The Biggest Games of 2023 – Part Five

Assassin’s Creed Mirage

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Bordeaux
Release Date: TBD 2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4 PC

With Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the long-running Ubisoft series is going back to its roots. Rather than delivering another sprawling action RPG in the vein of Origins, Odyssey, or Valhalla, Mirage will return to the stealth-action focus and dense urban settings that defined the earliest Assassin’s Creed games. Playing as Basim Ibn Is’haq, a character who made his debut in Valhalla, players will explore the streets and rooftops of 9th century Baghdad, taking him on a journey from common street thief to full-fledged member of the Hidden Ones (the precursor to the Assassin Brotherhood, if you’re not up on the lore). Expect an old-school emphasis on climbing, parkour, and assassination contracts, but infused with some of the modern polish and expanded toolkit of more recent games in the series.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: FromSoftware
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: TBD 2023

In recent years, Dark Souls developer FromSoftware has risen to fame thanks to its now trademark take on challenging yet satisfying action RPGs. For its next major release, however, the studio is looking not toward its present or future, but instead to its past. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon revives a series first started in 1997, where knights, dragons, and magical societies made way for giant robots, armored vehicles, and corporations. While we don’t know too much yet on how From will bring its longest-running franchise into the modern era, we do know that Masaru Yamamura (a central figure in the development of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice) will be director on the project—and that it absolutely will not just be “Dark Souls with mecha.”

Wild Hearts

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Koei Tecmo, Omega Force
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, PC
Release Date: 02.16.23

EA and Koei Tecmo have teamed up to create a new beast in the hunting genre. In Wild Hearts, players will travel to Azuma, a fantastical land inspired by ancient Japan, where they will take on giant monsters named Kemono. These once docile creatures who “wield the power of nature itself” are on a rampage, and as a hunter, you’re the only one who can stop them. Fortunately, you have access to Karakuri technology—ancient tools that let you shape the battlefield to give you an advantage—as well as weapons like swords, bows, and more. The more you hunt, the more resources you earn that let you upgrade your armor and arsenal. Fans of Capcom’s Monster Hunter series should take note.

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: 03.03.2023
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty isn’t Team Ninja’s first attempt at a Dark Souls-inspired action-RPG. The studio previously delivered the well-received Nioh and Nioh 2, which makes its third attempt all the more exciting. The game is set in China during the Three Kingdoms era, albeit with a dark fantasy twist. (We’re not history experts, but we don’t think 3rd century China was actually terrorized by a 50-foot boar.) Though Wo Long features many familiar Soulslike elements, the combat actually looks to be taking a page from another FromSoftware game, Sekiro, with an emphasis on fast-paced melee combat and staying aggressive. Players can build up their “spirit gauge” (and lower enemies’) by attacking and deflecting incoming blows, but playing defensively instead will lower your meter. Keep up the pressure, and you can spend your spirit energy on more powerful attacks. It’s a twist to the subgenre’s combat that has us intrigued.

Octopath Traveler II

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: PS5, Switch, PS4, PC
Release Date: 02.24.23

The game that ushered in Square Enix’s “HD-2D” era is back with a sequel that’s just a straight upgrade over the original. Not only does Octopath Traveler II boast more detailed environments and character sprites in its iconic art style, but it also introduces a ton of gameplay enhancements, such as a day-night cycle that changes what actions your characters can take while exploring. The eight new heroes that band together to explore the world of Solistia will also have more interactions with one another throughout the course of the game, making the story feel like a coherent whole instead of eight vignettes. Thankfully, not everything is changing: Octopath Traveler II maintains its standout “Break and Boost” battle system that made the first game so addictive.

Forza Motorsport

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: TBD 2023

The Forza Motorsport series has long been known for its cutting-edge visuals and gameplay, but the next, unnumbered entry has the power of the Xbox Series console behind it. Dynamic time of day, ray tracing, and enhanced rendering technology combine with photogrammetry and 3D scans to bring immersive environments to life. It’s not just about looks, however. What time of day you race actually determines the ambient temperature, affecting road surface conditions along with the game’s weather system. Add to that a physics simulation that’s seen a “48 times improvement in fidelity” and you have racing gameplay that never feels repetitive. Dropping the “8” signifies a soft reboot, and from everything we’ve seen, the new Forza Motorsport looks like a true evolution in virtual racing.

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