A new is almost upon us, bringing with it all the reflections of the year past. I’d much rather look forward to all the exciting video games that’ll keep us all enthralled in 2023. To round off the year, let’s look at four exciting releases and events, along with a healthy amount of wanderlust and predictions that almost certainly won’t come to pass.
The Assassin’s Creed Franchise Expands & Retracts
Open-world action games and RPGs are always in danger of bloat. Few franchises have succumbed to this problem more than Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. With twelve main titles in the series, this franchise powerhouse has taken us from The Crusades to Viking-age Britain, with stopovers in Revolutionary Paris, colonial America and Ancient Greece to boot! While AC has transitioned genres in recent years, 2023 holds a certain amount of mystery. Assassin’s Creed: Mirage promises to be a more streamlined affair.
Based in 9th century Baghdad, Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is something of an origin story for Basim, the Assassin who accompanies AC Valhalla’s Eivor in their conquest of England. A game for whom a common complaint was the outrageous amount of bloat, from the never-ending skill tree to arguably the most tedious side content in the series’ history. A step backwards may be a saving grace, as the early AC games felt more focused and less generic in their world design, not to mention side content. The future of the series might still be a mystery. Still, for next year at least, we might see a welcome return to form, with a digestible 20-hour experience, instead of a bloated 150-hour slog.
PSVR2 Changes The Game?
I’ll let you all in on a personal secret… I am sceptical of VR and its realistic impact on the industry over the next decade. While I accept that gaming is a hobby that requires a particular ‘buy-in’ cost, virtual reality occupies that nonessential luxury space within the market. PlayStation entered this market several years ago with the PSVR. Still, it gave off the vibes of an extravagant paperweight than a worthwhile gaming accessory. With a few exemptions, there wasn’t much in the way of must-play experiences to push sales.
Regardless, it did sell well enough to receive an upgrade in the PSVR2, a new visor with two ergonomic controllers that at least look comfortable in the hands. Leveraging the power of the PS5 will also boost VR games, providing smoother gameplay, better graphics and, hopefully, games that’ll justify the cost. Speaking of cost, it’s certainly not what one would call ‘inexpensive’, costing $549.99. Of course, that price doesn’t include any games and the console to power it all. Horizon: Call of the Mountain looks promising, but more needs to be shown. Time will tell if PlayStation’s VR adventure sinks or swims.
GTA 6 Finally Gets A Trailer & Release Window
At the time of writing (Dec 12th), next year will be the tenth anniversary of Grand Theft Auto V, the best-selling entertainment product ever made. In an industry where the average development time for a game is three to four years, a decade without a franchise entry is an outlier. Again, Rockstar Games could hardly be described as an “average” developer. Their games have provided players with outstanding, genre-defining experiences over the last twenty years. With that success came respect and no small amount of trust and goodwill towards the studio. Recent years have gnawed away at that goodwill due to an over-reliance on GTA’s online mode, stories of development crunch and legacy members of the studio leaving.
After a ten-year wait and a recent development leak, the time feels right for Rockstar to finally drop the trailer for GTA VI, with a release date sometime in Q2 2024. The leak all but confirmed that players will return to a modern-day Vice City in a Bonnie & Clyde-like narrative. While the franchise isn’t short of memorable female characters, this will be the first time we can actually play as a woman. Rockstar Games can’t rest on its laurels for much longer, and the merest morsel of news sends GTA VI to the top of the trending list on Twitter. In a company as secure and secretive, it’s time to give fans something to be excited about and prove that the Rockstar of old is alive and well.
Bethesda Game Studios will have a monumental year with the release of its newest IP, Starfield. Leaving the realm of high fantasy and post-apocalyptic hellscapes, Starfield takes the developer’s excellence for world-building and narrative design to the further reaches of the galaxy. It’s not too much of a leap to say that this brand-new RPG is among the most anticipated titles in recent memory. It’s been a long wait for anything new from the team behind Elder Scrolls and Fallout that hasn’t been dogged by controversy. The disastrous launch and first year of Fallout 76 is a prime example.
What do we actually know about Starfield, though? We know the game is decades in the making, with the original concept being formed in the 90s. The overarching narrative takes place in The Settled Systems in 2310, twenty years after a war ended with an uneasy peace. Player customisation returns, as well as branching dialogue choices (missing from Fallout 4) and first/third person perspectives. We also know that Starfield is an Xbox exclusive, making it the first major exclusive of the current generation, over two years since the consoles were released. We don’t have a release date, but early 2023 is a safe bet.