Another year, another twelve months full of video games that seem to exist only to drain your bank account – but which ones should you be hanging out for? Sam Brooks rounds up the most anticipated games of 2019.
Anthem (February, PS4/Xbox One/PC)
After the quiet failure of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Anthem is BioWare’s attempt to go big and sell big. Pre-release press has been notably cautious, a rarity in gaming media. Half of it is because Anthem sounds a lot like Destiny in its premise (it’s a futuristic shooter set on the next frontier, space) and half because it sounds like a huge departure for BioWare, who are more known for their narrative world-building and lengthy conversations than their action-driven gameplay. BioWare fans are a sensitive bunch – remember the controversy over Mass Effect‘s ending? – so it’ll be interesting to see if Anthem is a gamble that pays off for the company or the final few nails in the coffin before it gets thrown into the ocean.
Kingdom Hearts 3 (January, PS4/Xbox One)
Here are some facts about the Kingdom Hearts series:
Kingdom Hearts is a collaboration between Square-Enix and Disney – one that aimed to be a crossover between Final Fantasy and Disney. It came about in a time where, somehow, Final Fantasy and Disney had an equal amount of cultural cachet. In order to facilitate this crossover in a way that made some sort of narrative sense, the Kingdom Hearts series created its own set of characters. In short, it is the most expensive piece of fanfiction to have ever existed.
There have been fourteen games in the Kingdom Hearts series, including compilations and re-releases.
These games are called: Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts Coded, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (pronounced, ludicrously, as three hundred and fifty eight over two days), Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts χ, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out at the end of this month, and you’re either extremely into it or you want absolutely nothing to do with this Lynchian nightmare, and I would not blame you. I, on the other hand, will be happily playing through the worlds of Frozen, Big Hero 6, Tangled and Monsters Inc. while trying to make sense of a narrative that after seventeen years has only raised more questions and given no answers.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (March, PS4/Xbox One/PC)
The new game from FromSoftware, developers of the Dark Souls series and ruiners of Hayden Donnell’s life, is a Sengoku-period set action game that ditches the RPG elements of Souls in favour of a fresh-sounding battle system. Rather than the standard hack-and-slash health-point draining, you attack enemies based on their stance and poise in order to strike one killing blow. If Dark Souls is any indication, Sekiro will be both just hard enough that you want to throw the controller through the television screen and just achievable enough that you’ll be up until 4am to get in one more kill.
“Shadows Die Twice” is a dumb as hell name though, worthy of a Kingdom Hearts game.
Shenmue 3 (August 2019, PS4/PC)
Shenmue 3 has a few reasons to make headlines. One, it’s the sequel to the most expensive video game ever made (at the time), 1999’s Shenmue. Two, it’s the highest funded video game in Kickstarter history, to the pretty tune of $7.1 million. Three, it’s a goddamned Shenmue game in 2019, which feels like some alternate timeline event.
Shenmue was one of gaming’s most groundbreaking achievements, being one of the first games to try to mimic cinema, and for the most part succeeding. Dozens of games have done this since, most notably and unsuccessfully the work of David Cage, so it’ll be interesting to see if this epic drama about a teenage martial artist trying to find his dad’s killer in 1980s China has any place in 2019.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (2019, your phone)
“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is an upcoming free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game inspired by the Wizarding World.”
Does that mean nothing to you? Let me translate – it’s Pokemon Go but Harry Potter. Granted, there hasn’t been any official gameplay footage released yet, and there’s very little idea of what the game is going to look, feel or play like, but honestly if you’re even slightly into Harry Potter and gaming, then you’ve already stopped reading this and tried to download it from the App Store.
Dreams (2019, PS4)
The aim of this game, according to Media Molecule (who made the hugely popular and moderately addictive Little Big Planet) is to ‘reinvent creativity’. So nothing too big! In Dreams you control an ‘imp’ and interact with the world by creating items and characters, then manipulating and shifting them. You can even possess characters, a terrifying ability that I’m sure will not be used and abused in a game that is heavily reliant on community-created assets and levels.
It looks like a safe bet to throw away your time on this year, and if there is one game that I would earmark to play with my currently completely hypothetical children, it’d be this one.
The Last of Us Part II (TBC but probably Christmas 2019, PS4)
The sequel to some game about plant zombies with a girl that looks like Ellen Page. It’ll probably sell a few copies.
Skull and Bones (2019, PS4/Xbox One/PC)
Remember the naval battles in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag? Remember how fun they were and how they injected vital life into a series that had been sorely lacking in it? Well, what if you took those naval battles out of it and made a game out of them? That’s what Skull and Bones is.
It’s actually amazing how few developers take advantage of the rarely found goldmine of players loving one small thing about a game and wishing they could play an entire game full of it. Ubisoft likes money though, and therefore we have Skull and Bones. It looks good, but it also looks like Sea of Thieves but with more dirt. It will sell a billion copies.
Tales of Vesperia (January, PS4/Xbox One/Switch)
This highly anticipated (by me) port of a ten-year old entry in a mid-range JRPG franchise comes out this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. Tales of Vesperia is one of the more commercially successful entries in the series, but is one of the hardest to find if you happen to live outside of Japan. As JRPGs fade quickly from obscurity into complete non-existence, it’s amazing that a company like Namco are pushing a re-release this hard, on four different platforms.
Bleakly, this is probably one of the only JRPGs we’ll see this year, so if you’re a fan of this dying form you should take this opportunity while you can.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Probably Never, PS4)
Maybe this is the year it’ll finally come out, and I won’t feel like an idiot for pre-ordering it two years ago from EB Games and paying for it in full. Probably not, though!