The best PC games of 2014
What a great time to be an RPG fan. Today big-budget epics like The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition co-exist alongside equally exciting retro projects like Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2. If you loved the old stuff, there's going to be lots of new old stuff, if you like tough, atmospheric stuff, Dark Souls 2 is incoming. If you love action RPGs, then Grim Dawn and Reaper of Souls should suit. 2014 will be a top year for looters and levellers.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Publisher: Warner Bros
Release: Late 2014
Link:The Witcher site
The grimdark mud 'n blood world of the Witcher will finally be that: a world, huge and explorable. It's Geralt's final quest, and CD Projekt RED are determined to make it his best. The scale and detail present in early videos has us interested, but it's the promise of branching dynamic quests and a main story scattered across the world that we're most looking forward to most. As well as the typical mix of politics, war and bawdy behaviour, The Witcher 3 will feature plenty of monster hunting, giving us the chance to actually perform Geralt's main occupation, too. It's due out late this year, and looks like it'll drive many to upgrade their PCs. It's going to be a hefty one.
For more on the Witcher 3, check out our massive first-look account.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
Release date: March 25 2014
Link:Reaper of Souls site
The big red dinosaur has been locked inside a magic rock, so, as Diablo tradition dictates, a new boss must rise to present a fresh world-ending threat. This time round it’s Malthael, the angel of death. He’s slain most of the population of the Templar town of Westmarch, and risen them as servants to go forth and destroy humanity why not. A great plan - just as long as there aren’t any high-level adventuring demigods out there looking to reach a heightened level 70 cap. The Diablo 3 expansion also adds a new class called the Crusader, and Adventure mode, which should add a bit of variety to the gear grind. The expansion will release alongside a major patch that will completely rebalance loot for all Diablo 3 players and remove the controversial auction house - a welcome move that’s poised to recapture hordes of lapsed players.
For a cruise around the mostly dead city of Westmarch, check out our Reaper of Souls hands-on account.
Might & Magic X: Legacy
Developer: Limbic Entertainment
Link:Might & Magic X site
I have a feeling we have Legend of Grimrock to thank for Ubisoft's surprise revival of the main Might & Magic series, which has long been sidelined in favour of its turn-based strategy offshoot. Available on Steam Early Access now, Legacy is defiantly old-school in its approach, presenting a gigantic, grid-based first-person RPG, of the sort that died out around the turn of the century.
Developer: Stygian Software
Release Date: 2014
Obsidian and inXile asked for millions to make their own spiritual sequels to the isometric RPGs of yore ('yore' = the 90s), but Stygian Software have been quietly beavering away on Underrail for years. (Although their alpha-funding programme has probably helped.) It's Fallout meets Metro 2033 meets Arcanum, essentially, and if that isn't the best mashup since Kit-Kat meets My Mouth I'll eat...well, I'll eat another Kit-Kat. Yum. OK, so it looks a little basic compared to the slightly more glamorous Wasteland 2 or Pillars of Eternity, but Underrail has all the quests, abilities, turn-based combat and post-apocalyptic wrong-uns you could ever want. The Fallout/Metro influences are clear in the setting – the game takes place in a series of underground metro tunnels, where the (presumably Vitamin D-deprived) remains of humanity now dwell.
Developer: InXile Entertainment
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Wasteland 2 site
There’s a decidedly retro shift among many of our games of 2014, and games like Wasteland 2 are at the spearhead of the backwards charge. The Kickstarted modern sequel to the game that inspired Fallout is currently being beta tested by its Steam Early Access community. The tactical post-apocalyptic RPG blends Wasteland’s classic dark humour and grim brown settings with a modern engine. The finished article will feature hundreds of characters and greater customisation options for your ranger. It also promises “multi-path” problem solving, and the “choices” and “consequences” you’d hope for from a classic RPG. Will it be as good as the original, time and a bit more polish will tell.
Developer: Crate Entertainment
Release date: TBA
Link:Grim Dawn site
Veteran developers on the excellent action RPG, Titan Quest, have decided to go it alone and build their own ARPG building on those systems. It’s set in a grim, dark but highly detailed medieval fantasy world called Cairn, where humans are on the brink of extinction. You’ll be able to mix and match skills from five available classes over 75 levels. Environments are destructible and prone to dynamic outbursts from the weather and the game will include challenges specifically balanced for co-op parties. Formerly, it would find itself competing with the monolithic Diablo games, but Grim Dawn now also faces competition from the free to play Path of Exile. With this and Reaper of Souls, Action RPG fans will have plenty to look forward to in 2014. Grim Dawn is currently available on Steam Early Access.
Pillars of Eternity
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release: Late 2014
Link:Pillars of Eternity site
As soon as the Kickstarter boom began there were rumblings from Baldur's Gate fans the world over. Could this be how Chris Avellone and Obsidian get to indulge their writerly RPG fantasies? Yes, as it turns out. Known under the placeholdy title Project Eternity for the longest time, the newly christened Pillars of Eternity has finally shown video proof of its existence, and the snippets of game footage certainly resemble the old Infinity engine games - only quite a bit better-looking, obviously.
Want to make the Eternal wait for Pillars a little more bearable? Get stuck into this huge interview with Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer.
Shroud of the Avatar
Link:Shroud of the Avatar site
Richard 'Lord British' Garriott is back doing what he did best: making Ultima games. Sorry, 'Ultima' games, with Shroud of the Avatar borrowing pretty much everything from the classic RPG series except the name. This is not in itself a bad thing, though Shroud's combination of single- and multiplayer elements is a little tough to get a handle on. We'll have to wait and see whether it can recapture the magic of Ultima Online.
Age of Wonders 3
Developer: Triumph Studios
Release: Early 2014
Link:Age of Wonders site
Where would we be without Notch? In a world without Age of Wonders 3 in it, that's where. The Minecraft creator and Hat-Wearer of the Year invested in this promising, unexpected follow-up to the celebrated Age of Wonders games – and you can see why. Essentially Civilization mixed with Heroes of Might & Magic and Master of Magic, Wonders is still the go-to game for fantasy strategising. 3 adds more RPG elements, in addition to translating the top-down 2D trappings of old to full 3D.
Dragon Fin Soup
Developer: Grimm Bros
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Dragon Fin soup
The name of the indie developers, Grimm Bros, tells you all you need to know about the dark fantasy vibe the team are trying to capture with Dragon Fin Soup, but there are lashings of comedy here, too. You play Red Robin, a booze-loving hero travelling across a fantasy land on the back of a giant turtle called Atui- er, Asura, on a quest for revenge. You can dual wield anything, from pots and pans to magic swords, or dispose of enemies at range with a sawn off shotgun, or other craftable weapons. There’s also a dynamic day/night cycle, pets, fishing and dungeons full of fairytale creatures to bully.
Developer: Coda Games
Release date: First act due early 2014
The entire royal family is dead, now you have to navigate the hordes of would-be Kings and Queens in this stylish tactical fantasy RPG. The hand-drawn art adds a lavish sheen to notstalgic design reminiscent of early JRPGs. The tactical, turn-based combat takes place on a grid system and focuses on small group duels. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s due to be released in three acts, with the first due to arrive early this year.
Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Link:Child of Light site
That other 2014 game being made with Ubi-Art, Child of Light is an equally painterly sidescrolling adventure starring Aurora, a sword-wielding child tasked with defeating the Queen of Night. It's inspired by JRPGs such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI, but the game's most novel feature is perhaps its rhyming dialogue – the story is being written as a sort of epic poem.
Developer: DoubleBear Productions
Release: March 2014
This promising zombie survival horror RPG lumbers towards its planned March release date with an imminent Early Access campaign. You’ll battle through an American town overrun by the undead, teaming up with survivors to blast the shamblers in tense, turn-based encounters. Panic is a powerful factor when facing zombies, and the noise you make if you choose to resort to firearms always risks attracting overwhelming numbers. It’s made by a storied team with experience working on great games like Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and Neverwinter Nights 2.
Developer: Wolfram and Sarah von Funck
Link:Cube World site
Of all the building and exploring Minecraft-a-likes, Cube World is one of the most promising. It’s a fully fledged action RPG set in a sprawling, procedurally generated voxel universe full of dungeons and boss monsters. There will be lots of crafting, of course, but relaxing busywork is offset by some proper combat mechanics, and even boss monsters.
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Link:Cyberpunk 2077’s site
CD Projekt RED's next hugely ambitious project ditches the sword-and-scars fantasy of The Witcher in favour of the Cyberpunk pen and paper RPG. It'll feature a non-linear story, character customisation, future-robo-people - all the stuff that made the studio's last efforts so so special.
Except the future-robo-people. They're new. The game’s multiplayer features will be virgin territory for the Witcher devs too, although they’ve so far given no hint about how they will be implemented.
Heart Forth, Alicia
Developer: Alonso Martin
Release Date: TBA
Link:Heart Forth, Alicia's page
The world has moved on since development first started on Heart Forth, Alicia back in 2007, but one thing has remained constant: our desire to play this arresting platformer/RPG. The story involves gods and wizards and people presumably putting their hearts forth, while the sidescrolling action gives you a number of magical powers – and of course various helper fairies – in your quest to return to your floating island home.
The Banner Saga
Release Date: 14th January
Link:The Banner Saga site
This RPG/turn-based strategy hybrid comes from a trio of ex-Bioware developers and the pockets of an army of Kickstarter backers. It's a story of viking mythology, tough choices, and patiently waiting to smack a giant with an axe. It's the first part of a planned trilogy, but the series' combat system was already trialled in the free-to-play game The Banner Saga: Factions. Hopefully between the lessons learned from that accomplished if not spectacular release, and the deep and grown-up story being promised, the full singleplayer game will have a more lasting impact.
Mass Effect 4
Link:Mass Effect site
We can only speculate about the setting and framework of Mass Effect 4. In fact, the "4" may not be correct if the next game turns out to be a prequel. One thing's for certain, Shepard's story is done and dusted, so don't expect to encounter the series' iconic hero. If it's set after the third game, ME4 will have to deal with the universe-altering decisions Shepard makes at the end of game three. However that pans out
Only Bioware and EA know where Mass Effect is going next, but we have a things we'd like to see from Mass Effect 4 ourselves.
Legends of Eisenwald
Developer: Aterdux Entertainment
Release Date: TBA 2014
Gather your part and venture forth into medieval lands full of pagan thugs and bandits. You’ll battle them in the time-honoured medieval tradition, by standing in individual hexes and taking it in turns to hit each other with halberds. This is a dark mud ‘n blood take on low fantasy that’ll play out over a seven-part campaign, though there will also be a scenario editor for those that want to continue the adventure.
Developer: Open Realms
Release: Mid 2014
Link:Forge Quest site
Forge Quest is an action RPG made from voxels, with randomly generated dungeons full of creatures to mess up with your voxel sword. The classic ARPG reward loop is here - kill, loot, get better at killing - but it’s spiced up by a cheeky sense of humour. It’ll face tough competition when it eventually makes its way off Steam Early access, however. The ARPG drought is over, now we get to choose between this, Diablo 3, Torchlight 2, Path of Exile and Grim Dawn.
Divinity: Original Sin
Developer: Larian Studios
Release Date: 28th February
Link:The Divinity: Original Sin site
The Divinity series adds a welcome note of self-aware humour to the serious business of clicking on skeletons until they die, including goofy in-jokes, memorable characters and – in strategy spin-off Dragon Commander – even dealing with a number real-world political issues. (Er, and steampunk jet-powered dragons.) That humour's present and correct in Original Sin, but it's the game's ambition that should have you frantically scribbling 'February 28' in your diary. Larian's latest aims to be nothing less than a modern-day Ultima VII, featuring a ridiculously interactive and detailed world, along with co-op, turn-based combat and even a level editor.
Hyper Light Drifter
Developer: Heart Machine
Release Date: June
Link:Heart Machine’s website
This 2D action RPG has some of the most stylish pixel art we’ve seen. Developers Heart Machine cite games like Diablo and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as influences, with fast, responsive combat and a large, atmospheric world to explore. Music is an important part of the game as well, and handling the soundtrack is Rich ‘Disasterpeace’ Vreeland, whose previously supplied the wonderful Fez score, as well as contributions from electronic artist Baths, whose new album Obsidian was recently released to critical acclaim. Heart Machine were asking for a modest $27,000 to make the game, and ended up with over $600,000, so expect a much grander end product than their original vision.
Barkley Shut Up And Jam 2
Developer: Tales of Game’s Studios
Release: Early 2014
Link:Tale of Game’s site
Or, to give it its full title, The Magical Realms of Tir NA NoG: Escape from Necron 7, Revenge of Cuchulainn - Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa, this adventure game sequel hopes to top the madness and hilarity of the first Barkley game. As an unnamed, powerful kid, you must wander the Post-Cyberpocalyptic Wasteland in search of the wise Cyberdwarf, who may hold some clue as to how the evil rogue AI, Cuchulainn, can be defeated. Expect lots of basketball puns, relentless jokes and JRPG style turn-based combat.
To find out why the prospect of a Barkley sequel has us excited, check out our Barkley 2 preview.
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release: “Coming soon” 2014
Link:Mighty Quest for Epic Loot site
A jolly action RPG that’ll be free-to-play when it’s released, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot isn’t just about raiding castles and killing monsters for gold, you’ll be able to team up with friends to create your own fortresses that others will try to raid. Hold on to your gold hordes effectively enough, and you’ll be able to level up your characters, and dress them in ever-shinier armour. The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot offers promises a cycle of monster-killing and tower defence, propped up by microtransactions.
Find out how the castle-building and combat works in our Mighty Quest for Epic Loot hands-on.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age has always proved a divisive series. With its third instalment, Bioware hopes to meld the best parts of its adult fantasy Dragon Age: Origins with its much maligned sequel, and hopefully satiate naysayers in both camps. A new protagonist will enter a world in civil war, with a playable area larger than that of the first game, taking place in and around the Orlais region. There'll be more customisation, increased emphasis on tactical decisions in combat and - if you're lucky - more beards.
Dark Souls 2
Developer From Software
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release date: March 11 2014
Link:Dark Souls 2 site
Don’t expect the sequel to one of 2012’s toughest games, Dark Souls, to relent on difficulty. Co-director Tomohiro Shibuya has said he has no intention of changing the controls or introducing an easy difficulty mode into the brutal fantasy RPG. That said, the world - roughly twice the size of Dark Souls’ - will be more accessible. Could fast-travelling be available from the start? Also, dedicated servers should remedy the first two games’ notoriously spotty (albeit innovative) co-op and adversarial multiplayer.
Dark Souls received a bare-bones port to PC in 2012, but once modders had polished it up, it was magnificent. The follow-up will hopefully strive to be just as dark and deeply challenging, The PC version was announced alongside the consoles, so it'll likely be a little less rushed this time round.
Watch Dark Souls 2’s 12-minute video demoDark Souls II 12-minute gameplay demo.
The Age of Decadence
Developer: Iron Tower Studio
Release Date: Spring 2014
Link:The Age of Decadence site
The post-apocalypse doesn't have to mean rusty tin cans, giant cockroaches and a wardrobe full of ragged jumpers, as the ambitious Age of Decadence shows. In development for around nine years, the game features a non-linear plot, seven different factions and endings, and a ton of ways to customise and improve your character. The world's inspired by the war-hungry, bronzey, Asterix-hating Roman Empire, which seems as good a society as any to fall back on when modern civilisation goes down the crapper. While the finished game is a little way off yet, you can download the public beta right now.
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: January
Daedalic – makers of fine-looking adventure games like Deponia and The Whispered World – have turned their talents to building a tactical, turn-based RPG. And before you ask: yes, it features hexes. The focus might be on combat, but there is a grim story underpinning everything. You'll assume control of a bunch of fantasy outcasts, including a drunken wizard, a very angry dwarf and rogue addicted to drugs. The group will band together to defeat a “dark menace”, though I can't help but wonder if there are others better suited to the task.
We took a brief look at Blackguards last year. Read our thoughts at the following link.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Release Date: 4th March
Link:South Park: The Stick of Truth site
Will The Stick of Truth be the first good South Park game? Previous games have lowered the bar practically to Hades, so Obsidian and Ubisoft have every chance of success. Yes, I said Obsidian – the RPG developers du jour will hopefully endow this filthy 2D adventure with their trademark quality writing and design. South Park creators (and Stick of Truth scriptwriters) Trey Parker and Matt Stone are onboard to ensure that the game looks and feels like an actual South Park cartoon – hopefully one of the earlier episodes, rather than the increasingly tiresome event episodes of more recent seasons.
Developer: Discord Games
Release Date: May
Procedural generation? Check. Metroidvania elements? Check. Lovely pixel art, loot drops and (optional permadeath)? Check, check and YOU ARE DEAD. Chasm ticks a lot of boxes, but it does so while keeping its own eyeball-slicing, mine-delving identity. The game's (successful) Greenlight page reveals that you're “a soldier passing through a remote mining town on their journey home from a long war. The town’s miners have recently disappeared after breaching a long-forgotten temple far below the town, and reawakened an ancient slumbering evil.” Now why did they have to go and do that?
Radio the Universe
Release Date: TBA
Link:The game's tumblr page
How is development on this promising, faintly stunning sci-fi action RPG going since its Kickstarter target was duly thrashed a year ago? We have no idea, because the updates are visible to backers only – but hey, the sign that there are updates is encouraging at least. Why are we excited? Because Radio the Universe references some of our favourite things – Yume Nikki, Dark Souls, Shin Megami Tensei and Zelda – while smothering its own gorgeous pixel art over the top.
Radio the Universe hit Kickstarter just over a year ago. We jotted down our initial thoughts in this post.
Always Sometimes Monsters
Developer: Vagabond games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Devolver Digital website
Always Sometimes Monsters is that rarest of things, an RPG set in the real world. You take the role of an ordinary person, down on their luck, trying to get back on top. Different characters have different, races, genders and orientations and although the developers haven’t said how those will influence the game I think we can all be fairly certain that straight white male will be the easy mode.
Developer: Luciano Sgarbi and Joe Conway
Link:Witchmarsh's dev blog
Don't let the gorgeous 2D pixel-art fool you: Witchmarsh has its roots in some hardcore RPGs, citing Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights as inspiration. The game will task you with creating a team of investigators, with the eventual aim of solving a recent series of mass kidnappings. The creators hope to melding customisation and choice with a Metroidvania style focus on exploration. Witchmarsh will be putting its case forward in a Kickstarter campaign due early this year.
Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: August 5
Link:Sacred 3 site
This ambitious, well-regarded series of co-op Diablolikes is no longer in the hands of original developers Ascaron, and it's probably not entirely unrelated that this third game marks quite the departure from those games. It's a much more deliberately arcadey game, with no loot, and with a focus on thunky moment-to-moment combat instead. The two-player multiplayer of the previous games has been bolstered by two additional players–even if playing alone, you'll travel with three NPC party memberss. Given how radically different it is to the previous entries, there's a good chance of a vocal backlash to Sacred 3's sacrilegious reinvention, but on its own terms this might be quite fun.
Risen 3: Titan Lords
Developer: Piranha Bytes
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: August 12
Link:Risen 3 site
The original Risen had its fair share of problems, but at the time of release it existed in its own little bubble of unforgiving, largely open RPGs, eschewing level-scaling in favour of treacherous exploration where one wrong foot could see you made dead in minutes. The sequel awkwardly grafted a pirate theme onto its third-person adventuring, with little success, while this third game looks to be a return to what made the first one so memorable. Expect slightly shonky roleplaying with a focus on factions and exploration.
Costume Quest 2
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Midnight City
Release Date: October
Costume Quest 2 swaps the leafy suburbs of the original game for the witchy, voodooy, alligatory swamps of New Orleans. Thankfully it will keep the Halloween adventuring, the JRPG-style combat, and trick-or-treating kid heroes Wren and Reynold—well, it wouldn't be much of a Costume Quest without them. “Deeper combat” and “more costumes” are promised for Double Fine's latest seasonal adventure, including every coulrophobe's very favourite outfit: that of the friendly clown.
We set foot in the Bayou to take a closer look at Double Fine's Halloween adventure.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Publisher: Brace Yourself; Klei
Release Date: Late 2014
Link:Official Necrodancer site
Given that roguelikes have already infiltrated most every other genre out there, perhaps rhythm roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer was an inevitability—but it still feels fresher than most of PC Gamer's moves on the dancefloor. The strict grid-based movement of classic roguelikes/dungeon crawlers turns out to be a perfect fit for Necrodancer's turn-based hopping and bopping, while the animations of the dungeon's beasties are simply to die for. The grooviest dungeon crawler of this or any other year.
If you feel like tapping your toes to the beat of Necrodancer's drum, be sure to check out our first look from last year.