Guide to the games of 2017

Exploration and survival

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Saurian

Release date: August 2, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Urvogel Games
Link: Steam page

A survival game in which you play as a dinosaur, from birth via egg to adulthood, where you presumably get to chow down on everything smaller than you. We gave it a spin and mostly wound up food for other dinos. It's hard out there for a baby raptor.

Praey for the Gods

Release date: December 2017
Developer: No Matter Studios
Link: Official site

No Matter Studios isn’t shy about its admiration for Shadow of the Colossus, a classic PS2 game where you clamber up giant beasts and stab them in the face. Praey for the Gods is a conscious iteration of the same David-and-Goliath design, but with a few survival game trappings mixed in. With the exhaustion system, everything the player does will affect how capable their character is. Walk too much in deep snow without resting for food and warmth, and your overall speed will slacken, making you easy… prey for the gods.

Conan Exiles

Release date: January 31st, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Funcom
Link: Steam page

The last time we hung out with Conan the Barbarian was in his now mostly forgotten MMO Age of Conan, which couldn't quite pry the masses away from WoW and the other MMOs of its day. Maybe Conan Exiles will fare better as a survival game set in the Hyborian kingdoms, taking a page from Rust's book to start you off as a scrappy nobody on a server full of other (likely cruel) players. 

The game is out now in Early Access, but so far we're not super impressed (except with its endowment slider).

The Church in the Darkness

Release Date: 2017
Developer: Paranoid Productions
Link: Steam page

Blending stealth action with a heavy narrative focus, The Church in the Darkness is about one man’s journey to rescue his nephew from a cult deep in the jungles of South America. Whether you decide to infiltrate the town quietly or kill anyone who gets in your way is up to you, but each time you play will be a different story. Characters, personalities, and a shifting narrative will change each time you attempt to make contact with your nephew. Those who might be an ally in one playthrough could be an enemy in the next.

Sub Rosa

Release date: 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Cryptic Sea
Link: Steam page

Think ‘corporate DayZ.’ In Sub Rosa, players will join a server and find an employer, then execute missions like selling valuable colored discs (the artstyle is minimal) to players in other corporations. Maybe the deal goes smoothly, or maybe the guns come out. It's one of the more creative ideas coming this year, and we're looking forward to the stories we might tell in it.

Call of Cthulhu

Release date: Q4 2017
Developer: Cyanide Studio
Link: Official site

As a private investigator in 1920’s Boston, you’ll attempt to solve a murder on the spooky-as-hell Darkwater Island in this stealth horror game based on the Lovecraft-inspired pen-and-paper RPG. Naturally, the closer you come to unraveling the mystery, the more you’ll question your own sanity.

Subnautica

Release date: 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: Unknown Worlds
Link: Official site

Even with open-world survival games thick on the ground, no one does weird and wonderful like the alien underwater critters in Subnautica. In so many ways, Subnautica would be a perfectly standard mine-harvest-craft-build survival game, but the ocean planet setting was enough of a tweak to change everything down the line: build bigger oxygen tanks to venture farther from base, build stronger submarines to explore the high-pressure depths, and on and on. You can follow Subnautica’s development progress on their open Trello page, which includes gems like “add drillable nickel” and “fix kelp sparkling at night.” Ah, the glamorous world of gamedev.

The Wild Eight

Release date: February 8, 2017 (Out now in Early Access)
Developer: 8 Points
Link: Steam page

Despite the fact there will soon be a unique survival game for every single person who owns a PC, The Wild Eight is one the most intriguing projects currently in development. Created with a heavy focus on co-op, you pick from one of eight characters (hence the name) and set about trying not to die in the Alaskan wilderness via a mix of crafting, hunting, and helping your fellow plane crash survivors out. The vibe appears to be along the lines of  less lavish The Long Dark, or a more story-centric Overland, given that there are quests and some sort of Lost-style conspiracy/mystery hidden under the snow.

The Long Dark

Release date: August 1, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Hinterland
Link: Official site

The chilliest survival game we’ve ever played has been working through early access for a while now, but it looks like the long-awaited story campaign mode will start releasing episodes in 2017. Andy spent some time describing the lovely loneliness of Long Dark’s survival sandbox, but in many ways it’s the story of Will Mackenzie, crashed bush pilot, is the adventure we’ve been waiting for.

Shape of the World

Release date: 2017
Developer: Hollow Tree Games
Link: Official site

Shape of the World is about getting lost. It’s a first-person exploration game, but the point is not to explore a dour or photorealistic setting, but to wander and discover a watercolor being painted as you walk through it. Some elements in the world are also procedurally generated, apparently, so the world you explore is more or less unique to you. We expect to see a lot of pictures being shared of this one.

Somewhere

Release date: 2017
Developer: Oleomingus
Link: Official site

If exploration games are all about a sense of place, strap in to go somewhere pretty messed up. Somewhere is a bit like playing Dear Esther with Alice inside of Wonderland—the acid-trip version by Lewis Carroll, not the tamer Disney version. See exhibit A: this work-in-progress video where the player walks in and out of books, exploring the world inside their pages.

InnerSpace

Release date: 2017
Developer: PolyKnight Games
Link: Official Site

A pretty little game about exploration and discovery, InnerSpace puts you in a nimble flying machine as you soar and dive through a series of inverted bubble worlds. Instead of gravity pulling you down towards a planet's core, it pushes out to the sphere's edges, surrounded by water. Explore the bubble worlds, find relics to uncover information about lost civilizations, and generally enjoy the lovely atmosphere.

Fe

Release date: 2017
Developer: Zoink
Link: Official site 

We’re still not sure exactly what Fe is, but it’s nice to look at. Platforming and exploration in a world of angular, crystalline creatures is intriguing, though other details are short on the ground. Fe is the first game developed with the EA Originals program, which is essentially a way for the giant publisher to help small games and new ideas get made. Will it work? We’ll find out, possibly in 2017.

SCUM

Release date: 2017
Developer: Gamepires, Croteam
Link: Steam page

SCUM is big on goals, but we haven’t seen much to back up the talk just yet—though to be fair it is very early. SCUM is an open-world survival game where you play as an escaped (?) prisoner. There will be heavy emphasis on character customization and co-op multiplayer, which could be interesting.

Scanner Sombre

Release date: April 26, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Introversion Software
Link: Steam page

A bizarre first person spelunker where you paint invisible walls with dots of light.  it really is what it looks like, then: a strange exploration game from the creators of Prison Architect. In our review, we called it "a beautiful but short-lived expedition that left me wanting more of its best ideas." 

Outlast 2

Release date: April 25, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: Red Barrels
Link: Steam page

The first Outlast was one of the scariest games of 2013, chiefly because the defenseless trawl through Mount Massive Asylum was unrelentingly tense, but also because some of the enemies looked like former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. In our review, we praised how Outlast 2 "takes you through dilapidating farms and flooded mines and old townships that all say something about the history of the people who lived there. It rains blood and spews locusts and sends twisted cultists after you through it all, just regular people wearing overalls and carrying bloody steak knives, moaning in apocalyptic overtones. There are monsters, sure, but Outlast 2's scariest moments come from its most familiar faces. "

P.A.M.E.L.A.

Release date: March 9, 2017 (Out now)
Developer: NVYVE Studios
Link: Steam page

P.A.M.E.L.A. is a survival horror game where you must rummage around a ruined sci-fi utopian city—think Bioshock but in spaaaaaace! Okay, not exactly. Sure, the inspirations from Bioshock and System Shock are obvious, but P.A.M.E.L.A. brings some really interesting wrinkles to the formula. For one, P.A.M.E.L.A. is a sandbox game with no set story to follow, meaning you’re free to explore the gorgeously realized city and interact with its different factions in whatever way suits you. You can even build bases to keep you safe from all the creepy nasties lurking around in the darkness. With the new System Shock delayed until 2018, P.A.M.E.L.A. certainly looks capable of filling that AI-gone-rogue shaped hole in our lives.

State of Decay 2

Release date: 2018 (Delayed)
Developer: Undead Labs
Link: Official site

Undead Labs’ sequel to its 2013 zombie survival sandbox will shamble onto PC in 2017, with a delightful twist: four-player co-op. For those who want to enjoy it solo, no problem: multiplayer is drop-in drop-out, and won’t require an online connection if you want to go it alone.

Lost Ember

Release date: 2018 (Delayed)
Developer: Mooneye Studios
Link: Official site

There are a lot of exploration games, but how many of them actually let you play as a wolf? Yeah, we thought not. Lost Ember is focused on the natural world as seen through the main character, the wolf. Players will also be able to switch to other animals to travel through the sky or under the ground. Combined with the beautiful art, Lost Ember could be an interesting twist in a crowded genre.