Flame in the Flood
Available on: TBA, beta out July (Xbox One, PC, Mac)
The main goal of many video games is to get you to feel powerful, putting a deadly weapon in your hands and letting you go to town on dozens of faceless goons. But then there are games like Flame in the Flood, which take that sentiment and inverts it so we can see the nasty results, like the scene in Galaxy Quest where the pig monster turns inside-out. In practical terms, that means putting you on the absolute bottom of the food chain with only a stick to defend yourself, where drinking water without boiling it first or getting caught in the rain will kill you. In fact, most things will kill you, and you can expect to die over and over and over again.
While that sounds way more unpleasant than fun, the joy of Flame in the Flood comes in slowly learning what it takes to survive, and managing to do it for longer and longer each time. It's by no means a forgiving game, and the smallest mistake will send you back to the mouth of the long river you're trying to follow, but there's something rewarding in learning from those mistakes and doing better next time. Plus, there's apparently something special waiting at the end of the river, and we're more than a little curious to find out what it is.
Available on: Q4 2015 (PS3, PS4)
The Shin Megami Tensei series may have been around longer, but its spinoff Persona has gone on to find massive success here in the West since its genre-blending third entry on the PS2. Mashing-up dungeon crawling, strategic JRPG combat, Pokemon-style monster collection, and the power of friendship, the Persona series puts you in the role of an ordinary Japanese high school student with extraordinary powers. It's rare that a game can make answering questions on a pop-quiz and hanging out with friends as interesting as battling demons, but Persona 5 aims to do all of that again by the end of the year.
Despite its expected release by Q4 2015, we actually don't know that much about Persona 5 other than what we've gleaned from a handful of trailers, but that's only got us even more intrigued. It looks like you'll be playing as a student (surprise!) who moonlights as a cat burglar when he's not busy studying for finals. Random JRPG battles and social links return, but everything looks more animated, more action-packed, and even more slick and stylish than ever before. Persona 5 looks so effortlessly cool, even its menus have us excited.
Available on: TBA 2015 (PC)
If the gameplay of Fortnite is even half as impressive as it sounds, every other tower defense game on the market is up for a rude awakening. First touted as the premiere showcase of Unreal Engine 4, years of development and redesign have pushed this colorful base builder out of the spotlight - and thats a damn shame.
A nightly onslaught of unfriendly creatures may be the base of the games action, but its the daytime base building and maintenance that seems to be the real hook. Fully customizable fortifications look to be as easy to build as they are to admire, although were not sure if our friends portion of the wall will be able to match the architectural nuance of our own. Still, when the baddies are coming to town, well take all the help we can get.
Available on: TBA 2015 (Xbox One, PC)
PlayStation so far has had the lion's share of impressive indie games, but Xbox's independent landscape isnt as barren as it may seem. At the front of Microsofts indie inclusive ID@Xbox initiative is Below, the next title from Capy Games (Super Time Force, Critter Crunch). The game is reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda, only a bit more challenging.
Harkening back to the days of punishing mystery dungeons on 8- and 16-bit systems, Below drops players into massive caverns with little guidance. The exploration is all about trial and error, with tough-but-fair combat throughout, and permadeath to make every accomplishment feel earned. The visuals and soundtrack are already impressive, but will mainstream gamers come running to this challenging, weird console exclusive?
Available on: November 2015 (PC)
The success of XCOM: Enemy Unknown shouldn't be a surprise given developer Firaxis' pedigree with strategy games, so of course we're getting a sequel. What is surprising is how XCOM 2 follows the outcome of the first game. In an interesting twist on the sequel formula, XCOM 2 assumes that your failure to stop the alien menace in Enemy Unknown is canon, and takes place 20 years after Earth has been taken over by extraterrestrials.
XCOM 2 adds a ton of improvements. Now, you'll be able to extract wounded soldiers from the field mid-mission to prevent their demise (or bring back dead ones to keep their gear), hack enemy turrets, and even loot corpses for equipment. As a member of Earth's only freedom force, you'll likely be outmanned (outaliened?) and outgunned, so many missions will require you to get in, complete your objective, and get out before being wiped out. No pressure, though - it's only the future of the human race on the line.
Star Fox Zero
Available on: December (Wii U)
It's been too long since Fox McCloud and the Star Fox team banded together for a space-faring shoot-em-up. The last console game was Star Fox: Assault, released on GameCube in 2005, and everything since then has been a portable title or remake. Not that we mind portable games and remakes mind you, but the truth is that we crave something new.
Thankfully, there's plenty to look forward to for Star Fox Zero. For one, it's got a new developer: Platinum Games, the same studio behind action titles like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bayonetta 2. Then there's the new vehicles, including a gyrocopter and a bipedal dinosaur/bird-like form that the Arwing can transform into.
StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void
Available on: TBA 2015 (PC)
The finale to StarCraft 2's trisected story has been a long time coming; the Terran-centric Wings of Liberty debuted a whopping five years ago. And since the Zerg got their turn in Heart of the Swarm expansion, the spotlight is finally swinging over to the gold-and-blue Protoss to close out this epic space RTS trilogy. StarCraft 2: Legacy of the Void will wrap up three games' worth of story build-up in singleplayer, and revitalize the multiplayer scene with a swath of new units for each race.
There are some particularly intriguing units among the five that are being added, including the return of the Zerg Lurker, and the Protoss Adept that can take the place of a phantasmal mirror image it sends out. You've also got some exciting new multiplayer modes to look forward to, including the harmony-testing, 'two players one base' dynamic of Archon Mode, or the Allied Commanders mode that lets you team up with an online pal for an extensive co-op campaign.
Available on: TBA 2015 (PS4, PC)
Hey - you don't rush Jonathan Blow when he's making his next game, just like you wouldn't tell van Gogh to hurry it up with that new painting. Say what you will about Blow himself, but there's no denying that Braid is an immaculately made game, with so much care going into nearly every facet of the experience. If The Witness can pull off even half of that game's thought-provoking atmosphere and puzzling challenges, then it's sure to be a first-person adventure to remember.
Exploring a seemingly uninhabited island might not sound so exciting, no matter how gorgeous, colorful, or varied that island's environments may be. But as another recent first-person puzzler, The Talos Principle, has proven, the simple act of following through on your curiosity, as you wander through picturesque landscapes and solve cryptic puzzles, can be amazingly rewarding and deeply engaging.
Available on: TBA 2015 (PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4)
They say people don't believe in heroes anymore. That might be a good call if you live in Mad Max's gritty desert hellscape, where the corpses are fresh, the cars are tricked out, the battering rams have battering rams, and everything's on fire. In the upcoming vehicle-heavy apocalypse simulator, Mad Max may have lost his Mel Gibson mug in favor of a timely Tom Hardy look, but make no mistake: he's still the off-his-axels crazy killer you remember, complete with Australian accent.
In the Road Warrior's interactive debut, there's two things you can definitely expect: ill wills, and ill wheels. When he's not snapping the necks of ne'er-do-wells or looting corpses, Max's main objective is souping up his hellish hotrod, the Magnum Opus. It'll be interesting to see how the developers (the same folks behind Just Cause) will implement a high-stakes vehicle builder, but color us intrigued for this sun-scorched display of vehicular manslaughter.
Let It Die
Available on: TBA 2015 (PS4)
There is a lot going on with the Let It Die trailer. First off, the game is being made by Suda 51's team Grasshopper Manufacture (the guys behind Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead) so you know it's going to be a little weird. When the trailer started to play at the E3 reveal, it was just that, weird. A naked dude walks down a hallway, kills another naked dude wearing goggles, then takes his goggles.
This continues with many more foes, each adding to the formerly naked dude's equipment. Basically, the trailer didn't give us very much information on the actual gameplay. In an interview with Suda at E3, we did get a few details on the game, like how it's a multiplayer free-to-play title, players will be able to create and build up their own character, and characters will be able to perform classic wrestling moves on their opponents (not just hit them with spiked baseball bats).