It’s been an interesting year for digital games.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds became the most played PC game on the digital distribution platform Steam, with its battle-royale, scavenge and survive 100 player gameplay shaking up the first-person shooter genre.
And the cathartic nazi-Killing of Wolfenstein II was particularly timely, given the recent resurgence of white supremacy in the political sphere.
Gaming also proved hugely popular with Amazon Australia customers in the first week after its launch on December 5, accounting for six of the the top 10 purchases.
So what are the biggest releases of 2018 shaping up to be?
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Off the back of the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite seeks to combine location-based play, augmented reality and our pining nostalgia for the Harry Potter universe into another global game.
It’s likely to recreate the same viral, flavour-of-the-week success as Pokemon Go, with players eager to see what changes in gameplay augmented reality platform Niantic has introduced in its bid to convert fleeting players into lifelong fans.
Red Dead Redemption 2
The prequel to 2010’s Red Dead Redemption will almost certainly be one of the largest games of 2018, with a marketing budget likely to rival a Marvel Movie.
The first RDR combined the cinematic experience of the Western movie genre with a rich, immersive and dynamic environment, and was celebrated as having one of the best single player campaign stories of all time.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s stunning trailer hints at how the game has stayed close to the rich world of the 2010 title, so players should expect something reassuringly familiar.
Don’t pre-order it yet though, as maker Rockstar Games has been widely criticised for the focus on micro-transactions in its Grand Theft Auto series, and a transition to a “games as a service” business model. It’s possible that the focus of RDR2 will be the same kind of aggressively profitable online multiplayer model, and not the immersive story and world building that RDR is celebrated for.
Far Cry 5
The latest instalment in the celebrated first-person, open world Far Cry series takes the game away from remote islands or African savannah to the apparently far more dangerous rural America.
Far Cry 5 is also the first in the series to allow players to create their own character. You can choose the gender and race of your avatar, and the entire campaign can be played in cooperative play.
All the games in the Far Cry series have been extremely well reviewed, and it’s likely this fifth instalment will continue to propel the open world, role-play genre forward.
Mount and Blade: Bannerlord
From the tiny Turkish developer TaleWorlds, the Mount and Blade series combines one of the best medieval combat simulators with open world role-play. Players start alone, but via quests, trade, battles and political strategy, they can eventually command huge armies from horseback.
Despite not releasing a new title since 2011, Mount and Blade has built up a huge fan base thanks to the game’s active “modding” community, who build new functions not originally included in the game. Unusually, TaleWorlds even worked with one modding team to release Mount and Blade: Viking Conquest as a paid “mod” (short for modification).
Bannerlord is the newest game in the series. It promises updated graphics, an expanded siege mode and more missions in the game’s story mode, where players can aspire to ascend to the throne of one of the game’s major kingdoms.
Don’t pre-order it yet though, TaleWorlds still has not confirmed the release date for the game (originally expected in 2017) and the small studio has shared very few details about it.
The Last of Us Part 2
The Last of Us was released in 2013 to nearly universal critical acclaim. The post-apocalyptic survival game was praised for basically everything – its story, characters, combat, immersive world and aesthetic.
The 2018 sequel is hotly anticipated.
Although very little is known about the game so far, The Last of Us Part 2 sees the return of an adult Ellie, who the player protected as a child in the first game. The teaser trailer hints that the new game has retained the same graphic – and controversial – depictions of violence as the original.
The Last Of Us was unusually effective at balancing the violence alongside a deep – but criticised – story of relationships and companionship. If you haven’t played the earlier title, it definitely stands up against many more recent releases.