This week Paul takes over Zed Games. Together with Zahra they discuss the news and Firmware updates, then Zahra takes over the helm reviewing Black Skylands before Paul traps us with a review of Webbed.
Sony Shows Off
Sony held a Playstation Showcase on the 10th updating us on upcoming releases and revealing a few new titles. The show kicked off with a reveal of a remake of the Star Wars classic Knights of the Old Republic. Neither EA or Bioware are directly involved in the remake rather falling to the developer Aspyr working under Lucasfilm. Several members of the original team are involved, and the game will be a console launch exclusive on the PS5 along with PC.
Insomniac revealed two games at the presentation. A follow up to their hit Spider-Man game from 2018 titled Spider-Man 2 and a new Wolverine game which is said to have a “mature tone” and is being made by the team that developed Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Some other games we got details on were Gran Turismo 7 which is due out in March 2022, Ghostwire Tokyo on PS5 and PC in Q2 2022 and a remaster of Remedy’s Alan Wake which is dropping on October 8th.
One unexpected surprised was a Radiohead virtual exhibition for the Kid A / Amnesiac reissue coming to PS5, and PC and Mac via the Epic Games Store in November 2021.
The show ended with our first look at God of War: Ragnarok the sequel to 2018’s God of War. The trailer is full of teasers for fans of the series and Norse mythology of the story to come. If everything goes according to plan we should see the game released next year.
Aussie Game Wins Big at Bitsummit
Bitsummit, Japan’s largest independent games festival has award upcoming Australian game Dap as their grand prize winner, along with the award for best Audio Design. The game from Melbourne couple Iris and Paul Anstey is a Pikmin-like action adventure with a psychedelic glitch horror aesthetic and is currently scheduled for release on the 29th of September.
Steam is old enough to drink
Happy birthday to Steam which turned 18 on the 12th of September. The online game store and distribution platform had a shaky start back in 2003, causing division in the PC gaming community and suffering from many technical hiccups. Now the service is the world’s primary platform for PC game distribution and boasts over 120 million active users a month.
THE HOTTEST FIRMWARE NEWS OF THE WEEK
That’s right! Nintendo have released a firmware update for the switch that adds Bluetooth Audio to the device. Sony have also released their new firmware which finally allows users to expand their PS5 storage with select high end M.2 SSDs.
Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Switch), Toem (PlayStation 5, Switch, PC) – September 17
Kena: Bridge of Spirits (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC), Sheltered 2 (PC) – September 21
Pokémon Unite (iOS, Android) – September 22
Diablo II: Resurrected (PC), MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4), Sable (Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC) – September 23
On today’s show Ezie, Elliott and Toby talk News, the Activision Blizzard Lawsuit and Elliott reviews Ghosts of Tsushima Directors Cut.
Roblox Is Getting Voice Chat
The popular online play space will be introducing voice chat as a feature! Roblox is an online game platform and game creation system, where players can create games and environments and then play and interact in those spaces, making it a popular online hangout. Voice chat is on the way, starting with ‘spatial voice’ for developers, to test the concept of realistic conversations within the game, mimicking the way that voices carry in the real world.
There are concerns on how these conversations can be moderated, especially considering that a large portion of Roblox players are minors. As a result, voice chat will have a slow rollout, with initial access only being available to 5000 developers. It has been suggested that voice chat may never be made available to those under 13, depending on how each stage of the rollout progresses.
In addition, Roblox will let users self-report issues, flagging problematic players which may result in losing speaking privileges.
You Will Be Able To Upgrade Horizon Forbidden West To The PS5, But There’s A Cost
With many people unable to get their hands on the PS5, it has been a relief to know that many PS4 games will include a free PS5 upgrade for when players are able to get the next-gen console. So many fans were disappointed when Sony initially announced that Horizon Forbidden West wouldn’t include this upgrade.
Thankfully, Sony has retracted this decision, and people who buy a copy of Horizon Forbidden West for the PS4 will be able to receive a free upgrade allowing them to play it on the PS5.
However, Sony has confirmed that from this point onwards, all PS4 games both digital and physical will come with a $13 AUD upgrade fee for the PS5 version of that same game. This will include games such as Gran Turismo 7, and the next God of War.
Tripwire Interactive CEO Steps Down After Backlash
Tripwire Interactive CEO John Gibson is stepping down following backlash against his tweet supporting the recent Texas restrictive abortion laws, which allowed citizens to sue anyone who aids the procedure.
“His comments disregarded the values of our whole team, our partners, and much of our broader community. Our leadership team at Tripwire are deeply sorry and are unified in our commitment to take swift action and to foster a more positive environment,” says Tripwire representatives.
Current Vice President, Alan Wilson, will take over as interim CEO. Alan has worked with the company since its formation in 2005 and takes an active lead in Tripwire’s business and development. There are intentions to address concerns within and outside the company, starting with a company-wide meeting to promote open dialogue.
Upcoming game releases!
- The Artful Escape [PC, XBO]
- Terrain of Magical Expertise [PC]
- Webbed [PC]
- A Day Without Me [PS4, XBO]
- Kraken Academy!! [PC]
- Life is Strange: True Colors [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch, Stadia]
- Lost in Random [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- NBA 2K22 [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
- Tales of Arise [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
- WarioWare: Get it Together [Switch]
- Honey, I Joined a Cult [PC]
- Age of Darkness: Final Stand [PC]
- Fire Commander [PC]
- Merek’s Market [PC, PS4, XBO, Stadia]
- Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town [PC]
- Timberborn [PC]
- Titan Chaser [PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
Developer: North Star Digital Studios
Publisher: North Star Games
Music: North Star Digital Studios
Platforms: Steam, Android, iOS, boardgame
Released: 2016 physical, 2019 digital
Genre: Board Game, Card Game, Deckbuilding, Strategy
Here we see a watering hole, a source of life-giving water, an essential site in these harsh environments. All sorts of creatures, big or small, must drink water. Unfortunately, that means competition is fierce for the limited resources that are available, and where there is prey… there are also predators.
Evolution is a card-based board game, where you strategise to make the most of multiple mechanics in order to keep your species fed, strong, and numerous. And with a digital version available, and the new Climate expansion that introduces a changing climate, it’s a challenging, but beautiful, experience. For this review, I’ll be focusing on the digital version of the board game.
Gameplay and the mechanics are rather straightforward. Your species gather at a watering hole, and there are other species there as well. You must establish a source of food, give your species traits that will help them gather, or distribute food, protect them from predators, or give them the upper hand if things get a bit dicey.
And then, once you make your decisions, you’ll have to watch it all play out, as the opposing species have also made their decisions. You may lose members of your population when the food runs out, or you might come out strong. And at the end of the round, you must use the knowledge you have gained in order to give yourself the upper hand. At the end of the game, points are tallied up based on how much food you consumed, the size of your population, and the number of traits you used. Highest score wins!
It’s actually quite a lot to take in, with the traits you have available, and the multiple stages to each turn. Thankfully, there is a nice tutorial to teach you the rules of the jungle, holding your hand to start with before letting you toddle off on your own evolutionary journey. Which is perfect for me, with every board game I often need a round or two to get the hang of things, and I prefer a tutorial to a written list of rules. But trust me, you’ll be on your own soon enough.
The campaign can be pretty challenging, with new cards and abilities being introduced. You can decide to become a predator, or remain a herbivore. Perhaps you’ll make your species climb trees, keeping them out of danger. And once you’re faced off against 3 other species, you’ll have to learn quickly, and put in quite a lot of thought. But if you feel that the game’s AI isn’t challenging enough, you can take your species online, and face off against real life players, who are interested in driving your species to extinction. Adapt, overcome, survive.
And then that brings me to the Climate expansion. Now, you are progressing through time, experiencing vicious cycles of burning heat and freezing ice ages. Now, instead of focusing only on the other species, you also have to take the climate into consideration, using a number of new traits to help you survive, such as heavy fur to protect against the cold, and the nocturnal trait, to avoid the heat. It’s an extra challenge layer to what can be a challenging game.
Now, this is a beautiful game, and it is a digital version of the board game, which has some of the most gorgeous art, in a vibrant watercolour style, that I have seen in a long while. However, they do need to fill in some blanks to translate it to a digital space, and that has led to some inconsistent art styles, and areas of the user interface looks unpolished, especially compared to when the actual board game art is used. And at times there were parts of the tutorial that also lacked polish. But at least when you’re done with the tutorial you’re done. The art… you kinda have to keep looking at it. For the most part you can tune it out, but it’s a bit jarring at times.
The sound experience also feels like it’s been subjected to that same lack of polish. It’s not bad, the music is fine, and there’s some fun little sound effects to compliment the gameplay, but I honestly just put my own music in the background.
Overall, I quite liked Evolution! It’s nice to have this beautiful, fun board game in digital form, and it lets me play it without having to rely on the conflicting schedules of my friends. The watering hole maps are pretty and dynamic, and when I’m focusing on my next move it’s nice seeing the environment adjust to the decisions being made in game. I did not touch the online portion whatsoever, which I intend to change in the near future. Initially I found it more challenging than I expected, and I had to get into the ‘how to crush my enemies’ mindset pretty much immediately. It’s just that there are a lot of ways to open the game, and a lot of ways for it to play out. Which is part of the fun.
Climate definitely adds an extra layer of challenges, with lots of opportunities for clever strategies, without it being hard to learn. It’s a precarious balance that Evolution has mastered. And it’s a great way to spend an afternoon, or an hour. And I do get a bit of a kick out of turning my peaceful herbivore into a ferocious predator that’ll decimate the opposing populations. But be careful! It’s hard to keep carnivores fed when there’s no one to feed on. Just a little tip from my mistakes.
In Zed Games this week Zahra and Rani battle for control as they talk gaming news, Rani reviews Fire Tonight and Zahra tries to convince us all to give Dungeons and Dragons a go.
You find yourself in a room that is 5m by 5m. It is empty, except for the people there with you, also waking up, and the long bench against one side of the room that supports 4 bundles of gear, including weapons. The room itself is made out of smooth stone tiles, off-white against the light coming from the ceiling. You see a door, it is solid and heavy. Next to the door is a hook, with a similarly heavy key hanging from it.
You find that you have no recollection of what brought you here. You don’t know who the other people are, although when you see each other you feel a sense of knowing that you SHOULD know who they are. It is on the tip of your tongue, but it doesn’t seem to want to leave.
A piece of paper falls from your pocket. When you look at it, it has a name. When you read it outloud, you know it to be your name. How could you have ever forgotten your own name? And as those familiar strangers stir, you wonder…
What do you do next? Open the door? Question those in the room with you? Grab the nearest weapon and start swinging?
In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, all that, and so much more, is possible. All that really limits you is your imagination. And some rules, guidelines, and mechanics to get you going.
First things first, what is Dungeons and Dragons? It is a tabletop roleplaying game, where a group of people all create characters to play as. A Game Master will control enemies, allies, and create the world and setting for the players, as well as guide the players through a story. But the players aren’t just witnessing a story, they are experiencing and changing it. Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short, is a collaborative experience. The experience might be a slapstick comedy, an epic heroic tale, or a truly tragic story of heartbreak and betrayal. That’s up to you.
Now, there is a lot to this game, but it’s a lot easier to get started than you would think. So here is Zahra’s Very Brief Intro to D&D!
First up, you and your group will want to decide on a setting. Maybe you’re going to be pirates on the high seas, or exploring ancient ruins at the top of mountains. Knowing where you’ll be playing is a good start. This is mostly up to your game master, but like I said, this is a collaboration.
Next, building a character! Ideally, you and your group will want to have a balanced party, with at least one healer, one tank, and at least one for dealing damage. You can be extremely flexible with this, there are so many classes to work with.
Tank types can be barbarians and paladins, spellcasters tend to be clerics, druids, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards. Damage dealers may be fights, monks, and rangers. Choosing your class depends on what kind of character you want to build. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
On top of classes, you’ll have to decide on a race to play. Humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs are probably the most recognisable ones, but you can also play as halflings, goblins, drow, tieflings, cat people, bird people, and so much more. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and can compliment and round out your character.
Finally, you can build the rest of your character, which starts to involve dice. Depending on your decisions, and the numbers you roll, you can build your stats. The main ones are your hitpoints, which is your health, and your strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. These numbers will grant you modifiers that you will apply to your rolls during gameplay.
You will also select weapons, spells, and equipment, best suited to your character and gameplay style.
Granted, this is a lot, but thankfully you can use a step-by-step guide, or even dedicated character creators where you just need to make decisions, and it’ll take care of the technical stuff for you.
You’ve created your character, given them a name. Maybe they’re a tiefling bard, or a halfling cleric. It’s almost time to play, but first, a quick overview of the mechanics that’ll you’ll encounter as you play.
I mentioned stats. Your stats, class, race, and background will influence what skills you have. I’m not just talking about attacks and spells. You can get skills such as animal handling, deception, medicine, performance, stealth, survival, and so much more. You can also be bad at some of these skills. After all, if you’re in full plate armour, stealth isn’t really going to be your forte.
Spells and attacks are pretty self explanatory. Depending on your character, you will have a range of spells and attacks you can use. For magic users, your strength will be with spells. For others, you’ll be using weapons. You can get skills in both areas, but you’ll generally focus on one or the other.
Spell users, do be aware that you can only use a limited number of spells in battle. Some spells will have special requirements, like requiring you to concentrate for a minute, or you’ll need materials, like precious stones, or even skulls. So don’t just start launching fireballs everywhere.
Now, outside of combat you’ll be wandering around, exploring the world your game master has put you in. You might need to break out of prison, solve a murder, or find a rare book. You’ll talk to characters and your party, and this is your opportunity to roleplay, acting out as your characters. Are you the lone wolf type who doesn’t want to be part of a party? Are you trying to find your lost family, and you need your party to help you? Are you just tagging along to beat up baddies? It’s up to you, and don’t be afraid to act it out.
Uh oh, you’ve run into a group of goblins who have been robbing travellers! It’s time to roll for initiative. This will determine the order in which everyone will act. The goblins are also establishing their initiative order. The higher the number, the sooner you act. And when it’s time to act, you have a few things you can do.
Your turn will generally have three things you can do. You can move, how far you can move depends on your speed, you can perform an action, which might be an attack, casting a spell, or using an item. And then you’ll have a bonus action, which can sometimes be another attack, but is usually your opportunity to do something minor. Maybe yell an insult. Whatever you do, you’ll need to use your stats and abilities to see if you succeed or not. The higher the roll, the better… usually.
Each turn lasts 6 seconds, but you’ll have more time than that to make your decision. Not that much time though, other people are waiting their turns and you need to keep the game moving.
Thankfully, with the help of your party members, and some health potions, you have defeated the goblins, although one managed to run away. That probably won’t be a problem later. But you got some experience and some loot, and a cool story for later.
Actually playing is fairly straightforward, once you’ve got your character all set up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, like ‘can I try to swing on these vines to get across the ravine?’. There is usually a way to try to pull off what you want to do, but do keep your character abilities in mind. Vine swinging is usually easier for a ranger than it is for a paladin.
So, how do you get started?
You’ll want to find a group of people, at least 4, but you don’t want to have more than 6 people, not to start with at least. One person needs to be the game master, but don’t worry, we’ll be doing an intro to being a game master later. It’s not as intimidating as you’d think. You can find tonnes of adventures already written up, with story, characters and enemies, maps and dungeons, and any relevant information, online. Some for free, some for a small cost. Or you can even buy one of the official campaigns, such as Curse of Strahd.
Having the Player’s Handbook will contain all the information you need to build a character and play them effectively, but you can use online character creators to build your character. The D&D 5th Edition community wiki will also have all the information you need on weapons, armour, classes, races, backgrounds, spells, and so much more. Once you build your character, it’s a great reference.
Creating or finding a group isn’t hard either! Maybe you’ll have your friends who can join your party, but you can also look into local play spaces. There are tonnes of groups looking for new players, and many veterans who are happy to teach and guide new players. You can find an experienced game master to lead you through your first adventure. And really, the best way to learn is to just get started! This community has never been so welcoming and easy to get into.
After all, at the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of nerds playing pretend. And it’s a lot of fun. So go pick out some dice, bring up a name generator, and get into it!
Kids in China are now restricted to just 3 hours of online gaming per week.
China has cracked down on the gaming screen time of people under 18 years old. New rules imposed this Monday require Chinese gaming platforms like Tencent and NetEast to limit online gaming access for minors to just three hours per week. It’s not even any three hours but specifically one hour, from 8pm-9pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and any public holidays. They apply to computers, consoles, and mobile phones. Previous restrictions limited kids to 1.5 hours of screen time most days of the week. The move is motivated, in part, by a desire to fight online gaming addiction amongst kids and to “protect the physical and mental health of minors”. China is the world’s biggest market for video games so it’s no doubt these new restrictions will deal a blow to the gaming industry. While it’s practically impossible that similar rules would be implemented in Australia, many parents outside of China shared their support for the system online.
Overwatch changes character names in light of ongoing trouble for Activision Blizzard.
Over the weekend, the Overwatch team announced that the character of Jesse McCree, who was named after a Blizzard employee who specifically came under fire in the controversy, would be having his name changed to distance him. It isn’t yet clear what the gunslinger’s new name will be, but they have promised “something that better represents what Overwatch stands for”. Additionally, the team stated that “Going forward, in-game characters will no longer be named after real employees, and we will be more thoughtful and discerning about adding real world references in future Overwatch content.” The case against Activision Blizzard itself is still ongoing with the state of California having recently expanded the lawsuit against them. They are now including temporary workers to the female full-time employees it’s suing the company on behalf of.
New hope for Cyberpunk2077 as CD Projekt Red hires Community Modders.
Its come to light that CD Projekt Red has recently been bringing members of the Cyberpunk 2077 modding community onboard the team to work on the game’s back-end. This was revealed by modder Hambalkó Bence in an announcement on the game’s modding community Discord Server. About their new role at CDPR they said, “We will be working on various projects related to the Cyberpunk 2077 backend and the game’s modding support,” the update said. “We are really excited for this, and we really hope we can help to bring Cyberpunk 2077 to the next level.” It’s a positive move for the game but, this long after its initial release, it’ll be hard to build beyond the stigma it carries.
This week in gaming releases:
- Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch] – September 3
- Family Trainer [Switch] – September 3
- Kitaria Fables [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch] – September 3
- The Medium [PS5] – September 3
- Bus Simulator 21 [PC, PS4, XBO] – September 7
- Chernobylite [PS4, XBO] – September 7
- I.S.T: Forged in Shadow Torch [PS4] – September 7
- Sonic Colors: Ultimate [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch] – September 7
The week in gaming news from Ezie and two reviews from Paul on 12 Minutes and Not For Broadcast. It’s a spicy one!
Twitch streamers are planning a protest
A group of streamers intend to turn off their channels on September 1st to protest the slow response from Twitch with regards to addressing a spike in bigoted harassment on the platform. This protest has been organised by RekItRaven using the hashtag #ADayOffTwitch. This protest has been brewing for a long time with streamers expressing their frustrations over the last few months. A lot of the harassment issues these streamers appear to be facing involve what is called “hate raids” where users will create a large number of dummy accounts and use bots to spam channels with hateful messages. Twitch promised back in August that it would launch channel-level ban evasion detection as well as improvements to its account verification process, however streamers are still waiting. Streamers have decided to take matters into their own hands by using third party software to attempt to combat the hate raids. Twitch have still yet to respond to the issue.
Germany’s 2021 Gamescom is going off with a bang
Featuring many big announcements from the likes of Nvidia with their games Myst and Guardians of the Galaxy getting ray-tracing support for PC. Xbox brings a new flashy controller to accompany Forza Horizon 5 and another controller for Halo Infinite not to mention what has already sold out the Halo Infinite themed Xbox Series X, The Sims 4 gets a free update the Industrial Loft Kit. Toplitz Productions announces Starsand for you survival game lovers where you must survive the desert dunes from giant sand worms. Destiny 2 reveals The Witch Queen to be launched in February. Broken Roads created by Aussie developers Drop Bear Bytes looks to be releasing in 2022. Another Aussie game that brought you Yonder: The Cloud Catcher announces Grow: Song of the Evertree and shows off a heap of solid gameplay. As well as so many other games such Pets Hotel which is literally a hotel for pampering and taking care of pets to indie watercolour game Torn Away set in WWII. The most recent announcements are Horizon Forbidden West to be released on PS4 & PS5 on the 18th of February 2022 and the Official LEGO Star Wars Skywalker Saga is expected somewhere between March and June next year. Gamescom will run until August 27th with hopefully more awesome drops to come.
Soulja Boy claims to own Atari
You heard me; world famous rapper Soulja Boy posted a video online claiming that he signed two deals with Atari making him the first rapper in history to own a games company. Atari were forced to respond to the matter with a Tweet that says, “We know that CEO of Atari is a dream job, but that honor belongs to Wade Rosen.” We can say with certainty that Soulja Boy does not own Atari.
Speaking of world-famous rappers Snoop Dog loves to stream on Twitch and recently he has moved his gaming set up and has some how accidentally muted himself. It’s so far been three whole streaming sessions and he still hasn’t noticed. You’d think he might by now he would however, unfortunately, Snoop Dog has his Twitch chat disabled and unless someone has his number it doesn’t appear like he is unmuting himself anytime soon.
The week in gaming releases:
o Have a Blast [PC, Switch]
o Hotel Life: A Resort Simulator [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
o The Magnificent Trufflepigs [Switch]
o Spelunky & Spelunky 2 [Switch]
o Spookware [PC]
o Baldo [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch]
o No More Heroes 3 [Switch]
o Tormented Souls [PC, PS5, XBX, Switch]
o Book Of Travels [PC]
o The Big Con [PC, XSX, XBO]
o Crown Trick [PS4, XBO]
o KeyWe [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
o Maneater: Truth Quest DLC [PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO]
o Monster Harvest [PC, PS4, XBO, Switch
• Rustler [PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO, Switch]
o Train Life: A Railway Simulator [PC]
o Lake [PC, XSX]