Here in Australia, the rains have finally come and begun putting out fires around our sizzling continent. Likewise in games, the trickle has turned to a flood, and March is veritably stacked. Here are some big single player titles to keep an eye on, including Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Nioh 2, Doom Eternal, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Release Date: March 11, 2020
Platform: Windows PC and Xbox One
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of several big sequels this month that takes the tack of expanding almost everything in play mechanics from its predecessor, while also improving on an already gorgeous visual presentation. The first Ori game remains one of Xbox’s most charismatic titles, and with Will of the Wisps, developer Moon Studios appears to have crafted another high-profile win for the brand.
Combat is more involved — The Legend of Zelda-inspired, according to the developers — and the ability system now works on activating bespoke “Spirit Shards,” each carrying different buffs and play alterations, rather than the first game’s upgrade tree. The first game had a rather original-for-the-genre system where players would generate save points anywhere on the map, but Will of the Wisps has ditched it for standard autosaves.
On the one hand, purists will lament the removal of intent and strategy around using energy to place save points (though by extension also removing the frustration of forgetting to save and having to make a long corpse run upon death).
On the other hand, autosaves not only free up energy for use in other areas of play, such as the expanded combat system, but should also broadly reduce the overhead for planning around every single save place contingency. Overall, such a change is welcome, though it will take a moment for fans to adjust.
Obviously the most important part of a Metroidvania, Will of the Wisps‘s sprawling, interconnected world map is both tantalizing and daunting — three times the size of the first.
With a little more emphasis on story and non-player characters, there is a chance that Ori‘s wondrous, 1980s animation-inspired universe will pop even better than the first, in the way genre fellow Hollow Knight was able to excel at.
Though competition in the Metroidvania genre has become fierce, with a handful of game-of-the-decade contenders across the years, the mastery demonstrated with the first Ori suggests this sequel will have no trouble standing out among its peers.
Release Date: March 13, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4
Like Ori, this month’s massive samurai demon-slayer Nioh 2 finds itself in a huge 2010s trend, this time of Souls-likes: difficult, trial-and-error action RPGs with resource management, beefy bosses, and tricky levels featuring switchbacks, secrets, and shortcuts.
Of course, developer Team Ninja is no stranger to difficult action games; the studio’s Ninja Gaiden reboot was one of the pioneers in stylish action along with Capcom’s Devil May Cry. The first Nioh was abundantly challenging, with more emphasis on timing and positioning than From’s Dark Souls trilogy, and Nioh 2 takes what worked with the first to the extreme.
While players of Nioh were placed in the shoes of the first gaijin samurai, William Adams (rather, a heavily fictionalized, Irish version thereof), Nioh 2 is a prequel with a fully featured custom character creator.
Due to their being half-Yokai, the player character now boasts a variety of powers to enhance the intricate combat of the first game. Nioh 2 includes a whole new tree of unlockable magical abilities that can be bolstered by defeating other Yokai in the game.
Team Ninja promises that with Nioh 2 there are also improvements to the level design, enemies, and Diablo-like loot system that further distinguish the title from Souls. Additionally, though the first game was no slouch visually, Nioh 2 clearly benefits from being an end-of-the-generation PS4 title, and it has an astounding graphical style filled with much weirder Yokai enemies and evocative special effects.
Team Ninja’s track record suggests Nioh 2 will be another suitable samurai epic, with enough imposing environments and challenging action to tide Souls-like fans over until Elden Ring.
Doom Eternal + Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Release Date: March 20, 2020
Platform: Doom Eternal: PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (Switch and Stadia release TBD). Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Nintendo Switch
The strangest of single player bedfellows, Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are two more blockbuster sequels in March — due for release on the same day. Fans of both have been uncharacteristically wholesome about this serendipity, perhaps because the delayed release of Doom Eternal‘s Switch port gives owners a bit longer to make their purchasing decision.
In any case, both games appear to represent developers at the top of their expertise and artistic prowess. Doom Eternal continues the bloody crusade of the Doomslayer against the legions of hell, adding heavenly and Earth-bound levels for greater variety, as well as exciting Titanfall-esque traversal that further pushes the combat-arena design of 2016’s Doom.
With a balance of action and lore, players of Doom Eternal have a lot of freedom to choose whether to engage with ID Software’s hilariously over-the-top Doomslayer narrative or to ignore it all and just rip and tear as needed.
There is a chance the game’s bigger scope and more elaborate universe might weigh Doom Eternal down from its ultimate form — the closest thing to a first-person stylish action game — however, it would require a heavy load of narrative bologna to defang the exciting mechanics of demon destruction here.
To completely change gears, Animal Crossing: New Horizons once again puts players in the role of guiding a cute town toward … if not any real actualization, then at least some form of amicable stability.
This time, instead of coming to town as a resident, or arriving as the new mayor, players are practically given square one — a deserted island to improve and attract residents by building up.
The series is an original fusion of Sims-adjacent social simulation with very light Harvest Moon/Stardew Valley elements, particularly in that some actions can only be taken so many times each day, fostering an ongoing relationship with the game instead of something to be “beaten” as quickly as possible.
Returning elements from previous entries include the day-night cycle based on the Switch’s internal clock and seasonal changes throughout the year. In New Horizons, though, seasonal changes will be added as title updates, making it harder to “time travel” by setting the system’s clock forward.
Though one is a heart-thumping, blistering action game and the other a laid-back life sim, Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons promise some of the most purely entertaining experiences of the year so far. Such creative escapism is something our crazy world can always do with a touch of.
Notable Dates for Single Player-Friendly Games
March 3 — Granblue Fantasy Versus (PS4)
March 6 — Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (NS)
March 10 — Langrisser I & II (PC, PS4, NS)
March 13 — MLB The Show 20 (PS4), My Hero One’s Justice 2 (PC, PS4, NS, XB1)
March 20 — Doom 64 (PC, PS4, NS, XB1)
March 23 — Half-Life: Alyx (PC VR), The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (PC)
Mar 27 — One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 (PC, PS4, NS, XB1)
Mar 31 — Persona 5 Royal (PS4)
Let us know in the comments which games you are looking forward to, and have fun until next month’s Single Player Games post. In the meantime, you can join in the discussion on the OnlySP community Discord server.