Last week, I attempted to shed a little light on some of 2010′s lesser known games that deserve a bit of year-end attention. This week, I’ve amassed a collection of upcoming games that you won’t find on many “most anticipated” lists, in an effort to keep some of them on your radar. We all know to keep an eye on Dead Space 2 and Uncharted 3, but there are plenty of games coming in 2011 that you might not readily recall. With that in mind, please take a peek at this list and try to spare a thought for the games that won’t be guaranteed their 90+ Metacritic averages.
The Fancy Pants Adventures PSN/XBLA Spring 2011
The Fancy Pants Adventures started life as a Flash game (which you can play on the game’s site). After gaining a cult following, Electronic Arts swooped down to give the game a console debut, and you’ll be able to check Fancy Pants out on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network this coming Spring. It’s looking set to be one of 2011′s obligatory indie darlings, so you’d do well to remember this one when the time comes.
Fancy Pants is a fairly traditional platforming game, with a focus on Sonic-like physics and acrobatics. With its rudimentary art style and terrific music, the game has a strong sense of character and is most likely going to look gorgeous on an HDTV through the sheer strength of its visual simplicity. I have a feeling that this will be one of the hottest downloads of the year, and will join the ranks of Braid, Castle Crashers, Limbo and Super Meat Boy as one of those small digital titles that everybody falls in love with. I certainly hope so, anyway.
Hunted: The Demon’s Forge Xbox 360/PS3/PC May 10, 2011
It’s very rare that a game from the monolithic Bethesda would fly under the radar, but Hunted: The Demon’s Forge certainly fits the bill. Caught in the shadow of Fallout: New Vegas, Brink and RAGE, this fantasy action game has struggled to maintain a profile in the eyes of consumers. I feel this is a shame, as Hunted looks pretty damn promising. The selling point of this game is the synergy of roleplaying games and cover-based shooters. Popularly referred to as “WoW meets Gears”, the game’s concept uniquely blends two well-worn genres to create something relatively original.
I played the game a little at PAX Prime and was quite impressed. The controls were a little sluggish and the shooting combat far outclassed the close-quarters battling, but there is a lot of promise there, and I feel that with the required polish, this is going to be a magnificent game. The hard fantasy visuals and the weighty feel of the combat gives this a flavor that’s missing from most modern RPGs, and with inXile (The Bard’s Tale) behind the steering wheel, I’ve got a lot of hope.
The Last Story Wii TBA
For Wii fans, much has been made of The Last Story, but unfortunately even the most high profile third party Wii games often get forgotten by media and community alike. The Last Story has not yet been given a confirmed North American release date, but I would be very surprised if we don’t get news on such a thing soon. I am eagerly anticipating it, as Mistwalker is one of my favorite developers and this new game looks absolutely stellar. It boasts an action-heavy battle system that appears to be far more involving than your usual RPG combat, music by Nobou Uematsu, and a commitment to providing a large world full of exploration. In short, it seems to be the antithesis of everything that’s held the Japanese roleplaying genre back these past few years.
Lost Odyssey was the last truly great console JRPG I played, and these chaps were responsible for it. Most developers now take the focus away from good writing and purely onto visuals, leading to a creatively stagnant genre. Final Fantasy XIII was a prime example of how obsession with graphics and graphics alone works to the detriment of a game. Sure, the Wii isn’t the most powerful console on the market, but with lower demands come higher opportunities, as studios can pour more effort into actual art and writing. With Mistwalker already proving itself as one of the last JRPG developers to craft a decent narrative, I have every faith that The Last Story will be a wonderful experience.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Xbox 360/PS3/PC Q3 2011
I’ve always had a big love for the Warhammer 40,000 universe and have typically enjoyed the videogames that it’s spawned. Yes, even Fire Warrior. Screw the haters! With Relic Entertainment working on Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, we have a violent third-person shooter crafted by a studio that respects the source material and intends to bring back “the original Space Marine.” You’d have to be incredibly good at being bad in order to muck this one up.
Relic isn’t known for its poor quality either, so I’d say that things are looking good for this game’s prospects. Taking on the role of an Ultramarine, your job is to clear a planet of brutal Orks using bolters, chainswords, and a whole host of alternative Warhammer 40k weaponry. The game eschews a cover system in favor of providing an experience that makes you feel like a fearless Marine, diving headfirst into battle and working to wipe out the enemy before they blow you to bits. Fundamentally, it might look like Gears of War, but faster and more in-your-face. Whether you’re a Games Workshop fan or not, you can’t really argue with that.
Dynasty Warriors 7 Xbox 360/PS3 March 22, 2011
When I talk about games that won’t appear on other “most wanted” lists, I really mean it! Unless I’m writing them, you can guarantee that a Dynasty Warriors game won’t make any other shortlists, and so it falls to me to shamelessly wave the hack n’ slash flag. Yes, I know, only about 5% of the Western gaming public shares my love for this franchise. I know what the rest of you think about it. I don’t really care though, as this series has always been a great slice of mindless, cathartic, button-mashing fun and Dynasty Warriors 7 appears to be the very best entry yet.
DW7 boasts a welcome return to the “charge” combo system seen in pre-DW6 games, and the characters are getting their old weapons back, not lazily cloned movesets like the previous title promoted. Throw in online co-op, Move and 3D support, and more playable generals than any other DW game to date, and this ought to be the pinnacle of the series. A pinnacle that only I and a handful of others will appreciate, but a pinnacle nonetheless!
Retro City Rampage XBLA/WiiWare Fall 2011
Another downloadable title with the potential to become a smash hit, Retro City Rampage has already garnered some cult favor despite its humble position as a tiny indie title. It’s a top-down crime sim in the same vein as old-school Grand Theft Auto, but is filled to the brim with self-referential humor and nods to the videogame industry. Familiar faces pop up at every turn, essentially turning the experience into a retro gamer’s wet dream.
This is another title I was fortunate enough to spend time with at PAX and I came away with the impression that it’s a very cute, enjoyable little game. Vehicle controls could use work, but with just under a year of polishing left to do, I’m hoping we’ll end up with something very smooth indeed. Make sure you remember this one.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron Xbox 360/PS3 Q2 2011
Ignition has always been a hit-and-miss publisher. They tend to pick up smaller, quirkier titles, and while that can lead to the release of some garbage, it can also result in a win. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is looking like it’ll be an entry in the “win” category. It looks incredibly stylish, the gameplay footage reveals a mixture of intense combat and intriguing platforming, and the general premise, based upon the obscure biblical Book of Enoch, is interesting to say the least.
El Shaddai is one of those games that just don’t come along often enough, and I think it has potential to be a 2011 sleeper hit, provided people remember it exists. I worry that it will be released and forgotten, however, so I’m going to do all I can to keep this one fresh in people’s minds.
Earth Seeker Wii TBA
Little has been said of this game, and I think that’s a shame. Although we’ve not had much to go on in the way of assets, Earth Seeker looks like one of those uniquely Japanese games that feel right at home on the Wii, despite the fact that nobody will pay it much heed. Set on an alien planet in the wake of Earth’s destruction, Earth Seeker tells the tale of a homeless human race who attempts to terraform a new world, whether or not the current occupants allow it. Of course, the vicious aliens inhabiting the planet aren’t too pleased, thus the conflict arises.
Despite a seemingly bleak post-apocalyptic story, Earth Seeker boasts a bright, vibrant art style with a range of endearingly cute characters. I love the game’s visual design and everything I’ve seen so far leads me to believe this will be a lovely, humble little adventure title that nobody will buy. Whether or not it actually makes it to the West is up for debate, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Games like this are why I bought my Wii in the first place.
Don’t get lost in paradise — check out Game Front’s walkthrough for El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.
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