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2008: On the Horizon
Information - posted by Elwro on Mon 14 January 2008, 19:16:40
With Mask of the Betrayer, Eschalon: Book One, Depths of Peril and The Witcher (among others), 2007 was a good year for cRPGs - especially if you consider the modest crop of decent titles offered in previous years and the fact that three of those games were prepared by new studios. Let's see what we can expect in 2008.
With its release date originally set to January, the Neverwinter Nights 2 adventure pack Mysteries of Westgate might be the first title to hit virtual store shelves this year, even if it falls prey to a small delay. Made by Ossian Studios (known for the Darkness over Daggerford NWN module) and featuring a story about the player’s character trying to get rid of a cursed mask, the adventure pack promises 15 hours of highly-replayable (“probably the most replayable D&D CRPG since Baldur’s Gate 2”, if you trust the devs) urban RPG adventure with a lot of freedom, conversation checks and difficult combat. There’s no official word of the second official expansion to NWN2, but my guess is that - with the looming release of DnD 4th Ed. - if it’s going to happen, it has to happen fast. There are some rumors of the expansion being set in Chult, which would open fascinating dinosaur-hunting opportunities. Purgatorio, a NWN2 mod by Rogue Dao studios (the first part of a planned trilogy of modules set in the Planescape setting) has transformed into a huge undertaking (as evidenced e.g. by this video), which – if successful – will permit us to return to pre-Faction War Sigil, something many of us RPG fans were dreaming of. All in all, we can count on a sizable portion of DnD 3.5 roleplaying goodness in 2008.
After more than a decade, we will have another game based on the German PnP RPG system "The Dark Eye" - now in real time, though. The title in question, Drakensang by Radon Labs, should be released sometime during the first quarter of 2008. Supposed to be a fantasy RPG "ala Baldur's Gate", it won't be a sequel to the original trilogy by Attic Entertainment - so I guess you may finally format the floppies with your endgame saves from Shadows over Riva.
As for The Witcher, it’s still not yet officially known whether it’ll get expanded or sequelized (and if any of that is going to take place in 2008). On the other hand, a team of former DLA members (creators of the Wyvern Crown of Cormyr NWN premium module), acting now as RoXidy Games, are cooking up something Witcher-related. We can also count on the game’s Djinni toolset being released to the public.
Turns out making a game in your own universe is very time consuming. Bioware has been working on Dragon Age for a few years now, and still the information concerning it is sparse. It is known that the game has been playable for a few months, but a 2008 release seems unlikely.
Similarly, Obsidian has been really silent about their Alien RPG, announced back in 2006. Many RPG fans anticipate the title simply because Chris Avellone of Planescape: Torment fame is its Lead Creative Designer. Josh Sawyer stated in April 2007 that the project was "many months" off - and even if he didn't say "years", we don't expect to be rushing to stores for it anytime soon; especially if Space Siege (also published by Sega) is coming this Fall.
It also doesn't seem probable that we'll see a PC Gothic game this year. Not much is known about the new Piranha Bytes title, save for a few wallpapers and a piece of music. And the fact that it's going to take place on a volcanic island. All that we can look forward to in 2008 is that Gothic 3 may get more patches – which may be a damn good thing if they manage to finally overhaul the combat system, as unlikely as it sounds, though.
Those of you who thought the penal colony in Gothic was OK but could be drastically improved by introducing lasers and forced gay sex should be thrilled to know that the English translation of Dungeon Cleaners is in the works. And the twisted Russians are already preparing a sequel.
This site seems to suggest that, well, Lucas Arts are cooperating with Bioware. Kotor 3? A new Star Wars MMO game? Perhaps 2008 will bring some answers. To complete the "big games" section - If you just couldn’t get enough of Two Worlds, its expansion (Two Worlds: Temptation) has been recently announced. Oh, and as I've said, Space Siege is coming Fall 2008, together with Fallout 3.
To turn to the indies, we’ve had a few updates from the Broken Hourglass devs, Planewalker Games, throughout the year. As of yet, no release date has been announced for this title, which is said to have an innovative magic system allowing the players to extensively customize their spells. Be sure to read our interview with the devs here.
Age of Decadence, the post-apocalyptic fantasy indie RPG, is slowly coming along. To get a feel of the turn-based combat, grab the recent Combat Video No. 2. The devs are now redoing all town districts, which will take a few months. Kudos to the devs for setting their bar high, even if we won't see the game anytime soon.
Eschalon: Book One, Basilisk Games' debut title, met with quite a favourable reception from oldschool RPG fans. Is the second part coming in 2008? We don’t know yet, but we do know that the game will stay solo and be even more stat-heavy. For those who’d prefer to play as a party, there’s only a mysterious “we've got other things in the works” from the devs. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Please implement the "run" option!
The German beta for Darghul (a remade and greatly expanded version of the game by Wolf Mittag, more recently known as the creator of Teudogar: The Alliance with Rome) is to be ready by late April. The German version of the game is to be released in 2008, with the English version to follow "a few weeks later".
Every year brings us a Spiderweb Software game or two and 2008 will be no exception. Avernum 5 for PC should be out somewhere around March, and we already know the series will have at least one more title. On the other hand, Geneforge 5 - developed throughout 2008 - will be the conclusion of its line. Here's to hoping Vogel will invent a fresh setting and bring us something really new in the future.
Some people think Temple of Elemental Evil had the best combat system ever to grace a fantasy game. No official editor was ever released, but this didn't stop the Co8 modding team from working on a module recreating the Keep on the Borderlands D&D module. The demo should be released by the end of January.
As for other indies - Scars of War, a fantasy RPG made by our forum member Naked Ninja with the Torque engine has been trudging along nicely (see e.g. the screenshots here), but its release is still way off as the project awaits a new website. New Dawn, a Polish PA project announced a long time ago, already has one, and the demo is expected in a few months. The devs of another Polish PA enterprise, Afterfall, are also working on a new tech demo (based on the Unigine engine) in search of a publisher. (Read our interview with the devs here.) All three titles have great lists of promised features, so we hope they fare well.
2007 sung the first timid notes of the cRPG Renaissance tune; if indies deliver what they promise and bigger companies don't fall far behind, in 2008 this tune might transform into a triumphant full-scale Mahlerian roar.