Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Square Enix, Game Pass, Jade Raymond, allegations at Riot, plus all the latest releases!
Square Enix Presents
Square Enix held a presentation this week to show off some of their upcoming titles, mostly from their Western division. And, honestly, there wasn’t a lot to talk about.
The big news was the announcement of Life is Strange: True Colours, the third main entry in the series, this time handed over to Deck Nine instead of being developed by the original team at Dontnod (who are busy with other projects elsewhere). This third title features a new protagonist, Alex, who discovers she has a superpower centred around being able to visualise the emotional states of others. It promises more of the angst, tragedy and potential romance of past entries, and I’m on board already. It’s out in September.
Elsewhere, Square Enix Presents was a bit of a bland affair. Project Athia is now called Forspoken, which I personally feel is a worse name, but otherwise details were scarce, even though the game is looking very interesting. There were a couple of trailers for Outriders and Balan Wonderworld, which are both out in the next few weeks, and seemed to be placed there entirely to remind us of that fact. And Avengers somehow got a next-gen upgrade and they revealed gameplay of Hawkeye, who is represented by a generic man in jeans.
There was a section dedicated to Tomb Raider’s 25th anniversary too, where they made the big announcement that…they’re releasing a cookbook. Oh and the reboot trilogy is being bundled together. That’s it.
In other Tomb Raider related news, Lara Croft has joined every other character in existence in Fortnite. I don’t report on Fortnite updates all that often because I have no idea what I’m talking about with that game and would just embarrass myself, but I do understand Tomb Raider, and seeing Lara getting this kind of focus is excellent news, especially as she’s right there in all the promotion for the game’s next season. She’s been added alongside Raven off of Teen Titans (ask Keith, I assume he knows more than me) and, uh…Neymar…who I’m informed is some kind of footballer. Yes.
Anyway, Lara Croft is in Fortnite, even if her Anniversary skin looks a bit weird (the survivor and low-poly classic versions are great though).
Finally, the only other thing in the Square Enix presentation were some mobile games for Just Cause and Hitman, and a few retro throwbacks for Taito properties, which I forgot Square Enix owns. One of those things was a Space Invaders mobile AR game. Yes, Space Invaders is getting its own Pokémon Go. I don’t understand it either.
And that’s about it. So mostly a Life is Strange announcement wrapped in some filler then.
Jade Raymond Opens New Studio with Sony Funding
Jade Raymond has launched Haven Entertainment Studios, a new independent studio working on a new IP for PlayStation.
If you’re not aware of Raymond, she previously worked at Ubisoft and was a major name in the creation of Assassin’s Creed. Since then, however, she’s had some of the worst luck in the games industry. She moved to EA to work as producer on the Amy Hennig-directed story-driven, single-player Star Wars title that would go on to be cancelled. She then set up a new studio under Google for their Stadia platform, and…well, we’ve covered that recently.
With PlayStation involved in her new venture, however, there’s a higher chance that she might get to put something out again at last. Unlike EA, who will cull studios at the slightest provocation, or Stadia, which was Stadia, PlayStation tends to treat its studios better (discounting the recently shuttered Japan Studio, sadly) and lets them get on with what they want to do. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have Dreams, so that says it all.
It’ll be interesting to see what her new studio produces. Assuming she’s able to get a game out this time!
Devotion Finally Returns
Taiwanese horror title Devotion is finally back on sale after a two-year absence.
Devotion is the second horror title from Red Candle Games. Their first, Detention, was a dark point and click adventure with a uniquely Taiwanese setting and a compelling story, and expectations were high for how the studio could follow it. The result was Devotion, which moved to first person, and promised to deliver more of the same themes as Detention.
The problem was, it also delivered a controversy that invited the wrath of the Chinese government. A meme was snuck into the game during development depicting Chinese president Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh, which inspired a review bomb on Steam and led to the game being pulled from sale.
The team have largely been quiet since then, with the exception of a bizarre moment in December when GOG.com announced one morning that Devotion was coming the platform, and in the afternoon this announcement was retracted. This has led to accusations of censorship from the Chinese government, with platforms willing to uphold this censorship due to China being a large market.
However, this latest development has seen Red Candle take control of the game’s distribution, allowing it to reach a wide audience again. Let’s hope it’s allowed to stay this time.
Xbox Game Pass Needs to Chill
After last week’s avalanche of Bethesda titles (Prey is now on my to-do list, thanks!), Microsoft have decided that it’s simply not enough and are now throwing even more games onto Game Pass, with many games coming to both console and PC.
Leading the charge is Toby Fox’s quirky little RPG about dating skeletons and determination, Undertale. This marks the game’s first appearance on Xbox, but it’s also available for PC Game Pass users.
Also this week was the Romeros’ Empire of Sin, a Game of the Week from December, all about managing a criminal empire in 1920s Chicago, beloved oddball Yoko Taro’s philosophical action RPG Nier Automata, and dungeon crawler Torchlight 3. The latter two are PC-only additions. Also this week finally saw the release of EA Play for PC users, bringing Star Wars Squadrons with it.
Next week, Game Pass sees the release of weird jazz indie title Genesis Noir, formerly Switch-exclusive JRPG Octopath Traveler, the hardcore RPG Pillars of Eternity 2, platformer Supraland and Serious Crime Drama Yakuza 6.
This is a genuinely impressive month of new additions to the service, and I’d be surprised if there’s anyone who can find nothing worth playing out of all this.
And seemingly in response, Sony have an announced an extension to their “Play at Home” initiative, which has previously handed out a couple of first-party titles (most recently the 2016 remake of Ratchet & Clank). This time, however, as well as the big first-party title, Horizon Zero Dawn, there are a handful of indie and VR titles thrown in too. Not quite as impressive as Microsoft’s offering this month, but the indie games, including Abzu and Enter the Gungeon, are pretty decent, and while I’m not personally a fan of VR, the likes of Moss and Paper Beast have been well received.
Obviously, Game Pass is the clear winner here for service offerings, but that’s still plenty on offer at no extra cost, which is nothing to complain about.
And now, here’s Mat with the esports update!
Riot Games responds to sexual harassment lawsuit against CEO
Thanks Leigh! This week, Riot Games dominate the headlines, and it’s not all good news.
Riot Games, the creator of MOBA and popular esport game League of Legends and Valorant, have stated there has been “no evidence of wrongdoing” following a third party investigation into accusations of sexual harassment against Riot CEO, Nicolaus Laurent.
In January, former employee Sharon O’Donnell, filed a lawsuit against Laurent whom she worked as an executive assistant for. O’Donnell claimed that she was harassed, discriminated against because of her gender and eventually “wrongfully terminated” from her role. The allegations in question alongside history around descrimination is covered in more detail by Esports News UK.
In February, Riot launched a third-party investigation into the claims made by O’Donnell. On Tuesday 16th March, The Washington Post reports that a three-person special committee composed of Riot Game’s board directors were tasked with reviewing a third-party investigation into the allegations, reported to Riot staff that it found “no evidence” of misconduct.
That same day Riot Games filed a request to move the case to arbitration and speed up proceedings. Riot Games also published a statement on their website on the matter where they stated there was “no evidence that Laurent harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against” O’Donnell. Similarly, they also state “No action should be taken against Laurent” at the current time. They did follow this statement with a caveat that should evidence contrary to this decision arise then they will reopen the investigation.
O’Donnell responded to this in a tweet on Wednesday stating that none of the paperwork submitted by Riot or Nicola Laurent was true and that her team were filing a response with the court on Thursday.
There’s a lot I had to leave out of this for purposes of length. If you are interested I would recommend checking out the Esports News UK and the Washington Post articles who do a good job of summarising the case.
Riot Games have a complicated history with misconduct, sexism, harassment and a toxic work environment which is what makes these allegations and the investigation more serious. Whether there is cause in this case remains to be seen, but one thing that does seem apparent – Riot Games have a fundamental problem within their workplace. Given how much monopoly they have on competitive gaming, this needs to be addressed.
LDN UTD Enter Valorant
In much lighter news, a UK-based esports organisation LDN UTD have announced that they are throwing their hat into the Valorant ring by signing a host of new talent.
The roster for Valorant consists of many players who were formerly playing under the “unsigned” banner. The roster consists of Adam ‘Jesse’ Čtvrtníček, Geoff ‘M1sfit’ Woodward, Josh ‘Neph’ Munro, Ondřej ‘Monsteerr’ Petrů and Jack ‘Kpiz’ Pragnell.
Kpiz has won Versus Legends, LVP – Genesis Cup Sombras, and along with Neph has also won 2 x Valhalla Invitational; Jesse, M1sfit, and Neph have won the RIX GG Kick Off Community Tournament; whilst youngsters Monsteerr and Jesse are players with promising futures. You can check out their individual announcement videos on our YouTube playlist here.
Alongside the announcement, LDN UTD stated that they will use the roster “to assist in discovering and training grassroots talent” and ensure that they “encourage women, minorities and the under privileged to participate in gaming.”
LDN UTD promotes healthy lifestyles and addresses social issues through esports and gaming. On International Women’s Day, they announced that they had brought on popular FIFA streamer, Shauna Games, as an ambassador. Shauna is one of very few female content creators in the UK focussed on FIFA and has been making strides in recent months through Facebook Gaming. IN the announcement they stated Shauna will be “key” in establishing a clear “Women in Esports” strategy.
LDN UTD now competes in League of Legends (in the UKEL), FIFA, Fortnite, Valorant and Dota 2.
Having recently discovered this organisation, I am a big fan of what they are doing. With these appointments – and the recent signing of pro UK Fortnite veteran Max ‘Magin’ Merrin who has over $95k in winnings at just 18 – LDN are building up an impressive profile in several major esports. Their commitment is to not only growing the grass roots UK scene but also tackling the major social issues that plague gaming and esports. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Beckham’s Guild Esports Win First Major Tournament
Continuing the success stories, another UK-based esports organisation co-owned by David Beckham, Guild Esports, won their first major esports trophy at the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) European Grand Finals.
The final standings meant all four members of Guild’s Fornite Roster – Hen, Flikk, Anas and TaySon secured a top 10 finish taking home six figures in prize winnings. Hen formed part of the trio that secured the number one spot, and $300,000 in winnings; Flikk and Anas’ trio that took second place, securing $210,000, while TaySon’s trio secured eighth place and $60,000 in winnings.
The top three teams also secured automatic qualification for next season’s grand finals. This means that should they remain with their trios, Hen, Flikk and Anas have already booked their spots.
Obviously, this is really good news for Guild Esports, which means good news for UK esports. Like LDN UTD, Guild has been going from strength to strength since establishing in June 2020 and it doesn’t look like the momentum is stopping any time soon.
Thanks for that update Mat! And now, new releases.
Quiet week this time around. Let’s start with a couple of ports. Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville released for Switch this week, so if you felt the urge to play the third person shooter spin-off of the popular mobile franchise on the go, now you can. Also, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse rose from the dead this week. Originally released back on the original Xbox in 2005, this zombie-focused comedy action game hasn’t seen the light of day again until now, with a release on Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.
In new releases, Can’t Drive This is a wacky multiplayer title that blends the movie Speed with that one scene in Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers where Gromit lays train tracks ahead of himself. Yes, you heard me. One player controls a vehicle that has to stay above a certain speed or it explodes, while a second player has to build the road ahead of them, and it looks delightfully chaotic. It’s been in Early Access on Steam for a while, but is now getting a wider release, including on all consoles.
Root Film (Switch, PS4) is a murder mystery visual novel focused on an up-and-coming director and actress as they discover a real murder occurring on the set of their mystery movie. Looks set to appeal to fans of Ace Attorney and Danganronpa.
This week’s Game of the Week is Mundaun, a hand-drawn horror game.
Set in a secluded valley in the Alps, you play as a man returning to his old hometown following his grandfather’s mysterious death, and discovers a series of macabre secrets within the town.
While a standard premise for a horror title, what makes Mundaun stand out is its striking visual appearance, with everything in the game appearing like it’s been hand-drawn in pencil, even within a 3D environment. It also looks suitably spooky, evoking a Wicker Man atmosphere in its presentation, and that’s always a good thing.
Mundaun is available now for PC, as well as the PlayStations and Xboxes.
And that’s all for now! See you again next week!