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Housemarque Is Jumping on a New “Bandwagon,” but What Could It Be?

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Housemarque Stormdivers

Last year, Resogun and Nex Machina developer Housemarque released a dramatic announcement that ‘Arcade is Dead’ and that, as a result, it would be moving away from the archetypal genre upon which it had built its formidable reputation. The first title to emerge from this shift in direction will be the Battle Royale-styled Stormdivers, but the team also recently revealed that it has a new project in the works.

The post was ambiguous in its description of this new effort, but nevertheless included a handful of clues:

  • Already signed to a publisher, the game will be a AAA effort,
  • It will be infused with arcade-inspired gameplay elements,
  • Housemarque may be considered to be getting on a new “bandwagon” with it.

That final point is, perhaps, the most telling of the three.

Housemarque

In the announcement, Housemarque CEO Ilari Kuittinen wrote that the team had received feedback to the effect that it was “’jumping on the battle royale bandwagon’” with Stormdivers.

While that statement may simply be made in reference to AAA development in general, Kuittinen’s reuse of the term “bandwagon” later in the post seems to suggests that its new, unannounced project likely adheres to another popular genre.

What form, then, might this game take?

Souls-Like

The so-called Souls-like genre may not be quite as healthy as it was a few years ago, but the formula continues to be a touchstone. The recently released Ashen from A44 is one example, while sequels to both Lords of the Fallen and The Surge are expected to arrive within the next few years.

Housemarque could carve out a comfortable niche in this space, as the difficulty often associated with the format stems, in part, from arcade sensibilities in the need to memorise level layouts and use pinpoint timing to overcome adversaries. Furthermore, in the lead-up to Alienation‘s 2016 release, Housemarque head of publishing Mikael Haveri said that the team drew inspiration from the Souls series.

Coupling Housemarque’s established expertise in these qualities with its signature penchant for lurid sci-fi worlds could result in a title that truly stands out from the crowd.

State of Decay 2

Open-World Survival

The open-world survival genre has exploded in recent years, and its popularity has been particularly prevalent among independent developers and medium-scale publishers.

The genre’s tendency towards gameplay bogged down by crafting and other time-consuming mechanics may be difficult to reconcile with Housemarque’s traditional dependence on high-octane action.

However, the team would be more than capable of putting a unique spin on the format by investing a world with a sense of immediacy rarely seen in games of this ilk.

The Walking Dead: The Final Season Release Date screenshot

Episodic Narrative

Following the fall of Telltale Games, one might be justified in thinking that the glory days of the serial narrative-based adventure have passed. In any case, production can take years, so, if such a title is on the cards, the seeds for it would have been planted long ago.

Of all the “bandwagons” booming in the industry, this one is perhaps the least amenable to adoption of arcade stylings. By their very nature, narrative-focused titles are sedate; nothing in them demands a player insert more coins—unless it be a choice that brings about the death of a protagonist.

Nevertheless, The Council showed how RPG mechanics could be folded into the format, and the designers at Housemarque, no doubt, would be able to put a new spin on an old genre, perhaps by raising the stakes higher and more regularly than most narrative adventures do.

Red Dead Redemption 2 forest gameplay

Open-World Adventure

Perhaps the safest approach of all would be one based on one of the most common and enduring archetypes of the current generation: the open-world adventure. The genre is vast and amorphous, encompassing everything from Assassin’s Creed: Origins to Red Dead Redemption 2 and Monster Hunter: World.

Given the broad remit of the genre, Housemarque could easily adapt its previous experience in twin-stick shooters and platformers for a fast-paced romp. The alpha gameplay for Stormdivers shows considerable promise, and adapting that style to a format that single players could enjoy may give even Vanquish a run for its money in terms of adrenaline-infused enjoyment.

Furthermore, the team’s previous games have included hidden side objectives, so Housemarque has some idea of how to build upon core gameplay loops in meaningful ways, ensuring rewarding side missions. No doubt the playground would augment the experience, as the team has almost perfected an industrial sci-fi aesthetic.

Shadow of the Colossus

Remake

As in the film industry, gaming remakes are in vogue at the moment. Shadow of the Colossus, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Oddworld: Soulstorm are just some of the projects bringing classic games to new life.

While Housemarque is unlikely to revisit any of its older titles, it could follow Bluepoint Games in revising and updating a beloved game from another developer. The possibilities are myriad, and THQ Nordic—with its expansive list of acquired properties (including such franchises as Destroy All Humans, Stuntman, and TimeSplitters)—would likely be a prime candidate for a partnership.

From Software

Roguelike

The roguelike generally falls outside the AAA realm, but Prey: ‘Mooncrash’ and Bloodborne are among the games that show how procedurally generated elements can add to—and even enrich—an otherwise linear game.

None of Housemarque’s previous efforts have utilised procedural generation in any meaningful way, but the technique could enable the team to deliver a AAA quality product with a modest team size in a reasonable time frame. That said, such a significant shift in production pipelines is easier said than done, especially when factoring in the expectations that inevitably surround top-tier products.

Nevertheless, a randomised environment (with necessary limitations) could generate endless replayability, meaning the team could focus on adapting the sublime action-oriented gameplay of Matterfall or Nex Machina to a large-scale project.



Unfortunately, no real details as to the nature of this project can be gleaned from the current job listings on Housemarque’s website, as the developer has taken pains to describe the responsibilities and requirements in broad strokes.

Nevertheless, if the project does turn out to be single-player oriented, OnlySP will be sure to cover it in the coming months and years.

Join in the conversation and let us know what you would like to see the Housemarque team turn its talents to in the comments below.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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