December’s Video Game Releases Finally Mix It Up with Cyberpunk, Other RPGs
Happy Holidays are in order, and with that also comes a bit of sympathy to those trying to hunt down the elusive new video game consoles, released last month and prominent on many gift wish lists. As I’ve mentioned previously, despite a few stumbles, the year’s pandemic weirdness hasn’t disrupted the game release calendar too much … and it’s been a fairly substantive year across all platforms. There has been one noteworthy delayed title, however, one that isn’t really a victim of the pandemic but a title that many, many folks probably would’ve loved to have play during that period.
In December, just in time for gifts and new video game systems, it has finally arrived during a month that likely would’ve been relatively uneventful – somewhat by design – for the release calendar. Let’s take a closer look at what’s all in store.
Chronos: Before the Ashes — December 1
The VR gaming experience continues to expand and grow better, but not everybody wants to throw on the goggles and utilize motion controls while playing their games. Sometimes, that results in gamers having to pass up certain titles that are otherwise appealing – looking at you, Half-Life Alyx – until they’re possibly released in a non-VR edition.
Chronos earned a reputation for being an challenging, soulful third-person action-RPG where the VR tends to be both engaging and not entirely necessary, and the folks at Gunfire Games decided to tweak its design so it could be played without the VR requirements. Thus, we’ve got Before the Ashes, which presents the strategic Dark Souls-like gameplay and the unique year-per-death atmospheric effect in a rawer state, hopefully in a fashion that showcases that it’s a solid experience without the novelty, not in spite of it.
Empire of Sin — December 1
Grid-based strategy video games have appeared in many settings and time periods, but the layout of that “battlefield” doesn’t always feel natural for all of them, resulting in awkward role-playing choices. There’s a lot more to Empire of Sin than that: it’s a full mobster organized-crime sim, in which decisions are made about the location of illicit money-making venues, how to equip the underlings, and what goods to produce in Prohibition-era Chicago.
When other methods aren’t viable, or if the player just has the desire, they can pull out their guns and hit the streets or insides of buildings to physically claim their territory. That takes Empire of Sin into the grid perspective as the player chooses where to position their squad for battles, feeling a bit like XCOM in its combat design. Time will tell whether this setting jibes with the combat, but there’s a lot of potential.
Immortals: Fenyx Rising — December 3
Those with a soft spot for brighter, more whimsical hack-‘n-slash fantasies – Fable, Kingdoms of Amalur, etc — will want to give Immortals: Fenyx Rising a look. After spending some time customizing the gender and appearance of their character, players are unleashed onto the realm of the Golden Isles, an idyllic open-world landscape for the newly-crafted character to explore.
The nuts-‘n-bolts of the game seem to operate about as one would expect a competitor to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to do so, with third-person combat split up by scaling terrains, riding mounts, and transporting to puzzle-platform challenge “dungeons”. The Grecian mythology looks to add something distinctive to Immortals: Fenyx Rising – perhaps Ubisoft Quebec used some leftover ideas from their previous game, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey — and there’s something that looks so exciting and yet so zen about wandering through that mythical landscape.
Call of the Sea — December 8
Under the wishy-washy and somewhat annoying label of “walking simulators”, no-combat puzzle adventures in the vein of Myst and Shivers have quietly thrived in the modern era, delivering some of the best gaming stories we’ve seen yet. Sometimes they thrive on narrative and voice animation, other times they thrive on the immersion of the atmosphere and the intricacy of their puzzles, and hopefully the good ones are able to do a bit of both.
Call of the Sea steeps the player in a rich mystery as a woman acclimates to her surroundings on a remote South Pacific island in the ‘30s, as she pursues the mysterious whereabouts of her husband’s expedition. Drawing inspiration from the eeriness and ethereal aspects of H.P. Lovecraft’s body of work, this one hopes to tap into the same sense of wonder as those classic ‘90s PC adventures, only with modern 3D fluidity.
Cyberpunk 2077 — December 10 (!)
Let’s be real, though: all eyes are on CD Projekt Red’s follow-up to The Witcher 3. It seems like every accolade, every anticipation, every bit of hype has been thrown into the customization and freedom that Cyberpunk 2077 will be able to grant the user as the enter the futuristic Night City. In the absence of games from Bethesda (Fallout, Elder Scrolls) or other exploration, choice-and-consequence focused gamemakers, there’s a major opportunity here for the developer to move into a noteworthy position with mainstream audiences, especially now in the age of the newer, more powerful consoles. An update will be coming later, but the developers still have that capability now.
Will Cyberpunk 2077 match all the energy? It’d have to do some pretty spectacular, above-and-beyond things to actually do so, but early rumblings and confirmations point to it delivering on a whole lot of its promises: the character customization, hinged on chosen life pathways and no rigid classes, is extensive; the environments allow for a multitude of different approaches based on a character’s skill set; and the narrative reportedly does deliver on consequences for decisions made and dialogue chosen. Yeah, it’ll probably be a buggy video game at release due to all that’s going on, but … oh boy, it’s still exciting.
To “compete” with the hype around Cyberpunk 2077, the folks at Nintendo have made sure that another similar futuristic action experience, Ghostrunner, will be available on the Switch at the same time, releasing on December 9. The Xbox Series X and PS5 will also be seeing some noteworthy upgraded versions of last-gen games, making them new gift options for those lucky next-gen console folks: Rainbow Six Siege on December 1; State of Decay 2 on December 2; FIFA 21 and Madden 21 on December 4; and Destiny 2 on December 8. Doom Eternal will also be getting a Switch release on December 8, as well as a release of Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light on December 4 to commemorate the series 30th anniversary.