2020 is shaping up to be one of the best years in gaming, if not the best year outright. And that’s just taking into account the first half of the year. We really don’t know all that much about the second half, aside from some shiny new games consoles ushering in the next generation of gaming and probably reigniting all the annoying arguments about framerates and resolutions.
That’s made narrowing down the games I’m most excited for in 2020 to a list of five an almost excruciating experience. If you ask me again next week I’ll probably present you with an entirely different set of games. This list is simply capturing a moment in time, and it’s one I’ve extensively changed over and over again, as if somehow the next time I edit it will yield perfection.
But it won’t. It can’t. Some games I’m really excited for just aren’t going to make the cut. Sorry. Xbox is set for an exciting twelve months of games, and with my shiny new Xbox One X, I can’t wait to play all of them on the (current) most powerful console in the world.
Okay, so maybe I do like high framerates a bit.
VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE - BLOODLINES 2
I imagine my reaction to Bloodlines 2’s announcement mirrored Fixer’s reaction every time Capcom announce a new Resident Evil - pure, unfiltered excitement. Right after its announcement, I streamed the original Bloodlines and found that, yeah, it’s still one of my favourite games of all time.
It’s buggy as heck and the combat is a bit clunky, but that game’s story, worldbuilding and characters are amongst some of gaming’s greats. And considering new developer Hardsuit Labs has recruited the original game’s writer Brian Mitsoda, I’m fully expecting to fall in love with the sequel’s world and cast of characters once again.
For all its jankiness, Bloodlines was one of the greatest RPGs ever made. A real diamond in the rough. This sequel, sixteen years in the making, gives the franchise a chance to shine by doubling down on its unique, weird setting and rich, intriguing story. If Hardsuit can pair that with improved fighting mechanics, or the ability to avoid scraps altogether, then we’re in for one heck of a game.
ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS
Ori and the Blind Forest made me cry five years ago. Heck, it made me cry even further back than that, thanks to a deeply emotional reveal trailer that brought the feels. It told a powerful story with very few words, against a drop dead gorgeous backdrop, with an opening that could rival the first ten minutes of Up in terms of devastation.
But while I loved it for all of that, it’s the thumb shattering platforming that I remember most - whether escaping the Ginso Tree or climbing Mount Horu, the platforming was challenging but excellent, which made the rather pedestrian combat mechanics stick out like my sore thumbs.
Judging from the trailers we’ve seen so far for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which have focused on gameplay this time around, those combat mechanics look like they’ve been improved between installments. If they have, then this is a sequel that could be a strong contender for Game of the Year once all is said and done.
TELL ME WHY
Games have finally reached a point where the stories they can tell, and the way they can tell them, are just as important as how good they feel to play. Which makes diversity critically important - not just to give players the chance to play as a different avatar (though it’s always nice to not have to play a game as yet another generic white dude), but so that games can offer players a rich tapestry of different experiences.
Because we unfortunately don’t live in a utopia where everyone is on equal footing, different people experience life very differently from one another. Games have a unique ability to put their players in the shoes of a vast group of different people from all walks of life. More diverse protagonists mean more unique viewpoints, experiences and, ultimately, stories that games can tell.
That’s how Tell Me Why has ended up on this list, despite knowing very little about it beyond its premise and the pedigree of its developer, Dontnod Entertainment. I want to experience all sorts of different stories, and I’ve never had the opportunity to play a transgender character in a video game before (outside of my own personal headcanon). The fact that this game even exists is also a big deal for me personally, as a trans woman - it’s really gratifying to see a studio take a swing at telling an authentic story starring a trans person.
Video games have had an obsession with death since the 1970s, when Death Race saw you run over little stick figures and turn them into tombstones. But for all the violence and death in countless video games over the decades, very few games have actually taken an introspective look at death. Enter Spiritfarer, a whimsical simulation game where players will ferry people to the afterlife on their boat.
You’ll construct buildings on your boat and complete quests for your passengers, before sending them on their way to their final resting place. I played a small piece of this game thanks to the Game Festival demos that launched alongside last year’s Game Awards, and these quests and buildings are a fantastically well crafted way of getting to know your passengers as you help them along their journey.
While Spiritfarer looks cutesy and whimsical on its surface, thanks to its beautifully colourful art style and the fact that its characters are anthropomorphised animals, it aims to tackle some pretty heavy themes in a fascinating way - taking a look at death not as something to be feared or avoided, but via acceptance and comfort in one’s impact on the world and the lives they interact with. It also lets you hug everyone liberally, and if they thirty or so minutes I played of the game are any indication, you’re going to need those hugs.
Any number of games could have taken the last spot on my list of games I’m excited for in 2020 - Cyberpunk 2077 looks like it could be CD Projekt Red’s magnum opus, Doom: Eternal looks set to iterate beautifully on id’s last game, Resident Evil 3 looks like it could be even more terrifying than last year’s RE2make. And so on. But I know roughly what I’m going to get from those games, whereas Halo: Infinite feels like more of an unknown quantity.
It’s probably fair to say that Halo has had a rocky path since 343 Industries took stewardship of the series. While I personally believe that Halo 4 had a seriously underrated campaign, Halo 5: Guardians was underwhelming, and both games haven’t had the greatest of receptions. Since the release of Guardians, 343 have more or less taken Halo underground, only briefly resurfacing to let everyone know that Halo still exists, and that they’ve taken onboard the feedback they’ve received over the years.
What that looks like is anyone’s guess - aside from knowing that this will be a first-person shooter that will probably star the Master Chief (and it’s being made on the Slipspace Engine, which...yay?), no-one is really sure what Infinite will actually be. And that’s incredibly exciting, because all of a sudden the future is filled with possibilities. There’s a fair chance that Cyberpunk, RE3 and a host of other games will be better than Infinite, but the next Halo game is the one that excites me the most, because there are a lot of different ways that 343 could take the franchise.