It’s 2019! It took all my willpower not to write 2018 there, yet I still did it initially as a typo. This bodes well.
But anyway! Video games! Let’s get back into this. Developers have been steadily waking up again after the Christmas and New Year stupor (like the rest of us), so news is still a little thin on the ground, but we can make it work. There was some Tedious Internet Drama around some big multiplayer games, but I feel like we can ignore that in favour of the stuff that matters.
ERIK WOLPAW REJOINS VALVE
Half-Life and Portal co-write Erik Wolpaw left Valve about two years ago due to a lack of games being developed that would require him. However, mysteriously, he’s back, after spending time working with Double Fine on Psychonauts 2. Why? No one seems to know.
It could be a sign of Valve moving back into traditional game development. After all, they did release Artifact towards the end of last year, despite the general indifference from the gaming community. They also recently purchased Firewatch developer Campo Santo, who are currently working on their new title In the Valley of Gods.
Could Wolpaw’s reappearance mean Half-Life 3, or more Portal? Most likely no, but we can always hope.
UBISOFT LEAVES VALVE
Meanwhile, Epic’s recent announcement of their own rival storefront to Steam is set to cause Valve even more headaches. Epic recently managed to poach the upcoming PC release of The Division 2 from Steam, making it exclusive to their platform. This is a major blow to Steam, especially if future Ubisoft titles follow suit.
Of course, it does raise concerns about the growing numbers of launchers PC players need to run their games at this point. Between Steam, Origin, Uplay, Epic’s new store and god knows how many more on the horizon, is this a bit much?
WARNER BROS THROWS LEGO INTO MOUNT DOOM
The Lego Lord of the Rings game have disappeared from sale on all major digital storefronts. No PSN, no Xbox Live, and while the games are still listed for sale on Steam, there’s no link to buy them. More oddly, Warner Bros have offered no explanation for the disappearance.
Obviously, this is a licensing agreement issue. Warner Bros don’t own Tolkien’s work, they just license it, and things get more confused with Lego’s involvement. It’s quite likely that the license agreement ran out and the games can no longer be sold. What is odd is Warner Bros’ lack of willingness to just say that.
It’s also especially odd, as only a month ago the games were free on the Humble Store. A last-ditch effort to get the games into people’s hands before they’re gone forever? Possibly.
GAMES INDUSTRY FAILS TO GRASP INDIFFERENCE TO MOBILE GAMES
Good news! There’s going to be a followup to Alien Isolation! Bad news! It’s a mobile game!
After EA got a muted response to their Command & Conquer mobile game at E3, and Blizzard got anger from the Diablo mobile announcement, you’d think that the games industry would have learned that the games community tends to not get excited by mobile game announcements. And yet, FoxNext repeated the mistake.
Fox initially teased Alien fans about the possibility of a new Alien game featuring the protagonist of Alien Isolation, Amanda Ripley (the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ellen Ripley). This was then revealed to be a mobile spin-off which plays more like Five Nights at Freddy’s than the first-person stealth horror of Isolation. Reactions were far from positive, with countless comparisons to Weyland-Yutani being flung in Fox’s direction.
Fox have since clarified that Alien Blackout isn’t a followup to Isolation despite featuring that game’s protagonist and being set in the same world. Figure that one out. They’ve also stated that there’s more to come, although what that means remains to be seen.
Modders continue to do awesome things with games, and make me jealous of my inability to code or do anything techy. There are three interesting mod things that have popped up recently that have caught people’s attention.
The first is a Dark Souls mod called Daughters of Ash, where a single modder, known as Grimrukh on Reddit, single-handedly tweaked From’s classic into his own vision. Through some clever manipulation of event scripts, logic and placement data, Grimrukh has created a brand-new Dark Souls experience. New secrets to discover, new item descriptions, and new storylines, it’s all here. It’s impressive work, especially from one guy.
It can be found here: https://www.nexusmods.com/darksouls/mods/1524
And then there’s Unreal PT, an attempt to rebuild P.T. in the Unreal Engine. If you don’t remember, P.T. was the free playable demo of a mysterious horror game announced at Sony’s Gamescom 2014 conference. It later turned out to be a teaser for a new entry in the Silent Hill series by Metal Gear director Hideo Kojima, until the game was later unceremoniously cancelled by Konami.
People can’t seem to let P.T. go though, as Radius Gordello is the latest in a long line of people attempting to recreate the experience elsewhere. And now it has VR support, if you’re crazy enough to want that. Let’s hope Konami doesn’t pull this one, as it has a tendency to do.
Check it out here, while you can: https://radiusgordello.itch.io/unreal-pt
And then there’s a mod for Stardew Valley that turns it into a battle royale. So if you feel that your relaxing farming RPG isn’t enough like Fortnite for your liking, then your prayers have been answered, I guess.
It can be found here: https://www.nexusmods.com/stardewvalley/mods/3199/?tab=description
I’d love to feature some more awesome community projects in future. Seen anything you think is worth featuring? Drop me a line, either in the comments or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll make sure to include it.
It’s early in the year, so new releases are a bit sparse right now. A bunch of ports and remasters are getting released today, with New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe coming to the Switch, and Tales of Vesperia getting a remaster for all current systems.
New Super Mario Bros U originally came out on the Wii U, so a new Switch release may expose the game to a much wider audience. It was a fantastic 2D platformer in the tradition of all good Mario games, so it’s worth a look if you likely missed it the first time.
Tales of Vesperia, a JRPG in Bandai Namco’s cult favourite Tales series, was also limited in its original release ten years ago. In the West, it was an Xbox 360 exclusive, and the PS3 port was restricted to Japan. This time around, it’s being released on everything, with PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch all available, and all extra content from the PS3 version has been included.
And that’s it for new releases, but there are free things to pick up if you’re really looking for something new to play.
This month’s PlayStation Plus games for PS4 are Steep and Portal Knights. I’ve given Steep a try, and it’s a lot of fun, so I’d recommend giving it a download if you’ve got a Plus subscription.
Over on Xbox, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Just Cause 3 have come to Game Pass, while the Switch NES subscription service has gained Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Blaster Master.
Also, Fallout 76 players get a nice little gift in the form of the original Fallout games for PC, so download those if you’re still disappointed by the direction Bethesda took with Fallout 76.
And that’s it for this week! I’ll see you next week with more gaming news and releases, and stay tuned to the podcast in the coming weeks for my 2019 gaming preview!