The first few months of a new year are always lousy with new video games. Developers who can’t meet the deadline for the holiday season often cut bait and shunt the fruits of their labor into January or February to buy crucial time for some extra polish. The COVID bottleneck is loosening up, studios are operating at full capacity, and suddenly Namco and Sony are somehow releasing two of the biggest games on their respective dockets in the same week, long before the prime real estate of autumn. To follow the gaming industry is to constantly contend with an overflowing backlog lingering in your Steam library, but rarely has it gotten this dire this quickly. That’s a good problem to have, obviously. Here are some favorites for what’s already shaping up to be a marquee year in gaming.
SNIPER ELITE 5
It’s easy, for the uninitiated, to write off the Sniper Elite franchise as a hyper-violent Nazi-killing X-ray gore fest. It is that, yes.
This was no easy task, considering that the newest outing brings the franchise to World War II-era France, quite possibly video games’ most rote destination. But developer Rebellion Developments has found new ways to make the beaches of Normandy exciting. There are elements of IO Interactive’s Hitman trilogy on display here, as the roguish Karl Fairburne is forced to sneak into bunkers and cobblestone alleys, trading his trusty sniper rifle for a silenced handgun and close-quarters know-how. There are also abundant reminders of Arkane’s Dishonored games, with multiple approaches to every objective, ranging from non-lethal to what Sniper Elite 5 has elevated an already fantastic franchise to the pantheon of the immersive-sandbox greats. —Mike Mahardy.
On gamecamp.gg you can find SNIPER ELITE 5 here: https://bit.ly/3tMkeSM.
Supermassive Games made their bones with 2015’s Until Dawn — a gristly slasher-flick pastiche where you escort a cadre of idiot twentysomethings to their untimely deaths. The Quarry is essentially the game’s spiritual successor. This time we’re in charge of a group of teenagers attempting to survive the night at a moonlit summer camp, and to the surprise of nobody, the action goes off the rails quickly. The Quarry unfolds like an interactive drama; you dictate the choices of characters over a series of daisy-chained cutscenes and watch as they inevitably meet some sort of terrible, midnight-movie end. It’s cheesy, hematic, and graciously unpretentious. Some horror games want to clue the audience in on their big ideas about the cosmic fallacies of morality, and some just want to toss your body on a meathook. Both are vital in their own way, but in the sublime early days of summer, The Quarry hits the perfect tone.
On gamecamp.gg you can find THE QUARRY here: https://bit.ly/3N8s8N3.
THE STANLEY PARABLE: ULTRA DELUXE
The Stanley Parable is the most 2013 video game. You play as an office drone who steps away from repetitive days of data entry to wander the hallways of a mysterious office complex that branches like the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure book. It’s a walking simulator. It’s a satire. It’s a cheeky lampoon of video game storytelling, the limitations of player agency, and its serious contemporaries fixated on “games as art.” This is to say that The Stanley Parable was a video game about video games, from a period when the medium was at its most self-conscious and navel-gazey.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is the most 2022 video game. You play as an office drone who steps away from repetitive days of data entry to wander the hall of a mysterious office complex that branches like the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure book. But then you find New Content™. It’s a requel. It’s a postmortem. It’s a cheeky lampoon of video game monetization, the artistic limitations of mining intellectual property, and its audience-tested contemporaries fixated on “games as a service.” This is to say that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is a video game about the culture of video games from a period when the medium has never been more powerful and mercenary. —Chris Plante
On gamecamp.gg you can find THE STANLEY PARABLE: ULTRA DELUXE game here: https://bit.ly/3Naio4G.
We’re in the middle of a digital card game boom, and the best ones on the market — Hearthstone, Slay The Spire, Legends of Runeterra — all essentially ape the formula established by Magic The Gathering in 1993. There’s a lot of math, a lot of keywords, and a lot of tempo swings back and forth before someone with a superior deck, or a superior brain, sends you back to the matchmaking queue. Nerial’s Card Shark, on the other hand, evokes an entirely different philosophy. You’re a 17th-century peasant on a quest to cheat the gentry out of their unearned shillings, and you’ll accomplish that with the ancient art of sleight of hand. Thumb through the deck, feel for the aces and cut them to the top of the deck. Pour a glass of wine to get a quick peek at whatever your adversary is holding. Screw up, and it’s straight to jail. Card Shark understands that the best part of poker is manipulating the other people at the table, rather than staring down at whatever you happen to be holding. Let’s hope Nerial gets the Rounders license next.
On gamecamp.gg you can find the CARD SHARK game here: https://bit.ly/3xNF718.
WARHAMMER 40,000: CHAOS GATE - DAEMONHUNTERS
Like Gears Tactics before it, Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate - Daemonhunters boils the XCOM formula down to its bare essentials before building it back up into something wholly its own.
Daemonhunters puts you in command of a team of Grey Knights — basically Space Marines with a strong streak of religious zealotry — as you travel around a star system on a spacefaring cathedral. You customize the Knights, outfit them with ever-improving gear, and upgrade their respective skill trees in an effort to synergize the perfect murder squad and stem a spreading Nurgle plague. It’s a testament to the skill of developer Complex Games that the turn-based combat is equal parts nuanced and bombastic, and for every explosion that rattles the screen, there’s also a quiet moment of triumph as a Justicar gets to a downed teammate just in time to extract the whole team. —Mike Mahardy
On gamecamp.gg you can find a similar game - WARHAMMER 40,000: SPACE MARINE here: https://bit.ly/3tPf5Jq.
Diablo Immortal was guaranteed to be controversial as soon as it was announced. This is one of the most esteemed PC franchises of all time pivoting to a mobile-first, microtransaction-heavy model — at a moment where the corporate image of Blizzard is in total freefall. Many of those concerns remain valid, but nothing can change the fact that Immortal feels shockingly intuitive on an iPhone. The demon hunter’s crossbow bolts stream across the screen with the flick of the index finger; wizards call forth arcane storms with a fidelity that almost rivals a mouse and keyboard. The game packs a full dungeoneering motif. You can party up with friends and delve into accursed catacombs — just like you did in 1999 — and allow the loot-lust to take over your life. Diablo Immortal will not save Blizzard’s reputation, but it is pretty cool to explore Sanctuary on the train.
On gamecamp.gg you can find a similar game DIABLO here: https://bit.ly/3tPBypQ.
This text-heavy, tabletop-inspired RPG feels like a cerebral, melancholic answer to the broader cyberpunk canon. You awaken on the space station Erlin’s Eye in a body that is and isn’t yours; your consciousness exists inside a humanoid machine owned by the corporation Essen-Arp. To prevent you — and others like you — from running away, you were built with “planned obsolescence.” You have to take a supplement in order to survive, and your first goal is to figure out how to stay alive. From there, the Eye opens up, revealing stories of the people there and the power struggles that govern their lives.
Pulling heavily from dice-based tabletop games, Citizen Sleeper forces players to make daily trade-offs — Do I want to repair the Ambergris, help Feng hack through the Eye’s secrets or supply mushrooms to street vendors Emphis? — all with a limited and daily randomized set of dice. In contrast to other decision-driven games, Citizen Sleeper never makes me feel as if I’ve been “punished” for making a wrong choice. Mostly, it demonstrates how scarcity impacts decision-making — how living in survival mode means having to hedge and scrounge. As you progress and find ways to nourish yourself, your options expand, yielding to the ultimate question: Do you stay, or do you once again escape? —Nicole Clark.
On gamecamp.gg you can find the CITIZEN SLEEPER game here: https://bit.ly/3tRDMVH.
You’re a time-traveling detective standing in the ruins of a burnt-out boarding house. Six people died in the flames, and the goal is to survey the dimensional feedback that led up to this tragedy and edit a few choices made by the residents in order to forge a timeline where they get out alive. Most of the gameplay in Eternal Threads is spent scrolling through a week’s worth of arguments, secrets, seductions, and heart-to-hearts, and watching those conversations play out on screen as you uncover two mysteries at once. How did this house burn down? And what, exactly, are all these people hiding? The premise hooked me immediately, if only because Eternal Threads allows us to indulge in a fantastic bit of kindness. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and finetune our decisions?
On gamecamp.gg you can find ETERNAL THREADS here: https://bit.ly/3zVnsqK.
ROGUE LEGACY 2
Rogue Legacy 2 is a celebration of heroes and their differences. Every new heir brings a unique flavor to their roguelite run, ensuring that no two outings are ever the same: One Valkyrie might utilize a pizza boomerang to slice (lol) their way through enemies, while their Ranger descendant propels itself between platforms with flatulent intensity.
In this way, Rogue Legacy 2 is unusually fresh for a roguelite, putting it among the greats like Dead Cells, Slay the Spire, and Hades. In a genre that usually asks players to follow a discrete path or develop a consistent skill, Rogue Legacy 2 encourages you to find joy in playing as unlikely heroes against uncertain odds. It’s just as good in short bursts as it is in marathon sessions, and it never stops surprising. —Ryan Gilliam.
On gamecamp.gg you can find the ROGUE LEGACY 2 game here: https://bit.ly/3QD4B9I.
DUNE: SPICE WARS
It’s incredible that Dune, a franchise that has laid in total dormancy for decades, has suddenly stirred from its licensing slumber thanks to the all-powerful Timothée Chalamet bump. We are suddenly inundated by Dune movies, Dune board games, Dune comic books — and someone at Warner Bros. had the good sense to hand the universe over to Shrio Games for a Dune-themed RTS. Shrio’s previous project, Northgard, borrowed liberally from Age of Empires as it allowed players to marshal Viking bands through the verdant wilderness of the Arctic rim. The warring factions of Arrakis are translated beautifully into Spice Wars’ design philosophy; House Atreides and House Harkonnen clash in the wasteland, and players race to consolidate every dash of melange and spritz of water they can get their hands on to keep the war machine afloat. Of course, Sandworms are a constant threat and answer to no master. There’s always a chance that one of your battalions will be swallowed whole, sending your game plan back to square one. It’s brutal, ornery, unfair, and quintessentially Dune. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On gamecamp.gg you can find the DUNE: SPICE WARS game here: https://bit.ly/3xKGIVa.
LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA
Traveler’s Tales have happily adapted their Lego games into every IP willing to host them. They’ve made landfall in Harry Potter, Marvel, DC, and the Tolkien legendarium, but Star Wars was always their first — and best — home. The Skywalker Saga is the studio’s chance to be truly definitive in their relentless documentation of pop media, and quite frankly, no other game bearing the Rebel crest has ever crammed this much Star Wars into its source code. There are six different playable versions of Lando Calrissian. You can take control of Malakili, the guy who owns the Rancor monster in Jabba’s palace. On Tatooine, there is a reference to a “ghost droid” who exclusively appeared in a popular piece of non-canon fan fiction. Traveler’s Tales left no stone unturned, and the result is a living encyclopedia of both the glorious heights and abyssal lows of Star Wars. Yes, you will play through all of Attack of the Clones, and you will like it.
On gamecamp.gg you can find LEGO STAR WARS: THE SKYWALKER SAGA game here: https://bit.ly/3xKGIVa.
Weird West comes from WolfEye Studio, a development team staffed with Arkane (Dishonored, Deathloop) veterans, and to nobody’s surprise, it has brought one of its trademark, eternally cursed realms to the American frontier. Bounty hunters, cultists, and the chittering undead are afoot as you wrest control of several misbegotten characters out for revenge. This is a top-down, tactical shoot-out in which the playing field is wide open. Nothing is taken for granted. See that chimney on the roof of the bank you’re trying to rob? Find a way up there, and you might discover you can shinny down the hatch to avoid a deadly firefight. WolfEye believes that gamers should be allowed to touch the worlds they explore, and Weird West is the ideal proof of concept for that philosophy.
On gamecamp.gg you can find a WEIRD WEST game here: https://bit.ly/3bhqQC7.
Norco stands out for a lot of reasons: It’s a beautiful, honest portrayal of southern Louisiana, an inventive and dystopian science fiction story, and sharp criticism of the oil industry’s blight. Created by Geography of Robots, Norco is an interpretation of Norco, Louisiana — the real town whose name stands for the New Orleans Refining Company, home to Shell’s manufacturing complex. As a point-and-click adventure, Norco unravels slowly as the main character, Kay, returns to her childhood home following her mother’s death. It’s all at once a magical realism story with mystery elements, yet still firmly rooted in a sense of reality — not an easy blend of genres to balance. The writing and simple environmental puzzles, together with a unique mind-map mechanic that acts as a character list and mental notebook, lend to a fast-paced story that still leaves room to stop and take in all of the poignant weirdness. —Nicole Carpenter.
On gamecamp.gg you can find the NORCO game here: https://bit.ly/3bfTtzD.