Another year has passed us by, and another set of calendars went to the bin — unless you got one of those special ones that features January of the next year as well. So hello there, 2015. If memes circulated on Facebook are anything to go by, the most pertinent question to be asked is ‘Where’s my hoverboard?’, since Back to the Future 2 made some pretty far-out predictions about life in the year we now live in.
Let’s have a look at what the year may offer where gaming is concerned. For one thing, virtual reality is expected to become more of a household phenomenon, considering that the consumer version of the highly hyped Oculus Rift headset is expected to drop some time in the next 12 months. Maybe we can’t reach Back to the Future, but we can certainly give Demolition Man a shot. Of course, family members all over are going to have even less chance of getting the attention of the gamers in the house now.
In other areas, experimental games ought to jostle their way even further into public consciousness. No longer are they herded into the weirdo category and dismissed as obtuse puff pieces — nowadays, they can get widespread critical acclaim if implemented smartly. Titles like Eidolon, Dear Esther and Proteus, with their lack of reliance on clear gaming mechanics, were dubbed ‘walking simulators’ , and with others like Tangiers, Firewatch, and The Witness set to come out this year, it looks like there’s miles to go before we sleep.
Telltale Games, with their mixture of interactive storytelling and basic gameplay, seem to have carved out quite a niche for themselves by now. While their earlier efforts at episodic content with Lucasarts classics like Sam & Max and Monkey Island were well received, their star really got a helium injection once they started piggybacking on popular shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (GoT) at the right time. We’ve got some GoT, as well as Tales from the Borderlands set to drop in 2015, and it’ll be interesting to see if they grab a couple of new franchises on the way.
A shout out to Avalanche Studios as this year could see us snowbound by the awesomeness of Mad Max and Just Cause 3, which should feature enough vehicular carnage between the two of them to fill a scrapyard the size of Panau.
Now that Dark Souls is a monumental game is a fact. Any dissent on that topic shall be met with a disapproving look on my part. It’s certainly undeniable that the game has left its mark on the scene, with several swords-and-sorcery pretenders being described as ‘This is Blahblah plus Dark Souls’. In that respect, 2015 will be no different, except that one of the main exhibits, Bloodborne, is a spiritual followup from Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki, trading the forlorn medieval settings of Lordran and Drangleic for a Victorian London feel, but keeping most of the other series staples in place. Besides that, we’ve got some lo-fi RPG adventures in the form of Eitr and Titan Souls, which claim to have Dark Souls DNA in the way they approach their combat and boss fights. Will this be as successful as the time Hammond took dinosaur DNA from a mosquito and made Jurassic Park? We shall see.
More RPGs await in the form of Kickstarter darlings Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Now that the crowdfunding honeymoon is over and we’ve progressed to being annoyed that the toilet seat is left down, it’s time to see whether there’s new treasure on the horizon, or whether we’ve just been baited by 90s nostalgia and empty promises. Hope is a cruel mistress sometimes.
Most importantly, this is the year when the sequel to the legendary Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is released. The six-year old mashup of JRPG and Basketball remains a cult classic to this day, and we’ll have to see whether any of the infectious insanity is lost due to the sequel’s transformation into a top-down shooter.
Of course, the usual AAA suspects will release their annual big-budget titles, but you don’t need any updates on those, just wait for the marketing big-wheeler to run you over. Here’s to a rewarding 2015, and may the force feedback be with you.