Editorial

Xbox Games for the Single Players in July

July

Continuing OnlySP’s experiment with platform-specific lists, these are three single-player games coming to Xbox to keep an eye on during July. Also, do not forget to check the other lists (for PlayStation and PC) for any multiplatform games that are also on Xbox One this month.

MINECRAFT STORY MODE SEASON 2

Within Microsoft’s first-party stable, nothing is bigger than the Minecraft franchise. Even with plenty of solo content in the core game, though, the survival-sandbox genre has mixed appeal for fans of single-player modes; more often than not the story is thin-to-nonexistent.

That is where Story Mode comes in. Late 2015, developer Telltale Games’s Minecraft Story Mode Season 1 gave gamers a fresh perspective on the brand, arguably inspired by the success of The LEGO Movie. Story Mode sought to bring older and younger generations together, with a star-studded cast and an 80s-inspired, family-friendly premise (quite the departure for a studio that The Walking Dead helped to build). Telltale even threaded the needle by giving older adventure gamers an interesting plot to follow and younger fans the basics of the Minecraft universe—without resorting to over-explaining the lore.

Unsurprisingly, the five-episode series was ridiculously popular, garnering positive reviews and enough financial success that Telltale released three additional episodes as DLC. Will Season 2 continue the trend? The popularity of the Minecraft franchise is so astronomical that Story Mode might continue for years. As far as stories based on popular games go, a spin-off game is a lot better than having another video game movie.

Oh, wait, there is going to be a Minecraft movie… All the more reason to savour Story Mode, then.

Minecraft Story Mode Season 2 releases on July 11 for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4, with Android, iOS, and Mac versions to follow.

BLACK THE FALL

Sand Sailor Studio’s Black the Fall is reminiscent of the glory days of Xbox Live Arcade by following in the oppressively desaturated footsteps of Limbo and Inside. The game is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer published by the Square Enix Collective, made in Bucharest, Romania and inspired by real-life events.

Although the game appears to share parts of its sci-fi-industrial-horror palette with Abe’s Oddysee, Inside, or even Half-Life 2 (to say nothing of canon literature in this genre), the biggest distinction between Black the Fall and other, similar games is how it openly relies on historical inspiration. Black the Fall’s Soviet dystopia is based on the real-life experiences of the developers’ families in the decades following World War II, and the stealth mechanics are inspired by stories of living under Communism.

The idea of using a popular video game genre to tell historically- or culturally-relevant stories is not unique, but has seen a lot of success in Eastern Europe. Of course, Sand Sailor Studio are a very small team—do not expect something on the level of The Witcher—but if Black the Fall can marry compelling puzzle mechanics with real-world drama, the project will be another platformer gem.

Black the Fall releases on July 11 for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4.

AVEN COLONY

Oh, the venerable city-building and tycoon simulator. How these games have changed, and yet, so much has stayed the same. Popularly seen as an intrinsically mouse-and-keyboard genre, the city builder also has a long history on consoles. Often, porting a PC-first city builder results in overly-complicated controls and inferior presentation compared to console-first games. The major exceptions have been heavily rebuilt for consoles (see SimCity for the SNES).

During the Xbox 360 generation, mouse-controlled PC genres such as real-time-strategy and city builders saw a wave of improvement in controls and presentation. Unfortunately, the console RTS died off at about the same time as the genre’s PC audience transitioned into MOBAs—but the city builder has arguably seen a resurgence. Aven Colony is another in this line.

Aven Colony sees players take charge of a human city on a far alien planet. Instead of the expected challenges (and the occasional robot monster) of SimCity, gamers will deal with alien lifeforms, discover ancient ruins, and naturally work with even harsher resource-management. Other than that, the game makes use of the required ins and outs of the genre, recognisable to anyone who played Tropico or the recently-released-on-Xbox Cities: Skylines: expanding the city, managing the health and happiness of the populace, generating enough power, and so on.

For any fans of city-building, the game is certainly worth a look, but even if players enjoy farming games (perhaps Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley), they might want to side step and give the city-building genre a try.

Aven Colony releases on July 25 for Xbox One, as well as PC and PlayStation 4.

NOTABLE MENTIONS

Another Xbox One game releasing this month is Fable Fortune, a virtual card game that has been in varying levels of development since Fable 2. Fans of the series will want to check the game out for its deep franchise connections. For others here at OnlySP, developer Flaming Fowl Studios has suggested that a single player campaign is on its way (at the time of writing the only single player content is the training mode). Fable Fortune comes to Xbox One and Windows on July 7. Also, do not forget Super Cloudbuilt, a rebuilt version of 2014’s parkour-action-exploration game, coming to Xbox One on July 28.


Are there any other big Xbox games you have been looking forward to? Why not share them in the comments, and we will see you again soon with three single player games on PC.

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