What's with the name?
Allow us to explain.
by Becky Chambers | 12:29 pm, August 29th, 2012
At the end of every summer, I find myself in a bit of a slump. I know I’m not the only gamer who gets like this. Blame it on the gray skies, blame it on the end of the Steam Summer Sale, blame it on the interminable length of time between now and the winter holiday season. We’re all burned out after months of getting amped up for big releases that have come and gone, and we find ourselves convinced there are no good games coming out. Ever.
But never fear! There’s still plenty left in 2012 to get excited about. I’ve gathered a selection of upcoming releases that will hopefully pull you out of your impending autumn blues. The games listed here were chosen for reasons of gender portrayal, female talent, developers doing something clever, or general mass appeal. And if the game you’re most looking forward to isn’t mentioned here, feel free to wax poetic about it in the comments.
Dishonored is one of the fall’s most hotly anticipated titles, and it’s not hard to see why. This first-person stealth game casts you as a cunning bodyguard-turned-assassin, prowling the streets of fictional Industrial Era whaling town Dunwall. After being framed for the murder of the Empress you were sworn to protect, you’re out to find answers, revenge, and — okay, mostly revenge. There’s macabre magic, and a nasty plague, and policemen on unsettling mechanized stilts. The gritty trailers have an aura of steampunk without the whimsy, and feature hauntingly bleak environments that give me the shivers in a BioShock sort of way. Though I’m looking forward to this game, I’ll probably be playing it with the lights on. Did I mention that you can summon swarms of rats, mind-control them toward your enemies, and then make them explode? I hadn’t realized this was a feature I’d been lacking in my games, but I’m glad Dishonored has it covered.
All in all, Dishonored looks to be a fresh, inventive, deeply creepy addition to the stealth genre. And if that’s not enough to pique your interest, the voice acting roster boasts some talented ladies I’m sure you’ve heard of: Carrie Fisher (Star Wars), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), and Susan Sarandon (um, everything). That’s some serious cred.
Yes, lead designer John Hemingway said something rather careless recently when he referred to the Mechromancer class’ Best Friends Forever skill tree — meant for novice FPS players — as “girlfriend mode.” Sigh. But to be honest, I’m less interested in a designer shoving his foot in his mouth than I am with how awesome the game content looks. The first Borderlands was a crazy fun kick in the pants, full of oddball humor, mutated monsters, and over-the-top mayhem. Borderlands 2 promises more of the same, which I am all in favor of. The dev team also gets a few extra points in my book for their intentions with a heavyset mechanic named Ellie. From PC Gamer:
The narrative goal with Ellie was to have a character who hits all of the tick marks of a good Borderlands character (funny, unexpected, looks as if they could probably kill you in thirteen different ways if you got on their bad side), while also making an independent female character who looked the exact opposite of how most females tend to be represented in games. We also wanted to make sure that, through her dialog and visual design, we never cast her in a light where the player is encouraged to pity, laugh at, or mock her because she doesn’t look like Jessica Rabbit.
Oh, and you know Anthony and Ashly Burch, the siblings behind Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? Yeah, he’s writing the game, and she voices one of the NPCs. Neat.
Many moons ago, when WoW had but one expansion, my guildies and I would idly speculate about what new races would be offered in expansions to come. Some would say high elves, others would say goblins. Eventually, a Warcraft III veteran would cheekily chime in with “Pandaren!” And oh, how we laughed.
Those were simpler times.
It’s true, Mists of Pandaria will let you play as a brawling panda, but there are plenty more goodies to be had here. The expansion will bring in the Monk class, bump the level cap up to 90, add three new instances, and give players a whole new continent to explore. MoP will also introduce Challenge Mode, which rewards players for clearing dungeons within a set time limit. As for those vanity pets you’ve been hording, they are now Pokémon you’ll be able to pit them against one another in friendly battles. And of course, there are more new quests than you can shake a stick at, and a new starting zone set on the back of a giant wandering turtle. Why? Because it’s WoW, and why not.
EVE Online is about to get a big change this year in the form of a free-to-play first-person shooter, released exclusively on the PS3. Yes, you read that right. But this is no mere tie-in. Dust 514 not only takes place in the same setting as EVE, but the events that happen within the FPS will directly affect what happens within the MMO, and vice versa. In essence, EVE Online players and Dust 514 players will be coordinating their efforts to acquire new territories and sway the balance of power in their shared universe — even though they’re playing different games on different platforms. Given how passionate most EVE Online denizens are about their community, the depth and scale of this undertaking could be something unprescedented in the world of MMOs.
While my own short time in EVE Online correlates perfectly with this graph, I am nonetheless fascinated to see how Dust 514 pans out. It’s one of the most inventive steps I’ve seen in online gaming, and it has the potential to hugely impact how developers approach building game franchises (for more on that, check out this episode of Extra Credits). Though Dust 514 has yet to set a firm release date, it is confirmed for 2012, and beta testing events are currently underway. If you want to take the game for a test drive, go register here.
I have a problem. I had no plans to buy the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s latest addition to the handheld console market. But then I saw the trailers for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, a Vita exclusive. The assassin in question is Aveline, a woman who — you know what, I’ll just let let Ubisoft producer Martin Capel talk about her backstory:
What I can tell you about Aveline is that she is of mixed heritage – her father is French and her mother African. She is born of a form of temporary marriage called plaçage, where wealthy young men would typically take an African, Chinese or Native American woman for a bride before they later found a more “acceptable” French bride. Plaçage was created because not enough French women could be persuaded to immigrate to the New World, and resulted in many children. Some of the children were pressed into slavery, while others were truly loved by their fathers, and were raised and educated with all the benefits that their father’s wealth could bring. Aveline is one of these lucky ones.
Aside from bringing ambitious themes of race, class, and gender to the table, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation got an awful lot of buzz at E3 this year. Those lucky enough to demo it have praised the game’s fluid, creative combat and how well a game as complex as Assassin’s Creed has been adapted for play on a smaller system.
So, how much is the Vita again?
Master Chief is back for a fourth tour of duty, but what’s interesting this time around is that the game’s marketing has the helmeted hero sharing top billing with his indispensible AI counterpart, Cortana. By now, Cortana has pushed herself well beyond her natural lifespan and is on the brink of rampancy (as far as I can tell, that’s the AI equivalent of going all Dark Phoenix). Developer 343 Industries (that's right, Bungie's not at the helm anymore) has been spending a lot of time talking up Cortana’s pivotal role in Halo 4, and given how her character has become ever more vital as the series has progressed, it’ll be interesting to see what part she has to play. Judging by the trailers, this may be the final act for one of the most well-known female characters in video games to date.
Though I admit that I don't have much of an attachment to the Halo franchise, what I remember of Cortana from the original trilogy is a character that grew considerably beyond her original intent. You just can’t have Halo without Cortana. In a way, she rather neatly encapsulates the clash of ideals we see in how games portray female characters. On the one hand, she’s a naked blue hologram that often ends up at the top of lists of “Hottest Video Game Babes.” On the other, the things most often praised about this naked blue hologram are her intelligence and independence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about hardcore Halo fans, it’s that they can talk for days about whether or not Cortana’s appearance is a symbol of objectification or femininity (as a point of interest, I’ve heard women argue both sides). A video interview with 343 Industries' franchise development director Frank O'Connor about Cortana in Halo 4 includes him speaking in favor of her nudity “as a kind of feminist ideal” (watch the vid for context). I'll leave that one for Halo players more invested than I to hash out.
I also have to give the live-action portions of the trailer a nod for featuring a fully gender-integrated UNSC military. Considering how rare it still is to have combat-ready women in military FPSs, it’s refreshing to see some female faces in the advertising.
“Summer 2012.” That’s what the Torchlight II listing says in the Steam store. Well, summer is swiftly ending, and a release date has yet to be set for the next installment of the little dungeon crawler that could (though developer Runic Games has promised to announce it at PAX Prime on Friday). But you know what? That’s okay. I played the beta back in May, and judging by what I saw then, this is one worth waiting for. If the game still needs a few coats of polish, then as far as I'm concerned, Runic can take all the time they need.
The original Torchlight was wonderful, but no amount of randomized dungeons could hide the fact that there wasn’t much more to the game than a town and a cave. The world in Torchlight II has expanded considerably, with mysterious woods and ancient ruins to explore, and they’ve added a number of exciting new features to boot. There’s gender customization for player characters, with the added bonus that the ladies are wearing the exact same armor as the gents (my Engineer in the beta looked awesome). There’s multiplayer mode — which was sorely missing from the first game — available either online or via LAN (LAN!). There’s a free editor for making your own mods. The brilliant loot-selling pets are back, now with the ability to send them to town with a shopping list. And yes, single-player games are always offline. I can’t wait.
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Assassin's Creed: Liberation | Borderlands | Dishonored | Dust 514 | Halo 4 | Torchlight II | video games | World of Warcraft
I think X-Com: Enemy Unknown belongs on a list like this. Besides actually looking like an amazing game, from the sounds of it the art team is trying to do some really good things as far as diversity:
Obviously we’ll see how it turns out, but I’m really excited that they’re trying.
Not really a fan of any of these games, but…OMG DAT CAT! (is so cute…)
I was already excited about AC3, but Liberation is just off the charts :) It’ll definitely be on my holiday gift list!
Anyone here play WoW? What servers/factions/guilds? I kind of miss playing with more people than my three closest friends…
Ahhh you left off the most important game!
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition! Sept 18th http://www.baldursgate.com/
You forgot Tokyo Jungle!
Oh..My…God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black female protagonist in video game or even a legit black female protagonist. I’m just….I love that.
Aveline from Assassin’s Creed looks amazing! Not only a african american woman, but her back story is fascinating. I didn’t even know that happened in early American history!
Ni No Kuni. That is all.
am definitely looking forward to Torchlight II. they keep teasing us with new release dates.
can’t wait! Boo has missed us.
Dishonored and Assassin’s Creed III for me. WoW expansion and Borderlands 2 for the husband. Yup, we’re all set.
I call shenanigans for suckering me in with cute kitten *hissss*
No Xcom, no peace!
She’s actually African French.
Because teenagerdom is a mess, but some people handle it better than others.
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