An early check-in on some notable 2021 releases.
2020 sᴛɪʟʟ hᴀs plenty ɪɴ stᴏʀe ꜰᴏʀ ᴜs. But ʙᴇꜰᴏʀe ᴡᴇ ɢᴇᴛ buried ɪɴ ʙɪɢger releᴀses ʟɪᴋᴇ Cyʙᴇrpunk, Black Ops - Cᴏʟᴅ War, Wᴀᴛch Dogs: Legiᴏɴ, Assᴀssɪɴ's Creed: Valhᴀʟʟa, ᴀɴd Star Wars: Squadrᴏɴs, ʟᴇᴛ's peel ʙᴀᴄᴋ tʜᴇ wrappɪɴg ᴘᴀᴘᴇʀ ᴏɴ 2021 ᴀɴd sᴇᴇ whᴀᴛ awaɪᴛs ᴜs ᴏɴ tʜᴇ otʜᴇr sɪᴅᴇ.
2021 PC games
Dying Light 2 takes the foundation of the first game and mulches it into something a lot more exciting. Gone is the contemporary setting, replaced by a semi-fantastical future where medieval-esque human factions vie for control of a city and its dwindling resources. There's still zombies and parkour, but with a much bigger emphasis on story where the choices you make can have an impact on the world around you. There's an obvious inspiration from cRPGs, where siding with one faction, for example, might wipe out an entire section of the city or permanently close off a chain of quests. It's an exciting concept—especially when mixed in with Dying Light's already thrilling first-person combat and acrobatics. —Steven MessnerEmpire of Sin
In Empire of Sin, my gang spent too much time in a brothel and caught some STDs. It’s a mobster management game where you squabble with other gangs, duke it out in turn-based battles, take over businesses and try to stop your minions from becoming STD-riddled drunks. It’s a bit like running a videogame website, I guess. You need to be a people person as well as a savvy business owner, navigating your gang’s personal relationships, personalities and vices to keep your criminal organisation on top. Developed by Romero Games, it actually features mob bosses inspired by relatives of Brenda and John Romero. Yes, you can take over Chicago as John Romero’s great-grandmother. —Fraser BrownEvil Genius 2
Evil Genius is back with world domination on its mind once again. Despite the fact that its predecessor released back in 2004—feel old yet?—Rebellion is picking up right where it left off, encouraging us to return to our dastardly plans of building a swanky island lair, and hiring Henchmen to do our bidding. Naturally, a successful evil overlord needs a Doomsday Device to pave their way to the top, and this kind of power doesn't exactly come cheap, or uncontested. We'll have to set up traps for those who aren't so keen on our questionable aspirations, of which there are plenty to look forward to, from kidnapping governors to actually baking Alaska. While this may not be quite as delicious as the dessert, these silly schemes are sure to put a smile on some of our faces. —Emma Matthews(Image credit: Rockfish Games)Everspace 2
Picking up shortly after the previous Everspace timeline, you’ll play as a wanted clone pilot learning life-lessons from your many companions. You’re looking at 20-30 hours of emotionally-charged, sci-fi RPG narrative, involving main and side missions with much deeper story elements than the original game. As the story unravels through a huge, predominantly hand-crafted open world (with procedural elements), you’ll have the freedom to explore, trade, and craft to your heart's content. Expect to be coasting through deep space with beautifully refined, tuneable controls, enjoying gorgeous, comic-style flashbacks and 3D cutscenes. Look forward to fast-paced space battles, encrusted with juicy loot, and topped with heavily customisable ships—there are modules, skills and weapons to suit every situation and play-style.
Billed as an end to the World of Assassination trilogy, Hitman 3 is set to be yet another collection of exotic sandboxes in which to ply your murderous trade. Crucially, though, the two levels revealed so far hint at a more experimental approach. Dubai looks like a classic Hitman environment, albeit elevated by the scope of its massive skyscrapers. But it's The Thornbridge Manor that subverts the formula, casting 47 as a detective tasked with solving a locked room murder mystery in the style of Knives Out—and presumably murdering the culprit in turn. If Hitman 2 was proof that IO are masters at crafting assassination puzzles, Hitman 3 already seems set to subvert our expectations. —Phil SavageAn Ion Fury expansion
Pure FPS comfort food. The first expansion to my favorite recent retro FPS was only teased last weekend and doesn't yet have a name, but from the short footage we can spot a few details: familiar environments like a church and fighting outside a "HSKL Corp" factory, what must be one of the side-hustles of Heskel, Ion Fury's mad scientist villain. But most notably we can see a fast-moving section featured in the trailer where Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison is either driving a vehicle, or moving strapped to some kind of rocket sled—which would be an entirely new type of level. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long line of installments, continuing the episodic heritage of Duke Nukem 3D and other shareware FPSes from the '90s. —Evan Lahti(Image credit: Private Division)Kerbal Space Program 2
Is KSP2 really going to pull off online multiplayer? That seems hard as hell, but it's the biggest reason I'm excited for this ambitious follow-up to one of the best PC games ever made. What a journey to go on together—first learning to build flyable rockets, getting them in orbit, successfully landing on the Mun, then building space stations, planetary colonies, and leaving the solar system altogether. Kerbal 2 is aiming to be far more approachable than the first game simply by better explaining the physics behind space flight and making its interface friendlier. The Steam version of Dwarf Fortress aims to do the same. Both games follow the mantra of making failure fun, which I appreciate. Finally, something I can excel at! —Wes Fenlon(Image credit: Shedworks)Sable
Sable's desert world looks like it was meticulously drawn with a Micron pen and colored like a comic book. In motion, its flat imagery becomes uncannily three-dimensional. The look alone is a sharp hook, but it's not being pitched as a visual toy: Sable's open-ended desert journey (which I amuse myself by thinking of as a sequel to Desert Golfing) will feature storytelling from 80 Days writer Meg Jayanth and music from Japanese Breakfast, the solo project of Michelle Zauner. As we wander the desert on our hoverbike, we'll meet other travellers, solve puzzles, explore derelict spaceships and ruins, and learn about the culture that produced them. There's no combat or anything like that, and the puzzles are optional, but it seems like there'll be a lot to discover in Sable beyond the speckled sandscapes and giant skeletons that have gotten it so much attention so far. Sable got bigger as development went on, and it was delayed from 2019 to 2020, and then from 2020 to 2021. —Tyler Wilde(Image credit: GSC Game World)Stalker 2
It might be a pretty flawed game, but after a decade on from the original Stalker: Call of Pripyat, my Hazmat suit is ready to return to the irradiated Zone in Stalker 2. Well, provided 2021 is a little less like 2020: I'm not really in the mood for bleak stories and terrifying landscapes right now—which will only be more disturbing now that GSC has made the leap to Unreal Engine with the sequel. We don't know much about the game's story, nor have we seen much beyond some screenshots and a video teaser, but at least it's something. The road to launch has been troubled, with plenty of setbacks, but while GSC claimed in 2018 Stalker 2 would be out in 2021, we don't know the exact date. If recent history is anything to go by, there are no guarantees that we'll be returning to Chernobyl next year, but we can live in hope.—Harry Shepherd(Image credit: Paradox)Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2
Ever since playing Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines I've been thirsting for more. I can't wait to return to the dark back-alleys and eerie gothic night clubs of White Wolf's Vampire universe, and this sequel looks to be even more alluring than the cult-classic. The rebooted RPG was originally scheduled to launch March 2020 but has been pushed back to 2021, and the recent loss of two key creative members of the team might further impact its arrival. Hardsuit Labs has yet to confirm a release date but has been slowly drip-feeding fans trailers and gameplay footage. With more flexible choices regarding vampiric clans, disciplines, and clans to choose from, I'm hoping that Bloodlines 2 will live up to the expectations set by its predecessor, which we've named one of the best RPGs of all time. I'm also super excited about busting out some incredibly freaky dance moves in all of Seattle's best night clubs.—Rachel Watts(Image credit: Rocketwerkz)Icarus
DayZ, despite its long and creaky road through Early Access, remains my favorite survival game and one of my top games of all time. So I'm excited to get my hands on Icarus, the multiplayer co-op survival game from DayZ creator Dean Hall and Rocketwerkz. The teaser that premiered at the PC Gaming Show looked a bit standard: chopping trees, shooting bows, and building boxy forts on a vaguely alien planet. But I'm intrigued by the Escape From Tarkov-like session-based nature of the game, where you descend from your space station with a limited time to complete your objectives and haul precious materials back up to orbit. The tension in survival games tends to fade a bit after the first few hours, but the ticking clock in Icarus might keep it ratcheted up.—Chris Livingston(Image credit: Fatshark)Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
Fatshark's outstanding co-op brawler, Vermintide, has been a regular staple of PC Gamer's gaming sessions. The prospect of a new game from that studio set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is just delicious. With Vermintide the developers at Fatshark demonstrated how well they understood the fiction, and they made a rare fantastic first-person melee game as well. I expect that will translate well to chainsword combat but Fatshark faces a bigger challenge: GUNS. The shooting in Vermintide feels great actually, but good shooting systems will be vital for a 40K game to work. The plasma pistols need to hum and sizzle. Bolt pistols need to crack and boom. And Lasguns… well, true to the fiction, they should be absolutely rubbish—there's a nod to that in the teaser trailer when one trooper can't get his damn flashlight to work. I honestly can't wait for this one. —Tom SeniorWeird West
At first glance, the weirdest thing about Weird West is that it looks like a six-gun twin-stick shooter, an unexpected choice from a team headed by the founder of immersive sim studio Arkane. But appearances can be deceiving, and the game is actually a "dark RPG" mixed with immersive sim elements and a sort-of permadeath mechanic that will bring you back from the dead when things go wrong, but leave the game world as it was. Weird indeed, which is my kind of thing, but even more important is the promise of depth and complexity in the game world: WolfEye co-founder Raphael Colantonio described the game in a July interview as "a space of possibilities where no two players have the same playthrough exactly." I'm still not 100 percent convinced that the immersive sim experience can be effectively replicated in an isometric RPG (sorry, Raphael), but I'm sure eager to give it a shot.
While we're here, a few other games that may or may not come out in 2021, but don't have firm release dates yet:Age of Empires 4Suicide SquadChivalry 2Diablo 4Halo InfiniteOverwatch 2Beyond Good & Evil 2Psychonauts 2Twin MirrorRainbow Six QuarantineTunicGodfallCuphead: The Delicious Last CourseBiomutantImmortals Fenyx RisingNew WorldSystem Shock 3StarfieldThe Elder Scrolls 6Deathloop