Guide to the games of 2016

Exploration and survival

Abzu

Developer: Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Abzu

Winner of the “Semi-spiritual experience in a sea of marketing” 2015 E3 award, it’s obvious Abzu stands out from the brash production of mainstream gaming experiences. In it, you scuba dive in a stylistic ocean to an ambient soundtrack. Spend your time in a delicate swim tango with the sea creatures, gather momentum to fly out of the water high enough to perform some graceful acrobatics, or explore the depths and cavernous mysteries of Abzu’s world. It’s a peaceful, curious place, an exercise in mechanical and aesthetic texture and exactly what the noisy industry needs more of.

Adr1ft

Developer: Three One Zero
Publisher: 505 Games
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Adr1ft

Billed as an FPX (first person experience), Adr1ft, unable to abandon the number-in-the-title-as-a-letter cliche, is at least able to abandon the genre conventions of most first person games with ease. The basic premise: you’re an astronaut with amnesia floating through the wreckage of a destroyed space station. First instinct: survive in zero gravity with limited oxygen and basic propulsion systems. Second instinct: weeeee! It’s obvious why Adr1ft is an Oculus launch title, but it’s poised to be a harrowing adventure no matter the medium.

AER

Developer: Forgotten Key
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release date: TBA 2016
Link: Official site

Aer

One judgement call we can make about AER: it’s gorgeous. One assumption we can make: it sounds pretty chill. You play as a girl that can turn into a bird. Gameplay is exploration based, so most of your time will be spent flying around to different island, checking out what’s there, and moving on. There’s a story to find in the sky, ultimately leading you to the end of the world where you apparently challenge the gods and save existence. Heavy themes! One request we’d like to make: let us play this, please.

Allison Road

Developer: Lilith Ltd.
Publisher: Lilith Ltd.
Release date: TBA 2016
Link: Official site

Allison Road

After all hope of a Kojima led Silent Hill was snuffed out and the tiny, but incredibly detailed interactive trailer for the project P.T. was stricken from the earth, something changed in games. Horror had previously leaned on mechanical stress like low health and dangerous enemies. But a concept demo for Allison Road ran with the idea that mood could be created through dense, highly detailed environments. The entire game will take place in one house, where the developers hope to tell an awesome ghost story in first person. No solid release date is set, but we look forward to delving into some domestic spooks as soon as it’s ready.

Hover Junkers

Developer: StressLevelZero

Publisher: StressLevelZero

Release date: Q1 2016

Link: Steam page

Hover Junkers

Take control of a hovering transport platform and search the wasteland for scrap. Hover Junkers is designed specifically for the HTC Vive, as your room represents the ship you are standing on. You must salvage items, place walls and defenses on the edge of your ship, and then defend it with a pair of revolvers from those who would take your ship as salvage instead. In addition to the Vive’s spacial detection, you’ll need motion controllers for your VR headset, as all of the aiming and placing is done with your hands.

Overkill’s The Walking Dead

Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
Release date: 2016
Link: Official Site

The walking dead

With only two television shows and a handful of different video games, it’s about time someone did something with The Walking Dead franchise. In this case, it’s a co-op first-person survival shooter from the makers of the Payday series. We don’t have much in the way of fine details about it yet, but it’s going to support StarVR, the headset being designed by Starbreeze.

Little Devil Inside

Developer: Neostream
Publisher: TBD
Release date: June 2016
Link: Official site

The Devil Inside

Details are scant on Little Devil Inside ever since its successful Kickstarter campaign. We know it’s RPG-ish, has survival elements, and looks fantastic in its concept renders, but the developers have remained tight lipped about progress so far. It’s unlikely they’ll hit the June date set by the Kickstarter campaign and it may not see release in 2016 at all. Let’s all hope it comes together, because we can’t have enough posh dragons stalking us in forests, can we?

No Man’s Sky

Developer: Hello Games
Publisher: Hello Games
Release date: June 2016
Link: Official Site

No Man s Sky Drone

Teased and tantalized by the prospect of seamless planetary and space exploration, a massive procedurally generated universe, and attractive visuals, we were relieved to confirm that it was coming to PC. We still have some questions about what we’ll spend our time doing in the game, besides gawking at alien species and occasionally getting in dogfights, but we’re definitely looking forward to finding out. With 18 quintillion worlds to visit, at least we’ll have a few options.

POLLEN

Developer: Mindfield Games
Publisher: Mindfield Games
Release date: TBD 2016
Link: Official site

Pollen

If you’re looking to be scared in space, then the Oculus might be for you. In POLLEN, you’re sent Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn, to join a team of researchers working with an “unknown object” discovered beneath the planetary crust. The developers list games like Gone Home and The Dig as inspirations, and promise a fully interactive world where every object has a function and action. With an injection of Kubrick or Tarkovsky fiction to tie it all together, POLLEN is looking like an inspiring VR release.

Man O’ War: Corsair

Developer: Evil Twin Artworks
Publisher: Games Workshop
Release date: 2016
Link: Official site

Man O War

It’s rare that we get a proper naval action game, but somewhat less rare that a Games Workshop title looms on the horizon. Man O’ War: Corsair is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe on the high seas. Open-world exploration and sailing will tempt us to chase the edges of the map. Fight and board enemy ships, and try not to get eaten by sea monsters. Sounds like a good time. If this keeps up, we’ll have to change our name to Warhammer Gamer.

Syndrome

Developer: Camel 101 LLC & Bigmoon Entertainment
Publisher: Camel 101 LLC & Bigmoon Entertainment
Release date: Q2 2016
Link: Official site

Syndrome

In Syndrome, you play as someone that wakes up with no memory on a decrepit spaceship where the entire crew is dead or insane. So, it’s starting to become a cliched premise, but it’s hard not to get excited for more first person survival horror, especially with VR support. There isn’t much to go by besides a trailer, so we’ll have to wait and see what sets Syndrome apart.

Crashlands

Developer: Butterscotch Shenanigans
Publisher: Butterscotch Shenanigans
Release date: January 21, 2016
Link: Official site

Crashlands

Crashlands is an isometric adventure game with crafting, somewhat reminiscent of Don’t Starve. However, it seems to focus much more on combat, while streamlining some of the more frustrating parts of survival games. Building is done with a simple point and click system and your inventory is infinite and self-sorting. In true indie fashion, Crashlands is being developed by three brothers, and seems like it wants to bring a slight twist to genre with lots of competition.

Update: It's out now! Here's our Crashlands review.

Iron Fish

Developer: Beefjack
Publisher: Beefjack
Release date: Early 2016
Link: Greenlight

Iron Fish

SOMA brought home the potential for deep-sea horror, but arguably went overboard. Iron Fish wants to be more cerebral, a psychological thriller about exploring the ocean depths as a diver. The challenge will be in making swimming tolerable—not many games manage that, and while 3D motion is a useful way of disorienting and panicking the player, it can just as easily stray into frustration. Hopefully Iron Fish’s personal submarine will speed things along.

Firewatch

Developer: Campo Santo
Publisher: Panic
Release date: February 9, 2016
Link: Official site

Firewatch 4

Firewatch looks like the ultimate campfire story. Alone in the wilderness of Wyoming, Henry has escaped from a crumbling marriage back in civilisation. His only human contact is with the disembodied voice of fellow firewatcher Delilah on the other end of the radio, but somehow things keep going wrong: your office is sacked, telephone cables are cut and people you’ve met just hours earlier go missing. It’s creeping horror in a technicolour setting, but it’s the element of choice that sets Firewatch apart from other horror games or the walking simulators it will inevitably be compared with. You can choose how your relationship with Delilah develops against a background of escalating unease, and saying nothing is always an option.

Update: It's out now! Here's our Firewatch review.

Goliath

Developer: Whalebox Studio
Publisher: Whalebox Studio
Release date: Winter 2016
Link: Official site

Goliath

Think of your typical action/adventure RPG, your Zeldas and your, uh Zeldas. Throw in some Don’t Starve, and BOOM. Goliath. Standing tall, the titular machinations are constructed by the player in a survival-game-esque manner. Scrounge for resources while barreling through an RPG story. Build a big sentient person-shaped thing. Sounds like a good time to us. Look for it in late 2016.

Lego Worlds

Developer: Traveler’s Tales, TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release date: TBD 2016
Link: Official site

Lego Worlds

In the most belated, obvious move ever Lego is doing a Minecraft. That’s probably a reductive comparison, but not too far off. Traveler’s Tales imprint is all over the thing. There are kooky characters, an obscene amount of Lego people accessories, vehicles, and collectibles. You can still deform and reform the terrain, and you can build structures as you might with real Legos. It’s in Early Access now, and hasn’t been quite a revolution, but here’s to a final release that at least approximates the open world Lego sandbox we all dreamt of as kids.

Outlast 2

Developer: Red Barrels
Publisher: Red Barrels
Release date: Autumn, 2016
Link: Official site

Outlast 2

Outlast is a classic work of jump-scaring, resource-managing, locker-hiding horror. It’s pure trope, but with such conviction that it sells every one of its B-movie horror staples, like the night-vision camera and asylum setting. Whatever Red Barrels comes out with next will be sure to scare, although thinning out the fetch quests and corridor chases should be made a priority. The release window of ‘autumn’ is vague but there’s a certain scary holiday in there that would make sense.

Pathologic

Developer: Ice-Pick Lodge
Publisher: Ice-Pick Lodge
Release date: 2016

Link: Official site

Pathologic

Pathologic is the PC game that scurries into a dark corner every time you turn your head to look at it. It’s the PC game that we talk about in dark alleys at night. It’s the PC game that whose name you whisper into the mirror three times and it appears, fully Kickstarted, and remade for a modern audience. The ‘cult’ designation rarely actually applies, with Pathologic’s uncanny universe, plague centrism, and consequential quest design made it a very divisive game, especially between Russian and English audiences. Perhaps with the remake, the differences will dissolve, and Pathologic will get the global accolades it deserves.

Perception

Developer: The Deep End Games
Publisher: The Deep End Games
Release date: TBA 2016
Link: Official site

Perception 1

Echo the Dolphin, this isn’t. A horror game starring a blind protagonist that ‘sees’ using sound, it is. In case the dark wasn’t scary enough, Perception is an attempt to further obfuscate the ghosts and ghoulies. But can you even bounce sound waves off a ghost? If anyone knows, it’s the former Bioshock devs behind Perception. We’re looking to see what kind of waves of emotion we get from the plentiful waves of sound in Perception as soon as possible.

Town of Light

Developer: Town of Light team
Publisher: Town of Light team
Release date: February 26, 2016
Link: Official site

The Town of Light

Assume the perspective of a 16 year old girl who spent time in a psychiatric hospital for a nondescript mental illness. Walk the halls of that old place, revisit memories, and cry a lot, because this game looks scary and sad. Throw in VR support and cry a whole lot more. As a psychological horror game that purports to tell real life stories, The Town of Light could be a moving affair. Let’s just hope they don’t eschew the truth in favor of telling the same psychiatric hospital horror story again.

The Solus Project

Developer: Teotl
Publisher: Grip Games
Release date: TBA 2016
Link: Official site

Solus Project

The Solus Project is an exploration and survival game on an inhospitable planet, and the spiritual successor to The Ball. Developer Teotl promises complex survival variables—plants growing, fatigue from walking uphill, tides dictated by the moon—and all sorts of secret areas to discover. Even “secrets within secrets.” That’s a lot of secrets. Though it looks pretty open ended, the official site says that The Solus Project does have a distinct ending.