There’s a temptation to leave this Up Next completely blank with a note saying “Sorry, playing Elden Ring”. It swanned in at the last minute in February, and it’s hard to imagine another game toppling it from the top of our backlogs.
But that would be abandoning our holy and sworn duty to the Up Nexts. We must announce all of the Xbox games vying for your attention in the coming month.
As it happens, scanning our notes, we were wrong to dismiss the best Xbox games releasing in March 2022. There’s Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, which is unusual in the sense that it’s a full game inspired by some DLC. If, like us, you think Borderlands is at its best when it’s most unhinged, then it’s one to take heed of. And that’s without mentioning a new Final Fantasy game, Elex II and some tasty indie games and sequels. Maybe Elden Ring has some competition after all.
We’re rooting for Elex II. It’s one of those games with a wildly ambitious pitch and a huge open world, but with barely a fraction of the budget of, say, Horizon: Forbidden West. But it’s up for the challenge, and we’re just happy to explore an open world that doesn’t have the Ubisoft logo stamped on it.
This is the sequel to cult-hit Elex, developed by Piranha Bites who have a habit of manufacturing cult hits, having worked on the Gothic and Risen Series. It’s taking the Elex formula but with a determination to add more. There are jetpacks, melee and ranged combat, choice-based dialogue and the noble goal of saving an entire planet from alien invaders.
Far: Changing Tides
What a blooming treat Far: Lone Sails was. It swept us off our feet in 2019, and if you haven’t had a chance to play it, we’d urge you to search it out. It tied a narrative adventure game to a base-management sim, giving you a ship and then charting a course, requiring you to open locks and put out fires in a desperate attempt to arrive in one piece. We haven’t done it justice: it’s one of those games that should be played with as little introduction as possible.
And now we have a sequel – FAR: Changing Tides. Information is light (but our review tells all), but developers Okomotive consider this to be a sister game to the original, set in the same world. The challenges are much the same, and that’s alright by us. You have to navigate a flooded world without enough fuel to reach the next port. Only salvage and resourcefulness will get you there. If screenshots are to go by, this will be one of the best-looking games of the year, as long as you don’t mind the odd smudge of grey and brown.
Submerged: Hidden Depths
Continuing something of a theme is Submerged: Hidden Depths. It’s a sequel to an acclaimed indie game – Submerged – taking place in a flooded, apocalyptic world, and you’re crammed into a boat, hoping for something like salvation. Sounds like Submerged: Hidden Depths and Far: Changing Tides will make a strong double-bill for the weekend.
The two games have different gears, however. Submerged: Hidden Depths trundles along in first gear, being – and we hesitate to use the silly term, but this comes from their marketing department – a “relaxploration game”. We threw up in our mouths a little.
Like the first game, this is a non-combat adventure, where you coast into waterlogged towns, explore the hell out of them, and emerge with pockets full of story and relics. With each island, you hope to understand the curse that has befallen you. If the first game is anything to go by, this will be leisurely but entirely immersive.
Enough of the indie games, now it’s time for the grown men in leotards. After a fallow year of no WWE game (probably for the best, as WWE 2K20 was a stinker), 2K have returned with a bullish determination to make something that people will actually want to play – WWE 2K22.
So, we get modes out the wazoo. Following the lead of EA’s Ultimate Team, there is MyFACTION, where you get to collect, manage and upgrade wrestling superstars, and outfit a team that can take on nWo. And there’s not one but two MyRISE adventures, taking two wrestling wannabes to the top.
More importantly, the chassis has been completely reworked. This was a series that needed it, so we’re getting an all-new visual effects engine, re-scanned wrestlers and more cinematic camera angles. 2K have been focusing on all the right areas.
Announced way back at E3 2017, TUNIC looked like a special take on the Legend of Zelda formula. But it was the work of a single person, designing, developing and sculpting, which always meant that it was going to take a longer time than usual to bake. Fast forward to the present day, and we’re finally getting our hands on TUNIC.
It’s gleefully gorgeous and we can’t wait to play it. It’s the tale of a young fox washed up on the beach of a mysterious land, looking to survive and find a way home. And while there’s nothing necessarily new in the bosses, dungeons and unlocks that it offers, it looks so ravishing that we wonder if we will care.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Stranger of Paradise is best left described to the experts, so it’s here where we usher forth our very own Final Fantasy fanboy, Richard Dobson…
“With nearly 35 years of storytelling under their belt, Square Enix have recently turned their attention to revising some of the classic Final Fantasy tales. We are already seeing it with Final Fantasy VII and the remake happening there. Now is the turn of the original Final Fantasy game, which is being revised and retold in Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
It isn’t just the story getting an upgrade, as the combat has been substantially amended. Alongside Team Ninja – they of Nioh and Ninja Gaiden fame – Stranger of Paradise is a full-bodied action RPG.
A much darker, more mature and more violent Final Fantasy game sounds intriguing; we just hope it can deliver too.”
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands
One of Borderlands 2’s greatest moments came right at the very end of its life. The last DLC to launch for the title was Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, and it was an often hilarious, surprisingly heartfelt addition to the game’s already-stupendous series of add-ons. It imagined what would happen if the psychotic Tiny Tina arranged a game of Dungeons & Dragons for the other vault-hunters, and it was exactly as bizarre as it sounded.
The love for Assault on Dragon Keep burns so brightly that Gearbox have decided to make a complete game based on the premise – that game is Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. So, partner up with up to three friends in online multiplayer on local co-op, roll a multi-class hero that can draw from whichever skill trees that you fancy, and then fire some d12s out of your dice-cannon. With allies with names like the Bardbarian and the Fairy Punchfather, you know this isn’t going to win any Nobel prizes for literature, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Crusader Kings III
When Crusader Kings III launched in 2020, we were peering lustily over the Xbox fence, wishing it would one day come to our platform. But we knew it was unlikely: this was a dense and rich Middle Ages simulation whose home was clearly on PC. Nobody could possibly transcribe its grand strategy and roleplaying over to a controller.
Shows what we know. Paradox Development have laughed in our faces and done it anyway. Grab a realm, start in the earliest days of the Middle Ages, and build a legacy, as you and your heirs push to grab more land, and more status in court. Everyone can be romanced, backstabbed, executed and conquered, and it’s up to you in which order. With a map that covers the UK all the way to Burma, there is a laughably large amount of depth to Crusader Kings III, so hopefully we’ll be given a couple of months to review it.
Shadow Warrior 3
Sometimes, what you need is big, dumb action with hulking trolls that can be beaten to death with their own arms. Cue Shadow Warrior 3, which has refused to grow up since Shadow Warrior 2. It’s as bloody and bawdy as you remember, and there’ll be no shortage of people who fancy that flavour of action.
The story of Shadow Warrior 2 continues with corporate shogun Lo Wang and his sidekick Orochi Zilla looking to erase the mistakes they made in the last title, by tempting an evil dragon back to the cave from whence it came from. Unfortunately, the dragon represents a coming apocalypse, so things have to be tidied up sooner rather than later. Luckily you have the mask of a dead god, a dragon’s egg and an armoury that would make Neo from the Matrix weep. File as far away from ‘subtle’ as possible.
From much-loved studio The Chinese Room, makers of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and the Amnesia series, comes Little Orpheus. It’s been doing the business on PC and mobile for some time now, and now it’s Xbox’s turn. In apology for the wait, we’re getting the game plus all of it’s bonus material in a rather alluring package.
For a studio known for its walking simulators, Little Orpheus represents something of a departure. It’s a 2D action adventure game, not too far removed from Prince of Persia or the Oddworld series, and it follows a 1960’s cosmonaut as he tries to explain what happened in the three years since they went missing in space. It’s a technicolour joy, drawing on ‘60s science fiction like Dan Dare and Buck Rogers, and it’s been getting glowing write-ups in most publications. Could be a surprise March hit.
There you have it. There might not be the killer game to trouble your Elden Ring releasing on Xbox in March 2022, but there’s certainly plenty of candidates for the next game we all play.
April keeps a strong 2022 rolling. You could probably launch LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga alone and we’d be happy, so we’re happy to say that the much-delayed LEGO game is due for launch in April. Toss in a Chrono Cross remaster, and we may have an April to remember.