Sunday, 30 January 2011

2011: A Year For Games?

I’ve played computer games for a long time. My first ‘system’ was an Amstrad with cassettes that took 30 minutes to load. Since then, I’ve had a Megadrive, Playstation, PS2 and PS3. That said, I’m a pretty casual gamer and don’t play (or buy) tons of games.

The recent(ish) sci-fi and fantasy games I’ve got for the PS3 include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dragon Age: Origins, Fallout 3 and God of War 3.

Anyway, I thought, as it’s January, it’d be a good time to look ahead and see what games are coming out this year and when. I try to look into games quite carefully before buying, particularly as I don’t get that many and loathe buying a game only to discover it’s about as much fun as accidentally eating a whole box of laxative chocolates.

After the natural deluge of games in the run up to Christmas, January’s a bit of a quiet month. However, it did see the release of Mass Effect 2 for the PS3 [no Mass Effect though]. The game is very highly rated, and features an initial comic strip whereby you make the decisions that would’ve occurred in Mass Effect and which affect ME2 [akin to Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2].

I’d be very tempted by ME2, were it not for the fact that I’m a big Dragon Age fan and DA2 is coming out in the first half of March. So, I’ve decided to buy that straight away, and if ME2 goes platinum I might come back for it.

DA2 takes place in the same world as its predecessor, but in a not-too-distant part. Instead of the nation-state of Ferelden, the action mostly happens in Kirkwall, a city in the Free Marches (think Greek city-states meets medieval England). There’s still character creation, but this time you must be a human (surnamed Hawke), though the class and gender options remain. Male Hawke (preset as Garrett) is voiced by the chap who did the splendidly evil Vaughn Kendalls, son of the Arl of Denerim, in DA:O. Lady Hawke’s VA is yet to be announced, but, sadly, I think the rumours of it being Brian Blessed are false.

The combat is a bit different (faster, basically) and skill trees look to have been improved and made more like a web rather than a linear set of paths. Game length is between Origins and Awakenings (an Origins expansion) and is perhaps 20-30 hours or so. I’m really rather looking forward to it, and will post a review when I can.

March also sees the releases of Knights Contract. The two central characters are a witch-slayer called Heinrich and Gretchen, the reincarnation of a witch he previously slew. The twist is that the witch cursed Heinrich with immortality, and he must protect Gretchen as she (and thus he) do battle with assorted vile monsters let loose upon the world by the main antagonist. It’s an adventure game, and it’s not yet clear whether you play only as Heinrich, or both, or if there’s a multiplayer option. Sounds quite good, though with the closeness of its release to DA2 it’s not one I’ll buy immediately.

Later in the year, possibly June, comes Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. It’s a classic fantasy with the adrenaline-pumping action of a modern day shooter, with dungeon crawling featuring a foxy archeress and a predictably hulking swordsman (E’lara and Caddoc respectively). From the sounds of it, there will be co-op play, whether with an AI or other player (sounds similar to Uncharted or Red Alert 3) and you can switch between playing as either protagonist. An intriguing addition is The Crucible: a level editor with which you can create and share your own, er, levels. I think the last game I had with one of those was Tenchu III, and if it’s anything like as user-friendly and enjoyable to create and play it’ll be a fantastic extra.

November sees the release of a dead cert bestselling RPG, namely Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Its predecessor, Oblivion, had many good, and some bad, features and sold by the ton. I loved the free-roaming though the levelling system was not to my liking (Fallout 3’s was much better). There’s very little information out right now, save the title, which clearly suggests that it takes place in the land of the Nords, and a little teaser video which features a prophecy about dragons on the rampage. I look forward to finding out more about it, and suspect I’ll end up getting it.

Anyway, those are a few that stand out for me in the year ahead.


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