Ever since the Final Fantasy series switched from Nintendo to Sony, I have been an unabashed PlayStation fanboy. I have owned literally every system Sony has put out since 1994, both console and portable. Over the course of the holidays, I played everything from Discworld to Ico to Contrast.
One of the reasons I’m this way is that I think PlayStation just gets better exclusives than Xbox. Titles like Ni no Kuni, Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us are among my favorite games of all time and they were only from PlayStation. I’ve never really cared about Halo or Gears of Wars, and the reviews of Rise of the Tomb Raider make me think I didn’t miss out on much from not owning an Xbox One.
So let’s look at the PS-exclusives coming down in the next 12 months and see if they justify my continued devotion to all things Sony. Note: These are in release date order.
The Witness Release Date: January 26, 2016 Developer: Thekla, Inc. Pubisher: Thekla, Inc.
This is the newest game from Braid creator Jonathan Blow, and that means it has a very high bar to clear since Braid is one of the most critically acclaimed indie games of the modern era. Rather than another sidescroller, Blow has taken The Witness first-person. It’s a game that is clearly descended from the Myst tradition, what with its island setting and puzzle-based manner of interacting.
Just as Braid is difficult to describe, so is The Witness. In interviews, Blow has elaborated on how the puzzle system in the game is far more than simple rote memorization or progressive skill. Most puzzle games these days can be easily forced just by using everything on everything else until something happens. Blow’s game appears to use an ever more complicated series of maze-like panels that require a deeper understanding of the environment. I look forward to being incredibly frustrated with it.
Firewatch Release Date: February 9, 2016 Developer: Campo Santo Publisher: Panic
Directed by Jake Rodkin (The Walking Dead, Poker Night at the Inventory), Firewatch is a first-person adventure game in which you explore mysterious occurrences in a Shoshone National Park. What makes the game look really interesting is that it appears to solve one of the oldest problems in adventure game history through its walkie-talkie mechanic. Since the ‘90s, whenever your protagonist observed something in the game, he would talk out loud to himself about it, either to give you a clue to its use or just to make a joke. It’s a way to get to know the character, but it’s always been a little weird.
In Firewatch your protagonist, Henry (Rick Sommer), has to relay information about the environment to his supervisor, Delilah (Cissy Jones), who is off in another watchtower and obviously can’t see what Henry sees. That justifies one of the most unjustified tropes of the adventure game in a really clever way, and considering it's coming from one of the most revolutionary adventure game creators of the last decade, it will be fascinating to see what Rodkin creates with an original title.
The Last Guardian Release Date: TBA 2016 Developer: genDesign / SCE Japan Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
There is probably no more anticipated game coming out than The Last Guardian. It’s supposed to be the third part of the trilogy that began with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It’s been in development in various forms since 2007, and regularly tops the list of unfinished games people most want to see.
Gameplay involves a young boy caring and feeding for his massive guardian monster named Trico. You can use Trico to solve environmental puzzles and explore the areas, but you’ll also have to tend to his arrow wounds and build a relationship with the creature to progress. It’s a difficult and emotional game that has high expectations, but also a high pedigree since it comes from the creators of two artistic masterpieces in the gaming world. Warning: The Last Guardian is almost certainly going to be a heartbreaking story whatever else it is.
Detroit: Become Human Release Date: TBA 2016 Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I mentioned Beyond: Two Souls above, and this is the latest game in that series of interactive film games from Quantic Dream. This time, the player follows an android that learns how to live in the human world, where her kind are still treated merely as tools. In keeping with Quantic Dream’s tendency to cast real Hollywood stars in its games, the lead, Kara, will be played by Valorie Curry of Veronica Mars and The Following fame.
The trailer makes it look like the game has certainly taken advantage of the PS4’s better technology over its predecessor, and Curry is an engaging actress who brings Kara to life within minutes. Everyone else might be waiting for that Blade Runner film sequel, but I have a feeling the real sequel is going to be in this game.
Hob Release Date: TBA 2016 Developer: Runic Games Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This last one is slightly cheating since Hob will see a PC release simultaneous with its PS4 release, but I couldn’t let a hype article go without talking about this game. It’s almost impossible to describe, really. In some ways it feels like a version of Monument Valley cranked up to 11 as you navigate a broken world trying to fix it, but the trailer shows off dark moments more reminiscent of Limbo. There’s a Zelda vibe there as well as the old-school glory of Shiny games like Wild 9, but Hob just sort of stands off by itself as a game that isn’t easily classified.
Already it’s being compared to Journey, and that’s high praise. There’s a loneliness to the footage that’s been seen so far that mimics Journey, and the idea of a collapsing world that only you can repair seems both desperate and exciting. Visually the game is a marvel. Let’s hope it lives up to how it looks.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.