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Gaming Roundup – Now Departing

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, departures, delusion, disasters and Dracula, plus all the latest releases!

Dan Houser and Rod Fergusson Stepping Down

It’s all change at major companies this week. First, Dan Houser, co-founder of Rockstar and head writer on GTA, Red Dead and Bully, is stepping down. It’s not clear what his reasons are, where he’s heading next or who’s set to replace him, but this is still big news. Houser has been a driving force behind Rockstar since their early days, working alongside his brother Sam to build the company and create the culture around him. His absence could see significant changes to the company going forward.

Meanwhile, Rod Fergusson is stepping down from The Coalition at Microsoft. If you don’t know who he is, he’s been the producer on every Gears of War game to date, and was director on Gears 5. He’s moving to Blizzard to work on Diablo, which is quite a shift going from shooters to RPGs, but that’s where he’s going. It’s not clear who’s replacing Fergusson or where the Gears series goes next after his departure, but time will tell.

Phil Spencer Gives Stadia Too Much Credit

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, has sparked some debate with his recent comments. He has claimed that going forward, Xbox’s competition doesn’t come from Sony and Nintendo, but instead from the likes of Google and Amazon. Part of his claim suggested that the other console manufacturers aren’t on the same level, which seems an odd comment when recent sales figures put the PS4 as a continued (albeit now declining) success while the Switch has overtaken the Xbox One in sales despite a 4-year advantage for Microsoft.

But there is logic to his comments. With Microsoft working so heavily on xCloud and other streaming services, he suggests he’s positioning Xbox alongside other streaming services such as Stadia and Amazon’s upcoming streaming equivalent. Which does makes sense. Xbox’s major success this past gen has been in Game Pass, and extending that to streaming and other services seems like a logical step.

However, my issue with his comments suggest that Stadia are serious competition, and I cannot let that slide. Have you seen Stadia? The tiny audience it somehow attracted are currently quite upset with Google over a lack of features, and a lack of communication about when those features plan to drop. It’s got barely any games and is generally viewed as a bit of a disaster.

Then again, considering what we know about xCloud, it looks likely to steamroll Google by the end of the year on price, game library and just general customer experience, so maybe Phil Spencer wants to claim they’re competition just to gain an easy win. Which is fair, I guess.

Still, it’s interesting to see the current line of thinking for Xbox. It’s a bold strategy and one that does more to differentiate them from Sony, so it’ll be interesting to see where it takes them into the next gen.

Warcraft 3? More Like BOREcraft 3 Right?

Oh dear, Blizzard. You still haven’t fully recovered from that little incident with Hong Kong and yet you still can’t get it right.

At Blizzcon 2018, they announced the return of Warcraft 3, a full remaster with a few touch-ups and additions to connect it more to the lore of World of Warcraft. It was a winner, and fans were excited. And then it launched last week, and oh dear. Graphical downgrades from what was promised, including “remastered” maps that barely look better than they did in 2002, and serious limitations to online play.

But a bad remaster means little if the original game holds up and can still be run on modern systems, right? OOPS, Blizzard retroactively wrecked the original too. An update for the original game tied it to the same servers as the remaster, removing many popular features for those who still play it. These include ranked play, offline play, LAN play, custom campaigns and clans. That’s a pretty significant list of features that were just stripped from a beloved classic game through an update no one asked for.

The backlash has been severe. It’s now the lowest rated game on Metacritic by user score (0.5!) and Blizzard have received so many complaints that they’re giving full refunds for anyone who asks, which isn’t their normal policy. Quite a few people seem to be taking them up on that offer.

It seems the easiest thing to not screw up. Just polish up a classic game and re-release it to an enthusiastic audience. And yet here we are, Blizzard facing yet another controversy. It doesn’t bode well for their future releases, it seems.

Castlevania Is Resurrecting

Castlevania on Netflix was pretty awesome, right? Damn right it was. Well I’ve got good news! It’s being brought back, called on by humans who wish to pay it tribute. It’s coming on 5th March, although details of what the series is going to feature are still a miserable little pile of secrets.

Richard Armitage, who played Trevor Belmont in the previous seasons, has confirmed his return. However, this seems odd, as they seemed to wrap up the story of Castlevania III in those seasons, and I expect them to move to a different era. Not quite sure what else they plan on doing with Trevor, but I guess we’ll see in March.

The Wonderful 101 Is Returning

Platinum Games have revealed a series of four announcements that they’ll be releasing in the coming weeks. The first of those announcements has gone public, with a remaster of The Wonderful 101 for modern systems launching on Kickstarter.

Now, this seems a little odd. The Wonderful 101 originally released on the Wii U, with Nintendo as their publisher. Characters and music from the game have shown up in Smash Bros in some form, adding to the strong impression that the game was a Nintendo-owned IP. Naturally, a remaster for Switch sounds like something Nintendo might be willing to fund and put out there for a new audience, particularly with the Switch doing so much better than the Wii U.

Instead, Platinum themselves are seeking funding through Kickstarter and, surprisingly, the remaster isn’t just for Switch. While a new Nintendo release is still on the cards, PS4 and Steam versions are also being planned (sorry, Xbox players). It’s raised some questions over the ownership of the IP, although later reports suggest joint ownership and Nintendo have given their blessings to a multi-platform release, if not funding to make it happen.

As for the game itself, The Wonderful 101 is often considered one of the Wii U’s hidden gems (hidden because no one bought the Wii U). I have it, although it currently sits on my pile of shame and remains unplayed so far. Maybe this remaster will encourage me to finally play it? We shall see.

New Releases

At the end of last year, I said my fifth best game of 2019 was Knights and Bikes, a cutesy adventure game from the director of Tearaway. It also made 38 on my Top 100 Games of the 2010s list on YouTube so you know it was doing something right. If you missed out on it though, it’s had a new release this week on Switch, which feels like an ideal home for it. I urge you to check this out right now if you missed it the first time around.

 

On PS4, Dawn of Fear offers up 90s-style horror, right down to the visuals and controls, and more than a few environments that look a lot like the original Resident Evil. Meanwhile, Kunai is a fast-paced platformer for Steam and Switch, starring a robot named Tabby inhabited by the soul of a warrior. This looks like a lot of fun, and I should have a full review for it in the coming weeks!

If you enjoyed the Netflix series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics expands on the world and slaps a tactical RPG onto it for good measure. It’s been getting a mixed reception though, so might be a good idea to get a sampling of some reviews and watch some videos before you commit to it. If you do decide to drop in though, it’s available for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.

The big release this week comes from Rebellion, who have released Sniper Elite spinoff Zombie Army: Dead War 4 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It’s a campy over-the-top horror show with Nazi zombies, shark zombies and the ability to shoot zombie testicles. Yes, really.

Game of the Week

This week, Game of the Week is ScourgeBringer, a 2D platformer and slash ‘em up with a lot of style. You play as a warrior fighting through ancient machines to try and save humanity from a mysterious entity that’s plunged the world into apocalypse.

ScourgeBringer looks a hell of a lot of fun. The devs themselves describe it as a cross between Dead Cells and Celeste. As someone who loved Celeste (I ranked it at 29 on my Top 100 Games of the 2010s) I can see the inspiration, and that’s the main reason I’m interested. It has the same gravity-defying dashes and jumps of that game, only now with more swords, and what appears to be some very fluid movement mechanics built off your attacks.

ScourgeBringer looks extremely exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it at some point soon. It’s currently available on Steam in Early Access.

And that’s it for this week! I’ll be back next week with even more news and releases from the world of gaming!