Sony Interactive Entertainment
February isn’t traditionally a month filled with week after week of must-play releases. Yet, here we are, with the shortest month of the year quickly approaching, and we have just that: A Ninja Gaiden successor, another ambitious online game from Ubisoft, a much-anticipated sequel, the most sought-after new IP of the year, and more are in store for the last full month of winter. You just might have a great new game to play every week as you wait for the snow to melt away.
Nioh (February 7)
If a spiritual successor to the Ninja Gaiden series laced with the atmospheric tension of the Dark Souls franchise sounds good, Team Ninja’s latest game, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, is probably a perfect fit.
Set in 1600s Japan, you play as a samurai named William, tasked to navigate your way through this dark and dreary fantasy world. Missions are self-contained, so anyone looking specifically for an open-world action-adventure beware. The combat very much relies on Team Ninja’s forte: hack-and-slash, with the goal of building up chains and combos. Unlikely to be for the faint of heart, expect a level of difficulty similar to the Dark Souls franchise, but not in the same manner. The faster you move, the more buttons you press with precision, the more likely you are to stay alive. Fluid strings of attacks rack up skill points which can be used to upgrade William’s abilities.
Players who partook and completed the “Last Chance” timed demo from January 21-22 can transfer their rewards to the full game upon release. For the rest of us, flex those finger muscles; you’ll have to be on your game to become a samurai master.
For Honor (February 14)
Last year, Ubisoft released a third-person shooter with MMO-style features called The Division. It became the fastest selling IP of all time, outpacing even Overwatch. The Division, for all its flaws, was the third best-selling game of 2016. Soon, Ubisoft will release another online-centric game of a very different variety to carry the torch that The Division lit.
Dropped into a medieval fantasy setting, your job is to learn the art of sword fighting. You can choose between three character classes — knights, samurai, or vikings. Even though the game is always online, there will be a single player campaign. The nefarious and tactical Apollyon sees all three classes of warriors as weak. To toughen them up, he deceives each faction to kick-off an era of perpetual warfare between one another.
Like Nioh, hack-and-slash combat is the focal point, but For Honor promises to revolutionize the genre into something entirely new with “The Art of Battle” system. In a recent interview with US Gamer, creative director Jason Vandenberghe said, “Once you’ve mastered one genre, you can move from game to game to game, and now you’re just picking up variations of the same thing. Well, this is a new genre, so go easy on yourself.” Much of your time will be spent in tactical duels which utilize “The Art of the Battle.” The multiplayer mode will take traditional shooter game variants like deathmatch and skirmish, and replace the guns with swords.
Halo Wars 2 (February 21)
The long-awaited sequel to Halo Wars is almost here. Halo first transitioned from first-person shooter to real-time strategy back in 2009, and while the original served as a prequel of sorts for Halo: Combat Evolved, this time players will command troops in the year 2559, closely following the events of Halo 5: Guardians.
The Covenant have fallen, but before their demise, the enemy force splintered, and a new group known as the Banished rose to power under the radar. Your job is to eliminate the Banished who are led by a Brute warlord named called Atriox. Even though the game takes place 28 years after the events of Halo Wars, the “Spirit of Fire” is back in your control.
The game will take place on the Ark–that place with the rings that gave the Halo franchise its name. The RTS formula that worked so well in the first returns with some new twists. Action-oriented combat will be mixed in with the traditional tactical gameplay, adding a new wrinkle into the Halo franchise. For multiplayer, you can play against friends in five game modes: Skirmish, Strongholds, Domination, Deathmatch, and the brand new mode called Blitz. Blitz merges Hearthstone-esque card-battling with strategic warfare. The game will join the Xbox Play Anywhere program — buy one copy to play on both Xbox One and PC.
Horizon Zero Dawn (February 28)
Perhaps the most anticipated game of the year, and also one that nearly everyone expects to be nothing less than great, the game focuses on seeing beauty in a world that is overrun by danger. Ever since Killzone Shadow Fall was released in 2013, everyone at Guerrilla Games has been all-in on this PlayStation 4 exclusive. A drastic shift for a studio that has made first-person-shooters for over a decade, this promises to be a vast and sprawling open-world adventure.
You play as Aloy, a tribal huntress in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by robots that are simply called Machines. In order to survive, Aloy must use her hunting skills to take down enemy Machines and loot precious metal and electricity from the remaining scraps. You must craft materials and weapons if you wish to see the next sunrise. A dynamic combat system will make players use ranged weapons, close-range weapons and hand-to-hand combat alike, as well as sneak attacks.
It looks to be one of the prettiest games on the PlayStation 4 to date, which will also apparently feature no load screens to interrupt exploring its large world. Both Guerrilla Games and Sony have been close-lipped about the much of what to expect in the game, but we do know that the game will be non-linear, and that interactions with NPCs will feature a dialogue wheel for player choice.
Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World (February 3)
The 2015 Wii U title Yoshi’s Woolly World combined Yoshi’s Island gameplay with the visuals of Kirby’s Epic Yarn to create a satisfying platforming experience for the whole family.
Now, Yoshi’s sidekick from the Wii U version has wiggled his way into the name of the 3DS port, and somehow managed to lead as well. All of the stages from the Wii U version have returned, in addition to exclusive Poochy stages that take advantage of his expert sniffing skills to uncover secrets. Poochy’s nose will help you rack up collectibles that will translate into extra stages, and he even has “Poochy pups,” which are used like Yoshi’s yarn balls as projectiles. You can also design your own playable Yarn Yoshi. The 3DS version also includes 30 stop-motion clips centered around Yoshi and Poochy’s friendship. Plus, you also have the chance to snag an adorable Poochy plush Amiibo with the game. This is your chance to give your 3DS some love ahead of the Nintendo Switch launch!
Lego Worlds (February 24)
More than a few people likened the release of Minecraft to “Legos, but in a video game.” Sure, Minecraft turned out to be an entirely different thing in its own right, building itself a permanent spot in video game history in startlingly fast construction time, but now the Lego brand will finally allow you to fulfill your brick-building destiny without the threat of stepping on stray pieces in the middle of the night.
You can build anything your heart desires, but collecting objects across the world fuels your projects when exchanged for studs, the traditional in-game currency for the Lego video games. The sandbox video game has been part of Steam’s early access program since June 2015, but it is only now arriving for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for its full retail release. It will also come later to Nintendo Switch.
Night in the Woods (February 21)
This Kickstarter-funded game developed by the three-person Infinite Fall has been in the works for over three years. After multiple delays (understandable, given the small development team) we are close to stepping into the paws of Mae, an anthropomorphic, college-dropout cat. Mae returns home to Possum Springs, but like a lot of homecoming stories, the home she remembers isn’t there anymore.
This 2D sidescroller features traditional platforming gameplay, but the game is decidedly narrative-based. Possum Springs is filled with all sorts of talking animals to assist Mae on her adventure. The narrative changes from player choice, allowing players to experience the journey multiple times. But just because this is a game about talking animals, don’t expect a jolly story. With themes centered around mental illness, depression, and classism, Mae’s journey is meant to make you think and reflect. You can claw your way into Possum Springs on PS4 and PC.
Torment: Tides of Numenera (February 28)
Dubbed a spiritual successor to RPG classic Planescape: Torment, like Night in the Woods, it was funded through Kickstarter to the whopping sum of $4 million. Unfortunately, backers have had to wait much longer than expected, as the game was originally slated for release at the end of 2014.
With a 2.5D isometric perspective, and a Dungeon & Dragons-inspired tabletop ruleset implemented within the gameplay, this role-playing game may only appeal to a niche segment of gamers, but it looks to offer an experience rarely seen in modern game.
Taking place on a future Earth that has fallen to the point of regressing back to medieval times, you play as the Last Castoff, a man who has managed to achieve immortality by shedding his mortal skin and transporting his consciousness to new vessels. The only problem with immorality is that each one of his “cast offs” became a living entity of their own, which has attracted the attention of The Sorrow, a force that wants to take him down for good. Three customizable character classes are available: wizard, rogue, and warrior. The game will feature heavy dialogue and character choice that will shape the way your hero is perceived by others. The throwback RPG has been in Steam’s early access program for PC since January 2016, while the official release will also include PS4 and Xbox One versions.