October is overwhelming. That’s true every single year. There are too many pieces of candy lying around the house, too many meaningful baseball games, too many conversations about SEC football, too many damn leaves to rake and bag, and, most significantly for this list, too many games and not enough Tuesdays every single October. Autumn is supposed to be a quiet time of peaceful contemplation, but nope, there are multiple games of note coming out every single week this month and I’m already feeling the heat. We’re only one day into it! Stifle yourself, October. I’ve been doing these monthly previews since the summer, and this has easily been the hardest month to strip down to five entries. When I pick a number I stick to it, though, so expanding past five isn’t an option. Fortunately number one on this list doesn’t come out until the end of the month—once it’s out I don’t know how much gaming I’ll be doing otherwise.
1. Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
Firaxis is following up back-to-back classics with a new take on Sid Meier’s timeless Civilization concept. Combining the traditional turn-based strategy and society-building focus of Civilization V with the outer space alien jive of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth looks like the kind of game I’ll lose dozens of hours to without ever feeling guilty. For Meier fans who appreciate his full body of work, it’s exciting to see a new game that explores new facets of his design philosophies, even if the man himself has little to do with it. And for those who specifically loved Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which had similar themes of outer space exploration and colonization, Beyond Earth might be the most anticipated game of the year.
2. Fantasia: Music Evolved
Music. Music never changes. Except when it does. The last thing anybody expected when the new Fantasia game was announced was a trailer full of Bruno Mars and nothing else. Where was the classical music, with the strings and the horns and the German names? That was not a change many people were excited about, and reassuringly that bad first impression was overwritten once I got to play the game. Harmonix was the first developer to figure out the Kinect with Dance Central, and they keep the streak alive with Fantasia, where you’ll wave your arms around like Leopold Stokowski while remixing songs on the fly. And no, it’s not just Bruno Mars—a number of classical pieces made the final songlist. I’ve been able to play this at a few different events, and actually got a full copy earlier this week, and every time I’ve played it I’ve gotten wrapped up in its unusual approach to music and its surprisingly beautiful art design.
3. Sunset Overdrive
I’m not opposed to the idea of violence in videogames. If I was I wouldn’t play videogames because they are basically nothing but violence. The key is the tone of that violence. Too many games are self-serious and stupidly grim, mythologizing the idea of war while trivializing the virtual lives of the hundreds upon hundreds of videogame people you slaughter from start to finish. Think just about any military shooter. Sunset Overdrive doesn’t seem to even know what the word “serious” means. (It thinks it’s the Chicago Bulls’ theme song.) It looks like an even more ridiculous version of Crackdown, all open-world violence and free motion, but with Hulk-style leaps replaced with wall-running and rail-grinding and so much zip-lining. It’s violence, sure, but crossed with skateboarding and with the tone of Zombieland. It could be fun.
4. WWE 2K15
If you pay the slightest bit of attention to what I write here at Paste or to my Twitter feed you’ve probably noticed that I am a big stupid hopeless dummy for professional wrestling. It is awesome and horrible and embarrassing and maybe the greatest artform ever spawned by mankind (the species, not Mick Foley). WWE 2K15 promises to retool the current series with a new approach to chain wrestling and a new career mode that starts off in WWE’s developmental system NXT. (If you like wrestling and don’t watch NXT, you should: It’s the best weekly wrestling show around.) 2K15 also continues these games’ recent fixation on history, with a mode that recreates the biggest matches of some of the company’s most storied feuds. The WWE series is as susceptible to the dull grind of annual installments as any sports game, but 2K15 looks like it’ll be able to establish its own identity.
5. Freedom Wars
A dystopian future where everybody is born a criminal and has to earn their freedom by fighting giant monsters? Where all that remains of society are underground slums known specifically within the game as Panopticons? A videogame that has heard of Bentham and maybe even Foucault? All are reasons to look forward to this weird action game for the Vita, whose stylish graphics and slick art design thankfully don’t reinforce the punishingly grim concept.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games section and reviews games for the Boston Herald.