Warning! There are MANY LINKS ahead. They will open in separate pages.
Well, it’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? The last post I made here was several years ago now, and that’s pretty bad. It means I haven’t been writing about games and gaming and movies and music and all that nonsense for two [and a bit] years!
We-ll, it’s time to rectify that.
So, without further ado, we’re going to do what we’d ordinarily do at the beginning of any given year: we’re going to look into the games of 2020 and see what’s piqued my interest. Maybe you’ll be interested in these games, too, by the time I’m all done.
This year, I’m going to break the list up into three sections:
games that are confirmed for 2020 and where we more-or-less know the release date.
Games that have no firm release date, but the hope is that they’ll release in 2020.
games that have been on my list before and that have STILL not shown up in any playable form at all.
Without further ado, here’s the lists:
Games with Fixed release dates that I’m aware of.
Journey to the Savage Planet Release
Date: 28 January, 2020
Platforms: EGS, PS4, XBO
Journey to the Savage Planet got me interested just for it’s name. I’m not sure I’ll be interested in actually playing it, but my very visceral reaction to just hearing the words “journey to the savage planet” said out loud was something like, “wait a moment! That sounds VERY Jules Verne.” And I guess you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the name of a book that he wrote. But nope. Instead, he wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Journey to the Moon,” but no savage planets for him.
Anyhow, this is a shooter [Boo!] where the aim of the game is to catalogue everything you see and to shoot everything you come across. Fundamentally, you’re a grunt that’s been put down on a planet that wasn’t supposed to be inhabited by anyone, but surprise! There’s sentient life down there.
Along the way, there’s a mysterious tower for you to discover and guns and upgrades aplenty.
Gods and Monsters
Release Date: Somewhere in 2020
Platforms: PC, PS4, XBO, Switch, Stadia
Gods and Monsters is a game made by the original team who made Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. So expect a lot of questing and looting and fighting very much in that vein, but with a FAR more stylized and beautiful look. The trailer floating around on the internet is pre-rendered footage, but I am rather hoping that they stick to the lush, green look they showcased. I’m not sure I can stand much more brown desert-y muck in that sort of world.
In keeping with that sort of design, Gods and Monsters will be drawing from Ancient Mythology, with your foes being literally mythical beasts from the old, old school.
I’m hoping that they lean WAY more into the RPG half of the Odyssey design and that they flesh out the fighting style a lot more, because this sort of historical era is way up my alley.
Tell Me Why
Platforms: PC, XBO
Release DAte: Mid-2020
I am VERY much in favour of the new wave of adventure games that have been creeping up over the last few years on PC and elsewhere. We’ve had many a brilliant indie adventure game and Dontnod’s new outing looks to be more of that style of thing.
As with all Dontnod games, this one features an interesting story which – I hope – they can turn into an interesting game. In it, you pilot a pair of siblings who return to their original home. One of the siblings has undergone surgery to transition from being a lady to being a man. Some of the plot is all bound up in how events in their childhood home informed that decision. As the game progresses, you visit different rooms of the house, see visions of how things were from both perspectives and make choices for the siblings based on what you feel is “the most right” version of events you’ve just witnessed.
I love that we’re starting to tell very personal stories like this one, and I hope that this particular game picks up some good traction when it launches.
Way to the Woods
Platforms: PC, XBO
Release Date: 2020
Before we get to talking about the actual gameplay here, I’d like to say that this is a BEAUTIFUL looking game. The stylized art and colour scheme are wonderful and – as the developer has said – suggest Miyazaki and the like.
In this particular outing, you play a pair of deer: a large one and a small one. We don’t know yet if they’re connected [Mother and son, etc] but I think it’s safe to say that they perhaps are. This pair of deer are creatures that inhabit a ruined world – man has gone and only his buildings and detritus are left strewn across the globe.
Your job – as a pair of deer – is to get from your starting position to the woods. [Of course!]
I love games like this that tell stories through their visuals and so on. One of my VERY favourite games that let you make up the story as you went along was The Endless Forest and this seems like it draws from that same well. Hopefully none of the deers die in the end, but – like with my other supposition, I almost think it’s safe to say that the older one probably will die near the end of the journey. :(
[Fingers crossed that they won’t.]
Games with No Firm Release Date
My hope is that these will show up somewhere in 2020. But…life has a way of demolishing the plans of mice and men and game designers. Since none of these has been given TRUE release dates other than “2020,” I’m expecting that at least a few, here, will slip. [And have, indeed, slipped before.]
Holding thumbs for some of these, because some of them look right up my alley.
Part of the problem with most of the survival games that have come out in the past is that they also have some sort of horror theme creeping in underneath everything else. It’s often not enough to just survive. You have to survive and take on the stuff of a thousand nightmares.
Well, Among Trees has figured out that that’s not the only way to make a survival game. So, here we have a game where you’re in the woods and you have to fend for yourself, but you don’t have to worry about some dire beast coming to get you every night. It makes for a change.
I’m interested in this one because I really like it’s beautiful style. There’s a lot of colour and sunshafts and scenes shot through with light. Initially, I was absolutely worried that this beautiful setup WAS the precursor to “oh no, horror game ahoy!” But it seems like I am mistaken. I certainly hope I am. I’d love to stroll around in this world and experience it if it looks THIS beautiful. Buuuuut…
…well, we’ll just have to see. Among Trees has already been delayed once and I suspect that it’ll be delayed again. Such is the nature of indie development.
Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4
In short, Biomutant is an open-world game in which you play a creature that sets out to either save or destroy the world, because the world is dying. Because it’s an open world game, you can do this in many ways. You also get a whole collection of traversal methods, weapons to play with and fighting styles that you can learn.
The problem with Biomutant? It’s been pushed back a number of times already. Which – in one way – makes me happy: I’m hoping beyond hope that they’re polishing the game so that it shines like a diamond on release, but in another way? Well, it has me very, very worried.
I desperately want this team – making what seems like their dream game – to release something excellent. But I also don’t want us to have another Duke Nukem: Forever situation on our hands, where the game takes ten years and is, then, lackluster for having been in the oven for so long.
This is PROBABLY the game I’m looking forward to the most on this list. The only thing I hope? You can turn that narrator off. He just seems to destroy the flow of combat, completely.
Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4
Elden Ring started a buzz mainly because of who was behind it: on one hand, you have the folks at FromSoft promising another vast, open world game in the vein of their previous work [CF: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls I, II and III as well as Bloodborne.], but the game picked up some pedigree, too, by way of having George RR Martin – yes. That George RR Martin as a consultant.
I expect that he’s there to help the worldbuilding and to shape the general themes of the game, but I don’t envision him having TOO much to do with the actual gameplay. But that’s neither here nor there. The promise of From dealing with sort-of-Norse mythology is intriguing. The hope, of course, is that they can build something interesting around that sort of lore that works well as a Souls-y sort of experience.
This is one of those games where I’m a little ambivalent. I want more Souls. For sure. But I want the From folk handling story creation duty. I’m about to have my nerd card revoked in a moment, and that’s OK, but I’ve never really LIKED Game of Thrones. Too much of it is too dark and too mired in politics for my tastes, and I don’t know how that can be translated well into video game form.
Ah well. The internet is certainly happy about this one and I have to admit that I’m a little curious.
No Straight Roads
Platforms: PC, PS4
So, there’s this game series. You may have heard of it. It goes by the name of Final Fantasy. It hasn’t been Final for a very long time now, but you have to do something after you make one of those games. The problem is…what do you make?
Well, for the folks who made Final Fantasy 15, that seems to be a game that takes music and puts it front-and-center of the game. Here, that means that you’re a rock star and you’re fighting EDM. Yes. Really.
This is a game I’m curious about for one of several reasons: the first is that I want to see what these folks – who are used to working with a much bigger budget – can do as a smaller, indie studio. That might be interesting, just in and of itself – how they’ll have to bend and twist to get the kind of game they envision. But I’m also curious about this one for the obvious reason:
I want to SEE EDM go up against Rock. We sort of saw that this might be an interesting setup for something in the Scott Pilgrm movie, where his band went head-to-head against an actual dance group – and I loved the outcome of that battle [it was all projected sound where the sound took on animalistic forms – dragons and the like] – so there’s certainly something here.
You know, just thinking about it, I want someone to make that Scott Pilgrim concert sequence into a game. Go to it, internet! You’ve been given a free game idea! Just make sure you credit me. ;)
Platforms: PC, XBO
If you’ll pardon me for a minute: sable is a fable about a boy and his gloverbike.
Well, no. Not really. That last word wanted to be hoverbike, but I also wanted to push that dumb rhyme to it’s breaking point ;)
Anyhow, Sable is a beautiful looking game by Shedworks. Already once-delayed, it is billed as a coming-of-age story set in a desert-y setup where everything is rendered in a very cartoony style. A couple of the screenshots and the one video I’ve seen of it remind me a little bit of Okami in motion. Which may be a good thing.
In Sable’s case, I am hoping that the visual style is paired with an arresting story because while those visuals are beautiful, indeed, all of that will count for nothing if there’s no substance underneath that wonderful looking exterior.
Plus: I’m kind of hoping we get to drive the hoverbike around and that it’s not just set dressing that we use to get from one place to another. I DID like that conceit in Dune, [the CD version of Dune had little rendered interstitials while you went from place to place so that it was a little more immersive than just “point at hotspot and arrive.”] but I dunno if a modern audience would be into something like that at this late date.
Platforms: PC, XBO, PS4, NS
But…I also want Spiritfarer.
Of all the games on this list this year, Spiritfarer’s the one that speaks to me the most. But then – and to be fair – I champion The Dig any time someone’s interested in an existential game that takes topics that we don’t normally see in games and uses them as a sort of engine to power the narrative.
Spiritfarer looks like it’s doing the same sort of thing, but from a slightly different angle. Where The Dig was primarily concerned with immortality and what that could mean and how we might achieve it, Spiritfarer is about the dead and what it might mean for the dead to move on.
In Spiritfarer, you play as Stella. Stella’s job is to ferry the deceased from where they’ve died to the afterlife. To do that, you have to care for them. This means – I hope – that you will forge some sort of connection with them and that you will get to hear their stories and that you will be able to engage with the idea of mortality in a way that isn’t just the surface level we get from games. [Oh, you died? Well, here’s a spot to respawn in, there’s nothing more to see here.]
Plus: everyone who ends up on your boat turns into a talking animal. And that’s always good in my books.
Platforms, EGS, PS4, Apple Arcade
There are some developers where it’s very easy to just trust.
To trust that they’re making a good game.
To trust that they’re telling an interesting story.
The folks at Giant Squid – some of the same folks from thatgamecompany, who were responsible for Journey and then ABZÛ [they split from tgc to make ABZÛ], are back again with another beautiful looking game.
If I have one minor point of concern, it’s that they are straying from their sort of meditative roots – the gameplay in both ABZÛ and Journey was simple to grasp and easy to work with once you learned how – and The Pathless seems to have abandoned that mellow quality for something with more oomph – and more combat to it.
That may be OK? Who knows? But I don’t want them to make a combat focused game for the sake of making a combat focused game.
It does have that same sort of arresting quality as ABZÛ, of course. All those beautiful colours!
But man, seeing that you were going to fight things made me a little sad.
Even if those things are The Darkness. [I guess Giant Squid believe in a thing called love?]
And even if you’re just using a bow and arrow.
The Greywolfe Anti-Shooter Gods are INCREDIBLY displeased :)
Platforms, PC, MAC
That old-school 80’s neon and chrome style.
Imagine my surprise when a game tapping directly into that whole Zeitgeist – with the VR and the Cyberpunk and the kind of synth-generated soundtrack that seems to dominate the NewRetroWave – sprung into being somewhere at the beginning of last year.
Imagine, then, my further surprise when they suggested they were planning to launch in 2020. Which seems like a great, very Cyberpunk-y year to be releasing a game like this.
Imagine my giddiness when I learned that it was an old-school point and click adventure game. Well, let me tell you. I think I’m in love a little bit.
Though I do worry that this game will take itself a little too seriously, given all the history it’s trying to pull from.
We’ll just have to see. In any case. In this one, you play as Nathan, a hacker guy. Nathan’s trying to rescue his girlfriend. But the problem is, evil AI’s control everyone, making that a tricky proposition. Is that a tale as old as time or what? It sure is. Even the Neanderthals knew you should never let your rogue AI loose.
This is one of those where I worry that we’ll get a style over substance game [like with Sable], but..man. That 80’s aesthetic will make it much easier to forgive that particular sin.
Once known as Spellbound, Witchbrook bills itself as a kind of “Stardew Valley with Wizards.” In this particular game, you go to wizard school. It even has that same sort of Stardew Valley look wit the pixelated tilesets and that so-particular lighting.
Details are pretty light just at the moment, but since it’s the developers of Starbound, who are also the publishers of Stardew Valley well, then there’s already a sort of precedent there for what we can expect: large, open spaces, crafting – which probably means brewing potions and little quests that you can do to advance yourself as a character and as a student among other students.
Hopefully, some Stardew Valley bleeds in there and we’ll have relationships and something to look after [a pet?]
One thing’s for sure – if those two games are the template for this particular experience then the mods are going to flow like wine for this one. Which would be great. Even if the game isn’t billed as Pixelated Hogwarts, well…someone will build that and the players will come.
Let’s just hope there’s no Lord Voldemort. One of the things that [somewhat] turned me off about Stardew Valley was the very timed nature of that game. The world doesn’t need that in this day and age.
Anyhow. I’m looking at least a little forward to this one, given it’s pedigree. Let’s hope it ships in 2020.
Games I’m still waiting for
In almost all of these cases [as with Biomutant in particular, I suppose] I spotted these somewhere in the past – before 2019. I think I started seeing references to Eitr – for example – in 2015. And back then, it was hoped that it’d show up in 2016. I even had it in my last list like this, in fact. So, the jury’s out on these. Maybe they’ll be a nice surprise for 2020? Maybe not. Anyhow, the two most interesting games for me are:
Platforms: PC, Linux, PS4, MAC
Of course this is on the list. I just mentioned it up top ;)
Anyhow. One of the things that I’ve grown to appreciate since that fateful post in 2016 is the Soulslike. When they’re done right, they’re sublime games that are – in no small part – about patience and about how we’ve sort of lost our way with that style of play in the modern era.
Everything is signposted. Everything is tutorialized. Every bit of the story is offered up to you on a platter. Well, in a Soulslike, none of that is true and all of it is great. [In a GOOD Soulslike, I mean.]
So far, we’ve had Dark Souls III come and go while waiting for Eitr. We’ve had variations on the idea in the form of Salt and Sanctuary [mostly black and white. Very platformy. 2D] or the marvelously scored DarkMaus [Top down. You’re a mouse! Your dead shades help you beat other enemies.] or the Sci-Fi stylings of The Surge.
All of these are great games, and yet…I’m waiting for Eitr. Why? Well. A lot of it has to do with Eitr’s very isometric style. But – like Blasphemous – some of it is tied up in the way it takes that whole gothic spin Dark Souls had and supplants it into a different time and place. For Blasphemous, there’s a lot of religious iconography and symbolism. For Eitr, we get a game in this genre that deals predominantly with Norse ideas and Norse mythology. Which – I think – could be a GREAT fit for this style of game.
Here’s to hoping we see Eitr sooner rather than later.
Platforms: PC, XBO
I never thought I’d actually like Zelda-like games. The handful I saw in the past demanded too much of your reflexes. Or they had design tropes that forced exploration on you whether you liked/wanted that or not. But then I started playing a handful.
Yes, yes, I tried the original Legend of Zelda in 1986. And no, the game didn’t stick with me then.
But I swung back around after buying Ittle Dew. That game sat in my backlog for almost a year before I had the itch to try it out. And then I blew through it fairly quickly. [All except for one boss very near the end that made me tear [more] of my hair out.]
And you know? There’s something endlessly charming about this style of game. Sure. You’re forced to explore. And yeah, some of that twitch combat can be ridiculous. But the thing is that in most of the games that are released under this banner, there’s a lot of bright colours and cheerful play that we don’t see enough of in regular games.
And Tunic is exactly that sort of thing. You’re a fox. You don’t know how you got on this island and maybe you should get off of it. Buuuuut while you’re here, you’re going to jump and puzzle your way through rooms and fight cool boss monsters. And it’s going to be an adventure.
And that, I think, is what gaming should be about: going on fantastic adventures. Tunic seems to fit that bill quite well, so I hope it’s with us when it’s ready.
And those, friends, are the games I’m most looking forward to. You’ll notice [though I guess you won’t be surprised] that there’s no Cyberpunk 2077 or anything like that on this list. While that’s probably a good game, it’s just not up my alley enough for me to be keeping tabs on it. It’s a shooter, after all ;)
What games are you looking forward to?
Feel free to let us know in the comments.
Have a happy 2020!
And a productive year of gaming!