If you shoot at the king, you better not miss. For years Amplitude’s taken potshots at Civilization’s 4X hegemony, with the unique and innovative Endless Legend and then Endless Space 2. But there’s a real battle brewing in 2020, when Amplitude is due to release Humankind.
It’s a direct challenge to Civilization, a historical 4X that starts at the dawn of human civilization and takes it up through the present day. Humankind is no Civilization clone though. Amplitude’s upending the formula, rethinking a lot of the ideas Civilization is so loathe to abandon. Victory, for instance, doesn’t entail outlasting your opponents. “Fame” is the metric for success, and past glories can be as important to securing a legacy as present-day ones. Think of the Roman Empire, the Egyptians, or the Khans.
Interesting ideas, and brave. Exactly what I’d expect from Amplitude.
Microsoft Flight Simulator - 2020
I never expected a flight sim to be one of my most-anticipated games. Microsoft Flight Simulator is what I’ve always wanted though, drawing upon Bing Maps and Azure to realistically render the entire world. Every city, every town, every mountain or river, every notable landmark and monument, all visible from the cockpit of whatever plane you choose to pilot.
I don’t care much about the flight aspect, but I’m fascinated by digital tourism—as evidenced by my love-hate relationship with The Crew and my continued devotion to Google Earth VR. I can’t wait to hop in a Cessna and fly over the town I grew up in. Bonus points if I can pick out our old house.
All the attention’s on Baldur’s Gate III, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2, Half-Life: Alyx, and other long-awaited 2020 sequels. But Psychonauts 2 is due to release next year as well, and I’m...well, maybe not excited but intrigued, sure. It’s been 15 years since the original came and went, and at least 10 since it started being discussed as a cult classic. Mascot platformers were dated even in 2005 though, and in 2020? It’s tough being a Yooka-Laylee or even a Hat in Time. I’m confident in Double Fine’s ability to surprise people, but I do wonder if Psychonauts 2 will actually appeal to those who waited on a sequel for so long.
Skateboarding games are in a bit of a renaissance at the moment, but none have captured my attention as much as SkateBird. They’re birds! That skate! It’s not the most realistic of skateboarding sims (obviously), nor is it the Tony Hawk successor I really want. But you know what? Sometimes originality counts for more than execution, and SkateBird’s managed to hook me where more serious games like Session and Skater XL have not.
Watch Dogs Legion
This console generation opened with an ambitious Watch Dogs and it will close with one too. Hopefully Legion lives up to the hype more than the original.
It sounds incredible in theory. Set in modern-day London, there’s no central protagonist. Instead you can recruit and play as anyone in the world. Cab driver? Cop? Beloved grandma? Those guards who wear the tall hats? Any of them could be the main character in your version of Watch Dogs Legion. Or all of them, because when characters die they stay dead. I had a great time shuffling around as an old lady at E3, and am disappointed Legion got delayed later into 2020, if only because I’m curious to test the limits of such a unique system for myself.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 is another game that was originally slated for spring only to slip into late 2020. I’d be disappointed, but we waited 15 years for a sequel. A few more months can’t hurt, especially given the original was notoriously broken at release and required fans to fix it up. Hopefully the delay helps avoid a similar fate this time around.
Like Baldur’s Gate III and Half-Life: Alyx, I’ll be curious how Bloodlines 2 fares. It’s hard following up a cult classic, even when you have some of the original talent involved. What we’ve seen so far looks promising, but can it ever meet people’s expectations? I hope so.
Crusader Kings III
Crusader Kings III is another game I doubt releases in 2020, but that’s what Paradox claims and so it goes on the list. After eight years and a dozen expansions, Paradox is finally hitting the reset button and making a proper sequel to the beloved Crusader Kings II. The core is the same, taking over any Medieval ruler and trying to expand their influence across multiple generations through warfare, marriage, strategic heir selection, and religion. But a clean slate allows Paradox to delve deeper into what made the game a breakout hit, expanding on courtly intrigue, dynastic traits, and random events—plus making the map a bit more attractive. If Paradox has learned anything in the last eight years, it’s UI design.
Halo Infinite - November
Halo Infinite is the only game I can safely say will ship alongside the new consoles. It’s slated as an Xbox Series X launch title in November.
While Halo Infinite will also appear on the Xbox One it’s really Microsoft’s poster child for next-gen. And it sounds like an ambitious sequel, far more so than Halo 4 and 5. Developer 343 Industries is reputedly ditching the old formula, adding in RPG mechanics and telling IGN it’s a “spiritual reboot” of what’s traditionally been a straightforward shooter series.
Best of all: It’s the first Halo to debut day-and-date on PC ever. Hopefully they picked a good one to do it with.