Once upon a time, not too long ago, this list would have been very different indeed. When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were at their heights, PC gamers were often treated as second-class citizens, with plenty of denied releases (Red Dead Redemption being a prime example) and poor ports.
Times have changed, and even genres that were console-only have been showing up, thanks to the modern systems being similar in architecture—though strategy and point-and-click games are still well represented. Here are some of the biggest and most interesting PC games to look out for this month.
HELLBLADE: SENUA’S SACRIFICE
Developed by the skilled but perpetually beleaguered Ninja Theory, purveyors of fine, stylish action games, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the latest in a movement that director Tameem Antoniades hopes will be seen as ‘independent triple-A’. This highlighting of Hellblade as something distinct from either indies or the triple-A games industry is a direct response to the sort of divide that PC players are all too familiar with: the death of the mid-tier developer during the previous generation of consoles.
Perhaps best characterised by THQ’s demise, the great division between small budget games and Hollywood behemoths went hand-in-hand with the ‘console-ification’ of popular series. True, the ballooning budgets of PS3 and 360 games were not entirely to blame for the killing of the middle market, but benchmark games like Crysis notwithstanding, the migration of many games from PC-first to console-first development was driven by money. The more money to be earned on the popular consoles, the more initial investment was necessary—and the games in the middle that arguably defined early-2000s gaming were priced out of the market.
Ninja Theory’s fortunes have been more-or-less tied to these trends, from Kung Fu Chaos through Devil May Cry. The studio’s output has varied, but its best work has always been interesting and experimental, in ways that are great for gamers but not so great for the biggest mainstream publishers. At a time when smaller publishers such as Deep Silver and Devolver Digital appear to be reviving the middle tier, these kinds of games might be able to thrive.
Enter Hellblade: a budget experience that nonetheless bears the same mark of quality as the developer’s earlier games. In the team’s most daring move yet, the game tells the tale of a warrior in a Norse-mythology-inspired setting who suffers from mental illness. Although video games hardly have a history of treating sensitive subjects with respect, the developers of Hellblade went much farther than most, by collaborating thoroughly with professionals in the appropriate fields.
The game looks unequivocally outstanding, presenting a mysterious and terrifying experience of exploration and action. Will the game pull off its heavy subject matter with grace and prove to be another acclaimed feather in Ninja Theory’s cap? Gamers find out early next week.
SUDDEN STRIKE 4
Preview by Dylan Warman
Sudden Strike 4 (SS4) is an upcoming RTS developed and published by Kite Games and Kalypso Media, respectively. Set in World War II, SS4 will focus primarily on in-depth, thoughtful strategy using the skills of a limited number of units as opposed to resource gathering and base building. As with the game’s predecessors, reinforcements will be available, but will appear on the map at specific intervals, thus making them scripted and predictable.
New to the Sudden Strike series is the implementation of Commanders with skill trees. Famous World War II generals will be featured in the game’s Commander roles, such as George Patton and Bernard Montgomery. Players will be able to choose between three famous Commanders during each mission, each with their own skill bonuses. Infantry, armor, and air power will each have a unique Commander, and certain leaders are better suited for different missions, meaning players will have to choose the most appropriate Commander to complete their objectives.
SS4 is the franchise’s first standalone title since 2007. Bringing back key features from previous installments, the game incentivizes true strategic gameplay rather than full frontal assaults that will devastate the player’s forces and result in failure. Returning to the series is the ability to pause and play, allowing gamers to halt the action and issue orders to their units before resuming their playthrough. While not an immersive element, the pause and play feature can give newer players time to think their strategies through during crucial, overwhelming moments. For users more familiar with RTS games, pause and play may be unnecessary and certainly less engaging.
Three campaigns with over 20 missions will be playable in the game’s single-player campaign. Modding support is planned. In addition, a special Skirmish mode will be available for players wanting to set up different situations between factions. SS4 will also feature multiplayer battles that pit generals against generals, with victories earning skill points and bonus content, such as newsreels from World War II. Players will have access to over 100 authentic land and air units belonging to the Allies, Soviets, and Germans.
Sudden Strike 4 tactically approaches Windows, macOS, and Linux PCs, as well as PlayStation 4, on August 15. For more on Sudden Strike 4 check out OnlySP’s preview coverage here.
Ken Follett’s THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH
Over the course of a decade, Daedalic Entertainment has risen among the top publishers and developers of traditional point-and-click adventure games, helping to revive the genre’s profile in the process. Telltale might be better known than Daedalic, but its cinematic style is farther from the roots of LucasArts and Sierra. Daedalic’s games carry on the old school tradition in new and exciting ways, with The Night of the Rabbit being particularly praised of late.
Now, after producing many original properties, as well as several adaptations of the popular German RPG The Dark Eye, the developer is embarking upon a new challenge: its own interactive, episodic series based on the blockbuster novel The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Being a historical drama chiefly about cathedrals and village politics, one would be forgiven for thinking that the book is not prime video game material, but the book has already been adapted into a board game three times.
The Pillars of the Earth is an epic story, one that a game could never fully do justice to, but its scope might be just what the genre needs for another big hit. The first episode has excellent art, and looks dark and dramatic enough to attract an audience beyond the point-and-click hardcore.
The Pillars of the Earth, Book 1: From the Ashes becomes interactive on macOS, Linux, and Windows PCs, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, on August 15.
The biggest multi-platform release the first week of August is Tacoma, Fullbright’s follow-up to Gone Home. Also, fans of JRPGs (particularly Persona and Final Fantasy) must not forget to check out the recent release on Steam of Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.
Coming soon are the silly action game Agents of Mayhem and cyberpunk survival-horror Observer on August 15. Although delayed, the full release of open-world survival game Ark: Survival Evolved is still scheduled this month, on August 29.
Always remember to check the other lists (PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo) in case they have multi-platform releases also coming to PC. For those on Windows, Mac, Linux or any other OS, enjoy gaming and stay tuned to OnlySP.