XBLA Fans’ most anticipated games of 2014
Last week, you may have caught our five-part feature looking ahead at as many XBLA games and their Xbox One brethren as we could possibly cram into one week’s worth of articles. If you missed it, go ahead and check it out right now. Start here.
All done with that? Great. Now you know what’s coming. What you may not know, however, is which of those games you should be looking forward to the most. Don’t worry — XBLA Fans has you covered. Read on to find out what upcoming XBLA and Xbox One games select members of our team are most looking forward to getting their hands on. Once you’re done, let us know which ones you’re most excited for in the comments section. We’re asking you to read through our many thoughts on the big releases ahead, so we figure the least we can do in return is to read yours as well.
Ryan Thompson, Contributor — When Capcom first announced that it was releasing a modern Strider title, my first thought was to listen to a track by game composer Jake Kaufman entitled “Dracula Man X2 Alpha Turbo.” Kaufman was clearly having fun when he created the track, giving one potential answer to what the Castlevania franchise’s music would sound like if Capcom had developed it instead of Konami. With the imminent release of Strider on the 18th of February, Capcom is poised to give something of an official answer to the same question Kaufman must have asked himself — what would Castlevania be like if Capcom released it instead?
First of all, it would have the same level of polish as the best of Capcom’s 2D games, with controls that never fail, leaving players without excuses for failure in the tradition of both the original Strider for NES and the more famous Mega Man games. Second, it appears that, judging by the trailer, there would be more emphasis on combat and slightly less on exploration, though that might be just the frantic flow of activity in a short video speaking. Finally, as Kaufman hints in his tribute, this game would come with a soundtrack worthy of the rest of Capcom’s 2D oeuvre.
My biggest hope is that Capcom puts the power of the next generation of consoles to good use — that the game is in two dimensions shouldn’t hold the development team back from giving us a gorgeous title. I’m waiting to push Strider Hiryu through his paces in the genre he came from and can’t wait to put some of the tricks he learned during his stint as a fighting game character to good use in an action title.
Marshall Britt, Contributor — The world of addictive physics gameplay that RedLynx is known for includes two of the best XBLA titles to this date. Trials titles on Xbox 360 still have highly active communities making incredible maps regularly. The announcement of Trials Fusion for the Xbox One was incredible news; few XBLA-type games garner the amount of attention that it has. The trailer gives some insight into new additions: tricks, altered gravity and cross-platform mobile play of some sort.
The addition of tricks allows Trials to evolve in an incredibly deep way. The elation that ensues when besting a friend’s score will certainly be compounded when a player also tops their friends’ trick scores. It can only be assumed that RedLynx TV (a console-based show displaying new user tracks and contests) will take full advantage of the Xbox One’s media capabilities. Imagine playing Trials tracks while snapping RedLynx TV to the side, then using the ability to create tracks with tutorials from top track designers.
Trials Fusion will certainly have the nearly infinite replay ability of the previous titles. Loading new user-made tracks nearly every session means a fresh look almost every session. Graphics have been updated also, meaning those user-made tracks will look more amazing than ever. This is most certainly one of the best, if not the best, things coming to the Xbox One in 2014.
Bound by Flame
Mike Mahoney, Contributor — Some of you have already moved on to the Xbox One, which is understandable as we all like new toys. But I present to you a reason that you just might want to keep your Xbox 360 at the ready. Published by Focus Home Interactive and developed by Spiders, Bound by Flame looks to breathe new life into your 8-year-old console come early 2014.
Bound by Flame is an action-RPG that by the looks of it will boast some of the most demonic monsters in recent memory. Players will assume the role of a mercenary that has become possessed by a flame demon. Players will have to walk a fine line between remaining human and not giving in to the powers of this demonic influence. My interest is piqued on how to balance the struggle between good and evil. The developers are saying that in real-time battles “danger and enemies” will increase in difficulty and that the temptation to acquire newer, more powerful skills might be too great. Will you stay strong and develop new “heroic talents,” or will you succumb to the demons?
Like any good RPG, the story’s chapters will change depending on the choices that are made. Obviously, this will give the consumer more bang for their buck as you’ll be able to replay certain scenarios to garner a different experience. Other areas I’m eager to explore are centered character customization. And I’m not just talking about creating a character, which can be done and will have some influence how others perceive you in the game. But what really intrigues me — and I’m curious to see how this plays out — is how your actions affect the companions you travel with throughout the game. The developers are saying that during your quest you will “develop friendship, romance or rivalry” based upon the choices you make. So if I get this straight, I can kill demonic creatures and have some romance too? Where do I sign up!
Based off some of the trailers that have been released to date, the combat looks absolutely brutal. And that’s meant to be a good thing. Skills such as “combat, fire magic and assassination” are the main skill trees in which players can learn and unlock new methods for conquering their foes on the battlefield. And what foes they are! Some of the members of the bestiary you will encounter will be “shadow dragons, liches, undead and ice creatures.” I’m eagerly anticipating more news about a release date as I can’t wait to fight my way through the battlefield and maybe even find love too. If that’s not an excuse to keep the Xbox 360 on the shelf then I don’t know what is!
Scott Baker, Contributor — As of now, we have no official confirmation that Drinkbox Studios’ Guacamelee! is actually coming to Xbox One, but that will not stop me from recommending it in case it does.
Guacamelee! is colorful, humorous and very self-aware. Most of all, it is a gameplay masterpiece. It follows the tried-and-true “Metroidvania” formula, but it sets itself apart by its refined combat moves that double as jumping abilities. Within these airtight mechanics lie incredible room for improvisation and exploitation. Unless you can think on your toes, the diverse hordes of cartoony undead will batter you around like a ping pong ball. Master the combos, however, and you will be able to dance in the air, juggling baddies like a true luchador.
In classic gaming fashion, Guacamelee! is as much about developing skills as it is about having fun. If you want to succeed, you have to earn your success. However, there are plenty of safety nets so you don’t have frustrating do-overs…at least, not until you’re ready for them. Throw in co-op, leaderboards, secrets, sidequests and even add-on costumes and challenge levels, and Guacamelee! is a must-play for any gamer itching for classic challenge and imagination.
Tales from the Borderlands
Nathan Bowring, Reporter — Thanks to The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, we now live in a time in which most people know Telltale Games is awesome. The studio’s ability to create amazing and well-written story-based games is simply unmatched. On the other end of the gaming spectrum we have Gearbox’s Borderlands, a gameplay-focused series all about blasting crazies in the face with crazier guns. Gearbox and Telltale have become very successful in vastly different parts of gaming over the last few years, so the announcement that these two forces would come together was both weird and wonderful news.
Tales from the Borderlands is a spin-off of the main franchise, ditching the series’ FPS-RPG roots for Telltale’s signature story-driven adventure gameplay. The story will focus on wanna-be vault hunters on the hostile planet of Pandora. Characters we know from the previous games will return, including one of gaming’s greatest villains, Handsome Jack. Right now we don’t really know much about the game; the only information we have comes from the game’s cryptic reveal trailer. When does this game take place in the Borderlands timeline? Who are these new characters? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
I’ve been on the Telltale bandwagon ever since I played Sam & Max (one of my all-time favorite games), and Borderlands 2 was easily my most-played game of last year. As a huge fan of Telltale, I can’t wait to see the team return to comedy. As a huge fan of Borderlands, I can’t wait to see a new story from the planet on which I’ve already spent countless hours. The little we know about the game already has me excited, and with two strong companies behind it, Tales from the Borderlands will no doubt be amazing. Personally, I’m wishing for more traditional point-and-click puzzles and at least one episode devoted to Tiny Tina.
A Game of Thrones
Matthew Smail, Contributor — George R. R. Martin’s ongoing A Game of Thrones series of books is the kind of epic yarn that is crying out for a worthwhile video game compatriot; after all, it features arguably the richest and most detailed fantasy world written since Tolkien put pen to paper, not to mention a fantastic HBO TV show. Although Cyanide Studios did a fairly decent job of crafting the 2012 Game of Thrones TV series tie-in, what fans really wanted was something else – a game with more grit, more texture and more soul. They wanted a memorable story to enhance the overall mythos of Martin’s already amazing world, and they wanted to interact with it in a meaningful way.
What better studio to take up the mantle then, than the expert storytellers at Telltale Games? The Walking Dead: Season One met with universal acclaim, and Telltale has followed it up with a fantastic start to both Season Two and its new IP, The Wolf Among Us. Exact details about this new version of A Game of Thrones are scarce at the moment, but what we do know is that it will be delivered episodically and will feature Telltale’s traditional approach to developing the story through narrative choices. No exact details about locations, timeline or characters are known at present, and the game is said to be in the very early stages of development.
Whatever Telltale has in store for us, you can bet that it’s going to be beautifully drawn with the kind of gameplay that will keep players rooted to their sofas from the start to the finish of every episode. We think that the decisions players will have to make in this game will be even tougher and more affecting than in previous Telltale games due to the uncompromising nature of Martin’s literature, and it’s for all these reasons that A Game of Thrones is most certainly highest on my wanted list for 2014.
Child of Light
Vasu Chetty, Contributor — Ubisoft has been knocking it out of the park lately. The studio recently released some top-quality retail games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (which was a return to form for the franchise), Rayman Legends (a strong sequel to the superb platformer Rayman Origins) and the well-received Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Its upcoming retail games are also on everyone’s radar, with new franchises like Watch Dogs, The Division and The Crew set to dominate next-gen systems. Even the studio’s mobile games, like Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run have been top-notch, so it is no surprise that it has several highly anticipated Xbox Live Arcade-type titles in the works: Trials Fusions, Valiant Hearts: The Great War and Child of Light.
Child of Light in particular looks to be a beautifully crafted arcade title. It’s a 2.5D RPG platformer with stunning visuals that seek to pay homage to the brilliantly crafted Studio Ghibli films as well as classic Final Fantasy concept artists such as Yoshitaka Amano. The game is made using the UBIart Framework, which was originally developed for the recent Rayman titles. While many indie and arcade games seem to create beautiful games with little substance, Child of Light goes the extra mile in ensuring that all aspects of the title are top-notch. The narrative in Child of Light, for example, exudes charm by unfolding in the form of poetry, making the story essentially a playable poem.
If that wasn’t enough, the Ubisoft RPG also features an active time combat system reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy games. Also, since many of the Child of Light developers worked on Far Cry 3, this arcade title features a similarly deep upgrade skill tree, which combined with the combat makes for some very strong gameplay elements. That’s not all, however, since Child of Light also has an interesting co-op mode in which one player controls the protagonist Aurora, while the second player plays a glowing orb named Igniculus. As the orb, the second player can blind or slow down enemies and pick up health and magic orbs to aid player one in battle. Igniculus can also access secret areas that Aurora can’t in order to aid her in her progress.
Overall, the game looks to be a well-rounded arcade title in Ubisoft’s stellar lineup, bolstered by the publisher’s strengths in its recent retail outings and its focus on celebrating classic JRPGs in both style and flavor.
Nick Santangelo, Features Editor — You either loved XBLA’s Bastion, or you didn’t get around to playing it. Those of you who feel a tinge of guilt for falling into the latter category are right to feel as such. You are terrible individuals who deserve to be immediately sent back to the beginning of your Hardcore Gamer campaigns minus 50,000 gold pieces and five experience levels. You are noobs, and Hardcore Gamer will now ask you if you wish to switch to easy mode or allow an invisible gorilla to auto-play through the remainder of the quest for you. Meanwhile, the developers have taken the liberty of posting a shameful achievement outlining your failure to all of your social media feeds.
No, actually, I’m trolling you harder than Game Informer’s yearly Game Infarcer issue does. None of those things will happen to you, nor should they. That being said, Supergiant’s Bastion was a stellar game, one of XBLA’s top five of all time, we think. But XBLA has seen many excellent games release nearly every year it’s been in existence, so you’d be forgiven for not having the time, money or desire to experience every single one of them.
Nevertheless, it looks like you’re not going to want to miss out on Supergiant’s next work, Transistor, when it (possibly) releases for Xbox at some point in 2014. Transistor is officially only coming to PS4 and PC as of this writing, but the developers have hinted that other platforms are possible. I’d be more shocked and awed than citizens of Bastion‘s Caelondia were when the Calamity tore their world asunder if Supergiant’s latest didn’t find its way on Xbox at some point following what I can only assume is a timed console exclusive agreement with Sony.
But enough about that. Transistor, like its predecessor — a game I’ve heaped such weighty praise upon as to feel at least partially responsible for Caelondia splitting into pieces — looks and sounds magnificent. Better yet, the gameplay in its demo matches its audiovisual excellence. An action-RPG in search of the perfect balance between real-time and turn-based combat, the game is about as promising of an XBLA-type game as anyone outside of development and publisher offices has been able to get their hands on the past year. You can no more judge a game by its convention demo than you can a book by its cover — but that’s not going to stop me from trying in this case. Transistor has all the makings of another wonderful Supergiant game, and I desperately want to find out if its final makeup is the wonder the demo has presumes it to be.
XBLA Fans’ most anticipated games of 2014 graphic designed by Brandin Tyrrel.