2019 is looking to be a fantastic year for gaming, one the likes we have not seen since…2017. But for every Resident Evil 2, Kingdom Hearts III or Pokemon Sword and Shield there is an overlooked gem not getting the attention it deserves. So today I want to highlight just a handful of these titles that I personally feel deserve more attention than they have been receiving, be it from the media, the general public or both. I am Mike Harris, and these are the 2019 Games you should really be hyping.
- The Surge 2 (PC/PS4/X1)
Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Published by: Focus Home Interactive
What can I say, I am an unabashed The Surge fanboy. I absolutely fell in love with Deck13’s industrial Souls-like from the moment I set eyes on it and it quickly found its way among my top 10 games of all time, and believe me that is a prestigious list. I’ll be going into much more detail on the original The Surge as the sequel’s release draws closer, but given my prior experience with it, The Surge 2 immediately hit the top of my hype list upon its announcement. Taking place a short time after the events of the first game, The Surge 2 places players in the futuristic Jericho City as a technological menace tears through the land. The Surge 2 retains and expands upon the absolutely fantastic combat of its predecessor, allowing players to target and sever individual limbs of adversaries in order to take their weapons and armor for themselves. This all plays into this sort of risk vs reward system that underlies many of the game’s core aspects, something I will (once again) be going more into in my The Surge retrospective.
One of the biggest shifts in The Surge 2 is moving the setting from the heavily industrial CREO facility to the much more open Jericho City, adding a not-quite open world flair to the game that wasn’t really present in the first which felt more like a cross between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls as far as world design goes. There are also far more human NPCs and human enemies present, whereas the first game’s adversaries were primarily comprised of machines or fellow CREO employees equipped with their own industrial rigs. Deck13 has also promised to expand upon the usefulness of your ever-present drone when it comes to combat situations, as it had a much more limited role to play in the first and going off of what early impressions have said they certainly seem to have done so. I consider the first game a highly underrated gem, it has by far the best combat of any Souls-like game I have played with only Bloodborne really being comparable. The heavy sci-fi, industrial aesthetic was breath of fresh air for the genre, which tends to lean much more heavily into very dark, heavy fantasy or gothic horror. There was a much lower emphasis on these spectacle boss fights than you would see in say, From Soft’s titles, not to say that The Surge had bad bosses (I actually loved quite a few of them, the last two in particular), just that they really went about making each individual encounter with standard enemies feel like a genuine threat. The Surge just did not have much of anything that could be considered a trash mob, and especially while you are still trying to gain new schematics and upgrade your current equipment you really had to put your all into each and every fight as you progressed through each area.
If you like challenging games, particularly From Software’s Soulsborne games, if you like sci-fi or industrial punk with a bit of a body horror twist to it, if you are like me and long for the days of quality AA level titles I implore you to look into The Surge and prepare yourself for The Surge 2 when it releases later this year.
- Daemon X Machina (Nintendo Switch)
Published by: Nintendo
I love mecha. Growing up watching Mobile Suit Gundam, Gundam Wing, Transformers, Escaflowne, Zoids, Big O (I can go on), mecha was a big part of my childhood. I loved games like Armored Core and Mechwarrior. Building and customizing mechs and machines of destruction just always held this really strange appeal to me. Sadly it’s a genre that really has kinda fallen to the wayside for the last couple of generations. You just don’t see many mech games, certainly not state-side, these days. So when Nintendo opened up their E3 2017 Direct with a brand new IP from Marvelous featuring the man behind the Armored Core franchise, I got kinda excited. It was an out of nowhere announcement with absolutely gorgeous, stylish visuals and awesome mech designs, and it was a brand new exclusive for what was quickly becoming one of my favorite platforms of all time. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped. They showed more of the title off at the Treehouse over the course of the event, and later on we saw more of it in later Directs and seeing everything from character customization and upgrades to fully customizable mechs with all sorts of parts, colors, emblems, weapons, it may not be the most robust system we’ve seen but it was still quite impressive. They released a demo that gave us a bit of a taste of the game to come and promised to take feedback from players to heart as development continued. The demo was a nice little sampling of the game featuring a tutorial, a couple more standard missions and a full on boss fight with a gigantic mecha to take down. It did reveal some issues, things on the technical side could quite obviously be attributed to the demo being of a very early build of the game, other issues though were a bit worrisome. Swords were kind of lackluster to use, having just a single animation when attacking with them, guns lacked any “oomph” whatsoever and it was kinda hard to tell when you were even really shooting some of your enemies. Again, early build of the game, they took in feedback via a survey as well as through social media, they have time to fix it. The core gameplay itself was a wonderful throwback and it genuinely felt like I was playing Armored Core again. Switch owners I implore you to put this title on your list, it has a great chance at becoming one of Nintendo’s premier new properties. Mecha fans, if you don’t own a Switch and have been itching for something new, check it out, may just sway you over to the best system of all time (hot take!).
- Biomutant (PC, PS4, X1)
Developer: Experiment 101
Published by: THQ Nordic
Much like Daemon X Machina, Biomutant was kind of an out of nowhere announcement that really caught my eye from the word go. We got our first glimpse at the title, at least if memory serves, from a leak in a magazine just a day or so before the game was set to be officially revealed. Biomutant is kind of a quirky, oddball title. It’s an open world RPG/adventure game where you play as a customizable (I do enjoy me some character customization)..well, furry. You can play as either a male or female experiment, you have all sorts of color options from more natural looking ones to bright pink or blue (a blue experiment, now where have I seen that before…). These customizations aren’t just for aesthetics, they actually do have an impact on your character statistically so there is some thought to be put into the process, which I do appreciate. You also have a small little grasshopper looking helper that accompanies you who is but one of several other partners you can find throughout the game. You’ll also be able to further mutate your character or change out body parts with mechanized attachments that grant you new abilities or allow you into different areas, it’s looking to be a pretty robust system. Did I mention that it features mechs and vehicles? Because it totally does and that is awesome! The story progresses through a series of missions and character interactions, with growing arcs the more you do missions for specific characters in a given area. There is a karma system as well. One of the more interesting things about the game is its narrator who provides some rather colorful commentary as you make your way through the game on your quest to save (or destroy) the Tree of Life. The story features several branching paths and multiple tribes you are able to either ally with or turn against as well as influence through the game’s karma system. While I don’t think that Biomutant is going to stand as some overlooked masterpiece, I do think it’s a game deserving of a bit more attention than it seems to be getting and I really hope you guys give it a look, it may just surprise you.
- Code Vein (PC, PS4, X1)
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Anime Dark Souls with vampires. Do I really need to say more about why I am excited for this game and why you should be hyped for it? Anime. Dark Souls. Vampires. Like, one of the only better combinations of words I can think of is “Gothic Horror Dark Souls with Werewolves and Lovecraft” and From already beat us to that with Bloodborne. We’ve actually seen quite a bit of the game over the last year or so, which makes sense given it was originally due out in September of 2018 and was delayed into TBD 2019. The game looks fast, stylish and aggressive with fantastic character and enemy designs, it’s like Bloodborne on crack. Story seems to be much more of a focus here than you would see in your typical Souls-like and that may just help and set this apart as something more than just “anime Dark Souls”. As described by Bandai Namco themselves:
“In the not too distant future, a mysterious disaster has brought collapse to the world, as we know it. Towering skyscrapers, once symbols of prosperity, are now lifeless graves of humanity’s past pierced by the Thorns of Judgment. At the center of the destruction lies a hidden society of Revenants called Vein. This final stronghold is where the remaining few fight to survive, blessed with Gifts of power in exchange for their memories and a thirst for blood. Give into the bloodlust fully and risk becoming one of the Lost, fiendish ghouls devoid of any remaining humanity. “
It’s an interesting setup and the world Code Vein offers seems both dangerous and intriguing with interesting bosses and characters to learn more about. Another key feature that sets Code Vein apart from its peers is your constant companion. Unlike the more lonely and isolated games in the genre, Code Vein features an AI companion system with multiple characters you can recruit and swap out to join you on your journey, each with their own abilities to help you out in battle. From what we’ve been told this need not feel like a burden to those of you that wish to go it alone as you are not forced into keeping a companion with you (or healing them should they fall in battle), but for those that enjoy some company it is a nice feature to have and I look forward to seeing the different sorts of characters we get to interact with and what they bring to the battlefield.