Inkle is one of the strongest story-centric developers working today, with both 80 Days and Sorcery! redefining what I thought could be done with your average “branching path” narrative structure. They’re immensely complicated games, made up of hundreds of small choices that in aggregate mean every playthrough feels somewhat unique and consequential.
And that approach to storytelling is even more prevalent in Inkle’s new game, Heaven’s Vault, which casts you as a space archaeologist decrypting a long-lost language. I ran through an early build four different times earlier this year, and each session was noticeably different—different conversations, different events, different eureka moments. It’s also a puzzle game that’s not afraid to let you be wrong, and that in itself is interesting.
Heaven’s Vault slipped from 2018 to 2019, but hopefully that means it’s just over the horizon. I’ve been waiting (rather impatiently) for this one.
I’m always up for a new Paradox grand strategy game, but doubly so when it’s set in one of my favorite time periods. Imperator: Rome takes Paradox back to the Roman Republic for the first time since 2008’s Europa Universalis: Rome. Needless to say, Paradox has made a lot of improvements to its games in the ensuing decade.
While primarily a game of war and conquest, I’m curious to see how characters play into Imperator’s campaigns. From our demo at Paradox Con 2018 there seems to be a light Crusader Kings element, with generals and advisers having traits and goals of their own. Careful not to let your prize general get too famous, for instance, or he might turn on you and on Rome. Given Crusader Kings II is my favorite Paradox game, carrying some semblance of those ideas over to another Paradox game is enough to get me excited.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian’s making a new game! A big one! I love the two Pillars of Eternitys, the first more than the second, but it’s been a while—almost a decade—since Obsidian’s really gotten to spread its wings and make something with any semblance of a budget.
While Outer Worlds is apparently smaller than the sprawling Fallout: New Vegas, it nevertheless feels like a spiritual successor. The setting is space, not the post-apocalypse, but it has a similar sort-of wasteland vibe, wacky humor, factions, and honest-to-goodness dialogue trees—with skill checks, even! Suffice it to say this one’s near the top of my 2019 list.
Wait...Outer Wilds and Outer Worlds? And they’re both supposed to release in 2019? Yes, I know, it’s very confusing—even more so because they’re both set in space, as well.
Outer Wilds is a game I’ve looked forward to for a while though. Hell, it won the IGF Grand Prize way back in 2015, almost four years ago now. It’s like an ultra-condensed and curated No Man’s Sky, a game about exploring a solar system that’s—and here’s the catch—trapped in a time loop. Every 20 minutes the solar system resets.
That’s 20 minutes real-time, you see. Like The Occupation, Outer Wilds makes use of scripted events to change up the player experience. From the Steam page: “The planets of Outer Wilds are packed with hidden locations that change with the passage of time. Visit an underground city of before it's swallowed by sand, or explore the surface of a planet as it crumbles beneath your feet.” It’s a really ambitious idea, and I hope 2019’s finally the year we get the full experience.
If you haven’t had enough of id’s shooting after Rage 2, good news: Doom Eternal is also slated to release in 2019. Following up on the superb 2016 reboot, Doom Eternal is set to take the demonic invasion to Earth, once again pitting poor ol’ Doomguy against the forces of hell.
Do you...do you really need to know more? This isn’t a complicated series. The 2016 reboot was excellent (if a bit overlong) and I’ll happily take more of that.
Okay, okay, since you asked: The Super Shotgun now has a grappling hook attached to it. Is that enough to get you excited? Because it gets me excited.
I’ve only played 30 minutes of Disco Elysium and I’m convinced it’s going to be one of 2019’s best games. It’s hard to make those kinds of statements in these preview articles, because so often they turn out to be wrong. I was really looking forward to Sea of Thieves as we started 2018 and then...yeah.
But I’m counting on Disco Elysium. Framed as a “detective RPG,” the game forces skill checks for pretty much everything you can imagine—often with incredibly comical results. Early in my demo I tried to flirt with someone. Disco Elysium warned me I had a two percent chance of success, but I did it, and I failed. And what came out of my mouth? Something like “I want to make the sex good with you.” I’m also pretty sure I heard it’s possible to die before you’ve even gotten over your hangover and put clothes on, five minutes into the game.
If that’s not a future 2019 Game of the Year winner, I don’t know what is.