Wherein I discuss the regularly scheduled early June Mika Saft & Bethany Esda video game showcase.
Something that I’ve been trying to maintain during this entire month has been a 3,000-word-a-day writing policy, as I want to release two 20k-ish word short stories, one sub-10k story, and one 90k novel before the end of August. It has gotten to the point where I am less interested in video games compared to writing, because I view writing tasks as ‘more important.’ This is a very odd mindset to have when going into the ‘video game Christmas’ that is the early June media showcases, as I’m having a hard time viewing it as much more than a roadblock in my creative pursuits.
Also, if that loose schedule I gave sounded a bit odd, it’s because I have ‘unofficially’ pushed the release date of The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan up from November 18, 2022 to August 15, 2022. Mostly because progress was going better than expected, and I would like to release it, my seventh novel, on the 7th anniversary of Verde’s Doohickey, my first novel. If I fail to meet this deadline, then the November release date will go into effect. Honestly, it all depends on what my work schedule is going to be, which has been spotty thanks to the fire that put my boss’s office out of commission.
…See?! I really don’t want to talk about video games… but screw it, let’s get this puppy started! And since all other showcases were a bust, it’s all Xbox bay-bee!
The main showing for today was Microsoft’s Xbox showcase, which distinguished itself from prior years by focusing on games (supposedly) coming out within the next 12 months, and prioritizing gameplay footage over CG cutscenes. Or at least that was the plan. There were plenty of CG trailers and in-engine cutscenes in lieu of gameplay. Also, they decided to be cagey about which Xbox consoles these games were being released on and just referred to them as launching for “Xbox Consoles.” Which is kind of a bad play when you can’t make enough Xbox Series X|S consoles to meet demand…
Things began where last year’s left off, with Akrane’s Redfall. A four-player co-op vampire hunting FPS that… strikes me as a bit non-committal with regards to its tone. The dialogue and narration tries to give the game something of a lighthearted feel but, with those audio elements stripped away, the game looks like a pretty typical ‘social shooter.’ One where the biggest selling point is the promise of cool monsters and the fact that characters have unique abilities in addition to the usual shooter arsenals. It’s something of a shame, but I guess that this is what people want when they gather around to enjoy a campaign-driven shooter. And for those who play this game by themselves… I honestly don’t see this as being anything too remarkable, as it looks to be a fairly slow and plodding affair.
Hollow Knight: Silksong got another trailer, which is something I know a lot of people have been waiting for. Mostly because the people who are invested in this game are so excited about it that I cannot help but crumble a little whenever I see the word ‘Silksong.’ After its console and DLC releases, 2017’s Hollow Knight has garnered a community of people who position the game as this genre revolutionizing masterstroke that all other action exploration platformers, or metroidvanias, must be compared to. As someone who invested 35 hours into the game and gave up when she couldn’t beat the colosseum (I never said I was good at video games), I can sorta understand. But… Screw it, lemme go in for the jugular.
I think that people who hold strong opinions about petty shit like video games are unhinged people. And just because you like something a lot does not make it the ‘best.’ There are no ‘best’ video games, because you cannot objectively measure video games. You have favorites and preferences, and your opinions are not objective, definitive, or even important, ya dorkus.
…As for the Silksong trailer itself, it reinforced how this expansion-turned-successor is taking what was established in the original to the next level. With more aerobatic control, new moves and environmental gimmicks, and generally more robust traversal. Which is something that I’m sure some people are stoked for, but is kind of a major turn-off for me. I’ve probably brought this up before— I think I did in my Shovel Knight review a few years back— But in games where the player has a lot of movement-based control over a character, I tend to struggle to internalize and execute all of the functions available to me.
I get buttons mixed up, I do things in the wrong order, and I do not have the ability to picture ‘cool moves’ as I worry about making a mistake somewhere in the process. Why is that? Because I’m 27 and can already feel the early signs of arthritis, and because my brain works in a rather atypical manner.
The dastards over at Riot Games, a company with a long history of abuse that I’d rather not freshen up on— because I’m irritated enough at the moment— had a presence at this showcase. However, it was not to announce that League of Leggings was coming to Xbox, but rather how Xbox Game Pass subscribers will gain perks across Riot’s library of titles. This is a rather crafty move, considering that Riot has a large community of players and, by marketing this subscription pass to them, Xbox could further grow their ecosystem.
While Game Pass has successfully roped in millions of Xbox owners, Microsoft wants to bring their service to people who don’t own a game console, or don’t necessarily play campaign based games. They want to make their ecosystem as large as possible to maximize their future revenue. Then, once growth has stagnated, then they will start pushing up the prices and losing customer confidence by making unfavorable decisions. But at that point, people would have been using the service for so long that they would not want to go back to the ways of old.
…I realized that I referred to League of Legends as League of Leggings when proofreading this post, but I’m not going to change it. The ancient bagel memes compel me.
Speaking of promoting games made by known abusers and general woman-haters, Activision Blizzard’s, Overwatch is a game that never should have cost a full premium price at launch. Not because the title wasn’t good, or because it was multiplayer only. But because of how much the game pushed its deplorable cosmetic loot boxes. And for Overwatch 2, it was revealed that the game would do away with one of these unfavorable elements by going fully free-to-play, which will probably help draw in old and new players when the game launches. Well, not launches, but has its early access release.
…Why is the sequel to a global gaming juggernaut like Overwatch coming out as early access? Because Activision Blizzard wants to get in one final rush of profits before the company is acquired by Microsoft. And because ‘early access’ is a great way for the developers to excuse a lack of content and outstanding issues. That might be harsh, but Overwatch 2 just had its first alphas this April, and Overwatch 2’s early access will begin on October 4th. That is not a lot of time to finish a game. Especially one launching for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch at the same time.
Crumbs, I’m getting all salty and angry from the things I’ve been choosing to cover! Partially because Gamindustri is Gamindustri, and partially because my tastes are weird. But there were… three games I saw here that I thought looked genuinely neat, and here’s one of them:
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn caught my attention with its trailer because it had a few things that really stood out to me.
- A black female protagonist with a sufficiently cool design who fights with an axe, a rifle, and the abilities accessible to her via her magical animal buddy. Also, her name is freaking Nor Vanek. Which I think sounds really neat.
- A setting that does just enough to distinguish itself from the usual European-inspired fantasy rigmarole by taking place in a more Mediterranean/African setting. Which is something I don’t recall seeing since Two Worlds II, but that only lasted for the first third.
- Air dodges that manage to remain somewhat ‘grounded,’ which is a weird thing to be enticed by, but I think they look cool.
- And a storyline about how Gods abandoned humanity, came back, and made everything way, way worse. Thereby inspiring the protagonist to go on a quest to kill the Gods. Which is the best objective for any character to have. Because if Gods screw up, they should be murdered.
That being said, the game still looks like another open world action RPG, one with fairly realistic-ish graphics gameplay that gave me big God of War (2018) vibes. So it is possible that it will fall into bad and familiar habits from other games with lesser budgets. But at the very least, it’s going on my wishlist until it launches in early 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
As Dusk Falls by Interior/Night is a self proclaimed ‘interactive drama’ that caught my eye during the showcase. Not necessarily for its story, as it seems to be one deeply based in the genre of ‘misunderstandings that could be avoided through proper communication’ which I never particularly like. But rather, for its presentation, which… is one of the most baffling looks I’ve ever seen a game go for.
The game mostly relies on cutscenes to convey its story and rather than use 3D models or motion capture to convey these cutscenes, the developers instead took recordings of actors’ performances. This is a relatively old technique that has been used in FMV games for the past 30 years, and one that has only gotten easier and better looking as technology advanced. …Except instead of just making an FMV game, capturing the actors on a green screen and using 3D backgrounds, the developers chose to take the recordings of the actors, drew over them, and then used these new assets to create an… interactive ‘motion comic.’
It works, and is an aesthetic, but I cannot imagine this being cheaper, faster, or more cost effective than creating a green screen FMV game. Motion comics do have their fans, but I always considered them to be this uncanny valley between something animated and the ‘storyboard of imagination’ that is a good comic. And this… this does not even remind me of a motion comic. It reminds me of a comic adaptation of a film that used frames from the film for its panels, but then had a colorist draw over them.
So… As Dusk Falls looks pretty bad on the visual front, and it is coming out on July 19th for Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
‘Game Natalie thought looked neat’ number two would be none other than the next Team Ninja project, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. An action game set in a demon-drenched depiction of the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history. This, combined with the pedigree of the developer behind the Nioh duology and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, is enough to warrant at least some interest from me. Although, I must say that I was not too fond of seeing this game revealed via a series of CG and in-engine snippets, as I have no clue where it falls on the action spectrum. Will it be a Souls-like, character action affair, or more of a typical action RPG? Because these folks have done all three in the past.
Thankfully Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, along with all others shown here, should be out by Q2 2023, specifically “Early 2023” when the title will debut on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
And the final game that captured my attention… was actually a trilogy! Thanks to Microsoft’s funding, Atlus is finally bringing the Persona series to more platforms. Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal are all heading to Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.
This comes after YEARS of people begging Atlus to re-release these titles, especially after they released Persona 4 Golden on PC two years ago, where it sold over 500,000 copies in a month, but it’s finally happening! Persona 5 Royal will be the first to release on October 21st, while the other two titles will hit Xbox sometime before June 2023. And… I am honestly thrilled just to hear that I will be able to add these games to my library.
I have a very strong soft spot for Persona 3 because of its excellent soundtrack and because I watched an LP of Persona 3 back in… 2010(?) or so, when I was just 15. I would link to it, but Kowbrainz deleted his YouTube channel. DAMN IT! I used to really like him. He was a laid back Australian (or was it New Zealand?) fellow and had a chill manner of speech that worked really well with a game like Persona 3.
…Meanwhile, and Persona 5 is a game that I’ve been interested in since I played Persona 4 Golden back in May 2014. So of course I am going to try and get into it when it comes out, because I feel I owe it to myself to fully embrace its delectable style.
The showcase itself ended with the first gameplay footage of Starfield. Bethesda Game Studios’ first proper single-player RPG since the release of Fallout 4 in 2015… and a title that was lowkey delayed from its 11/11/22 release date to a Q1/Q2 2023 release window. So, what does 7 years of innovation, engine development, and creative aspirations amount to? …Not much.
I do not mean to be dismissive, but something that I could not get over as I looked at Starfield was just how… old it looked. Shooting looks about the same as it did in Fallout 4. Scanning planets for resources and mining them gives me pre-release flashbacks to No Man’s Sky. Nothing about the footage shown inspires excitement about seeing or exploring the “over 1,000” planets procedurally generated by the developers.
Spaceship building looks incredibly limited just based on the UI shown in the trailer, or as I wrote down in my notes, it looks ‘like a boring dad’s Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.’ Spaceship battles look incredibly simple point and shoot affairs. Conversation looks to be regressing from third-person Mass-Effect-like discussions of Fallout 4 back to the stilted first-person stare downs of Fallout 3. The third-person camera looks like it has barely improved over what was done in Fallout 3. And… it all looks incredibly underwhelming.
Starfield looks like a game built on aging technology, by a company that really ought to have overhauled their entire technical framework over the past few years… and just chose not to. It would look fine, if not great, if this was the game Bethesda presented at E3 2015 instead of Fallout 4, but it just seems like a relic of the past in a world that has moved beyond it. Though, this is still probably going to sell at least 8 million copies assuming it takes to mods as well as… Oblivion did.
Also, Xbox Game Studios and Kojima Productions are collaborating on a project. Aside from a vague mention of using Xbox Cloud technology, no further details were provided. This announcement strikes me as wildly inappropriate for a showcase of games coming out within 12 months, but I suppose it is cool to know that Kojima is working on more things and is getting help from Xbox studios.
…Should I even go on about how the Xbox showing fared as a showcase? Nah. I think I’ll just let this pass me by and continue with writing about Jeremiah Pepperoni the horse demon as he guides Cain and his cronies through the revisionist rendition of Hell in order to access the government office with Akumako and Tenshiko. …OPPAI 3: Big Hole, Mexico – Let’s Go To Hell! is gonna be DOPE by the way.
Header image comes from Ren’ai X Royale by ASa Project.