Summer holidays are officially over and so is the lull in quality releases. It's not that great stuff didn't get released over the past few months (Wildstar, Ultra Street Fighter 4, and Shovel Knight made for a pretty epic June), but the reality is that the release schedule is always a bit light when the sun is out as publishers emphatically believe that games don't sell as well during these months. In any case, there are a bunch of hype-worthy titles on the horizon to sate the appetite and below are some of tastiest cuts on offer.
Fifa/Madden/NBA/NHL/WWE (August-October, 2014)
Whatever your favourite sport (or sport entertainment), fall is the season for the perennial launch of a slew of digital renditions of them. While major overhauls of core mechanics don't appear to be on the docket this year, the collection of roster updates, balance tweaks, and animation improvements will enough to bring gamers back. While I'm not psyched for any particular title, I concede that the're a swathe of gamers out there whose only purchase this year will be one of them (well that and probably Call of Duty).
Destiny (September 9, 2014)
Since Bungie burst on the scene with Marathon back in the 1990's, they've done nothing but churn out some of the most memorable shooters of all time capped by their seminal title - Halo. Since the termination of their exclusive partnership with Microsoft, gamers on all platforms have been chomping at the bit to see what Bungie will release next. Destiny promises a melding of MMO progression with FPS mechanics and has been the darling of trade shows since the title was announced in early 2013. Recent beta access has raised a few questions about creating challenging gameplay without turning enemies into bullet sponges so it might be best to hold off on the pre-order but Bungie's track record indicates they might be able to right the ship by launch.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (September 30, 2014)
The snide two-bit is to liken Shadow of Mordor as 'Assasin's Creed in the LotR universe'. While that may be somewhat accurate, Monolith has been adamant that the nemesis system will revolutionize open world sword-play. Even if it doesn't, the idea of hunting down key officers within Sauron's army with an Aragorn knock-off doesn't really need much selling. End-game concerns aside, previews have been favourable with solid points given to the fluid combat.
Borderlands the Pre-Sequel! (October 14, 2014)
It definitely looks and feels a lot more like an expansion than a stand alone title but the same thing was said in the pre-launch lead up to Borderlands 2. Personally, I don't care. They could have easily sold me for $50 on a Clap-Trap character DLC and here I'm getting so much more - more like guns in space! I have sunk over 200 hours into the Borderlands franchise and its been long enough since Borderlands 2 for me to be ready to sink another 100. And while we're on the topic of franchises that have eaten up my precious free time...
Civilization: Beyond Earth (October 24, 2014)
I love Civilization 5. I know the AI is broken and some paths to victory are horribly unbalanced but I never tire of seeing my early cave-dwellers blossom into a technological superpower all the while crushing the weakling civs next to me. Beyond Earth looks to be taking the fundamentals of Civ 5's hexagonal combat and pushing it to the final frontier. Combat rather than diplomacy seems to be the main thrust as early encounters with alien species can leave an army obliterated and the new tech tree seems to have a strong focus on developing military might. Shifting the landscape away from Earth should, hopefully, reinvigorate the series.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (November 13, 2014)
In the same vein as the sports titles mentioned above, some gamers are only going to buy one title this year and, for a great deal of them, that will be the latest expansion to WoW. The expansion is basically providing more of the same with the addition of player housing (strongholds) really being the only notable addition. If you were expecting an overhaul of the decade old MMO mechanics, you are sorely mistaken but if you can't wait to reunite with your raid buddies you'll fit right back in.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (November 18, 2014)
Pledging to return to tactical combat that was the hallmark of the first game, Inquisition wants to rekindle the same epic RPG experience that made Bioware famous in the first place. Divinity: Original Sin proved earlier this year that a more traditional RPG experience is still in demand and can be just as fun as we remember it to be. I strongly believe that Bioware is listening to the fans and is out to show that they are still the champion among RPG developers. A recent bump back in the release date shows that they are committed to making a quality product.
Unsurprisingly, given the recent upswing in the 'profits first' mentality of the games industry, only two of the titles I've listed above are new IPs (and Shadow of Mordor is buoyed by one of the biggest licenses around). That said, many of the upcoming titles promise new takes on familiar gameplay and should keep things fresh. Also, who knows what game is flying under the radar to take us all by surprise?