We continue our journey through the most anticipated games of 2023 (with the possibility of moving to 2024, but in the meantime we keep our fingers crossed). After listing adventures and RPGs in previous articles, now it’s time to turn up the speed a little more and focus on those titles where combat takes center stage. If you like to shoot, swing a sword, or punch around (virtually, of course), here’s a selection of more or less famous names that should be on your radar. There’s a bit of everything, and some with a lot of potential.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon
After more than a decade in hibernation, From Software has decided to give another chance to what was once its most prolific saga. This return after the explosion in popularity of the Souls, however, does not imply that the game is now approached as a kind of Elden Ring with mechas: the studio has already assured that Fires of Rubicon will be a pure Armored Core, with almost infinite possibilities to customize our mecha and short missions to complete successfully... or fail and return to the workshop. Because long before the appearance of Demon's Souls, Armored Core already stood out for its demanding nature.
In keeping with From Software, the creators of Lords of the Fallen (a fairly blatant copycat of Souls) and The Surge (a sci-fi twist on the formula that did find its own way better) also have a new game on the way. This time they will take us to a desert planet with corrupt gods, where we will face huge monsters and use the arena itself to improve mobility and combat. The cooperative multiplayer seems to be another of its new hallmarks, allowing to organize double battles; although, as in their previous games, in Atlas Fallen there will also be room for the single-player experience.
The "Russian BioShock", as many have decided to dub it for obvious reasons, will mix action with a retro-futuristic vision set in the Soviet Union of the 1950s. As in Irrational Games games, there will be a slight role-playing component, reminiscent of System Shock (the ancestor of that family), but Atomic Heart will be primarily a First Person Shooter with a varied arsenal of weapons, melee combat, and special abilities such as telekinesis or electric shocks, plus the inevitable hacking to spice up the development. Not to mention that Mick Gordon, composer of the latest DOOM, will be in charge of the soundtrack.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon
To the surprise of most (unless you discovered the hidden teaser in Bayonetta 3), during the last The Game Awards Platinum Games announced a new installment of the saga starring the most famous witch of hack and slash. Of course, Cereza and the Lost Demon does not have a four in the title, nor is it a straightforward action game, but a prequel spin-off with a fairytale theme, puzzles, and combat using the Cheshire demon. As in Bayonetta 3 -or Astral Chain before-, we will handle the two characters at the same time, each one with an analog.
Dark and Darker
A game that has successfully performed in public beta is Dark and Darker, a multiplayer proposal that mixes the dark medieval fantasy of loot games like Diablo but passes it through the first-person perspective to increase the immersion and accessibility of the combat. The design, the dangers and the riches to be found in the dungeons are procedurally generated, which, together with the variety of classes, the high difficulty level, and the cooperative experience, seem to guarantee its replayability. At the end of the year, we will see how it evolves between now and its final version.
Dead Island 2
After one of the most tumultuous developments in recent memory (with numerous delays and a couple of studio changes in between), Dead Island 2's release is finally just around the corner.
The concept, however, doesn't seem to have changed too much, neither since the first announcement, nor since the original game: a free exploration of a zombie-infested version of Los Angeles, dozens of weapons to wield, tons of gore, and also plenty of humor, both through its story and missions and organically, arising through its gameplay. The campaign will have role-playing elements and will offer a three-player co-op.
How about a dating simulator, for a change? You didn't read wrong, nor did we get the games mixed up. Eternights is a third-person action title set in an apocalyptic world with monsters. But that doesn't take away from the fact that young people still have to attend classes, or that puberty is still acting up on their hormones. This means that exploring dungeons, bonding, strengthening our skills, and finding love can go hand in hand. What a better way to break the ice than chatting about the possibility of imminent death?
Capcom fans were asking for the return of Dino Crisis, and Capcom said "Almost, but no". Exoprimal has dinosaurs, lots of them, but it's a multiplayer gaming experience where we can gather in groups of four players to fight hordes thanks to exo-armors with their own weapons and abilities. In short, it is a "Jurassic Left 4 Dead", but with the enhanced movement and combat features provided by these suits, as well as a competitive mode to face other players and try to achieve objectives. It's perhaps not what everyone wanted, but we'll see if it's something that many do enjoy.
Not a month has passed since its announcement and the new development from Supergiant Games (Bastion, Transistor) has already slipped into our top ten most anticipated games of 2023. The reason is simple, and it goes in the title: the first Hades was one of the best roguelikes we've ever played, so it's a situation where "more of the same" sounds like a tasty proposal. Of course, it doesn't detract from the fact that we also want some major novelties, although the change of protagonist (Melínoe, the princess of the Underworld), antagonist (Cronos, the titan of time), and the promise of a larger procedural world are a good start to grab our attention.
Its existence was known for a long, long time (almost a decade), but it wasn't until the last The Game Awards that both the title and the look of the first game from Ghost Story Games, the studio led by Ken Levine since the closure of Irrational Games, were finally revealed. And only the first part, the name, has been really surprising because at first glance Judas looks like we would expect from a new "BioShock". Although this time we won't be shooting, using plasmids, and discovering its intricate plot twists at the bottom of the sea, or in a city high up in the clouds, but in space.
Lies of P
And from a semi-official BioShock in space, to an unofficial Bloodborne reimagining the story of Pinocchio: Lies of P will not only feature a spooky Victorian setting and intense melee action but also Pinocchio himself as the protagonist and Gepetto as his creator. After all, as popular as the Disney animated adaptation became, the original story is actually older and more sinister, so the mix may not be as crazy as it sounds at first. Although something common to all versions will be that lying will have consequences. Both for the missions we accept and for the end of the game.
Like A Dragon: Ishin!
This Yakuza spin-off might not be an entirely new game. Released in 2014, it originally did not leave Japan, but it will now do so in the form of a remake, with better graphics and new content, as it has been built from scratch on another engine. The premise will remain the same: we will travel to Kyoto in 1867 and embody Sakamoto Ryoma, a key historical figure in the transition from Feudal to modern Japan. Of course, the fact that it is inspired by real events doesn't mean that Ishin won't stop offering crazy combats, or deny its presence to some of the characters of the installments set in the present day.
With so many games openly inspired by Dark Souls, or even Bloodborne (case in point Lies of P before), it's almost refreshing when a studio decides to specifically cite Sekiro as an influence. Indies like Hollow Knight and Katana Zero also serve as a shortcut to summarize what awaits us in Nine Sols: not only attack deflection as a key mechanic, but also demanding platforming, an interconnected world, and a setting resulting from merging Taoism and cyberpunk. It's an important change of register for the team (until now known for much more leisurely horror games), but it can't be said that they haven't presented something promising.
Arkane Austin, the studio behind one of the best immersive simulators on this side of System Shock 2 (Prey), is moving into open-world action focused on multiplayer. Redfall is an experience devised for four-player co-op, where players must collaborate as they traverse the eponymous city to free it from a vampire invasion using a fairly varied arsenal and some strategy. Since this is still an Arkane game, there will also be room for stealth, and even the option to play solo and enjoy the story while trying to wipe out all the bloodsuckers on our own.
A surprising return that awaits us this year will be Flashback, a franchise of cinematic shooters and platformers that will receive a sequel three decades after the original. But nowadays, when it comes to 2.5D action with retro-futuristic aesthetics, it's hard for our eyes not to be drawn to Replaced. Sad Cat Studios' first work will put us under the control of an artificial intelligence trapped in a human body, which will have to get used to its new form to fight and investigate. The game will have a strong narrative focus, although the studio also promises a fluid combat that will engage us beyond its obvious visual charms.
Skull and Bones
After long periods of silence and multiple delays (it was announced in 2017 with the intention of releasing in 2018), Ubisoft's naval battles game is finally about to be released. Built from the experience gathered by the company after implementing this kind of exploration and combat in several Assassin's Creed installments, Skull and Bones will draw from its dedication to the naval theme to offer more customization options, ship upgrades, crew management and an important online component (cooperative and competitive), although the company assures that it will also be possible to play solo.
Initially announced under the name Project Eve, this Korean hack-and-slash was soon compared to Bayonetta or NieR: Automata, and not only because of its female protagonist. Despite their inexperience with the genre or console games (their previous works were for cell phones), the trailers have caught the attention from the very first moment thanks to the agile combat, graphic quality, post-apocalyptic setting, and, why not to say it, the design of their heroine. Even Sony has jumped into the spotlight to publish it, which is why it will now be exclusive to PlayStation 5 on consoles.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
After a hiatus of several years, the developers of the celebrated Batman: Arkham trilogy return to the DC universe, but now from the other side: as the name suggests, this time we will embody the Suicide Squad on a mission to take down heroes like Superman, Flash or even Batman. The mood will be somewhat more humorous; and the members of the Squad (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark, and Captain Boomerang) will offer different skills either to play in multiplayer with four players or to function as AI-driven assistants if we want to play alone as in Rocksteady's previous titles.
The Plucky Squire
The Plucky Squire is one of those works that you have to see in motion to understand or almost even believe. Taking the form of an illustrated children's book, this peculiar adventure will alternate between exploration and combat from an aerial view, side-scrolling sections or mini-games of all kinds as we turn the pages and the scene changes again. The world portrayed in the book is not the only one that exists in the game, our protagonist will also be able to leave it to explore the rest of the room and even explore other drawings to try new types of mechanics.
Omega Force, the team responsible for Dynasty Warriors and other popular Musou titles such as those dedicated to licenses like Zelda, Fire Emblem, or Persona, will change its design philosophy to propose a game more in line with Monster Hunter. The project not only has the backing of Koei Tecmo, owner of the studio, but also of Electronic Arts, and does not seem to lack in ambition: in addition to combat against large and/or dangerous creatures (solo or multiplayer), Wild Hearts will also offer exploration of a vast world and an important component of previous experiences, with camps, materials gathering and crafting, including the setting up of traps to weaken our prey.
Do you remember The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, one of those narrative adventures that many nicknamed walking simulators? Well, The Astronauts must have taken it to heart, because their second game is a medieval fantasy FPS with magic and roguelike elements. Knowing their background, it's not really surprising, because former members of People Can Fly (Painkiller, Bulletstorm) are also part of the studio. So now it remains to be seen if Witchfire is able to offer intense and fun gameplay as the one that made those games classics among fans of old-school shooters.
Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
We close with another of our most anticipated games, and also one of the first major titles to arrive in 2023. After Nioh provided the successful reboot that Team Ninja needed after the questionable Ninja Gaiden 3, Wo Long will shake things up a bit by changing the Japanese mythology for the Chinese one. It will also explore more agile combat, with new mechanics and less dependence on loot, but without losing sight of the Souls elements that matched so well with its expertise in building the purest action.