platformers dominate the market.  I find the collectathon nature of those games tiring and the platforming not nearly as engaging as most 2D games.  With all of that said, I am completely down with Yooka-Laylee.  There are a few reasons for this.  The first is that this is a feel good game.  Despite some great games early on, Microsoft eventually stripped Rare down and turn them into an avatar factory.  Now, a lot of the people who worked at Rare during their heyday have come together to make a game that is very much a throwback to the N64 era of 3D platformer.  The other reason that I am excited for this game is that we don’t get many games like it any more.  I think this is a good thing.  I don’t think this is one of the stronger genres in the gaming industry.  And the rarity of 3D platformers makes every good one an exciting thing.  If there were five games like this coming out this year, Yooka-Laylee wouldn’t be a blip on my radar.  But with the genre being somewhat dead, Yooka-Laylee is a breath of fresh air.  I am not expecting great things from this game.  However, I am expecting a refreshing change of pace.

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Zero Time Dilema
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: Q2/Q3 2016

The last entry on this list might be the shortest one.  The reason is that I don’t know a whole lot about the Zero Escape series.  I know that they are visual novels with some horror themes that are very well received.  Everything I have heard about multiple endings and thematic writing makes this franchise seem both insane and intense.  Once I started to get a sense of this, I stopped reading about the series.  I know next to nothing because I don’t want to know anything until I play the games.  I don’t have a DS with me at the moment, so I have to wait to play 999.  However, I said during my Danganronpa entry that I plan on trying some visual novels this year.  The Zero Escape series is on the top of that list thanks to countless glowing recommendations.

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