The Christmas release line-up has a long tradition of being ridiculously packed every year. After one of the driest gaming summers in recent memory, this is all the more frustrating. The big publishers will often drown out the marketing efforts of any releases that aren’t Call of Duty, FIFA, Halo or other major console branded spots, so this list is for seven games that deserve a little boost and ones we hope won’t get brushed aside in favour of the usual suspects. Keep your browser aimed at Dealspwn as we’ll be aiming to review the lot of them.
The Witness (PS4)
Jonathan Blow’s follow up to Braid is looking like one of the PS4’s must have digital titles and with a bit of luck it will be released this year. The game puts you on a large colourful island with little instruction for the world packed with puzzles to complete to unlock new areas. It reminds us a bit of Myst, but a bit more tranquil than the classic 90s puzzler. Blow has explained the puzzle progression would be taught naturally to the player without words, but by showing them simpler versions at some point in an environment, gradually teaching the player how to complete the 600+ puzzles. It sounds complicated, but the above video does a great job of explaining his concept and sets The Witness out as potentially one of the most innovative titles of the year.
Release date: TBC 2014.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (PS4, PC)
Another puzzle game in our line-up of under the radar releases. The game will only see a PC release this year, but it’ll land on PS4 some time next year. Don’t let the £15 price fool you; the production values on this one are stellar, as displayed by the video above. The supernatural angle to puzzle solving that has you piecing together the timeline of a crime scene looks like the sort of game we wish Murdered: Soul Suspect had turned out to be. Plus the setting reminds us of Alan Wake, which is no bad thing at all. We’d mention Twin Peaks, but we’re hoping we’ll actually solve this mystery.
Release date: PC: September 26th, PS4: TBC 2015.
Lords of the Fallen (PS4, XO, PC)
Do you want to play Dark Souls, but know you don’t quite have the patience/skill to enjoy it? There’s no shame in that and your annual controller budget is all the healthier for it too. But maybe you’d like something similar that’s not quite as bastard hard. Step forward Lords of the Fallen, with boss fights that require a bit of strategy and defensive finesse without the cheaty instant kills and infuriating epic plods to get back for round two if you get skewered. The game is only releasing on new hardware, so there’s no last-gen version to hold back development. Matt has a hand-on preview for you here.
Release date: October 31st.
PES 2015 (PS3, PS4, 360, XO, PC)
On PS3/360 the PES series had an utterly disastrous debut. Konami held off on a next-gen version last year to continue developing the new engine to ensure a smooth generational transition. Early hands-on reports indicate that they’ve come up with a genuine rival to FIFA this year and will hit the title race running. Sure the licenses will be appalling, but the action on the pitch is where it really matters. Fingers crossed we can get back to the PS2-era glory days. FIFA and PES going head to head is great for all of us, as the competition has encouraged both sides to up their game. Konami usually release a demo, so you’ll be able to decide if you like the changes before spending any money.
Release date: November 13th.
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PS3, 360)
If you loved the sea-faring antics of Black Flag, we’re sure you’ll want to check out this entry to the series launching alongside the new-gen/PC-only Unity. We’re sure the Paris-based game is going to making the loudest noises later this year, but as huge fans of the Americas-based games, we’ll be sure to pick this one up too. You’ll be playing as a former Assassin turned Templar and will have access to a seriously powerful ship complete with front canon and a powerful ram that might make us feel like one of those bad-ass boss ships from Black Flag. Only a fool would bet against this being ported to the new-gen consoles in 2015 though, so graphics-fiends may want to wait. This will be a tenner cheaper than Unity though we imagine.
Release date: November 14th.
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix (PS3)
Because the Christmas schedule isn’t packed enough as it is, Square have to go and re-release some of our favourite games again. It’s hard to complain though seeing how much time we know we’re going to plough into this one. This second collection includes the international remix version of Kingdom Hearts 2 and the previous PSP exclusive, Birth by Sleep which will benefit most from the HD upgrade. The collection will also include a movie of high-def cutscenes from the 3DS title Re:coded. Kingdom Hearts III is a year away (at least!), so you’ll have plenty of time to fully catch up on the ever-expanding bag of plots and side-stories.
Release date: December 5th.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PS4, XO, PC)
The original Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a surprising and brilliant spinoff that we’re delighted to finally see a sequel for. The Diablo-esque viewpoint sees Lara enjoying a twinstick-shooter game and the co-op side has been upgraded from two to four players which sees you taking on swarms of enemies and working together to complete the puzzles. Oh and doing rolling leaps absolutely everywhere, just for the fun of it.
Release date: December 9th.