Science-Fiction Weekly – Looking Ahead To 2017

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Many of you are likely playing the living hell out of new games obtained over the holidays, or are trying to chip away at the towering backlog that grows taller each year. After looking at what’s on the horizon for 2017, my advice is to stay up a little longer each night to play more. The year ahead is looking great for science-fiction enthusiasts.

The fun (hopefully) begins in February with the releases of Halo Wars 2 (February 21) and Horizon Zero Dawn (February 28). The video game industry is in desperate need of new intellectual properties, and Horizon Zero Dawn is easily the most exciting one slated for next year. The concept of hunting robotic dinosaurs with primitive weapons is enough to make Horizon a day-one purchase for me, but intrigue also stems from how little we know about this game’s story and world. The latest Horizon trailer teases a mystery deep beneath the planet’s surface. I don’t know much about what is happening in the forests and cities, and now Guerilla is teasing an underground? Kick ass. I’m glad that we’re getting another Red Dead Redemption, but I’m more excited for Horizon, just because it’s a new series and experience.

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Halo Wars 2 is a sequel that I never expected to see, but I’m glad it’s coming, because, again, it delivers a different type of experience. In other words, it isn’t another first-person shooter. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Gears of War 4, and Titanfall 2, but holy hell, the back-half of 2016 was dominated by shooters. Throw in Battlefield 1, and my need to play more Overwatch (which is technically a science-fiction game, and the topic of a future column) and I felt like I always had a gun in my hand this year. All of these games succeed in different ways, but they still hit that same note of shoot, shoot, shoot. Again, we need more variety in our triple-A games. Rant over. Before you write off Halo Wars 2 as “just another RTS,” take a look at the trailer below. It looks like story will play a big role in it. Looks promising.

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March 7 brings a bit of a sci-fi curveball in Nier Automata. I haven’t covered this action/RPG in this column before, and, well, I should have put it on your radar months ago. For whatever reason, my brain views this franchise as fantasy (perhaps from its ties to the Drakengard games), but make no mistake, it’s as sci fi as sci fi gets. The focus is on a war between man and machine, with far-fetched technologies, robots, and aliens making up most of the world. I enjoyed Nier’s combat quite a bit, but grew disenchanted with the journey, which was often sidelined by meaningless quests. If new developer Platinum Games (which replaces Cavia) can strengthen this element of the game, and deliver combat that is just as frantic and fun, this could be a nice surprise for PlayStation 4 and PC players this spring.

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I know many of you aren’t investing in virtual reality yet, but one of the of most promising examples of this technology arrives on March 14 with Star Trek: Bridge Crew. Let me temper that enthusiasm a bit: I only played through one of the game’s missions, but I thought it did a remarkable job of replicating the Star Trek experience, making each player feel like a vital part of the Star Trek crew. It also showed that VR can be a great cooperative experience. If the full campaign is as fun as the demo I played, expect to hear me talk about this one in the future, not just from a review or impressions standpoint, but out of the need to recruit some of you for my starship. If that sound fun to you, come back here on March 14 for my thoughts on the final version of the game (and to join me in playing it).

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Since the video game industry does a terrible job of setting release dates and informing people when games are coming, no other science-fiction video games are locked in to specific months or days yet, but we do know that Ultra Ultra’s Echo is coming “spring 2017.” Slated for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, Echo is a stealth game that looks absolutely wild. Players suit up as En, a character who just woke up from a century of cryo sleep in a palace that is as alive as she is. The palace, also known as Echo, studies En, learns from her, and tries to destroy her with her own tactics and observations. In fact, many of the enemies are exact copies of En. The way you control En shapes the enemy A.I. Echo looks to be this year’s The Turing Test. The gameplay looks familiar, but the setup is unique.

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What comes next in 2017 is anyone’s guess. I’m hoping Detroit: Become Human hits this year. I know Beyond: Two Souls was a big swing and miss, but I like what David Cage and Quantic Dream are trying to achieve in their games. Heavy Rain was fantastic, and Detroit’s choice-driven gameplay reminds me of that title. Sony hasn’t said much about Detroit lately (and it was a no-show at PlayStation Experience), so that may mean it’s further out than I hope. Time will tell.

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Farpoint, Tacoma, Prey, System Shock, and a handful of other exciting titles are on the way next year, but the spotlight is mostly on Mass Effect Andromeda. I’ve said Mass Effect is one of gaming’s most important series, and I hope Andromeda kicks it into hyperdrive again. I’m glad BioWare took a break with the series. Enough time has gone by that I’m itching to suit up again. Hell, even the return of the Mako has me excited.

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Which 2017 release are you most looking forward to? What unannounced games are you hoping for?

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