The biggest games of 2017

Aliens, mechs, and an axe-wielding murderer top our list of next year's potential hits.

The final month of 2016 is upon us, and as is our tradition we’ll spend it celebrating our favorite games of the year. There’ll be awards. There’ll be memories. Chris Livingston will probably do something silly in an open world game. But first, we’re taking a moment to look ahead to 2017, and all the games we look forward to playing after this year bites the dust. 

We expect Ubisoft will release a new Assassin’s Creed after taking 2016 off, and it’d be crazy to think there won’t be a new Call of Duty next November. Those are givens and we'll be adding many more games to this page, big and small, as 2017 approaches. For now, though these are the PC games (and one maybe PC game) we're most looking forward to right now.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Release date: March 2017

We’re just a day away from seeing the ‘first’ Mass Effect: Andromeda gameplay footage, as BioWare keeps pretending its PlayStation Pro trailer doesn’t exist. Mostly, though, we’ve seen cinematic footage that continues to confirm the dump of information that slipped out a year ago on Reddit, supposedly via a marketing survey. We know that Andromeda takes place hundreds of years after Mass Effect 3, when humans and their alien allies arrive in a new galaxy. There will be mysterious ancient aliens, and alien baddies with alien exoskeletons, and space sex with aliens, surely.

A few more interesting details: BioWare says Andromeda is its biggest game, we won’t be loading in elevators, and loyalty missions won’t define the end of the game—they can be played after the main story concludes. See all our stories in our Mass Effect: Andromeda hub, and look out for the new trailer tomorrow at the Game Awards.

BattleTech

Release date: TBA 2017 

We've got high hopes the turn-based return of BattleTech. The folks at Harebrained Schemes have earned a reputation for producing great strategy RPGs from responsibly-run Kickstarter projects, and the best conceivable people are in the cockpit: BattleTech creator Jordan Weisman, Mike McCain (creative director on Shadowrun Returns), and Mitch Gitelman, who was game director on the wonderful MechCommander series. 

The early prototype we played at PAX only featured one mission, but its internal structure seems sound. Harebrained's approach to translating BattleTech's tabletop ruleset shows reverence, but not at the expense of embracing new ideas: we're excited about the idea of light mechs having real utility as scouts and flankers in a turn-based game, where time and speed can be difficult to express. And because the map isn't on a grid, individual angles, rock formations, and details seem like they'll matter.

BattleTech met stretch goals that guarantee 1v1 PvP multiplayer, but we're glad that this game seems mostly focused on its singeplayer mercenary campaign. You'll be riding around in a massive dropship, which structurally seems like it'll resemble XCOM 2's modular base stations for managing mechs, pilots, and salvage.

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord 

Release date: TBA 2017 

Part spectacle, part sim, part sandbox RPG, Mount & Blade remains a one-of-a-kind blend of systems and ideas. It's the thrill of being in a battle that's way bigger than you, of launching a single arrow into a horde of 50 dudes storming your castle. And it's the fun of being an average lord in a churning political and military sea of medieval NPCs. 

The original (excluding Warband) is almost 10 years old, so as much as anything we're glad to see Bannerlord bringing a visual and technical overhaul to the series. Character customization, as we saw at the PC Gamer Weekender, offers enough flexibility to sculpt convincing dark ages replicas of Adam Driver, Vladimir Putin, Arnold, and others, but we're equally interested in the new item crafting system, which seems like it'll let you build weapons with personality and history. And lord, those sieges look nuts.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Release date: March 7, 2017 

Take a big open world, stuff it with 100 Far Cry-type outpost missions, and jump in with some co-op partners—Tom Senior did just that back in June and found Ubisoft’s upcoming third-person tactical shooter full of enjoyable and emergent chaos. Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes place in a Bolivian landmass where four players comprise a military taskforce sent to disrupt a drug cartel and the government it’s aligned with. While players may have a specific missions—whether it’s to steal some intel or kidnap an informant—how they choose to tackle it is up to them. Guns blazing? Stealth? Or, as often happens, failed stealth that leads to guns blazing?

The open world—the first in Ghost Recon’s ten-game history—promises diverse environments like mountains, forests, and deserts, explorable by ground vehicles, helicopters, and parachutes. The setting is close to modern day, so weapons and gear aren’t as futuristic as they have been in earlier Recon games. Ubisoft is also promising that player choice will affect the world, and that non-violent interactions with NPCs like rebels and civilians can have an impact on missions and goals. And, if your pals aren’t around, you’ll be able to play solo using AI teammates in place of real ones.

Prey

Release date: TBA 2017

New Prey has nothing to do with the old Prey, or Prey 2, which was cancelled back in 2014. Now in the hands of Arkane’s Austin studio, Prey is only familiar in name. Set in an alternate history where President Kennedy was never assassinated, the Soviets and the States continued their rivalry, until one took control of the Kletka Program, a space installation meant to control an alien threat. The project is eventually abandoned, and a corporation takes over (uh-oh), turning the station into “a cutting edge innovation center” called Talos 1. Big surprise, things don’t go well.

You play as Morgan Yu (male or female), who happens to be on board when the alien threat gets particularly threatening. From there, it’s a matter of survival and getting to the bottom of what went wrong. Expect plenty of shooting and exploration, and most interestingly, shape-shifting. You and the alien threat can take on nearly any form. An inconspicuous mug or trash bin might be an alien in wait, or if they’re hunting you down, try the mug life for yourself.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Release date: TBA 2017 

Early Access has already given us a taste of Original Sin 2, which could easily be the best RPG of 2017. Larian has heavily iterated on its dense turn-based battle system, adding an armor system, elevation, and bless and curse statuses that can completely turn your intentions on their head. Set fire to a pool of oil and it will burn your enemies alive—but if they bless it, suddenly it has healing properties. The most obvious change this go-round, though, is a heavier focus on writing and roleplaying, with a stable of writers including Chris Avellone bringing a darker tone and more racial tension into the opening hours of this story. It's a big shift, but the story ended up Original Sin's weakest link, and Larian seems determined not to repeat that mistake.

There's already working four-player co-op for a slice of Original Sin 2's first act, and the full game is out sometime in 2017. Larian's still being secretive about its planned Dungeon Master mode, but that may well turn OS2 into a canvas for our own RPG adventures.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 3

Release date: TBA 2017 

The hordes of Warhammer games have a clear king in the Dawn of War RTS series, and its third installment will come eight years after Dawn of War 2. It’ll be a big challenge for Relic to meet the expectations of long-time Warhammer fans while inviting new players into a genre that, despite picking up speed recently, has become hugely overshadowed by the MOBAs that spawned from it. A fantastic campaign would help, which campaign lead Brent Disbrow talks a bit about here. For more, check out the details Tom laid out after writing our cover story on the game.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Release date: January 24, 2017

The spooks come early in 2017, with a first-person Resident Evil that, so far as we can tell from our recent hands-on, reclaims some of the series’ older staples, namely backtracking and secret hunting, and takes the words ‘survival’ and ‘horror’ much more seriously. The shiny blockbuster action of recent Resident Evils turns grimy and decayed here, with an axe-wielding murderer chasing a bloodied protagonist around a car. There’s also some fun-sounding time play, with VHS tapes that suck us into new perspectives and then spit us back out where we were, but not necessarily when we were.

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam

Release date: TBA 2017

We loved the asymmetry of Rising Storm, the authenticity-focused WWII shooter we named our Multiplayer Game of the Year in 2013, and it's even more dramatic in the Vietnam-set sequel. The Americans are loud and fast, skimming the treetops with helicopters, while the Viet Cong spawn in squad tunnels, appearing behind capture points and ambushing LZs. More than being a good shot, strictly managed teamwork remains the key to success. Tyler tried his hand at both piloting helicopters and manning their guns, and found it nigh on impossible to hit anything without spotters and direction over comms.

The addition of modern, automatic weapons might be an even bigger shift for the series than helicopters, though, as part of the Red Orchestra and Rising Storm identity has been their demand for precision aiming with bolt-action and semi-auto weapons. But the quest for authenticity hasn’t changed here. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam’s guns aren’t easy to handle by any means, and scoring kills still sometimes means picking out specks on the horizon and taking cautious, well-planned shots. Read more about Vietnam’s helicopters, guns, and new mode in our hands-on preview from August.

Red Dead Redemption 2?

Release date: Fall 2017 

Rockstar has done it again: announced a highly-anticipated game without mentioning whether or not it will come to PC. The original Red Dead Redemption never came to PC, but this feels more like a repeat of GTA V than that. We were 99.9 percent confident that GTA V would come to PC back when it was announced for consoles, and we’re, say, 98.2 percent confident that Red Dead Redemption 2 will take the same path. Whether it’ll come along in 2017 or 2018 is the main uncertainty.

Assuming we’re right and Rockstar isn’t snickering at us every time we mention RDR 2, we seem to be looking at a Magnificent Seven approach to the western—or at least, there are seven riders conspicuously featured in the debut teaser. Rockstar is also touting multiplayer, which will presumably look something like GTA Online, but with people running you over with trains instead of cars.

Civilization 6: Inevitable Expansion 

Release date: Mid-to-late 2017, probably

 Civ 6 launched with enough systems and stuff to make it feel like it'd already received an expansion, but there are also major areas of the game that need attention. As we outlined last month, we'd love to see diplomacy, religion, and culture expanded—the latter two simply need more depth, and we'd love to see the diplomatic victory condition (and the 'World Congress') return from Civ 5.

Otherwise, given that Greece has two discrete leaders (Gorgo and Pericles), it's likely that we'll see secondary choices added for some civs, either as DLC or part of an expansion. An XML file hints that Poland will be one of the added Civs. We also think that toggleable global map events or scenarios or would be an interesting direction to take the series. Events like global warming, hurricanes, or the Olympics could further amplify the importance of tile placement.

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