After a couple heartbreaking delays, CD Projekt RED has finally unleashed its magnum opus unto the gaming world – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The last two releases in the series have consistently raised the bar with their feature-rich gameplay and mature plot elements, and this third and final instalment of Geralt’s adventures across a world mired in war and politics is an amazing experience that is miles ahead of its peers as well as its own prior entries.
Slipped in between news of a second delay and the cacophony of internet complaints about apparent graphical downgrades, one of the more recent stories about The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt that may have fallen through the cracks is the fact that Geralt of Rivia is not the only playable character in the upcoming open-world RPG. At The Game Awards just a few months ago, CD Projekt’s Senior Games Designer Damien Monnier teased the reveal by saying someone showcased in the Elder Blood trailer he was about to show off will be playable when the game hits store shelves, though he didn’t go so far as to come right out and say who it was.
With Grizzly Bomb just getting back into the swing of things, we thought it best to kickstart the gaming section with some of the most exciting things to look forward to in video games for the coming year. With the majority of 2014’s biggest titles being pushed to 2015, and new announcements leaving our mouths watering, there’s a lot to look forward to in January and beyond.
In order of release date: Grizzly Bomb’s Most Anticipated Games of 2015!
Even before it had an official title, Bloodborne was raising excitement under the leaked codename Project Beast. The prospect of Demon’s Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki returning to his loosely connected fantasy universe with a new Souls-adjacent game was something to celebrate, but fans had no idea what they were in for with the game’s official announcement.
Bloodborne is looking to be the most unique of all From Software’s punishing action-RPGs, doubling down on gothic environments, horror elements and an even more severe risk/reward system that abandons shields and encourages aggressive, nimble combat. The cryptic and eerie environmental storytelling looks to have returned, and this time are taking more of the spotlight. But what keeps us coming back to Miyazaki’s games again and again are the hellish creatures that inhabit his worlds, and the inhabitants of Bloodborne are even more freakish and intimidating than those we’ve seen before. In addition to a building-sized spider-crab thing, glowy-eyed werewolves and a weird snake-like Cerberus creature, the latest TGS trailer showcased a stretched-out, bony, almost-human….thing, with two flowing, bloody swaths of skin hanging from where the top of its head should be. Gross.
Releases: February 6, 2015
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
Almost every time a book is adapted into film it ends up being a truncated, jumbled mess that barely retains the tone of its source material. Movies just can’t condense 1000+ pages of context and world-building into a two and a half hour experience. Translate that to 50 hour interactive story, on the other hand, and apparently you can do it just fine.
Based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s (incredible) Witcher Saga, The Witcher is a cross between Pan’s Labyrinth and Skyrim, with a dollop of Game of Thrones for good measure. Juxtaposing international folklore with mature themes and medieval politics, Sapkowski imagined a high fantasy setting with a sense of history and life to it that very few others can match. The universe lends itself perfectly to video games, which already focus heavily on combat and traditionally gravitate to monsters and fantastical worlds.
The Witcher 1 & 2 are immense games that feature deep combat systems, reward exploration, and offer arguably the best choices in any video game series; Rather than display a morality meter on your screen that points to angelic kitten-snuggler or demonic satan spawn according to your every interaction (Fallout), or a story that stops and offers you black and white choices with obvious consequences (Mass Effect) The Witcher games allow you to make pivotal decisions, both in dialogue or gameplay, that can have far-reaching, story-changing consequences that aren’t always clear. In The Witcher 2, for example, entire locations, characters, endings and quests are changed or skipped entirely based on your actions. When that is built into a living breathing universe of humor, scandal, magic and Guillermo del Toro-esque creatures and monsters, the prospect is absolutely undeniable.
The Witcher 3 is taking every single aspect of its predecessors and stretching the possibilities further. The world is massive but seemingly even more detailed, with no invisible walls or gameplay hinderances to block your path. Combat is both more varied and streamlined. Quests are less repetitive and more centred on player choices, with 100+ hours of side quests, story quests, monster hunts, points of interest and more to explore. The game has 36 distinct endings. This is a game with so much content you’ll never see it all in one play through, but one journey through the game will take far longer to complete than most other action-RPGs ever have. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, appropriately enough, is a beast.
Releases: February 24, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Batman: Arkham Knight
So many different versions of Batman have nailed the character of The Caped Crusader, but only one has made you feel like The Batman himself. Rocksteady not only made the best Batman in games, they innovated a combat system so revolutionary that its timing-based group fighting has been lifted countless times since Arkham Asylum released in 2009. Never content to sit on their laurels, Rocksteady continued to expand with Arkham Knight a few years later.
Now, with Arkham Knight, the studio has rebuilt Gotham City to accommodate the new Batmobile, raised the stakes since killing off the Joker in games past, and even created a new villain for the most iconic rogues gallery in comic books. In short, Arkham Knight is going to be a blast of a game. At Sony’s E3 PlayStation event the game astounded fans with breathtaking shots of the new Gotham skyline. It was one of the very first demos of a ‘next-gen’ game that isn’t held back by cross-generation development, and boy does it show. Raindrops skitter down Batman’s cape in glorious detail, fire crackles out of the Batmobile’s exhaust pipe, and the hand-to-hand combat is even more bone-crunchingly visceral than we remember.
Releases: June 2, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
There aren’t many video game franchises that carry as much weight as Metal Gear Solid. Unlike almost every other entry on this list, MGS is not a relatively new IP, nor did it originate outside the medium. Metal Gear was born in this industry, and has evolved along with video games since the ’80s. Which makes it even more impressive that The Phantom Pain looks like one of the most ambitious video games we’ve ever seen.
Take, for starters, the broad elements of The Phantom Pain’s gameplay; Those of us who have played Ground Zeroes have seen how much freedom there is to explore the environment stealthily or with guns blazing, and how naturally the mechanics embrace both options. No other stealth game comes to mind that handles Rambo-style action with as much flexibility as the silent approach.
It turns out, and more and more with every new Phantom Pain demo that releases, that Ground Zeroes‘s many different strategies and tools don’t even come close to the number of gadgets and options at the player’s disposal in the final package of Metal Gear Solid V. Over the last two major demos Kojima has shown Snake using a ton of new tools, and each of them appear to have a whole range of uses. His iconic cardboard box, for example, can be used in the conventional sense (as a moving hiding place) but, among other uses, the box can also be used as a distraction tool in itself, with the ability to plaster images onto it to mislead guards to react in different specific ways. A similar effect can be had with inflatable distraction devices, which Snake can toss into the environment to take attention off of himself.
In another demo Kojima debuted a new mechanic in which Snake can call his ally Quiet into the field to cover him with a sniper rifle. Quiet will, in real-time, find a perch to scout ahead and her laser sight will trace the environment in front of your eyes. Snake can mark enemies for Quiet to draw her attention and co-ordinate attacks – in one instance Quiet shot the helmet off a guard with pinpoint precision, letting Snake pop him in the head less than a second afterward. And even later, Snake tossed a grenade in the air next to an enemy chopper, which Quiet promptly shot, causing a mid-air explosion destroying the helicopter. What makes all of this so mind-boggling is none of it was scripted or even necessarily part of this mission. The player simply decided to call Quiet in for this particular section. He could have done it on his own, waited until night-time, shot up the entire jungle or picked half a dozen other ways to tackle the objective. The possibilities are endless and the world is massive. For the first time, Metal Gear has completely removed the training wheels. You take full control of Mother Base and call the shots for one last time as Big Boss.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4
The Legend of Zelda Wii-U
The call of a new Zelda game is so powerful that even with little-to-no information, its announcement can sell consoles. Nintendo debuted barely a snippet of in-engine footage from a brand new Zelda for the Wii U, and while we don’t even have a title yet, we know the game is supposed to release in 2015 and that it looks gorgeous. Skyward Sword was by no means a bad game, but many felt it didn’t quite live up to the franchise’s pedigree, so demand for a great new adventure game from one of the best game studios ever could not be higher.
Attention for Nintendo has been slowly waning in recent months, but with a new Smash Bros. on the horizon and the potential of a return to form for The Legend of Zelda, the old king may rise again.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
Platform: Wii U
Naughty Dog certainly made a name for themselves with The Last of Us, which skyrocketed their studio’s status from ‘Those Guys Who Make The Uncharted Games’ to one of the most celebrated developers in the industry today. But The Last of Us was built on the foundation of the Uncharted series, and while TLoU is worlds apart from Nathan Drake’s globetrotting adventures, Naughty Dog must have picked up a lot of ideas and refinements from its development which they can apply to Uncharted 4.
Indeed, the short teaser shown at E3 in June depicted an older, battered Drake than the one we left in Drake’s Deception. Naughty Dog promises the next Uncharted will still be a light-hearted romp, but hopefully there will be some emotional weight to balance the levity. After Joel and Ellie’s journey to the Fireflies it will be very difficult to accept Nate’s gleeful attitude toward mowing down waves of human enemies.
Releases: Unknown, 2015
These games are just six out of dozens of games coming in 2015 that indicate that video games are still expanding and building bigger and more exciting sandboxes to play in. Honorable mentions include The Division, Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell and No Man’s Sky.
How many of these games are on your watch list for 2015? What games did we miss? Sound off in the comments below or on the Grizzly Bomb Facebook page.
Images: From Software, CD Projekt Red, Rocksteady, Kojima Productions, Nintendo, Naughty Dog