October 2019

Bird of Passage is a relaxing, yet melancholy, taxi ride

Driving through the night has always felt rather dreamlike to me. Reality seems to condense to just the inside of the car, as the rest of the world is silently consumed by the darkness. Bird of Passage perfectly captures this feeling; the world outside is a mystery, lost in the night, and I wouldn't know the game was set in Tokyo if it wasn't brought up in conversations. The simplistic soundtrack helps too, using the inclusion of rainfall, to create a meditative atmosphere.

As you move from taxi to taxi, you'll engage in conversations with the drivers. Some drivers are happy to talk to you, while others prefer to sit in silence. These talks are navigated by choosing from a selection of dialogue options, which can lead to you discussing anything from plants to the history of Tokyo. Oddly none of the taxi drivers wants to talk about how their passenger has a giant eye for a head.

There are multiple outcomes for each conversation. Talking in a silent taxi may lead to the driver asking you to leave and I once accidentally caused an argument, leading to the journey in that cab ending early. As the dialogue flows, you'll also learn more about the mysterious passenger and the past that even he can't seem to make sense of.

Read more

Crusader Kings 3 coming to PC next year

Crusader Kings 3, the long-awaited follow up to the grand strategy cult hit, has been announced at this year's Paradox Con.

It's coming some time in 2020 to both Steam and Xbox Game Pass on PC.

The game itself will have some nice quality of life and visual improvements, such as 3D character models and a considerably more welcoming UI - that's despite game director Henrik Fåhraeus noting "user friendliness was never our primary goal".

Read more

EA reveals #NoRoomForRacism kits for FIFA 20

In the aftermath of the shocking racial abuse suffered by England players away at Bulgaria during a Euro 2020 qualifier, EA has revealed #NoRoomForRacism kits for FIFA 20.

The kits, shown off in the image below that features Premier League stars Virgil van Dijk, Jesse Lingard, Tammy Abraham and James Maddison, feature the No Room For Racism slogan on the front. They will be available in FIFA 20 soon alongside matching stadium themes, EA said.

England's 6-0 victory over Bulgaria at the Vasil Levski national stadium in Sofia was marred by two first-half stoppages for racial abuse. Footage shows some in the stadium making Nazi salutes, and players reported hearing racist chanting.

Read more

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order knows the power of exploration

It's hard to put a finger on that Star Wars feeling, but you know it when it happens. Star Wars is traditional myth combined with things you've never seen before - both familiar and strange, it's the hero's journey in a sci-fi world. To me, it's about epic themes told with a twinkle in the eye - a balancing act that's hard to get right.

Yet when I tried Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order at E3 earlier this year, I felt like that balance wasn't quite there yet. The combat was solid, much of the game was promising, but I hadn't sensed that special Star Wars charm: the sort of feeling you get from marvelling at its bizarre worlds, laughing at ridiculous aliens one moment before being plunged into intense power struggle the next. In that demo we were mainly traversing narrow metallic corridors, focusing hard on getting to grips with the combat, rather than being left to explore on our own terms.

I didn't see myself returning to write further impressions of Fallen Order - but earlier this week, I had another look at the game during the latest preview event. This time, I had about three hours to roam with near-total freedom to explore. This, finally, is where I felt the sheer glee of exploring the Star Wars universe - and that cheeky sense of humour I love so much.

Read more

US politicians write to Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick expressing "deep concern" over punishment of Hong Kong Hearthstone pro

United States politicians have co-signed a letter sent to Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick expressing concern about the punishment given to Hong Kong Hearthstone pro Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai.

The strongly-worded bi-partisan letter, signed by senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio, as well as members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski, urges Kotick to reconsider the punishment of Blitzchung dished out after the Hearthstone player voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong during a live post-match interview.

"We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard's decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong," reads the letter.

Read more

Swansong is the name of the Vampire: The Masquerade game due out 2021

The Vampire the Masquerade game in development at Big Bad Wolf, creators of the episodic adventure game The Council, now has a subtitle: Swansong.

Swansong is a narrative role-playing game set in the Vampire the Masquerade universe and due out at some point in 2021. It was announced as part of publisher Bigben Interactive's May showcase event, and has remained quiet since. But today its official Twitter page piped up with the subtitle and some suitably vampiric prose:

"Recent events have caused Kindred society to reevaluate how it protects its existence in modern nights. As the Camarilla retreats into itself, unknown threats on the horizon could see the collapse of the Ivory Tower itself.

Read more

Blizzard faces an impossible choice, but choose it must

It's a little less than a year since BlizzCon 2018 went wrong. To cap off the opening ceremony for its annual fan event, Blizzard unveiled a new smartphone game called Diablo Immortal, co-developed with Chinese company NetEase. Fans from Blizzard's Western, PC gaming heartlands weren't slow to voice their displeasure online - or, embarrassingly, at the event itself, during Q&A sessions with developers. This wasn't the Diablo game they wanted. It wasn't for them.

The unveiling was a PR disaster - a predictable and avoidable PR disaster - at a difficult time. Much loved, player-focused founder Mike Morhaime had just stepped aside as president. A few months later, the studio would make widespread layoffs in tandem with - or as some suspected, dictated by - its more commercially ruthless merger partner Activision. Fans' sense of entitlement went hand-in-hand with a not unfounded anxiety that their favourite developer might be losing the plot.

Since then, Blizzard made the most of a surge of nostalgic goodwill around the launch of World of Warcraft Classic - a literal fan service - and laid careful plans for a charm offensive at this year's BlizzCon. If the event went well, it would put Blizzard's reputation with players back on track.

Read more