The months leading up to the holidays are always spilling over with game releases, and this year’s no different. To aid in your game-buying decisions, here’s a short list of high-profile or highly anticipated fantasy games being released in the next two months.
Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Sep. 21 PC) — The latest installment in the Civilization series is one of the year’s most anticipated PC game releases. In the single-player and multiplayer game, “players strive to become Ruler of the World by establishing and leading a civilization from the dawn of man into the space age, waging war, conducting diplomacy, discovering new technologies, going head-to-head with some of history’s greatest leaders and building the most powerful empire the world has ever known.”
While the graphics and some gameplay features have been improved, Civilization V doesn’t appear to be significantly different from Civilization IV. That’s not necessarily bad, if you like the series as-is. You can check it out for yourself by downloading the demo, which will be released on the same day as the game.
Final Fantasy XIV Online (Sep. 30 PC, PS3 next March) — Judging by the rush of people who overloaded the open beta two weeks ago, a lot of people are looking forward to this MMO RPG. The latest iteration of the Japanese fantasy series uses a skill-based progression system similar to FF II, balances group and solo play, and develops your character partly by the weapons you use.
Unfortunately, the user interface is clumsy to the point of frustration at times. Whether that’s enough to deter Final Fantasy fans remains to be seen.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Oct. 5 Xbox/PS3) — This series reboot is an action adventure game in a fantasy setting in Southern Europe during the Middle Ages, with 50 levels of combat, platforming and puzzles.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow appears more similar to Darksiders and Gods of War than to the recently released Castlevania arcade game. That’s great for gamers who prefer more immersive gameplay, but not so great for a game trying to stand out in a crowd.
Arcania Gothic 4 (Oct. 12 Xbox/PS3/PC) — This fantasy action game features 30 to 50 hours of gameplay as a nameless shepherd-turned-swordsman, archer or wizard trying to avenge the death of your family and friends by the evil king.
Arcania Gothic fans will be happy to discover the technical difficulties that plagued the game’s third installment appear to have been overcome, and the game should attract new players now that it will finally be available on consoles, as well (previous Arcania games have only been available on PC).
Fable III (Oct. 26 Xbox) — In the latest game in this open-world fantasy franchise, you return to Albion as the brother or sister of an evil king, and must convince villages to support your stand against him by completing many, many tasks. With an interesting if not exactly original story, an improved user interface, better-looking characters, and even better-looking graphics, Fable fans of the series will find much to like in this game.
The game will also be released on PC sometime in Q4. For more details, read my gameplay preview.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Oct. 26 Xbox/PS3/Wii/PC) — The sequel takes place six months after the events of the first game, and once again follows the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice Starkiller as he searches for his love interest from the first game, Juno, and seeks to understand his identity after his betrayal by Vader.
The gameplay has been improved, but otherwise there doesn’t appear to be many major differences between Unleashed I and II.
Disney Epic Mickey (Nov. 1 Wii) — Battle enemies and the environment with paint and paint-thinner in this creative RPG platform game that emphasizes the mischievous side of the famous mouse.
But don’t let the Disney name fool you — with a solid user interface, and a morality system similar to the Mass Effect games, Epic Mickey is likely to be popular with kids of all ages.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Nov. 16 Xbox/PS3/PC) — The next installment in the excellent open-world action-adventure series set in Renaissance Italy picks up where the previous game left off, as Ezio goes to Rome to build an Assassin’s Guild to fight the Templars. While there are several gameplay improvements, the ability to recruit, train and equip assassins (including female ones!) is probably the game’s biggest change.
The multiplayer beta opens up on Oct. 4 to select PS3 gamers.
If you’re looking for even more games to play, check out these upcoming sci-fi/fantasy-esque games: Halo: Reach (Sep. 14 Xbox), Dead Rising 2 (Sep. 28 Xbox), Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Oct. 5 Xbox/PS3) and Vanquish (Oct. 19 Xbox/PS3).
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