Project Winter Review

Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Other Ocean Group
Music: Bob Baffy
Platforms: Steam, Xbox, and coming soon to the Playstation & Switch.
Released: 24th May 2019
Genre: Hidden Role, Survival, Strategy

Have you ever dreamed of a game that combines the survival genre and the classic hidden role board game Werewolf? If so, you share my weirdly specific dreams and I have the game for you! I bought Project Winter on a whim but quickly found myself engrossed by it. It’s an online game that came out just over 2 years ago and created an admittedly small but dedicated fan base.

In Project Winter you are stuck in a frozen landscape and have just received warning of an incoming blizzard set to tear apart everything in its path. Good news: you can single a rescue vehicle to come save you. Bad news: the equipment you need to signal them is broken.  Good news: you aren’t stranded alone, and many hands make light work. Very bad news: two of your fellow survivors are traitorous and want you dead. A typical game has eight players, two of which are traitors, and the rest are survivors. Along with your personal and team goals, you’ll have to maintain your heat, hunger and health. If you don’t make time to gather food and warm yourself by the fire, you’ll be easy prey for traitors. But if you spend too much time on this, you’ll quickly raise suspicion in your more productive teammates.  As well as your team, you’ll also be assigned a role with unique abilities to help you traverse the wilderness. There’s something for everyone whether you’re analyzing crime scenes as a detective, busting bunkers solo as a hacker, or even reanimating the dead as a scientist.

The survivors must escape before the match timer runs out and they freeze to death in the blizzard. To do this they must complete two repair tasks, phone for help, and reach the escape vehicle. Specifics vary to keep games interesting, but tasks can be anything from collecting resources to cracking ciphers. All the while they must survive traitors, dangerous wildlife, freezing temperatures, and their own paranoia. Traitors spend their time slowing down survivor progress, sabotaging objectives, sowing distrust, framing innocents, and picking of people traveling alone. They have a direct communication line with each other and can access stashes of strong gear littered through the world.

When you first pick up Project Winter, it can be a little overwhelming with all the things to consider but there’s a quick tutorial and a collection of simple role guides. If you’re like me though, and refuse to play a tutorial under any circumstances, it doesn’t take that long to get the hang of things. Turns out death waiting around everyone corner is a heck of a motivator to learn! Don’t be alarmed by the looming threat of death, if you do die you aren’t necessarily out of the game. Dead players observe the game as a ghost. They can’t communicate directly but can assist their allies or freeze their enemies. This is one of the things I loved most about Project Winter. Not only do players get to participate the whole time but they still play an important role. Ghosts can save lives, take lives, out traitors, frame innocents, and loads more. The one downside is you always have an audience watching your most embarrassing deaths.

There are two modes of gameplay beyond the base. A simple and streamlined version that’s good for learning the ropes or just a quick match. Also, a DLC mode of play called blackout that incorporates demons, magic and more which shakes the original rules up and keeps things fresh for seasoned players. There’s also continued support and engagement from the developers with consistent events and updates plus a consistent rotation of cosmetics.

No matter what mode you’re playing, sound is key while playing Project Winter and is your best defense against most danger. Footfalls, traps being placed, bears, crates being opened, alarms going off, weapons, combat, objectives, wolves, I could go on. Everything has a distinct sound that fits the world well. All sounds, including the voice chat, are delivered based on proximity which creates the perfect environment for mistrust to breed – with eight people split across a large map, stories will conflict, accusations will fly, and if you’re not careful – no one will hear you scream.

Finding a match online is surprisingly easy. Project Winter doesn’t have a huge player base, but it does have dedicated fans. You do not need to use the voice chat to play Project Winter, but you will be limited if you choose not to. I’ve been through the full range of online voice chat experiences and thankfully Project Winter stacks up pretty well in that department. I’ve found it to be an overall positive, friendly, and welcoming community to play with. There’s a lot of fun to be had playing Project Winter online but if you’re lucky enough to wrangle a group of eight together – playing with friends is extra special. There’s just nothing else like being framed and getting chased through the wilderness by a mob of your closest friends. My friends and I talk about these matches well after they’ve ended, laughing about stupid deaths or cunning plays.

If it seems like I’m reviewing this game just in hopes that more people will start playing on the Australian server, that’s not the case, just a bonus. Project Winter takes the some of the best bits in my favorite genres and creates a unique and engaging online experience. This game deserves more attention and I hope someone reading will see the appeal and give it a go!

 

 

The Long Dark – Review

Developer: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Publisher: Hinterland Studio Inc.
Music: Sascha Dikiciyan, Cris Velasco
Platforms: PS4, XB0, Switch, Steam, Epic Games
Released: 22 September 2014
Genre: Survival

Maybe the apocalypse doesn’t come with a bang, with a virus that mutates out of control, hordes of zombies walking through the streets.

Maybe, the apocalypse comes quietly. With a storm that takes away the power, closes off roads and train tracks. It comes quietly, but surely, as the nights grow longer, and the days become colder, and the people grow hungry.

The Long Dark is an exploration survival game which delivers. With a beautiful, 3D paint-like art style, brutal environments that you need to explore to obtain food, clean water, tools, and medicine, and every danger that mother nature could throw at you, plus some, your solitude will become comforting, the roaring wind will make you despair, and you will have to balance every decision you make.

With multiple game modes, a story mode, and various challenges, there is something for everyone, from survival tourists who just want to check out what’s what, to hardcore survivalists, who are prepared to do whatever is needed to claw through another day.

The Long Dark is not an easy game, and that is reflected in every aspect of this game. You’ll find yourself in the northern Candian wilderness, basically alone. It is freezing, the weather changes from cold, sunny days, to brutal blizzards that you can get lost in, completely disorientated. With a night-day cycle, you’ll have to manage your time effectively, finding time to rest, but also finding time to FIND a safe place to rest. There are dangers around you, such as dangerous terrain that you can injure yourself on, frozen lakes where you’ll have to watch your step. And unusually aggressive bears and wolves, who will find you and hunt you down. You can scare them off if you hold your nerve, but you do not want to get into a fight with them.

You’ll have to maintain your health, exhaustion, body temperature, energy levels, clothing, and so much more. Scavenge for resources and tools, learn how to create snares, simple medicines, repair your clothes, and even craft warmer gear. This game made me track rabbits, find their grazing spot, set up a snare, capture them, and then make the decision to kill it with my bare hands. It doesn’t help that they’re pretty cute, but that rabbit could be the reason I make it to the end of the day. I could scavenge a deer killed by wolves, but that puts me at risk myself.

I get so excited when I find a toilet, because that means free drinkable water right away! I don’t have to gather wood, build a fire, melt snow, and then boil the water to make it safe. I can just grab fresh water right away. I managed to find a gun, a lucky find, but without bullets it’s just dead weight. Should I ditch it so I can carry more food? Or should I hold onto it and my one bullet, in case I’m not careful enough and run into the bear?

There are many game modes and difficulty levels, so if you want an easier time, you can have that! If you want to spend 30 days gathering supplies and barricading yourself before a bear arrives to hunt you? You can also do that. You want to be cursed by a spooky skeletal ghost monster? Well, you can do that too.

The music is minimal, but the audio experience feels as cold, solitary, and distant as this game feels. It’s really quite sobering to have had a difficult day finding food and wood, and to return to your little shelter as darkness falls. You can’t afford to start a fire, so you rest and wait in the dark, with the wind howling outside, the sound grating and exhausting. In those moments, I felt like how my survivor must feel, hoping for the glow of sunlight.

Your footsteps crunch through the snow, a thud can be heard nearby as a deer is startled, darting away. Was that a growl? Or the wind? Wings flutter, letting you know that perhaps a corpse is nearby. You look up to find crows circling. Is the body an animal? Or a human, like you?

It’s all connected, the sounds tell you so much, and you become so attuned to it, a soundscape being built around you. It’s not essential, but sometimes it’s the only warning I get before realising I wasn’t looking around myself often enough, and a wolf is sprinting towards me.

I adore The Long Dark. It can be difficult, challenging, and frustrating. Sometimes I’ll choose a specific game mode, to explore the story and piece together what happened to cause this town, and the communities, to fall apart. Sometimes I feel like figuring out just how long I can survive. How far I can go before I can’t go any further. The impending bear mode sounds easy enough, 30 days to prepare, but just making it through those 30 days is difficult enough, and as each day counts down to the big showdown, my anxiety will grow. And when the day arrives, I better be ready one way or another.

If you feel like you could be ready, then this just might be the game for you.

Steam Deck, Netflix Gaming, and Bot Farming

Valve’s Handheld Gaming PC.

Video gaming developer Valve has debuted the Steam Deck which promises to deliver the ability to play your Steam library portably. That includes AAA titles at a PlayStation 4 quality. Basically, the Steam Deck is a portable and dockable PC, featuring touch pads, a 7 Inch LCD screen with 1280 by 800 resolution. The Steam Deck also is expected to have a battery life from 2 to 8 hours on a single charge. It is, however, also a little on the heavy side weighing in at over half a kilo. The Steam Deck is releasing in the US, Canada and Europe this December at around $540AUS and isn’t expected to release down under until 2022.

A Ukraine Warehouse Packed with PS4s.

What was thought to be a cryptocurrency farm situated in a Ukrainian warehouse actually turned out to contain over 3800 PS4 consoles that were bot farming FIFA Ultimate Team. There are images showing rows and rows of PS4 consoles with game discs sticking out of them indicating the bot farming. The idea behind bot farming is to grind a certain game thus packing those game accounts with in-game currency and then selling those accounts on the black market. It’s a hefty business making hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and not just with games like FIFA Ultimate Team. EA have attempted to combat this issue over the years unfortunately it’s not always an easy solution. The Ukrainian warehouse has been shut down and out for the rest of the season.

Netflix Confirms Video Games in Subscription Packages.

A recent letter sent to investors from Netflix HQ has explained that they intend on expanding into games for the mobile. Netflix is in tough competition with the likes of Disney+ or Amazon Prime, so gaming is expected to give them a competitive edge. An independent telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore has said, “The company will have to delegate significant resources including time and investment with no guaranteed success.“For sure this is a long-term play as Netflix needs to strongly think about retention and engagement.” Netflix have also recently announced the hiring of Mike Verdu former EA Vice President of Game Development as well as Bridgerton creator Shonda Rhimes. These moves definitely show that Netflix is serious about a future in gaming.

The Week in Gaming Releases

  • July 22nd – Last Stop [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
  • July 23rd – Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed [PS4, Switch]
    • Observer: System Redux [PS4, XBO]
    • Orcs Must Die! 3 [PC, PS4, XBO]
  • July 27th – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles [PC, PS4, Switch]
    • HighFleet [PC]
    • Microsoft Flight Simulator [XSX]
    • Neo: The World Ends with You [PS4, Switch]
    • Night Book [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
    • SkyDrift Infinity [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
    • Tribes of Midgard [PC, PS5, PS4]
  • July 28th – Final Fantasy 1 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Final Fantasy 2 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Final Fantasy 3 Pixel Remaster [PC]
    • Unbound: Worlds Apart [PC, Switch]

New Connections, New Technology & New Records

Tencent has Introduced Facial Recognition to Catch Kids Staying up to Game.
China’s tech behemoth Tencent has recently announced it would begin using facial recognition to catch kids staying up late to play it’s video games. This is to better enforce the law passed by China in 2019 that bans minors from playing video games between the hours of 10pm and 8am. The law intends to prevent gaming addiction. It required Chinese gaming companies implement real name verification systems as well as limits to how long children can play and how much they can spend. Many have been able to bypass this security so Tencent hopes these new security measures will be stronger. This system currently only operates in China, and it is unlikely it will spread outside anytime soon.

 

The Witcher Universe Collides
A trailer recently dropped for the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher – with it set to release December 17 this year. The show takes inspiration directly from the books rather than the game but the two are strongly linked regardless, especially as it dipped into the games fan base   for the foundation of it’s incredible popularity. Alongside this announcement, CD Projekt Red announced that “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition”, which is set to release later this year, will include free DLC based on the Netflix series. This upgrade is available to anyone who purchased the original game, whether you’ll be playing on a new console or not, so you’re already set.

 

Retro games continue to smash price records at auction.
Earlier this week an incredibly rare copy of The Legend of Zelda, still factory sealed, was sold for a record-breaking price of 870 thousand dollars. The sale occurred on the online platform Heritage Auctions which also hosted the previous record-breaking sale of Super Mario Bros at 660 thousand dollars. This version of The Legend of Zelda features barely noticeable differences from the original but the chance to own a unique piece of the franchises history makes it a highly sought-after collectors piece. The Legend of Zelda didn’t get to hold onto the record very long as it was knocked off the top spot three days later by a copy of Super Mario 64 which sold for over 1 and a half million USD. It might seem like an outrageous amount to spend on a game but it’s easy to understand the desire to own a piece of gaming history. “It seems impossible to overstate the importance of this title, not only to the history of Mario and Nintendo, but to video games as a whole,” said Valarie McLeckie, a video games specialist for Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale. Prices for historical games like this have skyrocketed in the past years and there’s no way of knowing where the record might land next.

 

 

Big Announcements 7 Inches is better than 6.2

Overwatch under investigation

The US department of Justice antitrust division is looking into the Overwatch League over its soft salary cap policy. The idea behind this investigation is to determine whether the existing policies in the league are anticompetitive. An Activision Blizzard Esports spokesperson told Dot Esports in a recent statement, “we have received an inquiry from the DOJ and are cooperating accordingly, we deliver epic entertainment to our fans and support out players and team in producing the most competitive and enjoyable esports leagues in the world.” The soft salary cap had a threshold of $1.6 million USD in 2020 and if the team were to exceed that amount in annual player salaries Blizzard Esports would have to pay players’ salaries as well as that excess amount to the league as a luxury tax, thus making every dollar over 1.6 million twice as expensive. That luxury tax would then be distributed among the non-offending teams. It’s possible that only a few teams may have passed this threshold however the details are still unclear. A spokesperson from the DOJ declined to comment on the matter and the existence of an investigation.

Nintendo’s OLED Switch drop

A recent surprise announcement from the gaming giants Nintendo showed off a new model of the console with a 7-inch OLED display as well as a bunch of other small hardware updates including bigger storage 64GB and wider kickstand, it even has a built-in ethernet port for all those Lan parties you’re having. There is also improved audio quality. The current Nintendo Switch has a slightly smaller display at 6.2 inches and only 32GB of storage. The Nintendo Switch OLED will be released on the 8th of October at $539AUS and they are available for pre-order now.

Games Done Quick 2021

It’s that time of year again where Games Done Quick raises money for good causes. For over 10 years, Games Done Quick has been raising money via speedrunning. Basically, a bunch of awesome volunteers play games at incredible speed for entertainment. The events are live streamed on Twitch.tv nonstop from the 5th of July until the 10th of July. Each streamer will share some tips and tricks around how they get the fastest times from their speed runs. This year’s charity will be Doctors Without Borders which is an international medical humanitarian aid organisation that works in over 70 countries providing lifesaving medical care and speaks out about what they have seen in those areas. Their work aids people based solely in need, irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. If you’d like to check out Games Done Quick and how you can contribute by clicking here.

Gaming Releases this week:
• July 8
o Sam & Max: This Time It’s Virtual [PC VR]
• July 9
o Black Skylands [PC]
o Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin [PC, Switch]
• July 13
o Curved Space [Switch]
o Outsider: After Life [PC]
o Where the Heart Leads [PS5, PS4]
• July14
o Skydome [PC]
o Space Punks [PC]
• July 15
o Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective [Switch]
o Space Jam: A New Legacy – The Game [PC, XBO]

Wingspan Review

Developer/Designer: Monster Couch/Elizabeth Hargrave
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Music: Paweł Górniak
Platforms: Board Game (1-5 Players), Windows, Mac, Switch & Xbox
Released: September 17th 2020
Genre: Board Game, Card Game, Relaxing Strategy, Turn Based
Age: 10+
Playtime: 40 – 70mins

Wingspan comes in two forms a physical board game, which it’s most known for however it is also known for its video game on Steam that simulates the physical game. First off, I’ll read to you the description on the back of the box. “You are bird enthusiasts – researchers, bird watchers, ornithologists, and collectors – seeking to discover and attract the best birds to your aviary.”
Wingspan is a card driven, engine building board game that has a medium level learning curve that is why it is recommended for players aged 10 and up. This game is lavishly designed and produced with brightly coloured boards, over 150 cards with stunning pastel illustrations of birds and habitats alike.

You also have a bird feeder dice tower that you assemble which is simple to do so, custom wooden die, cute little eggs and all the rule-books, appendix and other forms of paper are all this wonderful water proof fabric to protect the integrity of the pack. The game is visually charming, it inspires a relaxing environment and a pleasant state of mind. Wingspan is considered in the top board 10 games of 2020.

Now Wingspan is a game where you are trying to do one of two things that you determine before you start playing. You could go the points route or the goals route to determine a winner. Points is just how many points can you accumulate from each round from things such as; eggs, bonus cards, cache food, end-of-round goals achieved and tucked birds. If you were to go the goals objective points are less relevant unless those points are to build towards achieve set goals. For example; the player with the most eggs in nests or the player with the most birds in this particular habitat.
The game is played out over 4 rounds each round giving you less turns as you go. Such as first round you have 8 moves, second round 7, third 6 and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each player is given a personal player board at the beginning of the game that is segmented into three different habitats; forest, grasslands, and wetlands. Each habitat has their own unique set of abilities and activating a habitat will grant you bird powers such as; the grasslands will mean you can lay eggs; forest is for obtaining food and the wetlands to draw more bird cards.

For every bird you play onto the board they will most likely have their own unique powers. Which is listed on each card. Those unique powers will only be triggered when you either play the bird for the first time or every time you activate that habitat. On each card is also listed the wingspan of each bird, that’s where the game title comes in.

Now there is a lot to get into with Wingspan and the layers of strategy can get quite complex. Maylee and I took about 45 mins to get the initial handle on things before we started playing actual
rounds. We did also find that the rules around how the bird feeder worked a little confusing. I did eventually figure out how it was supposed to work (thanks YouTube). So, my advice is to reference some player tutorials online if you get stuck.

In saying that when you get the physical game inside the box you receive a 30% off the digital edition of Wingspan on Steam. Which sits around $20AUS. I started playing the tutorial in the digital game and it is the exact same game as the physical one, there are no differences other than the platform. The tutorial helped me get a better handle of the game and definitely felt more hands on. Also, the digital game is just as visually stunning and the UI is easy to follow, nothing is cluttered and you get to hear all the bird sounds of each bird you play not to mention cute little animations bringing to life all the cards from the physical version.

Accompanying the digital version of the game is a soundtrack by Paweł Górniak titled My Realm that you can also purchase as a DLC from the Steam store. The music is cinematic, relaxing and filled with wonderful string and wind instruments taking you on an adventure into the wildness. Whether that be in a calming meadow, wondering the grasslands or exploring the treetops Paweł does a wonderful job of transporting you there with this exquisite composition.

My time with Wingspan is only just starting, as I convince my family and friends to get in on this bird loving action. This game is peaceful, awesomely fun, competitive and invites you to appreciate our natural world. Which is something I think we always need to do.