Most Anticipated 2013: John's Picks

By John Keefer, Dec 31, 2012 9:00am PST

There's a lot to be excited for in 2013, and the Shacknews staff each have five games on their radar. The editorial team at Shacknews outlines their most anticipated games of 2013 individually. Next up, we've got managing editor John Keefer with his list of next year's titles.


Planetary Annihilation

I got my start in the industry running a fan site for Total Annihilation, so with Planetary Annihilation, the thought of a successor to the game is good news indeed. Granted, Supreme Commander scratched some of that itch, but the thought of metal worlds, gas giants and using moons to destroy your opponent just gets me all tingly. I am also praying (yes, I'm down on my hands and knees) that they can get the Galactic Wars metagame working properly so that I can conquer whole systems and make them part of my empire.

Developer Uber Entertainment did a commendable job with Monday Night Combat, and the fact that many of the team have roots in Cavedog and Gas Powered Games gives me hope that they will do right by the fans of the original. They have said all the right things, and the screenshots and videos have been encouraging. Jon Mavor, co-founder of Uber and creative lead on the game, said they are making some good progress: "Some of the core systems we have in place are planet generation, pathfinding, flowfield motion, UI and unit order queues. All of this stuff runs across our client/server architecture which is also up and running. We are insanely excited about the possibilities inherent in our design as it allows things like instant replays and scrubbing of the live game using a DVR style UI."

If the new replays, coupled with the proposed map and unit editor, spur the creativity that got me so deeply involved with the original game, then Planetary Annihilation will end up getting way too much play time when it is released.


Wasteland 2

Wasteland 2 is another Kickstarter project that is attempting to capitalize on the nostalgia of the old-school games, this one in the realm of isometric, faux-real-time RPG. The original from Electronic Arts was a classic that was one of the first to capitalize on the persistent world, where your actions were tracked and maintained throughout the game. It set the stage for games like Fallout, and later Baldur's Gate.

So it is understandable, being the RPG nut that I am, that this game would be high on my list of games I can't wait to get my hands on next year. Brian Fargo, head of developer inXile Entertainment and producer on the original Wasteland, is no slouch in developing great RPGs. He said the sequel "is on a fast track production lane thanks to the abundance of tools, tight organization, tireless working and no outside interference. Everyone of us at inXile are having a blast making this game and could not be more dedicated to it."

He then dropped this nice nugget: "We fully plan to show off a couple minutes of gameplay early next year."

I admit I was a bit surprised by the first rough camera demo I saw of the game, but it really will take a lot to dampen my enthusiasm for Wasteland 2. Add in that Chris Avellone and the team at Obsidian is assisting in development--and the fact that the original Wasteland will be bundled with the sequel--just adds more giddy to the anticipation. The game is targeted for October.


Oh, look, they have a place for Shackers to hang out.

Shadowrun Returns

OK, let's keep with the Kickstarter and nostalgia theme (this makes number 3 if you haven't been counting). The Mayan apocalypse has come and gone for the real world, but in the alternate reality of Shadowrun Returns, December 21, 2012, changes our world into a fantasy smorgasbord of orks, trolls, elves and dragons. Really, who can't get excited by magic, fantasy and cyberpunk thrown together with the pen-and-paper Shadowrun rules of FASA? Mix them all together, and you should get a 2D turn-based game sometime later in 2013. And if that isn't enough, ex-FASA guru Jordan Weisman is heading up development at his new studio Harebrained Schemes. If anyone can stay true to the Shadowrun universe, it is Weisman and his team.

"Shadowrun Returns has been a high-speed roller-coaster ride from day one of our Kickstarter campaign," he told us, saying his small indie studio has some high expectations to meet. "We are at the halfway mark in development and our core combat game is really playing great. The last couple of weeks have been very exciting, as all our tech and magic abilities are coming online and the game is starting to feel like Shadowrun. Our editor is shaping up as well. It's really powerful and we can't wait to see the amazing things the community will do with it."

Weisman joked that the team is "energized and scared to death in equal measures," but the pedigree is there, as well as a passion for the fiction. That alone is enough to put this game high on my "must play" list for next year.


Company of Heroes 2

It's not often I find myself pumping my fist and silently muttering "yes" when a game is announced, but that's exactly what I did when the news first leaked that Company of Heroes 2 was in the works. The original game, released in 2006, was a breakthrough for RTS gameplay and my personal game of the year back then. So when it was revealed that Relic Entertainment and much of the same team that handled the original was back for an encore, my only response was "What took you so long?"

The idea of a "real" winter in an RTS is daunting, so setting the game on the Eastern Front seems a logical choice for a developer not afraid to re-imagine RTS gameplay. Philippe Boulle, senior designer at Relic, told us that two things in the game really stand out for him: taking the "real battlefield" to the next level, and the scope of the Eastern Front setting.

"The original CoH brought destruction and environmental gameplay to the table, making the map a living part of the game rather than just a tile set," he said. "In CoH2, the addition of TrueSight and ColdTech mechanics take that legacy and expands it. Now, my troops are walking through streets and woods, unsure of what's around the next corner and using smoke and obstacles to flank like never before. And the cold, ice and snow bring home the brutality of Russian Front in an all new way."

The scope of the CoH2 campaign on the Eastern Front is going to be massive compared to the original CoH, which focused on Normandy in 1944. "In CoH2 the campaign brings us from summer of 1941 with the Germans invading the Soviet Union, through the brutal winter, the long and bloody battle for Stalingrad, back into Poland and even into Berlin itself," Boulle said. "This is the story of the Eastern Front across the entire war, and that is awesome."

I definitely agree. Must play when it comes out in March? Check.


StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

Yeah, I know I suck at multiplayer, but I'm one of the few looking forward to StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and its single-player campaign, and the direction the story will take now that ex-Ghost Sarah Kerrigan is no longer the Queen of Blades. I really liked Wings of Liberty, the Terran part of the StarCraft 2 trilogy, when it came out in 2010. Unfortunately, Blizzard is staying pretty mum about Heart of the Swarm's single-player, instead choosing to focus on a multiplayer beta, hooking up with clans, and implementing global servers.

So, minority or no, this game is on my list when it hits on March 12. You won't find me in any MP games, just combing through the story, seeing how the novels fit in, and enjoying my time trying annihilate the AI. It's just yet another Blizzard game I can't resist (although I still liked Total Annihilation over the original StarCraft).

And with that, this article has come full circle. What games are you looking forward to?

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