Something for the Weekend – 10th-11th July

Photoshop of today's Gareth Southgate consoling himself after missing a penalty in Euro 96
Brilliant image of today’s Gareth Southgate with himself after missing a penalty in Euro ’96

This weekend is going to be seeing most of England anticipating 8pm Sunday.  Not being particularly interested in this country’s national sport, I’m uncertain whether I will actually be watching.  Still, I wish good luck to a team that stood up for what they believe in and to a manager that has demonstrated what true leadership looks like, as well as what can be achieved when it is used appropriately.  No matter what happens when the final whistle is blown, I hope that continues and they don’t let others try to use the platform for their own ends.

Hope sports fans have a good one (and don’t forget about the tennis to get you in the mood).

Here is what I will be coming home to.

Nioh

Onryoki boss from Nioh
I will play more of this… if I can get past this guy!

All the games I’m mentioning I picked up right at the end of the Steam sale, after expecting not to really get anything from it.  Gabe just can’t help getting into my wallet.

Being a big fan of Soulsborne games, I’m always on the lookout for other games that can capture even a dollop of the magic sauce that goes into From Software’s output.  Playing other games really makes you appreciate just how good and how difficult getting the balance right is.  Nioh looks like it gets the closest though.

Whereas From Software games, particular Dark Souls, makes the combat very simple, Nioh attempts to add a little bit of variety to the fighting with some combos and a skill tree for each weapon type.  Then there are also 3 different stances that can be used to mix up your playstyle: high, medium and low.

Even the stamina management is given a bit of twist, taking a page from the active reload system in Gears of War, where timing a button press after a series of attacks will allow you to recover some of the stamina.  All of this, plus a stat system much like in Dark Souls, gives you quite a bit to think about and it is a little overwhelming to begin with.  It does click eventually though and it feels really good when it does all come together.

I’m not very far in yet and I’ve hit a little bit of a difficulty spike with the first real boss, but looking forward to getting more into this.

Dead by Daylight

Killer from Dead by Daylight with fire in the background
Slash ‘n’ burn – even killers have prestige –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8a1WEjLqUw

Bought on the encouragement of a friend who fancied it, this was a pleasant surprise when I played it last night.  The basic concept is a sound one (4 stock horror film characters vs 1 slasher film killer), but I wasn’t sure how well it would actually all come together.

The developers, Behaviour Interactive, have done a really good job of capturing the spirit of these films.  Playing as a survivor is suitably creepy and has you on edge as you slowly move around a small arena, trying to repair generators that take an uncomfortable amount of time to fix.  Playing as the killer is a delightful power-trip, that also has that uneasiness that evokes the opening of Halloween, as you stalk your prey. 

There is also plenty of smart mechanics that keep the balance just right, such as the first person view of the killer restricting your field of view, as well as there being quite a few bits of animation that can slow you down or lose track of your victims.

The tone is a little bit too grim in places, forgetting that many of these films don’t really revel in the gnarly depiction of what is happening and rely more on imagination than you might remember.  There are moments of humour that naturally comes from the mixing of real people, particularly when playing with friends, but a little more slapstick would be welcome. This is particular true with the design of some of the killers that are all trying a bit too hard to be grim (again, particularly true with the base game comparted to the DLC).  Having said that, there is clearly a lot of love that has gone into putting it altogether.  I particularly loved the animation that was done on the Huntress character, as she glitches around in her movement.

How much the content that is there will last is another matter that I can’t answer after a single evening (particularly as you aren’t able to access many of the survivors and kills without buying DLC).  Nor is it clear how enjoyable it will be when needing to include randoms in your game.  If you can find a group of 4 players (or 3, if you don’t mind a random killer) that would be up for joining you to see who can be the final boy/girl then I can recommend this as worth your time.

Nex Machina

Image of Nex Macina with lots of bullets and lasers
(Bullet) hellishly good

From two quite innovative and modern gaming experiences, to something that takes its inspiration from some of the earliest games around.  Nex Machina is unapologetically arcade.  This is purely about dodging reams of bullets and high score chasing.

I’ve played for about 30 minutes or so and I feel like I have seen pretty much everything the game has to offer.  That isn’t going to stop me going back for more though, as this is one of those games that reminds you the simplest ideas are often the most fun to play.

It also looks absolutely stunning, with voxels flying everywhere and plenty of colour to light up the screen.  Quite a far cry from the dreariness of Dead by Daylight.  And yet, even with all that is going on visually, Housemarque have done a great job at making sure that everything is still easy parse.  I never once had a problem keeping track of where I was and which of the dozens of things I needed to avoid.

Housemarque are obviously seeing quite a bit of success at the moment with Returnal on the PS5.  I don’t have a PS5 yet, but this confirms that it should be on the list of games that might convince me to get one when I can.

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Nintendo try to Switch-it up with the new Switch OLED

The new Nintendo Switch OLED playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

It feels like years that it has been doing the rumour circuit.  The clamouring for the Switch Pro has almost existed as long as the Switch itself, with fresh rumours appearing every year.  Something changed this year though, with the Bloomberg report a little before E3.  This was a reliable news source spilling the beans and reputable gaming news sites followed.  Evidence of manufacturing kicking off and deals on new screens added some extra weight to the speculation.  

Now, finally, the prophets can claim themselves to be as right (and wrong) as Nostradamus.  Nintendo have announced a new version of their massively successful Switch console.  Just how accurate were those rumours though and will this be able to make Nintendo once again the console to have this holiday season when it is released in October?

The announcement trailer, showing off the clean looking white design

The first part is likely to depend on which rumours you were reading and believing.  If the rumourmonger was being realistic about expectations, then it is likely to have been closer to the truth.  If you were won over by talk of fancy upscaling tech to really show off those smooth curved surfaces in the Mushroom Kingdom than you are probably going to be disappointed.

With the now named Switch OLED, the biggest change is spelt out in the name.  That is the new, slightly larger, OLED screen.  We are getting a whole 7 inches, compared to the previous 6.2.  It isn’t going to be a night and day change from the perspective of screen size, although those annoyingly large bezels will be quite a bit less noticeable now.  We also aren’t seeing any change in resolution, with the same 1280×720 when handheld.  This might disappoint many that were getting excited by the 4k talk, but I can’t say it comes as a massive surprise that they aren’t reaching for those sorts of heights. 

The change in screen display tech is going to give a noticeably improved presentation though, capable of darker darks and brighter brights.  The current screen offers some underwhelming brightness, particularly in sunlight, so this is definitely a welcome change.  It is also a change that isn’t going to be easy to sell and one that isn’t going to be particularly noticeable for must outside of side-by-side comparisons.

Perhaps the other big change is the storage capacity that is doubling from 32GB up to 64GB.  As there were quite quickly games out for the Switch that could not fit on the internal storage or would take up almost all of it, this was a much-needed change.  Anyone serious about downloading games is still going to want to get an SD card, but this should make it less of a necessity and I would expect many of the target audience of the Switch to continue buying physical games for the most part, with a few indie digital games.  For them, 32GB was likely okay, with the need to delete the odd game from time to time.  With 64GB, they are likely to never need to delete again.

Nintendo Switch OLED in white dock and the white joy-cons in the charging grip
No word on whether the dreaded joy con drift has been resolved yet or if they are just getting a white paint job

The other changes are fairly minor and will likely only be of benefit to people with particular use cases.  First of these is an improved speaker.  The current speaker is quite poor, but the sound output on the Switch is weak even when using other speakers/headphones.  There isn’t any indication that there will be improvement on how it handles sound internally, so this is only really of benefit for those that are likely to be regularly using the Switch handheld without headphones. 

Similarly, the ethernet port is a nice addition that some will find useful.  The current Switch doesn’t have great wi-fi and we can assume the situation will be the same with the new model.  This should help a lot, but it is also something that only a few users are likely to actually take advantage of.  Lastly, there is the stand, which is much wider and more adjustable.  Again, a needed improvement that is good to see, but I’m not sure how many people actually use the stand anyway.

So, onto that second question at the top of the article, is it worth buying?  My gut reaction, as a Switch owner, is that the additions are pretty much all things that I have felt should be improved with the current model, but I don’t see them being good enough to entice me.  However, if I was someone who hadn’t gotten around to picking up a Switch, I would likely be holding off until this was available. The improved screen is enough of a selling point, whilst the other changes are certainly nice to haves and altogether it warrants the slightly increased price.

That price is currently stated as being $350, with other regional Western pricing not announced.  I would expect to see it not far off that price with the $ replaced with a £, perhaps about £325 mark.  That would make it around £45 more than the old model (£279).  For the slightly higher fee, the nicer screen will be worth putting down a little more for.  Only thing to consider is the effect on battery life.  Nintendo are stating it as having the same battery and longevity as the LCD model, but I would expect that is going to very much depend on how you are using it.  If you are going to take advantage of that brighter screen it could well be sucking more juice.

Assuming that is all fine though, then I don’t see much reason for a new Switch owner to not go for the slightly better model.

The Switch OLED will be hitting stores on the 8th October.  The original Switch and Switch Lite look like they will both still be still available.

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Something for the Weekend – 3rd-4th July

Stormy London

Suns out for the start of the first weekend in July here in the UK, although it appears to not be set to continue, with storms approaching before the nice weather really gets settled in.  Yes, I’m being a cliché Brit and complaining about the weather.

Instead, let me just share with you the highlights I’m looking forward to this weekend.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Switch

Ni No Kuni Remastered: Wrath of the White Witch

This JRPG is a real beaut.  Developed by Level-5 in a collaboration with Studio Ghibli, the influences from the Japanese animation studio are front and centre.  Ghibli specifically put together animated sequences, but the art style carries through the whole game and is a delight to look at.  That same attention to detail is also shown in other areas of the game too, such as the gorgeous Wizard Companion book that the main character carries with him, available for the player to peruse at their leisure, as they collect pages to fill in the gaps.  I’m not surprised to see that physical version of this book and it looks as magical as I would expect.

I’m still quite early to tell how good the actual game is, but the combat is feeling reasonably solid so far.  Think of a turn-based real time game, ala some of the Final Fantasies, but where you are also able to move your character around the battlefield too.  This allows you to back off when you want to heal and adds some extra decisions when prioritising targets (can you close the distance to deal with that ranged enemy first or just deal with the melee?)  I’m liking the combat at the moment, but I do often find JRPGs get a little samey in that aspect.  The quests seem to be your standard type of hunt creatures, find lost children, collect some flowers, etc. that you will be use to from other similar games.  The world and the storytelling are what really stand out though and I’m looking forward to dive further into it.

Murder by Numbers

Murder by Numbers

I didn’t manage to get to this last weekend, as the final episode of the first Phoenix Wright game took much longer than I was expecting.  I did finally manage to give it a go other though and it seems like it will be a good time.  It certainly appears to take inspiration from Phoenix Wright for the writing, with it being pitched at just the right balance of silliness.  The characters are enjoyable so far and the first case is a reasonable murder mystery.  The picross puzzles are pretty straightforward at the moment, but I have only played for barely an hour, so I wouldn’t expect them to throw you too much in the deep end yet.  I was also not expecting to need to draw a tampon, but it was a good way to set the tone.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Thought I would return to this, now that I’m much more familiar with the franchise after having seen the films for the first time with 20th anniversary cinema showings (why I didn’t see them when they originally came out in my early teens, I have no idea).  I only played a little of it originally, getting distracted by something else quite quickly, even though I liked the general feel of the combat and what little I saw of the very cool nemesis system that everyone raves about,

Playing it again now, I’m certainly enjoying it.  The combat is a fun remix of what the Batman Arkham games perfected, whilst the world itself is a reasonable implementation of the sort of thing you would find in an Assassin’s Creed game.  Navigating the world is a little tedious though, with so many orcs to either fight through or avoid.  As is also the case with these games, traveling to a quest marker normally takes in various detours to the many, many other markers dotted around the map.  It is also a very, very brown game, perhaps a sign of its age.

I think my first goal will be to try to unlock as many of the towers as I possibly can, as they also serve as fast travel points.  I’ll also mostly be sticking with the main mission quests, as it looks like the side quests aren’t going to be that interesting.

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Doom: Eternal – The Ongoing Dance of Rockets, Plasma and Gibs

Doom Eternal

DOOM (2016) was an incredible breath of fresh air.  It took the old-school format of the granddaddy of the FPS genre, ripped and teared it apart, before putting it all back together again for a modern age.  It was unapologetic about its non-stop violence and action, but proved that formula creates the smartest and most engaging combat compared to the dreary modern warfare shooters that dominated the market since Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare almost 10 years previous.  Nothing for a very long time really compared to the joy of quickly switching between your diverse collection of weapons, prioritising targets amongst a bunch of unique enemies and darting around arenas to control the crowds.

DOOM: Eternal is the follow up to this seminal reboot.  At its core, it remains a very similar game, but there is an injection of a bunch of new ideas to play with.  Some work, some do not, but does it all manage to hold together to take the Doomslayer to even greater heights?

I expect my answer to the question would have changed on almost an hourly basis.  As already mentioned, the gameplay through Eternal is quite similar to the previous game in the series.  We are still fighting a range of demons in a variety of arenas.  The doors are locked until you settle your differences with those demons and can travel through a series of corridors (albeit corridors with a few more jumping puzzles), until you encounter the next arena.  Rip, tear and repeat.

Doom Eternal screenshot - Doomslayer holding a severed head

If you enjoyed that process in 2016, there is a good chance that you are going to enjoy that process again.  Eternal does add a bunch of other things to spice up these encounters though, from a few more abilities to some extra enemies via some more secrets to explore the environment for.  In the early sections of the game this can be at times overwhelming, as your gameplay is interrupted by another pop up to explain something else about the game.  Not too long into the game, your HUD will start to be mish mash of icons and counters to keep track of many different elements.  Some will be familiar, such as your chainsaw fuel, but there is now so much more to look at that it can be tough to get your head around it all.

Where these newer elements do excel is with the extra movement options that they afford you.  The dash is a wonderful addition to your balletic repertoire.  Initially you may just use as required to jump between platforms in the obligatory platforming sequences, but once you start utilising it during combat you will wonder how managed to play the game without it.  Closing that distance to land that glory kill, using it to assist with your movement to create distance between enemies or just simply to dodge the attack of a charging Pinky, I’m not sure how I would go back to the 2016 game and lose it. 

Similarly, the new double shotgun is a joy to use, again adding more movement options during battles.  The alternate firemode will shoot out a hook that grabs onto enemies propelling you towards them.  Applying a sidestep to the Doomslayer as he flies through the air will let you swing around them.  Combine this with the rune that slows down time when you hold down your alternate fire in the air and suddenly you can perform incredible feats of motion, whilst giving enemies both barrels.  Plus, the double shotgun is also a great way to see the deformation of enemies, with you blasting chunks out of them in really satisfying meaty way.

When you are given the space to use all of these abilities it can really escalate the thrill of these battles.  Combined with the thumping soundtrack that continues the DOOM tradition of blistering rock, when the game is hitting all the right notes it is incredible.

Then it throws a level at you that is much tighter and doesn’t allow you to move around so much and things become frustrating.  Your tools become less useful during those moments and you are mostly hoping that you can put out enough damage before they hit you too many times.  Others may have this experience less, but it definitely felt like more of a struggle to deal with the numerous enemies on some levels were less spacious.  There were also some enemies that were noticeably less enjoyable to fight, in particular the Marauder – a shield carrying axe man that you can only attack when his eyes flash green and he is about to crush you with his axe.  This seemed to require standing at just right distance from him to bait out this attack; stand too close and he would use a sawn-off shotgun, stand to far away and he would just fire some kind of magical attack at you.  Worse was when he would summon some random wolf thing that would chase you down.  On his own he wasn’t too bad, but the game would also insist on continually spawning enemies in most battles against him.  Normally, these would just be your standard basic demon enemy, purely there to keep you stocked up on ammo or health (as before, chainsaw attacks spew ammo everywhere and glory kills will produce health), but sometimes there are larger enemies to distract you from just focusing on the enemy you really want to deal with.

Of course, dealing with these issues of enemy priority and crowd control are all part of what makes DOOM such a fantastic FPS game, but these segments often crossed into the frustrating, particularly as I often felt like I was needing to game the enemy AI to make sure he did the attack I wanted him do.  This sort of annoyance carries through to some of the boss battles too, although those are fortunately not too frequent.

Doom Eternal - giant titan chained in pit of lava

Talking of bosses and characters leads me onto another complaint.  Do you remember that really great storyline in the first game, about the origins of the demonic invasion and the creation of the saviour who would destroy them?  No, me neither, but apparently Id wanted to expand upon it.  Fortunately, this fades away as the game goes on, with it being mostly ignorable, but the beginning definitely feels like it wants you to pay attention to the events that are going on.  There is even a bit with some other person and the game does that lowering the gun animation that games do when they are telling you this is a person you can’t shoot.  As the main thing people remember from the story in the first game is a computer being ripped off of the wall as it tries to give exposition to the Doomslayer, it is an odd choice to suddenly decide that people might actually care about the events that are propelling us forward.

There is also a slight amateurish style to the delivery, with cutscenes that feel almost reminiscent to the sort of static camera delivery we would have had in the late 90s.  For such a big budget game and from something that has clearly had a huge amount of love poured into the mechanics, it is odd to see such lack of direction given to these sequences, jumping from staying first person to third person to just having the camera stuck in a random spot in the scene.  We even have moments where you press a switch and there is a quick shot of the door the switch opened, instead of using the level design and environment to inform direction the player should head towards.  These are elements that are less welcome to a modern game and could have been left back in the 90s.  I also don’t recall them being present in the 2016 game, but perhaps those are rose-tinted glasses playing tricks.

There is even a weird Fortress of Solitude style hub area to go to in-between missions, where you can spend some your pickups to unlock more upgrade points, play songs that you have unlocked through secrets and get new costumes, which you can never really see, what with you being seeing through the visor most of the time. It is a mess of staircases and doorways that all look the same and it is easy to get lost in. Why all of this couldn’t have been presented as a menu I’m not really sure and it isn’t even as if they made the area particularly interesting to look at.

I think it is worth reiterating that the core gameplay loop, the thing that you spent the vast majority of the dozen or so hours doing, are still excellent and even exceed what went before.  Many of the levels are excellent, particularly the Earth focused levels.  Even the level that is mostly spent inside office blocks is thrilling in ways that no office level should be outside of FEAR.  Many of the additions do work well, even if there are too many new things.  Even much of those new things are mostly ignorable, even if they do clog up your HUD a bit.  If in a year or two or decide I want to play another DOOM game, it probably will be this one.  It’s just that it could have been perfect.  Expand out some of those more claustrophobic levels, ditch some of the wonky cutscenes and rework some of the enemy design to be more interesting to battle and we could have one truly incredible game.

If you didn’t like DOOM back in 2016 than you aren’t likely to find much here that will win you back over.  If you did enjoy it though and haven’t had a chance to play Eternal, step back into the heavy shoes of the Doomslayer and load up your BFG.  Do the Danse Macabre one more time.

Doom Eternal - Revenant handing the Doomslayer a double barrelled shotgun
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Something for the weekend – 26th-27th June

After last weekend’s toddler focus, I’m looking forward to a weekend of relaxation and chill times.  Chill times in particular, as I will no doubt spend much of it trying to optimise a recent purchase of AIO watercooling for overly toasty AMD 5800x.  Most likely I will continue to regret a purchase of a case that promoted itself as being quiet, with its awful air flow that requires fans to be going at such speeds that makes it anything but quiet.

When not tickering, I shall be indulging in the following games over the weekend and throughout next week.

Doom Eternal – PC

DOOM Eternal

So, this was intended to be last weeks main game, but I didn’t get too much into it.  I’ve been playing more during the week though and hoping to get some more time with it over the weekend.  I have thoughts and I will likely write these up into a more complete piece when I’m finished with it.  Headline though is that it continues with DOOM 2016’s trend of being a gloriously gory good time, filled with fast past gibbing action.  The formula is expanded a bit from the previous game, not always successfully, but the core gameplay is still fantastic and doing something that very few big FPS games are attempting.

Lord of the Rings – The Adventure Card Game – Switch

The Lord of The Rings: Adventure Card Game

So, my conversion to this franchise continues.  I had this awhile a go on PC as part of some digital tabletop gaming bundle and had played a little bit of it, but the portable console felt a better fit.  I’ve not explored the deckbuilding side of this too much, but I’ve enjoyed the main gameplay of the card game itself.  There is a good balance between the complexities that these sorts of games deliver, but still maintaining the kind of moment-to-moment decisions that anyone who has played something like Hearthstone or its daddy Magic: The Gathering will be familiar with.  The campaign stories are suitably Lord of the Rings-esque, be you commanding the forces of Rohan or battling spiders to rescue Bilbo and lends good motivation to the banging portraits together.

It feels like there is plenty of depth here, although I also sense that this digital version might exhaust itself (pun for the card game players out there!) of content before it really explores everything that is on offer from the ruleset.  It also makes me tempted to pick up the physical card game, which I understand is quite different.

Murder by Numbers – Switch

Murder by Numbers

I know very little about this, beyond it being a visual novel, with picross puzzles dotted throughout the story.

I love a picross puzzle though.  There is something very relaxing about them, much like the better known sudoku puzzles that were a big fad 10-15 years ago.  I don’t normally find them particularly challenging, but they are still really satisfying to complete.  Hopefully the story here will be interesting too, so I’m not just waiting for the next puzzle to come along.

Still have a bit of the first Phoenix Wright game to complete though, so will likely finish that off first.

Phantom Abyss – PC

Phatom Abyss

This is a game whose trailer really caught my eye when it was shown off during one of the many streams a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a first-person platforming game, in which the procedurally generated courses can only be completed by one person.  You try to be the person, as you watch the ghosts around you of previous victims and their failed attempts.

This is another one I will probably write a bit more about, but it is a simple idea that seems to be executed quite nicely, in my brief 20 minutes with it.  It is only in early access at the moment, so I expect there is quite a few missing features, but I will be giving it a bit more of an explore soon.

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Something for the Weekend – 19th-20th June

Peppa Pig

This weekend is going to mostly be occupied with family time, including with my baby and toddler nephews.  So, my cultural highlights might not extend much beyond Peppa Pig (not a terrible predicament, I’ll grant you).  At least this weekend won’t be quite so full of endless streams from game publishers telling us very little about their upcoming games.

When I do get some screen time, this will be what I’m taking a look at:

DOOM: Eternal – PC

DOOM Eternal

I absolutely adored the return of DOOM back in 2016.  The energy and non-stop visceral action was tonic for the relentless drudgery that had become most of the FPS genre since it became dominated by the plague of the modern warfare sim and tedious slow paced fare.  DOOM rekindled my love for these games, with its great update of the formula and smart design choices that re-educated the player in the joy of charging into combat rather than cowering behind cover.

DOOM: Eternal came out last year and I never got around to it at the time.  I’m ready to rip and tear this weekend though. Initial experiences of running into weird log in issues with the Bethesda account system and a broken map when HDR is enabled are not hugely positive, but the first 20 minutes or so of the game itself still seems to offer the same carnage and joy that the previous game did.  Hopefully, this will continue and I don’t run into any other issues.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Switch

'Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy HD'

I’ve already played a fair amount of the first game in this trilogy pack, having reached about halfway through the fourth episode.  Will be aiming to finish this before the end of the weekend.

I do have some issues with this, mainly the way that some of the solutions are a little obtuse, requiring a little bit of trial and error.  That is made worse by the trial sections having only a finite amount of guessing that you can do before your client is found guilty and you are forced to restart from the beginning of that day again.

Besides that, I find this a really enjoyable and relaxing game.  The characters are pitched just right, with them being very much caricatures, but with enough personality for their stories to be interesting to follow.  Some of their little animations are delightful and that extends beyond the classic finger point the series is known for. 

Story is also light, but intriguing, with strong vibes of a Diagnosis Murder or Murder She Wrote.  The way some reappear across multiple episodes and the overall story is woven into the different cases is handled just right and it keeps you wanting to move onto the next one.

They are quite long games, so I will likely take a break after I’ve finished the first one, but been very much enjoying these.

In The Heights

In The Heights

Around about a year ago, I was meant to go and see Hamilton.  For obvious reasons, that ended up not happening.  I’ve held off watching the Disney+ version in the hope that I will actually get to see the real thing at some point.  This will have to do in the meantime.

Not sure if I will get a chance to see this over the weekend, but I’ve been looking forward to it coming out and will certainly see it soon.  The trailers have looked like a real burst of energy and tune that is used is a banger.  It seems to be the perfect film to go see during this time, with the world still going through such a shitty time.  A little bit of musical magic is very much required.

I don’t know very much about the musical that it is based on, so going in fairly blind, but still with high hopes that it will be good time. 

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Nintendo continue to not talk about the Switch Pro

It shouldn’t have been a surprise really.  The rumours that were circulating around a new Switch felt slightly more plausible than before and when nothing came out about one before the digital E3 weekend there was always an outside chance that Nintendo might use the Direct to mention a new machine, be it an update or a new console.  Even Nintendo’s tweet saying they will be focusing on just games could have been misleading, as their tweets often are.

Instead, we just had a bunch of games talked about.  Mostly stuff that was already on the horizon or new versions of games that were on other systems, but it was still a good showing, letting everyone know that there will be stuff to play on your Switch in the coming months.

Expectations were set fairly low from the start, with Tekken joining Smash Bros. Ultimate.  Supposedly the chucking characters into a volcano is a Tekken thing, but my confusion was worth it to see Kirby sneak away after being thrown in.

The first big surprise came with a fancy little animation for Life is Strange.  Initially, it looked like it might be a new game especially for the Switch, but it turns out to just be the Remastered collection arriving on Nintendo’s system, as well as the new True Colours.  Great to see, as the first game is very enjoyable.  I’m not sure if I will personally be revisiting, but the Switch is the perfect place to play something like it and I would consider playing True Colours there.  Pity the second game doesn’t seem to be included, although reception to that was a little lukewarm.

We then had some quick-fire third-party games coming over to Switch, including the just announced Guardians of the Galaxy game.  A little surprising, as I would have thought it would need some extensive downgrading in order to be played on Switch.  How well that will work out will be interesting to see, but I have a feeling that other platforms are going to be more suited to it.  Of course, it could be something that benefits from a yet to be announced hardware upgrade…

There is also Two Point Campus, which looks like another good fit for the Switch.  More management games would be good to see and the quirky tone of the Two Point games is a great fit.

Metroid Dread für Nintendo Switch ist ein 2D-Plattformer ...

Back to Nintendo games, we have the only real surprise announcement of the stream, with a brand new Metroid game, Metroid Dread.  Not quite the Metroid Prime 4 that most people were likely expecting, but a return to the 2D origins.  A shame that we didn’t see the new first person game, nor news of the Prime series being remastered, but this was still a great looking game.  Metroid games are all the rage in the 2D indie space, so it will be interesting to see how the granddaddy of the format holds up.

From the footage, it looks like there will be some AI enemies that will be stalking the player, perhaps in a Resident Evil Nemesis style.  That extends to a bit of a horror vibe too.  Looking forward to seeing more of this and it is launching in October.

Another favourite series is returning, with a new Wario Ware, named Get It Together.  It looks like it will be following the same format as other games in the series, with a bunch of quick reaction mini games.  New addition is two people being able to play some of the minigames at the same time.  Should add some fun spice, particularly if the players can sabotage each other.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water will be making the move from Wii U to Switch, as so many before it.  I’m not familiar with the series and for some reason didn’t get this on the Wii U, but this drew me in with a suitably creepy trailer.  Not so sure about the selection of costumes shown which seem to not be practical wear when battling ghosts, but the game itself looks like it could be enjoyable.  Same goes for the recent remaster of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 that is going to be coming to Switch.  I haven’t gotten around to it on other platforms, but may well take the plunge when it comes to Nintendo’s console.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is getting a remaster ...

Besides Mario+Rabbids, which we already knew about from the Ubisoft stream, the next game of note is updated versions of Advance Wars 1 and 2.  My only really experience of this style of game is briefly playing some Wargroove on PC, which was a great idea and something I didn’t play too much of, mainly as I was meaning to pick it up on Switch. I might as well not bother now and just go straight to the original game created the style.  The chunky cartoon style looks really neat too and I imagine quite the improvement on the original games.

We finally move into the last segment of the show, focus on Legend of Zelda.  Nintendo must have enjoyed messing with everyone by starting this section with a Hyrule Warrior DLC, as if that were the only thing being shown.  Fortunately, we got to see a little more of the Skyward Sword remaster and then a neat looking Game&Watch system that will have The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2, Link’s Awakening and Vermin, a previous Game&Watch game that has been changed to have Link as the playable character.

None of this is what people were waiting for of course.  Finally, Nintendo have shown a little of Breath of the Wild 2.  It pretty much looks like more Breath of the Wild, with the main change being that you will supposedly now be exploring land above Hyrule, where floating landmasses have appeared.  There also look to be a few more abilities included, with a flamethrower arm and something that appears to reverse time on a giant spiked ball.

There isn’t much more to add really, as it is still quite limited what we are seeing the trailer.  The vertical gameplay looks quite neat though and I hope we get to move between these quite freely.

Just a 2022 release given, so likely we are still waiting quite a while for it to come out.

And that was it.  Perhaps a little underwhelming, but on the scale of other Nintendo Directs it certainly could have been worse.  It would have been nice to see a few more new announcements, but it looked like there will be a few bits and pieces for us to enjoy.  There is always enjoyable stuff coming from Nintendo, even if it isn’t the most exciting of their titles.  The past year or so has felt like Nintendo were coasting a little bit and although this show didn’t completely destroy that image, it went some way to correcting it.

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Microsoft/Bethesda E3 show – All about the games

Microsoft have been accused in the past to be too focused on selling their games division as a multimedia experience platform first and for games second.  That image has been dying of late and it looks to be positively eviscerated with their 2021 E3 showing.

There really was nothing but games on display at their show, a huge range that is unlikely to have left anyone without at least some anticipation for something.  There may not have been much shown of some of those, but just the mention of them should be enticing enough.  It certainly put Ubisoft to shame and with Sony MIA this year, it only leaves Nintendo to possibly upstage them.

This show also saw the first time for the Microsoft show to be combined with Bethesda’s, following their recent merger.  This certainly injected even more life into proceedings and gave the selection a much-needed boost to the diverse games on offer. 

And, as has been the case in recent Microsoft press events, Xbox Game Pass took centre stage and Microsoft were not shy in telling us about all of these games that we will be able to play as part of their subscription service.  27 of the 30 featured games would be coming to the service.  It continues to be the best deal in gaming, whilst also being slightly terrifying in some of the potential directions that it might decide to take.

No way that I will be able to cover everything that was shown, but here are some of the highlights:

Starfield

Starfield Gameplay And 2022 Release Date Finally Revealed ...

It has been much anticipated for a long time and it seemed likely that it put in a showing at this event.  Previously, we had juts seen a planet and panning down to the title.  We don’t really get much more of a flavour from this and it still remains very much a teaser.  However, we do see the world we are seeing is relatively realistic and is likely to be in the not too distant future, during early days of space travel.  There is also a robot companion of some sort.

To see Bethesda doing something new, rather than their stables of Elder Scrolls and Fallout is exciting, and personally is more interesting to me than those other series.  Too little is known to get that excited though and we are still a way off, with the 11th November 2022 announced as the release date.

STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl

The Stalker series has always been massively ambitious and it has often struggled to really live up to them.  The first game was much delayed and went through a lot of development woes and it was released to fair amount of acclaim, but it was still a very buggy game.  It was very much ahead of its time, even though it took a long time to make, it’s A-Life AI system that saw creatures and rival Stalkers roaming the land and having encounters completely independent of the player is still something we barely see in games.  Most of those systems worked half the time and when they did the game was a joy, but often things would fall over a bit.  The third game managed to get things mostly right, but it felt like the series had became fairly niche by that point and it isn’t surprising that it disappeared for quite some time.

This fourth game in the series (despite the 2 in the title), got quite an extensive showing.  It looks like they have upped the narrative ante, with plenty of dialogue being shown.  The character models and animation far exceeds the original, so good to see it is being put to good use, as we watch fire side stories being told.  Hopefully, we still have the non-linear and emergent gameplay that the series has previously shown, especially considering as this will need to differentiate itself from the Metro 2033 games.

Graphically it looked fantastic and still drips that fallout scenary of the original game.  The dark lab as the player is haunted by a squid faced creature is haunting and the lightening riddled metal tower is… striking.

We also get a glimpse of the anomalies from the original game.  These made the environment almost as much as a threat as the creatures and enemy stalkers and to see them in their next-gen ray traced glory is quite something.

28th April 2022 is the date for this one.  Looking forward to getting back to the Zone.

Battlefield 2042

Some more Battlefield 6 was shown off, after last weeks announcements.  We get to see actual gameplay this time around and it continues the trend we saw previously of looking like a real sequel to 4.

The action is as hectic as you expect… except for a brief pause in a lift, where we get to see on the fly weapon customisation.  We also get to see some of the much talked about weather effects with the massive hurricane causing a sandstorm.  It really did look like quite something, as it pulled vehicles into its centre.

Really though, it just looked like more Battlefield, which is no bad thing in my book.  Whether it will win back the fans they lost from Battlefield V (and to some extent 1) is still to be seen, but it is clear they are tailoring their marketing at them as much as possible.

We will be getting back on the battlefield on 22nd October 2021.

Twelve Minutes

Pretty much the same as the other trailers we have seen, but I can’t imagine there is a huge amount more to say about this.  I’m still massively intrigued by it though and look forward to it every time they show it off.

The cast is great (Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy and Willem Defoe), the look striking and the concept is intriguing.  This is a time loop game, in which you play through the same 12 minutes of a couple’s life.  Making different choices will see the 12 minutes playing out differently each time and I assume your goal will be to discover how to escape the loop.  I don’t much about the actual plot, beyond what we have seen in trailers, but it seems there is a birthday, a police raid and likely some murder.

It will depend on how well the plot holds up as to whether this will be good or not, but I’ve been anticipating this one for quite some time.  I will finally be able to get stuck in the loop on the 19th August 2021.

Psychonauts 2

The original Psychonauts was filled to the brim with great ideas.  One level saw you chasing a conspiracy obsessed milkman, another would be running away from a neon bull and then you would be jumping around a meat circus.  This trailer looked like it would contain just as many unique levels and ever changing gameplay.

Hopefully this time around they will be able to get the platforming bits right, which were mediocre at best in the original game.  Perhaps we will also see a little more interesting combat.

I don’t think that matters too much though, just as long as it manages to capture the writing and imagination of the glory days of Double Fine, which has been a little absent in more recent years.

We won’t have too long to wait either, as this one is dropping on the 25th August this year.

Atomic Heart

4Gamers - Atomic Heart dropt heerlijk absurde trailer

What really stands out about this game is the incredible fidelity of it.  I’m still not entirely sure if it is all a big lie, as it doesn’t seem quite possibly that a game made by a fairly unknown studio would look quite so good.

Not only are the graphics impressive, but it also has wild art style.  I’m not sure if it entirely works or if it will just end up being a complete mess of ideas, but I’m interested to see it in action.  Whether it will actually turn out to be a good game or if it will be a fairly standard shooter is still to be seen.

No release date is shown on this yet, so don’t how long we will have to wait until we find out.

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This E3 just can’t stop showing off the insane quality of art that is coming from the smaller studios at the moment.

The trailer doesn’t give too much away as to what this will actually be, but the style oozes cool.  This is a strange mix of pixel art and 3d.  It looks stunning and not quite like anything I’ve ever seen.

It appears to be a futuristic world, likely with some sort of dystopian threat.  There is a bit of combat shown off as well as some platforming, mixed in with some sad walking to the right (breaking from tradition set by Limbo, it is grown man walking left not a boy).  All looks solid.

But it is that art style that really stands out and I want to see more of it.

Just 2022 listed on this, but hopefully won’t be too late in the year before we get to stare at more of it.

Age of Empires 4

It feels like a long time since we have seen a trad strategy game.  Iron Harvest 1920+ last year was quite good fun, but very much like playing Company of Heroes.  Besides that, it feels like the last one was the rubbish Dawn of War 3.

Relic should hopefully make up with past mistakes with this grand looking new entry in the classic series.  On the face of things, it does look like a modern update of Age of Empires 2, but I have no doubt that Relic will bring their experience to inject a bunch of new ideas to format.  Plus, if it does end up just being AoE2 with nicer graphics and UI for the modern player I could see it being plenty enough.

We will cavalry charge into this on 28th October.

The Outer Worlds 2

A fun pointless trailer that takes the piss out of pointless trailers.  The first Outer Worlds had a good sense of humour and this seems to be continuing with that.

The announce says that the only thing they have finished is the title and no date is given, so I assume we are in for quite a wait to see this finished.

I quite enjoyed the first game, so more is welcome.  I did come away from it feeling that this surely should be the end of this style of game though.  The static characters standing around waiting to give you quests and the very static world(s), besides when you do something to make a scripted change.  Hopefully, they will look to make something that is a little more organic and not just so centred around the player.

Forza Horizon 5

I’m not particularly into racing games, although I don’t mind dipping into them from time to time.  They are a genre that sells the potential for new consoles though and Horizon 5 seems to be no different in that respect.

The game looks stunning, from the shiny cars to the realistic terrains that they are racing through.  The Mexico looks really gorgeous and varied.  Not only that though, it looks like the devs are really look at how they can push next gen outside of just graphics, looking at incorporating seamless multiplayer features and AI controlled elements that learn how you play.

Playground Games are living up to their name by creating a real sandbox of a racing game.  I’ve always heard good things about previous games in the series, but not checked them out myself.  May have to take a look at what other entries have done.

This will be screeching into the fast lane on 9th November 2021.

Redfall

Another game from Arkane is always something to celebrate and it came as a bit of a surprise to me at the end.  With us still waiting on Deathloop later this year, I was not expecting to see anything else.

It is just a cinematic trailer, but has enough to be intriguing.  Vampires are certainly something we don’t get to see that often in games and it seems to be unique interpretation of them.  There is an emphasis on characters here and I’m assuming we are looking at a sort of Left 4 Dead style of co-op game where we will have the same characters that will interject with bits of dialogue as we play through.

There is also some sort of robot dog thing too.

Putting their skills of immersive sims into a multiplayer environment will be interesting to see how well it works.  If they can inject that kind of gameplay into a co-op experience than I am certainly all on board for that.

We will need to wait to take a bite ourselves though, with Summer 2022 as the release.

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Devolver Digital getting into the monetisation game

As ever with E3, Devolver Digital become the conference that is worth watching even if you aren’t interested in any of the games they are announcing.  They really put on a show and don’t feel the need to get awkward developers up on a stage to read some marketing approved message to everyone.  Instead, they blow some shit up!

Given the nature of E3 this year, Devolver have gone for slightly less pyrotechnics this time around, but replaced those with many chilli dogs.  They also announced there brand new MaxPass+, now bringing monetisation to you as a service.  What this actually means I’m not sure anyone knows, but somewhere in their marketing-nese there is a logic so you should probably start throwing your money at your screen for this free service.

Somewhere in this madness there were also some actual games being shown off.  And what games they were.  After being somewhat underwhelmed by the lack of anything massively interesting in Ubisoft’s stream (besides more Mario+Rabbid), this was a nice breath of fresh air.

Shadow Warrior 3

I’ve never particularly gotten on with the reinvention of the Shadow Warrior series.  The first game was okay, but nothing particularly special. The second game went off in a different direction entirely and I bounced off it quite quickly.  The third game looks to be more my jam though.  Only one combat area is shown off, but when that combat area involves some sort of spinning disc blades of doom that you can crush enemies with then I don’t need much more.

The action looks incredibly frantic and there is a whole bunch of grotesqueries for you to do battle with.  Plus, there is yanking weapons out of the mouth of big fat enemies.  Huge amount of colour and particle effects splashed over the screen and I really loved what I saw.  This could be the first in the series to get me on board.

Trek to Yomi

For those that love a bit of artistic flare in their games there has been an abundance of that coming out of the indie side this E3.  So many really great looking platformers in particular.

We can add Trek to Yomi to those great looking indie games too, with its really gorgeous looking black and white representation of historic Japan.  The black and white images and the use of silhouettes makes this look really striking and I really want to see more of it.  Not much of the actual gameplay, which seems to be a side scrolling game with sword fighting, although I’m assuming not a platformer.  Hopefully it will be a simple system that is easy to understand, but difficult to master, along the lines of Unto the End, but there isn’t much to go on.

Phantom Abyss

This looked like a lot of fun.  A first-person runner, with you dodging traps in tombs that look like your classic Tomb Raider.  That would probably be enough to have my interest, but the addition of seeing the ghosts of other players that have failed to get through adds a nice bit of modern spice to this.

The trap variety looks varied and the movement looks pretty good, complete with the almost obligatory grappling hook.  It could result in something that lends itself to time attacks and I have no doubt we will be seeing this come with scoreboards and modes to race ghosts of the best players.

Again, this looks to be continuing the trend of just really fun games coming out of Devolver.

Wizard With a Gun

Trailer opens with treating us to a nice animated cinematic.  The in-game footage equally looks quite nice, although quite similar to Don’t Starve.  The animation looks better though and everything moves really smoothly and with more variety.  The gameplay itself seems similar to Don’t Starve, although with a bit of an action focus.

It looks enjoyable, but I’m not a big fan survival mechanics, so those are a bit of a turn off.  Probably the one that interested me the least in the showing (besides a mobile game, which I’m not even sure if it is a real thing or not). Still, I can certainly see the appeal for some.

Death’s Door

Again with the gorgeous looking artwork in what appears to be a Hades-alike.  The environments looked a little less procedurally generated than that, but the action seems to be similar.  We see a couple of boss fights that look a bit more interesting too.

There appears to be a few different tools at your disposal, so I hope we have plenty of ways of customising abilities and weapons.

Inscryption

A new game from the creator of Pony Island and it looks to be equally as twisted.  This one is inspired by card games, although even the trailer doesn’t manage to hide that more is going on, as there also appears to be some environment puzzle solving and also some found footage FMVs appearing.

This actually looks like it might be genuinely creepy, such as seeing the hands of your card playing opponent reaching out to grab you.  The environment is really dark and there is definitely a bit of an occult vibe going on.

Probably one to go into knowing as little as possible and I’ve got a feeling that it will likely be a memorable experience.

Demon Throttle

A very old school looking scrolling shmup.  It isn’t a genre that I know much about and often looks a little Samish to me, but this might be a good introduction to it.  It really is going for the old school vibe, with an art-style that looks just like those old games, although no doubt done in a way that could never be achieved by them.

Might be worth checking out, although it is taking the weird route of only being released as a physical game.  I’m not really sure why they would do that, as it looks ideal as a digital only release.  Perhaps a physical release in some special package would making sense, but it is just in a standard Switch box.

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Ubisoft Forward 2021 drops (the ball)

The first big publisher show of E3 2021 has arrived and it is Ubisoft leading the charge.  And… it was a bit of damp squib, without too many surprises.  There were a couple of big announcements appearing at the end of the stream, but one of those was slightly tempered by Nintendo accidently leaking the info a few hours before the stream went up.

Still no mention of Skull and Bones or Beyond Good and Evil 2 and fans of Splinter Cell and Rayman remain disappointed.  There was a lot of variety though and I’m sure most would find something to appeal to them.  There just wasn’t anything new announced or anything massively unexpected.

Here are some of the highlights

Rainbow Six Extraction

First off was the new game in the Rainbow Six series.  After Siege, which seems to have been around for years, it is good to see something new from the series and it appears to be taking quite a different approach from previous games.

Dropping the PvP of Siege and going for a co-op PvE experience, it almost could be a similar experience to the older Rainbow Six games and their covert operations.  Instead of terrorists with hostages though, teams will be battling aliens.

The cinematic trailer and the devs description sounded really interesting.  The design of the aliens and their oily gooey look was quite interesting, reminiscent of those in Prey.  They also talked about the cool idea that operatives could be captured and will be unusable by the players (including the unlocks) until you go on a mission to rescue them.  With persistent elements like that, you could almost see this playing like a first person XCom and losing your favourite operative could be a similar tough pill to swallow as losing a squad member there.

Unfortunately, the gameplay itself was a little underwhelming.  Everything just seemed too straightforward for the players and always all very calm.  Maybe this was just footage of everything going right and I could definitely see elements of the tactical gameplay the series is known for, but there didn’t seem much reason to be tactical based on what we were seeing, as there was demonstration of what would happen if you did go all guns blazing.  We only ever saw a handful of enemies at once and they all went down fairly easily, besides the larger types that would pop up in what seemed like boss battle sections.

Those enemies also lost the cool edge they had in the cinematic trailer and looked much blander.  They were just fairly grey looking and in general the graphics and art was quite dry.

There is still some hope though.  I really like the description of the game and there were some genuinely interesting game mechanics mentioned.  Also, I’ve always been put off Siege by the reputation of the community, so a PvE game in the franchise would be really welcome.

Riders Republic

I didn’t play Steep, which is the obvious touch point for this one.  Not sure how this compares, but it looks like quite a complete package, with the different downhill transportation options having plenty of gameplay to form their own game.

The rocket powered wingsuits stood out the most, but you also have paragliding, snowboarding, mountain bikes, skiing and bikes topped up with junk.  It looked like there was going to be some fun options available and possibly enough for those that want to take it a little more seriously.  The big races look pretty hectic and likely to be the main draw.

Far Cry 6

Just a cinematic of the main game showing off some more Giancarlo Espirato’s Anton.  Looks like he is going to be much more interesting than the Seeds in 5 and you obviously are going to expect good things from the performance.

Perhaps more interestingly though was the announcement of what the Season Pass will involve.  We will be revisiting those previous villains and get a chance to play in their shoes for a bit.  We even got Vaas saying his thing about insanity again!  Whether it will actually be enjoyable to play as those villains is to be seen, but it certainly made for some cool looking sequences.

There was also a mention of Blood Dragon, but not really sure if you just get a copy of that game with the season pass or if there was something a bit more involved than that.

Mario+Rabbids: Sparks of Hope

My personal highlight for the stream.  The first Mario+Rabbids game was such a pleasant surprise, something that on paper sounded like it would be absolutely disaster, but turned out to be a joyful cartoon XCom game.

The concept for the sequel sounds like it is going to be inspired by Mario Galaxy, which is as good as place as any to take inspiration from.  Nothing massively new is shown in the footage, besides a couple of new characters (Rabbid Rosalina looks great).  The final moment shows Mario using a flaming luma to call down a bunch of fiery asteroids, so perhaps we are just looking at more of the same but on a much grander scale.  That sounds great to me.  The original game was pretty much perfect, so messing with formula would be a bad idea.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora

Avatar made so much money that it is inevitable that the franchise would grow, even though it seems to be taking its sweet time over it.  A sequel film is supposedly coming next year and I imagine this game will be aiming to ride the coattails of that.

It’s a franchise that feels quite suited to Ubisoft’s style of game and I could see them aiming to get some of that Horizon energy going with it.  That is just speculation for now though, as the footage was just a cinematic.

Personally, Avatar’s massive box office takings has always been a bit of mystery to me.  The film itself was perfectly fine, but instantly forgettable.  It also doesn’t seem to be a film that everyone stopped talking about quite quickly, once the veneer of the supposedly revolutionary technology behind it wore off (3D cinema vanished pretty quickly after the release too, making it feel like a signal that it was really a creative dead-end).  The reemergence of the franchise isn’t massively surprising, given the money it took, but I’m not sure if there is a big appetite for it and I could see it all being a bit of a flop (come Christmas 2022, I will no doubt be eating those words when the sequel becomes the biggest selling film of all time).

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