We are now standing at the tipping point for game delays, from some that were delayed out of 2020, to those that need more time in the oven because of the switch to work from home. Release dates have been remarkably fluid over the past 12 months, and that will only continue going forward. However, among ports, re-releases of old classics, and new releases that have made it through after all, we can still look forward to some video games to check out. This March, we are taking a look at the single player games Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, Monster Hunter Rise, and Evil Genius 2: World Domination.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Release Date: March 23, 2021
Platform: Nintendo Switch
This is pure farming sim royalty right here, being the originator (under its original Harvest Moon guise) of so many easygoing lifestyle RPGs and farming mechanics that have since spread across the industry. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is just the thing for when you are tired of Animal Crossing and have exhausted your playthrough of Stardew Valley‘s latest update.
Last time we checked in with Story of Seasons, it was with a remake of the fan-favorite Friends of Mineral Town from the days of the Game Boy Advance, itself a remake of the PlayStation entry to the series Back to Nature. Fortunately, these are relatively stand-alone titles with no prior experience required, as befits these chilled out, low-key adventures.
So what we have here is the prettiest, most refined version of the same old single player story: Playing as your personally designed avatar, your grandfather has bequeathed you his old farm in the country. You explore the nearby town, interact with (and potentially romance) a variety of the townsfolk, and transform the run-down farm through ambitious and arduous landscaping, planting crops and selling them to improve your home and nearby Olive Town as wel. Nothing too unusual for fans, and it’s honestly an easy sell even if you have never touched a farming sim before.
Just be aware that these are lengthy, absorbing, cute and friendly tales of escapism — you might not want to play any other games!
Monster Hunter Rise
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Platform: Nintendo Switch (coming to PC in 2022)
Thanks to Capcom’s next-generation RE Engine, Monster Hunter Rise is hands down one of the most impressive-looking Nintendo Switch games around. No mere side-story, remake, or spinoff, Rise is the next major step for the series after the mammoth-sized hit of Monster Hunter: World.
Though the game retains many of the quality-of-life and gameplay adjustments introduced in World, Rise takes place in a brand new setting with a more classically Japanese flavor, in addition to boasting a seamless play area with a little more in common with the other best-looking Switch adventure, Breath of the Wild. Yes, as the game’s title suggests, players no longer simply jump and run but can ascend tall mountains and cross precipitous gaps with a grappling hook-like device called the Wirebug.
I have always been impressed by the Monster Hunter team’s dedication to industry-leading monster animations, and both the new monsters and the new Palamute player mounts look to continue this high quality. Solo-only players should still keep an eye on this one for its detailed action, unbeatable creature designs, and now a more exciting mode of world exploration.
Evil Genius 2: World Domination
Release Date: March 30, 2021
The original Evil Genius being more than 15 years old, this one requires a little bit of storytime to catch us up on this long-awaited sequel.
The real-time strategy (RTS) genre essentially begat the tower defense genre, and the RTS genre was still being worked out in the 1990s when development house Bullfrog Productions, partly led by a young Peter Molyneux, was doing the work of many lifetimes by reinventing genres with every other game. Players today have Bullfrog to thank for popularizing, among others, the “god game” (Populous), the “amusement park game” (Theme Park), and, with Dungeon Keeper, the “dungeon RTS.”
Whereas Command & Conquer and StarCraft were about offensive macromanagement, Dungeon Keeper was all about constructing an elaborate underground maze as a trap for adventuring heroes. With a variety of interacting systems including dungeon ecology (Some of your underlings work together better than others.) and the option to possess characters within your custom dungeon (and play from a first-person perspective), Dungeon Keeper is quite well-suited to the modern appeal of experimental and emergent mechanics.
EA acquired Bullfrog in 1995 but ultimately shifted staff to another studio and dissolved the developer. Some time prior to that, ex-Bullfrog/Lionhead developer Demis Hassabis had started a new studio, which in 2004 released its own take on Dungeon Keeper, the first Evil Genius. Mechanically, the game closely resembled Dungeon Keeper, but with the giant spiders, demons, heroes and other fantasy tropes replaced by the high-tech gadgets and mid-century aesthetic of a James Bond spy thriller.
Since 2004, the owners of Evil Genius themselves have folded, and EA tried and failed to revive Dungeon Keeper as a terrifying microtransaction-driven mess in 2014. So to have new owners of the Evil Genius IP, Rebellion Developments, finally nearing the end of production on Evil Genius 2 is quite the momentous occasion. Will the single player game flourish in a world where emergent mechanics and player freedom are more valued than ever? Or will it feel like a rehash of 1990s ideas with better graphics? I look forward to finding out, and yes, that does make me feel like an old man.
Notable Dates for Single Player-Friendly Games
March 1 — PixelJunk Raiders (Stadia exclusive)
March 16 — Mundaun (PC, PS4, PS5, XBO, XSX, NS in April)
March 25 — Dandy Ace (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. Enjoy playing single player games this month!