Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Big Ones

Dragon Age 2

Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 8th March 2011 (NA), 11th March 2011 (EU)

The sequel to 2009's Dragon Age: Origins which I have to admit to still not finishing yet (soon!).

The first was well-received in that it was your typical fantasy affair coupled with BioWare's always-strong storytelling and after a straight-up expansion - Awakening - was released in March 2010, a true sequel was nigh-inevitable.

While the first game allowed you to customise your race and class (hence the Origins) the sequel allows only one playable character, known as Hawke.  You can still change the sex (I assume "as much as possible" will be a choice, if it's anything like the first game) and the class, but your humanity is compulsory.

As with the Mass Effect series you will be able to import your world from DA:O into DA2.  Obviously your character cannot carry over, but the state of the game world can, including "dozens" of decisions you made in the original game, according to BioWare.

BioWare look to be trying to deliver a bit more of a focused gaming experience with the sequel, at the cost of losing some of the open-world allure from the first game.  The second seems like it will be a much more narrative-driven game than the first.  Whether this is exactly what people want I'm not sure, as one of the hallmarks of a BioWare game is usually a vast open world / universe that you can explore as much or as little as you want.

Either way, there isn't a very long wait to find out whether or not this was a good design choice.  Usually everything BioWare touches turns to gold but for some reason I'm on the fence with regards to DA2.  Maybe it's just sequelitus setting in as I see all of these 2s and 3s floating around at the end of game titles.

Dead Space 2

Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Expected: 25h January 2011

A straight sequel to 2008's survival-horror-sci-fi third-person shooter Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is back to beat the shit out of more Necromorphs.

The first game received solid reviews, perhaps partially because at this point zombies had been done to death in games too numerous to count and this seemed to be a fresh take on the survival-horror genre, as well as a change of scenery to move it into outer space from plain old Earth.

One of the most-voiced criticisms of the first game was that some of the gameplay and the monsters got somewhat repetitive and so hopefully these issues will be addressed in the sequel.  This did not detract from the atmosphere, pace and quality of the first game.  With luck, Dead Space 2 will be one of those types of sequels that improves upon the original game whilst maintaining what made the original game fun in the first place.


Developer: Splash Damage
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Expected: Spring 2011

Yes, you knew it was coming.  Originally in part 2 of last year's list but pushed back by Splash Damage shortly before the proposed release date of the arse-end of last year, Brink should now be appearing around the Spring of 2011.

Essentially everything I said about the game last year is still true now.  Brink is trying to combine online and offline play is a way that has not been done before, or at least not with any great success.  You have Security on one side and the Resistance on the other, and while parts of the story are revealed playing one side, you will need to play both in order to get the most out of both the game and the story.

Unfortunately it is looking right now that 8v8 is going to be the largest denomination of gameplay available.  I would prefer to see it higher (16v16 in TF2 Dustbowl is where it's at) but it's possible that the game would not scale well higher than 8v8, or that 8v8 might be player-moddable once the game is actually released.

Brink remains one of those truly innovative games that are trying to not only appeal to traditional shooter fans (and let's face it, there are a lot of them) but is really trying to push the genre as a whole forward with some very different ideas.  How many times have we seen a game be a critical success but a commercial flop?  Too many to count.  I really hope Brink is not one of those games.


Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Expected: 13th September 2011 (NA), 15th September 2011 (EU), 16th September 2011 (AUS)

The other game from last year's list that received a subsequent delay, Rage is now on-track for an Autumn release.

id and Bethesda are still keeping much of the details regarding Rage firmly locked down, and there isn't a whole heck of a lot that we know now that we didn't know when I was writing the last Rage post a year ago.

One new thing known is that the multiplayer component of Rage will not be using dedicated servers, as many PC fans were hoping.  Instead there will be console-style matchmaking, with all of the negative connotations that that implies.  It's disappointing coming from id, who are such a PC-centric developer, but is perhaps a sign of the times that the PC is not the domineering force in gaming that it once was (although it's far from being terrible, either).

This issue won't affect the singleplayer campaign (obviously) which for all we know will be the strongest facet of the game anyway.

Still, it's a long wait to next September.  With luck we'll see more information coming out of id as we get closer to the game's release.

Diablo III

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Expected: Q4 2011

Saving the best till last?  Possibly, as D3 is one of those games that will get any Blizzard fanboi salivating into their boots at the mere mention of its name.

In development for approximately five hundred years, we will hopefully get our sweaty hands on it next Holiday season if the Blizzard leaked roadmap is even remotely accurate.

I can't say as I played the first game, or even the second.  That entire fad seemed to pass me by.  Speaking as a disinterested observer though, I'm as much of a fan of the hack-and-slash genre that I can recognise when it's done well, and Diablo III looks like it's doing a lot right.

All five character classes are now known: the Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter and the Barbarian.  Each will have approximately twenty skills available but you'll only be able to have seven equipped at any one time, so you will need to pick and choose which skills you want to have on hand.  Runes can also be used to augment certain skills, so you could make your Whirlwind cost less mana to cast, or have your Disintegrate spell do more damage, for example.  Lower runes will be findable in the world, higher-level runes will require you to craft them, no doubt from difficult-to-obtain materials.

Blizzard don't exactly seem to be reinventing the wheel here but are instead playing to their strengths.  There seems to be enough sprinkling of new, coupled with what everyone is used to and familiar with from the original games (particularly Diablo II) for D3 to be a success.  The only question is, will Blizzard actually stick to their own schedule of trying to release it in 2011 or will it instead slip to 2012?

Well I hope you enjoyed my wrap-up of what looks good for 2011.  No doubt most of them will announce delays very shortly after I publish this post.

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