Friday, January 20, 2012

My Top 10 Upcoming Games For 2012

I've already gone over my favorite games of 2011, and now (in keeping with tradition) I've decided to list my top 10 upcoming video games that are scheduled for release in 2012. Keep in mind that all dates are tentative. Very few of these games even have set release dates (only two to be precise) and you never even know what could happen with those, let alone the ones that are just "2012" or something similarly vague. It is more than likely that several of these games will wind up getting pushed back into 2013, but for the purpose of this list I'm using games that as of right now (January 2012) are supposed to be coming out sometime this year. Also keep in mind that the world is going to end in December, so if you decide to get/play any of these games set your schedule up to have adequate play time before that happens. You're welcome.

10. South Park: The Game - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - "Second-half" of 2012
I am excited for this game, but with some major reservations. Don't get me wrong, I love South Park. It's definitely one of my favorite TV shows of all-time. What I'm worried about is whether or not the game will stay true to the South Park spirit, and more importantly whether or not it will be a good game. It's an RPG, which is an interesting format for a South Park game, and so far it looks like Obsidian (the company developing the game) is going about making it the right way. But Obsidian does not have my full confidence: they've made some okay games based on other people's game engines (Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas), but they've also made some pretty bad games when using their own tech (Alpha Protocol). Overall I'd say their history of game development over the past few years has been mediocre at best. Hopefully Obsidian will knock this one out of the park, but for now I'm (very) cautiously optimistic.

9. Tomb Raider - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - Third Quarter (Fall) 2012

I've never been a huge Tomb Raider fan, but I appreciate the franchise for the impact it's had on gaming, and from what I've seen of this reboot so far it looks awesome (mainly the preview they showed at last year's E3). It looks a lot more like a survival-horror game (think Resident Evil-ish) than your normal Tomb Raider game, which I think is a great direction to take a franchise that has gotten pretty stale in recent years. The game features a much younger Lara Croft who is just getting started on her tomb raiding career, and the preview they showed was very gritty and downright scary at some parts. We'll see if they can keep that up for the course of a whole game and not just one 10 minute demo, but if they can it will make for one hell of an action/adventure/survival-horror game.

8. Journey - PS3 (via PSN) - Spring 2012

Journey is a semi-indie game from the makers of the indie hit Flower, which (like Journey will be) is only available on the PS3 by downloading it from the PSN. While there's still a lot of mystery about this game, it seems like it's a third person adventure game with a very cool art style (see the picture above - that's actually a screenshot from the game). You are making a journey through a massive desert to reach something at the end, and along the way you'll encounter puzzles, obstacles, and even other players. There's an interesting co-op feature where you will occasionally randomly come across other players in the same area as you. You cannot connect with your friends or even use any kind of voice chat or text chat, but (if you like) you and this other random player can try to figure out a way to help each other with some of the puzzles in the world. This game will probably only be a few hours long, seeing as how it's a downloadable game, but that also means that it will probably only cost around $15.

7. Borderlands 2 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - End of 2012/Beginning of 2013

Borderlands was a game that was great if you were playing with two or three of your friends and you were all almost exactly the same level. That being said, it had some problems too. Hopefully Borderlands 2 will keep the good things from the first game and fix most (if not all) of the problems. From what they've revealed and what I've heard so far things are looking pretty good though. Either way, assuming you have a couple of friends that will be picking this up too, a good time is all but guaranteed. Plus, I would pay $60 just to hear Claptrap talk for like 20 hours. Nice.

6. Guild Wars 2 - PC - 2012

As I've stated before I'm not usually a big MMO fan (besides my current obsession with Old Republic), but this game looks like it's really trying to innovate in the MMO genre, perhaps even more so than Old Republic has. Besides just the graphics and gameplay looking really nice, this game looks like it will be taking interactive storytelling to the next level for an MMO. Choices you make during missions not only affect your own story down the line (like Old Republic), but they can also affect entire areas around you. For example, while you're in town someone (a computer controlled character) might run up to you and beg for your help: his village is about to be attacked by goblins and they won't be able to fight them off. The goblins are almost ready to attack but his village is the next one over, so if you hurry you may be able to make it in time to drive them off. But if you choose not to go, the village can actually be taken over by the goblins, meaning that you and other players will have to fight them off before you can rest there, use shops, turn in quests, etc. If that game mechanic works the way it's supposed to it will make Guild Wars 2 incredibly interesting to play. Also, with Guild Wars 2 there is no monthly subscription fee. You pay the $50-$60 up front for the game but then you never have to pay again to play it. Subscription fees stop a lot of people from playing MMOs, so the fact that this doesn't have one means you'll probably get a lot of people buying the game who don't normally play MMOs (like myself).

5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - February 7

This is the game that's being made by famous MLB pitcher Curt Schilling and a bunch of other "big names". Besides Schilling, who's the head and founder of 38 Studios (the company developing the game), he's recruited R.A. Salvatore (one of my favorite fantasy authors from back when I used to know how to read) to write the story and the lore for the world (Amalur); Ken Rolston, who's claim to fame is being the lead designer of both Morrowind and Oblivion, and Todd McFarlane (who worked for Marvel and created the comic series Spawn) to be in charge of the art style. As far as fantasy video games go that just about as close as you can get to a star studded cast. Besides all the hype, what I've seen from the game does look very cool and promising, so I'm definitely excited for this one.

4. Diablo III - PC, Mac; Possibly Xbox and/or PS3 - 2012

I've only played a little Diablo in the past, but the quality of Blizzard's games makes anything they put out command attention, and Diablo (like all of Blizzard's other current franchises) has been beloved for decades. Diablo III looks like it will be no different in terms of quality and addictive hack and slash fun. A lot of the new ideas they're implementing seem pretty interesting and will most likely raise the bar for the hack and slash/RPG genre. It also seems that as time has gone on Blizzard has become more and more interested in telling a good story in their games (StarCraft II being a great example), and I would expect Diablo III to keep pushing forward with that.

Also, while this game is obviously coming to PC, there's been a lot of talk recently that Blizzard might be making it for consoles as well. Blizzard has admitted they've been looking into the possibility of making it for consoles, but beyond that it's all rumors and hearsay. So as of right now no one knows for sure whether it'll also be coming to Xbox, PS3, or both.

3. BioShock Infinite - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - 2012

Coming from the makers of the universally acclaimed BioShock (not BioShock 2, which was created by another developer), BioShock Infinite leaves behind the dark, damp hallways of Rapture and takes us to a literal city in the clouds: Columbia. Not only are the storytelling and characters guaranteed to be top notch, the atmosphere of the game, although much different from past BioShocks, seems like it will be just as intriguing as the first game. The gameplay also looks fast paced and like it will be a lot of fun. I've seen numerous interviews about the ideas behind this game and the direction they wanted to go in (including a live discussion with Ken Levine and some of the development team at last year's PAX East), and every time I get more details this game just gets more and more fantastic looking. Definitely can't wait for this one.

2. StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - PC, Mac - 2012 (maybe)

There's no definite release time frame for this game yet, and while Blizzard has said it will be out sometime this year I wouldn't be surprised to see it get pushed back into 2013. Even if it does come out this year it will most likely be at the end of the year. Even so, I am still extremely excited for the next chapter in the StarCraft saga. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (the Terran campaign) blew me away and consumed a lot of my time in 2010/2011. Most of this was time playing the online multiplayer, but the single player campaign was also fun and very well made, which is something you don't often find in a RTS. My hopes are that not only will Heart of the Swarm (which will be the Zerg campaign) match the quality of Wings of Liberty but will even exceed it. To be honest, although I'm very excited for this game, the one I'm really waiting for is Legacy of the Void, which (as of right now) is the name for the Protoss campaign that will be the final one released. But that is still years away, so the Zerg will have to keep me busy until then.

1. Mass Effect 3 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC - March 6

Mass Effect 2 was my favorite game of 2010, and now Mass Effect 3 is my most anticipated game of 2012. That's not a coincidence. I really enjoyed the first Mass Effect, but Mass Effect 2 really set a new standard for cinematic action/RPG games. The RPG elements were present but not complicated or intrusive enough to have to spend hours learning the rules and sorting your inventory, and the action was smooth, visceral, and satisfying. Those two elements, combined with a great story and superb characters combined to make one of my favorite games of all-time, and each of these elements should be even better in Mass Effect 3. If that is indeed what happens, then this game would (in my mind) have to be the best game of this console generation (which will probably be coming to an end in another year or two). The expectations (at least mine) are ridiculously high, so this game has a lot to live up to. And that could very well be its downfall. But I have faith that the people at Bioware will end the story of Commander Shepard and the Reaper invasion with a proper farewell. Commander Shepard and his team aboard the Normandy deserve no less.

With any luck, 2012 should be another great year for video gaming enthusiasts (which I'm assuming you are if you actually read this far into this post). When I look back at My Top 11 Upcoming Games For 2011, there were definitely several disappointments. Brink, Duke Nukem Forever, Dragon Age II, and Rage turned out to be letdowns, and while Battlefield 3 was decent it wasn't exactly the revolutionary modern war shooter I was hoping for. But there were some great games that more than made up for the bad ones. There's a good chance that one or more of the games on this list won't live up to the hype, but overall I'm convinced that 2012 will have at least a few gems (especially games number 1-4 on this list).

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