Bit.Trip Flux [WiiWare]
Commander Video returns for one last go in the final installment in the Bit.Trip series of downloadable, retro-styled rhythm games.
While hardcore first-person shooters are commonplace on most platforms, they are rare on the more family-friendly Wii, which made 2009's The Conduit an ambitious -- if flawed -- anomaly. With more resources devoted to game development this time around, Sega's Conduit 2 promises a much-improved final product, and early previews seem to bear that out. The sequel will offer even more online multiplayer modes than the first game, including four-player split-screen and a new co-op mode. The real question will be what kind of demand actually exists for this type of game on the Wii.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
The first Zelda game developed exclusively for the Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the 16th game in the classic Nintendo series. Even though the last game, Twilight Princess, utilized motion controls, the new game is built for more accuracy using the Wii MotionPlus controller. In terms of timeline, the game is a prequel to Nintendo 64 classic Ocarina of Time and has Link traveling back and forth between two worlds using the titular sword. The disappointing demo at E3 was -- we hope -- shown prematurely, but Nintendo hasn’t really put out a bad Zelda game, and we can't imagine this being the first.
Mario Sports Mix
Like previous Mario Sports titles, Mix offers simplified, arcade-style sports action mixed with a bit of party-game fun and your favorite Nintendo characters. But while previous games focused on single sports like golf or tennis, this new title, like a Wii Sports before it, offers a choice of activities: dodgeball, basketball, volleyball, and hockey. In addition to local multiplayer (for up to four people), Mix will offer online multiplayer, allowing two people on one console to compete with another pair (either your friends, or random strangers) online.
An action-RPG spin-off of the 2008 game Spore (though without the involvement of that game's creator, Will Wright), Darkspore has been described to (and by) the gaming press as "Spore meets Diablo," hoping to take the original game's robust creature creation tools and use them in a setting that provides more hardcore action. Indeed, the character editor will be completely separate from the actual game, which has a storyline about evil interstellar mutants that must be stopped by your team of three creatures, and features single-player and multi-player (competitive and cooperative) modes.
Speaking of Diablo, it has been over a decade since we last got a new title in Blizzard's dark fantasy series, but a new installment could finally arrive late this year (though a 2011 release is far from guaranteed). Diablo III will take place a generation after the events of the previous game, though at least one character (Deckard Cain, now joined by his daughter) will return. Your own player, meanwhile, will have a team of artisans -- a blacksmith, a mystic, and a jeweler -- to help you on your journey ... provided that you help them first.
Guild Wars 2
A fantasy MMORPG that aims to improve on the original Guild Wars series in every conceivable way, GW2 will, at the very least, boast far superior graphics, thanks to a new 3D graphics engine. The new game will take place 250 years after the original -- in a time where five sleeping dragons have awoken and changed the world -- and will feature a massive persistent world, including many playable underwater regions.
Up to four players can join in the thieving action in this top-down stealth heist game from indie developer Pocketwatch Games. Monaco was a major crowd-pleaser at the 2010 Independent Games Festival, where it picked up two awards, and the game has received a graphical upgrade since then as it awaits an official release in 2011.
The Sims Medieval
Despite what you might think from the title, Medieval is not another expansion pack for The Sims, but a brand-new game -- though the "Medieval" portion of the title is accurate, as it is set during the Middle Ages, where you'll shape the development of a kingdom. Unlike other Sims games, this one will offer quest-driven gameplay, and you won't have quite as many customization options for your structures. Everyone still speaks Simlish, though.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Take one of the legendary franchises in any form of media, combine it with the game-developing prowess of BioWare (Mass Effect, Dragon Age), and you have what could be one of the top games of the year, though, since it's a Star Wars game, we know not to let our expectations get out of hand. Still, a MMORPG set in the Star Wars universe, filled with space and ground combat between the dueling Republic and Sith factions, and dozens of planets from Tatooine to Alderaan ... well, our midichlorian count is rising. (And no, we did not just actually say that.) Did we mention that every player gets their own personal spaceship?
Multiplayer -- in the form of online co-op -- finally comes to the Torchlight series in this sequel to 2009's Torchlight, described by many gamers as a mere Diablo clone. And this second action-RPG installment features the same basic premise of the first game; you'll spend most of your time exploring plenty of random dungeons. But the new, much longer, campaign will also be feature overland areas with day/night cycles and weather effects.
Total War: Shogun 2
The strategy powerhouse is back with a return to its roots: the first Total War release set in the 16th-century Japan setting of the original Shogun: Total War since that game first arrived in 2000. With computer-controlled forces guided by the principles of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, and a game engine that can now support up to 56,000 soldiers in a single battle, it sounds like you're in for quite a challenge.
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II: Retribution
Retribution, like Chaos Rising before it, is a stand-alone expansion for strategy-RPG Dawn of War II. In addition to a new playable race -- the Imperial Guard -- the new title will offer a campaign for each pre-existing race. And a switch to the Steamworks platform for multiplayer should reduce some of the complaints about the previous expansion.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The 2007 RPG The Witcher was a fan favorite for its sharp writing and complex storyline, and this sequel aims to build on the strengths of the first while both looking better and playing better. As in the first game, the actions you take have major consequences. The story will change to fit the decisions that you make -- for example, you can choose a life of violence or attempt to get through the game with fighting kept to a minimum -- so much so that there are rumored to be 16 different possible endings. And those long loading times? A thing of the past.