The last one proved to be a huge disappointment, but there is already a fascinating group of games queuing to release the 2017 PC. So, regardless of 2017, as long as there is electricity, a working network connection and background radiation levels can still be tolerated, and everything should be fine.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole, Ubisoft
Anticipated release: First quarter, 2017
South Park: The Stick of Truth was one of the surprise hits of 2014 because, let’s face it, game adaptations of films and television series often wreak of shameless cash-in and are invariably disappointing. Oh, and Ubisoft was behind it, too.
But The Stick of Truth was soaked in the best of South Park. Just watch a play-through on YouTube and it’s like watching an episode of South Park produced in the style of a role-playing game.
Arguably the biggest criticism of the game was from RPG purists who justifiably argued that it was a bit simplistic. For the rest of us, though, it was great.
In The Fractured but Whole, Ubisoft (and the cheeky chaps behind South Park) have sought to beef-up the RPG elements, while maintaining the crude charm of the television series.
Originally scheduled for launch in December, Ubisoft put it back until “the first quarter of 2017” to give themselves a bit more polishing time.
The big question, of course, is whether the developers can maintain the high standards established by The Stick of Truth. What we’ve seen so far suggests that they have.
Indeed, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, have kept their own standards up for 20 seasons or so. So surely they can pull another plum out of their trousers, so to speak, with The Fractured but Whole?
Yooka-Laylee, Playtonic Games/Team17
Anticipated release: 11th April 2017
If you like your games to look like Pixar animations or those fun Nintendo games of old, Yooka-Laylee may well be right up your alley.
Promising open world, 3D platform-jumping pleasure, this ‘collect-em-up’ game has been designed by a bunch of former Rare employees best known for their work on a number of Nintendo N64 games.
Indeed, the two characters – chameleon Yooka (the green one), and Laylee (a bat with a big nose) – have been created by Kevin Bayliss, the character artist behind the rebooted Donkey Kong. The development of the 3D worlds, meanwhile, is the work of Steven Hurst, who also worked on the N64 game Banjo-Kazooie, to which Yooka-Laylee is intended as the spiritual successor.
So, it has a fair bit of tried-and-trusted games industry talent behind it, as well as £2.1m in Kickstarter funding. That’s more than Elite:Dangerous scooped up.
The game promises a total of five “vast and beautiful” worlds books to explore, apparently found within some magical books, and the pre-release vids certainly paint a charming picture.
Remarkably, the game is being developed on the Unity engine and will therefore run on pretty much anything, even Linux and the Mac – but not the moribund Nintendo Wii U.
With Yooka-Laylee having snaffled up more Kickstarter funding than any other UK game to date, let’s hope it proves it lives up to its promise, unlike so many games bankrolled via crowd-funding, like The Stomping Land, Yogventures, Code Hero, Broken Age, Dark Matter, Godus, Clang…
Urban Empire, Reborn Interactive/Kalypso
Anticipated release: 20th January 2017
Kalypso has been behind some absolute stinkers in recent years, such as Airline Tycoon 2, but thankfully nothing quite as bad as any of these.
Its forté, though, seems to be city/empire building with such popular games as the Tropico series, Patrician 3, and, err, well that’s it, really.
Urban Empire, though, sounds genuinely interesting. You take charge of a nepotistic political dynasty but, unlike (say) Crusader Kings, you can’t get your rivals bumped off. Instead, you’ve got to build genuine support among hoi polloi as you guide your family through 200 years of city building and metropolitan glory.
That means you can’t just plonk factories, zones and wotnot wherever you want and must have to have one eye on your popularity as well as the other three families scheming to topple you – this isn’t a ‘God game’. Indeed, it has been described as Sid Meier’s Civilisation meets Sim City and, as both of those games genres are terrific, we’ve high hopes for Urban Empire, too.
If there’s a likely downside to it – and it’s a big one – it’s DLC. The “pre-purchase offer” includes a ‘half-timbered building pack’. Or, in other words, it sounds like the company is planning to launch the game and make users pay extra for graphics. If Kalypso are really going to try and pull that, it’d be best to wait until it’s on sale and the whole lot can be bought for a sensible price.