Looking back before we move forward, 2019 was a good year for PC gaming. After a somewhat mediocre 2018 that saw the release of few truly-great PC games -- and plenty of downright bad ones -- it was a breath of fresh air. Throughout 2019, several excellent multi-platform titles hit the market, including emotionally-gripping experiences like A Plague Tale: Innocence, or The Outer Worlds, Obsidian's love letter to the now-controversial Fallout series.
There was also the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2's impressive (but buggy) PC port, the PC-exclusive Total War: Three Kingdoms, and the brilliantly-written, award-winning cop RPG Disco Elysium.
Despite how excellent many of those games are, they'll have some pretty stiff competition this year. With highly-anticipated titles like Mount & Blade: Bannerlord and Cyberpunk 2077 on the release docket, 2020 is set to be one hell of a year for PC gamers.
- Release Date: March 2020
- Genre: RPG, Strategy
- Buy if you like: Total War series, Mount & Blade games
Cyberpunk is not the only long-awaited title on this list. Though the futuristic RPG was teased 7 years ago, many PC gamers have been impatiently anticipating a true sequel to 2008's medieval sandbox RPG "Mount & Blade" for even longer. Fortunately, that's just what they'll get in soon, as Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord finally nears a release.
But what should you expect from Bannerlord? In short, picture the original Mount & Blade, but better. All of the franchise's core features are here, from its open-ended gameplay or directional combat mechanics to its impressive simulated economy and real-time, tactical army battle system. However, the combat has been sped up to give attacks more "oomph," and unit AI has been improved enough that your troops should hopefully stop all charging up the same darn siege ladder.
Features like Mount & Blade's overworld map, diplomacy, city building, and faction management are also returning, with various improvements to each. For example, there are new buildings to construct in your cities or towns, and diplomacy will have a pseudo-currency that should make it a bit easier to convince Bannerlord's various characters to do your bidding.
If improvements alone aren't enough to grab your attention, Bannerlord will be receiving its fair share of new features, too. There'll be aging, permadeath (due to old age, combat, or execution), and heir mechanics, as well as robust weapon crafting and expanded options for non-traditional playstyles, like banditry or trading.
Frankly, we could talk about Bannerlord all day. Rest assured, if you're a fan of multi-genre games or medieval RPGs, this is one PC-exclusive title you won't want to miss when it launches on Steam Early Access in two months.
- Release Date: September 17, 2020
- Genre: Cyberpunk RPG
- Buy if you like: Blade Runner, The Witcher 3, GTA series
Coming from well-known Polish developer of The Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077 aims to take everything that made the medieval fantasy RPG excellent and build upon it with unprecedented levels of player freedom.
Cyberpunk will have a full character creation system, complete with perk, attribute, and skill customization, as well as the choice of three distinct Dragon Age: Origins-like backgrounds, each with its own unique playable prologue.
Cyberpunk 2077 also carries over this notion of player freedom to its moment-to-moment gameplay. Unlike The Witcher 3, in which most encounters were resolved with a simple (but satisfying) hack-and-slash combat system, Cyberpunk lets players approach missions in a variety of ways.
Do you favor big guns, explosions, and pure bravado? Cyberpunk has you covered. What about sneaking, hacking, smooth-talking, or toying with robots... or a combination of everything? All equally valid play styles, CD Projekt Red promises.
And, if you ever tire of making life-or-death gameplay and story decisions, you can always take a break and cruise through Cyberpunk 2077's impressive setting: a sprawling, futuristic and dangerous metropolis known as "Night City."
- Release Date: May 19, 2020
- Genre: Isometric RPG
- Buy if you like: Fallout 1 & 2, Wasteland 2, post-apocalyptic worlds
Unlike previous games in this Fallout-like, post-apocalyptic, party-based RPG series, Wasteland 3 is doing away with the stereotypical desert setting. Instead, the game will drop players into the middle of frigid Colorado, a land ravaged by an ongoing nuclear winter.
As your custom character and his or her in-game companions -- the last surviving members of "Team November," a squad of peacekeeping Rangers -- traverse Colorado's hostile landscape in an armored rover, you'll be contending with raiders, mutated creatures, and the very elements to scrape by. The more encounters (combat-oriented or otherwise) you and your allies survive, the more new abilities and equipment they'll gain access to.
And trust us, you'll need every advantage you can get. Wasteland 3 seeks to revitalize Wasteland 2's challenging and notoriously deadly XCom-like strategic combat system with new weapons and features for players (and enemies) to take advantage of, not the least of which is an all-new cooperative gameplay option. That's right. For the first time ever in the Wasteland franchise, you can choose to bring a friend along for the ride as you face down the ever-dangerous Colorado wilds and their inhabitants.
Whether you do so or not, though, inXile promises that its latest project will deliver an emotional, story-driven RPG experience that reacts to your choices. You'll be forced to make tough moral decisions that can doom or save the game's various factions and locations. With all that power in your hands, will you try to help as many people as possible and make the wasteland a better place, or simply watch it burn?
- Release Date: TBA 2020
- Genre: Survival, FPS, RPG
Buy if you like: The Walking Dead, survival games, zombie killing
Zombie survival games are a dime a dozen, but good zombie survival games are surprisingly rare. Fortunately, based on what we've seen so far, Dying Light 2 certainly looks like it's going to fit into the latter category upon launch.
Dying Light 2 will be an open-world, first-person survival RPG set in a massive, multi-district environment simply known as "The City." Like the first game, Dying Light 2 will equip players with one of the best parkour systems we've ever seen in a game to date -- you can run on walls, bounce off of poles and enemies, swing on bars, and much more. The melee combat system is equally innovative: combined with weapons that you craft or scavenge, you'll be dodging, parrying, and utilizing flashy (but practical) in-combat parkour moves to overcome fierce foes; both human and infected.
The city of Dying Light 2 is filled to the brim with dark, dangerous buildings to explore, violent faction conflicts to partake in, tough moral choices to make, and -- of course -- an astounding variety of zombies to avoid or destroy. If that's not quite enough for you, the game will also be placing an increased emphasis on story reactivity compared to its predecessor. The decisions you make will have real weight, and they can have dramatic impacts on the game world.
Opt to turn on the pumps for The City, and the water will be drained from elsewhere, opening up an entirely new, formerly-submerged district for you to explore. That exploration could lead to exciting new missions and the opportunity to snag sweet gear, but you might stumble across some less-than-friendly, area-specific zombie types in the process. If that concept doesn't scare you, then feel free to begin your apocalypse preparations ahead of Dying Light 2's
spring release window (developer Techland just announced they're delaying the game, TBA).
- Release Date: Late 2020
- Genre: RPG
- Buy if you like: Bloodlines 1, sparkle-free vampires, Deus Ex
Though Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines failed to impress the gaming world back in 2004, the franchise is getting a second chance at a first impression this year. Developer Hardsuit Labs is officially working on a sequel to the aging classic.
Bloodlines 2 aims to hold on to the dark and depressing low-fantasy atmosphere of the first game while bringing just about everything else up to date for modern times. That means better, more free-form character creation, fast-paced, action-oriented melee combat (instead of clunky real-time dice rolling), and an even more nuanced, reactive storyline. Further, Bloodlines 2 will be set in a new locale: the rainy, dreary streets of Seattle.
Despite those improvements and changes, Bloodlines 2 will still be an immersive sim-style RPG at heart, which means you'll be able to pursue missions from many angles. You can sneak through windows, use your vampiric powers to turn into mist and float through vents, or blast through heavily guarded areas with tooth and claw (or a shotgun). If you'd prefer not to get your hands dirty, you can always seduce, persuade, or intimidate those who stand in your way.
No matter how you play, you must ensure you uphold the "Masquerade," a code (of sorts) that allows vampires in this setting to keep their existence a secret from ordinary humans. Succumb to the beast within too often, or in front of mortals, and the consequences could be dire. Regardless, the choice will be yours to make when Bloodlines 2 releases in "late" 2020.
- Release Date: March 20, 2020
- Genre: FPS
- Buy if you like: Doom franchise, Quake, heavy weapons
If you like intense, shut-your-brain-off gameplay, there's a pretty good chance you've heard of Doom. The series has been around for over two decades, and though they have changed form over the years, they always seem to get one thing right: satisfying demon-slaying action.
Doom's 2016 reboot, in particular, managed to nail that aspect of the series. It made no attempts to emphasize strategy or tactics, and instead offered gamers a playground for maximum carnage. The combat was fast and frantic, continually encouraging you to deal with enemies up-close and personal, typically using your shotgun or other weapons and your own two hands to blast your enemies to pieces.
Doom Eternal will be no different. It uses the same engine as Doom 2016 and has the same core gameplay, but it adds new movement mechanics such as wall climbing and dashing, new weapons like armor-attached flamethrowers or vicious grappling hooks, and "twice as many" demon archetypes for you to face off against.
If that description has gotten you in the mood for some more high-octane demon-bashing, be sure to save some room in your wallet for Doom Eternal when it arrives on March 20.
- Release Date: TBA 2020
- Genre: Medieval combat sim
- Buy if you like: Mount & Blade, Chivalry 1, Mordhau
If you love simulation-heavy medieval combat games, Chivalry 2 might be just the game you’re looking for. It builds upon the already-strong foundation of PvP action laid out by the first Chivalry with next-gen graphics, big battles of up to 64 players, and new game modes.
Notably, Chivalry 2 will bring back its predecessor’s popular and notoriously hard to learn physics-based melee combat system; but in expanded form. You can still duck, dodge, and parry attacks (as well as strike from different directions) as normal, but you can also drop-kick your opponents, continue fighting with your limbs chopped off, or even pick up random environmental objects -- such as chickens or rocks -- and use them throughout a fight.
For the first time ever in this series, Chivalry 2 is also getting massive, multi-stage battles, where players could go from burning houses and smashing gates down in one section, to slaughtering nobles or protecting peasants in another. The game also promises deeper character customization opportunities, and the same four core classes that you might remember from the first game: the heavily-armored but slow Knight, the damage-focused Vanguard, the squishy Archer, and the well-rounded Footman -- equivalent to Chivalry’s Man-At-Arms.
Another series-first for Chivalry 2 is the inclusion of a full mounted combat system. We haven’t seen much of it yet, but if it ends up being even half as good as Chivalry’s basic melee combat mechanics, it’ll probably be a blast.
- Release Date: Late 2020
- Genre: Open-world action-adventure
- Buy if you like: Watch Dogs 1 & 2, GTA series, hacking
Modern open-world action-adventure games tend to feel alive on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper, you realize that it's all mostly an illusion. The NPCs, though large in number, are typically little more than unremarkable set dressing. However, that might not be the case for much longer -- Ubisoft's upcoming open-world action title Watch Dogs: Legion promises to shake the genre up significantly.
When you first load up Watch Dogs: Legion's dystopian, government-dominated version of London, you'll see the usual hordes of NPCs walking about. The twist is, every single one of those characters, from the cranky old woman feeding the pigeons to the corner DJ, is fully playable. They all have their own personal story, skillset (whether it's stealth, combat, hacking, or something else), background, and set of available perks for you to make use of.
And make use of them you should -- in Legion, you aren't playing as a one-man army. When you're up against the full force of London's fictional totalitarian police state, you're going to need some help, and that's where the "Resistance" comes in." Every character you recruit throughout the game, whether you choose to play as them or not, gets added to the Resistance's ranks, and once your pool of characters gets large enough, you might just be able to overthrow London's oppressors.
Be careful, though. Watch Dogs: Legion introduces permadeath to the franchise, which means even your favorite characters can be killed off for good if they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, you can reduce your chances of failure by bringing up to three real-life buddies with you on your adventures. Whether you have friends willing to tag along or not, you can join the Resistance for yourself later this year when Watch Dogs: Legion finally arrives.
- Release Date: TBA 2020
- Genre: Grand strategy
- Buy if you like: Political intrigue, Game of Thrones, Crusader Kings 2
The grand strategy genre is one of the oldest in the PC gaming industry, and the games within it aren't dying off any time soon. At least, not if Crusader Kings 3 has anything to say about it. As the latest entry in the long-running medieval strategy series of the same name, Crusader Kings 3 will bring moderate upgrades and changes to the franchise without sacrificing too much of its core DNA.
That means you'll still be able to play as famous rulers from European history, execute political masterstrokes to get ahead, brutally assassinate your (in-game, we hope) kids, and marry off your relatives to each other to keep the bloodlines "pure." In other words, Crusader Kings 3, like 1 and 2, will give you a way to live out your wildest Game of Thrones fantasies shamelessly.
This time around, though, you'll be doing so with some much prettier eye candy to look at. Instead of static 2D portraits, every character in the game now has his or her own, fully-animated 3D model, and the game's textures and user interface have been modernized quite a bit. All in all, the game should be more accessible than ever, without compromising in the realm of complexity.
Aesthetics aside, Crusader Kings 3 is a veritable treasure trove of fresh content and changes. For example, the reworked Lifestyle system lets you customize your ruler with one of five different life focuses: Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, Intrigue, and Learning. Each focus helps to shape your character's personality while unlocking new active abilities, bonuses, and roleplaying events for them to partake in.
If you're the sort of gamer who enjoys (literally or figuratively) backstabbing your closest allies and slowly watching your empire grow over time, Crusader Kings 3 will be a must-play when it hits the market this year.
- Release Date: TBA 2020
- Genre: Action, RPG
- Buy if you like: Kung-Fu, mutants, post-apocalyptic worlds
If we were compiling a list of the weirdest upcoming PC titles of 2020, Biomutant would certainly be at the top. According to its developers, Biomutant is an "open-world, post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu fable RPG" with a combat system that mixes karate-like melee with shooting and powerful mutant abilities. Swipe at your foes a couple times with your sword, and then generate a ball of mucus around yourself to bowl through them. Or, pick them up and slap them around like a fish, if you have the right powers.
When you aren't overcoming your enemies using your unique weapons or outlandish abilities, Biomutant allows you and your custom-made, rabbit-like protagonist to explore a massive, alien world filled with danger and wonder. You can do so on foot, or by using one of the game's various vehicles, like giant mechs, jet-skis, hot air balloons, or even a few area-specific creature mounts.
Biomutant's character progression systems are a bit different than other RPGs. You won't be upgrading basic stats like agility or strength here -- instead, you can "re-code" your genetic structure to change how your character looks and plays. Mutate your mind to unlock psychic powers like levitation and telekinesis, or alter your body's genetic make-up to sprout usable wings and "mantis claws."
If Biomutant's off-beat approach to open-world RPG design sounds like your cup of tea, you'll be able to get your hands on it sometime in 2020 (no firm date just yet).