The summer of 2021 is here: not only the sun, but also hope is in the air. Most conferences are still mostly virtually presented, but at least this time E3 isn’t completely canceled. Even though most of the bombs still need to be dropped (Switch Pro!?), sunday’s PC Gaming Show was exquisite. I’d like to take the opportunity to inspect the announcements with a retro gamer’s eye—it is striking that many announcements are heavily influenced by the recent nostalgia resurgence. Something that I can only approve! Let’s see if there’s something jummy here waiting for us.
New Old shooters
thiefwithguns.com is the domain name of Gloomworld, a “sealth horror FPS that follows your mysterious abduction to a forgotten, twisted Victorian metropolis in the midst of a horrifying transformation”. Not only the domain name but also the graphics have that required retro vibe, and it looks to be very promising.
PC Gamer: When’s it out? TBA, but it can’t come soon enough.
Project Warlock, one of the surprise underdogs for me personally, is not only about perseverance but also a true love letter to all things Wolfenstein 3D. In a sense, it’s frantic shooting action pre-Duke3D era: no jumping and straightforward level design, but with one thing that they absolutely nailed: a double barrel shotgun that fires as satisfying as DOOM II’s. I was very excited to watch the trailer for its successor, Project Warlock II:
Seeing these games makes me hope Nightmare Reaper finally gets out of Early Access. Chapter 2 has been put out there lately, but I’m still keen on holding off until the package has been thoroughly streamlined. I can’t stop watching others play the game, though.
If all these 2D pixels make your eyes bleed, but you’re still a retro kind of guy, take a look at S.T.A.L.K.E.R. II’s gameplay video. 4K kids will love it. I hope the difficulty and survival aspects that the original made so good will stay in. I’m sure I’ll have to skip it due to a lack of decent bulky GeForce card here!
Another multiplayer—but this time, cooperative—hit used to be the Left 4 Dead games. I’m glad to see its gameplay style finally being adapted with a fresh coat of paint with the label The Anacrusis. Most modern shooters focus on competitive team-based combat. I welcome any kind of throwback. Time will tell whether I’ll prefer shooting up zombies or… these alien things. Back 4 Blood is another Left 4 Dead clone and is apparently proud to even steal parts of the title. That is not a coincidence: it’s from the L4D creators! The Back 4 Blooad trailer looks amazing. If you prefer to play with vampires instead, take a look at Redfall instead, although it gives off too much Overwatch vibes to tickle my nostalgia fancy.
Well, yeah. Age of Empires IV, of course, releasing on October 28 this very year! PC Gamer says this about the E3 trailer: (see all trailers on the E3Recap 2021 website):
[We see] A cinematic with Joan of Arc, and some gameplay reminiscent of the fondly remembered Age of Empires 2.
A clear throwback to AoE2—If the gameplay fails to entertain us, there’s still the AoE2 HD remaster.
For those who’d rather have the time to think in-between moves, there’s Songs of Conquest, which just screams Disciples and Heroes of Might and Magic. It’s one of the trailers where my retro meter almost blew up. One to watch, although stated for release early 2022:
Until then, I’ll have to kill time by perhaps reinstalling Age of Wonders. WarTales is another announced turn-based strategy with less nostalgia attached, but still interesting enough to keep tabs on.
Everyone who knows me also knows I’m a huge sucker for Final Fantasy Tactics-style games. I was genuinely excited when I read and watched the Metal Slug Tactics announcement, until I heard the “roguelike” term drop. That quickly tempered things. If you’re still game, check out the preview trailer. No release date yet, though. Metal Slug did not originate on PC but a steam page exists.
Next to Theme Hospital’s throwback called Two Point Hospital, the devs are now taking a stab at the university life in Two Point Campus. Since it has less constraints, it might be the perfect breeding bed for new and wacky experiments.
Even though PC Gamer is quick to call Death Trash an “open-ended old school RPG”, when I look at the gameplay, it looks more like a dungeon crawler with real-time gameplay mechanics of a hack & slash game. I’m not sure about this one.
What I am sure about, though, is of course Diablo II' Resurrected! Well, no, not really. I’m fine with the old skool Diablo II graphics. However, D2 on a console (that introduces many newer players to the game) with cross-platform progression and coop play—that’s what we are promised. Take a look at the street date trailer (September 23):
All we can do now is pray that they left the classic components intact.
On “serious RPG” front, I’m a bit left hanging. I had rather hoped for, say, a Pillars of Eternity III announcement. Instead, Obsidian serves us a rather funny The Outer Worlds 2 trailer that confirms another AAA budget is wasted. The game Avowed is a first-person RPG in the vein of Skyrim set in the world of Pillars, but since it’s coming from Bethesda, I’m all but interested.
Retro-inspired Action adventures
Finally, finally, finally! The long-awaited Psychonauts 2 by Double Fine is (yes, finally) revealed, and it’s supposed to be released this summer! The trailer is just as silly as I remember the vibe of the original game to be:
Maybe, just maybe, we might receive some news regarding Beyond Good & Evil 2 next? I wouldn’t bet on it, tough.
So, is that it?
Well, no. As usual with these online showcases, especially in an indie dev age, a plethora of games are shown at multiple other smaller events, such as the Guerrilla Collective Showcase and the Wholesome Direct stream. To be honest, these game lists are simply too overwhelming: after scrolling through the announcements and inspecting the seventh game, things start to blend into each other. The many roguelikes/lites are another exploding genre that I choose to ignore after a few disappointingly grindy experiences with mediocre games. We’ll see which of these will become surprise hits, but for now, I simply skipped these.
Stay tuned for a similar report on console games!