2017 Game Releases That Are Perfect For Storytellers

As developers take more interesting approaches to delivering a narrative, we look at some of the more unique story-driven games coming in 2017.

There are some incredible games coming out this year running the gamut of genres and focuses. But for me, storytelling will always take priority. The way developers and writers continue to offer up new, inventive, and exciting ways to tell a tale never fails to impress -- and for the coming year there seems to be an abundance of creativity that story fans can eat up.

While it would be easy to pick out some bigger releases to highlight the upcoming influx of epic, sweeping narratives -- such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, Torment: Tides of Numenara, or Ni No Kuni 2 --  I'd instead like to focus on some of the slightly less well-known titles that I'm looking forward to playing. Each of them approaches storytelling in a different way, but whether through aesthetic, exploration or the choices you make, they are all looking to deliver their message in a unique fashion. 

Tokyo Dark

Release Date: TBA 2017

 

Fans of noir and anime could be in for a treat with Tokyo Dark, a side-scrolling point-and-click set in downtown Tokyo. You play as Detective Itō, searching for her missing partner and uncovering a macabre mystery that threatens her own mind. 

A unique system tracks your choices -- monitoring your sanity, professionalism, investigation, and neurosis, then opening or closing options dependent on your state of mind at any point. With eleven possible endings, the potential replay value of this crime thriller is impressive.

Tokyo Dark followed up a sterling Kickstarter campaign with a strong showing at last year's EGX that left me eager for more. The decision to delay its original October 2016 release may have been wise -- it's already looking polished, but a few more months ironing out those final bugs certainly won't hurt. 

Tacoma

Release Date: TBA 2017

Fans know very little about the next game from the creators of Gone Home. The similarities are there, but the setting is completely different. You arrive on an abandoned space station in 2088, and have to figure out exactly what happened. Where is everyone?

Unlike Fullbright's first indie darling, which had an absence of other characters, in Tacoma you'll actually be able to observe some of the station's crew whose earlier movements and actions are replicated through polygon avatars. By discovering and manipulating items, listening to the crew's conversations and exploring your environment, you'll try to make sense of the situation. Like Gone Home, there'll be no weapons and no fighting; story is front and center.

Having just watched Passengers (I enjoyed it, even if the critics were divided), I'm incredibly excited about the prospect of mooching about a similarly outfitted high-tech space station, and nosing into the crew's personal lives. The overarching mystery is an added bonus, and the world-building elements are placed primarily in your hands. The more you search, the more you'll be able to piece together the backstory. Not every item will be essential to the plot, but it all adds to a fully rounded narrative experience. Hopefully Fullbright's sophomore title will build on the foundations which made Gone Home a delight to play.

What Remains of Edith Finch

Release Date: TBA 2017

Another mystery, this time split into short stories which each focus on the death of a member of the Finch family. As Edith, the last remaining family member, you play through her eyes as she relives the final moments of each of the Finches. 

Developer Giant Sparrow isn't afraid of taking a progressive approach to storytelling, as their first title The Unfinished Swan demonstrated. Their follow-up may not have the same stylized aesthetic, but the events that occurred in the house look to be delivered in a wonderfully dreamlike manner, imbued with a cinematic quality.

It's difficult to say how the story will play out, or how much agency the player will have. However, it's been suggested that the stories will morph from the mundane to the surreal, and offer different control systems as you play through them to their inevitably morbid conclusion. Can hope and wonder spring from death? Hopefully, as we discover alongside Edith what happened, the final outcome won't be as gloomy as we might fear...   

The Sexy Brutale

Release Date: TBA 2017

As a kid, I loved Infocom's text adventures. They were witty, intelligent, and meticulously crafted pieces -- each with a unique voice that told a captivating story. One of my favorites from their catalog was Murder, which cast you in the role of a detective at a dinner party as you moved from room to room, and interacted with guests before the titular event took place. Subsequent playthroughs saw you go to different rooms, follow different people, and try to work out who committed the crime, how they did it, and for what reason.

With The Sexy Brutale, Tequila Works and Cavalier Game Studios appear to have crafted a visual version of that text adventure, set at a masquerade ball. There are a couple of twists though: multiple people are being murdered, and a Groundhog Day MacGuffin means you can rewind the day and try and save them all. Each person you save will grant you powers that will allow you to save more people. 

Working out how to stop their demise will be tricky -- you play a frail priest, so you'll need to rely on your wits rather than physicality. If a hunting rifle (a potential murder weapon) is too heavy for you to pick up and hide, why not swap out the live round with a blank one? It's unclear at this stage whether there will be multiple approaches to stopping each guest from snuffing it, but I'm very keen to see how the time-travel element can be utilized in driving the narrative forward.

Gorogoa

Release Date: Q1 2017 TBC

Gorogoa is the most unique entry in this list, since it contains no dialogue or language at all. The story is told purely through visuals, hand-drawn and meticulously detailed, and tells the tale of a boy searching for a monster who may or may not have divine powers. 

The game is a succession of four different tiles, each depicting an image. By moving the tiles around, you can form linked pictures which interlock and then activate. The narrative is presented through the animated sequences which are triggered whenever you correctly discover how these images are linked. It sounds complicated, but a quick look at the trailer below reveals a unique and beautifully designed mechanism for storytelling, with the artwork invoking shades of Studio Ghibli. 

It's part jigsaw puzzle and  part room escape, but the gameplay is incredibly mellow. And with the reliable Austin Wintory handling music duties, it may be one of the most relaxing gaming experiences you'll have all year. Designer Jason Roberts has been working on Gorogoa for over half a decade, but we may finally be closing in on a release this spring. 

All in all, it looks like a great year for story-driven games.

Personally, the most exciting thing about 2017 from a storytelling perspective is that these games are merely a small selection of what the industry has to look forward to. The big RPGs on the horizon (Valkyria Chronicles and Dragon Quest XI to name a few) will no doubt hit the headlines, but I've historically found the smaller titles such as Brothers and Year Walk to be far more affecting. So to have such a wide selection of potentially stellar games to choose from is wonderful. Regardless of where your priorities lie though, there's no doubt that it's going to be a good year for narrative gaming.

Which story-driven games are you most looking forward to playing in 2017? Let me know in the comments below! 

Published Jan. 10th 2017

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