In December, the gaming industry is usually quieter than Santa’s social life. Sure, it’s the busiest time of year for sales, but we don’t see many new games released. It’s usually too late to grab any momentum now.
Still, that doesn’t mean the landscape is completely barren. Hidden under the snowfall of big-budget releases are some potential gems, waiting to trip up Santa’s sled.
The most interesting release is probably Boneworks (December 5, PC), which appears to be the most impressive first-person shooter in virtual reality to date. While we’ve only seen videos — and the real test of VR is always in the experience itself— Boneworks looks very well designed, with an emphasis on real-world actions and physics for first-person combat.
Everything from axes to rifles need to be handled with the correct precision and skill to execute action properly.
Meanwhile, console fans are more likely to ‘dig’ Shovel Knight King of Cards and Showdown (December 10, Multi-platform), the final expansions to the blockbuster platform game first kick-started over 5 years ago. King of Cards put players in control of King Knight, allowing you to play through the game in an entirely different way, while Showdown is a separate multi-player beat-em-up expansion.
Let’s call a spade a spade — Shovel Knight is awesome. Between Boneworks, shovels and our next title, perhaps Halloween would have been a better release window for these games.
Skellboy (December 3, PC, Switch) is a light-hearted (well, no-hearted) action RPG starring a cute little skeleton hacking and slashing his way to heroism. The selling point seems to be cartoonish graphics and Skellboy’s ability to change his appearance and abilities.
Ok, so these games are definitely looking for October, not Christmas. Vampire The Masquerade: Coteries of New York (December 4, PC, Mac) should be a recognisable series to fans of both video games and table-top gaming. The table-top series has a great pedigree, while Bloodlines, the video game spinoff, is considered a classic too.
However, Coteries of New York keeps things low-budget by being a text-based adventure that relies on writing alone for tension. You can choose between three characters, with multiple endings and outcomes.
Finally, our personal favourite pre-Christmas treat is likely to be Wattam (December 17, PS4). From the creator of Katamari Damacy, this looks like a similarly absurd but heart-warming puzzle game full of odd characters and colourful environments.
It’s hard to gauge much from the weird gameplay videos we’ve seen, but it looks like Wattam is all about connecting characters who belong together and making people happy. Which is exactly what December should be all about.
Meanwhile, even YouTube has exercised the seasonal spirit, by announcing that violent video game content would no longer be automatically restricted on the platform. Previously, such content was limited and users accessing on restricted versions of YouTube (like at schools) would not be able to see it.
This meant channels on everything from Call of Duty to God of War might have been hidden to certain users.
“We know there’s a difference between real-world violence and scripted or simulated violence — such as what you see in movies, TV shows, or videos games — so we want to make sure we’re enforcing our violent or graphic content policies consistently,” a company post stated.
This effectively means that gaming content may not be age-restricted and YouTube is being more judicious about what constitutes violent content or otherwise, which is good news. They were careful to state that real-world violence would still be policed carefully.
Finally, we may not get snow this Christmas, but we’ll always have Blizzard. Despite their recent PR problems, the US company is still responsible for some of the most popular games around, including the ever-compelling Overwatch. Thankfully, we have Overwatch 2 to anticipate for, erm, Christmas 2021?
While we have no release date for the sequel yet, we do know that Overwatch 2 will have a complete story mode, PVE scenarios for co-operative play and that the maps will be two times larger than those in the original. Blizzard also stated that players from both Overwatch and its sequel will form the same playerbase, so there will be crossover of play.