How I Feel About The “Most Anticipated Games” of 2016

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I don’t know if there are more than maybe a couple games of 2016 that I’m really, truly anticipating. I’ve started thinking about that as we approach the end of January without my having bought a single new game. There are quite a few games I’m probably going to buy, but that feeling of actually “needing” a game is extremely rare to me these days. This comes on top of a significant change in my buying habits overall, stemming from changes both in the gaming industry in general and my own personal life.

You should probably compare this post to one I made around the end of 2014 where I talked about the “tiers” in which I put major games I thought about buying that fall. What I said I planned to do and what I ended up doing turned out to be different. I said I wanted to get the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V on day one… I only ended up just getting it around last December, and still haven’t started playing it. This was also around the time I started adopting my rule of not buying games until I was either absolutely ready to play them, or saw a deal that was unlikely to be matched for a significant amount of time. I wanted to get the physical PC version of GTA V (downloading a 65GB game is a huge hassle for me) and the first deal for it appeared late last year.

In hindsight, one major thing affecting my buying habits between 2012 and a few weeks ago was the fact that I was completely broke. Compared to earlier years I was forced to trim my purchases of AAA games all the way down to the absolute top of my anticipation list which got me to analyze it more and more. What’s odd though is my buying habits haven’t really flipped back now that I’m in a “not completely broke” state. I’m still not where I’d like to be professionally, but I currently have the ability to buy things. That period of tighter finances is helping me save money now as well as think about what games I really need.

Next month there are a few games I’m thinking of buying only if I have the time for them. I never got the chance to play Disgaea despite having had an unplayed copy on my PSP for years, so Disgaea PC might be another good chance. I’ve been looking for a strategy game to install on my laptop anyway. Tales of Symphonia was a favorite of mine back when I only owned a Gamecube, so I’ll be watching how this latest HD port is received, but actually playing the game is a 40-plus-hour investment I might not be able to afford anymore. Fire Emblem Fates is getting a lot of buzz too, but again, its time investment feels heavy in relation to how much I really want to play it.

The thing is, even when it comes to games I know I’m going to try to buy, I can’t find the sense of burning hype I used to feel for Ocarina of Time or Super Smash Bros. Melee before they came out. Yeah yeah yeah I’m getting older. That’s the obvious explanation, but I wanna look at some other factors that cover what the market looks like now as well as how games are being made. There are games I want to play this year, and then there are games I need to play.

Other than age, the biggest factor that a lot of people have talked about is the sheer number of games being made today. Not simply the sheer number of games, but the sheer number of good games — games that at least feel worth playing. There’s no real sense of scarcity with games anymore, and back when I only owned Nintendo systems that sense of scarcity was especially intense. Nintendo 64 owners were thirsting so badly for something to play until Ocarina came out that we pounced on tripe like Quest 64 because of passing similarities between the games. My top games for February 2016 are looking to be Firewatch and Street Fighter V, but if for whatever reason I don’t end up with them in my hands, I’m not gonna go crazy. I’ll just pass my free time with something from my backlog like GTA V.  To get the mega hype out of me these days a game has to have a veneer of being really extraordinary.

The Witcher 3 was the only game of 2015, and possibly the only game in the last several years, for which I felt that kind of hype. To compare to Fire Emblem, I might spend 30 hours playing Fire Emblem, but that still feels like a lot for how much I’m interested in it. Witcher 3 is a 100-plus-hour investment that I was ready to jump into as soon as possible. I think this is all because of how much I enjoyed The Witcher 2 and how Witcher 3 immediately looked like a quantum leap over that game. This is certainly why publishers make so many sequels — the thing you liked, but more of it. However, rare are sequels that actually push things to a completely new level.

I’m getting Street Fighter V, but in my mind right now it’s just an iteration over Street Fighter IV. I’ll enjoy it, I might even start to feel some hype for it when the release gets closer and I see more gameplay and player impressions. In fact most of the time I don’t get sucked into new games until after I’ve played them, which is why I lament the slow death that demos seem to be going through. I’m down for Dark Souls III, but it will probably be an iteration on the previous two games. Right now I’m expecting Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to be just a really good iteration on Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst to be a good sequel to Mirror’s Edge.

What’s odd is, all those games I mentioned are the first in their franchises on a new generation of hardware, yet I don’t feel like each one is going to be a huge leap over the last in any area but graphics. I could be completely wrong though. I think Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is supposed to be open-world now, and I like the idea of that particular game being open-world, so we’ll see. It could be a Witcher 2-to-Witcher 3 situation. Deus Ex, as good as it looks now, still hasn’t returned to mechanical scope of the original 2000 game much less surpassed it. It would be a pleasant surprise if Mankind Divided did, though I don’t expect it to. Dishonored 2 actually has a higher chance of accomplishing that feat. If one of those games ends up being a true return to glory days of objective-based first person action games (Thief, the first Crysis) then I’ll start feeling real hype for it.

Maybe what really get’s me excited for video games is just seeing the forward march of technology — the appearance of bigger and more immersive virtual worlds. That would explain how I felt about Witcher 3 as well as games going all the way back to the N64 era. Maybe GTA V would have been another case were I a big fan of that franchise (why I’m not is a matter for a whole post of its own).

If that’s true, then it’s certainly why my one definite burning-hype game for 2016 is No Man’s Sky. As big, immersive worlds go, this one is pretty much going all the way. It’s easy to feel skeptical and negative about a game as ambitious as this one, but ironically the reason I’m optimistic about a game that seems to be new and innovative is precisely because I’ve played games like it before. Two games I’m playing right now are Space Engine and Elite: Dangerous which pull the same procedural generation trick to create full-size star systems and galaxies, and haven’t gotten boring. No Man’s Sky in my mind is doing two major things compared to Elite: 1) It’s finally going really deep into surface and on-foot exploration which for me will complete the sense of scale from exploring a dense forest to surveying entire star clusters. 2) It seems to be packaging this whole style of game in a format that’s much more accessible and centered towards arcade gaming fun instead of PC gaming realism.

If I have another burning-hype 2016 game, it’s Zelda. Maybe it’s just the last ember of my Nintendo fandom, but I never really got tired of the recent Zelda games. I still appreciated their impeccable level design and art direction along with their sense of exploration. Truth be told there are probably already games that have eclipsed the level of scale the new Zelda will likely achieve, but this will still be a whole new generation of hardware applied to its style and brand of design. A good way to put it is, the E3 gameplay demonstration made it feel like the game is getting tangibly closer to the idea of Zelda depicted in this image.

DOOM? I don’t know yet. It looks like the closest thing to a “real” DOOM game since DOOM 64, I’m interested in the user-generated content we might see in it, and what I’ve heard about the alpha was extremely positive. If nothing else it will be a welcome change from all the other shooters we’ll inevitably get this year. Compared to most of the aforementioned games I’m slightly more excited for Persona 5. The gameplay we’ve seen makes it looks like another major technological leap forward, if in nothing other than presentation, but this is a franchise that’s mostly popular due to its presentation, characters, and stories.

I guess the games I’m really anticipating for 2016 are simply the games that will truly bring something new to the table and feel like they’re pushing things forward. Most of the games I’m going to buy though will really just be more of the stuff I already liked.

BULLETS:

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