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Guest blog: Games of 2014

It’s the final post from of our guest blogger, Adam Whitehead today, who blogs over on The Wertzone on all things SF and fantasy. If you missed his previous posts, you can catch up on Films of 2014 and TV of 2014, and today he’s sharing what games to look out for this year.  You can follow Adam on Twitter and be sure to check his blog out for more on SF and fantasy films and culture.

Games of 2014

2014 looks set to be one of the stronger years in recent memory for computer games, with the return of some older franchises and lots of new and interesting games amongst the inevitable sequels.

For fans of fantasy literature, the highlight of the year will likely be The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The previous two games introduced millions of new fans to Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and his signature character, Geralt of Rivia. The third game promises the same deep reactivity (over 30 different endings are possible) of the first two games but coupled to an open world where you can go anywhere and do anything you like.

Almost as eagerly awaited is Pillars of Eternity. Created by Obsidian Entertainment and crafted by some of the finest writers in the CRPG genre, this old-school game features a similar overhead viewpoint to the classic Baldur’s Gate series and some clever storytelling amongst the familiar dungeons and dwarves. This game was one of a number of major releases this year funded on Kickstarter, with fan rejecting the ‘safe’ choices of the big publishers to put money into more interesting projects created by real talent. In a similar vein is Wasteland 2, a post-apocalyptic RPG from the original creators of the Fallout series.

Also funded by Kickstarter is Elite: Dangerous. The fourth game in the legendary Elite SF series (which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in May) will, once again, cast you as the commander of a spaceship in which you can explore, mine, trade and fight your way across an accurately-scaled depiction of the Milky Way (yes, all 400 billion-odd stars of it). The trailers are looking exceptionally promising and Gollancz will also be releasing some tie-in novels in the same setting.

Another space game made possible by crowdfunding is Star Citizen. Made by the same team as the classic Wing Commander, Privateer and Starlancer/Freelancer games, Star Citizen takes on some of the same ground as Elite but with a much higher budget (at this time of writing, Star Citizen has raised a stunning $37 million from fans). Whilst Star Citizen itself is a 2015 release, it’s single-player, space-combat oriented spin-off, Squadron 42 (a nod of the hat to Douglas Adams), should be with us at the end of the year. Another crowdfunded title is Satellite Reign, a cyberpunk epic created by the same team as the classic 1990s Syndicate titles.

Back in blockbuster territory, Eidos Montreal are rebooting the steampunk Thief series in February with a new game featuring thievery and stealth. A couple of months later will see the release of proto-cyberpunk game Watch_Dogs, which combines open-world gameplay with the ability to manipulate computer networks to help your nefarious activities. Out around the same time is Titanfall, a new multiplayer-focused game from the creators of Call of Duty. This game will be set in the future and involve giant mechs fighting one another.

Later in the year, there’s a new Mad Max game which is, intriguingly, the work of the same team as the bonkers Just Cause series of games. If Mad Max can nail a similar style of open-world mayhem and perhaps combine it with a more focused storyline, it could be something very interesting indeed.

Fans of big-budget fantasy should be well-catered for by Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third game in the best-selling RPG series from BioWare. Those looking for a more comedic take on the RPG genre should keep an eye on The Stick of Truth, a South Park game made with the actual close involvement of the makers of the TV show and featuring turn-based combat and a visual style indistinguishable from the series.

Big-budget SF games are bit thinner on the ground, but keep an eye out for Galactic Civilizations III at the end of the year. The first two grand strategy games are collectively responsible for many failed degrees and missed workdays, and the third promises to be even grander in scope. Even more promising is Shipbreakers, the long-awaited third game in the Homeworld series. The first two games were noted for their beautiful music and visuals, inspired by classic 1970s cover artists like Chris Foss and Peter Elson, and the third game (a prequel) is looking to build on that legacy.

Fans of big multiplayer gamers should be sated by The Elder Scrolls Online in April. Later in the year we also get EverQuest Next, the third game in the venerable MMORPG series. However, the designers have cunningly mixed standard online gameplay with a new mode allowing players to create their own dungeons and worlds and make them accessible from the main one. Think of it as World of Warcraft meets Minecraft. If they pull it off, it could be absolutely huge.

Returning to games of a more literary bent, Telltale Games are capitalising on the immense success of their Walking Dead game (the best version of that franchise to date) with a sequel and three new projects: an adaptation of the comic book series Fables called The Wolf Among Us (the second episode is out imminently), a calmer and more story-focused version of the Borderlands action franchise and, most tantalising, an episodic game based on Game of Thrones. The previous games based on the novels and TV series have been a mixed bag, but Telltale’s excellent writing and HBO’s full support should make the game well worth a look.