January’s New Video Games: Rainbow Six Goes Alien, Pokemon Goes Prequel
Regardless of how extreme the video game industry’s business was throughout the month of December, typically the month of January is, at the very least, massively slowed down in terms of new releases. It’s still a numbers game after all, and heavy holiday spending typically doesn’t bode well for sales figures in the months following, where people are likely enjoying their video game gifts or recovering financially. 2022 isn’t any different; in fact, the month seems even sparser than normal. While the month does mark the awaited return of a AAA shooting franchise, the low volume and attention-grabbing nature of this January leave it feeling empty even by comparison to last year. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on, though!
Nobody Saves the World — January 18 (Xbox O/S/X; PC)
Sometimes, games simply feel like a bunch of other titles have been thrown into a blender, thoroughly mixed, and served to its audience. Whether that’s acceptable or not depends on the mixture of ingredients; after all, mangoes and blueberries don’t really work in all smoothies they’re thrown in. The ingredients of Nobody Saves the World seem like a delightful blend, though, beginning with a action-RPG base where the main character embraces different forms to combat different foes. Add in a retro top-down aesthetic to the dungeon crawling, a roguelike procedural generation to the underlayers of the dungeons, and a crafty sense of humor, and you’ve got the components of the latest title from Drinkbox Games, the folks behind the delightful Guacamelee.
The lead character isn’t a charismatic, dashing hero either, instead a pale and weak little human equipped with a star-topped wand that grants new forms and abilities. As one can expect, the character starts out with limited capabilities and gains more as they progress through dungeons and battles, eventually totaling over a dozen. In a similar vein to Guacamelee, the art style is delightfully vibrant and fluid, and the hack-‘n-slash combat seems basic but fast-paced and responsive to meet the standard control’s demands. Nobody Saves the World will also launch with a co-op multiplayer function as well, so you and a buddy can tackle dungeons together on the same screen; this covers online co-op, as the state of couch co-op is currently unknown.
Rainbow Six: Extraction — January 20 (PS4,5; Xbox O/S/X; PC; Stadia)
When Rainbow Six: Vegas came out early in the Xbox 360’s lifecycle, it became one of those must-play experiences for nearly everyone who owned the console, whether they were shooter fans or not. The smooth tactical controls, visual polish and perceived realism established the franchise’s popularity early and quickly. However, it shouldn’t require much to get the point across that the landscape of shooters changed dramatically soon after its release, especially when it comes to those aiming for precise realism. Amid the flurry of Call of Duties and Battlefields as well as the sci-fi themed Halo and Gears of War series, interest in Rainbow Six became sloshy even through the release of the online-only Rainbow Six: Siege, which has both logged an impressive number of users and earned tepid impressions on the game itself.
Amid this strange mixture of interest and lukewarmness with the online game, Rainbow Six: Extraction arrives with the intention of shaking up the franchise’s objectives and reputation. How? It makes the bold choice of tossing the tactical shooter combat into a science-fiction setting, hinged on an alien invasion, essentially providing the alien counterpoint to Call of Duty’s popular zombie modes. Extraction has also been designed with multiplayer as its firm focus, though, using Siege as a gameplay springboard and adopting some of its “operator” characters for familiarity. A cluster of nearly 20 different operator types with various skillsets can be selected before engaging in the partly procedurally-generated “incursions”, where the players infiltrate alien spaces to collect items. It’s a bold new direction, but perhaps it’s what Rainbox Six needs to stand out in the modern era, and it’s been budget priced at $40 to get folks interested.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus — January 28 (Switch)
Sure, it has essentially always been popular, but Pokemon seems to be at a particularly high point right now. Between the rampant attention drawn to the card game market, the thriving community built around the “augmented reality” Pokemon Go mobile game, and the creation of a few fan concept trailers, the demand has never been higher for an open-world style of role-playing game set within the Pokemon universe. Therefore, when the trailer for Pokemon Legends: Arceus emerged on the scene, excitement and enthusiasm reach a particular high. It had a visual grandeur, openness and flow akin to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only featuring landscapes and characters from the Poke universe, so the assumptions that this would finally be “it” had some merit.
The folks at Pokemon let this perception continue unanswered up until a few months ago, where they eventually confirmed that Pokemon Legends: Arceus wouldn’t exactly be the open experience many believed it would be. What further information and trailers have confirmed since, however, is that it’s a feature-rich, customizable RPG in the vein of the other video games in the series that instead has “open-world areas” to engage in the historical region of Hisui (Sinnoh). The objective? To create the very first Pokedex, which should inherently get their audience excited so long as they’re game for a prequel. Whether it will satisfy beyond that remains to be seen, especially considering the perceived disappointment in this lack of open-world delivery. There’s always the real open-world Pokemon Go.
The rest of January has been populated with ports, with the likes of Monster Hunter Rise and God of War getting PC editions on January 12 and 14, as well as the Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves game bundle coming to PS5 at the end of the month. There’s also a pair of unique sports titles coming out on January 20: RPGolf Legends (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC) sounds like it could be a golf role-playing game, but it’s actually more of a retro, top-down JRPG with golf as an underlying gameplay aspect; and Windjammers 2 (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Stadia) brings the Pong-meets-Dodgeball quirkiness of the ‘90s Neo Geo title to the current era.