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The 10 Most Anticipated PC Games of 2021

 

Coming in from an eventful year when a record number of PC gamers dived into their favorite PC titles, new and old, the good times didn’t end on January 1. Barring some controversial releases like Cyberpunk 2077 and World of Warcraft 3: Reforged, a truckload of brilliant games hit the market in 2020. Developers surprised us with entirely fresh experiences such as Fall Guys, and built upon old franchise ideas in exciting new ways — Crusader Kings 3, anyone?

We’re already entering the second quarter of 2021, and the rest of the year is filled to the brim with what looks to be an excellent selection of new PC-exclusive and cross-platform releases. Today, we’re hoping to condense all of those choices into one, easier to digest list. Granted, we can’t include every promising-looking game here, but we’ll do our best to draw your attention to some of the more exciting, innovative, or downright highly-anticipated upcoming releases.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits

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Release Date: August 24, 2021

 

Genre: Action-adventure

 

Buy if you like: Pikmin, Pixar films, old-fashioned action-adventure fun

With a new generation of gaming consoles come a new wave of games that can take full advantage of PS5 and Xbox hardware, something that eventually permeates to the PC platform as well. So far there haven’t been many releases that truly show what new console hardware is capable of, but Kena: Bridge of Spirits is starting to look like it.

Kena is an adorable action-adventure title with Pixar-level cutscenes and some of the most beautiful, lush, and detailed forest environments we’ve ever seen in a video game, period. The animations are equally beautiful: everything from its combat choreography to simple dashes and jumps flows smoothly.

Kena’s dev team is promising an experience that combines exploration with fast-paced combat, as well as a bit of Pikmin-style creature collecting.

If you’re a bit confused by that last bit, allow us to clarify. In Kena, you play as a Spirit Guide that uses her magical powers, as well as the aid of spirit followers called the “Rot,” to help the dead move on to the next life (using force, if need be). During your journey, you’ll transform the environment, make magical discoveries, and use your powers to “restore” the damaged world to its former glory.

Frankly, Kena looks like the sort of game that’s best experienced blind, but if you want to have a basic idea of what you’re getting into, the gameplay trailer above should fit the bill. This game is a bit further off than some of the other titles on this list, with an expected release date of August 24, 2021. Regardless, we’re hopeful that the wait will be worth it — just note that it will be an Epic exclusive on PC at launch.

 

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

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Release Date: Summer 2021

 

Genre: Party-based CRPG

 

Buy if you like: Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2

There are plenty of tabletop-inspired CRPGs out there, but few of them stick to the pen-and-paper rulesets they’re based on as faithfully as Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Though not turn-based, the party-centric RPG did its level best to replicate Pathfinder’s notoriously complex ruleset in the digital realm.

Barring a few necessary exceptions (some rules didn’t quite translate that well), the game succeeded. Many of the classes, talents, skills, and equipment pieces that you’d find in Pathfinder’s tabletop incarnation were available in the game. You could put together a party of wizards, monks, fighters, or anything in between to conquer the Stolen Lands, rolling plenty of dice along the way.

Wrath of the Righteous seeks to build on everything that made Kingmaker great while adding in exciting new features to spice things up. At its core, it’s still the same real-time-with-pause RPG Kingmaker was, but with better spell effects, new playable character races, upgraded character models, new class and customization options, a whole new world to explore, and two particularly interesting additions: Mythic Paths and Strategic Combat.

The former is a late-game feature that lets your character reach power levels that we’ve never seen before in a CRPG. You can become a deadly lich, an angel, a demon, a dragon, or even a “cosmic judge of balance” known as an Aeon. Doing so grants you a significant, path-specific boon — for example, a Lich could resurrect fallen soldiers to fight for them in battle, whereas an angel could call upon heavenly warriors. Owlcat says Mythic Paths will offer a “new layer” of character development and better equip players to face the more difficult challenges Wrath of the Righteous will throw at them later on in the campaign.

The strategic encounter feature is a first in the series. We haven’t seen much of it in action yet, but Owlcat claims it will take place in a new gameplay “layer,” pulling inspiration from the popular Heroes of Might and Magic franchise. Players will likely command both troops and hero units alike in tile-based combat sequences, though that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

It’s difficult to fully describe the Pathfinder CRPG experience in a small blurb, so we recommend watching the gameplay footage above to get a better feel for the experience. Assuming Owlcat maintains the same level of quality they achieved with Kingmaker, Wrath of the Righteous is almost certain to satisfy fans of PnP-based RPGs.

 

Far Cry 6

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Release Date: TBA 2021

 

Genre: FPS

 

Buy if you like: Causing chaos, the Far Cry series, charismatic villains

If all you look for in a shooter is the ability to wreak as much havoc as possible on unsuspecting wildlife and human NPCs — friend or foe — you’ve probably already heard of the Far Cry series. With the exception of the first two games (which were a tad different to later entries thematically), Far Cry focuses on three major elements: gameplay freedom, explosive combat encounters, and charismatic villains.

The next entry in the long-running series seems to be sticking to this formula. It’ll be another open-world FPS, this time set in the island nation of Yara. Players take on the role of a local who seeks to fight back against the tyrannical reign of “El Presidente” Anton Castillo, played by the fantastic Giancarlo Esposito (of Breaking Bad fame).

Far Cry 6 will let gamers choose to play as either a male or female, though they both share the same gender-neutral name: Dani Rojas. Players will explore the beaches and jungles of Yara, and they can even take a trip to its capital city of Esperanza.

It’s unclear what Far Cry 6’s story will focus on (beyond some revolutionary themes) or what its unique gameplay mechanics will be, but we should learn details about both of those topics in the next few months. Either way, it’s sure to be a good time, if previous entries are anything to go by.

 

Dying Light 2

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We haven’t heard much from the folks behind Dying Light 2 lately, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting as a project. Scheduled for a tentative release on May 25, this zombie game is shaping up to be one of the more exciting releases of 2021.

It’s a first-person, story-driven action-RPG set in a post-apocalyptic setting — it takes place about 15 years after “humanity lost to the virus,” to be specific. Throughout the game, you’ll be climbing up and leaping across buildings using a fantastic parkour system (which first appeared in Dying Light), all while killing or avoiding the many, many infected that will stand in your way.

In Dying Light 2 you’ll play as a survivor of the infection known as Aiden Caldwell, using the parkour system and brutal melee combat mechanics, you’ll explore the world in search of supplies, gear, and other useful tools for survival.

In addition to the zombies roaming the streets at night and during the day (the former makes them considerably deadlier), you’ll also come across human settlements. Like Biomutant, each of these factions have its own agendas to pursue, and it’ll be up to you to decide who thrives, and who gets destroyed. Why? Because, for the first time in this franchise, you’ll actually have meaningful choices to make — see the gameplay video above for a few examples of that.

By allying with one faction, you could be dooming another. Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the factions that either align with you morally or simply offer the best boons. If running, jumping, climbing, and sliding around a deadly, decrepit (yet graphically gorgeous) city sounds like your idea of fun, be sure to keep an eye on Dying Light 2.

 

Humankind

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Release Date: April 22, 2021

 

Genre: 4X Strategy

 

Buy if you like: Civilization series, Endless Legend, Endless Space

If you love strategy games but think the action-packed battles of Total War: Warhammer are too intense and the deep intrigue of Crusader Kings 3 is too complex, Humankind might be just the game for you.

Made by the same team that brought you Endless Legend and Endless Space, Humankind seeks to take the timeless 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) strategy formula of a game like Civilization 6 and expand upon it in exciting new directions.

Like the Civilization series, Humankind will task players with taking their civilization from the Ancient Era to the Modern Age, while contending with rival civs that each have their own “personalities” (so to speak), goals, and cultures. However, Amplitude’s upcoming strategy game differs from Civ in other key ways.

For starters, you won’t necessarily stick to one faction or culture from the start of the game. You might pick, say, the Egyptians during the Ancient Era, but then absorb the Greek culture once you reach the Classical era. In Medieval times, it might be beneficial for you to explore what it means to be English, and eventually delve into German and Chinese society. Though you will lose some of the unique benefits each culture offers when you transition to a new one, certain buffs will remain throughout your entire playthrough: these powerful boons are called Legacy Traits.

Humankind also hopes to impress with its complex events, which will force you to make “impactful moral decisions,” and its tactical battle system that takes into account terrain elevation, unit positioning, and more.

Ultimately, your goal in Humankind is to gain more “fame” than any rival civilization by the time the game ends. Every battle you win, every “great deed” you accomplish, and every moral choice you make will increase your fame score, so there’s plenty of incentive to keep pushing your empire forward.

It remains to be seen whether or not Humankind will be able to compete with the likes of Civ, but from what we’ve seen so far, we’re certainly not rooting against it. It looks incredibly fun, and we can’t wait to give it a shot when it launches in April.

 

Total War: Warhammer 3

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Release Date: Late 2021

 

Genre: Strategy

 

Buy if you like: The Total War series, RTS battles, strategy games in general

The Total War franchise has always been geared toward players who want elements of both a grand strategy game (with city and character management) and an RTS, usually with some historical flair. However, starting with Total War: Warhammer 1, developer Creative Assembly branched out into the world of fantasy, drawing on the popular Warhammer franchise for faction and unit inspirations. Judging by this sub-series’ ridiculous sales numbers and frequent DLC drops, it seems that move was a rousing success — which is likely why CA has opted to develop a third entry, aptly known as Total War: Warhammer 3.

We won’t pretend to possibly describe the entire gameplay loop for these titles in this few paragraphs, but if you’ve never played or heard of the Total War: Warhammer games yet, here’s a quick rundown: the games let you choose a faction from a wide roster of lore-based fantasy races (ranging from humans and dwarves to elves and the undead) and attempt to conquer, subjugate, or ally with all the other denizens of the world. Each faction has a unique set of units and mechanics to work with, and all of them have access to powerful hero characters that can take on entire groups of soldiers by themselves.

The games blend grand strategy mechanics with more hands-on RTS-style battles. You’ll move your armies around on a campaign map, and hop into intense real-time (with pause and speed control) battles from time to time. There are also diplomatic options — which are somewhat lackluster, but they should be better this time around — and elements of city-building.

So what’s driving excitement about Total War: Warhammer 3? First off, it’s bringing brand-new races that have never been in a TW: WH game before. There’s Kislev (the cold-resistant, Russian-influenced men and women of the North), the Daemons of Chaos (four in total, each acting as their own faction), and the glorious China-like Empire of Cathay. That last one is especially interesting because it never had a proper army in the original Warhammer Fantasy Battle board game (Which many TW: WH factions and units are based on). That means Creative Assembly will effectively be working from scratch, creating entirely new heroes and gameplay elements from the ground up.

A second key element that’s gotten many fans hyped up about Warhammer 3 is the prospect of an expanded “Mortal Empires” campaign. This game mode, which debuted with Warhammer 2, allowed players who own both the first and second titles to effectively combine their maps and faction rosters into one massive game mode. You could fight with and against any race that you own, which makes for some pretty amazing campaigns.

With Warhammer 3, you’ll be able to do the same thing, except across three games instead of just two. Pretty cool, huh?

 

Chivalry 2

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Release Date: February 11, 2021

 

Genre: Medieval combat sim

 

Buy if you like: Mount & Blade, Chivalry 1, Mordhau

Do you like hacking? Do you like slashing? If so, Chivalry 2 is one PC release you shouldn’t miss this year. Like its predecessor, Chivalry 2 is a fast, frenetic first-person slasher with an emphasis on skill-based melee combat and brutal team-oriented action. You’ll be blocking, parrying, dodging, and swinging using a physics-based combat system with a high skill floor, and an even higher skill ceiling.

You’ll pick one of several classes and customize their loadout to your liking. The exact classes that will be offered remain to be disclosed, but we assume the original’s core options will return: there’s the Archer, who likes to pepper his foes with arrows, bolts, or throwing knives from a distance, and the heavily-armored Knight who sacrifices visibility and agility for sheer impenetrability.

Regardless of what class you pick, you’ll be in for a treat. Chivalry had one of the most advanced melee combat systems out there, and the devs are hoping to kick things up a notch for game two. The team has completely reworked the animation and movement systems for combat, allowing for a gameplay experience that “both looks and feels weighty and satisfying,” as you’d expect from any medieval game.

I used to be a big fan of the original Chivalry, and it’s still fun to this day (albeit much less popular). Learning how to duck under actual attacks (by literally crouching and looking down at the ground) and deflect deadly strikes at the last possible second is frustrating and entertaining in equal measure, and from what we’ve seen of Chivalry 2 so far, we think lightning will strike twice where core gameplay mechanics are concerned.

Stepping away from the nitty-gritty, Chivalry 2 hopes to offer 64-player multiplayer matches, with a variety of playable maps and sprawling, multi-stage “Team Objective” game modes. We’re guessing we’ll see sieges (defending and attacking), village burning, and Team Deathmatch make a return, at the very least.

 

Halo Infinite

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Release Date: Autumn 2021

 

Genre: FPS

 

Buy if you like: The Halo franchise, sci-fi shooters

The Halo franchise is a staple of the FPS genre, but one that’s been absent from PC for quite some time (after the PC launch of Halo 1 and 2 decades ago). But thanks to the tireless work of 343 Industries, PC players are finally able to experience the series in its entirety by way of the Master Chief Collection, which is available now.

That means we can be all caught up when the next, and possibly final Halo title releases this year: Halo Infinite. Many of you are likely familiar with the game — it got a gameplay premiere back last September and the reception wasn’t exactly positive at the time. Fans criticized the cartoony visuals and lighting, primarily, which led to the game being indefinitely delayed until 343 could address player concerns.

With a new release window of autumn 2021, and, assuming 343 has indeed boosted its graphical fidelity, we’ll likely all be in for a treat. Infinite will feature a new open-world and a separate, free-to-play multiplayer component, but we’re still hoping for a Halo game in the ways that matter: gameplay, gameplay, gameplay.

Halo Infinite’s combat and movement mechanics look as fluid and kinetic as ever. Weapons feel powerful, and Master Chief seems to have plenty of new tools at his disposal this time around, including large pop-up shields, some sort of sonar ability, and a grappling hook that can snag items and enemies alike.

 

New World

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Release Date: August 31, 2021

 

Genre: MMORPG

 

Buy if you like: Sandbox MMOs, PvP, Siege battles

Amazon hasn’t had much luck in the gaming sphere lately; just look at its short-lived battle royale, Crucible, for evidence of that. However, the company’s gaming division is hoping to strike gold with New World: an upcoming (and much-delayed) sandbox MMO that aims to satisfy both PvE and PvP players.

New World will include a classless action combat system with dodging, blocking, and various active abilities that you can unlock by leveling up each weapon Mastery rank (through simply using it in combat). As you increase that rank, you’ll be earning skill points to use on Mastery skill trees. These trees include the active abilities we just mentioned — such as a powerful axe throw — as well as passives and combos.

New World will give you plenty of opportunities to take advantage of these systems, of course. Aside from fairly standard MMO PvE encounters, such as wave-based NPC invasions, corrupted rifts, and kill or fetch quests (which you pick up from your selected faction), there’s also a fairly large emphasis on PvP in New World.

The system is completely opt-in, but should you choose to participate, the rewards will be significant: take the Settlement system, for example. Settlements are player-built and managed towns and cities that include crafting stations, quest givers, and even space for player housing. If your guild is lucky enough to lay claim to one of these Settlements, you’ll have quite the advantage in the long run.

However, that’s where the PvP element comes in. Companies can declare war on each other and siege opposing Settlements in massive, bloody 100-man battles. By participating in these fights, you’ll earn siege points that can be spent on either better defenses (for the defending team) or siege equipment (for the attacking team). If an attacking Company manages to complete its siege successfully, it will gain control of the settlement, and all the benefits that come with it — including but not limited to sweet, sweet tax revenue.

Hopefully, Amazon can finish off New World on schedule, and we can all sink our teeth into it before the year is out. If all goes well, you should be able to snag it come August 31 for $40 (no subscription models to worry about).

 

Biomutant

Click on image to play gameplay video

Release Date: May 25, 2021

 

Genre: Action, RPG

 

Buy if you like: Kung-Fu, mutants, post-apocalyptic worlds

We’re kicking things off with a personal favorite: Biomutant. I’ve had my eye on this game for several years now, and we’ve included it in both of the last two iterations of this very article. However, due to its many delays, we’ve yet to get the chance to get our hands on it.

Fortunately, that’s finally changing in May: provided no last-minute problems pop up, this quirky post-apocalyptic RPG will be hitting our libraries sooner rather than later.

So… what is Biomutant, exactly? As the devs describe it, it’s a “Kung-Fu fable RPG,” in which players take on the role of a furry mutant in a massive, varied open world. It’s a third-person title with fast-paced action combat that lets you blend melee, shooting, and powerful mutant abilities into your own personalized fighting style. You can slap together a ramshackle shotgun using your scrappy crafting skills, or you can form a giant ball of mucus around yourself and bowl into your enemies. You could also power up your psionic powers to levitate and mentally torment your foes, or utilize Turtleform to tank otherwise deadly hits.

The core idea behind Biomutant is player freedom. From the very start, you’ll be creating your custom character, whose appearance can change based on your personal preferences as well as the attributes and stats you give him or her. That freedom isn’t limited to combat gameplay elements, though. There are also mounts and exploration-focused tech gear for you to acquire, such as the jet-ski, the air-balloon, a jump-pack, bionic wings, or the “Automaton”; your “scrap-toy sidekick.”

In true RPG fashion, Biomutant will let players chart their path in the world while making meaningful choices that can affect the outcome of the story. You can be one of the “good guys” and try to save the decaying “Tree-of-Life,” or you can hasten its end by aligning with one of the less benevolent factions in the world.

All in all, Biomutant sounds like a great time, and the gameplay we’ve seen so far certainly casts it in a good light. However, as we’ve learned with recent AAA releases (we’re looking at you, Cyberpunk), it’s best to wait for the game to come out before making any final judgments.

 

Honorable Mentions

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