With 2019 right around the corner, we’ve polled GameSpot’s staff to find out what games they are looking forward to most in the new year. To be eligible, a game must simply have a release date currently planned for 2019. Of course, we all know nothing is set in stone; there’s always a chance some games could slip into 2020. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2018 hub.
I have a soft spot for Dontnod games. I’m one of the few people I know who got really into Remember Me, the studio’s first offering. It was a flawed game that struggled with its moment-to-moment gameplay, grabbing weaker versions of the combat from the Batman: Arkham series and the environmental climbing puzzles of the Uncharted franchise. But Remember Me had a ton of great ideas about delving into characters’ minds and reconstructing their memories, and it managed to tell an affecting story using those mechanics.
Vampyr, another fascinating Dontnod offering, contains a deep story into which it looks to integrate its gameplay. It expanded on the idea of narrative choices as mechanics by putting you in the role of a vampire who’s also a doctor, torn between feeding on people and saving them. If you don’t murder people, you stay weak, and you have a hard time completing the various investigations (and fighting the various scary monsters) that obstruct your path through the game; but if you do murder people, you’ll irrevocably change the game world and the story. Not every decision that went into the game worked, but Vampyr definitely pushed the envelope in the realm of games that react to player choices.
And then there are the Life is Strange games. I bounced off Dontnod’s best-known titles, but I appreciated the attention to story and character development in what I played of them. And from all accounts, the first episode of Life is Strange 2 is a powerful start to the sequel.
Dontnod’s willingness to experiment means that whatever project the developer is working on is always pinging my internal video game radar, and Twin Mirror looks like it could have potential. It’s about Sam, an investigative journalist, heading back to his Rust Belt town for his best friend’s funeral. Things aren’t great for Sam-he has an imaginary friend who constantly hassles him called The Double, and he wakes up the morning after the funeral with his clothes covered in blood, unable to remember what happened or what awful thing he might have done. The setting and aesthetic give the whole thing an alluring Twin Peaks meets Life is Strange vibe.
Twin Mirror seems like it’s trying to riff on some of the ideas of visiting and viewing memories from Remember Me, a very cool mechanic that was sadly underused in Dontnod’s first effort. And while a lot of games, from the Batman: Arkham series to LA Noire and beyond, have tried but struggled to make investigating crime scenes an engaging mechanic, Dontnod’s past attempts with tough systems mean it might have a novel mechanical solution in mind.
Not all of Dontnod’s titles have been raucous successes, and not all of the ideas they put into their games manage to stick the landing. But the developer is constantly trying interesting things, for better or worse. I’d much rather play a game like Vampyr, which takes a run at trying new and exciting things, than a much safer AAA title. There are some things about Twin Mirror that give me pause (the imaginary friend conceit is extremely played, for one, and lots of games have attempted investigation mechanics but not many do them well), but I’m willing to go with Dontnod on its journey. I know no matter what, their game will care about its story and its characters, and it’ll make attempts at bringing new ideas into the lexicon of video games.