2011 is fast approaching and one thing I always look forward are the game releases during the year. I’ve been looking forward to putting this list together and sharing it with people. In comparison to 2010, next year looks more exciting. Where 2010 had the great releases of Mass Effect 2 and Rock Band 3, next year easily has six games I’m already itching for as well as a handful of games that have certainly piqued my interest. Let’s get to the list.
1) Star Wars: The Old Republic
Anyone who has been following me in the last year knows that SW:TOR is something I highly anticipate. Some people have lamented that this game isn’t going to be very good and spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about it. The sheer desire of a good Star Wars game brings out an absurd level of expectation and negativity from people with specific desires naturally follows. With each news release, people have spent a good amount of time complaining about the graphics, the gameplay, the lack of free roaming space combat and a myriad of other perceived problems.
The only thing I can say to these complaints is this; if you’ve enjoyed Bioware’s other titles as I have, SW:TOR is likely going to be fun. If you’re looking for anything else, you’re going to be disappointed. This is not going to be an X-Wing/TIE Fighter game any more than it’s going to be a rehash of the Jedi Knight series. It’s going to be a storyline based MMO in the tradition of Knights of the Old Republic. I really liked that game and can’t wait to see what they do with this one.
2) Guild Wars 2
Ever since Lord of the Rings Online went free to play, I’ve been looking for a good replacement. Guild Wars 2 may just be the ticket. First of all, it is unique in that you buy the game once. There are no subscription fees. That in itself is unusual in the MMO gaming community. But GW2 promises so much more as it wants to emphasize a changing world and the ability to join in a battle without necessarily going through the drudgery of trying to pick up a group. You join the battle in progress. Quests happen on the fly. The team at Arena Net wanted to keep you in the action and not going back and forth between quest givers or killing an arbitrary number of monsters or enemies to hit some strange goal that resets when you turn it in. Such efforts sound promising to me and make this a title worth playing.
3) Portal 2
When Portal 2 was announced, you could almost hear the cries of delight from the gaming public. The first Portal game was damn near perfect and still remains one of my favorite games. What was meant as a little side addition to the Orange Box which released a couple of Half-Life episodes and the long awaited Team Fortress 2, it became a sleeper hit and racked up a number of glowing reviews. The good people at Valve have taken that game and fleshed it out a bit, promising the return of GLaDOS and a myriad of brain puzzles even more fiendish than the first game.
Not very much is out about this game right now, but early game play videos look really good, still seeming to have those brain teasers and a healthy dose of black humor. Valve’s game offerings have been consistently good and they never seem to release an unpolished game.
4) Little Big Planet 2
What? Another sequel? Well, yes. LBP is a fun game which used the talents of its users to offer loads of content and add to its replay value. It scores high in area of being able to play this game with your kids, playing up to four people at one time and being a clever platform game with puzzles to solve and fun to be had. You can customize your little sackboy (or sackgirl) to your hearts content, have fun in groups and if so desired, create levels and offer them up to the public. LBP2 offers all of this and more. In fact, it gives users to create their own games, whatever that really means. What it means to the ordinary player though is more fun.
I truthfully do not know if Monaco is coming out in 2011. You may not even have heard about this game as it’s an indy project and not one of the big players that I’ve mentioned up to this point. But it’s a game that I’m keeping an eye on because it’s got a certain buzz about it. It’s billed as a cross between Pac Man and Oceans 11, a heist game where you can play co-operatively with up to three other players. It’s an old style, top-down game where each player has their own special talents and the idea is to pull off the heist without getting caught. The one word I hear constantly with this game is “fun”. Isn’t that why we play? Plus, I’m a big believer in supporting independent game creators who focus not on machine crippling graphics but on the enjoyment factor in a game.
6) EVE Online: Incarna
Okay, a bit of a cheat here as EVE has been around since 2003, which makes it a venerable, old game. But one of the unique things about EVE since inception is the release of two game content updates every year. It has done a number of graphical updates and keeps getting better looking as time goes on. It is the only MMO game which exists as a single universe rather than one broken into server shards (unless you want to count ST:O and their laughably inane concept of “single server”).
The winter update this year lays the groundwork for something long planned by CCP which they’ve dubbed Incarna. Incarna comes out next summer and for the first time, player avatars will not be the ships they are currently flying, but fully human avatars who will be able to walk in the stations. Because of this, there’s a lot of grousing about the dumbing down of the EVE universe amongst some of the player base. Players have enjoyed EVE’s reputation as having a notoriously difficult learning curve and see the move as catering to the casual player base. But then again, any change in the game leads to someone complaining about it. Me? I’m looking forward to it.
The game play videos and the graphical screenshots CCP has offered up look beautiful and may actually inject some new blood into the game. Although subscribers have increased slowly but steadily, this addition may provide a good jolt of new players which is only good for a game of this nature. EVE Online is not a game for everyone, but Incarna may be worth checking out for those who have sat on the fence, put off by the lack of an actual avatar. If nothing else, it will offer areas of new and different gameplay, especially when you’re trapped in station with nothing else to do.
Keeping my eye on:
There are a couple other games out there that I thought might warrant some attention as well.
Max Payne 3 is coming out. I have no idea what it looks like but the game that took full advantage of bullet-time might be worth a gander.
Duke Nukem Forever might actually be released. This long cursed title and often mocked for it’s vaporware status may actually see the light of day. Whether it’s actually any good is another story.
Dragon Age II is scheduled to hit the shelves. It is amazing that Bioware can put out two top notch games in 2010 (Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins) within weeks of each other and still have DA2 and SW:TOR come out in 2011. Still, Bioware seems to do the impossible on a regular basis.
Diablo III should also be available. I’m not terribly excited for this one but I remember the original Diablo being fun.
And that’s it. There are likely other games coming up in 2011 that will merit attention, mostly indy titles which fly under the press radar until release. If you feel I’ve missed something, feel free to leave a comment.