2008 promises to be an excellent year for gaming. The 360’s software lineup should remain strong and the Wii and PS3 are coming into their own. From Spore to Metal Gear Solid 4, there will be some huge titles coming out soon, but will they actually live up to the hype?
Based on released information, knowledge of development history and gut feeling, we have chosen some of the games we most look forward to this year and predicted how they will turn out. These should be about as likely to be accurate as any analysts predictions and we charge less.
Golden Jew’s predictions
I’ve written about this already, so this feels cheap and easy (like your… sister?). I stand by my prediction that this will be a good, if not great game. The real strength of Civ Rev will be in the platforms it will come to. Being able to play quickly with friends (or strangers) over Xbox Live, or play Civ on the go on the DS will be what truly makes this game shine. In no way, shape, or form do I view this as a sequel to the existing Civ series, and in fact, anyone who does will come away disgusted and angry with this game (and expect to see reviews that compare this to the existing saga rather than rate it as its own game). As said before, the real test will be if Firaxis can make a game that captures the essence of Civ in a two hour game format without completely neutering it. My money is still on “yes.” I mean, it has to be, since they still haven’t patched Beyond the Sword–I assume their programmers and designers are working on Civ Rev and not drinking mojitos and jerking it to tentacle porn.
Etrian Odyssey 2
I’m still playing Etrian Odyssey, because it’s the best on-the-go time-wasting dungeon crawler yet. The mindless grinding has consumed many an hour for me. With little data out on the sequel (and all of it in Japanese), we can only postulate what this game might look like. If Atlus does this right, there is a lot of opportunity to create a killer game. There are elements of monotony in the current incarnation that can be reduced or streamlined in the sequel, and they can refocus on creating more challenging battles later in the game. The potential to introduce a randomization feature to some of the dungeon levels exists.
The fundamentals for a great game are already there: item system based on monster drops, rudimentary quest system, good skill system (although it needs balancing), lots of classes to choose from. The question is: Will they do some innovative cool stuff, or will they do stupid stuff? Or do nothing. An example of innovative cool stuff is creating boss battles that dynamically scale with your party level (something no major RPG I’ve seen does yet, yet seems a no brainer to me). An example of stupid stuff would be making bosses ridiculously hard to force grinding. There’s potential for greatness, potential for suckage, but most likely potential for slight improvement–another solid dungeon crawler that could have been so much more, but is good enough to be worth purchasing. You know, the current state of mediocrity for the game industry.
I was 100% wrong when I thought a Starcraft MMO was coming instead of Starcraft 2. On the one hand, it’s hard for companies to realize that self-cannibalization is the best path (create the next WoW killer yourself, instead of letting someone else do it). Combine this with the fact that the money to be made in an RTS is epically dwarfed by an MMO, I’m going to hedge my bets and say this is the vanguard of a future Starcraft MMO. At any rate, this will be an interesting test for Blizzard. I don’t think that they have it in them to make a bad game. What I do worry about, is that incredible success combined with their parent company being acquired by Activision does set them up for making a “good” game–but not an excellent one. When you’re burning $100 bills and owned by a mediocrity factory, it’s hard to have the hunger and motivation to kick ass. The bigger concern I have is that I’m sure the game will be good–graphics, sound, variety–but be imbalanced, as so many Blizzard games tend to be. Remember the Mutalisks pre-nerf in SC1? WoW has had a variety of issues (my favorite is when Blizzard says “we’ll never do XYZ” and then does it in the expansion). So despite all of this, I’m sure that people will buy SC2 in droves, and I’m sure it’ll be a good game. But a great one? I wouldn’t bet the farm.
This is Will Wright’s new game and you all know how I feel about Will Wright (if not, continue reading). This guy is as close to Jesus as we have gotten in about 2000 years. Spore is supposed to be the “sim everything” game. You will design a species from the ground up and start the game as a tiny organism and work your way up the food chain. As you get more advanced, you evolve and build cities, nations, and eventually, colonize new planets. The game will be set up so that you can incorporate other players’ life forms into your world and they can sample from you as well. Another thing to look out for is how the game handles creature creation and animation. Spore will be smart enough to animate and render whatever shape or size creature you wish to create, and based on the number of limbs and tails, the creature will move accordingly. It will truly be like building something from Play Doh and watching it come to life. The only downside is that the life created in Spore won’t have that salty, satisfying taste I have grown to love in Play Doh.
There are few games in the world I like more than Fallout. This franchise is pretty much the pinnacle of how I think RPGs should be made and I have high hopes for this next installment. I also have some worries too. The first two Fallout games were created by Bioware and Black Isle, and since then, Bethesda has taken over the series. Bethesda also has an excellent track record for producing RPGs – specifically, the Elder Scrolls franchise, which includes Oblivion. The catch is that Bethesda’s take on the role playing genre greatly differs from the tradition of the Fallout series. I am somewhat comforted by the recent screenshots that have been released and the initial trailer for the game. It seems that Bethesda has gone to great lengths to keep the vibe from Fallout and Fallout 2. If this game lives up to my expectations, then gamers on all platforms but the Wii and the handhelds will benefit from Bethesda’s hard work. It will also pave the way for the Fallout MMORPG that is supposed to be coming in 2009 or 2010.
What do you get when you mix the races from World of Warcraft with the NFL? A very intriguing football game with hints of role playing and an excellent chance for great multi-player action. Blood Bowl was initially a miniature and dice game created by the people at Games Workshop, the guys who invented the miniature war strategy game, Warhammer. I used to love Warhammer and have played the old school version of Blood Bowl and both games have given me some great memories. If Blood Bowl stays true to its roots, I have another reason to get Xbox Live. Blood Bowl leagues on Xbox Live would be one of the funniest and coolest things to happen since…well…since I played the games in real life. Even if you aren’t a football fan, you have to admit, the idea of a dwarf getting all Marshall Faulk on an elf twice his size, is pretty damned funny. This is my pick for sleeper hit of the year for the Xbox, though it is coming to damned near every system imaginable.