Monday, December 31, 2012

Upcoming Games Of 2013 - Part 1

It's time for my annual round-up of the best-looking PC games that (in theory) should be gracing store shelves in 2013.

First out of the gate...

Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Expected: 26th March 2013

The third game in the BioShock series, BioShock Infinite is one of the most anticipated titles scheduled to be released in 2013.  Originally slated to be released in October 2012, Irrational initially pushed the game back to February 2013 before announcing a further short delay to March 2013 just a few weeks ago.

Whilst BioShock 2 was a direct sequel to the original BioShock, Irrational were not extensively involved in BioShock 2's development, so this will be their first release since the original game.  It is not a direct sequel (or actually prequel, since it is set in an earlier time period), but Infinite's lead designer Ken Levine has said that he considers "BioShock" to be more of a method of giving the playing multiple tools to solve objectives in a fantastic setting, rather than being tied to a specific storyline or set of individuals.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former federal agent turned private detective, who is hired to locate a woman known as Elizabeth said to be captive aboard a floating city known as Columbia.  This technological marvel was originally built by the United States government to be a showcase of its artistic and scientific excellence, but which over time turned into something quite different, before being lost entirely.  Your employers give you the location of Columbia and the means to get aboard, but stress that the rest is down to you.

Since the game is set in 1912 then expect a fantasy steampunk setting, coupled with an assortment of weapons and unlockable "magical" abilities.  In the original BioShock these were known as "plasmids", but in Infinite are called "vigors".  All I know is that if Infinite is half as good as the original BioShock then it will be a game I would be willing to break my (right) arm off to play.

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Expected: 12th March 2013

The second installment of StarCraft II (following 2010's Wings of Liberty), Heart of the Swarm will concentrate on the zerg race, but will include smaller changes for both the Terrans and Protoss.

The plot is said to concentrate around Sarah Kerrigan and her issues in attempting to lead the zerg following the events of Wings of Liberty.  With Wings of Liberty being almost universally acclaimed (it has a current rating of 93 on Metacritic, one of the highest-rated PC games of all time) then the pressure is on Blizzard to retain their traditionally high production values whilst bringing worthwhile changes and modifications to the game.  Following the mixed reception to Diablo III earlier this year, Blizzard may feel they have more to prove than usual.

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Expected: 5th March 2013

Based on the Comedy Central TV show, everyone's favourite fourth-graders are getting their own triple-A RPG, based on the South Park episode "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers" (which you can watch online here at the official South Park Studios site).  There have been several other South Park games in previous years, of unfortunately quite variable quality, and this will be the first made by a major studio.  Obsidian are on shaky ground with me for the very average Alpha Protocol from 2010, so hopefully this will be (much) better than that.

THQ have been having some financial issues recently, which led to them filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.  This isn't expected to affect their day-to-day operations, but you never can tell for sure until the ink is dry on deals like this.  The game itself looks to have captured the 2D art style of the show, and some of the brief periods of gameplay that I've seen has looked very interesting and reminiscent of a normal episode.  Hopefully the financial issues do not affect its release to any great extent, and the game comes out as scheduled.

Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: ZeniMax Online Studios
Expected: 2H 2013

Based on the Elder Scrolls games that first saw the light of day almost twenty years ago, TESO is Bethesda's first foray into the MMO genre in an attempt to bring several single-player games into an MMO universe in a similar way that Blizzard brought World of Warcraft into being on the back of several Warcraft games.

TESO is set a thousand years before The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the most recent release and, coincidentally, one of the highest-rated games of the entire series.  Not a great deal is known about the game right now, other than it will have three factions (which for me is an underused mechanic that I am very much in favour of), each containing three races: Daggerfall Covenant (Breton humans, Redguard humans, and Orcs); Ebonheart Pact (Nord humans, Dark Elves, and Argonians [reptilian humanoids]); and the Aldmeri Dominion (High Elves, Wood Elves, and the Khajiit [feline humanoids]).  There will be player classes, but none have yet been revealed.

The game's director, Matt Firor, was previously heavily involved in Dark Age of Camelot, a highly-regarded MMO released by Mythic in 2001, so I am hopeful that his pedigree will elevate TESO into more than just a cheap tie-in to Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim.  Beta sign-ups are expected to go up shortly and "2013" is all Bethesda will say when pressed for a release date.

That's all for now; be sure to check out part two in a few days time.

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