After this many Summers where the games don’t let up, we shouldn’t be as surprised that there’s a full docket of awesome releases in July. Still, here we are.
It seems this month is a good time for the games that don’t have a big marketing push behind them, and because no single title stands above the others, it should be easier for each of these to find their audience. With cinematic art pieces, genre throwbacks, and deep RPGs on offer, there’s something for everyone in July, and all below the usual $60 price tag.
Good on ya’ 2016, and keep bringing us great games.
(Release: June 29 for Xbox One, July 7 for PC)
Already out on Xbox One by the time you read this list, Playdead’s second title, Inside, has been the recipient of impossibly positive praise, particularly on how it takes and evolves the formula set by their first release, 2010’s Limbo.
Taking place in a world with (only slightly) more color than Limbo and inspired by industrial fascism rather than a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Inside follows a young boy who appears to be on the run from sinister forces. Gameplay elements are refined in every way over its predecessor, and the long development time has thankfully not resulted in the addition of multiplayer modes or an artificially lengthy play time.
Not for the faint of heart, Inside promises tension and horror set against a detailed, European sci-fi backdrop. Fans of cinematic indie games (or just platformers in general) will want to apply quickly and experience it for themselves. Check out our review of the game and be ready for a dark and compelling experience.
7TH DRAGON III CODE: VFD
(Release: July 12 for 3DS)
The fourth in the 7th Dragon series, this title is so niche that it’s relatively hard to find illustrative screenshots — but for fans of Japanese RPGs, this one looks very promising.
Like the Etrian games, players create their entire party and embark upon a crunchy dungeon-crawl, this time taking place in a science fiction version of Tokyo. Humanity has been driven to desperation by an infestation of dragons, and it’s up to your team to fight them back. If that weren’t enough, players must travel through time to Ancient Atlantis and the distant future over the course of their mission.
The story is light, but it also means that knowledge of the series isn’t necessary to jump in and fight those turn-based battles.
SONG OF THE DEEP
(Release: July 12 for PS4, Xbox One and PC)
Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive and soon-to-be Spiderman developers Insomniac Games’ undersea adventure Song of the Deep is the first release by GameTrust Games, the publishing arm of GameStop. Although the reputation of GameStop has taken a bit of a beating lately, Insomniac’s history of quality would suggest they picked a winner for their first game.
Song of the Sea is a sidescrolling Metroidvania, meaning lots of exploration and puzzle solving whilst unlocking new items that allow the player to progress through the world. The story centers on 12-year-old Merryn, who sets out in a makeshift submarine to find her missing father.
With beautiful art and a touching premise, all Song of the Deep needs now is satisfying gameplay and a good challenge. Here’s hoping Insomniac Games has another winner on their hands after the excellent Ratchet & Clank remake.
I AM SETSUNA
(Release: July 19 for PS4 and PC)
At some point Square Enix had to notice that the Steam and PlayStation stores were starting to fill with games that resembled what they used to make in the nineties. Not to be left out, they started Tokyo RPG Factory to develop their very own throwback RPGs.
I Am Setsuna, the first fruit of this new studio, harkens back to games like Final Fantasy VI and especially Chrono Trigger with its battle system. However, Tokyo RPG Factory haven’t simply turned out a nostalgic cash grab: it uses modernised (if not cutting edge) graphics and an emotional piano soundtrack. The story, too, makes a good case for being different: more subdued and sorrowful, a tone reflected in the game’s snow-covered setting.
Like last year’s Pillars of Eternity did for CRPGs, I Am Setsuna could represent a new dawn for classic JRPGs, especially on Steam.
(Release: July 26 for PC, OS X and Oculus Rift)
Obduction is defined as the layering or covering up of one thing with something else, often used when describing an event in plate tectonics. The use of the term for Cyan Worlds’ new game describes strange alien worlds being layered with objects that appear human in origin.
Billed as a spiritual successor to Myst and designed by many of the same minds behind the first game, Obduction has all the appropriate hallmarks of that legendary adventure series: puzzles that bamboozle, sights that seem unusual and familiar at the same time, and even the “click to move” node system that preceded actual first-person controls.
Of course, Obduction is also a game made in 2016, so it does have full first person controls as an option. As the game is compatible with virtual reality, the walking controls and the node system together will hopefully offer greater choice of accessibility to those who suffer from motion sickness.
No one else has captured environmental mystery quite like that in Myst and Riven, and without being tied to any preexisting mythos, Cyan Worlds have the opportunity to wow us all over again.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE BANNER SAGA 2
(Release: July 1st on Xbox One, July 5th on PS4)
Already released for the PC back in April, The Banner Saga 2 is coming to consoles — and almost a month before we expected it to.
The first Banner Saga was an artistically stunning, apocalyptic, tactics RPG where players trekked across a world seeped in Norse mythology. While the sequel appears to offer more of the same, the story is the true reason to keep going. New lands, new enemies and new allies keep the narrative fresh and the gameplay challenging — but don’t expect a tight ending, as part three of this epic trilogy is just around the corner.
The Banner Saga 2 is currently free for Xbox Live Gold members, go nab it right now.