May has got more quality games than a yard sale at Shigeru Miyamoto’s house. Just when we think things are going to lighten up (it’s the barren period that leads up to E3, right? Right?), more quality games arrive, and the Up Next that details the most exciting games for the next month becomes increasingly difficult to make sense of. Which of the fifty-odd new Xbox games due for release should we include? It’s a nice problem to have.
We’ve opted for a rough fifty-fifty split of AAA giants and gorgeous indies, on the off-chance that a few might surprise you. Pull on the Speedos and dive in.
Age of Wonders 4
Metacritic has already ruined the question of whether Age of Wonders 4, the latest 4X title from Paradox Interactive (via Triumph Studios) is any good. At the time of writing, it’s sitting at a healthy 83 Metacscore. You should still stick around for our review, though. Please?
There’s a very good chance that you’ve already made your mind up about Age of Wonders 4. It’s a continuation of the award-winning series that’s claimed many a PC player’s free time over the years, and it’s in safe hands with the original developers returning to continue the turn-based strategy series. You can create your own realms in Age of Wonders 4, experience an all new ‘event system’, and ascend your own characters to an in-game pantheon.
Now, this is going to royally irk some keyboard warriors, but the controversy around Redfall has seemed a bit stormy teacuppy to us. That’s a personal opinion, so don’t blame others: we’re just not of the belief that 60fps is essential for success. Plus, what’s been shown so far looks like it’ll eclipse the problem. Redfall is shaping up to be at least our second favourite vampire game of the past six months (Vampire Survivors ain’t giving up that crown).
Coming from Prey and Dishonored makers Arkane Austin, it’s a four-player co-op or single-player experience set in an open-world, and that open-world is swarming with bloodsuckers. Pick your Helsing, jump into battle and order some bloody stakes.
Look, CMA! An Xbox exclusive! We’ve had so many this year (well, at least compared to last year) that it’s enough to accuse Microsoft of a monopoly and call off a prospective merger.
Ravenlok is from a studio who is fast becoming a firm favourite. Cococumber have been making their name as master of voxels with Riverbond and Echo Generation, and now they’re bringing their skills to the action-RPG.
Set in a twisted variant on Wonderland, it has you hopping through mirrors to slay hydras, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and – of course – the Queen of Hearts.
LEGO 2K Drive
On occasion, there’s a game announcement that simultaneously surprises you and makes you nod your head in understanding. Of course it had to exist. That’s the way it went for us with LEGO 2K Drive.
Following the successful LEGO stint in Forza with LEGO Speed Champions, we get a full-fat racing game in the form of LEGO 2K Drive.
But it’s not your conventional racing game. This is an open world racer a la Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed, but with the added bonus of being bolstered by the LEGO universe. You can pimp your own ride with whatever bricks you fancy, grab some hot wheels from other franchises, and complete quests on the way to winning the coveted Sky Cup. If this is Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts but with the devs making actual money, then we’re in.
Amnesia: The Bunker
Nope. No no no no. You couldn’t pay us to play Amnesia: The Bunker. But we know some people will want to, so we will slide out of the back of the sofa and try to explain what it has to offer.
This is the celebrated Amnesia series, transposed into WWI and set in a bunker. You awaken with only one bullet in your barrel (it must be tempting to aim that in a more personal fashion), and it’s your task to make your way out. This is a semi-open world Amnesia, where your choices determine the available paths in front of you, so choose your tools wisely and run run run.
Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun
Sweet Slaanesh, is there no end to the Warhammer games? We’re not complaining exactly, but if every fandom was served up treats like the Warhammer community, then we would all be very happy people indeed.
But hol’ up, because Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun looks like it might have – no! – crossover appeal! Take a look at some screenshots: this is a love-letter, sprayed with giblets, addressed to the 90’s DOOM shooter. Suddenly we’re all kinds of interested, because a well-made, polished Wolfenstein for the masses sounds like our can of “get some!”.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
Well, this one could go either way. We’re not exactly drowning in Lord of the Rings video games, so we want it to be good, but screenshots and Let’s Plays have been slightly less than stellar. We remain optimistic, like a fresh-faced Took, but we know things could quickly go Underhill.
Taking place during the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a tale that’s been given the thumbs up from the Tolkien estate. Follow Gollum as he evades the Mouth of Sauron, gets tutted at by Thranduil, and generally slaloms through a cast of Lord of the Rings characters.
Company of Heroes 3
Company of Heroes 3 had a rocky launch back in February on PC through Steam. Accused of having a lacklustre campaign, an unbalanced multiplayer and a general shoddiness that didn’t justify the decade since Company of Heroes 2, it’s best described as receiving a ‘mixed’ response.
Sometimes it’s beneficial to be late to the party. We’re receiving Company of Heroes 3 on Xbox three months’ later, which should mean that all of these problems will be resolved. Right? Well, that’s what reviews are for, and we’re eager to pass judgement from the eagle’s nest.
There’s a downbeat kind of optimism to After Us, the latest narrative adventure from Arise: A Simple Story devs Piccolo. The world is all but dead, most species have become extinct, but Gaia – the life spirit of the world – is here to bring as much as she can back to life. It’s time for dodos to get a second run at it.
Gaia travels a surrealist and beautiful world prowled by Devourers. She’s building a Mother Ark from the dead creatures she finds, experiencing their final moments as she touches their souls.
After Us looks like a shoe-in for a Best Narrative Game nom when Geoff Keighley arrives into town.
We haven’t been quiet about our love for Mutant Year Zero, professing enough love for it on podcasts that we could be sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. So when the developers reveal that they’re working on a huge turn-based RPG, well, we start putting on our best pants.
Something called Miasma has taken over America, and it’s down to you – Elvis, but not that Elvis – to regain control. You have a glove that can control the Miasma, and that makes you someone rather special. Explore the world in real-time, before switching into tactical, turn-based battles. We might start gushing over this one, so watch out.
Mia and the Dragon Princess
Look, it’s Paul McGann! Wales Interactive have tapped up the Withnail & I actor to appear in their latest FMV experience, Mia and the Dragon Princess. But rather than get cosy in their usual genres, Mia and the Dragon Princess is, unexpectedly, a martial arts interactive experience.
How can an action movie and video game coexist? It’s a very good question, but you can usually count on Wales Interactive to have good answers. We’re intrigued by ‘real-time attribute tracking’, which sounds like we’re building character sheets as we’re progressing. Additionally, the inclusion of a real-world martial artist, Dita Tantang, and a seasoned fight choreographer, Marcus Shakesheff (WonderWoman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Game of Thrones), makes this more than simple shadow-boxing.
From Fable alumni comes Tin Hearts, a heart-warming puzzle-adventure set in the workshop of a Victorian inventor. Tin Hearts looks to make an alloy of narrative adventures and discrete puzzles, as you lead a platoon of tin toy soldiers to an exit. You’ll get them there with the use of cannons, balloons and springboards, in what looks to be a modern re-forging of Lemmings.
There are forty levels here, and we’re promised that each level is like a riddle to be solved. We hope that it can capture some of Fable’s humour and completely believable world on the way.
Our prediction is that Redfall and Miasma Chronicles ‘win’ April, registering the highest scores from our very site. Check back next month to find out how foolishly wayward that guess becomes.
What about the new Xbox games set to release in June, though? Start checking the bookies odds for Diablo IV, Street Fighter 6, Crash Team Rumble and Aliens: Dark Descent. It looks like another kick-ass month, where picking the best game is going to be quite the challenge.