There are hundreds of games that never made it past pre-production, and for a litany of reasons: budget issues, creative differences, market trends, and fading interest, for starters. Keeping straight which games are on track for release and which are languishing in dev limbo, or were outright canceled, is a daunting task.
As a snapshot of this fickle industry, I’ve made a list of five games I would have loved to have played.
Elveon, a high-fantasy action RPG, came to an ambiguous end in 2014, after spending eleven years in development.
Or did it? In 2015, some members of the original team acquired the trademark and assets related to Elveon, and established a new website with some of their plans for the game. The site reveals the use of the Unreal Engine 4 and some plot details. There aren’t a lot of specifics, nor is there a projected release date. The lack of information—and the lack of updates since late 2015—isn’t reassuring given Elveon‘s previous cancellation. And that cancellation happened despite over seventy devs working on it rather than this smaller team.
It’s entirely possible that the current devs will carry the game through production. I hope so; I love a good high-fantasy piece about gods and elves and epic myth, and the artwork is lovely. But given the history and the truckload of work yet to be done, I won’t be surprised if Elveon continues to languish.
Highlander: The Game
Announced in 2008 by Square Enix and canceled in 2010, Highlander: The Game was planned for release on Windows, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation 3.
For those without a long memory or who were too young for this slice of pop culture, Highlander was a successful film and TV franchise about Immortals who beheaded other Immortals in order to gain their power for the purpose of completing The Game; the winner would stand alone as the last living Immortal. (The infamous franchise tagline was “There Can Only Be One.”)
Highlander: The Game sounded custom-made for a dark action RPG: combat, lore, the potential for international locations (over thousands of years, no less), and plenty of opportunity for expanding the existing canon.
The specs sounded pretty neat, too. As only Immortals can kill other Immortals, the main character (Owen MacLeod, an ancestor to Connor and Duncan MacLeod of the film and television show, respectively) can withstand a huge amount of violence. In fact, it seemed as though Owen’s resilience was meant to be a tactical advantage, like being able to use his own body as an electrical conduit. Most of the combat revolved around swordplay (to achieve maximum Immortal beheadings).
The game could have been a real blast, and even if I hadn’t grown up watching Highlander media, I think I’d be intrigued. I would have loved to run around the world, throughout the ages, trying to avoid decapitation. That sounds like a fun Friday night.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. There was no answer given as to why Square Enix canned Highlander: The Game, but speculation is moot at this point.
Beautiful Katamari (for PS3)
Bandai Namco has no apparent plans to continue the beloved action-puzzle Katamari Damacy series (the most recent release was a disappointing clicker game for iOS and Android uncreatively called Tap My Katamari). It looks like gamers will have to content themselves with replaying the series in perpetuity.
Unfortunately, as I don’t have an Xbox 360—and in 2016, the odds of me getting one are nil—I’m going to have a hard time finishing. The only console game I haven’t played is Beautiful Katamari precisely because it was only released on Xbox 360. There were plans for a PlayStation 3 release, but it was nixed due to porting issues and PS3 sales considerations.
While PS3 gamers did eventually see the release of Katamari Forever, it was a trussed-up collection of levels mostly taken from earlier installments in the series: only three levels in the game were new. Katamari Forever was no real replacement for the lack of Beautiful Katamari. For one, Beautiful introduced online multiplayer, and there’s only offline multiplayer in Forever.
Any PlayStation purist who wants to experience Beautiful Katamari is just going to have to shell out for a second-gen Xbox, or just beg favors from friends.
World of Darkness Online
My first exposure to Tabletop gaming, specifically Tabletop RPGs, was White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness. World of Darkness refers to the loosely connected universes in many of White Wolf properties: as of now, that’s Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken, and Mage: The Awakening. It was the best introduction I could have asked for, and I have a lot of fondness for my over-the-top vampires and werewolves from 2004.
The first console video game was announced in 2006 after a merger of White Wolf and CCP Games. It was eventually revealed to be a next-gen MMORPG, based on Vampire: The Masquerade. All told, it spent eight years in development until it was finally canceled in 2014. Fans were devastated after such an extended wait for the highly anticipated project, one that had employed sixty developers and had even shown a demo.
There is light at the end of the tunnel for World of Darkness fans, however. In 2015, Paradox bought White Wolf from CCP, and is planning “multiple digital titles”. No news on what those titles will look like, or even projected release dates, but the acquisition is promising.
I mourn the 2015 cancellation of Silent Hills nearly every day. I am not the only one; fan outcry was massive when cancellation was announced.
Silent Hills was to be co-directed by innovative filmmaker, Guillermo Del Toro, and much-lauded video game director, Hideo Kojima. Fans were beyond thrilled to see the two visionaries collaborate. (Del Toro had previously hitched his wagon to Insane, another horror-survival game, with Volition and THQ, but that was scrapped.)
Del Toro’s quirky appreciation of the macabre in tandem with Kojima’s boundary-pushing auteur sensibilities would have potentially created the most cinematic and unsettling Silent Hill game yet, and one with high-quality graphics for the PS4. The studio released (and later removed, after the cancellation) P.T., for Playable Teaser. It featured a faceless first-person protagonist wandering the halls of an increasingly creepy home. The player used limited actions to solve inscrutable puzzles and to avoid a hostile supernatural presence.
P.T. was a satisfactorily unsettling experience with a lot of jump scares, but it remained to be seen how much of its plot had to do with Silent Hills itself. It did give players a taste of the mood and maybe the mechanics—a taste of what Kojima and Del Toro were capable of. It also teased that Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead fame was the playable protagonist of Silent Hills.
Silent Hill is in my top-five favorite game series. Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favorite directors. The amount of anticipation I had for a new game—after the somewhat disappointing Downpour and Book of Memories—is almost unquantifiable. Every time I think about what could have been, I’m melodramatic about my disappointment. Guillermo Del Toro co-directing a video game! In my favorite survival-horror franchise! Norman Reedus! We could have had it all, etcetera.
Honestly, my biggest regret is that I’ll never know what—if anything—Del Toro would have done with my ultimate fave, Pyramid Head.