2016 was viewed as a bad year for a number of reasons, but thankfully not for its lack of notable female characters. Lara celebrated her 20th birthday in style with the long-awaited launch of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4, a grown-up Emily Kaldwin more than proved she can hold her own in Dishonored 2 and Faith returned for more awe inducing parkour in the unnaturally pristine world of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, to name but a few.
2017 brings with it another strong line-up of leading ladies ready to blast their way onto the gaming scene. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the characters on this list are making their gaming debut, a promising sign that developers are keen on creating intriguing new female characters to help balance the usual influx of testosterone-heavy titles.
Gravity Rush 2
Developer: SIE Japan Studio and Project Siren
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 18 January (US) 20 January (UK)
Kat is back to turn your world upside down with the direct sequel to PS Vita’s Gravity Rush. While the original received positive reviews the decision to release it on a Sony’s handheld platform meant simplifying the graphics and AI and a rather hefty audience reduction. Thankfully, Gravity Rush 2 is getting the full console treatment with the vastly superior processing capabilities of the PS4 bringing the beautifully vibrant anime world to life.
In stark defiance of Newton and his laws, Kat manipulates gravity to traverse the world and rid it of the evil Nevi. Gravity Rush 2 won’t have one heroine, but two, as Kat joins forces with former rival Raven – who appears as an AI controlled ally in combat. Boasting a map two and a half times the size of the original offering 3 times the content as well as enhanced mechanics and new powers, it’s a no-brainer for those that enjoy an action adventure with a twist (pun fully intended). Not only does Gravity Rush get female representation right, its approach to DLC is also something that many developers could learn from. Releasing in March, the 5-hour long episode will star sidekick Raven and cost you the grand total of nothing – forget defying gravity, that’s true madness!
Tales of Berseria
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: 24 January (US) 27 January (UK)
Considering how much games nowadays struggle to get even one follow up title the Tales series should be commended for reaching an impressive sixteenth entry with Berseria. Despite enjoying regular releases since the mid-nineties, this latest entry marks the first time the franchise will feature a solo lead female. According to the game’s producer, this is due to a rise in demand for female protagonists, particularly in Western countries. This new direction for the series is also thanks to the popularity of Tales of Xillia’s female protagonist Milla Maxwell, who shared the spotlight with male hero Jude Mathis.
The lady leading the usual mix of offbeat characters is Velvet Crowe. Far from the colourful airy fairy type, some might expect, Velvet displays a distinctly icy demeanour. Imbued with the powers of a Deamon, she fights using a fierce werewolf claw. Her shredded attire – that makes it look like she’s just had a battle with said werewolf – leaves little to the imagination and has come under some scrutiny. Berseria’s producer Yasuhiro Fukaya explained that “players will see why she wears that costume during the course of the game”. Let’s just hope it’s a better excuse than she has to breathe through her skin à la Metal Gear V’s Quiet, sigh…
Horizon Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 28 February (US) 3 March (UK)
Horizon is an unexpected yet highly welcome change of pace for Guerrilla Games, a developer who’ve cut their gaming chops on FPS series Killzone. Although Killzone has always remained somewhat in the shadow of other shooters, Guerrilla has a real chance to shine here as it’s developed something that truly stands on its own. The team’s first foray into the action RPG genre, Horizon provides the perfect blend of past and present with a prehistoric world that’s teeming with deadly robotic enemies known as “Machines”.Like a female Tarzan, Aloy fearlessly sweeps into battle; bow in hand, ready to deal some serious damage to the mechanized invaders.
The likes of Far Cry and Tomb Raider have already proven the bow to be an extremely enjoyable and satisfying weapon to wield, but Horizon looks set to improve on this with an altogether smarter, more tactical and considered approach to combat. That brainless method of tapping a single button to unleash a fury of combos and bring an enemy to the ground with ease, that modern games love so much, just won’t work here. Aloy has a multitude of ways to get one over on her foes including electric arrows to stun and rope arrows to render them immobile, giving her the opportunity to destroy them and loot their frazzled remains for those all-important crafting resources.
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: 7 March (US) 10 March (UK)
Scalebound, Platinum’s DMC-like Dragon title may be dead in the water, but never fear as Nier: Automata promises to cure that itch for stupidly stylish, fast-paced action. Set after the events of 2010’s Nier, the surprising sequel puts you in the wickedly destructive boots of female protagonist YoRHa No. 2 Model B or, rather mercifully, ‘2B’ for short. Automata shares the grim atmosphere and branching narrative structure of its predecessor, but doesn’t directly expand upon any of its story elements.
2B is an android tasked with ridding Earth of killer robots – a rather unwelcome gift courtesy of some anti-human extra-terrestrial beings. Luckily 2B can more than hold her own and makes quick work of legions of mechs using all manner of slick sword combos and gunplay. Developers nowadays have a tendency to want to develop characters, particularly female ones, that players can relate to, making 2B’s lack of emotional hang-ups, inhuman finesse and all-round badassery delightfully refreshing. While action is the order of the day Platinum hasn’t forsaken the series’ RPG roots as Nier: Automata promises to fuse the developer’s unique action style with the familiar progression elements of the original.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: 2017
Ninja Theory not only develop great games, they develop great games with highly adept female characters. From the combat abilities of Heavenly Sword’s Nariko to the tech skills of Enslaved’s Trip and mystical abilities of DmC’s Kat, each female created by Ninja Theory has serious skills. These women don’t exist to be rescued by a male, nor are they created for titillation – they are interesting characters that happen to be female, not interesting because they are female. Thankfully Ninja Theory looks set to continue this admirable trend with protagonist Senua in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Bridging the gap between indie and AAA, Ninja Theory has described their approach to creating Hellblade as independent AAA. This allows them to retain creative freedom without sacrificing the spectacle that comes with high budget titles. This freedom has led the team to explore something more hellish than all the shuffling zombies and sharp clawed creatures of other games – mental illness. A victim of psychosis, the demons that Celtic Warrior Senua faces are manifestations of her own troubled mind. It’s experimental development model and serious subject matter marks Hellblade as one of the most important and progressive prospects to grace gaming in years.
This is in no way a complete list of all the female game characters we will see this year, nor does include titles such as Mass Effect Andromeda and Prey – which allow you choose the gender of your character. Rather, it’s a snapshot of the best taken from the most high profile releases that 2017 has to offer. If your favourite upcoming gaming heroine has been missed off the list feel free to add them in the comments below.
(featured image courtesy of scee-press.com)