What started back in 2001 as a very big black-and-green box on your shelf that played Halo and was named after Microsoft’s graphics API has grown to be something much bigger. With Series X|S consoles now far more available, day one releases of exclusives on PC, and the wide umbrella of gaming experiences that is Game Pass, there’s a lot to look forward to this year.
While last year’s offerings were a bit short on exclusives for Team Green (to put it mildly), 2023 is looking to turn things around with the arrival of one of the most anticipated games of the generation so far, and many other promising titles to boot.
Starfield | 2023
Easily the most anticipated title on this list, Starfield is notable for two reasons: It’s gaming’s next big sci-fi RPG epic and its the next evolution in Bethesda’s open-world formula. Bethesda is no stranger to science fiction, having a number of Fallout games under its belt. But from everything we know about Starfield right now, it’s aiming for an unprecedented scale, featuring over 1,000 worlds for you to explore.
- “Hard science fiction” setting with 1,000 explorable planets
- A mix of “handcrafted content” and procedurally-generated environments
- More than 250,000 lines of dialogue in classic “Bethesda-style,” and a “persuasion system”
- Complex character creation system with various backgrounds and traits that let you tailor your aesthetics and stats
- Simplified survival mechanics
- The classic Bethesda mix of first-person combat, exploration, and roleplaying
It’s hard not to get excited about a game like this. While the commonly voiced concern that such a high number of planets may mean we’re in for some serious “quantity over quality” is a fair one, I’d argue that’s always been the case with Bethesda games: Unprecedented scale, unprecedented jank. Despite all of that, Bethesda games of this sort usually cohere to form a unified experience that’s hard to get anywhere else. The question for Starfield will be: Do enough aspects of this epic space sim work well enough to create an intense level of immersion for, oh I dunno, hundreds of hours? I mean, I still don’t feel like I saw everything in Fallout 3 and 4.
Redfall | May 2
I know you were sceptical about Redfall; I was too. But let’s get real: The latest gameplay was pretty sick. Arkane has long been known for its alluring immersive sims like Dishonored and 2017’s Prey, so a vampire-slaying-themed take on Left 4 Dead from the studio feels a little out of left field. The most recent footage, however, makes this look like the co-op immersive sim experience that maybe we didn’t know we wanted.
Redfall is expected to land on May 2. Here’s some of what we can look forward to in Arkane’s next title:
- Playable as single-player or co-op
- Playable “Heroes,” each with unique powers
- Large open-world setting with multiple quests and para-dimensional travel
- Immersive sim-style gameplay with encounters that aspire to offer multiple ways to play and unpredictable scenarios
Forza Motorsport | Spring 2023
During Microsoft’s last event, we got a nice look at Turn 10’s next entry in the very pretty Forza series of racing sims. With Forza Motorsport, the series is aiming for a whole new level of fidelity and realism.
As Forza Horizon 5 was a gorgeous game, pretty car graphics ought to be expected. But here’s some more of what Motorsport will feature when it launches sometime early this year.
- 500 cars with 800 unique upgrades available at launch
- Ray-tracing and highly detailed models for car exteriors and photogrammetry-created environments
- “Contextually aware” dirt and damage
- Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos spatial sound design
- Dynamic time of day and weather with procedurally-generated clouds
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl | 2023
This one’s a long time coming, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl is expected to finally arrive this year as a timed Xbox console exclusive, with a Steam release as well for those of us who try to use the Xbox gaming app as little as possible. Though the war in Ukraine has complicated the production of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for developer GSC Game World, with the studio needing to relocate to the Czech Republic, the game is expected to release this year.
A first-person, science fiction horror game, it looks primed to deliver big Fallout-meets-Metro vibes. That means post-apocalyptic horrors and dangers for everyone! Maybe it’s time I finally get around to playing the original.
Ark II | 2023
It’s that dinosaur survival game, now with Vin Diesel! Ark II is expected on Xbox and Windows sometime this year.
Ara: History Untold | Early 2023
A Windows-exclusive, Ara features turn-based strategy played out over the course of human civilisation. Players will build up a nation and guide it through a variety of challenges on a historic scale.
Ravenlok | 2023
A delightfully colourful, and playful-looking, hack ‘n slash, Ravenlok is expected to arrive on Xbox consoles and PC (as well as Game Pass) this year.
Ereban: Shadow Legacy | 2023
Featuring robots, stealth gameplay, and wonderfully colourful graphics, Ereban is expected on Xbox, PC, and Game Pass this year.
The Last Case of Benedict Fox | Spring 2023
A Windows and Xbox exclusive, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a mystery-unravelling side-scroller where you take on the role of detective Benedict Fox, accompanied by a demon companion that totally gives off The Darkness vibes — just maybe less depressing.
COCOON | 2023
Gameplay designer Jeppe Carlsen (Limbo and Inside) returns with Cocoon, an alluring isometric game that’ll have you hopping between worlds through magical orbs, exploring the remnants of ancient alien civilizations. This one will also appear on the Switch.
Expect: More Activision acquisition theatre
As you likely have heard, Microsoft is hoping to acquire Activision Blizzard, placing titles like Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and much, much more under its growing empire. It hasn’t been a smooth ride for Microsoft, however. With Sony and Microsoft fighting over whether this would shift the gaming landscape too far in Microsoft’s favour, scrutiny from the FTC, and a lawsuit from Gamers™, this whole deal has made for some spicy industry theatre.
Expect: Game Pass to remain a great deal
Whether you’re into Xbox for the exclusives or not, Game Pass is one hell of a deal, especially if you’re somewhat of a games tourist and enjoy checking out multiple titles at once.
Read More: The 25 Best Games On Xbox Game Pass
With tons of third-party titles on the surface, alongside Microsoft’s exclusives, 2023 will likely be another great year for active subscribers.
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