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Monday, 12 February 2018

Hello and welcome back to 2018's final post from the Hot List. So far we have covered the biggest news in televisionvideogames, music, and theatre. This week we will be looking at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2018 from February onwards, after the cutoff point for this year's awards season.

ephemeric hot list most best hottest anticipated new movies films 2018 exciting

The Ephemeric finds itself the victim of its own success after some very strong 2017 predictions, featuring a top 4 which included The Darkest Hour, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, and Dunkirk, and a top 15 which included many of the other big awards season players. Who said the film industry wasn't predictable?

Of course this means the pressure is on for this year's Hot List, anything less than a lineup of Oscar winners and box office smashes will be a step back. Fortunately 2018 is looking like a very strong year for films once again, from summer blockbusters, to prestige biopics, and work of a more experimental nature. But with all the strong contenders, there are 15 that stand out among the pack.

So enjoy, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. The Old Man and the Gun

hot list best films movies 2018 old man and the gun robert redford casey affleck david lowery danny gloverLet's start with the new crime thriller from the up and coming David Lowery, who is both writer and director on The Old Man and the Gun.

This is based on the real-life story of criminal and escape artist Forrest Tucker, and stars a formidable ensemble cast which includes Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, and Elisabeth Moss.

There was initial buzz that the film would drop at this year's festival circuit, but that has not yet materialised. A full release is expected for the latter half of the year when the awards season starts to heat up.

Release Date: Late 2018

14. Ready Player One

ready for player one spielberg best movies films 2018 tye sheridan tj miller mark rylanceReady Player One, has been a long time coming. This adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel of the same name was originally slated for release as far back as 2016, then switched to Christmas 2017, and finally pushed to spring 2018.

The latest from director and Hollywood legend Stephen Spielberg, Ready Player One is effectively a mystery/treasure hunt set in a futuristic virtual world. The fully stocked cast includes Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, TJ Miller, Mark Rylance, and Simon Pegg.

What's been taking so long in its production, you might wonder? Spielberg describes this as the most difficult film he's done since Saving Private Ryan. Set in a visually ambitious futurescape where physically anything can happen, he allegedly had to attend three hour meetings every week during it's prolonged production in order to make sure the FX work is up to scratch.

The release is almost finally upon us. This looks like the first bona fide blockbuster of the year.

Release Date: 29 March, 2018

13. Mary Queen of Scots

mary queen of scots saoirse ronan josie rourke margot robbie david tennant best films movies 2018Saoirse Ronan stars in this historical drama film as the titular Mary Queen of Scots. This project is based on the biography by British historian John Guy, and features a strong cast that includes Margot RobbieDavid Tennant, and Guy Pearce.

We all love a good costume drama, and the cast on this one is very impressive. Still, in this post-Game of Thrones era, there's always a worry whenever a studio starts talking about doing a "historical drama" - see the mess that is Britannia. Straight-faced historical storytelling seems to be out of fashion at the moment, and cinema is the worse for it.

Still, the hype is strong, and the industry expects big things from this project come next year's awards season. I for one will be hoping this is more The Queen than The Snow Queen.

Release Date: 2 November, 2018

12. The Meg

meg book novel jason statham best films movies 2018Hands up anyone who read this book back when they were like twelve. Just me?

The Meg, based on the novel Meg, is a simple story of giant prehistoric sharks, and things being eaten by giant prehistoric sharks. In the novel, this was all presented as more of a science-fiction thriller akin to The Abyss or Sphere, but in this day and age there's always the fear that they'll instead turn it into some cheap and tawdry Megashark clone or something. Then again I was ten when I read it, maybe it really was like that.

As for the casting, Jason Statham is set to play the main marine biologist, totally believable right? He will be co-starred by Chinese actress Li Bingbing, a genuine superstar back in her homeland. Originally set to release in March, the film has been pushed back to August, making it a bona fide summer blockbuster.

Release Date: 10 August, 2018

11. Creed II

creed 2 ii sylvester stallone michael b jordan ryan coogler best films movies 2018What's this? A sequel on the Hot List, and a franchise movie no less? Creed II is of course the sequel to Creed, the seventh movie of the Rocky Balboa franchise of boxing movies.

If that doesn't interest you then you must not have seen Creed, which was easily the best movie in the franchise since the Oscar winning original. Shifting the focus from Stallone's Rocky to Michael B Jordan's Adonis Creed was a game changer, and leaving directorial duties to Ryan Coogler a master stroke. Creed has reinvigorated the franchise potentially for years to come.

Sadly, Coogler has not returned, with the untested Steven Caple Jr in the hotseat, but otherwise the two main stars return, along with old favourite Dolph Lundgren. Creed was an excellent movie, if this is half as good then it will be worth your time.

Release Date: Q4 2018

10. Widows

widows steve mcqueen viola davis colin farrell andre holland best films movies 2017 peter dinklageWidows is the latest from acclaimed director Steve McQueen, best known for 12 Years a Slave, but also directed the well received Hunger and Shame.

Widows is essentially an old fashioned heist movie, where four robbers are killed attempting a break-in, and their widows team up to complete the job. It features a strong core cast of Viola DavisMichelle RodriguezElizabeth Debicki and Colin Farrell.

Release date is set for November. Possible awards contender? Doesn't seem like it from the genre, but with this talent involved who knows.

Release Date: 16 November, 2018

9. Beautiful Boy

beautiful boy timothee chalamet steve carrell amy ryan best films movies 2018One of 2017's biggest breakout stars, Timothée Chalamet has no shortage of offers in Hollywood right now. 2018 will see him star in the new Woody Allen movie, but I'm more excited by Beautiful Boy, the new film from writer/director Felix Van Groeningen.

Not light viewing, a hard wrought story of drug addiction and recovery that will see Chalamet star alongside Steve Carell, himself enjoying a great run of serious roles of late, and Amy Ryan.

This will be the latest from Amazon's increasingly well regarded film production studio which has already produced the critically acclaimed likes of The Neon Demon, Manchester by Sea, and The Big Sick. Release is expected in the latter half of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

8. The Front Runner

the front runner hugh jackman jason reitman vera farmiga jk simmons best films movies 2018The Front Runner is a very exciting prospect indeed. A biographical political dark comedy that tells the true story of former US Senator Gary Hart's doomed Presidential bid in 1988, which was derailed by scandal and extra-marital affairs.

Movies about political scandal appear to be very much in vogue right now, possibly due to current events, or maybe out of a sense of nostalgia for when something as simple as an extra-marital affair was enough to stop someone becoming President.

What makes this one particularly exciting is the presence of director Jason Reitman, best known for Juno and Up in the Air, and a cast which includes Hugh JackmanVera Farmiga, and JK Simmons.

Expected to release in time for awards season towards the end of 2018.

Release Date: Q4 2018

7. If Beale Street Could Talk

if beale street could talk barry jenkins moonlight best films movies 2018Director Barry Jenkins is one of the hottest talents in Hollywood following breakout hit Moonlight, an excellent film in its own right but perhaps most notable for derailing what seemed to be a La La Land inevitability at the Oscars two years ago.

So Jenkins is now the man that everyone wants to work with, and everyone wants to see what he comes up with next. If Beale Street Could Talk is an adaptation of the novel by James Baldwin, a story of love, racism and courtroom battles. Jenkins has gone with a fairly low-key cast which includes Kiki LayneStephan JamesDave Franco, and Ed Skrein.

This film is due for release sometime late in 2018, and big things are expected.

Release Date: TBA 2018

6. Roma

roma alfonso cuaron gravity best films movies 2018The last time we saw Alfonso Cuaron, he was waltzing his way to the Academy Award for best director for Gravity. It's been five long years, but Cuaron is back and he's returned to his roots, filming small-scale projects in his native Mexico. His newest project Roma is a family drama set in 1970s Mexico City, and featuring a cast of unknowns.

One of the "three amigos" of acclaimed Mexican filmmakers that includes Cuaron, Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo Del Toro. All three have won Oscars in the last few years, but Cuaron was the first to find success, and considered by many to be the best of the bunch. He is best known for Gravity, but this was only the latest chapter in a very promising career that has included the excellent Children of Men.

Taking a step back from big budget Hollywood success to make something on a smaller scale is an unusual move. Just ask Christopher Nolan if he's ever going to make a film like Memento again. Nevertheless the thought of a new Cuaron movie is an exciting prospect, and we can't wait to see what he comes up with.

Release Date: TBA 2018

5. Annihilation

annihilation alex garland natalie portman oscar isaac best films movies 2018This is the latest film of acclaimed writer/director Alex Garland, and the follow up to his brilliant directorial debut Ex Machina. Beyond this last film, many of you will know Garland for his work with director Danny Boyle on 28 Days Later and Sunshine, as well as his novels The Beach and The Tesseract.

Annihilation is an adaptation of the first of a series of novels by Jeff VanderMeer, which sees a group of four scientists set out into a remote and mysterious Area X, a place in which all previous expeditions have met with unfortunate fates. He is joined by the Academy Award winning Natalie Portman, Academy Award nominated Jennifer Jason Leigh, and following up their collaboration on Ex Machina, the up and coming Oscar Isaac.

Garland has a penchant for complex, thought-provoking sci-fi, and early reactions suggest that this is no different. Annihilation will see a cinematic release in the US, Canada and China at the end of February, and the rest of the world on Netflix. This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting releases of 2018.

Release Date: 23 February, 2018

4. Where'd You Go Bernadette

where'd you go bernadette richard linklater cate blanchett kristen wiig billy crudup best films movies 2018This is a new collaboration between director Richard Linklater, director of Boyhood, and Annapurna Studios, titled Where'd You Go Bernadette.

Based on the novel of the same name, Bernadette is the story of an agoraphobic architect who leaves home to try and figure out what happened to her missing mother. The cast includes Cate BlanchettBilly CrudupKristen WiigJudy Greer, and Laurence Fishburne.

Originally slated for a summer release, Annapurna ultimately decided to push back to the awards season in October. Great talent involved and a studio with an eye for a good film, this is one to watch.

Release Date: 19 October, 2018

3. Mute

mute alexander skarsgard paul rudd justin theroux best film movie 2018 netflix duncan jonesMute is the latest film from director and screenwriter Duncan Jones. Sure, that's David Bowie's son, but more importantly he's the director of the critically acclaimed Moon and Source Code, both of which were pretty brilliant. The cast includes Alexander SkarsgardJustin Theroux, and intriguingly Paul Rudd.

Mute is essentially a neo-noir mystery film, set in a futuristic Berlin. The aesthetic direction Jones has taken is earning the film comparisons with the likes of Blade Runner and other settings of a cyberpunk/retrowave persuasion. Jones himself has described this film as something of a tribute to his late father, hence the Berlin setting, the heavy 1980s influence and other retro references.

Billed as a spiritual sequel to Moon, Mute has been in production for years, held up only by Jones' brief foray into making mindless summer blockbusters. Adding to the film's intrigue is the fact that Netflix of all studios have ultimately picked up distribution rights, which presumably means an online premiere, and probably being ignored by the Hollywood establishment. Whatever the case, this is a big first for Netflix to release such a major film, it will be indicative to see just how that plays out. Release date is set for February, if Mute is half the film that Moon and Source Code were, it will be one of the highlights of the year.

Release Date: 23 February, 2018

2. Backseat

backseat dick cheney bush iraq christian bale adam mckay big short amy adams steve carell sam rockwell best films movies 2018Christian Bale is known for his physical transformations, extreme displays of mass addition and weight loss so as to fully immerse himself in a role, whether it's to bulk up for Batman's muscular physique or emaciate himself for his Oscar winning performance in The Fighter. With Backseat, Christian Bale's gut will face its sternest challenge yet, piling on the pasta to fit into Dick Cheney's size 70s.

Yes, Backseat (or possibly "Cheney", the title is still apparently not confirmed) is the story of Dick Cheney, the highly controversial Vice President under George W Bush's turbulent administration. It features a strong ensemble cast which includes Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Carell, but the real highlight is the involvement of writer/director Adam McKay, his first project since the award winning The Big Short took cinema by storm.

This is being brought to the screen by Annapurna, one of the best production companies in the business, and they are targeting an awards friendly December release date. This is going to be a contender.

Release Date: 14 December, 2018

1. First Man

best films movies 2018 first man damien chazelle ryan gosling neil armstrong moon claire foy corey stoll kyle chandlerAnd we finish with one of the most exciting productions that's come along in years, First Man.

This is the Neil Armstrong biopic directed by Damian Chazelle, one of Hollywood's hottest talents right now, and his first film since La La Land. Ryan Gosling will play the film's subject, and be joined by a supporting cast of The Crown's Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler, and Corey Stoll.

Prestige cast, prestige director, and prestige subject matter makes this a home run. But for all the hype about Chazelle currently, it's worth noting that he has never made a film like this before. Indeed it will be interesting to see how he copes with a more traditional, non-musical subject matter. Based on what we've seen so far of his talents, we have high hopes.

First Man releases in October.

Release Date: 12 October, 2018

So there you have it folks: The 2018 Hot List. Here's to a fantastic year, and the Hot List will return in 2019!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2018 Hot List. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting theatrical productions coming to the stage in the coming year.

best anticipated new theatre theatrical production 2017 hot list
Rarely does a theatre have a year quite like the Almeida in 2017. New productions of Hamlet, Albion, and Ink earned rave reviews and dominated the end of year awards. Artistic director Rupert Goold is a man at the top of his game right now, and has truly brought the theatre back to the centre of London culture. Other highlights of the year included Jez Butterworth's Sam Mendes directed play The Ferryman, which made its switch to the West End, and Andrew Garfield's star turn in the National Theatre's blockbuster summer production of Angels in America.

2018 is looking like another promising year in the world's greatest theatre town. The arrival of Hamilton on these shores will of course be a major story, but the lineup is full of exciting prospects. Oscar frontrunner Martin McDonagh is back with not one, but two major productions, including the flagship offering from the brand new Bridge Theatre. James Graham continues his prolific run by bringing new play Quiz to London after a trial in Chichester. Elsewhere things take a turn for the weird and wonderful with an operatic adaptation of Coraline, and the Almeida's take on television classic The Twilight Zone. Here's our list of the top 15 theatrical productions to keep an eye on in 2018, starting with number 15:

15. "The York Realist" by Peter Gill, at the Donmar

london best theatre 2018 donmar york realistThis is Peter Gill's award winning play, The York Realist, returning to the London stage in 2018 courtesy of the DonmarRobert Hastie directs in a production starring regulars Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey.

This is the story of two young men falling in love against the backdrop of 1960s York, in a tale that highlights our own class divides as much as it does our opposing values and expectations. A timely production in this time of social strife and political turbulence.

Running in February and March, this play is currently booking so get in while tickets remain.

14. "Dry Powder" by Sarah Burgess, at the Hampstead Theatre

london best theatre 2018 dry powder hampsteadDry Powder is billed as a razor sharp comedy about American financial markets in the mould of an Enron. This new production making the stage at the Hampstead Theatre marks the UK debut of playwright Sarah Burgess, in a story of capitalist moralism and naked ambition.

This production is directed by Hampstead regular Anna Ledwich, and features a cast including the headline name of Hayley Atwell, fresh from her Olivier nominated performance in The Pride.

This one runs until the spring, so if whip-smart workplace drama seems like your kind of thing, be sure to get tickets while you can.

13. "The Writer" by Ella Hickson, at the Almeida

london best theatre 2018 almeida the writerThe first of the Almeida's new season, The Writer is the latest of playwright Ella Hickson.

Said to tell a story of creative obsession, a writer in the furious throes of ambition. This will lead a new season of what appears to be mostly female playwrights at the theatre. Otherwise, little is known of this production.

Hickson's last production, Oil, was an awards' season favourite and suggests this will be a big one to watch. Almeida's confidence is such that The Writer has been tapped as the lead in an all-female summer lineup for 2018.

Previews start in April, and will then run over the summer.

12. "Absolute Hell" by Rodney Ackland, at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2018 absolute hell nationalA controversial play on first release, condemned as "libel on the British people" back in 1952. Rodney Ackland's Absolute Hell is getting a revival at the National Theatre in 2018.

This is not light viewing; a portrayal of wartime Britain with all its despair, longing and desperation. Far from the glorifying depictions one might typically see in media and on stage, particularly from a contemporary piece.

Joe Hill-Gibbons directs a cast that include the wonderful Kate Fleetwood. Shows begin at the end of April and will run over the summer, along with a series of accompanying lectures on post-war censorship for those seeking a bit of context.

11. "Quiz" by James Graham, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london best theatre 2018 quiz james graham noel cowardJames Graham continues his quest to become Britain's most prolific playwright, with three new shows last year, and a further two on the cards for 2018.

Quiz is one of his 2017 debutants, originally making the stage at the Chichester Festival Theatre, now making the switch to the West End in 2018. Quiz ostensibly re-visits the story of the "coughing major" Charles Ingram, who famously cheated his way to the top prize at Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

More to the point it digs at our obsession with celebrity, media narratives, and seeks to make us question our preconceptions about what happened. The play features mild audience interactivity to make its point - anyone who saw Graham's Donmar production of Privacy a few years back will know roughly what to expect. A bit gimmicky? Sure, but great fun and full recommended night out.

10. "Hamilton" by Lin Manuel Miranda, at the Victoria Palace Theatre

london best theatre 2018 hamilton lin manuel miranda victoria palaceThis one needs no introduction, Hamilton is a phenomenon and one of the biggest shows in the world. It's made Lin Manuel Miranda a household name and worldwide star, and now the show is coming to London. It will probably be a big ticket in 2018.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years, this is a rap musical based around the life of one of the founding fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton. Political history in the form of a rap musical? Yep, it's just as weird as it sounds, but through a combination of novelty, wit, and catchy songs, Hamilton has managed to pull it off somehow.

Currently booking through to December 2018, but I expect this show will stick around for a while.

9. "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" by Martin McDonagh, at the Noel Coward Theatre

london 2018 best theatre noel coward lieutenant inishmore aidan turner martin mcdonaghIn 2018 everyone wants a piece of Martin McDonagh on the back of his award winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The Lieutenant of Inishmore marks the first of two of his theatrical productions hitting the London stage this year.

This revival of Inishmore stars Aidan Turner, star of TV show Poldark, as a terrorist deemed to dangerous to join the IRA. It's brought to life courtesy of the Donmar's legendary former artistic director Michael Grandage.

McDonagh's work, of course, includes the films In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards, as well as the Oscar winning short film Six Shooter. His theatrical credits include Pillowman and Hangmen. Those familiar with his work will know what to expect: dark, violent and hilarious.

8. "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman, at the Barbican 

best theatre 2018 london coraline royal opera barbican neil gaimanI'm very partial to a bit of Neil Gaiman, the dark-fantasist behind such writings as The Sandman, Stardust, and American Gods, many of which you will likely have seen on film or television at some point.

You may also recall Coraline, the delightfully creepy animated movie from Henry Selick of Nightmare Before Christmas fame based on the Gaiman novella of the same name. Well in a moment of just-so-crazy-it-might-work magic, the Royal Opera Company has decided to adapt this story into a full blown opera, to debut this year at The Barbican.

Coraline will begin this spring.

7. "Girls & Boys" by Dennis Kelly, at the Royal Court Theatre

london best theatre 2018 girls and boys royal courtActress Cary Mulligan stars in the world premiere production of Girls & Boys, a new play from Dennis Kelly. Kelly's previous credits include Matilda, and the TV series Utopia, while Mulligan is an award winning household name, making her first appearance on stage since 2014.

Girls & Boys is a story of intense romance following a chance airport encounter, and a relationship that moves into deep and disturbing places.

Early previews have been met with a positive response, and the demand to see Mulligan on stage is such that they have already announced an extension into the spring. The Royal Court appears to be having a bit of a resurgent moment over the last year or so, and this looks set to continue the strong run.

6. "Company" by Stephen Sondheim, at the Gielgud Theatre

london 2018 best theatre company gielgud theatreGetting into the top six now is the revival of musical Company by Stephen Sondheim, courtesy of the Gielgud Theatre.

A witty and charming musical depicting love, life and ambition. Company tells the story of Bobby, a thirty-something man rebelling against the pressure to settle down from friends and society. Only this time there's a twist. This production changes Bobby to Bobbi, with a woman in the starring role for the first time.

Rosalie Craig takes the starring role, but it is the return to the stage of the legendary Patti LuPone for the first time in 25 years that has us most excited. Looking for a musical in 2018? Look no further.

5. "The Twilight Zone" by Anne Washburn, at the Almeida

london 2018 best theatre the twilight zone almeidaA baffling yet brilliant idea. Anne Washburn has written an adaptation of classic TV series The Twilight Zone for the Almeida Theatre.

Most people have at least heard of The Twilight Zone. This is the mid-20th Century anthology TV series, seen as the forerunner for series like The Outer Limits and Black Mirror. As is standard for anthology series, each episode of the Twilight Zone is an unrelated vignette, a short story in itself, typically in the fantasy, sci-fi, or thriller genre.

Washburn's production combines elements from some of the show's most famous episodes to create what can almost be described as a remix. Much like Washburn's previous show Mr. Burns, The Twilight Zone is really more of a treatise on the ubiquity of popular culture than a straight telling of the story, but it makes for an excellent evening of entertainment for long-time fans and newcomers alike.

4. "Antony and Cleopatra" by William Shakespeare at the National Theatre

best theatre 2018 london antony and cleopatra shakespeare ralph fiennes nationalOne of the big tickets of the year. Classic Shakespeare, brought to stage by The National Theatre, with a cast that includes the great Ralph Fiennes. This is unabashed prestige theatre, and the National will hope that this will be their tentpole for 2018.

This is of course the story of the original celebrity couple: the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and her Roman lover Marc Antony. Originally translated from the writings of Plutarch by Shakespeare. It's a story of empire and history, and has been a mainstay of Shakespeare's beloved theatre pantheon for generations.

This is expected to be with us towards the end of 2018, which should make it perfect for a bit of holiday season theatre-going.

3. "Network" by Lee Hall and Paddy Chayefsky at the National Theatre

london best theatre 2018 network bryan cranston nationalA carryforward from 2017, The National Theatre's adaptation of Network is still running, and is still a big deal.

Network is, of course, the theatrical adaptation of the classic multi-Academy award winning movie, commonly regarded as one of the great political and mass media satires of all time. Hugely relevant given everything that is going on in the world.

This adaptation is brought to the stage by the highly pedigreed Ivo Van Hove with bona fide star Bryan Cranston in the lead role, originally made famous by the late Peter Finch.

Network will run until the spring, go get tickets while you can.

2. "The Lehman Trilogy" by Stefano Massini and Ben Power at the National Theatre

lehman trilogy national sam mendes simon russell beale london best theatre 2018Sometimes a production just oozes quality from every part, The National Theatre's adaptation of The Lehman Trilogy is one such production.

This 5 hour epic tells the story of Lehman Brothers from their inception in 1844 until the financial market crash some 163 years later. It will be directed by the great Sam Mendes of American Beauty and Skyfall fame, and will star Simon Russell Beale, one of the best stage actors of his generation.

This is a story made all the more timely by recent events and the current state of market turmoil, where Trumpian excess appears to be bringing us back to the brink of collapse. As history begins to repeat itself, we would do well to heed the lessons of the past. This is looks to be an important and high quality production, and gets our highest recommendation.

1. "A Very Very Very Dark Matter" by Martin McDonagh at the Bridge Theatre

london best theatre 2018 very dark matter martin mcdonagh bridgeLastly our top pick for 2018, and it's another Martin McDonagh play.

A Very Very Very Dark Matter is a brand new production from one of the most sought after writers in the world  today, and will  be the headline act at the inaugural season of the new state of the art Bridge Theatre.

Oscar winning actor Jim Broadbent stars as a beloved author Hans Christian, a man known for writing fantastical tales of mermaids and monsters, but secretly holds in his attic a terrible secret: the woman who inspires his story and must be hidden away. No doubt darkly comedic hijinks ensue.

It's an unusually fantastical premise for a McDonagh play, but with the writer currently at the height of his powers, we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on anything. An undoubted highlight of 2018.

So there you have it folks: 2018 in theatre. Tune in next week for our final instalment of the Hot List, covering the essential new films coming up in 2018!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Welcome back to The Ephemeric's 2018 Hot List. I hope you enjoyed last week's entry covering the essential videogames of 2018. This week we will be having a look at the most exciting new music due for release in the coming year.

best anticipated new music 2018 albums hot list

In truth, 2017 was a bit of a mixed bag when it came to music. Some of the year's bigger albums struggled to live up to expectations, while new acts bringing fresh ideas were few and far between. But the performers that shone, shone bright, with impressive pieces of work from the likes of Father John Misty and The xx. Otherwise it's fair to say this was more a year of great singles than great albums. Indeed there were some cracking individual tracks: particular standouts included the excellent new single Long Time from evergreen Blondie, as well as the surprising collaboration between The Killers and Brian Eno, Some Kind of Love, among others.

The lineup for this year looks more focused on newer, less established artists, with many of the big hitters having released albums in 2017. Great opportunity for some of the industry's younger acts to steal the limelight. So without further ado, here is our list of the top albums to keep an eye on in 2018, starting with number 15:

15. Clean Bandit 

clean bandit new album 2018 disconnect symphony best most anticipated musicWe'll start with a easy crowd pleaser, the second album from Cambridge-based electronic band Clean Bandit, which is due to hit sometime this year.

This is the highly anticipated follow up to the band's successful debut, New Eyes, and the presumed vehicle for their more recent singles Rockabye and Symphony. What else do we know about the album? Not much aside from the fact that the band intends to collaborate with a few prominent names, including Harry Styles and, apparently, Elton John.

This is a band with a real knack for chart-topping hits, but such is the long gap between albums that many of what will be the key singles of this LP have been out already for more than a year at this point. One has to wonder if they've undermined themselves somewhat here, whether the album will still appeal when its biggest hits have already come and gone. We will know soon enough, it's expected to release early 2018.

Release Date: Q2 2018

14. "All the Things I Never Said" by Pale Waves (New band)

pale waves debut album all the things i never said 2018 best most anticipated musicNow for the first of our highlighted newcomers of 2018. Pale Waves are one of the hottest names on the indie circuit at the moment. They've been feted by some of the industry's most influential critics and have collaborated with big names like The 1975. Now it's time to stand on their own. And yes, that black square to the left is not a glitch, and is in fact their album cover.

A debut EP followed by a full album is expected in the next year, featuring some promising tracks, including My Obsession, New Year's Eve and Television Romance. Think a dash of Chvrches mixed with The Naked and Famous and you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The upcoming EP is due to release in March, but for the full studio album, you'll have to wait until late 2018. One to watch out for.

Release Date: Q4 2018

13. "Nudes" by Lucius

lucius nudes new best most anticipated album 2018Brooklyn based outfit Lucius are fast establishing themselves as one of the most exciting bands in indie music.

Creative in an off-beat kind of way, with a diverse range of musicality much in the mould of someone like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Metric, their sound varies from the earnest folk stylings of Wildewoman and Tempest to the balls-to-the-walls powerpop of Born Again Teen.

Next up is another new direction for the band with an entirely acoustic offering in Nudes. So far the tracks sound about as luscious as you'd expect. Lead single Until We Get There is delicate and sweet, while Neighbours gives us a little more of that trademark fire.

If all turns out well this could be one of the highlights of 2018. Nudes is due to release at the beginning of March.

Release Date: 1 March, 2018

12. "Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt" by Moby 

moby everything was beautiful nothing hurt album best most anticipated new music 2018 A true love/hate artist, Moby is back with a fifteenth studio album, Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, and it sounds like he has his edge back.

While his more recent albums have leant towards the ambient and forgettable, the old fogeys out there that remember the 1990s will recall that he started with a far more intense and industrial sound. From the looks of lead single Like a Motherless Child, it seems that Moby may be aiming to recapture some of that identity, and I'm pretty excited about that.

Another March release, could it possibly be a return to form for one of the mainstays of the music industry?

Release Date: 17 February, 2017

11. Nilufer Yanya (New band)

nilufer yanya debut best new most anticipated album 2018The next newcomer for 2018 is Nilufer Yanya. The London-based singer-songwriter has been making a name for herself with a series of tender, jazz-infused pop tracks.

A successful 2017 EP and well received single releases for The FloristBaby Luv, and Small Crimes have set expectations high, and she finds herself among many pundits' top picks for 2018. A full debut album is now expected at some point later in the year.

I'm certainly a fan. Her musical style is wonderfully understated, and her voice lends an R&B soulfulness to an interesting blend of influences. It will be exciting to see what comes next.

Release Date: TBA 2018

10. "The Place You Can't Remember, the Place You Can't Forget" by Chicane

chicane place you can't remember place can't forget new albums 2018 best no ordinary morning most anticipatedAnother nom célèbre of the British electronic music scene; Chicane has been putting out albums since as far back as I can remember, and holds a body of work that includes some of the most memorable tracks of the past few decades.

Their's is a sound that typifies the early electronic movement of the 90s, but it would not be giving them due credit to attribute their status to mere nostalgia. Highlights from their discography include an array of disparate moods and soundscapes, most memorably including tracks such as Daylight, No Ordinary Morning, and Sunstroke.

Now with the release of new single Gorecki, it sounds like a brand new LP may be with us shortly. The title, The Place You Can't Remember, the Place You Can't Forget, has been revealed by frontman Nicholas Bracegirdle via podcast, and is said to include a "sequel" to his classic No Ordinary Morning.

We expect this to release late on in 2018.

Release Date: Q4 2018

9. Bastille

bastille third new album best new anticipated music 2018British rock group Bastille are hard at work at a third, as yet untitled album.

Little is known of this record at this point, aside from the fact that it draws its inspiration from the "bizarre and tempestuous place" that the world has become in the years since their last album. Frontman Dan Smith describes it as an "apocalyptic party record".

The band is two for two when it comes to successful albums, and a number of hit singles under their belt, including The Weight of LivingThings We Lost in the Fire, and Good Grief. They've established themselves as one of the bands to watch at the moment, and we wait with anticipation for their next release.

Release Date: Q2 2018

8. The Japanese House (New band)

the japanese house face like thunder debut album best new anticipated music 2018Another 2018 debutant, first raised in last year's Hot List: The Japanese House have been drumming up a huge amount of hype over the past couple of years, and find themselves prime contenders among many pundits' picks for 2018.

Theirs is a well defined sound, dreamy, layered synth pop with melancholy vocals. They've produced some really excellent work so far, songs that strike a balance between the powerful and delicate. Check out Clean and Face Like Thunder for a little taste of what they're about.

The word is that a debut album will be coming before year end, and if that's the case then that makes them a very exciting one to watch for 2018.

Release Date: TBA 2018

7. Paul McCartney

paul mccartney new album best most anticipated new music 2018Paul McCartney is not a man that requires my introduction, or plugging by my blog. He has spent six decades producing work of a level of genius that few in history have achieved, and he was part of a little group known as The Beatles.

Well despite being the venerable old age of 75, Sir Paul is still touring, and apparently he's still recording. In recent years he has collaborated with the likes of Beck, Rihanna, Adele and Kanye, but now he's returning to his solo work, with a new LP afoot. This new record will be his first studio album since 2013. Quite when it will release in 2018 is anyone's guess.

Youth may be fleeting, but genius lasts forever; time and time again McCartney has shown us that despite his advancing years he still has the goods. Let's see if he does it again.

Release Date: TBA 2018

6. Jade Bird (New band)

jade bird something american lottery new debut albums 2018 best most anticipatedThe last of this year's exciting newcomers. Jade Bird has come a long way in a short amount of time, and despite her tender years has found herself feted as one of the most exciting names in music.

A singer-songwriter in the style of an Amy Macdonald, Rolling Stone calls her the next big thing in country music. It's easy to see why when she releases great numbers like Lottery and Cathedral.

A highly successful EP now under her belt, attention is being turned to the debut album, which is expected to be ready for release sometime in the next year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

5. "Music for Cars" by The 1975

the 1975 music for cars new album best most anticipated music 2018The 1975 announced themselves as a band of some promise with their eponymous debut, but it was that wonderful sophomore LP, I Like it When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, that really established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. That 2016 release doesn't seem too long ago, but word is they are already working on putting out new material.

The new album, titled Music for Cars is expected to release during 2018. Little is known of the new release other than a few track titles, but frontman Matthew Healy has cited other celebrated third albums, including OK Computer and The Queen is Dead as inspiration as to the direction the band will be taking. The implication being that The 1975 don't want to just rehash their previous work, but evolve their sound and in doing so perhaps make a bit of a statement.

It's an ambitious sentiment, but they've proven themselves to be very adept songwriters with quality tracks as diverse as The SoundA Change of Heart, and Chocolate. If they can keep producing work of that calibre, then this will be one of the highlights of 2018. Release is expected to be at the start of June.

Release Date: 1 June, 2018

4. Kavinsky

kavinsky new album outrun nightcall best most anticipated new music 2018French house artist Kavinsky spent much of the 2000s developing his signature synthwave sound, inspired by the cinema and pop culture of the 1980s. That process culminated in his debut, and so far only studio album, OutRun.

An ambitious concept album, complete with its own mythology and distinct artwork. But it's the great singles we care about, including his most famous tracks Nightcall, and Odd Look. Indeed OutRun was so successful that it is considered among some internet subcultures to have created its own aesthetic genre, and is now an umbrella term used to describe any form of neo-futuristic 1980s revival.

Yet despite the success, there has been almost complete radio silence since that album's release in 2013. But there are rumblings through the grapevine that a new LP is in the works for 2018, seemingly confirmed by the man himself who recently tweeted "I'll be back #2018" (rock solid proof, I know).

Release Date: TBA 2018

3. Arctic Monkeys

arctic monkeys 2018 new album best new anticipated musicWe most recently saw Alex Turner in 2016 enjoying the release of his long awaited second album under The Last Shadow Puppets name, but it has been a solid five years since we last heard from the outfit that made him a star, Arctic Monkeys. Well the band is back together in 2018, a new album is on the way.

Quite what form that album will take is anyone's guess, but suffice it to say it will be one to keep an eye on. Arctic Monkeys are undoubtedly one of the great British bands of recent years. Theirs is the iconic British rock and roll sound, from the retro-flecked indie melodies to Turner's distinctive accented vocals. Their hits are numerous from Fluorescent Adolescent, to Mardy Bum, and Fireside.

Originally due to drop at the end of 2017, the as yet untitled album is considered to be essentially complete at this point. Arctic Monkeys have announced a new tour, their first since 2014, to begin in June, so the smart money is on a release around that time.

Release Date: June 2018

2. "Love is Dead" by Chvrches

chvrches love is dead new album 2018 best new anticipated musicAnd now from British pop royalty to the young pretender. Chvrches appear to be on the cusp of great things following two widely acclaimed albums in 2013 and 2015.

Since their debut and early EP work, the Scottish synth-pop band have shown a talent for crafting memorable hooks. The first single off their debut album The Mother We Share was an instant classic, and they followed it up with an even better sophomore record which included great tracks like Clearest Blue, Empty Threat, and Never Ending Circles. Far from a one hit wonder, they are now one of the top bands in the game.

Little is known of their new album other than it will be called Love is Dead, and will apparently be their poppiest record to date. We have only seen a brief snippet of a track so far, but the first single, Get Out is set for release at the start of February. The album itself? Expected sometime in the spring.

Release Date: Spring 2018

1. "Little Dark Age" by MGMT

mgmt little dark age new album 2018 when you die most anticipated best new musicBut The Ephemeric's most hotly anticipated album for 2018 is Little Dark Age, the latest from one of the world's most mercurial bands MGMT.

The story here is legendary. MGMT stormed onto the scene in 2007 with their wildly successful debut Oracular Spectacular, buoyed by the mega hits Time to Pretend and Kids. Overwhelmed by their overnight success and resentful of the sudden deluge of casual fans, MGMT have spent the remainder of their career trying to get as far away as possible from the radio-friendly style of those tracks (they allegedly refuse to even play those particular songs at their live shows). Follow up album Congratulations was an impenetrable, if intermittently brilliant record, while their eponymous third record was more miss than hit.

Now MGMT are back with a fourth album, and what we've heard so far has us very excited indeed. Three tracks have been shown so far, title track Little Dark Age, When You Die, and Hand it Over, and they all sound pretty brilliant, and each one radically different from the last. If this is indicative of the album as a whole, then it's an early frontrunner for album of the year.

Release Date: 9 February, 2018

So there you have it folks: 2018 in music. Tune in next week for the most exciting new theatre in 2018!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hello and welcome back to the Hot List. This week we will turn our attention to videogames, previewing for you our loyal readers the most exciting videogames set for release in 2018.

new videogames games gaming 2017 ephemeric

The big star of gaming in 2017 was the Nintendo Switch. Ever the innovators, the Switch boasts unique technology for sure, but it's the strength of the console's software library that looks set to ensure it endures as more than simply a fad console, as was arguably the case with the Wii. The most recent iteration of the Mario and Zelda series in particular are being roundly held aloft as pinnacles in the industry. If they can deliver more success even close to that level in the coming year, then we can see the Switch going from strength to strength.

The year ahead boasts an intriguing mix of big budget AAA offerings, as well as indie projects. Sony and Microsoft have both released upgraded versions of their current home consoles in the past year, and all eyes will be on E3 to see how they intend to make use of that extra horsepower. Nintendo meanwhile don't look like they're going mainstream anytime soon, and the announcement of the bizarre and wonderful new Project Labo indicates they've still got a few wacky and unique ideas up their sleeve. For the scope of this preview we will consider a range of projects across all platforms, and from the looks of it there should be a little something for everyone.

So here it is, the 15 key videogames to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Far Cry 5 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

far cry 5 pc xbox ps4 2018On the surface, the latest entry in Ubisoft's Far Cry series, Far Cry 5, doesn't look set to reinvent the wheel. Players will once again find themselves inserted into a wild and dangerous open world with a series of capture-the-flag style objectives to make progress. The usual series of intricate gameplay systems: guns, vehicles, crafting, animals, and others, will ensure that players have the agency to pursue those objectives in any way they wish.

But Far Cry 5 has been gaining attention for all the wrong reasons, its setting. Typically, the Far Cry series has seen players travel to the far-flung extremities of the Earth in order to suit its wild-west style settings of lawlessness, but Far Cry 5 will be set in rural United States against the backdrop of an anti-government right-wing extremist group that has seized control. It's hard not to see this as some kind of comment on the very real state of anger seen among some segments of the country, and the political movements that have sought to direct that anger. Naturally this has a lot of people quite upset. One recent petition (which I would hope is actually an attempt at satire) called for the setting to be changed to Canada, and the villains to be changed to Muslims.

So if you are of the opinion that America has degenerated into a wasteland of gun-nuts and angry mobs, this might be a setting that connects with you. The game drops in March.

Release Date: 27 March, 2018

14. Age of Empires IV (PC)

age of empires iv pc 2018Who says videogame companies never listen to the fans? The Age of Empires series has always held a fond place in the hearts of old school strategy fans, and in particular the 1999 classic Age of Empires II to this day retains a surprisingly devoted fanbase and active multiplayer and modding communities. So much so, in fact, that Microsoft even deemed to make one of the community's more popular mods an official expansion, some 15 years after the game's release.

It seems Microsoft's newfound embrace of the franchise was not limited to just fan-made expansions and HD re-releases, and have announced Age of Empires IV, the first entry in the series since 2005. Little is known about the sequel, but the teaser trailer appears to imply a vast swathe of history will be covered, showing artwork from the bronze age right through to the colonial era.

Release date is still to be announced.

Release Date: TBA 2018

13. Two Point Hospital (PC)

two point hospital theme hospital reboot bullfrog pc 2018Along much the same lines, we have Two Point Hospital, the first game from new dev studio Two Point Studios. A little history for you young'uns. Back in the 1990s there existed a legendary game studio called Bullfrog co-founded by the mercurially innovative Peter Molyneux. They pioneered a new genre of creative sims under the "Theme" brand, releasing titles including Theme Park, Theme Hospital, and others. In 1995 they were acquired by gaming giant Electronic Arts, and those franchises have barely seen the light of day since. Molyneux would later leave the company to found Lionhead Studios.

The legacy of Theme Park lives on in the likes of Rollercoaster Tycoon and Planet Coaster, but Theme Hospital remains a beloved anomaly, one that has never really been revisited. Enter Two Point Studios, the new shop founded by former Bullfrog employees who appear dead-set on returning us to the glory days of the genre, beginning with this, a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital.

Fans of the original don't look like they'll be disappointed, Two Point Hospital maintains its predecessor's trademark humour and depe sim gameplay, through devs do promise a few surprises as well. Two Point Hospital is expected to release towards the end of the year.

Release Date: Q4 2018

12. Sea of Thieves (Xbox One, PC)

sea of thieves rare pirates 2018 pc xbox
Now for something a bit different, an entirely multiplayer game, Sea of Thieves. This game is notable for two reasons, one it's the newest game from what was once the legendary game development company Rare, two it just looks like a lot of good silly fun.

This is a multiplayer pirate game, you and a few friends design your pirate, get a pirate ship, and take to the seas finding treasure and getting into naval battles and the like. Sailing one of these ships is no simple point and click job though, it takes teamwork, with one man steering, one man on the sails, another operating the cannons, and if you take damage, someone needs to place wooden boards over the holes to prevent your ship taking on water and sinking. You can also do all manner of silly piratey things like drinking grog and, just for the hell of it, playing musical instruments. There's something delightfully over the top about charging into battle with one guy on the wheel, another firing cannons, and another in the crow's nest blasting out Flight of the Valkyries on an accordion just for atmosphere.

This seems like the type of game that I have zero time to get into these days, but 10 years ago would have been a blast to waste some time with a few friends. Sea of Thieves has been in development for some time, but looks set to finally release in March.

Release Date: 20 March, 2018

11. Jurassic World Evolution (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

jurassic world evolution theme park planet coaster pc xbox ps4 2018The theme park simulator genre is having a bit of a moment right now, most successfully manifested in Frontier Development's excellent Planet Coaster. No sooner had that game launched than rumours began to propagate for Frontier's next project, based on leaked references to "Planet Safari" found within the code of the game's website. Planet Safari has now apparently been confirmed, but it's not the type of safari we were all expecting.

It's a known fact that the one thing better than a theme park is a theme park with dinosaurs, so it is logical that Frontier's next game should be Jurassic World Evolution, essentially a theme park sim in design, but based on the Jurassic Park franchise and with dinosaur-based attractions.

The concept of Planet Coaster with dinosaurs would already be enough to get my money, but let's face it it wouldn't be Jurassic Park if everything went to plan. This park's attractions can and will run amok. It promises for an interesting blend of management sim and strategy. Expect a release alongside the film this summer.

Release Date: June 2018

10. The Occupation (PC)

the occupation game pc 2018The Occupation is a fascinating project. A politically driven investigative thriller which sees the player take on the role of whistleblower in a fictionalised 1980s England.

A deadly terrorist attack has left the Government with no choice but to implement harsh new security policies, but is everything as it seems or does some ulterior motive lie behind the act? With four hours until the vote, The Occupation gives the player the opportunity to uncover the mystery in realtime. Sound a bit too close to home?

The game itself looks interesting, like a cross between Bioshock and LA Noire, but it's the timeliness of its political message that will make headlines. Release date has yet to be announced.

Release Date: TBA 2018

9. Star Citizen (PC)

star citizen 2018 kickstarter crowdfunding chris roberts freelancer wing commanderA long recurring member of the Hot List. Star Citizen is the mother of all crowdfunding success stories, having so far raised over $100 million, and that amount is still growing. What makes this all the more remarkable is that people are throwing their money at Cloud Imperium Games despite the fact that only a few conceptual game-modes have been made available so far after years of development. So why all the excitement and hype?

Star Citizen is the brainchild of Chris Roberts, a game design legend from the early days of PC gaming most famous for his space-based combat simulations such as Wing Commander and Freelancer. Star Citizen is Roberts' big comeback to gaming following years in Hollywood with a number of producer credits to his name.

Unapologetically PC exclusive, Star Citizen's mission statement is simple: to be the ultimate space epic, the game that Roberts has always wanted to make. It takes Roberts' trademark quality combat simulation gaming, adds detailed economy and trading elements, and throws it all into one massively multiplayer online persistent universe. A massive online universe populated with thousands of players, in which players can essentially do what they want: they can trade or start a business, they can be a combat pilot, they can become a diplomat, or they can engage in a bit of in-game sports (racing for example).

The sheer variety of gameplay being thrown into this game is matched by the vast efforts that are going into creating a believable, fully fleshed out universe. The official website now is chock-full of literature and back-story for the world they are creating, and even if reading into all that depth is not your kind of thing, that kind of love and detail makes a game world truly engaging, even for the most casual of players. It's this kind of effort that turns a good game into a great game.

Can an independent developer really deliver on such high ambition? So far the signs are good. The modules that have been rolled out so far show promise, and with the single player campaign set to begin this year, with the online persistent universe soon to follow, it's time to get excited.

Release Date: TBA 2018 (yeah right)

8. Cyberpunk 2077 (PC)

cyberpunk 2077 rpg game 2018 pcA title cloaked in mystery made all the more elusive by the continued delays and radio silence of its developer CD Projekt Red, a developer best known for the celebrated Witcher trilogy of games.

Cyberpunk 2077 is an openworld RPG set in a tantalising Cyberpunk setting in near future California. The brief suggests potentially "hundreds" of hours of gameplay, and a richly developed backstory, the basics of which can be found online. But what is most fascinating is the description of the game's setting as a "seamless living world" that apparently includes both singleplayer and asymmetric multiplayer in the same map. It will be fascinating to see how they marry those two elements in a way that doesn't spoil the immersion, but if they get it right it could make for quite the unique experience.

At this point a release date is pure speculation, but after years of silence a flurry of rumours and recent social media activity suggests that 2018 may be the year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

7. Anthem (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

anthem game 2018 xbox one ps4 pc ephemericFor anyone wondering why Bioware didn't put any effort into its development of Mass Effect: Andromeda, look no further. The primary focus of the studio in recent years has been towards its new title Anthem.

So what is Anthem? This is an open, shared-world action RPG in which players assume the role of a Freelancer, tasked with protecting a new colony in a mysterious and unknown environment, while helping to explore the surrounding landscape through the use of a customisable exosuit, the Javelin. The game is designed to accommodate both single and massively multiplayer gameplay, with the primary focus of gameplay seemingly being to develop and upgrade your own equipment and skills.

Honestly it sounds a little derivative, essentially Destiny crossed with Titanfall, neither of which I particular liked. But there's no doubting the pedigree of this Bioware studio, and one would hope that the storytelling flair of the talent involved will go some way towards elevating this project above its competitors.

Release Date: Q4 2018

6. Call of Cthulhu (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

call of cthulhu best game 2018 pc xbox one ps4Call of Cthulhu is a lot of things. It is the most famous of the canonical works of celebrated horror author H.P. Lovecraft, it was later turned into tabletop RPG, and has generally taken on an iconic quality as a source of inspiration in the genre of implacable, cosmic horror.

Now it is also a videogame, which seems to be taking the form of an investigative survival horror which sees players take the role of a private investigator looking into the mysterious death of a family in turn of the century (the last one) Boston.

Precious little detail has been revealed so far. The trailer reveals a heavy narrative focus on sanity and perception, as well as surprisingly strong voice acting. The closest analogue in memory is the under-appreciated 2002 title Eternal Darkness, which was similarly celebrated for its playful use of subjectivity and quality production. Release is expected later in 2018.

Release Date: TBA 2018

5. Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

kingdom come deliverance kickstarter 2018 ephemeric
It's back again! This has been on the Hot List for a good long while. One of the more notable Kickstarter success stories, Kingdom Come: Deliverance started with a simple observation. Publishers typically refuse to release games with historic settings unless it features magic, dragons and silly things like this, so why not break the mould by making a game in an actually realistic historic setting?

That's the idea behind Kingdom Come: Deliverance. A roleplaying game set in 15th Century Bohemia, with period-accurate clothing, technology, culture, and even going so far as to bring in medieval combat experts and historians to program realistic tactics and fighting styles. But this is not just a period combat simulator, it is a truly sandbox world in which players can pursue their goals as a warrior, a trader, or take a more diplomatic approach.

Depending on how these different gameplay elements come together this could be a very unique experience. There aren't enough games that display an interest in real history and show the kind of attention to truly bring alive such a setting. All the signs so far are that Warhorse Studios are very committed to this vision, and judging by the millions of dollars raised there are a lot of gamers who are as well. After many delays, the developers have at last given us a final release date in February.

Release Date: 13 February, 2018

4. The Artful Escape (Xbox One, PC)

the artful escape francis vendetti annapurna edith finch david bowie best game 2018Award winning film studio Annapurna made their debut in videogaming last year with the spellbinding What Remains of Edith Finch. This year they will look to follow up this success with their second title The Artful Escape.

The concept is quite unique. Players take the role of aspiring folk musician Francis Vendetti on a journey to reinvent his musical and stage persona. The result has been described by the game's lead developer as "David Bowie traveling off from London on an interstellar trip to create Ziggy Stardust".

In terms of actual gameplay, this takes the form of a musical platformer which sees Vendetti's performances depicted as journeys through mind-bending fantastical and sci-fi landscapes, with occasional rhythm-based music sections to pass. Frankly it's stunning to look at and listen to, with a pleasurably relaxing pace to it.

Release Date: TBA 2018

3. Sunless Skies (PC, Mac)

sunless skies sunless seas fallen london failbetter alexis kennedy kickstarter best game 2018Something exciting for fans of complex story-driven games and world building. Sunless Skies is the latest title from Failbetter Games, the studio of acclaimed game designer/writer Alexis Kennedy. This is the latest in the Fallen London/Sunless Seas series of games which takes the industrial revolution and British colonialism into a new fantastical neo-Lovecraftian setting, this time outer space.

The game itself is part RPG, part trading sandbox, but the big appeal of these games has always been the quality writing, the tasty narrative vignettes and bizarre imagery of Kennedy. All these elements create an open world in which the player has the freedom to craft their own story, with narrative branches in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure. The scope for player-agency is impressive and rewarding, ensuring that each game will leave its unique mark on the world. Failbetter's games always make for whimsical, unique experiences, though not for those with an aversion to reading.

Sunless Skies is now in early access on Steam, and expected to release in it's final state sometime in May.

Release Date: May 2018

2. The Legend of Zelda 3DS (Nintendo 3DS)

legend of zelda 3ds 2018 best gameNintendo are on a roll right now, so what better opportunity to revisit their still highly successful handheld gaming platform, the 3DS. Rumour has it that they will soon announce a brand new title in their famed Legend of Zelda series for the device.

The rumour is that this is some kind of remake of the original handheld Zelda classic, Links Awakening. Exciting stuff for what remains one of the most memorable and indelible of Zelda titles.

Will this be a slight remix? a full re-imagining? Top-down, full 3D? The 3DS is, after all, a console that can handle both styles, as seen with the recent ports of the fully 3D home console titles. Of course we could also just be way off the mark, and this may end up being simply an original title. Either way, we expect a reveal by this summer's E3, and a release in the latter half of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2018

1. Read Ded Redemption 2 (Xbox One, PS4)

red dead redemption 2 revolver grand theft auto rockstar best game 2018 ephemericAs promising as the other titles on this list are, none of them can take the top spot away from Red Red Redemption 2, a sequel to 2010's Red Dead Redemption.

RDR remains one of the finest games ever made. It had the quality of storytelling and production that one would expect from Rockstar, developer Grand Theft Auto series, but married that with an open world that to this day can't be matched for character and detail. The setting has been confirmed to be a prequel to its predecessor, albeit with a different central character and unrelated plot.

At the time, this was a world unprecedented in the variety and depth of its procedural content. Through its random events, ambient challenges and mini-games embedded throughout, this was a game world you could potentially play endlessly, even once the main story and side quests had been completed. For the sequel, I'd expect more of the same, and the leaked map suggests a world that is even bigger and more varied than its predecessor's.

Due by Spring/early summer, I can't wait to get lost in this one.

Release Date: Q1/Q2 2018

So there you have it folks: 2018 in videogames. Tune in next week for the most exciting new music set for release this year!

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