Header image for article on new game IPs in August 2023 featuring Immortals of Aveum, Stray Gods, and more.

Do August 2023’s New Gaming IPs Have A Future?

The gaming industry often feels like it’s balanced precariously between the past and the future. Most of 2023’s biggest games so far — Resident Evil 4, Baldur’s Gate 3, Dead Space — are remakes or sequels (or both). There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but I love the comparative freedom that is possible with new IPs. With Baldur’s Gate 3 and Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon sucking all the oxygen out of August 2023, I wanted to take the opportunity to put the focus entirely on the month’s new gaming IPs for a moment and see which, if any, of them lay the foundations for a fruitful future. And if you don’t want to believe me, I’ll include our 3 Minute Reviews for each title as a second opinion.

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Atlas Fallen

Atlas Fallen is… interesting. I use that word intentionally, knowing that, without context, it means nothing. But that’s how I feel about Atlas Fallen. I’m utterly fascinated by it, and I can’t quite pinpoint why.

In some ways, it’s an unabashedly old-school action-adventure, where you traverse cool locations and fight lots and lots of enemies for no other reason than that they’re in your way. However, it blends that with modern sensibilities of a pointlessly large open world punctuated by equally pointless side quests and a relatively in-depth system whereby you craft and upgrade skills that change up your approach to combat (even if it doesn’t have as much impact as one would hope).

I’ve already written at length about how Atlas Fallen feels like a soulslike, so I won’t reiterate the point too much. I was intrigued by the opening, which positions you as one of the Nameless, which seems a bit like a Tarnished or something, but doesn’t actually point to anything. The other Nameless are identified by their jobs, but you never are, so there’s no real positioning for you in the story, which unfolds at a glacial pace made worse by dull writing and shoddy voice acting.

And yet, for all that I’ve just spent two paragraphs bashing the game, there’s something compelling about it. The environments are eye-catching and the way you move through them just feels so damn good. Developer Deck13 couldn’t make The Surge a Thing after two tries, but if they can sharpen up an Atlas Fallen 2, I can see it becoming a cult favorite, even if it will forever be a hard sell for the mainstream.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Not having played the Jet Set Radio games, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk reminds me most of Assassin’s Creed. That’s not because of any direct likeness between the two games, but because Assassin’s Creed has long been my barometer for what a game could become. 

There’s a lot of promise in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. The fusion of hip-hop and cyberpunk that characterizes the nascent cyberfunk genre hits all the right beats, even if this game does feel more interested in its aesthetics than its substance. Its story of a young man trying to reclaim his identity is intriguing, but the obstacles in the way have such a flimsy connection to that core quest that it comes up short. 

Meanwhile, the gameplay is an unfiltered expression of pure joy. It’s deliciously kinetic, as you pull off tricks, tag the environment, and generally just cause mayhem on the streets. As a sandbox, it’s fantastic. Once it’s bolted into the narrative framework, though, it loses some of its luster. The gameplay becomes a tiringly repetitive loop where you get the opposing crew’s attention by tagging their territory, copy their tricks, have a boss battle against cops, and then go head-to-head with the crew to see who can score the most points. 

And that’s where it feels like Assassin’s Creed. The first game in Ubisoft’s tentpole franchise was likewise plagued with repetition that made it a slog. And like Ubisoft, Team Reptile should absolutely take another tilt at Bomb Rush Cyberfunk because of all of the new gaming IPs of August 2023, I think it has the most franchise potential. 

Fort Solis

As a lover of walking simulators, there were two games in the genre that I was really looking forward to in 2023: The Invincible (out in November) and Fort Solis. The debut project for Fallen Leaf Studio, Fort Solis actually falls somewhere between a walking simulator and a Quantic Dream adventure, with mostly on-rails exploration occasionally broken up by QTE-based action segments. 

It absolutely nails the atmosphere. Like the mansion in Gone Home, the place of Fort Solis puts you on edge. There’s a similar presentiment of dread, though here it’s justified by the premise of the Martian station sending out a distress call followed by radio silence. The atmosphere is backed up by the presentation of the mystery, which is enough to keep you on your toes until you have a clearer idea of what’s going on.

Unfortunately, that’s where things start to fall apart. The story doesn’t do a great job in explaining why things in Fort Solis went so comprehensively off the rails, and the plodding pace of protagonists Jack and Jessica is something of a barrier to wanting to revisit the locked rooms for more clues once you can because of the size of the base. 

Despite the drawbacks, the team at Fallen Leaf Studio has laid the foundation for a sci-fi world worthy of further exploration. Even so, a sequel to a walking simulator (unless there’s a genre shake-up like that from The Messenger to Sea of Stars) is hard to justify, so I’d love to see this hyper-cinematic formula sharpened up with something new.

Immortals of Aveum

Immortals of Aveum has probably had the most money poured into its advertising of all the new gaming IPs of August 2023. It’s been a mainstay of conference presentations since its debut at The Game Awards 2022. However, the energy that EA and Geoff Keighley poured into it never seemed to carry through to player attention. Prior to release, I saw very little discussion of the game on websites, forums, or social media — and landing as a would-be AAA release right in the middle of Baldur’s Gate 3, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, and Starfield did it absolutely no favors.  

Worse, most discussion since launch has seemingly focused on its console rendering resolution, as if this is still 2010. But, honestly, why does anyone care about that when there’s so much else to talk about? With the caveat that I’m still relatively early in my playthrough, Immortals of Aveum feels like the most significant shake-up to the single-player FPS genre in ages, at least on this scale. Sure, the mechanics are mostly familiar, but the simple shift from modern realist and sci-fi settings to a science fantasy one injects so much personality into the game.

On top of that, there’s actually a surprisingly solid, engaging story in the mix too, and I think the last time I thought that about an FPS was in Resistance 3. After Atomic Heart turned out to be a gorgeous misfire earlier in 2023, it’s encouraging to see that the AAA single-player FPS genre still has life outside of reheated throwbacks. I can hope Ascendant Studios gets another chance to refine an already solid base in a spiritual successor, if not a direct sequel.

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Sure, if you boil Stray Gods down to its core principles it’s a visual novel. You follow a story told predominantly through still-frame images, occasionally making choices that affect the narrative. The formula gets a huge injection of energy, though, from the musical element. Characters break into song at moments of key tension. And even if the songs aren’t always great, it’s a hell of a vibe.

Plus, transplanting ancient gods to modern settings always makes for a fun time. Here, the Greek Gods have survived through the ages, although their numbers are dwindling. The latest victim is Calliope, the Last Muse, who manages to pass her godhood on to protagonist Grace, who then has to find a way to defend herself against accusations of murder. And, look, while that central story is strong enough to pull you through, the real charm is in the character dynamics, which I’ve already written about.

In truth, despite the subtitle, Stray Gods is a little light on the roleplaying elements. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if it was as deep as, say, The Council, but more clear purpose to the personality choices would definitely have been appreciated. 

There’s a huge amount of worldbuilding that’s gone into the game, but my favorite is Freddie’s question of whether the Greek Gods are the only ones alive and in hiding. If the folks at Summerfall Studios choose to expand on this world, I hope that’s the thread they follow, but I’m mostly just hopeful to see more video game musicals. 

Notes From The Backlog

Unfortunately, there’s just never enough time for all the games we want to play, so there’s a handful that I wanted to but didn’t get to dive into myself. The first is The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, and I didn’t even need to watch Amy Campbell’s glowing review to know it’s a must-play. Deconstructeam is a no-miss studio, so it’s high priority on my list, even if I can’t imagine this team doing a sequel (unless it’s as a kind of connected experience, as Eternal Home Floristry was to The Red Strings Club).

Meanwhile, with both Jesse Galena and Yahtzee having nice things to say about it, the short, romping, cartoon-adjacent adventure En Garde! seems like exactly the kind of thing to while away a lazy weekend. Plus, it sounds like there’s plenty of room to expand on its core ideas, so it has potential to become one of those hidden gem franchises. 

The final mention goes to Sprawl, a high-octane AA FPS that Michael Cripe reviewed. It seems like an antithesis to Immortals of Aveum in that it drives right towards the heart of FPS gameplay in an attempt to epitomize it rather than innovating on it, and with the continued absence of new Titanfall or Quake games, maybe Sprawl can take their place.

KEEP READING: All Voice Actors in Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical


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Author
Image of Damien Lawardorn
Damien Lawardorn
Editor and Contributor of The Escapist: Damien Lawardorn has been writing about video games since 2010, including a 1.5 year period as Editor-in-Chief of Only Single Player. He’s also an emerging fiction writer, with a Bachelor of Arts with Media & Writing and English majors. His coverage ranges from news to feature interviews to analysis of video games, literature, and sometimes wider industry trends and other media. His particular interest lies in narrative, so it should come as little surprise that his favorite genres include adventures and RPGs, though he’ll readily dabble in anything that sounds interesting.