October’s Squeezing In a Few New Decent Video Games Before Next-Gen Arrival
Next month, players will be delving into a new generation of video games, one hallmarked by both main systems exploring a vastly different strategy than last cycle: backwards compatibility. Not only will previous generation games be playable on this new console, but some will also receive high-fidelity upgrades for free once the next-gen version of the game gets released. Point being, the stark division between “old games” and “new games” doesn’t exist nearly as much as it did in years prior, which makes it so current-generation games releasing in the month-and-a-half leading up to their reveal don’t feel quite as inconsequential. October’s new releases are, therefore, considering the time they’re being released and considering the awkward situation the globe’s in right now with the pandemic, pretty satisfying. Let’s take a closer look at the docket.
Star Wars: Squadrons – October 2
Older gamers and fans of the Star Wars property immediately enjoyed some nostalgic vibes upon the reveal of Squadrons, reminding them of the tense, enthralling spaceship flight simulators of yesteryear. Younger players, and those who keep up with franchise, know that the Battlefront games have been dabbling in responsive ship dogfights, though not from that familiar and realistic cockpit viewpoint. Squadrons hopes to unite these two sections of the Star Wars fandom by delivering a deep, multiplayer compatible spin on space combat simulation, set in the period after Return of the Jedi in the wake of the Galactic Empire’s defeat. With a campaign that familiarly alternates between the Empire and the Republic on a by-mission basis, Squadrons takes on an almost RPG-like tone in how players upgrade their ships through experience, as well as in how the gameplay differs based on the “class” of ship chosen to pilot. Whether it can hit the target by mixing all this together remains to be seen.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – October 2
During the later ‘90s, Crash Bandicoot jumped in popularity as a competitor to the platform game kings on the console circuit, notably Sonic and Mario, with the character even making similar jumps to cart racing and party games like those other franchises. However, he’s essentially been on ice for a decade, only enjoying a few remasters of past favorites since 2010. Just like many other things from the ‘90s right now, Crash Bandicoot has been brought back to gaming realm in the eighth main installment in the franchise, It’s About Time. The characters all look great, the level design appears highly vibrant and chaotic yet manageable for most age audiences, and the overall enthusiastic, rejuvenated tone feels exactly the way it should being released this many years later and in the year 2020.
Torchlight III – October 13
The third installment of the Torchlight line of isometric action-RPGs arrives in a gaming environment that’s vastly different than when the first one came out and made a name for itself. It filled a void for hack-‘n-slash dungeon crawlers when the bigger names of the genre, notably Diablo, hadn’t yet shown up either on PC or on the latest consoles. Now, however, the subgenre and its adjacent type, turn-based isometric games like Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, have not only showed up but are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Where does that leave Torchlight III? Well, developer Echtra Games has taken over for now-defunct Runic Games – former members of Runic are now at Echtra — and first tried to make this an MMO-style title. In a similar trajectory to that of Kingdoms of Amalur, Torchlight III has refocused its objectives on single-player, linear campaign strategies, resulting in a title that’s fighting for innovation and relevance while being surrounded by higher-tier competition.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit – October 16
Speaking of cart (kart?) franchises, The Switch will also be releasing a new installment in the Mario Kart franchise with Live: Home Circuit. It’s going to be a bit more expensive at $100, but there’s a very good reason for that: it comes with a remote-controlled car that serve a gameplay design purpose. Strapped to the back of one of the franchise’s signature vehicles – Mario’s red one for the standard release; Luigi’s green one for a limited release – is a camera, in which the player drives their car around their nearby environment (read: their home) and videotapes a theoretical race course. The information is then sent to Mario Kart Live, and the digital data and footage can be molded into an entirely new racing course playable in the game. This isn’t the first time that a racing game has taken place in the space of a house, but Nintendo’s going somewhere innovative and appealing in their ability to transform a person’s home, where they’re spending way more time than normal right now, into an exciting location for kart racing antics.
NHL 21 – October 16
One of the sports that has best weathered the impacts of the pandemic this year has been hockey. Despite a delayed and drastically rearranged season that resulted in an round-robin tournament design at the end, teams competed for the Stanley Cup and landed on a winner at the end of September … and, for the most part, fans have been able to get enough of a taste of the sport. For those that didn’t get enough of the regular season format, they could always pick up a controller and play NHL 21 for something resembling that thrill. This release could be a bit awkward, though: the game has been delayed to such a point that it’s in the neighboring month of the next-gen console release, and comparison videos of the graphics in sports titles are already showcasing the stark differences. Only on PS4 and Xbox One, NHL 21 hopes that its focused improvements on advanced skills on the ice, responsive teammate AI, and overhauled career “Be a Pro” mode will be enough to win folks over.
Watch Dogs: Legion – October 29
Ubisoft’s techno-stealth franchise will be getting a bit of the Assassin’s Creed treatment with Legion, the third installment that’s taking place in the city of London. Jumping ahead to the not-so-distant post-Brexit future, the game’s design seems like it’s transplanting the core mechanics and ideas from the first two Watch Dogs games and dropping them in a new environment … with new gameplay conditions. There are noteworthy differences in how the player can recruit a
brotherhood roster of procedurally generated NPCs from the city to become part of DedSec, and the variety of tools in each recruit’s arsenal make for varied gameplay opportunities. From the neon pop to the English architecture, Legion comes across as feeling like a different environment, and the addition of this new integrated character mechanic should theoretically result in a fresh experience from Ubisoft. The tech sounds promising, sure, but gamers know by now not to get too hyped about that kind of thing until it’s playing out in front of ‘em.
There are a few other intriguing releases escaping into the wild during this month, including the latest installments in a few creepy franchises: Remothered: Broken Porcelain will be arriving on October 20 and The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope on October 30, both before Halloween. There’s also a new G.I. Joe title answering the call to action on October 13, a third-person action game called Operation Blackout that features numerous characters from the series. FIFA 21 will also roll into the month on October 9 for the soccer fans out there.