Gaming Roundup – PlayStation Plus…Plus

Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

This week, PlayStation’s new subscriptions, Xbox’s new initiative and some other nonsense.

PlayStation Plus Gets Additions

After months of speculation, Sony have finally revealed what the mysterious “Spartacus” subscription service is. It’s PlayStation Plus mixed with PlayStation Now, with some small additions. Yes, really, that’s it (link).

However, there’s a lot that makes sense in their new model. They’re switching to a three-tier subscription model for the service, with the base tier, Essential, being functionally identical to the current PS Plus service – you can play online, get cloud saves and each month you get a selection of games that once every six months might include a good game if you’re lucky.

The upper tiers are essentially combining this with their other subscription, PlayStation Now. For the unaware, PS Now is a streaming service that features a bunch of titles, including some PS3 games. However, it’s failed to take off in any meaningful way, especially when compared to Xbox’s Game Pass service. Sony are therefore phasing it out as a separate service and grafting it to the Plus subscription.

These higher tiers open up access to the Now library, which will be gaining new titles. The second tier, Extra, will include a library of 400 PS4/5 games, which will see additions over time, sort of similar to the Collection available to Plus subscribers on PS5 currently, but much bigger.

The third tier, Premium, will add the PS3 games for streaming, just like PS Now currently offers, and in a great move, they’ll also be adding a library of PS1, PS2 and PSP games, and I’m intrigued to see what’s on offer here.

Because of all this, PS Now will be phased out as a separate service, and current subscribers will be transitioned over to the Premium tier at no extra cost. Current Plus subscribers also won’t have to pay more, as the Essential tier is the exact same price.

Depending on the library of games, this could be a decent upgrade, although the lack of announcement on that front currently is a slight concern. The service is set to begin launching gradually across territories in June.

Xbox Announce Therapy Programme for Children

I can sometimes be cynical about the industry here, but the reality is, video games are great. They have a ton of positive benefits and I wouldn’t write these things every week if I didn’t deeply advocate for the brilliance of the medium all the time.

And so, just like I mentioned Deepwell the other week, I now have to talk about Beyond Xbox (link), which is a new programme that Microsoft are launching in hospitals, directly targeting children. The aim is to use gaming as a form of support for these children, bringing the medium’s health benefits to the forefront, and using it as a form of social interaction for those in need.

They’ve launched the initiative with a short film entitled A Player Like Me, where a 14-year-old boy in Michigan and a 23-year-old woman in Inverness bond over Forza Horizon 5, allowing them to talk to each other about their shared chronic condition – Ehler-Danlos Syndrome. The message is that by playing games together they are able to support each other in their conditions when they would otherwise feel alone.

It’s a superb initiative and one that I would love to see the industry dive more into in future. Xbox, of course, have a great track record for this sort of thing with the Adaptive Controller, so there’s a real chance this programme will also bring about huge benefits.

Other News

Activision Blizzard will be paying out an $18m settlement in one of the many lawsuits they’ve been facing. Critics, including me, will point out that this is pittance compared to how much CEO Bobby Kotick makes in a year, or how much Microsoft are spending in their attempt to purchase the company. More lawsuits are still pending, however, so we’ll see if a fairer result can emerge for their workers. The full legal paper is here (link)

Because Marvel has utterly infected Hollywood for the worst, a producer for the Sonic movies has discussed turning the movie franchise into a cinematic universe, with movies and TV shows based on different characters from the game series. I’m sure everyone’s eagerly awaiting the Big the Cat TV show. (link)

Scott Bennie, writer and designer for the Fallout series, has died aged 61 from pneumonia complications (link). He’s best known for this work at Interplay in the 90s, working on various Star Trek games, Descent and the original Fallout, creating the Mysterious Stranger perk and naming Dogmeat. Elsewhere, Indie developer Mohammad Fahmi has also passed away at 32, as confirmed by Toge Productions (link). Fahmi is best known for the super chill visual novel Coffee Talk, which I reviewed way back in January 2020. No cause of death has been publicly confirmed. Sad news, and thoughts go out to both of their families and colleagues.

Mike Frazzine, the head of Amazon Games Studio, is stepping down, stating that he intends to spend more time with his family. His transition from Amazon’s books division to games has been a less than stellar one, with the release and then unrelease of Crucible, coupled with dwindling player numbers on New World. It’s unclear what the future for Amazon Games holds from here following his departure. (link – paywall)

Final Fantasy Origin, the hilariously mid-2000s edgy spinoff of Square Enix’s popular RPG franchise, has seemingly been poorly received, especially in its home country. It’s one of the worst-selling spinoffs in the franchise’s history (link), barely beating out two Final Fantasy Fables titles and The Crystal Bearers. We cut now to protagonist Jack’s response (link)

New Releases

New Releases

Let’s start our releases with some strategic titles. TFC: The Fertile Crescent (PC) is a Bronze Age civ-building RTS that puts a lot of emphasis on technological limitations as you try and build up your people into a thriving nation. FixFox (PC) is a “wholesome space adventure” where you play as a space mechanic looking to fix up people’s problems and maybe uncover a few cosmic secrets along the way. Princess Farmer (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is a match-3 puzzle game crossed with a visual novel all about harvesting vegetables and befriending bunnies.

In RPGs, Coromon (PC) is another indie take on the Pokémon formula where you play as a travelling researcher working to stop a threat to the world with your adorable captured monsters. Meanwhile, Terrorbane (PC, Switch) is a goofy RPG title full of meta humour where your ultimate foe is the Developer themselves.

For something more action-oriented, we have Imp of the Sun (PC), a Metroidvania inspired by Peruvian cultures, Uragun (PC), a mech-based twin-stick shooter, and Midnight Ghost Hunt (PC), a multiplayer title about ghosthunters trying to survive against a team of hunter ghosts. Meanwhile, Abermore (PC) is an ambitious indie effort to recreate the feeling of Thief or Dishonored with some twists of its own.

Finally, Moss: Book 2 (PS4) is the sequel to possibly the cutest VR title ever made, as you guide tiny mouse friend Quill on her adventures to bring peace back to her homeland. If VR didn’t cause me horrendous dissociation issues, I’d be into this.

Game of the Week

Game of the Week this week is Weird West (PC, PS4, Xbox One), a notable game due to its dev team containing veterans from Arkane. And as you’d expect, it carries on that studio’s tradition of excellent immersive sims, although this one’s more top down and takes inspiration from the original Fallout and twin stick shooters.

The story features five main characters, each with their own goals to achieve in a dark Wild West setting full of supernatural creatures looking to gnaw your face off. Every action you take has lasting consequences, and a range of moves and tactics are available to you as you battle your way through the harsh west.

It looks like a great time, with a big bold art style, solid pedigree in the development team, and the promise of some interesting game mechanics, and for that it has to be Game of the Week.

And that’s it for now! See you again next week!

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