Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Fortnite, Riot, Blizzard, a very tall cat, plus all the latest releases!
FORTNITE GOES DARK
I don’t tend to talk about Fortnite much on here, because I neither play the game nor do I have much interest in doing so, so most news about it goes over my head. But this past week Fortnite made the news in a significant way due to some bold moves.
Earlier this week, an event happened within the game (which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Kskh5nFxRc). As far as I understand, a character known as The Visitor blasted his ship across dimensions in order to contain a meteor that was approaching the game’s island location. In the process, the meteor ended up hitting some kind of time anomaly (I think?), causing the entire world to implode into a black hole. And when I say the entire world, I mean everything in the game, up to and including the lobby UI. This left Fortnite entirely unplayable for a few days before the game returned as Fortnite: Chapter 2, with a brand new map and some added mechanics such as swimming.
It was fascinating hearing about all this unfold as an outsider looking in. A huge worldwide phenomenon of a game, making billions for its creators, shut itself down completely. I can only imagine how angry investors were. And some fans were certainly angry, taking to customer support boards to demand an explanation of why they can’t play Fortnite and are just faced with a black hole when they load the game up. It’s a big part of why the community management side of me hates this – the amount of players who kicked off because they weren’t following the lore and were desperate to play but couldn’t must have been huge.
But the creative part of me admires this. The real reason for the shift seems to be resetting the servers to bring in improvements and new elements that couldn’t be added in a simple patch, but to shut it all down in a blaze of fire and a cosmic implosion is a fun way to make that transition. The amount of discussion it generated as players frantically tried to decipher the intermittent numbers that showed up around the black hole was huge, making it a social media event. It’s actually kind of cool, and I say this as someone who has no intention of even touching Fortnite.
Of course, what Epic probably didn’t plan was for the Epic Games Store to also be pulled into a black hole, as the mass of players turning up to see the cataslymic event unfold put a strain on the company’s servers and took out the store in the process.
The game is back up now (along with the store!), but for that brief time period, Fortnite did something experimental and bold and took the world by storm. And you know what? I approve.
BLIZZARD FINALLY RESPOND
Following on from last week’s story about Blizzard and their treatment of a Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, the company issued a statement addressing the controversy after days of silence. Only it didn’t really address anything. For a start, the statement turned up on their blog late on a Friday night (mere hours after my last roundup!), hoping the news cycle would lose it. The news cycle did not lose it, however.
The content of the statement didn’t reassure anyone either. While they are reducing Blitzchung’s ban from a year to six months, they still insisted on sticking rigidly to vaguely-worded rulings, and siding with a totalitarian government whether they intended to or not. They claimed that all players in their tournaments are entitled to their views, but those views shouldn’t be expressed in an official capacity (which sounds like they’re not entitled to them at all). They claimed that if Blitzchung had shown support for mainland China instead, he’d have received the same punishment, but no one seems to buy this. What’s more, they also claimed their decision had nothing to do with their business deals in China, despite it following a pattern of other large businesses bowing to Chinese demands in similar ways, including the NBA and Apple. In other words, people are still furious with Blizzard over this.
Blizzard, to their credit, seem to be aware of this, which may explain why a launch event at the Nintendo Store in New York was cancelled. The event was supposed to celebrate the launch of Overwatch on the Switch, including a meet-and-greet with voice actors from the game. But the event was hastily pulled, leaving Nintendo to confirm the cancellation on Twitter, and no other word. Suspicions now surround Blizzcon and whether that will see a similar fate, in an attempt for Blizzard to avoid the vocal backlash. We’ll see in a couple of weeks.
RIOT ANNOUNCE ALL THE GAMES
With all this anger directed at Blizzard, some players are turning towards other companies to throw their loyalty behind, and a blitz of announcements from Riot seem to be turning people to them instead (despite their own Tencent ownership, but that’s beside the point).
The League of Legends developers have been very busy indeed. Aside from updates to LoL itself, 2020 will see the release of a competitive card game to muscle in on Hearthstone’s territory, a console-focused version of LoL, an auto chess game and an animated series based on the MOBA.
But that’s not all! Future projects also include a competitive shooter (targeting Overwatch?), a fighting game, an Esports Manager game (ala Football Manager, presumably?), and a possible MMO or otherwise exploratory online title. The fighting game is what interests me most, because while it’s almost impossible to make me care about these other competitive titles, fighting games are always interesting to me, even if just as a curiosity.
It’s an impressive line-up, and considering Blizzard’s issues right now, it seems the perfect time to step into their territory.
LONG MEOWTH IS LONG
Longcat was a meme of the olden days of the Internet, where forums and social media were full of funny cat pictures with misspelled captions and less full of apocalyptic messages of anxiety. It seems that The Pokémon Company wish to take us back to those beautiful sunlit days with more Gigantamax (aka “chonky”) Pokémon in Sword and Shield. Namely, the Gigantamax Meowth, which becomes some kind of cat skyscraper, and very reminiscent of the classic longcat.
But that’s not all! There’s also a fat Pikachu, who looks like the classic design of the electric mouse mascot, albeit the size of your average office block. The Internet has already nicknamed it Thiccachu or Pikachonk, because of course it has.
It’s starting to look like almost every Gen 1 Pokémon is going to turn up and present themselves in a weird and wonderful new way, and while some people are getting frustrated with the lack of representation for later generations, it’s hard to argue with a Meowth with extra length.
The long-awaited Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 is going to require some extra waiting, as it’s being delayed. The reason is simple: they want to avoid the fate the first game suffered. You see, while the original Bloodlines is a cult classic with a lot of fans, it’s also notoriously broken and clunky in ways that could have been avoided with a little extra time and care.
And so, Bloodlines 2 is being delayed to allow that time and care to be invested into improving the experience, moving the game’s release from Q1 next year to a more nebulous time next year. Community response has been fairly positive, so here’s hoping that Bloodlines 2 will be amazing by the time it’s out.
Two major titles have come to the Switch this week. First up, the Witcher 3, which by all accounts is a fantastic port, albeit one with some downgrades to meet the Switch’s specs. Then, with unfortunate timing, is Overwatch, which from all accounts is a less impressive port.
A few smaller games saw a release this week. There’s Felix the Reaper, a puzzle game about a reaper in training who must reap the souls of the living while avoiding sunlight and throwing some sweet moves in the process. Then there’s KINE, another quirky little puzzle game, where you guide robotic instruments around block-based environments. Finally, there’s Stranded Sails, a cutesy farming game set on a remote desert island and you play a shipwreck survivor trying to survive. All of these games are on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch, with KINE also getting a release for Google Stadia later in the year.
The inexplicable success of the Plants vs. Zombies franchise continues unhindered, with a third shooter starring the titular flora and undead. Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is out for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and is basically just more of Garden Warfare. If you enjoyed that, you might enjoy this too.
Game Freak have released a new game for the Switch this week. No, not Pokémon – that’s in November – but Little Town Hero, a small-scale JRPG about defending a town from monster attacks. It’s a cute little take on the RPG genre, and it has a soundtrack from Undertale’s Toby Fox which I presume happened because he beat someone from Game Freak at a Pokémon battle.
Speaking of Switch exclusives, remember Wii Fit? It’s back, in ring form! Built for the new Ring-Con and leg strap accessory, Ring Fit Adventure is a game about battling a…bodybuilding demon…by working out. Nintendo, never stop being you.
GAME OF THE WEEK
My Game of the Week this week is Disco Elysium, available on Steam. This is an RPG set in a moody noir post-apocalypse, and you have to solve a murder. But you’re a detective with amnesia, taunted by inner demons and a drinking problem, and prone to getting distracted by other happenings in town.
I played this back at EGX, when it was still known by the R.S. Thomas-quoting title No Truce with the Furies, and was absolutely fascinated by it. It’s a deep, slightly confusing RPG that promises to give a tabletop experience in video game form, and offers up a huge, deep story to explore. This promises to be something special, and definitely worth a look.
And that’s all for now! I’ll see you next week with more of the latest news and releases!