For Honor – Ubisoft (February 14th)
The latest flagship title for Ubisoft, For Honor, is a third person action game built around methodical, purposeful, medieval-style combat systems. With roots in games like Bushido Blade (1997) and the Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls series (2009-present), For Honor centers the majority of its gameplay around multiplayer encounters that range in size from 1 vs. 1 to 4 vs. 4, and it includes such gameplay modes as Team Deathmatch and Elimination. While the developer has teased a campaign and story mode, the current closed beta has focused exclusively upon multiplayer match-ups, giving the impression that this side of the game is where these mechanics truly shine.
For Honor has three major class trees–samurai, knights, and vikings–all of which come with their own specialized ranged, tank, defensive, and offensive subclasses. It’s a complex but balanced system that allows for player individuality while still maintaining a fair and exciting combat experience, no matter which subclass players choose.
Basically, if you ever wanted to know who would win a fight between a samurai and viking, For Honor is the place to find out.
Halo Wars 2 – Creative Assembly (February 21st)
As the long anticipated follow-up to Ensemble Studios’ console RTS (real time strategy) game Halo Wars, the sequel, Halo Wars 2, promises to be an exciting revisit of the mechanics that finally proved how to make RTS controls works in a console space. While this time around the game will be available for both the Xbox One and PC, expanding its possible audience significantly, as of now there will not be crossplay support between console and computer systems. This technical decision is disappointing in some respects, especially for those chiefly interested in its multiplayer components, but it makes sense in terms of UI speed and accessibility.
Although developer Creative Assembly (makers of the Total War series) has hosted a multiplayer beta, the focus of Halo Wars has always been the single player campaign/story. CA has kept their story cards pretty close to the vest–as they should–but what we know so far involves a hidden enemy known as the Banished, whom even the Covenant feared, becoming a serious problem for the UNSC, which eventually leads to a major showdown between the two factions. Expect the same cinematic set pieces, Blur supported cut scenes, and high tension tactical decision of the original, now in an updated and more accessible format than before.
Players who enjoyed leading Spartans across the battlefield in the first game, or dropping gauss cannons onto Warthogs and letting them wreak havoc on enemy base expansions, should get excited about this new installment, 8 years after the original. Creative Assembly has one of the best RTS pedigrees in the business, and whatever they have done with this beloved franchise will be a treat to experience.
Night in the Woods – Infinite Fall (February 21st)
Night in the Woods is a small, Kickstarter funded passion project, and in that way it differs dramatically from the other major triple A releases on this month’s list. By following the life of college dropout Mae Borowski (the cat shown in the image above) as she returns to her depressed and crumbling hometown of Possum Springs, Night in the Woods dwells upon issues of identity, depression, anxiety, and the struggle to find oneself in the midst of world that visibly moves on at its own pace, with or without our consent.
It isn’t surprising that Infinite Fall, as a small studio, has released very little beyond this trailer showing actual gameplay, but what is there looks like a combination between an action platformer and a point-and-click adventure, where players must jump around Possum Springs, finding new areas and new characters in order to advance the story.
For those of you who are longtime fans of this site, you will know that my interests in narrative video game experiments go back to Her Story, The Beginner’s Guide, and Firewatch (also, stay tuned later this month for a review of Memoranda). As a result, I am incredibly excited about this game, and I can’t wait to see what storytelling gem Infinite Fall has crafted for players.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – Guerrilla Games (February 28th)
From the makers of the Killzone series comes Horizon: Zero Dawn, a game wherein human civilization has been returned to its prehistoric origins and dinosaurs have been replaced by monolithic robots. In what looks to be an original and genre-defining third person action RPG, players will take on the role of Aloy–a young woman and hunter for her clan–as she fights with other human settlements, gathers material for her people’s survival, and slays the giant mechanized beasts that threaten the future of humanity.
Blending the crafting elements of something like Rust or The Last of Us and the Killzone-esque strategic combat design that made Guerrilla famous, Horizon: Zero Dawn produces what looks to be a successful blend between future and past, in both gameplay and storytelling.
So, if you ever wanted to use a bow and arrow to murder a robot dinosaur in a post-apocalypse that is so far into the distant future that humanity has forgotten where the robots came from in the first place, this is the game for you.
Torment: Tides Of Numenera – nXile Entertainment (February 28th; official release out of Early Access)
Building upon the recent renaissance in computer-based, isometric-style RPGs seen through the successes of Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera is a Kickstarter funded, Steam Early Access success story due for full release at the tail end of February. A sequel to 1999’s Planescape: Torment--which many still see as the greatest video game story ever told–Tides of Numenera is set is Monte Cook’s new tabletop RPG world of the same name, and according to the developer’s website, it deals in the same complex and highly personal themes as its predecessor.
Full disclosure, this style of game will not be for everyone. While the story promises to be outstanding, if you are not interested in long stretches of dialogue, intense inventory and party management, and at least 60-100 hours of gameplay to achieve full closure, Torment: Tides of Numenera will not be for you. That being said, however, I would encourage anyone with fond memories of this genre (or even the moderately curious) to give this game a shot. If it turns out to be your kind of experience, the payoff will overtake the risk by tenfold.