Blizzcon Turns 30 & Nintendo Direct

Nintendo Direct

Earlier this week Nintendo Direct also showered us with announcements for upcoming games, updates, and events. The 2011 Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword, originally released on the Nintendo Wii, is being remastered for the Switch. It will release on July 16th this year, accompanied by new joy cons modelled after the Master Sword and Hylian Shield. Nintendo also announced the 3rd game in the Splatoon series, this time setting the bright colourful characters in a vast barren wasteland. The game will be released early 2022. As part of Super Mario’s 35th Anniversary Celebrations, a Mario-themed DLC is coming to Animal crossing, featuring costumes, decorations, and furniture. This free update can be downloaded from Feb 25th. Smash hit rogue-like Hades will get a physical release for the switch on March 19th. There are far too many announcements to list them all, but we can’t leave out a new title in everyone’s favourite Nintendo series, Miitopia.  This title boasts an entire kingdom for your Miis to explore, after you’ve dressed them up with the new makeup and wig features that is!

Blizzard Entertainment Celebrates 30 years at this year’s BlizzConline.

With this came a slew of announcements of things we have to look forward to. More and more information is coming out about the development of Overwatch 2, like character updates, new maps and details of the leveling system. Diablo II is getting a remaster which will arrive later this year on both PC and Console. PC players interested in public testing for this game can sign up for the chance here.  Word of Warcraft will be getting a huge content update for the recent Shadowlands expansion called Chains of Domination. And Hearthstone fans can expect a new expansion “Forged in the Barrens” and an entirely new mode of gameplay called Mercenaries coming later this year.

Unfinished Nintendo 64 Game

An online group of game preservationists Forest of Illusion have recently shared a leaked build of Dinosaur Planet. This game never made it to release but was repurposed for the GameCube as StarFox Adventures. This copy of Dinosaur Planet was obtained from a private game collector and dates back to December 2000. It is a late build of the game and fully playable but has a fair few bugs throughout and will need hacking to play all parts of it in an emulator. Strangely, this is not the first cancelled game from Rare to be released online this month. Earlier an unreleased build of the XBLA remake of Goldeneye was also shared.

Games this week:

The 25th of February sees the release of Ghost n’ Goblins Resurrection and Lawnmower Game: Racing, both on the switch.

Bravely Default 2, sequel to the popular JRPG, gets its worldwide release for the switch on February 26th.

Green Hell Review

Developer: Creepy Jar, Forever Entertainment S. A., Incuvo S. A.
Publisher:
Creepy Jar, Forever Entertainment S. A., Incuvo S. A.
Music:
Adam Skorupa & Krzysztof Wierzynkeiwicz
Platforms: 
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Released: 
29 August 2018
Genre:
Survival, Adventure, Simulation, Indie, Action

It has been three years since Jake and Mia first visited the Yabahuaca people. Originally Jake & Mia visited the Amazon Rainforest to study and learn about the tribe. After returning from the jungle Jake published a book called “The Spirits of Amazonia” discussing all the cultural elements of the tribe and its customs. However, the book wasn’t received well by its readers and criticized Jake for using the Yabahuaca tribe for his own personal gain. This time Jake has returned to the forest undergrowth in hopes of learning more about the jungle’s flora and fauna while Mia (his wife) ventures off to visit the Yabahuaca tribe to hopefully gain their leaders trust, be initiated into the tribe and ultimately share their secrets with the wider world.

Dialog over walkie talkie:
MIA: “I need you here. Jake. Please, please answer me!

JAKE: “Mia, what happened? Mia, speak to me… Mia!”

As you might’ve guessed things don’t go so well for Mia and it’s up to you (Jake) to find her and bring her to safety. Of course, this is a survival game which means things are not going to be so easy. If anything, they are going to be extremely difficult. Well with all the dangerous wildlife, angry Yabahuaca, rainforest dwelling drug cartel and of course Omolu Corp searching for the cure for cancer what could go wrong? Narratively speaking Green Hell is a game with branching narratives and multiple endings making for an interesting and long journey that can end happily or in tragedy. So, watch where you step my friend.

There are 4 difficulty levels in Green Hell. There’s: A Walk in The Park, Welcome to The Jungle, King of The Jungle, and of course Green Hell being the hardest. The big thing with these difficulty settings is that you can have the option to turn tribe hostility on or off, predators on or off as well as Jake’s sanity, making for a truly terrifying experience should you be chased by a big angry cat through the jungle, at night, in the rain, whilst not being too sure that you hallucinated the whole thing. But don’t worry the tutorial eases you in. First by showing you how to check your backpack, inspect your body should you become injured, how to set up a camp, build shelters and so on. The controls and interactions are pretty intuitive and easy to follow making the learning curve a breeze to get through.

Similar to ARK: Survival Evolved, Green Hell is spectacular in its environmental design taking you through creeks and undergrowth with brilliant visual clarity. The Amazon truly comes alive if you can turn those graphics settings right up and even on a low-resolution the environment still looks pretty darn real. You can tell by how well the water animations have been done that it’s a very aesthetically pleasing game. Making the terror that much more real.

There’s a bit to juggle in the first few hours of gameplay with learning a map, navigating a notebook with all the details of “How to do things” as well as finding the right time to rest, eat, and maintain sanity. You have a smart watch gifted to you from Mia that aids you with managing your player needs. As someone who gets spooked a lot this game is probably best played with friends. Green Hell gives you the option to play cooperatively both with survival mode and story mode. I find myself being more confident with decisions in survival games with friends by my side, but by all means if your more of a lone wolf kind of player than good luck to you.

What really gets my heart racing is the music, with low tribal drums, maracas, bamboo pan flutes and suspenseful themes Adam & Krysztof have done and insane job of elevating the experiences of Green Hell to not just increase your fear but also showcase the native South American musical instruments. Touching on classical Latin guitar, whilst still keeping true to the native sound of the Amazonas, I am definitely impressed. Of course, most of the music is designed to keep you on your toes so be prepared for that.

To summaries my experience with Green Hell I have to say that as much as I spent my time working up the courage to venture further into the rainforest, there is so much going for it aside from the fear aspects. There are many moments of appreciating the natural world, spinning out with Ayahuasca, and learning about the wonder of the Amazon. The story is compelling and is a fantastic driving force when you are unsure about what to do. The music is heart thumping and beautiful and I’m looking forward to playing more of the Green Hell universe as the developers continue to expand on Jake & Mia’s story. Hopefully when you play, you both come out alive.

Illegal Listings, Jack Black is Claptrap, Valheim is Crushing It, and “Purple Francis”

Microsoft’s Edge Hosted Potentially Illegal Copies of Games

The extensions store on Microsoft’s Edge was found to be hosting copies of games such as Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario Bros, and even Minecraft. However, the developers listed with the titles weren’t the original developers, such as Microsoft or Nintendo, making it likely that these listings were not official copies of the games.

Many of these listings have been removed, but many titles had been reported, also under suspicious listings. Some of these alleged developers had names such as “Gamelands”, “Kday”, and “GamePro Inc”. Despite the wide array of listings, and the diverse developer names, these listings had very similar descriptions, which seems to imply coming from the same source.

Jack Black is Claptrap in Borderlands Movie

The comedian has been announced to provide voice acting for Claptrap, commonly thought of as the mascot for the Borderlands series. The live-action Borderlands movie, produced by Lionsgate, has many well known actors such as Cate Blanchett as Lilith, Jamie Lee Curtis as Dr. Tannis, and Kevin Hart as Roland, although the director hopes to be able to include fans in the cast, so that they may play as hilariously-killed-off extras.

 

Valheim Geared to become Steam’s Most Viral Hit

The viking survival game Valheim has sold over 2 million copies, with over 370,000 fans playing concurrently, easily moving through the ranks to become perhaps the fastest-growing hit on Steam in just 13 days.

Comparable games such as Rust, or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, have never hit such numbers so quickly, despite being immensely popular titles. As of right now, its player count puts Valheim behind only Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, both who have had millions of players since their releases. In fact, the only other comparable game that could match Valheim’s numbers in the survival and crafting genre is Terraria.

Left 4 Dead Character Fan Art after Wiki Vandalism

A series of fake additions to the Left 4 Dead wiki has led to fan-art and even a mod that implements the fabricated content into the game. The wiki vandalism focused on a fake ‘cut’ character called “Purple Francis”, with a hilariously bad recolour of one of the game’s survivors. However, “Purple Francis” came with a surprisingly detailed backstory, with a tragic, untimely death. The rich “Purple Francis” lore tells us that his hue is due to an iron-rich diet, he owned a root beer factory, and had two sons, one of whom was called Skibbity. Unfortunately, “Purple Francis” is no longer on the wiki, but he lives on through fans of the character, resulting in a Discord server dedicated to him, fan art, and even a mod that includes him in Left 4 Dead.

And now for some upcoming game releases!

On February 18th, King of Seas, an action RPG about epic piracy adventures comes out for the PC, PS4, XboxOne, and Switch. On Steam there is the turn-based, tactical RPG The Protagonist: EX-1, and roguelike dungeon crawler Ultimate ADOM – Caverns of Chaos.

On February 23rd, you can look forward to Persona 5 Strikers for the PC, PS4, and Switch, as well as Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos on the PC and Switch.

Re-Logic boycotts Google, CD Projekt: The Saga Continues and Nemesis Patented

Terraria port for Google Stadia Cancelled.

After backing down from a threat to leave Australia over new regulations, and pulling the plug on in-house Stadia game development, the last thing Google needed was more bad press. Well, Google has dug their own grave as Re-Logic, the creators of Terraria, have cancelled their planned Stadia port after Google disabled and removed access to the Re-Logic YouTube account and attached Gmail and Google Drive accounts due to an alleged Terms of Service violation.

After three weeks trying to resolve the issue, co-creator Andrew Spinks turned to Twitter, burning any bridges with the multinational company by publicly tweeting “Doing business with you is a liability.”

Re-Logic has confirmed that while they will continue to support all current purchases of Terraria on Android and Google Play, any future games by Re-Logic will not be supported on Google platforms.

Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt; the Saga continues.

Since the PC release of Cyberpunk 2077, mods have been coming to the rescue to help with some of players’ issues and desires. Sadly, the way in which Cyberpunk 2077 utilised external DLL files allowed hackers to remotely execute code when malicious mods were installed on a player’s computer. This security vulnerability was quickly fixed by the Cyberpunk 2077 community before the 1.12 Hotfix was released by CD Projekt just three days later.

CD Projekt has also announced via twitter that they were recently the victims of a cyber-attack. The announcement included a copy of the ransom note with the attacker claiming to have copied the source code for their most popular games and an unreleased version of the Witcher 3 as well as other files. CD Projekt has stated that to the best of their knowledge, none of the compromised data contained any player or user data. The incident is currently under investigation by the relevant authorities. After the announcement, CD Projekt’s stock dropped by 5%.

Nemesis system patented.

After almost 6 years since the original application, Warner Brothers has finally had the patent approved for the Nemesis system. Originally utilised in Monolith Productions’ Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the Nemesis system is where hierarchical NPCs are physically and hierarchically effected by player interaction. The patent is already being criticised by developers for the vagueness of the patent’s wording and how this may stifle any similar games from being developed.

The patent is optioned for renewal till 2035.

And finally, some game releases:

On February 11th you can look forward to the console release date of 1bit minimalist RTS game Death Crown, the Switch Release of the action-adventure roguelike Undermine, and the PC and console release of the side scrolling adventure Little Nightmares 2.

We also have Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury coming to the Switch on February 12th. And the Mega Man X-inspired multiplayer roguelike 30XX (thirty ex-ex) is coming to PC on February 17th

Windbound Review

sunsest over water with the word "windbound"

Developer: 5 Lives Studios
Publisher:
Koch Media
Music:
Zander Hulme
Platforms:
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Released:
28 August 2020
Genre:
Adventure, Role-Playing, Survival

Narrative

All around you stretches the ocean. A beautiful giant, but an unforgiving beast. Right now, you have no boat and you’re treading water looking at the short a small distance away. You haven’t been given a story to go off, all you have is the ocean and the land in front of you. There’s a shrine on the first island, you walk to it and climb to the top where a shell hangs in the air, waiting for you to wrap your hands around it.

Windbound has an impressive and gorgeous art style that brings you into the world. If you imagine Zelda: Windwaker meets The Breath of the Wild then you’ve pretty much got Windbound in a nutshell. The art style is reminiscent of both the aforementioned games. I believe it’s rated for ages 12 and up which makes a lot of sense since you play as Kara, a lone traveller who has to hunt, gather, and craft to survive. The game has a steep learning curve when it comes to combat.

Gameplay

You can pick from two different play styles: adventurer and survivalist. I’ve been playing on adventurer mode to focus on enjoying scavenging and crafting. The bonus on adventure mode is that when you die (and you will) you get to keep all of your stuff when you respawn. In survival mode, you lose most of your items,09 and you are sent back to the first level at respawn. I would have found this incredibly frustrating as a player so opted to play the more relaxed, adventurer mode. I think I died about four times in the first level even on adventurer mode. I almost gave up, but before I did, I read a couple of guides to get a good understanding of what I needed to be able to thrive in-game. I’d like to point out, that survival games aren’t my usual choice for games and so I wasn’t as used to the kinds of mechanics I was about to run into. It takes time to learn how to play Windbound, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to spend hours upon hours exploring islands and the seas.

There’s one mechanic that I find both equally cool and frustrating. Each time you die and respawn, you’re sent to a different set of three islands. They all serve pretty much the same purpose; you look for shrines and collect keys while trying to upgrade your boat. If you’re playing on survival mode, you will lose your boat each time you die, forcing you to start over completely from the beginning. Except for this time, you’re armed with the knowledge you have gained from your previous playtime. Ultimately, the more time you spend playing Windbound, the better you will get at it.

Crafting is a big part of your gameplay and you will need to get good at it to survive. Crafting is another reason that I really adore Windbound. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from collecting parts for items and then seeing them done. You get to do a fair amount of cooking because you can slowly die from starvation. Food replenishes health and stamina, but uncooked food can do damage to your health. I spent more time crafting and cooking than I did trying to fight anything. This paid off pretty quickly because I was able to travel further and for longer without having to stop and refuel.

I loved spending time upgrading my boat and was constantly looking for ways to upgrade everything. Your boat acts as a good way to store extra items, but your overall storage is still pretty limited. I’d like to see more opportunities for furthering storage quicker into the game though. Not a lot of game mechanics are explained to players and there are some little side quests that should help you feel the world is a little bit bigger. I’m missing the jerky I left cooking on an island in level one. I can’t go back to it.

Music

I think one of my biggest highlights for Windbound is that the soundtrack was something I could have happily had on in the background while doing work or writing my review. Zander Hulme has done an impressive job of creating aural cues for the player. There’s a variety of pieces that play in the background of the game while you’re exploring the islands. You can easily discern between the general gameplay music and the combat music. Enemies nearby are often cued through the music. Hulme has created expansive, atmospheric soundscapes that give the game world a grand size.

 

Accessibility

I have included a section on accessibility because I am a disabled player that relies on some varied accessibility options to be able to fully enjoy games. The comments in this section are by no means a negative criticism of the studio. Accessibility options can be difficult to implement and I think that 5 Lives Studios has done a wonderful job for a small development studio. However, this section is included as more of a guide for players who may experience some disabilities.

I think younger players or players with cognitive disabilities might struggle with the gameplay. The gameplay isn’t that straightforward. It took me about half an hour of gameplay before I realised that there were actually objectives and a bit of a story that was happening. Tutorials pop up on the screen as you encounter new items and unlike other games, they stay until you’ve had a chance to read through the entire thing. However, I couldn’t find these tutorials later to reaccess them. I believe there are some guides online. So if you’re a player with a cognitive disability, it may be worth keeping a guide open while you play.

There aren’t other characters that you really interact with in the first couple of hours or so which means that there isn’t a

 

massive need for subtitles, but as a player who is hard of hearing, I was disappointed when some enemies were too easily able to sneak up on me. I had no idea what was going on until the battle music was playing and half my health was gone. I was able to chat with Zander Hulme about this and he recommended turning down the sound of the music while keeping the enemy sounds on full. It helps to be able to play the game with a good sound system or headphones. Unfortunately, the game does not include a visual tracking system for enemies. As a hard of hearing player, I have to get a little bit creative about playing with the sound up.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to remap the controls on my PC. I am unsure about the ability for remapping on other consoles. There are generally workarounds for this if you have a physical or motor disability that requires the ability to remap.

Colourblind players may run into some issues but for the most part, Windbound’s art style and colour palette are distinct enough for colourblind players to enjoy without too many issues. My experience with colourblindness is on the guidance of my colourblind partner.

Overall Experience

Overall, Windbound is a tough but thoroughly enjoyable experience. I think players over the age of twelve, who enjoy survival adventure games will have a blast with Windbound. While I ran into some issues as a disabled player, I think that 5 Lives Studios has done a wonderful job in creating something that is both visually and aurally appealing to players. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of survival RPGs, the art style alone in Windbound is enough to keep you coming back. It is far too easy to just spend hours hanging out on an island cooking, crafting, and ignoring the narrative objectives. So if you want a fun Sunday afternoon game, Windbound is the one for you.

IKEA Gaming, Tomb Raider, & Steam Game Festival

Ikea have teamed up with ASUS to create a new line of gaming furniture

Back in September last year IKEA announced their partnership with ASUS Republic of Gamers, since then we have been expecting a show of products for customers in China before they launch in Western markets later this year. So far, the range includes everything from gaming chairs, adjustable desks, streaming equipment, headset stands as well as a CPU stand with its own castors. These products are designed specifically for gamers with a low budget costing around $200 for a gaming chair, if you’d like to have a look at the full range click here.

Steam Game Festival is about to kick off

The indie developer focused event will showcase over 500 playable demos, not to mention a heap of livestreamed chats and panel discussions with the developers themselves. The idea of the Steam Game Festival is to provide indie developers with an opportunity to showcase their titles after the 2020 Game Developers Conference (GDC) was cancelled. Steam Game Festival is scheduled to start on February 4th at 5am AEST and will run until February the 10th. To access the festival just log into you Steam account, this event is completely free.

Netflix and Legendary team up on Tomb Raider TV animated series

This announcement was made on the 28th of January by the steaming goliath saying, “The most iconic heroine in video games is jumping to animation! Tomb Raider is a new anime series from @legendary following Lara Croft after the events of the video-game reboot trilogy.” The series will be written by Tasha Huo who is also behind Netflix’s Witcher prequel Blood Origin. Tasha will be joined by executive producers Dmitri M. Johnson, Stephan Bugaj and Howard Bliss from DJ2 Entertainment the production company that made Sonic the Hedgehog film. Netflix has yet to disclose a date for the release.

The week in gaming releases:

On February 2nd
• Apex Legends Season 8: Mayham
• Control Ultimate Edition (PS5 XSX)
• Cultist Simulator (Switch)

On Feb 4th
• Odysseus Kosmos and His Robot Quest (Switch)
• Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood (PC, PS5, XSX, PS4, XBO)

On Feb 5th
• Nioh Remastered, Nioh 2 Remastered, The Nioh Complete Edition (PC, PS5)
• Kinetic Edge (PC)
• Re:Zero Starting life in another world (PS4, Switch)

On Feb 6th
• Ampersat (PC)

On Feb 10th
• Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood (PC)