Here we are at the end of the year, and what a year 2016 has been, with ups and downs for games and remarkable new trends in the industry. Strangely, we have seen the realisation of several high-profile titles that were once deemed vapourware: Doom, Final Fantasy XV, and in December we can add The Last Guardian to that list.
Sony’s great white whale is not the only release to look out for this month, though, with one of the biggest titles being (the horror!) a mobile game. Do not worry, it will not become a habit.
SHADOW TACTICS: BLADES OF THE SHOGUN
With a title as brimming as its detailed gameplay, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a collaboration between developers Daedelic Entertainment and Mimimi Productions. Inspired by the Commandos series, players control up to five different characters in a series of stealth missions, where taking out guards without raising alarm is a high priority, à la Metal Gear Solid.
The game takes place in seventeenth-century Japan, with its beautiful and mysterious locations made all the more appealing by the overhead, isometric POV. Like tactical games of yore, players must precisely coordinate their team in real time, but being a modern take on the genre, Shadow Tactics makes use of refined stealth systems that would not be out of place in Mark of the Ninja.
With a click-to-move interface and nostalgic setting, players may be forgiven for thinking Shadow Tactics is a tribute to the past, but the free demo reveals it as a modern and challenging game with a lot of mechanical depth that aims to please fans of both stealth and real time tactics games. Reviews so far have been very positive, highlighting how accessible the game is, despite the high level of difficulty.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun releases for PC on December 7, with PS4 and Xbox One versions following in 2017.
THE LAST GUARDIAN
What was once a pipe dream is now just around the corner, with all reports indicating that yes, indeed, The Last Guardian is a game that people can play. No-one should expect a world-shaking tour de force worthy of all the years it has taken to develop—the game appears to be as advertised all the way back in 2009 when it was announced, for better and worse.
Ultimately what is offered is another sombre, puzzle-adventure game that appears to draw more from Ico than Shadow of the Colossus, with the latter title’s climbing implemented as a means for players to interact with Trico, the eponymous Last Guardian.
How and why the game took this long can only be guessed. Only those on the inside know the confusion, anger, mismanagement, or other difficulties that must have transpired over the years of The Last Guardian‘s troubled development and eventual transition to PS4. Like the similarly beleaguered Final Fantasy XV, however, it is sure to make an excellent documentary some day.
As for the release itself, concerns that it will feel dated are not unfounded (this is a spiritual sequel to a game that came out for the PS2, after all) but Furi, Aragami, and Doom prove that hearkening to the past can result in a baroque beauty that sits between nostalgia and a genuine appreciation for a different stage in the evolution of video games.
The Last Guardian will, at last, hit stores on December 6 for PS4.
SUPER MARIO RUN
Despite what many investors wanted to believe, Pokemon GO was not Nintendo’s first big push into mobile gaming; the Pokemon IP is only partially owned by Nintendo. And what do we care, anyway, since GO is a multiplayer game for crowds of people walking around outside? Where is the big single player game we are all waiting for?
Enter Super Mario Run, an auto-runner, where players tap to jump and the game controls the rest.
Okay, step back a bit. This is not the next big Super Mario game, nor is it even the latest in the ‘New‘ subseries—but Super Mario Run is important, and not just because it is on a third party platform. Super Mario Run represents a substantial change to the Mario formula, as a response to new hardware with different controls. That should sound familiar, because it is also what Super Mario 64 was to the Nintendo 64, and Super Mario Galaxy to the Wii. Sure, Super Mario Run is not going to change the way we think about interactive entertainment, however, the minds at Nintendo EPD—that is Nintendo central, not some B-team—will certainly have to change the way they build levels for a side-scrolling platformer.
So it is a game for everyone who has a phone and 10 dollars, yes, but for those of us who just cannot get enough Mario, Run is also a new set of opportunities and constraints for the crazy toymakers at Nintendo. We cannot wait to see what they come up with.
Super Mario Run drops December 15 on iOS, with an Android version following soon after.
If you want more tactical top-down action on your PC, The Dwarves comes to Steam and GOG on December 1.
Steep, Ubisoft’s snowy extreme-sports game, has a heavy online leaning but can be played single-player when it releases on December 2 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Additionally, there are some great single player games making their way to Xbox One this month, including Furi (2/12), Bastion (12/12) and Stardew Valley (14/12). And do not forget the premiere of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, season 3 of Telltale’s series, coming on December 20.
If there are any games on your radar that you do not see here, why not add them in the comments? Until next month, have a great holiday season and play plenty of games.