Now that we are so far removed from 2016 (or at least, a few days free from it), 2017 is already shaping up to be a more promising year for virtual reality (and augmented reality, mixed reality, and creative tech in general too). Maybe that fresh air is because there’s no longer any launch pressure hanging low over the heads of developers and publishers alike. Maybe it’s because (hopefully) most of the blander stuff plaguing the current VR space is behind us, paving the way for experimentation. Alas, here’s our 12 most anticipated games and other things for VR in the year 2017.
Release: Early 2017
Gnog wasn’t always meant to be in VR, but it sure feels that way. “After we put it in VR, it [felt] fresh and new to me,” said developer Saleem Dabbous in an interview with us. “It reinvigorates the excitement about the art direction, the sense of childlike wonder and play it evokes.” Gnog, its title spawning from the word “noggin,” is a colorful, toy-like romp that we can’t wait to squish our faces against.
Irrational Exuberance (Buffalo Vision)
Release: Early 2017
It’s been awhile since we last heard about Irrational Exuberance. Its prologue was released in April 2016, with a “late 2016” release teased later on. But “late 2016” came and went, and we can only hope that is now ushered into a tentative “early 2017.” The game, to saturate the wait, promises more “wildly different sensations, interactions, and impossible vistas.” Hopefully it won’t be long until Irrational Exuberance’s grain-filled sights will take hold of our HTC Vive headsets.
Kingdom City Drowning (Barrett Phillips, W.K. Gerardi)
Release: Episode One, “The Champion” – Q1 2017; Episode Two, “Lovers in Hell City” – Q3 2017
Kingdom City Drowning isn’t a game; it’s an episodic cinematic series for VR. Capturing the bleak mood of a Nicolas Winding Refn film and the aesthetic of dreary videogames like System Shock, Kingdom City Drowning is a VR series that pulls from the greats to craft something truly its own. Or as its creators told us, to “create our own language of VR cinema.” While all of Kingdom City Drowning likely won’t be released in 2017—its final episode has yet to be assigned a release window—this VR series will be one to keep an eye on.
Kowloon’s Gate VR (JETMAN)
Release: May 2017
Soon, we’ll be able to walk through the mystical Kowloon Walled City reimagined in the Japanese cult classic Kowloon’s Gate on our own (virtual) two feet. Kowloon’s Gate, a videogame for the original Playstation, was never localized for audiences beyond Japan, but found a dedicated fan base in the eerie supernatural tale of a resurrected Kowloon Walled City, which was demolished long ago. Its Playstation VR-exclusive spin-off will be released this May in accordance to Kowloon’s Gate’s 20th anniversary.
Release: First half of 2017
Luna is designed to be playable for everyone, whether a kid is playing or an adult well-versed in the technology. After playing a demo at last year’s Day of the Devs, the simplicity of design was crystal clear. It was the rare game that I felt I could gleefully show everyone in my family, from my nana to my little cousins. And it doesn’t hurt that the game is a magical tale with Mary Blair-inspired art to boot.
Midnight Cathedral (CAVYHOUSE)
Release: Summer 2017
The Kyoto-based CAVYHOUSE are no strangers to avant-garde videogames, and their upcoming VR-bound visual novel is no exception. Midnight Cathedral weaves in CAVYHOUSE’s signature unified aesthetic with a wholly passive tale: the player doesn’t interact with the narrative at all, they merely watch it unfold before their very eyes. Luckily, Midnight Cathedral is a visual novel that will be released in English in addition to Japanese, so it’ll be more than just an art-admiring affair after all.
Release: Coming soon
When I first laid my eyes on ooooo, I was instantly reminded of another passive VR experience: SoundSelf. Both seek to fold you into its own world, not to immerse you through movement or interactions with it. That’s where ooooo draws its line—it wants to lull you, or “ascend” as its description reads, through “interdimensional spaces.” And best of all, it looks pretty while doing so. Ooooo is sure to be a passive adventure worth taking.
Panoptic (Team Panoptes)
Panoptic is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. In it, there’s a PC player and a player donning a HTC Vive headset; together they’re tasked to work against one another. The VR player is the ominous Overseer with a deadly gaze, glaring down at the PC player’s tiny challenger as they try to escape. Panoptic is tackling multiplayer in the VR space in a smart way, by not negating it to only VR players (due to the small player space), and making it a joint experience accessible to those outside of it.
Polybius (Jeff Minter)
Polybius is an urban legend; a game that probably doesn’t really exist. But developer Jeff Minter claims to have played it (dusty, secretive setting and all); and now he’s recreating the myth for Playstation VR. Or at least, trying to emulate how the magical experience made him feel back in that warehouse where he allegedly indulged in the rarest of rare games. Llama presence in the game is yet to be determined, despite Minter’s love of them.
Project Hikari (Square-Enix)
Release: Maybe never
Okay, Project Hikari isn’t confirmed for a 2017 release. But a girl can dream right? I just want to read manga in VR, okay.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Capcom)
Release: January 24th, 2017
Resident Evil 7 is reinventing the wheel it basically invented. It’s not only leaving behind the action turn the later entries have partaken in, but its inspirations are clearly rooted in the current age of Outlasts and Amnesias. After more than a couple disappointing action-oriented entries, Resident Evil 7 is returning to its horror roots. The game once more finds itself tied to a creepy house, much like the game that started it all. It’s ditching third-person for first-person (perfect for its VR counterpart). But despite these promising additions, its VR version has had some troublesome criticisms in demos and previews—specifically in the motion sickness department. Here’s to hoping people barf out of pure fear, and not dizziness from bad locomotion.
Stifled (Gattai Games)
Release: Early 2017
When we last reported on Stifled, a game from Singapore-based developers Gattai Games, it was “nearing” its December release. But as development goes, it got delayed until this year. Stifled is a game where the player’s sound guides them—but can also lead to their death. It’s a game that listens to your microphone, to ensure that any small peep doesn’t go unheard. So, be careful not to scream. Your life depends on it.
And to conclude, happy new year! We look forward to everything else the new year brings us in addition to these titles.