For a genre that once risked slipping into obscurity, the immersive sim hasn’t had a bad run. It’s been kept afloat for the last decade by developers mining its roots, producing plenty of PC gaming favourites. Arkane’s Dishonored took the eerie stealth of Thief and added a dose of industrialisation, Prey mixed System Shock 2’s sci-fi horror with a gallon of GLOO, and Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex reboots revived the genre’s superhuman poster child. 

There have been innovations, but most of the immersive sims that have appeared over the last 10 years have stuck to the model of the genre’s architects. That’s changing. Now they’re going boldly where no cybernetically enhanced human has gone before. Take a look at the last year and what’s coming down the line, and it’s clear we’re at a fork in the road. The genre has never looked so varied, or so open to experimentation.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

We should’ve known something was up when Deathloop appeared last year. Mixing open-ended levels and sandbox combat with a semi-roguelite structure, Arkane’s latest game took all the essential features of an immersive sim and wrapped them in a more palatable package. It was a bid for the mainstream, not to mention a big change for its developer. Here was the studio that had been largely responsible for keeping the genre alive, now happily diverting from its typical form.

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