Stela

Developer: SkyBox Labs
Publisher: SkyBox Labs
Music: SkyBox Labs
Platforms: Switch, Steam, Xbox One, iOS
Release Date: 17th October 2019
Genre: Adventure, Puzzles

Stela starts off with a rock in some sort of cave, out of nowhere the rocks starts glowing with weird blue ruins and out of them a woman is born. This is where we get introduced to our unnamed main protagonist who we will go on an adventure with. Like a newborn baby not knowing anything about the world we set out to explore and find what has happened, traversing desolate and hostile environments, facing both beasts and humanoid monsters. Stela’s story is told in the same way as games like Limbo or Journey, having to piece it together the narrative through symbols and world interactions.

Stela is a 2 Dimensional 3D game that focuses on puzzles and platforming. Stela is quite interesting as it plays almost like an interactive movie, having very simple inputs. I played through the whole game using just 1 hand in two hours. While I played it on PC I would have preferred doing so on a console to fully enjoy the immersive experience.

The puzzles were fairly simple, usually asking you to move objects, jump on a timer, or move when the light turns green. While I enjoyed these puzzles because they were simple and let me focus more on the story and the environment. There were several times I found the puzzles to be unfair, either lacking in prompts or directions. Having me play and die to see what I was supposed to do rather than letting me figure it out, I also managed to get 77% of the achievements by just playing through the game once making them feel kind of worthless.

The audio and visuals are some of the best I have experienced! Just like other games like Limbo or A Story of 2 Brothers the game features beautiful desolate areas, ranging from dilapidated buildings to snowy peaks to and area that reminds me of the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Each area features its own soundtrack and exclusive visual style, making each zone feel unique and interesting.

Overall I really enjoyed Stela. It took me 2 hours on the dot to play through the whole game and I felt completely immersed the whole time. The visual style and audio was captivating and felt original, I especially fell for the violins in the first section! The narrative made me curious and the ending was a real head spin. All this made me want to play through the game again to figure out the ending. I also got hints that there may have been an alternate ending but that is not confirmed.

While the puzzles were nice and easy, helping the game play feel smooth. It also was frustrating not having standard prompts for things, this often made me feel like I died not because of my bad decision making but because the game felt unfair. With all that considered, I would recommend Stela to anyone who likes adventures and theorising about narratives. I would also recommend playing it on Xbox One or the Nintendo Switch as that will maximise your immersion and therefore really let you enjoy the cinematic experience that is Stela.

Reviewed by William Haumann @William_Haumann on April 1st 2020

Xbox Magazine, Play Apart Together, and Closed Beta

The Official Shut Down of Xbox Magazine

After close to two decades the long running Official Xbox Magazine comes to an end as reported by Eurogamer. The magazine had its final day last week with the last of its staff to be let go. A statement released from the publishers of the magazine Future says, “Like many organisations right now, we find ourselves being forced into making difficult decisions. We have a duty of care to all our staff during this time and our focus is on protecting the business for them and for our customers.” The end of Official Xbox Magazine happens to be in the same year as Microsoft release their new console, so it’s not all doom and gloom, hopefully the magazine will be able to release its content again in the future.

Gaming Companies and W.H.O. Coronavirus Guidance Come Together

A large group of big named companies are teaming up to help encourage players to stay at home. Those companies are Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, and streaming platform Twitch, they are all part of a campaign called ‘Play Apart Together.’ This campaign will see 18 gaming entertainers help incentivize players to engage with special events, exclusives, activities, and of course rewards. Whilst engaging with all this content platforms are adding important self-protection messaging around COVID-19. All this is designed to help bring people together during the pandemic. Blizzards CEO Bobby Kotick says, “It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative.”

Valorant The New Stylised Shooter From Riot Games Has Their First Closed Beta.

Fans are super excited to have a play and get a feel for this new FPS. The closed beta begins on the 7th of April internationally, unfortunately, Australia is not on the list. This beta only includes the US, Canada, Europe, and Russia. A statement from the Executive Producer of Valorant Anna Donlan states, “Our plan was to bring the Valorant closed beta to as many people as possible around the world as quickly as possible, but the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted those plans, compromising a wider global rollout. For now, we have to focus on the regions where we feel most ready, with more regions following in the months to come.” So, don’t worry if you felt like you were missing out hang in there, Australia will surely end up on that list soon enough.

Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn Is Getting Its Very Own Comic Book Series

The series will take place after the events of the game so don’t pick it up until you’ve played it all through. The comics will be launching the same time as the game comes to PC in the summer of 2020 which I assume is winter down under. Be sure to keep your eyes out for that.

Devil Daggers

Developer: Sorath
Publisher: Sorath
Music: Sorath
Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac
Release Date: 18 February 2016
Genre: First-person shooter

Devil’s Daggers opens up in a dark room, and in front of you is only one thing. A floating dagger dressed in white light, giving off a holy presence. In no way does this scene represent what you are about to witness. As you walk towards it you are teleported to another dark room, but this one is not the same. It is faintly lit and horrific sounds start whirling around you, soon finding out that you are on a circular platform with nowhere to go.

You are armed with the power to shoot glowing red knives and you can hear terrible sounds getting closer, then out of nowhere a devilish horde of flying skulls come soaring at you. As you kill to survive more and more monsters appear, all in different shapes and sizes, yet all of them having the same horrifying look. All you can do is keep the killing going with no end in sight.

Devil’s Daggers is a first person shooter (FPS) game that combines the power fantasy of games like Doom with the disempowerment fantasy of horror games like Five Nights at Freddy’s. This creates an interesting take on a mechanic used to empower players by matching it with mechanics that go against this notion, which turns into an interesting dynamic we have not yet seen in first person shooter before.

The gameplay is fairly simplistic in it’s take, as the player you have one weapon shown from the perspective of famous retro titles such as Doom 1 or 2. This weapon has two attacks, one streaming shot which just lets you spray as much as you want, the second is a form of a burst shoot. You as the player move faster than your projectiles, which allows you to strafe and create streams of knives flying around, this adds on to the difficulty of aiming. Enemies spawn endlessly and designed to overwhelm you in different ways.

The audio is creepy and early quiet, not utilising much in terms of musical score but instead focusing on sound effects to create a creepy and eerie feeling. The best way I can describe it is this: Imagine closing your eyes and you are falling asleep, you start hearing something moving closer to you, trickling almost like small footsteps creeping closer. Then your head fills with the sound of spiders and centipedes crawling around inside your head… Not terrifying at all.

I truly enjoyed Devil’s Daggers, it is an interesting take on the first person shooter genre which primarily works around empowering the player however, utilising the creepy audio and overwhelming amounts of enemies I rarely felt empowered.

The game is also very addictive. I found myself getting to a state of dying, restarting, dying, restarting for quite sometime. This is thanks to the extreme difficulty mixed with the online leader board system. The game has one achievement and that is to survive for 5 minutes, giving you a comprehensive goal to work towards.

Reviewed by William Haumann @William_Haumann on March 18th 2020

Changes to the Gaming world amid COVID-19

JB Hi-Fi and many other retailers sell out of PS4s and Nintendo Switches amid COVID-19 pandemic

For fear of boredom during isolation Australia is panic buying gaming consoles to fill the time they have stuck in doors. JB Hi-Fi have a statement that reads, “Due to very high demand, the Nintendo Switch is currently unavailable to purchase. New stock is due to arrive in April.” This increase in gaming console purchases comes after the closure of many entertainment venues such as gyms, sporting venues, cinemas, nightclubs, and bars. Popular games that have also been flying off the shelves are Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Madden NFL 20. Games and consoles aren’t the only things in short supply, gym equipment, groceries, desks, computers and monitors are also becoming sold out. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week, “It is not sensible, it is not helpful and, I’ve got to say it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.”

Call of Duty: Warzone passes 30 million players.

After it’s release on the 10th of March this free to play game has achieved more players than the lifetime totals of most of the other games in the series. Being free to play helps generate a large player base such as Apex Legends which managed 25 million players in the first week and 50 million players in the first month. Speaking of millions of players Steam broke its own record from the previous week of concurrent users with 22 million people online at once. Game Industry Analyst, Daniel Ahmad said in a tweeted video, “Steam just achieved a new peak concurrent user record of 22 million, one day after reaching 21 million and six days after reaching 20 million. Global lockdowns and self-isolation due to COVID-19 has led to at-home gaming becoming a safe form of entertainment to pass the time.”

Polygon have posted a series of games that are the best ways to stay in touch with friends while staying at home.

Some of the games are, Jackbox Party Pack 3, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Sea of Thieves, Minecraft, Red Dead Online, Grand Theft Auto Online, Warframe, Final Fantasy 14, Overcooked 2, Destiny 2, and Rocket League. Of course, there are many other fantastic multiplayer games that great to play such as World of Warcraft which is doing a double XP all the way up until April the 20th if you are looking for an MMO RPG. Some free games that might also help pass the time that are available on Steam are, Headsnatchers, Tomb Raider, Deiland, Drawful 2, Goat of Duty, Pleasure PuzzlePortrait and Lara Croft and The Temple of Osiris. There is also many other free games on different launchers so be sure to check out Epic Games Store, PlayStation Plus, and Xbox Games with Live Gold Subscriptions.

If you’d like to check out the full list of games available for free check out the Zed Games Facebook page @ZEDgamesau.

Game Playing Increase, Minecraft and GDC Talks

Steam and Nintendo make bank over self-quarantine from the Coronavirus

Over the weekend Steam hit it’s all time concurrent user peak which was over 20 million users online all at once with nearly 6 and half million people actively playing a game. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive being the most popular as well as other favourites like Dota 2 and PUBG. Nintendo Switch have been selling a high amount of a game called Ring Fit Adventure which is a fitness game that is hugely popular in China. Nintendo have seen a huge spike in sales of this game which sell for over $250 however Ring Fit Adventure isn’t the only game to see a spike in sales in China Plague.inc has also gained some traction thanks to the Coronavirus. In Italy Telecom Italia is showing up to a 70% increase in online games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. It would appear that gaming traffic is up everywhere.

Even though game playing is on the increase, game developing is not. Due to self-quarantine there maybe further delays with many companies and businesses opting to send staff home to work remotely there still can be issues in terms of meeting deadlines. Cyberpunk 2077 has reassured its fans that the virus will not delay the game any further however E3 2020 and other major showcasing events have been cancelled. We may see further delays, but fingers crossed that it all goes well for the developers out there.

Minecraft has a library which is now a safe haven for censored journalism

This uncensored library houses articles that are normally blocked in countries where there is no freedom of press, however if you can get your hands-on Minecraft you can access what’s being blocked. If you own Minecraft just open the game, load The Uncensored Library Server and you can read through books which feature articles blocked from social media and news outlets. Other news relating to Minecraft due to school being closed in Japan a group of students decided to host their graduation ceremony in Minecraft. These elementary students met up in-game to hang out and graduate as their Minecraft avatars, they spent all day building a seriously impressive graduation hall with the help of a YouTuber who assisted with organising the event.

GDC started streaming their talks this week starting from March 16th until the 20th

There will also be The Independent Games Festival awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards streaming if you’d like to look at the full schedule and know how to watch these incredible talks click here; Schedule & Live Stream.

 

Goodbye GeForce, FIFA tracking footware and Scammers

Game publishers are leaving Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming platform in droves

After its official launch last month game publishers want nothing to do with the service. Epic Game CEO Tim Sweeney is still defending the platform saying, “Epic is wholeheartedly supporting Nvidia’s GeForce NOW service with Fortnite and with Epic Games Store titles and we’ll be improving that integration over time.” Tim Sweeney believes that Nvidia is helping move the games industry towards a healthier state and implores other games companies to support this change. Nvidia’s GeForce Now service is unlike Google Stadia or PlayStation Now in that it integrates with your Steam or Epic Games Store accounts and streams games you already own and GeForce enables you the hardware to play those games on a smartphone or a laptop. The only issue is that Nvidia doesn’t have a list of games that it supports so it’s hard to know what’s available and it’s also hard to know how many publishers are leaving the streaming service. Companies that have left are Blizzard, Square Enix, Capcom, and Bethesda. Many companies have remained silent after the fact, speculation is still up in the air around why. Raphael van Lierop director of The Long Dark wrote on Twitter, “Please take your complaints to them, not us. Devs should control where their games exist.”

FIFA players can now train by putting a chip in their boots

A collaboration with Adidas, EA and Google has resulted in using technology that tracks your real-world exercise and reflects it in game. By inserting a chip into the insole of a pair of football boots the device will track all the activity and when you sync that data with FIFA Ultimate Team Mobile players will be able to use that information to train their virtual players. This tech isn’t new by any means Nintendo tried this before with The Pokewalker back in 2010 for the Nintendo DS as well as this being similar technology to your fitness tracker. Adidas and FIFA version dropped yesterday if you’d like to have a look check it out here.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has warned game players and their parents to be mindful of an increase in video game scams

There has been over a 7% increase in reports to Scamwatch last year from Aussie game players under the age of 25. Players and the parents of underage players should be cautious about fake online stores or scammers as well as some that specifically target children. Some of the games to be mindful of are Fortnite, League of Legends and Counterstrike. League of Legends has created an animated video about account security from 2017 check it out here. Make sure to keep an eye on the younger players as to not be fooled.