5. Wildstar (Carbine Studios)
Currently in open beta, Wildstar from Carbine Studios is a light-hearted, cartoonish science fiction MMO about two factions racing to control the planet Nexus, full of magic and mystery. The game looks bright, vivacious and fun, but unfortunately, an MMO means a huge commitment – hours and hours of leveling and questing and item retrieval – plus a hefty price tag from the onset. As vibrant and engaging as Wildstar looks, I doubt it will ever quite convince me enough of its charms.
4. The Walking Dead (Telltale Games)
I’m all poised to love Telltale Games. I loved the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, I love their story-focused, morality-based gameplay and I especially love the episodic nature of their releases. The Walking Dead, then, Wolf’s predecessor, should be a no-brainer for me to purchase. Unfortunately, Steam’s method of release – lumping all of Season One into one purchase – totally nullifies what’s interesting about Telltale’s a la carte style. I’m much, much less interested in purchasing five episodes of a game, for one $25 installment, than I am to sample the first episode and decide whether or not to proceed from there.
3. Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Kentucky Route Zero looks minimalist, artsy and fascinating. Funded on Kickstarter and developed by a total unknown, the game promises to focus more on story, tone and mystery than the majority of today’s gaming market. Unfortunately, the game’s mysterious nature – its very allure – is sorta what keeps me from investing. I have no notion of its gameplay, its length or what its really even about. At the same time, I’m also terrified that any research in that direction would inevitably spoil what makes the game so intriguing.
2. Papers, Please (Lucas Pope)
This bleak dystopian thriller from independent developer Lucas Pope is, of all things, a game about paperwork, passports and immigration. You play a faceless customs officer, charged with ferreting out forged documents on the border of fake pseudo-Soviet dictatorship Arstotzka. Sounds exciting, right? The real tragedy of Papers, Please is that the game looks brilliant and innovative and groundbreaking but absolutely as dull and depressing as you possibly imagine. While much more reasonably priced on Steam, its colorless, un-gameplay will probably continue to keep me at bay.
1. Transistor (Supergiant Games)
Supergiant Games is my jam. I loved Bastion, their debut game, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the studio to tackle their upcoming project for several years now. Transistor is a cyberpunk action game that blends the top-down brawler genre with turn-based combat in a really fascinating way. The story of a nightclub singer targeted for death by a shadowy totalitarian government, Transistor and I could live happily ever after together, were it not for one (fortunately surmountable) problem. It’s, like so many quality games on Steam, only available for Windows. According to Supergiant, there’s hope – a Mac version is inbound and hopefully, by then, the steep price will also come down some.