Although the remainder of 2013's PC gaming lineup isn't as strong as it could have been with Thief, Watch Dogs, Dark Souls II, Titanfall, GTA V and other major titles still many months away, you're bound to find something appetizing as several best-selling franchises are back on the menu this Christmas.
To help keep track of what's actually shipping over the year's final weeks, we've prepared a list of this season's hottest PC games ordered by their North American Windows release date. As always, you're welcome to pitch in with comments about PC releases we may have overlooked or otherwise excluded.
The Wolf Among Us
83 27 Reviews Shifting from Robert Kirkman's post-apocalyptic world to one of murder, mystery and mythology, Telltale is ready to yank you along another emotional rollercoaster. The studio's latest episodic point-and-click adventure takes place 20 years before the start of Bill Willingham's comic book series "Fables" and follows the story of Bigby Wolf, sheriff of Fabletown, a hidden community in New York filled with "fables" (characters from folklore, with Bigby being the Big Bad Wolf). Five episodes are currently planned with the first ("Faith") arriving October 11 to wide acclaim.
Batman: Arkham Origins
73 53 Reviews Strap on your cape and glide back into the underbelly of Gotham as an inexperienced Batman learns the ropes of being a superhero. With a new developer (Warner Bros. Games Montreal instead of Rocksteady Studios) and a story that's set five years before the events of 2009's Arkham Asylum, Origins obviously shakes the franchise up a little bit. But your favorite disgruntled billionaire still dispatches villains with a familiar freeflow combat system and arsenal of gadgets, and he does so smoothly with affordable cards such as the HD 6870/7850 or GTX 560 Ti/650 Ti.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
73 49 Reviews Activision catches at least as much flak as EA for annualizing major franchises, but we wouldn't blame you for wanting to take another bombastic ride with Infinity Ward and crew. This year's CoD follows the happenings of "Ghosts," an elite paramilitary group resisting the "Federation," a hostile foreign power who invades a crippled United States. Multiplayer seems like it has received more than a marginal update too, with the ability to lean and slide, dynamic environments (earthquakes, floods etc.) and player-driven events, as well as new game modes, maps, weapons and other gear.
86 13 Reviews Supposedly the fastest way to learn the guitar, Rocksmith is back with an updated version that offers a "complete package" for aspiring guitar players, whether you want to learn a song, compete with others or create your own music. Unlike most music games, Rocksmith uses a real instrument instead of a toy, serving as a learning tool that is said to have helped 95% of players improve their skills with features such as the ability to recognize and replay trouble spots . It ships with more than 50 songs and over 200 others are available for purchase, and Ubisoft says you'll be playing competently in only 60 days.
Path of Exile
85 15 Reviews If you've already plundered the depths of Diablo III and Torchlight II, Grinding Gear Games has finally launched its free-to-play interpretation of the loot-driven clickfest you'd expect from those properties. The title currently offers seven classes which share a disorienting tree of well over a thousand passive skills, a gem-based customization system, a barter economy that thwarts inflation, a couple of game modes (including hardcore), an "ethical" microtransaction policy that limits store items to cosmetic or convenience upgrades, and the promise of yearly expansions.
82 51 Reviews DICE's latest military shooter looks so great that we wouldn't be surprised if people bought the game purely to sample its Frostbite 3-driven single player graphics. However, it's clear that multiplayer remains the priority, with BF4 reintroducing the RTS-like "Commander Mode" as well as supporting up to 64 players over three factions (the US, China and Russia). BF4 ships with the same four classes from BF3 as well as seven game modes (Obliteration and Defuse being new) which can be played on all 10 of the game's stock maps. Five expansion packs are scheduled.
Serving as something of a reboot for the Egosoft's long-running space trading series, X Rebirth wipes the slate clean with various gameplay changes including an updated interface that's easier for new players to learn while remaining complex enough to satisfy veterans. Likewise, Rebirth brings sandbox gameplay that retains familiar elements such as fighting, trading and plain old exploration, though it also touts a new universe and storytelling that details a handful of characters in a more personalized way than previous entries. It's also one of this season's few major Linux-friendly.
Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition
74 13 Reviews Finishing what began with last year's Baldur's Gate remake, Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition revamps Shadows of Amn and its expansion Throne of Bhaal with streamlined multiplayer, polished graphics including native widescreen, as well as four new party members with individual quest lines (of note, these characters bundled on PC and Mac but they'll be separate DLC on iPad and Android). Overhaul Games seems to have pleased many with the changes in Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and we hope its experience translates to an even smoother update this time around.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
85 37 Reviews Following the happenings of eighteenth-century pirates including Black Beard, Black Flag puts you in control of assassin Edward Kenway (father and grandfather of the two playable characters of Assassin's Creed III) as he explores Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and other areas in the Caribbean with a 60/40 ratio of land and sea navigation. Along with a plot that's familiarly split between modern and historical stories, ACIV's multiplayer includes seven game modes as well as the ability to build your own with a new feature that offers more than 200 different options for abilities, weapons, time limits and so on.
Need For Speed: Rivals
80 22 Reviews With similar gameplay to 2010's Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Rivals brings cops versus racers action to a world with 100 miles (160km) of open road, complete with unmapped shortcuts, speed traps and jumps. The racing franchise's 20th release offers two single player careers (again, cops and racers), while said factions face off in high-speed chases with 11 upgradable gadgets including EMPs, shockwaves and an ability to summon roadblocks. Some form of co-op gameplay is also present, while a new social system called "AllDrive" will let players seamlessly transition between single and multiplayer.