When the leaves begin to fall and the temperature begins to drop, so does a storm of interactive entertainment available in stores. 2017 is no exception for residents of South Florida. We may not have the same seasonal changes as almost everyone else in America but we do get the games. (Release dates subject to change)
The Fall season this year begins with the sequel to the divisive smash success, “Destiny”. The original game was notorious for a lack of content and narrative context upon its release three years ago in 2014. “Destiny 2” (Sept. 5) not only wants to up the ante and content for players who enjoyed the original, but also wishes to attract a new crowd who felt uncertain or wary of the original for its controversial debut. Arkane Studios, who last May released their positively received tribute to classic and groundbreaking sci-fi titles like “System Shock” and “Bioshock with Prey”, now return possibly for the last time to the franchise that put them on the map with “Dishonored: Death of the Outsider” (Sept. 15), a stand-
alone expansion of “Dishonored 2” from last year. This entry in the series features voice work from Michael Madsen and Rosario Dawson as they play assassins seeking to end the life of a morally grey and seemingly unkillable deity called the Outsider who has observed and manipulated events throughout the series.
For Nintendo fans, a long dormant franchise makes its return to the 3DS with “Metroid: Samus Returns” (Sept. 15). Returning to the franchise’s side scroller roots from the 80’s and 90’s, this handheld title in many ways serves as a precursor for the next major entry in the series for home consoles: “Metroid Prime 4” (TBD), a continuation of one the most acclaimed sci-fi first person trilogies ever for the interactive medium. Players will in both games don the Bounty Hunter suit of one of gaming’s most iconic female figures: Samus Aran, of which the former gets its name. Finally, something quite different from the pack: “Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony”. Though released in January this year in Japan, it will ship Sept. 26 for PS4 and PSVita. Essentially an anime/manga style murder mystery with surreal and exaggerated personalities portrayed in what is generally a Japan exclusive “visual novel” format, players will have to interact with young high school students as they work together to survive as well as kill each other in a sick yet darkly comic game by a robotic anthropomorphic teddy bear called Monokuma. Sounds odd to say the least, but the series has gained a strong cult following after its two prior games were made available on the PS4 this Summer and is likely to be another break-out hit for a year already filled with exceptional Japanese games with “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Persona 5” leading the critical darling pack.
The season gets really busy this month and it starts with “Middle-Earth: Shadow of War” (Oct. 10), a spinoff in Tolkien’s “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” universe. The follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed open-world orc killing and possessing simulator “Shadow of Mordor”, it follows the exploits of human ranger Talion and his ghostly elf ally as they use their godlike ability to possess and command the evil armies of Mordor against the dark lord Sauron. Expanding the scope and sheer size of the series to include battles that rival that of Helm’s Deep, it is also a highly dynamic world, where your battle plans, management of orcs and fellow dark creatures creates a system where no run playthrough will play out the same. It could potentially be a huge step forward for the interaction between the player and computer controlled denizens that make up games.
Seeing as how it’s October, it’s no real surprise a horror game would be on the calendar and that game is “The Evil Within 2” (Oct. 13), the sequel to the 2014 survival horror game inspired by the “Resident Evil” series. It continues the story of washed up detective Sebastian Castenallos as he goes in search of his missing daughter and it turns out that in order to find and save her, he has to literally enter the mind of a madman through a machine that links consciousness’s together. Expect monsters and traps both visceral and cerebral in this continuation of the cult series. On the lighter yet profane side of things is “South Park: The Fractured but Whole” (Oct. 17), the sequel to the acclaimed video game rendition of one of television’s most infamous yet beloved cartoon shows from 2014, “The Stick of Truth”. While the first game was, a turn based role playing game that made fun of and also paid tribute to role playing games and games in general, the second game continues that trend while also taking shots at the superhero genre that consumes the modern film industry.
Then we get the biggest day of the year, Oct. 27, where not one but three major titles hit the shelves and online stores and one is only on Nintendo’s newest platform, the Switch. After a yearlong break, “Assassin’s Creed” returns with “Origins”, which will explore, as the title suggests, the beginning of the long and interwoven game saga that began ten years ago with the original release. Set in ancient Egypt, the historically rich yet fictional universe of “AC” has never looked so picturesque.
For what-if history enthusiasts and more importantly, first person shooter fans, “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” will be right up your alley as surely as it is up mine. One of the oldest, perhaps longest running game series ever, let alone in the FPS genre, dating back as early as 1981, “Wolfenstein II” tells the story of BJ Blazkowicz fighting to save his country, the U.S.A. In a world where the Nazis won World War II. Combining deep gunplay and gameplay, and a surprisingly as rich narrative and cast of characters, “The New Colossus” is essentially “The Man in the High Castle” crossed with “Doom” and perhaps even cooler than that.
Last but not least for Oct. 27 is the arrival of an iconic character to the Nintendo Switch who also happened to have his digital debut the same year as “Wolfenstein: Mario in Super Mario Odyssey”. A new 3D platformer taking inspiration from more open ended and colorful titles of yesteryear like the groundbreaking “Super Mario 64” (1996), “Odyssey” unleashes Mario into a journey taking him to multiple worlds filled with danger, secrets and many, many ways to get the job done. His new suite of options comes from his new magic cap called Cappie and the legendary Italian plumber can transform into practically anything not bolted down in the world, from other people to enemies to even a pretty authentic looking T-rex. It’s a bonkers new adventure in one of the most enduring and storied franchises ever.
Compared to the onslaught of October, November is a comparatively lighter affair with two albeit large releases dropping. First on Nov. 3 is the latest in the annual line of “Call of Duty” games but this one finally returns to the franchise’s roots with “Call of Duty: WW2”, the first title since 2008’s “Call of Duty: World at War” to be set in history’s bloodiest conflict. The story mode emphasizes the horror and honor that came together as American soldiers in the first infantry division (Big Red One) fight and die from the fateful landings of Normandy during D-Day to the crossing into Nazi Germany itself. A grim and more down to earth affair than recent entries set in the future, “WW2” also brings new ideas to the massively successful multiplayer in the form of narrative based objectives in “War Mode” as well as a Zombies mode that trades the goofy and tongue-in-cheek style of past versions of the mode for a more visceral and horror-filled romp, fighting macabre and terrifying Nazi Zombie experiments in an underground cave.
The other big title is just in time to support what will arguably be this year’s biggest film, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi with Star Wars: Battlefront II”. After the lukewarm reception the “Battlefront” series revival got in 2015 due to a lack of featured content, “Battlefront II” looks to remedy the critic and player complaints and then some by adding Multiplayer content that crosses all three eras of the “Star Wars” universe including the new sequel trilogy underway as well as the return of battles in space. However, the most hyped addition is the story mode conspicuously absent from “Battlefront 2015” and will be seen through the villainous eyes of the Galactic Empire as they struggle to survive following the heroic Rebel victory on Endor in “Return of the Jedi”. The story bridges the 30-year gap between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” and reveals how the current antagonist of the series, The First Order came to be from a female soldier’s perspective. Most are indeed hoping the Force is with “Battlefront II”.