Hayley took the limelight earlier this week and when he returns from self-inflicted baby duties, Mark will join in the fun. But in the interim, let's take a break from the open-world RPGs, the torturous punishment of Dark Souls and venture in the weird world of games in 2016 that I'm excited for.
Small note: release dates can change, the vision of a project can be scrapped or altered entirely, and all manner of things can happen in game development. This is just dealing with what information is publicly available at the time of writing. With that in mind, into the future we go!
Paradox in space is a promising thought all by itself
Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4 are almost renowned for their initial difficulty as they are their depth and longevity. So what happens when you take Paradox's brand of grand strategy, remove it from the shackles of geography, history, throw it into the cosmos and section off the beginning of the game as a more classic 4X?
The mere thought of that premise is staggering. The thought of just a Paradox game in space, just with the political intrigue, relations among aliens and how that horse-trading would play out, would be something special.
But merging it with more the well-known elements of a 4X genre could open Stellaris to a brand new audience that found EU4 and CK2, like me, too convoluted. I really like the idea of Stellaris and I'm wary that this might be a game whose premise I fall in love with more than the actual game itself.
That transition from a 4X to a grand strategy though ... I need to see how that works in practice. Don't let me down, Paradox. (Also, the idea that a Paradox game supporting 32 people in multiplayer sounds pretty great.)
Release date: Rumoured to be the first half of 2016
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
Drake's story will finally come to an end
Despite my love of adrenaline-ladened shooters, plodding strategy and a weird appreciation for adventure games, Uncharted 2 is comfortably one of my favourite games of all time. I'm not a massive fan of the whole series — the third was fun, but not as memorable, and the first was more frustrating than not.
But the second? It's almost magical. For me, it'll always be the movie Indiana Jones 4 should have been. And that's the cut scenes, the writing, the snarkiness of the characters, the (lack of) diversity, the cheesy archaeology tropes, the lot. It's precisely what I wanted that game to be — and I want to see how Naughty Dog ends the series.
The multiplayer hasn't inspired me in the past and what I played of the beta did little to change that. But like one commenter, I'd pay exactly the same amount for Uncharted 4 whether it had multiplayer or not. I want to see the end of Drake's story, and I have a great deal of faith in Naughty Dog to do it justice.
Release date: April 26
Planet Coaster (PC)
Peep Bowling Simulator 2016
It's possible to get the original RollerCoaster Tycoon games running again in 2016, but every time I do I find myself less than satisfied with the experience. It doesn't completely work with widescreen the way I want it to. The interface is just a fraction too ancient for my taste. Things are laid out in a way that wasn't designed for modern monitors. It's all just a little ... off. Fun, but not quite there.
What I want is a modern tycoon game. Punch Club is giving me a bit of that experience so far, but what I really want is devilish queues that make peeps sick. Chips with such a high degree of salt that consumers are medically required to spend their money buying overpriced plastic cups of Coke with absurd amounts of ice. Labyrinthian-like designs that bleed tourists dry before they can discover the rollercoaster of their dreams.
Which then launches them into the next postcode, because I'm theming my park after Dethklok.
RollerCoaster Tycoon World is set to launch before Planet Coaster but when it comes to games like these, I often tend to trust the tech. And my Elite: Dangerous experience has taught me that Frontier Developments are supremely competent on that front, so I'm hitching my cart to the Planet Coaster ride.
Release date: Q4 2016
SUPERHOT (PC, Mac, Linux, XBO)
The red-white aesthetic remains as eye-catching as ever
A couple of minutes is all SUPERHOT needs to capture the attention, and the prospect of being able to play this game in VR (when I can afford it) only makes the time-melding first-person shooter even more impressive.
For the uninitiated, it's a game where time only moves when you're moving. It blew up from a game jam to become a solid Kickstarter success and it feels like a game that I've been waiting years and years for. SUPERHOT can't come out fast enough — I just hope it has more than a few hours of content when it launches.
Release date: Q1 2016
Overwatch (PC, PS4, XBO)
Will Blizzard be able to deliver?
There are only two shooters that I've been thoroughly happy to play when the servers have been located thousands of kilometres away from my computer. The first was Counter-Strike 1.6, primarily because riling up Americans on 200 ping was the equivalent of riling up Call of Duty players on Xbox Live. It never ceased to be fun and it was a fascinating challenge.
Overwatch was just fun. I didn't enjoy playing it for the challenge — not that there wasn't one — and I certainly didn't play it for the troll value, even though there is undoubtedly plenty of have. It was just a raw, enjoyable team-based shooter with that Blizzard touch.
The key word here, however, is raw. Overwatch has a good deal of improvement to do if it wants to reach the lofty heights that Blizzard — and much of the North American eSports community — hopes it will.
Release date: Before June 21
Pokemon GO (Android, iOS)
I cannot get more hyped for this
I literally said to my girlfriend only a couple of days ago, "Hey, wouldn't it be nice if we could just go for a walk or a drive somewhere, take a picnic with us ... and just wander around battling random Pokemon on our phones?"
She thought that was great. And it is great. The same applied to Ingress, although it never ventured beyond being a great idea. Pokemon GO is an exceptional idea, and combining Pokemon with Ingress has an astronomical amount of potential.
Niantic, Nintendo: please for the love of all that is holy, don't bugger this up. Please.
Release date: 2016, I hope
DOOM (PC, PS4, XBO)
Have me some demons
My expectations from iD are pretty low these days. Hell, it says everything that I got genuinely disappointed when I didn't see MachineGames as the lead developer on a quintessential iD franchise. Can you imagine anyone having that reaction 15 years ago?
But the DOOM name doesn't carry quite the lustre of quality that it once used to. Still, as someone who grew up with iD games I'm compelled to find out what happens. If I can fly my way through levels, strafejumping like a maniac — you know, what you do in the Quake campaigns to save time — then I'll be happy. But that's as far as my expectations go.
Release date: Q1/Q2 2016
XCOM 2 (PC, Mac, Linux)
Time to blast the aliens all over again
Having already spent a few hours with preview code, I feel pretty confident going into February. Not only did XCOM 2 feel deeper, more robust and more interesting than the original, but Firaxis's baby also forced me to play differently.
That alone makes the sequel intriguing to me, but the added elements — a timer for when the aliens can win with their Advent Project, a portable base that occasionally requires defending of its own, added customisations for soldiers and levels that are partially procedurally generated — tick all the boxes too.
When I sat down for the preview, I wanted it to do one thing: work. It did. XCOM is already great; bring on the sequel.
Release date: February 5
Endless Space 2 (PC, Mac, Linux)
TAYbie regulars will know that I became enraptured again by Amplitude's spin on the 4X formula and out of all the 4X space titles this year, Endless Space 2 is the one that I know I will immediately fall in love with. The Christmas break even gave me the opportunity to get on board with the weird cross between cards and capital formations that the French developer considers "space combat".
It's heresy, but I actually really like it now.
So with that in mind, there's nothing about the sequel that I'm not immediately excited for. There's undoubtedly a level of comfort involved, the lack of which is what is keeping me wary about Stellaris. Similarly, the lack of innovation from the Master of Orion reboot is why I'm more keen for Amplitude's efforts (as I'm yet to see the MoO reboot do anything that ES1 doesn't already do).
I'm looking forward to spreading the influence of the Sophon master race some more in 2016. Who's with me? No? EXTERMINATE
Release date: 2016
Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey (PC, PS4, Mac, Linux)
The thread will finally reach its conclusion
I've been waiting for Red Thread to wrap up the Dreamfall Chapters episodes since I became a backer nearly three years ago. It was actually a small present to myself: the Kickstarter launched on my birthday, and having been a big fan of April Ryan's adventures (which was also one of the point-and-click games I completed with my mother) I felt more than justified in supporting the Norwegian developer's project.
The fifth book, the name or date of which is yet to be announced, is due out later this year and it's at that point I'll work my way through the entire series. It also looks like a good candidate for playing with my family — much like Life is Strange was — and having waited for so long, I think I might be in the right space to fully enjoy the story Red Thread has woven.
Release date: Eventually
Obduction (PC, Mac)
Speaking of the past
And given that I'd just mentioned a point-and-click, it'd be remiss to not point out the one that my Mum and I immediately have to play. It's the return of the masters, Cyan, who were responsible for the Myst series. And while 2015 resulted in them running into publisher trouble — again — reports are that Obduction is looking pretty much complete for a 2016 release.
The actual Myst name is being used for a TV series and a tie-in game as well, but I have no idea whether that's coming out this year or what's happening to it at all. In any case, I always like to trust in the original. Cyan are pretty good at what they do. And while I have a sneaking suspicion that both Mum and I might have moved on from this style of game, and more towards episodic adventures in the style of Life is Strange and the Telltale games, I'm determined to jointly explore what Obduction has to offer regardless.
Release date: 2016
Don Bradman Cricket 16 (PC, PS4, XBO)
Classic leg-side rubbish
Look, Shane Watson didn't appear on the front page of Kotaku by accident. I like my cricket, and I've put more than 300 hours into Don Bradman Cricket 14.
Big Ant: when can I play the sequel?
Release date: Towards the end of the year
Rising Thunder (PC)
Street Fighter 5 is intensifying my deliberations over the value of a fighting stick, but in truth it's not the fighter that really has me excited this year. That game is Rising Thunder, the free-to-play robot basher from the Cannon brothers and Seth Killian.
It's accessible in a way that I wish all fighters were. It's accessible in the way that Mortal Kombat X often hinted at being (although MKX was still very, very fun). It's what the future of fighting games could look like, a future where the execution is limited so people can immediately get to the fun behind the planning, spacing, mind games and reactions.
A technical alpha for Rising Thunder went live last year, and while there's no release date on the game as of yet I'll be keenly following proceedings to see how it fares. A full release in 2017 might be more likely depending on how development progresses, but as of right now a launch towards the end of the year isn't a pipe dream.
Release date: Nobody knows, but I really want it to be 2016
What games are you keen for this year? Let us know or bash my selections in the comments below!