Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Iris' Most Anticipated Game Releases for Fall-Winter 2014

Assassin's Creed Unity Notre Dame
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Summer can be pretty slow when it comes to games... And just about everything else. It's hot, it's humid, it's sticky, it's sweaty, and it feels like there's just nothing new and exciting to play. So every now and then when the weather and the restlessness are equally unbearable, I like to close my eyes and think of all of the releases I'm anticipating this fall. Pretty much as soon as August ends I know I'll be on a roller coaster of releases straight through to Christmas, and I absolutely can't wait. Here are the ten games I'm looking forward to the most in what remains of 2014:

The Sims 4 (September 2nd)


While I'm still not sure that I'll love The Sims 4 as much as I love its predecessor, I don't doubt that I'll have a good time with it. It seems like the new game will offer a lot of streamlined features and usability tweaks, and while there are plenty of things absent that I and other longtime fans will undoubtedly miss, I'm cautiously optimistic about the end result. 

Gauntlet (September 3rd)


Gauntlet won't be a day one purchase for me, but I will be voraciously consuming reviews the instant they're available. I realized recently that due to a gaming childhood that focused a lot more on platforming and creative/edutainment games, Gauntlet Legends for the Dreamcast was probably the first RPG I played. And I ate it up. I spent hours playing it with my dad, and we even played a couple rounds when we came across a Gauntlet arcade cabinet on vacation. The new Gauntlet seems to be a modern revamp of the arcade original rather than my beloved Legends, but my fingers are crossed that this co-op classic will be... Well... Good.

Pokemon Art Academy (October ?)


I'm a recent convert to the Art Academy games, a series that teaches players basic artistic techniques through simple, digestible lessons. Its biggest shortcoming in my opinion has been the focus on realistic art with little instruction available for players more interested in cartoons. Pokemon Art Academy seems like a slight simplification of the Art Academy format that could offer the instruction for a more cartoony-style that previous games lacked. 

Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (October 21st)

Harvest Moon The Lost Valley

Technically, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley is not a Harvest Moon game. It wasn't developed by Marvelous AQL, the Japanese developer behind the series as most know it, but instead Natsume. Natsume localized previous Harvest Moon games and therefore own the series' english name "Harvest Moon", so when Marvelous AQL decided to have their newest game localized by XSEED, Natsume decided to develop their own farming game with the "Harvest Moon" name attached. As a longtime fan of the series that will never not feel gross to me, but even so Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley looks pretty neat. It's Harvest Moon meets Minecraft, and I can get behind that.

Fantasy Life (October 24th)


Speaking of Harvest Moon meets some other thingFantasy Life is being described as a blend of the free-form farming classic and Final Fantasy. I'd describe it more as Rune Factory with a few more career options.... And maybe a dash of Monster Hunter for multiplayer flavor.

Assassin's Creed Unity (October 28th)

Assassin's Creed Unity

The last couple Assassin's Creed games have been misses for me. They were gorgeous, they introduced interesting new mechanics, the offered sprawling worlds... But you know, I really just missed doing parkour on 500-year old cathedrals. Unity will finally tackle the French Revolution, a topic that's long overdue, and while trailers have already eagerly demonstrated how brutal and bloody the game will be, I'm mostly just excited to take a virtual stroll around St Germain des Pres.

Dragon Age: Inquisition (November 18th)

Vivienne Dragon Age Inquistion

I loved Dragon Age: Origins, and I loved Dragon Age 2 even more... Though I may be in the minority there. It seems like with Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare have gone back to extract the best of both games. More character options, more combat control, and a more open and explorable world... Not to mention Vivienne, who might be my favorite female character design in a very long time.

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby (November 21st)

Pokemon Alpha Omega Diancie

Last year's Pokemon X/Y took the series in a dramatic new direction, fully 3D with better looking battles and more ways to interact with and train your team than ever before. With all these new 3D assets and engines in place, then, it's a natural next step to reboot previous games in the franchise to bring them up to the new standard. I was pretty skeptical of this at first, and like Gauntlet this won't be a day one purchase for me, but it seems like a lot of new content is being added to make Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby well worth revisiting.

Persona Q (November 25th)


The Persona games have a huge niche following because the stories they tell are so much more compelling than your run-of-the-mill dungeon-grinding RPG. There's a strong emphasis on personalities, identities and relationships... Not to mention the fact that aesthetically, the Persona games are stylish as hell. Combine that with Etrian Odyssey's dungeon mapping and exploration and you have a recipe for a game that will be practically impossible to put down.

Story of Seasons (Winter 2014)

Story of Seasons

It's a good (if somewhat confusing) year for Harvest Moon fans. Story of Seasons is the true successor to the Harvest Moon throne even if, as I explained earlier, they can't use the name. It promises more of what the series is known for, relaxing resource management and a simulation of country life laden with idealization and nostalgia. Story of Seasons' art is also a big draw, pardon the pun, because this time around everything has a slightly less modern vibe than usual. There are lots of layered skirts and ringlet curls and slightly washed-out colors... It looks downright dreamy.

That's my list, but what about yours? What games are you looking forward to most before the end of the year? As always, share your thought in the comments below!

Mixed reality iris 2013Janine Hawkins (@bleatingheart on Twitter, Iris Ophelia in Second Life) has been writing about virtual worlds and video games for nearly a decade, and has had her work featured on Paste, Kotaku, Jezebel and The Mary Sue.


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I loved Dragon Age 2 more also, seems we are in the minority. And yes, Assassin's Creeds were a curious yawn, beautiful (your top screen shot in this post is amazing) but not compelling for me - being a male character maybe?


Dude, you are totally missing out on Wasteland 2. Coming out next month.

The original wasteland was the spiritual parent of the Fallout series.

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