December is the strangest, most unsure month of the year for game releases, as so many titles still have 2020 releases penciled in without solid dates. Will any of them make it by New Year’s Eve? Of course. Will plenty of them slip and announce new 2021 dates before the clock strikes midnight? Also yes. However, today we’re talking about single player games with firm release dates — or at least ones with only a 50% chance of being delayed again and again (like, say, Cyberpunk 2077). So let’s look at five games we are reasonably sure to see this month: Empire of Sin, Twin Mirror, Shiren the Wanderer 5, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and Call of the Sea.
Empire of Sin
Release Date: Dec. 1, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
You heard me. Turn-based action in Chicago, set during the Prohibition era. Brought to us by the wife-and-husband team Brenda and John Romero — yes, those Romeros — and published by Paradox Interactive, Empire of Sin is practically the “Tim Burton’s Addams Family” of games. With the fit of the creative team, the subject matter, the game genre, and Paradox as publisher, it is almost too on the nose, too perfectly appropriate.
Yet here it is — a deep, flavorful, single player gangster strategy game that needs no further introduction. You know if you care; now we can only hope it lives up to everything it “oughta” be.
Release Date: Dec. 1, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
A French-based company making a non-supernatural psychological thriller set in the United States, you say? Is this the second coming of Heavy Rain? Well, to be fair, there are only so many ways the narrative of an investigative journalist in a classic adventure game can go, but following Dontnod Entertainment’s acclaimed work on Life is Strange, Twin Mirror is sure to be an engaging ride.
Like Dontnod’s earlier Remember Me, this adventure game’s puzzle-solving mechanic uses visual metaphors rather than just menu icons, though this time around combat is not a focus. Players will instead be able to enter protagonist Sam’s “mind palace” in order to discover clues to the mystery, and there are apparently multiple endings that emerge directly from character interactions across the title’s West Virginia setting.
Aesthetically, Twin Mirror appears to hew closely to modern atmospheric thriller games such as Alan Wake and Deadly Premonition, while taking writing inspiration from much older adventures like Beneath a Steel Sky. Like the mystery genre in television and movies, this is a game of broad appeal that will almost certainly deliver shock and delight to those who play it.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate
Release Date: Dec. 2, 2020
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
Swirl a bit. Take a sip. Ahhh. Does the room feel 20% classier already? Decanted like a finely aged wine, Shiren the Wanderer (the core series that sprouted from Mystery Dungeon) finally comes to Nintendo Switch and PC. These turn-based RPGs are both silly and stately, mixing creative and kooky characters with crunchy pixel art and roguelike mechanics.
The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate in particular has been on a very long journey. This fifth Shiren the Wanderer entry was originally released 10 years ago on Nintendo DS. The game then saw an updated version on our dearly departed PlayStation Vita, upon which this new version adds more improvements, like new dungeons and features designed with broadcast streaming in mind.
The Mystery Dungeon games, and roguelikes in general, are an acquired taste to say the least — but for adventurous players and those already attracted to the genre’s rich bouquet, you cannot get much more accomplished or pure than Shiren the Wanderer. Now that the game is coming to systems that people actually own, even more of us will have the opportunity to maybe find a new favorite game.
Immortals Fenyx Rising
Release Date: Dec. 3, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch
This is an odd one, a beautifully realized mythological single player RPG from the makers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that shamelessly borrows The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s exploration and puzzle structure — and yet also feels the need to have pop music in the trailer and comedy commentary from the Greek gods during play. Incredibly, an animated trailer for Immortals even featured a cross-over with Adventure Time’s Finn and Jake.
So what even is Immortals then? Zelda by way of Cartoon Network? Assassin’s Creed without the links to present-day reality? Or some mix of open-world RPG grind with online features, akin to Genshin Impact? Well, our review indicates it’s very much Ubisoft’s take on Breath of the Wild first and foremost, with an extensive season pass to come.
The history of Ubisoft Quebec, particularly its two Assassin’s games, surely indicates Immortals Fenyx Rising will be an expansive time-sink of an adventure. However, the question remains how this enormous Breath of the Wild contender will appeal and to whom. Perhaps Ubisoft sees its Far Cry and Tom Clancy fans are aging and added pop music trailers and irreverent humor to Immortals to attract those twerkin, Tiktokin’ youths.
Call of the Sea
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2020
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Announced earlier in the year at Microsoft’s Xbox Series X software reveal, Call of the Sea is another wonderful-looking “walking sim”-style first-person adventure, with brightly colored environments, plenty of puzzles, and a surreal mystery plucked from the Lovecraftian mythos.
Not everything Lovecraft has to be grim, incomprehensible, and culturally dated: Call of the Sea is deliberately stepping away from the horror genre while retaining a sense of the strange and cosmic. Call of the Sea lacks combat or sanity mechanics that show up in other Lovecraft-inspired games, instead focusing on exploration and puzzles akin to in classics like Myst and modern titles like Firewatch.
Will the game’s use of ray tracing on Xbox Series X | S transform the experience? That almost does not matter; Call of the Sea looks beautiful either way. What I hope for most is that there are further twists in the single player story beyond the Innsmouth-like mystery established in the trailers.
Notable Dates for Single Player-Friendly Games
Dec. 1 — Chronos: Before the Ashes (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
Dec. 4 — Dragon Quest XI S (PC, PS4, XBO, already on NS), Nine Witches: Family Disruption (PC, PS4, XBO, NS)
Dec. 7 — Drawn to Life: Two Realms (PC, NS)
Dec. 9 — Woodsalt (PC, NS, pushed back from October)
Dec. 15 — Simpocalypse (PC early access)
Dec. 17 — Airborne Kingdom (PC)
As a result of release date shifts and the general state of the world, there are other games set to release soon that lack firm release dates. Until next year, enjoy playing single player games!