If the video game medium were to be judged solely by 2013, it'd be easy to come to the conclusion that the industry has run out of ideas. With reboots, prequels and sequels ruling the console market, it became patently clear over the past 12 months that publishers were relying on safe, established money makers to ride out the lull before new consoles arrived.
However, now that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are here, it's a different, er, game. Most of the highly anticipated games coming over the next 12 months are entirely new, with a few exceptions. Here are our 10 most-anticipated games of 2014.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Release date: Third quarter.
Developer BioWare has earned its place on any "most-anticipated" list simply through its sheer track record. Whether it's the Edmonton-based studio's Dungeons & Dragons or Star Wars-themed releases or its own mega-successful Mass Effect franchise, Bioware is renowned for its mastery of the role-playing genre. Its previous two Dragon Age games were generally well-received, yet Inquisition will be arriving in a post Skyrim-world. That 2011 open-world game forever raised the bar on fantasy RPGs. If there's any studio that can top Bethesda's masterpiece, it's BioWare.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Release date: April 4 (PC, Mac), June (PlayStation 4, Xbox One).
Speaking of Skyrim, its world is about to go massively online with publisher Bethesda's upcoming follow-up. Taking a page from World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls Online will be a stark change of direction for the series in that it will live primarily online, with participants paying a monthly fee of $14.99 to partake in giant, multiplayer quests. It's a big departure from the solo adventures of past games and something of a gamble for its creators, but if it's as good as Skyrim, it's sure to be a big hit. (Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios)
The Walking Dead Season 2
Release date: First chapter arrived Dec. 17, remainder TBD
After taking home many "game-of-the-year" accolades for its character– and story-driven interpretation of the zombie comic book/TV show in 2012, Telltale Games is coming back for more with The Walking Dead Season 2. Just like the first season, the game will be made available in episodic parts, the first downloadable chapter arrived before Christmas, the rest will spool out in the first half of 2014. The upcoming year will be a big one for the studio, with episodic games based on A Game of Thrones and the Borderlands shooter franchise both in the works. (Developer: Telltale Games)
The Evil Within
Release date: 2014
Let's face it: Resident Evil succumbed to predictable cartoonishness a while back and therefore hasn't been scary in some time. But the game's original creator, Shinji Mikami, is bringing the horror back in 2014 with The Evil Within. An early demo of the game at this past summer's Electronic Entertainment Expo, where an injured and helpless detective Sebastian Castellanos had to escape a dangerous psychopath in a hellish charnel house, left attendees shaken. It just may be the game to revive the survival-horror genre. (Developer: Tango Gameworks)
Release date: Sept. 9
Speaking of genres that need a refresh, Activision is hoping that Halo creator Bungie can breathe new life into first-person shooters with its upcoming sci-fi space opera Destiny. Combining FPS elements with those of a massively multiplayer online game, Destiny looks to take shooters beyond the narrowly defined linear traps that many fall into. The real question is: Will Bungie's new game be different enough from the Halo franchise it established? (Developer: Bungie)
Release date: 2014 (presumably)
Toronto-based Capybara made waves in 2011 with its quirky iPad adventure Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, and then again at this past E3 when Microsoft executives put a spotlight on its next game, Below. Billed as an atmospheric exploration experience where, if your character dies he's dead for good, Below is as different-looking a game as there is. It could be a welcome change from all the big-budget mega-blockbuster shooters that emphasize graphics and spectacle over atmosphere and character. (Developer: Capybara Games)
Tom Clancy's The Division
Release date: Fourth quarter
The United States has suffered catastrophic collapse after the spread of an uncontrollable disease, leaving a group of government sleeper agents – codenamed "the Division" – to come in and save what remains. Their job: to save survivors and combat gangs and other rogue elements. It's an intriguing premise with tremendously ambitious gameplay that seeks to combine role-playing and third-person tactical shooters with massive online multiplayer. If developer Ubisoft Massive can pull it off, it will add another big franchise to Ubisoft's already impressive stable.
Release date: Second quarter
Speaking of that stable, Ubisoft was supposed to have another entry by now with Watch_Dogs, an open-world thriller that lets players hack into the central operating system of a city – with all the ensuing carnage that promises. The game was delayed until next year, however, to give the developers in Montreal more time to hone the interconnected action, which will spill out not just into online multiplayer but also onto tablets and smartphones. While many games have tacked on the so-called second screen for ancillary purposes, Watch_Dogs could very well be the first to make mobile devices a vital part of the game. (Developer: Ubisoft Montreal)
Release date: Early 2014
Jonathan Blow is something of an indie icon, with his puzzle platformer Braid receiving critical raves upon its release in 2008. All eyes are now on his follow-up, a three-dimensional puzzle game that evokes memories of the classic Myst. In early glimpses, The Witness looks beautiful, but its real appeal will stem from what Blow hopes is the subtle ways in which it will make players think. Players won't just have to solve visual puzzles, they'll have to figure out the story too from audio logs scattered around the game's deserted island locale. As an effort at tought-provoking gameplay, The Witness will surely be one of the year's most ambitious releases. (Developer: Number None)
Release date: Mar. 11
Thought-provoking puzzles and deep character development are one thing, but for pure action there's no game more anticipated than Titanfall. Coming from the individuals originally responsible for Call of Duty's huge success, the first-person shooter will pit players on huge battlefields as both individual infantry and as pilots of gigantic and fearsome mechs robots. As an exclusive for the Xbox One, the game has the potential to tilt the next-generation console battle in Microsoft's favour early – if it lives up to its hype, that is. (Developer: Respawn Entertainment)