2015 game releases – our top picks
We look ahead to the game releases 2015 has in store for us. There’s titles to look forward to across all platforms – the team put the spotlight on some of their personal highlights.
Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush Wii U
Release dates: JP: Jan 22, 2015 NA: Feb 13, 2015 EU: Q3/Q4 2015
Ben: In some Wii U games GamePad support is not a core focus but it’s the primary feature of the latest Kirby platform game. I’ve come to love the GamePad and here you will be using the stylus you draw a rainbow that guides a rolling Kirby around the level – from the gameplay trailer it looks like it will be a fun and effective control mechanism.
In a similar vein to the knitted Yoshi game, Nintendo continues to explore alternative graphical styles and is taking on claymation here, reminiscent of 80s childhood TV shows. Throughout the game Kirby will transform into a submarine, rocket and tank – each one with its own abilities. There will also be a four-player co-op mode, with additional players being waddle dees who assist Kirby. There’s Amiibo support for Kirby, Meta Knight and King Dedede.
For added confusion, in Europe the game is called Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush, in the US Kirby and the Rainbow Curse in the US, and in Japan Touch! Kirby Super Rainbow. They should have just called it Kirby Super Rainbow everywhere.
The Order: 1886 PS4
Release date: February 20, 2015
Anthony: Ever since I first laid eyes on The Order: 1886, I have been excited to play it. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian era, from the great uniforms to the stylish moustaches. Mix that with those old wood and gold rifles, some scary looking ware-wolves and a hint of futuristic technology, and you’ve got something quite interesting. If The Evil Within is anything to go by (which it is), next-gen lighting, particles and shaders make a huge difference to the overall look of these dark, candle lit games; the accurate reflections, dynamic shadows and dusty light shafts really add to the atmosphere and immersion that you never really got with the previous generation.
A new IP of this calibre is always interesting, but there is certainly something extra special about The Order. There seems to be a focus on the characters and their individual personalities that should make for an interesting story in both the general narrative, and relationships between characters. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this one and luckily, I will not have to wait long as The Order: 1886 is set for release next month.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD / Final Fantasy XV: Episode Duscae PS4, Xbox One
Release date: March 2015
Jorge: When was the last time a new Final Fantasy game was announced that had gamers everywhere stop an salivate at the news? Remember the days when Final Fantasy VII was advertised literally everywhere, from TV commercials to movie theater trailers to even product placement such as Pepsi? It’s a stark contrast to the state of the series now, where Final Fantasy XIII came and went as one of the most divisive and ultimately criticized entries in the franchise, which immediately followed with Final Fantasy XIV as a game so unanimously hated that even Square’s CEO admitted that the once mighty franchise has now been tarnished.
It also didn’t help that the one Final Fantasy game in the last few years that had received a largely positive response remained exclusive to Japan; Final Fantasy: Type-0 was praised by importers and lamented by overseas fans that Square showed no plans in localizing the title, due to the dwindling sales of the PSP. At last, fans were given a chance to experience the title in a non-pirated format with the recent announcement of Type-0 HD, although not everyone is pleased that the title will be released on the PS4 and XB1 rather than a handheld format (the Vita remains a cult favorite that is unfortunately ignored by many of the biggest third party companies).
If it is suspected that the decision to release Type-0 on new consoles is a deceptive move by Square Enix, then the inclusion of a demo for Final Fantasy XV cements the theory. Nevertheless, this double-packaged release is also timed with the growing amount of renewed faith with the series, which began with the shockingly terrific re-release of Final Fantasy XIV. Now that the Lightning Trilogy has come and gone with lukewarm reception, Square is focusing all its efforts in making the franchise something to look forward to again. Though it may not contend visually with the recent crop of PS4/XB1 titles, Type-0 HD is looking like the definitive version of a game long desired by overseas fans, and Episode Duscae will be the first crucial look at the ridiculously-delayed Final Fantasy XV, which began way back at the start of the PS3’s lifecycle as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Whether the game will finally be released this year remains uncertain, but what is certain is that 2015 will be the first major indicator on whether the Final Fantasy series can regain much of the glory it has lost for almost a decade.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number PS4, PS3, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Release date: Q1, 2015
Simon: It may sound strange, but when I like a piece of entertainment to the degree that I liked Hotline Miami, it’s rare for me to want more. When something unique comes along and I find out that “this is what something can be like”, and I truly love it, it’s like a first love. You don’t really want a sequel to your first love. It would be pointless. “First”, by definition, isn’t something you repeat.
With Hotline Miami I do want more. The maps and scenarios themselves are so much an element of the core game that you can’t simply start over with Hotline Miami to have “more” of it. It’s like a puzzle game that way. Buying a sequel to a certain type of puzzle game is like buying another bucket of puzzles to solve.
That isn’t a very romantic way to think about Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, I guess, but somehow that in and of itself is a testament to how much I just, simply, without pretenses, want more already.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: May 19, 2015
Dominic: It’s funny how one single game can switch your mind around about a series. The Witcher was a game that I found to be decent, but one I would not mention in the same regards as the amazing list of great RPGs on the PC platform. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings on the other hand is one that I would, and is also one of my favourite western developed RPGs, causing me to get all delighted from the promises that CD Projekt Red are offering with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
One of the most exciting prospects is the idea of the series going full open world, offering a map that is said to be 20% bigger than Skyrim (that’s a pretty big map), but unlike the issues I had with Skyrim and its rather boring world, combat and story, CD Projekt Red are working hard to make sure there are plenty of things to do and that the story still remains engaging with the player, while offering choices that disturb the story in ways that aren’t just black and white. With beautiful graphics, improved combat and the thought of 36 different endings, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is looking to be the RPG of 2015.
Batman: Arkham Knight PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: June 2, 2015
Steven: One of my most highly anticipated games of 2015 is Batman: Arkham Knight. Watching the various trailers and gameplay videos, as well as and reading about it thought 2014 has had me on the edge of my seat. To think that the Batman Arkham series was being handed back to Rocksteady Studios, and would take place in an even bigger open world than Arkham City or Arkham Origins had me particularly excited for 2015.
Games like these have made me think that this year is going to be a particularly historical one in terms of gaming; probably the most historical since 2011, when games like Arkham City, Rage and Skyrim were released. My biggest hope is that this game will feature the best of both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, and make for something even more exceptional.
Quantum Break Xbox One
Release dates: Q2, 2015
Simon: Remedy make the same kind of mistakes and get the same things right over and over. Think about the first Max Payne and you’ll recall the confusing nightmare sequences, the lacking enemy variety, the sometimes sluggish pacing and the linearity.
At its core, however, was a simple and elegant set of gameplay mechanics that were strong enough that, when let loose in compelling combat scenarios, somehow countered the game’s inherent repetition. All of it was wrapped in a steady-handed narrative with a tongue-in-cheek tone that managed to be genuinely intriguing, cool and endearing at the same time.
With minor adjustments, the above applies to Max Payne 2 and Alan Wake as well. I basically know that Quantum Break will nail the elements that Remedy always nail. It will offer smart, addictive core mechanics and a well realised, memorable narrative. The idea of time breaking down sounds deliciously mindbendy, and you know it’s going to lend itself to some really neat gameplay. Guaranteed repetition and pacing issues notwithstanding.
2015 promises a myriad of games that excite me a great deal, but with many of them it’s the mere prospect of a new game from a certain developer, or the vaguest notion of a new concept that intrigues me. Ultimately, the surprises are always what end up exciting me the most, but it goes without saying that I wouldn’t know to write about them.
Splatoon Wii U
Release dates: JP: Q2 2015 NA/EU: TBA, 2015
Ben: Splatoon is a team-based third-person shooter which is played out in 4-vs-4 matches. The winning team is the one that has the most territory splattered in their team’s colour. Nintendo’s innovation is the Inkling player-controlled characters who can change between human and squid form. When human you can shoot, using a variety of weapons, where’s in squid form you can swim though ink of your own colour, even up walls or through grates. It’ll be very interesting to see what strategies can be used.
When presented at E3 this looked like a fun and refreshing spin on the genre that will further diversity the Wii U multiplayer offering. Credit to Nintendo for not just trying something new, but sticking to a family-friendly approach that will still appeal to both expert and casual gamers. I’m hoping Splatoon will have the same quality, graphical performance and polish we’ve come to expect from their other Nintendo-developed games.
Xenoblade Chronicles X Wii U
Release dates: JP: Q2 2015 EU/NA: TBA, 2015
Jorge: If you’ve been following the videogame career of director Tetsuya Takahashi, you are no doubt aware of the trials and tribulations he has faced in bringing his ambitious ideas to life. Takahashi gained immediate infamy with his debut title Xenogears, an RPG by Squaresoft (as they were known before the eventual merger with Enix), a massive-length epic that featured familiar Anime tropes such as giant robots and super-powered teens with amnesia combined with controversial (for its time) topics including religion, genocide, cannibalism and even pedophilia. It’s no wonder Square deemed Takahashi’s original pitch as too dark for Final Fantasy VII, a game that eventually had its own notorious sequences that paved the way for darker and more mature storytelling in Square’s titles.
After plans for a continuation of Xenogears fell through, Takahashi and several other ex-Square members (including his wife Soraya Saga) formed their own studio Monolithsoft, working with Bandai to create Xenosaga, a spiritual successor (and unofficial prequel) to Xenosaga. The game would share many of the same concepts introduced with Xenogears, all told within a planned six-game story that would have been one of the most ambitious projects ever conceived for a videogame. Unfortunately, lack of funding and executive meddling whittled Xenosaga down to three games, the results creating a mixed reception. Takahashi was no stranger to having his grandiose plans cut short, as Xenogears was also infamously affected by Square cutting developmental funding to the point that the 2nd disc was reduced to being mostly text-based narration.
It would later prove an enormous relief to both Monolithsoft and its fans that Xenoblade Chronicles was the first game to not suffer budget cuts or executive meddling. Whether it was thanks to Nintendo’s expert quality control or Takahashi scaling down his ambitions, Xenoblade Chronicle proved to be the first truly complete game, as well as earning widespread praise from gamers and critics alike. After three games and three companies, it seemed that the Xeno franchise has finally found its calling, with Xenoblade carrying many of the concepts introduced by its predecessors as well as featuring a host of modern gameplay conventions and smartly streamlined mechanics that has resulted in many fans dubbing it the greatest RPG in the last decade.
It is thanks to this high watermark that Xenoblade Chronicles X, the Wii U follow-up that features an even bigger setting with several additional MMO concepts such as customizable characters and online multiplayer, is among the most highly desired titles to be scheduled for release this year. Despite the significant generational gap between the Wii U and the newest consoles, X has shown to be every bit as massive and beautifully rendered as the other open-world RPGs planned this year. It remains to be seen if Takahashi can follow-up with his previous hit without succumbing to the issues that plagued Xenogears and Xenosaga, but his recent comment that Xenoblade Chronicle X will be the first game where he feels truly satisfied in its quality is a really telling statement given his history, and is also the most significant endorsement the director could give to further hype this upcoming epic.
Inside Xbox One, Xbox 360
Release date: Q2 2015
Ryan: In 2015, I’m looking forward to the superabundance of Indie titles being built for these next-gen consoles (and PC, naturally).
Inside is the second effort of the brilliant minds at the Playdead studios. Based out of Denmark, Playdead has been a success story since they released Limbo in 2010. Building off of past experience, Inside looks to be an amazing successor to Limbo in many ways.
Seen in the game’s short trailer, Inside has similar stylings to Limbo. The game is a 2.5D platformer with a limited color pallette and death puzzles galore. Playdead will using the Unity engine this time around, instead of the custom engine they built for Limbo.
Firewatch PC, Mac, Linux
Release date: TBA, 2015
Thomas: I think I’m supposed to use this paragraph to explain what Firewatch is, and why I am excited for it. To be honest I am still not sure what Firewatch is, so I fail at that part of my job, but I do know I am incredibly excited about it.
This excitement is mostly due to who is creating it, and what it could turn out to be with thier involvement. Unlike some acclaimed creators, Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman are not names that jump up off the page when you read them, but if you’ve played Season 1 of Telltale’s Walking Dead series you will know they can produce fantastic gaming moments. You should be excited for what they plan to do next. Alongside them is Nels Anderson who worked on Mark of the Ninja (a game I adored in 2012), Olly Moss (a man known for creating truly fantastic looking art), and Jane Ng (who was part of the team to produce some of Double Fine’s more memorable games over the past 5 years). That’s a hell of a lot of talent working on one thing, but it is still only part of the team now employed at Campo Santo that is working on Firewatch. If the stars line up, what they produce could really be something memorable.
The little I do know about Firewatch revolves around a man called Henry, and his boss; a woman called Delilah. As you play the game – and walk around the wilderness setting you find yourself in – you find out more about the world, and more importantly you learn more about yourself. Firewatch feels like it has a pinpoint focus on engaging narrative. I am very excited to play a game that is not afraid to have its story forefront, and refuses to feel forced to add nonsense layers atop just to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
That’s about the limit of my Firewatch knowledge. What is it going to be about, and what do I want it to be? I do not have a good answer to either question.To tell you the truth, I dont even want to learn much more before I get a chance to play it. If I could go completely blind into one 2015 release, this would be it.
That’s actually a great idea, someone else write about Firewatch please. I’m done!
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release date: TBA, 2015
Anthony: The Metal Gear Solid series is one many hold close to their hearts. I for one grew up with the series, playing each game countless times right up until the next iteration hit the market. I remember getting stuck on the ‘Sniper Wolf’ boss for days, until me and my friend figured out you could use the ‘Nikita’ to take her down. I remember being sat on the edge of my seat, desperately searching for that last bomb at the bottom of ‘Strut A’ of the ‘Big Shell’. I remember welling up when the newly titled ‘Big Boss’ saluted at ‘The Boss’s’ grave. I believe that if it can be created, nostalgia is the most powerful emotion a gamer can experience, and for me the Metal Gear Solid series proves that.
Ground Zeroes was masterpiece in its own way. It was effectively MGS5’s equivalent of the ‘Tanker’ section from MGS2, or the ‘Virtuous Mission’ from MGS3. It was a prologue, setting the scene for the Phantom Pain whilst giving us a sneak peak at the new FOX Engine and easing us into the change of voice actor for ‘Big Boss’, now played by Keifer Sutherland.
As you can probably tell, I cannot wait for the Phantom Pain. It’s so much more than just another game to those die-hard fans of the series such as myself, and on the new generation of consoles, it is going to be bigger and better than ever.
Below Xbox One, Steam
Release date: TBA, 2015
Ryan: Another game I’m looking forward to is Below, by Capybara Games. The studio has already cut its teeth with Indie hits like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Super Time Force.
Playing off the roguelike game genre, Below is a top-down adventure game set on an island. The main focus of the gameplay is exploration into the depths of the island, but survival also comes into focus as permanent death is a very decisive game mechanic.
As yet, the release date for Below has not been officially stated, but it will be a digital download piece for Xbox One and Steam.
The Legend of Zelda Wii U
Release date: TBA, 2015
Steven: The game I am most looking forward to this year is the new Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U. Not a great deal is known about it as of yet, other than it will contain a huge open world, which is something that the developers believe that the series has been lacking in recent times, and what they believe to be the solution to re-popularising the franchise to it’s formerly huge extent. As Ocarina of Time is my favourite ever game, this to me, was the biggest highlight of E3 2014 for me. The thought of having a new and potentially much bigger game than Ocarina of Time got me asking myself many different questions. What are Nintendo going to do with all that open space and gaming memory? What kind of old and new gameplay elements can players expect to see in it? Could this possibly be the answer that Nintendo have been looking for to redeem themselves after the initial failings of the Wii U?
One other interesting thing that fans were keen to point out about the first teaser trailer is that it bears a striking resemblance to the works of the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata from the Studio Ghibli film company of Japan. But the impression I got from these fans was that it sounded more like a complaint than a compliment. But the thought that influences from a source like that could possibly be a bad thing, to me, sounds ludicrous. Studio Ghibli have distributed some of my favourite films of all time, such as Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away, and the prospect of a Zelda game drawing artistic inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki just makes me that evermore excited for where this next instalment of the franchise could possibly go from an artistic point of view.
Assassin’s Creed Victory PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release date: Late 2015
Thomas: To say I was disappointed with Assassin’s Creed Unity would be the world’s greatest understatement. It was not only a letdown technically, but gameplay was a mess too – repeating generic ideas ad nauseum. Story was not great either, and post release support seemed like a chaotic mess. I struggle to find anything to praise about the game. So to be excited about a follow up, that we only know about via an industry leak, needs some explaining.
Well to start with, this effort is led by a new studio – Ubisoft Quebec. In the past the studio just contributed to development of the franchise. Now they are fully in charge to create a game of their own vision. Victory is said to be developed on the same tech that brought us Unity. There was no denying Unity was messy, but with almost a full year to tug and pull the code in the right directions, Ubisoft Quebec should be able to produce something much more technically proficient this time around.
The biggest plus point for me though is that Ubisoft Quebec put in work on the best piece of DLC the Assassin’s Creed series has seen – Freedom Cry.
Freedom Cry was an interesting piece of DLC that was not afraid to tackle the difficult subject matter of slavery. Not only that, it was able to build Assassin’s Creed style gameplay around the chosen theme, with the correct tone to stay on message. Over the course of the short period the DLC lasted, they were able to paint a unique but vivid picture of how cruel life in Port-au-Prince was – the setting for the majority of the DLC – and let players affect the lives of its inhabitants in an interesting way.
If Ubisoft Quebec managed to succeed so proficiently with a piece of DLC, then I am okay admitting I’m excited for what they will do with a full fledged game. Sure, it will take place in a wholly different setting – Victorian England – and showcase a different range of content, but to me, Ubisoft Quebec is the team the Assassin’s Creed series needs right now to drag the series out of the rut it has found itself in.
Persona 5 PS4, PS3
Release dates: NA/JP: 2015 EU: TBA
Dominic: There hasn’t been much revealed about Persona 5 apart from a short anime trailer showing off what seems to be the main character taking a ride to a busy city, then seeing the all too familiar blue hue of the persona summoning. It’s not often a game can get me incredibly excited without knowing all that much about it, but the Persona team at Atlus have already demonstrated their ability to make fantastic games in this ever growing series, evolving on from Persona 2 with the dungeon crawling and social aspects in Persona 3 and fine tuning those for the better in Persona 4 – which I gave top marks to – with a unique murder mystery story and great cast of characters on top of the already buttered cream cake.
Atlus has been overusing the cast of Persona 4, fitting them into fighting games, dancing games and other spinoffs, so it will be nice to see a fresh group of characters after the seven years of Persona 4. Atlus, it’s time to move on from Chie and the gang, and I’m so ready for them to demonstrate their masterful skills and give me another absorbing tale with refined dungeon mechanics and a fresh cast of characters.
2015 is shaping up to be a great year – stay tuned for a review of each title upon release.
We will keep the release dates updated throughout the year as we get a clearer picture.