Let's be honest. You folks are gaming enthusiasts and you know all about the major games out there. You know about Evolve, Watch Dogs, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and Batman: Arkham Knight. You know Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, FIFA, and Madden will be gracing store shelves again this year.
But what about those smaller games you might not have heard of? Here's a look at ten titles coming in 2014 and beyond that are worth your attention. Here's to the revamp, the remix, the innovative, and the just plain fun.
You can either read the list below, or watch it handy video form! Yes, that's my voice. I wrote it, I'm the one talking. Yes, you can use my dulcet tones to calm yourself after a rough Friday.
I don't think this title even has a release date. Hell, I'm reasonably sure the game isn't meant to be played outside of conventions like PAX. I stumbled across Capy vs. Double Fine Battle Golf Association at both studios' joint booth while I was waiting for another appointment. The game has since been renamed BGA World Tour.
It features 4-player competitive multiplayer in the style of Samurai Gunn. You take to the field wielding your golf club and try to damage enemies with golf balls flying around the level. It's hard to explain, but my short time with the game ended up sucking me in completely. Once you get the controls down, there's nothing better than picking your favorite Capybara or Double Fine character and whacking people to death with lethal golf balls.
Next, we have Darkest Dungeon, a turn-based RPG rogue-like where you hire four adventurers and send them into randomly generated dungeons to clear out the forces of evil and find cool loot. The thing about Darkest Dungeon is there's a big psychological component to it. Your party's mental well-being is paramount to keeping things together.
Are they drunkards or afraid of the very undead you're fighting? Has your Crusader tank become afraid of the front-lines, running screaming to the back of the party? Maybe your Plague Doctor has seen too many deaths in his previous dungeon dives and now his depressing mood is bringing morale down. Does your team of adventurers just need to blow off steam at the tavern or pray at church? Darkest Dungeon isn't just about managing your party make-up and their skills, it's about managing their psychological health as well.
It's a great take on the genre and the Mike Mignola-esque art style doesn't hurt it. Darkest Dungeon is coming to Steam Early Access this Fall.
We all love some Metroidvania. Chasm feels like a call back to the Castlevania classic, Symphony of the Night, but it doesn't just play it straight. Instead, each of the six chasms you'll explore in the game are procedurally-generated. Your run of a specific chasm won't be completely the same as someone else's run. Developer Discord Games has found a great balance with the controls. The platforming feels precise and you're able to perform combat moves without everything feeling too twitchy.
One thing I appreciate about Chasm is that the main character seems gender-neutral. The protagonist is unnamed and all the promotional materials refer to them as "soldier" or "you". Like Metroid, the game that started all this cave-exploring fun, Chasm seems realize there's no reason to force things into one direction or the other. Chasm is planed for a Fall 2014 release.
Framed is an odd little puzzle game set in the pages of a detective noir comic book. Every page shows a series of panels depicting a gentleman on the run from the police. He runs from panel-to-panel in comic-reading order, dealing directly with whatever comes up in each panel. You leave the panels in their starting position, he dies. It's up to you to rearrange each panel to help him get away.
In Framed you have to puzzle out the real story and as you figure out the rules of the world, it opens up into something beautiful. Some puzzles are based on spatial positioning, while others rely on color. Later, as things get more complex, panels can be rotated to move them into their correct positions. I haven't seen anything quite like Framed anywhere else. It's coming this year, but I have no clue when.
I've already written a full preview for Grey Goo, but I felt it was worth including on this list. Grey Goo isn't as wildly different as some of the other titles on this list, but developer Petroglyph Games is committed to bringing the real-time strategy genre back to its roots.
If you remember PC originals like Dune II and Command & Conquer, you'll be right at home with Grey Goo. The game drags all that classic gameplay into the 21st century. It removes the tedium from RTS staples like resource collecting: drop your harvesting node and the game takes care of the rest. Need a new unit? Select it with Petroglyph's tiered keyboard menu and it'll be dropped into the queue at the factory that'll build it first. No more hunting for a specific factory; you can if you want to micromanage, but the developer believes Grey Goo should be about strategy, not mindless clicking.
As someone whose clicks per minute isn't all that high, I appreciate their efforts. Grey Goo is coming in late 2014.
This is a title that's undergone some changes since the last time I saw it. It was previously a mix of Asteroids and Metroid, with your lone starfighter free-floating in hand-crafted dungeons full of alien foes. Developer 17-Bit has switched the game over to procedurally-generated levels, though it still retains its multi-mission structure with boss battles.
Like recent indie shooter Luftrausers, Galak-Z is heavily built around momentum. Unlike Luftrausers, Galak-Z takes place in a zero-gravity environment, so there's no stalling mechanic. It's all about managing your momentum to keep yourself from painting the walls and watching your ammo to stay alive. You'll also have to dodge three alien factions who want you dead. Bright side: they also want each other dead, so you can pit them against each other and sneak away.
It took me a bit of time to wrap my head around the game's controls, but once I did everything ran smoothly. Galak-Z is coming out ahead of many of the games on this list and 17-Bit says it should be launching on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC in late summer.
This game is hard to explain. There's nothing to kill and no one to defeat. Instead it's a game about exploration, observation, and preservation. In this side-scroller you'll explore dead worlds, sifting through their ruins, and determining what happened to three lost civilizations. You're a poet, so you'll traverse what's left of these great empires and make stories and poems about who they were, how they lived, and why they died.
The poetry theme is strong in Elegy, as each world is based on the work of three British Romance poets: Shelley, Byron, and Keats.
Once you've completed your personalized journal of each world, you can share it on Steam Workshop. From there, the community can discuss what they think happened to each civilization. Elegy is a different kind of puzzle, played out across an entire group of players. It may not even have a concrete final answer. It's up to you to be the speaker for the dead. Elegy has no release date outside of "soon".
This title just received a full preview yesterday, but I wanted to highlight it again. While other titles have you as a soldier or rebel fighting the good fight against an evil empire, This War of Mine places you in the shoes of a civilian trapped in a city under siege. Who's fighting and where exactly is immaterial, instead the game is about simple survival.
The game counts down each new day, giving you a chance to build new equipment and mend your wounds. At night, you'll either rest or venture out into the war-torn city for more supplies.
What will you do to keep your makeshift family alive? Do you steal from other refugees? Do you use the last bit of medicine for a cold, or save it? Do you kill others for their supplies? This War of Mine about those choices that people caught in the fringes of real wars have to make. 11-Bit Studios is hoping players will think about such situations, outside of the confines of AAA war games. This War of Mine is coming in 2014, but has no firm release date.
Choices, choices, choices. Gods Will Be Watching is a point-and-click adventure game where you have to survive six hellish scenarios. It places players in situations that are morally dubious with hard choices. Each scene provides a different narrative puzzle, with the scenes I saw at PAX East involving torture, starvation, and the possibility of cannibalism.
Gods Will Be Watching is presented in pixel art style, but anyone who's played Hotline Miami can tell you that pixels can still be gruesome.
One scenario featured player character Sgt. Burden and other castaways stranded on an unknown planet. You need to call for help on your radio, but it needs to be repaired and those repairs take time. During that time you could freeze or starve to death. You can only take so many actions per day, so what do you do? Go hunting for food, which wastes previous ammo, especially with the risk of coming up against bandits? Kill one of the other survivors for food?
The developer wants these decisions to be hard for you, not unlike Telltale's The Walking Dead. You'll fail every time you play, but you'll fail in different ways and learn something about yourself each time. Gods Will be Watching is coming to the PC in June.
Capybara's Below begins on the darkened shores of a mysterious island. All you have is your sword and shield. You must explore the island to find out where you are.
The thing that struck me about Below is how oppressive and lonely the game feels. The color palette of the PAX East demo was dark; all blacks, browns, and blues. The player character is tiny on the screen, increasing that feeling of loneliness. Below is about throwing yourself into the unknown, like the original Legend of Zelda. You vs. the world, even though it's dangerous to go alone.
Combat is in the style of later Legend of Zelda games, with players having to time their shield blocks and sword slashes to defeat enemies. As you proceed, you'll unlock more weapons, but Below establishes its gameplay rules early on and sticks with them. It doesn't hand-hold you, but it remains fair. That's probably why people keep comparing Below to a 2D Dark Souls. Unfortunately, Below doesn't have a release date yet, so it could come out this year, next year, or well into 2016. Hopefully, it's this year.
Are there any other games on your watch list for 2014 and beyond? Let us know in the comments below.