Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield Set to Anchor Massive RPG Year
The year 2023 is shaping up to be a massive one for role-playing games (RPGs), with several high-profile, big-budget titles set to release and satiate fans who have been waiting years for sequels and new franchises.
According to sources, the headliners are Baldur’s Gate 3 from Larian Studios and Starfield from Bethesda Game Studios. Baldur’s Gate 3 will hit early access in August, marking the long-awaited sequel to the classic Baldur’s Gate 2, which released over 20 years ago. Starfield has similarly lofty expectations as Bethesda’s first new franchise in 25 years. It promises over 1,000 explorable planets in an intricate sci-fi open world.
Both games had previously targeted 2022 releases but were delayed to enable more development time and polish. Sources say the delays could pay dividends, with Starfield “looking like it may deliver on its lofty ambition” and Baldur’s Gate 3 continuing to “wow fans and critics” in early access.
Open World Games Thrive Across Genres
In addition to massive RPG experiences, 2023 looks to feature several high quality open world games across various genres.
Hogwarts Legacy, an action RPG set in the Harry Potter universe, debuted this month to critical acclaim, praising its “astonishingly well-realized interpretation” of Hogwarts and excellent magic systems. Upcoming open world games span stealth action (Assassins Creed Mirage), racing (Forza Motorsports), and post-apocalyptic survival horror (Sons of the Forest), demonstrating the flexibility of the open world construct.
|First half 2023
|Baldur’s Gate 3
|Assassins Creed Mirage
|Sons of the Forest
This breadth and depth has critics predicting 2023 may go down as an all-time great year for gaming, with a uniquely wide variety of high quality open world experiences.
Questions Around Major Franchises
While optimism around 2023 is high, some major franchises face open questions. The hits appear likely to keep coming from Nintendo, with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom due in May. However, there are concerns around Activision’s stable of franchises following Microsoft’s pending acquisition. Sources cited worries around the next Call of Duty integrating with the Xbox platform and first party franchises.
The heavily anticipated co-op shooter Destiny 3 also faces uncertainty following a report that developer Bungie is “no longer working” on the next installment in the looter shooter franchise. With Bungie recently acquired by Sony, the future roadmap is unclear.
On the more positive side, Final Fantasy XVI logged the highest review score ever for a mainline Final Fantasy at launch. And Street Fighter 6 garnered praise for its in-depth fighting systems and content variety. Both franchises seem poised to soar into their next generations.
Indie Scene Continues to Thrive
While major studios and franchises command headlines, the indie scene continues thriving with unique experiences that rival AAA quality. Top highlights include the meditative Cocoon, which multiple outlets placed among their top games of the year. The critcally acclaimed Immortality landed on several top 10 lists as well with its innovative FMV storytelling.
Other indie darlings gaining traction include the Victorian occult detective game Pentiment, charming co-op adventure KeyWe, and beautiful underwater metroidvania SILT, among many others.
While indie experiences may lack big marketing budgets, the creativity and passion on display allow them to stand toe-to-toe with any AAA release. Gamers owe it to themselves to look beyond the giant franchises and explore the vibrant indie scene lifting gaming as a whole.
The Road Ahead
With a massive lineup already locked in, observers are curious what 2023 has in store down the stretch. Sequels to Diablo IV, Resident Evil 4, and Dead Island 2 could further bolster an impressive slate. There is also anticipation around brand new IP like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League and Meet Your Maker offering something wholly original.
Of course, delays are all but inevitable with COVID still causing supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine introducing global instability. However, with most major titles out of the pandemic danger zone from a development perspective, handlers are confident most targeted windows will hit.
Assuming releases stay on track, industry analysts currently predict 2023 game sales will top $200 billion globally for the first time. With Microsoft and Sony preparing new console iterations for 2024, software sales could receive a further boost heading into a new generation.
For now, anyone with even a passing interest in gaming should find reason to celebrate 2023. RPG fans have been waiting over 20 years for sequels to beloved franchises. Those craving open worlds have a wealth of sandboxes spanning genres to explore. And the indie scene continues unmatched creativity practically every week.
For these reasons and more,early indications point to 2023 cementing itself as an all-timer. Anchored by RPG titans Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 but elevated by excellence across the board, this may go down as one of gaming’s most complete and impactful years ever.
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