2011 rapidly draws to a close and AAA titles such as Bethesda's Skyrim and WB Interactive's Batman: Arkham City have all but cemented their Game of the Year awards. So which PC games should you be watching in 2012? Here are a few to keep an eye on when the dust and wrapping paper has settled from 2011.
Tribes: Ascend (Hi-Rez Studios)
Currently in closed beta (in which I’m playing—entirely too much, I might add), Tribes: Ascend is the free-to-play reincarnation of the Tribes franchise—and the Tribes game that fans of the original have been waiting for. Ascend captures the aerial, disc-dueling and ‘skiing’ elements of the original games’ game play to perfection, and Hi-Rez continues to tweak weapon balance, maps, the UI (user interface), and bits. Tribes fans will still have to make some adjustments to the new class-based model and advancement system, but the gameplay is excellent and continues to get better. If it wasn't for the fact that Tribes: Ascend is in closed beta, I'd be inclined to go against the grain and make it my 'Best Game of 2011'. (Note: Any Tribes: Ascend players out there looking to mercilessly frag and mock me, DM me on twitter @PCGame_Examiner for my player name.)
XCOM (2K Games)
XCOM marries elements of its classic strategy roots with modern FPS (first person shooter) game play. The FPS gameplay is new to the series, but fear not, purists: there is still plenty of decision making and strategic, tactical play to be enjoyed as well—both in between and during missions. “None of us at 2K Marin want to mess this up because we all dearly love XCOM,” Morgan Gray, Development Director for 2K Marin, told us at E3.
Dishonored (Bethesda Softworks)
An open-world game in a vein similar to Assassin's Creed, you are an assassin armed with supernatural powers in a repressive country set in a retro-futuristic world envisioned by Half-Life 2 art director Viktor Antonov. Dishonored basically looks like Assassin's Creed meets Bioshock; if it's done well, it should be awesome.
Prey 2 (Bethesda Softworks)
Prey 2is more of a cousin to the original 2006 game than a sequel, and tells an all-new story with a new protagonist. The setting channels the spirit of Blade Runnerand perhaps even a little Star Wars.You play as a federal Marshall named Killian whose airline flight is rudely abducted and transported to an alien world. Killian awakens in a strange alien metropolis with no memory and few possessions apart from his badge and trusty sidearm. Unlike the original Prey, Prey 2 will be a fully open-world experience instead of a linear FPS game, and provide Killian with numerous gadgets, weapons, and loot to spend while he captures (or kills) aliens and collects the bounties on their heads. Prey 2is being developed by Humanhead Studios (the developers behind the original game).
Smite (Hi-Rez Studios)
Smite looks like another very promising and probable hit for Hi-Rez Studios. Smite takes tried and true F2P DOTA (Defense of the Ancients)-style gameplay (like League of Legends) and puts it in a new perspective: the third person. Play as a god from any one of various world mythologies, support your minions, and clobber your way to the enemy base and make it belong to you (and your team mates). Smite was terrifically fun to play even in early Alpha at PAX Prime 2011—combined with Tribes: Ascend, Hi-Rez Studios looks to have a very promising 2012 indeed.
King Arthur II: The Roleplaying Wargame (Paradox Interactive)
In King Arthur II, Arthur is wounded and the land is in chaos as the Fomorians (demon-like creatures) erupt from their netherworld and invade the land. King Arthur II is a role-playing/real-time strategy hybrid in a vein similar to the Total War franchise. On the battlefield you command legions of soldiers, beasts, fantasy creatures, and spells to crush your enemies. In between battles, you can play through simple ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style quests and select which missions to pursue, which will have tactical and strategic implications later in the game.
Borderlands 2 (2K Games)
The smash hit Borderlands taught us that you can, in fact, essentially combine Diablo-style gameplay with a first person shooter to create a fast-paced, addictive, and extremely fun shooter-RPG experience. Borderlands 2 takes it all and turns it up to 11, from the crazy ‘Gunzerker’ class to the even more giganimous array of weapons, mods, loot, and more. Failure is not an option—nor likely.
Diablo III (Blizzard)
Blizzard’s long-awaited third installment to their genre-defining, classic Diablo-series really needs no introduction. Diablo largely created (and at the very least popularized) the action RPG genre. Diablo III will just continue carrying the torch and introduce some new wrinkles without re-inventing the wheel. Granted, Diablo III could potentially slip to 2013 given Blizzard’s track record as perfectionists, but it still deserves a spot on this list.