Last year was fairly weird. You see, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it in terms of what was being released, but by the end of 2015 I looked back and realised we’d had a cracking year for games. I think it’s mostly because of how there were a few games I wasn’t too excited by actually being rather good ( such as Assassin’s Creed Syndicate) although there has been a few games that were always going to be wonderful (Fallout 4, for example.) However, as good as the last twelve months ended up being, I still feel it’s all about 2016. No, really – this is the year that will kick things into overdrive across most platforms.

To show this, I’ve made a list of 12 titles for games expected to release this year that that I’m very much looking forward to, along with reasons why they should be on your radar too. So, let’s crack on, shall we?

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Divinity: Original Sin 2

After the success of its predecessor, it shouldn’t be a surprise how well the Kickstarter campaign for Divinity: Original Sin 2 ended. While more of the same would have probably been welcomed, Larian have promised a number of improvements for the sequel that not only sound impressive, but came across as fairly realistic to achieve before it releases later this year. Players will be able to create a character from scratch, selecting their race, stats, and origin story which will affect the opportunities available to them throughout the game. Additionally, they will be able to recruit up to three other companions, each with their own origins and agenda (which might conflict with yours.) With co-op once again returning, allowing for four people to play together, the idea is that gamers will be able to decide if they wish to work together or pursue their own personal goals.

In other words, prepare for some very interesting let’s plays with this one.

The dialog system is also getting an upgrade, with NPCs having unique things to say depending on who is talking to them, and the introduction of the crafting skill will allow gamers to “combine different skills and spells to create powerful new ones.” With an expanded pool of skills and spells to choose from as well, if should make some some interesting combinations. On top of all that, famed developer Chris Avellone will be lending his skills as a writer, meaning the writing should be kicked up an extra notch this time around. However, my most anticipated feature for Original Sin 2 is the Game Master Mode, where someone can create their own adventure on the fly as others play it.

Again, just imagine the livestreams / Let’s Plays. I really think this will be something special when it arrives later this year.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

The blockbuster fourth outing for Nathan Drake (and potentially his last *gulp*) may not be the most original pick for a list like this, but as someone who has played the previous three instalments (and Golden Abyss) to death I am very much looking forward to it. Everything I’ve seen of it makes it look like Naughty Dog have refined the best parts of its most recent games and pulled all the stops to deliver an exciting action adventure title.

I’ll be the first to admit that the loss of Amy Hennig as lead writer was disappointing (although I can’t wait to see what her Star Wars game at Visceral is like.) That said, I’m not worried in the slightest for U4. The fine work Neil Druckmann produced for The Last of Us, and especially its Left Behind DLC, proved he and the rest of the time are up to the task, and while I may be alone in this opinion I’m actually looking forward to the multi-choice conversations. If they’re anything like they were in Left Behind, they won’t impact the path of the story but provide ways to learn more about the world. That, and it will give some replay value to the game.

Then there’s the multiplayer side of things. I wasn’t a huge fan of U3’s controls (U2 was far better) so I’m hoping they’ve fixed that aspect for the upcoming release. I wish I had been able to play the beta to know for sure, but hey – I’ll no doubt learn for myself come April.

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Fire Emblem Fates

I’m going to have to be incredibly careful that this one doesn’t eat up all of my time when it releases in June. The next instalment of the Fire Emblem series not only looks the part, but from what I’ve read it has fixed a few of the issues I had with series – the main one being durability of weapons. The constant micromanagement became a huge chore as I progressed through Awakening, which is a shame because everything else about that game was sublime.

The fact the game is split into three campaigns, each with their own viewpoint, has me hugely excited. The intricate storylines that the franchise is known for, along with the highly addictive turn-based combat and its classic ‘permadeath’ mechanic are reasons why players become so engaged with Fire Emblem titles, and I can’t see why that would change for Fates. Yes, it will be a pain in the ass to have to buy all three campaigns, but I really do think it will be worth it.

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Persona 5

This sentence may not prove popular with JRPG fans, but I’m going to say it anyway – I have some serious problems with Persona 4: Golden. For all of its effortless style, brilliantly written characters, wonderful social side-game and impressive customisation, the repetitiveness of the dungeons and the forced need to grind (even on normal difficulty) drove me mad. And yet, despite this, I’m still looking forward to Persona 5, because it looks absolutely friggin’ cool.

Let me put it this way. When a game makes its menu system look like the slickest thing, to the point that they feature it in the reveal trailer (seriously, not many have the guts to do that) you know the developers and publisher have confidence in their product. I’m also looking forward to seeing the various locations in Persona 5, which will take place in Tokyo as well as the usual psyche-fuelled dungeons. Exploring the town of Inaba was probably my favourite aspect of P4G thanks to the rich detail that had been put into it, and I expect it will be more of the same in P5. While I have a feeling the excessive grind will also be there (although I hope I’m wrong and they’ve fixed it) I’m still going to want to play this religiously.

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XCOM 2

Having spent years trying to get that damn deployment music out of my head, it’s almost certainly going to return when XCOM 2 hits our PCs next month. Firaxis’ reboot of the sci-fi turn-based strategy was nothing short of a masterpiece when it arrived in 2012, and from what I’ve seen the sequel will be just as addictive, as well just as punishing. Switching the role of the XCOM unit from defender to the aggressor, with humanity fighting a guerrilla war, is also something I’m every interested in, as well as how the mobile base will work during the campaign.

Then there’s the procedurally generated levels promising unique playthroughs, increased soldier customisation, and even more enemy types to deal with. There’s also the addition of swords, which is pretty cool. While I’m pretty sure I’m going to be crying over all my bad tactical decisions as I lose every single one of my soldiers, I can’t wait to be acting as the Commander again next month.

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Crowfall

There’s an article in the works on how the Kickstarted project has fared in the first twelve months of its existence, but the short of it is that the upcoming MMORPG / War Throne Simulator from ArtCraft Entertainment has come on in leaps and bounds since its crowd funding campaign came to the end of March. If you don’t know what this one is about, I go into much greater detail in a preview video I published last year, but the short of it is that Crowfall is an MMO title where characters are persistent, but the worlds (or campaigns) are not. This means that no player will reign supreme forever, or if they do it’s because they really are the best of the best. It’s a concept I find incredibly exciting.

The developers have opted for transparency in regards to their work, with no NDA affecting backers who have tried out the Alpha builds of the game. This is on top of several candid videos that have no only demonstrated the progress on Crowfall, but have delivered an often untold look at how redevelopers operate during production. The Combat Milestone video is the perfect example of this, and I honestly recommend watching it even if you have no interest in Crowfall.

And then there’s yesterday’s news of the Crows & Vessels system which (to put it in a horrifically simple term) turns a player’s body into something akin to how ships work in EVE Online, with their soul (or ‘Crow’) being immortal and housing player progression. There’s still plenty of work to be done, something the ACE team have stated themselves recently, but so long as they remain as open with their progress and deliver on their Kickstarter goals, I feel it could deliver a much needed shake-up to the MMOG landscape.

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Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst

Here’s a game that by most AAA standards shouldn’t even exist, but I’m really glad it does. The parkour extravaganza was one of my favourite games from last-gen, despite some rather terrible gun combat mechanics and its ability to make people want to throw up. Thankfully, DICE have stated gunplay has been eliminated altogether, so at least that’s one problem sorted.

I even enjoyed the story of the original, as cliché as it was, and I’m eager to discover more about Faith’s origins as a runner. Of course, the big change from linear levels to an open-world environment is the most exciting prospect, especially with the synchronous multiplayer features and leaderboards that are reportedly included. If you weren’t a fan of the original then I can’t imagine you’ll be excited for this, but I for one am very much looking forward to getting hands-on with it in May.

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No Man’s Sky

My interest in this has yo-yo’d like crazy ever since its initial reveal back in 2014. It hasn’t helped that Hello Games had, up until the latter half of 2015, kept their lips sealed on many of the gameplay features in No Man’s Sky. For a long time, all we knew was that we would be travelling to different planets across a procedurally generated universe, discovering planets and naming the flora and fauna.

There would also be dinosaurs. Different coloured dinosaurs.

But over the last year we’ve finally learned what else there is to do. On top of the exploration and discovery mechanics, there will be resource collecting and crafting to build improved ships and items. Then there’s the free market in which players can sell their goods, and the multiple factions that they can ally with or fight against. All of it seemless, and all of it happening in the same online universe. It’s an impressive feat for such a small studio (just 10 developers in total) but there’s a huge amount of anticipation for this one. I really hope it manages to match the hype, and can’t wait to find out.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Ignore Adam Jenson – I DID ask for this (although not the idiotic pre-order stupidity Squeenix tried to pull. NEVER DO THAT AGAIN, PUBLISHERS.) While the ending of Human Revolution dampened the overall experience (not to mention the boss battles before the Director’s Cut… ugh) the return to the Deus Ex universe was certainly worth the wait. It was an absolute joy to play and certainly felt a part of the same universe that Ion Storm began back in 2000 (yep, it was over 15 years ago.)

Of course, despite my anticipation for it, the truth is that we haven’t really seen much of Mankind Divided in action bar for a few trailers. While what has been shown certainly looks impressive, especially the combat abilities now at Jenson’s disposal, I really hope that they have provided more non-lethal ways to deal with what is thrown at the player. At any rate, what we’ve seen of Prague, the main setting for the game, looks just as atmospheric as Detroit in HR, and so long as Eidos Montreal match the same level of detail – in addition to ensuring they’ve learned from their mistakes – this could be yet another defining FPSRPG.

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Dark Souls III

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying how much of an impact this franchise has had in recent years. The unforgiving nature of its design, paired up with an absolutely beautiful game world, has made the series one of my personal favourites. Yes, there’s an element of Stockholm Syndrome in there, but I’ve spent countless hours dying over and over in Lordran, Anor Londo, and Drangleic. I honestly cannot expect it to be any different with Dark Souls III.

With From Software having learned from the streamlining in Dark Souls II with its Scholar of the First Sin expansion, as well as the much more fluid combat of Bloodborne, I honestly expect the third entry in the Dark Souls series to be the most accessible to date. It should be stated that the developers have said they aren’t copying Bloodborne’s combat completely (nor would I want them to) but from what I’ve seen of the game in action it certainly looks like it is the happy medium many were looking for, myself included.

Basically, expect me to be weaping and singing my “soul collecting montage” song in April.

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Overwatch

The remnants of Project Titan impressed me when it was announced back in 2014, and as someone who played Return To Castle Wolfenstien’s multiplayer competitively back in the day (and thought Brink was a brilliant idea with flawed execution) I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of Overwatch so far. The hero shooter has even taken the brave step of going down the full-priced release route, something many of its upcoming competitors have avoided. After all, people will most likely try something that is free, but £30-40 for a purely multiplayer affair? Depending on who you speak to, that’s either confidence or arrogance from Blizzard.

While the jury is still out on if the varied characters are as accessible to players who aren’t as skilled with twitch-based combat (something Blizzard suggested during its reveal) I’m a big fan of the game types Blizzard have announced so far, especially Payload. It’s been a while since something other than Team Fortress 2 has delivered a fun and well balanced stopwatch-style FPS game, and it’s clear that Blizzard want to make it the go-to place FPS title for eSports. With the beta expected to resume later this month, and the full game to release in the first half of 2016, I really hope this ends up being as fun as I think it could be (even with Tracer’s ridiculous mockey accent.)

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Dreamfall Chapters – Book Five

Yes, it’s technically not a 2016 game, or even a full one for that matter, but the final instalment of Dreamfall Chapters is something I am most definitely looking forward to. Book Four: Revelations did a great job in setting up the finale for the episodic series, and it’s quite clear that all the choices previously made by the player are going to have some rather damning affects on how it all ends.

I’m fairly sure it’s going to end terribly for me, at any rate.

With the upgrade to the Unity 5 engine now complete, it also means that PlayStation 4 owners could finally see it ported to the system (Aha! There’s your legitimacy for the 2016 list!) Again, I still advice playing The Longest Journey and Dreamfall (at the very least) to enhance your appreciation for it all, but if you’re a fan of adventure titles I strongly suggest getting hold of this one, purely for exploring the Europolis district of Propast. It’s still one of my favourite locations in an adventure game to date.

And there you have it – 12 titles I’m looking forward to this year, but what are you anticipating over the course of 2016? I‘ve no doubt missed plenty of cracking games on my list, so let us know in the comments!